Month: December, 2014
Chicago celebrates the Return of the Cuban 5…
| December 31, 2014 | 9:20 pm | Announcements, Cuban Five | No comments
Chicago celebrates the Return of the Cuban 5, the Moves to End the US Travel Ban and US Blockade against Cuba – and Opposes US Sanctions on Venezuela.

On Tuesday, December 23 at the Chicago Consulate of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela over 100 people turned out to celebrate Cuba’s victory and to oppose the new sanctions on Venezuela. Let’s not allow the US government to take its boot off the neck of Cuba, just to put it on Venezuela’s.

The freeing of the Cuban 5 was a great victory for Cuba and for all who defended Cuba over the last half century, and for those who fight to free all U.S. political prisoners. It was also a victory for all of Latin America, and we celebrate this defeat for the almost 55 year cruel policy of the US government against Cuban and Latin American self-determination.

We chose to celebrate at the Consulate of Venezuela in Chicago not just because of the Consulate’s long support for Cuba, but to stand with Venezuela, now threatened by US sanctions.

In attendance included members of the Venceremos Brigades, the Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5, the Chicago Cuba Coalition, Boricua Human Rights Network and supporters of Oscar Lopez Rivera, the All-African Peoples Revolutionary Party, and framed-up Palestinian activist Rasmea Odeh and her supporters.

Of the three speakers, DePaul University’s Felix Masud spoke about having been in a conference in Havana when the changes were announced and the remaining Cuban 5 came home. He explained that the changed US policy did not mean the US war against Cuba was ending, only that it was modifying its policy of regime change. He pointed to the sanctions on Venezuela as evidence the US aims in Latin America remain the same.

Gisela Lopez, long time Cuban activist, touched on some of the past support for Cuba, going back to the time she and her sister Gilda worked in Chicago’s Fair Play for Cuba Committee and the Alianza de Trabajadores Cubanos. She thanked and congratulations to all those who fought for justice for her country,  including, besides those named above, the National Lawyers Guild, the Nation of Islam, Chicago Religious Leadership Network and Pastors for Peace. She gave particular thanks to the Consulate of Venezuela in Chicago, which she dubbed the “Cuban Consulate in Chicago” because of their active solidarity. Gisela ended by calling all to defend Venezuela and work for the freedom of Oscar Lopez Rivera.

Finally, Jesus Rodriquez, Consul General of Venezuela Consulate, spoke on the new US sanctions on Venezuela, it being the new target of the US, and how insulted Venezuela is by the hypocrisy of the US government’s actions. He called on all to work to oppose this new US threat to Latin American self-determination.
  This was the largest gathering of Cuba solidarity activists in Chicago in years, and the largest event ever held at the Venezuelan Consulate, filling two rooms and spilling out into the hall.
 
By Stan Smith, Chicago Committee to Free the Cuban 5
stansfield smith <stansfieldsmith@yahoo.com
Fight for our progressive vision
| December 31, 2014 | 8:40 pm | Analysis, Bernie Sanders | No comments

http://progresoweekly.us/fight-progressive-vision/

As I look ahead to this coming year, a number of thoughts come to mind.

First and foremost, against an enormous amount of corporate media noise and distraction, it is imperative that we not lose sight of what is most important and the vision that we stand for. We have got to stay focused on those issues that impact the lives of tens of millions of Americans who struggle every day to keep their heads above water economically, and who worry deeply about the kind of future their kids will have.

Yes. We make no apologies in stating that the great moral, economic and political issue of our time is the growing level of income and wealth inequality in our nation. It is a disgrace to everything this country is supposed to stand for when the top one-tenth of 1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, and when one family (the Waltons) owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent. No. The economy is not sustainable when the middle class continues to disappear and when 95 percent of all new income generated since the Wall Street crash goes to the top 1 percent. In order to create a vibrant economy, working families need disposable income. That is often not the case today.

Yes. We will continue the fight to have the United States join the rest of the industrialized world in understanding that health care is a human right of all people, not a privilege. We will end the current dysfunctional system in which 40 million Americans remain uninsured, and tens of millions more are underinsured. No. Private insurance companies and drug companies should not be making huge profits which result in the United States spending almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation with outcomes that are often not as good.

Yes. We believe that democracy means one person, one vote. It does not mean that the Koch Brothers and other billionaires should be able to buy elections through their ability to spend unlimited sums of money in campaigns. No. We will not accept Citizens United as the law of the land. We will overturn it through a constitutional amendment and move toward public funding of elections.

Yes. We will fight for a budget that ends corporate tax loopholes and demands that the wealthy and special interests begin paying their fair share of taxes. It is absurd that we are losing more than $100 billion a year in tax revenue as corporations and the wealthy stash their profits in the Cayman Islands and other tax havens It is a disgrace that hedge fund managers pay a lower effective tax rate than teachers or truck drivers. No. At a time when the middle class is disappearing and when millions of families have seen significant declines in their incomes, we will not support more austerity against the elderly, the children and working families. We will not accept cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition or affordable housing.

