This Time the Big Obstacle for Bernie Isn’t DNC Rigging

In the 2020 race it’s the reflexive corporate media spin against the candidate, writes Norman Solomon. 

By Norman Solomon
NormanSolomon.com

Some people are attached to the idea that the Democratic National Committee will “rig” the presidential nomination against Bernie Sanders. The meme encourages the belief that the Bernie 2020 campaign is futile because of powerful corporate Democrats. But such fatalism should be discarded.

As Frederick Douglass said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Of course, top Democratic Party officials don’t intend to give up control. It has to be taken from them. And the conditions for doing that are now more favorable than ever.

The effects of mobilized demands for change in the Democratic presidential nominating process have been major — not out of the goodness of any power broker’s heart, but because progressives have organized effectively ,during the last two years.

“I think I will not shock anybody to suggest that the DNC was not quite evenhanded” during the 2016 race, Sanders said last week on CNN. “I think we have come a long way since then, and I fully expect to be treated quite as well as anybody else.”

 

One big factor: This time, no candidate can gain frontrunner leverage with superdelegates the way Hillary Clinton did early in the race. Last August, under grassroots pressure, the DNC voted to abolish superdelegates’ votes at the Democratic National Convention for the first ballot of the nominating process. There hasn’t been a second ballot since 1952.

When timeworn polemics insist that what’s now underway can’t really happen, it is time to revise the polemics. For many years, we heard that genuinely progressive Democrats couldn’t make meaningful inroads in Congress. Now, with impacts that far exceed their growing numbers, recently arrived House members are doing a lot to help reshape the political discourse — notably Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib.

While ill-founded, the line that “the DNC will rig 2020” is apt to have perverse impacts. No doubt sincerely believed by some, the outdated notion serves to demoralize and de-energize.

Is the Bernie 2020 campaign facing a steep uphill climb? Of course it is. Are powerful forces arrayed to crush it? Absolutely.

But let’s be clear. The huge obstacle ahead is not the DNC — it’s the mass media. The corporate-owned and corporate-advertiser-funded media of this country are the biggest barriers between Bernie Sanders and the Oval Office.

Amplification System

Often functioning as propaganda outlets, the major news media serve as an amplification system for corporate power that has long shielded the Democratic Party from the combined “threats” of social movements and progressive populist candidates. The synergies of momentum from the left — outside and inside of electoral arenas — are continuing to accelerate.

It’s crucial that progressives develop more effective challenges to the media serving the predatory big-money system. More than any other force, reflexive spin from corporate media stands between us and a Bernie Sanders presidency.

In sharp contrast to campaigns with enormous budgets for Astroturf, the first Sanders presidential campaign was able to effectively defy the conventional wisdom and overall power structure by inspiring and mobilizing at the grassroots. His campaign was – and is — antithetical to the politics of corporate media.

Two examples of news coverage, exactly three years apart, indicate what the Bernie 2020 campaign will be up against. In early March 2016, at a pivotal moment during the primary campaign, FAIR analyst Adam Johnson documented that the Washington Post “ran 16 negative stories on Bernie Sanders in 16 hours . . . a window that includes the crucial Democratic debate in Flint, Michigan, and the next morning’s spin.”

Days ago, when Sanders launched his campaign with a big rally in Brooklyn, the MSNBC coverage was so slanted that an assessment from Glenn Greenwald appeared under the headline “MSNBC Yet Again Broadcasts Blatant Lies, This Time About Bernie Sanders’ Opening Speech, and Refuses to Correct Them.”

Greenwald’s critique of MSNBC focused on flagrantly inaccurate anti-Sanders commentary from a former Hillary Clinton aide that immediately followed the senator’s Brooklyn speech. No Sanders supporter was included in the discussion. The coverage prompted an email from FAIR founder (and my colleague) Jeff Cohen to an MSNBC vice president: “You have no trouble finding hardcore Clintonite Bernie-bashers; please offer some balance in your analysts. In today’s Democratic Party, there’s clearly more sympathy for Bernie than the Clintons — but not on MSNBC.”

It’s worth noting that the Post is owned by the world’s richest person, Jeff Bezos, while MSNBC is owned by Comcast, “the world’s largest entertainment company.”

To counteract the media propaganda arsenal now in place, we should fully recognize that arsenal as the main weaponry that corporate power will deploy against the Bernie 2020 campaign. We must confront those corporate media forces while vastly strengthening independent progressive media work of all kinds.

Norman Solomon is cofounder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 Democratic National Convention and is currently a coordinator of the relaunched Bernie Delegates Network. Solomon is the author of a dozen books, including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.




Why a Bernie 2020 Campaign is Drawing Fire

Sanders is in step with most Americans, says Norman Solomon, and that bothers the defenders of oligarchy.

By Norman Solomon
NormanSolomon.com

With a launch of the Bernie Sanders 2020 campaign on the near horizon, efforts to block his trajectory to the Democratic presidential nomination are intensifying. The lines of attack are already aggressive — and often contradictory.

One media meme says that the senator from Vermont made so much headway in moving the Democratic Party leftward with his 2016 presidential bid that he’s no longer anything special. We’re supposed to believe that candidates who’ve adjusted their sails to the latest political wind are just as good as the candidate who generated the wind in the first place.

Bloomberg News supplied the typical spin in a Feb. 8 article headlined Sanders Risks Getting Crowded Out in 2020 Field of Progressives.” The piece laid out the narrative: “Sanders may find himself a victim of his own success in driving the party to the left with his 2016 run. The field of Democratic presidential hopefuls includes at least a half-dozen candidates who’ve adopted in whole or in part the platform that helped Sanders build a loyal following . . .”

Yet Bernie is also being targeted as too marginal. The same Bloomberg article quoted Howard Dean, a long-ago liberal favorite who has become a hawkish lobbyist and corporate mouthpiece: “There will be hardcore, hard left progressives who will have nobody but Bernie, but there won’t be many.”

So, is Bernie now too much like other Democratic presidential candidates, or is he too much of an outlier? In the mass media, both seem to be true. In the real world, neither are true.

Last week, Business Insider reported on new polling about Sanders’ proposal “to increase the estate tax, the tax paid by heirs on assets passed down by the deceased. Sanders’ idea would lower the threshold to qualify for the tax to $3.5 million in assets, down from the current $11 million. The plan would also introduce a graduating scale of tax rates for the estates of wealthier Americans, eventually reaching a 77 percent marginal rate for assets over $1 billion.”

Here are the poll results: “When presented with the details of the proposal, 37 percent of respondents supported Sanders’ policy while 26 percent opposed, according to Insider’s survey.” (The rest had no opinion.)

Giving Voice to Majority Views

That kind of response from the public is a far cry from claims that Sanders is somehow fringe. In fact, the ferocity of media attacks on him often indicates that corporate power brokers are afraid his strong progressive populism is giving effective voice to majority views of the public.

A vast range of grassroots organizing — outside and inside of electoral arenas — has created the current leftward momentum. “As a progressive, it is heartening to see so many other candidates voice support for Senator Sanders’ policies,” said Alan Minsky, executive director at Progressive Democrats of America. “However, I’ve been around the block enough times to know that politicians who adopt positions in tune with the fashion of the moment are not as trustworthy as those rare few, like Bernie Sanders, who have held firm to a powerful social justice vision through his entire long career.”

I also asked for a comment from Pia Gallegos, former chair of the Adeline Progressive Caucus of the New Mexico Democratic Party. “Bernie’s competitors lack his track record on economic security for all American workers, Medicare for All, free public college education, taxing the rich and opposing bloated military budgets,” she said. “Those are long-standing positions that — more than ever — resonate with grassroots activists and voters. Other Democratic presidential candidates will try to imitate this populist agenda, but only Bernie can speak with the vision, clarity and moral authority that the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate needs to defeat the incumbent.”

The overarching fear that defenders of oligarchy have about Bernie Sanders is not that he’s out of step with most Americans — it’s that he’s in step with them. For corporate elites determined to retain undemocratic power, a successful Bernie 2020 campaign would be the worst possible outcome of the election.

Norman Solomon is cofounder and national coordinator of RootsAction.org. He was a Bernie Sanders delegate from California to the 2016 Democratic National Convention and is currently a coordinator of the relaunched Bernie Delegates Network. Solomon is the author of a dozen books, including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy.

