Saturday, January 16, 2016

WHY I'LL VOTE FOR BERNIE.

I’m going to use this post to explain why I will vote for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary. Keep in mind that, as a progressive-realist and pragmatist, I will vote in the general election for whichever candidate is the nominee for the Democratic Party. This vote will not be because I always and only vote Democrat, but because every one of the Republic candidates at this time would be the worst of all possible choices. 

With the above caveat, here is my reasoning about Senator Sanders. I have posted twice before about Bernie, and here are those links if you missed them or want to refresh: Part 1 and Part 2

I am, and have been for a very long time, a socialist. Perhaps I am a Democratic Socialist, as is Bernie. If that means that I’m not a flaming, radical revolutionary intent on bringing down capitalism and the US government as we know it, then yeah, that’s it. I don’t see socialism and capitalism as mutually exclusive, in the way the old-style Communists did. I am also a capitalist, in the sense that I have owned a business that made profits, I have money invested in the stock market, and so on. I don’t see these two political and economic ideologies as mutually exclusive. I do understand the dangers inherent in pure capitalism as well as in pure socialism. I also know that there are good forms of both, and in a sense, there is a blend that can work in positive ways. (The B corporation movement is a good example of this.) 

I identify very closely with who Bernie Sanders is, what Bernie says, and what Bernie stands for. I know Bernie, not that I have ever met him, but because his origins and identity are so similar to mine. But more importantly, what Bernie stands for are the same things I stand for. 

This election will be the only election in my voting life, past and future, in which a self-described socialist is a contender for the nomination of one of the two major political parties in the United States. And Bernie has a chance to be the Democratic Party nominee. 

Anyone who says Bernie has no chance to be the nominee has not been paying attention. Anyone who says Bernie can’t win the election against the Republican nominee has not been paying attention. Anyone who thinks Bernie doesn’t have enough experience to be President should look at his record, and maybe compare it to that of Barack Obama when he was a candidate for President. 

The main reason, however, that I will vote for Bernie is that I think the 2016 election might be the last shot we have in the United States to swing our political system to a better direction. The big problems of our time are directly related to the huge inequality of income and wealth distribution, and the tremendous grip the wealthy and the corporate world have on our political system. This inequality and oligarchic control have led the United States down the path of government for the few instead of the many, with dire consequences for the vast majority of our population. No candidate for the 2016 election other than Bernie Sanders has a campaign based on this political and economic reality (and we don’t expect any Republican candidate to ever have that position!). Hillary Clinton has moved in that direction out of necessity in order to try to stand toe-to-toe with Bernie, but her movement in his direction is simply campaign rhetoric, not born of her political history. 

I am concerned that President Sanders will have trouble with Congress. In addition to the same trouble President Obama has dealt with for the past seven years, President Sanders will potentially have a new set of problems within his own party. As a Democratic Socialist, President Sanders will not have a Democratic Socialist Party behind him, and he will need to rely on the support of the Democratic Party. The big question is: will the majority of Democrats in the House and Senate get onboard with the ideas and programs of President Sanders? This remains to be seen.

Some of you will now be thinking: “This last statement by Fishman is the best reason to vote for Clinton, because the Democrats will certainly be behind her all the way!” Well, yes, many Democrats might be more aligned with Hillary’s brand of politics than with Bernies, but this is a big reason to vote for Bernie! Look at it this way; a vote for Clinton is a vote for business as usual, and look where business-as-usual has taken us. I am not convinced that President Hillary Clinton will move us in the direction we need to move if we have any hope to drastically change how this country works. I do have hope that President Bernie Sanders will give it his very best to radically change how this country works. And that, in my opinion, is our best chance.

I wrote a post here in June, 2005 titled: “Now is it time for the Revolution?”  I was reacting to the first four years of Cheney/Bush, but that question is perhaps even more germane now. I’m serious - we are in very deep shit, and it’s getting deeper every day. The levels of hate, fear, distrust and anger in the United States are palpable; the divide between us is possibly wider than ever before. And now so many of us are armed to the teeth! 

