Monday, October 27, 2014

Time to Narrow the Target: It’s Not ‘Washington,’ It’s Rightwing Republicans

Ideology and Investment

By Paul Krugman
New York Times Opinion

Oct 26, 2014 - America used to be a country that built for the future. Sometimes the government built directly: Public projects, from the Erie Canal to the Interstate Highway System, provided the backbone for economic growth. Sometimes it provided incentives to the private sector, like land grants to spur railroad construction. Either way, there was broad support for spending that would make us richer.

But nowadays we simply won’t invest, even when the need is obvious and the timing couldn’t be better. And don’t tell me that the problem is “political dysfunction” or some other weasel phrase that diffuses the blame. Our inability to invest doesn’t reflect something wrong with “Washington”; it reflects the destructive ideology that has taken over the Republican Party.

Some background: More than seven years have passed since the housing bubble burst, and ever since, America has been awash in savings — or more accurately, desired savings — with nowhere to go. Borrowing to buy homes has recovered a bit, but remains low. Corporations are earning huge profits, but are reluctant to invest in the face of weak consumer demand, so they’re accumulating cash or buying back their own stock. Banks are holding almost $2.7 trillion in excess reserves — funds they could lend out, but choose instead to leave idle.

And the mismatch between desired saving and the willingness to invest has kept the economy depressed. Remember, your spending is my income and my spending is your income, so if everyone tries to spend less at the same time, everyone’s income falls.

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Terror … and Racial Terror

Photo by Stephen Melkisethian.

 

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Progressive America Rising

This article was originally published at ZNet.

With all of the discussion about ISIS/ISIL, Al Qaeda, etc., one would think that the only terror on this planet is that derived from relatively small numbers of criminal fascists roaming the planet who claim to be Muslims.  Yet that is not the only location of terror.  In West Africa, for instance, millions live in terror as the horrific virus, Ebola, spreads, killing more than 3,000 people.  Due in large part to the devastation wrought by neo-liberal policies on the health care systems of West African nations, Ebola has been spreading at an unanticipated rate.

There are other forms of terror, of course.  Environmental devastation and climate change, which capitalism seems unable to stop but has also played a major role in advancing, threatens billions.  Islands across this planet are threatened as water encroaches on coastal regions.  And one need not be a rocket scientist to know that it is the working classes, the farmers and many other impoverished segments of society that will suffer on a scale beyond anything that will afflict the rich and powerful.

There is, however, a form of terror at work within the USA that is not named but are every bit as deadly and destructive as anything that ISIL and Al Qaeda can produce.  This terror is racial terror, a reality that shapes the lives of millions of people of color.  It is racial terror that helps to explain the shortened life spans of African Americans; the prevalence of various illnesses, or at least the high rate of illnesses, such as diabetes and hypertension, among people of color; and the flinch which we of color all experience in the face of racially-inspired insults, humiliations and micro-aggressions.

It is difficult for most white people to appreciate the racial terror with which people of color live.  There are certain things that do not generally concern whites.  They do not, generally, have to worry about the race or ethnicity of the person with whom they are driving.  They rarely have to worry about being pulled over by the police when driving through a neighborhood that is not their own.

I frequently tell the story of attending the first Labor Notes conference in Detroit, Michigan in 1981.  At the end of the conference a blond, Scandinavian woman was looking for a ride back to the East Coast.  I had driven to Detroit from Boston with another African American man.  We were asked if we could take her back to the East Coast.  My friend and I looked at one another and, at about the same time, shook our heads “No.”  It was not personal; the idea of two African American men driving across several states with a very attractive, blond woman was something that set off all sorts of bells and whistles.  Yet, this is an experience that most whites would find difficult to fathom.  In my mind’s eye, and that of my friend, we could imagine being pulled over by the police or being pursued by white men who were not particularly excited about the imagery, let along reality of two black men driving cross country with a white woman.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Rev. William Barber’s New Book Reminds Us Why We Must Vote

 

441_Forward_TogetherBy Terrance Heath

Progressive America Rising via Ourfuture.org

Oct 22, 2014 - With Election Day just two weeks away, the words of Paul Wellstone Citizen Leadership Award  recipient and Moral Mondays movement leader Rev. William Barber remind us, “If we ever needed to vote, we sure do need to vote now!” His new book reminds us of the moral power of progressive values when we march “forward together.”

Rev. Barber’s words come from his 2012 address to the NAACP, but as timely as ever with so much at stake in this election, as Denise Oliver Velez writes:

Election Day 2014 is on Tuesday, November 4, a little over two weeks away. This election will make a profound difference in the lives of many of our citizens. For some, it is a matter of life and death—given the refusal of some states to accept Medicaid expansion. We are all too aware of right-wing extremist efforts in many of those same states to suppress the vote, and to construct obstacles to voting.

One of the most powerful voices in the nation, fighting to mobilize a broad-based coalition of social activists to fight voter suppression, is that of the Rev. Dr. William Barber II. What is disconcerting is that with only a few exceptions, the major traditional media have managed to ignore his voice and the Moral Mondays movement he is leading—from his home base of North Carolina, to as far north as Wisconsin.

How did much of the press manage to ignore 80,000 people who marched in Raleigh, North Carolina, back in February?

While the traditional media is willing to pay homage to Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks in memorials and tributes, journalists are far too willing to pretend that the civil rights movement was buried with Dr. King. Contrary to those who speak as if the movement ended in 1968, it is alive and growing. Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, women and men—straight and LGBT, religious and non-religious, young and old—have come together in a breathtaking and extraordinary fusion movement, Moral Mondays, spearheaded by the Rev. William Barber, head of the North Carolina NAACP. His book about that movement, Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation, is being released by Chalice Press November 1.

Just in time for the election, Rev. Barber’s new book from Chalice Press, Forward Together: A Moral Message for the Nation, recalls the beginnings of the historic Moral Mondays movement, puts progressive values in a moral context we can take with us into the voting booth.

Last summer, after seven years of grassroots organizing, “Moral Mondays” grabbed the nation’s attention as thousands protested North Carolina’s General Assembly in Raleigh in support of the poor, voting rights, health care, immigrant rights, and other issues. Over 13 consecutive weeks, the protests against legislative extremism resulted in the arrests of nearly 1,000 people, making it one of the largest acts of civil disobedience in U.S. history. As thousands more gathered in support each Monday, Barber, president of the North Carolina chapter of the NAACP, became widely recognized as the leader of a new civil rights movement in the South. More than 100 “Moral Monday” connected events have since taken place, and the spirit of the movement has spread to Georgia, South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, Wisconsin, and New York. This reflection on the movement’s beginnings introduces Barber, the sources of his courage from both a biblical imagination for justice and a deep connection to “fusion” civil rights history, and the inspiring story of the Southern freedom movement’s revival.

Barber invites readers into a big-tent, faith-based movement for justice that has room for black, white, and brown, gay and straight, rich and poor, old and young, Republicans and Democrats, people from all walks of life. Offering his unique analysis of what he has called the “Third Reconstruction,” Barber locates North Carolina’s struggle in the spiritual and political landscape of 21st-century America. With civil rights and social justice battles with a deep moral narrative, particularly in southern statehouses that then move to federal courts on appeal, what happens in North Carolina can shift the center of gravity in political discourse, debate, and decision—and thereby change the nation.