 




Covert British Military-Smear Machine Moving into US

After mobilizing a disinformation campaign across Europe, documents show that the Integrity Initiative is now infiltrating the U.S., report Max Blumenthal and Mark Ames.

By Max Blumenthal and Mark Ames
Grayzone

A bombshell domestic spy scandal has been unfolding in Britain, after hacked internal communications exposed a covert U.K. state military-intelligence psychological warfare operation targeting its own citizens and political figures in allied NATO countries under the cover of fighting “Russian disinformation.” 

The leaked documents revealed a secret network of spies, prominent journalists and think-tanks colluding under the umbrella of a group called “Integrity Initiative” to shape domestic opinion—and to smear political opponents of the right-wing Tory government, including the leader of the opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbin.

Until now, this Integrity Initiative domestic spy scandal has been ignored in the American media, perhaps because it has mostly involved British names. But it is clear that the influence operation has already been activated in the U.S.. Hacked documents reveal that the Integrity Initiative is cultivating powerful allies inside the State Department, top D.C. think tanks, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, where it has gained access to Katharine Gorka and her husband, the fascist-linked cable news pundit Sebastian Gorka. 

The Integrity Initiative has spelled out plans to expand its network across the U.S., meddling in American politics and recruiting “a new generation of Russia watchers” behind the false guise of a non-partisan charity. Moreover, the group has hired one of the most notorious American “perception management” specialists, John Rendon, to train its clusters of pundits and cultivate relationships with the media. 

Back in the U.K., Member of Parliament Chris Williamson has clamored for an investigation into the Integrity Initiative’s abuse of public money. 

In a recent editorial, Williamson drew a direct parallel between the group’s collaboration with journalists and surreptitious payments the CIA made to reporters during the Cold War.

“These tactics resemble those deployed by the CIA in Operation Mockingbird that was launched at the height of the cold war in the early 1950s. Its aims included using the mainstream news media as a propaganda tool,” Williamson wrote.

“They manipulated the news agenda by recruiting leading journalists to write stories with the express purpose of influencing public opinion in a particular way,” the Labour parliamentarian continued. “Now it seems the British Establishment have dusted off the CIA’s old playbook and is intent on giving it another outing on this side of the Atlantic.”

Unmasking a Smear Machine

The existence of the Integrity Initiative was virtually unknown until this November, when the email servers of a previously obscure British think tank called the Institute for Statecraft were hacked, prompting allegations of Russian intrusion. When the group’s internal documents appeared at a website hosted by Anonymous Europe, the public learned of a covert propaganda network seed-funded to the tune of over $2 million dollars by the Tory-controlled U.K. Foreign Office, and run largely by military-intelligence officers.

Through a series of cash inducements, off-the-record briefings and all-day conferences, the Integrity Initiative has sought to organize journalists across the West into an international echo chamber hyping up the supposed threat of Russian disinformation—and to defame politicians and journalists critical of this new Cold War campaign. 

bid for funding submitted by the Integrity Initiative in 2017 to the British Ministry of Defense promised to deliver a “tougher stance on Russia” by arranging for “more information published in the media on the threat of Russian active measures.”

The Integrity Initiative has also worked through its fronts in the media to smear political figures perceived as a threat to its militaristic agenda. Its targets have included a Spanish Department of Homeland Security appointee, Pedro Banos, whose nomination was scuttled thanks to a media blitz it secretly orchestrated; Jeremy Corbyn, whom the outfit and its media cutouts painted as a useful idiot of Russia; and a Scottish member of parliament, Neil Findlay, whom one of its closest media allies accused of adopting “Kremlin messaging” for daring to protest the official visit of the far-right Ukrainian politician Andriy Parubiy — the founder of two neo-Nazi parties and author of a white nationalist memoir, “View From The Right.”

These smear campaigns and many more surreptitiously orchestrated by the Integrity Initiative offer a disturbing preview of the reactionary politics it plans to inject into an already toxic American political environment. 

Aggressive Expansion

A newly released Integrity Initiative document reveals that the outfit plans an aggressive expansion across the U.S. 

The Integrity Initiative claims to have already established a “simple office” in Washington, D.C., though it does not say where. It also boasts of partnerships with top D.C. think tanks like the Atlantic Council, the Center for European Policy Analysis, Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) and its close relationships with U.S. officials. 

A major hub of Integrity Initiative influence is the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, a de facto U.S. government propaganda operation that was established by President Barack Obama to battle online ISIS recruitment, but which was rapidly repurposed to counter Russian disinformation following the election of Trump.

The Integrity Initiative has also recruited one of the most infamous American PR men to organize its clusters of journalists and political figures. 

He is John Rendon, best known as “The Man Who Sold The War”— several wars, in fact, but most notoriously the Iraq invasion. Rendon was the self-described “information warrior” who planted fake news in major U.S.-U.K. media about non-existent WMD threats. With deep ties to the CIA and other military-intelligence agencies, his PR firm was paid $100 million to organize and sell Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress. In 2002, The New York Times exposed a Pentagon program using Rendon to plant “disinformation” — including “false stories” and “the blackest of black PR” — in media outlets around the world, in order to shape public opinion and sell the Iraq invasion. 

Journalist James Bamford outlined a catalogue of disinformation feats Rendon performed for the Pentagon, such as identifying “the biases of specific journalists and potentially obtain an understanding of their allegiances, including the possibility of specific relationships and sponsorships.” Bamford also found proposals and programs Rendon was involved in that aimed to “‘coerce’ foreign journalists and plant false information overseas… [and] find ways to ‘punish’ those who convey the ‘wrong message.’”

These tactics seem particularly relevant to his work with the Integrity Initiative, especially considering the internal documents that reveal further Rendon-style plans to produce reports and studies to be “fed anonymously into local media.” (Among the outlets listed as friendly hosts in Integrity Initiative internal memos are Buzzfeed and El Pais, the center-left Spanish daily.)

Keeping up With the Gorkas

Internal documents also refer to interactions between Integrity Initiative Director Chris Donnelly and top Trump officials such as Katharine Gorka, a vehemently anti-Muslim Department of Homeland Security official, as well as her husband, Sebastian, who earned right-wing fame during his brief tenure in Trump’s White House. 

The latter Gorka is an open supporter of the Hungarian Vitezi Rend, a proto-fascist order that collaborated with Nazi Germany during its occupation of Hungary. Following Trump’s election victory in 2016, Gorka appeared for televised interviews in a black Vitezi Rend uniform. 

Gorka was among the first figures listed on an itinerary for Donnelly to Washington this Sept. 18 to 22. The itinerary indicates that the two had breakfast before Donnelly delivered a presentation on “Mapping Russian Influence Activities” at the federally funded military research center, CNA.

 

According to the itinerary, Donnelly was granted access to Pentagon officials such as Mara Karlin, an up-and-coming neoconservative cadre, and John McCain Institute Executive Director Kurt Volker, another neoconservative operative who also serves as the U.S. special representative for Ukraine. Numerous meetings with staffers inside the State Department’s Office of Global Engagement were also detailed. 

Foreign Agent in State?

Of all the State Department officials named in Integrity Initiative documents, the one who appeared most frequently was Todd Leventhal. Leventhal has been a staffer at the State Department’s Global Engagement Center, boasting of “20 years of countering disinformation, misinformation, conspiracy theories, and urban legends.” In an April 2018 Integrity Initiative memo, he is listed as a current team member:

Funded to the tune of $160 million this year to beat back Russian disinformation with “counter-propaganda,” the State Department’s Global Engagement Center has refused to deny targeting American citizens with information warfare of its own. “My old job at the State Department was as chief propagandist,” confessed former Global Engagement Center Director Richard Stengel. “I’m not against propaganda. Every country does it and they have to do it to their own population and I don’t necessarily think it’s that awful.”

