The DNC Is One Big Corporate Bribe


Drink up—it’s on us! Then go protest the TPP to your heart’s content.

To get to the Democratic National Convention, you take the subway to the AT&T Station and walk to the Wells Fargo Center. Along the way, you’ll stroll by the Comcast Xfinity Live complex, where delegates and honored guests can booze it up. You’ll also see the “Cars Move America” exhibit, an actual showroom sponsored by Ford, GM, Toyota, and others. Finally, you’ll reach your seat and watch Democrats explain why we have to reduce the power of big corporations in America.

Party conventions have always been collection points for big money. But many major corporations sat out last week’s Republican gathering for fear of Trump contamination. There’s no such reticence here in Philadelphia; in fact, it feels like they’re making up for that lack of investment.

It’s hard to ferret out all the special interests at the DNC, because there’s no full public schedule. Invitations are doled out individually, and people whisper about this or that event. But enter any official hotel where a delegation is staying, or any Philadelphia landmark, and you’re likely to have a complimentary drink thrust into your hand.

As Politico’s Ben White reported on Monday, private equity firm Blackstone has a meet-and-greet on Thursday. Independence Blue Cross, the southeastern Pennsylvania arm of the large insurer, held a host-committee reception Tuesday; their chief executive is the finance chair of that host committee. The same day, Le Meridien hotel had a private event for Bloomberg LP, and the Logan Hotel hosted “Inspiring Women, a Luncheon Discussion.” The sponsors included Johnson & Johnson, Walgreens, AFLAC, the Financial Services Roundtable (the industry trade lobby), and New York Life. (How many people were they serving, given the number of corporations involved?)

Facebook commandeered a bar inside the Wells Fargo Center for delegates and guests. Twitter rented out an entire restaurant, bestowing attendees with free breakfast, lunch and an open bar. (Full disclosure: I had a slider and some salad. The way I see it, I’ve boosted their market value through the free labor of tweeting and deserve something back.) And when the speeches end, convention-goers fan out to a sea of mostly industry-sponsored parties. A particular favorite of convention delegates is the Distilled Spirits Council kickoff, which in Philadelphia featured music from Jason Isbell and former Eagle Joe Walsh.

Those are just the liquor and cocktail-weenie bribes. An entire other category of corporate cash goes toward “policy discussions,” must-see educational roundtables with a host of luminaries. On Tuesday, Obama campaign guru David Plouffe (now with Uber) and Gore consultant Chris Lehane (now with Airbnb) unveiled new polling data on the sharing economy; a second Airbnb event celebrated the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Party, featuring actor Bryan Cranston. On Wednesday, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation convenes its own technology conference, featuring four members of Congress, a Federal Trade Commission member, the president of the biotech lobby, representatives from Microsoft and Facebook, and former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, now at Amazon.

A softer version—in perfect concert with the “Hillary works for families and children” theme of the week—is the corporate PR booth, highlighting charitable work, usually with children. JPMorgan Chase has its summer youth employment program. Johnson & Johnson (they get around) has the Save the Children Action Network, committed to eradicating rural poverty. I saw House Assistant Democratic Leader James Clyburn holding court at their booth when I passed by yesterday.

None of this is considered money toward the convention, which is being entirely privately funded for the first time. The donors who are actually paying for the festivitities in Philly are anonymous. So God (and Debbie Wasserman Shultz) only knows where it all comes from. And clearly the DNC wants to keep it that way.

The DNC’s host committee refuses to disclose the names despite a court order, allowing corporate benefactors to hide behind anonymity. The 2014 “CRomnibus” budget law massively increased contribution limits for political convention committees, which can raise up to $800,000 from a single donor per year. And overlooked by emails showing possible anti-Bernie Sanders bias by DNC officials in the Democratic primaries, the WikiLeaks trove released last Friday actually detailedhow the DNC woos big donors with gifts and perks.

The whole spectacle is not technically considered lobbying, but it may have a more insidious effect. Not only are elected officials compromised by their proximity to big money—a version of this happens daily in Washington, after all—but the delegates, usually the grassroots activists most likely to pressure their members of Congress to stand up for Democratic values, get caught up in the muck as well.

Big money didn’t necessarily overshadow Day 2 of the convention, with the historic selection of the first female president and a succession of speakers hailing Hillary Clinton’s lifetime of work. But it pervaded the whole scene. Right before the roll-call vote, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, himself one of the most prodigious corporate fundraisers in Democratic history, addressed the convention. In an interview directly afterward, he suggested that Clinton would eventually come around and support the Trans-Pacific Partnership corporate trade deal, “with some tweaks.” Clinton campaign aide John Podesta had to refute McAuliffe; for his part,  Podesta has jumped in and out of government and corporate lobbying for three decades.

