Two Bigots Running for US President

It’s easy to spot Donald Trump’s crude bigotry but harder to detect Hillary Clinton’s more subtle variety since it pertains mostly to Palestinians and people pressuring Israel to respect Palestinian rights, explains Lawrence Davidson.

By Lawrence Davidson

To find bigots in political office in the United States is not historically unusual. In fact, up until the 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement, publicly recognizable bigots in office were the norm in many parts of the country. Even in the post-1960s era, we find presidents such as Nixon and Reagan who could be openly bigoted. However, most recent office holders have known enough to keep their prejudices off of the public airwaves.

It is a sign of the fragility of the changes in national character wrought by the Civil Rights Movement that the inhibitions holding back public expressions of bigotry are wearing thin. And that has set the scene for the current contest for the presidency in which both major parties have thrown up (no pun intended) bigoted candidates. Yes, that is right, two of them, not just one.

On the Republican side the bigot is easy to spot. That is because Donald Trump wears his bigotry on his sleeve, so to speak. He can’t help but display it because, apparently even at this late date, he doesn’t understand what the big deal is.

On the campaign trail he has insulted Mexicans, Muslims and “our African-Americans,” and gotten away with it because millions of his supporters are also bigots. A common bigotry is one of the reasons they cheer him on. However, now that he is the “presumptive” Republican candidate for president, much of that party’s leadership and their media allies have begun to call him on these problematic public expressions.

They want to see Trump act “presidential,” hiding away his prejudices for the sake of achieving maximum appeal. Alas, this is not easy for a man who, all of his life, said what he thought, no matter how improper. He sees it as “just being honest,” and up until the run for president, his wealth had helped forestall most public criticism.

Hillary Clinton’s Bigotry

On the Democratic side the bigot is not so easy to spot, but the problem exists in any case. Hillary Clinton may not be a bigot in the same way as Trump. She certainly isn’t going to go about insulting ethnic groups with large numbers of potential voters. Indeed, she has cultivated many minority groups and is supported by them.

But such outreach has its limits, and in one important case she is willing to act as a de facto bigot in order to cater to a politically powerful interest group. Having actively done so, the difference in ethical behavior between her and Mr. Trump starts to blur.

In what way is Hillary Clinton, now the “presumptive” presidential candidate of the Democratic Party, behaving like a de facto bigot? She does so in her open, prosecutorial hostility toward the fight to liberate Palestinians from the racist oppression of Israel and its Zionist ideology.

Clinton, having in this case traded whatever principled anti-racist feelings she has for a fistful of campaign dollars, has openly sided with the Zionists. And, as she must well know, they are among the world’s most demonstrative bigots.

Having made this alliance, she praises Israel as a democratic state upholding the highest ideals and ignores or justifies the illegal and blatantly racist treatment of its Palestinian population. In fact, she wants to reward Israel for its racist behavior and policies by pretending that to do so is to assist in the necessary self-defense of the Zionist state.

At the same time, former Secretary of State Clinton is willing to attack those who fight against Israeli bigotry, particularly in the form of the Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment (BDS) movement. Disregarding U.S. law, she has pledged herself to destroy the BDS movement even if she has to rip to shreds the First Amendment of the Constitution to do it.

And – here is the irony of it all – she claims she has taken this position in order to fight anti-Semitism, one of history’s most pronounced bigotries.

This rationale, that she backs a state full of infamous bigots in the name of defending against bigotry, is just so much sophistry. If there is an increase in the number of anti-Semites in today’s world, we can thank Zionist racism for that development.

However, anti-Semitism does not motivate the BDS movement, which in the U.S. is backed by a large and growing number of Jews. No, the reason Clinton has targeted BDS is because it has proved an effective weapon against Israeli racism, and therefore her Zionist allies have oriented her in that direction.

The problem for Hillary Clinton is that if you ally with bigots and actively do their bidding, you too become a de facto bigot. Unlike Trump, who may or may not understand the offensive nature of his behavior, Clinton knows exactly what she is doing. Trump is a bigot by upbringing and social conditioning. Clinton is a bigot by choice. I will leave it to the reader to decide who is worse.

Part of a Corrupt System

There are many considerations that go into choosing the candidate for whom to vote come November. If she plays her cards right, Hillary Clinton may win over enough of the Sanders supporters to defeat Trump. However, if you are inclined to vote for her, don’t kid yourself that what you’re going to get is an upright, ethical president unwilling to adopt openly bigoted policies against vulnerable and long suffering peoples. Hillary Clinton has clearly abandoned such standards of behavior.

Many will respond that, political expediency aside, she is a viable woman candidate and that as such she opens the way for greater female access to the highest offices in the land. This is true. However, taken too far, it is also a naive argument. The U.S. political system is deeply mired in corrupt ways of doing business. At this time in its history, just about any citizen willing to follow these flawed pathways can operate successfully – be they women or ethnic minorities.

But adherence to rules of the political game is the price of playing the game. Former Secretary Clinton has paid her dues, she has proven herself a reliable supporter of this corrupt system. As a consequence, having her as president will not result in any significant changes to the system or its priorities. Her gender is immaterial to that result.

The truth of the matter is that Hillary Clinton, like her Republican opponent, has devolved into an unprincipled opportunist with a growing self-centered myopia thrown into the mix. If she becomes president, she will almost certainly be aggressive in her foreign policy, perhaps renewing the Cold War, undermining the Iran nuclear agreement, and embroiling the country in new wars.

If the Republicans maintain their hold on Congress, she will be just as stymied in her domestic policy as was President Obama. In her role as a system politician, she may not be dangerous to the nation in the same way as Donald Trump, but she will prove dangerous nonetheless.

And, as many have pointed out, choosing the alleged lesser of two evils still means choosing evil.

Lawrence Davidson is a history professor at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He is the author of Foreign Policy Inc.: Privatizing America’s National Interest; America’s Palestine: Popular and Official Perceptions from Balfour to Israeli Statehood; and Islamic Fundamentalism.

Sen. Sanders Goes to Washington

Exclusive: A sampling of Bernie Sanders backers at a Washington D.C. rally found many ready to vote for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump but others still angry over how the Democratic establishment sabotaged their cause, reports Chelsea Gilmour.

By Chelsea Gilmour

At a Bernie Sanders rally ahead of Washington D.C.’s last-in-the-nation June 14 primary, I wanted to get a sense of how his supporters would vote in the fall with Hillary Clinton now the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Based on media accounts of how “unruly” Sanders supporters are supposed to be, I was, frankly, somewhat surprised by the number of attendees who said they would vote for Clinton, although this could partly stem from the fact that the rally on Thursday took place in Washington, D.C. which is, by definition, more comfortable with establishment politics.

Many stated they would have no problem voting for Clinton in the general election especially in contrast to the Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump. “I will vote for Hillary in the fall as a vote against Trump but also as a vote for Clinton,” said one young woman from Maryland.

“I have no qualms voting for Hillary Clinton,” said another young woman from D.C., but she added, “I think Sanders’s campaign has been very important to the country during this critical moment.”

“I’ll absolutely vote for Clinton in the fall,” said a government employee originally from Iowa and now residing in Virginia.

Some people were more hesitant about Clinton, such as Kevin Hensler from Maryland, who said he would vote for her, but less enthusiastically than he would vote for Sanders.

Others were not yet ready to commit to voting for Clinton. “I’m an Independent voter. I have a preference towards Hillary at this point but I’m undecided,” said a middle-aged government worker who was attending the event with his 14-year old son, Ryan.

“If I could vote, I would vote for Jill Stein [from the Green Party],” said Ryan. “I think the mainstream media and the DNC [Democratic National Committee] have done a very unfair job” of covering the Democratic primaries.

“I’m still undecided,” said a 22-year old man. “I think the media has not been fair towards Sanders. They showed a preference towards Clinton and Trump.”

Still others completely rejected the idea of voting for Clinton in November. “I would rather eat my own hand than cast a vote for Hillary Clinton, and you can quote me on that,” said Nikki Diamantopoulos from Baltimore County, Maryland.

A socialist since she was 17, Diamantopoulos said this was her first time getting actively involved in a presidential campaign. She started a Facebook group called Forward Movement to facilitate a nonpartisan civil discussion about political and social issues. She also designed a Bernie Sanders T-shirt which she gave away to people who made a donation to the Sanders campaign. Through this exchange, she helped raise $2,000-$3,000 in donations to Sanders.

Diamantopoulos said she has been verbally advocating for Sanders in her rural part of Baltimore County, where a number of her neighbors and family members are Republicans and Libertarians. Through open and civil conversations, she said she shared Sanders’s platform and many of her neighbors have switched to supporting him. If he were to get the nomination, her lifelong Republican mother has pledged she would vote for Sanders.

Although rejecting Clinton, Diamantopolous did not indicate whom she might favor in the fall, but she did not seem to support Trump either.

Revolutionary Change

One young man named Adam, who recently moved to D.C. from Virginia, told me that he would vote for Trump if Clinton becomes the nominee: “The way I see it, either Bernie fixes it, or Trump breaks it. I’d rather it be broken than continue on with the status quo under Hillary. … We need a change so people realize the system is broken.”

“My game plan in November is exactly the same as before [if Clinton takes the nomination] — I’m voting for Bernie Sanders,” said Sean Simmons, 27. “We fought to protect a democracy that isn’t even a democracy. … Maybe I’m being stubborn, but I couldn’t vote for any candidate who thinks it’s perfectly okay to cheat in elections. I know people who died for that.”

Sean said he would write in Sanders. He said he wouldn’t be badgered into voting for the so-called lesser-of-two evils, adding: “The American spirit is not one run by fear. This is a revolution — I’m not afraid.”

In a speech to the rally of several thousand supporters, Sanders repeated his warnings about income inequality and the need for fundamental change to put the government back on the side of the people. He also called for D.C. residents to turn out and vote in the primary on June 14.

“It would be extraordinary if the people of Washington, our nation’s capital, stood up and told the world that they are ready to lead this country into a political revolution,” Sanders said.

Sanders made no mention of his meeting with President Barack Obama earlier in the day or the President’s decision to endorse Hillary Clinton. That prompted Huffington Post to criticize Sanders’s speech for being “divorced from reality.”

