Battle for Democratic Party: After the Unity Reform Commission

By: hezvo@therealnews.com (The Real News Network)

By Norman Solomon

With the Democratic Party’s “Unity Reform Commission” now history, major political forces are entering a new stage of contention over the future of the party. Seven months after the commission’s first meeting -- and nine months after Hillary Clinton backer Tom Perez won a close election over Bernie Sanders supporter Keith Ellison to become chair of the Democratic National Committee -- the battle lines are coming into focus for next year.

The commission’s final meeting adjourned on Saturday after a few steps toward democratizing the party had won approval -- due to the grassroots strength of progressives. But the recommendations from the commission will go to the Rules and Bylaws Committee, which was one of the DNC decision-making bodies that Perez subjected to a purge two months ago. Now, in the words of Jim Zogby (who was removed from the Executive Committee by Perez), “There are virtually no Bernie supporters on the Rules and Bylaws Committee.”

When the latest Unity Reform Commission meeting got underway, Perez talked a lot about unity. But kicking Sanders supporters off of key DNC committees is the ugly underside of an ongoing dual discourse. (Are we supposed to believe Perez’s soothing words or our own eyes?) And party unity behind a failed approach -- internally undemocratic and politically hitched to corporate wagons -- would hardly be auspicious.

“Emerging sectors of the electorate are compelling the Democratic Party to come to terms with adamant grassroots rejection of economic injustice, institutionalized racism, gender inequality, environmental destruction and corporate domination,” says the recent report “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis

” (which I co-authored). The report adds: “Siding with the people who constitute the base isn’t truly possible when party leaders seem to be afraid of them.”

DNC Chairman Perez and allied power brokers keep showing that they’re afraid of the party’s progressive base. No amount of appealing rhetoric changes that reality.

“We pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming to all,” the Democratic National Committee proclaimed anew at the start of this month, touting the commission meeting as “open to the public.” Yet the DNC delayed and obscured information about the meeting, never replying to those who filled out an online RSVP form -- thus leaving them in the dark about the times of the meeting. In short, the DNC went out of its way to suppress public turnout rather than facilitate it.

One member of the task force that wrote the Autopsy, Karen Bernal, is the chair of the Progressive Caucus of the California Democratic Party. After traveling across the country and sitting in the sparse audience during the first day of the Unity Reform Commission meeting, she took the liberty of speaking up as the second day got underway. Bernal provided a firm rebuke of the DNC’s efforts to suppress public attendance.

“For all of the talk about wanting to improve and reform and make this party more transparent, the exact opposite has happened,” Bernal told the commission. (Her intervention, which lasted a little more than two minutes, aired in full on C-SPAN.)

On Sunday, a mass email from Zogby via Our Revolution summed up: “We are fighting for racial, social, economic, and environmental justice. The Democratic Party needs everyone, regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, country of origin, language, or socioeconomic status, to be deeply involved in order to change the course of this country.”

For those reasons, he added, “we are calling for an end to superdelegates, open primaries and caucuses, same-day registration, and more transparent, fair, and accountable leadership at the helm of the DNC.”

Overall, the commission approved some recommendations that were partial victories for progressives. Among the most notable: It called for reducing the number of notoriously undemocratic

superdelegates to the national convention from 712 to about 300, while the only democratic number would be zero. It somewhat improved transparency for often-dubious DNC contracts with high-paid consultants

and vendors, while defeating sensible amendments by commission member Nomiki Konst -- who spoke with notable clarity

about the need to clamp down on financial conflicts of interest among DNC decision-makers.

The eight Sanders appointees -- Konst, Zogby, Larry Cohen, Lucy Flores, Jane Kleeb, Gus Newport, Nina Turner and Jeff Weaver -- put up a good fight as members of the Unity Reform Commission. They were outnumbered, and on key issues were often outvoted, by the 13 who’d been selected by Clinton or Perez. Next year, the odds to overcome will be much worse.

With the purged Rules and Bylaws Committee now overwhelmingly stacked against progressives, only massive pressure from the grassroots will be able to sustain momentum toward a democratic Democratic Party. Meanwhile, corporate forces will do all they can to prevent the Democratic Party from living up to its first name.


Norman Solomon, the national coordinator of the online activist group RootsAction.org

, is a member of the task force that wrote “Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis.” His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

North Korea is Not a Threat to the US

By: hezvo@therealnews.com (The Real News Network)

By David William Pear, December 11, 2017

Like Pavlov's dog, the mainstream media slobbers platitudes every time North Korea launches another test missile. Listening to the blather one would think that once Kim Jong-un has a missile capable of reaching the US, he is going to use it in an unprovoked nuclear attack on the US mainland killing millions of Americans.