I don’t expect to change any minds with this post. If you are reading these words, it means you read this far, and at best you will give it some thought. Thanks for getting here. And please vote, no matter who your candidate might be. 

—-




A MESSAGE TO THOSE GOOD OLD BOYS

A Message to those Good Old Boys

The good old boys, with guns and bluster, have liberated the land for the people.
The good old boys, with righteous patriotic rhetoric, have dealt a blow to over-reaching government.
And the good old boys, with snicker bars and vanilla creamer, have defended the constitution.
The only problem is, the good old boys are wrong.

The people already own the land these squatters have liberated.
The government manages that land to benefit everyone, including the neighbors.
And the Constitution of the United States is just fine without those good old boys.

The Bundy Bunch are criminals, not patriots.
The Bundy Bandits are outsiders meddling in other peoples business. 
The Bundy Bozos are a three-ring circus with no cotton candy.
Just who do you good old boys think you are?

The National Wildlife Refuge was established to protect the land and wildlife from people like you.
Real ranchers and farmers want you to go away so they can get back to important things.
How can we, the people, help you back to the real world, instead of your fantasy video game?

What will you do when I show up at the gate?
What will you do when I demand that you give me back my land; the land my government manages for me?
What will you do when I bring 500 people with me who also demand you return their land to them?
Are you ready to kill us? 

You want a cause to fight for? There are so many.
But the fight you have started is not one of them.
How about Black Lives Matter? Because they do.
How about feeding hungry children? Because there are so many in our united states.
How about ending the epidemic of deaths and injuries by guns? Because more than 30,000 lives every year is way too many.
How about lifting people up from poverty? Giving every person a place to live? Ending hatred and bigotry? Spreading good?
Not your problem. Too busy defending everyone from the Boogeyman. Such self importance is a heavy burden to bear! 

So pack it up, good old boys.
You said your piece. You got your two weeks of media attention. Now you need to go away.
And when you pack it up, be sure to take your vanilla coffee creamer; they might not have any for you in prison.


p. fishman - january 2016

Sunday, January 03, 2016

MILITIA ACTION IN OREGON: LET'S BE THOUGHTFUL

The internet is buzzing with commentary about the self-styled militia that has taken over the office of a national wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon. In my opinion, we need to be thoughtful, and careful about what we say.

There are two popular themes I want to discuss: are these folks terrorists, and is the non-response by the authorities racist? 

The terrorist question is perhaps the easier of the two, and the one in which my peril of being accused of not being politically correct enough is less. Based on definitions I found on a FBI website, I think the action of these people is terrorism, specifically domestic terrorism. Here is the definition (footnote a):

Definitions
There is no single, universally accepted, definition of terrorism. Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85). 

The FBI further describes terrorism as either domestic or international, depending on the origin, base, and objectives of the terrorist organization. For the purpose of this report, the FBI will use the following definitions:

Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or Puerto Rico without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives

Seems very clear to me that these folks are committing an act of domestic terrorism.  I do not, however, agree with those who are lumping these people with the likes of ISIS, Al Queda or other terror groups who are in the news all the time. The armed people in eastern Oregon have not beheaded, raped, crucified, murdered, tortured anyone. I think they have threatened violence if the authorities try to remove them from the federal property. 

So in my opinion, we should be careful not to get too carried away with the moniker of terrorist for these people, and instead talk about how their action is classified. Unfortunately, when most of us hear the word “terrorist” we immediately think of radical Islamists. There have always been terrorists in the United States, such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nation, but only recently have they been associated with ISIS or other radical Islamist groups. 

Now let’s move on to the question of racism. I, like many others on the various social media, have had thoughts and have made comments about the assumption that, if these militia people were Blacks or Muslims, they might all be dead or in jail by now. We see too many instances where people of color and people who are Muslim are immediately suspect if they have a weapon. The fact that a SWAT Team or anti-terrorist force or any other heavily armed law enforcement personnel have not shown up at the wildlife refuge begs the racism question. 

But is the non-response really racist? Well, in my opinion, I say a qualified no. Let’s keep in mind that these armed people have taken over a small federal building in the middle of, well, nowhere. I only say “nowhere” because the vast majority of people have absolutely no idea where the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is located. It is rural - very, very rural. 

