Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Jimi Hendrix - Red House (live in Stockholm, Sweden 1969)


Image result for trump clinton cyborg

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The (un)Democratic Primary: Why We Need a New Party of the 99%

Despite a decisive victory Tuesday providing further confirmation of her likely nomination, in many respects Hillary Clinton emerges from the New York primary more damaged, her party more divided, than she entered it.

What came to be called The Battle of New York has served only to further expose what millions of people in the U.S. are becoming painfully aware of – the Democratic Party primary is rigged in favor of the establishment.

A discussion which started with the top-down superdelegate system and enormous influence of corporate money in politics, has gone on to raise awareness about the generally undemocratic nature of the Democratic primary and party itself – with its myriad of anti-democratic voting rules, frontloading of conservative states, heavy tilting of the playing field by the media establishment, and antagonistic role of Democratic Party leaders towards grassroots challengers like Sanders.

Before yesterday’s primary even began, more than 27% of New Yorkers (3 million people) were excluded by restrictive voting laws as well as the removal of previously registered voters identified as “inactive.” In one Brooklyn precinct, officials said 10% of those who showed up to vote found their names had been purged. In the county in which Brooklyn resides, more than 125,000 voters had been cut from the Democratic rolls, leading to a massive 14% drop of eligible voters in 5 months time.

Meanwhile, in upstate New York polling station hours were substantially cut back in areas more favorable to Sanders. On top of all this, in a rule hardly anyone was aware of, only voters who registered as Democrats by last October 9th were eligible to vote. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio felt compelled to comment, “The perception that numerous voters may have been disenfranchised undermines the integrity of the entire electoral process, and must be fixed.” The city’s comptroller vowed to “undertake an audit of the operations and management of the Board of Elections.”

While Clinton’s 15-point margin of victory is almost certainly greater than the sum of irregularities, it is equally clear that if independents and others wrongly excluded could vote, the outcome would have been far closer and Sanders might even have won.

Closed primaries like New York’s are broadly unfavorable to grassroots challenges, purging from the process the millions of people registered as independent who have already drawn conclusions about the corrupt character of both parties.

The power of the New York media establishment was on full display during the primary as it declared open war on Sanders. Even “progressive” papers like the New York Daily News went all out, repeatedly running sensationalized, libelous front-page attacks on him.

Perhaps the most important result of the New York primary was not the vote, but the political impact of Sanders’ campaign on the tens of thousands actively involved or closely watching over the past days and weeks.

Not Just New York

National corporate media have weighed in heavily on behalf of Clinton throughout the primary process. First with a virtual media blackout in 2015, while Clinton was portrayed as the inevitable nominee and Trump received more than 20 times the media coverage. But as Sanders became more clearly a threat, the media establishment went all out trying to discredit him. From endless attacks on his policy proposals by prominent liberal figures like Paul Krugman, to onslaughts like that of the Washington Post on March 1, where they published one anti-Sanders article an hour for 16 hours.

Voting irregularities have also popped up in state after state. While some were undoubtedly exaggerated, others had real effects. In Arizona, where there were five-hour lines at the polls, many people also saw their voter registrations switched without their knowledge.

The primary as a whole is heavily skewed toward older, wealthier party loyalists. Nationally less than 15% of eligible voters will participate in the Democratic primaries and caucuses.

Working people have seen the pro-corporate character of the Democratic Party leadership itself on full display. It is no accident that when Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley came out to endorse Bernie Sanders last week, he was the very first Senator to do so. By comparison, 40 Senators have come out for Hillary, along with 166 House Representatives. To this establishment, Sander’s call for a political revolution against billionaires and wealthy campaign donors is utterly unacceptable. This Democratic leadership bases itself on the exchange of favors and on a revolving door of influence between elected positions and lucrative corporate and lobbyist careers. Meanwhile they use their weight and influence to whip labor, and church leaders into line.

Add to this the combined power of Wall Street Super PACs and you have a primary and political party which is hostile terrain for a candidate of the 99%.

One simple fact reveals the rigged character of the system: National polls consistently show Bernie Sanders enjoys, by far, the highest favorability rating of all presidential candidates, and beats out all Republicans in head-to-head match-ups. Yet he will very likely be eliminated before the general election if he plays by the rules of the two-party system.

An Historic Opportunity

We are entering what is possibly the most favorable moment in U.S. history to launch a new left party. Public trust is collapsing in both major parties, the establishment media, and all the key institutions propping up American capitalism. Eight years since the Great Recession, with most workers still suffering despite the recovery on Wall Street, all the built-up anger and discontent is expressing itself in a bitter revolt against establishment Democratic and Republican leaders.

