What About Beirut?

The day before the Paris terrorist attacks, “the Paris of the Middle East” – Beirut – was attacked by ISIS. Terrorist set off two bombs in a busy shopping area, killing more than 40 people and injuring more than 240.

Then, on Sunday, a string of ISIS bombs in Baghdad killed at least 7 people and injured 15 others.

The terrible attacks on Paris have ignited a fury of reaction. But the Paris attacks were just part of a series of ongoing attacks by ISIS. Civilians have been attacked by ISIS all across the Middle East, in Iraq, in Syria and most recently in Beirut. The wave of refugees entering Europe are people fleeing ISIS attacks along with the Syrian civil war.

The recent ISIS attacks in Arab countries are barely mentioned in the discussion of ISIS and terrorism. The outpouring of sympathy for and solidarity with people in Paris is not matched by sympathy and solidarity for the people in the Middle East who are constantly suffering similar attacks. Why not?

Do Arab lives matter less than non-Arab lives? Was it because the attack on Paris is an excuse to cast this as an Islam vs. West battle?

The New York Times reported on this lack of discussion of what happened in Beirut, in “Beirut, Also the Site of Deadly Attacks, Feels Forgotten“:

But for some in Beirut, that solidarity was mixed with anguish over the fact that just one of the stricken cities — Paris — received a global outpouring of sympathy akin to the one lavished on the United States after the 9/11 attacks.

Monuments around the world lit up in the colors of the French flag; presidential speeches touted the need to defend “shared values;” Facebook offered users a one-click option to overlay their profile pictures with the French tricolor, a service not offered for the Lebanese flag. On Friday the social media giant even activated Safety Check, a feature usually reserved for natural disasters that lets people alert loved ones that they are unhurt; they had not activated it the day before for Beirut.

David Shariatmadari writes at The Guardian, in “Isis hates Middle Eastern civilisation too“:

The terrorists certainly had civilisation in their crosshairs. They spread chaos and killing through a city famous for its culture, its intermingling of influences, its freedom of expression. In as much as they targeted one of Europe’s great capitals, it was an assault on European values – the way our citizens choose to live and behave. However, it is wrong to frame the atrocities as attacks on “western civilisation” alone.

[. . .]

First of all, it downplays the suffering of Middle Easterners at the hands of Isis. On Thursday, for example, 43 people in a mainly Shia part of Beirut were murdered by Isis suicide bombers. Although that city is far more used to violence than Paris, it still represented an assault on normal, civilised life. The most immediate opponents of the violent jihadists are the people they live among – the Muslims, Christians, Alawites and Yazidis of Iraq and Syria…

Secondly, it distorts our ability to recognise who our proper allies are. There is a broad risk of tarring the whole Middle East with the brush of extremism – as though the violent ideology of Isis is typical of the entire region, and life across it carries on in an utterly different mode to our own. Here in the west, that can mean those of Arab or Muslim heritage being blamed and abused.

Freedom Fries

In 2003, conservatives blasted France for its reluctance to join in the invasion of Iraq. They called the French “surrender monkeys” and renamed French fries on congressional cafeteria menus to “Freedom fries”.

Now that the consequences of that invasion have, as Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont put it in Saturday’s Democratic debate “unraveled the region completely,” conservatives have unleashed a wave of hatred for the people fleeing attacks like those in Beirut, Baghdad and especially Syria.

These are the same people who were trying to keep children fleeing violence from Central America from receiving asylum in the U.S.

These are the same people who were trying to keep people from Africa out of the U.S. because of Ebola.

And now the same people are saying the U.S. should not even allow orphans – even those under the age of 5 – into the country because they might be “terrorists.”

It Is Not About “We”

We can’t say there is a “we” behind this special resonance of Paris. It is not a “we” of civilization; Beirut is the Paris of the Middle East. We can’t say this is “Westerners” expressing a sympathy of similars; there are millions of people in the U.S. who are of Middle Eastern descent, and they are part of the “we” that is the United States. There are millions more who constitute the “we” of Europe.

So what about Beirut? What is it about the people in Beirut – and Baghdad and Syria and so many other places under attack by ISIS – that makes them somehow different from the people in Paris, somehow less worthy of our attention and empathy and solidarity?

ISIS is at war with humanity, and those of us who are human should express our sympathy for and solidarity with all humans suffering these attacks.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

Cheap Labor — The Engine Of Wealth

… “brainstorming about ways to find a source of cheap labor to create an engine of true wealth. The obvious path forward was to acquire slaves.”

