Saturday, March 12, 2016


Sunday, March 13, 2016, Issue #225
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Let us know your thoughts about the election article #2

1.   PHOTO OF THE MONTH — A Trump Rally?
Hillary or Bernie? Trump Uber Alles? Uprising in the Two Parties!
What Would We Do Without Them? Is Armageddon Next?

1.   PHOTO OF THE MONTH — A Trump Rally?

By the Activist Newsletter

At first glance we thought this photo was from a recent Trump rally. But we were wrong. It was taken in April 1938 and published in Life Magazine. It's actually part of a large and enthusiastic crowd in Graz, Austria, attending a mass meeting in favor of approving that country's annexation by neighboring Germany after Nazi troops marched in a few days earlier. The vote also approved a pre-selected list of members for the next session of the German legislature that now ruled in Austria as well. Hitler attended the rally and was applauded wildly as he sat on the stage surrounded by SS officers. It is interesting how history tends to repeat itself, "the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce," as Marx has noted.

Hillary or Bernie? Trump Uber Alles? Uprising in the Two Parties!
What Would We Do Without Them? Is Armageddon Next?

                                                                   By Edward Sorel, New Yorker

By Jack A. Smith, Editor

Few Americans can remember witnessing a presidential campaign as extraordinary and fraught with extreme negative — and some positive — connotations as that taking place this year. Substantial sectors of both the Republican and Democratic parties are engaged in an unexpected open rebellion against their own leadership for different reasons.

The Republican rebels want to go further right and nominate the pompous and narcissistic billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump, who is leading in delegate votes. Many observers in the U.S. and abroad view Trump as gravitating ever closer to neo-fascism. The Democratic rebels want to go further left and nominate social democrat Vermont Sen. Bernard (Bernie) Sanders.

The right/far right Republican establishment fears the selection of Trump will split or even destroy the party and prefers two other far-right candidates — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas. The two are bitter rivals. Rubio has more support from the party leaders, but he now appears to be failing for lack of delegate support.

This means Cruz is the logical next establishment candidate against Trump in the internal Republican struggle. Cruz is an extreme conservative, religious zealot and a veritable Grand Inquisitor, judging by his performance back home as the state's Solicitor General. He also supports most of Trump's agenda. His only virtue is that he is not Trump. In a Feb. 4 article by The Religious News Service, author John Fea wrote: "Ted Cruz resonates with the evangelical culture warriors.... When Cruz says he wants to 'reclaim' or 'restore' America, he does not only have the Obama administration in mind. This agenda takes him much deeper into the American past. Cruz wants to 'restore' the United States to what he believes is its original identity — a Christian nation."

The indispensible billionaires and multi-millionaires who provide financing to the Republican and Democratic parties in return for lucrative expressions of gratitude, seek to help crush their respective uprisings. Ironically, the corporate mass media — which supports both party leaderships — is giving Trump far more TV coverage than the other candidates because his outrageous interviews and debates attract huge audiences that boost profits. Clinton enjoys good coverage but Sanders is far behind in TV exposure and much news coverage. undoubtedly because of his left leaning politics.

The Republican leadership is evidencing hysteria at the prospect that Trump will win the nomination, not lest because he is generally considered a racist and misogynist who repeatedly offends Mexicans and Muslims among others. Party funders have spent over $30 million in key states for anti-Trump TV commercials in the last week, and more will be coming. 

The Center-right Democratic party establishment is emphatically backing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She is currently leading in nomination delegate strength but Sanders is doing well, having triumphed in Michigan March 8 after opinion polls predicted he would be defeated by a large margin. The delegate vote totals as of March 9: Clinton, 1,221. Sanders. 571. Needed to win: 2,382. Clinton is leading by far in party leadership super delegates. A March 8 poll by the Washington Post noted Clinton’s margin over Sanders, 49% to 42%, has dropped by half since January.

Sanders was a political Independent during his 16 years as Vermont's only House member and most of his nine years in the Senate until last year when he became a Democrat to run for the presidential nomination. He has openly described himself as a democratic socialist throughout his political career, but his obvious objective now is to shift the Democratic party to the center-left, where it once brought about progressive social legislation in the 1930s and 1960s — and has accomplished extremely little since then. Those who think he is trying to lead a socialist movement are missing the point.

The Democratic party liberal and left sector has been sharply constricted by the traditional leadership and the Clinton and Obama two-term administrations, despite the fact that liberalism in Democratic ranks has increased 17% since 2001, according to a Gallup poll last June. That means 47% of Democrats are socially liberal and economically moderate liberal. Recognizing that at 74 he is in the autumn of a fruitful political career, Sanders seeks to motivate and lead the party left to demand and exercise considerably more political clout. The party hierarchy views this as an act of apostasy. Most funders equate it to a kick in the teeth.

Leading members of the Republican party establishment went on the road last week to insist that the that conservatives reject Trump — and they met with a solid wall of opposition. The New York Times Reported March 5:

"From Michigan to Louisiana to California on Feb. 4, rank-and-file Republicans expressed mystification, dismissal and contempt regarding the instructions that their party’s most high-profile leaders were urgently handing down to them: Reject and defeat Donald J. Trump. Their angry reactions, in the 24 hours since Mitt Romney and John McCain urged millions of voters to cooperate in a grand strategy to undermine Mr. Trump’s candidacy, have captured the seemingly inexorable force of a movement that still puzzles the Republican elite and now threatens to unravel the party they hold dear.... Trump’s supporters seem profoundly uninterested at the moment with the image, expectations or traditions of the Republican Party, according to interviews with more than three dozen voters, elected officials and operatives. They are, in many cases, hostile to it."


When Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination nine months ago he had miniscule support from the party hierarchy and not much more from the rank-and-file. But he quickly perceived that his ambitions could be furthered were he able attract a significant segment of the party's constituency largely composed of white working class and lower middle class conservatives, many of whom ended their education with a high school diploma. This sector has long existed within the party, going along with the decisions of party leaders with negligible complaints.

But times have changed in recent years as working class jobs have be sent abroad and existing jobs are often insecure with longer hours, lower pay and fewer benefits causing considerable resentment toward the powers that be. Since this conservative sector tends to regard itself as super patriotic and is intolerant toward many other Americans who think or look different than they do, it is imbued with a large degree of racism and nativism.

The 2008 recession and its lingering consequences were contributing turning points for many right wing workers who began to blame a variety of factors including their own party leaders as well the upper class, bankers, Wall Street, snobbish elites, Democrats, President Obama, and various government agencies. Up to a point they had something of a case, but they turned further right, not to the left, and also blamed African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, and others for transforming their "American Dream" into a bad dream.

Trump set the stage for winning support from this disaffected sector by promoting his own larger than life personality. I'm not a politician, he declared — immediately gaining some support from white working class and middle class Republicans who seem to blame the politicians for everything wrong in their world. I am a rich and successful businessman who knows how to get things done — a big selling point in a party that worships big business and capitalism. I hosted 14 seasons of "The Apprentice" on TV and newspapers always write about me so you gotta love me! — and many do because of his celebrity.  But what really did the trick was this:

He figured out what this sector deeply hated and what it deeply feared. He then made clear in his outrageous demagogic, vulgar, threatening and racist remarks at mass rallies, that he shared their hatreds and was ready and able to protect them against their fears if he became president.

Their main hates and fears evidently evolve around how the leaderships of both parties are mishandling the country's economic, social and political priorities. Some examples seem to include resentment at being governed by a black president (whom Trump has been saying for years is a foreign-born Muslim); fear of economic insecurity and stagnant wages; fear of losing white privileges, white power and the fact that the white population will no longer constitute the majority in 30 years; the absence of decent jobs, which some blame on minority competition and others on the Democrats; the hatred of Mexican and Latin American "illegal" immigration; refusal to accept refugees from the Middle East; fear of foreign countries that Trump says are "ripping off" the U.S. economically; and opposition to some advances in recent years for women and LGBT people.

When Trump articulates their hatreds in speeches or debates his supporters go wild with adulation because he says openly what many in his crowds usually say in private to their "own kind." By doing this he also validates racial prejudice. This may be why his fans praise him for "saying what he thinks." Trump's popularization of the slogan "Make America Great Again" not only speaks to international imperialist dominance but to the good old days when white meant right, and people of other colors knew their place. Make America White Again! is perhaps the underlying slogan.

The discontents in both parties are transpiring because the economic, cultural and political contradictions that have been developing for decades in America are reaching a peak at a time when democracy itself is being auctioned to the wealthiest oligarchs and political paralysis is nonchalantly engulfing Washington with few criticisms in Congress or the White House because so many politicians benefit from the process.

Sanders has a good program to cut Big Money campaign contributions, which he already rejects. Clinton largely depends on the richest people and companies in the U.S. to finance her political ventures. While still collecting from the 1% et al., the former First Lady now claims to support campaign finance reform, thus conflating words and deeds. The New York Times, which has endorsed Clinton's nomination, has repeatedly requested she make public the texts of six speeches to Goldman Sachs, for which she was paid $225,000 each. Her defense for keeping the texts secret was that “Everybody does it." to which a perturbed Times responded Feb. 25 that her response "is an excuse expected from a mischievous child, not a presidential candidate.... Public interest in these speeches is legitimate, and it is the public — not the candidate — who decides how much disclosure is enough.

The working class, lower middle class, a sector of the middle class and the multitude of low income and poor workers are disgruntled by the absence of good jobs, many millions of which have been "globalized" and sent to lowest wage countries by American corporations seeking higher profits for stockholders and executives. These same U.S. workers are being cruelly exploited economically by their bosses who deny them decent wages and benefits. Teenagers are finding far fewer job opportunities these days. High school graduates have a hard time locating factory jobs that pay enough to cover the rent, much less ever to buy a house. College students and new graduates, burdened with educational debts and limp job prospects, are anxious about the future.

Both parties have supported the trade deals that offshored the jobs. Both parties exhibited indifference to the by now incredibly successful 40-year campaign by big business to lower wages and reduce benefits for American workers. Both have failed the youth of the nation. Both have failed the union movement, and that includes the Democrats who watched it decline and did nothing to help. The government controlled by both parties has not offered significant social programs to the masses of people in close to a half-century. Both parties have supported the nearly 15 year's of war in the Middle East. Both parties agree to surround Russia and China with U.S military power.
Republicans are worse than the Democrats, we all know that, but can there be a doubt that both parties have failed the American people — and that this is a main cause of popular discontent among working people that is manifesting itself this election year?

Commenting on the uprisings in both parties, left wing analyst James Petras, a professor emeritus of sociology at New York's Binghamton University and the author of more than 62 books, wrote the following in his Feb. 24 article "Presidential Elections 2016 – The Revolt of the Masses":

"The rise of a social democratic movement within the Democratic Party and the rise of a sui generis national-populist rightist movement in the Republican Party reflect the fragmented electorate and deep vertical and horizontal fissures characterizing the U.S. ethno-class structure. Commentators grossly oversimplify when they reduce the revolt to incoherent expressions of ‘anger.’

"The shattering of the established elite’s control is a product of deeply experienced class and ethnic resentments, of former privileged groups experiencing declining mobility, of local businesspeople experiencing bankruptcy due to ‘globalization’ (imperialism) and of citizens' resentment at the power of capital (the banks) and its overwhelming control of Washington.

"The electoral revolts on the Left and Right may dissipate but they will have planted the seeds of a democratic transformation or of a nationalist-reactionary revival."


