Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Israel’s other “demographic threat”

Rod Such The Electronic Intifada 18 July 2017

The Unchosen: The Lives of Israel’s New Others, Mya Guarnieri Jaradat, Pluto Press (2017)

Beginning with the first intifada in the 1980s and during the 1990s, Israel initiated a policy of replacing Palestinian day laborers from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip with migrant workers.

Nearly 50 percent of Israel’s construction workers were Palestinian at the time, and Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza made up more than 40 percent of Israel’s agricultural workers. The 2000s also saw a dramatic increase in Eritrean and Sudanese refugees seeking asylum in Israel.

In The Unchosen, journalist Mya Guarnieri Jaradat examines Israel’s treatment of migrant workers and asylum seekers. Her findings lead her to the conclusion that Israel’s claims of being a democratic state are belied by its callous mistreatment of both groups.

She further concludes that this mistreatment mirrors Israel’s behavior toward the Palestinians and contradicts Israel’s claim that its policies towards Palestinians are based on “security concerns.”

She writes that the experiences of African refugees and migrant workers – many from the Philippines and Thailand – expose the fact that the Israeli government “considers all non-Jews to be a demographic threat.” As a result, the experiences of these new “Others” shed more light on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.

“Just as Israel’s treatment of Palestinian citizens of the state calls into question its ability to be at once Jewish and democratic,” Jaradat notes, “so also does its handling of migrant workers and asylum seekers, exposing a fundamental contradiction in the phrase ‘Jewish and democratic.’”

A demographic threat
She first encountered this issue not as a journalist, but when she joined a “left-leaning volunteer program.” The book opens with her experience working with Filipino women in charge of “black market kindergartens” that are necessitated by the lack of daycare for the children of migrant workers.

Her writing is notable for its empathy, a trait clearly discernible in the extensive interviews she conducted with migrant workers and asylum seekers. An interview with Sunday Dieng, 26, an asylum seeker from Sudan, for example, reads as follows:

Dieng had been an orphan for more than half his life; for over a decade, he’d been unable to find a country to call home. We discussed the 14 months he spent in an Israeli jail. I asked him about the conditions. Did he get enough food?

He smiled. Later, I understood his reaction – my question was ridiculous. Prison isn’t about breaking the body. It’s about the spirit.

Insights such as these appear throughout the author’s narrative, along with detailed factual background that further illuminates the situation faced by migrant workers and asylum seekers.

Some of the stories shock the conscience, such as the Israeli farmer who failed to provide housing for his migrant Thai workers and instead dug holes in the ground for them to sleep in.

Until 2012, when Israel and Thailand signed a bilateral agreement, most Thai workers came to Israel heavily in debt to labor management agencies because they had to pay exorbitant fees just to find work – in some cases as much as $10,000.

Their debt bondage meant they were susceptible to super-exploitation, such as being paid less than the minimum wage in violation of Israeli law and having “service fees” deducted from their paychecks.

Even with the new bilateral agreement that resulted from pressure from labor rights groups, Jaradat found that while “this all looked good on paper … on the ground, little has changed for Thai workers.”

Israel’s restrictions on migrant workers reflect the government’s fear of them as a demographic threat, the author argues.

Israeli policy prevents migrant workers from bringing a member of their immediate family with them. Migrant workers are not allowed to have children or even romantic relationships. Until an Israeli high court ruling in 2011, infants as young as three months old could be separated from their mothers and deported.

African asylum seekers, who, at the peak, numbered as many as 60,000 in Israel at one time, faced infiltration laws originally used against Palestinian refugees. Refugees were not allowed to apply for asylum and were held in prisons and desert tent camps for terms that arbitrarily ranged from days to years.

Although Israel signed the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, in the more than 60 years since, it has granted refugee status to fewer than 200 people, according to the author.

A xenophobic society
The Unchosen is about much more than the heartbreaking accounts of migrant workers seeking a decent life and refugees escaping genocidal wars and brutal authoritarian regimes. It also documents the resistance waged by both migrant workers and asylum seekers and the gradual awakening of Jewish Israelis to the nature of their government.

For a small group of Israelis, the author notes, witnessing the treatment of Israel’s new “Others” “opened the door to questioning everything about Israel. For some, these issues became their ‘breaking point with Zionism,’” which she defines as a “state where Jews have the majority and hegemony.”

The author herself relates to this questioning. Working with leftist Israeli groups seeking to reform Israel’s treatment of migrant workers and refugees, she questioned why no one was making the connection with Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

“Why weren’t we talking about the first expulsion” of the Palestinians in 1948, she asked herself. Why wasn’t the connection being made between night raids on migrant worker homes and night raids on Palestinian homes?

She approached the leader of a group called Israeli Children and got this reply: “I do see a connection … But I don’t want to talk about it. One of the big reasons this fight is succeeding is because we’re trying not to be political.”