Like so many of the media and political figures involved in the Integrity Initiative’s international network, the Global Engagement Center’s Leventhal has a penchant for deploying smear tactics against prominent voices that defy the foreign policy consensus. Leventhal appeared in an outtake of a recent NBC documentary on Russian disinformation smugly explaining how he would take down a 15-year-old book critical of American imperialism in the developing world. Rather than challenge the book’s substance and allegations, Leventhal boasted how he would marshal his resources to wage an ad hominem smear campaign to destroy the author’s reputation. His strategic vision was clear: when confronting a critic, ignore the message and destroy the messenger.

Integrity Initiative documents reveal that Leventhal has been paid $76,608 dollars (60,000 British pounds) for a 50 percent contract. 

While those same documents claim he has retired from the State Department, Leventhal’s own Linkedin page lists him as a current “Senior Disinformation Advisor” to the State Department. If that were true, it would mean that the State Department was employing a de facto foreign agent.

As a cut-out of the British Foreign Office and Defense Ministry, the Integrity Initiative’s work with current and former U.S. officials and members of the media raises certain legal questions. For one, there is no indication that the group has registered under the Justice Department’s Foreign Agent Registration Act, as most foreign agents of influence are required to do.

Grants from Neocon Foundation

An Integrity Initiative memo states that the right-wing Smith Richardson Foundation has also committed to ponying up funding for its U.S. network as soon as the group receives 501 c-3 non-profit status. The foundation has already provided it with about $56,000 for covert propaganda activities across Europe.

The Smith Richardson Foundation has old ties to the U.S. intelligence community and controversial cold war influence operations. According to reporter Russ Bellant, the foundation was secretly bankrolling radical right-wing “indoctrination campaigns for the American public on Cold War and foreign policy issues”— programs that got the attention of Senator William Fulbright, who warned then-President John F. Kennedy of their dangers. At one of these indoctrination seminars, a Smith Richardson Foundation director “told attendees that ‘it is within the capacity of the people in this room to literally turn the State of Georgia into a civil war college,’ in order to overcome their opponents.”

Smith Richardson has funded a who’s who of the neoconservative movement, from hyper-militaristic think tanks like the American Enterprise Institute to the Institute for the Study of War. “To say the [Smith Richardson] foundation was involved at every level in the lobbying for and crafting of the so-called global war on terror after 9/11 would be an understatement,” wrote journalist Kelley Vlahos.

Besides Smith Richardson, the Integrity Initiative has stated its intention to apply for grants from the State Department “to expand the Integrity Initiative activities both within and outside of the USA.” This is yet another indicator that the U.S. government is paying for propaganda targeting its own citizens. 

‘Main Event’ in Seattle

An Integrity Initiative internal document argues that because “DC is well served by existing US institutions, such as those with which the Institute [for Statecraft] already collaborates,” the organization should “concentrate on extending the work of the Integrity Initiative into major cities and key State capitals [sic] across the USA.”

This Dec. 10, the Integrity Initiative organized what it called its “main event” in the U.S. It was a conference on disinformation held in Seattle, under the auspices of a data firm called Adventium Labs. Together with the Technical Leadership Institute at the University of Minnesota, the Integrity Initiative listed Adventium Labs as one of its “first partners outside DC.”

Adventium is a Minneapolis-based research and development firm that has reaped contracts from the U.S. military, including a recent $5.4 million cyber-security grant from the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. 

Inside a modest-sized hotel conference room, the Adventium/Integrity event began with a speech by the Integrity Initiative’s Simon Bracey-Lane. Two years prior, Bracey-Lane appeared on the American political scene as a field worker for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential primary run, earning media write-ups as the “Brit for Bernie.” Now, the young operator was back in the U.S. as the advance man for a military-intelligence cut-out that specialized in smearing left-wing political figures like Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader widely regarded as the British version of Sanders.

Bracey-Lane opened his address by explaining that Integrity Initiative director Chris Donnelly had been unable to appear at the event, possibly because he was bogged down in the scandal back home. He proceeded to read remarks prepared by Donnelly that offered a window into the frighteningly militaristic mindset the Integrity Initiative aims to impose on the public through their media and political allies.

According to Donnelly’s comments, the West was no longer in a “peace time, rules based environment.” From the halls of government to corporate boardrooms to even the U.K.’s National Health System, “the conclusion is that we have to look for people who suit a wartime environment rather than peacetime.”

During a Q&A, Bracey-Lane remarked that “we have to change the definition of war to encompass everything that war now encompasses,” referring vaguely to various forms of “hybrid warfare.” 

“There is a great deal to be done in communicating that to young people,” he continued. “When we mean being at war we don’t mean sending our boys off to fight. It’s right here in our homes.”

The emphasis on restructuring society along martial lines mirrored the disturbing thinking also on display in notes of a private meeting between Donnelly and Gen. Richard Barrons in 2016. During that chat, the two officers decided that the British military should be removed from democratic supervision and be able to operate as “an independent body outside politics.”

While Bracey-Lane’s presentation perfectly captured the military mindset of the Integrity Initiative, the speakers that followed him offered a diverse array of perspectives on the concept of disinformation, some more nuanced than others. But one talk stood out from the rest — not because of its quality, but because of its complete lack thereof.

Theorist of ‘Red-Brown’ Networks

The presentation was delivered by Alexander Reid Ross, a half-baked political researcher who peddles computer-generated spiderweb relationship charts to prove the existence of a vast hidden network of “red-brown” (or fascist-communist) alliances and “syncretic media” conspiracies controlled by puppeteers in Moscow. 

Ross is a lecturer on geography at Portland State University with no scholarly or journalistic credentials on Russia. But with a book, “Against the Fascist Creep,” distributed by the well-known anarchist publishing house, AK Press, the middling academic has tried to make his name as a maverick analyst. 

Before the Integrity Initiative was exposed as a military-intelligence front operation, Ross was among a small coterie of pundits and self-styled disinformation experts that followed the group’s Twitter account. The Integrity Initiative even retweeted his smear of War Nerd podcast co-host John Dolan.

In a series of articles for the Southern Poverty Law Center last year, Ross attempted to bring his warmed-over Cold War theories to the broader public. He wound up trashing everyone from the co-author of this piece, Max Blumenthal, to Nation magazine publisher Katrina Vanden Heuvel to Harvard University professor of international relations Stephen Walt as hidden shadow-fascists secretly controlled by the Kremlin. 

The articles ultimately generated an embarrassing scandal and a series of public retractions by the editor-in-chief of the Southern Poverty Law Center, Richard Cohen. And then, like some Dr. Frankenstein for discredited and buried journalism careers, the British Ministry of Defense-backed Integrity Initiative moved in to reanimate Ross as a sought-after public intellectual. 

Before the Integrity Initiative-organized crowd, Ross offered a rambling recitation of his theory of a syncretic fascist alliance puppeteered by Russians: “The alt right takes from both this ‘red-brown,’ it’s called, or like left-right syncretic highly international national of nationalisms, and from the United States’ own paleoconservative movement, and it’s sort of percolated down through college organizing, um, and anti-interventionism meets anti-imperialism. Right?”

In a strange twist, Ross appeared on stage at the Integrity Initiative’s Seattle event alongside Emmi Bevensee, a contributor to the left-libertarian Center for a Stateless Society (C4SS) think tank, whose tagline, “a left market anarchist think-tank” expresses its core aim of uniting far-left anarchists with free-market right-libertarians. 

Bevensee, a PhD candidate at the University of Arizona and self-described “Borderlands anarcho into tech and crypto,” concluded her presentation by asserting a linkage between the alternative news site, Zero Hedge, and the “physical militarized presence in the borderlands” of anti-immigrant vigilantes. Like Bevensee, Ross has written for C4SS in the past. 

The irony of contributors to an anarchist group called the “Center for a Stateless Society” auditioning before The State – the most jackbooted element of it, in fact – for more opportunities to attack anti-war politicians and journalists, can hardly be overstated.

But closer examination of the history of C4SS veers from irony into something much darker and more unsettling.

White Nationalist Associates

C4SS was co-founded in 2006 by a confessed child rapist and libertarian activist, Brad Spangler, who set the group up to promote “Market anarchism” to “replace Marxism on the left.”

When Spangler’s child rape confessions emerged in 2015, the Center for Stateless Society founder was finally drummed out by his colleagues. 

