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Friday, July 15, 2016

THE WAR COMES HOME IN DALLAS





                                                     



 
In the endless discussion about the murder of five Dallas law enforcement officers, the most basic issue is being ignored. The shooting was not just a symptom of racism. While obviously a factor in events that day, racism and racial violence have always been present. However, expressing it by mass murder has not. This phenomenon may be related to the fact that mass shootings in general are becoming more common.  It is a measure of the extent to which violence has been normalized that few are seriously questioning why.
While many people think they have easy explanations for mass shootings, behavioral scientists have not been able to find evidence for a specific cause. Though some form of mental disturbance can be assumed, that does not explain the fact that these acts are increasing. The rising rate suggests sociological factors are involved. There is reason to think that a major one may be the militarization of US society in general.  These acts of mass violence, like combat and unlike most acts of individual violence, are impersonal in the sense that they are not typically directed toward specific identified individuals. This difference may help explain why mass killings are increasing while the rate of violent crime in general is falling.  In other words, it isn’t violence in general that is rising but indiscriminate, mass violence. Just like war.

It’s hard to deny that we are a militarized society. Police departments around the country have been given DOD weapons under a program justified by the “War on Terror.” At the same time, use and misuse of heavily armed SWAT teams has exploded, despite the drop in violent crime. Neither of these trends has been seriously challenged by government or the citizens it is supposed to represent. Black Lives Matter is dramatizing the racist police violence that has always been part of the African-American experience, even if new videos of police murders were not going viral every other week until now. Peaceful protests of these murders and other outrages are often treated as terrorist events, with paramilitary police conducting using intimidation, mass arrests and martial law in a preemptive fashion. It is hardly any wonder that citizens are perceived as the enemy by many officers. It is predictable that unstable individuals will see all law enforcement officers in the same way.

Think about it. Americans under the age of 18 cannot remember a time when the US was not at war. While the ostensible goal is to eliminate terror, it is obvious that terror has only increased. The millions of Americans who haven’t yet realized that the “War on Terror” is self-defeating seem to accept that endless war is inevitable. That should not be surprising, since most of us who are old enough to know better seem to have forgotten there was a time when it was assumed that wars would eventually end. Instead of growing anger at America’s increasingly belligerent foreign policy and all the misery it is creating, we passively accept the glorification of the US military. Professional sports and the corporate media constantly praise the military its members. Our children are being aggressively recruited before they are old enough to understand the risks of what they are agreeing to.  How can they know what they are volunteering for, when the media covers almost nothing about the reality of how the US military operates around the world, to say nothing about what the real aims of US foreign policy are?

The US has led or supported disastrous interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria while supporting a fascist government at war with its own people in Ukraine, backing a right wing Israeli government staging a brutal and illegal occupation opposed by a significant number of its citizens, and constantly agitating against Russia and Iran. No thinking person can believe that there is a logical end game planned except in the delusional minds of those Wall Street interests bent on global corporate domination, and they are not saying what that is.

Despite the chaos, destruction and cost in lives and treasure of US foreign policy, and even in the face of attempts at “political revolution” by both liberals and conservatives, there is little organized protest against the war industry and all it represents. Myopically focused on their personal circumstances, most Americans do not stop to think about what their government is doing to others around the world in their name.  How can we demand justice for Americans when we are so willing to deny it to people in other nations with no say in the decisions that are destroying their lives? Even if that were possible, we could have justice in the US when the national resources are so heavily invested in the destruction business.

War is considered normal in the US. There is little objection to a proposed war by members of whichever party occupies the White House at the time. When a Democrat is in office, almost no party regulars find reason to object to any war.  Although only defensive wars are legal, Americans largely got behind a “preemptive” war in Iraq. Even after that proved a disaster, they failed to protest the next wars, because American troops were not involved in large numbers.  Once the majority of the American public accepted that war was normal, the alarm over the escalating War of Terror and associated increasing abridgement of civil rights by Presidents of both parties was muted and soon, largely forgotten.  What politicians and the corporate media ignore are non-issues.

This blasé acceptance of violence on a global scale cannot help but have consequences for the individual American psyche. How much more true is that for veterans who have seen the reality of war? Most, motivated by economic desperation or misguided patriotism, have no idea what they have signed up for until they are “in the shit.” Killing, or seeing a close comrade killed in front of you, does horrific damage to the soul of normal humans. They cannot heal if they return to a society that has no real appreciation for their sacrifices, doesn’t care to ask if what they gave up their freedoms and risked their lives for was worth sacrificing for, and is largely ignorant of what they went through to “defend their freedoms.”