Ultimately, however, the “fight” was not succeeding. As the years wore on, in the author’s view, Israeli society turned ever more right-wing and xenophobic.

In 2015, an Eritrean refugee was mistaken for a Palestinian assailant during an attack that killed one Israeli soldier and injured several bystanders. The Eritrean man, Haftom Zarhum, was shot by a security guard, and then a lynch mob kicked and spat on him, contributing to his death.

Jaradat was aware that every year her husband, a Palestinian from the West Bank, needed to apply for a permit just to live with her in Israel. She reached a final conclusion: she got out.

Rod Such is a former editor for World Book and Encarta encyclopedias. He lives in Portland, Oregon, and is active with the Occupation-Free Portland campaign.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Venezuela: Time for left to take a stand

By Greg Wilpert

July 17, 2017 — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from TeleSUR English — Venezuela is heading towards an increasingly dangerous situation, in which open civil war could become a real possibility. So far over 100 people have been killed as a result of street protests, most of these deaths are the fault of the protesters themselves (to the extent that we know the cause).

The possibility of civil war becomes more likely as long as the international media obscure who is responsible for the violence and the international left remains on the sidelines in this conflict and fails to show solidarity with the Bolivarian socialist movement in Venezuela.

If the international left receives its news about Venezuela primarily from the international media, it is understandable why it is being so quiet. After all, this mainstream media consistently fails to report who is instigating the violence in this conflict.

For example, a follower of CNN or the New York Times would not know that of the 103 who have been killed as a result of street protests, 27 were the direct or indirect result of the protesters themselves. Another 14 were the result of lootings; in one prominent case, because looters set fire to a store and ended up getting engulfed in the flames themselves. Fourteen deaths are attributable to the actions of state authorities (where in almost all cases those responsible have been charged), and 44 are still under investigation or in dispute. This is according to data from the office of the Attorney General, which itself has recently become pro-opposition.

Also unknown to most consumers of the international media would be that opposition protesters detonated a bomb in the heart of Caracas on July 11, wounding seven National Guard soldiers or that a building belonging to the Supreme Court was burnt by opposition protesters on June 12th or that opposition protesters attacked a maternity hospital on May 17.

In other words, it is possible that much of the international left has been misled about the violence in Venezuela; thinking that the government is the only one responsible, that President Nicolas Maduro has declared himself to be dictator for life (though he has actually confirmed that the presidential elections scheduled for late 2018 will proceed as planned), or that all dissent is punishable with prison (disputed by major opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez – who was partly responsible for the post-election violence in 2014 – recently being released from prison and placed under house arrest).

If this is the reason for the silence on Venezuela, then the left should be ashamed for not having read its own critiques of the mainstream media.

All of the foregoing does not contradict that there are plenty of places where one might criticize the Maduro Government for having made mistakes with regard to how it has handled the current situation, both economically and politically. However, criticisms – of which I have made several myself – do not justify taking either a neutral or pro-opposition stance in this momentous conflict. As South African anti-apartheid activist Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

Perhaps the Venezuelan case is also confusing to outsiders because President Maduro is in power and the opposition is not. It could thus be difficult to see the opposition as being an “oppressor.”

However, for an internationalist left, it should not be so confusing. After all, the opposition in Venezuela receives significant support not only from private businesses but also the U.S. Government, the international right and transnational capital.

Perhaps progressives feel that the Maduro Government has lost all democratic legitimacy and that this is why they cannot support it. According to the mainstream media coverage, Maduro canceled regional elections scheduled for December 2016, prevented the recall referendum from happening and neutralized the National Assembly.

Let’s take a brief look at each of these claims one by one.

First, regional elections (state governors and mayors) were indeed supposed to take place in late 2016, but the National Electoral Council (CNE) postponed them with the argument that political parties needed to re-register first. Leaving aside the validity of this argument, the CNE rescheduled the elections recently for December 2017. This postponement of a scheduled election is not unprecedented in Venezuela because it happened before, back in 2004, when local elections were postponed for a full year. Back then, at the height of President Hugo Chavez’s power; hardly anyone objected.

As for the recall referendum, it was well known that it would take approximately ten months to organize between its initiation and its culmination. However, the opposition initiated the process in April 2016, far too late for the referendum to take place in 2016 as they wanted. If it takes place in 2017, there would be no new presidential election – according to the constitution – and the vice-president would take over for the remainder of the term.

Finally, with regard to the disqualification of the National Assembly, this was another self-inflicted wound on the part of the opposition. That is, even though the opposition had won 109 out of 167 seats (65%) outright, they insisted on swearing in three opposition members whose election was in dispute because of fraud claims.

As a result, the Supreme Court ruled that until these three members are removed, most decisions of the national assembly would not be valid.