Yes. We believe that we must rebuild our crumbling infrastructure (roads, bridges, water systems, wastewater plants, rail, airports, older schools, etc.). At a time when real unemployment is 11.4 percent and youth unemployment is almost 18 percent, a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure would create 13 million decent paying jobs. No. We do not believe that we must maintain a bloated military budget which spends almost as much as the rest of the world combined and may lead us to perpetual warfare in the Middle East.

Yes. We believe that quality education should be available to all Americans regardless of their income. We believe that we should be hiring more teachers and pre-school educators, not firing them. No. We do not believe that it makes any sense that hundreds of thousands of bright young people are unable to afford a higher education while millions leave college and graduate school with heavy debts that will burden them for decades. In a highly competitive global economy, we must not fall further and further behind other countries in the education we provide our people.

Yes. We believe that the scientific community is right. Climate change is real, is caused by human activity and is already creating devastating problems in the United States and throughout the world. We believe that the United States can and must lead the world in transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy. No. We do not believe that it makes sense to build the Keystone pipeline or other projects which make us more dependent on oil and other fossil fuels.

Let me conclude by relaying to you a simple but important political truth. The Republican right-wing agenda — tax breaks for the rich and large corporations, unfettered free trade, cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, nutrition and virtually every other program that sustains working families and low-income people — is an agenda supported by Fox TV. It is an agenda supported by The Wall Street Journal. It is an agenda supported by Rush Limbaugh and the 95 percent of radio talk show hosts who just happen to be right-wing. It is an agenda supported by the Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable and much of corporate America.

It is not an agenda supported by the American people.

By and large, poll after poll shows that the American people support a progressive agenda that addresses income and wealth inequality, that creates the millions of jobs we desperately need, that raises the minimum wage, that ends pay discrimination against women, and that makes sure all Americans can get the quality education they need.

In the year 2015 our job is to gain control over the national debate, stay focused on the issues of real importance to the American people, stand up for our principles, educate and organize. If we do that, I have absolute confidence that we can turn this country around and become the kind of vital, prosperous and fair-minded democracy that so many want.

(From: Huffington Post)

To the friends who share our happiness
| December 31, 2014 | 8:33 pm | Announcements, Cuban Five | No comments

Adriana and GerardoSince December 17 we have been living some very intense days. The hours have not been nearly enough time to respond to the hundreds of messages that we have received through many different ways. And now with the arrival of Gema, coming very soon, it is possible that we will have even less time to communicate. But it is important to us that you know that there has not been one day in which we have not thought about all of you. Today we enjoy with all of you this victory represented in the return of the Five to the Homeland.  

The effort of each and every one of you has contributed to making this triumph possible. For more than 16 years the Five have dreamt about this happiness that we are now living. Your continued struggle on our behalf has made this all possible. And today, as we are showered with the love of our people, the gratitude for all the sisters and brothers, from around the world, who have supported us during all this time is multiplied.

 

On behalf of the Five and our families we wish you a happy and very successful 2015, and congratulate you on the 56th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.

 

A big embrace,

 

Adriana, Gerardo (and Gema).