But Sanders was making a larger point, that real change always happens from the bottom up, never from the top down — and requires commitment and determination: “What seems radical today will seem mainstream tomorrow, if we stand together and make those changes.” He referenced past fights for women’s suffrage and gay marriage and his current call for a $15 minimum wage, adding:

“What people also understand is that no president, not Bernie Sanders or anybody else, can do it alone. That what we need in this country are millions of people standing up, fighting back, and demanding a government that represents all of us, not just the one percent.”

While Sanders never mentioned Clinton by name, activist and academic Cornel West’s opening remarks alluded to the likely choice ahead: Clinton or Trump.

“In regard to this election, we know that brother Trump is a narcissistic neofascist,” West said. “And don’t let corporate media convince you that simply because you’re not crazy about the milquetoast neoliberal Sister Hillary that something’s wrong with you. But we know the difference between a neoliberal and a neofascist so you make your own decision.”

Other Sanders supporters looked at the bigger picture as they reflected on Sanders’s extraordinary campaign which excited millions of Americans, particularly young people. Ben Jealous, former president and CEO of the NAACP, said in his opening remarks, “The future of America is represented by Bernie Sanders and his run for the presidency.”

At several points during the rally, attendees started chants of “Bernie or Bust” and “Stay in the race.”

An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Simmons as a veteran.

Chelsea Gilmour is an assistant editor at She has previously published “The Mystery of the Civil War’s Camp Casey”; “Jeb Bush’s Tangled Past.”; and “The Clintons’ Paid-Speech Bonanza.”]

The US-Russia Info-War: What’s Real?

The Obama administration is dangling the possibility of real peace progress in Ukraine to convince the Europeans to renew sanctions on Russia, but is that just a bait-and-switch trick to keep Europe in line, asks Gilbert Doctorow.

By Gilbert Doctorow

The ongoing information war between Russia and the U.S.-led West creates moments that are paradoxical if not downright confusing. But confusion may be the prime objective of both sides, following the old maxim: if you cannot convince, confuse. But confusion can be dangerous, too.

This week, National Security Adviser Susan Rice expressed hope that the Ukraine crisis could be resolved by the time President Barack Obama leaves office on Jan. 20, 2017, citing redoubled efforts by U.S., French and German officials to complete implementation of the Minsk-2 agreement signed in February 2015.

“This is something that could get done between now and the end of the administration if the Russians in particular exhibit sufficient political will,” Rice said at a Washington Post event. “We are hopeful if the Russians want to resolve this – and we have some reason to believe they might – we have the time and the wherewithal and the tools to do so.”

Though Rice’s comments got scant attention in the U.S. news media, Russians picked them up presumably because they offer hope of an end to anti-Russian sanctions before the end of Obama’s term. But was Rice serious or was she just dangling some false optimism to ensure that the European Union doesn’t disrupt this supposed peace progress by failing to renew sanctions against Russia that are otherwise set to expire at the end of June?

The timing for this optimistic prediction from one of Obama’s closest advisers on security matters was well chosen to influence opinions within the E.U. in the next couple of weeks when the 28 Member States take a decision whether or not to extend the present sanctions for another six months.

After all, the thinking would go, if the pressure on Russia has brought the Kremlin to the point of implementing fully the Minsk-2 terms, why let up. Rice’s overture seems especially designed to shut up Hungary, Italy and most recently France, countries that have raised their voices in recent weeks. These waverers have suggested that the sanctions deserve an open discussion now and that some softening should be implemented without delay.

The underlying assumption in Rice’s statement is that Washington can break the deadlock on the Ukrainian side that has held up progress on implementation of Minsk-2, namely the passage through the Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) of laws for holding elections in the breakaway republics of the Donbass expected in July. However, given the present configuration of power in Kiev, nationalist radicals are in a position to block any meaningful concessions.

Russia’s Wishful Thinking

Meanwhile, the wavering within Europe has been wildly exaggerated, partly with the help of the self-deluding Russian media which gave intensive coverage to the near unanimous vote earlier this week by the French Senate to soften sanctions, thereby putting both houses of the French legislature on record as opposing the policy of President Francois Hollande and the E.U. leadership to punish Russia over Ukraine. By contrast, French major media largely overlooked the vote in its own Senate.

These alternative interpretations of what’s important and what isn’t also influence the people of both Russia and the West. This pattern of contradictory emphasis is not propaganda in the classic sense, but it has the effect of muddling minds and contributing to the misreading by one side of the other.

That, in turn, can contribute to very real dangers. The West insists that NATO’s war games, code-named Anaconda, very close to Russia’s borders are simply intended to deter “Russian aggression.” But these largest maneuvers since the Cold War are rehearsing, we are told, the capture of Russia’s Kaliningrad enclave.

So, Moscow sees the West threatening Russia by expanding NATO right up to Russia’s border, placing anti-ballistic missiles in Romania, and orchestrating the 2014 coup in Ukraine that installed a virulently anti-Russian regime.

This divergence of opinion about who’s threatening whom creates genuine – not just theoretical – danger. And the last thing we need at this moment is muddled minds.

Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator of The American Committee for East West Accord Ltd. His most recent book, Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015. © Gilbert Doctorow, 2016

Venezuela’s Struggle to Survive

Amid a reassertion of U.S.-backed neoliberal policies in Latin America, Venezuela’s socialist government totters at a tipping point, beset by a severe economic crisis, but Lisa Sullivan sees a ground-up struggle of Venezuelans to survive.

By Lisa Sullivan

For 32 years I have called Venezuela home. Its mountains have given me beauty, its barrios have given me music, its struggles have given me purpose, and its people have given me love.  Its Bolivarian Revolution gave me hope.

How could I not feel hope when most of my neighbors –ages 2 to 70, were studying, right in our little potato-growing town in the mountains of western Venezuela. How could I not be hopeful when 18 neighbor families received new homes to replace their unhealthy, crowded living spaces?vene-MMAP-md

How could I not be grateful when my partner received life-saving emergency surgery? Or when my blind friend Chuy had his sight restored. Both for free.

But today, this is what I see from my porch:  neighbors digging frantically in barren, already-harvested potato fields, hoping to find a few overlooked little spuds. Rastreando they call it. It is an act of desperation to find any food source to keep the kids from crying, because for months, the shelves of the stores have been bare.

How did this happen?  That is the question that I bolt awake to every morning.  As I watch Juan Carlos claw the fields for potatoes; as I embrace a tearful Chichila – up and waiting in line since 2 a.m., searching, unsuccessfully, to buy food for her large family; as I see the pounds shed before my eyes from 10-year-old Fabiola. I am glad that my mangos are ripening now. They take some of the empty glare from Fabi’s eyes.

It is often in the deep of the night that I am kept awake by the burning question: When and how will all this end?  Followed by:  And what should I be doing?

When I keep thinking it can’t get any worse, it does.  When friends from the U.S. write to ask if they should believe the scary articles about Venezuela’s crisis in the press, I want to say no. Because I know that global vultures are circling my adopted nation, waiting for us to fall.  Venezuela is, after all, home to the planet’s largest reserves of oil.

Much of their suspicion of the barrage of articles about Venezuela’s crisis is the fact that almost every article begins and ends with the same mantra: Socialism = Hunger.  A good example is a recent article in Town Hall entitled: “Venezuelan Socialism Fails at Feeding the Children.” The article goes on to elaborate that between 12 and 26 percent of Venezuelans kids are food insecure (depending on their geography), which would average 19.3 percent childhood hunger in the country.

Just for a comparison, I looked up child hunger in the U.S. and found that most sites use the figure one in five. Or 20 percent. So, in the world’s most prosperous nation 20 percent of children face hunger, while in Venezuela the number is 19.3 percent .  Since these statistics are so close, I suggest that Town Hall publish a more accurate and equally urgent article entitled: “US Capitalism Fails at Feeding the Children, and Venezuelan Socialism Does only Slightly Better.”

But most of our caution with these stories comes because we smell danger.  How many times have we seen the first step on that well-traveled road to U.S. intervention paved by these heart-wrenching  stories rammed 24/7 by the media. They lay the groundwork, help to justify almost anything.

However, in spite of awareness of why we are being bombarded with stories of Venezuela’s crisis,  out of respect for friends, neighbors and family in Venezuela, I must acknowledge that this crisis is real and is brutal.  It is a crisis of critical shortages of food and medicine. Its reasons are extremely complex and fall on many shoulders. And it threatens the health, well-being and future of too many Venezuelans today, especially the poorest ones, such as my neighbors.

What Happened?

How did the nation with the world’s largest reserves come to this, a nation of hungry and desperate people?  Well, that depends on who you ask. The opposition blames President Nicolas Maduro. Maduro blames the U.S. The press blames socialism. Maduro’s ruling party blames capitalism. Economists blame price controls. Businesses blame bureaucracy. Everyone blames corruption.

Most would agree, however, that the underlying culprit is a three letter word.  OIL – the source of 95 percent of Venezuela’s exports. OIL – the cash cow that funds easy, cheap imports. OIL- the export giant that deters domestic production.

Living in a rural community that actually does produce food, and having also traveled extensively in this lush and fertile country, it is sometimes hard to believe that Venezuela imports more than 70 percent of its food.  But I shouldn’t be surprised. Quite simply, for decades, it has been much cheaper to import food than to produce it.

At least that was the case when oil prices were up. And they were up for a long time. As recently as two years ago, the price of oil was about $115 per barrel. This February, Venezuelan crude plummeted to barely $23 a barrel. That is only $3 more than the approximately $20 cost of extracting it.

So, when the profit per barrel of oil goes from $95 to $3, it’s like your salary going from something like $50,000 a year to $1,600. Could you feed your household?

Well, if you were wise, you would have saved for a rainy day, or not put all your eggs in one basket, or at least grown some food in your backyard in case you couldn’t get to the supermarket.  Indeed, the late President Hugo Chavez talked a lot about this. And he even took some steps to set this in motion.

