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SYRIA: New Panic From Outbreak of Meningitis in Madaya "Death Town"

Franklin Lamb

By Franklin Lamb. Al-Mouwasat Hospital, Damascus, Syria September 6, 2016



Manual and Mohammad-Kamal in happier days
(image byFranklin Lamb)

These beautiful children above, shown in happier days, are the younger siblings of Ghina and Nagham who were shot by a sniper in the surrounded and cutoff town of Madaya, Syria ("Syria: A Children's Story"). Ghina, Nagham and their mother Sahar Wadi were rescued by the Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARCS) from Madaya two weeks ago and taken to Al-Mouwasat Hospital, Damascus for urgent medical treatment of the children's explode-on-impact bullet wounds.

Their daring medical evacuation occurred as part of an Iran-UN agreement based on the "4 Towns Agreement" (itself unlawful under international law and which has both saved and cost some lives in this maelstrom civil war). The agreement signed in September 2015 stipulates parallel evacuations and aid deliveries for four encircled towns; two in Outer Damascus and two in Idlib province. Sunni Madaya and Zabadani are encircled by the regime fighters and Shia Fuaa and Kafariya are encircled by rebels based in northern Syria.

Ghina is still recovering from the militia sniper wounds. Both girls were shot while returning from Madaya's clinic, near their home, with medicine for their severely anemic mother Sahar. Ten year old Ghani's severely shattered and infected left leg and thigh were tentatively scheduled for amputation in Madaya two weeks ago. Fortunately the medical evacuation and the specialized medical care in Damascus saved Ghina's leg. And this week (9/5/2016), eight year old Nagham finally had her arm and hand stitches removed, personally by the medical director of the hospital, Nagham's mother told this observer proudly. Nagham wounds are now largely healed from the effects of last month's sniper attack. The psychological and emotional wounds of the children will take much longer.

Mother Sahra and recovering daughters Ghani and Nagham (author seated)
(image by Franklin Lamb)


But Ghina and Nagham's younger sister and brother, Manal and Mohammad-Kamal are still under siege in Madaya. On 9/5/2016, Sahar, the four children's mother provided this observer a detailed account of her youngest children's current deteriorating health conditions as she begged for help from the Beirut-Paris-Washington DC based NGO, Meals for Syrian Refugee Children Lebanon (MSRCL) to rescue her babies. There are growing urgent fears, given just received alarming reports of an escalating outbreak of Meningitis in besieged Madaya.

Both children still trapped in Madaya are ill and have fevers. There are no medications available to them in the town. Both children are increasingly malnourished, with their only food boiled bulgur, lentils and a thin soup made from grass and wildflowers, the children's mother explained to this observer on 9/6/2016. They have no milk nor any fruits or vegetables, eggs, bread or meat of any kind. Psychologically, the 3 and four years old Manal and Mohamad are terrified, and desperate to be with their mother Sahar and sisters Ghina and Nagham.

The Syrian Arab Red Crescent Society (SARCS), who heroically saved Ghina and Nagham last month, has been updated on this family's dire situation and are trying to put Manal and Mohammad-Kamal on a future evacuation list. But whether they can do it anytime soon, if ever, is unsure. These intensely politicized days are not easy when illegally besieging and starving civilians has become a widely employed form of tactical warfare.

In this observer's opinion and based on observing SARCS work for the past few years, and tours this summer of many SARCS facilities, while spending hours in the company of SARCS staff and heroic volunteers, there is not a more humanitarian organization working in Syria today than SARCS. Granted, local and international politics sometimes makes their humanitarian work complicated to say the least. This observer has heard on the same afternoon from disparate sources that SARCS helps only the government areas with its work and other critics who claim that it only helps the rebels with its work.

My observations convince me that SARCS, like Medicines Sans Frontiers (MSF) and the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) helps everyone everywhere that it can. In fact SARCS, true to its motto "Helping Everyone, Everywhere: employs more than 1,592 staff and more than 6,000 volunteers working in 14 branches and 62 sub-branches. They are doing amazing humanitarian work for which we are all indebted. Just last year SARCS delivered various services to 4.7 million people, including million people with medicines and medical treatment. In addition, 4.6 million Syrians received food and nearly one half million were given household essentials, over 316 thousand people received protection services through teams and community centers, plus 1.32 million people gained access to clean drinking water and sanitation.

Syrian Conflict: Madaya, The Town That Has Become A Prison ...
(image by Public Domain)


Yesterday (9/6/2016), this observer learned from Dr. Darwish the dentist working to provide medical aid, along with a veterinarian and a former medical student inside Madaya that the besieged town is experiencing an unfolding meningitis epidemic. Fourteen cases have been reported over the past two weeks and more reportedly appearing nearly daily. The "medical team" explains that they cannot confirm 100% the diagnosis because "we don't have the tools to diagnose and treat patients."

Signs of viral meningitis, which Manal and Mohammad-Kamal both now exhibit, according to their mother Sahar who speaks regularly when she can get a call through, with the children's grandmother (Sahar's mother) still trapped in Madaya and who is trying to care for her malnourished and ill grandchildren. She reports symptoms comparable to the flu, and that the children today have headaches, a fever with cold hands and feet. They have no appetite. Manal and Mohammad-Kamal's case is one of countless cases in Madaya that cry out for humanitarian intervention to allow innocent civilians to live.

A British pediatrician at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital, the UK's largest pediatric center, contacted on 9/5/2016 on behalf of MSRCL, about Manal and Mohammad-Kamal's symptoms, advised that the UK National Health Service (NHS) urges children or adults exhibiting these symptoms not to wait for a rash to develop, but to seek medical help immediately. Later in the day The UK Doctor explained to MSRCL that babies and young children under five-years of age (Manal is 4 and Mohammad-Kamal is 3) are those most serious at risk for developing life-threatening bacterial meningitis because their body's defenses are not yet developed.

The gentleman urged immediate evacuation of Manal and Mohammad-Kamal. "These cases are especially urgent" he added "because Dr. Darwish reports that in Madaya's only clinic the medical staff do not have the medicines or the knowledge to treat meningitis or even the equipment to diagnose it." Dr. Darwish and his medical team attribute the appearance of meningitis to malnutrition of residents, weakened immune systems and high summer temperatures.