The false flagging of North Korea: CIA weaponizes Hollywood
| December 30, 2014 | 9:13 pm | Analysis, International, National | No comments
Global Research, December 27, 2014
Almost all wars begin with false flag operations.
The coming conflicts in North Korea and Russia are no exception.
Mass public hysteria is being manufactured to justify aggression against Moscow and Pyongyang, in retaliation for acts attributed to the North Korean and Russian governments, but orchestrated and carried out by the CIA and the Pentagon.
The campaign of aggression against North Korea, from the hacking of Sony and the crescendo of noise over the film, The Interview, bears all the markings of a CIA false flag operation.
The hacking and alleged threats to moviegoers has been blamed entirely on North Korea, without a shred of credible evidence beyond unsubstantiated accusations by the FBI. Pyongyangs responsibility has not been proven. But it has already been officially endorsed, and publicly embraced as fact.
The idea of America under attack by North Korea is a lie.
The actual individuals of the mysterious group responsible for the hacking remain conveniently unidentified. A multitude of possibilities—Sony insiders, hackers-for-hire, generic Internet vandalism—have not been explored in earnest. The more plausible involvement of US spying agencies—the CIA, the NSA, etc. , their overwhelming technological capability and their peerless hacking and surveillance powers—remains studiously ignored.
Who benefits? It is illogical for Pyongyang to have done it. Isolated, impoverished North Korea, which has wanted improved relations with the United States for years (to no avail), gains nothing by cyberattacking the United States with its relatively weak capabilities, and face the certainty of overwhelming cyber and military response. On the other hand, Washington benefits greatly from any action that leads to regime change in North Korea.
But discussion about Pyongyangs involvement—or lack of—risks missing the larger point.
This project, from the creation of The Interview to the well-orchestrated international incident, has been guided by the CIA, the Pentagon, and the State Department from the start. It is propaganda. It is a weapon of psychological warfare. It is an especially perverted example of military-intelligence manipulation of popular culture for the purpose of war.
There is nothing funny about any of it.
The Interview was made with the direct and open involvement of CIA and Rand Corporation operatives for the express purpose of destabilizing North Korea. Star and co-director Seth Rogen has admitted that he worked directly with people who work in the government as consultants, who Im convinced are in the CIA. Originally conceived to be a plot taking place in an unnamed country, Sony Pictures co-chairman Michael Lynton, who also sits on the board of the Rand Corporation, encouraged the film makers to make the movie overtly about murdering Kim Jong-Un. Bruce Bennett, the Rand Corporations North Korean specialist, also had an active role, expressing enthusiasm that the film would assist regime change and spark South Korean action against Pyongyang. Other government figures from the State Department, even operatives connected to Hillary Clinton, read the script.
The infantile, imbecilic, tasteless, reckless idiots involved with The Interview, including the tasteless Rogen and co-director Evan Goldberg, worked with these military-intelligence thugs for months. Hung out with them. They do not seem to have had any problem being the political whores for these Langley death merchants. In fact, they had fun doing it. They seem not to give a damn, or even half a damn, that the CIA and the Pentagon have used them, and co-opted the film for an agenda far bigger than the stupid movie itself. All they seem to care about was that they are getting publicity, and more publicity, and got to make a stupid movie. Idiots.
The CIA has now succeeded in setting off a wave of anti-North Korea war hysteria across America. Witness the ignorant squeals and cries from ignorant Americans about how we cant let North Korea blackmail us, we cant let Kim take away our free speech. Listen to the ridiculous debate over whether Sony has the courage to release the film to stand up to the evil North Koreans who would blackmail America and violate the rights of idiot filmgoers, who now see it as a patriotic duty to see the film.
These mental midgets—their worldviews shaped by the CIA culture ministry with its endorsed pro-war entertainment, violent video games, and gung-ho shoot em ups—are hopelessly brain-curdled, irretrievably lost. Nihilistic and soulless, as well as stupid, most Americans have no problem seeing Kim Jong-Un killed, on screen or in reality. This slice of ugly America is the CIAs finest post-9/11 army: violent, hate-filled, easily manipulated, eager to obey sheeple who march to whatever drumbeat they set.
And then there are the truly dumb, fools who are oblivious to most of reality, who would say hey lighten up, its only a comedy and its only a movie. Naïve, entitled, exceptionalist Americans think the business of the war—the murderous agenda they and their movie are helping the CIA carry out —is all just a game.
The CIAs business is death, and that there are actual assassination plans in the files of the CIA, targeting heads of state. Kim Jong-Un is undoubtedly on a real assassination list. This is no funny, either.
The real act of war
The provocative, hostile diplomatic stance of the Obama administration speaks for itself. Washington wanted to spark an international incident. It wants regime change in Pyongyang, does not care what North Korea or China think, and does not fear anything North Korea will do about it.
On the other hand, imagine if a film were about the assassination of Benjamin Netanyahu and the toppling of the government in Tel Aviv. Such a film, if it would ever be permitted even in script form, would be stopped cold. If it made it through censors that magically never slowed down The Interview (and yes, there is censorship in America, a lot of it) Obama would personally fly to Tel Aviv to apologize. At the very least, Washington would issue statements distancing themselves from the film and its content.
Not so in the case of The Interview. Because American elites actually want the Kim family murdered.
Despite providing no proof of North Korean involvement, President Barack Obama promised a proportional response. Promptly, North Koreas Internet was mysteriously shut down for a day.
Unless one is naïve to believe in this coincidence, all signs point to US spy agencies (CIA, NSA, etc.) or hackers working on behalf of Washington and Langley.
Given the likelihood that North Korea had nothing to do with either the hacking of Sony, the initial pulling of the movie (a big part of the publicity stunt, that was not surprisingly reversed) or the blackmailing of moviegoers, the shutting down of North Koreas Internet was therefore a unilateral, unprovoked act of war. Washington has not officially taken responsibility. For reasons of plausible denial, it never will.