Wasserman Schultz, supposedly banished to Florida after resigning as DNC chair, was still hanging around Philadelphia, and slipped into the Wells Fargo Center to watch the roll call. She got to see the vice presidential nomination of her predecessor as lead party fundraiser, Tim Kaine, who ran the DNC from 2009 to 2011. During the roll call, lobbyists with the Society for Human Resource Management, which helpedstall the signature equal pay bill in Congress, cheered from the floor.

Former Attorney General and corporate lawyer Eric Holder took time off from his work with Uber and Airbnb to address the convention. Former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, now Global Chief Communications Officer for McDonald’s, showed up in a video. Howard Dean praised Hillary Clinton on health care, but strangely left out her support for the public option. Perhaps that’s because he’s a lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry, which doesn’t want government insurance plans driving down prices. Even former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who added her praise of Clinton to others’ on Tuesday night, has her own lobbying firm. And Tuesday closer Bill Clinton also has a certain, er, comfort with the corporate world.

The best speech I saw on Tuesday happened five miles from the Wells Fargo Center. In an afternoon address she should have unleashed the previous night—and not sponsored by anyone but her own Senate office—Elizabeth Warren gave a couple hundred delegates a Power Point presentation showing how the economy shifted from broadly shared prosperity to a funnel of practically everything to the very top.

The average American holds 15 times more debt than a generation ago, Warren noted, and one in three with a credit file is dealing with a debt collector. “I went to college for $50 a semester,” Warren said, but now fixed costs on education and health care have skyrocketed, making it impossible for the middle class to keep up. The reason: disinvestment in the public good, deregulation of banks and industry, and policies that pushed practically all economic gains upward.

Warren pointed the finger directly at lobbying, which grew seven-fold in the past 30 years. After the speech, I asked her about the corporate underwriting of practically everything in Philadelphia this week. “Too many CEOs have learned that they can invest millions in Washington and get billions in return with special deals with the government,” she said. “This is the central issue of 2016.”

You wouldn’t know that from the official, industry-sponsored proceedings. Maybe the ideological split within the Democratic Party has something to do with Bernie Sanders’s supporters distaste for the ostentatious display of corporate money, and how it has affected the party. The rare moment when overturning Citizens United gets a mention in a convention speech, loud whoops and cheers go up. But corporate influence on the party goes way beyond SuperPACs and campaign contributions; in Philadelphia, it is everywhere.

Obama’s “moderate rebels” behead 12-year-old in Syria


By Bill Van Auken
21 July 2016

A horrific video circulated on social media records an incident in the Syrian city of Aleppo in which so-called “rebels” of the Nour al-Dine Zinki Islamist militia cut off the head of a young boy they had captured on Tuesday. The executioner is seen holding the boy down on the bed of a pickup truck, sawing away at his neck with a small, dull knife and then holding the severed head in the air in triumph after the deed is done.

The episode sums up the whole filthy operation mounted by the Obama administration in the attempt to bring about regime-change in Syria. Those who carried out this savage killing either are, or at least were until recently, armed by and on the payroll of the US Central Intelligence Agency.

The murdered child, identified as Abdullah Issa, was just 12 years old. His captors claimed that he was a fighter with Liwa al-Quds (Al Quds Brigade), a Palestinian militia fighting on the side of the Syrian government.

Liwa al-Quds, however, issued a report saying that he was not one of their fighters but rather the child of a poor refugee family, who was taken hostage in the Handarat Palestinian refugee camp in northern Aleppo. The boy, who appears dazed, had apparently been taken while receiving medical treatment, as an intravenous drip attached to his arm is visible in the video.

In the video, one of the child’s tormentors can be heard shouting, “We’ll leave no one in Handarat!” This is apparently a threat by the militia to “ethnically cleanse” the camp of its Palestinian population. Liwa al-Quds described the grisly execution of the child as “cheap and despicable revenge” by the jihadists for losing a battle for control of the area.

In a statement, Nour al-Dine al-Zinki’s leadership formally condemned the barbaric murder of the child, while claiming it represented “individual errors that represent neither our typical practices nor our general policies.”

The video itself, however, shows a number of the group’s fighters cheering on the beheading and recording the tormenting of the boy and his execution on their cell phones.

Moreover, the incident comes just two weeks after Amnesty International, the London-based human rights group, issued a report titled “Armed opposition groups committing war crimes in Aleppo city.” In addition to Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the al-Nusra Front, and three other Islamist militias, the report accuses Nour al-Dine Zinki (named first in the report) of having “carried out a chilling wave of abductions, torture and summary killings” in Aleppo and elsewhere in northern Syria. It further charges the US and its regional allies with arming and supporting these groups, which operate with impunity.

The Obama administration’s response to this atrocity has been ambivalent at best. Asked whether the execution of the child “would affect assistance” to the group responsible, State Department spokesman Mark Toner responded that “if we can prove that this was indeed what happened and this group was involved in it, I think it would certainly give us pause.”