Along with Madaya's 40,000 residents, Sahar, the children's mother, fears that an epidemic is rapidly spreading. According to Dr. Darwish yesterday (9/6/2016), "We're afraid that some people may have a mental breakdown out of fear, paranoia is developing among residents, who are rushing to the field hospital with any of the signs of meningitis. Darwish confirmed from Madaya that his medical team suspects a virulent outbreak of meningitis, with the above noted 14 reported cases over the past two weeks. But they cannot confirm the diagnosis because "we don't have the tools to diagnose and treat patients."

Dr. Darwish's stated yesterday (9/6/2016) that his two-kilometer walk to work at the field hospital now takes him more than an hour and a half, because "hysterical" residents stop him en route for medical advice. "They ask, 'what are the symptoms of meningitis? I have those symptoms--do I have it?"

Can SARCS or the UN rescue Manal and Mohammad-Kamal?

In addition to the medical and humanitarian case for saving Manal and Mohammad-Kamal and evacuating them as soon as possible from besieged Madaya, there is a compelling legal case that warrants mention.

One imagines that not a great number of serious observers would likely dispute solid customary international law as well as treaty law on the subject of war crimes and crimes against humanity including the siege and starvation of civilians during armed conflicts. Specifically that they include but are not limited to, certain unconventional and improvised weapons and weapon systems such as barrel bombs, cluster munitions, incendiary weapons, poison, and poisoned weapons, chemical weapons, such as gas, encirclement, "surrender or starve" warfare targeting civilians, starvation of children, and blocking humanitarian access to civilians including the treatment of life-threatening injuries.

With respects to 4 year old Manal and her three year old brother Mohammad, still trapped and starving inside slowly dying Madaya, this observer, now honored to be a family friend, would offer the following arguments, among others, during an en blanc session, if granted 15 minutes maximum with the UN Security Council. To plead the little ones case for emergency humanitarian evacuation to join their mother, sisters and new "American Uncle" here in Damascus.

The more recent evolution of principles, standards and rules of modernly established and evolving International Law where armed conflicts are now often fought in urban areas rather than in battlegrounds far from the civilian population, makes it very difficult to conduct a siege that is both successful and lawful. Siege warfare is only legal under contemporary law in the narrowest of circumstances and none of those are present in besieged Madaya.

[Franklin Lamb volunteers with the Lebanon, France, and USA based Meals for Syrian Refugee Children Lebanon (MSRCL) which seeks to provide hot nutritional meals to Syrian and other refugee children in Lebanon. . He is reachable c/o].

At $2.25 per meal x 500 children per day ($ 1,225), the budget for a month (30 days) requires approximately $36,000.
(image by Franklin Lamb)


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The Meaning of the Trump Surge

Andrew Levine

By Andrew Levine. This article was first published on Counterpunch.

The news is full of it – literally and figuratively: Trump is surging in the polls, especially in so-called battleground states. Is it time to worry?

Indeed, it is, but not about Trump. The Donald has been headed for defeat from the moment he started trouncing his rivals in the Republican primaries and caucuses. No matter that the polls are now detecting a Trump surge (more like a trickle, actually) or that the know-it-alls — left, right and center — now think otherwise. Nothing has changed; he still is.

Good and thoughtful people of all stripes should be grateful for Trump’s successes in the primaries and caucuses — not just because it took attention away from the “moral” (actually theocratic and morally vicious) obsessions of Republican voters and politicians, but also because, had the Republicans nominated any of Trump’s rivals, they would now be fielding someone even worse.

For anyone who doubts this, here is a two-word rejoinder: “Ted Cruz.”   If that isn’t enough, here is another: “Marco Rubio.”

Some of those rivals might actually have been able to win – maybe even the hapless Jeb Bush, the feckless brother of the worst President ever.  Hold that thought and Trump doesn’t look so bad.

However, the Trump surge – let’s call it that, even if the word exaggerates the truth — does make it even more urgent than it used to be to worry about Hillary Clinton.

A vote for Hillary isn’t just a vote for maintaining and worsening an already intolerably inegalitarian status quo; it is also a vote for maintaining and intensifying America’s reckless and increasingly futile efforts to remain the one and only global hegemon.

This is not news, however. The time to start worrying about a Hillary presidency was long before this dreadful and seemingly interminable election season began. Nothing that has happened in the past month has changed that one iota.

What has changed is that, with Trump doing better in the polls, everybody is now so busy worrying about the orange-haired boogeyman that efforts to liberate American politics from the stifling and increasingly undemocratic duopoly party system that sustains Clinton v. Trump elections have been set back.

Even while the Sanders insurgency was flourishing, there was never much reason to think that the Democratic Party could be reformed from within. Under the aegis of the Clintons and others like them, it had long ago become too rotten.

There was a small chance, however, that the Sanders campaign would split the Democratic Party.

Without really trying and perhaps without even intending anything of the kind, Trump drove a stake through the heart of the GOP; he did such a good job of it that it might never recover.

Sanders could have done much the same for the Democrats, but in a principled and constructive way.

The hope then was that the “good guys” in the party would find the courage to rise to the occasion.   It turns out, though, that the good guys — Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, Chris Murphy, and the rest — were not just going along to get along. In fact, like the nominally independent Sanders, they are, at heart, good Democrats — faux progressives. There was never much doubt of this; but hope springs eternal.

They also appear to have been born without backbones. Nevertheless, if pushed along by militant Sandernistas, some of them might have followed Sanders’ lead, had he taken the lead. More likely, though, most of the heroes of the occasion would have come from down-ticket precincts – from Congressmen and women and from state and local Democratic Parties.

We will never know, however, because Sanders saw to it that nothing like that would happen. Instead of making history, he quashed history in the making.

To that end, all he had to do was cross over to the Dark Side – or reveal that he had been there all along. With its head cut off, the movement he started went south. “Our Revolution,” indeed.

But even Sanders’ betrayal couldn’t quash hope completely.

As Clinton pulled ahead in national polls after the Democratic and Republican conventions, there was reason to think that something worthwhile would come of all the electoral nonsense this year, after all: that this would be the breakout year for the Green Party. After all their years in the wilderness, the Greens were finally about to become a significant factor in American politics.

No more salutary development is even remotely feasible at this time.

This could still happen, of course; but the Trump “surge” diminishes the likelihood that it will. Unlike the theoretical possibility that the Trumps will soon be moving into the White House – or slumming there, as they remain ensconced in the gilded monstrosities the Donald prefers — this truly is worrisome.

