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Tag Archive: Bernie Sanders


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Why the Gulf States, the Kurds, the Turks, the Sunnis, and the Shia Won’t Fight America’s War

President Barack Obama addresses the nation from the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Sunday night, Dec. 6, 2016. In a rare Oval Office address, Obama vowed the United States would overcome a terror threat that has entered a “new phase” as he sought to reassure Americans shaken by recent attacks in Paris and California. (Photo: Saul Loeb, AP)

In the many strategies proposed to defeat the Islamic State (IS) by presidential candidates, policymakers, and media pundits alike across the American political spectrum, one common element stands out: someone else should really do it. The United States will send in planes, advisers, and special ops guys, but it would be best — and this varies depending on which pseudo-strategist you cite — if the Arabs, Kurds, Turks, Sunnis, and/or Shias would please step in soon and get America off the hook.

The idea of seeing other-than-American boots on the ground, like Washington’s recently deep-sixed scheme to create some “moderate” Syrian rebels out of whole cloth, is attractive on paper. Let someone else fight America’s wars for American goals. Put an Arab face on the conflict, or if not that at least a Kurdish one (since, though they may not be Arabs, they’re close enough in an American calculus). Let the U.S. focus on its “bloodless” use of air power and covert ops. Somebody else, Washington’s top brains repeatedly suggest, should put their feet on the embattled, contested ground of Syria and Iraq. Why, the U.S. might even gift them with nice, new boots as a thank-you.

Is this, however, a realistic strategy for winning America’s war(s) in the Middle East?

The Great Champions of the Grand Strategy

Recently, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton openly called for the U.S. to round up some Arab allies, Kurds, and Iraqi Sunnis to drive the Islamic State’s fighters out of Iraq and Syria. On the same day that Clinton made her proposal, Bernie Sanders called for “destroying” the Islamic State, but suggested that it “must be done primarily by Muslim nations.” It’s doubtful he meant Indonesia or Malaysia.

Among the Republican contenders, Marco Rubio proposed that the U.S. “provide arms directly to Sunni tribal and Kurdish forces.” Ted Cruz threw his support behind arming the Kurds, while Donald Trump appeared to favor more violence in the region by whoever might be willing to jump in.

The Pentagon has long been in favor of arming both the Kurds and whatever Sunni tribal groups it could round up in Iraq or Syria. Variouspundits across the political spectrum say much the same.

They may all mean well, but their plans are guaranteed to fail. Here’s why, group by group.

The Gulf Arabs

 

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The Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History

Posted on Nov 6, 2015

By Chris Hedges

A 2014 protest in Tokyo against the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. (Shizuo Kambayashi / AP)

The release Thursday of the 5,544-page text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership—a trade and investment agreement involving 12 countries comprising nearly 40 percent of global output—confirms what even its most apocalyptic critics feared.

“The TPP, along with the WTO [World Trade Organization] and NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement], is the most brazen corporate power grab in American history,” Ralph Nader told me when I reached him by phone in Washington, D.C. “It allows corporations to bypass our three branches of government to impose enforceable sanctions by secret tribunals. These tribunals can declare our labor, consumer and environmental protections [to be] unlawful, non-tariff barriers subject to fines for noncompliance. The TPP establishes a transnational, autocratic system of enforceable governance in defiance of our domestic laws.”

The TPP is part of a triad of trade agreements that includes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA). TiSA, by calling for the privatization of all public services, is a mortal threat to the viability of the U.S. Postal Service, public education and other government-run enterprises and utilities; together these operations make up 80 percent of the U.S. economy. The TTIP and TiSA are still in the negotiation phase. They will follow on the heels of the TPP and are likely to go before Congress in 2017.

These three agreements solidify the creeping corporate coup d’état along with the final evisceration of national sovereignty. Citizens will be forced to give up control of their destiny and will be stripped of the ability to protect themselves from corporate predators, safeguard the ecosystem and find redress and justice in our now anemic and often dysfunctional democratic institutions. The agreements—filled with jargon, convoluted technical, trade and financial terms, legalese, fine print and obtuse phrasing—can be summed up in two words: corporate enslavement.

The TPP removes legislative authority from Congress and the White House on a range of issues. Judicial power is often surrendered to three-person trade tribunals in which only corporations are permitted to sue. Workers, environmental and advocacy groups and labor unions are blocked from seeking redress in the proposed tribunals. The rights of corporations become sacrosanct. The rights of citizens are abolished.

 

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President Obama seated next to the U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. (Photo: USTR)

The negotiations and the sales push behind Washington’s latest (and biggest) “free trade” agreement amounts to Kabuki theater.