America's overarching economic and social contradiction derives, on the one hand, from exceptional inequality and poverty, and on the other hand the reality that the richest 1% of the people control 95% of the overall wealth (assets minus debts). Such wealth buys great luxury, power and inordinate influence in politics. Nearly half the U.S. population is uncomfortably situated in one of three economic categories: Low Wage, Poverty or Deep Poverty. It is estimated that 62% of citizens have less than $1,000 in savings and are one paycheck away from the street. Several million families with two to four members each have been dispossessed from their homes or apartments since the 2008 Great Recession and its economically stagnant aftermath. The middle class was also hit hard, losing almost 30% of its wealth. One in five American children live in poverty.

What accounts for such great inequality and poverty amidst the plenty of the world's richest country? Wealth inequality, along with class exploitation and oppression, are inherent structural aspects of capitalism, particularly the neoliberal brand of capitalism that is imposed in the United States by those who control the economy, the political system including the two parties and the deep state. Both the Democratic and Republican parties view neoliberalism as a great gift, and such it is for the minority of Americans in the high income brackets who also finance these same parties.

Sen. Sanders' program for the campaign is not anti-capitalism, but anti-neoliberal capitalism, and he favors incorporating some of the progressive social democratic advances in Scandinavia and other individual countries into the American system. It's not quite the amplified social revolution Bernie talks about, but it could improve the standard of living for the majority of our people. Former Sen. Clinton has long approved of the neoliberal approach. These days Clinton's been swiping some of Bernie's proposals to show she's really a liberal, but if elected such "liberalism" will be blowing in the wind like a tattered campaign leaflet on a Chicago street.

The labor movement did a great deal to elect Presidents Clinton and Obama, but in return neither did
much for the unions. In Obama's case the unions worked hard to get out the vote in 2008 and raise money for his campaign (in 2012 as well). In return Obama pledged to the AFL-CIO and other unions that if elected he would work for passage of the labor-suggested Employee Free Choice Act that would make it simpler for workers to form a union when a majority of company employees sign a card requesting one, rather than to require a secret-ballot run by the NLRB. When Obama took office he had a Democratic majority in the House and Senate. This all-important bill, which was designed to attract many more workers into unions, failed. Enough Democrats joined nearly unanimous anti-union conservatives to bury it for good. The matter never come up again.

The union movement agitated against Clinton's NAFTA and Obama's Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and they were brushed aside like ants on a picnic table. Such trade deals are the main transmission belt for moving U.S. working class jobs to Asia and Latin America. "In the first 10 years this century America lost 56,000 factories. That’s 15 a day. Some just close. Others move offshore for the low wages and even lower environmental standards," says the AFL-CIO, noting that about six million jobs disappeared in the first 15 years of the century, directly or indirectly related to the closings.

Hillary Clinton as First Lady campaigned for NAFTA and as secretary of state she strongly backed the TPP, saying it "sets the gold standard in trade agreements." Sanders has long fought against the TPP. Clinton opportunistically flip-flopped five months ago. Foolishly, the AFL-CIO blames China and a few other countries for this situation instead of the U.S corporations, corrupt politicians, and the neoliberal government in Washington that built this particular house of cards.

The AFL-CIO announced in November it would "remain neutral" in the Democratic primaries. A large majority of the unions that have backed candidates are supporting Clinton, which gratifies the party leadership. Only a few have supported Bernie, who has spent his life helping and defending unions and workers. However, many rank and file union workers do support Bernie. Paradoxically another union sector backs Trump, disregarding the billionaire's declaration that American workers are well paid and don't need a raise, and that the minimum wage should not be increased.

Racial minorities — African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and others are disproportionately at the bottom half of the income scale, and so are many millions of working class whites. The recession reduced the median wealth of African American families to $11 thousand. (Median means half have less, and half have more than that amount.) Forbes business publication estimated last year that a typical white household has 16 times the wealth of a black household. Black unemployment is twice that of whites.

During his two terms in office President Barack Obama has done very little to alleviate this dreadful imbalance, and there is little in Clinton's program that suggests her presidency would be any different. The White House brags on its website that Obama has been "restoring economic security to African American families: In the last 23 months, 3.7 million private sector jobs have been created and putting Americans back to work and restoring economic security for middle class families."  First, those jobs were lost in the Great Recession and not all have come back. Second, the implication is that those private sector jobs all went to blacks but they mainly went to white workers. For perspective,  Emily Peck wrote in HuffPost Business Dec. 3 "The most startling divide is the one between whites and blacks. The wealthiest 100 households in the United States are wealthier than all the black people in the country combined  (45.7 million)."

The Republican candidates do not demonstrate a modicum of interest in reducing inequality or poverty in America, as opposed to Democrat Clinton who does proclaim what amounts to a modicum of interest — and no more. Sanders has an extensive program for substantially diminishing both these plagues afflicting American working families and everyone with a low income. It will largely be financed by taxes on wealth and Wall Street, getting rid of loopholes allowing giant corporations to hide their profits from taxation and breaking up "too big to fail" banks that were bailed out at the expense of working people. Some think imposing higher taxes on the rich is too extreme. But as former Clinton administration Labor Secretary Robert Reich reminded us on his blog recently, "Since 1995, the average income tax rate for the 400 top-earning Americans has plummeted from 30% to 18%. The top rate was 91%, in 1960 and 70% on the eve of conservative Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980. He cut the rate down over the years. Bernie wants it to go up, relatively modestly but at least up."

It's true the conservatives, including those within the democratic party, will reject many of Bernie's proposals, but that's not a reason for him to pull back. He is a fighter and isn't known for giving up. He will continually introduce them, speak about them in public and try to politically educate the American people to support his goals.

In a Guardian (UK) article last December, Columbia University professor Joseph E. Stiglitz, who received a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, wrote: "America is becoming a more divided society — divided not only between whites and African Americans, but also between the 1% and the rest, and between the highly educated and the less educated, regardless of race."


The United States has supported regime change in Syria since 2011, continuing years after the Islamic State, al-Nusra Front (an affiliate of al-Qaeda) and scores of smaller jihadist fighting groups were in charge of the effort. This long war has created millions of refugees such as this family, which arrived in Greece in February headed toward northern Europe at a time when many countries have closed their gates to refugees. Over 50,000 refugees a month have been arriving in Greece on unseaworthy boats from Turkey.
The most ignored element so far in the Democratic primary campaign, is the question of Washington's military and foreign policy — two of the most important issues confronting the United States today. Further ignored is the matter of American world leadership — that is, unilateral global hegemony and policing the world with troops in over 100 countries backed up by history's most devastating military power. What about the wars the U.S has been fighting for the last 15 years? Or the program of the Obama administration that will cost up to a trillion dollars over the years to modernize America's nuclear weapons and delivery systems? Or the bloated military budget.

Who's best of the five?:
Here's a brief look at Trump, Rubio, Cruz, Clinton and Sanders. Of the five, Sanders is the best of a bad bunch. He is relatively moderate and occasionally progressive compared to the others but on imperialism, U.S. hegemony, Russia, China and various different issues his policies are indistinguishable from President Obama's. Clinton, as she was in the Senate and as secretary of state, remains a war hawk of the first magnitude whose shortcomings exceed those of Sanders in this regard. Trump, while a staunch militarist and dedicated hawk is sufficiently detached from ideology to subscribe to independent views on occasion, such as his opposition to the Iraq war. Extremist right-wingers Rubio and Cruz are trigger-happy neoconservative war hawks. All three Republicans will continue and probably enlarge the Bush-Obama wars.

Military spending:
Sanders is the only one of the five to have criticized the amount of spending in the military budget over the last two decades, mainly on the matters of waste and overspending on but also on just too much militarism. He supports a "strong defense," and refused at times in Congress to vote in favor of military budgets he didn't like. As president it would seem he'd have to make cuts in military spending to obtain funds for some of his quite expensive social projects. Clinton generally supports the present rate of military spending with occasional exceptions. In September she called for the creation of a high-level commission to examine defense spending — the equivalent of shelving the issue. Trump, Cruz and Rubio  seek higher military spending to "rebuild" the armed forces.

Clinton and Sanders on military and foreign policy:

Clinton: Her website positions are mainly generalizations that make her record look good, so it is best to judge Clinton but her actions in the Senate and primarily as secretary of state. Clinton maintained a hawkish posture toward Russia (she will "stand up to Putin") and boasts that she played a major role in Obama's "pivot" to Asia to contain China. This will continue if Clinton becomes president. In addition to supporting the Afghanistan and Iraq wars from the beginning, Secretary of State Clinton pushed hard for regime change in Libya and Syria starting five years ago — two of Obama's bigger errors, judging by the deadly crisis in both countries today. She justifies and continues those positions, even though her Libyan adventure has blown up in Obama's face, and her insistence on regime change in Syria is a main reason why the civil war has lasted this long and the causalities are so high. Four years ago she strongly opposed peace talks in Syria that Russia was ready to arrange, but she insisted talks would not be held until after President Assad resigned or was removed from office, a position Obama continued until this year when talks finally began while Assad still remains in in power. In 2009, Clinton covered up for the right wing coup against liberal Honduran President Manuel Zelaya who was sent into exile. The U.S government had been concerned over Zelaya's close relationship with leftist Venezuela.

As president, Clinton probably would go the whole way in Syria if she could and also expand Obama's recent continuation of the war in Libya. Like Obama she supports Saudi Arabia's unjust war against Yemen. As Secretary of State Clinton was active in the Saudi Kingdom's $60 Billion purchase U.S. jets, smart bombs and other materials now being used to crush Yemen.

Clinton is totally in Israel's pocket, and her ex-president husband told a pro-Netanyahu meeting in Miami recently that that as president she would get closer than Obama to the right wing Israeli government.

There can be little doubt that Clinton will engage in more frequent military conflicts than the Obama administration, which she always thought was too restrained. Obama was relatively cautious for good reason — he didn't want to end up a shunned pariah like his predecessor. By her own admission she will not stray far from the Obama's policies except, it appears certain, to conduct even more aggressive wars.

Sanders: Bernie Sanders maintains "America must defend freedom at home and abroad, but we must seek diplomatic solutions before resorting to military action. While force must always be an option, war must be a last resort, not the first option." Obama has said the same thing, and look where he's at today. Sanders voted against President H.W. Bush's 1991 Gulf War but voted for President Clinton's unjust bombing war against Yugoslav Serbia in 1999. He voted for President George W. Bush's 2001 war against Afghanistan, but voted against the 2003 war against Iraq. In 2011 he voted for President Obama's regime change bombing war against Libya.

Regarding Iran, Sanders' website says "the U.S. must do everything it can to make certain that Iran does not get a nuclear weapon, that a nuclear Iran does not threaten Israel, and to prevent a nuclear arms race in the region." Although Israel has many nuclear weapons, he does not call for a nuclear-free Middle East as do many countries, including Iran. He thinks the recent nuclear agreement with Iran "is not perfect," but adequate. He then says, "If Iran does not live up to the agreement, sanctions can be reestablished and all other options remain on the table." Both the Bush and Obama administrations used this italicized expression to warn Iran the U.S. would use nuclear weapons if necessary.


Sanders supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but does not rebuke Israel for its refusal to enter into serious negotiations to bring this goal about. The website says: "Sanders strongly condemned indiscriminate rocket fire by Hamas into Israeli territory, and Hamas’ use of civilian neighborhoods to launch those attacks. However, while recognizing that Israel has the right to defend itself, he also strongly condemned Israeli attacks on Gaza as disproportionate and the widespread killing of civilians as completely unacceptable." By conflating the huge death toll and destruction in Gaza with several deaths in Israel and very little destruction, and connecting it all to Israel's right to defend itself, is disingenuous.

On the plus side Bernie opposes the expansion of NATO, but his reason is "it could lead to further aggression from Russia."  "The website says: "Sanders supports a strong, consistent stance with Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin. Bernie supports enforcing economic sanctions and international pressure as an alternative to any direct military confrontation when dealing with Russia....To temper Russian aggression, we must freeze Russian government assets all over the world, and encourage international corporations with huge investments in Russia to divest from that nation’s increasingly hostile political aims. "The United States must collaborate to create a unified stance with our international allies in order to effectively address Russian aggression."