For Kim to attack the US he would have to be insane, paranoid, and suicidal. Top officials in the US intelligence agencies say he is not. Director of Intelligence Dan Coats has said publicly that Kim is acting very rational; the Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says that Kim is "not insane "; the CIA deputy director of the Korea Mission Center, Yong Suk Lee, says that Kim is not suicidal, either. So we can rest with ease that Kim Jong-un is highly unlikely to wake up one morning and nuke America because he can. According to Yong, Kim "wants to rule for a long time and die peacefully in his own bed."[CNN, October 6, 2017]. Everyone in the mainstream media knows this or should.

North Korea is not an existential threat to the US national security. Occasionally the mainstream media does tell the truth, but that does not sell news, or make the military-industrial-security-complex, neocons, and others in the Deep State happy. Instead the mainstream media tell us about the latest war of words and weapon tests, usually instigated by the US, which the media does not tell us. The word-war is exacerbated every time the US threatens, insults and mocks Kim.

The US regularly practices nuclear attacks on North Korea by air, land and sea which also get a propaganda response from Kim. North Korea has offered to stop testing nuclear bombs, if the US would stop playing nuclear war games on its border [The Guardian]. The US has been threatening North Korea for over 70 years.

What should frighten the American people is the long history of US crazies who would start a nuclear war. President Trump is not the first president that cannot be trusted with nuclear bombs. It is only by sheer luck that the world has escaped a nuclear war or a cataclysmic nuclear accident. There have been many close calls, and one day there will be one too many.

The US keeps gambling away with nuclear roulette anyway, threatening North Korea, Iran, Russia, and the enemy du jour. One of the favorite US verbal threats is to say that "all options are on the table", that includes nuclear, but the diplomacy option is usually missing. The US has even used nuclear bombs twice against civilian populations in 1945, and according to many historians unnecessarily, because Japan had already offered to surrender. Hundreds of thousands of Japanese died mostly so that Harry Truman could try to impress Joseph Stalin with a show of US power.

During the Korean War (1950 to 1953) President Truman publicly threatened to use the atomic bomb, and the military planned, practiced and shipped nuclear bombs to Asia to be dropped on North Korea. General Douglas MacArthur wanted to use 26 nuclear bombs and start a war with China too [History News Network]. Truman did give General Matthew Ridgeway pre-authorization to use nuclear bombs, even after MacArthur was relieved of his command. Instead the US completely destroyed North Korea with conventional bombs and napalm, killing an estimated 20% to 30% of the population "anyway, someway or another, direct casualties of war, or from starvation and exposure" [Air Force General Curtis LeMay].

The Korean War is called the "Forgotten War" for reasons: the US was humiliated and lost the Korean War; over 50,000 Americans were killed as negotiating chips, they "died for a tie" as to where to draw the Military Demarcation Line between the North and South; and South Korea was "destroyed to save it".

The South Koreans deserve a lot of credit for rebuilding a modern highly advanced society in all categories such as education, healthcare, technology, and their standard of living. But contrary to propaganda mythology they did not develop under capitalist free-trade and democracy. The South Korean "miracle on the Han river" was achieved under US backed military dictatorship, a highly planned economy, and billions of dollars from US aid, loans and direct investment. ["Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism", by Ha-Joon Chang].

Kim Jong-un has very good reasons to fear US threats. He knows that the US is ruthless enough to kill millions of his people and destroy his country, just as the US did in Iraq and Libya. Senator John McCain's daughter Meghan McCain even said on Fox news that the US should assassinate the "Crazy Fat Kid". Words like that, Trump's insults, threats and nuclear war games are going to get bombastic verbal reactions by Kim Jong-un, and cause him to redouble his nuclear and missile programs. [The Nation].

While the US constantly talks about a denuclearized Korean peninsula, it is the US that first nuclearized it, starting with President Harry Truman's threats in 1951. Then in July of 1957 President Dwight D. Eisenhower unilaterally withdrew from section 13(d) of the 1953 Armistice Agreement, which made the introduction of any new weapon systems in the Korean peninsula forbidden to both sides. The US broke the promise so that it could "equip U.S. forces in Korea with modern weapons;"dual capability (nuclear-conventional) weapons, such as the Honest John and the 280 mm. cannon", i.e. tactical nuclear weapons [National Security Council Report]. All during the rest of the Cold War the US stationed at least 950 nuclear weapons in South Korea. The US may have withdrawn its nuclear weapons from South Korea in 1991 as it says, but it still has plenty in Guam and elsewhere that it uses to constantly threaten North Korea with a nuclear attack.

