Belgium | Japan | Thailand | USA | Israel/Palestine

Frank Barat: Five Things You Need Know About the Attacks From a Peace Activist in Brussels (CounterPunch)

The racist rhetoric of “they do not like life as much as we do” is utter nonsense and needs to be carefully deconstructed. … Their journey from disfranchised youth to murderous terrorists is one that we need to study, seriously, step-by-step…
While we do not know yet the profile of the Brussels terrorists, we know that the Paris attackers’ path from small-time delinquents to mass killers follows the same pattern. Their extreme and fast process of radicalization came through prisons, not mosques. They entered small crooks and came out radicalized and transformed. It is time for us to address what Angela Davis calls the prison-industrial complex…
To stop terrorism, you have to stop participating in it… The men who carried out these attacks were politically educated out of the destruction of Iraq, the invasion of Afghanistan, the drone bombings in Pakistan and Yemen, the torture of Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib, and the colonization and occupation of Palestine. To make it shorter, they, mostly identify as Muslims, and they were horrified by the ideological war of the West against what it wrongfully calls “the Muslim world.”

Israeli Minister: Belgians Should Stop Eating Chocolate, Start Focusing on Muslims (Haaretz)

A day after attacks in Brussels, which killed 31 people, Yisrael Katz, Israel’s transportation minister, said the Belgians should stop eating chocolate and embracing liberalism and instead focus on Muslims in their communities who are involved in terrorism.
“If in Belgium they continue eating chocolate, and if they continue to enjoy life and to appear as great liberals and democrats, and do not recognize that some of the Muslims are organizing terror, they will not be able to fight them,” Katz, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, told state radio on Wednesday.

Robert Hunziker: Fukushima Radiation: a Killer (CounterPunch)

Benedict Anderson: Riddles of Yellow and Red (New Left Review)

Since the demise of the communist movement and the end of the Cold War in Asia, there have not been any left-wing parties in Thailand; all of them are conservative and neoliberal…
Then came the Asian crash of 1997–98, ignited by developments in Thailand. The baht lost half its value, the Crown Property conglomerate suffered heavy losses, and the national economy was devastated. It was amidst this turmoil that Thaksin Shinawatra (‹thạks̛̄iṇ chinwạtr› ทักษิณ ชินวัตร [tʰáksǐn tɕʰinnáwát]) started his meteoric rise. A former policeman of Hakka origin, Thaksin had become one of Thailand’s richest men thanks to a near-monopolistic mobile-phone concession which he obtained under the last military regime. After founding his Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais, ‹ịthy rạk ịthy› ไทยรักไทย [tʰaj rák tʰaj]) party, he recruited a batch of ex-leftists who had been part of the maquis and were eager to become leaders at long last. Thaksin announced a series of ‘populist’ policies aimed at the masses, such as low-cost health care and the cancellation or deferment of farmers’ debts. He became the first Thai politician to win a controlling majority in parliament, and has won every election since by a decisive margin—even from exile. The other novelty was that he actually honoured his campaign promises. Huge sums of money from the now-recovering Thai exchequer completely outshone the ‘royal development projects’, and the Palace began to feel threatened. Even the fact that Thaksin’s name (‹thạks̛̄iṇ› ทักษิณ [tʰák sǐn]) was so close to that of King Taksin the Great (‹tāks̄in› ตากสิน [tàːk sǐn]), who had been executed by the Chakri dynasty (‹rāchwngṣ̄̒ cạkrī› ราชวงศ์จักรี [râːttɕʰáwoŋ tɕàkkriː]), caused the royals some anxiety. They turned to the predominantly royalist and conservative judiciary in the face of Thaksin’s control over the executive and legislature, and eventually to the military, which overthrew his government in the coup of September 2006. The new military regime was mild compared to its predecessors, but achieved nothing other than to have Thaksin tried in absentia and sentenced to two years in prison for corruption. When fresh elections were held, a repackaged version of the Thai Rak Thai party won again, and two proxies of Thaksin served as prime minister. They were ousted in turn by militant opponents, the so-called Yellow Shirts, who claimed to be defending the monarchy; a ‘palace nominee’ took over, and was opposed by the mobilization of Red Shirts…
In the last election, it turned out that 78 per cent of the seats in Thailand’s parliament were occupied by ethnic Chinese, even though they accounted for just 14 per cent of the population… The Reds can’t penetrate the territory of the Yellows, and the Yellows can’t penetrate the territory of the Reds; the south is Yellow and the north is Red. Another difficulty is that nobody can talk publicly about their Chinese identity, because it would be absurd to declare that one is Chinese but plans to be the President of the Republic. Everyone knows that they are, but it’s not considered appropriate to say so.