“Messages of moral dissent are designed not to just be spoken and heard but to shape the prophetic consciousness of a movement and of society,” says Barber. “The prophetic voice rises when government systems and sometimes even religious systems have abdicated their responsibility to the least of these. When the forces of extremism have become so overwhelming and have depressed the hope of the people, the prophetic voice and mission is to connect words and actions in ways that build restorative hope so that there can be a movement for restorative justice. So this book is an attempt to capture the practice of ‘preaching’ in the public square, which is where prophetic inquiry and critique must function.”

Check out Rev. Barber’s book when it drops on November 1st and take his message into the voting booth on November 4th!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The 2014 elections and the ‘Second Great Disenfranchisement’

By David Schultz

Progressive America Rising via Twin Cities Daily Planet

Oct. 12, 2014 - Elections are supposed to be the way people select their leaders. Increasingly that is no longer the case. The courts now occupy an enormous role in determining the outcome of elections–even before they start. That is clearly the case this year where too often the goal has become to rig elections by making it harder for some, especially people of color, the poor, and the young, to vote. This especially seems to be the strategy of Republicans who continue to push the Second Great Disenfranchisement in American history.

Consider what is happening across the country right now, with less than a month before the election and early voting already taking place in many states.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld Ohio’s curtailment of early voting which was adopted by Republicans, after a federal district court and a court of appeals stayed the law. Republicans in Wisconsin pushed through a strict voter ID law and just in the last few days the Supreme Court has enjoined its enforcement for this election. Suits are challenging limits passed by Republicans in North Carolina limiting on same day voter registration and a ban on counting ballots from incorrect precincts. And in just the last few days a federal judge enjoined a voter ID law in Texas that would have disenfranchised over 600,000 voters, especially impacting African-Americans and Latinos. This law too was pushed by Republicans including the state’s governor Rick Perry.

In all of these cases it is Republicans pushing to shrink the electorate, to make it more difficult for people of color, the poor, and young to vote. If the First Great Disenfranchisement came after Reconstruction ended in the 1870s, we are now witnessing the Second Great Disenfranchisement. The former ushered in the era of Jim Crow, polls taxes, literacy tests, and grandfather clauses as tools to deny African-Americans the right to vote. Today claims of voter fraud and measures such as voter ID, long voting lines, eliminating early voting, and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act are the tools to accomplish the same.

Republicans generally are advocating limits on voting, depressing voter turnout even more during midterms elections when Democrat-leaning voters are less likely to show up. This seems to be part of a national strategy to rig elections in their favor. In some states, such as Wisconsin and North Carolina, these curtailments of voting rights could make a serous difference in who wins as governor or the US Senate, and ultimately which party might control the Senate.

But even beyond legal efforts to disenfranchise, another one is occurring. Nationally, perhaps only around 38-40% of those eligible to vote this year. Young people, people of color, and the poor are especially likely to stay home. Yes it may be true that neither of the major parties offers any alternative or real choice for these people, but still one should vote. Vote even if it means writing in a candidate of your choice. Show up, vote, and use it as a protest vote if needed. Get in the habit of showing up and demonstrating to the two parties that your voice matters and it should be considered.

A lot of blood and energy was spent in the passed to get the young, people of color, and the poor the right to vote. Don’t waste those past efforts. Remember, there are many people who don’t want you to vote and who did not want your ancestors to vote. Voter ID laws and other legal restrictions are bad but it is even worse if you decide not even to bother to show up.

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Monday, October 13, 2014

Elizabeth Warren on Barack Obama

“They protected Wall Street. Not families who were losing their homes. Not people who lost their jobs. And it happened over and over and over”

  • EXCLUSIVE: Elizabeth Warren on Barack Obama: "They protected Wall Street. Not families who were losing their homes. Not people who lost their jobs. And it happened over and over and over"

"There has not been nearly enough change," she tells Salon, taking on Obama failures, lobbyists, tuition. So 2016?

By Thomas Frank

Progressive America Rising via Salon

Oct. 12, 2014 - Senator Elizabeth Warren scarcely requires an introduction. She is the single most exciting Democrat currently on the national stage.

Her differentness from the rest of the political profession is stark and obvious. It extends from her straightforward clarity on economic issues to the energetic way she talks. I met her several years ago when she was taking time out from her job teaching at Harvard to run the Congressional Oversight Panel, which was charged with supervising how the bank bailout money was spent. I discovered on that occasion not only that we agreed on many points of policy, but that she came originally from Oklahoma, the state immediately south of the one where I grew up, and also that high school debate had been as important for her as it had been for me.

In the years since then, Professor Warren helped to launch the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (which will probably be remembered as one of the few lasting achievements of the Obama Administration); she wrote a memoir, A Fighting Chance; and she was elected to the United States Senate from Massachusetts.

This interview was condensed and lightly edited.

I want to start by talking about a line that you’re famous for, from your speech at the Democratic National Convention two years ago: “The system is rigged.” You said exactly what was on millions of people’s minds. I wonder, now that you’re in D.C. and you’re in the Senate, and you have a chance to see things close up, do you still feel that way? And: Is there a way to fix the system without getting the Supreme Court to overturn Citizens United or some huge structural change like that? How can we fix it?

That’s the question that lies at the heart of whether our democracy will survive. The system is rigged. And now that I’ve been in Washington and seen it up close and personal, I just see new ways in which that happens. But we have to stop and back up, and you have to kind of get the right diagnosis of the problem, to see how it is that—it goes well beyond campaign contributions. That’s a huge part of it. But it’s more than that. It’s the armies of lobbyists and lawyers who are always at the table, who are always there to make sure that in every decision that gets made, their clients’ tender fannies are well protected. And when that happens — not just once, not just twice, but thousands of times a week — the system just gradually tilts further and further. There is no one at the table…I shouldn’t say there’s no one. I don’t want to overstate. You don’t have to go into hyperbole. But there are very few people at the decision-making table to argue for minimum-wage workers. Very few people.

They need to get a lobbyist. Why haven’t they got on that yet?

Yeah. Why aren’t they out there spending? In the context when people talk about “get a lobbyist,” the big financial institutions spent more than a million dollars a day for more than a year during the financial reform debates. And my understanding is, their spending has ratcheted up again. My insight about that, about exactly that point, [is] in the book [A Fighting Chance], in the second chapter, which is when my eyes first get opened to the political system. Here I am, I’m studying what’s happening to the American family, and just year by year by year, I’m watching America’s middle class get hammered. They just keep sliding further down. The data get worse every year that I keep pulling this data. Bankruptcy is the last hope to right their lives for those who have been hit by serious medical problems, job losses, a divorce, a death in the family — that accounts for about 90 percent of the people who file for bankruptcy. Those four causes, or those three if you combine divorce and death. So, how could America, how could Congress adopt a bankruptcy bill that lets credit card companies squeeze those families harder?

What year was that?