Perhaps it was a dry run. A message. The US got to test how easily it can take down North Koreas grid. As we witnessed, given overwhelming technological advantage, it was very easy. And when a war against Pyongyang begins in earnest, American forces will know exactly what they will do.
The US is flexing its Asia-Pacific muscles, sending a message not only to Pyongyang, but to China, a big future target. Some of the other muscle-flexing in recent months included the anti-Beijing protests in Hong Kong (assisted by the CIA and the US State Department), ongoing provocations in the South China Sea over disputed oil, and new defense agreements that place new anti-missile systems and missile-guided naval vessels to the region.
The bottom line is that America has once again been mobilized into supporting a new war that could take place soon. The CIA and Sony have successfully weaponized a stupid movie, making it into a cause and a battle cry.
If and when bombs fall on North Korea, blood will be on the hands of the makers of The Interview, every single executive who allowed it to be made, and the hordes who paid to see it.
If America were a decent, sane society, The Interview would be exposed, roundly denounced, boycotted and shunned. Instead it is celebrated.
The CIA should be condemned. Instead, Seth Rogen hangs out with them. America, increasingly dysfunctional, loves them. Obeys them.
The false flagging of Russia
Regarding The Interview, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich issued a statement in sympathy with North Korea, correctly calling the films concept aggressive and scandalous, and decried the US retaliatory response as counterproductive and dangerous to international relations.
Of course. Washington has no interest in improved international relations.
The Russians should know.
Like Kim Jong-Un, Vladimir Putin has been vilified, demonized and false-flagged, incessantly. If Kim is todays object of ridicule, Putin is Evil Incarnate.
Consider the hysterical, desperate provocations by Washington in recent months.
A US-NATO coup, engineered by the CIA, toppled the government of Ukraine, planting a pro-US neo-Nazi criminal apparatus on Russias doorstep. The CIA and its worldwide network of propagandists pinned the blame on Putin and Russia for aggression, and for obstructing democracy.
The MH-17 jetliner is downed by Ukrainian operatives, with the support of the CIA, Mi-6, etc. etc. This false flag operation was blamed on Russia— Putins Missile. The US and NATO are still trying to pin these murders on Putin.
The war against the Islamic State—a massive CIA false flag operation—seeks to topple with the the Assad government as well as to militarily counter Russia. The ongoing Anglo-American conquest of regional oil and gas supplies, and energy transport routes is also aimed at checkmating Russia and China across the region.
The US and NATO have attacked the Russian federation with sanctions. The US and Saudi Arabia have collapsed oil prices, to further destroy the Russian economy. Full-scale military escalations are being planned. The US Congress is pushing new legislation tantamount to an open declaration of war against Russia.
What next? Perhaps it is time for the CIA to produce a Seth Rogen-James Franco movie about assassinating Putin. Another parody. Or how about a movie about killing Assad, or anyone else the United States wants to make into a Public Enemy? Dont think Langley isnt working on it.
The return of the Bushes (who were never gone)
In the midst of all escalating war hysteria comes news that Jeb Bush is actively exploring running for president in 2016. The long predicted return of the Bush family, the kings of terrorism, the emperors of the false flag operation, back to the White House appears imminent.
The CIA will have its favorite family back in the Oval Office, with true CIA scion to manage the apocalyptic wars are likely to be launched in earnest in the next two years: Russia/Ukraine, North Korea, the Middle East.
Jeb Bush will finish the job.
The 2016 presidential contest will be a charade. It is likely to put forth two corrupt establishment political friends posing as adversaries, when in fact, they are longtime comrades and conspirators. On one side, Hillary (and Bill) Clinton. On the other side, Jeb Bush, with George H.W., George W. and all of the Bush cronies crawling back out of the rotten woodwork. The fact is that the Clintons and Bushes, and their intertwined networks, have run the country since the 1980s, their respective camps taking turns in power, with Obama as transitional figurehead (his administration has always been run by neoliberal elites connected to the Clintonistas, including Hillary Clinton herself).
The collective history of the Bushes stretches back to the very founding of the American intelligence state. It is the very history of modern war criminality. The resume is George H.W. Bush—the CIA operative and CIA Director—is long and bloody, and littered with cocaine dust. The entire Bush family ran the Iran-Contra/CIA drug apparatus, with the Clintons among the Bush networks full partners in the massive drug/weapons/banking frauds of that era, the effects of which still resonate today. And we need not remind that the Bush clan and 9/11 are responsible for the world of terror and false flag foreign policy and deception that we suffer today.
While it remains too early to know which way the Establishment will go with their selection (and it depends on how world war shakes out between now and 2016), it is highly likely that Jeb
Bush would be the pick.
Hillary Clinton has already been scandalized—Benghazi-ed. Jeb Bush, on the other hand, has ideal Establishment/CIA pedigree. He has waited years for the stupid American public to forget the horrors that his family—Georges H.W. and W.— brought humanity. And now Americans , with their ultra-short memories, have indeed forgotten, if they had ever understood it in the first place.
And the American public does not know who Jeb Bush is, beyond the last name. Jeb Bush, whom Barbara Bush always said was the smart one, has been involved in Bush narco-criminal business since Iran-Contra. His criminal activities in Florida, his connection with anti-Castro Cuban terrorists and other connections are there, for those who bother to investigate them. His Latin American connections—including his ability to speak fluent Spanish, a Latin wife and a half-Latin son (George P. Bush, the next up and coming political Bush)—conveniently appeals to the fastest-growing demographic, as well as those in the southern hemisphere drug trade. Recent Obama overtures towards the Latino demographic—immigration, Cuba—appear to be a Democratic Party move to counter Jeb Bushs known strengths in the same demographic.
Today, in the collective American mind, Kim Jong-Un and Vladimir Putin are the bad guys. But the mass murdering war criminal Bushes are saints. Nice guys.
A Jeb Bush presidency will be a pure war presidency, one that promises terror, more unspeakable than we are experiencing now, lording it over a world engulfed in holocaust.
This is not a movie.
Copyright © 2014 Global Research
Bernie Sanders for President? Why Not Try a Real Socialist for a Change.
| December 30, 2014 | 9:09 pm | Analysis, Bernie Sanders | No comments

