Democratic Party

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DO THE DEMOCRATS CARE?!: Happy Hour with Hightower at the Lowdown Chat & Chew Cafe with Rep. Ro Khanna

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/08/2022 - 9:00pm in

Urgent alert to top Dem party poohbahs: Too many would-be Democratic voters are disillusioned by your tone-deaf, wishy-washy incrementalism! On our next Chat & Chew Happy Hour, progressive champion Ro Khanna joins Hightower for a lively discussion of how the Dems can fire up people bearing the brunt of unrestrained corporate power and an economy tilted toward the rich.

Watch on YouTube | Watch on Facebook

 

The post DO THE DEMOCRATS CARE?!: Happy Hour with Hightower at the Lowdown Chat & Chew Cafe with Rep. Ro Khanna appeared first on Hightower Lowdown.

Rescuing Democracy: Lessons from American Progressives

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 14/07/2022 - 9:26pm in

As British politics continue to implode, Anthony Barnett explores how the US is facing up to the threat of modern fascism, and the new ideas and alliances emerging there

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The future of what little — but for that reason all the more precious — democracy that we have, is undergoing a deep challenge. Its survival may well hinge on whether US progressives in alliance with the liberal centre can prevent Trumpite Republicanism from re-taking the White House in 2024.

In this introduction to three Byline Times profiles of key figures who will help shape that outcome in Washington DC, I want to start by saying why it matters for us in the UK. 

I’m asking that we focus on the future of the Democratic Party in the USA even while the British political system continues to implode. As I write, an influential Tory declares that “incremental government has had its day” and Kemi Badenoch, the hot candidate to replace Johnson, states in politics there is no division between the cultural or economic sphere”.

Both are Jacobin assertions that would make any traditional conservative shudder to his core. Meanwhile, the Labour opposition rejects even incremental change as it commits itself to “make Brexit work”. In such an upside-down country it takes every mental sinew just to stay vertical. So it is understandable for people here to see US politics as somehow remote to our immediate concerns.

Modern fascism is a response by the corrupt, hedge-fund, extractive and rentier segment of capital to a three-fold challenge to the existing order which has hitherto enabled it.

It is not. The future of Britain is not always decided in Washington. But by bringing the catastrophe of Brexit down upon the UK, we English have made ourselves vulnerable to the power of others in a world where the balance of power is shifting unpredictably. In this conjuncture the US is the swing factor — our future will be decided by whether or not Trump or a Trumpite Republican takes the White House in 2024, makes the EU its “foe” (to quote Trump) and reaches out to autocrats elsewhere. And this will be decided by whether or not Democrats can mobilise their supporters to vote. Which in turn will be decided by whether progressives and centre can forge a credible, attractive alliance around a programme as well as a candidate.

My view is that they can. I set out why this is possible in Taking Control!. It has been dismissed as “optimistic” as if for an argument to be respectably left-wing or radical it must be “pessimistic”. I fear this reaction is in effect a complacent rather than wise surrender of hope and the opportunity to think afresh. 

Also, I don’t feel “optimistic”. The starting point of any assessment of the world today is, as I set out in the book, an imminent threat of modern fascism. This is what Trumpism now represents. It didn’t do so during his first – and I hope only – sojourn in the White House. But January 6 was a calling card for a new order, taken up by the Republican Party as a whole and its voters. Next time, if there is one, no mere rules will prevent Republicans from staying in control, for the heart of their project is to entrench white minority rule. 

This hasn’t happened yet. Nor need it, because those of us who want inclusive democratic freedom and the rule of fair laws, are the majority, not only in the United States but around the world. Not by much, but by enough if we can all get our acts together. Which means we must refuse to accept defeat in advance. The starting point, however, is a grave recognition that normality is no longer on the agenda. Things could get better. If they don’t they will get a lot, lot worse. Which is why asking how progressives can win isn’t “optimism”.

However, how to get our act together poses as yet unsolved problems, practical and strategic. Not least because, while the immediate danger is Trumpism, the old enemy of corporate powers that seek a fatalistic acceptance of market priorities, sit like a toad on our hearts and hopes, filling the air we breathe with its toxic media fumes.  

Where does Modern Fascism Come From?

Here's the question. Given the strength of corporate vested interests and the political weakness of opposition to them, how come there is a threat of modern fascism? The answer is that modern fascism is a response by the corrupt, hedge-fund, extractive and rentier segment of capital to a three-fold challenge to the existing order which has hitherto enabled it. 

Since the 1920s we’ve been taught that fascist sentiments are only summoned from the stinking margins they inhabit when there is a systemic threat to capitalism, such as Communism, or powerful socialist trade unions. Today, there are no such threats instead, the need for authoritarian mobilisation has been aroused by internal challenges. 

The Johnson government imported the US playbook to ram through compulsory ID so as to prevent opposition supporters from voting.... It’s a good example of the gravitational influence of the US on the UK. 

The first challenge is the failure of the market era in the USA dating back to Reagan and Thatcher. Often termed neoliberal, in the US it flatlined living standards while inequality ballooned; its lost militarily in Iraq and Afghanistan; and its financial ordered crashed spectacularly in 2008. Meanwhile, China grew at a spectacular rate to challenge America’s once unrivalled economic supremacy. Domestically and globally, US primacy unravelled. This presented the first challenge as the existing order lost its legitimacy. 

Second, neoliberalism was primarily a political strategy that took an economic form (something I argue in Taking Control!). Its function was to convince voters they are powerless to act collectively. Individual consumerism was encouraged while political fatalism was propagated, not citizenship; reinforced by a media that echoed the nostrums that government is the problem and the market is always right and acted as a gatekeeper shutting out alternative views.

For decades it was an amazing success. However, the credibility of ‘capitalist realism’ cratered when Washington bailed out the banks while nearly ten million lost their homes after 2008. This provoked a popular rage against ‘the elite’, expressed by the Tea Party on the right and the Occupy movement on the left. Both defied fatalism and generated the second challenge as the politics of marketisation lost its grip. 

Third, the system failed utterly to measure up to the prevention of climate change and thereby put the viability of human life on earth at risk, creating a third challenge both actual, symbolised today by the flames licking the Sequoia, and political as many raised their voices in calls for action. 

On their own, even this triple challenge would still not have threatened the hegemony of financial and corporate priorities, given the liquidation of Communism and the marginalisation of trade unions.

But the enormous advances in human life since the 1950s have been generating counter-forces to marketisation: feminism, racial equality, human rights, environmental thinking, scientific advances, and the transformation of health and fitness, together initiated a “humanisation of humanity”. An inchoate set of claims began to grow: that we should all be equally able to fulfil ourselves without destructive competition. 

The Humanisation of Humanity

These claims do not yet have effective political expression. But the ultra-wealthy are far more aware of the threat that modern humanisation represents to their interests than those of us feeling our way to a better politics. And so the right struck first.

It reached out to the desire for agency in way that was divisive so that it could rule all the better. By showing he could upturn ‘the elite’, Trump’s great achievement was to make voting count. He exploited the weakness of anaemic neoliberal democracy to terminate fatalism. For the far-right it was – and is – high risk but what they understood is that if they didn’t do it first then the left, under a Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren, could succeed in the creation of an inclusive democratic populism that would call out and terminate their corruption.

After four years of Trump, a titanic election took place. Enthused by the way he really ‘meant it’, the white-power, gun-toting far-right that had boycotted elections since the sixties rallied to the Ogre. He got 74 million votes, a staggering 4.5 million more than any previous presidential candidate.  Obama’s 69.5 million being the previous highest. However, Trump also so repulsed the majority of his fellow citizens that Joe Biden got an even more astounding 81 million votes. 

The fact that, thanks to the ‘Electoral College’, the outcome turned on 42,000 votes in three states is a measure of how rigged the system is. It means that Democrats will lose with anything less than super-turnout by their supporters. And immediately the result was called, the Republicans – coordinated by right-wing foundations – set about rigging the system even more in the states where they control the legislatures. 