There’s more: Spangler’s understudy and deputy in the C4SS, Kevin Carson — currently listed as the group’s “Karl Hess Chair in Social Theory” — turned out to be a longtime friend and defender of white nationalist Keith Preston. Preston’s name is prominently plastered on the back of Kevin Carson’s book, hailing the C4SS man as “the Proudhon of our time” — a loaded compliment, given the unhinged anti-Semitism of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the influential 19thCentury French anarchist.

Carson only disowned Preston in 2009, shortly before Preston helped white nationalist leader Richard Spencer launch his alt-right webzine, Alternative Right. 

The C4SS group currently participates in the annual Koch-backed International Students For Liberty conference in Washington, D.C., LibertyCon, a who’s who of libertarian think-tank hacks and Republican Party semi-celebrities like Steve Forbes, FCC chairman Ajit Pai, and Alan Dershowitz.

In 2013, C4SS’s Kevin Carson tweeted out his dream fantasy that four Jewish leftists—Mark Ames, co-author of this article; Yasha Levine; Corey Robin, and Mark Potok — would die in a plane crash while struggling over a single parachute. Potok was an executive editor at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which last year retracted every one of the crank articles that Alexander Reid Ross published with them and formally apologized for having run them.

For some reason, the super-sleuth Ross conveniently failed to investigate the libertarian group, C4SS, that he has chosen to partner with and publish in. That ability to shamelessly smear and denounce leftists over the most crudely manufactured links to the far-right—while cozying up to groups as sleazy as C4SS and authoritarian as the Integrity Initiative —is the sort of adaptive trait that MI6 spies and the Rendon Group would find useful in a covert domestic influence operation.

Ross did not respond to our request for comment on his involvement with the Integrity Initiative and C4SS.

Disinformation for Democracy

As it spans out across the U.S., the Integrity Initiative has stated its desire to “build a younger generation of Russia watchers.” Toward this goal, it is supplementing its coterie of elite journalists, think tank hacks, spooks and State Department info-warriors with certifiable cranks like Ross. 

Less than 24 hours after Ross’s appearance at the Integrity Initiative event in Seattle, he sent a menacing email to the co-author of this article, Ames, announcing his intention to recycle an old and discredited smear against him and publish it in The Daily Beast — a publication that appears to enjoy a special relationship with Integrity Initiative personnel. 

Despite the threat of investigation in the U.K., the Integrity Initiative’s “network of networks” appears to be escalating its covert, government-funded influence operation, trashing the political left and assailing anyone that gets in its way; all in the name of fighting foreign disinformation. 

“We have to win this one,” Integrity Initiative founder Col. Chris Donnelly said, “because if we don’t, democracy will be undermined.”

Mark Ames is the co-host of the Radio War Nerd podcast. Subscribe to Radio War Nerd on Patreon.

Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and the author of books including best-selling Republican Gomorrah,” Goliath,” The Fifty One Day War and The Management of Savagery,” which will be published in March 2019 by Verso. He has also produced numerous print articles for an array of publications, many video reports and several documentaries including Killing Gaza and Je Ne Suis Pas Charlie.” Blumenthal founded the Grayzone Project in 2015 to shine a journalistic light on America’s state of perpetual war and its dangerous domestic repercussions.

 




Elizabeth Warren Nails Economy, Muddles Foreign Policy

It’s imperative to criticize presumable progressive politicians and parse their words carefully. It might open the door to actual improvements in policy, writes Sam Husseini.  

By Sam Husseini
Post Haven

In her New Year’s Eve announcement about forming an exploratory committee for the presidency, Sen. Elizabeth Warren made a great point: “Right now, Washington works great for the wealthy and the well-connected. It’s just not working for anyone else.”

In case you missed that, she did not say “the economy isn’t working well” or such, as we’ve all heard numerous politicos say countless times.

She rather said the opposite of that; repeatedly: “The way I see it right now, Washington works great for giant drug companies, but just not for people who are trying to get a prescription filled. Washington works great for for-profit colleges and student loan outfits, but not for young people who are getting crushed by student loan debt. And you could keep going through the list. The problem we have got right now in Washington is that it works great for those who’ve got money to buy influence.”

And in case anyone missed the point, she said it yet again: “We want a government that works not just for the rich and the powerful. We want a government that works for everyone.”

It’s laudatory that Warren is using her perch and analytical skills to avoid a common rhetorical trap and is articulating the truism that the political establishment largely does the bidding of the wealthy and connected when it comes to the economy.

Silent on War Profiteers

The problem is that she doesn’t articulate that in the same manner when it comes to bloody wars. Quite the contrary. Her list of problems—drug companies, for-profit colleges and student loan outfits—omits those who have an interest in continuing horrific wars.

When asked on Wednesday night by Rachel Maddow about Trump’s recent announcement on pulling troops from Syria, Warren said the U.S.’s wars are “not working.”

She didn’t say: “The wars are working great for military contractors, just not for regular people in the U.S. or Syria or anywhere else.”

Warren—who is on the Senate Armed Services Committee—did not say: “The wars are great for the wealthy profiting off of them, they’re just terrible for the people getting killed in them.”

Instead, Warren actually swallowed some of the rhetoric about U.S. wars having as their alleged goals stability or humanitarianism or security. The profits of military contractors or geopolitical elites went unexamined.

She said it was “right” to pull U.S. troops out of Syria and Afghanistan, an arguably positive position, but added: “It is not working and pretending that somehow, in the future, it is going to work…it’s a form of fantasy that we simply can’t afford to continue to engage in.”

Ignoring War Mongering 

But part of the fantasy is ignoring that the wars are indeed working great for some. Indeed, if Warren heard someone else say that “it is not working” about the economy, she’d likely correct them.

Warren did at least raise the question of what “success” in the perpetual wars might be, which is certainly better than most of official Washington. Advocates of perpetual war “need to explain what they think winning in those wars look like and where the metrics are,” she said.

But, like most of the U.S. political establishment, Warren doesn’t actually scrutinize the underlying motives: “When you withdraw, you got to withdraw as part of a plan, you got to know what you’re trying to accomplish throughout the Middle East and the pieces need to be coordinated,” Warren said, adding, “this is why we need allies.”

What allies? France, Britain and Turkey—the traditional colonial power in the region? Or the ever-aggressive, oppressive Israel? Or the tyrannical Saudi Arabia?

And that’s rather the point. U.S. foreign policy appears as a muddle—without any clear statement of what is supposed to be accomplished—because its stated goals obscure actual goals. 

The idea that the U.S. establishment gets the country into wars for ulterior financial or geopolitical reasons should be regarded as banal. Instead, it’s barely articulated at all.

Most obviously, the military contractors benefit from wars.

Weapons Versus Drugs

Indeed, the power of the euphemistically called “defense sector” would seem to be substantially larger than the drug companies Warren focuses on. According to OpenSecrets.org, the top five military contractors — Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics and Raytheon—more than doubled the top five companies in the pharmaceutical manufacturing sector ($14.4 million vs. $7.7 million) in their outlays to politicos. For more, see the writings of William Hartung, such as “Corporate Patriots or War Profiteers?

Even more critically, the U.S. establishment’s geopolitical aims frequently thrive on war. Dahlia Wasfi argued in 2015 in “Battling ISIS: Iran-Iraq war redux” that “Obama’s unofficial strategy to fight ISIS may be that of former President Ronald Reagan’s for Iran and Iraq in the 1980s: a long, drawn-out war to strengthen U.S.-Israeli hegemony in the region.” Also, see Robert Naiman’s “WikiLeaks Reveals How the U.S. Aggressively Pursued Regime Change in Syria, Igniting a Bloodbath” and my own “Is U.S. Policy to Prolong the Syrian War?” 

In 2015, Sen. Bernie Sanders was actually calling for more Saudi intervention in the Mideast. Said Sanders: The Saudis have “got to get their hands dirty.” He was criticized for this by Margaret KimberleyDavid Swanson and myself

Now, Sanders has taken the lead in Congress in criticizing the Saudi war in Yemen, opening the door to some alleviation of massive suffering. I wish he would be much better still on foreign policy, but this may be serious progress, though the ACLU has criticized the congressional resolution

It’s imperative to criticize presumable progressive politicians and parse their words carefully. It might open the door to actual improvements in policy, as in the case of Sanders. And in the case of Elizabeth Warren, it’s simply asking her to cease obscuring war as she clarifies economic issues.