When they finally adopted it was 2005. But the point was, it started back in — actually it started in 1995, the effort [to change the bankruptcy laws]. And that’s when I got involved with the Bankruptcy Commission. When, first, [commission chairman] Mike Synar came to me, and then Mike Synar died. It was just awful. And Brady Williamson [the replacement chairman] came to me. But what I saw during that process is, this was not an independent panel that could kind of sit and think through the [problem]: “Let’s take a look at what the numbers show about what’s happening to the families. Let’s take some testimony, get some people in here who have been through bankruptcy, and some creditors who have lost money in bankruptcy, and let’s figure out some places where we could make some sensible recommendations to Congress.” That wasn’t what it turned out to be at all.

It turned out that it was all about paid lobbyists . . .

And what they wanted.

And what they wanted. I tried as hard as I could, and there were almost no bankrupt families who were ever even heard from. And you stop and think about it — why would that be so? Well, first of all, to show up to something like that, you’ve got to know about it and you’ve got to take a day off from work. Who’s going to do that? These are families who are under enormous stress and deeply humiliated about what had happened to them. They had to make a public declaration that they were losers in the great American economic game.

I know exactly the kind of people you’re talking about. I wanted to ask you, not specifically about people declaring bankruptcy, but about the broader working people of this country. You’re from Oklahoma. I’m from Kansas. You’ve seen what’s happened in those places. There are lots and lots of working people in those places and a lot of other places…

Hardworking people. People who work hard. That’s what you want to remember. Not just people who kind of occasionally show up.

Yeah. The blue collar backbone of this country. And in places like I’m describing, it gets worse every year—well, I shouldn’t say worse, because it’s their choice, but a lot of them choose Republicans. I was looking at Oklahoma, I don’t know if you’re aware of this, I’m pretty sure you are, 16 percent of the vote went for Eugene Debs in 1912 and today it’s going in the other direction as fast as it can. How is this ever going to change?

I have at least two thoughts around that and we should explore both of them. One of them is that we need to do a better job of talking about issues. And I know that sounds boring and dull as dishwater, but it’s true. The differences between voting for two candidates should be really clear to every voter and it should be clear in terms of, who votes to raise the minimum wage and who doesn’t. Who votes to lower the interest rate on student loans and who doesn’t. Who votes to make sure women can’t get fired for asking how much a guy is making for doing the same job, and who doesn’t. There are these core differences that are about equality and opportunity. It can’t be that we don’t make a clear distinction. If we fail to make that distinction, then shame on us. That is my bottom line on this.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The South’s Victim Complex: How Right-Wing Paranoia is Driving New Wave of Radicals

The South's victim complex: How right-wing paranoia is driving new wave of radicals

(Credit: AP/Dave Martin)

New wingnut neo-Confederates may be laughed at as they enter Washington, D.C. But here's why their anger is deadly serious

By Matthew Pulver

Progressive America Rising via Salon.com

Southern voters will go to the polls in November 150 years, almost to the day, after Gen. Sherman commenced his March to the Sea, breaking the back of the Confederacy and leaving a burnt scar across the South. The wound never fully healed. Humiliation and resentment would smolder for generations. A sense of persecution has always mingled with the rebellious independence and proud notions of the South’s latent power, the promise that it “will rise again!” Congressman Paul Broun Jr., whose Georgia district spans nearly half of Sherman’s calamitous path to Savannah, evoked the “Great War of Yankee Aggression” in a metaphor to decry the Affordable Care Act on the House floor in 2010. The war, in Broun’s formulation, was not a righteous rebellion so much as a foreign invasion whose force still acts upon the South and its ideological diaspora that increasingly forms the foundation of conservatism.

The persecution narrative deployed by Broun, so woven into Southern culture and politics, has gained national currency. Contemporary conservatism is a Southern politics. Ironically, the Southern persecution narrative, born of defeat, has spread nationwide to form the basis of Republican victories since Reagan and the conservative hegemony that moderated President Clinton, establishing through President George W. Bush nearly 40 years of rightward movement at the national level.

It is the South’s principal political export, now a necessary ideological substrate in Republican rhetoric. Lee Atwater, the Karl Rove of the Reagan era, explained the nationalization of Southern politics accomplished with the 1980 campaign and election of President Reagan: “The mainstream issues in [the Reagan] campaign had been, quote, ‘Southern’ issues since way back in the Sixties,” Atwater said in 1981. Likely the foremost representative of that Southern mood was Alabama’s George Wallace, who in his 1963 gubernatorial inaugural address, the infamous “Segregation Forever” speech, invoked Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis and raged that “government has become our god.” Just months later, that omnipotent force would defeat Wallace when President Kennedy federalized the Alabama National Guard and forced desegregation at the University of Alabama. Wallace, though, would be rewarded for his stand, and the governor carried five Deep South states in his 1968 presidential run.

A century after the Civil War and Reconstruction, the 1960s was a sort of second federal invasion, with the White House strong-arming Wallace, Supreme Court decisions finally implementing Brown’s desegregation order, and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts radically reshaping Southern politics and culture. “The South went from being behind the times to being the mainstream,” Atwater said. It is helpful to consider the inverse: The mainstream GOP adopted the ’60s-era mood of the South. Atwater does not suggest that the South caught up with a modernized conservatism — i.e., that it ceased to be “behind the times” — but that the larger movement regressed, albeit with rhetorical coding to evade charges of old-school racism.

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Monday, October 6, 2014

‘Third Way’ Faction and the Struggle for the Democratic Party’s Soul

Protesters gathered outside Third Way’s offices in Washington, D.C., in December 2013, asking the group to reveal its funding sources.

Protesters gathered outside Third Way’s offices in Washington, D.C., in December 2013, asking the group to reveal its funding sources.

By Noah Bierman

Boston Globe Staff   Oct 06, 2014

WASHINGTON — On a summer afternoon amid the frenzy of the Democratic National Convention in Boston 10 years ago, a group of Washington business lobbyists, political operatives, and a smattering of senators gathered at one of the city’s downtown law firms to hear a plan.

Members of the group worried that, with the end of the Bill Clinton era, the Democratic Party’s centrist wing had lost its way. Over sodas, they pitched a new think tank named for Clinton’s political philosophy, Third Way.

Fast forward a decade: The philosophy, sketched out privately at the Boston office of Brown Rudnick,
is now at the center of an intense struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party.

Third Way, backed by Wall Street titans, corporate money, and congressional allies, is publicly warning against divisive “soak-the-rich” politics voiced by populist Democrats. Its target: Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts senator whose rise to power two years ago helped galvanize Democratic grass roots against Wall Street and pushed the issue of income inequality to the forefront.

This is more than a grudge match. At stake for the Democratic Party is the support of middle-class, swing voters who decide elections.

Third Way ignited a clash in December when its leaders essentially declared war on Warren in a guest column in the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal, warning Democrats not to follow Warren and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio “over the populist cliff.”

Many on the left were shocked, and angered. Warren’s allies saw Third Way as a proxy — being used by her enemies on Wall Street to scare off the rest of the party.

“Wall Street is extremely good at pushing anybody that is critical of them as being populist, or know-nothings,” said Ted Kaufman, who temporarily served as an appointed US senator to replace Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., then succeeded Warren in leading a special congressional panel that oversaw the bank bailout.

For their part, Third Way representatives bristle at the idea they are doing the bidding of Wall Street power brokers.