This is the context for the dramatic rise of Bernie Sanders who has run, by any measure, the strongest distinctly left-wing presidential campaign in American history since Eugene Debs (though Debs, who ran on the Socialist Party ticket, was clear about corporate America’s domination over the Democratic Party and did not make the fundamental mistake of running within that party) . Beginning his campaign with no name recognition, polling 3%, and without any elected figures of national significance backing him, Bernie has won more votes, more state primaries, raised more money, and mobilized more volunteers than any comparable left challenge in the Democratic Party’s history.

He has done all that with a genuinely left-wing platform, refusing corporate donations, embracing the socialist label, and making the call for “a political revolution against the billionaire class” his central slogan.

Even by the standards of mainstream politics, the strength of Sanders campaign is breathtaking. Clinton began the election with what, on paper, appeared set to be among the most formidable corporate election machines ever assembled. Yet in the last three months, with an average donation of $27, Sanders has tapped his expanding base of small donors – now over two million strong – to raise dramatically more than Clinton. In March alone Sanders raised $44 million to Clinton’s $29.5 million.

Just a year ago, every self-respecting mainstream pundit was still peddling the myth that no candidate refusing corporate contributions could be electorally viable, much less a candidate calling themselves a socialist! That idea is now dead.

No one can deny the potential for building a nationally viable left political party, completely independent of corporate cash, putting forward unapologetically left, working class policies. The only remaining question is one of leadership: will Sanders take the initiative and, if not, will the forces behind him pull it together?

A New Party

“I believe that we need to think very seriously, particularly as folks of color and progressives, about building either a new party or a new movement…”

Those were the words of Michelle Alexander, esteemed author of “The New Jim Crow,” speaking with Chris Hayes on MSNBC on April 1st. Three days later, writing in New York Daily News, the nation’s fourth largest circulation paper, Shaun King’s column began with the above quote, adding:

“I not only agree with Alexander, but I want to take it a step further — I think it’s already happening right before our very eyes. Political progressives across this country, in supporting the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, are completely rejecting the Democratic Party… We should form our own political party in which we are firmly and boldly against the death penalty, where we are for a living wage all across this country, where we are for a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system, where we are for radical reforms to protect the environment and curb global warming, where we are for the eradication of big money in politics, where we are willing to truly consider healthcare and education for all as a right and not a privilege.”

Approaching the same question from the opposite political standpoint, Paul Krugman’s April 8th New York Times column echoed Shaun King’s insight that a new party is emerging “right before our very eyes.” Krugman warns Bernie to tone down his attacks on Clinton or risk a deeper rupture from the Democratic Party, arrogantly asking: “Is Mr. Sanders positioning himself to join the ‘Bernie or bust’ crowd…? If not, what does he think he’s doing?”

Both Krugman and King are right. The stronger Bernie’s “political revolution against the billionaire class” has become, the more it has threatened to break out of the straightjacket imposed by the Democratic Party which, in the end, is completely dominated by big business.

That’s why my organization, Socialist Alternative, and #Movement4Bernie are petitioning Bernie to continue running through November as an independent or on the Green Party ticket with Jill Stein, if he is blocked in the rigged primary process, and to call a conference to discuss launching a new party of the 99%.

If there are concerns about helping elect a Republican, there is no reason Bernie could not at least run in the 40+ states where it’s absolutely clear the Democratic or Republican candidate will win, while not putting his name on the 5-10 closely contested “swing states.” This could still allow for a historic campaign if linked to building a new party for the 99% and laying the foundation for an ongoing mass political movement to run hundreds of left candidates for all levels of government, independent of corporate cash.

On the other hand, if despite all their dirty tricks against him, Sanders remains loyal to the Democratic Party and backs Clinton in the general election, it would mean the demoralization and disorganization of much of our movement. Yes, we need a strategy to push back right-wing Republicans, but collapsing the anti-establishment movement behind Bernie into the Clinton campaign – a false unity with the candidate of Wall Street and the political establishment – would leave the field wide open for right-populists like Trump or Cruz to expand their base.

If Sanders chooses that path, continuing the political revolution will mean Sandernistas boldly moving beyond Bernie.