From The Dark History of Race and Terror over at Talking Points Memo.

Cheap labor, the engine of wealth. Does this sound like an economy near you?

53% of Americans can’t come up with $400 for an emergency.

The top 0.1% of Americans have as much wealth as the bottom 90%.

Cheap labor – great wealth at the top.

Columnist Who Said Invade Iraq Says TPP Critics Are Wrong

The great Thomas “Mustache” Friedman is perhaps best known for encouraging the invasion of Iraq (and subsequent resistance insurgency, civil war, thousands of American and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, eventually leading to the formation of ISIS – plus the trillions in costs) by saying, “What they [Muslims] needed to see was American boys and girls going house to house from Basra to Baghdad and basically saying ‘Which part of this sentence don’t you understand?’ … Well, Suck. On. This.” He is also known among the blogger set for what Duncan Black coined as the six-month “Friedman Unit,” because he claimed for years that the Iraq war would be “turning a corner” in another six months’ time.

Friedman on Wednesday explained in The New York Times that critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) (and the “fast track” process in which Congress preapproves it before We the People get a chance to know what’s in it) can suck on this, too. He wrote in On Trade: Obama Right, Critics Wrong,

…there has never been a more important time for the coalition of free-market democracies and democratizing states that are the core of the World of Order to come together and establish the best rules for global integration for the 21st century, including appropriate trade, labor and environmental standards. These agreements would both strengthen and more closely integrate the market-based, rule-of-law-based democratic and democratizing nations that form the backbone of the World of Order.

A coalition of “free-market democracies” like Vietnam and Brunei? The rules for a new “World of Order” in the 21st century negotiated in secret? Negotiated with only corporate representatives at the table? The rules for “democracy” must be preapproved by Congress with fast track before the public is allowed to see the agreement?

Friedman also writes that, “These trade agreements can help build trust, coordination and growth that tilt the balance in all these countries more toward global cooperation than ‘hunkering down in protectionism or nationalism and letting others, or nobody, write the rules.'” Apparently to Friedman, trying to save American jobs, balance trade (the trade deficit was $505 billion last year) and stop the stagnation of wages and devastation of communities that has resulted from our corporate-dominated trade agreements is “hunkering down in protectionism or nationalism”?

Friedman writes that TPP is an “effort to expand trade on our terms.” Whose terms? TPP is secret, negotiated by corporate representatives for the corporations they represent. With the fast track process We the People of the United States of America don’t get to know what’s in TPP until some time after Congress preapproves it, and even our Congress won’t get to seriously debate or amend it after we do get to see it. So too bad if we don’t like it. Suck. On. That.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership – an agreement negotiated entirely of, by and for corporate representatives who represent giant, multinational corporations that don’t even pay us taxes anymore – is not an agreement on “our” terms. We the People will get nothing from a rigged process like that, no matter how much these so-called “American” corporate giants might profit from it. We won’t get better pay, we won’t get better schools or infrastructure, we will only get even more cutbacks in the things our government does to make our lives better. TPP with fast track is an agreement between the plutocrats of the various giant corporations involved, some perhaps calling themselves “American” and others not.

If Thomas Friedman of all people is claiming you are right and your critics are wrong you really, really, really, really, really, really, really ought to rethink your position.


This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF. Sign up here for the CAF daily summary and/or for the Progress Breakfast.

As Fast Track/TPP Becomes New Third Rail, Where Is Clinton?

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) — and the rigged “Fast Track” process designed to pass it before the public has a chance to react — has become a new “third rail” for progressives and the activist Democratic “base.” (This is also true on the right, by the way.)

This game-rigging is creating a race to the bottom for people and the planet. The thing is: more and more people are seeing it. And more and more people are asking Hillary Clinton to lead the fight against it.

A Rigged Game

People are fed up with the rigged “trade” game that pits American wages, environmental regulations, consumer protections and other benefits of democracy against exploitative, paid-off, non-democracies. “Free trade” has made democracy’s good wages and environmental and safety protections into a competitive disadvantage in world markets.

Continue reading

Do Not Get This Flu

I have the flu – since Monday. I got a flu shot a month ago, but they say there is a strain out there that the shot doesn’t protect against.

I called the doctor, and it is too late to get Tamiflu so I just have to ride it out.

This is not a cold, it is much, much worse.

Take it seriously, get a flu shot and start washing your hands all the time.