In other words, none of the arguments against the democratic legitimacy of the Maduro Government hold much water. Moreover, polls repeatedly indicate that even though Maduro is fairly unpopular, a majority of Venezuelans want him to finish his term in office, which expires in January 2019. As a matter of fact, Maduro’s popularity (24% in March, 2017) is not as low as several other conservative presidents in Latin America at the moment, such as that of Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto (17% in March, 2017), Brazil’s Michel Temer (7% in June, 2017) or Colombia’s Juan Manuel Santos (14% in June, 2017).

Now that we have addressed the possible reasons the international left has been reluctant to show solidarity with the Maduro Government and the Bolivarian socialist movement, we need to examine what “neutrality” in this situation would end up meaning – in other words, what allowing the opposition to come to power via an illegal and violent transition would mean.

First and foremost, their coming to power will almost certainly mean that all Chavistas – whether they currently support President Maduro or not – will become targets for persecution. Although it was a long time ago, many Chavistas have not forgotten the “Caracazo” – when in February 1989, then-president Carlos Andres Perez meted out retaliation on poor neighborhoods for protesting against his government and wantonly killed somewhere between 400 and 1,000 people. More recently, during a short-lived coup against President Chávez in April 2002 the current opposition showed it was more than willing to unleash reprisals against Chavistas.

Most do not know this, but during the two-day coup over 60 Chavistas were killed in Venezuela – not including the 19 killed, on both sides of the political divide, in the lead-up to the coup. The post-election violence of April 2013 left 7 dead, and the Guarimbas of February to April 2014 left 43 dead. Although the death count in each of these cases represented a mix of opposition supporters, Chavistas and non-involved bystanders; the majority belonged to the Chavista side of the political divide.

Now, during the most recent wave of guarimbas, there have also been several incidents in which a Chavista, who was near an opposition protest, was chased and killed because protesters recognized them to be a Chavista in some way.

In other words, the danger that Chavistas will be generally persecuted if the opposition should take over the government is very real. Even though the opposition includes reasonable individuals who would not support such a persecution, the current leadership of the opposition has done nothing to rein in the fascist tendencies within its own ranks. If anything, they have encouraged these tendencies.

Second, even though the opposition has not published a concrete plan for what it intends to do once in government – which is also one of the reasons the opposition remains almost as unpopular as the government – individual statements by opposition leaders indicate that they would immediately proceed to implement a neoliberal economic program along the lines of President Michel Temer in Brazil or Mauricio Macri in Argentina. They might succeed in reducing inflation and shortages this way, but at the expense of eliminating subsidies and social programs for the poor across the board. Also, they would roll back all of the policies supporting communal councils and communes that have been a cornerstone of participatory democracy in the Bolivarian revolution.

So, instead of silence, neutrality or indecision from the international left in the current conflict in Venezuela, what is needed is active solidarity with the Bolivarian socialist movement. Such solidarity means vehemently opposing all efforts to overthrow the government of President Maduro during his current term in office. Aside from the patent illegality that overthrowing the Maduro Government would represent, it would also literally be a deadly blow to Venezuela’s socialist movement and to the legacy of President Chavez. The international left does not even need to take a position on whether the proposed constitutional assembly or negotiations with the opposition is the best way to resolve the current crisis. That is really up to Venezuelans to decide. Opposing intervention and disseminating information on what is actually happening in Venezuela, though, are the two things where non-Venezuelans can play a constructive role.

Gregory Wilpert is the author of Changing Venezuela by Taking Power: The History and Policies of the Chávez Government (Verso Books, 2007)

The Palestinian Authority is on the verge of collapse, and collapse it should

from Mondoweiss
Israel/Palestine Luke Peterson on July 17, 2017

The Palestinian Authority, a historically toothless government operating within the confines of Israeli control and authority in the entirety of historic Palestine, may not be long for the world. Created in conjunction with the absurd geographical and political prescriptions that comprise the Oslo Accords in 1993, the PA was meant to embody a political pivot for the PLO, the secular, nationalist movement seeking to liberate Palestinian communities from the yoke of Israeli domination by any means necessary, including through the use of public acts of political violence. From robust, international fighting force to civil and political authority, the PLO cum PA (and the majority party within it, Fatah) slowly came to be internationally recognized as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people. But over the last 25 years, the PA has grown fat from international donations and become complacent in its position of political dominance within the occupied Palestinian territory. It exists today largely for its own benefit and can be seen to be accomplishing little within its area of political influence other than extending its already unnaturally long life.

But change may well be in the air as regards the stultified and ineffective government. Public confidence in the integrity and efficacy of the Palestinian Authority amongst the Palestinians in the West Bank is at an all-time low and faith in the ability (or even desire) of PA officials to steer Palestine into an improved economic and political future is all but nonexistent. Years of bureaucratic bloat, nepotistic policy, and corruption have turned Palestinians against their elected leadership. Harsh crackdowns on free speech (to include the policing of social media sites), the enrichment of the elites at the expense of the public good, and complicity in Israeli occupation policies are to blame. As a result, references to “Palestinian Democracy” are laughed off by the public at large. The PA is understood to exist for its own benefit and longevity, having long ago abandoned true representation of the will of the Palestinian people either at home, in the highly fraught occupied territory, or on the international stage, as the condition of Palestine quietly slips in the ranking of global political priorities behind the crises in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen.

