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Bernie Sanders Showed How Democrats Can Win with Socialism 

21 Oct

Bernie Sanders was the clear winner of the CNN debate on tax policy. (CNN)

In CNN’s Tax Debate, Bernie Sanders Showed How Democrats Can Win with Socialism

By offering a bold vision of policies to help working families, Sanders voiced a popular alternative to Ted Cruz and the GOP’s barbarism.

BY KATE ARONOFF

Had Wednesday night’s CNN debate on tax reform instead been one for the presidency, the odds for Democrats would look pretty good. Ted Cruz, an unlikable Republican, was pitted against Bernie Sanders, the country’s most popular politician, who articulated a common-sense vision for an America based on equality and a redistribution of wealth from the top to the bottom.

But rather than embracing this bold vision, the Democratic establishment seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Following the debate, news broke that the DNC had pushed out a number of progressives from its leadership positions, including many who had supported Rep. Keith Ellison in his leadership bid against current chair Tom Perez, Obama’s Labor Secretary.

One of the few correct things Ted Cruz said at Wednesday night’s debate was that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren represent “the heart of the Democratic Party.” This recent purge at the DNC raises the question of whether the party is interested in having a heart at all. Or, for that matter, in winning.

To understand why Sanders’ brand of democratic socialism presents a promising way forward for Democrats, it’s important to understand that the GOP’s current agenda is both hollow and incoherent—on economic issues in particular.

Lies vs. honesty

Throughout the debate, Cruz doubled down on Republicans’ talking point that cutting the corporate tax rate would fuel economic growth—the GOP plan would slash the official rate for corporations from 35 to 20, even though today’s effective corporate tax rate sits well below either of those figures. “When you cut [corporate] taxes the result is everyone benefits because you have more opportunity, better jobs and higher wages,” Cruz claimed.

The trouble with that story is that it’s patently false.

“We have run a four-decade-long experiment in reducing effective marginal tax rates on the rich, both in the individual and corporate tax systems, and it has definitely failed to fuel economic growth,” Marshall Steinbaum, a Fellow and Research Director at the Roosevelt Institute, tells In These Times via email. “What it has done is vastly increase pre-tax income and wealth inequality by facilitating the concentration of power between and within corporations—which I would argue was its aim all along.”

On taxes and other issues, the GOP’s economic talking points tend to rest on a dogma about how the economy should work which isn’t actually supported by evidence. Sanders put the debate in starker and more common-sense terms:

“Senator Cruz wants to see legislation pass that would give $1.9 trillion in tax breaks to the top 1 percent, significantly increase the national debt being passes on to our kids and our grandchildren, and in order to pay for these tax breaks for billionaires, he wants to throw 15 million people off of Medicaid, cut Medicare by over $450 billion… I do not believe that America is about giving tax breaks to the very, very wealthy and cutting life and death programs for working families.”

Cruz would likely have had a much easier time debating an establishment Democrat than a socialist. Jabs about billionaires’ campaign funding would strike close to home for DNC insiders, whereas similar attacks seem to wash off Sanders. This partially explains why Cruz decided to go after Obama’s record rather than push back on the merits of Sanders’ argument: That every American deserves healthcare, free education and a host of other benefits that are considered standard in many other industrialized nations.

For more than 50 years in American politics, accusations of being a socialist have struck fear into the hearts of Democrats. Sanders welcomes the term. “I am a democratic socialist and I ran as an Independent,” Sanders responded when prodded by Cruz. “You didn’t run as a right-winger, you ran as a Republican.”

 

 

 

What taxes are for

Republicans have long tried to craft a reputation for themselves as deficit hawks, even though governmental projections of their current tax plan—as Sanders mentioned—estimate that it would add trillions of dollars to the federal deficit.

In that sense, the GOP plan would seem to fail on its own terms. But that would require the party to genuinely care about the deficit in a way that it never has. On its own, the national debt doesn’t make much of a difference in terms of people’s day-to-day lives. What matters is how that money is spent, and Republicans have historically been better at understanding that than Democrats.