It was noteworthy that the Johnson government imported the US playbook to ram through compulsory ID so as to prevent opposition supporters from voting. Labour opposed but has not pledged to reverse this, apparently fearful of insisting upon democracy. It’s a good example of the gravitational influence of the US on the UK. 

So the question now is whether the Democrats can generate the popular support needed to rescue US democracy. Biden began to show what was possible as he joined forces with the Sanders movement to win in November 2020 and then, at the start of his presidency, delivered popular, progressive policies. His subsequent frustration matters less than his inability to express his anger, the lame way he has summoned the ghosts of a bi-partisan past, and a sense of hopelessness, reinforced by a Supreme Court that has turned itself into an arm of the legislature. 

In these grave circumstances, with a growing sense that the future is in jeopardy, and just after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, I went to Washington to talk with politicians and activists who I had been writing about from across the Atlantic.

Can the US Rescue Democracy?

I wanted to put my assessment to the test. Three leading progressive Democrats in the House agreed to be interviewed and it was an eye opener. You can see them for yourself in a short openDemocracy film ‘US Progressives on a knife edge’. Here, in Byline Times, their singular roles and contributions have been sketched by fellow progressives who have witnessed them at work. 

Jamie Raskin, Representative from Maryland was profiled last month by Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of The Nation. A law professor by training, Raskin led the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump. If you want a concise, eight-minute description of Trump and Bannon’s strategy to flip the election on January 6th listen to him here

Ro Khanna, Representative from California, whose district includes Silicon Valley, is profiled by Larry Cohen, the chair of ‘Our Revolution’. One of the co-chairs of Bernie Sanders’ 2020 election campaign, Khanna proposes a far-sighted ‘Digital Bill of Rights’ and he is developing an articulate, strategic vision. 

Pramila Jayapal, Representative from Seattle in Washington State, is profiled by Robert Borosage. She chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus, now just short of a hundred strong. An experienced organiser who seeks to reach out to the larger movement of activists, she is a new kind of politician. You can see how impressed I was with her combination of radicalism and practicality.    

British readers who keep abreast of current affairs are unlikely to have heard of Raskin, Khanna and Jayapal. Generationally, all are between high-profile Senators like Sanders and Warren, who are now in their seventies, and brilliant, media-savvy millennials like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

Each in different ways is dedicated to broad, alliance building.

Raskin positions himself as being at “the moral centre” of US politics. He seeks to save actually existing US democracy from the right and at the same time expand it, to end its gerrymandering and exclusions. Khanna, drawing on Amartya Sen’s arguments about human capacity, calls for a progressive, responsible capitalism that enables everyone. Both Raskin and Khanna have written serious, accessible books that set out their view of America and its possible future. Jayapal, a superb organiser, has turned what was a social network of progressives in Congress into an influential base, a unique achievement in a jealous, power-obsessed city.

The dominant media narrative about progressives in the US and even more in the UK is that they frighten voters and damage the electoral prospects of the Democrats and Labour respectively. There are indeed left-wing egoists who shock to demonstrate their self-righteousness. Doubtless, some of the divisiveness they cause is funded by foundations and agencies. Here in Britain, the Starmer machine deploys such stereotypes to further its efforts to extract radical influence from Labour’s ranks, in a shallow, inappropriate imitation of Blairism, shorn of the energetic, alternative narrative that gave New Labour its initial success.

Many US journalists and centrist Democrats who operate “under the dome” of Congress want the Biden White House to similarly purge the influence of the left. But the underlying tide of humanisation in America ensures this will lead to political suicide while overwhelmingly US progressives are not head-bangers.  

On the contrary, each of the three US progressive leaders profiled in Byline Times demonstrates a deep commitment to constructing alliances, developing a politics that appeals as widely as possible, and building a stable, corruption-free democracy.

Furthermore, the core policies they support are massively popular, from child care to ending the influence of money on politicians.

A critical example is the ‘right to choose’ struck down by an openly right-wing Supreme Court but desired by every two women in three. ‘The Right to Choose’ is also a different kind of demand from welfare rights, because it entails empowerment. Perhaps this can help open the way to a democratic politics that also validates agency and builds a more powerful response to Trumpism.

In England too, some on the left are developing a high-energy strategy, as the recent Sheffield and Progressive Economics conferences demonstrate. But here a progressive citizens strategy is emerging outside the Labour Party and faces a long struggle to gain influence in parliament. Whereas in Washington DC progressives are engaged in the heart of the battle that could decide the future of the world. So read the profiles of Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna and Jamie Raskin, with this in mind.

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Lessons from American Progressives: Pramila Jayapal, ‘Rising Star’ of the Democratic Caucus

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 04/07/2022 - 9:41pm in

Robert Borosage profiles why the Democratic Representative's 'inside-outside' approach to politics puts her in pole position for taking on the conservative-corporate wing of her party

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As a massive crisis unfolds in the domestic politics of the United States, one quiet and modest figure who is little known to the outside world will emerge with increased influence: Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal, leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives.

At the same time as the Trumpite majority on the US Supreme Court goes on the offensive, voting intentions point towards the Republicans gaining a majority in the House of Representatives.

Carefully plotted by Nate Silver and his colleagues at FiveThirtyEight – in which they aggregate and geographically locate all forms of polling – the gerrymandering of districts will probably lead to a right-wing victory. The latest outrage being the Supreme Court's permission for Louisiana to squeeze most of its one-third black population into a single district, confining them to one-sixth of the state’s representation.

If the Democrats are indeed reduced to a minority, Nancy Pelosi will almost certainly step down as their House leader. If, however, revulsion at the insanity of the Supreme Court becoming an undemocratic, right-wing conspiracy inflames sufficient turnout to ensure the Democrats retain the majority, it will be in radicalised circumstances.

Either-way, the role of the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus will be enhanced in shaping the politics of the House of Representatives, the future of the Democratic Party across America, and the left around the world. I believe she is one to watch

In a Washington Post profile of President Joe Biden’s Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, a number of more conservative elected Democrats complained about the influence of Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal. One, under the cover of anonymity, “accused Klain of creating ‘a monster’ by empowering Jayapal, using an expletive to underscore the point”. Why does this intelligent woman with a friendly smile spark such fear and loathing from the more traditional politicians from her own party?

Jayapal was elected to Congress in 2016, in the same election that brought Donald Trump to the White House. She personifies and helps to lead the growing progressive movement in the United States. 

She is the first Indian-American women ever elected to the US House of Representatives. She is also a movement leader who went from protest to power – as chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, she is the leader of a left that now wields increasing influence inside Congress.

Born in Chennai, India, Jayapal came to America aged 16 for college, achieving a BA at Georgetown University and an MBA at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern. 

Following 9/11, she founded an immigrant action organisation in Seattle called 'Hate Free Zone', later renamed 'One America'. Its remarkable organising to protect immigrants from discrimination and violence included a successful lawsuit that stopped the George W. Bush administration from summarily deporting 4,000 Somalis. 

After years of such efforts, Jayapal decided it was time to move into elected politics and run for public office, winning a seat in the Washington state senate. 

Her initial success reflected broader currents then sweeping US politics. 

The disastrous Iraq War and the 2008 financial collapse exposed the bankruptcy of the bipartisan neo-liberal establishment in Washington. The centre could not hold. 

On the right, the Tea Party erupted, preying on racial discord in reaction to the election of Barak Obama, stoking a reactionary, nativist anger. On the left, citizen movements – Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter, the Dreamers, the growing climate movement, MeToo – challenged the limits of the political debate in the Democratic Party.  

In a European system, these fractures would be expressed in the emergence of new parties. In the two-party system of the United States, they were expressed by populist challenges within each major party – Donald Trump and his 'Make America Great Again' movement taking on the Republican establishment and Bernie Sanders’ insurgent campaign the Democratic Party.