Bernie's position on both Russia and China seems even more hostile than Obama's. From the website: "Trade Policy: Our current trade policy with China is detrimental to American workers. Military Build-up: China continues to grow militarily and we must work with the international community to deter foreign support for China’s military buildup. Human Rights: We must support Tibet, and call upon China to respect fundamental human rights both in Tibet and within China. All countries must respect fundamental human rights, including China."

This nuclear weapon is scheduled for upgrading to make it more accurate and kill-efficient under Obama's  expensive  program to greatly increase U.S. military missile and delivery power. Sen Sanders does not disapprove of the program but he suggests cuts to make cheaper.

Our last point on this topic concerns Bernie's position on President Obama's continuing trillion dollar upgrading of U.S. nuclear weapons and delivery systems that Clinton supports. Our quote comes from the Defense One website that caters to the defense industry: In an article Feb. 22 headlined "Bernie Sanders Looks Pretty Darn Establishment on Nuclear Weapons," it said: "Sanders is no outside-the-margin liberal on keeping up America’s nuclear arsenal.... [his position is] Keep a large nuclear arsenal, but scale back, delay, or cancel programs that are excessive to our core goal of deterring a nuclear attack on America. Build new nuclear-armed submarines, but fewer of them. Build new bombers, but only when you need them. Keep land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, for now, but don’t build a replacement. And cancel redundant weapons, like the new nuclear-tipped cruise missile." 

Objectively, this is an extremely important election, as Elizabeth Drew wrote in the Feb. 22 NYRDaily: "This country is facing the extraordinary situation of an election year in which control of all three branches of government is up for grabs. The confluence of a Supreme Court vacancy — a seat that could be the Court’s deciding vote — with presidential and congressional campaigns raises the stakes to an unusual height. The Republicans, with 24 Senate seats up for reelection — seven of them from states that Obama carried in 2012—could be in a vulnerable position. The Democrats have just10 seats up for reelection and have a shot at regaining control of the Senate. The House is populated mainly by representatives whose seats have been gerrymandered and, barring an avalanche, is unlikely to lose its Republican majority. It’s possible that the Supreme Court opening that resulted from Justice Antonin Scalia’s death will be filled before the election, but mighty forces are at work to prevent that."

The outmoded though sacrosanct for now two-party system in this year's election nominations offers the American people three domestic options instead of the usual two — from the far right, the center right and the center left. We address these options below, one at a time.

THE FIRST OPTION is a government takeover by extremists of the far right. All three leading Republican party candidates for the presidential nomination are aggressively within the ultra-reactionary category, turning the GOP's nominating procedure into a three-ring circus of the absurd.

Trump, Cruz and Rubio agree on deporting millions of Latinos without proper residence permits, and building a wall across the U.S southern border — making Mexico pay for it. They all want to engage in torturing captives in the Middle East wars, expanding the role of Guantanamo for that purpose. (President Obama has already deported over two million Latin Americans and will allow only a few thousand Muslim war refugees into the country after a two-year investigation of each family.) They all debunk global warming.

Writing in the Washington Post Feb. 26 Catherine Rampell pointed out that the three are very similar in their programs. "When it comes to human rights," she says they "seem to be jockeying for who can commit more war crimes." She views all their tax proposals as "highly regressive," and notes all want to trash Obamacare but their replacement plans are vague. On Syrian refugees, Rampell continued, "Trump said he’d let in none at all (and later, no Muslim immigrants of any kind). Rubio also eventually agreed that the U.S. should accept none at all, while Cruz said Christians only. All three do not accept the scientific consensus on anthropogenic climate change. They want fewer gun-control measures, and to reverse nationwide same-sex marriage."

Commenting on Trump and the Republicans March 2, the New York Times declared: "The Republican Party is taking a big step toward becoming the party of Trump. Those who could challenge Mr. Trump — Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio — are not only to the right of Mr. Trump on many issues, but are embracing the same game of exclusion, bigotry and character assassination. That Mr. Rubio would make double entendres about the size of Mr. Trump’s hands and talk about Mr. Trump wetting his pants shows how much his influence has permeated this race and how willingly his rivals are copying his tactics."

On March 4 Times columnist Paul Krugman viewed the problem as one that infects the entire Republican party, not just its loudest and most vulgar mouth: "So Republicans are going to nominate a candidate who talks complete nonsense on domestic policy; who believes that foreign policy can be conducted via bullying and belligerence; who cynically exploits racial and ethnic hatred for political gain. But that was always going to happen, however the primary season turned out. The only news is that the candidate in question is probably going to be Donald Trump. Establishment Republicans denounce Mr. Trump as a fraud, which he is. But is he more fraudulent than the establishment trying to stop him? Not really."
Columnist Maureen Dowd followed up in the Times March. 6 with this: "For all the Republican establishment’s self-righteous bleating, Trump is nothing more than an unvarnished, cruder version. For years, it has fanned, stoked and exploited the worst angels among the nativists, racists, Pharisees and angry white men, concurring in anti-immigrant measures, restricting minority voting, whipping up anti-Planned Parenthood hysteria and enabling gun nuts.... How lame was it that after saying he was a crazy choice, Rubio, Ted Cruz, Paul Ryan and John McCain turned around and said they will support Trump if he’s the nominee?"

At this point only Trump seems positioned to win the nomination, unless the establishment's campaign to stop him gains sufficient momentum very soon. Even if they do succeed the only viable replacement so far is far-right Cruz. In a general election the Democrats may well be able to defeat either of these extremist candidates. Clinton probably could, and despite her campaign's constant refrain that leftist Bernie doesn't have a chance, some polls say he actually has a better chance than his rival.

THE SECOND OPTION is for Democratic candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton to win the election and basically continue her party's economic and political direction of the last 40 years, particularly the eight-year administrations of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. That direction is rightward, away from the party's center-left orientation of the 1960s and 1930s, a course that has — by objective political standards — positioned today's Democratic party in the center-right of the political spectrum. These policies, combined with those of the right wing Republicans are what have led to America's extreme economic inequality and poverty amidst the excessive plenty of the upper classes.

For the last few months, Clinton's rhetoric has occasionally changed to centrist and even liberal in some cases, but this is a matter of expediency to defeat Sanders for the nomination. She also repeatedly promises to faithfully carry forward Obama administration practices mainly to secure African American votes in the southern states, a pledge that is now paying off for her big time. Some well-known left African Americans, such as public intellectual Cornell West, have declared blacks will vote against their own interests by backing Clinton. West, who supports Sanders berceuse of his pro-people record, his opposition to neoliberalism and his social democratic campaign proposals, blames a number of black leaders who he says seem to have more loyalty to the Democratic party establishment than to the needs of African Americans.
The Clintons on the campaign trail in IowA. The others are Secret Service.

Clinton also supports and takes some credit for the eight years President Bill Clinton served from 1993-2001. There was indeed economic growth during much of this period but the Dot-com bubble eventually burst. Of more importance is the sharp move to right during Clinton's term that put the great accomplishments of Democratic reformers Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson into cold storage. The notion that the party was not completely in Wall Street's pocket was shattered in Clinton's second term. He destroyed the Depression era Glass Stiegel Act, which sharply limited commercial bank securities activities and led to the 2008 Great Recession. Further, Clinton bent the knee to Wall Street by passing the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 and the Riegle-Neal legislation that permitted holding companies to acquire banks throughout the U.S.

Bill Clinton deservedly gets the blame for all this but Hillary Clinton was his chief adviser and an activist First Lady who publicly supported these programs, as she also did the administration's mass incarceration legislation and the end of welfare "as we know it," consigning female heads of household and their children into serious hardship. There can be no doubt that Bill Clinton would be Hillary Clinton's chief adviser should she become president.

Negative aspects of the Bill Clinton presidency were revealed in the March 6 Democratic debate in Flint Mich., as reported the next day by Robert Borosage of the Campaign for America's Future:

"Hillary Clinton has had to separate herself from her husband’s legacy: NAFTA, China and our disastrous corporate trade policies, mass incarceration and racially biased criminal justice policies, Wall Street deregulation and big money politics. She derides "debating the 1990s," but has been forced to disavow the legacy and the impact of signature initiatives of the Clinton administration.

"In her defense, Clinton continues to use Barack Obama as a shield. Her defense on taking Wall Street money: Obama did it. On opposing the break up of the big banks: Obama hasn’t. On the auto bailout: Obama wanted it as part of the Bush bailout of the banks. On support for fracking: Obama says it works.

"This is a clever tactic in Democratic primaries where Obama remains popular. And Clinton will no doubt distance herself from Obama when the general election begins, in order to paint herself as an agent of change. But at a time when voters are looking for real change, Clinton continually makes herself the candidate of continuity."

Hillary Clinton's economic plan has come under fire from the left. Les Leopold of AlterNet wrote March 6:

"Her program fits perfectly within the neoliberal framework as she focuses on how to use public funds and policies to promote private sector gain. There are tax incentives to urge large and small corporations to create more jobs in the U.S. There are tax breaks to encourage corporations to provide more training and profit sharing plans. And there are tax breaks to promote long-term investment instead of short-term gains.  To balance this equation, she also calls for exit taxes if companies take tax breaks and then move out of the country.

"Team Hillary's populist sounding plan is in harmony with the pernicious neoliberal principle — that the private sector, by definition, is more valuable than the public sector — that all must be done to 'encourage' private sector jobs while limiting public sector jobs. She makes no mention of the decades-old attack on public sector jobs and benefits. Not a word about the privatization that is wrecking Michigan's public sector."

Clinton largely depends on the richest people and companies to finance her political ventures. While still collecting from the 1% et al., the former First Lady now claims to support campaign finance reform, thus conflating words and deeds. The New York Times, which has endorsed Clinton's nomination, has repeatedly requested she make public the texts of six speeches to Goldman Sachs, for which she was paid $225,000 each. Her defense for keeping the texts secret was that “Everybody does it." to which a perturbed Times responded Feb. 25 that her response "is an excuse expected from a mischievous child, not a presidential candidate.... Public interest in these speeches is legitimate, and it is the public — not the candidate — who decides how much disclosure is enough."

Democratic leaders and big donors who have controlled the party for decades are nearly all supporting Clinton and her dedication to the policies of Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton. She has not put forward a serious program for overcoming the plethora of problems confronting working class, middle class and poor families, such as: halting gross economic inequality, and increasing working class wages, imposing substantially higher taxes on the rich to finance social and infrastructure programs for the people and imposing significant regulations on the banks and Wall Street, including jailing malfeasants when appropriate. 

Clinton's plan to curb greenhouse gas emissions is fairly close to President Obama's more recent proposals following years during which the administration was standing on the sidelines. Her action plan tells us: "Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time — and Hillary Clinton has a plan to tackle it by making America the world’s clean energy superpower, taking bold steps to slash carbon pollution at home and around the world, and ensuring no Americans are left out or left behind as we rapidly build a clean energy economy." She makes promises to implement several clean energy  projects. The plan needs a lot more work and money. Much will depend on the pressure and militancy of the environmental movement.

One of Clinton's strong points is that she could become the first woman president, and proclaims herself a feminist. Virtually all Democrats and leftists agree that it would be an important advance for a woman to govern from the Oval Office, and if she becomes the Democratic nominee instead of Sanders, most of his voters including Bernie will support her. 

However, many Democratic voters, including an exceptionally large number of young women who consider themselves feminists, are supporting Sen. Sanders throughout the nation. Their logic is that the dangerous economic, social and political crises perceived by the American people today require an urgent national action plan to address the specific issues. These include economic inequality and poverty, stagnant wages for the working class, enormous wealth for the top 1%, bad jobs with little or no benefits, offshoring most manufacturing work to lower wage companies, anti-worker trade deals, high student debts, shameful minimum wages, high rents, etc. Bernie, in their view, would work for this more than his primary opponent.