If the Greens remain as marginal after November 8 as they have been for as long as that party has existed, then nothing good will have come out of this election season – not even a modest diminution in the extent of the Democrats’ and Republicans’ stranglehold over American “democracy.”

What a waste, after so much sound and fury!

Now even that hope is slipping away because, thanks in part to the Trump surge, the Commission on Presidential Debates has weighed in.

It was always plain that – if need be, by hook or crook – they would do all they could to see to it that the Green’s Jill Stein, and also Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, wouldn’t get to “debate” Hillary and the Donald.

As it turned out, they didn’t have to resort to any unusual funny business; the media kept both Stein and Johnson so far out of sight and mind that they had no chance of meeting the threshold for inclusion that the Commission, a creature of the two parties’ national committees, insisted upon.

If the debates this year were run, say, according to the old League of Women Voters rules, Stein and Johnson would be in.

Even if they were, Clinton would still win the election – she has too much media support and too many political machines working for her to lose, no matter how awful a candidate she is. But the quality of political discourse would improve a hundred-fold or more.

The benefits of that, especially after the election is over, would be incalculable.

No such luck, though. Instead of an enlightening exchange of views, we will soon be treated to a spectacle akin to a professional wrestling match – in which the very embodiment of the same old same old defends herself against a cunning, but mindless, buffoon.

Worse still, thanks to anti-Trump hysteria, Stein may not even succeed in getting enough votes, five percent of the total cast, to secure public funding for the Green Party in future elections.

That barrier is less like the “glass ceiling” that Hillary’s fans used to go on about than it is like Trump’s proposed separation wall along the U.S. – Mexican border.

The former hasn’t really existed in years – a suitable female candidate could easily have broken through the so-called glass ceiling at any time since the eighties, if not before. On the other hand, the barrier third party candidates face, especially now with restrictions on campaign “contributions” effectively gutted, is nearly impenetrable.

Nevertheless, Stein was on track for surpassing the threshold. Now, that prospect is less likely.

Worry about that!   And instead of piling on votes for a neoliberal warmonger to stave off Trump, strike a blow for democracy instead!

A Trump-style “conspiracy theorist” could easily lay the blame for the Trump surge on Team Hillary. Making voters think that Trump might actually win benefits her electoral prospects by motivating her base and scaring the fearful into voting for her. There is not, and never has been, much need for that – but it can’t hurt.

And, by further impeding the prospects of Stein and Johnson, anti-Trump hysteria strengthens the duopoly party system, not that there was ever much need for that either.

However, the Empress of Ineptitude isn’t clever enough to pull off a conspiracy of such magnitude. The idea that she and her people are somehow behind the narrowing polling data does have a certain plausibility; good conspiracy theories always do. But there are better explanations at hand for Clinton’s and Trump’s current standings in the polls.

They come down to fortuitous circumstances at the time the polls were conducted, and by the ways their results have been conveyed. There is also some, probably temporary, follow-the-herd behavior involved. John Cassidy’s piece on the narrowing of Clinton’s lead, published on The New Yorker website, September 17, provides a comprehensive account.

But why all the worry about Trump anyway?

In polite society these days, the answer is obvious: Trump will bring fascism or something like it to the USA.

This answer assumes, of course, that Trump has more than a negligible chance of emerging victorious. For the sake of argument, let’s concede that point, even though it is almost certainly false.

Even then, the obvious answer isn’t as obvious as it seems. Trump’s foreign policy views, as best they can be ascertained, outflank Clinton’s from the left, especially on matters bearing on war and peace; and on trade, infrastructure development and jobs creation, his views are arguably more progressive as well.

Hillary may not be quite the card-carrying neoconservative — or, insofar as there is a difference, “humanitarian intervener” — that she sometimes seems to be. But, on either description, she is plainly a fellow traveler. And the people she is likely to empower – Samantha Power, for example – are what one would expect from an admirer of the war criminal Henry Kissinger and the murderous Madeleine Albright.

Trump, on the other hand, is a hollow man; he goes wherever his mood and purpose at the time lead him. Does this give more or less cause for worry? The question is complicated; it may even be unanswerable.

Part of the problem is that huckster Donald keeps changing his spiel. Either he is one wily son of a bitch, working his marks by telling them whatever they want to hear at the moment, or he is incapable of holding a thought for more than a day or two. Both could be true.

The one sure thing is that nobody flip flops like he does. Hillary follows the polls, the way second- and third-rate politicians normally do; and, when she takes a position, she generally sticks with it, at least for a while. Trump seems somehow to derive his policy positions from a random number generator, and to hold them for only as long as he feels he has something to gain from them. That could be just for a fleeting moment, if need be; it doesn’t matter to him.

His campaign is not, and never has been about policy positions – not even when he was mouthing off about building a Great Wall along the Mexican border, or when he goes on about preventing Muslims from entering the United States.

Were Trump actually to become President, these and other proposals of his would have to be modified substantially, probably beyond recognition.

But, for the time being, what Trump has said, and what he will say between now and November, has little, if anything, to do with he would do were he, per impossibile, President of the United States.

The temptation is to think of Trump as a garden-variety demagogue. But that misses the point. What comes out of his mouth are not policy prescriptions at all; they are emotive utterances. He is not voicing ideas; he is conveying an attitude.

Serious politicians don’t speak in that register. But culture warriors do — especially if they are hucksters at heart, and have a flare for showmanship.

The attitude Trump conveys genuinely is “deplorable,” just as Hillary said; and Latinos and Muslims – and persons of all “identities” who stand in solidarity with the targets of his slurs – are entirely right to take umbrage.

But even this is not the main reason to wish him ill.

The deeper problem is that no matter whom he offends, Trump’s character is dangerously off kilter.

What ultimately disqualifies him for the office of President is not the racism, nativism and Islamophobia he stirs up, deplorable as that may be, but the plain fact, by now widely appreciated, that he is, by temperament, too mercurial to lead a country that has a military footprint in all the four corners of the earth and nuclear weapons out the wazoo.

Hillary’s character flaws are serious too; among other things, she seems to think, in her bones, that war is the answer. This sensibility underlies her politics.

Because it does, her politics, unlike Trump’s character, is not at all off kilter. This is why it is such a problem.

In short, Hillary’s politics, domestic and foreign, is part and parcel of precisely what is harming almost everybody who is not a member of “the billionaire class,” as it was called back when it was still possible to speak Bernie-speak with a good conscience.