Reports of Micah Johnson’s military record focus only on his alleged sexual misconduct. Nothing is said about what he experienced in Afghanistan. Perhaps it doesn’t matter. He was clearly unstable, though he might be forgiven for seeing the violence against fellow African-Americans an issue of Black vs White or cop vs civilian in his mind. He was trained to think that way his whole life. If we really want to do something about the epidemic of random violence, we have to start thinking about our own willingness to divide humanity into “us” vs “them.” Once we realize it is only “us,” our duty is clear.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

THE REVOLUTION MUST TRANSCEND PARTISANSHIP




                                                                                         





In order to sustain the momentum that Sanders has built for a political revolution, we have to continue to attract new people to the cause, regardless of the outcome of the primary and general elections.  Should Sanders win, this will occur naturally as Clinton supporters grudgingly fall in behind him like the faithful party members they are. If he loses and Hillary goes on to win the general election, it will be much more difficult to convince Clintonites to join the effort. They are, after all, pretty much by definition willing to settle for whatever the party can give them. How else could they enthusiastically support someone who represents everything the other half of the party is revolting against?

They are also very angry that Sanders continues to use his campaign to criticize the party, which they see as irresponsible since it boosts chances of a Trump victory. As usual, supporters of the Democratic status quo want to blame those who refuse to go along for the results of their complacency.

It’s obvious that the division between Sanders supporters and Clinton backers is growing, even while the Democratic establishment is demanding that the party come together to prevent a Trump presidency. Clinton supporters are alarmed and angry that Bernie’s legions do not bow down defeated, or at least be grateful for a symbolic place at the table in July. After all, they would line up behind Sanders if he had beaten all odds and prevailed despite the systemic disadvantages he faced.  They cannot understand how any Democrat could consider not voting for anyone with a D after her name if it meant keeping a Republican out of the White House.

Given this simplistic view of politics, Clintonites conclude that Sanders supporters are just being unreasonable. They attribute the anger they are seeing to youthful naïveté, misogyny, or the fact that Sanders continues to express anger at the Democratic status quo. Only the latter argument has any serious basis, but only a blind partisan would argue that criticizing what the party has become is a bad thing. In fact, their failure to acknowledge the validity of Sanders’ critique is the real source of his supporters’ anger.

If Clinton’s advocates cannot be made to understand the central importance of Sanders’ challenge to the corruption of the system, we must look elsewhere to build a movement that continues when the Sanders campaign ends.  Should she prevail in November, it may actually be easier to recruit Trump followers to the cause than her supporters. Not being blinded by the corporate media spin on Wall Street’s darling, Trump’s fans may be more amenable than Clinton supporters to the idea of working together on issues on which most Americans agree.  Trump and Sanders supporters already have in common that they both reject the Duopoly leadership. Both are increasingly aware that Duopoly politicians are subservient to interests other than our own. Given the positions Trump has taken, it is clear that his supporters are not as ideological as progressives typically assume Republicans to be. If we can learn to stop thinking in partisan terms, we can find common cause on many issues. In addition to mutual contempt for the Duopoly establishment, there is widespread nonpartisan agreement many critical issues that Trump and Sanders support and on which Clinton’s record is at odds with public opinion.

It’s time to abandon the assumption that politics is a battle between fundamentally opposing forces of the right, represented by Republicans, and a left represented by Democrats.  This simplistic dichotomy is so deeply engrained in Clinton supporters that they cannot comprehend why Sanders and his supporters are challenging what the Democratic Party has become. Their identification with the party brand is so strong that many question whether an independent progressive like Sanders is a “real Democrat,” but fail to ask themselves how they define the term. They assume that any politician who calls herself one is, regardless of how much her neoliberal and neoconservative record resembles that of a typical Republican. For many such Democrats, the choice is not which candidate best represents them but whether that candidate can prevent the dreaded outcome of a Republican in the White House.  They consider themselves on “the left” simply by virtue of party membership.

In contrast, Trump supporters do not identify with the Republican Party, even if most are members. Among them are many who might be persuaded to consider the Sanders message, if their candidate does not win and they face four to eight years of Clinton. Sure, some are just attracted by racism and many by his willingness to say whatever foolish thought crosses his mind, but many Trump enthusiasts like some of the good ideas he claims to support. Many of his positions echo those of Sanders: opposing free trade, ending policies of regime change, mandating a living wage, restoring civil liberties, having a more balanced relationship with Israel and most importantly, campaign finance reform.  A great many people are impressed by the fact that Trump’s campaign is largely self-funded. True or not, they see this as evidence that he is not beholden to special interests. Those who think these issues are important are people who may be able to understand that “making America great again” has nothing to do with making it whiter and everything to do with ending corruption of government by special interests.