There is no evidence that Clinton or the leadership of the Democratic Party entertains a genuine intention to take decisive action to attack these problems. 

• THE THIRD OPTION is the left-liberal program of Bernie Sanders. Rank and file Democrats in the millions support Bernie's proposals to fight inequality, poverty, low-income jobs, and create of social programs to mitigate the hardships faced by so many Americans. However, this is an electoral movement that could dissipate after Nov. 8 (as it did following Obama's first election, although he inexplicably told his supporters  to go home now that he was in charge.) At issue is whether Bernie's supporters stay together as an activist political movement after the elections, whether Sanders wins or loses.

Sen. Sanders' main objective is to resuscitate and expand the Democratic party's liberal and left wing that has been systematically suppressed by party leaders for decades, most certainly including Obama (who publicly mocked liberalism and kept it in check) and Bill Clinton (who worked intimately with Wall Street and scoffed at those who were attached to the "L word"). The L word meant "liberals" and the party avoided both the word and the practice from the mid-1980 until recently. Liberals occasionally were elected to office — such as outspoken Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, a true friend of the people until his district was reorganized — but their influence was undermined by party leaders.

Sanders has pledged to weaken the great influence of Wall Street, the banks and corporations upon the U.S. economy and the political system. He pledges to fight for universal single-payer health care, to battle against the outrageous economic and social inequality that prevails in the U.S today, to demand free college tuition and to propose a variety of new social programs to benefit the working class, middle class the poor and the oppressed minorities.

Bernie Sanders was active in civil rights struggle during his college days when he
was a member of both the Congress on Racial Equality and the Student 
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee In 1962, he was arrested for  
Protesting segregation in public schools in Chicago. The
police said he was an "outside agitator." This photo from the
files of the Chicago Tribune shows 21-year-old Sanders, then a University 

of Chicago student, being arrested by Chicago police.

Bernie's election program is the most extensive and left within the Democratic party since the 1930s,  though it is well within the orbit of left liberal capitalism. He wants to reduce economic and class exploitation and oppression but not to replace the system with socialism. The historic replacement of capitalism by socialism can only be accomplished by mass movements and organizations, not a socialist politician in his mid-70s who is doing his best to energize Democratic liberals to stand up and fight back.

Bernie isn't directly campaigning against capitalism per se but he is gesturing in that direction, excoriating its methods and results and demanding a much better deal for the working class, middle class and the poor. This is new in the modern Democratic party and is a contribution to the deeper struggle for substantial radical change. Likewise it has in effect popularized and legitimized the word "socialism" in a capitalist state that has vehemently opposed the concept and its advocates for about 135 years.

The Washington post's Catherine Rampell wrote about a YouGov poll Jan. 25-27, where 42% of Democrats had a favorable opinion of socialism and 34% were unfavorable. Among the public as a whole only 29% were favorable. In that same public poll 43% of young people18 to 28 were more favorable to socialism and 26% were unfavorable. In that same poll, people 30 to 64 who were favorable to socialism dropped to 27%. It was 23% favorable for people 65 and older.

In a Gallup poll last June, 69% of 18 to 29 year olds said that they would be willing, as opposed to unwilling, to vote for a socialist candidate. For 65 and older it was 34% willing. (Willing does not necessarily mean a preference, just an open mind.)

Rampell wrote: "Much of the current conversation about Sanders’s 'democratic socialism' is predicated on whether Americans can look past this supposedly toxic label. But millennials (18-30) love Sanders not despite his socialism, but because of it. 'Socialism' has never been a dirty word for the current cohort of youth, who either didn’t live through the Cold War or don’t remember it. We are more likely to associate socialism with prosperous, egalitarian, relatively well-functioning Scandinavian states."

 In terms of the environmental crisis, Sanders' plans to substantially reduce greenhouse gases and convert the U.S. to renewable fuel are hard hitting and thorough. He says:

"Right now, we have an energy policy that is rigged to boost the profits of big oil companies like Exxon, BP, and Shell at the expense of average Americans. CEO’s are raking in record profits while climate change ravages our planet and our people — all because the wealthiest industry in the history of our planet has bribed politicians into complacency in the face of climate change. Enough is enough. It’s time for a political revolution that takes on the fossil fuel billionaires, accelerates our transition to clean energy, and finally puts people before the profits of polluters.

"Climate change is the single greatest threat facing our planet. The debate is over, and the scientific jury is in: global climate change is real, it is caused mainly by emissions released from burning fossil fuels and it poses a catastrophic threat to the long-term longevity of our planet. If we do nothing, the planet will heat up five to ten degrees Fahrenheit by the end of this century. That would cause enough sea level rise from melting glaciers to put cities like New York and Miami underwater – along with more frequent asthma attacks, higher food prices, insufficient drinking water and more infectious diseases....

"Let’s be clear: the reason we haven’t solved climate change isn’t because we aren’t doing our part, it’s because a small subsection of the one percent are hell-bent on doing everything in their power to block action. Sadly, they have deliberately chosen to put their profits ahead of the health of our people and planet."

Establishment Democrats have been critical of Bernie's economic plan, but a number of economists have come to his side. An article by Dave Johnson posted Feb. 23 at the Campaign for America's Future discussed some criticisms of Bernie's economic plan:

"Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders says he wants the American people to join him and 'fight for a progressive economic agenda that creates jobs, raises wages, protects the environment and provides health care for all.' His website outlines a number of proposals toward this end, including increasing taxation of corporations and the wealthy and using the money to repair the country’s infrastructure, extending public education four years to cover college, extending Medicare to everyone, expanding Social Security and addressing climate change.

"Gerald Friedman, a respected economist (and Clinton supporter by the way) took a look at Sanders’ proposals, ran the revenue and spending numbers through a standard economic model, and suggested that the very high level of spending would provide a 'significant stimulus to an economy that continues to underperform, with national income and employment at levels well below capacity.' This stimulus could lead to several positive economic outcomes, including increasing gross domestic product growth to 5.3% a year, cutting unemployment to 3.8% and increasing wages by 2.5% per year. This, combining with the revenue proposals, would bring a budget surplus. Friedman wrote:

"'Like the New Deal of the 1930s, Senator Sanders’ program is designed to do more than merely increase economic activity: the expenditure, regulatory, and tax programs will increase economic activity and employment and promote a more just prosperity, “broadly-based” with a narrowing of economic inequality.'

"Then, four ex-chairs of the White House’s Council of Economic Advisers (CEA), all Democrats, wrote an open letter using Friedman’s projections as a way to attack the Sanders campaign. The letter called the projections 'fantastical,' 'extreme' and 'claims that cannot be supported by the economic evidence.'' They might have added, "Bernie's too left wing and he's running against Hillary," but didn't of course, despite that being a factor in their analysis. Other economists supported Friedman.

For a fairly radical U.S. politician not well known throughout the U.S. to oppose Hillary Clinton for the nomination is a tough assignment. Clinton is one of the best known people in the world after eight years as First Lady, two elections as a U.S. Senator from New York State, the 2008 campaign for the White House, four years as Secretary of State and now another presidential campaign. What Bernie is proclaiming now is what he has been arguing throughout his career in local government and the House and Senate, but few Americans cared to listen to an obscure leftist politician from a small state in New England. But times are changing and running for the presidency as a Democrat provides him big time coverage, though certainly not as much as he deserves.

Now he not only speaks to millions but is supported by millions — but virtually the entire leadership of the party he has joined, plus  its funders and super delegates, oppose him. They are lined up like disciplined troops to march behind Clinton's center-right banner to fight for the political status quo.

Sanders is well liked by his Democratic Senate colleagues but none have backed his quest while 40 so far have given their support to Clinton and the rest are watching mutely. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, a leading Senate liberal, did not announce her choice before or after her state's March 1 primary vote went to Clinton 50.1% to 48.7%. Had she supported Sanders there was a chance he could have won this key New England state.

 Sanders still has a chance to win, but even if he loses the nomination or the election, he will have served the critically important purpose of galvanizing millions of Americans, including an extraordinary number of young people, around a left-liberal/social democratic program that could move further left. There is a possibility that this movement can survive outside the electoral orbit and take to the streets and meeting halls with demands for economic, social and political change. This will require dedicated intervention by the U.S. left.   (end)


According to new polling by right-wing political consultant Frank Luntz, Americans 18 to 26 are extremely liberal — so liberal that "the hostility of young Americans to the underpinnings of the American economy and the American government" should "frighten every business and political leader" and "excite activists for Sanders and, to a lesser degree, Clinton activists." The poll, conducted Feb. 11-14, surveyed 1,000 18- to 26-year-olds....

Luntz’s poll found that young Americans are optimistic about both the country’s future and their own: 61% say the best days of the United States are still ahead of us rather than behind us, and 88% are somewhat, very, or extremely optimistic about their economic prospects. But they have concerns, too. Their biggest, in order, are "corruption," "greed," and "inequality."

President Obama is not their favorite political figure — Bernie Sanders is. Indeed, 31% said Sanders is the major political figure they "like and respect the most" — more than Obama (18%) and Hillary Clinton (11%). Fewer young people like and respect Republican politicians, with just 9% choosing Donald Trump, 5% George W. Bush, and 5% Ted Cruz. Bill Clinton has been nearly forgotten, with only 3% choosing him. Elizabeth Warren also has low visibility, chosen by just 2%. All in all, 66% of young Americans chose a Democratic political figure.

Admiration of Sanders is especially strong among the younger half of respondents, with 40% of 18- to 21-year-olds saying he’s the political figure they most like and respect. In addition, more 18- to 21-year-olds chose Sanders as the person they’d most like to have dinner with than anyone else, ahead of Obama, Jennifer Lawrence, Ellen DeGeneres, Bill Gates, Taylor Swift, and Beyoncé.

They aren’t nationalistic: 58% of respondents said they agreed more with the statement "America isn’t better or worse than most other countries" than with "America is exceptional. It’s better than every other country in the world." In fact, 35% of 18- to 26-year-olds, including 42% of 18- to 21-year-olds, said they considered themselves more a citizen of the world than of the U.S.

In response to the question, "Which type of political system do you think is the most compassionate?", 58% said socialism and 9% said communism. Just 33% chose capitalism. Sixty-six% of the poll’s respondents said corporate America "embodies everything that is wrong about America."

Source: LuntzGlobal, February 11-14, 2016

Finally, more young Americans declared that the "most pressing issue facing America today" is income inequality than anything else. Income inequality was followed by education — specifically its cost. Respondents said they most respect nurses and doctors, followed by teachers and soldiers. The least-respected professions are bankers (2%), real estate agents (2%), elected officials (4%), business leaders (6%), and journalists (7%).

— From The Intercept Feb. 24 2016.


By the Activist Newsletter

A number of cities around the world have dedicated train cars to women only in order to discourage male sexual harassment and violence. In India they are called "ladies cars." This photo depicts a women's compartment in a suburban train in Mumbai — a city with a population of 22 million people. There are usually from one to three or more designated cars on each train, day and night.

This particular train line is the most frequented in the world, carrying over 7 million passengers a day. In some cases, during peak hours, three or four entire trains are for women only (they can be accompanied by boys up to 13). The practice was launched in the early 1990s in India to protect women from mounting abuse. This photo is a finalist in the travel category of the Smithsonian's 2015 international photo contest. The photographer is Tamina-­Florentine Zuch.


