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Good-bye Freedom of Speech and the Right to Peaceful Assembly

There are so many things to write about right now, such as the massive leak of CIA documents on Wikileaks, or Trump’s new executive order on immigration, but what I’d like to focus on this week is the numerous laws being proposed in various states, which challenge the right to free speech and peaceful assembly. Republican lawmakers seem to have hit their limit with protests after millions of Americans have taken to the streets in 2016 and early 2017 to express their concern over important issues such as police brutality and the numerous police killings of black people, the illegal construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on Native American land and the contentious election of Donald Trump.

The United States has always touted itself as the land of the free (though this is certainly questionable), yet these proposed laws, if passed, would make the US resemble the dictatorial regimes it has criticised, condemned and even supported over the years.

According to the Washington Post, the number of states that have proposed anti-protest bills has now grown to eighteen. Let’s have a look at what has been proposed so far in some of these states:

Washington state: Protests could be labelled as ‘economic terrorism’.[1] According to the Atlantic Monthly, Senate Bill 5009 is aimed at environmentalists who attempt to block the transport of commercial goods, or tamper with oil pipelines, or interfere with oil and power industry facilities. If passed, this bill would increase sentencing times for those convicted of causing economic disruption.[2] [3]

Minnesota: The house committee led by Republicans have passed a measure “that would allow local governments to sue convicted protestors for the costs of law enforcement and security associated with demonstrations.”[4] They have also proposed a law to go after demonstrators who block traffic.

Iowa: In Iowa protestors who block traffic while demonstrating could face criminal prosecution, imprisonment up to five years and fines up to $7,500.

Missouri: Those convicted of wearing masks, hoods or other coverings to disguise their identity during a protest that has been classified as unlawful could spend up to one year in prison.

Virginia: Right now those in Virginia who continue to protest after being told to disburse can face a fine of up to $500. Should the newly proposed legislation pass, protestors could face fines of up to $2,500 and one year in prison. [5]

Colorado: A bill put forward by Republican state Senator Sonnenberg targets environmental protesters who attempt to, “’alter, obstruct, interrupt, or interfere with the action of any equipment used or associated with oil or gas gathering operations.’”[6]   Currently such acts of civil disobedience are classified as misdemeanors, though under the proposed law they would classified as a felony with heavy fines of up to $100,000 and prison sentences of up to one and a half years. Additionally, oil and gas companies could also be given the right to go after protesters, not just the state.

Arizona: Though bill SC1142 has been passed by the Republican state senators, it may not make it through the Arizona House. SC1142 is a very broad bill that if enacted would not only allow the state to criminally prosecute those who participate in demonstrations that become violent and to seize their property, but it would also allow police to arrest people for even planning to demonstrate because the protest they are planning may become violent. This bill is clearly designed to intimidate people and scare them enough so that they are too afraid to exercise their First Amendment rights.[7]

Indiana: Republican lawmakers would like to give police the right to use “’’any means necessary’” to remove demonstrators who hold up traffic, which could mean that law enforcement officials would have the right to shoot and even kill protestors who take to the streets.[8]

North Carolina: House Bill 249 put forward by a number of Republicans seeks to create the new crime of economic terrorism, as well as significantly increasing penalties for those who block roads during protests that are considered unlawful or are classed as a riot. According to the bill, one commits economic terrorism when one purposefully and with malicious intent ‘impedes or disrupts the regular course of business’ and causes damages of more than $1,000.[9]  Another bill put forward by Republican Senator Dan Bishop, Senate Bill 229, would extend protections against assault already in place for current state officials to those who have also left office. The current law ‘makes it a felony to assault or threaten legislative, executive, and judicial officials of the State in retaliation for the exercise of official duties.’ The new bill, which is in response to former governor Pat McCrory being heckled on his way to Trump’s inaugural festivities, would extend this protection for up to one year after leaving office.[10] Critics of the bill argue that it is just a way to shield former state officials from public criticism.[11]

North Dakota and Florida: The most troubling proposed laws are the ones in these states which would allow drivers to run over and even kill protestors who get in their way of using the road, as long as it was not the driver’s intention to kill the protestor(s).[12] [13] [14] [15] It can be quite difficult to prove one’s intent, which could very well mean that if these laws pass drivers could quite literally get away with murder.

While I do not condone violent protests or rioting, the American people must be able to gather peacefully, participate in acts of civil disobedience if necessary, and exercise their right to free speech in a functioning democracy. Any laws that intimidate people or make the penalties for participating in their legal right to free speech and freedom to assemble, are dangerous. When the right to criticise or stand up to the government or private corporations is taken away from the people they are no longer free.

 

[1]https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/1/headlines/lawmakers_push_anti_protest_laws_as_mass_resistance_to_trump_sweeps_us

[2] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/02/anti-protest-bills/518004/

[3] http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2017-18/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Bills/5009.pdf

[4] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-states-laws-right-protest-free-speech-donald-trump-iowa-minnesota-north-dakota-black-lives-matter-a7562841.html

[5] https://theintercept.com/2017/01/23/lawmakers-in-eight-states-have-proposed-laws-criminalizing-peaceful-protest/

[6] https://theintercept.com/2017/01/23/lawmakers-in-eight-states-have-proposed-laws-criminalizing-peaceful-protest/

[7] http://azcapitoltimes.com/news/2017/02/22/arizona-senate-crackdown-on-protests/

[8]https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/1/headlines/lawmakers_push_anti_protest_laws_as_mass_resistance_to_trump_sweeps_us

[9] http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2017/Bills/House/PDF/H249v0.pdf

[10] https://www.votedanbishop.com/news/2017/03/09/senator-dan-bishop-introduces-bill-to-protect-former-government-officers-000057

[11] http://www.salon.com/2017/01/24/north-carolina-republican-proposes-legislation-that-would-ban-people-from-yelling-at-lawmakers/

[12] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-states-laws-right-protest-free-speech-donald-trump-iowa-minnesota-north-dakota-black-lives-matter-a7562841.html

[13] https://theintercept.com/2017/01/23/lawmakers-in-eight-states-have-proposed-laws-criminalizing-peaceful-protest/

[14] https://www.democracynow.org/2017/2/1/headlines/lawmakers_push_anti_protest_laws_as_mass_resistance_to_trump_sweeps_us

[15] http://www.sun-sentinel.com/features/fl-reg-sen-bill-traffic-protesters-20170223-story.html

Time to support a free and independent press

We all knew when Trump was running for office that he holds a dim view of the press. Since being sworn into office just over one month ago now, he’s taken his disliking to a whole new level by regularly attacking the press, and this past week a number of news organisations, including The Guardian, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, CNN, Politico and BBC were excluded from attending a White House gaggle.

