AMERICA’S SURVIVAL NOW DEPENDS, YES, ON . . .
by Selvam Canagaratna
“All that we do is done with an eye to something else.”
– Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics (4th C., B.C.)
“It’s time to defund the GOP, and there’s precedent and strategy for the effort,” wrote Thom Hartmann, of the Independent Media Institute in his column on December 16.
The need to cut the party’s access to both private and government money is seen in the reaction by some extremist Republicans to news like a New York State lawmaker’s proposal to . Predictably, the far right is freaking out. ‘Freedom!’ they scream as they run around maskless, assaulting their fellow citizens with potentially virus-laden breath.
Large parts of the Republican base now join conspiracists in the misguided belief that vaccine manufacturers are participating in and that public health measures like masks are ‘un-American’, while we’re being sickened and dying from the infection and death in the developed world.
Republicans on the the founders of our republic and the framers of the Constitution would never go along with preventing churches and synagogues from holding superspreader events during a pandemic, but, like so many things GOP, it’s a lie.
In 1798, President John Adams signed — it was to pay for medical care and hospitalization not just for the Navy but also for civilian sailors. And both he and had participated in quarantine events during epidemics in the summers of 1793 and 1798, and both promoted inoculation against smallpox.
From 1790 to 1800, Philadelphia was the nation’s capital. When the recurred in , with no objections raised by President John Adams or any member of Congress, ordered a block-by-block evacuation of parts of Philadelphia.
Most signers of the Declaration and Constitution were still alive, and many were in Congress and on the Supreme Court. . Churches not only couldn’t meet; a few in the quarantine areas were closed down entirely for much of the year in America’s capital city.
From their bans on teaching and in our schools, to , to this latest campaign against public health, far-right Republicans’ fight against science has damaged America’s standing in the world and destroyed the lives of millions.
Thomas Paine, in his time, wrote about ‘’. Today we have ‘The Age of Intentional Republican Stupidity’. And they don’t just embrace it for themselves; they’re hell-bent on imposing it on every American, from schoolchildren up.
They have rigged elections by making it , seditiously tried to , promoted and bigotry and violence, systems, gutted our , and rewritten our tax system to .
Since the election of Ronald Reagan, Republicans have than our worst enemies could have dreamed of by other means.
These Republicans are not patriots; they’re traitors to reason, science, education, human rights, democracy and now, unbelievably, public health. They’re traitors to humanity itself.
The only way to deal with a death-dealing cult is to end it; thus, we must embark on a campaign to defund the Republican Party!
Back in 1981, the Republican Party decided to defund the Democratic Party, and actually pulled it off.
While the Republican Party had principally been funded by rich people and big business since the 1920s, the . So Ronald Reagan, as part of his ‘Reagan Revolution’, figured the best way to destroy the Democratic Party was to destroy America’s unions.
His first shot was to , the air traffic controllers’ union, and he did it in less than a week in August of 1981. He, along with Republicans in Congress and conservatives on the Supreme Court, then embarked on a from the American landscape, thus gutting the Democratic Party’s ability to win elections.
It worked, and by 1992, American union membership, and union’s ability to fund elections, had collapsed so severely that to giant corporations and billionaires to win that election year.
Reagan’s plan not only kneecapped the Democratic Party for the next 40 years but also changed the party at its core, turning it from President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society party into Bill Clinton’s corporate-friendly , now in bed with big banks, insurance companies, etc.
Defunding the Republican Party may even force it to start focusing on the needs of regular people rather than just billionaires and corporations, which only adds to the urgency of the job. There are just a few steps through the process, which include:
* End ‘Red State Welfare’. for every dollar they send to Washington, D.C. Most other red states are similarly “taker” states, so let’s fight for a law limiting states to no more than, say, $1.50 for every buck they sent to D.C. in tax revenues. Call it !
* End corporate welfare that gets recycled to GOP politicians. This , and nearly $1 trillion a year we give to , as well as support for insurance companies (like subsidies for the ) and ‘’.
* End corporate monopolies. Break up giant corporations and make America safe again for small businesses while rejuvenating local economies. From airlines to tech to banking and retail, and use some of that money to fund the GOP.
*Bring back Eisenhower’s 91 percent top tax rate, or at least something north of 50 percent. America’s strongest economy was during the 30 years from 1950 to 1980, with . Progressive taxation on the super-wealthy was openly supported by Republican presidents like Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford. With that tax revenue, we built highways, schools and hospitals, and put men on the moon, while the best way CEOs could avoid the tax was to use the money to pay their workers better wages. Reagan and the billionaires it produced now pour money into the GOP to keep it that way.