Jayapal endorsed Sanders in 2016. The Sanders campaigns in 2016 and 2020, as well as the Elizabeth Warren presidential campaign in 2020, set out a project focused on completing America’s unfinished social democratic agenda, while addressing the climate crisis with the Green New Deal.  

Jayapal’s skills as an organiser and communicator quickly put her at the head of the class, hailed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as a “rising star in the Democratic caucus”. By 2019, she had become co-chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus – an independent caucus in the House now numbering nearly 100 legislators.  

Traditionally, the Caucus had acted largely as an informal gathering that provided a platform to help legislators gain attention. Under Jayapal’s leadership, it became a joint enterprise, as she describes in an understated way in ‘US Progressives on a Knife Edge’.

The Caucus was consolidated, it raised fees to support an independent staff, and members committed to vote collectively on the critical issues it adopted. "We have to be able to say this is what the progressive caucus stands for, this is what we're fighting for," she said. "This is not a litmus test, this is not a purity test, but we do want people to generally be in line with the caucus on votes."

Jayapal drove those reforms and provided the leadership to activate them. Her skills as an organiser – providing clear objectives, gaining consensus around priorities, providing cogent messaging and communications – made them credible and augmented the Caucus' power. 

When Joe Biden took office, he put forth a far bolder agenda than many had expected. 

With a 50-50 party divide in the Senate, and a very small margin in the House, Democrats had to unify to pass legislation to law. By remaining unified within the wider Democratic membership, the core of the Caucus exercised immense influence in the internal jockeying between progressives and the more conservative-corporate wing of the House Democrats. This put Jayapal at the centre of the negotiations.

It also meant that the powerful House Speaker had to negotiate with the "rising star”.

Jayapal blocked Pelosi’s effort to pass a bipartisan Infrastructure bill without a commitment to also pass the core of the progressive/Biden agenda – the Build Back Better Bill, which included funds for child poverty, education from pre-kindergarten to college, renewable energy and more. 

Twice, progressives stayed unified against great pressure, forcing eventual agreement from the corporate Democrats and succeeding in passing both the Infrastructure Bill and the Build Back Better Bill through the House. (That triumph was sabotaged largely by one Senate Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who defied his President and an otherwise unified Democratic Senate caucus to torpedo Biden’s agenda).

In my view, Jayapal has developed the inside-outside politics vital to reform. She retains close contacts with citizen movements, leveraging their energy to help build support inside the legislature. She understands the importance of putting forth clear and bold reform ideas and pushing hard for them. She rejects the pre-emptive concessions that have become a habit among liberal Democratic legislators. 

“Saying you’re at 100, I’m at zero, so we should end up at 50 – that doesn’t really work if you’re talking about kids in cages,” she says. 

At the same time, she understands that, after standing strong and pushing for bold reform, compromises are necessary to make real progress. 

Those skills – inside-outside organising, sustaining credibility with citizen movements and with fellow legislators, standing on principle and understanding the need to compromise to gain a majority – make Jayapal a rare and valued leader.   

With Pelosi and her leadership group on the verge of retirement, the Democrats are gearing up to elect new leaders in the next Congress. Representative Pramila Jayapal will certainly be one of the progressives who will vie for a leadership position. 

The battle will come down to a fight between the corporate wing of the party and the rising progressive wing; between big money and popular movements. But, whatever the immediate outcome, it is clear that the progressive wing of the party is winning the argument over what the future Democratic Party agenda should be and, if it continues to build power inside Congress, this will be in no small part thanks to Pramila Jayapal.

Bob Borosage is a contributing editor of the Nation Magazine. He advises progressives in both the House and Senate, and chairs the board of the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center, a non-profit organisation dedicated to furthering progressive reform

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It’s Time for Democrats to Claim the Moral High Ground

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/06/2022 - 10:00pm in

In my class on the history of sexuality and gender, I’m trying to teach my students that every one of these labels is an argument with a past....

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Lessons from American Progressives: Ro Khanna, Sanders Presidential Campaigner with a Broader Reach

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/06/2022 - 9:06pm in

Larry Cohen profiles the US Democratic Representative for California who, despite representing arguably the wealthiest place on Earth, is focused on appealing to working America

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The United States is heading towards a full-scale showdown with a nativist, supremacist minority entrenching its power. The Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe versus Wade is just one part of the mobilisation underway in a rigged democracy.

The majority – represented in 2020 by the seven million more votes Joe Biden won than Donald Trump – may be crushed because the system is so undemocratic. If it is, it will also be because Biden has failed to mobilise his supporters, deliver where he could have, and express convincing anger when he has been frustrated. 

A new factor is also driving down his support: devastating inflation. People have more jobs than ever but, when they have to drive to work, the price of gas may decide their vote – or the price of milk, up 38% since 2019. When it comes to inflation, Biden also seems unable to convince Americans that he is leading the fightback.

At the beginning of this month, in the coveted, prime editorial opinion space of The New York Times, the Democratic Representative for California, Ro Khanna, proposed an “all-out mobilisation, not just a few ad hoc initiatives”.

His conclusion used a language missing from the official opposition in the UK as much as in the US. “There is no patience for incrementalism or political spin about economic numbers in these times," he said. "Democrats can’t just blame the Republicans for lacking a plan. People elected us to solve problems. We told them that government could improve their lives and they want to see tangible action, movement and energy out of Washington. Let’s reject the orthodoxy that makes us timid and dilatory about government intervention and show that our government is still capable of decisive action when it comes to both demand and supply.”

Denouncing a Supreme Court that proclaims US state governments cannot forbid people from carrying concealed weapons but may forbid a woman’s right to choose, Khanna is also capable of voting where his mouth is. Most recently he was the only member of the House Armed Services Committee to oppose adding $37 billion to the defence budget of $773 billion the President requested. 

His record makes Khanna a leading member of the new generation of serious US progressives that are becoming the voice of besieged majority – now fighting for democracy across America. Another is Democratic Representative Jamie Raskin, who led the impeachment of Donald Trump, recently profiled in Byline Times by Katrina vanden Heuval. The chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives, Democrat Pramila Jayapal, is also among them. All three are rooted in the real majority on which, I believe, our futures in Europe as well America depends.  

Aged 45, Democratic Representative Ro Khanna is an outstanding example of the middle generation of US progressives and a politician worth watching as the United States struggles with overcoming Donald Trump and his legacy.

A complex problem-solver – pragmatic more than ideological – Khanna is willing to align with grassroots groups, from environmental to community and labour. 

Born in Pennsylvania, the son of immigrant Indian-American parents – with a grandfather who went to prison with Gandhi – he identifies with and supports communities of colour while also optimistically believing in the promise and potential of a multicultural America.  

The path for social change in the US begins in the House of Representatives and, within the House, with the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). Led by Democratic Representative Pramila Jayapal, the caucus is home to Democrats intent on serious, realistic change and its growth arguably provides the best, if not only, path to move the progressive agenda.

For five years, Khanna has focused on the needs of working class families and, as deputy caucus whip, on building a stronger CPC.  

This might seem surprising given his district includes California’s Silicon Valley. As he has observed, the companies registered there have a market value of $11 trillion, making it the wealthiest place on Earth. Yet, he is capable of challenging the tech giants. He demands Government policies that ensure their investments benefit all Americans. And, as his recent book Dignity in a Digital Age demonstrates, he has an exceptional grasp of the issues posed by new technology for democracy as well as employment. 

Before his election in 2016, Khanna worked in the Obama's Department of Commerce and focused on rebuilding America’s manufacturing base. In his book, Khanna argues that we must rebalance wealth and opportunity beyond the coasts to include the forgotten communities across the nation. Abandonment of these communities by government and investors has fuelled the rise of right-wing Trump authoritarianism and Khanna forcefully argues that innovative investment in rural and mid-America should be unleashed.