But somehow, economic diversification never happened.  Oil became a larger share of the economy under the Bolivarian revolution. Imports grew. Some say this was because Chavez was too preoccupied with the task of providing healthcare, education and shelter to a previously-abandoned household before launching on major home repairs.

Some say because chavismo made it very hard for businesses to produce (although in reality, most large businesses in Venezuela don’t actually produce, they just import things already produced. And, then – to boot – they actually purchase them with dollars provided almost for free by the government.)  That puts a little perspective on their rants.

With oil prices crashing to the basement this winter, Venezuela  could no longer afford to import food. And to make matters worse, most of the imported trickles of food and medicine that do reach Venezuela these days, never actually reach the average person. Especially the average poor person.  A good chunk of this food and this medicine ends up in the greedy hands of corrupt businesses, bureaucrats, military, ruling party members, and black-marketers.

Scarcity almost always leads to hoarding and scalping products. But add to that mix the fact that most basic food and medicines are price-controlled by the government.  A kilo of corn flour costs about 2 cents at the regulated price, and can easily fetch at $2 – or much, much more – on the black market. Who wouldn’t want to get their hand in this business of hoarding and reselling? Especially considering that the salary of even an engineer hovers around $30 – $40 a month.

And I haven’t even talked about the dysfunctional currency system that contributes to the diminishing power of salaries. There is only too much bad economic stuff to stomach.

The Harsh Reality

No matter what the reason, the result that matters now is this: Venezuela depends almost totally on imports  for most items of basic necessity, and it has almost run out of money to buy these imports, which these days mostly end up in the wrong hands anyway.

Obviously, getting the motors of domestic agriculture and production up and running is the long-term solution. But while all this will take years – perhaps decades – Fabi is hungry.

So, is it true that Venezuela is about to go over the edge?  Well, it may, even before I finish this article. My partner just texted to say that roads to our town are blocked with hunger protests and he is returning to the city.

But to me, the extraordinary thing is that Venezuela has not exploded until now. This crisis is now several years old really, depending on how you measure it.

The fact that the upper echelons of Venezuelan have not exploded is because many have given up on their country and left: two million, mostly young professionals. They are the ones who can qualify for the visas and afford the plane tickets. Some with fewer resources have also left, like those who are paddling to neighboring islands in handmade rafts, including a few whose lifeless bodies drifted to the shores of Aruba.

The fact that those at the lower economic rung have not yet exploded (until now) has different reasons. Venezuelans are an extremely generous people, with a natural sense of solidarity. Whenever those few small spuds are culled from neighboring fields by Rafa, he places a bag of them at my doorstep. I pass bananas to Jenny over my fence. She passes pinto beans to Erica over hers. Erica passes yucca next door to Chichila, Fabi brings me fish that she caught when skipping school, I provide the oil in which to fry it.

This solidarity and natural bartering system that has unfolded in our Venezuela-in-crisis is beautiful, and it is what has allowed us to survive until now. These good-news stories can’t complete with the bad news that the press loves, you have to come and see with your own eyes.

The second reason for delayed explosion is this: Most Venezuelans know that chavismo has (or had) their back, and are very reluctant to give it up. President Chavez very concretely and very pro-actively cared about them. He reduced poverty dramatically and created the most economically equal society in the Americas.

In contrast, the opposition is widely perceived as caring only about themselves. Probably this is because their only agenda item over the years was to topple the government. Small wonder they rarely won the many national elections over the past 17 years.

The opposition did, however win December’s parliamentary elections. Decisively so.  But many see this as less a vote of confidence for the opposition, than one of punishment against the Maduro administration, perceived as tone-deaf to their suffering. Although many share Maduro’s belief that the crisis is caused by the right-wing-led economic war , they wonder why he hasn’t done more to combat it.

But this is my sense of the moment:  The majority of Venezuelans today are not fans of the opposition. Nor are they fans of the current administration. However (to the chagrin of the State Department) this doesn’t mean that the majority of Venezuelans are not fans of chavismo).

Solutions, Anyone? 

So, what is to be done? The solutions to the crisis are as conflicting as the causes. The three major players (Venezuelan government, opposition, and the U.S.) spend endless amounts of time and resources pointing fingers of blame to one another, while doing a poor job of hiding their real political and economic interests. Meanwhile, the losers are the people of Venezuela, who grow hungrier and hungrier.

Somewhat better solutions are coming from Latin America itself. The region has become far more integrated and vastly more independent from the U.S. than previously (and many believe this to be Hugo Chavez’s greatest legacy). This was clear when OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro tried to set into motion Venezuela’s removal from the organization. He received resounding no from its members, including those of the new emerging right. Instead, the OAS member states opted to give support to an ongoing process of dialogue between the government and the opposition. The idea of government-opposition dialogue is not a bad idea. It’s just not enough.

The long-term solution to Venezuela’s problems must come from all sectors of Venezuela. Not just from two polar opposites who have driven Venezuelans to hunger in their pursuit of political and economic power.

Many, but not all, of those excluded identify with chavismo. But there is no political space for them in the tightly controlled hierarchical ruling party structure, nor room for them on the ballot (the largest political party that identifies with chavismo was excluded from elections because the electoral board did not like their name.) Some identify more with the opposition, especially certain pragmatic administrators willing to listen to and accommodate ideas from across the aisle.

Most of these in-between sectors, that I believe make up Venezuela’s majority, want to see less political rhetoric and more economic action. The currency system must undergo radical change. The poor must be guaranteed access to food, but not by subsidizing the product (which ends up in the hands of the corrupt and not the mouths of the poor), but subsidizing their families.

And finally, there is a treasure trove of creative grassroots initiatives and productive solutions that this crisis has unleashed and that merit attention. While Maduro prays for higher oil prices and markets his nation’s pristine lands to Canadian mining companies in a desperate lunge for dollars; and while the U.S. and the Venezuelan opposition push for social explosion and/or military uprising; the  people of Venezuela  are busy.

They are busy planting food in their backyards and patios, using alternative medicine, sharing with one another, developing a barter system, and creating hundreds, or maybe thousands of products from recycled or locally-sourced renewable sources . These may not totally solve the immediate food crisis but, in the long run, they may actually be opening the door to the kind of society in which we can all survive and thrive.

And back to that 3 a.m. question of what can I do. I guess just more of the same, writing down my thoughts and ripping up more of my lawns to plant food with my neighboring children. Two more hours and I”ll be up with the dawn, awaiting Fabi and friends with shovel and hoe in hand.

Lisa Sullivan has lived in Latin America since 1977. She was a Maryknoll lay worker in Bolivia and Venezuela for over 20 years, coordinator for School of the Americas Watch and founder of grassroots leadership group, Centro de Formación Rutilio Grande.She has three children, raised in Barquisimeto Venezuela.

Why US Politics and Policy Are Adrift

The U.S. system of politics and public policy is in disarray awash with elites trying to manipulate the public and the public drifting away from any factual grounding, as ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar explains.

By Paul R. Pillar

Christopher Preble has given us some interesting thoughts about foreign policy elites and the U.S. public and how the interplay of the two figures into bad foreign policy. He captures accurately some recent patterns of ends being ostensibly pursued without the means being employed to accomplish those ends. But in the course of criticizing elites he probably lets the public off too easily.

Preble and others have argued that leaders can sway the public more easily on national security matters than on domestic issues because members of the public have direct first-hand experience with what is working or not working domestically (e.g., a person has a job or doesn’t have a job) while they lack comparable direct contact with the results of foreign policy.

But the domestic-vs.-foreign distinction breaks down because having direct experience with the results of policy is not the same as having a good sense of what particular policies bring good results. In fact, the public often is woefully ignorant about the latter. What is good for an individual or family does not necessarily scale up into what is good at the level of national policy.

Although fiscal restraint is good for family financial health, for example, in a time of insufficient demand it is bad for the health of the national economy (and for creating jobs). Yet many members of the American public mistakenly believe otherwise.

Certainly there are instances of determined elites getting the public to believe certain things so that the elites can achieve foreign policy objectives they have set for themselves; the launching of a major offensive war in Iraq in 2003 is an extreme example of this, just as it is an extreme example of some other things.

But one can also easily point to examples of elites swaying the public in domestic policy as well. The Donald Trump phenomenon has partially unmasked what Republican Party elites have been doing for some time in this regard. They have helped to maintain a constituency by stoking some of the fears and attitudes that Trump is now expressing, while also encouraging the mistaken belief that they are pursuing economic policies that serve the interests of that constituency rather than the one percent — and then not delivering on that false premise, a fact that Trump also is exploiting.

The disconnect between ends and means in something like the application of military force to countering terrorism in places such as Syria is not primarily a matter of elites determining the ends and the public being stingy about providing the means. The primary disconnect instead comes from the public often being inconsistent and illogical when in comes to matching ends and means. Again, this arises in domestic as well as foreign policy, as in the frequently observed pattern of wanting to maintain popular programs X, Y and Z but not wanting to pay the taxes necessary to finance them.

If there are halfway and ineffective measures currently used against terrorism in Syria or elsewhere, that is not because the Obama administration has established an objective of defeating terrorist groups but is encountering public resistance in mustering the means to do so. It would be more accurate to say that the American public demands that a fearsome terrorist group such as ISIS be defeated — and so the administration has to accept that objective and to do something about it — while a president who takes a more sober and careful approach to assessing costs and benefits is trying to limit the drain on blood and treasure along the way.

Any public claim to having a higher wisdom than elites when it comes to resisting costly and unwise foreign interventions is vitiated by the public’s inconsistency in mounting such resistance. The resistance tends to come only (as with now) from the fatigue of prolonged overseas commitments, or even more so after especially costly fiascoes such as the one in Vietnam.

Speaking of the Vietnam War, that is an example of how the misconceptions of elites and the public sometimes exist in tandem. They can arrive at a misconception together, without one necessarily leading the other. On Vietnam, misconceptions about falling dominoes and U.S. credibility being at stake were a widely shared conventional wisdom, not a Saddam-will-give-WMD-to-terrorists manipulation by a particular elite of the public.

There certainly is good reason to agree with Preble in believing that some who currently function as foreign policy elites in the United States should be retired. What President Obama is resisting in trying to limit expenditure of blood and treasure in a place like Syria is pressure not just from public fears about terrorism but also from what his aide Benjamin Rhodes would call the blob. But there is still plenty of blame left over to assign to the public.