Sam Husseini is an independent journalist, senior analyst at the Institute for Public Accuracy, and founder of VotePact.org, which encourages disenchanted Democrats and Republicans to pair up. Follow him on Twitter @samhusseini.

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The Great Saudi Muddle

Two U.S. Senate resolutions last week have resulted in a ball of confusion, one that tries to distance the U.S, from a murderous Saudi prince while at the same time demanding closer relations with the government he heads. 

By Daniel Lazare
Special to Consortium News

Does the Senate want Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman to own up to the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi?  Is it really seeking an end to Saudi Arabia’s war of aggression against Yemen?  The answer to both questions is: kind of, sort of, not really. 

That’s the takeaway from a couple of resolutions the chamber approved amid great fanfare last week. The first, sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders, calls on Trump “to remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen” by, among other things, putting an end to in-flight refueling of Saudi and the United Arab Emirate war planes. The resolution, which passed 56 to 41, was a small step toward ending a war of aggression that has claimed as many as 80,000 lives – although it would have been stronger and less self-serving if it had also called for cutting off arms sales that have allowed US weapons manufacturers to reap vast profits off human misery.

But the second resolution, which passed on a unanimous voice vote, was a muddle that shows just how self-defeating US policy has become.  Sponsored by Republican Senator Bob Corker, it began by holding the crown prince responsible for Khashoggi’s murder in an Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2, an act, it said, that has “undermined trust and confidence in the longstanding friendship between the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

This generated excited headlines to the effect that the U.S. might at last be breaking with MbS, as Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman is universally known. But news outlets failed to mention what the resolution said next.  It declared, for instance, that the U.S.-Saudi relationship is “an essential element of regional security.”  While saying nothing about arms shipments to Saudi allies, it condemned Iran for supplying rebel forces with “advanced lethal weapons.”  It blamed the Houthis “for egregious human rights abuses, including torture, use of human shields, and interference with, and diversion of, humanitarian aid shipments” – this while remaining silent about Saudi-UAE atrocities, which reportedly include a string of torture chambers in which political opponents are roasted over open fires, among other horrors.

Most bizarrely of all, the resolution warned the Saudis that “increasing purchases of military equipment from, and cooperation with, the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China challenges the strength and integrity of the long-standing military-to-military relationship” between Washington and Riyadh.  The Senate is thus angry with MBS not only because he sent a seventeen-member hit squad to knock off a US resident in the middle of a European capital, but because he’s consorting with America’s business rivals.  The resolution further warns that such purchases “may introduce significant national security and economic risks to both parties,” language that is every bit as threatening as it sounds. 

The result is a ball of confusion, one that tries to distance the US from a murderous Saudi prince while at the same time demanding closer relations with the government he heads.  It calls on the Saudis to behave more nicely to their neighbors, wind down the war in Yemen, and cease murdering people in broad daylight so that the clock can be turned back a few years and the process starts all over again.  To quote Giuseppe de Lampedusa’s famous line in his novel, The Leopard, it wants everything to change so that everything can remain the same.

Incoherence

This is as incoherent as anything Trump has come up with, including his notorious Nov. 20 statement with regard to MbS’s guilt or innocence that “maybe he did and maybe he didn’t.”  Trump can’t let go of his Saudi ties.  But, then, the Senate can’t let go and not let go at the same time.

No one knows what to do, which is why the resolution tried to play both sides of the net.  In describing MbS as “a wrecking ball,” one whom it is “very difficult to be able to do business” with, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham was essentially calling on the crown prince to step down.  

He could be replaced, under U.S. pressure, perhaps with the former crown prince he replaced, Muhammad bin Nayef, said to be favored by the CIA, which publicly blamed MbS for Khashoggi’s murder.

But it could also mean a destabilizing factional feud within the ruling clan leading to a messy regime change, which, as Washington foreign-policy experts have learned all too painfully since the Arab Spring, could well lead to chaos.

To be sure, there is always the hope that a senior member of the Al-Saud will step in once MbS is removed and re-establish order. Indeed, Saudi experts already have a candidate for the job in mind: King Salman’s younger brother Ahmed bin Abdulaziz, who, while living in self-imposed exile in London, startled Saudi watchers by telling a small group of hecklers not to blame the Al-Saud for the Yemen war, only the king and crown prince.  “They are responsible for crimes in Yemen,” he said. “Tell Mohammed bin Salman to stop the war.”

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Since public criticism of this sort is unprecedented, it was assumed that when Prince Ahmed flew back to Riyadh a few weeks after the Khashoggi murder under a US-UK promise of protection, it was with the goal of putting the Al-Saud on a new footing.

But no one knows what might bubble up if he were to try.  Things might return to normal after a royal shake-up – assuming one is in the works – or they may not.  After all, it was assumed that Libya would return to normal once a former prime minister named Ali Zeidan took over from deposed strongman Muammar Gaddafi.  When that didn’t work out, it was hoped that an ex-academic named Omar al-Hassi would have better luck.  But when he fell too, it was clear that only anarchy would reign.  

Hence the fear in Saudi Arabia is that something similar might occur post-MbS – that, as a source told The New Yorker’s Robin Wright, “[s]omeone from outside the system could make it collapse,” whereupon the kingdom would succumb to “instability like elsewhere in the region.”

Homemade in Washington

If so, it’s a problem entirely of Washington’s own making.  Democratic and Republican administrations alike have continued to build up Saudi Arabia despite repeated warnings that it was creating a monster.

In 1945, FDR granted Saudi King Ibn Saud a blanket security guarantee in return for unrestricted oil access.  A few years later, Truman used the newly-established Marshall Fund to finance massive Saudi oil shipments to war-torn western Europe, thereby establishing the kingdom as the world’s leading exporter.  Following the epic price increases and Oil Embargo of the 1973, Washington hit upon yet another deal, this time to recycle excess petrodollars by exchanging Saudi oil profits for U.S. weaponry.  A regional military colossus was thus born, one that felt free to attack whomever it pleased thanks to colossal oil wealth, vast quantities of high-tech arms, and an unlimited U.S. security guarantee and political cover.

Aggression and repression were the inevitable result. Unwilling to upset a vital strategic partner, the Obama administration said nothing when Riyadh sent troops into neighboring Bahrain to bloodily suppress democratic protests; when it flooded Syria with bloodthirsty Sunni jihadis, and when, in March 2015, it declared war on Yemen, its neighbor to the south.  Indeed, the administration felt it had no choice but to help out.

Thus, a top general signaled his assent even while admitting that he had only been given a few hours’ notice while a State Department spokesman added forlornly: “We don’t want this to be an open-ended military campaign.” Nearly four years later, with as many as 13 million people teetering on the brink of starvation, that’s exactly what it’s turned out to be.

Joined at the hip with the Saudis, the U.S. appears to have no idea how to go about severing an increasingly toxic relationship, as last week’s incoherent Senate resolutions make clear.

The U.S. was happy to build Saudi Arabia up, but it’s clueless now that Saudi Arabia is dragging it down.

Daniel Lazare is the author of The Frozen Republic: How the Constitution Is Paralyzing Democracy (Harcourt Brace, 1996) and other books about American politics.  He has written for a wide variety of publications from The Nation to Le Monde Diplomatique and blogs about the Constitution and related matters at Daniellazare.com.

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Despite Saudi Crisis, US Increases Threats Against Iran

Though the U.S.-Saudi alliance may have been weakened because of the Khashoggi murder, both countries are still targeting Iran as new US sanctions are announced on Sunday, writes Marjorie Cohn of Truthout. 

By Marjorie Cohn
Truthout

The alleged torture, murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, widely believed to have been carried out on orders of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, may put a crimp in Donald Trump’s plans to escalate his aggression against Iran.

Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel are unified in their hatred of Iran, albeit with different motives. Iran has been in the crosshairs of the United States since the 1979 Iranian Revolution overthrew the vicious, US-installed puppet Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi; indeed, in 2002, George W. Bush initiated Iran into his “axis of evil.” Saudi Arabia, home to the two holiest Muslim sites, sees Shiite Iran as a rival for regional hegemony. And Israel considers Iran an “existential threat.”