The fourth estate plays a vital role in a democracy. The press must inform citizens, for as Thomas Jefferson said, ‘An educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.’[1] People who are poorly educated, ill- or mis-informed are unable to make well-informed decision or vote for representatives or laws that are in their best interest. Thus they can be easily led astray and controlled by their emotions, rather than their reason. We can see that this is a major contributing factor to the recent election of Donald Trump.

The press also serves to hold elected officials and those in power to account. Even former President G. W. Bush has spoken out against Trump by saying that, ‘we need an independent media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive and it can be corrosive and, uh, it’s important for the media to call to account people who abuse their power whether it be here or elsewhere.’[2] By excluding those media outlets that have been critical of him and his administration, Trump and his entourage are attempting to censor the press and not allow it to freely report what is going on or hold them to account. This is a dangerous step that goes against the First Amendment and is undemocratic.

The Trump administration’s relationship with the media is an interesting one. On the one hand, just looking at Trump’s tweets alone, he has called the media ‘fake news’, the enemy of the American people’, ‘very, very dishonest’, ‘failing’, and ‘ the opposition party’, yet on the other hand he was quite happy to receive at least $3 billion worth of free media coverage during his campaign, more coverage than either Clinton or Sanders. [3] [4]

When Trump’s advisor Steve Bannon called the media ‘corporatist’ at the recently held Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) he was in part correct. Most of the US media is corporately owned and controlled by only a handful of uber rich individuals whose main objective for many years has been profit over information. They would prefer to cover the emotional stuff that sells a story and increases ratings, rather than concentrate on the real issues at hand.  This is especially true of those organisations that are right leaning.  This said, I’m not in any way defending Bannon’s perspective on the media, as what he wants is a subservient, controlled media that will report only what the Trump administration wants it to report, and from what we already know of what Trump and his administration say, much of this would be lies. Also it is very, very disturbing to see how this new administration is treating journalists out in the field who have been covering anti-government protests. Whether they be in Washington DC or North Dakota, journalists are being arrested and charged with felonies.[5] [6]

With the influence of corporate money not only in the media, but also in US elections over the years, as well as the power held by special interest groups and lobbyists, one could argue that the US has not really been that free or democratic, but what we are seeing now is the slippery slope down to a truly oligarchical rule.

My optimistic side says that there are those in the corporate media who have awakened to the fact that they played a significant role in getting Trump elected and they are now wanting to try to hold him to account to one extent or another.[7]   How they could ever hope to do this under the profit driven corporate model is another thing.  My pessimistic side says that the corporate media are far less concerned with trying to hold Trump and his administration to account than they are with defending the old status quo and trying to portray the Democratic Party as the upholders of democracy and freedom.

The point I’m trying to make is that in order for the media to be truly free and independent, to fulfil it’s role to inform and keep power in check, it must be outside the control of both an autocratic, leaning towards dictatorial government, and corporatism. Both of these powerhouses have their own agendas, whether it be the manipulation of the news for their political or economic advantage. Today more than ever the people need to support the progressive independent media – watch it, listen to it, read it, financially support it with your donations and share what you learn from it with others.   These news organisations are doing their utmost to present fact-based coverage of the big issues in a world where propaganda and alternative facts/lies can easily dominate. Here’s a list of just some places you can go to for real news: Democracy Now!, the Real News Network, The Intercept, Alternet, Mother Jones, Truthdig, Brave New Films, Salon, The Young Turks and the list goes on….

[1] https://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/educated-citizenry-vital-requisite-our-survival-free-people-spurious-quotation

[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/george-bush-donald-trump-media-attack-enemy-people-nbc-today-a7602321.html

[3] https://www.forbes.com/sites/brettedkins/2016/11/17/in-the-wake-of-trumps-win-how-does-the-media-regain-credibility/#569b13692ca5

[4] http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/frontline/article/study-election-coverage-skewed-by-journalistic-bias/

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/media/2017/jan/24/journalists-charged-felonies-trump-inauguration-unrest

[6] https://cpj.org/blog/2017/02/journalists-covering-standing-rock-face-charges-as.php#more

[7] https://www.forbes.com/sites/brettedkins/2016/11/17/in-the-wake-of-trumps-win-how-does-the-media-regain-credibility/#569b13692ca5

What the Democrats need to learn: How to fix America’s broken and corrupt healthcare system – Lesson 3:

The future of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare is in question. Republicans seem set on overturning this law that requires Americans to buy private health insurance.   The irony is that Obamacare was first conceived back in 1989 by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, and later supported by many GOP leaders in the early 1990s when they were opposing Hillarycare. Here’s a short list of just some of those GOP supporters – President George H. W. Bush, Vice President Dan Quayle, Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, Arlen Specter, Orrin Hatch. Back then Republicans were of the opinion that individuals had the responsibility to buy insurance for themselves so that they weren’t a burden to others in society. The Heritage Foundation’s health system idea gained so much support from Republican Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts that it became the foundation for his Romneycare, which was signed into law in 2006 and has made the cost of healthcare in Massachusetts more expensive than in any other state.

Here’s what the Heritage Foundation plan, Romneycare and Obamacare all have in common: the requirement that everyone have private insurance or pay a fine, which the Heritage Foundation called a ‘Health Care Social Contract’; the establishment of a consumer led and market driven health insurance exchange where people can go to find the best insurance policy; subsidies for low income earners to help them buy their own insurance. Since the introduction of Obamacare the likes of Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Orrin Hatch have been loud vocal opponents of it and have called for its repeal. Considering how much they previously supported the Heritage Foundation plan, their opposition to Obamacare is nothing more than a crystal clear example of partisan politics at play.[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7]

Now that we have looked at a bit of the history leading up to Obamacare, and the hypocrisy of some very influential Republicans, let’s look at what this health system does and does not do for the American people.