“There’s absolutely no economic justification whatsoever for caring about government deficits in the current economic environment.” Steinbaum explains. “In this, the Republicans have outmaneuvered Democrats time and time again. It’s one of the classic and consequential long-term political failures of the center-left over the last 30 years.”

At a time when inflation has been sluggish, expansionary programs make both economic and political sense. Such policies would help jump start the economy while garnering political support in a populist moment. In contrast to what you might expect from most Democrats, Sanders was able to reframe last night’s debate away from Cruz’s fear-mongering about taxes to what services the government should be expected to provide.

In a sly casting move, CNN recruited a Danish citizen and think tank employee to ask Sanders a gotcha question about the notoriously high taxation rates in Scandinavian social democracies. Ultimately, however, the questioner was forced to admit that Cruz’s demonization of European healthcare systems for being expensive and riddled with long waiting lines was “just not true,” and that his home country is in many ways better at meeting basic needs than his adopted one.

You don’t need to be a socialist to agree that the government should be spending more on the programs that make a positive difference in working peoples’ lives. Especially in the United States, the definition of what constitutes a democratic socialist is somewhat fluid, and many have argued that Sanders is closer to a New Deal Democrat than even a European social democrat.

What Sanders and a rising tide of socialist-aligned organizers and elected officials represent, though, is a break from the fiscal conservatism that has defined the last 20 years of Democratic Party politics, and a defense of good, big government. Whether raising the tax rate to 90 percent for the highest income earners counts as socialism is a debate worth having, but the embrace of such a goal by Democrats would represent a radical shift in how the party has related to tax policy: Seeing taxes as not just as a way to pay for vital programs, but as a means of redistributing wealth and power away from the one percent.

Lessons from the UK

Britain’s political landscape might actually offer a more hopeful way forward than Denmark’s. Conservatives are rapidly shedding members and support under disastrous leadership, and lack either youth support or rising stars. Labour, the opposition party, is unified around an uncompromising socialist vision, and may well be poised to take back the government in the next general election.

If Democrats knew what was good for them, the party could start down a similar path: embrace the fact that Sanders and Warren are the heart the party and lean hard into a redistributive agenda, going after Trump while proposing a visionary path forward. There are better conduits of that message than Sanders, but grooming them for office and national leadership would require the party to refashion itself into a welcoming place for left populism and—on a basic infrastructural level—investing in state parties rather than consultants.

The DNC, by contrast, seems content to keep losing.

Kate Aronoff is a writing fellow at In These Times covering the politics of climate change, the White House transition and the resistance to Trump’s agenda. Follow her on Twitter @katearonoff

 

The “Rigged System” holds no future for the 99% a Political Revolution does Left Wing & Progressive books & blogs fah451bks.wordpress.com

Source: In CNN’s Tax Debate, Bernie Sanders Showed How Democrats Can Win with Socialism – In These Times

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The New York Times and the criminalization of dissent!

14 Oct

 

The unsubstantiated charges of Russian interference in the US elections have developed into an increasingly frenzied campaign to ascribe all opposition within the United States to the actions of a “foreign enemy.”

The campaign within the American media and political establishment over allegations of Russian “hacking” and manipulation of the US elections is being transformed into an increasingly frenzied demand for the criminalization of dissent.

During the first months of the Trump administration, the charges of Russian interference in US politics were primarily used to prosecute a struggle within the American ruling class centered on issues of foreign policy. The anti-Russian campaign has now developed into an effort to ascribe all opposition within the United States to the actions of a “foreign enemy.”

A series of increasingly ludicrous articles have appeared in the US press, channeling information supposedly gathered by the Senate Intelligence Committee from social media companies. The latest appeared on Tuesday in the New York Times, which has played the central role in the media campaign. The front-page article (“Russians Spun American Rage Into a Weapon: Facebook Posts in US Fueled Propaganda”) is a piece of pure political propaganda, filled with unsubstantiated statements, wild speculation and unsupported conclusions.

