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Keep socialist blog En Passant going - donate now
If you want to keep a blog that makes the arguments every day against the ravages of capitalism going and keeps alive the flame of democracy and community, make a donation to help cover my costs. And of course keep reading the blog. To donate click here. Keep socialist blog En Passant going. More... (4)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
You can prove my 2 ex-comrades wrong by donating to my blog En Passant at BSB: 062914 Account: 1067 5257, the Commonwealth Bank in Tuggeranong, ACT. More... (12)

My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/18-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-g20-meeting-age-of-enttilement-engineers-attack-of-austerity-hardship-on-civilians.mp3 (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2014/02/11/john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-2/ (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/4-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-end-of-the-age-of-entitlement-for-the-needy-but-pandering-to-the-lusts-of-the-greedy.mp3 (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole
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Sick kids and paying upfront

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Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2013/12/03/john-passant-australian-national-university-8/ (0)

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Making pensioners pay for multinational company tax cuts

The first 3 sentences plus the last one of spin announce the Government’s priorities – making pensioners pay for multinational tax cuts. It is all about attacking the poor to give the big end of town more, and more, and more.

From BuzzFeedNews:

The government released just four sentences to explain its welfare crackdown plan - three if you don't count the last one, which is spin.

Twitter: @latingle

And here is what Treasurer for the rich and powerful Scott Morrison said when asked about if the ‘crack down’ would apply to pensioners (from Van Badham)

 

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Turnbull, Brexit and fake security

(Image via @AntiMedia)

 

There are lessons for Australia from the Brexit vote but they have little to do with economic “stability” as Turnbull and the Coalition would have us swallow, I write in Monday’s Independent Australia.  I finish off by saying:

‘If Labor lose this election it won’t be because they were too left wing. It will be because they weren’t left wing enough.’

To read the whole article click here. Brexit, Turnbull and fake security

Paul Keating savages the Greens, with a feather

Paul Keating with Labor frontbencher Anthony Albanese at the rally in Sydney on Saturday.

Albanese and Keating. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Former Labor Prime Minister Paul Keating unleashed a tirade of abuse against the Greens to defend under threat Labor luminary and MP Anthony Albanese. According to Adam Gartrell in an article called Federal election 2016: Paul Keating launches withering attack on ‘pathetic’ Greens in the Sydney Morning Herald, Keating said, among other things:

‘They’re a bunch of opportunistic Trots hiding behind a gum tree trying to pretend they’re the Labor Party.’

Typical mindless vitriol from Keating which no doubt will get the Labor Party apparatchiks excited. He descended into accusing the Greens of not being a party of the environment, a claim that does not stand up to much scrutiny, no matter whether it is the left wing NSW branch we are talking about or more centrist branches.

The former Prime Minister also criticised the Greens for diverting ALP resources away from other, marginal, electorates and argued that the ALP was a party of government, unlike the Greens. Keating praised his and previous Labor governments for completely remodeling the country and pooh poohed the idea that the Greens were now the natural home for progressives.

Keating didn’t analyse why the Greens and other third parties and independents are going to receive up to 25% of the votes on 2 July. In Keating’s time this might have been 10 percent or a little bit more. Why the change?

I think Keating unintentionally answered that. Yes, Labor is a party of government. It manages capitalism for the bosses. It was Hawke and Keating who introduced neoliberalism into Australia. They were able to sell anti-working class policies to Australian workers through the trade union movement, its abandonment of class struggle and its capitulation to capitalism and trickle down lies through the Accord. The end result of the Hawke and Keating market ‘reforms’ was a shift in wealth and income from labour to capital, a trend that has continued since the mid 1980s under both the ALP and the Coalition.

Anthony Albanese has been an important part of Labor governments that have been integral to that transfer of income and wealth to capital. He is under challenge from the Greens’ Jim Casey in this election in his seat of Grayndler. Casey is a former member of the International Socialist Organisation, a group that became part of Solidarity, an organisation I am a member of.

So Keating is right then that this really is a Trots takeover of the Greens? No, it is just red baiting. Indeed, Albanese a few months ago went so far in his own redbaiting to criticise Casey for being, shock horror, a socialist.