Today, the PA retains its legitimacy amongst 2.5 million West Bank Palestinians largely on the basis of its ability to fund its own bloated bureaucracy (responsible for employing large numbers of citizens in and around the cultural capital of the West Bank, Ramallah), to provide a bare minimum of health, education, and sanitation services to West Bankers and, perhaps most importantly, based upon its continued claim to represent the Palestinian people. But, 13 years after the suspicious death of the face of the Palestinian national movement, Yasser Arafat, the gloss has long since worn off of his octogenarian successor Mahmoud Abbas, and the tradition of political leadership and civil development in the face of Israeli occupation that Abbas was meant to embrace after Arafat’s passing now seems nearly completely defunct.

Public services continue to deteriorate to deplorable levels in the West Bank while the business portfolios of PA leadership continue to swell. All tobacco and alcohol sales in the West Bank are coordinated and distributed through businesses operated by PA officials including the cigarette monopoly managed by The Falcon Company, an outfit under the control of Mahmoud Abbas’ own sons, Yasser and Tareq. Indeed, the Abbas family is rumored to have a net worth totaling more than $100 million dollars including an unknown sum of misappropriated international donations originally intended for civil and/or social development within Palestinian communities. The Arabic term for this practice, fasaa’id, or “corruption” is on the tip of the tongue of most Palestinians you might speak to, provided of course you are not suspected of being an employee of the Palestinian security services.

As well, public schools in the West Bank now enroll only the poorest children in Palestine; virtually every family who can afford it sends their child to a private or parochial school, paying up to thousands in tuition annually to ensure a comprehensive arts and sciences education through the secondary level. Public hospitals and clinics are likewise openly lampooned by the public at large as dilapidated, outdated, and downright dangerous. Few in the West Bank will struggle to recount an anecdote about a surgery or procedure that went tragically wrong in the public health care system resulting in injury or death from otherwise completely curable maladies. Almost certainly, facilities are to blame. Private hospitals in the West Bank continue to run circles around the public options with many or most doctors and nurses in Palestinian communities spending time in both sectors of the health system. Highly educated and fantastically capable nurses and doctors perform admirably with adequate resources at their disposal. Without them, quite naturally, they do not.

Finally and most visibly, West Bank roads, fields, parks, and open spaces are in a deplorable state. Road construction within Palestine drags on interminably and cars age unnaturally quickly owed to the abuse they take on what might otherwise be serviceable roads and by-ways connecting Palestinian neighborhoods and towns. Rubbish litters the streets of many otherwise attractive and ancient communities. Historic buildings are neither serviced nor maintained. Rumor is that the nicest parks and cleanest streets are all in Ramallah and are maintained in exquisite condition everywhere where PA officials are likely to live or work. As with any number of other issues within the purview of the PA, the illusion of public service seems most important; the provision of actual aid to Palestine is secondary.

Palestinian police block protesters from marching toward the Palestinian Presidential compound the West Bank town of Ramallah, 02 October 2012, as they hold slogans against the Palestinian Authority security forces. Demonstrators protest calling for the end of the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Rule, Oslo agreement, the security coordination with the Israelis and the end of the Political arrests. (Photo; Issam Rimawi/ APA Images)

More damning still, all of the above seems most directly to benefit Israel itself as the existence of a pliable and compromised Palestinian Authority allows Israeli designs on Judea and Samaria (in their terminology) to proceed unabated. The separation wall (now ubiquitous in and along the western corridor of the West Bank), continued resource and land confiscation, and increasingly fascistic designs for the growing Palestinian community in the West Bank are rarely contested by the Palestinian leadership. Instead so-called “security coordination” between Israeli and Palestinian governments and police forces is the order of the day resulting in Palestinian officials carrying out Israeli geographic and political designs in the occupied territory. An effective strategy to oppose these designs has not been implemented because such a strategy simply does not exist. In this complicity, the PA seems to have abandoned their people’s interest in favor of their own. Fifty years on from the beginning of the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank, it is apparently better to rule indefinitely in name only than to make an honest, legitimate attempt at representative government.

In an informal discussion with a group of Palestinian Scouts in the Bethlehem District this summer, this author asked the assembled young people, a group of about 30 intelligent and service-oriented students aged 12 to 18, who among them had confidence that the PA had their best interests at heart. Among the spate of laughter and eye rolls, I scanned the crowd for a single raised hand. There were none. When asked whether they thought their future would be better or worse than the present, none replied in the positive. Israel, the continuing pressure of occupation, and the ongoing American support for it were quickly provided as reasons why. In equal measure, the corruption, callousness, and self-interest of their own government were cited as well.

Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand.” If this is true, and history certainly bears it out to be so, the next Palestinian uprising (in as much as one can be anticipated), might well be directed at PA leadership rather than at the increasingly secure and robust Israeli military and administrative machine that controls the Palestinian territory. A new government in Palestine might well bring about the change within West Bank communities required to alter the bleak political trajectory of this national group. At the least, it might bring a wave of hope and confidence so badly needed amongst this youngest generation of Palestinians. Such a change might actually result in the raising of a few hands when next a group of young people are asked to evaluate the performance of their own leadership.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Betraying Progressives, DNC Platform Backs Fracking, TPP, and Israel Occupation

This is what you get with the corporate Democratic Party establishment-- R. Congress

Published on
Saturday, June 25, 2016
byCommon Dreams
Appointees by Clinton and Wasserman Schulz resoundingly reject numerous proposals put forth by Sanders surrogates
byLauren McCauley, staff writer

Members of the Democratic party Platform Committee, including (from left to right) American Federation of State, County, and Muncipal Employees executive assistant to the president, Paul Booth, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), former White House Energy and Climate Change Policy director Carol Browner, and Palestinian rights academic James Zogby. (Photo: DNCC)
Members of the Democratic party Platform Committee, including (from left to right) American Federation of State, County, and Muncipal Employees executive assistant to the president, Paul Booth, U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), former White House Energy and Climate Change Policy director Carol Browner, and Palestinian rights academic James Zogby. (Photo: DNCC)
Despite its claims to want to unify voters ahead of November's election, the Democratic party appears to be pushing for an agenda that critics say ignores basic progressive policies, "staying true" to their Corporate donors above all else.

During a 9-hour meeting in St. Louis, Missouri on Friday, members of the DNC's platform drafting committee voted down a number of measures proposed by Bernie Sanders surrogates that would have come out against the contentious Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), fracking, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. At the same time, proposals to support a carbon tax, Single Payer healthcare, and a $15 minimum wage tied to inflation were also disregarded.

In a statement, Sanders said he was "disappointed and dismayed" that representatives of Hillary Clinton and DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz rejected the proposal on trade put forth by Sanders appointee Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), despite the fact that the presumed nominee has herself come out against the 12-nation deal.

"Inexplicable" was how Sanders described the move, adding: "It is hard for me to understand why Secretary Clinton’s delegates won’t stand behind Secretary Clinton’s positions in the party’s platform."

The panel also rejected amendments suggested by co-founder Bill McKibben, another Sanders pick, that would have imposed a carbon tax, declared a national moratorium on fracking as well as new fossil fuel drilling leases on federal lands and waters.

"This is not a political problem of the sort that we are used to dealing with," McKibben stated during the marathon debate. "Most political problems yield well to the formula that we’ve kept adopting on thing after thing—compromise, we’ll go halfway, we’ll get part of this done. That’s because most political problems are really between different groups of people. They’re between industry and environmentalists. That is not the case here."

"Former U.S. Representative Howard Berman, American Federation of State, County, and Muncipal Employees executive assistant to the president, Paul Booth, former White House Energy and Climate Change Policy director Carol Browner, Ohio State Representative Alicia Reece, former State Department official Wendy Sherman, and Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden all raised their hands to prevent a moratorium from becoming a part of the platform," noted Shadowproof's Kevin Gosztola.

According to Gosztola's reporting on the exchange, Dr. Cornel West lambasted the aforementioned panel members, particularly Browner, for "endorsing reform incrementalism" in the face of an urgent planetary crisis.

"When you’re on the edge of the abyss or when you’re on that stove, to use the language of Malcolm X, you don’t use the language of incrementalism. It hurts, and the species is hurting," West said.

Other progressive policies were adopted piecemeal, such as the $15 minimum wage, which the committee accepted but without the amendment put forth by Ellison that would have indexed the wage to inflation.

The panel did vote unanimously to back a proposal to abolish the death penalty and adopted language calling for breaking up too-big-to-fail banks and enacting a modern-day Glass-Steagall Act—measures that Sanders said he was "pleased" about.

According to AP, the final discussion "centered on the Israel-Palestinian conflict."

"The committee defeated an amendment by Sanders supporter James Zogby that would have called for providing Palestinians with 'an end to occupation and illegal settlements' and urged an international effort to rebuild Gaza," AP reports, measures which Zogby said Sanders helped craft.

Instead, AP reports, the adopted draft "advocates working toward a 'two-state solution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict' that guarantees Israel's security with recognized borders 'and provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity.'"

Citing these "moral failures" of the platform draft, West abstained during the final vote to send the document to review by the full Platform Committee next month in Orlando, Florida.