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Today's Wars May Signal A Qualitative Change In US Foreign Policy

By Harry Targ
Beaver County Peace Links via Diary of a Heartland Radical

From Wartime Alliance to Deadly Global Conflict

I do not believe history repeats itself but I find myself looking back to the past for lessons which might be relevant today. For example, during World War II an “unnatural alliance” between the United States (the new imperial hegemon), Great Britain (the old one), and the former Soviet Union (the revolutionary challenger to capitalist hegemony) formed to defeat fascism in Europe. It was in the interests of all three nations to do so.

As the war was ending the leaders of the “big three” nations--President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and the Soviet leader, Joseph Stalin--met at Yalta in the Crimea to plan for a post-war world order. They made agreements on Eastern European borders, facilitating elections in Poland, administering a defeated Germany, defeating Japan in the Asian war, and planning for the first meeting of the United Nations. The three leaders returned to their respective countries declaring that a peaceful post-war world order would be established. “The spirit of Yalta” brought hope to millions of North Americans and Europeans, West and East.

In April, President Roosevelt died and a new more bellicose administration had come to power in Washington. Within three months the United States had successfully tested its new atomic bomb and dropped two of them on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. By the fall, 1945 US and Soviet disputes over treaties ending the status of war with former fascist regimes in Eastern Europe began to destroy the comity that had been built over the course of the war and codified at Yalta. In 1946 crises occurred between East and West over Iran and Greece. It is clear in retrospect that ever since its ascendency to power the new Truman administration had been working to achieve global hegemony in the post-war period, using its military and economic superiority as tools.

In the spring of 1947, the US decided to replace the British in Greece as the latter worked to crush a leftwing insurgency in that country’s civil war. President Truman was warned by the Republican Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he, Truman, better “scare hell out of the American people.” This was so because most Americans favored peace over more conflict in world affairs and many still perceived the former wartime ally, the Soviet Union, positively.

The announcement of the new global threat and the need to mobilize resources over the next several years to “defend” against the demonic Soviet Union led to the recommendations for action in the famous Truman Doctrine speech to Congress in March, 1947. These put the US on a war path that would cost more than 10 million lives, international and American, and at least $5 trillion by the twenty-first century.

So the decisions made between 1945 and 1947 presaged a dramatic shift in United States foreign policy that had enormous consequences for both its own citizens and the world. Decision-makers in the Truman administration who favored maintaining some semblance of cooperation with the former Soviet Union lost their influence. Even some of Truman’s hardline advisors like George Kennan felt the evolving policies went too far in terms of bellicosity.

From Global Conflict Management to Renewed Global Military Madness

Fast-forward some 65 years. President Obama, from 2008 to 2013, continued the Bush war in Afghanistan, ordered drone attacks on alleged terrorist targets in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and authorized covert support for destabilization of populist regimes in Latin America. In contrast, at the same time, he has tried to create a more “realist” panoply of policies based on diplomacy and modest recognition that there were limits to US power. During the President’s second term, the United States partnered with Russia to curb Syria’s brutal war on its citizens and Russia, Iran, and the United States began to make progress in arms negotiations.

But then, with the aid of undercover US operatives, rebels overthrew a Ukraine government in February 2014 that had close ties with Russia.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Western Crusade in Middle East Has No Better Prospects Than Last

Photo: Iraq Kurds Protesting ISIS

Global Times –China - September 17, 2014

Washington's foreign policy has an increasingly Alice in Wonderland character. But President Barack Obama's policy toward the Islamic State (IS) does not surprise.

To consider the new US crusade, it is helpful to get first the context and narrative into perspective.

The present mess in the Middle East was caused by the George W. Bush administration's deeply flawed Middle East policy featuring an unnecessary war for "regime change" in Iraq. The US lied to the world about the Iraq threat and then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Back in 2002, despite warnings from many experts including academics, US military officers, diplomats and intelligence professionals, the US launched what president Bush himself called a "crusade" against Baghdad.

Back then, as today, what experts have to say apparently makes no difference. What does make a difference is what is politically correct inside the beltway surrounding Washington.

Policy is driven by a foreign policy elite linked to a variety of think tanks that receive money from foreign governments and corporations as well as receive generous funding from interested individuals, organizations and lobbies.

Many politicians ardently espouse the foreign policy line of the day, so as to themselves receive campaign funding and good press. This is particularly true with respect to the Middle East, as the pro-Israel lobby in the US is well organized and generous to friends in high places.

When it comes to Middle East policy, the US news media is of no help, as the pro-Israel lobby exercises decisive influence and in many cases ownership patterns are Israel-friendly.

Obama's policy has been a continuation of the regime change crusade launched by George W. Bush. Contrary to campaign promises, there has been no real "change" in US foreign policy.

The Obama administration joined the UK and France to launch regime change wars against Libya and Syria. Thus it is the West which created the present situation in the Middle East.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

FROM VIETNAM TO IRAQ, LESSONS NEVER LEARNED

By Tom Hayden

Progressive America Rising

[Ann Arbor, Sept 16, 2014 - Tom Hayden is speaking Wednesday night at Angell Hall, the site of the first Vietnam teach-in in 1965, on the lessons of Vietnam for Iraq. Excerpts of the speech are here, the full text is at the Democracy Journal online.]

I am joining many peace groups around American in expressing opposition to the escalation of the Iraq War into a quagmire that is likely to be costly in lives, tax dollars, and our tarnished reputation.

Ann Arbor is the place, along with Berkeley, where the young American peace movement demanded a teach-in, an end to campus business as usual, an end to intellectual conformity, as we confronted the growing horror of the Vietnam War.

There are many parallels between the wars of our youth and the latest one unfolding. Once again, we need to suspend the business-as-usual of our everyday lives and ask the questions that need to be asked. We cannot trust "the best and brightest" to have the answers any more than students trusted their pedigreed elders fifty years.

We need Congressional hearings, full debate and a vote on authorization of this unilateral war. In 1964, the Gulf of Tonkin "incident" was contrived and exploited to stampede our country into a hasty and irresponsible authorization. Only two members of Congress had thegood sense then to vote "no" on the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution which permitted an open-ended bloodletting for more than a decade before the Congress finally helped put an end to it.

I would hope that the present Congress learns from the past to check and balance the war "fever" gripping Washington as described this week by the New York Times. I would hope that the Obama administration re-reads history and thinks again before excluding the Congress and the American public from a war by executive fiat. Only a Congressional debate with give legitimacy to the very real questions, and consideration of alternatives, to the questions many Americans are asking about this crisis.Whatever the outcome of a Congressional vote, the dissent deserves to be aired, the hawks must be held accountable, and the questioning must begin. No threat justifies the exclusion of Congress from its constitutional role, nor the American people from a voice in a decision that will take American lives and resources.

The Obama administration needs to take its case to the United Nations as well, since war is being planned against Syria, a sovereign state, and because diplomacy, beginning now, will be the only way this conflict will end.

During Vietnam, we were told that the "faceless Vietcong enemy" was disemboweling innocent villages, slaughtering Catholics, kidnapping children and imposing a dictatorship through aggression against South Vietnam. What we were not told was that our government was intervening in a civil war that had been set in motion by the French colonialists who we replaced in trying to "save" South Vietnam. We were fighting against a communist-led army, yes, but one who represented national independence to most of the Vietnamese people.