What theater? Kabuki. It’s a 17th-century form of Japanese drama, featuring elaborate sets and costuming, rhythmic dialogue and stylized acting and dancing. That does, indeed, nicely sum up the White House’s production of the Trans-Pacific Partnership: Its negotiations have been set in luxury resorts around the world, covered by elaborate secrecy; insiders wear the costumes of global corporate power; trade officials parrot rhythmic dialogue about high standards and incredible benefits for all. And the president himself is the main actor, dramatically proclaiming that TPP is “the most progressive” trade deal ever, and now he’s doing a stylized political dance in hopes of winning congressional approval.

What a phenomenal show!

But it doesn’t seem to be selling. Recent polls show broad public opposition to any more of these same old trade schemes, not only among Democrats, but independents and Republicans, too. Ten of the 2016 presidential candidates are against the deal. The counter movement is led by Democratic contender Bernie Sanders, who calls it flat-out “disastrous,” and by GOP frontrunner Donnie Trump who dubs it “a horrible deal.” Even corporate darling Carly Fiorina is “very uncomfortable with this deal.” Congressional opposition is strong, and even Ford Motor Company — which was one of the corporate giants allowed inside the negotiations — has blasted it, calling on Congress to vote no.

 

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• Agency responds to questions from Senator Bernie Sanders

• Statement cites ‘same privacy protections as all US persons’

Vermont senator Bernie Sanders
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders. Photograph: Alison Redlich/AP

The National Security Agency on Saturday released a statement in answer to questions from a senator about whether it “has spied, or is … currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials”, in which it did not deny collecting communications from legislators of the US Congress to whom it says it is accountable.

In a letter dated 3 January, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont defined “spying” as “gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business”.

The agency has been at the centre of political controversy since a former contractor, Edward Snowden, released thousands of documents on its activities to media outlets including the Guardian.

In its statement, which comes as the NSA gears up for a make-or-break legislative battle over the scope of its surveillance powers, the agency pointed to “privacy protections” which it says it keeps on all Americans’ phone records.

 

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– Andrea Germanos, staff writer

A document obtained by several news agencies last week shows Democrats preparing to target tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations as part of congressional negotiations to meet a Dec. 13 deadline for a budget deal.

(Photo by Neil Parekh/SEIU Healthcare 775NW) Not on the list of Democrats’ targets: tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry.

The Hill reported that the list

contains 12 examples of the types of “tax loopholes” that [Democrats] would like to see closed in a year-end budget deal. Most have been proposed many times before.

Combined, the items on the list would raise $264 billion in revenue over 10 years, more than enough to switch off two years’ worth of the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.

Bloomberg reported that

In addition to closing what Democrats call the “John Edwards/Newt Gingrich loophole,” the party’s list of options includes carried-interest treatment that allows hedge fund managers and private equity advisers to pay a 20 percent tax rate on their income instead of the nation’s top income rate of 39.6 percent. Ending that break would save more than $17 billion over a decade, according to the Democrats’ estimates.

Another lets U.S. companies deduct their expenses when they send their plants overseas, which Democrats say encourages offshoring of American jobs. It would raise $200 million. Ending preferences for corporate jets and subsidies for yachts and vacation homes, combined, would bring in another $19 billion.

“The list makes clear that Democrats believe they can win public support by targeting tax breaks that they can portray as subsidies for the rich,” according to Reuters.

Republicans have been demanding cuts in Social Security and Medicare in exchange for changes to sequestration spending cuts, and that has failed to be met by a widespread Democratic pushback.

Progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) have called for an “End [to] tax breaks and subsidies for oil, gas and coal companies to reduce the deficit by more than $113 billion over the next 10 years”—a call echoed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus’s “Back to Work Budget,” which calls for an elimination of corporate tax subsidies for oil, gas, and coal companies.

But preserving tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry appears to have widspread bipartisan consensus.

The fact that fossil fuel companies are not on the list of targets may be a result of Democrats’ “embrace” of fossil fuels, the Financial Times reported.

James Politi reported at the Financial Times that the omission may “point to an increasing willingness among Democrats to embrace America’s domestic energy boom as a source of economic strength.”

The FT also quotes the American Petroleum Institute as saying there is “growing bipartisan opposition” to taxes that target oil and gas industries.

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TheYoungTurks TheYoungTurks

Published on May 26, 2013

“Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Wednesday offered an amendment to the Senate’s major farm bill that would allow states to require labels on genetically engineered foods.

“Today we have an opportunity with this amendment to affirm once and for all that states do have the right to label food that contains genetically engineered ingredients,” he said on the Senate floor.”*

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) fought hard to give his state and others the right to label GMO foods, but faced non-sensical opposition from Monsanto-bought Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Did reason win? Cenk Uygur breaks it down.

 

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Monsanto: Profits Above Human Health

Dees Illustration

Stephen Lendman
Activist Post

On May 25, tens of thousands of people marched against Monsanto. They did so in dozens of countries worldwide. They had good reason.