The Team Hillary-corporate media line is that Trump appeals mainly to “white working class” voters — to older ones especially, and to males more than females.   How nice of the guardians of the status quo finally to concede that there is a working class. For decades, the word was practically verboten in their circles; workers were just part of what Bill Clinton famously called “the great forgotten middle class. ”

But, of course, by “working class,” they don’t quite mean working class. Sociologists and economists can argue endlessly about exactly how to characterize the working class, about who is in and who is not; but the basic idea is clear enough.

The working class en soi, in itself, as theorists used to say, is comprised of individuals who work for wages in manufacturing or service industries. Following Marx’s lead, the working class, like all social classes, is defined by its relation to the larger society’s means of production.

Leftwing historians and others were also interested in the working class pour soi, for itself. Because they saw it as the agent of progressive social change, they focused on its political and cultural consciousness.

However, for the talking heads of the corporate world, “working class” denotes a marketing demographic comprised of low wealth, white men and women who lack a college education. Whether or not they work for wages is irrelevant; their self-consciousness is irrelevant too.

The condescension is palpable.   The working class of old was the bearer of a new, more fully human, form of civilization. The working class we hear about today is a collection of superfluous people who bear a group identity on the road to extinction – much like the peasantry in some industrialized countries not long ago.

There is an important difference, however. The role of peasant became economically and technologically superseded; peasants who did not become farmers (producing mainly for national and international markets, rather than for their own subsistence) became workers or joined the mainstream economy in other ways.

The working class, on the other hand, is not obsolete; not on a global scale.

The problem is that for reasons having to do mainly with the political economy of the United States and other overripe capitalist states, many, though not all, working class jobs have been displaced to parts of the world where labor is cheaper, and therefore where capitalists’ profits are higher.

In the circumstances, few American workers benefit; many suffer; and no one likes the way things are going.

This, not the atavistic attitudes of whites without college degrees, is the root of the problem that Clinton’s media flacks decry.

Conventional wisdom has it that racial animosities, exacerbated by economic insecurity, have fueled the Trump phenomenon. There is much truth in this. For dividing and neutering America’s multi-racial working class, there is no more tried and true method than exacerbating racial and ethnic animosities.

But the deeper problems are structural. Clintonite policies, and the forces Hillary represents, are the causes of those economic insecurities.

For the time being, circumstances have made Hillary Clinton the de facto avatar of those causes.

People, of all hues, some with college educations and some without, understand this to some extent – as “through a glass darkly.” And so, for reasons that go beyond her inherent unlikabity, they don’t like Hillary.  Who can blame them?

Aside from an alarmingly large number of “deplorables,” people also understand, at some level, that Trump is not the answer.

But his candidacy has provided a way for them to say “fuck you” to all that Hillary and others of her ilk represent; it still does.

Had he not betrayed the movement he got going, Sanders could have marshaled anti-Hillary consciousness in a more constructive way.

And Jill Stein is eager to do so now. She could do a far better job than Sanders too, because her progressive vision, unlike his, doesn’t end at the country’s borders. She, unlike he, would at least try to take American imperialism on.

But in the actual world, Jill Stein is still “Jill who?,” and telling pollsters that they now favor the Donald seems to be the only way many people have to tell Hillary and the people around her what they think of them.

However, November 8 is coming. Americans get to decide whose fingers they want on buttons that could, as they say in Clintonese, end the world “as we know it.” That is bound to focus more than a few befuddled minds.

The choice is between a warmongering ideologue, the devil we know too well, and a seventy-year old with an adolescent mind, susceptible to impulse control problems, and with a proven disposition to act out.

Deciding which is worse is indeed more complicated than most liberals think. But, in the end, I would bet the ranch that, in the circumstances, many of the people now telling pollsters that they will likely vote for Trump will have second thoughts; and that many, maybe most, of them will hold their noses and vote for the devil they (justifiably) hate, while others will just stay home. In either case, support for Trump will decline to post-convention levels or worse.

I would venture too that, al things considered, this is probably a good thing.

I say this not for the many “obvious,” but largely spurious, reasons that lesser evilists are currently carting out, but because a peace movement could thwart Hillary’s bellicosity – she is only a politician, after all — while nothing can hold back an enraged or offended Donald Trump.

What will finally do Trump in, however, is not popular awareness of his flaws. It is what has been holding back support for him all along: the united opposition of media, cultural and political elites.

Trump’s “populism” takes off from the fact that nobody likes them either. This is only to be expected; they are part of the same rot that Hillary is, and everybody knows it – again, as through a glass darkly.

But, this side of a mass prise de conscience, a radical change of consciousness on the part of those who now only find the status quo disturbing, this awareness, such as it is, will not change, or even substantially affect, the outcome of the November election.

Therefore, expect those “likely voters” who have been, and maybe still are, closing the gap between Clinton and Trump, to drop away or change their minds.

Expect too that, unless Clinton flubs the debates spectacularly, that, before long — well in advance of Election Day — a Clinton victory will again appear to be the sure thing it has been all along.

Meanwhile, though, the damage will have been done; the duopoly will, for a while, be more entrenched than ever.

This chronic problem could have been addressed this election season had corporate media been a tad less servile or had Bernie Sanders not been quite so pusillanimous or had Clinton been a good enough candidate to ward off the Trump surge, notwithstanding the fact that she is the reason for it.

But since none of this was the case, the only hope remaining is for a Stein surge – big enough to put the Greens over the five percent barrier. The chances of that are slim, thanks to the Commission on Presidential Debates, but greater by far than that the Donald will somehow pull off an election victory.

So, without quite yet abandoning all hope, now is a time to prepare for the troubles ahead. With Hillary apparently fit enough to serve — and with the usual miscreants, the party apparatchiks and the liberal money people, in her pocket — there seems to be nothing, at this point, that anybody can do to head her off.

Now would therefore be a good time too for someone with an entrepreneurial flair to start churning out “Don’t Blame Me, I Didn’t Vote for Her” bumper stickers. There was a lot of that sort of thing back in the LBJ days when liberals couldn’t buy enough of them. Needless to say, most of them did vote for LBJ when he ran against Barry Goldwater, the Donald Trump of the 1964 election.

Johnson won by a landslide, and so will Hillary. And because once Commander-in-Chief Hillary gets going, she will come to be even more reviled by liberals than LBJ was after he ratcheted up the Vietnam War, the market, this time around, will be even better.