We were told it would be an affordable war, that our great country could pay for both "guns and butter", that it would be short in duration too. It bankrupted the US Treasury and lasted at least fifteen years.

We were told, and still are told, that counterinsurgency would be the answer, that rounding up the villagers in "strategic hamlets" to isolate the guerrillas, then a targeted killing campaign against those guerrillas, would bring stability to South Vietnam at last. The infamous "tiger cages" and Can Son island were the precursors of Abu Graeb and the dungeons in Iraq where eventually ISIS was born. Our own generals like David Petraeus wrongly interpreted the lessons of Vietnam to propose a renewal of Vietnam's failed CIA "Phoenix Program" and tried in vain to apply to Iraq in 2007.

We were told we were fighting for democracy, but in fact thousands of Americans were drafted against their will, families on all sides were deceived by one administration after another, secret bombings were carried out against Cambodia and Laos, secret CIA counterterrorism operations targeted alleged terrorists, and the repression came home in countless FBI campaigns to spy on, inform on, harrass, indict and demonize the anti-war opposition, from Dr. Spock to Dan Ellsberg, from the Catholic resistance led by the Berrigans to the Chicago 8 defendants. The Watergate conspiracy was properly described as a cancer on our democratic system, and two presidents were driven from office as a result of that war. Democracy was saved by the anti-war movement, including many soldiers in our armed forces, and by political leaders who found the courage to stand up.

Because our leaders didn't listen, or listened too late, the end came in Vietnam as a total catastrophe, the implosion of the South Vietnamese government and its armed forces, and the literal expulsion of American diplomats from the rooftop of our embassy.

It may seem implausible, but who is to say these events won't repeat in some ways again?

Our government even now is spending millions on a multi-year memorial campaign to teach "the lessons" of Vietnam in our schools, while excluding the voices of the Vietnam generation dissenters who were right, and while failing in its ability to accept that Vietnam war a mistake. Some of us are meeting now to demand a say in how the Vietnam era is taught - just as we must demand a say in how to understand and approach Iraq. If a mistake is repeated over and over, the result will be the same. We must demand of our Sec. of State John Kerry, a Vietnam war hero who through some of his ribbons away and became a leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War, that he reflect on the very question he asked the Senate forty long years ago: who will be the last to die for a mistake?

It is a question as real today as before. Tonight we must begin again, announcing a demand for debate, diplomacy and democracy.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Clinton vs. Obama, Iraq and ‘The Long War’ Theory

This photo is believed to be the ISIS forces moving into the Anbar province of Iraq in January 2014. (Photo: Associated Press, 2014)This article was republished by The Nation on August 13, 2014.

Tom Hayden on the Alternatives in Iraq

By Tom Hayden

Beaver County Peace Links via The Nation

Aug 12, 2014 - Hillary Clinton's flapping of her hawkish wings only intensifies the pressure on President Barack Obama to escalate US military involvement in the sectarian wars of Iraq and Syria. Domestic political considerations already are a major factor in forcing Obama to "do something" to save the Yazidis, avert "another Benghazi," and double down in the undeclared Long War against Islamic fundamentalism.

Clinton certainly was correct in arguing that Obama's statement "don't do stupid stuff" is not an organizing principle of US foreign policy. Instead of offering a new foreign policy, based for example on democracy, economic development and renewable energy however, Clinton lapsed into the very Cold War thinking she once questioned in the Sixties.

America's long war on jihadi terrorism should be modeled on the earlier Cold War against communism, Clinton said. We made "mistakes", supported many "nasty guys", did "some things we're not proud of", but the Cold War ended in American triumph with, "The defeat of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism."

Ignoring the new Cold Wars with Russia and China, Clinton's nostalgic vision is sure to be widely accepted among Americans, including many Democrats. She ignores, or may not even be familiar with, the actual Long War doctrine quietly promulgated during the past eight years by national security gurus like David Kilcullen, the top counterinsurgency adviser to General David Petraeus in Iraq.

Put simply, the Long War theorists have projected an eighty-year military conflict with militant Islam over an "arc of crisis" spanning multiple Muslim countries. Starting with 9/11, the Long War would continue through twenty presidential terms. In Kilcullen's thesis, Iraq is only a "small war" within a larger one. Since a war of such duration could never be declared officially, the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force [AUMF] stands as its feeble underlying justification.

Obama has made cautious attempts to separate himself from the Long War doctrine and even seeks to narrow or revisit the AUMF. But Obama has never named and or criticized the doctrine, presumably for fear of being accused of going soft in the War on Terrorism. Obama's true foreign policy leaning is revealed in his repeated desire to "do some nation building here at home", which many hawks view as a retreat from America's imperial role. They prefer, in Clinton's words, the posture of "aggressively, belligerently putting yourself forward," rather than being, "down on yourself."

While expanding US drone attacks, intervening in Libya and Yemen, and now escalating again in Iraq, Obama has emphasized another foreign policy direction that is disturbing to hawks. Obama repeatedly argues, “There is no military solution…" to the very wars he has engaged in, or tried to disengage from. That rational observation apparently is too "radical" for a government with the largest military in the world.

Clinton thinks the better approach is a little more muscular intervention - arming the Syrian rebels, for example, combined with some "soft power" on the ground.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Will Dems Ever Stop Being Craven Tools of Wall Street?

By William Greider

Progressive America Rising via The Nation

July 25, 2014 - To put it crudely, the dilemma facing the Democratic party comes down to this: Will Dems decide next time to stand with the working people, or will they stick with their big-money friends in finance and business? Some twenty years ago, Bill Clinton [3] taught Democrats how they can have it both ways. Take Wall Street’s money—gobs of it—while promising to govern on a heart-felt agenda of “Putting People First.”

It worked, sort of, for the party. Not so much for the people. New Democrats prevailed. Old labor-liberals lost their seat at the table. Among left-wing malcontents, Bill Clinton became “slick Willie.”

Now economic adversities have blown away the Clinton legacy, which is rightly blamed for much of what happened to middle-class wage earners. New voices like senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherod Brown are demanding a new new politics—big governing reforms that really do put people first. The old New Dems are stuck with their moderation and obsolete economic doctrine that is utterly irrelevant amid the nation’s depressed circumstances.

Sooner or later I expect politics will change, because the injuries and adversities will not go away in the absence of stronger government interventions. For now, however, the Clintonites are the Democratic Party, having deliberately excluded liberal thinkers and activists from the ranks of government policymakers for two decades. Economic experts recruited by the Obama administration are more likely to have been trained at Goldman Sachs or Citigroup. They do not personally share the public’s anger.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Interventionist Starved Neo-Con Hawks Are Trying to Drag Us Back Into More War

 

Amid the crises in Iraq, Gaza and Ukraine, hawks are calling for U.S. military intervention.

By William Greider

Beaver County Peace Links via The Nation

July 25, 2014 |   The War Party in American politics is beating its drum and once again, mobilizing hawkish politicians and policy experts of both parties to wage a high-minded war of words.