The average Trump booster may even be more ready for political revolution than some Sanders supporters. All of them firmly reject the Republican establishment, while many Sanders supporters are ready to vote for Clinton she wins the nomination, despite the fact that she stands for everything Sanders is fighting against. Those of us dedicated to bringing about political revolution know that it begins with challenging the corruption of the system. That starts by refusing to vote for any politician who is the clear choice of the same interests that back both Duopoly parties. Maverick status is another thing that Trump and Sanders share. If we stick to issues and not personalities, there is a chance that we can overcome the suspiciousness that the corporate media and politicians have deliberately created between us and work together toward the common goal of establishing representative government in the US.

It is the opposition to being led by politicians who put the interest of the economic elite over those of average Americans that should bind people from across the political spectrum in this common cause. When 80% of Americans have expressed opposition to Citizens United, it seems obvious that we should be able to work together to do something about it. That is exactly what the Sanders revolution is all about. If we want politicians to represent us, we have to stop applying ideological labels to ideas that can lead to solutions to problems that affect us all.  “Conservative” and “liberal” should be relative terms, not absolutes. If we don’t allow others define what we are supposed to believe, we can find that consensus necessary for true representative government.  If we can make it that far, we can then decide through the democratic process what kind of country we want to be.

Friday, May 13, 2016

BEYOND BERNIE: THE EVOLUTION OF A REVOLUTION





                                   


Those of us on the left know that what Sanders calls a "revolution" is only the first step in the transformation necessary to produce a just society. Some of us labor under the delusion that if we are patient, some day Americans will rise up and overthrow the system that oppresses us. Even more unreasonably, some think this can somehow be done without dirtying our hands in electoral politics. Others argue that it can only be done by building a third party to challenge the corporate Duopoly. While creating an alternative to the Duopoly will play a role in the ultimate transformation of American politics, it will take many years to realize. We simply do not have the luxury of time. The reality is that global climate change sets an upper limit on how long we have to act. Until we begin electing candidates who will stand up to the Wall Street-dominated fossil fuels industry, we are living with a sword hanging over our heads. When "liberal" Americans seem prepared to select the darling of Wall Street to represent them in the presidential election, there is too much groundwork to be done to create a viable third party before it is too late.

Clinton's success despite her high unfavorability ratings shows how far we have to go to educate the public about the need for revolution and what that will entail. We must begin with the system as it is, meet the people where they are at, and hope that by speaking to them in their language, we can lead them to question the assumptions that keep them captive of a system designed to favor the interests of the powerful. That means elections matter, even if one victory does not in itself constitute a "revolution." They provide platforms from which to educate and organize those who have not given up altogether on rescuing the US and the world from the dire circumstances we have allowed it to fall into. Sanders has shown how this can be done without depending on the very interests who control the system to get this opportunity.

The question remains as to whether the Sanders candidacy will advance the cause of a real revolution, or impede it.  If his supporters simply cave in and support Clinton, they will show that they are unwilling to challenge the practice of fear-based “strategic” voting promoted by the Democratic leadership. The grip on power of the party elite depends on successfully convincing us that voting for corporate Democrats is the only alternative to Republican rule. It is not. If their jobs depended on it, these power brokers would have to give us candidates who actually represent the People’s will.  If the majority of Democrats continue to accept the lesser of two evils logic, they have no reason to expect that the party’s steady drift to the right will ever end. If they refuse to vote for the anointed candidate of the limousine liberals, we have a chance to force change.

A lot of people have been saying since the beginning of the Democratic primary campaign that Sanders would end up doing more harm than good to the cause of fundamentally changing the system of American politics. Assuming that he would lose in the end, they pointed out that his ultimate endorsement of Clinton would serve simply to shore up a party that can no longer generate excitement among even its most faithful members because its chosen candidates are unwilling to challenge the moneyed interests that he is targeting.  The naysayer’s argument was that, like past insurgent candidates for the Democratic nomination, he would serve as a sheepherder for the Duopoly party claiming to represent “the People” by encouraging his disappointed supporters to rally round the choice of the Establishment. While this is a distinct possibility, those committed to a real revolution need to understand that we cannot succeed without learning to recognize and capitalize on every opportunity.

Whether or not Sanders wins the nomination, his amazing run presents such an opening, one we may not get again. While he can help advance the cause beyond the convention, let’s remember that he has told us endlessly that the outcome of the struggle is in our hands. We have to be prepared to respond to the very real possibility that Sanders himself will abdicate leadership in the movement he has begun, even while encouraging him to stay the course. We have to help him fight for every vote to continue getting his message out during the campaign and at the convention. We must also encourage him to set his sights higher than simply making the case for progressive policies before a convention run by politicians whose primary interest is maintaining power and who believe that can only be done by kowtowing to the corporate elite.  Words must be followed by action.

Ralph Nader recently argued that if Sanders were to lose at convention, he could still keep his word to endorse Clinton, while challenging her corporate vision. There is nothing to stop him from continuing his assault on neoliberalism and corruption that is the root cause of America’s malaise. While justifying his ongoing efforts as a way to rally his troops to defeat Trump, he can continue to barnstorm in favor of the Democrats. The key is that rather than promoting the failed policies of Clintonism, he can argue for those Democratic values that people want to believe the party represents. This will prepare us for continuing to fight for them if Clinton is elected, rather than abandoning the fight as Obama supporters did after 2008, with predictable results.


