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72-Year-Old Fringe Left Candidate Wins Presidency in Austrian Run-Off Election -- Is There a Lesson Here for Sanders?

Imagine that!

 

A 72-year-old college professor named Alexander van der Bellen, running for president as the candidate of the leftist Austrian Green Party, a fringe party that had never been considered a serious contender in post-war Austrian politics, just won a narrow 50.3/49.7 percent victory over Norbert Hofer, a right-wing candidate of the neo-fascist Freedom Party who had been favored to win.

The run-off, held on Sunday, but not decided until today when some 750,000 mail-in ballots were finally counted, was held after an initial presidential election contest on April 24 in which no candidate won a majority of the vote. In that first contest, voters humiliated the candidates of Austria's two establishment parties, the center-right Austrian People's Party, and the center left Austrian Socialist Party, who came in fourth and fifth with 11% each behind Hofer (35%) and van der Bellen (21%) as well as an independent candidate who won 18.5% of the vote.

In the two-person run-off, most Socialist Party voters, many independents, as well as some People's Party conservatives, apparently voted for van der Bellen, so as to ensure that the Freedom Party's Hofer not become the first European head of state since the fall of Nazi Germany to hail from the far right.

 Austrian President-elect Alexander van der Bellen and presidential candidate Bernie SandersTwo crusty old socialists: Austrian President-elect Alexander van der Bellen and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders
 

For an American looking at this (and I was actually in Vienna for much of last week during the final days of the run-off campaign), there was a distinct sense that I was looking at a possible scenario for the upcoming US general election.

After all, we too have a crusty 70-something socialist, always considered a fringe political figure, running for president and he is proving to be surprisingly popular.

Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed

An American abroad

 

Vienna -- As an American visiting Krakow, Poland, where I was last week, it felt weird to read about the inane latest chapter of the so-called culture wars being fought back home over whether states and localities should have the right to bar transgender people from using a public lavatory appropriate to their psychological identity, forcing them instead to use the one that accords with how many X chromosomes they have by birth in their cell nuclei.

After all, in Poland, except for the tonier tourist restaurants and hotels catering to well-heeled American tourists, bathrooms tend to be unisex: men and women enter such a toaleta through a single door into an anteroom, where they find a few stalls each containing a single commode. In some such facilities, there are also urinals along a wall in the anteroom, allowing men to relieve their bladders while not unnecessarily denying one of the limited number of stalls to any woman in similar need of relief. Meanwhile, women and men, without a blush, wash their hands side by side in the available sinks in the common anteroom.

Poland is a very conservative Catholic country, quite fundamentalist in its own way, yet somehow this system works there, and without any reported incidents of the indecency or sexual abuse that America’s squeamishly fundamentalist Christian folk apparently fear. (Then again, maybe I'm being unfair to Christian fundamentalists. After all, the irony of this whole bathroom discrimination brouhaha in the US is that it is being whipped up by Republican politicians, yet all the prominent cases of bathroom sex crimes in recent years have involved...you guessed it: Republican politicians! So maybe the simple solution would be to just require separate bathrooms for them.)

Now I’m not trying to suggest that Poles are necessarily better or saner than Americans. They do, after all, have a not terribly remote history of having largely supported the slaughter, by occupying Nazis, of the Jews who had lived in their midst for centuries. Indeed Krakow itself was the scene of one such particularly brutal and bloody extermination campaign (it was where the German conman Oskar Schindler set up his slave-labor factory, which allowed him to gain fame for eventually coming around to saving many Jews from a mass grave). And anti-semitism (along with other forms of xenophobia) is still alive and well in the country. But at least the Poles aren’t freaking out about transgendered people sneaking into the wrong loo.

While sanity regarding public restroom facility use in Europe comes as a welcome relief (the French too have a casual attitude towards sexual privacy in their public facilities, with women frequently stationed near the men’s pissoire where they collect tips for their janitorial services while men pee against a wall right beside them), other political storms in Europe can display a certain familiarity to a visiting American. In Poland a right-wing nationalist leader was recently elected and the country has distinguished itself from most of its European Union neighbors by simply closing its border to and refusing to admit refugees -- Middle Eastern or otherwise (even as its own surplus workers avail themselves of their visa-free right to move to the UK to find work).

This Sunday, Austrians will choose between a 'crypto-fascist' and a radical left Green candidate for prime minister: Freedom ParThis past Sunday, Austrians chose between a 'crypto-fascist' and a radical left Green candidate for president: Freedom Party leader Norbert Hofer and Green Party leader Alexander van der Bellen
 

Could the Problem of the 21st Century Be the Gender Line?