Trump administration officials and outside experts said that possible repercussions on an elaborate plan to squeeze the Iranians have dominated internal discussions about the fallout over what happened to Mr. Khashoggi,” David Sanger reported in The New York Times.

The allegations against the Saudi crown prince “have already had an effect” on Israel, “effectively freezing the push to build an international coalition against Iran’s regional influence, the top priority for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu,” Ben Hubbard and David Halbfinger, citing “analysts,” wrote in the Times.

White House officials are worried the mushrooming crisis with Saudi Arabia could “derail a showdown with Iran and jeopardize plans to enlist Saudi help to avoid disrupting the oil market.”

Trump Still Ramps It Up

Following the dangerous and foolhardy withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — which pleased Israel and Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration is slated to announce on Sunday that companies doing business with Iran — including purchasing oil or making investments in the country — will be forbidden from doing business in the United States. The imposition of these punishing sanctions are intended to result in a full embargo of Iran’s oil. 

Trump will need Saudi military and political cooperation if, “as threatened,” Iran retaliates against his oil embargo by taking “reciprocal, physical action to halt Saudi and Gulf states’ oil exports via the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf and the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, at the mouth of the Red Sea,” Simon Tisdall noted in The Guardian. “If this crisis point is reached, escalating confrontations across the region cannot be ruled out.”

The Trump administration is relying on Saudi Arabia to pump extra oil once Iran is out of the market. But Congress is considering whether to punish Saudi Arabia for the Khashoggi case.

To penalize what the Saudis care about most – oil revenue – would be to undercut the Iran policy and send the price of gasoline and heating oil significantly higher, just as winter approaches,” Sanger noted.

Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, told the Times, “It’s a neat trick if you both sanction a country and partner with them at the same time,” adding, “it’s not easy to keep the focus on Iran’s behavior when the Saudis are doing terrible things to journalists and dissidents, and bombing children in Yemen.”

The Khashoggi murder has shone a spotlight on the commission of Saudi war crimes in Yemen, aided and abetted by the United States. In a New York Times opinion piece, Sen. Bernie Sanders called for ending US military support to Saudi Arabia. But Sanger cited administration sources as saying, “the issue of limiting American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, which Mr. Trump has said would threaten American jobs, pales in importance [to the plan to squeeze Iran].”

Meanwhile, Trump continues to rattle the sabers at Iran.

Taliban Targeted

On Oct. 23, the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center, comprised of the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar, designated nine individuals “associated with the Taliban,” some of whom have “Iranian sponsors.” A Bush-era executive order authorizes the Office of Foreign Assets Control to block the assets of anyone or any group designated as a terrorist.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the terrorism designations in a press release, stating that the United States is “targeting key Iranian sponsors providing financial and material support to the Taliban.” He added, “Iran’s support to the Taliban stands in stark violation of the United Nations Security Council Resolutions and epitomizes the regime’s utter disregard for fundamental international norms.”

In a May speech, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States would “crush” Iran with new sanctions so severe that regime change could result.

Moreover, on Oct. 5, the White House released its long-awaited 25-page counterterrorism strategy, which calls Iran “the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism.” It pledges to fight Iran and “radical Islamist” militants to eliminate the terror threat against the United States.

In fact, Iran has not used aggressive military force against a hostile neighbor for more than 200 years. Curiously, the new U.S. counterterrorism strategy fails to identify Saudi Arabia, which is targeting civilians and killing thousands of them in Yemen (and backing extremists in Syria and elsewhere), as a terrorist threat.

Eric Margolis, a veteran war correspondent in the Middle East, reported in July that the Pentagon has prepared plans for an air attack on Iran:

The Pentagon has planned a high-intensity air war against Iran that Israel and the Saudis might very well join. The plan calls for over 2,300 air strikes against Iranian strategic targets: airfields and naval bases, arms and petroleum, oil and lubricant depots, telecommunication nodes, radar, factories, military headquarters, ports, water works, airports, missile bases and units of the Revolutionary Guards.

The National Coalition to Prevent an Iranian Nuclear Weapon, a group of more than 50 prominent foreign policy experts, released a statement saying, “The Trump Administration’s Iran strategy is to assert maximum economic, political and military pressure to change Iran’s behavior and threaten, if not cause, collapse of the regime.” That strategy, they added, “has left Iran the option of either capitulation or war.”

Many in Congress are worried that Trump may be gunning for Iran. They are trying to prevent him from mounting a preemptive strike.

Will Congress Stop an Attack?

On Sept. 28, Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), joined by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Chris Murphy (D-CT), introduced the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act of 2018. It would prohibit the United States from appropriating money that could lead to war with Iran unless Congress expressly approves. The legislation makes clear that a preemptive attack on Iran would be illegal under the War Powers Act and the US Constitution.

The Udall bill notes that “the International Atomic Energy Agency repeatedly verified that Iran has continued to comply with it nuclear-related obligations under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.” US noncompliance with the JCPOA, the bill continues, “risks an unnecessary conflagration with Iran through the use of sanctions against both allies and adversaries in the region and throughout the world, absent a clear diplomatic path for resolving the crisis.” The bill quotes Trump’s tweet that Iran “[w]ill suffer consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before.”

Congress explicitly provided in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019, “Nothing in this Act may be construed to authorize the use of force against Iran or North Korea.”

In April, a bipartisan bill to replace the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Force (AUMF) was introduced in the Senate and is currently pending in the Foreign Relations Committee. The proposed bill would allow the president “to use all necessary and appropriate force” against Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Somalia, al-Qaeda, ISIS (also known as Daesh), the Taliban and their “associated forces.” But by its terms, “associated forces” specifically excludes “a sovereign nation.” So, the new AUMF would not cover Iran.

That wouldn’t stop Trump from purporting to rely on the 2001 AUMF to attack Iran, however. Although specifically limited to those responsible for 9/11, Bush, Obama and Trump have all used it to justify at least 37 military operations, many of them unrelated to 9/11.

Copyright Truthout. Reprinted with permission.

Marjorie Cohn is professor emerita at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, deputy secretary general of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and an advisory board member of Veterans for Peace. The editor and contributor to The United States and Torture: Legal, Moral, and Geopolitical Issues, Cohn testified before Congress about the Bush interrogation policy.




The Limits of Elizabeth Warren

Senator Elizabeth Warren was pushed to her limit at the National Press Club, entrapped by a system she says she wants to debate, but clearly can’t, as Sam Husseini explains.

By Sam Husseini
Special to Consortium News

Senator Elizabeth Warren at the National Press Club in Washington on Tuesday launched into a blistering attack on unfettered corporate power in America but waffled when asked about military spending and Israel’s recent brutal reaction to Palestinian resistance.

Warren outlined with great specificity a host of proposals for eliminating financial conflicts, closing revolving doors between business and government and reforming corporate structures.

She pilloried former Congressman Billy Tauzin for having done the pharmaceutical lobby’s bidding by preventing a bill for expanded Medicare coverage to include a program to negotiate lower drug prices. “In December of 2003, the very same month the bill was signed into law, PhRMA — the drug companies’ biggest lobbying group — dangled the possibility that Billy could be their next CEO,” Warren said.

“In February of 2004, Congressman Tauzin announced that he wouldn’t seek re-election. Ten months later, he became CEO of PhRMA — at an annual salary of $2 million,” Warren said. “Big Pharma certainly knows how to say ‘thank you for your service.'” 

But Warren’s laudable tenacity in ripping corporate lobbyists’ “pre-bribes” evaporated when faced with questions on the bloated U.S. military budget and ongoing Israeli assaults on Palestinian children. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic progressive who shocked the party by upsetting incumbent Congressman Joe Rowley in a New York primary election in June, had been mentioned earlier in the press conference. So I asked Warren if she agreed with Ocasio-Cortez who has proposed “slashing the military budget to help pay for human and environmental needs.” I also asked Warren if she would consider introducing and sponsoring [a version of] Rep. Betty McCollum’s (D-MN) bill on Palestinians children’s rights in the Senate? 

