Category Archives: activism

American imperialism in Ukraine should be condemned just like Russian imperialism

I get disgusted reading the news coverage about the war in the Ukraine. I fully agree with the media’s talking heads that the actions of Russia are reprehensible. Vladimir Putin’s aggression and his long-term goal of expanding Russia’s borders should be condemned, but I believe that the imperialist actions of the US also should be condemned in similar terms, and the repression of minority (i.e. Russian) rights inside of Ukraine also needs to be condemned. Russia, the US and Ukraine all had a role in provoking the current crisis, and anyone who truly cares about human rights and democracy should be criticizing all three countries, and not be pretending that this is just a war of Russian aggression, because that is only part of the story.

Almost all the news coverage that I can find in English is very one sided, and they present Russia’s actions as if they were totally unprovoked. I see little coverage about how US foreign policy helped play a role in provoking this war. It was the US that dumped tons of money into the 2004 elections to help elect an anti-Russian government in Ukraine. It was the US who worked behind the scenes in 2008 to get the NATO nations to declare the goal of expanding NATO to include Ukraine and Georgia. It was the US that helped fund and advise the coup d’etat to overthrow the pro-Russian Ukrainian government in 2014 and the US that helped undermine the compromise brokered by the EU for a peaceful transition of power. The US backing gave the Ukrainian nationalist government the encouragement to repress pro-Russian protestors, which led to a civil war in 2015. The US also has encouraged the Ukrainian government to not adhere to the points stipulated in the Minsk Agreement to end the civil war, and so the repression of the linguistic and political rights of ethnic Russians has continued inside Ukraine.

The US’s goal is to peel Ukraine away from Russia’s sphere of influence and turn it into a client state that threatens Russia. Russia has basically told the US that it will wreck Ukraine as a country, if the US tries to turn Ukraine into its client state, yet the US has continued playing this dangerous game which is promoting civil war and the division of Ukraine along ethnic lines. For anyone who doubts the role that the US has been playing in Ukraine, it is worth watching this 2015 talk by John Mearsheimer where he predicts the likely outcome of US policy in the Ukraine.

If the US truly cared about human rights and democracy inside Ukraine, it would pursue a policy of trying to get Russia to agree to a policy of Ukrainian neutrality, so neither the US nor Russia would meddle in the country, and encourage the Ukrainian government to protect the cultural and political rights of ethnic Russians inside Ukraine to dampen the tensions inside the country.

Continuing to pursue a policy of NATO expansion is insanely stupid. How would the US react if China tried to make a military alliance with Canada and Mexico which threatened the security of the US? What do you think that the US would do if there was a bunch of ethnic Americans inside Mexico whose cultural and political rights were being repressed and Russia was helping to fund and arm a civil war against those Americans. This isn’t that far-fetched of a scenario, considering that it was repression of Anglo cultural and political rights in the 1820s and 1830s that led to war in Texas in 1836. We saw how Andrew Jackson encouraged Sam Houston to engage in a war to peel Texas from Mexico and how James K. Polk sent troops to deliberately provoke a war in 1845 in order to steal a third of Mexico’s territory.

I also see some disturbing parallels between US and Russian justification for their imperialist wars. In 2003, George W. Bush made fraudulent accusations that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction, and claimed that it was necessary to make preemptive war to prevent Iraq from developing those weapons. In a similar vein, Vladimir Putin now makes false claims that Ukraine is developing nuclear weapons and it is necessary to preemptively invade Ukraine to guarantee the safety of the Russian people against those weapons.

I find it ironic how the US mainstream media condemns Russia for provoking a crisis that so far has led to roughly a million refugees, yet the same media doesn’t have a word to say about the fact that US foreign policy has helped contribute to the 5 largest refugee crises in the world today, which include 6.7 million Syrians, 5.1 million Palestinians, roughly 5 million Venezuelans, 2.6 million Afghanis and roughly 2 million Iraqis. The US played a role in supporting the Israelis who stole Palestinian land in 1947-9 and 1967 and in helping to provoke the Syrian civil war and arm the rebels. The US media loves to talk about how Socialism is causing Venezuelans to flee the country, yet the data shows that the majority of the refugees left the country at points when the US increased its policies of economic warfare which were deliberately designed to cause hunger within the country. I see Venezuelan refugees on the streets of La Paz every day where I live, yet I have never seen the CEO of Airbnb making announcements that he will offer temporary shelter to 100,000 Venezuelans who have been harmed by US imperialism. I guess that victims of another country’s imperialism merit sympathy, but not the victims of US imperialism.