You can take that to the bank too — along with my prediction that, even with Hillary for an opponent, the Donald will be getting his comeuppance this November 8.

ANDREW LEVINE is a Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, the author most recently of THE AMERICAN IDEOLOGY (Routledge) and POLITICAL KEY WORDS (Blackwell) as well as of many other books and articles in political philosophy. His most recent book is In Bad Faith: What’s Wrong With the Opium of the People. He was a Professor (philosophy) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Research Professor (philosophy) at the University of Maryland-College Park.  He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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As Tribes Fight Pipeline, Internal AFL-CIO Letter Exposes 'Very Real Split' Published on Thursday, September 22, 2016 by Common Dreams As Tribes Fight Pipeline, Internal AFL-CIO Letter Exposes 'Very Real Split'

Jon Queally

By Jon Queally. This article was first published on Common Dreams.

Leaked letter circulated within nation's largest labor federation illustrates troubling disconnect when what working people deserve and what climate science compels are actually the same thing

The AFL-CIO has received widespread criticism for standing against Native American tribes and their allies who have said the Dakota Access Pipeline project violates tribal sovereignty while also threatening water resources, sacred burial grounds, and the climate. (Photo: Joe Brusky/flickr/cc)

The AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, generated waves of criticism by standing against the Standing Rock Sioux and supportive allies last week when it endorsed the Dakota Access Pipeline – a project opponents say threatens tribal sovereignty, regional water resources, and sacred burial grounds while also undermining efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change.

Yet while a public statement by AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka stirred widespread backlash, what has not been seen by the general public is an internal letter which preceded that statement—a letter which not only reveals a deeper and growing rift within the federation, but one that also helps expose the troubling distance between the needs of workers and priorities of policy-makers on a planet where runaway temperatures are said to be changing everything.

Trumka said the pipeline deserved the AFL-CIO's support because it was "providing over 4,500 high-quality, family supporting jobs" and argued that "attacking individual construction projects is neither effective nor fair to the workers involved."

"What we're seeing here is the pipeline company—and this is nothing new—pitting workers against workers."
—RoseAnn DeMoro, NNU

In turn, many of the tribes and their progressive allies saw the statement as a short-sighted, if predictable, position on behalf of the federation's building trade unions. Norman Solomon, writing on these pages, didn't mince words when he said Trumka's remarks amounted to "union leadership for a dead planet" that could easily be mistaken for the "standard flackery" of the oil and gas industry. On Monday of this week, a coalition of AFL-CIO constituency organizations, made up of groups normally supportive of the federation, bucked Trumka's public stance by declaring their own opposition to the pipeline.

But many of those outside critics of the AFL-CIO didn't know the half of it. That's because none of them have likely seen a much more harshly-worded letter, obtained by Common Dreams, which was circulated internally among the federation's leadership ahead of Trumka's statement.

The five-page letter (pdf), dated September 14th, is addressed to Trumka and copied to all presidents of the AFL-CIO's 56 affiliated unions. It was sent by Sean McGarvey, president of North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU), which represents 14 separate building and construction unions within the federation.

In the letter, McGarvey questions top leadership for not taking a firmer position in defense of the union members working on Dakota Access and calls out other AFL-CIO member unions—specifically the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the National Nurses United (NNU), the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and the American Postal Workers Union (APWU)—for aligning with "environmental extremists" opposed to the pipeline and participating in a "misinformation campaign" alongside "professional agitators" and members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

"The letter speaks for itself."
—Tom Owens, North America's Building Trades Unions

Indeed, McGarvey's letter appears written as a direct response to those same unions who just days earlier issued public statements of support for the tribe's efforts to stop the pipeline. After first expressing frustration for being forced to sit through the "non sequiturs and dubious pronouncements regarding the future of the labor movement" from these union leaders during federation meetings in recent years, McGarvey's letter laments their objections to previous fossil fuel projects, including the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The letter then continues:


Though McGarvey says in the letter that pipeline workers have been intimidated and made fearful by the presence of those objecting to the pipeline, much of the publicly documented violence so far has been against tribal members—including those last month who were pepper-sprayed and attacked by dogs handled by private security contractors hired by the pipeline company.

As Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland this week: "Thousands have gathered peacefully in Standing Rock in solidarity against the pipeline. We stand in peace but have been met with violence."

McGarvey does claim in his letter that the unions he represents "are sensitive to the long and tragic history of mistreatment of Native Americans," but does nothing to address the repeated and consistent arguments of the Standing Rock Sioux and others who say the Dakota Access project is a direct descendant of that same mistreatment.

Criticizing the unions standing with the tribes, McGarvey accuses their leaders of "callously" and "hypocritically" disregarding the pipeline workers. He also declares the "misinformation and inaccuracies that [these union members] have used to justify their opposition to this project to be nothing short of astounding if not wholly ignorant." McGarvey's letter concludes by demanding a "public apology" by those unions "for not only the uninformed public opposition to this project" but for also "initiating the conscious decoupling of the American Labor Movement or, what remains of it."

Those interviewed for this story described the overall tone of McGarvey's letter as ranging from "strong" to "aggressive" to "threatening."

That these tensions exist, of course, is no more a secret within labor circles than how under McGarvey's leadership the building trade unions have forged controversial labor-management partnerships with large corporations and celebrated stronger ties with powerful industry lobby groups like the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Chemistry Council. Still, the latest intra-federation conflict takes place in the midst of a contentious presidential campaign, one in which the condition of workers and the climate threat (or denial of that threat) have played a prominent role.

Tom Owens, NABTU's director of marketing and communications, said his group would not comment for this story, stating in an email: "The letter speaks for itself."

And though not all the unions named in the letter had responded to interview requests by the time this story went to press, RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the NNU, reacted by saying the contents and tone of McGarvey's remarks were troubling, yet also instructive.

First of all, said DeMoro, she remains "absolutely sympathetic" to those workers who will be out of work if this pipeline project is halted. "I understand these workers are desperate for jobs," she told Common Dreams in a phone interview. "But this letter portrays us as the enemy of workers—which is just outrageous because nurses are tremendous and tireless advocates for workers, their jobs, their families, and their health."

But there are also bigger questions that must be asked, she said, regarding the sacredness of the lands these tribes are defending as well as the climate implications for this project and others like it.