American neoliberalism leads the world.                (Artist unknown but in the mode of Salvador Dali)

[If you are concerned about the causes of great inequality in the United States, about increasing poverty, the decades-long absence of new government social programs benefiting the people, dysfunctional Washington, the buying of elections by the billionaire class and the erosion of our democracy, this essay is for you. The author, Henry A. Giroux is a professor at Canada's McMaster University and Visiting Professor at Ryerson University. He is an extremely prolific writer of books and articles. His most recent books are America’s Education Deficit and the War on Youth (Monthly Review Press, 2013) and Neoliberalism’s War on Higher Education (Haymarket Press, 2014). This essay, from Counterpunch Feb. 19, is excerpted from the introduction to The Great Inequality by Michael D. Yates, published last month.]

By Henry Giroux

American society is morally bankrupt and politically broken, and its vision of the future appears utterly dystopian. As the United States descends into the dark abyss of an updated form of totalitarianism, the unimaginable has become imaginable in that it has become possible not only to foresee the death of the essential principles of constitutional democracy, but also the birth of what Hannah Arendt once called the horror of dark times. The politics of terror, a culture of fear, and the spectacle of violence dominate America’s cultural apparatuses and legitimate the ongoing militarization of public life and American society.

Unchecked corporate power and a massive commodification, infantilization, and depoliticization of the polity have become the totalitarian benchmarks defining American society. In part, this is due to the emergence of a brutal modern-day capitalism, or what some might call neoliberalism. This form of neoliberal capitalism is a particularly savage, cruel, and exploitative regime of oppression in which not only are the social contract, civil liberties and the commons under siege, but also the very notion of the political, if not the planet itself. The dystopian moment facing the United States, if not most of the globe, can be summed up in Fred Jameson’s contention “that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.” He goes on to say that “We can now revise that and witness the attempt to imagine capitalism by way of imagining the end of the world.”

One way of understanding Jameson’s comment is through the ideological and affective spaces in which the neoliberal subject is produced and market-driven ideologies are normalized. Capitalism has made a virtue out of self-interest and the pursuit of material wealth and in doing so has created a culture of shattered dreams and a landscape filled with “Broken highways, bankrupt cities, collapsing bridges, failed schools, the unemployed, the underpaid and the uninsured: all suggest a collective failure of will. These shortcomings are so endemic that we no longer know how to talk about what is wrong, much less set about repairing it.”

Yet, there is a growing recognition that casino capitalism is driven by a kind of mad violence and form of self-sabotage and that if it does not come to an end what we will experience in all probability is the destruction of human life and the planet itself. Certainly, more recent scientific reports on the threat of ecological disaster from researchers at the University of Washington, NASA, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reinforce this dystopian possibility.2 The undermining of public trust and public values has now given way to a market-driven discourse that produces a society that has lost any sense of democratic vision and social purpose and in doing so resorts to state terrorism,

As Michael Yates points out throughout this book, capitalism is devoid of any sense of social responsibility and is driven by an unchecked desire to accumulate capital at all costs. As power becomes global and politics remains local, ruling elites no longer make political concessions to workers or any other group that they either exploit or consider disposable.

Security and crisis have become the new passwords for imposing a culture of fear and for imposing what Giorgio Agamben has called a permanent state of exception and a technology of government repression. A constant appeal to a state of crisis becomes the new normal for arming the police, curtailing civil liberties, expanding the punishing state, criminalizing everyday behavior, and suppressing dissent. Fear now drives the major narratives that define the United States and give rise to dominant forms of power free from any sense of moral and political conviction, if not accountability.

In the midst of this dystopian nightmare, there is the deepening abyss of inequality, one that not only separates the rich from the poor, but also increasingly relegates the middle and working classes to the ranks of the precariat. [Newsletter: The term precariat is a blend of two words — precarious and proletariat. Precarity is a precarious existence, lacking in predictability, job security, material or psychological welfare. The social class defined by this condition has been termed the precariat.] Concentrations of wealth and income generate power for the financial elite and unchecked misery for most people, a fear/insecurity industry, and a growing number of social pathologies.

Michael Yates in The Great Inequality provides a road map for both understanding the registers that produce inequality as well as the magnitude of the problems it poses across a range of commanding spheres extending from health care and the political realm to the environment and education. At the same time, he exposes the myths that buttress the ideology of inequality. These include an unchecked belief in boundless economic growth, the notion that inequality is chosen freely by individuals in the market place, and the assumption that consumption is the road to happiness. Unlike a range of recent books on inequality, Yates goes beyond exposing the mechanisms that drive inequality and the panoply of commanding institutions that support it. He also provides a number of strategies that challenge the deep concentrations of wealth and power while delivering a number of formative proposals that are crucial for nurturing a radical imagination and the social movements necessary to struggle for a society that no longer equates capitalism with democracy.

As Yates makes clear throughout this book, money now engulfs everything in this new age of disposability. Moreover, when coupled with a weakening of movements to counter the generated power of capitalists, the result has been a startling increase in the influence of predatory capitalism, along with inequities in wealth, income, power, and opportunity. Such power breeds more than anti-democratic tendencies, it also imposes constraints, rules, and prohibitions on the 99% whose choices are increasingly limited to merely trying to survive. Capitalists are no longer willing to compromise and have expanded their use of power to dominate economic, political, and social life. For Yates, it is all the more crucial to understand how power works under the reign of global capitalism in order to grasp the magnitude of inequality, the myriad of factors that produce it, and what might be done to change it.

Accompanying the rise of a savage form of capitalism and the ever-expanding security state is the emergence of new technologies and spaces of control. One consequence is that labor power is increasing produced by machines and robotic technologies which serve to create “a large pool of more or less unemployed people.” Moreover, as new technologies produce massive pools of unused labor, it also is being used as a repressive tool for collecting “unlimited biometric and genetic information of all of its citizens.”

The ongoing attack on the working class is matched by new measures of repression and surveillance. This new weaponized face of capitalism is particularly ominous given the rise of the punishing state and the transformation of the United States from a democracy in progress to a fully developed authoritarian society.   Every act of protest is now tainted, labeled by the government and mainstream media as either treasonous or viewed as a potential act of terrorism. For example, animal rights activists are put on the terrorist list. Whistleblowers such as Edward Snowden are painted as traitors. Members of the Black Lives Matter movement are put under surveillance, all electronic communication is now subject to government spying, and academics who criticize government policy are denied tenure or worse.

Under neoliberalism, public space is increasingly converted into private space undermining those sphere necessary for developing a viable sense of social responsibility, while also serving to transform citizenship into mostly an act of consumption. Under such circumstances, the notion of crisis is used both to legitimate a system of economic terrorism as well as to accentuate an increasing process of depoliticization. Within this fog of market induced paralysis, language is subject to the laws of capitalism, reduced to a commodity, and subject to the “tyranny of the moment….emaciated, impoverished, vulgarized and squeezed out of the meanings it was resumed to carry."

As the latest stage of predatory capitalism, neoliberalism is part of a broader economic and political project of restoring class power and consolidating the rapid concentration of capital, particularly financial capital. As a political project it includes “the deregulation of finance, privatization of public services, elimination and curtailment of social welfare programs, open attacks on unions, and routine violations of labor laws.”[ As an ideology, it casts all dimensions of life in terms of market rationality, construes profit making as the arbiter and essence of democracy, consuming as the only operable form of citizenship, and upholds the irrational belief that the market can both solve all problems and serve as a model for structuring all social relations. As a mode of governance, it produces identities, subjects, and ways of life driven by a survival-of-the fittest-ethic, grounded in the idea of the free, possessive individual, and committed to the right of ruling groups and institutions to exercise power removed from matters of ethics and social costs. As a policy and political project, it is wedded to the privatization of public services, the dismantling of the connection of private issues and public problems, the selling off of state functions, liberalization of trade in goods and capital investment, the eradication of government regulation of financial institutions and corporations, the destruction of the welfare state and unions, and the endless marketization and commodification of society.

Nothing engenders the wrath of conservatives more than the existence of the government providing a universal safety net, especially one that works, such as either Medicare or Social Security. As Yates points out, government is viewed by capitalists as an institution that gets in the way of capital. One result is a weakening of social programs and provisions. As Paul Krugman observes regarding the ongoing conservative attacks on Medicare, “The real reason conservatives want to do away with Medicare has always been political: It’s the very idea of the government providing a universal safety net that they hate, and they hate it even more when such programs are successful.” In opposition to Krugman and other liberal economists, Michael Yates argues rightly in this book that the issue is not simply preserving Medicare but eliminating the predatory system that disavows equality of wealth, power, opportunity, and health care for everyone.

Neoliberalism has put an enormous effort into creating a commanding cultural apparatus and public pedagogy in which individuals can only view themselves as consumers, embrace freedom as the right to participate in the market, and supplant issues of social responsibility for an unchecked embrace of individualism and the belief that all social relation be judged according to how they further one’s individual needs and self-interests. Matters of mutual caring, respect, and compassion for the other have given way to the limiting orbits of privatization and unrestrained self-interest, just as it is has become increasingly difficult to translate private troubles into larger social, economic, and political considerations. One consequence is that it has become more difficult for people to debate and question neoliberal hegemony and the widespread misery it produces for young people, the poor, middle class, workers, and other segments of society– now considered disposable under neoliberal regimes which are governed by a survival-of-the fittest ethos, largely imposed by the ruling economic and political elite. Unable to make their voices heard and lacking any viable representation in the process makes clear the degree to which the American public, in particular, are suffering under a democratic deficit producing a profound dissatisfaction that does not always translate into an understanding of how neoliberal capitalism has destroyed democracy or what it might mean to understand and challenge its diverse apparatuses of persuasion and power. Clearly, the surge of popularity behind the presidential candidacy of a buffoon such as Donald Trump testifies to both a deep seated desire for change and the forms it can take when emotion replaces reason and any viable analysis of capitalism and its effects seem to be absent from a popular sensibility.

— This articlefrom Counter Punch is continued at'
— The author's website is web site is


Hundreds were killed in India's 2010 heat wave.

By Andrea Thompson

The scorching, deadly heat waves that now strike only about once every 20 years could become an annual occurrence for more than half the world if nothing is done to curb emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases, a new study reported Tuesday.

The work, detailed in the journal Climatic Change, also points to the worst heat waves of the future being much more intense. The results jibe with other research looking at how heat waves might change as the world warms, as well as those that have found that global warming has already juiced the heat waves we see today.

But if action is taken to significantly curtail emissions, it could make a significant difference in just how bad future heat waves get.

Mitigation is crucial, a study author Claudia Tebaldi, a senior research scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), said in an email. “We have a lot to gain from limiting greenhouse gas emissions, and [those] benefits will be felt fairly soon” if we do so.

Extreme heat is one of the defining features of global warming. Climate models have long suggested that heat waves would become more intense and more frequent as Earth’s average temperature continues to rise. It has already risen nearly 2°F  (1°C) since the late 19th century and tipped the odds toward record hot temperatures over record cold ones.

Tebaldi and her co-author Michael Wehner of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory wanted to see how curtailing the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases might affect the severity of future heat waves. They used an NCAR climate model to look at how the odds of today’s 20-year events — or those that have about a 5 percent chance of occurring in any given year — would shift in the future under scenarios where emissions were and were not curbed.

They found that for more than half of the world’s land area, such heat waves would become an annual event by 2075 (possibly even occurring more than once a year). Some of the worst affected areas were the northern tiers of North America, Europe and Asia, as well as the central part of South America.

With emissions reductions aimed at keeping warming below 2°C (4°F) by the end of the century, the affected area falls to between 10% and 25%. (More than 100 countries have made pledges toward such a goal.)

“We were fairly surprised by the extent and the size of the benefits we quantify” even by just mid-century, said Tebaldi, who also works as an advisor to Climate Central.