In a recent trip to Galesburg, Illinois, Khanna first addressed Monmouth College on the need to invest in Midwest manufacturing, and then spoke to workers laid off when the local Maytag washing machine plant moved to Mexico shortly after Whirlpool acquired the firm. With his focus on the value of “making things”, he was able to relate to both academics and workers, linking trade and tax policy to good jobs and strong communities.

In 2020, Khanna was one of four co-chairs of Bernie Sander’s presidential campaign, supporting his core message of economic and social justice, as well as his own of investing in forgotten communities. He has also been a champion of 'Our Revolution', the successor organisation to ‘Bernie 2016’, leading on critical issues from environmental to economic justice.

In Congress, Khanna chairs the environmental sub-committee of the House of Representatives Oversight Committee. He has held hearings focused on fossil fuel companies and ending the special tax subsidies that encourage more exploration and drilling even as wildfires caused by global warming spread. 

He recently introduced legislation that would tax the windfall profits of oil and gas enterprises and describes the 100-year impact of “petro-states” – including Russia and Saudi Arabia – as major threats to global peace and prosperity that, notoriously, lack innovation internally and suffer a massive deficit of democracy. 

Khanna has led congressional efforts to end US support for the Saudi war against Yemen – a prime example of petro-state domination and brutality – deployed with US weaponry. He calls for a “moon shot” in renewable energy, as the way to break out of fossil fuel dependency and bring energy manufacturing opportunities to declining communities.

He also serves on the House Armed Services Committee and, from its platform, helps lead the effort in the House of Representatives to stop annual increases in the military budget and to end funding for new rounds of nuclear weapons. A long-time opponent of ‘regime change’, he argues that military spending is driving down social spending as well as encouraging military intervention and the “sale” of US weapons to authoritarian regimes.

Khanna believes that we must invest in children, wherever they live, with child care and free college. He sees wealth taxes that will fall disproportionately on billionaires in his district as a fine way to fund a better future. He supports cancelling student debt by executive action and has joined a chorus of CPC congressional Democrats demanding that Joe Biden act on this.

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He is a core supporter of Medicare for All, co-sponsoring the legislation authored by Pramila Jayapal and Bernie Sanders. Like Jayapal, he supports interim steps that would gradually lower the eligibility age for Medicare and also supports Medicare negotiating pharmaceutical prices for the nation, cutting their costs nearly by half and matching the prices paid by other nations. These measures would rapidly pay for themselves by cutting current US  healthcare spending from its bloated 22% of GDP – way more than any other country.  

While predictably progressive, as expected from a Sanders presidential campaign co-chair, Khanna’s reach is broader. It incorporates a unique perspective on the wealth generation of the well-known tech giants based in his district, praising their innovation but demanding that they decentralise investment. He also champions an 'Internet Bill of Rights' that includes data privacy and safeguards to protect against warrantless government surveillance. In his book he develops a call for a “progressive patriotism” echoing Frederick Douglass.  

As a member of the core constituency of the CPC, leading and organising on key issues, Khanna seems secure as he runs for re-election in November. The CPC remains short of a majority of House Democrats but, as the election calendar moves forward, it already seems likely that there will be more progressive Democrats in the next Congress and that they will work to support a broad array of issues – from economic and environmental justice to criminal justice reform, curbing military spending and a new foreign policy. At the same time, they will be working with grassroots groups across the nation to generate a path for change that is practical and popular. 

The typical knee-jerk response levelled at progressives is that they are impractical, unrealistic and do not appeal to working America. No one could make these charges against Ro Khanna.  

Larry Cohen is the founding board chair of ‘Our Revolution’, the successor organisation to ‘Bernie 2016’. He was previously president of the Communications Workers of America, and has been a member of the Democratic National Committee since 2005

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Chris Hedges: The Triumph of Death

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 21/06/2022 - 1:39am in

It is hard to be sanguine about the future. The breakdown of the ecosystem is well documented. So is the refusal of the global ruling elite to pursue measures that might mitigate the devastation. We accelerate the extraction of fossil fuels, wallow in profligate consumption, including our consumption of livestock, and make new wars as if we are gripped by a Freudian death wish. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Conquest, War, Famine and Death – gallop into the 21st century.

Those who rule, servants of corporations and the global billionaire class, accompany the suicidal folly by cementing into place corporate tyranny. The plan is not to reform. It is to perpetuate the corporate pillage. This pillage, more and more onerous for the global population, necessitates a new totalitarianism, one where the billionaire class lives in opulence, workers are serfs, rights such as privacy and due process are abolished, Big Brother watches us all the time, war is the chief business of the state, dissent is criminalized and those displaced by conflicts and climate breakdown are barred entry into the climate fortresses in the global north. Portions of the human species, the most privileged, will, in theory, hold out a little longer before they succumb to the great die off.

The persecuted and the abandoned, now in the tens of millions, know the future. For them, the future has already arrived. Julian Assange, the most important publisher of our generation, whose extradition to the US was approved on Friday by the British Home Secretary Priti Patel, is an example of what will befall all publishers and journalists that expose the inner workings of power. His imprisonment for revealing the war crimes, mendacity, cynicism, and corruption of the ruling class, including the Democratic Party, heralds a new era. Investigations into the centers of power, the life blood of journalism, will be a criminal offense.

It does not matter that Assange, who suffered a stroke and is in poor physical and psychological health, is not a U.S. citizen or that WikiLeaks is not a US-based publication. It does not matter that all of Assange’s meetings with his attorneys were recorded by UC Global, the Spanish security firm at the Ecuadorian Embassy where Assange lived for seven years, and turned over to the US, obliterating attorney-client privilege. The campaign against Assange, and I have sat in on hearings in London, is a Dickensian farce, the persecution of an innocent and heroic man, far more reminiscent of the Lubyanka than the best of British jurisprudence. He is being used to send a message — if you expose what we do we will destroy you.

Workers, whether in the vast sweatshops in China or the decayed ruins of the rust belt, struggle on subsistence wages without job protection or unions. They are cursed by trade deals, deindustrialization, austerity, rising interest rates and rising prices. They, too, know the future.

The decision to raise interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point, with new rate hikes on the way, will further depress wages, which have stagnated for decades, increase unemployment and personal debt and make food and other basic necessities more expensive. Raising interest rates usually induces a recession. But the oligarchs are more than willing to extract blood from the working class. Inflation reduces investment returns. It disrupts leveraged financial strategies.

Prices are not rising because of wages. They are rising because of supply shortages and price gouging by corporations and oil conglomerates. US corporations posted their biggest profit growth in decades by raising prices during the pandemic. Corporate pretax profits rose last year by 25 percent to $2.81 trillion, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s the largest annual increase since 1976, according to the Federal Reserve. When taxes are included, last year’s corporate profit rose to 37 percent, more than any other time since the Fed began tracking profits in 1948.

Antitrust laws and breaking up monopolies would ease the strain of inflation and lower prices. Rationing would break inflation. So would a wage-price freeze. Nationalization, reversing the capture of public utilities, the health care system, banking, and other services by corporations, would also blunt price rises. But the billionaire class is not about to impose measures that diminish their profits. They will keep their monopolies. They will keep their grip on what were once public assets. The message from the billionaire class is this: the economy is run for our benefit, not yours.

Ukrainians, enduring a war of attrition with the infusion of tens of billions of dollars of weapons from the US and Europe, know the future. War is the chief business of the state. It enriches the arms industry. It expands the military budget. The US now sends $130 million a day in military aid and assistance to Ukraine, part of the $55 billion in aid promised by Washington.