Social media posts from Americans, the Times asserts, have become “grist for a network of Facebook pages linked to a shadowy Russian company that carried out propaganda campaigns for the Kremlin.” The newspaper claims to have reviewed hundreds of these posts, concluding, “One of the most powerful weapons that Russian agents used to reshape American politics was the anger, passion and misinformation that real Americans were broadcasting across social media platforms.”

The article names several Facebook pages that it baldly asserts, without proof, were owned and controlled by the unnamed Russian company, including United Muslims of America, Being Patriotic, Secured Borders, and Blacktivist.

The entire premise of the Times article is absurd. Pages associated with Russia, it is claimed, are reporting and sharing expressions of anger, sowing discontent and divisions. United Muslims of America, for example, “frequently posted content highlighting discrimination against Muslims.” This, somehow, is criminal activity. Those who originally produced the content or shared the posts are acting, at best, as Russian patsies, and, at worst, as co-conspirators. The Times cites one Trump supporter who shared a post from the Being Patriotic group, characterizing him as “not bothered…by becoming an unwitting cog in the Russian propaganda machine.”

The claims of Russian manipulation read like the ravings of individuals suffering from paranoid delusions. According to an earlier statement from Republican Senator James Lankford, a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Russian “trolls” are responsible for pushing the controversy over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence. Russian “troll farms,” he claimed, were working to “raise the noise level in America.”

Clint Watts, a former top FBI agent who has testified at Senate Intelligence Committee hearings on Russian intervention in the elections and has been frequently quoted in the media, replied to Lankford’s comments by declaring, “The Russians can just sit back and say: ‘Amplify on both sides. Make people angry.’ And it works, man, God, it works.”

Such claims reproduce the worst tactics used during the period of McCarthyite redbaiting. What used to be called “Commie dupes” are now “Russian dupes.” (Unconcerned by the fact that the Soviet Union was dissolved over a quarter century ago, GQ magazine recently posted an article that featured a graphic replacing the “G” in “Google” with a hammer and sickle). Dissent and opposition, according to this line, are to be interpreted not as the product of internal divisions and social tensions, but the nefarious workings of a foreign power.

The Times article includes lines that read like they came straight from the proclamations of Senator Joe McCarthy or the files of J. Edgar Hoover. “The Russians,” it states, “appear to have insinuated themselves across American social media platforms and used the same promotional tools that people employ to share cat videos, airline complaints, and personal rants.” The article speaks of the need to “purge social media networks of foreign influence.”

And what was supposedly involved in this major “covert propaganda campaign?” According to US Senate investigators, Russian companies spent a total of $100,000 on Facebook advertisements to promote messages like those cited by the Times.

Another article appearing in the Times on Tuesday (“Google Inquiry Connects Election Ads to Russians”) asserts that “accounts believed to be connected to the Russian government” purchased a grand total of $4,700 worth of ads, while “a separate $53,000 worth of ads with political material…were purchased from Russian internet addresses, building addresses or with Russian currency…”

This is an infinitesimal fraction of what is spent by political campaigns awash in money from corporate executives and American plutocrats. Some $2.65 billion was spent by the Clinton and Trump campaigns and organizations supporting them during the presidential race. Nearly $7 billion was spent on all US federal elections last year. Yet the Russian government’s supposedly massive campaign of subversion and propaganda amounts to a few tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars on Facebook, Twitter and Google!

 

 

The conclusions would be laughable if the consequence were not so serious.

The New York Times, in close coordination with the Democratic Party and the US intelligence agencies, is engaged in a campaign that is nothing less than criminal. It is engaged in a political conspiracy to outlaw dissent in the United States and justify state efforts to prohibit, blacklist and suppress speech, particularly on the Internet. If the Russian government is merely amplifying content produced by others—including videos depicting police violence and other crimes—then the logical conclusion is that this original content must be proscribed.

Any content or article, including from the Times itself, that examines social discontent in the United States is susceptible to being picked up by the Russians and promoted. Halting such “foreign intervention” requires a regime of censorship and self-censorship of and by all media outlets—precisely what exists in a dictatorship.