A true political revolution must be based on addressing the corruption upon which the current system is built. Sanders has gotten the ball rolling, focusing our attention on the fact that the entire progressive movement depends on dealing with this problem. With our encouragement, he can keep the movement going forward. Even without his cooperation, we can proceed on our own. He has provided us a glimpse of our collective power. We have to use it, organizing around the issue of corruption and highlighting how the consequences play out in a Clinton presidency, as they no doubt will if her policies are consistent with her atrocious record of neoliberalism, neoconservatism and generally favoring the interests of Wall Street over Main Street. 

A true political revolution must be based on addressing the corruption upon which the current system is built. Sanders has gotten the ball rolling, focusing our attention on the fact that the entire progressive movement depends on dealing with this problem. With our encouragement, he can keep the movement going forward. Even without his cooperation, we can proceed on our own. He has provided us a glimpse of our collective power. We have to use it, organizing around the issue of corruption and highlighting how the consequences play out in a Clinton presidency, as they no doubt will if her policies are consistent with her atrocious record of neoliberalism, neoconservatism and generally favoring the interests of Wall Street over Main Street.  

If we can get average Americans to set their sights that high, they might be able to glimpse the more fundamental changes that will be required to reshape the US economy and society into something that will enable future generations to not only survive, but thrive.



Friday, May 6, 2016

THE BATTERED DEMOCRAT SYNDROME: UNDERSTANDING CLINTON SUPPORTERS





                                        




                                                                                                                                                                           

Okay, I’ll admit it. I have often lost patience with long-time friends support Clinton. I have been impatient and said disrespectful things that I regret. I don’t want to make excuses for my behavior, but in my defense I have to say that it is very frustrating that so few of them seem to be willing to take a look at why “Bernie bros” are so adamant in their support of Sanders. It seems obvious to us that we have an historic opportunity to decisively reject the assumption that a person can only be elected President if they are backed by powerful economic players. How could anyone choose Wall Street’s golden girl over a champion of campaign finance reform and all the progressive battles we will never win until it is achieved? To paraphrase the unofficial motto of the first Clinton’s campaign: “It’s the corruption, stupid!

That’s not meant to be personal, of course. It’s just that the seemingly willful blindness of Clinton supporters is maddening to those of us who recognize the need for a real political revolution to end control of the political process by the narrow economic elite she represents. However, the idea that they are willing to stay with a candidate who has done nothing but abuse them and sweet talk them with broken promises should inspire pity, not wrath. Their passion for Clinton may be irrational, but isn’t that the nature of love? It is not helpful to lash out at them for seeing the best in her, even when what they see is not there. That is, after all, a common feature in the battered spouse syndrome. Democrats who support Clinton show all the signs of this depressingly common condition.

We Sanders supporters are not helping our case by lashing out at the very people we should be trying to reach. We need to take a deep breath, remember that these are people we care about, and realize that self-destructive behaviors are common in people who have been abused. We may be surprised that they are not acting like the people we thought they were, but these are our friends!  We have been through so much with them over the years that we cannot abandon them when they most need understanding. It is no doubt this emotional bond that makes us so angry when we see them debase themselves by asking for more abuse from the Democratic Party. We are only angry at them because we care.

Despite a long history of abusive relationships with past Democratic politicians, those who have fallen victim to Clinton’s wiles fail to recognize that the party they have sworn not to forsake is not what they thought it was. Like victims of other forms of abuse, they seem to be attracted to those very characteristics which prevent a healthy relationship. While the dysfunctional nature of the relationship is obvious to those of us who can view the situation objectively, to the star-crossed hopefuls who desperately want to believe that they have found true love, the party can do no wrong. Every time they think they have found someone who understands them and who shares their interests, they find out too late (if ever) that they are understood all too well, and have fallen for another politician who will exploit their weakness for their own purposes.

Clinton supporters are often quite intelligent people. Knowing this, their friends have to wonder why they tolerate the abuse they have suffered from the Democratic Party without complaint. The answer isn’t complicated. They are so blinded by the love for the one they are in bed with that they accept any excuse for her actions that allows them to cling to the fantasy that they are cared for. Confronted with bald faced lies, they would rather accept ridiculous excuses than face the truth that the person they have chosen has no respect for them. The fact that a number of these lies are over such trivial matters that they suggest a compulsion doesn’t even seem to cause them concern.