Tebaldi and Wehner also looked at how much more extreme the 1-in-20-year events of the future will be compared to today. They found that such events in 2050 would be 5.4°F (3°C) hotter than today for 60 percent of the globe’s land area. For 10% such events would be even worse, coming in at 9°F (5°C) hotter than today. With emissions reductions, those temperatures would be a degree or two lower for large portions of the globe.

“This study does a good job of highlighting the large benefits of emissions reduction in terms of extreme temperature events,” Ethan Coffel, a PhD candidate at Columbia University who led another recent study of heat waves, said in an email.

While that may not seem like much — temperatures, after all, can swing that much from week to week — when you get to the extremes, it can be the difference between life and death, especially for vulnerable populations like the very young, elderly, and the poor.

Heat waves like the one that hit Europe in 2003, killing thousands, as well as more recent events ranging from the U.S. to Australia to India, have raised awareness of the need for societies to be better poised to cope with extreme heat. Pilot programs in India, for example, have helped local governments issue warnings to citizens, as well as provide cooling centers and clean drinking water.

Several such heat waves have been shown to have been made more likely, more intense, or both,  by so-called extreme attribution analyses. That work buttresses the findings of this study, Tebaldi said.
Tebaldi and Wehner view their work as a first take on just how big a difference reducing emissions can make, even if it won’t fully eliminate the threat of amped-up future heat waves.

“Even under more dramatic mitigation scenarios... future heat wave frequency and intensity increase very dramatically,” Wehner said in an email. But “we do have a choice about how dangerous the future

— From Climate Central, 2-23-26.


Rhode Island residents demonstrated support for Syrian refugees  at anti-refugee meeting.

By Steve Ahlquist

Providence, R.I. — Hundreds of people carrying signs of acceptance and support for Syrian refugees and immigrants filled the State House Feb. 22 in response to an anti-Syrian refugee rally. At one point a speaker was silenced by the repeated chanting of "Say it loud, say it clear, refugees are welcome here."

The event was sponsored by the Boston based and Orwellian named Americans for Peace and Tolerance (APT). The speakers included former Michigan Republican Congressman Pete Hoekstra (one time the head of the House intelligence committee); Russell Taub, a Republican candidate seeking to defeat Democrat U.S. Rep. David Cicilline, introduced the event.

Charles Jacobs from APT  was several times interrupted by those opposed to his inflammatory racist
speech. He was visibly flustered and argued with the crowd, turning the event into a call and response. Jacobs claims to represent the interests of American Jews, but Jewish people at the event said that Jacobs is a bigot who does not in any way represent them.

Hoekstra did no better than Jacobs.  At one point he mentioned genocide, prompting a Brown University student to ask, “What about the genocide in Palestine?” In response, a photographer with Hoekstra and Jacobs’ group asked, “What Palestine?” eliciting first a shocked silence, then a loud denunciation.

The counter protest and the pro-Syrian refugee event held afterwards were organized in part by the R.I. State Council of Churches, the Dorcas Institute, the Refugee Dream Center, members and families in the Syrian community, Quaker Friends, CAIR-MA, the Standing on the Side of Love committees of several Unitarian Universalist churches, and perhaps 200 students from various organizations at Brown.

— From


This Syrian child in Dasmascus is begging for money to help pay medical bills for her father. About 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives and more than 11 million others have been forced from their homes as the government of President Bashar al-Assad battles the Islamic State and a 
variety of other jihadist groups. (Photo: Bassam Khabieh: Reuters.)

 By Jeffrey D. Sachs

In the Milwaukee debate, Hillary Clinton took pride in her role in a recent UN Security Council resolution on a Syrian ceasefire. "But I would add this," she said. "You know, the Security Council finally got around to adopting a resolution. At the core of that resolution is an agreement I negotiated in June of 2012 in Geneva, which set forth a cease-fire and moving toward a political resolution, trying to bring the parties at stake in Syria together.

This is the kind of compulsive misrepresentation that makes Clinton unfit to be President. Clinton's role in Syria has been to help instigate and prolong the Syrian bloodbath, not to bring it to a close.

In 2012, Clinton was the obstacle, not the solution, to a ceasefire being negotiated by UN Special Envoy Kofi Annan. It was US intransigence - Clinton's intransigence - that led to the failure of Annan's peace efforts in the spring of 2012, a point well known among diplomats. Despite Clinton's insinuation in the Milwaukee debate, there was (of course) no 2012 ceasefire, only escalating carnage. Clinton bears heavy responsibility for that carnage, which has by now displaced more than 10 million Syrians and left more than 250,000 dead.

As every knowledgeable observer understands, the Syrian War is not mostly about Bashar al-Assad, or even about Syria itself. It is mostly a proxy war, about Iran. And the bloodbath is doubly tragic and misguided for that reason.

Saudi Arabia and Turkey, the leading Sunni powers in the Middle East, view Iran, the leading Shia power, as a regional rival for power and influence. Right-wing Israelis view Iran as an implacable foe that controls Hezbollah, a Shi'a militant group operating in Lebanon, a border state of Israel. Thus, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Israel have all clamored to remove Iran's influence in Syria.

The battlefield as of a few months ago. Much of the white portion is desert.
This idea is incredibly naïve. Iran has been around as a regional power for a long time — in fact, for about 2,700 years. And Shia Islam is not going away. There is no way, and no reason, to "defeat" Iran. The regional powers need to forge a geopolitical equilibrium that recognizes the mutual and balancing roles of the Gulf Arabs, Turkey, and Iran. And Israeli right-wingers are naïve, and deeply ignorant of history, to regard Iran as their implacable foe, especially when that mistaken view pushes Israel to side with Sunni jihadists.

Yet Clinton did not pursue that route. Instead she joined Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and right-wing Israelis to try to isolate, even defeat, Iran. In 2010, she supported secret negotiations between Israel and Syria to attempt to wrest Syria from Iran's influence. Those talks failed. Then the CIA and Clinton pressed successfully for Plan B: to overthrow Assad.

When the unrest of the Arab Spring broke out in early 2011, the CIA and the anti-Iran front of Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey saw an opportunity to topple Assad quickly and thereby to gain a geopolitical victory. Clinton became the leading proponent of the CIA-led effort at Syrian regime change.

In early 2011, Turkey and Saudi Arabia leveraged local protests against Assad to try to foment conditions for his ouster. By the spring of 2011, the CIA and the U.S. allies were organizing an armed insurrection against the regime. On Aug. 18, 2011, the U.S. government made public its position: "Assad must go."
Since then and until the recent fragile UN Security Council accord, the U.S. has refused to agree to any ceasefire unless Assad is first deposed. The U.S. policy — under Clinton and until recently — has been: regime change first, ceasefire after. After all, it's only Syrians who are dying. Annan's peace efforts were sunk by the United States' unbending insistence that U.S.-led regime change must precede or at least accompany a ceasefire. As the Nation editors put it in August 2012:

"The U.S. demand that Assad be removed and sanctions be imposed before negotiations could seriously begin, along with the refusal to include Iran in the process, doomed [Annan's] mission."

Clinton has been much more than a bit player in the Syrian crisis. Her diplomat Ambassador Christopher Stevens in Benghazi was killed as he was running a CIA operation to ship Libyan heavy weapons to Syria. Clinton herself took the lead role in organizing the so-called "Friends of Syria" to back the CIA-led insurgency.

Washington's policy was a massive, horrific failure. Assad did not go, and was not defeated. Russia came to his support. Iran came to his support. The mercenaries sent in to overthrow him were themselves radical jihadists with their own agendas. The chaos opened the way for the Islamic State, building on disaffected Iraqi Army leaders (deposed by the U.S. in 2003), on captured U.S. weaponry, and on the considerable backing by Saudi funds. If the truth were fully known, the multiple scandals involved would surely rival Watergate in shaking the foundations of the US establishment.

The hubris of the United States in this approach seems to know no bounds. The tactic of CIA-led regime change is so deeply enmeshed as a "normal" instrument of U.S. foreign policy that it is hardly noticed by the American public or media. Overthrowing another government is against the UN charter and international law. But what are such niceties among friends?

This instrument of U.S. foreign policy has not only been in stark violation of international law but has also been a massive and repeated failure. Rather than a single, quick, and decisive coup d'état resolving an American foreign policy problem, each CIA-led regime change has been, almost inevitably, a prelude to a bloodbath. How could it be otherwise? Other societies don't like their countries to be manipulated by U.S. covert operations.

Removing a leader, even if done "successfully," doesn't solve any underlying geopolitical problems, much less ecological, social, or economic ones. A coup d'état invites a civil war, the kind that now wracks Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. It invites a hostile international response, such as Russia's backing of its Syrian ally in the face of the CIA-led operations. The record of misery caused by covert CIA operations literally fills volumes at this point. What surprise, then, the Clinton acknowledges Henry Kissinger as a mentor and guide?

And where is the establishment media in this debacle? The New York Times finally covered a bit of this story last month in describing the CIA-Saudi connection, in which Saudi funds are used to pay for CIA operations in order to make an end-run around Congress and the American people. The story ran once and was dropped. Yet the Saudi funding of CIA operations is the same basic tactic used by Ronald Reagan and Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s (with Iranian arms sales used to fund CIA-led covert operations in Central America without consent or oversight by the American people).

Life goes on. Newlywed Syrian couple, Nada Merhi, 18, and Syrian army soldier Hassan Youssef, 27, pose for a wedding picture amid heavily damaged buildings in the war-ravaged city of Homs, Syria, on February 5, 2016. (Photo: Joseph Eid / AFP / Getty
Clinton herself has never shown the least reservation or scruples in deploying this instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Her record of avid support Washington-led regime change includes (but is not limited to) the U.S. bombing of Belgrade in 1999, the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Iraq War in 2003, the Honduran coup in 2009, the killing of Libya's Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, and the CIA-coordinated insurrection against Assad from 2011 until today.

It takes great presidential leadership to resist CIA misadventures. Presidents get along by going along with arms contractors, generals, and CIA operatives. They thereby also protect themselves from political attack by hardline right-wingers. They succeed by exulting in U.S. military might, not restraining it. Many historians believe that JFK was assassinated as a result of his peace overtures to the Soviet Union, overture he made against the objections of hardline rightwing opposition in the CIA and other parts of the U.S. government.

Hillary Clinton has never shown an iota of bravery, or even of comprehension, in facing down the CIA. She has been the CIA's relentless supporter, and has exulted in showing her toughness by supporting every one of its misguided operations. The failures, of course, are relentlessly hidden from view. Clinton is a danger to global peace. She has much to answer for regarding the disaster in Syria.

— From Common Dreams, 2-14-16. Jeffrey D. Sachs is the Director of The Earth Institute, Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the Millennium Development Goals, having held the same position under former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. He is Director of the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network. He is co-founder and Chief Strategist of Millennium Promise Alliance, and is director of the Millennium Villages Project. A recent survey by The Economist Magazine ranked Professor Sachs as among the world’s three most influential living economists of the past decade. Sachs is the author, most recently, of The Age of Sustainable Development," 2015 with Ban Ki-moon.


Ottoman governor of Syria, Jamal Pasha (left), riding through the streets of Damascus in 1917.
By Toba Hellerstein

The quagmire that is contemporary Syria is as infinitely complex as it was when it emerged from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. Its medley of cultures and ethnicities coexisted peaceably under the sultans, but the European powers that inherited the land after World War I were unfamiliar with — and uninterested in protecting — Syria's unique brand of pluralism. Decades of autocratic rule followed. Today, the warring factions that populate the Syrian battlefield speak to the unraveling of Syria's once-cohesive society, but the lessons of the Ottoman Empire remain. Moving forward, those lessons may be the best hope for turning a failed state into a nation at once unified and diverse.