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

Sanders’s Contribution toward Mideast Peace

While victorious Hillary Clinton is expected to pivot right to attract disenchanted Republicans, Alon Ben-Meir hopes she will at least adopt Sen. Sanders’s more evenhanded approach toward peace negotiations between Israel-Palestine.

By Alon Ben-Meir

Following the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, the next administration must adopt a new and realistically balanced policy toward Israel and the Palestinians to bring an end to their conflict in the context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace based on the Arab Peace Initiative.

Throughout the primary campaign, only Sen. Bernie Sanders had a position on this consuming conflict that was fresh, balanced and welcome, especially given the increased intractability of the conflict and its dangerous implications not only for Israel and the Palestinians, but also for the U.S.’s strategic interests in the Middle East.

The continuation of the conflict also has direct consequences on the security of the European Union, precisely because it feeds into the region’s extremism from which the E.U. suffers greatly. In this regard, France’s initiative to resume Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is timely and should be pursued despite the initial lack of consensus at a recent meeting in Paris between the European, American and Arab foreign ministers on convening an international conference at the end of the year to address the conflict in earnest.

Throughout the primary campaign, Sanders articulated his position concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, stating that: “I read Secretary Clinton’s speech before AIPAC, I heard virtually no discussion at all about the needs of the Palestinian people. … Of course Israel has a right to defend itself, but long term there will never be peace in that region, unless the United States plays … an even-handed role in trying to bring people together and recognizing the serious problems that exist among the Palestinian people. … There comes a time when if we pursue justice and peace we are going to have to say that Netanyahu is not right all of the time.”

What is admirable about his stand is not that it is new, but that it is articulated by a significant presidential candidate. Although he has failed to secure the nomination of the Democratic Party, he has become a major political force and the presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton, must seriously take into account his position on this critical issue.

Smearing Sanders

Many Israeli and American Jews cynically accuse Sen. Sanders of being an apologetic, self-hating Jew who is willing to bend backwards only to demonstrate that he is even-handed, when in fact he is undermining, from their perspective, Israel’s national security concerns.

On the contrary, I maintain that Sanders has taken this even-handed position precisely because he is committed to Israel’s security and well-being; he fully understands that time is against Israel, and those who really care about Israel’s future must speak out. Sanders recognizes that Israel has no future as a Jewish, democratic and secure state unless it recognizes the Palestinians’ right to a state of their own and “treat[s] the Palestinian people with respect and dignity.”

Many American politicians who support the policy of successive Israeli governments are, in fact, exploiting Israel for their own benefit. They want to draw not so much the votes of the Jewish community and their financial contributions, but the tens of millions of votes of the critically important evangelical constituency, whose support of Israel, for religious reasons, is unwavering.

Due to its traditional one-sided policy, the U.S. has become the enabler of Israel’s addiction to the occupation and settlements by allowing successive Israeli governments to pursue a disastrous policy of expansionism, even though such a policy was and still is to Israel’s detriment.

As a result, the U.S.’s involuntary acquiescence has allowed Israel to defy the international community with impunity, further strengthening Israel’s resolve against making any significant concession and rendering peace ever more elusive.

Ironically, instead of protecting Israel’s national security, the U.S. has inadvertently exposed it to constant threats and violence. The fact that the Palestinians and the international community have failed to compel Israel to change direction does not suggest that the Israelis are winning. Israel is, in fact, only digging itself into an ever deeper hole from which it will be unable to climb unscathed.

This is what both Sanders and the French initiative want to avoid, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be wished away. Direct involvement of the U.S. and the E.U. continues to be essential to changing the dynamic of the conflict, provided that careful lessons are drawn from past failures.

Outside Assistance

Given the intense hostility, hatred, and total lack of trust between Israel and the Palestinians, the resumption of direct or indirect negotiations will lead to nowhere as neither side is able to deliver the major concessions that will be required to reach an agreement without full public support.

For these reasons, the French initiative, with the backing of the next U.S. administration, must support a process of reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians that precedes formal negotiations. Although the June 3 meeting in Paris left the prospect of convening an international conference to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process later this year somewhat ambiguous, the participants have nevertheless agreed on a positive joint communique.

The communique calls for “fully ending the Israeli occupation” which represents an important shift from the U.S.’s prior position, and that “a negotiated two-state solution is the only way to achieve an enduring peace, with two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.” It further states that the status quo is unsustainable and “actions on the ground, in particular continued acts of violence and ongoing settlement activity, are dangerously imperiling the prospects for a two-state solution.”

The U.S., in conjunction with France and the E.U., should develop the mechanism that would establish a process of reconciliation to advance the prospect of peace, and to that end create a commission of reconciliation. This commission should consist of individuals who are apolitical, greatly respected in their community for their integrity, and hold no formal position in their government.

These individuals must be unbiased representatives, skilled in their profession, deeply committed to peace between Israel and the Palestinians — seeking no reward or compensation — and devoted humanitarians. As such, the combined talents and creativity of the Commission will be unsurpassed, their power of persuasion will be formidable, and their unbiased perspective will make them a major force in advocating for the reconciliation process.

In addition, a fair-minded Israeli and Palestinian, who are fully committed to peace and with a deep knowledge of the internal affairs of their respective communities, would act as general counsel to the commission. The process of reconciliation undertaken by the commission should include scores of people-to-people interactions that would begin to mitigate some of the distrust between the two sides and pave the way for substantive negotiations 18 to 24 months down the line.

In this regard, Sen. Sanders should insist that the Democratic platform reflect this new approach, and if Hillary Clinton becomes the next President, she must commit herself to pursuing such a course. Simultaneously, as I mentioned a number of times before, the Arab Peace Initiative should provide an overall umbrella under which an Israeli-Palestinian peace (based on a two-state solution) is negotiated in the context of a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, which a majority of Israelis and Palestinians would fully support.

By raising the need for the U.S. to play an even-handed role to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Sanders has introduced a new critically important paradigm that the next administration must adopt, and in conjunction with the French initiative, they can create a much better prospect of ending the debilitating and explosive seven decades-old conflict.

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.           Web:

Clinton’s Curious California Victory

The Democratic Party’s California primary made it hard for pro-Sanders independents to vote, with many denied the right ballots and many young voters forced to vote “provisionally,” giving Hillary Clinton a boost toward victory, writes Rick Sterling.

By Rick Sterling

Richmond California is a refinery town in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is also where there is a diverse working class community with a strong Richmond Progressive Alliance which previously elected a Green Party Mayor. Bernie Sanders visited the city and actively supported the populist movement in February 2014 making it likely that Bernie Sanders would receive strong support in Richmond.

My daughter is a school psychologist in Richmond’s local school system. Here is her experience Tuesday in the California Primary Election:

“Never have I felt so much that my vote doesn’t count! My Richmond, CA polling place at 1340 Marina Way South was an absolute mess.

“1. The location was different from every other time I’ve voted out here and Google initially mapped me to an abandoned patch of dirt next to a park.

“2. After I eventually figured out how to get there, myself and few other people waited in the wrong line for about 10-15 minutes, because the signs weren’t appropriately marked.

“3. Finally I get to the table with ballots and I’m told they ran out of Democratic ballots.

“4. NONE of the people working there with the exception of 1 woman, that I don’t think even worked there (!) could explain to me how the stupid NXD ballot process works and even then I was still confused.

“5. I had to ASK for the other ballot with the prop measures and senate vote because the guy forgot to give it to me!

“6. After I finished filling out my ballots, a woman takes my ballot with the prop measures and slides it in the machine, then LOOKS at my presidential ballot vote and stuffs it in a box that is filled to the brim with other provisional ballots. I asked her when it would be counted and she said in a few weeks.

“7. Before I even get home the opposing candidate has been proclaimed winner.

“I already reported all this BS to Bernie’s voter complaint hotline, but I’m ready for a revolution y’all.”

That experience was shared by many others in California. This Los Angeles Times story is headlined:  “It was just chaos: Broken machines, incomplete voter rolls leave some wondering whether their ballots will count.”

The report documents in writing and video the experience of numerous people with the observation that experts said the culprit for Tuesday’s voting problems seems to be a confluence of factors — old voting machines, a competitive election that has drawn new voters, plus complex state voting laws that can be hard for poll volunteers and voters to follow.”

Widespread Problems

Huffington Post reported “LA Primary Mired in Voting Problems.” Across the city many people were forced to vote “provisionally” due to machine breakdowns and other problems. (Provisional ballots are often not counted and have been criticized as essentially “placebos” to give voters the belief they have voted when their ballots will later be discarded, as Greg Palast describes in an article about the tricks used to discourage independent voter participation in California.)

Prior to the election there were reports of poll workers being misinformed in official training sessions.

Supposedly with 100 percent of the vote counted, the results show 1.94 million for Hillary Clinton and 1.50 million for Bernie Sanders for a total vote count of 3.44 million votes. This contrasts with a total vote count of over 5 million in the 2008 California primary election. Where are all the missing votes?  How many provisional votes have not yet been counted?

One might argue that the 2008 California was held on “Super Tuesday” in February and that generated more participation. However given the huge excitement over the Sanders campaign and high interest in the election race, it’s hard to explain such a large decline when the population has increased.

One might argue that news reports that Hillary Clinton had already won the race, broadcast on the eve of the election, reduced participation. This is evidence of media bias and spin but it’s hard to see it suppressing the participation of Sanders supporters who came out in tens of thousands day after day in cities throughout the state.

Huge crowds of Sanders supporters waited for hours to participate enthusiastically in Stockton, Vallejo, Sacramento, Oakland, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, San Diego and beyond. It’s hard to see them being fooled or dissuaded from voting by a dubious AP story possibly promoted by the Clinton campaign.

Sixteen years ago, with Al Gore having little challenge to becoming the Democratic nominee, 3.2 million voters participated in the California primary race. At that time relatively few progressives or independents were participating in the Democratic primary race.