Oh sure, such people can be nice. Not to accuse Clinton specifically, but let’s admit it: Everyone knows that psychopaths can be the most charming people in the world. For instance, the fact that she makes a show of supporting the rights of women and children in public doesn’t necessarily mean she is compassionate. If this were a deeply held value, would she not care as much for women and children in Iraq, Ukraine, Libya, Syrian or any nation targeted by her neocon friends? Her capacity for violence is well known, and at times she does not even bother to hide the pleasure it brings her. It doesn’t cost her a thing to say nice things about people to get votes, but those who are taken in are not seeing the glaring inconsistencies in her behavior.

I don’t want people to get the idea that I am exaggerating my concerns about my Clinton-loving friends for effect. For the most part, the abuse has been subtle but all the signs are there. Let’s face it:  If they haven’t learned from the mistakes they have made in past relationships, they aren’t going to see this one coming. They are likely to deny it when it gets worse, and the suffering she inflicts gets more serious. Just look at how many of them still moon over Bill, after all his transgressions. He wasn’t just a liar and a cheater. He put our finances at risk with NAFTA and banking regulation, destroyed the party’s already shaky reputation for favoring diplomacy over war by introducing “humanitarian intervention” in Kosovo, and did a lot of other disgraceful things that Clintonites have forgiven or forgotten, if they were ever acknowledged.

Although she now repudiates her support of her husband’s crime bills, opposition to gay marriage, welfare “reforms” and claims to have never supported NAFTA, Hillary is on record as having promoted all of it. She is also opposed to reinstating an updated version of Glass-Steagall that Bill eliminated, obfuscating the issue by pretending that Sanders doesn’t understand the role of the shadow finance industry. Doubling down on her claim to have opposed NAFTA from the beginning instead of only during the 2008 campaign, she now wants us to trust her claim that she opposes the TPP, which she played a key role in negotiating.

I am trying to be understanding, but like many Americans, I am dismayed at the fact that anyone who considers herself a progressive would choose a business-as-usual “pragmatist” like Clinton over someone with a long record of supporting real solutions to the problems threatening the US middle class.  Anyone who looks at the record of past failed relationships with Democratic politicians objectively can see the problem is in falling in love with the false image they present to us, even when all the clues are there.

We don’t have to “settle.” We deserve better.  Despite our past mistakes in choosing who to trust, we do not deserve to be treated this way. The only reason anyone accepts this is that they don’t want to face the shame of being played for a fool. The truth is that most of us have been there at some point in our lives. We need to let those stuck in this mental prison know they are not alone. It is not being “realistic” to accept that they cannot do better. Now that we actually have a choice, we need to take it. Let’s recognize that ever since Bill strayed off on the Third Way, Democrats have lost their sense of identity. They must find the will to deal with the endemic corruption of electoral politics that the Democratic establishment has embraced.  At the risk of idealizing Sanders as “Mr. Right,” the choice seems clear.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

THE IMPECCABLE LOGIC OF BERNIE OR BUST



                                                                       

                                  

                                                                           

Now that Clinton has virtually sewed up the Democratic nomination, it’s time for Sanders supporters to reassess their commitment to the political revolution he represents. There seems little doubt that those who have not yet voted will cast their ballots for him when they have the chance. The issue is what they will do in November. It is a sure thing that the revolution will not continue if Bernie’s backers line up behind with Clinton. Will they submit to the politics of fear, hold their noses and vote for the representative of all that they stand against, as Clinton and her smug supporters assume?  Or will they hold their ground, choosing to risk a Trump presidency to make the point that there is a line that progressives will not cross? That is the question at the heart of the Bernie or Bust strategy.

It has been argued that Bernie or Bust was a way to influence how Democrats voted in the primaries. The idea was that if voters leaning toward Clinton understood the depth of disgust toward the darling of Wall Street, they would realize that she could actually lose by Sanders supporters withholding their support. The hope was that many of those who preferred Sanders’ stands on the issues would quit rationalizing their support of Clinton on the false premise that she was more electable, which polls have consistently indicated is not the case.  That argument is now moot, however. So, is there still a place for the Bernie or Bust strategy, or was it always just about appealing to the fears of Democratic rank-and-file?  For anyone who understands just how desperately we need a political revolution, the only possible answer is a resounding “yes.”

It is positively mind-blowing to many Sanders supporters that a majority of Democrats nationwide have up until now cast their votes for a candidate backed by Wall Street who has  a record of unrivaled militarism, claims that universal health care is economically unsound despite all the proof to the contrary, who lies even about trivial things (and then about lying about them), backs free trade except when running for President, calls her Democratic opponent a liar and his supports naïve, then insists that he is destroying the Democrat’s chance to beat Trump. There are no rational grounds to argue that she is any kind of progressive, even in the absolutely broadest sense of the term.  Those serious about political “revolution” can hardly support her just when they have the chance to make clear the depth of their conviction that they can no longer accept the status quo.