My point is not to justify the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but rather to say that we need to condemn this kind of aggression, no matter who is committing it. However, I also believe that the condemnation has to be the strongest among people who are citizens of the governments committing the aggression. Just like I believe that Russians have a moral duty to stand up and protest in the streets against their government when it sends troops to invade Ukraine, I also believe that American citizens (like me) have a moral duty to protest the US government when it helps organize coups and manipulate elections and helps foment proxy wars in Ukraine in the name of imperialist geopolitical strategy. I see pictures of Russians protesting in Moscow against the war, yet I don’t see a corresponding number of Americans protesting in Washington against the actions of the US government in Ukraine. I know that the US actions are harder to see, but I doubt that the current war would have happened if Washington hadn’t been helping to provoke it behind the scenes.

America at a fork between two diverging paths where the status quo won’t hold

America will either go populist left or populist right, but it won’t stay the same. The old neoliberal paradigm which has governed American politics for the last 4 decades holds very little appeal for the majority of voters in the U.S. who are growing increasingly alienated from the current system that governs in the interests of the wealthy and powerful. Sooner or later, the American people who the polls show to be thoroughly disgusted with the current system will vote out the corporate centrists in both parties who have spent their careers promoting it.

I am both more hopeful and more fearful about American politics than I have ever been in my entire life. America might become a progressive European-style social democracy that leads the world in tackling social inequality and climate change and reducing militarism around the globe, or it might devolve into a dangerous right-wing dystopia, filled with inequality, racism, sexism, zenophobia and religious bigotry which oppresses minorities and walls out the rest of the world. It appears to me that the US is standing at the fork in the road, and is teetering between two fundamentally different paths.

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Lo que yo hago para resistir el capitalismo de la vigilancia

Necesitamos regular las empresas que recolectan los datos personales para construir perfiles de cada persona y promover progaganda personalizada que es basada en las preferencias, habitos y amistades de cada persona. Nuestros deseos y pensamientos son colonializados por esta propaganda personalizada, pero el problema mas grande es que los gobiernos pueden utilizar los datos recolectados por empresas como Alphabet (que es el padre de Google), Facebook, Verizon (Yahoo), Amazon, Microsoft, Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent y Yandex para vigilar nuestras acciones y reprimir los movimientos disidentes. Continue reading

Responding to a critic of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)

Kim Iversen is a progressive YouTube commentator who I generally respect, but I profoundly disagree with one of her recent videos discussing why a number of progressives in the US House of Representatives, such as Tulsi Gabbard, Ro Khanna and Ayanna Pressley, voted for a resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against the state of Israel.

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Ranking the Democratic candidates for the US presidency

It is deeply depressing that the US presidential race started in late December 2018, which is 14 months before the Iowa primaries and 23 months before the general election. In order to maintain my sanity, I have decided to ignore all the coming drama over the next 2 years. Instead, I decided to sit down and rank the Democratic candidates in my order of preference, based on the issues that matter, not the soap opera that plays out in the news media. Now I can safely ignore the daily news for the next two years, but I decided to share my list, just in case it helps others who don’t feel like following all the silliness that passes for news now-a-days.

1. Bernie Sanders
Bernie is the best candidate on the economic issues and he is the best in his ability to speak to working-class people to rally their support. Bernie is not eloquent, but he has a way of speaking that makes you believe it in your bones that he will fight for you and he won’t give up, come hell or high water.

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Why calling Bernie Sanders a “sellout” is missing the point

Anyone who follows the progressive left in the US has probably encountered a lot of criticism of Bernie Sanders ever since he endorsed Hillary Clinton for president and campaigned for her to beat Donald Trump in 2016. Some of Sanders’ biggest supporters during the 2016 primaries, such as Jimmy Dore and Debbie Lusignan, the host of Youtube’s the Sane Progressive, have now become his biggest critics.

I was disappointed by Bernie’s reaction to many of the obvious attempts to manipulate the vote in the 2016 Democratic primaries. In my opinion, he should have publicly criticized the Democratic Party for engaging in this skulduggery, but I also understand why he didn’t. He saw his candidacy as a way to raise important issues in the Democratic party and force them to be discussed on the national stage. He knew enough about the machinations inside the Democratic Party to know that he would not be allowed to win the nomination for president, which is why he was able to keep campaigning with such passion on the issues even when he knew that he would loose.