In short, it does not seem credible that there are 30 percent fewer votes, a drop-off of more than 1.5 million, this year compared with eight years ago. How many provisional ballots remain uncounted? Going back to my daughter’s experience in Richmond, how many boxes filled to the brim with provisional ballots are there throughout the state? Where are the missing ballots?

Rick Sterling works with Mt Diablo Peace & Justice Center, Syria Solidarity Movement and Task Force on the Americas. He can be contacted at

Democrats Are Now the Aggressive War Party

Exclusive: For nearly a half century – since late in the Vietnam War – the Democrats have been the less warlike of the two parties, but that has flipped with the choice of war hawk Hillary Clinton, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

The Democratic Party has moved from being what you might call a reluctant war party to an aggressive war party with its selection of Hillary Clinton as its presumptive presidential nominee. With minimal debate, this historic change brings full circle the arc of the party’s anti-war attitudes that began in 1968 and have now ended in 2016.

Since the Vietnam War, the Democrats have been viewed as the more peaceful of the two major parties, with the Republicans often attacking Democratic candidates as “soft” regarding use of military force.

But former Secretary of State Clinton has made it clear that she is eager to use military force to achieve “regime change” in countries that get in the way of U.S. desires. She abides by neoconservative strategies of violent interventions especially in the Middle East and she strikes a belligerent posture as well toward nuclear-armed Russia and, to a lesser extent, China.

Amid the celebrations about picking the first woman as a major party’s presumptive nominee, Democrats appear to have given little thought to the fact that they have abandoned a near half-century standing as the party more skeptical about the use of military force. Clinton is an unabashed war hawk who has shown no inclination to rethink her pro-war attitudes.

As a U.S. senator from New York, Clinton voted for and avidly supported the Iraq War, only cooling her enthusiasm in 2006 when it became clear that the Democratic base had turned decisively against the war and her hawkish position endangered her chances for the 2008 presidential nomination, which she lost to Barack Obama, an Iraq War opponent.

However, to ease tensions with the Clinton wing of the party, Obama selected Clinton to be his Secretary of State, one of the first and most fateful decisions of his presidency. He also kept on George W. Bush’s Defense Secretary Robert Gates and neocon members of the military high command, such as Gen. David Petraeus.

This “Team of Rivals” – named after Abraham Lincoln’s initial Civil War cabinet – ensured a powerful bloc of pro-war sentiment, which pushed Obama toward more militaristic solutions than he otherwise favored, notably the wasteful counterinsurgency “surge” in Afghanistan in 2009 which did little beyond get another 1,000 U.S. soldiers killed and many more Afghans.

Clinton was a strong supporter of that “surge” – and Gates reported in his memoir that she acknowledged only opposing the Iraq War “surge” in 2007 for political reasons. Inside Obama’s foreign policy councils, Clinton routinely took the most neoconservative positions, such as defending a 2009 coup in Honduras that ousted a progressive president.

Clinton also sabotaged early efforts to work out an agreement in which Iran surrendered much of its low-enriched uranium, including an initiative in 2010 organized at Obama’s request by the leaders of Brazil and Turkey. Clinton sank that deal and escalated tensions with Iran along the lines favored by Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a Clinton favorite.

Pumping for War in Libya

In 2011, Clinton successfully lobbied Obama to go to war against Libya to achieve another “regime change,” albeit cloaked in the more modest goal of establishing only a “no-fly zone” to “protect civilians.”

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had claimed he was battling jihadists and terrorists who were building strongholds around Benghazi, but Clinton and her State Department underlings accused him of slaughtering civilians and (in one of the more colorful lies used to justify the war) distributing Viagra to his troops so they could rape more women.

Despite resistance from Russia and China, the United Nations Security Council fell for the deception about protecting civilians. Russia and China agreed to abstain from the vote, giving Clinton her “no-fly zone.” Once that was secured, however, the Obama administration and several European allies unveiled their real plan, to destroy the Libyan army and pave the way for the violent overthrow of Gaddafi.

Privately, Clinton’s senior aides viewed the Libyan “regime change” as a chance to establish what they called the “Clinton Doctrine” on using “smart power” with plans for Clinton to rush to the fore and claim credit once Gaddafi was ousted. But that scheme failed when President Obama grabbed the limelight after Gaddafi’s government collapsed.

But Clinton would not be denied her second opportunity to claim the glory when jihadist rebels captured Gaddafi on Oct. 20, 2011, sodomized him with a knife and then murdered him. Hearing of Gaddafi’s demise, Clinton went into a network interview and declared, “we came, we saw, he died” and clapped her hands in glee.

Clinton’s glee was short-lived, however. Libya soon descended into chaos with Islamic extremists gaining control of large swaths of the country. On Sept. 11, 2012, jihadists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi killing Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other American personnel. It turned out Gaddafi had been right about the nature of his enemies.

Undaunted by the mess in Libya, Clinton made similar plans for Syria where again she marched in lock-step with the neocons and their “liberal interventionist” sidekicks in support of another violent “regime change,” ousting the Assad dynasty, a top neocon/Israeli goal since the 1990s.

Clinton pressed Obama to escalate weapons shipments and training for anti-government rebels who were deemed “moderate” but in reality collaborated closely with radical Islamic forces, including Al Nusra Front (Al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise) and some even more extreme jihadists (who coalesced into the Islamic State).

Again, Clinton’s war plans were cloaked in humanitarian language, such as the need to create a “safe zone” inside Syria to save civilians. But her plans would have required a major U.S. invasion of a sovereign country, the destruction of its air force and much of its military, and the creation of conditions for another “regime change.”

In the case of Syria, however, Obama resisted the pressure from Clinton and other hawks inside his own administration. The President did approve some covert assistance to the rebels and allowed Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the Gulf states to do much more, but he did not agree to an outright U.S.-led invasion to Clinton’s disappointment.

Parting Ways

Clinton finally left the Obama administration at the start of his second term in 2013, some say voluntarily and others say in line with Obama’s desire to finally move ahead with serious negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program and to apply more pressure on Israel to reach a long-delayed peace settlement with the Palestinians. Secretary of State John Kerry was willing to do some of the politically risky work that Clinton was not.

Many on the Left deride Obama as “Obomber” and mock his hypocritical acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. And there is no doubt that Obama has waged war his entire presidency, bombing at least seven countries by his own count. But the truth is that he has generally been among the most dovish members of his administration, advocating a “realistic” (or restrained) application of American power. By contrast, Clinton was among the most hawkish senior officials.

A major testing moment for Obama came in August 2013 after a sarin gas attack outside Damascus, Syria, that killed hundreds of Syrians and that the State Department and the mainstream U.S. media immediately blamed on the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

There was almost universal pressure inside Official Washington to militarily enforce Obama’s “red line” against Assad using chemical weapons. Amid this intense momentum toward war, it was widely assumed that Obama would order a harsh retaliatory strike against the Syrian military. But U.S. intelligence and key figures in the U.S. military smelled a rat, a provocation carried out by Islamic extremists to draw the United States into the Syrian war on their side.

At the last minute and at great political cost to himself, Obama listened to the doubts of his intelligence advisers and called off the attack, referring the issue to the U.S. Congress and then accepting a Russian-brokered deal in which Assad surrendered all his chemical weapons though continuing to deny a role in the sarin attack.

Eventually, the sarin case against Assad would collapse. Only one rocket was found to have carried sarin and it had a very limited range placing its firing position likely within rebel-controlled territory. But Official Washington’s conventional wisdom never budged. To this day, politicians and pundits denounce Obama for not enforcing his “red line.”

There’s little doubt, however, what Hillary Clinton would have done. She has been eager for a much more aggressive U.S. military role in Syria since the civil war began in 2011. Much as she used propaganda and deception to achieve “regime change” in Libya, she surely would have done the same in Syria, embracing the pretext of the sarin attack – “killing innocent children” – to destroy the Syrian military even if the rebels were the guilty parties.

Still Lusting for War

Indeed, during the 2016 campaign – in those few moments that have touched on foreign policy – Clinton declared that as President she would order the U.S. military to invade Syria. “Yes, I do still support a no-fly zone,” she said during the April 14 debate. She also wants a “safe zone” that would require seizing territory inside Syria.

But no one should be gullible enough to believe that Clinton’s invasion of Syria would stop at a “safe zone.” As with Libya, once the camel’s nose was into the tent, pretty soon the animal would be filling up the whole tent.

Perhaps even scarier is what a President Clinton would do regarding Iran and Ukraine, two countries where belligerent U.S. behavior could start much bigger wars.

For instance, would President Hillary Clinton push the Iranians so hard – in line with what Netanyahu favors – that they would renounce the nuclear deal and give Clinton an excuse to bomb-bomb-bomb Iran?

In Ukraine, would Clinton escalate U.S. military support for the post-coup anti-Russian Ukrainian government, encouraging its forces to annihilate the ethnic Russian rebels in eastern Ukraine and to “liberate” the people of Crimea from “Russian aggression” (though they voted by 96 percent to leave the failed Ukrainian state and rejoin Russia)?

Would President Clinton expect the Russians to stand down and accept these massacres? Would she take matters to the next level to demonstrate how tough she can be against Russian President Vladimir Putin whom she has compared to Hitler? Might she buy into the latest neocon dream of achieving “regime change” in Moscow? Would she be wise enough to recognize how dangerous such instability could be?

Of course, one would expect that all of Clinton’s actions would be clothed in the crocodile tears of “humanitarian” warfare, starting wars to “save the children” or to stop the evil enemy from “raping defenseless girls.” The truth of such emotional allegations would be left for the post-war historians to try to sort out. In the meantime, President Clinton would have her wars.

Having covered Washington for nearly four decades, I always marvel at how selective concerns for human rights can be. When “friendly” civilians are dying, we are told that we have a “responsibility to protect,” but when pro-U.S. forces are slaughtering civilians of an adversary country or movement, reports of those atrocities are dismissed as “enemy propaganda” or ignored altogether. Clinton is among the most cynical in this regard.

Trading Places

But the larger picture for the Democrats is that they have just adopted an extraordinary historical reversal whether they understand it or not. They have replaced the Republicans as the party of aggressive war, though clearly many Republicans still dance to the neocon drummer just as Clinton and “liberal interventionists” do. Still, Donald Trump, for all his faults, has adopted a relatively peaceful point of view, especially in the Mideast and with Russia.