The basic target of the lying campaign over Russian manipulation of US public opinion is not Russia, but the American population. The state institutions and the two parties, Democratic and Republican, are deeply discredited and broadly hated. The working class does not need the Russian or Chinese governments to know that American society is massively unequal, that the political system is controlled by the rich, and that the police engage in brutal acts of violence on a daily basis.

Control of the Internet and the suppression of free speech online is a basic strategic issue for the American ruling class. The emergence of online communication and Internet platforms broke the control of the major media conglomerates over the distribution of information. Under conditions of growing popular opposition to social inequality and war, and deepening political crisis, establishing state control over the Internet is seen as a matter of the greatest urgency.

This is what Google has already begun to do. As the World Socialist Web Sitehas documented, changes to Google’s search algorithm in April, introduced under the pretext of combating “fake news” and promoting “authoritative content,” have resulted in a fall in referrals from Google to the WSWS by nearly 70 percent, and to 13 other left-wing sites by between 19 and 63 percent.

The actions of Google are only the beginning. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms are preparing or have already begun to implement similar measures. The US Justice Department has demanded that staff at the American branch of Russian news agency RT register as foreign agents by October 17 or face possible arrest. This action will be used as a precedent for targeting left-wing and antiwar websites and organizations as agencies of a “foreign enemy” that must be shut down or censored.

It is necessary to organize the working class and youth against this neo-McCarthyite assault on free speech and the Internet, connecting the defense of democratic rights to opposition to social inequality, war, dictatorship and the capitalist system. Meetings must be organized throughout the country and internationally to expose what is taking place and mobilize opposition. The WSWS urges all its readers to sign the petition against Internet censorship and contact the Socialist Equality Party today.

Joseph Kishore

 

Order, Compliance, Obedience these are not Liberties – but unobstructed Civil Disobedience Is! All Oppression is connected! All Oppression is Violence!

Source: The New York Times and the criminalization of dissent – World Socialist Web Site

Gar Smith: Stones to Drones: A Short History of War on Earth 

12 Oct

 

Transcript and video – Dandelion Salad Republished with permission from David Swanson at World Beyond War by Gar Smith World Beyond War, Sept. 24, 2017 October 11, 2017 Gar Smith / World Beyond War #NoWar2017 Conference,…

War is humanity’s deadliest activity. From 500 BC to AD 2000 history records more than 1000 [1,022] major documented wars. In the 20th Century, an estimated 165 wars killed as many as 258 million people — more than 6 percent of all the people born during the entire 20th century. WWII claimed the lives of 17 million soldiers and 34 million civilians. In today’s wars, 75 percent of those killed are civilians — mostly women, children, the elderly, and the poor.

The US is the world’s leading purveyor of war. It’s our biggest export. According to Navy historians, from 1776 through 2006, US troops fought in 234 foreign wars. Between 1945 and 2014, the US launched 81% of the world’s 248 major conflicts. Since the Pentagon’s retreat from Vietnam in 1973, US forces have targeted Afghanistan, Angola, Argentina, Bosnia, Cambodia, El Salvador, Grenada, Haiti, Iran, Iraq, Kosovo, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Panama, the Philippines, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen, and the former Yugoslavia.

 

 

Wars against nature have a long history. The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the world’s oldest tales, recounts a Mesopotamian warrior’s quest to kill Humbaba — a monster who reigned over a sacred Cedar Forest. The fact that Humbaba was the servant of Enlil, the god of earth, wind, and air didn’t stop Gilgamesh from killing this protector of Nature and felling the cedars.

The Bible (Judges 15:4-5) relates an unusual “scorched-earth” attack on the Philistines when Samson “caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail-to-tail in pairs. He then fastened a torch to every pair of tails . . . and let the foxes loose in the standing grain of the Philistines.”

During the Peloponnesian War, King Archidamus began his attack on Plataea by felling all the fruit trees surrounding the town.

In 1346, Mongol Tartars employed biological warfare to attack the Black Sea town of Caffa — by catapulting bodies of plague victims over the fortified walls.


Poisoning water supplies and destroying crops and livestock are a proven means of subduing a population. Even today, these “scorched-earth” tactics remain a preferred way of dealing with agrarian societies in the Global South.