An Independent Presidential Campaign

It’s time to break the rules. An aggressive independent campaign for president by Bernie Sanders, linked to building a new mass party for the 99%, could dramatically transform American politics. Bernie would not need to win the election to force a decisive leftward shift in U.S. society. Even registering a vote of 10 or 15 million for a new party (and the potential exists to win a far larger vote) could strike a crippling blow to the political monopoly of the two parties of American capitalism.

Around the world, where workers have won far-reaching reforms, like single-payer healthcare or free education or paid parental leave, it’s been through forming mass workers parties. In Canada, for example, trade unions launched the New Democratic Party with socialized medicine as their central demand. They won less than 15% of the national vote, and were blamed for tipping the vote to the conservatives, but to cut across the growth of the New Democratic Party, that conservative government granted Canadian workers their central demand – and Canada’s system of socialized medicine was born.

On the other hand, if Sanders drops out and endorses Clinton after the primaries, the Democratic Party will be free to tack right in the general election, relying on fear of the Republicans to keep their progressive base in line.

The stakes are simply too high to let this moment slip through our fingers. Capitalism is plunging humanity into a social and ecological catastrophe. Bernie’s campaign shows a viable fightback is possible. What’s missing is a strategy to sustain and grow our movement. Now is the time for bold action to build a fighting, working class political alternative – a party for the millions, not the millionaires.

Sign #Movement4Bernie’s petition calling on Bernie to run all the way and launch a new party of the 99%.

Khama Sawant is Seattle City Council Woman and member of Socialist Alternative.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Against the Double Blackmail: Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbours


The London School of Economics holds a debate following its Forum for European Philosophy public lecture at 6.30pm on Wednesday in the Old Building when Professor Slavoj Zizek will talk about his new book, Against the Double Blackmail: Refugees, Terror and Other Troubles with the Neighbours. Prof Zizek argues we face two versions of ideological blackmail; open-door solidarity with refugees and drawbridge minded protectionism. He argues both prolong Europe’s migration problems, and confronted with this double blackmail we find ourselves back at the question: what is to be done?

On Israel, Bernie Sanders Is Right (and Hillary Clinton Knows It)

Posted on Apr 16, 2016


The most significant moment of the Democratic primary debate in Brooklyn—and perhaps any presidential debate this season—came when Bernie Sanders challenged Hillary Clinton over her refusal to criticize Israel’s excessive use of force against the Palestinians in Gaza. For the first time in memory, a major American political figure insisted publicly that the Jewish state and its leaders are “not always right”—and that in attempting to suppress terrorism, they had killed and injured far too many blameless human beings.

Asked by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about his judgment that Israel’s military response to attacks from Gaza in 2014 was “disproportionate and led to the unnecessary loss of innocent life,” the Vermont Senator answered firmly: “Yeah, I do believe that.” He mentioned that many other nations, including longtime allies of Israel, had denounced the atrocities in Gaza, along with human rights organizations around the world.

Having reiterated that he supports Israel as our ally—with every right to self-defense—Sanders said that “in the long run, if we are ever going to bring peace to that region which has seen so much hatred and so much war, we are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity.”

That should be blindingly obvious, especially to Clinton, who has worked alongside President Clinton and President Obama toward a decent two-state solution for almost a quarter century. Her disappointing reply to Sanders reflected her political priorities in the New York primary, rather than her commitment to human rights or her assessment of American diplomatic interests.

She talked about her effort in negotiating a Gaza ceasefire, but that self-serving paean was evasive, as Sanders pointed out. Pressed for a serious answer, she pandered to the most conservative voters, Jewish and Christian, who mistakenly believe friendship with Israel means supporting any violence perpetrated by Israel’s government. She blamed the casualties among Palestinian civilians solely on Hamas, even as she vaguely mentioned “precautions” that Israel should have taken to prevent them.

This display of subservience to the most right-wing elements in Israel and its Washington lobby was all too typical of American presidential aspirants. Rarely does any U.S. politician dare to utter the truth about the conflict in Israel and Palestine. But coming from Clinton the usual pap sounds worse because, unlike the average pol, she possesses deep knowledge of the region.

When Bill Clinton was president, he and Hillary became close friends of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, a former general in the Israel Defense Forces and a war hero who courageously sought a just peace with the Palestinians—and paid for that brave policy with his life when a right-wing fanatic assassinated him in November 1995. Her memoir, “Living History,” describes hopeful moments with Rabin and his wife Leah around the time of the Oslo accords—and an affecting account of the moments after President Clinton, who loved Rabin like a father, told her he had been murdered.