At the end of the day, he wanted the Democrats to win the presidency no matter what because he has spent the last 3 decades in congress watching the Republicans gut the policies he cares about. He knew exactly how evil Trump would be as president, because he had seen what past Republican presidents did to the environment, labor rights, market regulation, etc. He has no illusions about corporate Democrats like Obama and the Clintons, but he knew that he could still push on important issues under a Hillary presidency, whereas that would be impossible under Trump.

Bernie was afraid that if he raised the issue of election fraud and all the dirty tricks of the Hillary campaign, that it would discredit her in the general election and the Republicans would win. With hindsight, many of us on the left wished that he had, since Hillary ended up loosing anyway. Basically, Bernie decided that the short term political impact of denouncing the dirty practices in the Democratic Party would be worse than the long-term good that it might cause in pushing the party to reform.

Bernie has always been a politician who values small, but tangible gains, which is why he spent so many years fighting for amendments in Congress. Maybe Bernie’s decisions were too short-term in scope, but we should also realize the long-term strategy that Bernie is playing. First of all, he is now angling to really win the presidency in 2020 and he thinks that the party might allow it to happen, whereas it wouldn’t in 2016. This means that he has to play a delicate game where he doesn’t totally alienate the bigwigs in the party, but tries to show them that the best way to win is a populist left strategy not based on corporate and big-money donations.

He founded Our Revolution so that progressive activists could work to reform the Democratic Party from within, while he pretends that he is not involved. This means that Our Revolution can work to get elected progressive candidates, but they generally don’t primary sitting establishment Democrats in congress, and they leave that work to Brand New Congress, the Justice Democrats and the Democratic Socialists of America. This means that Out Revolution can work on changing the rules of the DNC, but Bernie has to pretend that he doesn’t have a dog in that fight. He can publicly criticize the party, but he has to keep that criticism within certain acceptable bounds, and one of those limits is not talking publicly about the dirty tricks that were played against him.

These strategies have disenchanted many former supporters like Jimmy Dore, who want Bernie to found a third party that will force the Democratic Party to either coopt their issues or risk loosing elections. I understand the third party strategy and historically it has worked. Almost every progressive idea that was adopted by the Democratic and Republican Parties between 1870 and 1940 first came to the fore under a third party. Reformers like Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt basically adopted the ideas of the third parties and implemented them. Without the Populist, Progressive and Socialist Parties laying the groundwork, the ideas that became anti-trust law and the New Deal probably never would have been enacted in public policy.

The thing that the third-party advocates fail to acknowledge, however, is that the Democrats and Republicans have spent over a century laying down rules to prevent third parties from arising after witnessing the threat posed by the Populist, Progressive, and Bull Moose parties. Bernie is a practical politician and he has looked closely at the tangled thicket of rules that are designed to hinder a third party.  He sees little chance of a third party succeeding on a national level, whereas he sees a viable path for success in taking over the Democratic Party from within. So far the empirical evidence suggests that he is right. His agenda is taking over the party.

However, as Jimmy Dore loves to point out in his Youtube videos, the leadership of the party is still playing all sorts of tricks to resist reform as well, so there is no guarantee that Bernie’s strategy will work. The only sitting corporate Democrat in the US congress who has lost a primary so far has been Joseph Crowley, so reforming the Democratic Party is hardly a sure bet at this point. Dore argues that the leadership of the Democratic Party is going to make sure that Bernie won’t win the presidential nomination, and he is wasting his time trying to play ball with the Democratic Party leadership, when he should be attacking them publicly. Dore believes that Sanders is “sheepdogging” progressives into a corrupt party that doesn’t want to reform itself, when he should be using his political capital to build a third party that can challenge the Democrats from the outside.

On the other hand, the polling shows that Bernie is the front-runner to be the next Democratic nominee for president, although the mainstream press will never acknowledge it. The other potential presidential candidates know it, which is why Kristen Gillibrand, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker sound more and more like Bernie every day. Even if Bernie doesn’t win the nomination, whoever does win will have to adopt much of Bernie’s agenda at least in their public discourse. The problem is that a candidate like Gillibrand, Harris or Booker will probably pull from the Obama playbook, and run as a progressive, but govern as a centrist and a corporatist.