Hawks are salivating because they see the world’s current turmoil as a chance to rehabilitate themselves and the virtues of US military intervention. Three hot wars are underway and the United States has a client state in each of them. Civil wars in the Ukraine and Iraq plus Israel’s invasion of Gaza give Washington’s armchair generals fresh opportunity to scold President Obama for his reluctance to fight harder. They are not exactly demanding US invasions—not yet anyway—but they want the dovish president and Congress to recognize war as a worthy road to peace.

“In my view, the willingness of the United States to use force and to threaten to use force to defend its interests and the liberal world order has been an essential and unavoidable part of sustaining the world order since the end of World War II,” historian Robert Kagan wrote in The Washington Post.“Perhaps we can move away from the current faux Manichaean struggle between straw men and return to a reasoned discussion of when force is the right tool.”

“Reasoned discussion,” that’s the ticket. By all means, we should have more of it. But please don’t count on it from Professor Kagan. What he neglected to mention in his stately defense of American war-making is that he himself was a leading champion fifteen years ago in stirring up the political hysteria for the US invasion of Iraq. Why isn’t this mentioned by The Washington Post when it publishes Kagan’s monthly column on its op-ed page? Or by The New York Times in its adoring profile of the professor? Why doesn’t the Brookings Institution, the Washington think tank that employs Kagan as a senior thinker?

Kagan was the co-founder of the Committee to Liberate Iraq, the neocon front group that heavily promoted pre-emptive aggression and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. You might assume Kagan was reacting to 9/11, but his role as propagandist for war actually preceded the terror attack by three years. Back then, Kagan and William Kristol also co-founded the Committee for a New American Century that was meant to restore American greatness through military power. They attacked the United Nations and warned that “American policy cannot continue to be crippled by misguided insistence on unanimity at the UN Security Council.” To Iraq’s lasting sorrow, George W. Bush took their advice.

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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Memo to Obama: Avoid Splinters in Iraq, Syria

Jim McGovern (D-MA) pushing war powers vote

By Tom Hayden

Beaver County Peace Links

July 15, 2014 - Congressional support for a War Powers authorization looms as the only opportunity for the US to avoid another self-inflicted wound in Iraq and Syria.

The fifteen-day deadline provides an opportunity for anti-war groups to exert public pressure against any escalation, and a wrenching deadline for Congress to end its dickering and denial.

The best that can be expected is a face-saving bipartisan formula for avoiding a quagmire while minimizing the political cycle of blame. The difficulty will be defining a formula that might yet patch together the Sunni "humpty" with the Shiite "dumpty". If that is possible at all, the interim solution will take the same threat by John Kerry and the Western alliance to stop funding sectarianism, which has worked for the moment in Afghanistan. A no-fault divorce of Kurds, Sunnis, and Shiites seems out of the question, meaning an expansion of war.

The most important advice President Barack Obama should heed in Iraq and Syria is to avoid splinters. When these tiny barbed slivers cut into flesh, they can be painful to remove completely. Patience and soapy warm water are recommended, which translates into diplomacy as the equivalent of medicine.

ISIS is an Islamic splinter ready to pierce American flesh. The responsible US approach should be hands-off. As predicted here, the ISIS offensive will stall as it approaches Shiite strongholds in Baghdad and further south. Tensions within ISIS will increase. Instead of funding and arming the sectarian al-Maliki regime, the best American approach is to threaten a cutoff in funding unless al-Maliki abides by a genuine power-sharing arrangement, presumably including his resignation. As frequently occurs, America's "client" (in this case al-Maliki) turns the tables (on his "master") with confidence that the US will not pull the plug. 

ISIS is only the latest example of how wrongheaded US military intervention often creates exactly the enemies they claim to be preventing. It is established fact, except among the neo-con crackpots, that al-Qaeda did not even exist in Iraq until the US invasion created the conditions for its birth. Then US Special Ops went to war in Iraq against al-Qaeda in league with Sunni "Awakening" forces in 2007, when that version of AQ was considered too extreme even for the disenfranchised Sunni tribes in Anbar Province. The apparent "defeat" of that al-Qaeda by the US and the tribes spawned a splinter insurgency, which has become ISIS in Iraq.

Meanwhile, other splinters were breaking loose within the Syrian Sunni insurgency against Assad. While the US tried to pick and choose among competing "free Syria" contenders, the al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri was expelling the splinter group which became ISIS. The grounds for the split were two-fold: that the ISIS violence was too extreme and indiscriminate, and Zawahiri wanted ISIS to focus on Iraq and leave the Nusra Front to deal with Syria. The splintering continued with the formation of the Army of Islam, whose thousands of fighters have been battling ISIS on the same issues of excessive brutality. By one estimate, seven thousand fighters have been killed in clashes between these Syrian splinter groups since January.

Air strikes by the US, combined with any escalation of ground forces, under whatever label, would be a key factor in unifying these insurgent splinters who otherwise are at each other's throats. The splinters thus lodged in America's flesh will be hard to remove any time soon.

****************

McGovern Demands War Powers Vote in Two Weeks

July 11 - Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) today introduced a measure requiring a House vote on Iraq under the War Powers Resolution, forcing the Republican leadership to take action within fifteen days or face an up-or-down vote, which might curb the administration's escalating military intervention in the civil war. 

"We are trying to signal to the House leadership that we have a constitutional responsibility on questions of war and peace," McGovern said this morning. "It's all to easy to let things drift. When Congress goes on recess in August, there could be more American troops authorized, or a US bombing. John Boehner doesn't want a debate on Iraq. He's rather sit back. There's a fear that a majority will say they don't want a war."

McGovern's measure is co-authored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC). Lee has been circulating a House letter calling for application of the War Powers Resolution. The new measure contains a trigger that is hard to avoid. McGovern is seeking co-authors on his proposal while the clock is running. Lee, along with Republican Rep. Scott Rigell, has gathered nearly one hundred signers on a House letter urging compliance with the War Powers Resolution

--

Sources:

McGovern's House Floor Speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3VZGjxD7SE&feature=youtu.be

The Resolution: http://mcgovern.house.gov/sites/mcgovern.house.gov/files/McGovern%20HCON%20RES%20105.pdf

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Environmentalists, Capitalists Should Broker Green New Deal

By Tom Hayden

Progressive America Rising via San Francisco Chronicle.

July 4, 2014 - Most environmentalists see themselves on the left of the political spectrum, so what's the Left to do when leaders of finance capital take leading roles in confronting climate change?

That development blossomed into public view last month with a coordinated offensive led by Hank Paulson, the Republican architect of the 2008 Wall Street bailout, and two billionaires, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was a leading opponent of Occupy Wall Street, and Bay Area liberal Democrat Tom Steyer, to try to influence the national dialogue. Paulson initiated the effort with a June 21 manifesto in the New York Times urging a tax on carbon.

At the same time, Bloomberg released an economic report declaring that zero-emission energy sources, led by solar, will make up more than half the world's power mix by 2030. Bloomberg already has given the Sierra Club $50 million for its campaign to shut down Big Coal. The independent Steyer is one of the biggest funders of environmentalist political campaigns, and may one day be a candidate himself.

California's groundbreaking climate-change policies, including its cap-and-trade program, are based on the assumption that "when faced with the certainty of reasonable policy, businesses innovate and successfully cut pollution with consumer-oriented solutions that drive their markets forward and continue economic growth." California's tailpipe emissions standards, for example, overcame Detroit's resistance and led to a doubling of automobile efficiency measures in recent decades.