The US, struggling with societal breakdown and an ailing economy, sees its military as the only mechanism left to destroy global competitors, especially Russia and China. Russia, hemmed in by an expanding NATO in Central and Eastern Europe, and China harassed by a succession of carrier groups in the South China Sea, which Washington has called a “national interest,” have been united as US adversaries. China sees the waterways of Asia and the Pacific as part of its sphere of influence, as Russia sees Ukraine and other neighboring states. The aggressive military posturing of the US on the borders of China and Russia has provoked an unnecessary cold war, one many Washington policy makers nonchalantly expect may evolve into a hot war amongst nuclear armed nations that would potentially obliterate life on the planet.

There is an intensifying scramble for control, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s building of air bases from Japan to Australia along the Asian littoral, giving it the ability to attack warships, including aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific. The refusal of the U.S. to accommodate itself to a multipolar world and to chase the chimera of unrivaled global hegemony has seen Russia and China solidify an alliance, an alliance cold warriors worked hard to prevent. The hostilities, a self-fulfilling prophecy by U.S. warmongers, delights the Washington establishment whose goal is to perpetuate endless war.

You know you are in trouble when Henry Kissinger, who has called for Ukraine to cede territory to Russia and open negotiations with Moscow “in the next two months before it creates upheavals and tensions that will not be easily overcome,” is a voice of sanity.

Despotic governments need an enemy to justify the repression of dissidents, the reduction and cancellation of social programs and the iron control of information. Wars justify the unjustifiable — black sites, kidnapping, torture, targeted assassinations, censorship, and arbitrary detention — off-the-book war crimes. War induces a state of perpetual paranoia and fear. It demands mass obedience.

“The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous,” George Orwell writes in 1984. “Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.”

The message of endless war is – if you defy the ruling class, the militarists and the government, you are a traitor.

The 140 million people across the globe suffering from acute hunger, a result of the pandemic, the climate crisis and the war in Ukraine, know the future, along with the families of the 15 million people who died from the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of whom with proper prevention and medical care could have been saved. The refugees fleeing failed states and climate disasters – there could be 1.2 billion climate refugees by 2050 – in the global south know the future.

The message imparted to the poor, the vulnerable, the sick and the weak is this: your lives and the lives of your children do not matter.

The oligarchs in the Democratic Party and the establishment wing of the Republican Party are aware they are in political trouble. Is it due to Russian meddling? Is it due to Donald Trump and his proto-fascist minions? Is it caused by journalists and publishers like Assange who give them a bad name? Is it a failure of messaging? Is it a lack of rigorous censorship of the far-right and leftist critics?

The Democratic Party, now united with the establishment Republican Party, is flailing around for a solution. They are bankrolling far right candidates in the Republican primaries , a tactic that backfired on Hillary Clinton when her campaign worked during the primaries to promote Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. Retrograde Republicans, de facto members of the Democratic Party because they voted to impeach Trump, are being lionized as true patriots, as if they can lure people away from Trump and Trump-like clones. Robert Reich, along with other Democratic leaders, argues that Rep. Cheney – who voted for Trump policies 93 percent of the time as a member of the House but now looks set to lose her bid for reelection in Wyoming – has “demonstrated more courage and integrity than any other politician in America” and might just be “the best president of the United States for the perilous time we’re entering.” Jonathan V. Last, in an article headlined “Mike Pence is an American Hero” in The Atlantic, writes that Pence “did more to protect democracy — both on January 6 and since — than any other person inside the Trump administration.”



Perhaps the expected Supreme Court ruling that will overturn Roe v. Wade will work in their favor. Perhaps the televised hearings on the January 6th assault on the Capitol, an extended campaign commercial, will convince voters to support them. Perhaps the promise of more stringent gun laws will excite the electorate.

What can we expect from a party leadership that believed Michael Bloomberg, who has switched allegiance between the Democratic and Republican parties several times, would save them from progressives such as Bernie Sanders? What can we expect from a party leadership that anointed Joe Biden, who spent his political career dispossessing working men and women, building the world’s largest prison system, militarizing police, destroying the welfare system and funding military fiascos in the Middle East, as president?

The Biden administration is defined by failed expectations, from its stymied Build Back Better Plan to its refusal to raise the minimum wage. It is running on fumes, using gimmicks, empty rhetoric, spectacle and fear to intimidate the electorate.

The descent is pathetic to watch, reminiscent of the moment Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu tried desperately to placate an unruly crowd from the Balcony of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Romania building by offering to raise pension and family allowance by $2 a month. He and his wife were executed four days later. The discredited East German Communist Party, which like the Romanian revolution I also covered as a reporter, made similar empty gestures, promising to open its closed party headquarters to the public long after anyone cared.

The billionaire class, or at least many of them, would prefer to loot and pillage under the cover of the old political decorum and rhetoric. They like the fiction of paying homage to an emasculated democracy. It gives them the veneer of respectability.

But this is not to be. The rage of the betrayed is articulated by imbecilic demagogues vomited up from the social and political swamp. Corporations and the billionaire class will continue to exploit, but under a cruder and crueler authoritarianism. The social, political, economic, and environmental breakdown will accelerate. Reality, increasingly unpalatable, will cease to exist in public discourse. It will be replaced by Millenarian cults, such as the Christian fascists, and bizarre conspiracy theories, a retreat into magical thinking where evil is embodied in demonized individuals and groups that must be eradicated. Truth and lies will be indistinguishable. The vulnerable will be cast aside, blamed for their own misery, as well as ours. Those who resist will be criminals. Mass death will sweep across the planet. This is the world our children will inherit unless those who control us are wrenched from power.

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report.

The post Chris Hedges: The Triumph of Death appeared first on MintPress News.

Lessons from American Progressives: Jamie Raskin, Lead Investigator of Trump’s Conspiracy 

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 10/06/2022 - 1:12am in

Katrina vanden Heuvel reflects on why the Congressman and former constitutional law professor's politics can help guide the US to a more humane and radical future

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As the congressional committee investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol begin a series of public hearings to present its findings, Byline Times is launching a short series of articles to introduce American progressives to a wider world.

We are at a turning point in Joe Biden’s presidency, as US politics heads towards the mid-term elections in November. Will the Democrats be able to prevent the return to the White House of Donald Trump or an authoritarian Republican with similar supremacist politics in 2024?

With the system rigged against them, the Democrats will need a coherent, popular agenda, which means that there will have to be an alliance of the influential centrists with the emerging progressives.

The outside world is familiar with media favourites like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But a less well-known generation is laying the foundation for America’s future — if it is to have one that isn’t overseen by surveillance fascism.

Three Representatives in Congress are especially remarkable: Pramila Jayapal, chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus; Ro Khanna, a vice-chair of Bernie Sanders' 2020 presidential campaign; and Jamie Raskin, who led the impeachment trial of Donald Trump. All of them the feature in a short documentary I recently made in Washington D.C..

Of the three, Raskin has been outstanding for the critical part he has played in analysing what happened on 6 January and demanding justice. In this article, he is introduced by Katrina vanden Heuvel, publisher of The Nation, America’s oldest and most distinguished progressive voice. 

On 6 January 2021, the world watched as a mob breached the United States Capitol building in a violent attempt to overturn the result of the 2020 Presidential Election and crush the clear decision of a majority of American voters.

The bid to prevent a peaceful transfer of power was instigated by the incumbent President himself; the frightening culmination of a concerted effort by him and his associates to undermine American democracy.

Yet, even as the hallowed halls of American democracy were desecrated and Capitol police officers were felled, Congressman Jamie Raskin remained fearless and determined. 

“My feeling to the people who want to take down our democracy is that they’re not going to scare me out of doing my job,” he later wrote. Now, as the House of Representatives' select committee investigating the events of 6 January starts its public hearings, committee member Raskin has promised that it will lay out facts that “will blow the roof off the House”.  

In the aftermath of 6 January, Raskin quickly emerged as one of the most passionate defenders of American democracy, drawing on his expertise as a former constitutional law professor. He is no dry and dusty ‘expert’. He gets at the heart of issues – and reflects on his personal experience to capture the hearts of the people.