During the American Revolution, George Washington employed “scorched-earth” tactics against Native Americans who allied with British troops. The fruit orchards and corn crops of the Iroquois Nation were razed in hopes that their destruction would cause the Iroquois to perish as well.

The American Civil War featured Gen. Sherman’s “March through Georgia” and Gen. Sheridan’s campaign in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, two “scorched-earth” assaults aimed at destroying civilian crops, livestock, and property. Sherman’s army devastated 10 million acres of land in Georgia while Shenandoah’s farmlands were turned into fire-blackened landscapes.


During the many horrors of World War I, some of the worst environmental impacts occurred in France. At the Battle of the Somme, where 57,000 British soldiers died in the first day of combat, the High Wood was left a burnt tumble of blasted, mangled trunks.

In Poland, German troops leveled forests to provide timber for military construction. In the process, they destroyed the habitat of the few remaining European buffalo — which were quickly cut down by the rifles of hungry German soldiers.

One survivor described the battlefield as a landscape of “dumb, black stumps of shattered trees which still stick up where there used to be villages. Flayed by splinters of bursting shells, they stand like corpses upright.” A century after the carnage, Belgian farmers are still unearthing the bones of soldiers who bled to death in Flanders Field.

WWI inflicted damage inside the US as well. To feed the war effort, 40 million acres were rushed into cultivation on acreage largely unsuited for agriculture. Lakes, reservoirs, and wetlands were drained to create farmland. Native grasses were replaced with wheat fields. Forests were clear-cut to serve wartime needs. Extensive overplanting of cotton depleted soils that eventually succumbed to drought and erosion.

But the biggest impact came with the oil-fueled mechanization of war. Suddenly, modern armies no longer needed oats and hay for horses and mules. By the end of WWI, General Motors had built nearly 9,000 [8,512] military vehicles and turned a tidy profit. Air power would prove to be another historic game-changer.


With the outbreak of World War II, the European countryside suffered a renewed onslaught. German troops flooded 17 percent of Holland’s lowland farms with saltwater. Allied bombers breached two dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, destroying 7500 acres of German farmland.

In Norway, Hitler’s retreating troops methodically destroyed buildings, roads, crops, forests, water supplies, and wildlife. Fifty percent of Norway’s reindeer were killed.

Fifty years after the end of WWII, bombs, artillery shells, and mines were still being recovered from the fields and waterways of France. Millions of acres remain off-limits and the buried ordnance still claims occasional victims.

 

 

WWII’s most destructive event involved the detonation of two nuclear bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The fireballs were followed by a “black rain” that pelted survivors for days, leaving behind an invisible mist of radiation that seeped into the water and air, leaving a chilling legacy of cancers and mutations in plants, animals, and newborn children.

Before the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed in 1963, the US and USSR had unleashed 1,352 underground nuclear blasts, 520 atmospheric detonations, and eight sub-sea explosions — equal to the force of 36,400 Hiroshima-sized bombs. In 2002, the National Cancer Institute warned that everyone on Earth had been exposed to fallout levels that had caused tens of thousands of cancer deaths.


In the closing decades of the 20th century, the military horror show was unrelenting.

For 37 months in the early 1950s, the US pounded North Korea with 635,000 tons of bombs and 32,557 tons of napalm. The US destroyed 78 Korean cities, 5,000 schools, 1,000 hospitals, 600,000 homes, and killed perhaps 30% of the population by some estimates. Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, offered a lower estimate. In 1984, LeMay told the Office of Air Force History: “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population.” Pyongyang has good reason to fear the US.

In 1991, the US dropped 88,000 tons of bombs on Iraq, destroying homes, power plants, major dams and water systems, triggering a health emergency that contributed to the deaths of a half-million Iraqi children.

Smoke from Kuwait’s burning oil fields turned day to night and released vast plumes of toxic soot that drifted downwind for hundreds of miles.

From 1992 to 2007, US bombing helped destroy 38 percent of the forest habitat in Afghanistan.