* Follow Europe’s example and on great fortunes. Average Americans pay a wealth tax every year — the property tax on their largest store of wealth, their homes. Billionaires should pay a similar annual tax on their money bins.
* End campaign contributions from corporations, end super PACs, and limit billionaires’ ability to skew our politics with their money. We did this after the Nixon bribery scandals, but the Supreme Court blew it up. There are multiple ways around that, and the Democratic Party should make this Job One!
These simple ‘Progressive ’ steps, along with restoring the ability of American workers to unionize, will not only revive the Democratic Party, but also restore America to economic greatness and give us a far more honest political system, notes Hartmann.
Govt.’s choice is dialogue over confrontation
By Jehan Perera
Preparing for the forthcoming UN Human Rights Council cannot be easy for a government elected on a nationalist platform that was very critical of international intervention. When the government declared its intention to withdraw from Sri Lanka’s co-sponsorship of the October 2015 resolution No. 30/1 last February, it may have been hoping that this would be the end of the matter. However, this is not to be. The UN Human Rights High Commissioner’s report that will be taken up at the forthcoming UNHRC session in March contains a slate of proposals that are severely punitive in nature and will need to be mitigated. These include targeted economic sanctions, travel bans and even the involvement of the International Criminal Court.
Since UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s visit in May 2009 just a few days after the three-decade long war came to its bloody termination, Sri Lanka has been a regular part of the UNHRC’s formal discussion and sometimes even taking the centre stage. Three resolutions were passed on Sri Lanka under acrimonious circumstances, with Sri Lanka winning the very first one, but losing the next two. As the country became internationally known for its opposition to revisiting the past, sanctions and hostile propaganda against it began to mount. It was only after the then Sri Lankan government in 2015 agreed to co-sponsor a fresh resolution did the clouds begin to dispel.
Clearly in preparation for the forthcoming UNHRC session in Geneva in March, the government has finally delivered on a promise it made a year ago at the same venue. In February 2020 Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena sought to prepare the ground for Sri Lanka’s withdrawal from co-sponsorship of UN Human Rights Council resolution No 30/1 of 2015. His speech in Geneva highlighted two important issues. The first, and most important to Sri Lanka’s future, was that the government did not wish to break its relationships with the UN system and its mechanisms. He said, “Sri Lanka will continue to remain engaged with, and seek as required, the assistance of the UN and its agencies including the regular human rights mandates/bodies and mechanisms in capacity building and technical assistance, in keeping with domestic priorities and policies.”
Second, the Foreign Minister concluding his speech at the UNHRC session in Geneva saying “No one has the well-being of the multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural people of Sri Lanka closer to their heart, than the Government of Sri Lanka. It is this motivation that guides our commitment and resolve to move towards comprehensive reconciliation and an era of stable peace and prosperity for our people.” On that occasion the government pledged to set up a commission of inquiry to inquire into the findings of previous commissions of inquiry. The government’s action of appointing a sitting Supreme Court judge as the chairperson of a three-member presidential commission of inquiry into the findings and recommendations of earlier commissions and official bodies can be seen as the start point of its response to the UNHRC.
The government’s setting up of a Commission of Inquiry has yet to find a positive response from the international and national human rights community and may not find it at all. The national legal commentator Kishali Pinto Jayawardene has written that “the tasks encompassed within its mandate have already been performed by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC, 2011) under the term of this President’s brother, himself the country’s Executive President at the time, Mahinda Rajapaksa.” Amnesty International has stated that “Sri Lanka has a litany of such failed COIs that Amnesty International has extensively documented.” It goes on to quote from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that “Domestic processes have consistently failed to deliver accountability in the past and I am not convinced the appointment of yet another Commission of Inquiry will advance this agenda. As a result, victims remain denied justice and Sri Lankans from all communities have no guarantee that past patterns of human rights violations will not recur.”
It appears that the government intends its appointment of the COI to meet the demand for accountability in regard to past human rights violations. Its mandate includes to “Find out whether preceding Commissions of Inquiry and Committees which have been appointed to investigate into human rights violations, have revealed any human rights violations, serious violations of the international humanitarian law and other such serious offences.” In the past the government has not been prepared to accept that such violations took place in a way that is deserving of so much of international scrutiny. Time and again the point has been made in Sri Lanka that there are no clean wars fought anywhere in the world.
International organisations that stands for the principles of international human rights will necessarily be acting according to their mandates. These include seeking the intervention of international judicial mechanisms or seeking to promote hybrid international and national joint mechanisms within countries in which the legal structures have not been successful in ensuring justice. The latter was on the cards in regard to Resolution 30/1 from which the government withdrew its co-sponsorship. The previous government leaders who agreed to this resolution had to publicly deny any such intention in view of overwhelming political and public opposition to such a hybrid mechanism. The present government has made it clear that it will not accept international or hybrid mechanisms.