Warren responded:

I now sit on Armed Services and I have been in the middle of the sausage making factory on that one. And that has pushed me even more strongly in the direction of systemic reforms. I want to be able to have those debates. I want to be able to get them out in the open and talk about these poor issues that affect our government, affect our people. I want to be able to debate them on the floor of the senate. I want to be able to do amendments on them. Right now the whole of big money over our government stops much of that. It chokes off much of the debate we should have. So I am going to give you a system-wide answer because I think that’s what matters here. This is not about one particular proposal, this is all the way across. How is it that we get the voices of the people heard in government instead of over and over the voices of the wealthy and the well connected. The voices of those with higher armies of lobbyists. So for me that’s what this is about.

It was a classic politician’s evasion of sticky questions. She tells us she’s on the inside, invoking the cliché of “sausage-making.” She says she wants to debate the system. But she says she can’t. Warren seems to be crying out, trapped as she is in the compromise of power.

We’ve been here before with would-be champions of the people who run up against the “system.”  I could not help but think of Bernie Sanders in his 2016 presidential run when he was remarkably vague on foreign policy.

It reached almost comical proportions when, during a CBS debate right after the November 2015 bombings in Paris, instead of answering a foreign policy question he pivoted back to income inequality. No doubt Sanders was treated unfairly by the Democratic Party and media establishments. But he was greatly diminished by not having serious foreign policy answers. 

Sanders began addressing foreign policy towards the end of his campaign and has since. But his answers are still problematic. At best they are too little, too late. Warren and other “progressive” candidates seem poised to follow suit.

What are Warren’s real goals? If she really wants to enact legislation to rein in corporations, why hasn’t she found a rogue Republican to work with? Questioned at the press conference by a New York Post reporter, Warren couldn’t name a single Republican she could pair with.

If her intent is to become the leading contender for the Democratic nomination will she simply play the sheepdog role of keeping the public on the “reservation” on behalf of the party’s elite?  

“Inside Washington, some of these proposals will be very unpopular, even with some of my friends,” Warren said at the Press Club. “Outside Washington, I expect that most people will see these ideas as no-brainers and be shocked they’re not already the law.”

The public would probably also be shocked to learn that funding perpetual war, unauthorized by either Congress or the U.N., is already against the law.

Sam Husseini is an independent journalist, senior analyst at the Institute for Public Accuracy and founder of VotePact.org. Follow him on twitter: @samhusseini.

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Democratic Elite Scrambles to Respond to Ocasio-Cortez

Stunned by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory, the Democratic Party establishment is trying to contain the rebellion challenging its class interests and may try to stem the tide with a compromise on super-delegates, as Norman Solomon reports. 

By Norman Solomon

Conventional wisdom said that powerful Congressman Joseph Crowley couldn’t be beat. But his 20-year career in the House of Representatives will end in January, with the socialist organizer who beat him in the Democratic primary in the deep-blue district of the Bronx and Queens poised to become Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

In a symbolic twist of fate, the stunning defeat of Crowley came a day before the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic Party voted on what to do about “superdelegates,” those unelected Democratic Party elite who’ve had an undemocratic and automatic vote in presidential nominations since 1984 to prevent leftwing candidates from being nominated.    

Crowley’s defeat shows how grass-roots movements can prevail against corporate power and its pile of cash. The Crowley campaign spent upward of $3 million in the Democratic Party primary. The Ocasio-Cortez campaign spent one-tenth of that. He wielded the money. She inspired the people. 

As the 28-year-old Ocasio-Cortez was quick to say after her Tuesday night victory, her triumph belongs to everyone who wants social, economic and racial justice. She ran on a platform in harmony with her activism as a member of Democratic Socialists of America and an organizer for the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.

Conventional wisdom said superdelegates—who exerted undemocratic power over the selection of the party’s presidential nominee in 2016—couldn’t be stopped from once again putting the establishment’s thumbs on the scale.

But on Wednesday afternoon, the party committee approved a proposal to prevent superdelegates from voting on the presidential nominee during the first ballot at the 2020 Democratic National Convention. (The last time the party’s convention went to a second ballot was 1952.)

As NPR reported, the committee “voted to drastically curtail the role ‘superdelegates’ play in the party’s presidential nominating process. The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee voted 27 to 1 to block officeholders, DNC members and other party dignitaries from casting decisive votes on the first ballot of presidential nominating conventions.”

Make no mistake: Those in the top echelons of the Democratic Party aren’t moving in this direction out of the goodness of their hearts. Grass-roots pressure to democratize the party—mounting since 2016—is starting to pay off.

Feeling the Heat From Below

Corporate power brokers of the national party are in the midst of a tactical retreat. But it’s not surrender.

During the latest Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting, former DNC chairs Donald Fowler and Donna Brazile voiced strong—and in Fowler’s case, bitter—opposition to changing the superdelegates status quo. They may be indicating an escalation of insider pushback before the full DNC votes  on rules at the end of August.

Norman Solomon is the coordinator of the online activist group RootsAction.org and the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of a dozen books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”




Polls Show Being Anti-Trump Isn’t Enough to Beat GOP

Instead of addressing demands for social progress, such as single-payer insurance, Democratic leaders find it much easier and more comfortable to denounce Trump. But it’s not working, as Norman Solomon explains.

By Norman Solomon

With six months to go before the midterm election, recent national polls are showing that the Democratic Party’s much-touted momentum to gain control of the House has stalled. The latest numbers tell us a lot about the limits of denouncing Donald Trump without offering much more than a return to the old status quo.

Under the headline “Democrats’ 2018 Advantage Is Nearly Gone,” CNN on May 9 reported that nationwide polling found “the generic congressional ballot has continued to tighten” — “with the Democrats’ edge over Republicans within the poll’s margin of sampling error for the first time this cycle.”

With so many gerrymandered districts as well as widespread voter-ID laws and other GOP-engineered voter suppression, Democrats will need a substantial margin in vote totals to prevent Republicans from retaining a majority in the House of Representatives. (The prospects are worse in the Senate, where Democrats are defending a lopsided number of seats this year.)

While “47 percent of registered voters say they back the Democratic candidate in their district, 44 percent back the Republican,” according to CNN. “Voters also are divided almost evenly over whether the country would be better off with the Democrats in control of Congress (31 percent) or with the GOP in charge (30 percent). A sizable 34 percent — including nearly half of independent voters (48 percent) — say it doesn’t matter which party controls Congress.”

The CNN survey comes on the heels of other grim national polling. A recently released Reuters poll concluded that “enthusiasm for the Democratic Party is waning among millennials.”

The online survey of more than 16,000 registered voters ages 18 to 34 shows their support for Democrats over Republicans for Congress slipped by about 9 percentage points over the past two years, to 46 percent overall,” Reuters reported. “And they increasingly say the Republican Party is a better steward of the economy.”

Young people overwhelmingly supported Bernie Sanders during his 2016 campaign for president. With their votes in Democratic Party primaries and caucuses two years ago, the young showed that they want truth about the destructive effects of corporate power — and forceful action against its manifestations, whether economic injustice or climate change.

No Clear Alternative

Overall, the latest generation of adults is negative about the demagogue in the White House. But most Democratic leaders aren’t offering a clear and compelling alternative. As Reuters put it, “Although nearly two of three young voters polled said they do not like Republican President Donald Trump, their distaste for him does not necessarily extend to all Republicans or translate directly into votes for Democratic congressional candidates.”

Six months ago, the independent report Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis pointed out that young people “increasingly want politics to be for something profoundly positive rather than just against Republicans.” As a member of the task force that worked on the report, I was struck by how the top echelon of the Democratic Party keeps trying to insulate itself from — and fend off — the tremendous energy that mobilized behind Sanders during the primaries.

In short, the Democratic Party is still dominated by elected officials and power brokers who appear to be deeply worried that a future progressive upsurge of political engagement could loosen — or even end — their corporate-funded grip on the party. As the Autopsy report saidEmerging sectors of the electorate are compelling the Democratic Party to come to terms with adamant grassroots rejection of economic injustice, institutionalized racism, gender inequality, environmental destruction and corporate domination. Siding with the people who constitute the base isn’t truly possible when party leaders seem to be afraid of them.”