Raskin’s progressive prowess is very much in his DNA. His father Marcus Raskin was co-founder of the Institute for Policy Studies and a long-time editorial board member of The Nation. Following in his father’s footsteps, Jamie Raskin wrote for The Nation many times, as did his son Tommy Raskin.

For our 150th Anniversary issue, we asked college students and former interns to share their vision for a radical future. Tommy Raskin, then a college sophomore, wrote about his hopes for an America with leaders who stood up to dictators and regimes that tortured their citizens. “In the radical future, we must use the political mechanisms available to us to stop state-sponsored torture and murder and to hold power-brokers accountable for their complicity in gratuitous violence,” he observed.

Holding the powerful to account is a Raskin family tradition – and Jamie Raskin’s constant motivation.

He cut his teeth working for the Reverend Jesse Jackson’s National Rainbow Coalition – a civil rights organisation and an outgrowth of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign. For more than 25 years, he was also a professor at American University’s Law School, teaching generations of lawyers about the rights guaranteed in the US Constitution.

Then, in 2006, Raskin launched a campaign to serve in Maryland’s state Senate, running against a long-serving incumbent. In his own words, Raskin wanted to be a "progressive state-wide leader and not a safe vote or a machine politician". After he won, he made good on that promise, earning national praise for his role in the fight for marriage equality and ending the death penalty, to take just two examples. 

Exactly 10 years later, Raskin won a seat in the US House of Representatives. It was 2016 – the same year Donald Trump incited a wave of xenophobia and right-wing populist rage to take the presidency. Following that election, Raskin joined a small group of law-makers who contested the certification of Trump’s election, citing reports of voter suppression.

After Trump entered the White House, the Raskin cohort of newly-elected progressive representatives – including Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal and Congressman Ro Khanna – became a vital force of resistance within the US House of Representatives.

As members, and later leaders, of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), the class of 2016 turned the bloc of left-of-centre law-makers with little clout and few substantive policy victories, into a caucus with real power on Capitol Hill.

During the Trump years, the CPC frequently blocked legislation sponsored by its own party’s leaders that it found insufficiently bold. On the eve of Biden’s election in 2020, CPC chair, Jayapal, Raskin and colleagues changed the rules for CPC membership to strengthen cohesion among its ranks. The group flexed its muscle during heated negotiations leading up to the passage of a massive infrastructure spending bill and continues to pressure the Biden administration to act on climate change, voting rights, and immigration, among other issues. 

However, it is Raskin’s work since 6 January that has defined him as a leading defender of American democracy.

Just after the violent mob caused death and destruction in the US Capitol on 6 January, Jamie Raskin joined two of his colleagues in introducing an article of impeachment against Donald Trump. With its passage in the House assured, Raskin was selected to help prosecute the case against Trump in front of the US Senate. 

In his opening statement for Trump’s second impeachment trial, Raskin said: “The transition of power is always the most dangerous moment for democracies... The framers of our Constitution knew it. That’s why they created a Constitution with an oath written into it that binds the president from his very first day in office until his very last day in office."

Of particular importance is Raskin’s forensic dissection of what Trump attempted on 6 January – set out succinctly in this interview. He explains how there were three circles of intent: the mob of many thousands drawn to Washington by Trump’s rhetoric; the organised 'insurrectionary' racist and far-right groups and networks who led the violence; and the inner circle of 'the coup' that sought to prevent the Electoral College vote and thus open the way for Trump to declare martial law.    

At the same time as Raskin was battling America’s unrelenting autocrat, he was struggling with his own deep and personal grief. The day before 6 January, he had buried his son Tommy Raskin. The young idealist and activist died by suicide on 31 December 2020 aged 25. 

In a moving tribute to their son, Jamie and his wife Sarah Bloom Raskin described a young man with a “perfect heart, a perfect soul”; someone with a prodigious intellect and passion for justice. Tommy Raskin was someone who felt the weight of our broken world acutely, his parents wrote, and he began to suffer from depression in his twenties.

In his memoir, Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth and the Trials of American Democracy, Jamie Raskin processes the twin traumas of Tommy’s death and 6 January. He began writing the book as a response to the many condolence letters he received, but it also serves as a balm for heartbroken families and a guide for a fractured nation.

“If a person can grow through unthinkable trauma and loss, perhaps a nation may,” Raskin writes

If the United States does, it will have Raskin to thank. Even now, he is working hard to ensure that he has good company in fighting the good fight. Ahead of the mid-term elections in November, he has been campaigning for fellow Democrats in Congress who stood up for American democracy and supporting candidates committed to protecting the Constitution. 

He also hosts Democracy Summer, a programme that has trained thousands of students to register voters and become organisers. In other words: democracy’s next defenders.

Jamie Raskin’s bold, progressive leadership now helps to guide the nation towards the humane and radical future his son once envisioned; a future in which democracy’s adversaries – the corrupt, the cruel and the cynical – are held to account.

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Chris Hedges: No Way Out but War

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 24/05/2022 - 4:53am in

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost) — The United States, as the near unanimous vote to provide nearly $40 billion in aid to Ukraine illustrates, is trapped in the death spiral of unchecked militarism. No high speed trains. No universal health care. No viable Covid relief program. No respite from 8.3 percent inflation. No infrastructure programs to repair decaying roads and bridges, which require $41.8 billion to fix the 43,586 structurally deficient bridges, on average 68 years old. No forgiveness of $1.7 trillion in student debt. No addressing income inequality. No program to feed the 17 million children who go to bed each night hungry. No rational gun control or curbing of the epidemic of nihilistic violence and mass shootings. No help for the 100,000 Americans who die each year of drug overdoses. No minimum wage of $15 an hour to counter 44 years of wage stagnation. No respite from gas prices that are projected to hit $6 a gallon.

The permanent war economy, implanted since the end of World War II, has destroyed the private economy, bankrupted the nation, and squandered trillions of dollars of taxpayer money. The monopolization of capital by the military has driven the US debt to $30 trillion, $ 6 trillion more than the US GDP of $ 24 trillion. Servicing this debt costs $300 billion a year. We spent more on the military, $ 813 billion for fiscal year 2023, than the next nine countries, including China and Russia, combined.

We are paying a heavy social, political, and economic cost for our militarism. Washington watches passively as the U.S. rots, morally, politically, economically, and physically, while China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, and other countries extract themselves from the tyranny of the U.S. dollar and the international Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a messaging network banks and other financial institutions use to send and receive information, such as money transfer instructions. Once the U.S. dollar is no longer the world’s reserve currency, once there is an alternative to SWIFT, it will precipitate an internal economic collapse. It will force the immediate contraction of the U.S. empire shuttering most of its nearly 800 overseas military installations. It will signal the death of Pax Americana.

Democrat or Republican. It does not matter. War is the raison d’état of the state. Extravagant military expenditures are justified in the name of “national security.” The nearly $40 billion allocated for Ukraine, most of it going into the hands of weapons manufacturers such as Raytheon Technologies, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing, is only the beginning. Military strategists, who say the war will be long and protracted, are talking about infusions of $4 or $5 billion in military aid a month to Ukraine. We face existential threats. But these do not count. The proposed budget for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in fiscal year 2023 is $10.675 billion. The proposed budget for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is $11.881 billion. Ukraine alone gets more than double that amount. Pandemics and the climate emergency are afterthoughts. War is all that matters. This is a recipe for collective suicide.