While today many Democrats are congratulating themselves for becoming the first major party to make a woman the presumptive nominee, they may soon have to decide whether that distinction justifies putting an aggressive war hawk in the White House. In a way, the issue is an old one for Democrats, whether “identity politics” or anti-war policies are more important.

At least since 1968 and the chaotic Democratic convention in Chicago, the party has advanced, sometimes haltingly, those two agendas, pushing for broader rights for all and seeking to restrain the nation’s militaristic impulses.

In the 1970s, Democrats largely repudiated the Vietnam War while the Republicans waved the flag and equated anti-war positions with treason. By the 1980s and early 1990s, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were making war fun again – Grenada, Afghanistan, Panama and the Persian Gulf, all relatively low-cost conflicts with victorious conclusions.

By the 1990s, Bill Clinton (along with Hillary Clinton) saw militarism as just another issue to be triangulated. With the Soviet Union’s collapse, the Clinton-42 administration saw the opportunity for more low-cost tough-guy/gal-ism – continuing a harsh embargo and periodic air strikes against Iraq (causing the deaths of a U.N.-estimated half million children); blasting Serbia into submission over Kosovo; and expanding NATO to the east toward Russia’s borders.

But Bill Clinton did balk at the more extreme neocon ideas, such as the one from the Project for the New American Century for a militarily enforced “regime change” in Iraq. That had to wait for George W. Bush in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. As a New York senator, Hillary Clinton made sure she was onboard for war on Iraq just as she sided with Israel’s pummeling of Lebanon and the Palestinians in Gaza.

Hillary Clinton was taking triangulation to an even more acute angle as she sided with virtually every position of the Netanyahu government in Israel and moved in tandem with the neocons as they cemented their control of Washington’s foreign policy establishment. Her only brief flirtation with an anti-war position came in 2006 when her political advisers informed her that her continued support for Bush’s Iraq War would doom her in the Democratic presidential race.

But she let her hawkish plumage show again as Obama’s Secretary of State from 2009 to 2013 – and once she felt she had the 2016 Democratic race in hand (after her success in the southern primaries) she pivoted back to her hard-line positions in full support of Israel and in a full-throated defense of her war on Libya, which she still won’t view as a failure.

The smarter neocons are already lining up to endorse Clinton, especially given Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican Party and his disdain for neocon strategies that he views as simply spreading chaos around the globe. As The New York Times has reported, Clinton is “the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes.”

Robert Kagan, a co-founder of the neocon Project for the new American Century, has endorsed Clinton, saying “I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy. If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.” [See’s “Yes, Hillary Clinton Is a Neocon.”]

So, by selecting Clinton, the Democrats have made a full 360-degree swing back to the pre-1968 days of the Vietnam War. After nearly a half century of favoring a more peaceful foreign policy – and somewhat less weapons spending – than the Republicans, the Democrats are America’s new aggressive war party.

[For more on this topic, see’s “Would a Clinton Win Mean More Wars?’]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

Pushing for Humane Immigration Reform

The treatment of America’s 11 million undocumented immigrants has been a political football in Campaign 2016, booted around hardest by Republican Donald Trump, but Pablo Alvarado seeks a more humane approach, reports Dennis J Bernstein.

By Dennis J Bernstein

Pablo Alvarado is one of the leading spokespersons for humane immigration reform in the U.S., sometimes called the “Cesar Chavez of undocumented Day Laborers.” He has been to the White House many times in recent months and years, sometimes as an invited guest and sometimes as an angry and militant protester.

Alvarado is eloquent and emphatic on the need for the President and Congress to come together and put an end to the tremendous suffering being caused by the failed immigration policies of the past —  backed up now by ongoing national security enforcement sweeps and mass deportations.

Alvarado is very clear about what he believes is needed: humane immigration reform that creates a fair and reasonable path to citizenship — one that does not punish the migrant workers — who have already done the hardest work for so many years, who have put beautiful fruits and vegetables on dinner tables across America for so many years, and who have helped to raise many a North American child, even as they were trying to raise their own children.

According to his bio, the Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON) was “raised in a place lacking running water and electricity; and he didn’t enter school until the third grade. Working since he was five years old, he spent several years as a day laborer working in construction, gardening, and factories.”

In 2002, Alvarado joined forces with NDLON. In 2005, Time Magazine recognized Alvarado as one of the 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America. Since then, Alvarado’s stature has only grown along with his influence in the Latino community.

Dennis J. Bernstein sat down for an extended conversation with Pablo Alvarado, who was in the San Francisco Bay Area for organizing meetings with Day Laborer Center Directors from all over the region. Miguel Gavilan Molina, a radio producer who has worked closely with the Graton Day Labor Center, one of the first in the country, joined the interview.

Dennis Bernstein:  I wanted to start with a little background, because not everyone knows what NDLON is, and what you do. Could you lay out the nuts and bolts for us?

Pablo Alvarado: Sure. NDLON stands for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, which is an alliance of 50 community-based organizations that serve and organize the day laborer community in 28 states across the country. We connect 70 day laborer worker centers and in many organized corners where people tend to look for work across the country.

DB: And what are the nuts and bolts of the operation? What kinds of things do you do? What kinds of protections do you offer?  NDLON is sort of a domestic version of the United Farmworkers.

PA:  It’s very similar to the farm workers, except that this is for urban workers. So NDLON is a parallel to the UFW, in this case, except that it’s for urban immigrant workers. So the work that we do ranges from helping workers to recover unpaid wages, to helping in the prevention of deportation.

Across the country we connect 70 day labor centers. And in these centers, every day, men and women come with the idea of getting a job. And together the centers send at least 1,000 workers on job assignments on a daily basis, across the country. So we send people to job assignments.

At the same time we make sure that, if they go to a workplace, that the workplace is safe. The workers are trained on OSHA protections so that they understand what their rights are. Often times, unscrupulous employers, not all employers do this, but unscrupulous employers, hire workers and fail to pay their wages. So in terms of workers’ rights, our organization is advancing more protections for workers but also insuring that the current protections are actually enforced.

And also part of what we’ve done in the last years is push for a $15 minimum wage. Most of the workers’ centers, most of the day labor workers, are already charging $15.

DB:  They’re ahead of the game.

PA:  They’ve been ahead of the game for a long time.

DB:  And just to emphasize how important the work is; the people you represent can be incredibly vulnerable to all kinds of attacks, very serious attacks. You alluded to it a little bit. But sometimes, it’s a battle just to get paid.

PA:  Yes, in terms of workplace rights, day laborers often times are hired and not paid. At least 20% of them had some injuries at the workplace, without receiving any proper medical care. We are talking about beatings, we’re talking about lack of breaks, lack of health and safety protective equipment, when they go to the workplace.

[There is also] confusion, sometimes, as workers don’t even know who the employer is. Whether it is a contractor, a sub-contractor, the property owner. So there’s a lot of disadvantages for work for a day laborer.

DB: Could you tell us a bit about the ongoing battle you are fighting to hold the Obama administration accountable on its word to support true immigration reform and to stop the deportations? I know from your perspective, the administration has become a nightmare for deportations.

You’ve been inside the White House. You’ve been standing in front of the White House doing all kinds of actions. Set that scene. What is that struggle? How does that look? I guess it was shocking to see Obama, essentially, become the Deporter-in-Chief, out-of-control.

PA:  Yes, well, essentially we’ve made incredible gains, in terms of the protection of workers’ rights. We’ve set up 70 day laborer centers across the country, and we have protected the rights of workers to stand on the sidewalk and offer their labor. We’ve won that battle, morally, ethically and legally in the courts.

But despite all this progress we have made, our members have become vulnerable when the Obama administration decided to give the power to enforce immigration law to local authorities, to the sheriff and local police. The enforcement of federal immigration law has been, historically, the exclusive authority of the federal government.

But more and more, the Obama administration experimented with what Janet Napolitano did in Arizona. So she essentially, when the President brought her in as DHS [Department of Homeland Security] Secretary, she nationalized what she was experimenting with, in Arizona. So she helped in the Arizonification of the country.

DB:  I want to bring into the dialogue Miguel Gavilan Molina, who has been an active supporter of the day labor movement.

MIGUEL MOLINA: Thank you Dennis. And gracias, Pablo. Thank you for being with us here today. I can relate to this whole issue. As a youngster, I was a campesino [a peasant farmer]. But during the rainy season, when it rained, and it rained sometimes for weeks into months, I was a domestic worker. I had to go with my mother and help her clean houses. My job was the bathrooms. So I know that whole scenario.

But one of the things that I’ve always been so proud of being in conjunction with, relating to, supporting in solidarity, has been what the day labor centers are doing. [It’s] not just referrals to work for work sites and so forth, but they’re also training people, teaching people, educating the workers.

I know in some day labor centers there is leadership development. They hold English classes. Some even have citizenship classes, for workers who want to become citizens. There’s training programs that are aligned with OSHA, the occupational safety organization, to make sure the workers know the safety, know the rules and then know the proper training. So, day laborer centers are not just referral service for employment, they’re also training grounds.

And in [the centers] I’ve seen some incredible evolution of workers who in the beginning were scared. You know, would say nothing, were real quiet. Three, four, five years later now they are leaders. Now they are board members. Now they’re working on committees. Now they are spokespersons. That’s incredible to see that. That these centers have empowered people, to go beyond fear.

And in numbers there’s security, and there’s safety. That’s one thing that I’ve always been fully in support of day labor centers, because they do that.

And, Pablo, I’m sure you’ve seen that, not just on local levels, but on the national level.

PA:  Across the country there’s a cadre of day labor leaders that have emerged, that went from fear to becoming subjects of change, across the country. People who have faced the issue of deportation, have overcome the process of deportation, and are now helping others fight against deportations. They are helping other workers to recover unpaid wages, orchestrating demonstrations outside establishments of employers that failed to pay the wages to the workers.

So, the only way to change society, is by making sure that people who are harmed by the unjust policies become subject. You cannot fight for citizenship in the same way, if you are already a citizen. Obviously, you know, it’s a lot better when a person who is undocumented is fighting for that right. […] The undocumented folks in this case are the best messengers.