Pressed as to what consequences it would have in terms of US support, Toner sidestepped the question: “I can’t say what that consequence will be, but it will certainly give us, as I said, serious pause.”

According to a December 2014 report by the McClatchy news organization, Nour al-Dine Zinki was one of the only CIA-backed groups not to be cut off as the al-Nusra Front began making serious gains, either absorbing these militias or seizing their weapons.

According to McClatchy, the CIA was paying the salaries of the Nour al-Dine Zinki fighters at the rate of $150 a month. The militia was also the recipient of US TOW anti-tank missiles manufactured by the Raytheon Company, in addition to so-called “non-lethal” supplies.

The savage murder of young Abdullah Issa is a grim exposure of the real character of the forces described by the Obama administration as the “moderate opposition”—and by its pseudo-left apologists as Syrian “revolutionaries.”

Like Al Qaeda before them, they are a Frankenstein’s monster created by US and Western imperialism and unleashed upon the people of Syria and the broader region to achieve definite strategic aims by means of regime-change.

Responsibility for the torture and beheading of a Palestinian child, along with the killing of hundreds of thousands of Syrians and the driving of millions more from their homes, lies with the Obama White House, the CIA, the Pentagon and the State Department, whose chief officials, from the American president on down, are war criminals who must be held accountable.


The promotion of racial politics and the US elections


By Barry Grey
18 July 2016

In the run-up to the conventions of the two major capitalist parties, beginning with the Republicans on Monday, there is a relentless effort led by the Democratic Party and much of the media to portray race as the overriding social and political issue in America.

This campaign, a continuation of the Democrats’ decades-long promotion of politics based on various forms of identity (race, gender, sexual orientation), has reached a fever pitch since the police murders of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, in Louisiana and Minnesota, respectively, and the gunning down of five police officers in Dallas.

It will only be intensified in the aftermath of the fatal shooting Sunday of three officers in Baton Rouge.

Last Wednesday, President Barack Obama held a White House meeting with police officials, politicians, leaders of the civil rights establishment such as Al Sharpton and prominent figures in the Black Lives Matter organization, including DeRay McKesson, where he defined the issue of police violence entirely as a matter concerning the police and “communities of color.” The following evening he presided over an hour-long town hall event along the same lines, televised by ABC News.

The picture that is presented is of a country sharply polarized along racial lines, with a white population seething with racial hatred for blacks. This presentation is a lie.

What has actually happened? The murderous operations of militarized police who assault and kill virtually at will have once again been captured on video, provoking mass anger and revulsion, expressed in nationwide demonstrations involving thousands of people of all races and ethnicities. America is facing not racist lynch mobs, as in the Jim Crow South of the previous century, but rather the violence of the capitalist state and its front-line enforcers directed against the growth of opposition and resistance in the working class.

While the victims in the horrific killings in Louisiana and Minnesota were black, the previous week a video emerged of the June 25 execution, no less savage, of an unarmed white youth by two cops in Fresno, California, and a separate police cam video of the killing was released on Wednesday. It showed two cops pulling over 19-year-old Dylan Noble on a traffic stop and proceeding to shoot him four times, including twice as he lay on the ground writhing in agony. That killing has been largely ignored by the media and not mentioned by Obama because it does not fit into their racialist narrative.

What virtually all of the victims of police killings—more than 1,500 over the past 18 months—have in common is their class position. They are working class or poor. The police are not invading wealthy neighborhoods, black or white, and shooting down the residents.

The mass struggles of the American working class have historically evinced a powerful drive to overcome racial and national divisions and unite all sections of workers against the common enemy. For its part, the American capitalist class has throughout its history reacted aggressively and violently to any sign of a unified struggle of the working class. Racism and racial politics, going back to the 19th century, have been used as instruments of class warfare to divide the working class.

Such was the case from the emergence of modern industrial capitalism in the US and the first mass struggle of the working class—the great railway strike of 1877. A study of the strike in the city where it first broke out, St. Louis, states:

“At an early strike meeting an eloquent address by the Black speaker asked whether whites were ready to support demands made by Black workers and received a resounding “We will!” in return. One of the five early Executive Committee members was Black.” (“Class, Skill and Community in the St. Louis General Strike of 1877,” David Roediger,Journal of Social History, Winter, 1985, page 225)

The response of the authorities was to dispatch black troops to attack the strikers.

Henry Ford employed the same tactics in an unsuccessful attempt to break the 1941 United Auto Workers strike for union recognition at his massive Rouge complex in Detroit. Ford imported African-American workers from the South to serve as strikebreakers. Socialist militants within the union had, however, championed the rights of black autoworkers and insisted on the need to unite across racial and ethnic lines. This was a major factor in the victory of the strike.

In the 1950s, the Northern McCarthyite red-baiters joined forces with the Southern segregationists to witch-hunt as “communists” all those fighting to end racial apartheid and unite white and black workers in the South.

The assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 came at the very point that he was challenging the racial nationalism and separatism of the Black Muslims and Elijah Muhammad. Three years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered following his intervention in support of sanitation workers in Memphis, his call for a Poor People’s March and his talk of forming a new party of working people.

What dominated this year’s primary elections in both parties, expressed in different ways, was mass anger and disgust with the entire political establishment. The ruling elite was shocked and frightened by the powerful support among workers and particularly youth for the primary challenge to Hillary Clinton by Bernie Sanders, who called himself a socialist and focused his campaign on social inequality and Wall Street domination of the political system. The 13 million votes for Sanders showed that the issues that really concern working people and youth are class issues that go to the existing economic system, not questions of race or gender.

This coincided with mounting signs of a resurgence of class struggle, including the 54-day-long strike by Verizon workers, teacher protests and wildcat actions in Detroit and other cities, and protests by workers in Flint against the lead poisoning of their water supply.

The growth of class consciousness and anticapitalist sentiment expressed in the mass support for Sanders (despite Sanders’ own effort to channel opposition back behind the Democrats) has been met with a frenzied drive by the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign to “change the subject” by inundating the population with the politics of gender, sexual orientation and, above all, race.

If one reviews the major social and political issues promoted over the past several months by the White House, the Democrats and the media, the highly conscious character of this campaign becomes clear, as well as its close coordination with the Clinton campaign.

Just over the past three months, the Obama administration has intervened in controversies over transgender people’s access to public bathrooms and the outcome of a sexual abuse trial at Stanford University, promoting these as the decisive political issues of the day.

Now that Sanders has officially ended his campaign and endorsed Clinton, the Democrats appear to have settled on race as the main identity issue to flog in order to bury the basic class issues of economic inequality and Wall Street criminality. Gender, of course, remains a staple, with Clinton promoting herself as the first ever female major-party presidential candidate.

Such politics are associated with the interests of definite privileged middle-class social layers, who are seeking not equality, but a more favorable distribution of wealth within the top 10 percent. They are exemplified by people like Black Lives Matter leader DeRay McKesson, who emerged from Obama’s White House meeting Wednesday night to praise the president and stress the need to cooperate with the police. McKesson was recently appointed to be the chief human capital officer for the Baltimore City Schools, a post that comes with an income of $165,000 a year.

Today, the objective conditions exist as never before, within the United States and on a world scale, to unite the working class in a common struggle in defense of democratic and social rights. All sections of the working class, and workers in every country, are facing a brutal decline in living standards and social conditions.

What are the central issues in the 2016 elections? Just last week a new report was released showing that in 25 of the world’s advanced economies, including the US, two-thirds of the population are in income brackets that earn the same or less than their counterparts did a decade ago.

Conditions for the broad mass of black and Hispanic workers are worse than they were fifty years ago. Meanwhile, the devastating impact of the failure of American capitalism, especially since the financial crash of 2008, is having its most drastic impact on white workers. A raft of reports show rising death rates and infant mortality, falling life expectancy, and an epidemic of suicides, drug overdoses and early deaths from alcoholism, with white workers suffering the most severe collapse in living standards.

Meanwhile, the concentration of wealth and income within the top 1 percent, and, even more sharply, within the top 0.01 percent has accelerated under Obama.

The fight against police brutality and the violence of the capitalist state, as well as the struggle to end all forms of racism and discrimination, is completely bound up with the struggle against class exploitation, social inequality and the capitalist system that is their source. It requires the unification of the working class on the basis of a revolutionary anticapitalist and socialist program.


One group is responsible for America’s culture of violence: men

Police officers

Melissa Batchelor Warnke

On Thursday morning, a fire alarm in the Los Angeles Times’ building went off. Fortunately, the dozens of office alarms I’ve heard over the years have always been drills or misfiring systems. For the first time, instead of begrudgingly grabbing my belongings and traipsing downstairs, I was afraid. For the first time, the thought in my mind wasn’t “drill” but “shooter.”

Americans are united in our fear of violence and divided on which members of our society are most likely to perpetrate it. Some of these finger-pointing conversations are productive; they teach us how to address and reduce violence. Some are unproductive; they are rooted in ignorance and reinforce dangerous stereotypes.

In the wake of the Orlando, Fla., shooting, some conservative politicians called for the use of the term “radical Islam” to label the violent movement with which Omar Mateen identified himself. In the wake of the police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, many called for a review of violence by law enforcement against black Americans.And after Dallas, some piled on the Black Lives Matter movement, suggesting that the gunman was spurred to murder because he’d made reference to the group. Others use the term “black-on-black violence” to refer to the killings of poor black Americans in their communities, playing into what author Ta-Nehisi Coates has labeled “the enduring myth of black criminality.”

What we don’t talk about is how the greatest predictor of violence isn’t religion, occupation or race. It’s gender.