More important, in my opinion, is the work to replace the corporate Democrats in congress and the state houses with enough populist left politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, so that a Bernie-style president can push through Medicare for All, free tuition at public universities, a public infrastructure bill, ending the wars, etc. FDR was a great president because he had a Democratic Party in control of congress. He not only had progressive leaders in congress who were pushing the New Deal, but he was able to work in coordination with them to pressure recalcitrant congressmen into voting the right way.

I wish that progressive activists would understand Bernie’s strategy, rather than posting asinine comments online like “Bernie’s a sellout” or “we can’t trust Bernie after he endorsed Hillary.” Leftist activists seem to take a special kind of delight in leaving these sorts of comments on Youtube.  It is fine to disagree with Bernie’s strategy and to work on a different one, but at least have the maturity to acknowledge what he is trying to do, rather than engage in pointless character assassination and failing to acknowledge the political realities of the US. Bernie may be pursuing the wrong strategy and reform of the Democratic Party might not work in the long-term, but we would all be better off if we stopped trying to see this as the moral failing of Bernie as an individual, but rather understanding it as long-term strategy to achieve a set of progressive policy goals.

Personally, I believe that we need both an inside and an outside strategy to eventually be successful. Working for reform within the Democratic Party and third-party activism are both useful, because both strategies help to push the Party to the right place and these two strategies are not mutually exclusive. In fact, doing one helps reenforce the other. Helping the Green Party get 5% of the vote and primarying corporate Democrats both help to push the Party to the left and adopt a progressive agenda. If a third party is ever going to successful in the US which is a winner-takes-all system, then we are going to need Democrats in office who are sympathetic to rule changes such as ranked-choice voting. At the same time, working in the DSA and the Green Parties is certainly not a waste of time, because they pose a credible threat to Democrats who are forced to coopt their agenda. Even if we chose to work through a third party, we shouldn’t disparage progressive politician like Bernie who have chosen a different path to achieve the same policy goals.

I follow the Molly Ivin’s strategy when voting. Vote for the third party as a protest when the vote is not close in your district, but vote for the Democrat when the vote is close. I voted for the Green Party candidate in 1992 and 1996 against Bill Clinton, but I held my nose and voted for Obama in 2008, because I thought that the race would be close in Indiana, where I was voting. I voted for Bernie in the Democratic primaries in 2016, but didn’t bother to vote in the general election, because Indiana was going to go overwhelming to Trump, so my vote was effectively meaningless. If I were able to vote in a place like Pennsylvania, Florida or Ohio, where the vote was expected to be close, I would have held my nose and voted for Hillary, despite her patently corrupt practices as a politician.

Given the kind of damage that Republicans are wont to inflict on the nation, progressives need to be strategically smart and not be ruled by simple passions in our voting. Part of that strategy can be third party voting, but it makes no sense to disparage the moral character of people like Bernie who are pursuing a different strategy. If you feel that Bernie’s strategy is wrong, than attack the strategy, not the man. At the very least, acknowledge that we share many of the same goals on the left, if not the same way of getting to those goals.

Cómo la industria de PCs dificulta el uso de otros sistemas operativos

Ayer ProcessMaker Inc., que es mi empleador, me entregó un nuevo laptop–un HP Probook 450 G3–que tuvo Windows 7 instalado por defecto. ProcessMaker Inc. tiene reglas para prevenir el uso de software ilegal, entonces tuve que considerar que hacer con la copia de OEM Windows en la maquina.

He utilizado Linux desde el año 1999 y siento totalmente desarmado tratando de usar cualquier versión de Windows después de Windows XP. Tengo una partición de Windows 7 en mi laptop personal que sólo he buteado 2 o 3 veces en los últimos dos años. Recuerdo que lo utilice una vez para verificar un problema del hardware y otra vez para hacer una llamada por Skype, que ha dejado de funcionar en Debian 8.

No me gusta Windows por razones técnicas porque es un sistema muy inferior y por razones ideológicas porque soy partidario de la filosofía de software libre y la libertad digital. Sin embargo, tenemos preguntas acerca de Windows en el foro de ProcessMaker que necesito contestar. Entonces, necesito usar Windows de vez en cuando en mi trabajo, pero prefiero usarlo en una maquina virtual. Es mucho más conveniente para mí arrancar una maquina virtual de Windows que rebutear la maquina en una partición separada de Windows. Continue reading

A short summary of the facts why a boycott of Israel is necessary

I have come to the conclusion that the only moral response to Israel’s version of Apartheid for Palestinians is to boycott Israel and its products and to encourage others to do the same. It seems to be a waste of my time to keep demanding that the US government stop giving Israel $3 billion per year in military aid and stop vetoing resolutions in the UN Security Council that would hold Israel accountable for its actions.