While the mainstream media ponders how to get North Korea to sit down at the negotiating table, it is the US that refuses to talk. North Korea has often offered to sign a permanent peace treaty and non-aggression agreement, but the US has consistently rebuffed the offers. The State Department has repeatedly said in news conferences that it will not negotiate with North Korea unless they meet unspecified preconditions first [US Department of State]. What is puzzling is what the preconditions are, and how to get the US to sit down at the table. Incredibly the US and the media constantly repeat that it is North Korea that refuses to talk!

Unless there is a diplomatic solution, Kim Jong-un is rationally following in his father's footsteps by developing a credible nuclear deterrent against US aggression. In 2000 President George W. Bush scoffed at President Clinton's nuclear agreement with North Korea, and then he intensified threats in 2002 with his "Axis of Evil" speech. Bush followed that speech by invading Iraq in 2003 with "Shock and Awe", leaving the cradle of human civilization in ruins, and later hanging Saddam Hussein.

Bush did not plan to stop with Iraq. General Wesley Clark says that he was told at the Pentagon that Bush planned to invade 7 countries in 5 years: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran [YouTube]. It is the US that has been paranoid, unpredictable and insane during the 21stcentury, and it did not start with Trump, but he takes prides in acting more insane.

After the initial US invasion of Iraq, a smug looking Bush got out of the passenger seat of a fighter jet that the pilot had landed on the USS Abraham Lincoln. He strutted over to the microphone in his flight suit and gave a premature "Mission Accomplished" speech. Lisa Schiffren gushed in the Wall Street Journal that Bush's performance made him look hot and sexy in his flight suit, adding with admiration that Bush is "credible as a Commander in Chief". The mainstream media has been the cheerleader for all of the Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Obama, Clinton and Kerry wars. They are now inciting the US public with propaganda for war with North Korea, Iran and Russia.

Kim Jong-un is not paranoid to be fearful, and he has been acting predictably. The US has left him no choice other than to defend his country with the deterrent of nuclear weapons. Bush sabotaged the negotiated nuclear agreement that the US and North Korea had made under President Bill Clinton in the 1990's. That is what precipitated North Korea withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and resuming their nuclear program.

In 2003 when Bush persuaded Libya's Muammar Gaddafi to abandon his nuclear program, he singled out North Korea when he said, "we want to have lessons learned, because we want Libya to be a model for other countries" to unilaterally disarm. North Korea was paying close attention in 2011 when President Obama and Hillary Clinton destroyed Libya and assassinates its leader, once he was defenseless. Clinton then gloated "we came, we saw, he died, hahaha". The lesson of Libya is that "if you have nukes, never give them up--if you don't have them, get them" [US Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats].

The North Koreans are not going to trust a US agreement again. They will trust in themselves, as they did when Kim's grandfather Kim Il-sung led the guerrilla warfare against the Japanese. Korea's historical philosophy is based on the principle of self-sufficiency and resistance against foreign domination, especially in the North. The North Koreans now call their historical philosophy "Juche". North Korea is determined to follow the principle of Juche to the "realization of independence in politics, selfsufficiency in the economy and self-reliance in national defence"" [official DPRK Juche link].

President Trump slammed the door shut on negotiations with Kim Jong-un by threatening to totally destroy North Korea with "fire and furry" and insulting him with the "Little Rocket Man" slurs. Kim takes it seriously when the US repeatedly threatens to destroy his country. Trump's insults caused Kim to "lose face (kibun)". Respect is extremely important in Korean culture. The natural reaction for a Korean who has been disrespected is to become infuriated. It is predictable, and the US knows it.

US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley's latest outburst that "if war comes, the North Korean regime will be utterly destroyed" is an obvious provocation, which the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov called "a really bloodthirsty tirade". Interestingly, Levrov added that "Moscow has been closely working with the US on the North Korean issue, with several meetings being held between the countries' diplomats in the Russian capital, and other venues."

In the 21st century the US has killed millions of defenseless people all over the world with wars of aggression, and by using excessive force and total war against civilian populations. The US uses food, water and medical supplies as psychological weapons of mass destruction. As Madeleine Albright said, 500,000 dead children is "worth it" to bring a country to its knees. That is what the US sanctions are now doing to North Korea. But as Russian President Vladimir Putin said, "North Korea will 'eat grass' before giving up nukes".

The Koreans know the history of US aggression well. The US's first contact with Korea in the 19th century was an act of aggression. The US considered Korea's isolation, self-sufficiency and refusal to trade an arrogant and intolerable insult, and a loss of profit. So in 1871 President Ulysses S. Grant launched an invasion against Korea. When Japan colonized and annexed Korea in 1910 the Western colonial powers including the US cheered their approval.