In addition to the controversial requirement that people must buy health insurance or pay a penalty tax, that there is a competitive marketplace for private insurance and that those on lower incomes are subsidised, one of the biggest changes to the previous health system in America, and one that just about everyone would agree has been a very good change overall, is that no one can be denied health insurance. This has meant that many Americans who were not able to get insurance due to pre-existing conditions such as cancer, diabetes, asthma, mental illness, heart disease, epilepsy and pregnancy (yes, even pregnancy) have been able to purchase a private insurance plan. As at least one in four Americans is considered to have a pre-existing condition, if this one part of Obamacare were to be repealed, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 52 million people could lose their health insurance. Fortunately for those who could be denied health insurance, it appears that even many Republicans do not want this part of the Affordable Care Act to be overturned.[8]

Obamacare has also given grants to states to enable them to expand Medicaid to the poor and those on a low-income, though nearly half of all states, mostly Republican led, have refused these grants.[9] It’s allowed young adults up to the age of 26 years to stay on their parents’ insurance plan, provided preventative care checks at no additional cost, required employers with 50 or more employees to provide health insurance for their employees, and enabled those on Medicare to pay less than full price for their prescriptions.[10]

To help pay for this, Obamacare has also increased taxes for individuals earning over $200,000 per year and couples earning over $250,000 per year, something the Trump Administration would very much like to change.

Despite the fact that many more people now have health insurance than before Obamacare was enacted and Obamacare has been a lifeline for many, approximately 29 million people remain un-insured and close to 30,000 Americans die each year because they cannot afford medical treatment.[11] Additionally, healthcare costs have soared and the average family now pays $18,142 per year for their insurance plan. On top of this other costs have been rising too e.g., the deductible cost paid by the average worker now amounts to $1,221 and the cost of prescription medication continues to rise.[12] I find it very telling that an EpiPen in the US costs $300, while that same EpiPen in New Zealand, which is not covered under the government prescription drug scheme, costs NZ$120 or approximately US$86.[13] [14]

All the while that the American people have been paying more and more for health insurance, medical care and medication, even Republicans admit that the insurance companies have been laughing all the way to the bank.   In a debate with Bernie Sanders, Ted Cruz discussed how the 10 largest insurers have seen their profits double since 2008. In 2015 the profit of these 10 companies amounted to $15 billion.[15] Not only are the insurers charging their customers more, they are also raking in billions of dollars through government subsidies. When those on middle to lower incomes cannot afford to pay for their insurance or out of pocket expenses, the government assists them through either tax credits or subsidies. This money then makes its way back to the private insurance companies, so it’s really just a form of corporate welfare.[16] [17] [18]

Based upon the failings of Obamacare, the Republican argument is that any sort of government health initiative is bad and costly, but Obamacare is a private healthcare system with some government regulations. It was written by corporate lobbyists for the benefit of the private insurance industry. How else could they be making such record profits by charging the highest premiums and deductibles yet offering fewer services, while at the same time getting handed billion of dollars by the federal government? Even though health insurance premiums doubled when George W. Bush was president, one hears very little talk of this. The point is, healthcare costs were going up well before Obamacare came into effect. In fact they have been increasing steadily since the 1960s. Back then healthcare costs were only about 5% of GDP, whereas today they amount to over 20% of GDP.[19] No one really knows what the Trump Administration will come up with to replace Obamacare, but it is pretty evident from what’s been said so far that they will try to fully privatise healthcare. From what we’ve seen from Obamacare, this will only further increase costs, as private systems are driven by one thing alone, profit, not health.

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration silenced those who were fighting for evidence based healthcare reform. Had those who have knowledge of how public healthcare systems work in the rest of the industrialised world been allowed to speak, rather than the thousands of corporate lobbyists, lawmakers would have heard how these single payer healthcare systems are not only more efficient and far less costly, but they also cover just about everyone. [20]

This is a subject that touches me personally. One of the reasons we left the United States was because we could not afford private health insurance. When living there we always dreaded what might happen if one of us landed up in hospital, as we couldn’t figure out how we would pay the bill and we didn’t want to be like the tens of thousands of Americans who have to file for bankruptcy every year due to unpaid medical bills. Coming to New Zealand has meant that we have a government run health plan. Is it perfect? No it’s not, and the efforts of recent conservative governments to try to privatise the system by cutting funding are not helping. But this said, it is far better than what is in the States. Here’s a rough overview of how the public health system works for us here in New Zealand. Doctor’s visits are free for those under 6, cost about $32 for those 6 to 18, and about $45 for adults up to retirement age when the fees are lowered. The poor and those on a low income pay less. If one is injured in an accident, treatment is covered for free, and if one is hospitalised that too is free. Prescriptions bought in bulk and subsidised by the government are $5 each, and other prescription medication tends to cost far less than what it costs in the States as my example of the EpiPen above proves. In fact, there was an American lady sitting in the waiting room at our doctor’s office a few months back who was remarking about how affordable her prescription medication is here compared with the States. She only paid $5 for the same prescription that cost her over $100 in the US and she has private health insurance. I’ve also spoken with a number of American doctors who’ve moved here. They say that though far less money is spent on medical care in New Zealand, the patient outcomes are the same as in the States. This is due to the fact that fewer unnecessary procedures are carried out and there is far less bureaucracy.  All this goes to prove that government run systems are more efficient, less costly and still provide good care to citizens.

In the States one quarter to one third of all medical costs come from administration fees and a further 25% from carrying out unnecessary procedures. Both of these are aimed at getting more money from patients for the benefit of the private health sector, not for the purpose of helping the sick or those in need.[21] [22]

The facts are these, Obamacare is better than what was in place before it came into effect in the sense that more people have received medical care and there are no longer any lifetime limits, however, it has many faults. Repealing and replacing it with a fully privatised system would be a major step in the wrong direction. This said, Democrats must stop trying to fight for a failed system that puts profits before people. If the Democratic Party is going to be true to the American people and actually represent them and not the health industry, then they are going to have to stand up to not only Trump and his cronies, but also the corporate lobbyists. If the Democratic Party refuses to do this, which I believe it will, it will be a failed party that the people must no longer support. The pharmaceutical companies and the insurance companies have far too much power in the States and everyone else pays for their greed. Americans deserve better. They deserve to have access to good and affordable healthcare and this must be seen as a human right, and not left up to the whims of the free market.