Hillary Clinton knows that the right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu, responsible for the Gaza disgrace and more, is far closer in outlook to the ultra-nationalists who applauded Rabin’s assassination than to the peacemaker whose death she lamented. She knows that Netanyahu’s aim is annexation, not negotiation. She knows that our interests—indeed, those of the entire world—can only be advanced by a just peace that both protects Israel and relieves the suffering of the Palestinian people.

The day after the Brooklyn debate, her campaign issued a lengthy press release: “Hillary Clinton and Israel: A 30-Year Record of Friendship, Leadership, and Strength.” But its failure to mention Palestinian rights and needs again revealed weakness, not “strength.” We can only hope that if she wins the presidency, she will prove herself to be a true friend of Israel and its people—as her husband did when he warned that unless they achieve a durable agreement with a new Palestine, Israelis will eventually lose their nationhood, their democracy, or both.

Unfortunately, Clinton’s current approach is the dismal standard in American politics, which made Sanders’ honesty even more refreshing. What a surprise to hear a Jewish candidate for president—the first with a realistic shot at his party’s nomination—speak so candidly and courageously about the country where he worked on a kibbutz as a young man. With those words Bernie made a bit of history, and earned a lot of respect.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Release of Clinton's Wall Street Speeches Could End Her Candidacy for President But don’t just take my word for it...

Published on Friday, April 15, 2016

The reason you and I will never see the transcripts of Hillary Clinton’s speeches to Wall Street fat-cats — and the reason she’s established a nonsensical condition for their release, that being an agreement by members of another party, involved in a separate primary, to do the same — is that if she were ever to release those transcripts, it could end her candidacy for president.

Please don’t take my word for it, though.

Nor even that of the many neutral observers in the media who are deeply troubled by Clinton’s lack of transparency as to these well-compensated closed-door events — a lack of transparency that has actually been a hallmark of her career in politics.

Nor do we even need to take Clinton’s word for it — as we could certainly argue that her insistence that none of these transcripts ever be seen by the public is itself a confession that her words would cause significant trauma to her presidential bid.

In fact, it appears they’d cause enough trauma that Clinton would rather publicly stonewall — to the point of being conspicuously, uncomfortably evasive — in public debate after public debate, to endure damning editorial after damning editorial, and to leave thousands and thousands of voters further doubting her honesty and integrity, all to ensure that no one outside Goldman Sachs, and certainly no voter who wasn’t privy to those closed-door speeches, ever hears a word of what she said in them.

Nor should we do here what Senator Sanders kindly declined to do at the Democratic debate last night, which is mention any of the proof — voluminous as it is, as Sanders conceded in a post-debate interview that cited Elizabeth Warren’s criticisms of Clinton — that during the housing crisis Clinton acted precisely like a politician who’d been bought off by Wall Street.

As Politico has noted, “During 2007 and 2008, when the housing market collapsed and while [Clinton] was also running for president, the Democrats controlled the Senate. Of the 140 bills Clinton introduced during that period, five [3.5%] were related to housing finance or foreclosures, according to congressional records, including one aimed at making it easier for homeowners facing foreclosure to get their loans modified. Only one of the five secured any co-sponsors — New York Senator Charles Schumer signed onto a bill that would have helped veterans refinance their mortgages.”

Two years. One legitimate bill. And even then, only one co-sponsor — a same-state Senator.

When a Congressional bill gets no co-sponsors, either it’s an unserious bill or it’s a bill whose sponsor did nothing to push it. Neither possibility is in Clinton’s favor.

But enough of that.

The real experts on this topic are the friends and acquaintances of Hillary’s who, for whatever reason, have chosen to be candid about what they believe is in those speeches. And it’s only that candor that helps explain the longest-running mystery of the Democratic primary — a mystery that’s been ongoing for over seventy days — which is this: why would anyone pay $225,000 for an hour-long speech by a private citizen who (at the time) claimed to have no interest in returning to politics?

Mr. Sanders has implied that there are only two possible answers: (a) the money wasn’t for the speeches themselves, but for the influence major institutional players on Wall Street thought that money could buy them if and when Clinton ran for President; or (b) the speeches laid out a defense of Wall Street greed so passionate and total that hearing it uttered by a person of power and influence was worth every penny.

Per Clinton surrogates and attendees at these speeches, the answer appears to be both (a) and (b).