Trans-Pacific Trade Talks Resume With Almost No Media Coverage

Shouldn’t it be a trade violation to threaten to move someone’s job to another country? Shouldn’t we negotiate trade agreements that increase people’s wages on both sides of a trade border? These are the kinds of agreements we would make if We the People were negotiating trade agreements with representatives of the working people in other countries. Unfortunately that is not the kind of trade agreements that our current trade negotiation process produces.

The secret Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations resumed this week, this time in DC. TPP is a massive agreement that sets up new rules for over 40% of the global economy, It will have profound effects on our jobs, our standard of living now and in the future and our ability to make a living as a country. Oddly, though, as of Monday morning you have to read about it in Japan Times because few-to-no US media outlets are covering it. Japan Times: TPP talks get back underway in Washington,

Chief negotiators from 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership initiative resumed negotiations in Washington after their leaders reaffirmed last month they will conclude an agreement as soon as possible.

Media Blackout

Here are a few stories about the media blackout of this important treaty — all in the non-corporate media:

Events This Week

In spite of the lack of American media coverage of this tremendously important agreement representatives of labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, Internet freedom, public health, faith, human rights and community organizations held a rally Monday outside the office of the U.S. Trade Representative. These organizations represent “stakeholders” from all countries that are denied a seat at the TPP negotiating table.

At the rally George Kohl, senior director of Communications Workers of America, said “We believe in trade. We are fighting against old trade policy that literally guarantees corporate profits at the expense of working families in all nations. In the weeks ahead, we will mobilize like never before against Fast Track authorizing legislation and the TPP, and for 21st century trade that gives workers’ rights, environmental issues and other concerns the same standing as corporate profits.”

Pics from the rally: (credits Roger Hickey, Arthur Stamoulis)

Wednesday at 11am the AFL-CIO is holding a TPP briefing on “What Negotiators Should Be Discussing Behind Closed Doors,” at their DC headquarters at 815 16th St, NW.

“While the Obama administration meets behind closed doors this week with representatives of the countries involved in negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the AFL-CIO will host a briefing outlining what the negotiators should be discussing. The briefing will highlight what must be included in the negotiations for it to truly work for working people and how the TPP will only gain labor’s support if it will create American jobs and promote high labor and environmental standards. The briefing follows a week of increased Congressional scrutiny on the negotiations and the involved countries’ history of labor abuses.”

Secret Negotiations

The negotiations are secret and the kids of people at that DC rally are not represented at the bargaining table. But corporate representatives have access to drafts of the treaty, and the negotiators typically come from and expect to go to lucrative corporate positions after the treaty is finalized — assuming they “play ball.”

While we do not know exactly what is being negotiated, we do know from leaks — and previous “NAFTA-style” trade agreements — tell us what to expect. Much of TPP is about “investor protections” and not trade at all. These provisions allow corporations to sue governments for doing things that infringe on profits — like laws and regulations protecting the environment, worker safety, consumers and the health of citizens. For example, under similar agreements already in effect tobacco companies are suing governments to block anti-smoking efforts that protect the health of citizens!

Members of Congress are very concerned about the transparency of the TPP negotiating process. On a call Monday Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Tim Ryan (D-OH), Keith Ellison (D-MN) and (rock star) Dan Kildee (D-MI) expressed their concerns about the secrecy of TPP as well as the failure to address currency manipulation in the agreement.

Senator Elizabeth Warren put her finger on the secrecy problem, saying, “Why are the trade talks secret? You’ll love this answer. Boy, the things you learn on Capitol Hill. I actually have had supporters of the deal say to me, ‘They have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed.'”

Currency Manipulation

Currency manipulation is a major trade problem. For example, we could restore up to 5.8 million American jobs, cut our trade deficit by $500 billion a year and increase our GDP by $720 billion just by addressing currency manipulation. (Click through for details.)

Congress is very concerned about this. Last year 60 Senators, a bipartisan majority, sent a letter to President Obama asking him to tell tell TPP negotiators to address currency manipulation. Also last year a majority (230) of members of the US House sent a bipartisan letter to the President saying they want him to tell TPP negotiators to address currency manipulation

60 Senators and 230 members of Congress want the negotiators to address currency manipulation– but TPP still does not address currency manipulation. What else do you need to know about the negotiating process, and respect for democracy and national sovereignty?

For more information about the TPP, visit these sites:

Expose the TPP.

Stop Fast Track.

Flush the TPP!

Stop TPP.

Sum of Us: Sign the petition to governments worldwide.

CWA’s TPP info, their Stop Fast Track petition and send this letter to Congress: Oppose Fast Track and the TPP


Global Trade Watch

Eyes on Trade