 

 

[1] http://americablog.com/2013/10/original-1989-document-heritage-foundation-created-obamacares-individual-mandate.html

[2] http://s3.amazonaws.com/thf_media/1990/pdf/bg777.pdf

[3] http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/08/republicans-supported-obamacare-gingrich-dole-individual-mandate

[4] http://www.forbes.com/sites/theapothecary/2011/10/20/how-a-conservative-think-tank-invented-the-individual-mandate/#4bdfebff621b

[5] http://www.cnbc.com/2015/10/23/mitt-romney-admits-romneycare-had-to-precede-obamacare.html

[6] http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/Robert-Reich/2013/1028/The-irony-of-Republican-disapproval-of-Obamacare

[7] http://www.pbs.org/newshour/making-sense/harvards-david-cutler-on-how-to-cut-health-care-costs/

[8] https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-12-12/1-in-4-americans-have-pre-existing-conditions-that-could-hinder-coverage-if-obamacare-repealed

[9] http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/10/15/448729327/states-that-declined-to-expand-medicaid-face-higher-costs

[10] http://wjla.com/news/nation-world/8-things-obamacare-has-done-for-better-or-worse

[11] https://www.rt.com/shows/on-contact/377845-us-health-care-system/

[12] https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-09-14/workers-up-front-health-costs-keep-rising-kaiser-study-says

[13] http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mylan-nl-epipen-congress-idUSKCN11R2OG

[14] http://www.allergypharmacy.co.nz/shop/Allergy/EpiPen%AE.html

[15] http://edition.cnn.com/videos/politics/2017/02/08/cruz-sanders-obamacare-debate-republicans-panic-sot.cnn/video/playlists/obamacare/

[16] http://obamacarefacts.com/obamacare-subsidies/

[17] https://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/01/opinion/moore-the-obamacare-we-deserve.html

[18] https://www.rt.com/shows/on-contact/377845-us-health-care-system/

[19] http://ctu.forumone.com/content/national-spending-health-care

[20] https://www.rt.com/shows/on-contact/377845-us-health-care-system/

[21] https://www.rt.com/shows/on-contact/377845-us-health-care-system/

[22] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQHTepzCZfo

 

What the Democrats need to learn – Lesson 2

There are a number of reasons why Donald Trump is now the President of the United States, but these are domestic reasons and the Democratic Party needs to stop blaming Russia for losing the election. Until hard evidence is given to substantiate the claims that Russia interfered, and to date I am not aware of any, then this argument needs to stop being promulgated. Additionally, when it comes to election interference, America can hardly cast any stones. Not only has the US interfered in the elections of other countries, it has overthrown and even assassinated democratically elected leaders, installing in their place puppet dictators who were favourable to US corporate and political interests. Some of the most well known of these secret CIA coups were in Iran, the Congo, and Chile, but there are more. Since Reagan was president, US foreign policy has been less cloak and dagger as the government has relied less on the CIA to influence other’s elections and more on organisations such as the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), but the US still regularly interferes in the elections of other countries. One of the more recent countries in which the US has played a significant role in ousting a democratically elected leader is the Ukraine.[1] I would like to know what percentage of Americans actually have any knowledge of what their government has been doing in other countries for decades now.

Obviously, Hillary did win the popular vote and yet still lost the election and, at some point in time, I’ll write about the problems of the Electoral College and how the whole system needs to change, but for now let’s look at the failings of the Democratic Party, which played a decisive factor in securing Trump’s win. If the party is to survive, then the leaders will have to admit that they screwed up majorly. They didn’t listen to the people when they were rallying behind Bernie and demanding change, radical change. Instead they betrayed Bernie and decided to stick with Hillary, the status quo.

Let’s explore this further. The DNC and John Podesta’s leaked emails confirm, among other things, that Debbie Wasserman Schultz, then chair of the DNC, was against Bernie and taking steps to interfere with his ability to campaign and reach out to voters. She and her allies within the party viewed his policies as too extreme for Congress to approve and unrealistic, and they didn’t want him to harm Hillary’s chances of getting elected. [2] [3] [4] But trying to say that these emails suddenly convinced thousands of people who were going to vote for Hillary to instead vote for Trump is a big leap of logic. It just makes no sense. Votes were lost when the Democratic Party turned its back once and for all on progressives and the working class by nominating Hillary at the convention back in July. By the time the DNC & Podesta emails were leaked, I believe most voters had already made up their minds as to who was going to get their vote, if they were going to vote at all. Many true progressives were never going to vote for Hillary in the first place, preferring Green Party candidate Jill Stein, while many of the white working class preferred Republican candidate Donald Trump, who was promising to bring back their jobs. Trump had also already secured the votes of white supremacists and misogynists and Hillary didn’t have a chance with any of them.

The problem is that the DNC and other influential people in the party have been out of touch with the people they are supposed to represent for a long time now.   Since the beginning of Bill Clinton’s presidency, the Democrats (like the Republicans) have been strong supporters of neoliberal economic policies (also known as Reaganomics), which have substantially increased income inequality and left voters feeling either angry or disenfranchised, as it appears that their vote has made no difference to their circumstances. The neoliberal agenda or free market economics has been achieved by significantly weakening unions, thereby lowering their membership, their ability to strike and stagnating people’s wages; creating free trade agreements that allow corporations to move their production overseas, leading to high levels of unemployment in various industrial areas of the States; replacing some of the former good paying manufacturing jobs with low wage jobs in the service sector; substantially lowering taxes for corporations and the wealthy, saying that this will create jobs; and cutting social services.

The American people should not forget that it was Bill Clinton who turned his back on the unions and pushed NAFTA through Congress back in 1993, resulting in the loss of 700,000 manufacturing jobs and reduced wages.[5]  It was also Bill Clinton who signed into law the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act in 1996. This has led to an increase in employment rates among former welfare recipents, but has not lifted people out of poverty as most of the jobs these people have gone into only pay the minimum wage which cannot support a family. And households headed by single mothers, are now worse off than they were before the Act went through.[6]  Between 1995 and 2010 far fewer families received aid from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) even though ‘the number of poor families with children rose 17 percent in the same period’ and there has also been evidence of racism towards people of colour in determining their eligibility for welfare support.[7]  In an effort to show he was tough on crime, President Clinton signed the infamous ‘three strikes’ law which has seen more people per capita locked up in US prisons than anywhere else in the world. Well over half of these prisoners are either black or hispanic and nearly half are in for drug offences. Though he says that he now regrets having signed this bill, the damage has been done.[8] Even if their sentences are commuted and they are able to get out of prison, these people are scarred and will forever struggle.