By Mark Jacobson

 Photo: Nigel Parry

Photographs by Nigel Parry

Source: New York Magazine

There were a few changes in that same speech Bernie ­Sanders freely admits he’s been giving for the past four decades, give or take a j’accuse or two.

Beginning in 1981, when he was first elected as the democratic-socialist mayor of Burlington, a.k.a. “the ­People’s Republic of Burlington,” the only U.S. city then maintaining a pro–Nicaragua-­Sandinista foreign policy, Bernie, as he is universally known there, often railed against “the ruling class.” These days, with the condition-red Republican hegemony hard upon the land, the 73-year-old U.S. senator has upped the ante, going with “the billionaire class.” Likewise, well-worn jeremiads against the Rockefellers, big oil, and the Bush neocon cabal have been replaced by broadsides decrying corporate media and the moneybag Koch brothers, Chuck and Dave, wielders of the Citizens United truncheon.

“The Koch brothers say, ‘Oh, you want to run for the Senate?’ ” Sanders thundered during a recent speech in New Hampshire, the early presidential-primary state where prospective candidate Sanders has been spending a good deal of time of late. “ ‘Okay,’ ” Sanders continued. “ ‘Here’s your hundred million dollars. Here’s your speech. … You’re not an elected official, you’re an employee.’ …Does their greed know any bounds?”

The question is rhetorical. Almost everything Bernie Sanders says, in his incongruous Brooklyn-deli-man accent that dates to his 1940s Flatbush upbringing, is rhetorical. Small talk and false ­ingratiations are not his thing.

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Like a rabbinical Man in Black, a lone truth teller, Bernie fired the rat-a-tat of bone-chilling bullet points: how nearly 46 million Americans are now in poverty, “more than at any time in the history of our country”; how, “despite the modest gains of the Affordable Care Act,” some 40 million citizens still will likely have no health insurance. Did you know that the top 25 hedge-fund managers in the country make enough to pay the salaries of more than 425,000 public-school teachers? No? Well, it’s true, Sanders said. Is anything likely to change? Not really. As Bernie explained, “60 percent of the people don’t vote; 75 percent of low-income people don’t vote; 80 percent of people between 18 and 21 don’t vote.”

Like his fellow senator on the left, Elizabeth Warren, the white-haired Sanders is a reigning campus hero, but his testament brings only gloom to his audience at the University of New Hampshire auditorium. Could things really be that bad? Could the American experiment, the New Jerusalem of Thoreau and Emerson, have been reduced to this snarling, cobalt-hearted thing? What kind of country have we bequeathed to our children, the poor debt-ridden college students/suckers who filled much of the hall?

As for the upcoming 2016 election, what could a matchup of Hillary and Jeb Bush decide except who sat at the temporary head of the Illuminati table? Sanders is on record as saying he respects Hillary, that they became “friends” when she was First Lady and then a senator. But what difference could someone as connected to power as Hillary make in the present dire situation? “If you talk about the need for a political revolution in America, it’s fair to say that Secretary Clinton probably will not be one of the more active people,” Sanders has said.

It is at about this point in the Bernie Sanders speech that someone asks the Question. The query might come from a man with a graying ponytail, or a lady in a hand-knit sweater, the sort of people who regularly contribute $25 to $50 to Sanders, who won’t take money from major corporations. (He still has about $4.5 million left over from the $8 million he raised during the 2012 election cycle.) Or it could be asked by a student, an earnest, fresh-faced scholar looking into the abyss of an uncertain future. The fact is the Question is not quite a question at all. It is more of an entreaty, a plea.

Are you going to run for president? That’s what everyone wants to know.

At the UNH speech, the supplicant was a middle-aged registered nurse. “Will you do this for us?” she beseeches. “We’re begging you, Bernie. Save us. Please.”

Photo: Nigel Perry/New York Magazine

At any given time there are but 100 individuals who can call themselves U.S. senators, and only one of them decorates his office with a large portrait of Eugene V. Debs, the five-time presidential candidate of the Socialist Party of America. Then again, there aren’t many states in the Union that would elect someone like Bernie Sanders to the Senate.

To know why we may soon be living in a however unlikely Bernie Sanders moment, it is useful to know Vermont, the state Sanders has represented in Congress for 24 years, the last eight as a senator. It is helpful to understand that long before Sam Houston and the loutish Lone Star State, before the “patriot” secessionists of Arizona, there was the Republic of Vermont, a sovereign nation with its own constitution. Signed in a tavern during a raging thunderstorm in 1777, the Vermont constitution forbade slavery and guaranteed suffrage to male non-landowners. In other words, it offered more freedom than the famous document promulgated by the vaunted U.S. Founding Fathers and ratified in 1789.

By the 20th century, Vermont had settled into a pious, flinty New Englander sort of pre-Goldwater Republicanism (tough on money, liberal on social issues). But these stately agronomic rhythms were well in flux by the time Bernie Sanders arrived for good during the tumultuous year of 1968.