DB:  And it takes a lot of courage, because your life, your way of life, your family’s life, is always being put on the line.

I forgot to mention that Miguel has worked very hard at the Graton Day Labor Center, which is a model for the extraordinary things that can happen on these, in these sort of expanding community centers that really do become a significant part, a really important institution in the communities where they work. They do integrate into the community and play a role, don’t they?

PA:  Well, the centers are not just workers’ rights institutions. They are immigrants’ rights institutions. They are entities that facilitate the integration of workers into the neighborhoods where they live, and work, with full rights and responsibilities. That’s what they learn at the job centers. You know, that they are full citizens to the fullest extent of the word.

So the job centers are places where jobs are assigned, but are also places where workers learn about their rights. And they learn how to fight back. And they don’t serve just day laborers. They also serve domestic workers, restaurant workers, anybody who is in need of assistance around wage payment violations, for example, can come to a job center, and find assistance there.

DB: I mean there’s a whole women’s rights movement that comes out of this. And in part, a significant part of what happens in these centers, [is that] women come into their own power and take control, right? And we see that, understanding their rights in a very special way.

PA: Right. The jobs center provides a safer, and more humane environment for workers to meet the employers, and engage in the transactions, that they do on a daily basis. And women feel definitely safe in those settings.

So more and more across the country we see that more women are using these services, and actually being part of the decision making process, of how these centers operate. From how the jobs are distributed, to what kind of issues the centers engage in, in terms of local politics.

MM: One of the things that I’ve noticed, Pablo, is that the day labor centers are a safety area. People know they can be safe there, they can not be looking over their shoulders, and they know that once they come there, not only will they get referred to a job, but also training. There’s different programs to train people, be it in landscaping, in gardening, in irrigation.

They are also helping people get into programs for higher education. I know that the Graton Day Labor Center worked out a thing with the Santa Rosa Junior College. And, now, for the first time, workers are going to junior college.

And some of them came from Mexico and other parts in Central and Latin America, barely getting out of grade school, and never going to high school.  And then they come here and their dream is gone. And all of a sudden now they are faced with this incredible opportunity. And to see the excitement, of the people going, “I can actually get higher education!” A dream that wasn’t even there. The day labor centers have made that possible.

DB:   I’ve been to a bunch of these day laborer centers now. We’ve done some broadcasts from different centers and it’s really quite a beautiful thing.  I mean they’re integrating into local culture and social life.  It’s important. It sounds light and sweet but the idea that the centers also have a soccer team that plays in the local competition with the fire department…

PA:  I want to tell you a story. The National Day Labor Network started with a soccer game. Yes, it did. Back in 1996 a soccer team from Los Angeles came to play against the soccer team of the San Francisco Day Labor Program. And as the players met in the middle of the soccer field, they began talking with each other, in a very organic way. They began asking each other “So, when you don’t get paid what do you do?” or “When the police comes and asks you to leave, what is it that you do, to address these issues?”

And that’s how the network started. And then the organizers understood that we needed to learn with each other, and that we needed to come together, to fight back against the injustices that are affecting people.

DB: That’s so beautiful. I want to talk to you more specifically about what brings you here to Northern California. I know that you’ve been with some of the local directors of the day labor centers discussing various strategies. There are major issues that are on the line now. Several major issues that have to do with, you know, the conditions of workers. You want to lay out the multiple struggles that you are talking about, in these dialogues, with the local folks?

PA:  We’re meeting today with the heads of the different worker centers here in the Bay area, to articulate a political agenda, problematic agenda, that could lift up the workers’ voices, and advance more protections for workers.

We’re preparing for the launching of an application for our members which is essentially an anti-wage theft application that workers will be able to download and get into their smart phones. So whenever they go to a workplace they will be able to document the hours, the location where they performed the work, so that if the employer fails to pay then the worker will have every single piece of information that’s needed to proceed, in terms of recovering the unpaid wages. So we’re going to do the launching of the application here in San Francisco.

And we have to train as many workers as we can, in every center, so they know how to use it. It’s a difficult task, particularly because digital literacy skills of our folks are not well developed. But we’re going to work with them to make sure that they use it. Like, over 90% of day laborers have a smartphone, it’s just a matter of sitting with them and explaining to them how it’s used. So we’re going to be talking with our members. You know, how do we do that, how do we share the resources to make sure that workers learn how to use it?

DB:  And to put technology at work for this movement.

PA:  Exactly. And the next application that we’ll begin working on is a health and safety application. Like whenever there is a work place and there is danger in the workplace, the workers will be able to take a picture of that danger and send it to the authorities. You know, “This is how my work place looks like.”

It’s essentially making sure that technology is accessible and useful to impoverished communities, to workers who live in the margins. So we’re going to be talking with our members about that. We’re going to be talking about the future of these job centers, and what’s coming.

I mean there’s a lot of uncertainty. We don’t know what’s going to happen with immigration.  What about if Trump becomes the president? What about if Clinton becomes the president? What’s going to happen with undocumented people? Is comprehensive immigration reform dead? We’re going to engage in these discussion with the directors of the centers, and the workers, so that we can plan for the future.

DB:  […] There are several bills, you know, there’s the legislative side of the battle, right? There’s a couple of things that really matter that are moving around in California legislature, right? Talk about that.

PA:  Right. […] Well, we’ve, as I’ve mentioned before, we’ve been engaged in the fight for $15 in many cities across the United States. But, in California, as well. We’re very happy that the floor has been lifted. But all of this new legislation will be completely useless if there is no enforcement. And the labor code is full with thousands of codes that barely get enforced. So we gotta make sure, and this is part of the advocacy work.

You know, that even the city of Los Angeles, the city of San Francisco which is already doing it, passed an ordinance to increase the minimum wage. That they have protections for those employers that violate the minimum wage ordinance. So that’s part of what we’re going to be doing in the future. There is also another legislation in Sacramento that’s called The Truth Act, which essentially establishes a [UNCLEAR 20:09 phonetic: bribery] line between immigration law enforcement and local law enforcement.

Just to give you an example, in Los Angeles the sheriff, the former sheriff, Lee Baca, might be going to jail because of the abuses that took place while he was in power. So now, you know, the sheriff is enforcing a new program that the administration has established called the Priorities Enforcement Program which helps them identify people for deportation, and transfers people for deportation purposes.

So what we want to make sure is that […]–if those programs are going to exist–that the counties and localities have a say in how those programs are implemented. Because we’ve seen how ICE has lied throughout the years. We’ve seen how the administration has really been deporting criminals and when we found out the vast majority of people that have been deported have been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and have committed minor traffic violations. So we simply don’t believe in ICE. We want to make sure that there is a bright line between local law enforcement and immigration enforcement.

DB:  Alright, and finally, in terms of…there’s a big campaign going on for president. I imagine you’ve tried to be in communication or you’re watching very closely. You mentioned Trump. Let me ask you the question in this way. Do you find any candidate more friendly, offering more possibility than any other candidate? Have you had any communications with any of the candidates?

PA:  We sent a letter last week to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, and to Bernie Sanders’ campaign, inviting them to come and visit a day labor center here in California. We did receive a response from the Sanders campaign telling us that they are considering…so it would be fantastic if they come to a job center. So now we’re going to wait for Clinton to see if she wants to come and talk to the day laborer.

DB:  No invitation to the other one?

PA:  No, I don’t think that he…that we want to provide that platform for him, you know. But the thing is that when President Obama was running he spoke nicely about immigrants. He said some incredible speeches, he always says the right thing. But actions speak louder than words.

And to me, as much as Trump talks, and as much as…I mean the hateful rhetoric that he’s spilling out everywhere is indeed stigmatizing immigrants more than what they are right now. But at the same time, it’s just language. And the president is the other way around. He speaks nicely, but he has deported over 2.5 million people.

DB: Two point five million. So this has been a tragedy and a disaster that’s continuing. Right?

PA:  Yes. […] There’s uncertainty in terms of what’s going to happen to undocumented migrants, whomever comes to the president, whether it’s Clinton or Sanders or Trump. There’s uncertainty in terms of what’s going to happen in terms of deportation, the deportation policies, what’s going to shift, what’s not going to shift. Because right now they’re making promises. But promises are broken often times by politicians, you know, so we don’t…I don’t necessarily believe in the Democrats, and I don’t necessarily believe in the Republicans, either.

I know that the debate in Washington, D.C. in Congress has been hijacked by a handful of nativists and xenophobes. Republican xenophobes, right-wingers, but at the same time I know that the President has been in charge of the deportations policy. It hasn’t been the Republicans.

I know that they are blocking the idea of immigration reform, the right-wingers, but I know that a handful of Democrats benefit from getting all of [these] right-wing Republicans spilling out all the hatred they spill, all the hateful language that they use against immigrants because that way they continue to use the issue of migration as a wedge issue.  So there is a segment of Democrats, I have no doubts, who prefer to have the issue rather than the accomplishment, of fixing the whole immigration question.

DB: So Barack Obama has been called the Deporter-in-Chief. Some of us have called Hillary Clinton the Deposer-in-Chief because of the active role, not passive, the active role she played as Secretary of State keeping [Manuel] Zelaya, the duly elected president, from returning to Honduras.

And that decision, that active decision that she bragged about in her autobiography (of course, I now learn that it’s been taken out of the paperback edition, where she was proud to say she kept Zelaya out of the presidency…) that was […] a horrific decision that sent a flood of people north, right? Most of the people coming from Central America, [are] not from Guatemala, from El Salvador, but it’s been Honduras.

PA: Well, look there’s an incredible disregard for human rights. Any organizer in Honduras is targeted. And what we saw with Secretary Clinton doing in Honduras, I think that’s what we should expect for the policies, the foreign policies of the U.S. towards Latin America, if she comes into power.

Dennis J Bernstein is a host of Flashpoints on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom.  You can access the audio archives at

Big Money’s Conquest of Democratic Party

As Hillary Clinton finally clinches the Democratic nomination, the big question facing Democrats is: are they now the party of big money and elite special interests or will the Sanders’ revolt live on and grow, write Bill Moyers and Michael Winship.