What Clinton supporters do not seem to realize is that this election is not just about what we are going to accomplish in the next four years. It is about how to reverse the 25-year slide to the right the US has undergone since the last Clinton gave us the “third way,” which many refer to as “Republican lite.” Blind Democratic loyalists do not seem to realize that the party has not failed because “conservative” ideas have become more popular, but because those who profess progressive ideals are unwilling to demand that politicians fight for real political solutions, or even discuss them. The Democratic strategy for negotiations always starts with the assumption that nothing is “politically possible” if it challenges the interests of the economic elite who finance the campaigns of candidates of both Duopoly parties. This reflexive attitude is a direct result of Bill Clinton’s capitulation to the corrupting influence of money in politics, the fight against which is at the heart of the Sanders campaign.

It started when Bill Clinton supported NAFTA, welfare “reform,” banking deregulation, “humanitarian intervention” in Kosovo, three strikes, discriminatory drug crime sentencing and other policies favored by the conservatives and corporate donors he was courting. He has never been held responsible for doing what no Republican would have been able to. Like Hillary, he was granted immunity from all his reprehensible actions because he was unjustly accused of others. The time for excuses is over.

The American economy has been devastated by the actions of Clinton’s Wall Street patrons, who not only remain unpunished but continue to direct economic policy. Economic inequality rivals that of the Gilded Age. College debt is economically handicapping a generation. Health care costs remain out of control and tens of millions remain uninsured despite the added cost to taxpayers of Obamacare. We are engaged in what appears to be endless war, with Clinton promising to double down in Syria, Libya and anywhere else where the interests of her corporate backers in the military industrial complex are threatened. Most critically, we are entering a period when climate instability threatens the existence of human civilization and possibly the survival of mankind.

It seems unlikely that Clinton will have the courage to challenge the Wall Street-dominated fossil fuel industries when she has collected millions from bundlers and individuals working in the fossil fuel industry and from SuperPacs funded by large industry donations. While Sanders has received contributions from individuals in the industry, he has not only refused to take any money from fossil fuels corporations, but has sponsored in each of the last three Congresses constitutional amendments that would ban corporate campaign contributions. He has also explicitly come out against fracking, which Clinton has long supported. While Clinton called the phony “war on terror” her number one national security priority, Sanders correctly identified it as global climate change.

Climate change will determine how much time we have to deal with the consequences of corporate control of the US government. As Bill McKibbin and others have been warning with increasing urgency, time is running out to act. There is nothing in Clinton’s record to suggest that she will stand up to those who have put her in power. Even when she claims to oppose a corporate power grab like TPP or NAFTA, she only does so when she is in the spotlight of a presidential campaign and in doing so, lies about her record of past support. How can we trust her when the survival of the planet is at stake?

“Incrementalism” has proven itself over the years to be two steps backward for every one forward. Clintonism has been the path that has led to this point. We cannot wait four years or more to let the Democratic Party know that we are not going to tolerate the corruption of the system that has led nearly 40% of Americans to give up on voting. If we are ever going to force our government to act in our own interests, we must refuse to vote for candidates who make excuses for not even trying, calling it “pragmatism.” The only reason that single payer health care, ending a self-defeating “war” on terror, regulating the banking and finance industry and creating an economy that works for everyone are “not politically possible” is that average Americans and their elected officials accept the corruption of money in politics as normal, when it should be unacceptable.

Now is the time for the real revolution to begin.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

BERNIE’S LAST SHOT





                                                     




Most people, myself included, predicted that if Sanders didn't win New York he would be pretty much out of the race. Admittedly, the math doesn't look good. Even if you disregard the highly debatable assumption that the superdelegates who have endorsed Clinton would defy the will of the voters in the event that Bernie pulled off a miracle, he will have to win a remarkably high percentage of Democratic votes in the remaining primaries to enter the convention with even a slim lead. There is a way that he could do that, however: Clinton-leaning Democratic voters in the remaining races could choose to vote for the candidate who best represents their views. 

How many Clinton voters have you heard say "I love Sanders' positions on the issues, BUT"?" These reluctant "supporters" have been voting for her in large numbers only because they believe that she is the most viable candidate in the general election or that she is the one who could get the most done, regardless of all the evidence to the contrary. What if a significant proportion of them decided to stop rationalizing their decision to voting against their preferred candidate? While I am not aware of any poll data to back this up, I suspect this would give Sanders the edge he needs to bring in the kind of numbers that would make superdelegates think twice about defying the will of the voters.

None of the earlier arguments about why Sanders still has a chance have changed, even if the odds have dropped because of his unexpectedly sound defeat in New York. He still has the advantage of momentum. It's true that this has momentarily stalled, but one loss does not a trend make. He has still won seven out of the last eight races and is the favorite in the upcoming primaries. While Clinton's more fanatical supporters seem blind to the fact, superdelegates will surely have to recognize that the better Sanders is known, the better his poll numbers, while the more familiar voters become with Clinton's record (as opposed to her resume) the lower her favorability ratings. That's not what delegates endorsing her want to see when their own political futures depend on backing the winning horse.