“My hair was long, but not long for the times. I smoked marijuana, but was never part of the drug culture. That wasn’t me,” says Sanders as we sit together in his office on Church Street in Burlington, a pleasant burg of more than 40,000 and the largest settlement in the state.

Good luck prying anything personal beyond the basic bio from Sanders. He does, however, allow that his early life in Flatbush, where he grew up in a three-and-a-half-room apartment on East 26th Street and went to James Madison High School (Chuck Schumer also went there), bore little resemblance to the left-leaning intellectualism often associated with the New York Jew.

“My father was a worker,” Sanders says dispassionately. “He came here in 1917 without a penny, didn’t speak English, yet managed to send me and my brother to college. My mother wanted a house of our own, but he couldn’t provide that. I suspect they voted Democratic, but it wasn’t anything that was ever discussed.”

Sanders says it was only after leaving Brooklyn to attend the University of Chicago—and when the civil-rights movement hit—that he became politically aware. He began marching and protesting. In the mid-’60s, he lived on an Israeli kibbutz for six months.

Sanders after his first win as Burlington mayor in 1981. Photo: Rob Swanson

When Sanders arrived in Vermont at age 27, it was among the whitest and most rural states in the country, as it still is today. He was one of thousands of “flatlanders” (what the “woodchuck” locals call out-of-staters) fleeing the “hassle” of New York and Boston. Sanders fell in love. This wasn’t Brooklyn. “In all the years I’ve been here, I’ve never once heard anyone loudly cursing in the grocery store.”

He did odd jobs and began to raise a family. In 1971, a friend invited him to a meeting of the then-fledgling leftist Liberty Union Party. Sanders remembers: “I stood up, said a few words. I can’t remember what. Two hours later, I was a candidate for the United States Senate.” He got in his $200 car and went out to campaign. “Here I was, running on this tiny party, with no money, but I was allowed to participate in the debates, I was on the radio, interviewed in the newspapers, actually taken seriously. Could you imagine that happening today?”

Sanders ran as an “unabashed socialist,” got 2 percent, kept at it, got 4. He did considerably better in the blue-collar areas of Burlington. Switching from the socialist Liberty Union Party to become an Independent, he ran for mayor and, in what became a nasty standoff between liberal flatlanders and old-line woodchucks, managed to beat the five-term incumbent Gordon Paquette by a count of 4,030 to 4,020.

Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, another Brooklyn-born flatlander and Vermont icon, recalled the scene. “Our first store was in an old gas station. We wanted to show movies, but the city said no. We’d be competing with the theater. It was that old-boy cronyism, like playing a Betty Boop cartoon on a wall was going to wreck anyone’s business. When Bernie came in—his followers were called Sanderistas—things loosened up quite a bit.”

As the flatlanders kept coming, making Vermont into perhaps the bluest of blue states, Sanders became the beneficiary of a rare political calculus. Unlike almost every other modern pol, he hasn’t had to change with the times. The times came to him. After four terms as Burlington mayor, 16 years in the House, and eight years in the Senate (he was reelected in 2012 with a steamrolling 71 percent of the vote), Sanders says his views are “basically the same” as during his Liberty Union days.

In a way, he is the living embodiment of the ’60s credo “What goes around comes around,” because it is Sanders’s unchangingness that has landed him a bumper crop of press and appearances on national media like The Colbert Report. His ­message of equality in the face of massive inequality strikes many as an echo of a nearly forgotten yet more hopeful time. As another hippie phrase goes, “It’s so old it’s new.”

“You could say moving to Vermont was the best decision I ever made,” Sanders says. “What would have happened if I’d stayed in Brooklyn? How far could I have gotten? The State Assembly?”

Although he was admittedly no more than “a foot soldier” in the great movement battles of the ’60s, Sanders is the last pure man standing of his most political generation. The highly compromised examples of Bill Clinton, John Kerry, Jerry Brown, and even Jesse Jackson notwithstanding, he alone has been able to keep the outsider faith. Even though he votes with the Democratic Party more often than many actual Democrats, he is the longest-serving Independent member of Congress in the history of the country.

Sanders estimates he’s personally conversed with “a very high percentage” of the state’s 620,000-plus inhabitants. Everyone you meet can tell you of the time Sanders came into their store, addressed their town-hall meeting, or stepped out of character to play a garbageman in a Bread and Puppet Theater extravaganza up in Glover.

This doesn’t mean he is universally beloved. Stories abound about Sanders’s highhandedness, his sheer I-am-right-and-everyone-else-is-wrongness. You look for the Brooklyn in the man, a hint of the ­haimish, a few laughs to make the medicine go down, but find little. Even though many younger progressive pols in the state have worked for him, they approach him with wariness. “He’s the king, they owe him, they don’t want to cross him,” says one close observer. A commonly heard phrase is “Bernie Sanders is a man of the people who doesn’t particularly like people.”