The Sanders campaign was “mostly propelled by millennials,” the report noted, and the campaign “turned what conventional wisdom had pegged as an obscure, 2-percent campaign into a photo finish with the establishment’s preferred candidate. Once the nomination was settled, much of this grassroots energy dissipated as the Clinton campaign declined to adopt positions like single-payer health care and free public college that resonated with young voters.” 

Those kinds of positions have gained some traction in the aftermath of 2016, but they still have a steep climb in the hidebound upper reaches of Democratic Party power. For the people atop the party, it’s so much easier and more comfortable to selectively denounce Trump — while opposing genuinely progressive agendas that would really challenge income inequality or take aim at the warfare state’s bloated budget or cross up the big donors who funnel vast quantities of money into the party.

With the world facing the dual threats of climate change and nuclear holocaust, it’s no exaggeration when Noam Chomsky describes the present-day Republican Party as “the most dangerous organization in human history.” The latest national polling reflects the reality that Democrats’ feeble partisan maneuvers are ill-suited to ousting the Republicans from power. Methodical grassroots organizing will be necessary — to bring down the GOP’s deranged leadership, and to defeat the forces of corporate power and militarism that continue to hold sway at the top of the Democratic Party.

This article first appeared on Common Dreams.

Norman Solomon is the coordinator of the online activist group RootsAction.org and the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. He is the author of a dozen books including “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”




U.S. Media Whitewashes Gaza Massacre

As Israel killed more than 50 Palestinians in cold blood protesting the American embassy move on Monday, U.S. corporate media failed to accurately report what happened in Gaza, once again meekly protecting the government line, argues Joe Lauria.

By Joe Lauria  Special to Consortium News

Typical of the mindset of corporate media reporting on what happened in Gaza on Monday as Israeli soldiers killed more than 50 protesting Palestinians, is this tweet from CNN. It says: “Death toll rises to at least 52 people during clashes along the border fence between Israel and Gaza, Palestinian officials say. More than 2,400 people have been injured.” CNN’s new slogan is “#FactsFirst.”

Adam Johnson, who writes for the media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, responded to CNN with a tweet of his own:

This one’s got it all:

  • ‘death toll rises’ — no one was killed and no one specific party did the killing, the death toll just mysteriously ‘rises’
  • ‘clashes’ — launders all power asymmetry
  • ‘2,400 people have been injured’ — all 2,400 are Palestinian but lets go with ‘people’.”                    

Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, said on his blog that he did a Google News search for the word “massacre” and found not one reference to Gaza.  

New York Times headline on Monday said: “Dozens of Palestinians have died in protests as the U.S. prepares to open its Jerusalem Embassy.” Journalist Glenn Greenwald responded: “Most western media outlets have become quite skilled – through years of practice – at writing headlines and describing Israeli massacres using the passive tense so as to hide the culprit. But the all-time champion has long been, and remains, the New York Times.#HaveDied.”

[Perhaps because of pressure from Greenwald and others, the Times on Monday night changed its headline to “Israel Kills Dozens at Gaza Border as U.S. Embassy Opens in Jerusalem.”]

Yet another CNN headline simply read: “Dozens die in Gaza.” Journalist Max Blumenthal responded: “Maybe they were old. Perhaps they were very sick. They just up and died! Who will solve the mystery behind these deaths?”

Blumenthal later offered a possible solution to the mystery: “According to the White House, Khhamas launched 41 protesters into unsuspecting Israeli bullets.”

Projecting

Deflecting blame from Israel is one thing. But projecting it onto the victim is quite another. Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon on Monday called for the U.N. Security Council to, “Condemn Hamas for their war crimes,” because “every casualty on the border is a direct victim of Hamas.” 

He said in a statement released by Israel’s U.N. mission:

“Condemn Hamas for the war crimes they commit. Not only does Hamas incite tens of thousands of Palestinians to breach the border and hurt Israeli civilians, but Hamas also deliberately endangers Palestinian civilians. The murder of Israeli civilians or deaths of the people of Gaza – each one of them is a desirable outcome for Hamas. Every casualty on the border is a victim of Hamas’ war crimes, every death is a result of Hamas’ terror activity, and these casualties are solely Hamas’ responsibility.”

That’s one way to wash the Israeli government’s (blood-soaked) hands of the matter. Especially if you fear Israel will be accused of war crimes itself for its actions on Monday. Danon mentioned “breaching the border.” But it is virtually impossible to get in or out of Gaza without Israeli permission. Burning kites lofted over the barrier that pens in nearly two million Gazans subject to an internationally unrecognized economic blockade, supposedly constitutes “breaching,” in Danon’s mind.

He would do well to consider the words of Moshe Dayan, one of the Israel’s Founding Fathers, who said in 1956:

“What cause have we to complain about their fierce hatred to us? For eight years now, they sit in their refugee camps in Gaza, and before their eyes we turn into our homestead the land and villages in which they and their forefathers have lived.” He went on: “We are a generation of settlers, and without the steel helmet and gun barrel, we shall not be able to plant a tree or build a house. . . . Let us not be afraid to see the hatred that accompanies and consumes the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs who sit all around us and wait for the moment when their hands will be able to reach our blood.”

So on the day, 61 years later, when the United States declared Jerusalem/Al Quds as the capital of Israel by moving its embassy there, rather than leaving its status to negotiation, people still trapped in Gaza protested at the gate fencing them in while Israeli military snipers picked off more than 50 of them and wounded thousands more for protesting their entrapment.

U.S. Parrots Israel, Media Parrots U.S.

Danon’s position was callously promoted by the White House on Monday. Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah was asked several times to condemn Israel’s military response. “We believe Hamas is responsible for these tragic deaths,” he said. “Their rather cynical exploitation of the situation is what’s leading to these deaths and we want it stopped.” He later blamed Hamas for a “gruesome and unfortunate propaganda attempt.”

Unsurprisingly, Congress also lined up behind the Jewish State, mostly ignoring what went on in Gaza.

At the ceremony opening the embassy, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, called Monday “a monumental day in United States-Israel relations.” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, who was among four senators and 10 members of the House of Representatives present, incredulously said moving the embassy “furthers the chances of peace in the Middle East by demonstrating that America’s support for Israel is unconditional and will not be bullied by global media opinion.”

Back in Washington, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, proclaimed: “Every nation should have the right to choose its capital. I sponsored legislation to do this two decades ago, and I applaud President Trump for doing it.”

Ajamu Baraka, the Green Party vice presidential candidate in 2016, tweeted: “Where are the democrats condemning the slaughter in Gaza? If this was Assad they would be joining the republicans calling for military action pretending like they cared for Arab life.”

Handful of Democrats Speak Out 

Bernie Sanders of Vermont mildly criticized Israel’s murderous response. Hamas violence does not justify Israel firing on unarmed protesters,” he said. “The United States must play an aggressive role in bringing Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and the international community together to address Gaza’s humanitarian crisis and stop this escalating violence.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, was more critical: “It’s just heartbreaking. The humanitarian situation in Gaza is desperate. Instead of cutting aid, the Trump administration must restore our leadership role and do what it can to alleviate the Palestinians’ suffering. The location of the embassy is a final-status issue that should have been resolved as part of peace negotiations where both sides benefit, not just one side. Israel will only know true security when it is at peace with its neighbors.”

Representative Betty McCollum, a Democrat from Minnesota, tweeted: “Today’s @USEmbassyIsrael opening in Jerusalem & killing of dozens of Gaza protesters advances @netanyahu agenda of occupation & oppression of Palestinians. @realDonaldTrump policies are fueling conflict, abandoning diplomatic efforts to achieve peace.”

Pressure to support Israel on The Hill is infamously intense. But what is the media’s excuse for being afraid to simply report facts, such as that Israeli soldiers “killed” Palestinians on Monday. They didn’t just simply die.

Just because U.S. government figures are apologists for Israel, does not mean the media must be too. But that would require the U.S. having an independent mainstream media. 

When control of powerful mainstream communications breeds self-aggrandizement and adherence to a line pushed for so long because it got you where you are in the pecking order of media culture, it seems virtually impossible to shift gears and take another look at what you are reporting. 

Joe Lauria is editor-in-chief of Consortium News and a former correspondent for The Wall Street Journal, Boston GlobeSunday Times of London and numerous other newspapers. He can be reached at joelauria@consortiumnews.com and followed on Twitter @unjoe .