In the preamble to the establishment of the COI the government has made some very constructive statements that open up the space for dialogue on issues of accountability, human rights and reconciliation. It states that “the policy of the Government of Sri Lanka is to continue to work with the United Nations and its Agencies to achieve accountability and human resource development for achieving sustainable peace and reconciliation, even though Sri Lanka withdrew from the co-sponsorship of the aforesaid resolutions” and further goes on to say that “the Government of Sri Lanka is committed to ensure that, other issues remain to be resolved through democratic and legal processes and to make institutional reforms where necessary to ensure justice and reconciliation.”
As the representative of a sovereign state, the government cannot be compelled to either accept international mechanisms or to prosecute those it does not wish to prosecute. At the same time its willingness to discuss the issues of accountability, justice and reconciliation as outlined in the preamble can be considered positively. The concept of transitional justice on which Resolution No 30/1 was built consists of the four pillars of truth, accountability, reparations and institutional reform. There is international debate on whether these four pillars should be implemented simultaneously or whether it is acceptable that they be implemented sequentially depending on the country context.
The government has already commenced the reparations process by establishing the Office for Reparations and to allocate a monthly sum of Rs 6000 to all those who have obtained Certificates of Absence (of their relatives) from the Office of Missing Persons. This process of compensation can be speeded up, widened and improved. It is also reported that the government is willing to consider the plight of suspected members of the LTTE who have been in detention without trial, and in some cases without even being indicted, for more than 10 years. The sooner action is taken the better. The government can also seek the assistance of the international community, and India in particular, to develop the war affected parts of the country on the lines of the Marshall Plan that the United States utilized to rebuild war destroyed parts of Europe. Member countries of the UNHRC need to be convinced that the government’s actions will take forward the national reconciliation process to vote to close the chapter on UNHRC resolution 30/1 in March 2021.
Album to celebrate 30 years
Rajiv Sebastian had mega plans to celebrate 30 years, in showbiz, and the plans included concerts, both local and foreign. But, with the pandemic, the singer had to put everything on hold.
However, in order to remember this great occasion, the singer has done an album, made up of 12 songs, featuring several well known artistes, including Sunil of the Gypsies.
All the songs have been composed, very specially for this album.
Among the highlights will be a duet, featuring Rajiv and the Derena DreamStar winner, Andrea Fallen.
Andrea, I’m told, will also be featured, doing a solo spot, on the album.
Rajiv and his band The Clan handle the Friday night scene at The Cinnamon Grand Breeze Bar, from 07.30 pm, onwards.
LET’S DO IT … in the new normal
The local showbiz scene is certainly brightening up – of course, in the ‘new normal’ format (and we hope so!)
Going back to the old format would be disastrous, especially as the country is experiencing a surge in Covid-19 cases, and the Western Province is said to be high on the list of new cases.
But…life has to go on, and with the necessary precautions taken, we can certainly enjoy what the ‘new normal’ has to offer us…by way of entertainment.
Bassist Benjy, who leads the band Aquarius, is happy that is hard work is finally bringing the band the desired results – where work is concerned.
Although new to the entertainment scene, Aquarius had lots of good things coming their way, but the pandemic ruined it all – not only for Aquarius but also for everyone connected with showbiz.
However, there are positive signs, on the horizon, and Benjy indicated to us that he is enthusiastically looking forward to making it a happening scene – wherever they perform.
And, this Friday night (January 29th), Aquarius will be doing their thing at The Show By O, Mount Lavinia – a beach front venue.
Benjy says he is planning out something extra special for this particular night.
“This is our very first outing, as a band, at The Show By O, so we want to make it memorable for all those who turn up this Friday.”
The legendary bassist, who lights up the stage, whenever he booms into action, is looking forward to seeing music lovers, and all those who missed out on being entertained for quite a while, at the Mount Lavinia venue, this Friday.
“I assure you, it will be a night to be remembered.”
Benjy and Aquarius will also be doing their thing, every Saturday evening, at the Darley rd. Pub & Restaurant, Colombo 10.
In fact, they were featured at this particular venue, late last year, but the second wave of Covid-19 ended their gigs.
Also new to the scene – very new, I would say – is Ishini and her band, The Branch.
Of course, Ishini is a singer of repute, having performed with Mirage, but as Ishini and The Branch, they are brand new!
Nevertheless, they were featured at certain five-star venues, during the past few weeks…of their existence.
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