Socialist International calls for end to deadly violence in Israel and Palestine

Editor’s Note: We endorse this statement, as the SI is an organization that SD USA was once part of and hopes to rejoin soon.

The Socialist International (SI) is deeply dismayed by the outbreak of deadly violence in Israel and Palestine, which has led to the loss of innocent life on both sides of the border. The SI mourns the civilian casualties and calls for an immediate end to the rocket attacks and airstrikes that indiscriminately kill, injure and destroy. Further violence will only serve to harm innocent citizens of both Palestine and Israel and only benefits those who have no interest in peace.

This severe escalation in the conflict has been provoked by the evictions by Israel of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem and the demolition of their homes, which are intensely damaging to the prospects for peace. Demonstrations against this have been met by unacceptable violence and aggression from Israeli security forces, which has in turn led to rocket attacks against Israel and airstrikes on Gaza. The evictions of Palestinian families and the demolition of their homes must stop, in East Jerusalem and across the Palestinian Territories. These provocative and calculated acts in recent days and weeks against Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem are a continuation of a policy of hostility from the Israeli government, and the systematic and intentional denial of the basic rights of the Palestinian people. This includes violent police action against Palestinians exercising their right to worship at the Al-Aqsa mosque during the holy month of Ramadan.

Illegal and oppressive acts will not change or reduce the demands for an end to 54 years of occupation, discrimination and the system of segregation, and the right to full equality and self-determination for Palestinians, which are a prerequisite for peace. In the pursuit of these aims, the SI reiterates its solidarity with the Palestinian non-violent opposition.

The SI continues to fully support a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the legitimate aims of the Palestinian people for an independent state based on the 1967 borders with its capital in East Jerusalem. The SI remains committed to working with its member parties in Palestine and Israel, whose voices are among the most prominent for peace and a two-state solution, and needed now more than ever. The support and engagement of the international community in favour of Middle East peace and the recognition of Palestinian statehood remain vital. The legitimate demands of the Palestinian people will not be diminished by unilateral moves taken by Israel in violation of international law, and the SI will continue to act in support of the rights of both peoples to live in peace.

STOPPING THE SHOOTINGS: A PRIORITY SECOND TO NONE

By Jason Sibert and Patty Friend

There were three mass shootings in the month of April – Georgia, Texas, and Colorado. Not to mention 220+ people killed by gun violence last month. In 2020, gun violence killed 20,000 Americans, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive and 2021 is on schedule to kill even more. Americans are experiencing a 9/11 every other month. No other country in the world, including Iraq, has that level of mass shootings and gun violence, certainly no industrialized country has anything like it.  President Joe Biden called on Congress last week to pass extensive firearms regulation.

President Biden called gun violence an American problem and not a partisan issue. Biden also called for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The majority of Americans favor gun ownership regulations and even responsible gun owners and hunters support such laws. No hunter needs an AR-15 to take down a deer, bear, or moose. Two House-passed bills that are stalled in the Senate that would strengthen background checks and close the so-called Charleston loophole by extending the time federal investigators have to conduct background checks.  Biden also called for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which would close the “boyfriend loophole” to prevent abusers from purchasing firearms. The idea that it’s easier to buy a gun than vote is shameful and horrifying.  Biden’s speech follows a slew of mass shootings the U.S. has endured since he took office in January including a shooting spree that took place in Atlanta at several massage parlors. The events in Atlanta killed eight people, the majority of whom were Asian women.

Biden called gun violence “an epidemic.” Social Democrats USA supports the efforts of the current administration to manage the gun violence epidemic. Social democrats work to protect the individual from the negative side of free-market economics by favoring measures such as protection of the right to form labor unions; social insurance; social welfare programs; affordable housing. Social democrats should also protect individuals from the gun violence epidemic by supporting reasonable firearms legislation.

Some argue that all firearms are protected under the Second Amendment. However, it protects state-based militia units that have been fading away for years, as the units were replaced by the National Guard and the reserve components of the armed services. Some Second Amendment defenders say that citizens must fear our government and be prepared to form military units to fight against it. However, this is a weak argument. Would an armed citizenry stand much of a chance against our well-trained military? Aren’t we spending more than the rest of the world combined on our military? How could a band of citizens compete fiscally? Our government is armed with a nuclear arsenal that could wipe out the world several times over. Should citizens purchase nuclear weapons to defend themselves against their government? How safe should citizens feel if other citizens decide to build a nuclear arsenal?