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Return with us now to the saga of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the soul of the Democratic Party. First, a quick recap: Rep. Wasserman Schultz, D-Florida, chair of the Democratic National Committee, also has been an advocate for the payday loan industry. The website Think Progress even described her as the “top Democratic ally” of “predatory payday lenders.” You know — the bottom-feeding bloodsuckers of the working poor. Yes, them.

Low-income workers living from paycheck to paycheck, especially women and minorities, are the payday lenders’ prime targets — easy pickings because they’re often desperate. Twelve million Americans reportedly borrow nearly $50 billion a year through payday loans, at rates that can soar above 300 percent, sometimes even beyond 500 percent.

Bethany McLean at The Atlantic recently reported that the government’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) studied millions of payday loans and found that “67 percent went to borrowers with seven or more transactions a year and that a majority of those borrowers paid more in fees than the amount of their initial loan.”

Yet when the CFPB was drawing up new rules to make it harder for payday predators to feast on the poor, Rep. Wasserman Schultz co-sponsored a bill to delay those new rules by two years. How, you ask, could the head of the party’s national committee embrace such an appalling exploitation of working people?

Just follow the money. Last year, the payday loan industry spent $3.5 million lobbying; and as we wrote two weeks ago, in Wasserman Schultz’s home state, since 2009, payday lenders have bought protection from Democrats and Republicans alike by contributing $2.5 million or so to candidates from both parties, including her. That’s how “Representative” Wasserman Schultz, among others, wound up representing the predators instead of the poor.

That position became a major issue in her campaign for reelection to the House this year — she has a primary opponent for the first time since she entered Congress — and was even threatening the prospect of her continuing as DNC chair and presiding over the Democratic National Convention next month in Philadelphia. More than 40,000 have signed a petition calling for her removal from that post.

She had become a symbol of the failure of Democratic elites to understand that there is an uprising in the land. Millions of Americans are rebelling against the leadership of both parties. They are fed up with inside-the-Beltway politicians who pay only lip service to the deep needs of everyday people and the country; fed up with incumbents who ask for their votes, are given them in good faith, and then return to Washington to do the bidding of the donor class and its lobbyists.

The GOP Revolt

Donald Trump gets it. He has roiled and humiliated and conquered an out-of-touch Republican establishment in Washington that also ignored the popular uprising against corporate domination and crony capitalism, and now GOP titans such as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, spear carriers for Big Money, are being hauled around the talk-show circuit in Trump’s tumbrel, eating crow and swearing fealty to the misogynistic, bigoted and pathologically lying brute who bestrides their party.

Democratic insiders like Wasserman Schultz, however, continued to whistle past the graveyard, believing that the well-funded and well-connected Clinton machine — and general fear of a Trump regime — were enough to carry them to victory in November, despite the grass-roots disgust with a party that reeks of rot from the top.

Once the champions of people who came home from work with hands dirty from toil and sweat, too many establishment Democrats went over to the dark side, taking up the cause of the well-manicured executives (think: Goldman Sachs) who write the checks and the mercenaries who deliver them (for a substantial cut, of course).

The lust for loot, which now defines the Democratic establishment, became pronounced in the Bill Clinton years, when the Clinton-friendly Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) abandoned its liberal roots and embraced “market-based solutions” that led to deregulation, tax breaks, and subsidies for the 1 percent. Seeking to fill coffers emptied by the loss of support from a declining labor movement, Democrats rushed into the arms of big business and crony capitalists.

Another case in point (and, alas, there are many): the Democratic governor of Connecticut, Dan Malloy, who seems to treat his state’s corporate residents far better than the 1 in 10 of his citizens who live at or below the poverty line.

The Rich Get Richer

At International Business Times last week, investigative reporter David Sirota analyzed the proposed merger of Cigna and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, a deal that would create the biggest health insurance company in the country. Cigna is based in Connecticut and Katharine Wade, the state’s insurance commissioner, appointed by Governor Malloy, is a former Cigna lobbyist with deep family ties to the company.

Sirota reported, “Malloy’s decision to appoint Wade to such a powerful regulatory post on the eve of the merger was not made in a vacuum,” Sirota reported. “It came after employees of Cigna, its lobbying firm Robinson & Cole and Anthem delivered more than $1.3 million to national and state political groups affiliated with Malloy, including the Democratic Governors Association (DGA), the Connecticut Democratic Party, Malloy’s own gubernatorial campaign and a political action committee supporting Connecticut Democrats [our italics].

“Since Malloy’s first successful run for governor in the 2010 election cycle, donors from the insurance companies and the lobbying firm have given more than $2 million to Malloy-linked groups, according to the figures compiled by PoliticalMoneyLine and the National Institute on Money In State Politics. Almost half that cash has come in since 2015, the year the merger was announced.”

Sirota now reports that since his investigation first was published, the state has “formally denied open records requests for information about their meetings with Cigna and Anthem, and declared that ‘any’ documents about the health insurance companies’ proposed merger that haven’t already been made public will be kept secret.” His FOIA request was turned down “one day after Anthem requested [state insurance commissioner] Wade approve an average 26 percent increase in health insurance premiums for individual plans.” So much for transparency.

And while we’re in Connecticut, let’s also take a look at what Malloy is doing for the world’s biggest hedge fund — Bridgewater Associates, based in his state, with an estimated worth of $150 billion. The founder of the firm, Ray Dalio, is the richest man in Connecticut, by one estimate weighing in at $14.3 billion.

Dalio made $1.4 billion in 2015 alone, according to Institutional Investor’s Alpha magazine. That same year, his top two executives pulled in $250 million each.  Yet as part of Connecticut’s campaign to keep companies from leaving the state, Malloy is taking $22 million of the public’s money and giving it to Dalio to stay put.

You might think a Democratic governor would have thrown down the gauntlet and told Bridgewater’s top three, “Get outta here!  You guys made almost $2 billion among yourselves. Shake your piggy bank or look under your sofa cushions for the $22 million; we’re not milking the public for it.”

But no, Malloy and his fellow Democrats buckled. Buckled to the one-tenth of the one-tenth of the one-hundredth percent of the rich. Ordinary taxpayers will now ante up.

The Democratic Convention

So given all of that, guess who’s the chairman of the platform committee for the upcoming Democratic National Convention? Right: Dan Malloy, governor of Connecticut, subsidizer of billionaires. Guess who named him? Right again: Wasserman Schultz, “top Democratic ally” of “predatory payday lenders.” We’re not making this up.

Not only will Malloy be presiding over the priorities of the Democratic platform at the convention next month, he doubtless will be making the rounds with Wasserman Schultz and other party elites as they genuflect before the corporate sponsors and lobbyists she has invited to pay for the lavish fun-and-games that will surround the coronation. Many of those corporate sponsors and lobbyists have actively lobbied against progressive policies like health-care reform and a Wall Street cleanup and even contributed large sums to Republicans. Yes, we know, shocking.

So take the planks in the platform and the platitudes and promises in the speeches with a grain of salt.  It’s all about the money. Except when it’s not. Except for those moments when ordinary people rise up and declare: “Not this time!” Which brings us back to predatory lenders and their buddy, Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

Look around: There’s an uprising in the land, remember, and it isn’t going away after Hillary Clinton, now the presumptive nominee, is crowned. This year even Wasserman Schultz couldn’t ignore the decibel level of an aroused public. Unaccustomed to a challenge in the Democratic “wealth primary” where money usually favors incumbents, she now finds herself called to account by an articulate opponent who champions working people, Tim Canova.

Across the country tens of thousands of consumer advocates — and tens of thousands of other progressives angry at her perceived favoritism toward Hillary Clinton — have been demanding that Wasserman Schultz resign as the party’s chair or be dumped before the convention opens Philadelphia.

So last week the previously tone-deaf Wasserman Schultz perked up, did an about-face and announced she will go along with the proposed new rules on payday lending after all.  At first blush, that’s good; the rules are a step in the right direction. But all that lobbying cash must have had some effect, because the new rules only go so far.  A New York Times editorial calls them “a lame response” to predatory loans and says the final version of the new regulations “will need stronger, more explicit consumer protections for the new regulatory system to be effective.”

More Scams

Nick Bourke, director of small-dollar loans for the Pew Charitable Trusts, is a man who closely follows these things and got to the heart of the matter:  Not only do the proposed new rules “fall short,” they will allow payday lenders to lock out attempts at lower-cost bank loans.

His judgment is stark: “As drafted, the CFPB rule would allow lenders to continue to make high-cost loans, such as a line of credit with a 15-percent transaction fee and 299-percent interest rate, or a $1,250 loan on which the borrower would repay a total of $3,700 in fees, interest and principal,” Bourke wrote. “These and many other high-cost payday installment loans are already on the market in most states, and they will thrive if the regulation takes effect without change.”

Nonetheless, the new rules were improvement enough for Allied Progress, an organization that has taken on Wasserman Schultz in Florida’s late August primary, to declare victory. And they were enough for Wasserman Schultz to do a 180-degree turn which she clearly hopes will not too dramatically reveal her hypocrisy.

“It is clear to me,” she said, “that the CFPB strikes the right balance and I look forward to working with my constituents and consumer groups as the CFPB works toward a final rule.”

All well and good, but if she survives her primary to return to Washington, be sure to keep the lights on in those rooms where the final version of the rules are negotiated. A powerful member of Congress with support from a Democrat in the White House could seriously weaken a law or a rule when the outcome is decided behind closed doors and money whispers in the ear of a politician supplicant: “I’m still here. Remember. Or else.”

But the times, they really may be a-changing, as the saga of Wasserman Schultz reveals. You can be deaf to the public’s shouts for only so long. The insurgency of popular discontent that has upended politics this year will continue no matter the results in November. For much too long now it’s been clear that money doesn’t just rule democracy, it is democracy.

Until we prove it isn’t.

Bill Moyers is the managing editor of Moyers & Company and Michael Winship is the Emmy Award-winning senior writer of Moyers & Company and, and a former senior writing fellow at the policy and advocacy group Demos. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelWinship. [This article first appeared at]