Here is a google earth view, including an insert of the building that has been taken over. 



This is not the middle of a dense urban neighborhood. These armed people pose no danger to anyone, because there isn’t anyone anywhere near them. The building they have taken over had no people in it because it was closed for the weekend. I doubt that the Harney County Sheriff Department has a SWAT Team, or anything like it. Harney County has a land area of 10,226 square miles, and a population of 7,146 people. Cattle outnumber people in the county by 14 to 1. The County Sheriff website has a page for “Sheriff’s Posse;” however, it only lists the contact information for the Sheriff. 

Comparing the “non-response” at Malheur to the immediate and heavily militarized responses we see when there is a gunman or a mass shooting in an urban area is apples and oranges (people and cattle?). I also think that saying there would be an immediate and heavily armed response if these folks were African American, or Muslim is, for this situation, without a basis. 

The Sheriff and others have commented that a number of agencies are working together on a strategy to deal with these self-styled militia folk. They have told people to stay away from the wildlife refuge. This could play out in a number of ways, including a violent confrontation. However it ends, I think the people involved in the takeover will be arrested, at least those who are alive, and charged with any number of crimes. 

Earlier I wrote that my opinion on the question of racism is a “qualified no.” Let me explain. I know that there is a deep current of racism in my country, the United States of America. There are racist people, and many of our institutions and systems are racist in practice. This is not a surprise to most people who read the news and news analyses. 

I think it is too early to find any racial undertones in the response (non-response) of the local authorities. But this situation should be watched carefully by all of us to see how it develops, and whether or not we think the eventual actions of the various government authorities are different because the militia are a bunch of good-old white boys. 

These are my thoughts; what do you think?

Footnotes:
a. Source:  https://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/terrorism-2002-2005/terror02_05#terror_05sum

GUNS, MILITIAS, REVOLTS - OH MY!

So many juicy topics to choose from today. So let’s combine a couple of related topics about guns and militiamen/women and the concept of revolt in the USA. Sounds like fun.

I often post provocative things on Facebook and this blog. Yesterday I posted one item about guns, and another about the takeover, by self-described militia, of a federal Wildlife Refuge headquarter building (kind-of a small house) in eastern Oregon. These are related topics. 

First, the question I posed about guns. I read about, and once witnessed people who walk around in public places carrying loaded semi-automatic rifles as a demonstration of their Second Amendment right to bear arms (this is in states where open carry is legal). The legal question I posed was this: if I witness these people, and I feel threatened and afraid for my safety, do I have the right to call the police and demand that they make the gun-toters leave? This is an especially relevant question today because of the recurring mass shootings by people with semi-automatic weapons. Yes, if it is legal, these folks have a right to openly carry weapons; however, given the climate of fear and apprehension in this country about mass shooters, isn’t this behavior the same as shouting “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire?  

I know what the gun rights crowd will say, but I think it is time for the gun control crowd to start exercising our right to feel safe in public places. I propose that any time we see people open carrying these kinds of weapons in a public place we call 911 and say that we feel unsafe and fear for our safety. 

Some of my FB friends have posted another thought I’ve had: what if the gun-toters happen to be African American? And I will add, what if they are Muslim, with beards, dressed in long gowns and skull caps (to be very obviously Muslim), and demonstrating their Second Amendment right? Think about it, in America, a group of white guys dressed in military garb and carrying semi-automatic weapons walking around a park or mall or other public place vs. a group of obvious Muslims doing the same. Which ones do you think will end up dead very quickly? 

One of the examples of how this plays out along race lines in our history is when the Black Panthers decided to arm themselves. Gun ownership was legal, and they did not try to hide the fact that they had guns. The end of this was when the police raided Black Panther offices and homes, killed (murdered) some of them, and arrested many. 