"If we can't say a word about TPP, if we can't talk about Medicare-for-All explicitly, if the greatest prophetic voice dealing with pending ecologically catastrophe can hardly win a vote, and if we can't even acknowledge occupation... it seems there is no way in good conscience I can say, 'Take it to the next stage,'" West declared before the assembly.

"I wasn't raised like that," he said. "I have to abstain. I have no other moral option, it would be a violation of my own limited sense of moral integrity and spiritual conscience," adding, "That's how I roll.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The New McCarthyism Is Destroying the Democratic Party

from Truthdig

Posted on Jul 15, 2017

By Glen Ford / Black Agenda Report

For more than a year now, the collective U.S. ruling class, with Democratic Party and corporate media operatives in the vanguard, has frozen the national political discourse in a McCarthyite time warp. A random visit to a July 26, 2016, issue of the New York Times reveals the same obsession as that which consumes the newspaper today: “Following the Links from Russian Hackers to the U.S. Election,” “Spy Agency Consensus Grows That Russia Hacked D.N.C.” A year later, the allegations persist, piled ever higher with innuendo and outright nonsense. However, proof of the predicate act—that Russia, not Wikileaks, penetrated the DNC—remains totally absent.

What is the purpose of this torture-by-media? Clearly, the Trump White House has been crippled by the tsunami that never ebbs, but the Democrats have not been strengthened in the process, and the corporate media’s standing among the public erodes by the day. A poll conducted last month showed majorities of voters want Congress to ease up on Russia investigations and get to work on healthcare, terrorism, national security, the economy and jobs. Almost three out of four respondents to the Harvard-Harris poll said lawmakers aren’t paying attention to the issues that are important to them—including 68 percent of Democrats. Sixty-two percent of voters say there is no hard evidence of White House “collusion” with Russia, and 64 percent think the investigations are hurting the country.

The non-stop vilification of Russia and Trump has seriously backfired on the corporate media. Another poll by Harvard-Harris, conducted back in May, showed that two out of three Americans believe the so-called “mainstream” press is full of “fake news”—including a majority of Democrats. The Russiagate blitzkrieg, designed to delegitimize Trump and demonize Vladimir Putin, has exacerbated an already existing crisis of legitimacy for the entire U.S. political system. “Every major institution from the presidency to the courts is now seen as operating in a partisan fashion in one direction or the other,” said poll co-director Mark Penn.

The only unequivocal winner is the bipartisan War Party, which has used the manufactured crisis to drench the nation in anti-Russian hysteria – worse than back in the bad old days of the Red Scares. By March, Black Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) was using much the same language as Dick Cheney to describe the Kremlin. “I think this attack that we’ve experienced is a form of war, a form of war on our fundamental democratic principles,” said the hopelessly brainwashed representative of the Black Misleadership Class. “Liberal” Democratic Maryland Rep. Ben Cardin called the nonexistent “attack” a “political Pearl Harbor.”
If the U.S. Congress actually took seriously its Constitutional powers to declare war, the human race would already have been exterminated.

So insane have the Democrats become, that we are probably better off with war powers effectively in the hands of Donald Trump, than with California’s Barbara Lee, the only member of Congress that voted against the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. She was in her “right mind” then, but no longer. Trump’s willingness to talk with the leader of Russia, in Hamburg, infuriated Rep. Lee, who tweeted: “Outraged by President Trump’s 2 hr meeting w/Putin, the man who orchestrated attacks on our democracy. Where do his loyalties lie?” A better question is: When and where did Lee join the War Party?

The dogs of war at U.S. intelligence agencies have led the charge against Trump since they encamped at Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters, last year. The spoiled oligarch was not trusted to maintain the momentum of the U.S. military offensive begun by Barack Obama in 2011, with the unprovoked war against Libya. The state of war must be preserved, whatever the cost to the empire’s domestic institutions. Skilled in the arts of regime change, the spooks joined with their longtime partners in corporate media propaganda, to foment a “color revolution” at home. Barbara Lee is a recent recruit.

Although the Democrats will ultimately harm themselves with the electorate by folding into the War Party, it suits the purposes of party leadership and the fat cats that finance them. The ruling class has nothing to offer the people except the total insecurity of gig-jobs and austerity. The Lords of Capital effectively shut the Democrats down decades ago. They can campaign as if there really is a clash of ideas about the organization of society, but they must propose nothing that fundamentally conflicts with the steady consolidation of wealth and power by the oligarchy (the American one, not the Russians). That goes for Bernie Sanders, too. Heard anything about single payer from him, lately?

The “all Russiagate, all the time” information regime—which also prepares the public for a wider war scenario – provides the illusion of motion that passes for “resistance” to the rule of the rich, as personified by Donald Trump. But there has been no Democratic program to reorder society for at least a generation. And now, under the New McCarthyism, the only politics that is allowed is war politics, consisting of denunciations of those who threaten “our fundamental democratic principles” – which need not be defined or even proven to exist.