SDUSA realizes law-abiding citizens use weapons for hunting, target shooting, and protection. However, many of those same people favor some forms of gun regulation.  It’s also important to realize that organizations such as the National Rifle Association receive most of their money not from individual gun owners but from gun manufacturers. Naturally, gun manufacturers want as many guns on the streets as possible. No matter how many people die, they won’t stop promoting their weapons of destruction. Americans are dying from gun violence at alarming rates and our obsession over gun ownership kills far too many of us. We will not be free of this gun violence epidemic unless and until we pass the laws that are necessary to end it. Call your senators now and tell them to pass the legislation that’s stalled in the Senate.    

Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project.

Patty Friend is the National Chair of Social Democrats USA.

VETOING THE VOTE

By Jason Sibert and Patty Friend

Because social democrats are committed to democracy in all its forms, we are concerned and upset by the onerous and thoroughly anti-democratic voter suppression laws being passed by Republican governors and legislators around the country from Iowa and Georgia to Texas, Arizona and elsewhere.  

The only thing standing in the way of this march toward authoritarianism are 23 Democratic governors.  Voter suppression in one form or another has been going on in the United States since the beginning of the republic. In every place, it was tolerated by a majority to keep the minority from participating in their governance.  Even though we know of dirty deeds and dirty tricks that corrupted voting in the past, there’s nothing quite like what we are seeing in real life and in real time right now.  

In Georgia, Republicans enacted legislation that is doing the following:

  • making voting machines scarcer in minority neighborhoods
  • doing away with drop boxes
  • eliminating 10 to 20 days of early voting
  • making it possible for state legislatures to overturn elections
  • creating a fraud hotline for the reporting of illegal voting (when elections are already regulated)
  • allowing Georgians to file an unlimited number of challenges when it comes to fraudulent voting
  • requiring voters to submit a photocopy of their ID as a vote by mail application (making it more difficult to register)
  • outlawing giving food or water to anyone standing in line
  • making it illegal to vote if a voter is told to vote in the wrong location
  • eliminating the Secretary of State’s authority and responsibility for the running of state and federal elections, allowing Republicans in the state legislature to overturn any and all elections with results they deem unfavorable..  

This caused a backlash in, of all places, corporate America. Its CEOs, business leaders, lawyers and experts have discussed numerous options to push back against the Republican-led efforts to restrict access to voting, including pulling their donations, refusing to move business or jobs to states that pass restrictive measures, and relocating events.  For instance, Major League Baseball pulled the All-Star game from Atlanta, Georgia and moved it to Denver, Colorado. Social Democrats USA supports the right to vote, all social democrats should. Therefore, we support MLB’s move but realize that MLB, and other members of corporate America, should be subjected to criticism when they deserve it. Supporting the civil rights of women, people of color, religious minorities and the LGBT community is always honorable. However, it isn’t a substitute for quality wages and working conditions. Our motto is pro-worker, pro-democracy! SDUSA also realizes the pain that MLB’s move is causing to restaurant and other hospitality workers in Atlanta.  

To further address this issue, SDUSA supports the efforts of the Biden Administration to further the cause of voter rights, and we understand that fundamental to the safeguarding of voter rights in America are the policies outlined in HR 1 and HR 4, now before the Senate as Senate Bill No. 1. We support Senate Bill No. 1 wholeheartedly and urge its passage by any parliamentary means necessary – i.e., amend the filibuster to exclude voting legislation.  This issue needs to be settled, and our country needs to move on to other significant issues.

Political parties should win by attracting the most votes, not by keeping certain people from voting. The first democracies, or quasi-democracies, emerged in the Humanist cultures of ancient Greece and Rome, although both would sadly evolve into empires.  Ancient Greece was the first Humanist culture when certain voices, like the famous Greek scientist Thales, sought to use human reason to solve problems. The idea of a democratic republic, partially embodied in ancient Greek city states like Athens, represented humans governing themselves via reason. Making it tougher to vote obstructs this cause.  