"I mean, would you build a pipeline under Arlington National Cemetery? I don't think so. And so on that point, sacred is sacred. You just don't do this," she said. "And what we're seeing here is the pipeline company—and this is nothing new—pitting workers against workers."

Ultimately what these latest internal tensions expose, DeMoro and others argue, is an absolute failure of the political class and elected officials to move from talking about "creating green jobs" to actually approving and implementing policies that would do so on the scale that climate scientists say is necessary and policy experts have shown is both possible and affordable.

Who's Standing Up and Who's Rolling Over?

In his response to the letter, Jeremy Brecher, a historian and researcher with the Labor Network for Sustainability, joined DeMoro in making clear how important it is to take the concerns of the pipeline workers seriously.

"These five thousand workers on the pipeline," he told Common Dreams, "are very reasonably concerned about their jobs." However, he continued, "we have to be clear that's not what most of this is about. These workers are also pawns in a much larger game."

"The core of the problem is that the AFL-CIO has consistently opposed significant cuts to climate-destroying projects, like Dakota Access, while failing to adequately advocate for policies that would actually address climate change in a worker-friendly way."
—Jeremy Brecher, Labor Network for Sustainability
One very important thing to know about NABTU, explained Brecher, is the close ties it has formed with the fossil fuel industry, specifically the American Petroleum Institute (API). According to Brecher, in the context of the Dakota Access Pipeline—a joint project spearheaded by two API-affiliated companies, Enbridge Energy Partners and Energy Transfer Partners—the heads of the building trade unions and McGarvey are "essentially acting like a paid mouthpiece for the oil and gas industry."

Brecher called it a "horrendous thing" to have the AFL-CIO acting in such a "callous way toward both the needs of Native American people and to the needs of all workers and all people in terms of protecting the climate." So McGarvey's rhetoric and tone, he said, "is just devastating to anyone who thinks that the labor movement is and should be an expression of human rights and social justice. And anyone who feels that way, should say so in whatever way is appropriate for them."

For these and other reasons, Brecher said he was glad to see CWA, NNU, APWU, ATU, and other groups make their support known. But he also believes the internal divisions within the AFL-CIO speak to a broader problem—which is that the American labor movement as a whole has backed itself into a corner when it comes to climate change, job creation, and public policy.

"The core of the problem" he explained, "is that the AFL-CIO has consistently opposed significant cuts to climate-destroying projects, like Dakota Access, while failing to adequately advocate for policies that would actually address climate change in a worker-friendly way."

This is not to deny that some climate-protecting policies will have negative impacts on specific sets of workers—like pipefitters and coal miners—whose jobs or industries need to be changed, or ended entirely, in order to protect the climate. "So the solution is quite straightforward," argued Brecher. "We need to have strong protections for those workers and communities who are directly affected. And more broadly, we need a full employment policy based on putting hundreds of thousands, or millions, of people to work fixing the climate. This is an emergency like World War II, and we need an emergency response like the mobilization of the 1940s."

In fact, all of this comes as a new report (.pdf), released Thursday, argues world governments simply have no choice but to end the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure projects. "This does not mean stopping using all fossil fuels overnight," the groups behind the report note, but "governments and companies should conduct a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry and ensure a just transition for the workers and communities that depend on it."

A 'Just Transition': New Research Offers Hope

The notion that a war time-style mobilization is needed to tackle the problems of a rapidly warming planet has been around for years, but an in-depth story in The New Republic last month by Bill McKibben, author and co-founder of, has helped propel the analogy back into the forefront among climate action campaigners and labor unions.

Within the framework of forging a solution that can both address climate change while protecting workers, one of the key concepts is that of the "just transition"—a set of economic and policy reforms which recognizes that while a rapid transformation from a fossil fuel energy system to one built on renewable energy is imperative, the workers and communities directly upset by this transformation must have their standards of living maintained, or improved, as a part of that process.

One of the leading researchers on the just transition is Robert Pollin, co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at UMass Amherst, who is on the verge of publishing new research on the topic. In a forthcoming working paper from PERI, some of which was previewed earlier this year in the American Prospect, Pollin and co-author Brian Callaci show that not only would a generous program for displaced fossil fuel workers be possible, it would actually be much more affordable than even many mainstream politicians have estimated.

"If we are going to avoid managing to burn up the planet we have to eliminate fossil fuels and everybody—including union leaders and union members—needs to recognize that and then fight for a just transition."
—Economist Robert Pollin, PERI
The findings of the working paper, reviewed by Common Dreams, show that a "rough high-end estimate" for just a transition program designed to serve American workers and communities currently dependent on domestic fossil fuel production would be a "relatively modest $600 million per year." Projected over a 20-year transition period, the total program would cost just $12 billion. According to the paper's introduction, "This level of funding would pay for 1) income, retraining and relocation support for workers facing retrenchments; 2) guaranteeing the pensions for workers in the affected industries; and 3) mounting effective transition programs for what are now fossil-fuel dependent communities."

In a conversation with Pollin, he joined with others in expressing both sympathy and disappointment over the AFL-CIO's position on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

"It's a totally understandable position. But it's also short-sighted," he said.

"It's obviously true that a green transition out of fossil fuels into green energy is not favorable for jobs in the fossil fuel sector or related jobs like laying pipeline," he continued. "Those jobs will not exist. But to just out-and-out denounce the opponents of this pipeline, chastising the 'extreme environmentalists,' and so forth is not constructive, it's not helpful, and it's not on the side of history. If we are going to avoid managing to burn up the planet we have to eliminate fossil fuels and everybody—including union leaders and union members—needs to recognize that and then fight for a just transition."

Pollin points out that the $12 billion price tag over two decades for such a program should make it an easy sell among policy-makers. Hillary Clinton's campaign, for instance, calls for a $30 billion package for coal workers and others displaced by a clean energy transition. During his presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders called for as much as $41 billion for a similar kind of program.

And the other key factor when it comes to cost is that, ultimately, the green jobs transition pays for itself. "I mean, even if just talk about federal government doing energy efficiency retrofits for the buildings it owns and leases, you're gonna come out with twice as much in savings than the $600 million," explained Pollin.

Meanwhile, if lawmakers are looking for other ways to fund this kind of program, an analysis out this week by Oil Change International showed how the key owners of the Dakota Access project—Energy Transfer Partners and Enbridge Energy Partners—collectively avoided paying over $650 million in taxes in 2015. Given Pollin's new research, that amounts to a well-endowed federal transition fund for all out-of-work fossil fuel sector workers—with money to spare.