All Korea has ever wanted was to be left alone. During their 4000 year history Korea has not been an aggressive expansionist country. To the contrary, Korea has often been invaded by China, Mongolia, Japan, Russia and the US. Historically Korea has resisted contact with foreigners because foreigners had always brought invasions. Like his Korean ancestors, Kim Jong-un just wants North Korea to be left alone for the Korean people to determine their own future.

The Dangers of the E-Commerce Agenda in Trade Negotiations: Statement by the Just Net Coalition

By: hezvo@therealnews.com (The Real News Network)

7 December 2017

The Just Net Coalition 1 (JNC) was formed at a civil society meeting in New Delhi in February 2014. It comprises several dozen organisations and individuals from different regions globally concerned with internet governance, human rights and social justice, and the relationship between them.

We have been among the 309 civil society organizations 2 who have called upon the member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to refrain from accepting the proposals of WTO members who are pushing a dangerous and inappropriate new agenda under the disguising rubric of “e-commerce”.

Key provisions of the proposals which are not acceptable from the point of view of important public interests include: a prohibition of requirements to hold data locally; a prohibition of otherwise regulating cross-border data transfers; a prohibition of requiring a local presence for goods/service providers in the country; and a prohibition of requiring open source software in government procurement contracts. It is also proposed that there be no border taxes on digital products.

Furthermore, it is being proposed to effectively give the WTO jurisdiction to adjudicate whether a national technology or data regulation was “reasonable,” “objective,” “transparent,” and “not more burdensome than necessary to ensure the quality of the service.” WTO’s adjudication processes have historically tended to favour commercial interests, and giving them a blanket supervision of technology/ data regulation may go against governments’ obligation to ensure that services are operated in the public interest and respect human rights and freedoms

In addition, discussions in WTO and in so-called free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations are neither transparent nor inclusive, thus resulting in decisions that do not take into account the interests of all concerned parties. The processes are overly influenced by big business interests.

We discuss below first the procedural shortcomings of discussing e-commerce matters in trade negotiations, then the substantive dangers.

Procedural issues

Many of the organizations that consider themselves to be part of a so-called “Internet Community” are great champions for the principle that all Internet governance topics should be discussed in open multi -stakeholder forums. Yet many of these organizations are not yet using their considerable influence to oppose the proposals to move the crucial discourse on the future of the Internet and the digital realm as a whole to the WTO with its trade-oriented framing of the issues. We are for this reason (again together with many others) calling on the Internet Community 3 to evaluate the WTO’s degree of lack of openness, transparency and inclusiveness, and to use their influence with the various governments accordingly.

There is no real advantage to be gained in negotiating Internet-related matters in the World Trade Organization or doing so behind the possibly even more opaque closed  doors of bilateral or plurilateral “Free Trade Agreement” (FTA) negotiations, such as those for TiSA, TTIP, TPP, etc. This is especially so at this stage when basic governance concepts and frameworks for Internet and data have not been worked out at forums more suited to do such preliminary work.

We have the impression that some of the people/organizations involved in Internet governance discussions are, at least implicitly, applying a syllogism along the following lines:

It is acceptable that trade negotiations are secretive.

Some Internet governance issues are related to trade.

Therefore it is acceptable to discuss

some Internet governance issues in trade

negotiations, even if secretively, and non-inclusively.

From our point of view, the major premise (the first one) is false: it is not acceptable that trade negotiations are not open. This is well explained in: http://www.borderlex.eu/trade-policy-ngos-wont-satisfied-eu-transparency-push/

And here is a concrete example of the possible negative effects of secret trade negotiations. One proposal that has been made would prevent governments from requiring disclosure of source code. The actual proposed text could perhaps be understood to prevent governments from procuring open source software. Maybe that is not the intent of the proposal, but, if so, the language should be changed to make it clear that there is no intent to prevent the procurement of open source software. But maybe the trade negotiators are not too well informed on technical issues such as open source  software.

So, they would benefit from public inputs. This itself is an important reason why the negotiations should not be secret

Surely, we all agree that governments benefit from input from all stakeholders. So, in our view, the syllogism that applies here is:

Secrecy in trade negotiations is not acceptable.

WTO and FTAs are at present secretive and non inclusive.