An Essay on Urinals and Stalls as the New Battleground

 
The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.
                                                                        - W.E.B. DuBois
 
While I see his position as one of defending bigotry, I sympathize a bit with North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory when he tells NPR, "Most people had never heard of this issue five months ago.”

I was one of those people. Until quite recently -- certainly before Caitlin Jenner and going back to the early 1950s when ex-GI Christine Jorgensen had sex re-assignment surgery -- the term transgender meant a person had submitted to hormone treatment and surgery that involved, for a male, cutting off the penis and surgically creating some approximation of a vagina. A male or female who chose to wear clothing of the opposite gender was known as a transvestite. That semantic understanding seems to have gone the way of negro and colored people. It's now a matter of how one feels inside one's body. Somewhere in time a semantic shift occurred in the minds of enough people that it has now reached the level of law where we see a classic battle between a reform-minded, liberal federal government and that old standby of conservatives and bigots, states' rights.

Texas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, N.C. Governor Pat McCrory and US Attorney General Loretta LynchTexas Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, N.C. Governor Pat McCrory and US Attorney General Loretta Lynch
 

In North Carolina, a law known as HB2 was passed that limits protections for LGBT people and requires transgender people to use public bathrooms that correspond with the gender noted by a physician on their birth certificate. That sounds nice and neat -- certainly to the conservative and bigoted mind. But what if one was born with real, physical ambiguity down in the pudendum area? Or what if a cocktail of chemical hormones and life experience led someone to see and feel him- or herself differently than the working stiff did who noted an infant's gender on a birth certificate -- or for that matter, feeling different about oneself than the socially- and politically-correct views of certain southern, God-fearing conservatives? What if Norman Mailer, who is dead, was wrong when he wrote that little anti-feminist gem I read titled Prisoner Of Sex? Of course, many of us loved the strutting pugilistic Uncle Norman, especially when he protested the Vietnam War; but, then, Norman was famous for being a magnificent, often drunken, asshole.

Sliding scale

New TCBH! poem:

 

The physical thisness
of the question
available qualities
spinning infections incubation.
Because everything noted,
circulation,
oblong rebuttal
post neo anti macro
prenatal capacity
turns inward,
swinging plaintively
release phase obvious
carries forward. . .
Suppressed direction alone
tends to happen
exactly in terms
of waxwing.
I recommend
upending the oblong
structure of reinvention.
Move deeper this idea
allowing
forehead cool
(Don’t forget to breathe.)
footsies warm repeat
associated and now
like anybody else
damaged vision
downward dog
truly bleeding the role
where you have
sympathetic emergency of focus.
Probably impossible
but you promised.
The acupuncturist leaves
one in for the road.
 
 
--Gary Lindorff

Hysteria Over Zika Spreads Faster than Zika Itself

Zika virus blinding us to public health issues that really matter

 
Zika has been described as extraordinary in so many ways. But the only thing that’s really extraordinary about the whole thing is how incredibly dispassionate I am about it.

At this point, even extraterrestrials have probably heard that the World Health Organization declared the recent spread of the Zika virus an international public health emergency. That sounds pretty scary. It’s only the fourth time that the WHO has ever declared a PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern) so it seems like it ought to be a big deal.

However, it’s important to keep things in perspective. As of May 4, there were 1,278 confirmed cases of microcephaly, the birth defect linked to Zika virus infection that causes an abnormally small head and brain. There are approximately 250 suspected neonatal and fetal deaths. In comparison, the last PHEIC was the Ebola virus outbreak of 2014. The current total number of reported cases of Ebola is 28,616 causing 11,310 deaths. Finally, the WHO estimates that the annual run-of-the-mill flu season – not famous epidemics like the Swine Flucauses 250,000 to 500,000 deaths every year around the world.
  
Illuminating GraphIlluminating Graph
I understand how Zika tugs on our heartstrings. Babies are precious, innocent, and full of potential. But I would like to point out that children are also precious and worth protecting and I have yet to see a media blitz or public outcry as passionate for the over 300,000 children who suffer from physical abuse every year in the United States alone.

Islamophobia on the Rise in England

Fanning fears during London's mayoral election

 

During a casual conversation inside a store on a swanky shopping street located a short distance from London’s fabled Kensington Palace a twenty-something retail clerk said she feels a strange sense of discomfort that she’s never felt before in London, the city where this native of Algeria has lived most of her life.

She traces this alienating discomfort to the sharp increase in Islamophobia.