Citing his previous research on the green economy and job creation (.pdf), Pollin noted how spending on the energy transition generates roughly three times the number of jobs as maintaining the fossil fuel economy. "It's just massive," he said. And though that doesn't help the individual worker who just lost his or her job on a pipeline, his study shows how policy changes can take care of those workers. "So we say those workers need to be supported. We say they deserve job guarantees and must have their pensions protected. And we also say compensation insurance for these workers, so that even if you get a job in a green sector that pays less than your old job, you're covered for the differential."

And so, concluded Pollin, "I absolutely sympathize with those workers. But unless we want to dismiss the climate science—like Donald Trump—we simply have no choice but to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. And this research is an effort to really pin it down. And maybe it has faults I haven't noticed yet, but at least it tries to be very specific."

The Missing Link: Political Will or Necessary Pressure?

What all of those now standing against the Dakota Access Pipeline appear to be clamoring for above all else is this: a shift. What one hears them say repeatedly is that they want another way of doing things, because the current path—whether of the pipeline itself, the political situation, or the energy system as a whole—is just no longer sustainable or tolerable. The tribal resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline is evidence of that, but so are the deeper issues—including the sacredness of water and land or assaults on sovereignty and dignity. These larger arguments are repeatedly raised by opponents of the pipeline, proving that while this is certainly about the Dakota Access Pipeline project, it's also about much deeper existential concerns and desires.

"[Those pipeline workers] are right. They should be mad. They're just mad at the wrong people."
—RoseAnn DeMoro, NNU executive director
And the same could be also be said of the very workers McGarvey is defending in his letter to the AFL-CIO. Everyone interviewed for this story spoke about recognizing and sympathizing with what it's like to be threatened with losing your job and what that means in terms of providing for oneself or one's family.

"For those building trade workers," said NNU's DeMoro, "this is a threshold issue—their jobs. And it should be. That's why this is so horrible—because they're right. They should be mad. They're just mad at the wrong people."

Peter Knowlton, general president of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), explained that even though he doesn't agree with position taken on behalf of the building trades union on the pipeline, he says he totally understands it.

Though the UE is not an AFL-CIO affiliate, many of its members work in the fossil fuel and energy sectors. "But here's the thing," Knowlton told Common Dreams: "If we don't move to renewable energy, humanity is toast. And it will be the poor and the working class—not the rich—who pay the biggest price. We need all the workers to unite, but we'll need a common understanding in order to do that."

Both Knowlton and DeMoro pointed to the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders which, for them, provided a glimpse of what it would mean to actually foster such common understanding. The creation of the 'Labor for Bernie' effort within the Sanders campaign, in Knowlton's words, "was truly amazing." What was so impressive, he explained, was how Sanders' presidential campaign was able to be a vocal advocate for workers—the "strongest we've seen in our lifetimes"—while simultaneously demanding urgency to act on climate.

"If we don't move to renewable energy, humanity is toast. And it will be the poor and the working class—not the rich—who pay the biggest price."
—Peter Knowlton, UE general president

Though many people remain unable, or unwilling, to grapple with these issues, Knowlton thinks it is the responsibility of workers and their unions do so. "We have to deal with this, but we don't have a lot of time," he said. "The problem is that there's too little urgency among too many people."

What he understands about those working in the fossil fuel industry is that those workers—and "not for nothing"—do have pensions, decent health care, solid wages, and safety laws designed to protect them on the job. In contrast, he says, many of the new jobs in the renewable sector have comparably "lousy pay, lousy benefits, and shitty health insurance." Pollin also noted this dynamic and deals with it specifically in his transition plan.

That reality of job quality has to be dealt with, Knowlton argued. "It's not a winning strategy to tell workers to just 'Suck it up.'"

Drawing from his experience working with both environmental and labor groups, Brecher thinks there are plenty of reasons—despite the resurfacing of old tensions—for optimism.

"Just as in the rest of society," he said, "there is a growing recognition within the labor movement—both among the rank-and-file and the lower-down leadership—of the realities of climate change which includes fear, worry, and concern. And out of that is a growing willingness to take action. And that's what really has to develop and be mobilized in order to change the behavior of those at the upper reaches of labor leadership."

Indeed, said DeMoro, what's really troubling about the position of the AFL-CIO—and especially how it was articulated in McGarvey's letter—is that it "basically creates a class war within the working class in order to protect the company's profits. So that's a narrative we see out there, but it's a false dilemma. And it's a false dilemma, especially in the unions, because everyone wants these workers to have jobs."

Meanwhile, in a fresh article published Thursday, 350's McKibben renewed his long-held argument that the physics, chemistry, and math of global warming are simply not concerned with politics or labor disputes. "This is literally a math test, and it’s not being graded on a curve," McKibben writes. This test, he warns, has "only has one correct answer" and "if we don’t get it right, then all of us—along with our 10,000-year-old experiment in human civilization—will fail."

Putting that idea together with her concern for workers, DeMoro said the nurses at NNU and her fellow union leaders standing against the Dakota Access Pipeline understand the totality of what's at stake. "What we understand is that people's health must be protected, that the planet must be protected, and that people's jobs and livelihoods must be protected."

"That's not radical," she said. "That's just right."

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The Left Underestimates the Danger of Trump