I think for many Americans, especially the white working class, a Hillary presidency represents a continuation of Bill’s, a presidency that would not be favourable to workers or job creation. And why should they see it any differently? The fact that Hillary was on the board of Walmart, one the most powerful corporations in the US and one that is vehemently opposed to increasing the minimum wage or unionisation, is very telling of who she is as an individual and what she stands for.

The American people aren’t stupid, they know that things aren’t working the way that they should. They know that life has been getting harder for them than it was for their parents and that their children’s lives will be even harder still, and they’ve been crying out for change. Americans cannot keep living on credit to make up for the shortfall in their wages. Americans cannot keep living with ever increasing medical expenses. Americans cannot keep living with the crippling debt from these and college tuition fees. Americans need change now and this will not come from the continuation of neoliberal polices. Until the Democratic Party wakes up to this fact they will continue to lose votes.

 

 

[1] https://monthlyreview.org/2006/12/01/the-myths-of-democracy-assistance-u-s-political-intervention-in-post-soviet-eastern-europe/

[2] https://wikileaks.org/dnc-emails/emailid/40524

[3] https://wikileaks.org/dnc-emails/emailid/4650

[4] https://wikileaks.org/podesta-emails/?file=bernie+sanders&count=50#searchresult

[5] http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/15-ways-bill-clintons-white-house-failed-america-and-world

[6] http://www.epi.org/publication/webfeatures_viewpoints_tanf_testimony/

[7] http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/15-ways-bill-clintons-white-house-failed-america-and-world

[8] http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-33545971

What the Democrats and the Left need to learn – Lesson 1

This is the first part of what I imagine will be a few blog posts on this topic.

Do not put Obama on a pedestal. President Obama did some things right while he was in office, but there are other things he got wrong, really wrong. Right now I’m hearing a lot of people on the left practically idolising the man as though he had no faults. Even though we may be vehemently opposed to Trump and all that he stands for, we cannot overlook Obama’s faults or we won’t learn from his mistakes.

On the positive side, Obama re-opened diplomatic relations with Cuba, which should have been done long ago. He repealed don’t ask, don’t tell, making life far easier for gays in the military. He closed CIA black sites, where suspected terrorists were detained and tortured. He implemented the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, which despite having increased healthcare costs overall, has enabled millions more Americans to get health insurance coverage that they were previously denied. Obama also signed the Paris Accord on Climate Change, as part of a world effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and control global warming. And just before leaving office, Obama commuted the prison sentences of 330 people including whistleblower Chelsea Manning and Puerto Rican independence activist, Oscar Lopez-Rivera.

On the negative side, Obama failed to fulfil his campaign promise to close the detention centre at Guantanamo Bay, which means that numerous terror suspects are still being held indefinitely and without trial at this facility in violation of their Constitutional rights to due process, and in violation of international law.

Obama was intent on pushing through the secret free trade agreement called the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) which would have given US corporations tremendous rights, including the right to sue any government that is party to the agreement in a secret trade court if that corporation claimed that any of that nation’s laws cut into its corporate profits. So in other words, if Congress or any state passed a law to protect the environment and not allow for example, fracking, to take place on its land, a corporation that fracks would have the right to sue the US government or the state. The trial would then take place in a secret trade court with corporate lawyers acting as judges. You can see where this would lead. How can people say that Obama was acting in the best interests of the American people when he supported this agreement? Quite simply he wasn’t, he was acting in the corporate interest.

Disturbingly, he pursued a vigorous anti-whistleblower/leaker policy and prosecuted more people under the 1917 Espionage Act than all previous presidents combined. There is a great article in the Guardian detailing how top level officials who have leaked information, such as General Patraeus who passed on multiple top secret documents to his lover, have gotten off practically scot-free, while low level officials, such as John Kiriakou, who leaked details of the CIA’s use of torture, face years in prison. Even more disturbing about Kiriakou’s case is the fact ‘that he is the only person to be prosecuted for any aspect of the CIA’s use of torture, including waterboarding, […] while the torture itself has gone unpunished.’[1] Another person prosecuted and charged under the Espionage Act is Stephen Kim, a mid-level analyst specialising in North Korea. Even though the news report attributed to a leak by Kim does not reveal anything that wasn’t already being talked about or speculated in the public arena, and there is no proof that Kim actually did reveal any classified information to the Fox News reporter, Kim was singled out as an easy target. Furthermore, Kim’s defence lawyer found out that a number of other high-ranking government officials had also been in contact with the same reporter, though none of these individuals were ever questioned or prosecuted. The prosecution of Stephen Kim has destroyed his career and his marriage. It has strained his family relations and drained his and his family’s bank accounts. It has also left him severely depressed and suicidal.[2] How can Obama supporters overlook this? How can they say that he was a great president when he went against his promise of having a more transparent administration and used the Espionage Act to ruthlessly go after all sort of people who were only revealing the truth of American misconduct and illegal acts to their fellow citizens, while those who’ve sanctioned or carried out these acts have not been prosecuted or even investigated? This is moral idiocy!

Another major fault of Obama is that he significantly increased drone strikes during his time in office. The Intercept has written a detailed report on these drone strikes, entitled The Drone Papers, after receiving leaked documents from an anonymous government intelligence officer who wants Americans to know the truth about what their government is doing, who wants Americans to speak out against these secret assassinations. These leaked documents reveal upsetting facts about the drone strikes carried out in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia between 2011 and 2013. Among other things, they show that rather than being precise strikes that kill only those who are going to carry out an imminent attack on Americans, far more innocent civilians have been killed than the intended Taliban, al Qaeda or al-Shabaab targets. Ninety percent of those killed by drones have not been the intended target and no one in the US knows who these people were or whether they constituted any imminent threat at all. Obama also tried to cover up the number of innocent civilians who were killed by drones, by classifying all men who are of military-age in a strike zone as combatants; in other words he deemed that they were guilty by association. We know that drone strikes have also targeted American citizens, such as Anwar al-Awlaki. Assassinations by drones are not only being carried out in the three countries mentioned above, but also in Pakistan, Iraq and Syria and there is concern that they will spread to other countries as well. It’s not just bypassing the option of capturing and trying suspected terrorists or of killing potentially innocent bystanders who happen to be in the same vicinity as the so-called ‘intended target’ that we should be concerned about, mistakes have been made too whereby the completely wrong group was attacked and killed. In 2013, a wedding party in Yemen was struck killing 14 and injuring 22, some severely.[3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]

