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Ferd Berfel

Ferd Berfel's Journal
Ferd Berfel's Journal
June 19, 2016

People's Summit: Progressive Gathering Fertilizing Momentum of Bernie's Revolution


Sanders' campaign has 'demonstrated broad public support for real, transformative change'

Harnessing the broad desire for "transformative change," thousands are expected to gather this weekend in Chicago for a three-day event centered around many of the progressive issues that Bernie Sanders put at the forefront of his presidential campaign.

Backed by organizations including 350.org, Physicians for a National Health Program, National Nurses Union (NNU), Hedge Clippers, and the People for Bernie, the People's Summit says in its call for the event that it aims "to bring together activists committed to a different kind of agenda: a People's Agenda that can enhance and expand issue campaigns and hold all elected officials accountable to popular demands for justice, equality, and freedom."

Author and climate activist Naomi Klein was among the speakers presenting on Friday, while sessions on the docket for Saturday include "Understanding Our Movement Moment"; "Energy Democracy and Climate Justice"; "Ending Voter Suppression, Mass Incarceration, Deportations and Gender Inequality"; "Healthcare Not Warfare: It's Time for Global Peace and Justice"; and "How to Get Big Money Out of Politics."

The roster features presentations by noted progressives such as political scientist Frances Fox Piven, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), National Domestic Workers Alliance director Ai-jen Poo, and Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, while the People Speak—dramatic readings inspired by the late Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States—will showcase artists including Rosario Dawson and Wallace Shawn.
June 11, 2016

Our Neoliberal Nightmare: Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and Why the Wealthy Win Every Time

Here is the cold slap of reality.


Can we still rely on conventional distinctions like liberal versus conservative, or Democrat versus Republican, to understand what is going on in this election? We need to understand the framework of neoliberalism, rather than the distraction of personalities, to grasp what would be good or bad for the US public under each candidate.

Over the last fifteen years, editors often asked me not to mention the word "neoliberalism," because I was told readers wouldn't comprehend the "jargon." This has begun to change recently, as the terminology has come into wider usage, though it remains shrouded in great mystery.

People throw the term around loosely, as they do with "fascism," with the same confounding results. Imagine living under fascism or communism, or earlier, classical liberalism, and not being allowed to acknowledge that particular frame of reference to understand economic and social issues. Imagine living under Stalin and never using the communist framework but focusing only on personality clashes between his lieutenants, or likewise for Hitler or Mussolini or Mao or Franco and their ideological systems! But this curious silence, this looking away from ideology, is exactly what has been happening for a quarter century, since neoliberalism, already under way since the early 1970s, got turbocharged by the Democratic party under the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and Bill Clinton. We live under an ideology that has not been widely named or defined!


It cannot be emphasized enough that neoliberalism is not classical liberalism, or a return to a purer version of it, as is commonly misunderstood; it is a new thing, because the market, for one thing, is not at all free and untethered and dynamic in the sense that classical liberalism idealized it. Neoliberalism presumes a strong state, working only for the benefit of the wealthy, and as such it has little pretence to neutrality and universality, unlike the classical liberal state.


When Hillary Clinton frequently retorts -- in response to demands for reregulation of finance, for instance -- that we have to abide by "the rule of law," this reflects a particular understanding of the law, the law as embodying the sense of the market, the law after it has undergone a revolution of reinterpretation in purely economic terms. In this revolution of the law persons have no status compared to corporations, nation-states are on their way out, and everything in turn dissolves before the abstraction called the market.


Neoliberalism expects -- and education at every level has been redesigned to promote this -- that economic decision-making will be applied to all areas of life (parenthood, intimacy, sexuality, and identity in any of its forms), and that those who do not do so will be subject to discipline. Everyone must invest in their own future, and not pose a burden to the state or anyone else, otherwise they will be refused recognition as human beings.


Neoliberalism will continue to perpetuate reduced opportunity, because one of its characteristics -- as in any system that wants to thrive on the world stage -- is to constantly refine the field upon which the human subject can operate.


(Thus, also, Hillary Clinton's animus against free college education; that form of expansion of opportunity, which was a reality from the 1950s to the 1980s, cannot be allowed to return, human beings are supposed to invest in their own future earnings potential, they are not entitled to a transcendent experience without barriers manifesting in discipline and self-correction. Education, like everything else, including one's own health, becomes an expensive consumer good, not a right, no longer an experience that might lead to a consciousness beyond the market but something that should be fully encapsulated by the market. If one is a capable market player, education as we have classically understood it becomes redundant.