In the United States, 98% of those who commit mass shootings are male; 98% of theofficers who have shot and killed civilians are male; 90% of those who commit homicide by any means are male; and 80% of those arrested for all violent crimes — murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assault — are male.

When that fire alarm rang at the Times’ building, the image of “shooter” that flashed through my mind wasn’t identifiably white, black, Christian or Muslim. But there was no question in my mind that person was male.

When you look at the numbers, one thing emerges over and over: Violent female offenders are unlikely to kill people they don’t know. Most mass shootings are committed against strangers, although there are notable exceptions, such as in San Bernardino. When women commit murder, their victim is a stranger only 7% of the time. When men commit murder, their victim is a stranger 25% of the time.

If women are less likely to kill strangers, could increasing the number of women on the police force reduce officer-involved killings? A 2002 study by the National Center for Women and Policing shows that, although women comprise 12.7% of sworn police personnel in urban centers, only 5% of citizen complaints for excessive force involve female police officers. The average male officer is two to three times more likely to be named in an excessive force complaint.

“That was nearly 15 years ago,” you may say. “Let’s see some newer data on the role of gender in policing.” I agree. You might also wonder whether male officers are far more likely than female ones to choose assignments in which drawing a weapon is a real possibility.

It’s a significantly under-studied area — which is why it’s so crucial to talk about the role men play in America’s epidemic of violence. We need serious, current research in order to understand why male police officers are more violent in their interactions with citizens and how the culture of policing can be changed.

There are myriad theories as to why men are nearly 50 times more likely to commit murder than women. Some neuroscientists say testosterone is directly connected to aggression and competition, attitudes that are correlated with violence. Some evolutionary psychologists say that more aggressive men have historically been able to procure more women, food and land. Some psychotherapists have argued that men are raised to suppress vulnerable emotions, which leads them to become overwhelmed and express pain physically rather than verbally. Some sociologists, meanwhile, have found a correlation between violent videogame play and increased aggression in the real world, while other studies find no strong link between these games and violent acts.

Regardless of whether there is a causal relationship, popular entertainment, such as video games and action movies, teaches men from an early age that violence is an expression of strength.

Ostensibly, the discrepancy could simply be that men are more likely to kill people than women because they are more able; a man may have the strength to beat or strangle a woman to death, whereas a woman may have the strength only to injure a man. But if physicality alone, rather than brain chemistry or socialization, were the reason that men kill at a much higher rate than women, then we would expect guns to be a leveling technology. The statistics, however, do not bear this out. From 1980 to 2014, the gender gap in gun ownership closed by 17%. Yet the rates at which men and women kill have remained relatively stable.

The reality is that we don’t know exactly why men are exponentially more prone to violence. If we are going to reduce mass shootings, officer-involved killings and the culture of violence in America, however, we need to talk about it.

Batchelor Warnke is an intern in The Times’ Opinion section. Follow her on Twitter @velvetmelvis

Revolution Undermined: On Bernie Sanders’s Endorsement of Hillary Clinton

Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein announces the formation of an exploratory committee to seek the Green Party's presidential nomination again in 2016. during an event at the National Press Club February 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. Photo by Olivier Douliery/Sipa USA

I join millions of Americans who see Hillary Clinton’s campaign as the opposite of what they and Bernie Sanders have fought for. Despite her penchant for flip flopping rhetoric, Hillary Clinton has spent decades consistently serving the causes of Wall Street, war and the Walmart economy.

The policies she fought for – along with her husband and political partner, Bill Clinton – have been foundations of the economic disaster most Americans are still struggling with: the abuses of deregulated Wall Street, rigged corporate trade agreements, racist mass incarceration, and the destruction of the social safety net for poor women and children. The consistent efforts of the Democratic Party to minimize, sideline, and sabotage the Sanders campaign are a wake up call that we can’t have a revolutionary campaign inside a counter-revolutionary party.

Sadly, Sanders is one of a long line of true reformers that have been undermined by the Democratic Party. The eventual suppression of the Sanders campaign was virtually guaranteed from the beginning with super-delegates and super Tuesdays, that were created after George McGovern’s nomination to prevent grassroots campaigns from winning the nomination again.

Sanders, a life-long independent who has advocated for building an independent democratic socialist party similar to Canada’s New Democratic Party, has said that his decision to run as a Democrat was based on pragmatism, but there is nothing pragmatic about supporting a party that for decades has consistently sold out the progressive majority to the billionaire class. This false pragmatism is not the path to revolutionary change but rather an incrementalism that keeps us trapped, voting for lesser evil again and again.

Each time a progressive challenger like Sanders, Dennis Kucinich or Jesse Jackson has inspired hope for real change, the Democratic Party has sabotaged them while marching to the right, becoming more corporatist and militarist with each election cycle.