They want consumer protections enacted. They want safe food to eat. They want governments assuring it. They want GMO foods and ingredients labeled.

March Against Monsanto” (MAM) headlined “Why Do We March?”

Independent research shows GMO foods and ingredients cause “serious health conditions such as the development of cancer tumors, infertility and birth defects.”

Former Monsanto executives run the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). An obvious conflict of interest exists.

Provisions of the March 2013 Monsanto Protection Act include “ban(ning) courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds.”

For too long, Monsanto has been the benefactor of corporate subsidies and political favoritism.

Organic and small farmers suffer losses while Monsanto continues to forge its monopoly over the world’s food supply, including exclusive patenting rights over seeds and genetic makeup.

Monsanto’s GM seeds are harmful to the environment; for example, scientists have indicated they have contributed to Colony Collapse Disorder among the world’s bee population.

MAM advocates:

  • buying organic foods;
  • boycotting Monsanto-owned companies;
  • repealing Monsanto Protection Act harmful provisions;
  • more independent research on the effects of GMOs on human health;
  • holding Monsanto officials and complicit politicians accountable;
  • informing the public about “Monsanto’s secrets;” and
  • “taking to the streets to show the world and Monsanto that we won’t take these injustices quietly.”
  • “We will not stand for cronyism. We will not stand for poison. That’s why we March Against Monsanto.”

In 1906, Upton Sinclair’s muckraking novel The Jungle aroused the public. It exposed monopoly capitalist excesses, worker exploitation, and unsanitary practices in slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants.

Food hazardous to human health was produced. Nothing was done to stop it. Unsuspecting consumers ate it.

Jack London said Sinclair’s book “depict(ed) what our country really is, the home of oppression and injustice, a nightmare of misery, an inferno of suffering, a human hell, a jungle of wild beasts.”

Theodore Roosevelt was president. Public outcry got results. The 1906 Pure Food Food and Drug Act became law. It fell short of full protection. It helped by prohibiting some of the worst abuses.

Yesteryear’s reforms are gone. They no longer exist. Deregulation ended them. Profits alone matter. What corporate America wants it gets. It runs the country. Agribusiness and other industry sectors occupy Washington.

They decide policy. They write laws Congress passes. Ordinary people have no say. Politicians are bought like toothpaste. Public health and environmental sanity are ignored. Corporate greed alone matters.

Business officials run the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Health and Human Services (DHS), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and other government agencies.

America’s food supply suffers. Genetically modified ones proliferate. They’re unsafe to eat. They’re hazardous to human health. Independent studies prove it.

Monsanto’s the world’s leading GMO seed producer. It’s profiting at the expense of human health. It wants all animal and vegetable life forms patented. It wants global food control.

It wants labeling prohibited. It wants reliable science buried. It wants issues of food safety ignored. It wants consumers to have no say.

It wants critics silenced. It wants them discredited. It has enormous influence in Washington. It gets its own way. It’s long past time that ended. Ordinary people must demand it. Food safety is too vital to ignore.

The World According to Monsanto chronicles its controversial history. It’s a powerful film. It explains some of the most toxic products ever sold.

Monsanto deception, pressure, collusion and bribery are standard tactics to do so.

Secret documents are exposed. Firsthand accounts are presented. Victims, scientists, politicians and others tell their own stories.

 

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Politics, Legislation and  Economy

 

 

The legislation would get around the DEA’s refusal to differentiate hemp from marijuana and allow American farmers to grow it.
 

A bipartisan group of senators has introduced a bill that would exclude industrial hemp from the definition of marijuana. The bill, if passed, would get around the DEA’s refusal to differentiate hemp from marijuana and could result in American farmers being allowed to grow the industrial crop.

The bill, Senate Bill 3501 , was introduced last week by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and cosponsored by Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR). It would amend the Controlled Substances Act to make clear that hemp is not a drug, even though it is part of the cannabis family. Hemp has much lower levels of THC than marijuana grown for recreational or medicinal purposes.

The bill marks Wyden’s second attempt this year to get hemp de-listed. He tried to offer an amendment to the farm bill the Senate passed in June to do just that, but the Senate leadership ruled the amendment was not germane.

“I firmly believe that American farmers should not be denied an opportunity to grow and sell a legitimate crop simply because it resembles an illegal one,” Wyden said. “Raising this issue has sparked a growing awareness of exactly how ridiculous the US’s ban on industrial hemp is. I’m confident that if grassroots support continues to grow and Members of Congress continue to hear from voters then common sense hemp legislation can move through Congress in the near future.”

The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Meanwhile, another hemp bill, House Resolution 1831 , which would also clarify that hemp is not marijuana for the purposes of the Controlled Substances Act, languishes in the Republican-controlled House.