Bernie might be a grump, but, as they say in the northern kingdom, “he’s our grump,” a durable brand. No one can say he’s not his own man. That’s what he’s got going for him as he trundles around the country with his decades-old speech, testing the waters for a long-shot presidential run. It could be that Warren is a better sell to those who feel disenfranchised by the soul-crush of money politics, but as of now she isn’t making the rounds for herself in Iowa and New Hampshire. So until someone else comes along, if you’re not crazy about the way things are going in this benighted land of ours, Bernie Sanders, grumpy grandpa, is your guy.

You know you’re in Vermont when you get off the plane and the first thing you see is a sign offering college students a chance to spend a semester abroad in Cuba. You know you’re in New Hampshire when your rental car bottoms out in a pothole 400 yards past the state line. Compared with the designer Eden west of the Connecticut River, things are a little scrabbly here in the “Live Free or Die” state. Maybe it’s that no-state-income-tax that keeps the roads so crappy, but everywhere was the hand of man: stilled factories, giant malls, and all.

Much of the anti-Sanders rhetoric in Vermont comes from the left, often from old comrades dating to the pre-mayoral days who consider “Bernardo” a sellout. He’s been lambasted over his rapprochement with upstate gun owners and his relatively moderate commentary on Israeli-Palestinian relations (he’s for a two-state solution, but the topic only makes him groan). There was widespread criticism, even from people like Ben Cohen, over Sanders’s support for basing Lockheed’s F-35 jets at the Burlington airport. But that’s Vermont. New Hampshire is a place more in tune with the prevailing American norm.

“Bernie Sanders for president? You frickin’ kidding me? He’s a commie. Is that even legal, a communist president?” says a man named Tom, sloshing back a margarita, watching Thursday-night football at Cactus Jack’s in Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city and the home of the Union-Leader, the right-leaning newspaper (Hunter S. Thompson called it “America’s worst newspaper”) that plays a large role in the New Hampshire primary process.

“The rich get richer, the poor get poorer, everyone else gets fucked,” says one of Tom’s buddies who identified himself as “a dues-paying member” of the pipe-­fitters union. “Things suck, I get it. I just don’t want to be yelled at by some socialist.”

I bring this up with Sanders. Is there something in the national DNA that words like socialism cause such seemingly instinctive abhorrence?

It has nothing to do with socialism, Sanders counters. It is all the fault of the Koch brothers and the media. The entire popular culture is a vast mind-control program.

“People care more about Tom Brady’s arm than they do about our disastrous trade policy, NAFTA, CAFTA, the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs. ISIS and Ebola are serious issues, but what they really don’t want you to think about is what’s happened to the American middle class.”

The excessive cost of higher education and the burden of “Mafialike,” shortsighted student loans are other staples of Bernie’s never-ending speech. He never fails to hit the note in his voluminous web presence, which is the pride and joy of his bare-bones staff, making sure that ­prospective younger voters know that, even if Sanders reminds them of their lovable-curmudgeon grandpa, he’s got a big and beefy Twitter feed. “Once America ranked No. 1 in turning out college graduates. Now we are 12th,” Sanders regularly tells his overflowing campus crowds.

When speaking to students, Bernie often stops mid-speech to ask “How much does it cost a year to go here?” At Plymouth State, a properly disgruntled computer major derisively shouted out, “$22,000.”

“Twenty-two thousand!” Sanders replied. “That’s a lot of money. A working family can have a hard time coming up with that.”

It’s at that point that Bernie, who paid nothing like that for his one year at Brooklyn College, unveils his belief that all colleges should be free. Predictably, the proposal gets a big cheer.

Another college appearance, this one within the Ivy League halls of Dartmouth, offered an opportunity for some old-time class analysis. With the room awash with fist-bumping Bernie energy, Sanders asked his “how much” question. Someone answered, almost apologetically, “$65,000, maybe 70.”

The number—it’s actually $62,000—seemed to stop even Bernie in his tracks. That was really a lot of money.

Then again, this is the alma mater of Nelson Rockefeller. Over in the stately Baker-Berry Library, with its 200-foot bell tower, was the renowned “Black Dan” portrait of the young Dartmouth man Daniel Webster, Sanders’s fellow senator and leading Federalist enemy of the American populism that would come to be known as “Jacksonian democracy.” Dartmouth’s endowment currently stood at $4.5 billion, returning 19.2 percent in the fiscal year that ended on June 30. Even at $248,000 for a four-year degree, it is unlikely that many of the students here will leave school in the condition Sanders sometimes calls “indentured servitude.” Here was the Establishment Sanders rails against.

But what could you do? There’s only so much power anyone, Bernie Sanders very much included, could challenge in America. Besides, the speech is the speech. Sanders pronounced himself happy with the turnout and the enthusiasm of the students’ response.

In 1987, while still mayor of Bur­lington, Sanders made a record of ’60s folk anthems, his booming Flatbush-ese plowing through such movement favorites as “We Shall Overcome” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” Asked why he did such a thing, Sanders says, “It appealed to my ego.” Nonetheless, Bernie is not known for letting his hair down. “The guy works 100 hours a week. Maybe he hit a golf ball at the driving range once or twice. That’s his fun for the year,” says a former political associate. Likewise, when Congress is in session, Sanders prefers to eat in the cafeteria of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, carrying a tray like back at James Madison High School. So it was a bit of an occasion, the famously frugal Bernie stopping for lunch at the well-appointed Hanover Inn.