Millions are realizing that if we want to fix the rigged economy, the rigged racial injustice system, the rigged health care system, toxic fossil fuel energy and all the other systems failing us, we must fix the rigged political system, and that will not happen through the rigged Democratic Party.

Right now we have a real chance to change our rigged political system, and we must not squander this opportunity by pledging allegiance to a corrupt political insider who the majority of Americans do not like, trust or believe in.

What is most disappointing is that Sanders has refused invitations to speak to the Green Party, a truly democratic national party that has long championed the progressive stands that lifted the Sanders campaign to the top of national polls.

Fortunately, this November voters across America will still have the choice to cast a revolutionary vote to cancel student debt, achieve full employment and stop the climate meltdown through a Green New Deal, provide universal healthcare with Medicare for All, provide a welcoming path to citizenship, end mass incarceration and create a foreign policy based on international law and human rights. We need to commit to improving the lives of all Americans, not just the wealthy and special interests.

As the Sanders campaign’s dominance of national polls has shown, our positions are shared by a majority of voters, and with the Green Party on the ballot in November the majority can vote for what they want and get it. Together we can beat both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the two most unpopular and least trusted presidential candidates in American history.

I call on the tens of millions inspired by Bernie Sanders’ call for political revolution, the 60% of Americans who want a new major party, and the independents who outnumber both Democrats and Republicans to reject the self-defeating strategy of voting for the lesser evil and join our fight for the greater good.

I ask the rising independent majority to demand our inclusion in the Presidential debates, for as Sanders proved, in fair debates we can rally the majority of Americans behind a plan for an America and a world that works for all of us.

I congratulate Bernie Sanders on running an impressive campaign within an undemocratic primary, and I thank Bernie for showing clearly how a grassroots campaign, armed only with a progressive vision and small contributions from real people, can win over the majority of Americans. Let’s keep the revolution going and build it into the powerful force for transformative change that it is becoming. Together we are unstoppable.

Listen to Jill Stein discuss Trump, Hillary, Sanders and the criminality of US politics on the latest episode of the CounterPunch Radio podcast.

Revolution Undermined: On Bernie Sanders’s Endorsement of Hillary Clinton

Study reveals mass homelessness, hunger among California State University students


By Kevin Martinez
6 July 2016

The California State University (CSU) system released a study last month that documented the rise of hunger and homelessness among the student body. The study, which can be accessed here, reported that of the 474,600 students spread across 23 campuses, 8 to 12 percent are homeless, and 21 to 24 percent go hungry.

If anything these figures, scandalous as they are, are an underestimation. The CSU system is the first public university to study this issue, which has gone largely unreported in the corporate media. Due to the stigma attached to identifying oneself as homeless and hungry, many students do not report their problems to the right authorities and do not know where to turn. The term “starving student” has almost normalized the trend.

In many of the schools, there exists no support for students in either housing or food. Less than half of the CSU schools offer food and housing programs, and only 15 percent are actively reaching out to students in need.

The study, which is only in its preliminary stages and will be conducted over two years, questioned 92 students and four focus groups at different campuses about their food and housing situations. College staff and faculty were also asked about their awareness of homelessness and hunger among students. The study notes that no research was done to examine the retention rates among impoverished students who go on to graduate.

Students were asked their degree of the food insecurity, ranging from having enough money for food, skipping meals, or being unable to eat balanced meals. They were also asked how often they worried about these things, ranging from “always,” “sometimes,” “rarely” or “never.” In a random sample of 4,945 CSU Long Beach students, 21 percent and 12 percent stated they had issues with stable housing and hunger, respectively.

Students were also asked the “places you may have slept at night if you did not have a stable place to live in the past 12 months.” The list of responses included temporarily living with friends, relative or other people that that were not parents and “couch surfing.” At least 46 percent of respondents experienced this while many others reported living in a car, tent, park, bus or train station, abandoned building, motel, camper, shelter or transitional housing or an independent living program.

Not surprisingly, students who experience hunger and homelessness to whatever degree reported increased stress and trouble studying while managing their college and personal life. As one student, Yvette, told the study, “I feel like once I get my bachelor’s under my belt, I can just keep moving forward. Inside I think I’m falling apart.”

Another student, Nikki, told the study she felt the campus staff did not understand her housing needs. She spoke with a residential life staff member about having nowhere to go once the dorms closed and was told it would not be “fair” to others if she were allowed to stay in the dorms.

A staff member also told the study how sympathetic teachers react to hungry and homeless students on a case-by-case basis, often relying on their own funds to help: “A lot of these conversations take place inside our office with the door shut. I’ve seen over and over again the staff members take their own personal money and many times hundreds of dollars, try to eliminate the food crisis or you know, whatever they can do. It’s not really talked about.”

Nationally, the number of students facing hunger and homelessness is unknown and is largely unreported or underestimated. It is significant that the preliminary study done at CSU found “middle income students who had not previously experienced poverty as also experiencing basic need issues due to the high cost of living in California.”