What, indeed, does happen beyond Sanders, because as we have seen Hillary Clinton is one of the founders of neoliberal globalization, one of its central historical figures (having accelerated the warehousing of the poor, the attack on trade unions, and the end of welfare and of regulatory prowess), while Trump is an authoritarian figure whose conceptions of the state and of human beings within the state are inconsistent with the surface frictionlessness neoliberalism desires? To go back to Hillary Clinton's opening campaign commercial, to what extent will Americans continue to believe that the self must be entrepreneurially leveraged toward maximum market gains, molded into mobile human capital ever ready to serve the highest bidder?
June 2, 2016

To Pay for Subsidies to Massive Corporations, States Are Waging War on Poor Families


Politicians have succeeded in diverting attention away from America's real "welfare queens": Defense contractors, arms manufacturers, oil giants, and low wage employers
. (FB: you call them Clinton's donors. I call them her Base. )

To witness the consequences of a political system captured by and utterly subservient to the interests of organized wealth, take a quick look at the state of Oklahoma.

There we see the embodiment of the economic trends that have, over the past several decades, harmed working families and lifted the wealthiest: While providing a windfall of cash to special interests, particularly big oil, the state is cutting education and slashing funds allocated for the earned income tax credit, widely recognized as one of the more effective anti-poverty programs.

"It's despicable to balance the budget on the backs of the most vulnerable population" while refusing to push any of the burden onto the wealthiest, lamented State Representative Emily Virgin.


It is these corporations, non-human entities in no need of food or clothing, that deserve our scorn for the extent to which they depend on taxpayers for their continued growth — the same taxpayers that, as a result of corporate greed and government duplicity, are forced to endure the consequences of a system that is, as economist Joseph Stiglitz has put it, "of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%."
June 1, 2016

How Many Trillions More Will Pentagon Spend on Mid-East Wars Before They Confront their Disaster

How horrible and tragic does the judgment of our 'representatives' have to get before we wake up and get rid of them?


How Many Trillions More Will the Pentagon Spend on Middle East Wars Before They Confront the Disaster They've Created?
Things just keep getting worse.

We have it on highest authority: the recent killing of Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan marks “an important milestone.” So the president of the United States has declared, with that claim duly echoed and implicitly endorsed by media commentary—the New York Times reporting, for example, that Mansour’s death leaves the Taliban leadership “shocked” and “shaken.”

But a question remains: A milestone toward what exactly?

Toward victory? Peace? Reconciliation? At the very least, toward the prospect of the violence abating? Merely posing the question is to imply that U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Islamic world serve some larger purpose.

May 29, 2016

Expecting Sanders Supporters to "Close Ranks?"


Think again. Here's why many won't.

"Expecting people to 'close ranks' around the Democratic nominee harkens back to a time that no longer exists."

When the Clinton campaign and the corporate press call for Sanders to drop out and turn his supporters over to Hillary, they reveal just how out of touch they are. Sanders’ army is not his to command. They arose out of a profound dissatisfaction over politics as usual, and many – if not most – will not be persuaded to vote for a status quo politician they perceive to be part of the problem, no matter how frightening a Trump Presidency could be.

Here are some of the reasons why:

Reason #1 – Party Affiliation Doesn’t Matter as Much as it Used to. In 1960, 75 percent of Americans belonged to one of the major political parties, and just 20 percent claimed to be independents. Today, 44 percent of Americans call themselves independents, and only a little over half of the people belong to a party. Most of the dropouts came from the Democratic Party, which claimed 50 percent of Americans in 1960. For the most part, Republicans have hovered between 20 and 25%, standing at 23% today.


Reason #2 – The Myth of the Centrist Majority and the Disenfranchisement of the People.
Democrats’ share of voters fell sharply after Carter, and continued to fall thereafter, as the DLC brand of corporate centrist Democrats took over the party – something both Clintons embraced whole-heartedly. In short, as the party abandoned the people, the people abandoned the party. The further Democrats drifted from the New Deal, the more ground they lost.


"The oligarchs controlling the Party believed people had nowhere else to go, particularly with Republicans having a protracted psychotic breakdown, and until Sanders, it worked."


Reason #3 -- In Response to their Diminished Status, the Democratic Party Moved to Protect the Entrenched Status Quo, rather than to Assure a Democratic Process. Closed primaries shut out independents -- the largest block of voters -- and in some states, including New York, rules made it difficult for the young or newly interested voters to engage.


Reason #4 -- The Rise of the Oligarchy: In their landmark study, Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens, Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page found that the US was functionally an Oligarchy, not a democracy.