That’s why it has been an empty year, albeit a very loud one. As Gil Scott-Heron sang in “Winter in America,” “Nobody’s fighting, ‘cause nobody knows what to save.”

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Move to the center! And then? Move to the center!

OpEdNews Op Eds 7/8/2017 at 04:42:32
Move to the center! And then? Move to the center!
By Tom Gallagher Follow Me on Twitter Message Tom Gallagher Permalink Headlined to H2 7/8/17
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Whatever else you might want to say about the corporate types who dominate the Democratic Party, you've got to give some of them an "A" for audacity. The latest to register for top scores are Mark Penn and Andrew Stein who have raised the cry, "Back to the Center, Democrats" in a New York Times op-ed piece.

Now, in case any of you have forgotten, Bernie Sanders did not actually win the Democratic nomination. It was the centrist Hillary Clinton who did; the Clinton who lost to the most unpopular major party presidential candidate since the start of polling on such things; the Clinton that the establishment Democrats stuck with despite virtually every poll saying that Sanders ran stronger against Donald Trump than she did.

Given that Penn's byline says that he "served as pollster and senior adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton from 1995 to 2008," you'd figure he might remember that, but apparently not. In fact, Hillary Clinton appears nowhere in the these two gentlemen's telling of the story of what has led to the decline of the Democratic Party in recent years.

They tell us that "Democrats lost over 1,000 legislative seats across the country and control of both houses of Congress during the Obama years." Why was that? Well, it appears that one of the problems is that "Candidates inspired by Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Elizabeth Warren and a host of well-funded groups have embraced sharply leftist ideas." The fact is, of course, that any candidates inspired by the above mentioned Senators have attempted to stem the previous years' decline of the Democratic Party dominated by precisely the"centrist" views the authors are promoting.

Indeed, the political terrain these writers describe is barely recognizable even though they speak of events that occurred just last year. For instance, they decry the Democrats' "loss of support among working-class voters, who feel abandoned by the party's shift away from moderate positions on trade." From this, you'd never know that the presidential candidate whose name is apparently not to be mentioned is generally thought to have lost working class support to Trump precisely because of her "moderate," establishment, pro-NAFTA position on trade which these gentleman embrace.

They assert, reasonably enough, that in health care the Democrats "have a coherent message about protecting the working poor from losing coverage," and yet, just like the 2016 Democratic standard bearer, they have nothing to say about adopting a plan that would actually offer the type of universal coverage that every other industrialized country already has. And they argue that somehow the left is apparently responsible for the fact that "in special elections for Congress this year," Democrats "failed to take back any seats held by Republicans" -- even when the candidates were centrists like Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff, who also declined to support a single-payer, universal health insurance program.

It's a truism that the publication of op-ed pieces in newspapers like the New York Times has more to do with the details contained in the authors' bylines than in the quality of the ideas in the text above. Which makes one think that the editors involved might take a deeper look into the authors' bonafides. So far as Penn goes, the Times editors are probably not terribly off -- his resume also includes work for former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair, the British equivalent of Bill Clinton, former right wing Israeli Prime Minister Menachim Begin, and a stint as a Microsoft executive -- pretty much what you might expect from a corporate Democrat arguing a "centrist" line. Stein's credentials seem a bit shakier, though. Identified as "a former Manhattan borough president and New York City Council president," he also once (unsuccessfully) sought the support of the Republican and Conservative Parties to challenge David Dinkins, a Democratic Mayor of New York City. Subsequently he pled guilty to lying about his involvement with Ken Starr, who did time for his role as a Ponzi scheme financial advisor to the stars.

Still, none of that would matter for much, if the authors had any kind of coherent message, but given that they are arguing a typical centrist corporate Democrat line while using a variety of pseudo-proletarian covers -- opposing "[i]dentity politics, class warfare and big government," that is never really a possibility. Perhaps they figure that this matters for little these days, given that the current state of White House politics is such that truth, honesty and consistency count for little. Let's hope that they are wrong. Certainly we Sanders Democrats, who supported a candidate who actually argued the pro-working class views which these confused-at-best writers claim to espouse, think that they are profoundly wrong.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Clinton lost because war-ravaged communities in PA, WI, and MI saw her as pro-war, study says

US Politics Philip Weiss on July 6, 2017

Last fall I winced whenever Hillary Clinton or her surrogates promised regime change in Syria. Don’t these people get it? Americans don’t want to be waging more wars in the Middle East.

Now an important new study has come out showing that Clinton paid for this arrogance: professors argue that Clinton lost the battleground states of Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan in last year’s presidential election because they had some of the highest casualty rates during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and voters there saw Clinton as the pro-war candidate.

By contrast, her pro-war positions did not hurt her in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and California, the study says; because those states were relatively unscathed by the Middle East wars.