The US Department of Education estimated that 56,588 students nationally and about 10,000 students in California identified as “independent homeless youth” on their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in 2013-14. No doubt, this a gross underestimation since many students are either unaware of the designation or do not want to identify as homeless, or become homeless afterwards.

Many students, of course, do not know where to turn to or if help is available at their school. Due to state budget cuts and years of underfunding, school programs that would offer free meals or housing are often the “best kept secret” on campus and are not widely known. The study also noted that roughly 2 million students in California reside in households that qualify for food stamps in 2014.

The cause of widespread hunger and homelessness among student youth is not difficult to determine. The authors of the study were forced to admit only the most obvious: lack of affordable housing and “prohibitive” food stamp requirements.

California is indeed one of the most expensive places to live in the United States. Combined with that is also the long-term decline of jobs that provided decent wages in the state and nationwide. Students going to college now can only find part-time, temporary work, which hardly keeps up with the cost of living.

The Obama administration in close collaboration with Democratic Governor Jerry Brown have together slashed billions from higher education and social services like food stamps and homeless shelters. Individual schools are now required to meet the flood of demand with barebones and inadequate programs, if they exist at all.

Adding insult to injury, student youth are asked not only to study and pass their classes, but to hold down a job to cover tuition and other costs that are not covered by grants, scholarships and student loans. It is an outrage that so many cannot, and many more do not know, where their next meal is coming from or where they will spend the night. All of this in the richest state in the richest country in the world.



I won’t be shamed into voting for Clinton

Liberal supporters of the Democrats save their nastiest attacks not for Republicans but for anyone who criticizes them from the left. Khury Petersen-Smith says he’s tired of it.

Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail

Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail


They tolerated–barely–the progressive campaign of Bernie Sanders so long as he never came too close to threatening Hillary Clinton’s hold on the Democratic presidential nomination. As dismaying as his on-the-mark criticisms of Clinton’s Wall Street-connected candidacy might have been, he was at least bringing some enthusiasm to an uninspiring election and a stale Democratic Party.

But now, the managers of the Democratic Party machine and their allies in the mainstream media are speaking with one voice: The party’s over.

Those who were excited about Sanders’ candidacy–and the notion that the U.S. political system could offer something besides austerity, war and oppression–should be thankful for the memories of a hopeful winter and spring. But now, goes the argument, they need to accept Hillary Clinton as the candidate to support this fall.

We should all take note that it isn’t the right wing campaigning against universal health care, free college tuition and student loan debt relief, and other planks of Sanders’ social democratic platform as “unrealistic.” They’re too busy scrambling to manage their own crisis in the form of Donald Trump and his impact on the endlessly pathetic and dysfunctional Republican Party.

It is, instead, the Democrats who are doing their best to dash the hopes and lower the expectations of people who dared to think that U.S. politics might have something to offer to working class people, women, people of color or LGBT people.

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HOW WILL they do it? How will the Democratic Party corral a generation that has become aware of and sickened by racist mass incarceration, Wall Street’s dictatorship over the U.S. economy and politics, and permanent war–and get them to support a candidate who has devoted her political career to championing those very things?

One tactic has been to get political figures seen–rightly or wrongly–as the most party’s most “progressive” faces out front in backing Clinton: Elizabeth Warren, Barack Obama and, yes, Bernie Sanders himself.

But that’s not all.

Party leaders and their liberal supporters are cynically using outrage at racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia, and economic inequality–generated and crystallized by resistance movements, from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter–to shame progressives and leftists into supporting Clinton.

Liberal commentators have in particular targeted Sanders supporters who, disgusted by the various undemocratic maneuvers used against their candidate and by Clinton’s own dismal record, say they can’t stomach voting for a candidate who epitomizes everything Sanders’ “political revolution” was supposed to be against.

But their insults extend to anyone who challenges Clinton and the Democrats from the left and want something better.

In March, New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow took to the Times op-ed pages to denounce as “bonkers” people on the left who question whether Clinton deserves their vote in November.

Blow began by recounting an exchange between Sanders supporter Susan Sarandon and MSNBC host Chris Hayes. In the midst of other remarks, Sarandon said that she wasn’t sure what she would do in November if Clinton were the Democratic nominee, but that some argue a Trump presidency would be so over the top that it would force a needed revolution.

Blow hit the roof. “The comments smacked of petulance and privilege,” he wrote scornfully. “No member of an American minority group–whether ethnic, racial, queer-identified, immigrant, refugee or poor–would (or should) assume the luxury of uttering such a imbecilic phrase, filled with lust for doom.”

It was another example of a proven fact about liberalism–Democrats and their media cheerleaders save their deepest contempt not for right wingers, but for those who challenge them from the left.