It shows the degeneration of the Labor Party when one of its leading ‘left-wingers’ sinks to redbaiting.

A few Trots have left the lonely world of Trotdom to join the Greens. In doing that they have abandoned their supposed Trotskyism. Many more have disappeared into the quagmire of apoliticism.

There is something else that is interesting about Casey. He is the Secretary of the New South Wales Fire Brigade Employees Union. He is an example of the sort of person who in the past would have been a Labor party member, an important player in internal party machinations and eventually been given a sinecure in Parliament. Again Keating stuck to abuse rather than analysing why some union leaders are members of, and some unions are supporting, the Greens.

What you sow you reap. For the last 20 years in Parliament Albanese has been sowing neoliberalism, sometimes with leftist rhetoric. he is reaping that. A fed up section of society is looking for not just a party that treats refugees decently but also actually improves heath and education and isn’t married to capital. While I have major criticisms of the Greens for most people they appear to the left of Labor on social and economic issues. And they don’t have a history of attacking workers and their living standards on the scale that Labor has.

More and more people are voting Green because they think they are the party of progressive politics in a way Labor is not.

Jim Casey may or may not win Grayndler. It is however pretty clear that the Greens will not go away and the reason for that is that the ALP is now so right wing and so pro-market and pro-capital in government that some of its previous supporters are shifting and have shifted to what they perceive as a progressive alternative. No amount of abuse from the likes of Keating is going to change that.

To win labour votes the ALP should have labour policies.

John Mullen on the class struggle in France: a temporary stalemate

John Mullen writes on his blog about the class struggle today in France. John is a member of the anti-capitalist grouping Ensemble and is active in the Paris region.

 

Events in France are showing a high level of class anger, an explosion of creative fighting tactics, and a very deep crisis in social democracy. Thursday 23 June saw the 11th day of action  against a vicious Employment bill. Masses around the country showed  continuing determination not to allow the new law onto the statute book. Lively demonstrations took to the streets in dozens of towns, including at least one which hadn’t seen a demonstration for fifty years. Workplace voting in a “citizens’ referendum” about the law was going on across France this week, and some oil depots were still blocked. Nevertheless the movement is weaker than it was and the next few weeks will be crucial.

 

The background to the crisis is the relative success of the French working class over the last thirty years in slowing down neoliberal attacks. This has very concrete effects. My daughter, when she goes to university here, will pay two hundred pounds a year; my niece in Britain, nine thousand. My wife, a primary school teacher in Paris, can retire at sixty; my sister in a care profession in the UK, at sixty seven. Pensioner poverty is far higher in the UK than in France, council housing still gets built, and one can find many more examples.

 

So French bosses, despite all the handouts they have had from this so called Socialist government, are impatient to go much further. This new bill would make it possible to overturn national minimum conditions – on overtime pay rates or on the length of the working week, for example – by local workplace agreements. The bosses are extremely keen, since they can see that such a law could severely weaken the power of national union agreements for fifty years or more. This is what has caused three months of strikes and demonstrations. It’s very much a political movement, not about immediate economic interests: many of the effects of the law would not be felt for years, and some groups out on the one-day strikes, such as teachers, would not be affected by this law, but understand that an injury to one is an injury to all.

 

Prime Minister Valls would like to become the Tony Blair of French politics and move the Socialist Party as far right as New Labour. To do this, he is ready to lose his present electoral base (his popularity rating is16%), and even lose the next elections, feeling that a defeated working class will let him back into office the next time round. The employment law has become the key battle for him. This is why, over recent weeks, he has made concessions in other areas (the first pay rise for teachers for many years has been announced and long standing student union demands on training have been conceded, as well as concessions for railworkers). At the same time, state repression has been ramped up. The union demonstration on the first of May was attacked by police for the first time since the end of the 1970s. Levels of police violence are considerably higher than usual: demonstrations now routinely include « street medics » – medical staff who come with equipment to treat those beaten by the police.