These drone strikes, the stated purpose for which has been to kill suspected terrorists with the aim of making Americans safer, have only increased hatred of America throughout the Muslim world and thereby compromised Americans’ safety. If anything, drone strikes have added to Islamic radicalisation. Furthermore, they call into question all sorts of moral and legal questions. What gives the American government the right to kill at will anyone they don’t like anywhere in the world at any time? Why is the American government carrying out assassinations in countries with which they are not at war and getting into other states’ domestic battles? Shouldn’t American citizens be allowed due process and a fair trial or is this only the law for non-Muslims? Is the US War on Terror that the drone strikes are a part of in violation of the United Nations Article 51? How does killing remotely affect those soldiers who fly the drones? How would Americans feel if the situation were reversed and they were the ones living in fear of a drone strike by a foreign power based solely upon where they happen to live? How are the ideals of democracy and freedom affected by drone strikes?

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/mar/16/whistleblowers-double-standard-obama-david-petraeus-chelsea-manning

[2] https://theintercept.com/2015/02/18/destroyed-by-the-espionage-act/

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/civilian-deaths-drone-strikes_us_561fafe2e4b028dd7ea6c4ff

[4] http://edition.cnn.com/2013/12/12/world/meast/yemen-u-s-drone-wedding/

[5] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/31/naming-the-dead_n_6082954.html

[6] https://theintercept.com/drone-papers/the-assassination-complex/

[7] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/jul/01/obama-drones-strikes-civilian-deaths

[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Drone_strikes_in_Pakistan

[9] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/12/president-obamas-weak-defense-of-his-record-on-drone-strikes/511454/

[10] https://theintercept.com/2016/03/08/nobody-knows-the-identity-of-the-150-people-killed-by-u-s-in-somalia-but-most-are-certain-they-deserved-it/

[11] http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/10/world/middleeast/anwar-al-awlaki-a-us-citizen-in-americas-cross-hairs.html?hp

Another US war of aggression on the way?

Another war of aggression may be on the horizon if Americans don’t counter the lies coming out of the Trump administration.

This week Iran tested a ballistic missile. In response to this and an attack on a Saudi frigate possibly carried out by Iranian backed Houthis rebel, the US National Security Adviser Michael Flynn said that he was “officially putting Iran on notice”.[1] Then White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer added fuel to the fire by initially stating that Iran had attacked a US naval ship. Fortunately, he was partially corrected by a journalist who said that the ship was Saudi. But it’s these sorts of statements that incite more fear among Americans, especially if they are not corrected, and can lead to war.

So has Iran violated UN Resolution 2231? The simple answer is no. The resolution calls for Iran, not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology” but it does not prohibit Iran from testing ballistic missiles.[2] Furthermore, the missile Iran tested was a medium-range missile, which could carry nuclear weapons, but most commonly carries conventional weapons.[3]

Additionally, according to a recent press release from the UN, there is no evidence to show that Iran has been violating the resolution with regard to nuclear-related items. “Mr. Feltman said the Secretary-General had not received any report — nor was he aware of — any open source information regarding the supply, sale or transfer to Iran of nuclear-related items undertaken contrary to the resolution.  Nor had he received information regarding Iranian ballistic missile activities or ballistic-missile-related transfers to Iran taken contrary to the resolution. [And] the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had submitted two quarterly reports on verification and monitoring activities between 16 July 2016 and 15 January 2017.  In both, the Agency affirmed that Iran had not pursued construction of its Arak heavy water research reactor on the basis of its original design.  Nor had it conducted any uranium enrichment at the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant.”[4]

The US has wanted war with Iran for many years now, especially since the fall of the Soviet Union.[5] Personally, I believe this goes back to the bitter feelings the US has held towards Iran after the hostage crisis and the Iranian revolution of 1979, which overthrew the US backed dictator, the Shah. The Shah was originally put in charge of the country after the CIA (along with British MI6) successfully overthrew the democratically elected leader, Mosaddegh, who wanted to nationalise the oil industry, which was under British control. It is quite clear, if you read your history and look at what the US policy has been towards the Middle East that it’s all about the control of oil.

Until the West is willing to move to renewable energy, we will continue to have on-going wars in the region, destabilisation, terrorism in the West and more refugees than the world wants to handle. But this will mean standing up to the military-industrial complex that makes its money from all of this destruction and chaos.

[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/01/iran-trump-michael-flynn-on-notice

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/feb/01/iran-trump-michael-flynn-on-notice

[3] http://therealnews.com/t2/story:18289:Lies-Promote-Trump%27s-Economic-War-Against-Iran

[4] https://www.un.org/press/en/2017/sc12685.doc.htm

[5] http://www.salon.com/2007/10/12/wesley_clark/

So You Can Buy New Zealand Citizenship

So it turns out that if you are rich enough you can buy New Zealand citizenship. At least that’s what it appears billionaire Peter Thiel did in August 2011. Unlike the average person who applies for New Zealand citizenship, Thiel did not have to meet the residency requirement or prove his intent to live permanently in New Zealand. As a matter of fact, Thiel has never lived in New Zealand and only visited here 4 times. When I applied years ago, I had to prove that I had lived here for 3 years. Today, people who aren’t able to buy their way in have to prove that they have spent at least 70% of their time in New Zealand over a 5-year period and they have to show that they intend to remain in New Zealand, but not Thiel. On top of this, Thiel didn’t even come to New Zealand for his citizenship ceremony. This was a private affair at the New Zealand Consulate in Santa Monica, California.

Apparently, Thiel did some PR for New Zealand before being granted citizenship, as well as some investment in New Zealand businesses, and claimed his connections would help New Zealand companies break into the American market. He also made a donation to the Christchurch rebuild, and said that he would be proud to let others know that he was a New Zealand citizen. Except that his citizenship in this South Pacific island nation has been kept secret up until now when someone questioned why he was allowed to buy up such a large block of land in the South Island.