Therefore, it is not acceptable at present to conduct negotiations in WTO or in

FTAs, especially about issues of Internet governance where a tradition of open and inclusive policy discussions has been established

We are aware of the fact that some people think that some level of secrecy is needed in trade negotiations. But recall that trade negotiations are supposed to be win-win: everybody is supposed to be better off in the end. Secrecy is not normally required in win-win negotiations. Secrecy is often required in win-lose negotiations. So, it appears to us that the insistence on secrecy in trade negotiations indicates that they are not win-win negotiations.

But if that is the case, it is all the more reason to call for openness: the public has the right to know what might be bargained away. Specifically, in our context, we have the right to know what, if any, human rights (e.g. free speech, privacy, access, parity of economic opportunities) are being bargained away.

Substantive issues

We object to critical issues related to the digital economy being decided in negotiations with a primary “trade” framing because such negotiations, whether in the WTO or in FTAs, could:

It is axiomatic that human rights -civil and political as well as social and economic – must not be bargained away for any reason

Quite on the contrary, when it turns out that current arrangements for the Internet and the digital economy do not result in these principles being implemented and upheld in practice, these current arrangements for the Internet and its governance must be changed. But the changes must be inspired by respect for human rights, and not driven primarily by the interests of big multinational corporations.

Internet and digital issues cannot be framed primarily from a “trade perspective”. Yet what we see are efforts to block discussion on these issues at globally inclusive policy making forums, and to allow, or even encourage, them to be discussed and decided at trade governance venues like the WTO which, again, are overly influenced by the interests of big companies. We need Internet and data governance venues that are open and inclusive of all, and represent public interest, covering the full spectrum of social, economic, political and cultural interests.

This insight is at the heart of the demand for a people’s Internet or citizens’ Internet.

This has been articulated well at the recent Latin American civil society meeting “Dialogues for a People’s Internet: Our America towards to the Internet Social Forum”11 (Quito, September 27-29, 2017) and its regional “internet ciudadana” process (A summary in English is also available at https://www.alainet.org/en/articulo/189104).

In particular, it is the people who bring the Internet to life and give it content to create the digital economy. Therefore, it does not make sense for us, the people, to remain simply as users of services that the big corporations of the sector offer us, under their own conditions! We should be able to take part in how the digital economy is developed, and we should have the real power of decision over how our contributions are used.

Because of various technological developments, we are currently rapidly entering a new phase: the era of the Internet of Things (IoT), of the digital economy and artificial intelligence. Mass data collection provides the main input and source of value of this economy: data are used by those handling it, made usable for others, and/or sold to advertisers without taking into consideration that personal data are (in many countries) or should be governed by personality rights, an inalienable and not a property right. Yet our personal data areprocessed through algorithms, including artificial intelligence, with the aim to influence and even control ever more areas of our lives. They are prey for surveillance programmes, spying and cyberwars. Those who gather and control data concentrate power and wealth. The big Internet corporations and security services take advantage of regulatory vacuums (both national and international) in order to impose their rules. It is these regulatory vacuums that the current WTO and other Free Trade Agreement proposals aim to lock in by making it binding international law. Under this regime, citizens are powerless to insure that their human rights and freedoms are respected, exercised and effective; and they are powerless to develop autonomous projects.

It was through awareness of this situation that the initiative behind the Internet Social Forum (ISF)12 took shape, as an autonomous world space of social and citizens’ organizations from diverse social sectors, to debate and seek answers to this situation. It was agreed to do so under the umbrella of the process of the World Social Forum, with its affirmation that “another world is possible” in the face of the neoliberal proposition that “there are no alternatives”.

The above statement was posted by the Just Net Coalition at https://justnetcoalition.org/2017/Trade_negotiations.pdf

Original URLs of referenced links

1 http://justnetcoalition.org

2 http://notforsale.mayfirst.org/en/signon/11th-wto-ministerial-letter-global-civil-society-about-agenda-wto

3 https://justnetcoalition.org/2017/to_Internet_Community_re_WTO.pdf

4 https://www.opendemocracy.net/digitaliberties/renata-avila-burcu-kilic/new-digital-trade-agenda-are-we-giving-away-internet

5 https://www.newsclick.in/e-commerce-discussions-wto-more-neo-liberal-policies-negotiated-secret

6  http://www.apig.ch/CWG-Internet%202017-2bis.pdf

7 http://www.apig.ch/CWG-Internet%202017-2bis.pdf

8   http://cepr.net/publications/op-eds-columns/twelve-reasons-to-oppose-rules-on-digital-commerce-in-the-wto

9 https://www.citizen.org/sites/default/files/tpp-ecommerce-chapter-analysis.pdf

10 http://www.uniglobalunion.org/news/tisa-foul-play

11 https://al.internetsocialforum.net/

12 http://internetsocialforum.net/isf/