So now let’s get to the insurrection in eastern Oregon. The quick summary is that there was a demonstration in Burns, Oregon about father and son ranchers who were convicted of arson for setting at least two areas of federal range land on fire. This is a federal crime, and they were sentenced to 5 years in prison. The men announced that they would show up Monday to start their prison terms, but anti-government types held a demonstration for the purpose of claiming that the federal government should stay out of local issues, should not own range and forest land, and etc. A small group of demonstrators - they claim to have about 150 people - then split off and took over the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. You can easily find the video clips of these guys spouting off about taking the country back for the people, opening the Wildlife Refuge for grazing, farming, mining and other activities for the people, and etc. 

These guys (maybe some women, too) describe themselves as militia members, some of them dress in military clothing, they carry rifles and assault weapons and pistols - in other words, they are a group of armed people who have taken over government property. 

Obviously these people are violating numerous laws. I’m guessing that they are not violating any law about guns, just laws about their behavior, such as trespassing, threatening violence, etc. 

This is an interesting case to watch. Will these militiamen be considered terrorists, and be prosecuted as such? Keep in mind that they have made statements that they plan to stay where they are “for years” and will fight anyone who tries to get them out. This could become a lengthy stalemate in which the authorities try to starve them out rather than get into a gun battle with them. 

I think it is important to listen to the messages these folks put forward. They are very anti-government - federal government - and claim that America is off-track and needs to find it’s footing again. In their minds, the feds have taken away everything that they need to practice their form of livelihood; the feds own large acreage of range land, large areas of timber land, control mining activities. In other words, the natural resources in the USA should be open and available to anyone who wants to use them, with no regulation, no control by Big Government, no oversight of environmental quality, etc. 

AND, by god, they have a constitutional right to back up their message with their guns! 

Ah, Oregon, beautiful Oregon. A vast sea of rural conservatism with tiny islands (Portland, Eugene, a few others) of liberalism. 

And I can’t wait to hear what Trump, Cruz and the others have to say about this one! 

—-

Note: You might remember Clive Bundy, the Nevada rancher who started a standoff with federal officials. Well, his sons are the ring-leaders of the new Oregon Rebellion; and no, they do not live in Oregon. 

Friday, January 01, 2016

JANUARY 1, 2016

I am trying NOT to read the news today (oh boy). I want to start the new year on a positive note, but this is not an easy assignment. Already my smartphone has popped up with "breaking news" (new open carry gun law in Texas). Already a cousin in Israel has posted on Facebook about another terrorist attack in Tel Aviv resulting in people being killed and wounded. Already. Already. Already. Enough already! We live in a terrible world - I know!

But I don't want to start the year this way. I truly want to focus on the beautiful and good things in our world. I want to celebrate those people who do good every day, and those who choose to spend their time doing good for others. I want to celebrate the people who go to the island of Lesbos, Greece to help refugees fleeing lives of fear and terror and death. I want to celebrate people who feed the hungry, who care for the sick, who help people in need. I want to celebrate the people who take the time and the responsibility to work hard for our rights and freedoms. And there are a lot of you.

The media tend to focus on the horrible. Sometimes we see stories about the good. I would like to see every news medium - newspapers, on-line outlets, TV news programs - have one segment or section every day dedicated to the good things happening in our world. Tell those stories so we can have some hope, see some good, know that we are not alone. Give us the opportunity to feel joy, to feel the goodness of humanity, and to not be bathed in honor all day every day.

This is a beautiful blue planet. Too many of us cannot see the beauty because our lives are focused on survival. My wish for the new year is that every person on Earth would have the freedom and opportunity to breathe freely in beautiful places, free of fear, free of want, free of hate. This is certainly possible; unfortunately, it is not probable. Are we intelligent enough to change? Are we human enough to see ourselves as a society of sisters and brothers, and not groups of others?

Happy new year. We have a lot of work ahead.

---

Monday, December 07, 2015

A TYPICAL DAY IN THE USA, 2015






Ralph Peters, retired Lt. Col. U.S. Army, a frequent guest on Fox, commenting on the air about President Obama's speech from the Oval Office about terrorism: "I mean, this guy [President Obama] is such a total pussy, it's stunning," 

Donald J. Trump, leading Republican candidate for President of the United States, proposed, on the day after President Obamas speech about terrorism, to bar all Muslims from entering the United States until the government can "figure out what is going on." 