As more finance capitalists go green, the trend will be problematic for those with an anticapitalist or socialist agenda. They blame capitalism for the unfettered exploitation of the Earth's resources and life-supporting ecosystem. History shows that fundamental critique to be on the mark, though it can be dogmatic in its assumptions.

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Five Ways Wall Street Continues to Screw Up the Economy for the Rest of Us and How to Fix It

By Robert Kuttner

Beaver County Blue via Huffington Post

July 2, 2014 - The shocking thing about the financial collapse of 2008 is not that Wall Street excesses pushed us into the worst economy crisis since the Depression. It's that the same financial system has been propped back up and that elites are getting richer than ever, while the effects of that collapse are continuing to sandbag the rest of the economy. Oh, and most of this aftermath happened while a Democrat was in the White House.

Consider:

  • The biggest banks are bigger and more concentrated than ever.
  • Subprime (subprime!) is making a comeback [2] with interest rates of 8 to 13 percent.
  • Despite Michael Lewis's devastating expose of how high speed trading is nothing but a technological scam that allows insiders to profit at the expense of small investors, regulators are not moving to abolish it [3].
  • The usual suspects are declaring the housing crisis over, even though default and foreclosure rates in the hardest hit cities and states are upwards of 25 percent.
  • The deficit is falling, now just 2.8 percent of GDP [4], thanks to massive cuts in social spending. Isn't that reassuring?

Meanwhile, back in the real economy, good jobs are far too scarce, incomes are stagnant, while 95 percent of the gains go to the top one percent.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Don’t Go Back to Iraq! Five Steps the U.S. Can Take in Iraq Without Going Back to War

There is no military solution in Iraq—so end the threats of U.S. airstrikes, bring home the Special Forces, and turn the aircraft carrier around. (Photo: Jayel Aheram / Flickr)

By Phyllis Bennis

Beaver County Peace Links via Common Dreams

This is how wars begin.

Barack Obama says we’re not going back to Iraq. “American forces will not be returning to combat in Iraq,” he said on June 19th, “but we will help Iraqis as they take the fight to terrorists who threaten the Iraqi people, the region, and American interests as well.”

The White House says it’s “only” sending 275 soldiers to protect the embassy, it’s only sending 300 Special Forces, they’re only “advisers.” There’s only one aircraft carrier in the region, they say, and a few other warships. They’re considering missile strikes but they’re not going to send ground troops.

Iraq isn’t a start-up war for the United States—we’ve been there before. And these actions increase the danger we could be heading there again. We thought we had a president who learned the lesson, at least about Iraq—he even repeats it every chance he gets: “There is no military solution.”

This is a very dangerous move. President Obama’s words are right: there is no military solution.But his actions are wrong. When there is no military solution, airstrikes, Special Forces, arms deals, and aircraft carriers will only make it worse.

We need to stop it now. Before the first Special Forces guy gets captured and suddenly there are boots on the ground to find him. Before the first surveillance plane gets shot down and suddenly there are helicopter crews and more boots on the ground to rescue the pilot. Before the first missile hits a wedding party that some faulty intel guy thought looked like a truckload of terrorists—we seem to be good at that. And before we’re fully back at war.

Iraq is on the verge of full-scale civil war along the fault lines set in place when U.S. troops invaded and occupied the country more than a decade ago. We need to demand that our government do five things right away:

First, do no harm. There is no military solution in Iraq—so end the threats of airstrikes, bring home the evac troops and Special Forces, and turn the aircraft carrier around.

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Saturday, June 14, 2014

Behind the Madness in Iraq

 

By Tom Hayden
Beaver County Peace Links via HuffPost

June 13, 2014 - The U.S. had no business invading Iraq. We toppled a dictatorship on a false 9/11 rationale, which plunged Iraq into a sectarian civil war inside a war with the United States. We left behind a vengeance-driven Shiite regime aligned with Iran. Now the sectarian war in Syria is enlarging into a regional one. The primary blame for this disaster is on the Bush administration, but also on all those who succumbed to a Superpower Syndrome, which said we could redesign the Middle East. There is no reason whatsoever to justify further loss of American lives or tax dollars on a conflict that we do not understand and that started before the United States was born.

Anti-war networks already are sending online messages to Congress opposing any U.S. military re-intervention in Iraq. Representative Nancy Pelosi already is there. Those voices need to be amplified to help President Barack Obama stave off the most irrational forces during this crisis.

Then we need to construct a narrative that blocks the hawks from blaming Obama for "losing" Iraq, and turns the focus on the neo-conservatives, Republicans, and Democratic hawks who took this country into a sea of blood. Most of them remain in power, unscathed and immune, even occupying high positions in this administration. What they fear most is not an Iraqi insurgency, but the risen families of the dead and wounded, on all sides, that increasingly ask who led them into an unwinnable, unaffordable war. The duty-driven bravery of their lost sons and daughters stands in direct contrast to shameless privilege of those who sent them into harm's way.

As this immediate crisis unfolds, we must act to strip away certain delusions. The least of these, though still irritating, is the view of many visible anti-war "radicals" that says the United States never really withdrew from Iraq, but instead secretly left behind tens of thousands of Special Forces in disguise. This silly notion was meant to refute the belief that Obama had "ended" the war.

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Economy Is Growing, but We’re Replacing Good Jobs With Bad Ones

chart

By Martin Hart-Landsberg

June 05, 2014 - In a fancy bit of marketing, U.S. capitalists have been reborn as “job creators.” As such, they were rewarded with lower taxes, weaker labor laws, and relaxed government regulation. However, despite record profits, their job creation performance leaves a lot to be desired.

It’s time to move beyond our current focus on the business cycle and initiate a critical assessment of the way our economy operates and in whose interest.

According to the official data the last U.S. recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. Thus, we have officially been in economic expansion for almost five years. The gains from the expansion should be strong and broad-based enough to ensure real progress for the majority over the course of the business cycle. If not, it’s a sign that we need a change in our basic economic structure. In other words, it would be foolish to work to sustain an economic structure that was incapable of satisfying majority needs even when it was performing well according to its own logic.

A recent study by the National Employment Law Project titled “The Low-Wage Recovery” provides one indicator that it is time for us to pursue a change. It shows that the current economic expansion is transitioning the U.S. into a low-wage economy.

The figure below shows the net private sector job loss by industries classified according to their medium wage from January 2008 to February 2010 and the net private sector job gain using the same classification from March 2010 to March 2014. As we can see, the net job loss in the first period was greatest in high-wage industries and the net job creation in the second period was greatest in low-wage industries.

As the study explains:

The food services and drinking places, administrative and support services (includes temporary help), and retail trade industries are leading private sector job growth during the recent recovery phase. These industries, which pay relatively low wages, accounted for 39 percent of the private sector employment increase over the past four years.

If the hard times of recession disproportionately eliminate high-wage jobs and the “so called” good times of recovery bring primarily low-wage jobs, it is time to move beyond our current focus on the business cycle and initiate a critical assessment of the way our economy operates and in whose interest.


This post originally appeared on Sociological Images, a Pacific Standard partner site, as “The U.S. Is Replacing Good Jobs With Bad Ones.”