It is no surprise that the people involved in suppressing our votes are passing draconian laws on abortion, punishing transgender youth, and promoting gun rights. These people are anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers. All too many of them believe the big lie that about the elections of 2020 that Donald Trump won or that the elections were frauds.  The agenda of these Republican politicians is to go after the rights of blacks, Hispanics, and other minorities, and then go after the rights of women of childbearing years. Then they’ll come for the socialists!. Every democracy lives and dies by the participation of its citizens. If we want to keep our republic from slipping into authoritarianism, we’ll have to fight like hell to protect everyone’s right to vote. 

The democratic way of life is being challenged around the world with authoritarian Russia and totalitarian China flexing their muscles and authoritarian movements arising in democratic countries. Let’s make the U.S. a beacon of the democratic world by respecting voting rights and doing everything we can to get out the vote over and over and over again!    

 Jason Sibert is Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project.

 Patty Friend is the National Chair of Social Democrats USA.

Endorsement: CABÁN FEVER

Tiffany Cabán, recipient of the 2019 Risk Taker Award at the Mazals, the annual gala of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice.

By Sheldon Ranz

For all of my adult life as a left political activist in New York City, I’ve had more than my share of high hopes – and shattered dreams. As a leader of Jewish Americans for Jackson 1988, I felt the high hopes of the 1988 Jesse Jackson presidential campaign that catapulted David Dinkins to Gracie Mansion to become NYC’s first African American mayor in 1989, only to have him serve one mediocre term and be succeeded by the horrific Rudy Giuliani; I felt the high hopes of a 1997 mayoral run by democratic socialist Ruth Messinger, a campaign betrayed by corrupt, sexist union bosses who succeeded in getting Giuliani re-elected.  What preserved my sanity was getting married and raising a family in the ‘burbs. You could say I took a time-out. As my children blossomed into adulthood, I started to notice that Manhattan was still floating on the Hudson. So, I gradually began to renew my previously-abandoned pursuits.

As with all things on the Left lately, that renewal really took off with Bernie Sanders and his 2016 run for the White House. No longer did we socialists have to hide our political identity behind euphemisms like ‘economic democracy’. Bernie made it OK to be out as socialists and this part of the Cold War was now over. Then came the twin bombshells of the 2018 New York midterm elections: AOC upsetting Joe Crowley for Congress and Julia Salazar upsetting Martin Dilan for the North Brooklyn State Senate. Progressive laws have been enacted that we on the Left used to only dream about.  But those changes have emanated from the federal and state levels of government.  What about from the municipal level?

This June 22 offers the best chance the Big Apple has this year to serve as the site for a comparable city-wide transformation . Due to term limits and the official debut of city-wide ranked-choice voting, seats on the New York City Council are up for grabs like never before. A slew of progressives and open socialists are running, but the most impressive candidate is Tiffany Cabán.

Cabán, an openly queer Latinx woman, first drew national attention in 2019 when she nearly upset the Democratic Establishment’s pick for Queens District Attorney, Melinda Katz, finishing just 55 votes short after a recount.  By trade, she is a public defender. She was part of a wave of reform-minded DA candidates that have won in Philadelphia and San Francisco; her outspoken stances on carceral reform, support for marijuana legalization and sex work decriminalization earned her the endorsement of both Berne Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Rumors put her on the short list for US Attorney General in a Sanders administration.

Instead of letting her close loss in 2019 get her down, she picked herself up and went to work as a national political organizer for the Working Families Party, making it a more effective asset of the Democratic Left. Last fall, she declared her candidacy for the City Council representing the 22nd Council district (Astoria, Queens).  She is the only real progressive running for that seat.  Her basic platform is the same – with a strong emphasis on defunding the police – and is needed more than ever. (cabanforqueens.com)

Of the current crop of City Council candidates overall, she is the one who best exudes leadership and a talent for coalition-building, on the one hand; and a fierce willingness to challenge the new mayor from the Council chamber, on the other hand. Of course, no one person, no matter how gifted, can do it all. It takes a movement, and few know that better than Tiffany Cabán.

Sheldon Ranz is the editor of Socialist Currents and SD USA’s Director of Special Projects.