About a dozen demonstrators, some carrying weapons, in Irving, Texas outside a mosque: "It's not like were racist, homophobic bigots. We just have a certain level of distrust for certain Islamic people." And the Ku Klux Klan announced that they, too, were going to demonstrate in Irving; however, the original demonstrators want nothing to do with the Klan. 

Are there countries in the world that will accept me as a political refugee? 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

ELECTION 2016: CLINTON V. SANDERS, PART 2

Hello dear readers. I'm dragging you along with me as I explore the two front-runner candidates for the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States. Today I'm looking at campaign contributions. There are a lot of numbers available to look at, but perhaps one of the key graphics is to look at the summary chart and table of contributions for each candidate (Source: open secrets.org):



Above: Clinton campaign.

Above: Sanders campaign.


There are three major differences in these numbers:
  1. Clinton has raised a lot more money than Sanders ($97+ million to $41+ million),
  2. Sanders does not have a PAC (Political Action Committee), and
  3. Sanders has a greater percent contributions from small donors than Clinton (74% to 17%).
The first point seems obvious, the Clintons are more well-known than Sanders, have built a large network of wealthy liberal donors since President Clinton's campaigns, and are popular with the wealthy and corporate class in America.

The second point is a basic philosophical and political decision by Sanders to "walk the talk," as he likes to say. He has been very critical of campaign financing for many years, thinks the Citizens United decision by the SCOTUS has given control of elections to the wealthiest Americans, and decided early on, against the advice of his political advisors, not to accept money from PACs and Super-PACs. 

As a result of the above, the Sanders campaign has focused on small donors to fund the campaign. Sanders is popular with young voters and many progressive/far-left voters, and large numbers of these people send small donations.

Are these differences meaningful? Perhaps they are if large donors expect something in return when their candidate is elected. There have been questions about the Clinton donors, and the ties between the donors to the Clinton Foundation and the political campaign. In many minds, this is a difference between political business as usual and a different kind of political business. 

Bottom line: these are data, you decide what it means to you. 

---


Below I'm pasting additional interesting data, if you want more to puzzle over. Data for Clinton are on the left, for Sanders on the right. 



WHEN I WAS THE VICE PRESIDENT

I enjoyed being Vice President of the United States (VPOTUS). It was a very cool job. But that was some time ago, and now, as CEO of Apple, I feel that I am doing good things for the world of technology. I sometimes regret my role in the invasion of Russia, but we decided it was in the best interest of the United States, and the Russian people welcomed us with flowers and pirogi. But I digress.

What is it with the media these days? These folks just lay in wait for us movers and shakers to talk, and then they pounce with accusations that we are not being truthful. Well, what are their sources? How dare they imply that I'm not a truth-teller? Why can't someone control these people?

This is, after all, an election year - almost, anyway - and we candidates need to let the voters know about all the great things we have accomplished. We also need to let them know all the great things we will do once elected. How dare the media try to accuse us of falsehoods!

Fishman for POTUS - Not Just for the Halibut!

Candidates Stick to Script, if Not the Truth 



Friday, November 06, 2015

THE PORTLAND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION INSULTS THE JEWISH COMMUNITY

The Portland Human Rights Commission, (HRC) has greatly insulted and put a deep-freeze on it’s relationship with the Jewish community of Portland by drinking the kool-aid served up by the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement. This action demonstrates a level of insensitivity to the reality of anti-Semitism by the HRC that questions the validity of that commission. By supporting a movement that singles out Israel, and no other country or organization, for human rights violations, the Portland Human Rights Commission has aligned itself on the side of bigotry. The core of the BDS movement is anti-Semitism; the goal of the BDS movement is not to end human rights violations, but to end the existence of the country of Israel and replace it with a Palestinian state. 