After centuries of Ottoman rule, Syria emerged from World War I in an entirely new form. Under the Ottomans, the area known today as Syria hadn't been a single entity but rather a collection of "wilayats," or provinces, that at times included areas of modern-day Lebanon and Israel. Nor was the population homogenous. The wilayats of Ottoman Syria each comprised an array of ethnicities, cultural identifications and economic structures. After 400 years of rule under the Ottomans, certain particularities of the political system became ingrained. In modern-day Syria before the civil war, cities were divided into culturally distinct quarters: one where you would find the Armenians, another populated by Assyrians. I especially remember the Kurdish markets, where vendors would come dressed in their bright colors to sell fruits and vegetables from the countryside.

In fact, the way in which Syria was governed reinforced the autonomy of these distinct ethnic and religious communities. The Ottomans enforced a policy of pluralism, intended to appease different nations and quell the rise of nationalist movements, in which Jews, Christians and Muslims were all empowered to assert their own identities and therefore had no need to vie for power. Each religious community, known as a "millet," had a representative in Istanbul and was allowed to organize its own affairs, including its people's education, social services and charities and even some of the legal standards by which they lived. The millet controlled all internal disputes such as marriage, divorce, inheritance, and the distribution and collection of taxes. The residue of this community-specific system remained in modern Syria; for example, everyone knew you went to the Armenian quarter to get your silver.

After World War I, however, the European powers divided up the land once ruled by the defeated Ottoman Empire. To be sure, the Europeans had been gradually infiltrating the Middle East for years, enjoying the tax breaks and security ensured by capitulation contracts between their governments and the Ottomans. But after the war, European powers negotiated clear partition lines defining their spheres of influence in the region. The resulting, secret agreement, named for the British and French diplomats who negotiated it, Mark Sykes and Francois Georges-Picot, was signed in spring of 1916. The borders drawn within Sykes-Picot didn't respect the history of the region or the political concerns of the groups within it. Instead, the agreement focused on divvying up the Middle East between the British and the French. In fact, the way in which this agreement broke up the Middle East makes it relevant to a number of post-WWI conflicts. France was determined to remain a power in the Middle East, and through the French Mandate it ultimately controlled southeastern Turkey, northern Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The population in what had been Greater Syria was artificially divided and at times displaced.

Under the French Mandate, life in Syria changed dramatically. The autonomy that groups had enjoyed under the Ottomans greatly diminished as the French centralized the government and restricted newspapers and political activity. In addition, France pursued a divide-and-rule policy under which some minority groups enjoyed newfound privilege and others watched their freedoms disappear. The French favored minorities, particularly the Christian Maronites, to protect themselves from the Sunni majority. Even though Syria claimed independence in 1944, the new government adopted the autocratic bent of the French officials it had displaced, and the new rulers marginalized minorities such as the Shiites, Kurds, Assyrians, Druze and Armenians. The invasive Syrian intelligence services, the Mukhabarat, became a prominent fact of life for the Syrian people, for whom the country's independence brought little relief.

Now, five years into Syria's civil war, some of the same historical challenges persist in the region. Syria remains an arena in which world powers battle for influence and an array of religious and ethnic communities make their homes. Prior to the war, Syrians' varied cultural heritage was a source of great national pride. Today, that diversity has become a source of violence. When Syria's political structure transforms at the end of the war, these groups will vie for power within the new system, which, like the former French colonial rule, may well be characterized by centralization and oppression. But there is another option. The new Syrian government could instead take its cues from its pre-World War I rulers, empowering various communities through autonomy and possibly even partition.

Even President Bashar al Assad embodied some of the Ottoman respect for minority groups. Under al Assad's rule, the arbitrary division of ethnic and religious groups into modern states was balanced by his consideration for the needs of these communities. I saw this firsthand in Damascus, where I befriended some U.N. peacekeepers who escorted Druze students from Syria to Israel and back every summer, just so that they could visit their families across the border. The small Jewish community that remained in Syria was also allowed to visit family in Israel.

Going forward, a new Syria must embrace the same pragmatism. Its leaders will have to accommodate the varied ethnic and religious groups whose presence there long predates the rise of the modern state and whose claim to the land draws on cultural heritage over and above legal right. The borders drawn by the Sykes-Picot agreement a century ago may well have outlived their usefulness — if ever they were useful — and rethinking them in light of deeper social and political realities could be the beginning of an effective, lasting resolution to Syria's war.

— From Stratfor with permission, Feb. 6, 2016. Toba Hellerstein is Stratfor's lead Middle East analyst.

Russian jet fighters over Syria.
By Genevieve Casagrande

The expanded interventions of Russia and Iran into the Syrian Civil War have shifted the trajectory of the conflict in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, granting him the strongest position on the battlefield as of Feb. 24.

Regime forces bolstered by Iranian ground troops and Russian air support have achieved major gains against both the Syrian armed opposition and the Islamic Front in Northern Syria since September, marking a fundamental shift in battlefield momentum following a compounding series of regime losses in the first half of 2015. [This will not change during the partial temporary cease-fire that began Feb. 27.]

President Assad now sits within reach of several of his military objectives, including the encirclement and isolation of Aleppo City and the establishment of a secure defensive perimeter along the Syrian Coast. The regime and its allies will likely retain their battlefield gains if there is no intervention by the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, or the UAE.

Russian campaign designers have clearly planned the ongoing operations in northern Syria, introducing to the Syrian battlefield signature Russian doctrinal concepts such as frontal aviation, cauldron battles, and multiple simultaneous and successive operations. These have made the joint Syrian-Russian-Iranian military operations more effective for a longer duration than previous operations.

The offensive operations conducted by the regime and its allies may nevertheless culminate over the 90-day timeframe, as pro-regime forces attempt to advance deeper into core opposition-held terrain and take high casualties. Regular reinforcement of ground capabilities by Iran and Russia will therefore remain necessary over the next three months in order to maintain this level of momentum in the face of continued manpower shortages, attrition, and opposition military actions designed to slow and divert the campaign.

Russia is reshaping the balance of military power in the Middle East and Black Sea region even as it faces potential defense budget cuts. Low oil prices and Western sanctions have caused a prolonged economic crisis in Russia, leading to new proposals for a 5% cut in the 2016 military budget. Russia continued efforts to offset the effects of low oil prices and Western sanctions by marketing its military hardware in the Middle East and Asia.

— From the Institute for the Study of War, Feb. 24.


A Palestinian man uses a rope to climb over a section of Israel’s separation wall
 that divides the West Bank city of al-Ram from east Jerusalem. Many Palestinians cross
 illegally into Israel every day in search of work. (Photo: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images.)
By Brian Becker, National Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition, Feb. 10, 2016
Joe Biden is in Tel Aviv this week and his mission is to “patch things up” with the always-petulant war criminal Benjamin Netanyahu following the Israeli Prime Minister’s abrupt cancellation of a meeting with Obama in Washington, D.C., scheduled to coincide with the March 20 opening of the AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) conference.

Biden is offering another $40 billion of taxpayer money for high-tech war planes and other weapons to try to appease Netanyahu. The United States was going to give the Israeli government $30 billion but Netanyahu has demanded more – and so it shall be!

The people of the United States must act and we are acting. On Sunday, March 20, 2016, people from all over the country are coming together in front of the White House for a national rally and march to “Stand With the People of Palestine” and to demand “Stop U.S. Aid to Israel.” Join us and show your support for the March 20 action to tell the politicians that we the people oppose using our name and our tax dollars to fund Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity. (See the bottom of this article for rally information.)

Israel, according to The Washington Post, is expected to get F-35 and F-16 Fighter jets, spare parts, missiles and intelligence-gathering systems. A single F-35 Joint Strike Fighter costs about $110 million – yes, that is the price tag for each plane. This is in addition to Washington's annual $3 billion a year in direct military aid.

Please show your support for the March 20 Stand with Palestine national demonstration:

Here's the rally information: Sunday, March 20, WASHINGTON: A national march on Washington to support Palestine will assemble at 12 noon for a rally in front of the White House. At 1 p.m. there will be a march to the Convention Center where AIPAC, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, will be meeting. The event is being organized by Al-Awda, the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition and the ANSWER Coalition. There are many endorsers and special buses are bringing people from various cities. The sponsors ask: "JOIN US IN DC to Stand with Palestine, say NO to the racist reign of terror and the Apartheid Wall, and say YES to the right of Palestinian refugees to return home. Speakers include: Dr. Cornel West, professor of philosophy and Christian practice at Union Theological Seminary; Abbas Hamideh, co-founder, Al-Awda; Sabry Wazwaz, Palestinian documentary filmmaker and activist; Laila El-Haddad, award-winning Palestinian author and speaker; Brian Becker, National Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition; Rami Ibrahim, Palestinian kickboxing world champion; Fatina Abdrabboh, attorney, Executive Director, ADC-Michigan; Ramsey Clark, former U.S. attorney general; Eugene Puryear, ANSWER Coalition; Amer Zahr, Palestinian comedian and entertainer, and others. Transportation locations, leaflets ands other information are at  

By Henriette Jacobsen

Europeans need to eat less beef and consume less dairy products in order to reach the European Union's climate goals, according to a new study by Swedish researchers.
Deep cuts in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agricultural production will be required in the EU if member states are to meet the 2 °C climate target set by the UN, they concluded in a study published in the Food Policy journal on Feb. 22.
Farming contributes to 10% of the total EU’s greenhouse gas emissions, mainly by producing two powerful greenhouse gases: Methane (CH4) – from livestock digestion processes and stored animal manure, and nitrous oxide (N2O) – from organic and mineral nitrogen fertilizers.
The study was conducted by researchers from Chalmers University of Technology and Sweden’s Technical Research Institute.  As far as GHG is concerned, the production of livestock and fodder globally generates more than 3 billion tons each of carbon dioxide equivalent.
— From, Feb. 24


By Gareth Porter

Secretary of State John Kerry insisted at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 13 that the agreement with Russia on a temporary halt in the war in Syria can only be carried out if Russia stops its airstrikes against what Kerry is now calling "legitimate opposition groups."

But what Kerry did not say is that the ceasefire agreement would not apply to operations against Al Qaeda's Syrian franchise, the Nusra Front, which both the United States and Russia have recognized as a terrorist organization. That fact is crucial to understand why the Obama administration's reference to "legitimate opposition groups" is a deception intended to mislead public opinion.

The Russian airstrikes in question are aimed at cutting off Aleppo city, which is now the primary center of Nusra's power in Syria, from the Turkish border. To succeed in that aim, Russian, Syrian and Iranian forces are attacking rebel troops deployed in towns all along the routes from Aleppo to the border. Those rebels include units belonging to Nusra, their close ally Ahrar al-Sham, and other armed opposition groups – some of whom have gotten weapons from the CIA in the past.

Kerry's language suggests that those other "legitimate opposition groups" are not part of Nusra's military structure but are separate from it both organizationally and physically. But in fact, there is no such separation in either of the crucial provinces of Idlib and Aleppo.

Information from a wide range of sources, including some of those the United States has been explicitly supporting, makes it clear that every armed anti-Assad organization unit in those provinces is engaged in a military structure controlled by Nusra militants. All of these rebel groups fight alongside the Nusra Front and coordinate their military activities with it.

This reality even slips into mainstream U.S. news accounts on occasion, such as Anne Barnard's New York Times article last Saturday about the proposed Syrian cease-fire in which she reported, "With the proviso that the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda's branch in Syria, can still be bombed, Russia puts the United States in a difficult position; the insurgent groups it supports cooperate in some places with the well-armed, well-financed Nusra in what they say is a tactical alliance of necessity against government forces."

At least since 2014 the Obama administration has armed a number of Syrian rebel groups even though it knew the groups were coordinating closely with the Nusra Front, which was simultaneously getting arms from Turkey and Qatar. The strategy called for supplying TOW anti-tank missiles to the "Syrian Revolutionaries Front" (SRF) as the core of a client Syrian army that would be independent of the Nusra Front.