 

The government has been stunned by the strength of the movement. One-day strikes across the economy, accompanied by “renewable strikes” in the most militant workplaces, in which striker meetings decide every few days whether to continue. These have taken place in transport, airlines, rubbish collection, oil refineries, power stations and electricity companies. Dynamic, original tactics have been used. Motorway toll booths have been occupied, letting cars through free and collecting money for strikers ; bus depots, train lines and oil depots have been blockaded. An online strike fund collected over 400 000 euros. Students barricaded universities and high schools. And the new Up all night movement occupied squares around the country for many weeks and, along with the student actions, has brought into being a whole new generation of activists, involved in mass forums but also in solidarity actions with refugees and with strikers, both those acting against the employment bill and those striking on other issues, like the casual workers at the National Library in Paris.

 

What ideas this new generation of activists will turn to is one of the most important questions of the year. They are certainly being presented with plenty of choices. In Up All Night you can see many defending lifestyle politics: become a vegan, set up a local currency or barter system to defy capitalism, campaign against the idea of work, etc.  Others insist that directly confronting the forces of the State (that is, fighting the police) has to be at the centre of political strategy. But changing lifestyles leaves the power of capitalism intact, and the state will always be better at street fighting than our movements can be, (not to mention the elitism involved in small group street fighting reserved for young men).
Fortunately, the very roots of Up All Night, in a class struggle about rights at work, have led significant sections of the movement towards putting the working class at the centre. Working with local trade unionists to blockade bus depots on strike days, visiting picket lines, collecting money for strikers have been popular activities.

 

The movement against the Employment bill has gone through three phases already. In March and April high school students were central. Exam season has now stopped the blockades of schools, though there are still large numbers of young people on the demonstrations. In April, the Up All Night square occupations were the most visible part of the movement. In May, once the Prime Minister had used a special decree to cancel the parliamentary debate on the law and push it through its first reading without discussion, the renewable strikes, especially in transport and rubbish collection, came to the fore.

 

The sectors on renewable strikes could not hold out alone for more than two or three weeks, and national union leaders really did not want to go further than one day strikes. This is because union leaders are professional negotiators and see strikes as ways of strengthening their hand in talks aiming at a deal, but also because union leaders do not want to see the Socialist Party governmen overthrown and replaced with a right-wing government under which the role of trade union leaders would be much less influential.

 

We seem to be at a temporary stalemate this week. Hollande is weak: when asked by pollsters if they wanted him to stand again for president next year, only fourteen per cent of the population said yes! He has failed to win over public opinion as he had hoped: even after the smear campaigns against the trade unions and demonstrators, new opinion polls still see sixty seven per cent against the Employment Law, and sixty per cent saying the movement is “justified” . This despite a disgusting propaganda campaign against the trade unions, which used the excuse of broken office windows in a children’s hospital on the route of last Tuesday’s march to portray demonstrators as heartless anarchists. (Meanwhile, this year, the government is cutting 20 000 jobs in our hospitals!)

 

Public opinion, though, cannot in itself win the day. Most of the renewable strikes have now stopped, even if the mass demonstrations are very angry and do not at all have the atmosphere of defeat. The law still has to pass through its second reading and another day of action is planned for the 28th. The Socialist MPs are divided, and we may see them propose a motion of censure against the government, if it again applies the 49.3 decree which allows the law to pass without debate.

 

The government itself cannot agree over tactics. This week saw a ridiculous circus show with Valls asking the unions to call off the demonstration, because of the broken windows and because the police had been working too hard due to the Euro 16 football championship. When the unions refused, the march was banned. In the face of widespread condemnation of this decision (even by the CFDT, the one union confederation which supports the Labour bill) the government backtracked, but authorized a very short march route.

 

The weakness of our side has been the strategy of the union leaderships. Though they have supported sections calling strikes, they have not wanted to build even for a one-day general strike, which could realistically have been organized on this issue. And there is not an alternative leadership for the working class.

 

Similarly on the political front. Throughout the movement members of anticapitalist groups (such as Ensemble, the group I belong to, or the New Anticapitalist Party) have been very much involved in building up actions. And the Communist Party and Left Party have mobilized comprehensively. Nevertheless, no organization has given a clear and visible political lead on how to win. For the anticapitalist organizations this is mainly because both are very much federal organizations with each locality deciding action independently.