There were three restraints to the avarice and bloodlust of the permanent war economy that no longer exist. The first was the old liberal wing of the Democratic Party, led by politicians such as Senator George McGovern, Senator Eugene McCarthy, and Senator J. William Fulbright, who wrote The Pentagon Propaganda Machine. The self-identified progressives, a pitiful minority, in Congress today, from Barbara Lee, who was the single vote in the House and the Senate opposing a broad, open-ended authorization allowing the president to wage war in Afghanistan or anywhere else, to Ilhan Omar now dutifully line up to fund the latest proxy war. The second restraint was an independent media and academia, including journalists such as I.F Stone and Neil Sheehan along with scholars such as Seymour Melman, author of The Permanent War Economy and Pentagon Capitalism: The Political Economy of War. Third, and perhaps most important, was an organized anti-war movement, led by religious leaders such as Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr. and Phil and Dan Berrigan as well as groups such as Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). They understood that unchecked militarism was a fatal disease.

None of these opposition forces, which did not reverse the permanent war economy but curbed its excesses, now exist. The two ruling parties have been bought by corporations, especially military contractors. The press is anemic and obsequious to the war industry. Propagandists for permanent war, largely from right-wing think tanks lavishly funded by the war industry, along with former military and intelligence officials, are exclusively quoted or interviewed as military experts. NBC’s “Meet the Press” aired a segment May 13 where officials from Center for a New American Security (CNAS) simulated what a war with China over Taiwan might look like. The co-founder of CNAS, Michèle Flournoy, who appeared in the “Meet the Press” war games segment and was considered by Biden to run the Pentagon, wrote in 2020 in Foreign Affairs that the U.S. needs to develop “the capability to credibly threaten to sink all of China’s military vessels, submarines and merchant ships in the South China Sea within 72 hours.”

The handful of anti-militarists and critics of empire from the left, such as Noam Chomsky, and the right, such as Ron Paul, have been declared persona non grata by a compliant media. The liberal class has retreated into boutique activism where issues of class, capitalism and militarism are jettisoned for “cancel culture,” multiculturalism and identity politics. Liberals are cheerleading the war in Ukraine. At least the inception of the war with Iraq saw them join significant street protests. Ukraine is embraced as the latest crusade for freedom and democracy against the new Hitler. There is little hope, I fear, of rolling back or restraining the disasters being orchestrated on a national and global level.  The neoconservatives and liberal interventionists chant in unison for war. Biden has appointed these war mongers, whose attitude to nuclear war is terrifyingly cavalier, to run the Pentagon, the National Security Council, and the State Department.

Since all we do is war, all proposed solutions are military. This military adventurism accelerates the decline, as the defeat in Vietnam and the squandering of $8 trillion in the futile wars in the Middle East illustrate. War and sanctions, it is believed, will cripple Russia, rich in gas and natural resources. War, or the threat of war, will curb the growing economic and military clout of China.

These are demented and dangerous fantasies, perpetrated by a ruling class that has severed itself from reality. No longer able to salvage their own society and economy, they seek to destroy those of their global competitors, especially Russia and China. Once the militarists cripple Russia, the plan goes, they will focus military aggression on the Indo-Pacific, dominating what Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, referring to the Pacific, called “the American Sea.”

You cannot talk about war without talking about markets. The U.S., whose growth rate has fallen to below 2 percent, while China’s growth rate is 8.1 percent, has turned to military aggression to bolster its sagging economy. If the U.S. can sever Russian gas supplies to Europe, it will force Europeans to buy from the United States. U.S. firms, at the same time, would be happy to replace the Chinese Communist Party, even if they must do it through the threat of war, to open unfettered access to Chinese markets. War, if it did break out with China, would devastate the Chinese, American, and global economies, destroying free trade between countries as in World War I. But that doesn’t mean it won’t happen.

Washington is desperately trying to build military and economic alliances to ward off a rising China, whose economy is expected by 2028 to overtake that of the United States, according to the UK’s Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR). The White House has said Biden’s current visit to Asia is about sending a “powerful message” to Beijing and others about what the world could look like if democracies “stand together to shape the rules of the road.” The Biden administration has invited South Korea and Japan to attend the NATO summit in Madrid.

But fewer and fewer nations, even among European allies, are willing to be dominated by the United States. Washington’s veneer of democracy and supposed respect for human rights and civil liberties is so badly tarnished as to be irrecoverable. Its economic decline, with China’s manufacturing 70 percent higher than that of the U.S., is irreversible. War is a desperate Hail Mary, one employed by dying empires throughout history with catastrophic consequences. “It was the rise of Athens and the fear that this instilled in Sparta that made war inevitable,” Thucydides noted in the History of the Peloponnesian War.

A key component to the sustenance of the permanent war state was the creation of the All-Volunteer Force. Without conscripts, the burden of fighting wars falls to the poor, the working class, and military families. This All-Volunteer Force allows the children of the middle class, who led the Vietnam anti-war movement, to avoid service. It protects the military from internal revolts, carried out by troops during the Vietnam War, which jeopardized the cohesion of the armed forces.

The All-Volunteer Force, by limiting the pool of available troops, also makes the global ambitions of the militarists impossible. Desperate to maintain or increase troop levels in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military instituted the stop-loss policy that arbitrarily extended active-duty contracts. Its slang term was the backdoor draft. The effort to bolster the number of troops by hiring private military contractors, as well, had a negligible effect. Increased troop levels would not have won the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but the tiny percentage of those willing to serve in the military (only 7 percent of the U.S. population are veterans) is an unacknowledged Achilles heel for the militarists.

“As a consequence, the problem of too much war and too few soldiers eludes serious scrutiny,” writes historian and retired Army Colonel Andrew Bacevich in After the Apocalypse: America’s Role in a World Transformed. “Expectations of technology bridging that gap provide an excuse to avoid asking the most fundamental questions: Does the United States possess the military wherewithal to oblige adversaries to endorse its claim of being history’s indispensable nation? And if the answer is no, as the post-9/11 wars in Afghanistan and Iraq suggest, wouldn’t it make sense for Washington to temper its ambitions accordingly?”

This question, as Bacevich points out, is “anathema.” The military strategists work from the supposition that the coming wars won’t look anything like past wars. They invest in imaginary theories of future wars that ignore the lessons of the past, ensuring more fiascos.

The political class is as self-deluded as the generals. It refuses to accept the emergence of a multi-polar world and the palpable decline of American power. It speaks in the outdated language of American exceptionalism and triumphalism, believing it has the right to impose its will as the leader of the “free world.” In his 1992 Defense Planning Guidance memorandum, U.S. Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz argued that the U.S. must ensure no rival superpower again arises. The U.S. should project its military strength to dominate a unipolar world in perpetuity. On February 19, 1998, on NBC’s “Today Show”, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright gave the Democratic version of this doctrine of unipolarity. “If we have to use force it is because we are Americans; we are the indispensable nation,” she said. “We stand tall, and we see further than other countries into the future.”

This demented vision of unrivaled U.S. global supremacy, not to mention unrivaled goodness and virtue, blinds the establishment Republicans and Democrats. The military strikes they casually used to assert the doctrine of unipolarity, especially in the Middle East, swiftly spawned jihadist terror and prolonged warfare. None of them saw it coming until the hijacked jets slammed into the World Trade Center twin towers. That they cling to this absurd hallucination is the triumph of hope over experience.

There is a deep loathing among the public for these elitist Ivy League architects of American imperialism. Imperialism was tolerated when it was able to project power abroad and produce rising living standards at home. It was tolerated when it restrained itself to covert interventions in countries such as Iran, Guatemala, and Indonesia. It went off the rails in Vietnam. The military defeats that followed accompanied a steady decline in living standards, wage stagnation, a crumbling infrastructure and eventually a series of economic policies and trade deals, orchestrated by the same ruling class, which deindustrialized and impoverished the country.

The establishment oligarchs, now united in the Democratic Party, distrust Donald Trump. He commits the heresy of questioning the sanctity of the American empire. Trump derided the invasion of Iraq as a “big, fat mistake.” He promised “to keep us out of endless war.” Trump was repeatedly questioned about his relationship with Vladimir Putin. Putin was “a killer,” one interviewer told him. “There are a lot of killers,” Trump retorted. “You think our country’s so innocent?” Trump dared to speak a truth that was to be forever unspoken, the militarists had sold out the American people.