For those who don’t know much about Peter Thiel, he’s a German-born American. He’s one of the co-founders of the online payment giant PayPal, and co-founder of the data mining company in the Silicon Valley Palantir. He’s also on the board of Facebook, and a supporter and advisor to Donald Trump.[1]   According to Thiel’s application for New Zealand citizenship, which was released under the Official Information Act, the Department of Internal Affairs recommended Thiel be granted citizenship under Section 9(1)(c), the exceptional circumstances clause, due to his ‘abilities as an entrepreneur and his work as a philanthropist’ which were seen to be in the public interest. [2] It should be noted that his application was supported by both Sam Morgan, the founder of TradeMe, and Rod Drury, the CEO and founder of Xero. Both men have had business dealings with Thiel and received generous amounts of money from him for their business ventures.

Reading an article by an economics professor at the University of Canterbury who supports Thiel being granted NZ citizenship, it would appear that all of Thiel’s investments and philanthropic donations to New Zealand occurred prior to his being granted citizenship.[3] So my question to this is what exactly has Thiel been doing to help New Zealand since 2011? Does anyone know? Has he been working with the New Zealand government through Palantir as has been suggested in an article in Stuff?[4] What we do know is that he’s been investing in high-end property in Auckland, Queenstown and Wanaka, and telling his wealthy American friends to do so as well,[5] but this is not in the public interest. This does not help anyone in NZ beyond the real estate agent and those involved in the sale. One could possibly even argue that buying expensive real estate only helps to keep prices high or rising and makes it harder for average Kiwis to get into the market and own their own home. Why are these super wealthy Americans buying up property in New Zealand? According to The New Yorker, they and Thiel want to have a bolthole, a place to escape to, when things go to hell in and handbasket in the States.[6]

Over the past 4 years, 92 other people have also been granted New Zealand citizenship under Section 9(1)(c).[7] What New Zealanders have the right to know is whether Thiel is the only foreigner who’s been allowed to buy his citizenship or if there are others among these 92. Hopefully, there will be an investigation.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/88843382/peter-thiel-citizenship-details-revealed

[2] https://www.dia.govt.nz/diawebsite.nsf/Files/Peter-Thiel-release-1-February-2017/$file/Peter-Thiel-release-1-February-2017.pdf

[3] http://thespinoff.co.nz/society/27-01-2017/peter-thiel-is-a-world-leading-tech-investor-and-a-fascinating-thinker-of-course-nz-was-right-to-make-him-a-citizen/

[4] http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/88843382/peter-thiel-citizenship-details-revealed

[5] http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/88746174/Billionaire-Donald-Trump-supporter-Peter-Thiel-sending-more-of-his-mates-our-way

[6] http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/30/doomsday-prep-for-the-super-rich

[7] https://theintercept.com/2017/02/01/billionaire-trump-adviser-peter-thiel-bought-his-new-zealand-citizenship-documents-show/

Update on Trump’s Executive Order

We live in very interesting times! It has become apparent that the executive order on immigration was pushed through without consultation as officials from both the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security have stated that they were not consulted, and the heads of other agencies such as the Customs and Border Protection and Citizenship and Immigration Services were only made aware of it via phone calls around the same time that Trump was signing.[1]

There is a great article in Rolling Stone Magazine about the legality, or illegality, of this executive order. In addition to probably violating freedom of religion under the First Amendment by denying entry to immigrants from the seven nations based in part on their religion, the fact that people from these countries in question were detained this past weekend because of where they come from and some of them were held for many hours and not allowed to contact their lawyers violates the Fifth Amendment’s right to equal protection and due process under the law. Furthermore, the Immigration and Nationality Act, “specifically forbids discrimination on the basis of a person’s race, nationality or place of birth […] in the issuance of visas.”[2] However, it’s not just domestic laws that are being violated, but international law as well. If indeed any of the refugees that were detained after arriving in the United States were deported back to their home countries, this would have been in violation of the United Nations Convention Against Torture of which the United States is a signator. Article 3 of this convention states that, “No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”[3]

Today, only hours after Acting Attorney General Sally Yates told lawyers at the Justice Department not to defend this executive order, Trump fired her and appointed US attorney Dana Boente to fill her place until his chosen nominee for the post, Jeff Sessions, is confirmed. Boente has since informed staff that the executive order is legal and that he and they will be defending it.[4]

Though many world leaders and the United Nations have condemned this executive order on immigration, the Trump administration appears adamant that they are doing the right thing to protect American citizens. In his characteristically un-presidential like way, Trump tweeted that, “If the ban were announced with a one week notice, the ‘bad’ would rush into our country during that week. A lot of bad ‘dudes’ out there!”[5] Even President Obama has broken the unwritten promise to not comment on his successor and has spoken out against the order and declared his support for those out protesting.

Possibly even more surprising is that already over 200 State Department employees have signed a ‘dissent channel’ memo, an internal memo that allows employees to speak up when they disagree with policy, expressing their opposition to and strong disapproval of the order. Normally dissident channel memos are kept private and signed by the one person who is dissenting. Having so many sign, and the number is still growing, is unprecedented.[6] Here’s an excerpt of that memo. “A policy which closes our doors to over 200 million legitimate travelers in the hopes of preventing a small number of travelers who intend to harm Americans from using the visa system to enter the United States will not achieve its aim of making our country safer. Moreover, such a policy runs counter to core American values of nondiscrimination, fair play, and extending a warm welcome to foreign visitors and immigrants. Alternative solutions are available to address the risk of terror attacks which are both more effective and in line with Department of State and American values.”[7] It goes on to say that in fact very few terrorist attacks have been committed by recent immigrants to the US, and that most terrorist attacks have been committed by native-born or naturalized citizens. Furthermore, the memo states (as I mentioned in my previous post) that foreign nationals who have committed acts of terror in the US have come from countries not included in the ban e.g., Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The most troublesome part of the memo talks about how Trump’s executive order will actually increase anti-American sentiment and make Americans less safe. By singling out Muslim countries, “we lose access [to] the intelligence and resources need [sic] to fight the root causes of terror abroad, before an attack occurs within our borders[…]. When the 220 million citizens of these countries lose the opportunity to travel to the U.S. overnight, hostility towards the United States will grow.”[8] These State Department employees know what they’re talking about, they’re the ones on the ground overseas and quite probably some of them are posted in one or more of the seven banned countries.

So what should be done? First off, this executive order needs to be withdrawn immediately. Second, the Trump administration needs to sit down and consult with those currently working in the State Department and other agencies to come up with solutions that will improve their cooperation and communication. I am sure that there are plenty of federal employees out there with good ideas to improve the visa vetting process that do not alienate one religious group or engender hate and fear. Trump and his administration need to remember the values that Americans and others respect about the United States and not turn our allies into our enemies.