In terms of electability come November, Sanders has won about as many swing states as Clinton, but may have a better chance in the general. He outperforms her with independents and continues to outpoll her in head to head polls against Trump and other potential Republican nominees. Add to this the fact that 25 percent of Sanders supporters say they will not vote for her, and there could be harm to the party's down ticket prospects as well since many young voters will likely not show up at all. Ignoring the anger at politics-as-usual, Clinton supporters have been demanding that Sanders supporters bend to the party will, hold their noses and vote for yet another corporatist candidate. Since they sincerely believe that it is only logical to vote for whatever politician has a D after his or her name, even those who say they won't vote for Sanders because they are upset at some of his supporters would be unlikely to withhold their votes for him should he be nominated.

Viability in the general election is by far the most important issue superdelegates should be concerned with, since that is what determines their reward for supporting a candidate. If enough Democrats decide that they are tired of voting for candidates who won't make a serious effort (if any) to fight on basic issues like single payer, a $15 minimum wage, ending destructive free trade policies, addressing global climate change, winding down endless wars or seriously taking on Wall Street, their reward will be even greater: They will have an advocate who will keep the spotlight onto the corruption of the political process that has led the party to the brink of selecting a candidate who epitomizes neoliberal and neoconservative values that are antithetical to traditional Democratic positions. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

SYRIA: OBAMA’S BAY OF PIGS



         
                                                                                  





No one is going to get rich reading tea leaves to predict the outcome of the US-backed terrorist invasion of Syria. There are so many confusing events that it’s difficult to keep track of trends that might indicate which way the war on Assad (and the majority of Syrians) is going. That’s why few people have noticed certain positive developments that may indicate that Obama is seeking a way out with what is left of America’s honor. Whether this will lead to a stand down of US efforts at regime change will depend on whether Obama is willing to risk yet another confrontation with influential neocons who are still intent on crippling Iranian influence in the region through destabilizing the Syrian government.

The most recent round of peace talks are not likely to be the sham that previous ones were. Despite Kerry’s tough talk of a Plan B, the US has dropped demands that Assad step down as a precondition to a deal. The alternative to a negotiated resolution, recently leaked to the Wall Street Journal, would involve escalating the conflict by providing more dangerous weapons to the jihadist “rebels.” However, the plan is most likely being presented as the only credible alternative to capitulation to Russian demands in Geneva.  Knowing how man-portable air defense systems (Manpads) could be used by the terrorists in the wake of a collapse of the Syrian government, supplying them to the al Qaeda-affiliated anti-Assad forces would be lunacy. It would make little sense for Obama to give in to Saudi demands to do so at this point, when he has resisted the temptation for five years.

Erdogan may be starting to see the futility of further attempts to take down Assad. The most recent evidence of this is a series of high level Turkish visits to Saudi Arabia and Iran. While Turkey and Iran have common economic interests and a mutual desire to prevent the emergence of an independent Kurdish state, it is hard to imagine that they could make much progress on working together as long as Turkey is pursuing a foreign policy course that is an existential threat to Iran’s status as a regional power. There are other compelling reasons for Erdogan to try to make nice with the Sauds, but it is unlikely that he will be able to thaw relations at the same time he is negotiating with their nemesis. Unless, that is, they are also discussing letting go of the goal of toppling Assad.

There are also clues that the Obama administration US efforts are being stepped up to curb further Saudi aid to terrorist “rebels.” The barrage of criticism that the Saudis are taking in the US media is unprecedented and most likely orchestrated. It is also somewhat risky, in that it highlights the cynicism of US “humanitarian interventions” against targeted dictators while it is allied with the most brutal, repressive regime in the region. From Biden pointing out that it is the chief financial sponsor of terrorists in the region to recent critical reports on the generally politically correct Frontline and 60 Minutes to Obama’s announcement that the government is about to make a decision after two years on declassifying the 28 pages of a report said to implicate high level government officials in financing the 9/11 attack, the heat is clearly being turned on these feckless “allies.”

Cynics who charged that this was only a ruse to buy time to regroup for a renewed attack on Syrian forces seem to be ignoring evidence that the situation has changed since the earlier attempts to “negotiate” a US-dictated solution in Geneva. Realists in the Obama administration seem to be serious this time. Kerry was forced into agreeing to talks by the timely intervention of Russia.  He had no real choice.  Had the offensive continued unchecked, Assad’s forces would have routed ISIS and Putin would have been able to dictate terms.  This is what forced Kerry to agree to peace talks despite having to bargain from a weak position.