Here’s a compilation of what those close to Clinton and/or the institutions that paid her obscene sums to chat with them are saying about those never-to-be-released speeches:

1. Former Nebraska Governor and Senator Bob Kerrey (Clinton surrogate)
“Making the transcripts of the Goldman speeches public would have been devastating....[and] when the GOP gets done telling the Clinton Global Initiative fund-raising and expense story, Bernie supporters will wonder why he didn’t do the same....[As for] the email story, it’s not about emails. It is about [Hillary] wanting to avoid the reach of citizens using the Freedom of Information Act to find out what their government is doing, and then not telling the truth about why she did.”

2. Goldman Sachs Employee #1 (present at one of the speeches)
“[The speech] was pretty glowing about [Goldman Sachs]. It’s so far from what she sounds like as a candidate now. It was like a ‘rah-rah’ speech. She sounded more like a Goldman Sachs managing director.”

3. Goldman Sachs Employee #2 (present at one of the speeches)
“In this environment, [what she said to us at Goldman Sachs] could be made to look really bad.”

4. Goldman Sachs Executive or Client #1 (present at one of the speeches)
“Mrs. Clinton didn’t single out bankers or any other group for causing the 2008 financial crisis. Instead, she effectively said, ‘We’re all in this together, we’ve got to find our way out of it together.’”

5. Paraphrase of Several Attendees’ Accounts From The Wall Street Journal
“She didn’t often talk about the financial crisis, but when she did, she almost always struck an amicable tone. In some cases, she thanked the audience for what they had done for the country. One attendee said the warmth with which Mrs. Clinton greeted guests bordered on ‘gushy.’ She spoke sympathetically about the financial industry.”

6. Goldman Sachs Employee #3 (present at one of the speeches)
“It was like, ‘Here’s someone who doesn’t want to vilify us but wants to get business back in the game. Like, maybe here’s someone who can lead us out of the wilderness.’”

7. Paraphrase of Several Attendees’ Accounts From Politico
“Clinton offered a message that the collected plutocrats found reassuring, declaring that the banker-bashing so popular within both political parties was unproductive and indeed foolish. Striking a soothing note on the global financial crisis, she told the audience, ‘We all got into this mess together, and we’re all going to have to work together to get out of it.’”

Did we, though, “All get into the mess together”?

Would middle-class voters considering voting for Hillary Clinton in New York on Tuesday take kindly to the idea that the Great Recession was equally their own and Goldman Sachs’ fault? How would that play in the Bronx?

Lest anyone suspect that Clinton doesn’t release the transcripts because she’s not permitted to do so under a non-disclosure agreement, think again: Buzzfeed has confirmed that Clinton owns the rights to the transcripts, and notes, moreover, that according to industry insiders even if there were speeches to which Clinton did not hold the rights, no institution on Wall Street would allow themselves to be caught trying to block their release.

And Politico and The Wall Street Journal have reported exactly the same information about Clinton’s ability to release these speech transcripts unilaterally.

The problem with the quotes above is not merely their content — which suggests a presidential candidate not only “gushingly” fond of Wall Street speculators but unwilling to admonish them even to the smallest degree — but also that they reveal Clinton to have been dishonest about that content with American voters.

Last night in Brooklyn Mrs. Clinton said, “I did stand up to the banks. I did make it clear that their behavior would not be excused.”

Yet not a single attendee at any of Mrs. Clinton’s quarter-of-a-million-dollar speeches can recall her doing anything of the sort.

Release of the transcripts would therefore, it appears, have three immediate — and possibly fatal — consequences for Clinton’s presidential campaign:

It would reveal that Clinton lied about the content of the speeches at a time when she suspected she would never have to release them, nor that their content would ever be known to voters.

It would reveal that the massive campaign and super-PAC contributions Clinton has received from Wall Street did indeed, as Sanders has alleged, influence her ability to get tough on Wall Street malfeasance either in Congress or behind closed doors.

It would reveal that Clinton’s policy positions on — for instance — breaking up “too-big-to-fail” banks are almost certainly insincere, as they have been trotted out merely for the purposes of a presidential campaign.

In a nation whose economy nearly collapsed just a few years ago because of precisely the people and institutions Clinton is now “gushy” toward, it’s not hard to imagine the three revelations above being enough to cost Clinton the primary in New York and thereafter, at a minimum, the votes in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and California.

Coupled with the many states remaining that Senator Sanders is expected to win, this could leave Clinton in a situation in which she loses 22 of the final 25 states — enough of a collapse for unpledged super-delegates to abandon her in large numbers at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

Certainly, it’s hard to understand how any super-delegate could cast a ballot for Clinton in Philadelphia without knowing, first, what the candidate actually believes about protecting America from another greed-driven Great Recession — or worse.

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