Islamophobia is generally defined as dislike of or prejudice against Islam or Muslims.

This London resident is an identifiable target for Islamophobia because she wears a modest headscarf that is traditional in her culture and religion - Islam. (She does not wear a full-face covering burka.)

Vakas Hussain (far left). Seated center Suresh Grover of The Monitoring Group and Rotherham 12 defendant Abar Javid. LBW PhotoVakas Hussain (far left). Seated center Suresh Grover of The Monitoring Group and Rotherham 12 defendant Abar Javid. LBW Photo
 

For her and others, Islamophobia ranges from disdainful stares and caustic comments to physical assaults. A few assaults have ended in fatalities. And then there are British government policies like ‘Prevent’ – the professed counter-terrorism program that seemingly is targeted solely at Muslims. Prevent enlists citizens to report actions and attitudes deemed suspicious.

The Muslim community in Britain “has been targeted against the backdrop of hostility buttressed by the War on Terror,” stated a report issued by the London-based Institute of Race Relations in 2013. This report warned that racial violence across Britain is not “something consigned to history” citing police force statistics from 2011/2012 documenting over 100 racially or religiously aggravated crimes per day.

Takin' it to the Street, and Pushing Bernie to Not Endorse Hillary, but to Instead Run for President as an Independent

Bringing Sanders' 'political revolution' to the streets of Philly

 

Philadelphia -- You wouldn't know it from reading or watching or listening to the corporate media, or even, incredibly, to most of the alternative media, but a huge grass-roots campaign has sprung up promoting a mass four-day demonstration in Philadelphia during the July 25-28 Democratic Convention. The promoters of this campaign so reminiscent of the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago are backers of Bernie Sanders who totally reject the idea of seeing their candidate, Bernie Sanders -- or themselves -- just rolling over at the end of this year-long effort and endorsing Hilllary Clinton.

Sanders has won nearly ten million votes in the primaries so far including his latest strong come-from-behind win in Indiana, and that is only a fraction of his national base of support, given that many states have closed primaries where independents -- his strongest backers -- have been barred from voting.

If only one in 10 or one in 20 of those backers were to make their way to Philadelphia, the scene here could end up making the Pope's recent visit look like an ordinary rush hour, or maybe a Mummer's Parade.

What Sanders has been saying lately -- that he wants to give the Democrats the "most progressive platform in history" -- is a joke. Sanders knows it, and so do all his backers. The party and its candidates never pay any thought to platforms, which have always served as simply a sop to keep disgruntled progressives on the plantation.

Tens or hundreds of thousands of Sanders backers plan to descent on Philadelphia in July to push Sanders not to endorse Hillary Clinton and to run as an independent or Green candidate for president in the general electionTens or hundreds of thousands of Sanders backers plan to descent on Philadelphia in July to push Sanders not to endorse Hillary Clinton and to run as an independent or Green candidate for president in the general election
 

Where the Bern is Fizzling

Why the Best Candidate Can't Win the Support of People of Color

 

In the recent New York primaries, Bernie Sanders experienced some very cold water thrown in his face. Not only did he lose, and soundly, but he was served a major lesson about one of the primary deficiencies in his campaign.

While the pundits joined his campaign organizers in attributing Hilary Clinton's victory to her past as Senator from the state, most have ignored the problem the this defeat laid bare: Sanders' campaign is weakest among people of color and, among black people, it has virtually no constituent support.

In today's United States, you can't become the Presidential candidate of the Democratic Party without that support. Bernie doesn't have it and probably won't get it and so those of us who support his candidacy -- which merits support for his integrity, thinking and progressive commitment -- are left to analyze why and observe with frustration what could have been. Had Bernie Sanders done a few things differently, he could well have been our next President.

 Great politics and a major deficiencyBernie Sanders: Great politics and a major deficiency
 

The tale of woe spins on a problem that will plague the Democratic Party from now on if it doesn't make the needed adjustment, an adjustment that movements of struggle all over this country have been trying to make for the last 15 years. It starts by answering a simple question: What exactly is the role of people of color, particularly those of African descent, in American politics and how does a progressive campaign like Bernie's recognize and address that role?
To hear Alfredo Lopez and Dave Lindorff discussing Sanders and the future of his campaign, click here or on the imageTo hear Alfredo Lopez and Dave Lindorff discussing Sanders and the future of his campaign, click here or on the image
 

Please contribute to Our Indiegogo Campaign to Raise Funds to Support Investigative Reporting on the TCBH! Site

We need this fund-raiser to go viral, so send out the word!