In addition, Erdogan’s panicked response to the prospect of new peace talks suggests that he believes that the Americans are looking for resolution. Having responded to advances by the Russian and Syrian militaries and Kurdish defense forces by stepping up threats, he doubled down once talks were announced, at one point declaring that an invasion was not off the table although when directly confronted with Russian accusations, he denied any such intent. The Turkish military was reported to be against such an ill-advised action, but troop buildups along the border had convinced many that he was serious.

The Turkish call for invasion was echoed by Saudi Arabia, which offered to take part in a joint campaign if it was led by the US.  This was obviously just bluster. After all, the threat of invasion was the result of Erdogan’s frustration at US unwillingness to prioritize defeating Assad or to abandon its alliance with Syrian Kurds in the fight against ISIS. There was no way that the US was going to support an invasion that would risk WWIII by targeting both the Kurdish YPG and Assad, backed by Russia and Iran.

Nonetheless, at this point many analysts still assumed that Turkey and Saudi Arabia were merely following orders from Washington. Others saw Erdogan’s increasingly rash actions as desperate attempts to salvage the standing of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) amidst an economy in decline at least partly because of Russian sanctions. Rumor had it that he even had reason to worry about an impending military coup. Although the Turkish military denied it and analysts generally dismissed the idea, had he tried to order his generals to carry out a full-scale invasion in defiance of US wishes, a coup would have been much more likely.

When the US proceeded to resume peace talks on Syria while Turkey and Saudi Arabia talked war, it became clear that the actions of the three nations were not coordinated. Saudi Arabia and Turkey had become isolated on the global stage.  Obama had established that he was not going to allow the tail to wag the dog, and that he was going to act in what he considered US interests. There is a reason that Obama is no longer making Assad’s departure a precondition for negotiations. It would not have changed anything unless the US had been allowed to pick his successor. The only way that was going to happen was through direct military force, which Obama has clearly been trying to avoid. He was willing to use al Qaeda associated “rebels” as proxy fighters as he did in Libya, but the goal was not so much regime change as destabilizing and ultimately balkanizing the country, a goal which has largely been achieved. The strategy of dividing a nation into smaller political entities to weaken it is the essence of the Oded Yinon plan for establishing a Greater Israel. The idea was to use this tactic against any neighboring nation that resisted Israeli hegemony.

It is important to understand this point. Given the incestuous relationship between Israel and US neocons, it is not surprising to see the Yinon strategy being used in areas in which the US has chosen to intervene. In Iraq Biden is renewing calls for the weak federal system he first proposed in 2014. It is an idea that has been partially realized with the increasingly autonomous status of the KRG, the Iraqi Kurdistan government.  The divisions left in the wake of the Libya “debacle” are another example of the same idea, only much messier. Libya was not considered a failure by fans of this strategy. They did not care so much about the chaos they left as about the fact that there was no longer a strong central government to resist NATO plans for Libya and the region. In fact, in a chilling prelude to the assault on Syria, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen enthusiastically referred to the Libyan experience as “a teaching moment.”

Despite mixed signals from the Obama administration since the cessation of hostilities for the latest round of peace talks, there is reason to believe that the President is serious about cutting his losses in Syria. As detailed in the recent Atlantic article by Jeffrey Goldberg, he was never enthusiastic about attacking Syrian forces directly in the aftermath of the false flag sarin attack on Ghouta in 2013. He dragged his feet on acting despite his harsh rhetoric, allowing saner voices to be heard. In the Atlantic article, Obama criticized all the major players in the continuing humanitarian crisis in Syria; the Saudis, Erdogan, Netanyahu and the neocons who wrote the “playbook” he says he is pressured to follow. Their game plan essentially calls for the use of US military force against any nation that stands in the way of a global corporate empire nominally led by America and its allies.  The fact that Obama is so open about these politically incorrect opinions at this point suggests that he may be trying to prepare us for a shift in official US policy.

The always-doubtful argument that intervention in Syria is motivated by humanitarian concerns is wearing increasingly thin. Obama regards giving in to Clinton’s pressure to attack Libya as the “greatest mistake of (his) presidency.”  If Obama wants out, Erdogan has few options but to go along. The Saudis, increasingly on the defensive in the US propaganda wars, are no doubt aware that they cannot challenge US will on their own, even if their neocon allies remain on their side. If Obama tries to push a diplomatic solution that leaves Assad in power and the “freedom fighting” al Qaeda types stranded, the still-powerful neocons are sure to push back. If he fails to act according to his realist principles, a Clinton presidency could be disastrous because she is still pushing for a no-fly zone, which would require a direct US assault on Syria’s air defenses.

That’s why this is Obama’s Bay of Pigs moment. He can do the right thing and try to limit the damage that American imperialists can do on his watch, or he can submit to the pressure of an out-of-control military industrial complex for a senseless and entirely avoidable war.
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