 

Recent events have opened up many political questions for anticapitalists. Questions about how to relate to Socialist party members and voters for example. Many Socialist party offices around the country have been smashed up, and some leading revolutionary activists have, sadly, been publicly applauding such actions and supporting a campaign of pledges entitled “I will never again vote for the Socialist Party”. This approach is a mistake. Attacking Socialist Party offices makes Hollande’s job easier, by uniting the Socialist party, within which there is significant opposition to this law. And the campaign to never vote PS puts the dividing line in the wrong place, between those who hate the Parti socialiste in its entirety, and those who might vote for them (against a fascist candidate perhaps, or in order to elect a local Socialist mayor who at least builds low-rent housing). We need to divide society on the basis of class interest, not on the basis of who has no illusions in social-democracy and who may still have a few. The result of this confusion is that when a group of anarchists attacked the union headquarters of the CFDT (the one union confederation which supports the Labour Law) two days ago, the radical Left  did not denounce these actions.

 

Will the government be able to push its law through a second reading in the National Assembly, despite backbench rebellions and further days of action planned by the unions? For the first reading they used a special rule to cancel any debate. This lack of respect for even formal bourgeois democracy infuriated millions of people and was a key factor in reinforcing the movement. Dare they do it again? And can Up All Night rise again from its present weakened but still active state ? Will the government manage to use the summer holidays to press the law through ? Both sides have strengths and weaknesses, and we must do all we can to make it fall our way.

 

John Mullen

Social democracy or revolution? A reply to Tim Ginty

Tim Ginty has written an important and thoughtful article in defence of Labor Party social democracy. (A tale of two campaigns: The Spanish and Australian elections compared. If the ALP wants to avoid a fate similar to the Labor type Socialist Workers Party in Spain (and SYRIZA, the equivalent in Greece, I would add), and avoid losing most of its support base and being outflanked by new more radical political groupings, Tim says Labor ‘must rebuild itself as a genuine party of the left. ‘

Tim starts off by reminding us that Marx and Engels were social democrats. Well, true, but social democracy had a revolution meaning in their time and Marx and Engels were revolutionaries. In fact the Critique of the Gotha program is one example among many that divorces them from the 20th century social democracy Tim is defending.

The return of ‘real’ Labor is a theme common among many social democrats. The party was so much better in 1972 than today.

Yet real Labor 44 years ago is real Labor today. The party’s main role is to manage capitalism. In my view it is a contradictory party aimed at doing that – a capitalist workers’ party. Today it is a CAPITALIST workers’ party perhaps on the way to becoming a CAPITALIST party, although its support from the union bureaucracy and partial expression of that bureaucracy may make that a step too far. We shall see. In part it depends on social movements and what rank and file workers do in the future.
And that is what is missing from Tim’s analysis, in my opinion; the role of social and industrial struggle in the rise of SYRIZA and Podemos for example indicates that it was the mass movement of workers and others against austerity that built these groups.

SYRIZA I think shows the limitations of social democracy. The goal of winning state power within capitalism, when the economic base for the provision of the demands of your supporters for basic social democratic policies no longer exists, because of the reassertion of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall since the late 60s and early 70s in the developed capitalist world, is unachievable, in my opinion. Hence the collapse of SYRIZA as a social democratic force after only a few months in power.

Of course the pressure from the ruling class on them was immense, but SYRIZA’s goal of winning state power under capitalism made that inevitable, as did the failure of the governmental wing of SYRIZA to mobilise its supporters to fight for those social democratic demands through strikes and protests. To do so of course may have opened up an alternative vision and reality, a new society in which production is organised democratically to satisfy human need, not to make a profit (i.e. socialism).