 

We know from site-monitoring stats that ThisCantBeHappening.net has developed a devoted regular following of several tens of thousands of daily readers who visit our site regularly to get news and opinions they can't find elsewhere. On that basis, we a few months ago kicked of a fund-raiser on Indiegogo aimed at raising $50,000 to support our work -- specifically to fund the hard-hitting reporting we do here to get out the truth that the rest of the media ignore, cover-up, or misreport.

So far, the result has been dismal -- just a few hundred dollars! Not only are people not ponying up and giving what they can (even $5 would be great if it came in from many readers).

Even more disappointingly, our readers aren't even making the effort to help the fundraiser go viral by going to the Indiegogo site and using the links there to help make it go viral on Facebook and Twitter.

That's a disaster, and we need to urge you, our readers, to do better. If you can spare even a few bucks, please make a contribution to the fundraiser. If you can't, then at least promote it on the Indiegogo site so someone else will contribute!

Look, we shouldn't have to explain this, but here's how it works: We in the TCBH! collective don't get paid for our work. We do this out of a sense of journalistic and political commitment, but because we all have families and have to make a living, we do it in our spare time, which limits what we can accomplish. If you value our work and value this site, we need you to make some kind of cash contribution, and we need you to promote our fund-raiser to everyone you know. If that happens, we should be able to raise enough money that we will be able to devote real time to the project, and not just spare moments.

So please. help this fund-raiser to take off!

Thank you from all of us here at TCBH!:

Linn Washington, John Grant, Dave Lindorff, Gary Lindorff, Jess Guh, Alfredo Lopez, Lori Spencer and the late Charles M. YoungThe TCBH! Collective: Linn Washington, John Grant, Dave Lindorff, Gary Lindorff, Jess Guh, Alfredo Lopez, Lori Spencer and the late but ever-present Charles M. Young

Free College for All Worked in the US for 100 Years Until Elite Took It Away

Bernie's right on free tuition -- we had it once

 

Editors' Note: In the increasingly tight and bitter contest for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president, candidate Bernie Sanders has gained critical and enthusiastic support from young people in part because of his stirring call for free public college education -- no surprise given that student college debt has passed the $1.3-trillion mark. Critics, including Sanders’ opponent Hillary Clinton, say he is proposing an unaffordable fantasy, though his plan sensibly calls for funding the idea with a tax on speculative stock and bond trading. In reality though, Sanders’ idea of free college (which is offered in most of Europe) is hardly a new idea in the US. Indeed, it’s the way things used to be here as recently as the 1960s -- a point voters in upcoming primaries like the ones to be held in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Delaware next Tuesday should bear in mind. Robert M. Nelson (CCNY ’66), a Senior Scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, recalls in the following article, free college was actually taken away by the country’s ruling elite not that long ago. As Nelson writes:
 

In 1837, a remarkable politician, Horace Mann, became Massachusetts’ Secretary of Education. He argued successfully that universal, public, nonsectarian education in culturally diverse common schools was imperative for our new nation. Mann’s idea spread like wildfire. The free common school concept was adopted in every state in the union.

After the Civil War, the free tuition principle was expanded to include higher education. It worked brilliantly for a century for millions of Americans, including me. 

A Pathway for Immigrant and Working Class Children

In 1966 I finished college. I joined my sister as the first generation of our family to cross the divide. My father was an immigrant; my mother was the daughter of immigrants. The family had little wealth to show despite their life of hard work.  

How could low-paid immigrant families and ordinary dirt-poor working-class families send their kids to college? It was simple. I graduated from the City College of New York. My sister graduated from Brooklyn College. Both schools were tuition-free. It's easy to forget in today's America where the "free market" is the national religion that it's the way things still were a just half a century ago. 

CCNY was founded as the Free Academy of the City of New York in 1847. Its mission was to provide the sons of immigrants and the poor with access to college education. In 1870, Hunter College was founded for New York’s young women. In 1930, Brooklyn College became New York’s third tuition-free college.

CCNY students at a 1968 protest against tuition charges at New York's oldest public, and once free, universityCCNY students at a 1968 protest against tuition charges at New York's oldest public, and once free, university
 

For more than a century the taxpayers of New York provided free higher education to all who qualified. Graduates of that system include a child of immigrants from Jamaica, Secretary of State Colin Powell (CCNY ’58), the daughter of an immigrant from Austria, Sen. Barbara Boxer (Brooklyn College ’62), and former NASA Administrator Dan Goldin, (CCNY ’62).

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