Noam Chomsky took some heat for pointing out, correctly, that Trump is the “one statesman” who has laid out a “sensible” proposition to resolve the Russia-Ukraine crisis. The proposed solution included “facilitating negotiations instead of undermining them and moving toward establishing some kind of accommodation in Europe…in which there are no military alliances but just mutual accommodation.”

Trump is too unfocused and mercurial to offer serious policy solutions. He did set a timetable to withdraw from Afghanistan, but he also ratcheted up the economic war against Venezuela and reinstituted crushing sanctions against Cuba and Iran, which the Obama administration had ended. He increased the military budget. He apparently flirted with carrying out a missile strike on Mexico to “destroy the drug labs.” But he acknowledges a distaste for imperial mismanagement that resonates with the public, one that has every right to loath the smug mandarins that plunge us into one war after another. Trump lies like he breathes. But so do they.

The 57 Republicans who refused to support the $40 billion aid package to Ukraine, along with many of the 19 bills that included an earlier $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine, come out of the kooky conspiratorial world of Trump. They, like Trump, repeat this heresy. They too are attacked and censored. But the longer Biden and the ruling class continue to pour resources into war at our expense, the more these proto fascists, already set to wipe out Democratic gains in the House and the Senate this fall, will be ascendant. Marjorie Taylor Greene, during the debate on the aid package to Ukraine, which most members were not given time to closely examine, said: “$40 billion dollars but there’s no baby formula for American mothers and babies.”

“An unknown amount of money to the CIA and Ukraine supplemental bill but there’s no formula for American babies,” she added. “Stop funding regime change and money laundering scams. A US politician covers up their crimes in countries like Ukraine.”

Democrat Jamie Raskin immediately attacked Greene for parroting the propaganda of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Greene, like Trump, spoke a truth that resonates with a beleaguered public. The opposition to permanent war should have come from the tiny progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which unfortunately sold out to the craven Democratic Party leadership to save their political careers. Greene is demented, but Raskin and the Democrats peddle their own brand of lunacy. We are going to pay a very steep price for this burlesque.

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report.

The post Chris Hedges: No Way Out but War appeared first on MintPress News.

Werleman’s Worldview: The Nuclear Threats to America and Biden’s Presidency

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/04/2022 - 9:26pm in

Vladimir Putin’s military threats are looming over the upcoming US midterm elections, says CJ Werleman

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Americans enter the 2022 midterm election cycle in a state of almost unprecedented collective anxiety, with concerns over soaring inflation, rising interest rates, rising crime levels, along with the Coronavirus pandemic’s stubborn persistence, weighing heavy on the minds of voters.

But if attitudes expressed by a focus group of Americans to the The New York Times are indeed reflective of the broader public – and there’s little reason to doubt they’re not – then the fear of nuclear weapons now ranks second among issues that most worry voters, behind the rising costs in household goods and services.

“With the invasion of Ukraine by Vladimir Putin, fresh ballistic missile tests, and Mr Putin’s explicit reference to the use of nuclear weapons and ‘unpredictable’ consequences of opposing him, fear of nuclear weapons has been thrust front and centre,” observes the newspaper.

These fears were sparked when the Russian President placed his nuclear forces on ‘high alert’ on 28 February for the first time since the end of the Cold War – a threat that was heightened three days later, when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov threatened nuclear retaliation if the United States or NATO intervenes in Ukraine. 

Put simply, American voters want the US Government to do more, militarily, to help the Ukrainian people resist Russian armed forces, but are fearful that doing so will result in a nuclear confrontation with Russia.

One of those surveyed by The New York Times expressed this contradiction, saying: “I think that as long as nuclear weapons exist in the hands of anyone, everyone’s threatened. And just the fact that that threat hangs above the countries’ heads is a terrifying concept. Because it’s like, if you help these people any more than you already are, a lot of people will die.”

This leaves Americans asking two questions: would Putin use nuclear weapons in or over Ukraine; and to what extent will this fear influence the outcome of the congressional midterm elections on 8 November?

The answer to the first question is complicated and largely dependent on who you ask. While some point to a US Army study commissioned by former US President Donald Trump as evidence that Russia possesses an ‘escalate to de-escalate’ nuclear weapons policy within its military doctrine, others have claimed that no such policy exists, saying that such a proposal has only percolated through an article published in a military journal.

In layman terms, ‘escalate to de-escalate’ means using nuclear threats to deter your adversaries from taking military actions against you, while leaving open the possibility of carrying out that threat.

If you believe the Trump administration’s commissioned study to be accurate, then Putin views nuclear weapons as the “top tier of the escalation ladder” that will be deployed if needed to “protect vital Russian interests”. The Russian Armed Forces reserve the right to use them “in a case of aggression against her with conventional weapons that would put in danger the existence of the state”, it claims.

The US Army elaborates on what Putin might perceive to be an existential threat, including any foreign actions “impeding the operation of systems of state governance and military command and control of the Russian Federation, disruption [of] the functioning of its strategic nuclear forces, missile warning systems, systems of outer space monitoring, nuclear munitions storage facilities, nuclear energy facilities, nuclear, chemical, pharmaceutical and medical industry facilities and other potentially dangerous facilities”.

However, according to Matthew Kroenig, deputy director of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, “the academic debate about whether there is a formal Russian doctrine or not misses the point entirely.”

In a debate recently hosted by Foreign Policy, he observed: “The real question is, would Russia find it attractive to threaten to use, and in certain circumstances actually use nuclear weapons in order to win a conflict with the West? The answer is unequivocally: yes... In fact, I think Putin would use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, for example, as a last resort in a desperate effort to stave off an embarrassing military defeat.”

Others, including Emma Ashford, author of Oil, State, and War, and Caitlan Talmadage, an associate professor of security studies in the Edmund W. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, argue that Putin is using his nuclear weapons stockpile as an umbrella under the widely held premise that nuclear armed states don’t fight wars with other nuclear-armed states.

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Foreign Fragility

As for the second question – about the impact of the looming nuclear threat on the midterm elections – the answer is also complicated, given that foreign policy is the domain of the President, whose name does not appear on the November ballot.

That said, Joe Biden is the Leader of the Democratic Party, which reportedly faces a 'blood bath' in the congressional elections if he’s unable to turn things around in the minds of voters by election day, according to most commentators. A recent poll found that barely 33% of the country approves of his performance, with three out of four national polls showing that his presidency has sunk to its lowest point.

Earlier this month, Biden’s top pollster, John Anzalone, told Politico that unless Democrats deliver something tangible in the hands of voters between now and election day – such as cuts to health insurance costs, prescription drug costs, elderly care or childcare – then the “Ukraine narrative”, along with the “Afghan [withdrawal] narrative”, will ensure that his party gets its “asses kicked” on 8 November.

This view is widely shared by other political analysts, who argue that Biden cannot afford the political cost of a Russian victory or the use of nuclear weapons in Ukraine, given his botched withdrawal from Afghanistan – seen as another foreign policy blunder. Should Putin secure anything that resembles a victory in Ukraine, it will cement the view held by some voters that he is too weak on the international stage.

“People are afraid of being walloped financially, being injured or menaced by criminals, being in a country without strong borders or COVID protections for immigrants, and being under threat of nuclear weapons,” observed The New York Times.

In other words, this is a fear-based election, which means that Joe Biden and his party are headed for political ruin if they are unable to address or alleviate the fears surrounding inflation, interest rates, COVID, crime, and the potential use of nuclear weapons. And time is running out.

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The Growing Power of American Social Movements

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 30/03/2022 - 12:00am in

Social movements often fail, the scope of their concerns is limited, and their impact on parties is cyclical, rather than ever-expanding.  ...

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