ANOTHER AMAZON AGGRAVATION: KINDLE’S FALSE ADVERTISING

By Dennis King

Many book lovers use Amazon’s Kindle e-readers and Kindle Store (closely integrated into Amazon’s dominant role in the e-commerce of printed books) for their extraordinary convenience and because they provide access to books at much lower prices and sometimes either for free or for nominal payments:

kindle content:  https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200952510

https://archive.org/details/texts?&sort=-week&page=2  (22.3 million texts available)

https://ebookfriendly.com/sites-where-you-can-read-books-online/

Likewise, many book readers are enthralled by Amazon’s Good Reads “social cataloging” website, because it enables you to rate the books you like or dislike, publish your own reviews and interact with other readers on the broadest available scale (as of 2019, Good Reads had accumulated ninety million members around the world).

But with Amazon, the devil can be in the details. In 2018, I posted on Good Reads a five star rating for Susan Fenimore Cooper’s Rural Hours (1850), a book by Susan Fenimore Cooper, the daughter of novelist James Fenimore Cooper. It was based on a diary that Cooper had kept for over a year in the upstate New York village of Cooperstown (named after her grandfather) where she lived with her family, including her father. With due regard for quantitative method, she studied the change of seasons and its effect on birds and other wildlife, on Otsego Lake (which the village was and is nestled against), and also on her human neighbors on nearby farms and in the village. Charmingly written as well as deeply thoughtful, Rural Hours was an influence on Thoreau and a best-seller in its day, but was unfairly forgotten along with her other naturalist writings for most of the 20th century.  To help in the process of “un-forgetting,” I had posted my rating in reference to the 1998 University of Georgia Press edition prepared by Rochelle Johnson and Daniel Patterson; it was the first edition in over a century to contain the full text and the first ever to provide the footnotes and scholarly introduction so essential for fully appreciating a classic.

The other night I was looking over my old Good Reads ratings and reviews, and found the following query regarding Rural Hours:  “I read an amazon [reader] review that this book, as printed, is full of typos and as a result not a good read. Has anyone else had this problem?” I found the customer review in question not on Amazon but at the Barnes & Nobles website page, advertising a paperback edition from Dodo Press that has also been sold via Amazon. Dodo Press publishes a large number of out-of-copyright classics and has been criticized for allegedly leaving out chapters. The complaint, identified as being from “7 years ago,” was from “Anonymous” and simply states “NO! One of those books that are full of typos. Spent the $2 and get the other version.” It is unclear if the statement refers to the Dodo Press version of Rural Hours or to its line of classics in general. The reference to “$2” is apparently the version available from NOOK Books, B&N’s rival to Kindle, which currently goes for $0.99.

I figured that, most likely, the reader had purchased an OCR [optical character recognition] version that had never been properly proofread before being made available electronically or sent to the printer; or it could be a version made from a PDF of an old library copy in which handling by many people or improper storage has produced textual defects. Electronic texts of either type need careful proofreading.  The publishers of what I call quickie classics, whether in ebook or print-on-demand or other versions, often provide an inferior product. I have purchased such books in the past, as have friends of mine. If you are someone who is accustomed to always reading actual, physical books, you will have a problem getting a good version of a relatively obscure classic. This appears to be an Amazon/Kindle/Good Reads-created problem that amounts to false advertising and, indirectly, to text vandalism, while also having  copyright implications for new scholarly editions of old and out-of-copyright books in general.

Many readers may not know that Good Reads was purchased by Amazon in 2013 and now has over 90 millions members, making it an important element in Amazon’s massive influence over the publishing industry, including its ability to steer reader’s purchasing choices. Furthermore, when a reader posts on Good Reads, he or she becomes  entwined with Amazon/Good Reads advertising and sales software that may provide confusing information about editions and quality of books, thus steering buyers to shorter and harder-to-read versions of older, out-of-copyright books. I gave Rural Hours a five-star rating on Good Reads back in 2018. When you click in this rating at “My Books” (all my ratings and reviews) you get an image of the cover page of the 1998 edition, directly to its right, with the title, the 1998 editors’ names, and promotional that you find if directly searching Amazon for the edition.