The idea that the left should hope for a Trump presidency to provoke resistance is wrong. But Sarandon’s aside about that prospect wasn’t the central thrust of her interview anyway. She spoke for the most part about her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, militarized police, sexism and discrimination, and the ruin of the working and middle classes by corporate greed–all of which give her strong reasons to oppose Clinton.

Blow conveniently ignored the political points, while baiting Sarandon–and, by extension, other Clinton critics–along the lines of race, sexuality and nationality.

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BLOW ISN’T the only one. On the blog, Mari Brighe wrote: “The point is that if you’re happy to let a GOP candidate win the presidency because Sanders isn’t the Democratic candidate, you’re not nearly as progressive as you think you are, and you probably should examine your own social privilege.”

Instead of acknowledging the countless actions that Barack Obama’s Democratic Party has taken to alienate previously enthusiastic supporters–the record number of deportations and bombing no less than seven countries in the past seven years, to name a couple–Brighe shifts the blame to those who refuse to ignore these injustices.

It turns out that we’re the real enemies of the oppressed in this country–because we won’t “look past your signs, your ideals, your clever slogans and your movement, and realize that you’re standing on our necks,” Brighe concluded.

Michael Arceneaux, writing for the Guardian, wheels out another old line to claim that the people most committed to the principles of solidarity with the oppressed, here and abroad, are the problem, not the solution. “Cling to your self-righteousness all you want,” Arceneaux writes, “but be very clear that only some people can afford this kind of sacrifice.”

So taking action to make Black Lives Matter, building solidarity with Palestine, resisting Wall Street, defending women’s right to choose abortion–all fights that Hillary Clinton has, during her career, helped to make necessary–are sideshows compared to our concern for our own egos. Arceneaux lectures us to “do something besides pretending that your lack of vote does anything but suit your own moral superiority at the expense of others.”

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WHAT THESE writers are doing is taking disgust at Clinton’s conservatism and twisting it. They present principled opposition to oppression and inequality as privileged self-indulgence.

But in the face of so many outrages–from legal decisions that blame rape survivors for the actions of their assailants or that further empower already out-of-control police, to the unending destruction of the environment–principled opposition to injustice is something that we need more of, not less.

But the scolders in the service of Hillary Clinton are prepared to demean the awareness raised, for example, by the Ferguson and Baltimore uprisings by trying to harness it for a candidate whose support for the criminalization of African American youth is clear.

These writers are also disregarding what seems to be a greater willingness among progressives and leftists–Black activists in particular–to defy the logic that we have to accept the “lesser evil” to fight the greater evil.

Are they calling Samaria Rice–the mother of Tamir Rice, murdered by the Cleveland police, who has seen nothing but betrayal from politicians–“privileged” for her refusal to endorse a presidential candidate? Similarly, Michelle Alexander, author of the The New Jim Crow, is hardly speaking from a position of blinding self-involvement when she identifies the Clintons as central architects of mass incarceration and calls for a political alternative.

Those who try to shame us into voting for Clinton avoid the substance of criticism so as to avoid acknowledging her long record of political crimes. Adding to those already mentioned, consider Clinton’s call for the detention and deportation of child migrantsfrom Central America in 2014.

Or her personal role in defending and promoting the 2009 coup in Honduras. The coup continues to have catastrophic repercussions in Honduras, including the recent assassination of human rights activist Berta Caceras. Yet Clinton takes pride in her role in in her memoir Tough Choices.

These opinion articles and blog statements that attempt to shame us into supporting a politician we oppose share other features in common. They accept the all-or-nothing, narrow logic of the U.S. elections–the idea that if you aren’t actively supporting a Democrat’s bid for office, then you’re assisting a Republican’s victory.

It isn’t the fault of ordinary people outraged by injustice that the U.S. electoral system is so undemocratic that it offers such a limited “choice.” Perhaps the shamers should examine the hidden-in-plain-sight secret of U.S. “democracy”: Most people don’t vote. An honest look at that reality would reveal widespread alienation from politicians and from a government that is disinterested in representing the will or interests of regular people.

Instead, the blame is heaped on us. This points to the conservatism of writers like Charles Blow. Behind the shaming of Clinton’s critics on the left is an embrace of the status quo.

Thus, in the same column cited above, Blow writes that “there is a vacancy on the Supreme Court. Not only that, but…there were also 84 federal judiciary vacancies with 49 pending nominees. The question of who makes those appointments matters immensely.”

Yet when you consider the injustice handed down in the Stanford rape case and the countless acquittals and non-indictments of cops who murdered Black people, the undemocratic and oppressive role that courts play in this country should be questioned.

Instead, Blow points to the justice system as a reason to participate in Election 2016. The idea that we should vote for Clinton in the belief that she might be more likely to appoint justices sympathetic to oppressed groups and social movements is a celebration of an arena where we’re powerless.

It’s one of many examples where Democrats implore us to vote for our enemy and hope for the best. Don’t blame us for refusing to do so.


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