The study is titled “Battlefield Casualties and Ballot Box Defeat: Did the Bush-Obama Wars Cost Clinton the White House?” Authors Francis Shen, associate professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, and Dougas Kriner, a political science professor at Boston University, strike a populist note:

With so much post-election analysis, it is surprising that no one has pointed to the possibility that inequalities in wartime sacrifice might have tipped the election. Put simply:
perhaps the small slice of America that is fighting and dying for the nation’s security is tired of its political leaders ignoring this disproportionate burden.

Their study argues that there is a direct relationship between those states that gained Republican votes from Romney’s defeat in 2012 to Trump’s win in 2016 and those states that have higher casualty rates in Middle East wars.

At, Ed Krayewski summarizes the findings:

A new study attributes Donald Trump’s victory last year to communities hit hardest by military casualties and angry about being ignored. These voters, the authors suggest, saw Trump as an “opportunity to express that anger at both political parties.”

Krayewski summarizes the data behind the conclusion:

The study… found a “significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.” The statistical model it used suggested that if Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin had suffered “even a modestly lower casualty rate,” all three could have flipped to Hillary Clinton, making her the president. The study controlled for party identification, comparing Trump’s performance in the communities selected to Mitt Romney’s performance in 2012. It also controlled for other relevant factors, including median family income, college education, race, the percentage of a community that is rural, and even how many veterans there were.

“Even after including all of these demographic control variables, the relationship between a county’s casualty rate and Trump’s electoral performance remains positive and statistically significant,” the paper noted. “Trump significantly outperformed Romney in counties that shouldered a disproportionate share of the war burden in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
And here are the authors themselves on the moral hazard at work here. The people who decide are not suffering as much.

America has been at war continuously for over 15 years, but few Americans seem to notice. This is because the vast majority of citizens have no direct connection to those soldiers fighting, dying, and returning wounded from combat. Increasingly, a divide is emerging between communities whose young people are dying to defend the country, and those communities whose young people are not.

Here is another powerful excerpt from the paper:

Imagine a country continuously at war for nearly two decades. Imagine that the wars were supported by both Democratic and Republican presidents. Continue to imagine that the country fighting these wars relied only on a small group of citizens—a group so small that those who served in theater constituted less than 1 percent of the nation’s population, while those who died or were wounded in battle comprised far less than 1/10th of 1 percent of the nation’s population.

And finally, imagine that these soldiers, their families, friends, and neighbors felt that their sacrifice and needs had long been ignored by politicians in Washington. Would voters in these hard hit communities get angry? And would they seize an opportunity to express that anger at both political parties? We think the answer is yes.

Kriner and Shen point out that an antiwar groundswell rocked the U.S. political establishment 10 years before:

By 2006, the continuing deterioration of the situation in Iraq emboldened Democrats to promise to end the war in the Middle East. That year’s midterm elections returned Democrats to power in both chambers of Congress for the first time since before the 1994 Republican Revolution. Underlying this sweeping change was a further erosion in support for the GOP among the constituencies hardest hit by the war.

Their argument is obviously aimed at coastal elites, which have more power than rural communities over decision-making, but far less to lose. The authors are unsparing about the very different experience of war for different communities. :

When the United States goes to war, the sacrifice that war exacts in blood is far from uniformly distributed across the country. And in the Civil War, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq, constituencies that have suffered the highest casualty rates have proven most likely to punish the ruling party at the polls.

In the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, for example, seven states have suffered casualty rates of thirty or more deaths per million residents. By contrast, four states have suffered casualty rates of fifteen or fewer deaths per million. As a result, Americans living in these states have had different exposure to the war’s human costs through the experiences of their friends and neighbors and local media coverage.

The four states with the lowest rates are NY, NJ, CT and Utah. All but Utah voted Democratic. Overall, rural states have higher casualty rates, and the authors find pretty significant inverse correlations between state income and education medians and casualty rates. Though it must be noted that Vermont suffered the worst casualty rate– more than 41 deaths per million– and it is home to the most vociferous antiwar candidate, Bernie Sanders, but was also very safe for Clinton.

Here’s Krayewski’s summary again, emphasizing the policy takeaway from the study:

The president’s electoral fate in 2020 “may well rest on the administration’s approach to the human costs of war,” the paper suggests. “If Trump wants to maintain his connection to this part of his base, his foreign policy would do well to be highly sensitive to American combat casualties.” More broadly, the authors argue that “politicians from both parties would do well to more directly recognize and address the needs of those communities whose young women and men are making the ultimate sacrifice for the country.”

The most effective way of addressing their needs is to advance a foreign policy that does not see Washington as the world’s policeman, that treats U.S. military operations as a last resort, and that rethinks the foreign policy establishment’s expansive and often vague definition of national security interests.

Thanks to Todd Pierce.