Many others have examined the moral implications and the philosophical rationale of a boycott. However, I haven’t been able to find a short summary of the facts about Israel’s occupation of Palestine, so I have written one, to help people understand why a boycott is necessary: Continue reading

The importance of Bernie Sanders saying the dreaded words “carbon tax”

Bernie Sanders is now campaigning for an agenda, rather than the presidency of the US. How do I know? He has started mentioning the words “carbon tax” in his stump speeches. Before he would say that “we need to transform our energy system” and use other euphemisms, but now he is willing to say the dreaded words that no other US politician would dare mention, because he now has no chance of getting the Democratic nomination (except if Hillary is indicted in the next 5 weeks). Now he is fighting for an agenda, so he can say what he thinks. His goal is to raise issues and get America talking about what others deem politically impossible.

The politically impossible only becomes possible when people are willing to talk about a verboten idea and mobilize around it. Kudos to Sanders for trying to insert the idea of a carbon tax in the American public sphere.

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Why Black Lives Matter frustrates me

The growing militarization of the American police and their unaccountability for their brutality is a major problem and the Black Live Matter movement deserves credit for bringing this issue to the fore. BLM is probably the biggest social justice group to emerge in recent years, yet I find myself increasingly frustrated with the group.

It is the job of activists to be very clear about what they want when they cause disruption in society and to protest with clear objectives in mind, but BLM’s goal seems to get people to repeat their slogans so that people will pause and reflect on racism in their society. BLM doesn’t have any proposed policies to promote as far as I can tell. Currently BLM is conducting a campaign to confront presidential candidates to force them to address the discrimination against black people in policing. Continue reading

Why activists should worry about NSA spying

The revelations about the extent of the NSA spying are extremely worrying for anyone who cares deeply about their digital rights. In an age where most affluent people in the world use email, social networking, chat, internet telephony, and cellular telephones, the collection of digital information about people’s communications becomes a very invasive way to monitor and potentially control people. The digitalization of communications means that governments can now keep track of our activities in ways that the STASI could have never dreamed. The US government now knows who we communicate with and for how often and how long. With access to our social networking and metadata from our emails, chats and phone calls, they can recreate our web of relations and figure out if we are engaging in any activities which governments would like to suppress.

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Why we should refuse the full body scanners at the airport

Download this article: PDF, ODT, DOC

Full body scanners create an image of a person’s naked body through their clothing to look for hidden objects.

1. Full body scanners increase the risk of cancer. The Transportation Security Administration claims that the radiation from backscatter X-ray scanners is very low, but the Center of Radiological Research at Colombia University found these scanners emitting up to 20 times the radiation claimed by the scanner manufacturers. Researchers at UC San Diego note that the radiation is concentrated in the skin and surface tissues, increasing the radiation risks beyond what the TSA claims. The International Atomic Energy Agency and Nuclear Energy Agency recommend against using ionizing radiation on certain populations like pregnant women and children. The unions of pilots for American Airlines and US Airways have urged its members to avoid the full body scanners due to health concerns. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Full_body_scanner#Health Continue reading

Three visions of how to save our planet

Like many Americans, my scientific education was woefully limited. I don’t recall much from high school biology class except slinging slimy frog parts at my friends during disection. Chemistry and physics were taught by a jolly man who seemed psycologically incapable of teaching anything except how to make ice-cream and mixing vinegar and baking soda to pop corks off a bottle. In college, I struggled through a year of beginning physics, and then patted myself on the back for doing better than most of my fellow social studies majors.

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Recommendations for a “change the world” group

Here are my recommendations if you are embarking on a quixotic quest to change the world in some way.

  • Talk to everyone, because you never know who will suddenly join your efforts and give you unexpected advice.
  • Learn to let other’s take ownership of the project. Try to partner with existing groups rather than competing and creating from scratch.
  • Try to follow the Ella Baker model of organizing. Strive to not be the focal point, but rather the behind the scenes enabler and facilitator. Strive for non-hierarchical relations.
  • Be aware of the political implications, but don’t spend all your time chasing politicians.
  • Strive for sustainability, especially when the money runs out and the foreign NGOs go away. Are there local groups which will take ownership and continue the project afterwards? Or does the project generate its own income? Try to ween yourself off foreign funds and outside control.

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