Can Labor in Australia, as it continues its neoliberal program and rightward trajectory (reflective of its essence of managing capitalism, in my view) be outflanked on the social democratic left? Without those mass social struggles we have seen in Spain and Greece and elsewhere, I doubt it. What we do have is a leakage away from Labor in terms of votes supposedly to the left like the Greens. Some of the Greens social programs are to the left of Labor but its goal of managing capitalism mirrors the problems of Labor, and who in power – Nick McKim in Tasmania comes to mind let alone the disaster of Greens internationally implementing austerity or supporting governments that do – show themselves to be neoliberals on bikes.

The other worrying aspect of this is not just the shift to the non-Labor left but the rise of centrists like Xenophon today and protest votes for opportunist billionaires like Palmer in 2013. The search for soft centrist or even radical alternatives within capitalism is futile, as the collapse of PUP shows here in Australia and the destruction of SYRIZA as a progressive anti-austerity force and government shows internationally. .

This shift away from Labor (and the Liberals) reflects the lack of social struggle, which at least can help lift the fog of reaction from the eyes of workers and others. Without that mass social struggle they will search for solutions in the context of the old parliamentary game and some will find temporary relief in voting Xenophon or Palmer or worse, Hanson and the even worse social reactionaries in that pool of slime.

The fact that Xenophon will get more votes in the Senate in South Australia than the ALP suggests the degeneration of the Labor Party as a party of social change reflecting the aspirations of workers is almost complete, but the inevitable failure of Xenophon and others to deliver to working class voters what capitalism cannot in its present economic circumstances deliver suggests more political volatility ahead. Some voters may return to Labor, or swing to the Greens as the latest expression of misguided hope. Some may turn to the racist, reactionaries and even fascists. That depends in part on how bad the economy gets.

Without mass social struggles to fight for better wages, jobs and defence of the oppressed, and out of which a radical and revolutionary left can build and grow, I see a bleak future for social democracy and for all of us. Our primary task should be to build a fighting working class spirit and mass social struggles and with it a revolutionary alternative to Labor, not to try and revive the Labor Party corpse of reformism in Australia.

John Passant is a member of small revolutionary group Solidarity.

 

Stick with the current mob for a while?

Unite to fight systemic violence

Image via freepick.com

 
In Independent Australia on Tuesday I discuss the recent tragedies of Orlando and the Jo Cox murder and the systemic violence behind these and other violent incidents. I end up by saying:

‘The violence we witness, whether it be the bosses’ wars, or Aboriginal deaths in custody, or asylum seekers killed or raped, or women murdered by their partners, or workers dying on building sites, is systemic. The only long term solution is a new society in which love, not profit, is the basis of real human relations and production is organised democratically to satisfy human need.’

To read the whole article click here. Fighting systemic violence.

The History of Taxation is Written in Letters of Blood and Fire

Abstract

Tax, war, democracy and rebellion intertwine down the ages. In this paper I introduce readers to the reasons why tax history is important and the concepts underpinning later articles. The four tax history articles that will be published in total over the next four issues (from September 2016 to June 2017) will look at history from the Magna Carta to Australia today through the prism of tax. A key theme is the role ordinary working people (peasants, artisans, workers for example) play in protests against oppressive taxes and how that anger can spark rebellions and revolutions. These rebellions and revolutions often have democracy as their main demand.

Passant, John, Historical Note: The History of Taxation is Written in Letters of Blood and Fire, Australasian Accounting, Business and Finance Journal, 10(2), 2016, 93-101.

Of course the Liberals won’t privatise Medicare

 

Echoing John Howard’s promise to never ever introduce a Goods and Services Tax, Malcolm Turnbull has promised that his government will ‘never ever’ privatise Medicare.

Of course they won’t. Labor’s election campaign has put that Liberal long term goal on the backburner, for now. And to make sure there is no hint of privatisation, Turnbull has now taken selling back office operations off the agenda, for now. That is a Labor success.

However the real threat at the moment to Medicare is not privatisation.  It is underfunding. The Abbot/Hockey Budget of 2014 cut $57 billion, mainly from Labor’s proposed funding after 2017.

Don’t take my word for it. The former President of the Australian Medical Association, Brian Owler, called the failure to commit to spending $57 billion a cut.