The BDS movement is an anti-Israel movement considered by many to be, at it’s core, anti-Semitic. BDS affiliates, such as the coalition Occupy-Free Portland, have chosen four companies as the target of their divestment campaign, based on their allegation of these companies alleged involvement in human rights violations. The HRC voted, at their October 7, 2015 meeting, to support the Occupy-Free Portland request to the Portland Socially Responsible Investment committee (SRI) to add these four companies (Caterpillar, Motorola, G4S and HP) to the City’s “do not buy” list.

The HRC Chair, Chabre Vickers, repeatedly stated that the focus of the HRC decision was about four companies, not about a country, nationality or religion. It is difficult for me to believe that members of the HRC agree with that, because all of the background information submitted to them by Occupy-Free Portland specifically focused on alleged violations by Israel. The majority of pro-BDS supporters at the November 4 HRC meeting did not speak about any of the four companies, they spoke about how terrible Israel is. It is crystal clear to any objective person that the Occupy-Free Portland/BDS movement is an anti-Israel movement. All of the background papers submitted with information about the four companies listed alleged human rights violations in Israel, even though these companies operate in and sell products to many countries world-wide, including the United States I might add. 

The United States Department of State has a fact sheet on anti-Semitism. As examples of anti-Semitism relative to Israel, the State Department says: 
Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation
Multilateral organizations focusing on Israel only for peace or human rights investigations

Notably, the HRC did not reach out to any of the four companies, and did not reach out to the major Jewish organizations in Portland for input before voting on the Occupy-Free Portland request. Following the October HRC vote, Jewish organizations asked for an opportunity to speak to the Commission at their November meeting, and this request was accepted. Interestingly, the HRC put out a press release (see below) on October 29 confirming their decision and digging in their heels. 

The November 4 meeting took place in a packed auditorium of the Portland Building, and it was a raucous affair. The invited speakers from the Jewish community presented their information, opinions, and expressions of dismay about the HRC decision. (The HRC chair, and eventually the building security person had to repeatedly tell BDS people in the room to stop shouting out and interrupting the Jewish speakers.) The speakers presented information about the BDS movement objectives and methods, pointed out that the four companies targeted by BDS provide equipment and services to Israel and the Palestinian Authority that are used to benefit all people in Israel and the West Bank, talked about the hypocrisy of a human rights commission supporting a movement such as BDS, talked about recent acts of anti-Semitism in Portland, and expressed their great concern that the HRC had taken an action that insulted the Jewish community without first consulting with, or asking for input from, that community. 

I attended the November 4 meeting; my wife was one of the invited speakers. It was notable that every invited Jewish presenter acknowledged that Israel has human rights issues that need to be resolved. Many stated that not all Jews support the current government of Israel and many of it’s decisions. They also pointed out that anti-Semitism is rampant around the world, and that the BDS movement foments anti-Semitism in many ways, including by association of Jews with Israel. 

Following the presentations by the invited speakers from the Jewish community, Commission members had an opportunity for comment and discussion. The two Jewish commissioners renounced their previous votes, explaining that they had not read the materials and did not really understand the issue up for vote (how embarrassing!). One commissioner accused the invited Jewish speakers of using code words for Islamaphobia - an astounding and untrue accusation that no commissioner challenged. Another commissioner complained that he wasn’t paid for his time on the HRC, and if people were so concerned about this action why didn’t they attend HRC meetings, and if people don’t like what he’s doing just fire him! Other commissioners defended the HRC decision, and repeated the tired explanation that it was not about any country or group of people, it was only about four companies. 

I left part-way through the public testimony portion of the meeting; however, I heard later that the Commission voted again, and the previous decision was affirmed by a 6-5 vote (I have not yet confirmed this). I guess this is progress, as the original vote was unanimous. [Update: it appears that the 6-5 vote was on whether or not to have a re-vote on the original item; there was not a re-vote.]  

I am now wondering how this HRC precedent will play out. Will they consider requests to recommend “do not buy” for other companies allegedly involved in human rights violations anywhere in the world, including here in the United States? Or is that distinction only applicable to companies that do business in Israel? 

Following this text I’ve added the HRC press release, and my letter to the HRC dated November 3. 