Beside that image and directly below the title are three choices: “Kindle,” “Hardcover” and “Paperback.” It would be understandable how a viewer would think that these choices are related to the 1998 book, even though directly above them, in small text, is “See all formats and editions”.  The confusion would be compounded by the blurb below that says “This new edition, the only printing of the full original text since 1876, restores passages excised by the author for an 1887 edition.” [Emphasis added.] The Kindle box gives a price of $1.99; the hardcover box, $44.76; and the paperback, $30.95 (new). Going by price alone, a buyer would easily click on the Kindle box, without thinking. I clicked on it and got a new book cover image (well, the same book can sometimes have different cover displays for different formats, the buyer might think). The heading beside the image says “Rural Hours Kindle Edition.” I clicked “Look inside” and found that this version was based on the shortened 1887 edition. The expensive hardcover edition was also based on the 1887 edition and the blurb states: “This scarce antiquarian book is a fascimile reprint of the original.” [Huh? Read that twice.] As is common with fascimile reprints, the blurb includes the warning the “[d]ue to its age [the age of the original, I presume], it may contain imperfections such as marks, notations, marginalia and flawed pages.”

Then we go to the third box, “Paperback,” where we get “Rural Hours Paperback – October 28, 2008.” Here again the 1998 scholarly edition has been used as a come-on. The picture displayed is that of what is probably an OCR based edition with a different cover and supposedly offering both new and used copies from $21.99 up.  I clicked on “Look Inside” and received the cover page image not of this 2008 book from Dodo Press (an imprint of Book Depository, a UK company) but of the 1998 edition. (Probably just as well; a subject guide on the print-on-demand book business made available by American University regarding Dodo products: “materials frequently are missing portions of the original material.”) Amazon was offering, directly underneath the cover image of the 1998 cover book, an inexpensive Kindle that many buyers would assume was a Kindle of the 1998 book. Certainly they would be faced with a choice of the Kindle for $1.99, as opposed to $30.99 for the softcover edition of the 1998 book. The aim apparently is to induce people to adopt Kindle as their primary means of accessing books, even at the cost of dishonestly confusing the editions it offers.

Amazon should stop its practice of edition obfuscation, and until they do so, purchasers should not unthinkingly buy a Kindle edition that, when you click on it, shows a different cover image than the one you saw before your clicked. Such Kindle editions may be based on bowdlerized versions or versions that do not reflect important authorial revisions, as well as being full of typos. This is especially important in the case of books with very complicated publishing histories; for instance, Susan Cooper agreed to excisions from her book, after many years of gradually decreasing sales, to keep it in print; and editions thereafter (until 1998) did not have the full text.

The OCR quickies offered through Kindle will sometimes display, in their purchase come-ons, very attractive cover art. This is not always bad; I have an OCR-based copy of Deephaven, a classic 19th century novel by Sarah Orne Jewett, with a cover art choice that very well expresses the spirit of the novel, and with text clean of typos in spite of including much dialogue in a Maine dialect that requires many apostrophes (maybe someone doing the proofreading really loved the book). Still, I don’t know what edition the OCR text was made from.

If you want a reliable electronically transmitted version of any old, out-of-copyright book, you can usually download a PDF from an academic library for free, either directly or via your own public library. If the book is important to you for research or sentimental reasons, make sure you’ are not getting a bowdlerized edition (or an early edition of a work that the author expanded or otherwise greatly revised later on). If the book has a complicated publishing history, you will need to seek advice from a research librarian on these points. Below is the link to where, on Good Reads, I posted my reply to the question about the Kindle version of the book. You will see the links to Kindle and Amazon which appear to be for the University of Georgia edition. But when you follow the links under GET A COPY, you see that the Kindle offering is for the $1.99 price, with a different cover and none of the special information found in the scholarly edition, while the Amazon GET A COPY link offers the softcover version of the University of Georgia edition for $30.95 but also offers the $1.99 Kindle edition. (Indeed it currently states that the U. of Georgia edition is out of stock but suggests the Kindle ebook is available now without stating that the Kindle ebook is a very different book.) Of course It would be easy for the purchaser to get confused and buy the inferior edition that the reviewer complained about, thinking that he or she was ordering the University of Georgia edition, which, as of Monday, March 22, 2021, 12:33 AM, is here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/597374.Rural_Hours 

Dennis King is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1965). He has lived in New York City for over 50 years. He is the author of Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism (1989) and Get the Facts on Anyone (three editions, last in 1999). A specialist on political cults and the far right, he has written widely for national and local publications and on the web.