The Turnbull government in its last Budget restored $2.9 billion of that cut and Labor has added an extra $2 billion to that, bringing its commitment to restoring $4.9 bn of the $57 billion cut.

Labor leader Bill Shorten has refused to commit to addressing the whole of the $57 billion cut.

Far better for Labor to beat up the very real bogyman of privatising Medicare than admit that it too is, like the Liberals, going to cut future health funding but perhaps by not quite as much as the Coalition.

Privatising Medicare is no doubt a long term goal of the Liberals.

Australia has a two tier health system – a public one funded by our taxes and a private one covered by individual health insurance. Underfunding the health system forces more people into the private system to get decent and more importantly timely treatment. (Public waiting lists are very long.) The more underfunding there is the less viable the public system becomes in the long term.

Underfunding is the half way house on the way to privatisation and Labor by its failure to commit to restoring previously agreed $57 billion of funding is a key party to the long term destruction of Medicare.

The government has also frozen the Medicare rebate which is a backdoor way of introducing a co-payment by stealth, another important part of commodifying health. Labor to its credit will, if elected, unfreeze the rebate from 1 January next year.

Labor has form on privatisations. It was of course the Hawke and Keating Labor governments who were our first governments to sell off swathes of publicly owned assets like the Commonwealth Bank, Telstra and QANTAS and to commodify University access.

The logic of neoliberalism and the market pervades Labor’s very essence and that includes privatisation. However for political and electoral reasons – Medicare is engraven in our hearts – Labor will defend Medicare to enable it to get into office to continue its version of the neoliberal project.

 

Orlando – a letter from a socialist in America

I reproduce below a Facebook note from a socialist in the United States. Facebook banned them for this and they re-posted it.

John

So I just got released from Facebook prison after they banned me for 3 days for my post on the Orlando shooting. I basically just tried to sum up some facts, counter the dominant narratives, provide some alternative explanations and make some connections. You know, things journalists should be doing. For that, I both went viral and was censored in a matter of 24 hours.

Meanwhile pages like that of fearmongering politicians like Donald Trump and of extremist far-right groups can spread their mind-numbing bigotry, and racist hatred on Facebook unchallenged and go scot-free despite all their offensive posts.

That’s why, stubborn as I am, I’m re-posting the post I got banned for, in defiance of this blatant double standard of Facebook. Here it is:
__________________________________

 

So after a couple of days of reports and testimonies, we know the following about the Orlando shooter:

He was a child of immigrants, born and raised in the United States.

He pledged allegiance to Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda AND ISIS, 3 organizations that are de facto at war with each other, showing he was ignorant about all 3, let alone politics in the Middle East in general.

He knew practically nothing about Islam and according to his wife, father and community he was not religious in the slightest.

He struggled with his toxic masculinity, had an alcohol problem and beat up his wife for which he was never charged.

He was racist towards Blacks, Latin@’s and other minorities and in the shooting killed predominantly queer people of color.

Despite his own alleged queer inclinations, he was a homophobe in a country where still 1 in 5 LGBTQ people are victims of hate crimes and there are more than a 100 anti-LGBTQ bills (from anti-gay marriage to bathroom bills) pending in dozens of states.

He idolized the NYPD, one of the country’s most well-known and cherished institutions that has an army bigger than ISIS, is known to indiscriminately and disproportionately spy on Muslims and which engages in systematic violence against Blacks, Latin@’s and other minorities.

He beat juveniles in detention centers over the head for a living as he worked for and got his training from the private security firm G4S, which is not only one of the foremost stakeholders in the Prison–industrial complex, but is also invested in mass deportations as it runs immigration detention centers and participates in the occupation of Palestine, training other mass killers in Israel to target and imprison Palestinians.

He staged a mass shooting in a country that has seen a 1,000 mass shootings in the last 1,200 days.

So basically he was ignorant, self-conflicted, racist, sexist, homophobe, had a sick admiration for authority and was obsessed with guns and violence, eventually acting upon all of that.

Sorry folks, but your supposed “Islamic radical terrorist from Afghan” is as American as apple pie made with homegrown apples and baked in an American made oven.