In 1999, NATO’s bombing of a petrochemical plant in Yugoslavia sent clouds of deadly chemicals into the sky and released tons of pollution into nearby rivers.

Africa’s Rwandan war drove nearly 750,000 people into the Virunga National Park. 105 square miles were ransacked and 35 square miles were “stripped bare.”

In Sudan, fleeing soldiers and civilians spilled into the Garamba National Park, decimating the animal population. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, armed conflict reduced the resident elephant population from 22,000 to 5,000.

During its 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon admits to having spread more 175 tons of radioactive depleted uranium over the land. (The US admits to having targeted Iraq with another 300 tons in 1991.) These radioactive assaults triggered epidemics of cancers and incidents of horrifically deformed children in Fallujah and other cities.


When asked what triggered the Iraq War, former CENTCOM Commander Gen. John Abizaid admitted: “Of course it’s about oil. We can’t really deny that.” Here’s the awful truth: The Pentagon needs to fight wars for oil to fight wars for oil.

The Pentagon measures fuel use in “gallons-per-mile” and “barrels-per-hour” and the amount of oil burned increases whenever the Pentagon goes to war. At its peak, the Iraq War generated more than three million metric tons of global-warming CO2 per month. Here’s an unseen headline: Military pollution is a major factor driving climate change.

And here’s an irony. The military’s scorched Earth tactics have become so devastating that we now find ourselves living — literally — on a Scorched Earth. Industrial pollution and military operations have driven temperatures to the tipping point. In pursuit of profit and power, extractive corporations and imperial armies have effectively declared war on the biosphere. Now, the planet is striking back — with an onslaught of extreme weather.

 

But an insurgent Earth is like no other force a human army has ever faced. A single hurricane can unleash a punch equal to the detonation of 10,000 atomic bombs. Hurricane Harvey’s airstrike on Texas caused $180 billion in damage. Hurricane Irma’s tab could top $250 billion. Maria’s toll is still growing.

Speaking of money. The Worldwatch Institute reports that redirecting 15 percent of the funds spent on weapons globally could eradicate most of the causes of war and environmental destruction. So why does war persist? Because the US has become a Corporate Militocracy controlled by the Arms Industry and Fossil Fuel Interests. As former Congressmember Ron Paul notes: Military spending mainly “benefits a thin layer of well-connected and well-paid elites. The elites are terrified that peace may finally break out, which will be bad for their profits.”

It’s worth recalling that the modern environmental movement arose, in part, in response to the horrors of the Viet Nam war — Agent Orange, napalm, carpet-bombing — and Greenpeace got its start protesting a planned nuclear test near Alaska. In fact, the name “Greenpeace” was chosen because it combined “the two great issues of our times, the survival of our environment and the peace of the world.”

Today our survival is threatened by gun barrels and oil barrels. To stabilize our climate, we need to stop wasting money on war. We can’t win a war directed against the very planet we live on. We need to put down our weapons of war and plunder, negotiate an honorable surrender, and sign a lasting Peace Treaty with the Planet.


Gar Smith is an award-winning investigative journalist, editor emeritus of Earth Island Journal, co-founder of Environmentalists Against War, and author of Nuclear Roulette (Chelsea Green). His new book, The War and Environment Reader (Just World Books) will be published on October 3. He was one of many speakers at the World Beyond War three-day conference on “War and the Environment,” September 22-24 at the American University in Washington, DC. (For details, include a video archive of the presentations, visit: http://worldbeyondwar.org/nowar2017.)

#NoWar2017 Part 6: pro-enviro & anti-war activism – Richard Tucker, Gar Smith, Dale Dewar

WorldBeyondWar.org on Sep 23, 2017

Understanding the intersection of pro-environment and anti-war activism, with Richard Tucker, Gar Smith, and Dale Dewar. Moderator: Leah Bolger

Earth First – Serve the People – Defend the Planet and all its life forms at all costs and by any means necessary! Rise Up and Defend your Mother!

 

Source: Gar Smith: Stones to Drones: A Short History of War on Earth (Transcript + Video) – Dandelion Salad

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