And by the way, who is Occupy-Free Portland? Well, here is a screen shot of their web site: 




Portland HRC press release:

 October 29, 2015
For Immediate Release
City of Portland Human Rights Commission Endorses Occupation-Free Portland’s Proposed Statement to the Socially Responsive Investments Committee
PORTLAND - On October 7, 2015, the Portland Human Rights Commission (HRC) unanimously voted to support Occupation-Free Portland’s request to the City’s Socially Responsible Investments committee (SRI) to place four U.S. companies on the City’s “Do Not Buy” list: Caterpillar, G4S, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions.

As a commission guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, HRC based its decision to endorse Occupation-Free Portland’s letter solely on the four companies’ involvement in human rights violations in Israel and Palestine. This was not an issue relating to religion or nationality, but solely on human rights impacts, and a request to the City of Portland to divest from companies profiting from violent conflict.
HRC’s endorsement of the letter was specifically for the Occupation-Free Portland request to be presented to SRI, where that City body would use their process to determine whether the request fits their guidelines for recommendation to Council.
The process that led to HRC’s endorsement of the letter began with public testimony at HRC’s September 2, 2015 meeting. After hearing from numerous community members, HRC requested additional information and additional time for review; and communicated to attendees that the commission would hold a vote at the October 7, 2015 meeting. This process allowed Human Rights Commissioners a full month between the time the request was introduced, to the time at which the vote took place.
Regardless of any post-meeting renouncements, the unanimous vote stands unless another full-Commission vote takes place.

“Our job as Human Rights Commissioners is to hear and take action on human rights issues,” said Audrey Alverson, HRC vice chair. “This work, by default, is difficult and uncomfortable and often involves push back. We recognize that many issues we are asked to consider are complex and multi-faceted; and as a commission, we work to hold true to our mission of upholding the ideals expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the ideal that those rights are endowed to all human beings, regardless of their politics. Our decisions may be unpopular to some or even to the majority, but human rights issues wouldn’t exist if these positions were popular.”

As an all-volunteer advisory body to City of Portland’s elected leaders, the HRC is not charged with making decisions nor declarations on City policy, but rather with advising elected leaders on human rights issues within the city. One avenue through which HRC’s advisory statements and endorsements are informed is by receiving community input in a variety of forums, including regularly scheduled public comment at HRC’s monthly meetings.

The HRC works to eliminate discrimination and bigotry, to strengthen inter-group relationships, and to foster greater understanding, inclusion, and justice for those who live, work, study, worship, travel and play in the City of Portland.

For more information, please contact Jeff Selby at jeff.selby@portlandoregon.gov

#     #     #





421 SW 6th Ave Suite 500 | Portland, OR 97204 US



 My letter to Portland HRC:
TO: Chabre Vickers, Chair, Portland Human Rights Commission
FROM: Paul A. Fishman, community member
SUBJECT: Basic issues with and effects of the HRC decision regarding divestment
DATE: November 3, 2015

Ms. Vickers:

Thank you for reviewing and considering my comments on the issues and effects of the subject decision by HRC. Please distribute these comments to members of the Commission. Thank you.

ISSUES

The HRC press release issued on October 29, 2015 contained the 4 bullet points pasted below (italics). My comments are the non-italicized text. 

As a commission guided by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, HRC based its decision to endorse Occupation-Free Portland’s letter solely on the four companies’ involvement in human rights violations in Israel and Palestine. This was not an issue relating to religion or nationality, but solely on human rights impacts, and a request to the City of Portland to divest from companies profiting from violent conflict.

What is the history of the HRC similar actions against investment in any corporations? Are there examples of the HRC recommending economic action (i.e. non-investment or divestment) against corporations other than the four targeted in this case? Does the HRC have a policy to “request to the City of Portland to divest from companies profiting from violent conflict”? If yes, how has this policy been applied to other cases? If no, why now? If this type of action is not HRC policy, and HRC has no history of this type of action, then the statement that this “was not an issue relating to religion or nationality” is not true; this is an action specifically aimed against Israel. The organization that brought this request to the HRC works exclusively against Israel, and not against any other nations. 