Arun Gupta

By Arun Gupta. This article was first published on Portside.
This election is a choice between two movements. Movements like Black Lives Matter, Climate Justice, low-wage workers, and immigrant rights. Or Neo-Nazis, the Klan, and the Alt-Right backed by a Trump administration.
Petras Malukas / AFP-Getty Images
I know it’s the fifth anniversary of Occupy Wall Street, but there is little to celebrate at such a grim moment. That being the likelihood Trump may very well win.
If he does, Black Lives Matter will be declared a domestic terrorist outfit, just like the Earth Liberation Front was under Bush.
Trump and Attorney General Giuliani would relish using the National Guard to crush blockades of oil pipelines and trains, and indigenous people defending their lands. There will be no more climate justice movement or even hesitant steps toward limiting climate change.An English-only law would likely be passed, DACA be withdrawn, and sanctuary cities outlawed. White supremacists, Neo-Nazis, the Klan, and the Alt-Right would all be welcome into his administration, overtly or covertly.
There would be an all-out assault on reproductive rights and Planned Parentood
Significant gains made at the National Labor Relations Board in the last few years will be overturned.
Huge swaths of the West under federal control will be turned over to logging, ranching, mining, and oil and gas industries.
Tens of millions would go from inadequate healthcare to no healthcare.
The Alt Right will aggressively disrupt the left.
Massive voter suppression becomes the norm.
There will be organized vigilante violence, perhaps even mini-pogroms, against Muslim and Mexican communities with the state turning a blind eye.
Don’t think it can’t happen; the WWI period saw hideous pogroms against African-Americans and Chicanos with state support. Entire communities were wiped out and thousands killed.
This would just be the beginning. Trump makes Reagan’s Voodoo economic policies like a beacon of rational economic planning. His combination of budget-busting tax cuts, decimating social welfare, roiling U.S. alliances, and abrogating free-trade deals would send the economy into a nosedive. As soon as a recession hits, Trump would immediately go hunting for scapegoats to distract his followers. This could include a ban on Muslim immigration, a registration program, and mass round-ups of immigrants, meaning concentration camps to hold them before they were ousted, overseen by his “deportation force” of Brownshirts.
There is a quaint notion on the left that somehow Trump is hot air. This ignores the dynamics he’s set in motion that will make new types of state-sponsored racial violence all but inevitable. This is not just a quantitative change over Obama and Clinton, but a qualitative one. In fact, it may even be worse that what I am outlining here. This is a man who muses about using nuclear weapons, he ignores even basic bourgeois political norms or rules, and he is lustily cheered by tens of millions when he calls for the assassination of his opponents and mass ethnic cleansing.
Yet a significant portion of the left is obsessed with how terrible Hillary Clinton is, both as a candidate and politically. As if this is somehow news. I see very little from the Facebook left on the extreme dangers Trump represents. I’ve gone to six different Trump events, and it’s evident he has consolidated a white nationalist movement that is demanding a 21st century apartheid state. Even if it doesn’t happen right away, Trump will inevitably go down this path as he sabotages the entire economy and U.S. foreign relations.
Meanwhile, there is a bizarre faith on the left that the ruling class will somehow keep him in check, despite the fact he will have control over every branch of government. This is matched by a warped belief that somehow extreme racist violence will create new left-wing mass movements. In reality, all the recent organizing gains will whither as the left is forced to wage losing defensive struggles against violent white nationalists.
No one will be able to stop his dictatorial, white supremacist agenda. Congress won’t stop him. He will have a majority on the Supreme Court, and while sections of the ruling class may be deeply unhappy, they will still be safe and obscenely wealthy and can always escape.
This election is a choice between two movements. Do you want to see movements like Black Lives Matter, Climate Justice, low-wage workers, immigrant rights, and other left social forces continue to grow and develop? Or do you want to see Neo-Nazis, the Klan, the Alt-Right on the offense and backed by a Trump administration?
Arun Gupta is a founding editor of the Indypendent magazine and was a founding editor of the Occupy Wall Street Journal. He is working on a book about the decline of the American empire
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76% Want Four-Person Debates, Why Are Establishment Elites Preventing It We Are Calling for People to Occupy the Debates

Kevin Zeese

By Kevin Zeese

A recent USA Today poll found 76% of voters want debates with four candidates including not just the two most hated candidates in history, the Republican and Democratic nominees and their vice presidential running mates, but Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka of the Greens, and Gary Johnson and Bill Weld of the Libertarians.

Any candidate on enough ballots to achieve 270 electoral college votes should be in the debates. The people have a right to see all candidates debating the issues who are on their ballots.

The deceptive debate commission, which is called a debate commission just to hide the truth: it is a corporation of the Democrats and Republicans whose purpose is to limit debates to their two parties, has no legitimacy. It has a major conflict of interest – why should the two establishment parties decide their opponents cannot debate? It is an obvious conflict of interest that the media should be calling out. The media should join the demand of the people – open debate are essential for democracy.

Today, half of US voters do not even consider themselve Democrats or Republicans, both parties are widely disliked and debates should not be limited to two minority parties, who present two hated candidates when there are four candidates on enough ballots to win a majority of the electoral college.

This week we are starting a series of protests in Washington, DC at the offices of the deceptive debate commission. On Wednesday during rush hour beginning at 4:30 people will be holding a disruptive protest at rush hour. We will me meeting at New Hampshire Ave and M St. NW at 4:30.  We are calling for people to "Occupy the Debates." The anniversary of OWS is September 17th and opening the debates would be a good use of that anniversary. The people need to challenge the DC political elites who keep the debate closed so only big business views are heard.

Please share this announcement widely and urge people to attend if they are near DC  also urge them to share it widely so all activists near DC are aware of it.

We also urge people around the country to self-organize protests at media outlets to urge them to demand open debates and to stop the fraud of the deceptive debate commission. The debates will be shown on all network and cable news outlets.

And, we urge students and others near the venues of the debates to organize protests, write about the deceptive debate commission in local papers (including student papers), and pressure the president and board of trustees for open debates. Debates will be held at Hofstra University in Hempstead, NY, Longwood University in Farmville, VA, Washington University in St. Louis, MO, and University of Nevada in Las Vegas, NV. Universities in particular should be open to a wide variety of views not just the views of two parties funded by Wall Street and big business interests.

Either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton could demand open debates. Donald Trump supported open debates in 2000 and exclaimed how it was amazing that this commission could keep people out of debates. Now, he seems to have joined the DC political elites and is manipulating democracy. In 2008 Hillary Clinton pushed for debates because of the importance of the office of the presidency. She too, is a debate manipulator. These two hated candidates do not want the voters to know there are more options. Instead they prefer to close the debates and shut out the voices of those who challenge them.

The debates impact every issue we care about. Many issues will not be on the agenda for these debates, among them are preventing escalation of wars, relieving students and millennials of the burden of unfair tuition debt, ensuring healthcare for everyone in an improved Medicare for all program, breaking up the big banks, and transforming to a green economy with a major jobs programs. These issues among others will not be debated if we only hear from two Wall Street parties.

It is time for all of us to unite and demand inclusive debate as a step toward creating a real democracy and ending the manipulation of the elites.

Kevin Zeese is a Senior Advisor to the Stein-Baraka campaign and is a long term political activist who co-directs Popular Resistance.

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