Dan Baum: Legalize It All (Harper)

I started to ask [Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser and Watergate co-conspirator] Ehrlichman a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away. “You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Sean Illing: Former Nixon aide admits racist roots of America’s drug war: Bernie and Hillary must own this issue and fix this injustice — now (Salon)
Ta-Nehisi Coates: The Case for Reparations (Atlantic)

Two hundred fifty years of slavery. Ninety years of Jim Crow. Sixty years of separate but equal. Thirty-five years of racist housing policy. Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole…
The early American economy was built on slave labor. The Capitol and the White House were built by slaves. President James K. Polk traded slaves from the Oval Office. The laments about “black pathology,” the criticism of black family structures by pundits and intellectuals, ring hollow in a country whose existence was predicated on the torture of black fathers, on the rape of black mothers, on the sale of black children. An honest assessment of America’s relationship to the black family reveals the country to be not its nurturer but its destroyer.
And this destruction did not end with slavery. Discriminatory laws joined the equal burden of citizenship to unequal distribution of its bounty. These laws reached their apex in the mid-20th century, when the federal government—through housing policies—engineered the wealth gap, which remains with us to this day.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: The Black Family in the Age of Mass Incarceration (Atlantic)

One in four black men born since the late 1970s has spent time in prison.
Richard Nixon … link[ed] rising crime rates to Martin Luther King’s campaign of civil disobedience. The decline of law and order “can be traced directly to the spread of the corrosive doctrine that every citizen possesses an inherent right to decide for himself which laws to obey and when to obey them.” The cure, as Nixon saw it, was not addressing criminogenic conditions, but locking up more people. “Doubling the conviction rate in this country would do far more to cure crime in America than quadrupling the funds for [the] War on Poverty,” he said in 1968.
As president, Nixon did just that: During his second term, incarceration rates began their historic rise…
As incarceration rates rose and prison terms became longer, the idea of rehabilitation was mostly abandoned in favor of incapacitation. Mandatory minimums—sentences that set a minimum length of punishment for the convicted—were a bipartisan achievement of the 1980s backed not just by conservatives such as Strom Thurmond but by liberals such as Ted Kennedy. Conservatives believed mandatory sentencing would prevent judges from exercising too much leniency; liberals believed it would prevent racism from infecting the bench…
The suite of drug laws adopted in the 1980s and ’90s did little to reduce crime, but a lot to normalize prison in black communities. “No single offense type has more directly contributed to contemporary racial disparities in imprisonment than drug crimes,” Devah Pager, the Harvard sociologist, has written.
Between 1983 and 1997, the number of African Americans admitted to prison for drug offenses increased more than twenty-six-fold, relative to a sevenfold increase for whites … By 2001, there were more than twice as many African Americans as whites in state prison for drug offenses…
To reiterate an important point: Surveys have concluded that blacks and whites use drugs at roughly the same rates.

Jeffrey St. Clair, Alexander Cockburn: The Clintons Do Haiti: Keep the Natives From Breeding (CounterPunch)

Peter Lee: China Not Leaving the “South China Sea” (Japan Focus)
Peter Lee: America’s South China Sea Fail (China Matters)
Peter Lee: Philippine election question marks sow panic in South China Sea (Asia Times)