HRC’s endorsement of the letter was specifically for the Occupation-Free Portland request to be presented to SRI, where that City body would use their process to determine whether the request fits their guidelines for recommendation to Council.

Does HRC have a policy or directive for making recommendations or requests to the SRI? If yes, what is that policy, and what are the criteria by which HRC should take such actions? Has HRC made such recommendations or requests to the SRI previously? If yes, what and when?

The process that led to HRC’s endorsement of the letter began with public testimony at HRC’s September 2, 2015 meeting. After hearing from numerous community members, HRC requested additional information and additional time for review; and communicated to attendees that the commission would hold a vote at the October 7, 2015 meeting. This process allowed Human Rights Commissioners a full month between the time the request was introduced, to the time at which the vote took place.

As recorded in the minutes of the HRC for September 2, 2015, three community members spoke about this issue. Two of the speakers are affiliated with the Occupy-free Portland coalition, and it is likely that the third is also affiliated with this group. This truly does not constitute “hearing from numerous community members.” In fact, you heard from three people who do not represent the Jewish community of Portland. The HRC requested additional information from the commenters, and did not seek any information or input from persons representing the major Jewish organizations in Portland. HRC members certainly are aware of the controversial nature of the BDS movement and it’s affiliates, including Jewish Voice for Peace and Occupation-Free Portland. “The process” referred to in the HRC press release was a flawed process. 

Regardless of any post-meeting renouncements, the unanimous vote stands unless another full-Commission vote takes place.

Based on the controversy sparked by this HRC action, I suggest that it would be wise for the HRC to examine it’s actions and policies. Was the vote taken within the framework of HRC policy, directives and mission? Should HRC have a policy and process for taking up requests such as this from members of the public? I also request that the HRC suspend the October endorsement until such time that the HRC has policy and process in place to deal with this kind of issue. 

EFFECTS

The endorsement by the HRC of this divestment action has the very unfortunate effect of promoting anti-Semitism. I understand that the HRC action was not intended to promote racism; however, every action involving Israel promotes anti-Semitism and often racial attacks and incidents against Jewish people all over the world, including in the United States and Portland. The situation in and around Israel and Palestine is very complex, and too often individuals and organizations, such as the Portland Human Rights Commission, fall into the trap of inadvertently supporting anti-Jewish sentiments and actions. 

It is important for the Portland HRC to understand the unique situation of Jews in relation to the country of Israel. No other ethnic group is the subject of bigotry because of the actions of a nation where they do not necessarily live. When an African country commits violations of human rights, Black people are not attacked around the world. When an Asian country commits violations of human rights, Asians are not attacked around the world. In the unique situation of Israel and Jews, the actions of Israel are all to often an excuse to attack Jews everywhere. 

The recent action by Portland HRC is part of a larger movement to isolate and de-legitimize Israel. Why doesn’t the HRC recommend divestment from companies that sell products to the many countries where terrible violations of human rights are an every day occurrence? Why have the 4 companies subject to this divestment recommendation  been singled out? It is ironic that the computer you are using right now certainly has components made by Motorola and HP, and that a lot of the construction equipment owned by the City of Portland is made by Caterpillar Corp. 

The country of Israel is often the only country singled out for human rights violations, and is an object of a double standard when other nations are not targeted. Such talk and actions are anti-Semitism, as defined by the United States Department of State (attachment A). 

The terms “Zionism” and “Zionist” are often code words for anti-Semitism: “...the expression “Zionist” – support for Israel as the Jewish homeland – is often used as an anti-Semitic code word for “Jew” in mainstream debate.” (source Anti-Defamation League 2001; on genocidewatch.org website).

We also hear, too often, that Israel is guilty of genocide against the Palestinian people; this is also not based on fact. Attachment B is a table of countries in various stages of the 10 Stages of Genocide, for 2014 (Genocide Watch). Israel/Palestine is near the bottom of the list, and is not considered in an advanced stage.

Thank you for considering my comments.



ATTACHMENT A
Fact Sheet: Anti-Semitism
United States Department of State 




Source for Attachment A: 



Genocide Watch, table from 2014 Countries at Risk Report



































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