However, when a combined force of Nusra and non-jihadist brigades including the SRF captured the Syrian army base at Wadi al-Deif in December 2014, the truth began to emerge. The SRF and other groups to which the United States had supplied TOW missiles had fought under Nusra's command to capture the base.

And as one of the SRF fighters who participated in the operation, Abu Kumayt, recalled to The New York Times, after the victory only Nusra and its very close ally Ahrar al-Sham were allowe d to enter the base. Nusra had allowed the groups supported by the United States to maintain the appearance of independence from Nusra, according to Abu Kumyt, in order to induce the United States to continue the supply of U.S. weapons.

In other words, Nusra was playing Washington, exploiting the Obama administration's desire to have its own Syrian Army as an instrument for influencing the course of the war. The administration was evidently a willing dupe.

Former U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford, who had been supporting an aggressive program of arming opposition brigades that had been approved by the CIA, told a January 2015 seminar in Washington, "For a long time we have looked the other way while the Nusra Front and armed groups on the ground, some of which are getting help from us, have coordinated in military operations against the regime."

Reflecting the views of some well-placed administration officials, he added, "I think the days of us looking the other way are finished." But instead of breaking with the deception that the CIA's hand-picked clients were independent of Nusra, the Obama administration continued to cling to it.

Nusra and its allies were poised to strike the biggest blow against the Assad regime up to the time – the capture of Idlib province. Although some U.S.-supported groups participated in the campaign in March and April 2015, the "operations room" planning the campaign was run by Al Qaeda and its close ally Ahrar al Sham.

And before the campaign was launched, Nusra had forced another U.S.-supported group, Harakat Hazm, to disband and took all of its TOW anti-tank missiles.

Fighters from Al-Qaeda's Syrian affiliate al-Nusra Front preparing for 
an i (Photo: AFP/Fadi al-Halabi.)

Furthermore, Saudi Arabia and Qatar were financing the "Army of Conquest," commanded by Nusra, and were lobbying the administration to support it. U.S. strategy on Syria was then shifting toward a tacit reliance on the jihadists to achieve the U.S. objective of putting sufficient pressure on the Assad regime to force some concessions on Damascus.

But the idea that an independent "moderate" armed opposition still existed – and that the United States was basing its policy on those "moderates" – was necessary to provide a political fig leaf for the covert and indirect U.S. reliance on Al Qaeda's Syrian franchise's military success.

When the fall of Idlib led to the Russian intervention last September, the U.S. immediately resorted to its propaganda line about Russian targeting of the "moderate" armed opposition. It had become a necessary shield for the United States to continue playing a political-diplomatic game in Syria.

As the current Russian-Syrian-Iranian offensive between Aleppo and the Turkish border unfolds, the Obama administration's stance has been contradicted by fresh evidence of the subordination of non-jihadist forces to the Nusra Front. In late January, Nusra consolidated its role as the primary opposition military force in the eastern part of Aleppo City by sending a huge convoy of 200 vehicles loaded with fighters, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in London.

BBC reported that "thousands of troops" had just arrived in Aleppo for the coming battle. Ahrar al-Sham confirmed on Feb. 2 that its ally, the Nusra Front, had deployed a large convoy of "reinforcements" to Aleppo. The pro-Assad Beirut daily As-Safir reported that the convoys also included artillery, tanks and armored vehicles, and that Nusra had taken over a number of buildings to serve as its headquarters and offices.

An assessment published on Saturday by the Institute for the Study of War, which has long advocated more U.S. military assistance to Syrian anti-Assad groups, provides further insights into the Nusra Front's system of control over U.S.-supported groups. One way the jihadist organization maintains that control, according to the study, is Ahrar al Sham's control of the Bab al Hawa border crossing with Turkey, which gives Nusra and Ahrar power over the distribution of supplies from Turkey into Aleppo City and surrounding areas.

ISW points out that another instrument of control is the use of "military operations rooms" in which Nusra and Ahrar al Sham play the dominant role while allocating resources and military roles to lesser military units.

Although the Nusra Front is not listed as part of the "Army of Aleppo" formally announced to combat the Russian offensive, it is hardly credible that it does not hold the primary positions in the operations room for the Aleppo campaign, given the large infusion of Nusra troops into the theater from Idlib and its history in other such operations rooms in the Idlib and Aleppo regions.

Yet another facet of Nusra's power in Aleppo is its control over the main water and power plants in the opposition-controlled districts of the city. But the ultimate source of Nusra's power over U.S.-supported groups is the threat to attack them as agents of the United States and take over their assets. Al Qaeda's franchise "successfully destroyed two U.S.-backed groups in Northern Syria in 2014 and early 2015," ISW recalls, and initiated a campaign last October against one of the remaining U.S.-supported groups, Nour al Din al Zenki.

The official U.S. posture on the current offensive in the Aleppo theater and the proposed ceasefire obscures the fact that a successful Russian-Syrian operation would make it impossible for the external states, such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia, to resupply the Nusra Front and Ahrar al Sham and thus end the military threat to the Syrian government as well as the possibility of Al Qaeda's seizure of power in Damascus

Russian-Syrian success offers the most realistic prospect for an end to the bloodletting in Syria and would also reduce the likelihood of an eventual Al Qaeda seizure of power in Syria.

The Obama administration certainly understands that fact and has already privately adjusted its diplomatic strategy to take into account the likelihood that the Nusra Front will now be substantially weakened. But it cannot acknowledge any of that publicly because such a recognition would infuriate many hardliners in Washington who still demand "regime change" in Damascus whatever the risks.

President Obama is under pressure from these domestic critics as well as from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf Cooperation Council allies to oppose any gains by the Russians and the Assad regime as a loss for the United States. And Obama administration must continue to hide the reality that it was complicit in a strategy of arming Nusra – in part through the mechanism of arming Washington's "moderate" clients – to achieve leverage on the Syrian regime.

Thus the game of diplomacy and deceptions continues.

— From Consortium News, 2-16-16,
— Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.


Members of high level Hamas delegation visited Iran in mid-February to celebrate the anniversary of the Iranian revolution. It was a reconciliation visit. The Sunni Palestinian group that governs Gaza decided to support anti-regime Syrian rebels in 2012, edre two members are meeting with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

By Ali Hashem, Al-Monitor Feb. 19, 2016

TEHRAN, Iran — Hamas, which governs Palestinian Gaza, is ideologically connected to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist religious, political, and social movement with branches in several Arab countries. The Sunni Brotherhood wants Hamas to keep its distance from Shia Iran.

Meanwhile Iran, which has provided financing and support to the Sunni Palestinian movement for years, is pushing for warmer relations so that Hamas can once again be counted on to be part of the wider "Resistance Axis," which also includes the Syrian and Iraqi governments as well as Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement.

[Iran will pay $7,000 to each family of Palestinians killed in a wave of recent anti-Israeli protests, and $30,000 for those whose homes have been demolished by Israel. This was announced Feb. 24 by Tehran's ambassador to Lebanon. The recent violence has been stoked by a dispute over Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound and Israel's failure after several rounds of peace talks to withdraw large illegal Jewish settlements in a territory that belongs to Palestinians.]

On Feb. 9, a senior delegation from Hamas arrived in Tehran to take part in the 37th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. Politburo members Mohammed Nasr and Osama Hamdan led the Hamas delegation, and both participated in the ceremonies — but that wasn’t all. Nasr and Hamdan seized the opportunity to meet several top Iranian officials including parliament Speaker Ali Larijani and Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council Rear Adm. Ali Shamkhani

"Hamas officials came along with a delegation representing [other] Palestinian factions, but they stayed longer upon agreement with the Iranian side in order to pave the way for better relations," an Iranian official told Al-Monitor on condition of anonymity. He added, "For years, there were attempts to find common ground; there are several elements that caused this coldness in relations with the political wing [of Hamas], yet it’s important to say that this never affected relations with [armed wing] Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. Now is the best time to try to build trust once again and go to further levels of cooperation with the [Hamas] movement as a whole."

Al-Monitor learned that the Hamas delegation met with Maj. Gen. Qasem Suleimani, commander of the Quds Force — the external operations wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps — and other officials who oversee the Palestinian matters within the Islamic Republic. "Meetings were up to expectations," said a Hamas official who asked not to be identified. He elaborated, "The world has changed a lot since [the beginning of the Arab Spring in] 2011 and till now. Iran isn’t the same as before, and we aren’t [the same either]. Yet, we both still have the same interest in having a strong resistance in Palestine to face the Israeli aggression. They know, and we believe, that there’s no benefit to restoring the old relationship [we had]; we need to build the foundations for a new relationship based on new needs."

....The Hamas leadership has been based in Qatar for the past four years, after quitting the Syrian capital Damascus amid the outbreak of the Syrian Revolution in 2011. After this decision, Hamas’ relations with Syria gradually deteriorated. Iran and Hezbollah — both close allies of the Syrian government — saw the Palestinian movement’s position as hostile, and relations started taking a negative turn.

"The region is on fire, and the explosion has yet to come," said the Hamas official. "Maps are being redrawn; all entities are variable now, nothing is constant. The only two constants if the situation continues this way might be Daesh [Islamic State] and Israel. We have to fight in order to avoid such an end. Israel should always feel danger; if Israel doesn’t feel that it’s under threat, we are all going to pay the price."


Black garden ants are up to 1/8 inch long and usually nest in lawns, flower
beds, beneath paving and at the base of walls. Garden ants are harmless
 and are not a public health pest or a health hazard.

By Science Daily and CNRS

Ants collectively build nests whose size can reach several thousand times that of individual ants and whose architecture is sometimes highly complex. However, their ability to coordinate several thousand individuals when building their nests remains a mystery. To understand the mechanisms involved in this process, researchers from France's National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Université Toulouse and Université de Nantes combined behavioral analysis, 3D imaging and computational modeling techniques.

Their work shows that ants self-organize by interacting with the structures they build thanks to the addition of a pheromone to their building material. This chemical signal controls their building activity locally and determines the shape of the nest. Its breakdown over time and due to environmental conditions also enables the ants to adapt the shape of their nests. This work is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Jan. 18.

The nest of black garden ants consists of an underground part made up of a network of galleries, and a mound of earth composed of a large number of bubble-shaped chambers closely interconnected with each other. Using 3D imaging techniques such as X-ray tomography and a 3D scanner, the researchers characterized the 3D structures made by the ants as well as the construction dynamics. In addition, they analyzed the individual building behavior of the ants.

In the part located above ground, the insects pile up their building materials forming pillars that encircle the chambers. The ants preferentially deposit their soil pellets in areas where other clusters of pellets have already been created. They add a pheromone [natural chemical] to their material, which stimulates the other ants to build on the same spot, leading to the formation of regularly spaced pillars. When the columns reach a height equal to the average body-length of an ant, the workers build caps on top of the pillars. They use their body size as a template to determine when they should stop building vertically and begin to deposit pellets laterally. The ants thus use two types of indirect interactions in order to build complex architectures.

In addition, the pheromone breaks down over time at a rate that depends on climate conditions, which enables construction to adapt to the environment. For instance, in a dry environment the amount of pheromone rapidly decreases and so fewer pillars are built. The chambers are therefore larger, which enables the ants to cluster there in order to preserve what little humidity there is. On the other hand, in a humid environment, the pheromone persists for a longer time, which leads to a greater number of pillars and to smaller chambers.

The researchers then developed a 3D mathematical model of nest construction, obtained by analyzing the individual behavior of the ants. The model shows that the two types of indirect interactions used by the ants to coordinate their activity faithfully reproduce the construction dynamics and the structures built during the experiments. It also highlights the key role played by the building pheromone in the growth dynamics and shapes of the nests.