 

 

 

 

[1] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/29/us/trump-refugee-ban-muslim-executive-order.html?_r=0

[2] http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/all-the-ways-trump-defies-the-law-by-targeting-muslims-w463616

[3] http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CAT.aspx

[4] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/31/us/politics/-dana-boente-attorney-general-acting.html

[5] https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Eauthor

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/30/travel-ban-donald-trump-protest-chuck-schumer

[7] https://www.washingtonpost.com/r/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2017/01/30/Editorial-Opinion/Graphics/Draft_Dissent_on_EOSec3.pdf?tid=a_inl

[8] https://www.washingtonpost.com/r/2010-2019/WashingtonPost/2017/01/30/Editorial-Opinion/Graphics/Draft_Dissent_on_EOSec3.pdf?tid=a_inl

Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration

Yesterday Donald Trump’s executive order banning people from entering the United States who hold citizenship in seven predominantly Muslim countries, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen came into immediate effect. This even includes those with dual citizenship e.g., UK/Iran or Canada/Yemen. The result has been that well over 100 people who were mid-flight when the order went through have been detained after landing at airports around the United States. These people hold current visas or even green cards, permanent residency, so we are not talking about people trying to illegally sneak into the country. We’re talking about people who have either been living in the US already and are returning home after traveling abroad or those who have been granted the right to travel to the US after going through the arduous 18 to 24-month vetting/visa application process. Some Iraqis caught up in this scandal have spent years and risked their lives working with the US military in Iraq.[1]

In addition to those detained in the States, others have been held up in airports around the world or even worse ‘redirected on to flight[s] to their home countries’.[2] Probably one of the saddest stories I’ve read was about a Yazidi woman not being allowed to board her flight from Bagdad after escaping Isis and spending months trying to get permission to go to the States and finally join her husband there,[3] even though the ban is not meant to include those from non-Muslim religious minority groups.[4] For those who don’t know, the Yazidi are not Muslim. Their ancient, minority religion, with followers located in northwest Iraq and neighbouring Syria and Turkey, is an interesting and unique mix of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam. They prefer to keep to themselves, but have been persecuted for centuries[5] and have even survived numerous genocides. Today the Yazidi are a principle target of Isis[6] who have enslaved many of their women, subjecting them to regular acts of sexual violence, and who want to essentially destroy them as a people. [7]

Fortunately, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other groups have filed lawsuits on the basis that this executive order violates freedom of religion as set down by the Constitution. Additionally, a federal judge in New York has issued a nationwide stay on deportations, meaning that the newly arrived refugees, students and workers will not be deported at least until a hearing takes place on 21 February. However, it is assumed that many will have to remain in detention during this period.[8]

The impact of this one executive order alone is tremendous. Aside from the fact that all of these travellers have committed no crime and gone against no law that was in place when they began their journeys to the US, they are being subjected to an aggressive, draconian, religiously intolerant order that should not have been signed in the first place. Families are being kept apart and possibly worst of all, if any are or have already been sent back to their home countries, we don’t know as Judge Donnelly stated, that this wouldn’t cause these people ‘irreparable harm’.[9]

As so many of the protestors have pointed out, America was built on the backs of refugees.   It is even inscribed on the base of the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

As always, Mr Trump, is trying to appeal to peoples’ emotions and not their reason. He knows that Americans are scared and he’s trying to capitalise on that. He says that his executive order is working well and that it is to designed to protect Americans from terrorist attacks, but there have been no, I repeat, no fatal terrorist attacks in the US committed by any citizen of the seven countries currently on the banned list. If we look back at 9/11, we see that none of the 19 who hijacked the planes were from any of the seven banned countries.[10] Fifteen were from Saudi Arabia, two from the United Arab Emirates, one from Egypt and one from Lebanon. Isn’t it interesting that none of these countries feature on the executive order? And we now know why, Trump has business interests in all of them.[11] He wouldn’t think of adding those countries to the list, as he does not want the impact on his business. So really what this means is that Trump is trying to make it look to his supporters that he is doing something to protect Americans, when in fact he’s only serving his self-interest yet again.

If Trump really wanted to do something to protect Americans, he’d deal with domestic gun violence. Just under 3,000 people were killed on 9/11 and last year alone 10,945 people were killed by gun violence (homicide).[12] Americans are far more at risk of dying at the hands of their fellow Americans, than they are of being killed by a refugee. Of the 26 terrorist attacks that have taken place on US soil since 9/11, five of the terrorists were foreigners, four were naturalised Americans and a whopping twenty-one were Americans, including white supremacists like Dylan Roof.[13]

Mr Trump, if you want to make Americans safe, then deal with the domestic gun violence and stop attacking innocent refugees, students and those who are contributing to the American economy. Get to root of the problem, by looking at what is causing the violence in the first place. I suggest that you read the Spirit Level, which clearly shows that the more unequal a society becomes, the more violence and instability increase. Your lavish lifestyle and promotion of equally wealthy and disconnected people to positions of great power only further widens the divide between the 1% and the other 99%.

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/01/trump-immigration-order-muslims/514844/

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/29/global-fury-donal-trump-us-ban-immigration-muslim-countries

[3] https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/29/global-fury-donal-trump-us-ban-immigration-muslim-countries

[4] https://www.theatlantic.com/news/archive/2017/01/trump-immigration-order-muslims/514844/

[5] http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-28686607

[6] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/07/who-yazidi-isis-iraq-religion-ethnicity-mountains

[7] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-sex-slaves-lamiya-aji-bashar-nadia-murad-sinjar-yazidi-genocide-sexual-violence-rape-sakharov-a7445151.html

[8] http://fortune.com/2017/01/28/nationwide-stay-trump-executive-order-immigration/

[9] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/29/us/judge-trump-refugee-order-ann-donnelly.html

[10] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/no-terror-attacks-muslim-ban-7-countries-trump_us_588b5a1fe4b0230ce61b4b93

[11] http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/trump-muslim-ban-excludes-countries-linked-businesses-article-1.2957956

[12] https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/homicide.htm

[13] http://people.com/politics/donald-trump-refugee-muslim-ban-terrorist-attack-us-statistics/