May 27, 2016

"Significant Security Risks": State Department Says Clinton Broke Rules Using Private Email Server


By Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, Democracy Now! | Video Interview

An internal government watchdog has concluded Hillary Clinton broke government rules by using a private email server without approval while she was secretary of state. That was the key finding of a long-awaited report by the State Department inspector general. The report concluded that Clinton would not have been allowed to use a private server in her home had she asked department officials in charge of information security, because it posed "significant security risks." This contradicts claims by Clinton that use of a home server was allowed and that no permission was needed. The report also criticized Clinton for not properly preserving emails she wrote and received on her personal account. According to the report, Clinton and eight of her deputies, including Cheryl Mills, Jake Sullivan and Huma Abedin, declined to be interviewed for the inspector general's investigation. Clinton's use of a private email server for State Department business is also the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation. We speak to journalist Michael Tracey.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: An internal government watchdog has concluded Hillary Clinton broke government rules by using a private email server without approval while she was secretary of state. That was the key finding of a long-awaited report by the State Department inspector general. The report concluded that Clinton would not have been allowed to use a private server in her home had she asked department officials in charge of information security, because it posed, quote, "significant security risks." This contradicts claims by Clinton that use of a home server was allowed and that no permission was needed. The report also criticized Clinton for not properly preserving emails she wrote and received on her personal account. Clinton responded to the report during a campaign event in California [sic].


AMY GOODMAN: Michael Tracey, we just have a minute, but two quick questions. One, the effect of one of -- the person who installed the server in the Chappaqua house being granted immunity? And the other, the reason that they would do this? Is it possible it's related not -- to not wanting to have FOIA requests of emails and questions about these emails that were involved with countries that had dealings with the Clinton Foundation?


May 26, 2016

Neck-and-Neck in California as Sanders Virtually Erases 50-Point Deficit


New poll shows Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton in statistical tie less than two weeks before California's Democratic primary

Less than two weeks before California's critical Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are locked in a dead heat in that state, according to a poll released Wednesday.

The same poll (pdf) shows Sanders outperforming Clinton in a hypothetical match-up against presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

The survey, conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), shows that among Democratic primary likely voters, 46 percent support Clinton and 44 percent support Sanders. Sanders leads Clinton among those who are very liberal (64% to 35%) as well as among younger voters (66% to 27%). Latino voters are slightly more likely to support Clinton (52% to 43%), while white voters are more divided (47% Clinton, 41% Sanders).


As Politico notes, a Sanders victory on June 7 would create "an awkward situation for Clinton, who could be celebrating being dubbed the 'presumptive nominee' even as she loses the nation's largest state—and one of its most diverse."
May 24, 2016

Obama Visits Vietnam to Promote the TPP


President Obama is in Vietnam promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The free trade agreement is not about boosting the US economy; it's about multinational corporations moving jobs to countries with poor labor records and pocketing the difference in wage and environmental costs.

President Obama is in Vietnam promoting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Vietnam? Really?

A year ago the post "Obama To Visit Nike To Promote the TPP. Wait, NIKE? Really?," noted how Nike pioneered moving jobs out of the country to take advantage of low wages and lack of environmental protections in places like Vietnam, which led to many of the problems in our economy today. It seemed that Nike was possibly the worst company to use to support claims that the TPP would benefit the American economy.

President Obama is scheduled to visit Nike's Oregon headquarters on Friday to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Yes, Nike -- a company that grew to billions by outsourcing jobs to overseas sweatshops, a company that sets up P.O.-box subsidiaries in tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes, a company that uses threats to extort tax breaks from its "home" state.
Phil Knight, head of Nike, is now worth $23 billion because America's trade policies encourage companies like Nike to create and move jobs outside of the U.S. The 23rd-richest American is one more symbol of the kind of inequality that results from outsourcing enabled and encouraged by these trade policies. Workers here lose (or never get) jobs; workers there are paid squat; a few people become vastly, unimaginably wealthy.

One of the Worst Companies, One of the Worst Countries


A Boon to corporate whores - Suicidal for most of the rest of us.
And I'm supposed to support shit like this?

Obama and the current Democratic party are Judas Goats.
May 22, 2016

Capitalism Needs Socialism to Work—Which Is Why Bernie Is So Popular


Millions Now Understand That Capitalism Needs Socialism to Work—Which Is Why Bernie Is So Popular

Sanders' vision of democratic socialism is just capitalism with a safety net.

Three short years ago, the idea of a major candidate in a presidential election openly describing himself as a socialist would have seemed unthinkable. President Barack Obama had entered his second term and the Democratic Party had won the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections not by running to the left, but by campaigning mostly from the center. In 2013, “socialism” was still a dirty word in American politics. But that was before Bernie Sanders ran for president and before polls showed the word socialist taking on an increasingly positive connotation among millennials in the United States. The word is still rejected by most strategists in the Democratic Party, but in 2016, it at least gets a seat at the table in the marketplace of ideas.


Context is important. When Sanders describes himself as a democratic socialist, he is referring to democratic socialism as practiced in Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy,


Sanders is not anti-capitalist, and the economic views he identifies with are not those of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara or Vladimir Lenin, but those of President Franklin Roosevelt and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Capitalism needs a certain amount of socialism in order to function well: when Americans are broke and unemployed, they have less ability to make the purchases that keep companies in the black. And at the same time, a social safety net needs successful free enterprise and entrepreneurs to contribute to the tax base.


Let's not forget that 'trickle down' was a lie and fraud pushed by the 1%

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