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Elizabeth Warren and The New Populist Challenge

By Robert Borosage

Progressive America Rising via Campaign for America’s Future

May 28, 2014 - A powerful new populist challenge is emerging from the reality of an economy that is not working for working people. It is expressed not by the Koch-funded, rabidly anti-government Tea Party, but by the new populists, inside and outside the Democratic Party.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren has emerged as its champion. Her speech at the New Populism Conference sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future on May 22 summarizes the case.

For the mainstream media, the headline from the conference was Warren’s reiteration that she has no intention of running for president. Like all such statements, that pledge is written in water, inevitably impacted by times and tides. For progressives, the real news was the expanded agenda that she announced she was ready to “fight for,” and her forceful commitment to reframe the national debate.

Warren began with her basic case: Americans know that the “game is rigged.” That injustice is exposed in everyday scandals, from the tax dodges that allow millionaires to pay lower taxes than their secretaries, budget priorities that lard the most profitable corporations in the world while cutting funding for education, a justice system that jails kids for possessing “a few ounces of pot,” while bankers launder billions in drug cartel profits and “no one even gets arrested.”

This forces, Warren argues, not only a “fight over economics, over privilege, over power,” but also a “fight over values.” Conservatives are guided by their age-old principle: “I’ve got mine, the rest of you are on your own.”

“But we’re guided by principle, too. It’s a simple idea: We all do better when we work together and invest in our future.”

Then she outlined an agenda based on core values that the new populists “are willing to fight for.” This includes the senator’s signature issues: Cracking down on Wall Street; protecting consumers in from the “tricks and traps” of the financial world; giving every child a fair shot at an education, beginning by insuring that college is affordable; ensuring there is equal pay for equal work.

But her agenda also embraced big ideas that she has only just begun to champion. The commitment to retirement security requires not just defending, but expanding Social Security. The new populists, she argued, have to fight for “the right of workers to come together, to bargain together” for wages and working conditions. Strikingly, she called for a trade policy that works for Americans and not just for global corporations, noting the current discussions are secret because Americans would reject the deals if they knew about them.

She pledged to fight for the public investments vital to our future – from rebuilding our decrepit infrastructure, to expanded R&D, to affordable, high quality education for every child. And, of course, repeated her commitment to fair taxes on the rich and corporations to pay for what we need.

With this speech, Warren dramatized the fault lines between the new populism and core elements of the conservative economics of the last decades, from Reagan to Clinton to Obama: coddling Wall Street, peddling corporate trade accords, enforcing fiscal austerity, going AWOL in the war on workers, and now pushing cuts in retirement security to help pay down the debt amassed from the economic collapse caused by Wall Street’s excesses.

Warren’s list is not a fringe agenda. Elements have been adopted by Senate Democrats, even in an election year featuring a struggle to defend relatively conservative Democratic incumbents in largely red states. Their “fair shot agenda” includes raising the minimum wage, pay equity, and cracking down on wage theft. They’ve embraced the Warren proposal to refinance existing student loans at far lower rates, paid for by closing tax loopholes for millionaires. Democratic leaders Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi have blocked a vote on “fast track” trade authority before the election. Democratic senators are increasing the pressure on the Justice Department and regulatory agencies to enforce the law on the big banks.

Warren’s commitment to “fight for” this agenda, already influencing the 2014 campaign, will surely help define the debate in 2016, whether the senator ultimately throws her hat in the ring or not. This will pose some “hard choices” to Hillary Clinton’s formidable candidacy. Hillary is Wall Street’s favored candidate. The new populism insures greater strain between Democratic voters and many of its donors. Hillary is quintessentially the candidate of experience. The new populism demands change.

Hillary and Bill have been reframing his presidency in more populist terms, sensibly contrasting the jobs growth and broadly shared rewards with what has followed. But Clinton embraced many of the conservative follies of the time – the NAFTA and China trade accords, tax cuts on investor income, tax breaks for CEO stock options, fiscal austerity, deregulation of Wall Street and escalating financial crises, welfare repeal, three-strikes-and-out sentencing and soaring imprisonment. Hillary will need to figure out how to tout the Clinton record while arguing that new realities require new directions.

With Americans discouraged by the economy and increasingly outraged at the rigged game, presidential candidates – in both primaries and the general election – will have to present themselves as clear and compelling champions of change. Warren and the new populists are setting down the markers that define what change is. That will have a major impact in 2016, whether Sen. Warren ultimately runs or not.

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Sunday, May 18, 2014

Today’s New Leader, in Prison, Learning from Eugene Debs

A Note From Occupy Wall Street Activist Cecily McMillan

By CECILY MCMILLAN

Good morning. I’m writing from the Rose M. Singer Correctional Facility, dorm 2 East B on Rikers Island – where I’ve been held for the past 4 days.

Admittedly, I was shocked by the jury’s verdict on Monday, but was not surprised by the events that followed. An overreaching prosecutor plus a biased judge logically adds up to my being remanded to Rikers.

I was prepared then, as I am now, to stand by my convictions and face the consequences of my actions – namely that of refusing to forsake my values and what I know to be true in exchange for my “freedom.”

Packed into a room with 45 other women – often restricted to my cot – I’ve had nothing but time to measure the strength of my beliefs alongside that ambiguous concept – “freedom.” (I’ve come to the conclusion that it is far easier to weigh such tradeoffs from the comfort of one’s own bed.)

At Rikers, the day begins with 4:30am breakfast. Milk cartons in hand, the women echo a common set of concerns – “can’t reach my lawyer, my family won’t speak to me, no commissary” – and I become painfully aware of how privileged I am, despite what is supposed to be the great equalizing suffering of the prison experience.

Unlike my peers, I have a hell of a lawyer – Marty Stolar – who made the long journey to hold my hand and promise “I will not stop fighting for you.” I also have a gifted team of friends and organizers – ‪#‎Justice4Cecily‬ – that continue to provide around-the-clock care and mobilize public support. Finally, I’m incredibly lucky to have a vast and very much alive movement at my side, sending me “Occupy Love” from across the world.

Despite how obscenely unbalanced our circumstances are, my new-found friends – who have quickly become my comrades – are outraged by my story and resolve to do their part to keep me out of prison. After lunch, they spend their free time writing letters to Judge Zweibel, defending my character and pleading for leniency.

At 6:00pm dinner, the cramped circle of ladies ask me “What exactly is social justice organizing?” Over the complex choreography of food trading I tell them about Democratic Socialist leader Eugene Victor Debs. How nearly 100 years ago he publicly criticized U.S. involvement in WWI – in violation of the Wartime Sedition Act – and was sentenced to 10 years in prison for exercising his constitutional right to free speech. “Sort of like that,” I explain, “But he’s way out of my league – he’s my hero.”

By lights out, a subtle peace has begun to wash over me. I page through a book stopping at Debs’ speech to the Federal Court of Cleveland, Ohio – I read and reread, as if a personal mantra, these opening lines -

“Your honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said it then, as I say it now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

At the close of the night, I smile and shut my eyes. As I drift off, “Somehow,” I think, “this is all a part of the plan.”

Cecily McMillan is an activist now serving a sentence in Riker’s Island. This statement first appeared on http://justiceforcecily.com/.

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