“What’s this fennel?” Sanders inquires as he points to the Crossroads Farm roasted-tomato-and-fennel soup on the menu. It was kind of amusing: The senator from an artisanal hot spot like Vermont not knowing what fennel was. “Is it a seed? Is it an herb?”

“It has a tangy yet understated licorice flavor,” says the somewhat nonplussed server.

“Licorice? Like an old penny candy?” Sanders asks, deciding to order it.

Soon we are discussing a major question in the would-be Bernie campaign: Would he run on a third-party ticket or as a Democrat? The choice seems obvious. Not even Ross Perot could afford to launch a meaningful third-party national campaign these days. Beyond that, you risk what Sanders calls “the Ralph Nader dilemma.”

If there’s one thing that really bugs Bernie, it is the specter of Nader, who earlier this year sent a bizarre “open letter” to the Burlington Free Press whining about how Sanders won’t return his calls. Discounting the argument that the two-party system might be a big part of the status quo he so deplores, Sanders slaps down his soup spoon.

“Do you remember Florida?” Sanders half-shouts. “I won’t play the spoiler.”

Besides, being a Democrat gets you onto the primary stage with Hillary Clinton, a prospect that figures to keep political analysts palavering long into the night. The issue is how much Bernie can tap into what he calls “the profound anger” that has pervaded the nation from the tea party to Occupy, and how much that anger will play into the campaign narrative. Bernie could push Clinton to move left. Who knows, he could get hot. If Herman Cain could get hot, even for a moment, why not Sanders? He is already beginning to connect the mass protests following the Eric Garner and Michael Brown killings with his core economic-fairness issues.

If one thing is for certain, Bernie Sanders, for all his seeming marginality, is as savvy and hard-nosed a politician as you’ll find. He couldn’t have come through those early face-offs with the 100 would-be Bernies back in Burlington without a high percentage of cold-bloodedness. He’s a lone wolf, but won’t be caught howling at the moon like the last Vermonter to mount the big stage, Howard Dean.

Indeed, you felt you were beginning to root for him. It was the speech that won you over, that same old speech. It was the part about his father, “the worker,” who couldn’t earn enough to buy his wife the house she wanted yet still managed to raise a son who became a U.S. senator. “My father had a deep love for this country; he believed in it,” Sanders says.

Running was a matter of patriotism, Sanders says. He’ll be 75 in 2016. He has seven grandchildren. True, he’d been lucky, but America has worked for him, big time. Even now, the Republican takeover of the Senate was working in his favor. He lost his treasured chairmanship at Veteran Affairs, but seniority has landed him as the ranking minority member of the Budget Committee. Sanders called it “a bully pulpit” from which to push his anti-megacapital agenda. In Iowa in December, he was using his new position to buttress a call for the breakup of the big Wall Street banks.

Sanders is fond of saying that “anyone who wakes up in the morning with a burning desire to be the president of the United States is a little bit crazy.” (He says it to every reporter asking about a presidential run.) Still, it is worth asking what a Bernie administration might be like.

The question gives the senator pause. It isn’t part of the speech, not yet at least. But then it comes to him in a great, stirring flash.

“This is how it is going to be,” Bernie says, as if he were still in his $200 car, back in the Liberty Union days. “Suppose you want to raise the minimum wage to a fair level and know that change is not going to come from inside Washington. Not in this climate. So, as president, I’d invite millions of low-income workers to come to the capitol. Like a bonus march. I’d do the same thing about making college affordable. Put out the call, invite a million students. Make sure they’re all registered to vote. Then when these congressmen come by the White House and they’re beholden to the Koch brothers, the super-PACs, or the oil companies, I will say, ‘Do what you want, but first do one thing for me: Look out the window.’ ”

“Look out the window,” Bernie repeats, liking the sound of it, the call to arms, just the sort of phrase that might get the attention of a downtrodden, detached electorate and prompt them to raise a fist in the air.

“Look out the window. Because all those people are out there. They’re demanding their fair share and they’re not leaving until they get it.”

*This article appears in the December 29, 2014 issue of New York Magazine.

Cuban Doctor who contracted Ebola will return to West Africa
| December 30, 2014 | 9:02 pm | Cuba, Ebola, International, Latin America | No comments
Source: Telesur English
Felix Baez Sarria will reunite with his colleagues in the Ebola-stricken country next month.
After contracting the Ebola virus while attending patients in West Africa, Cuban doctor Felix Baez Sarria pledged to return to the region once he recovered.

Baez announced this week that he will rejoin his 254 Cuban colleagues in the area to keep fighting the disease.

“I feel very good emotionally and physically,” Baez told the Cuban daily Granma​ in Havana, where he arrived early December after contracting the disease during a medical mission in Sierra Leone.
 “My recovery has gone very well and I am now enjoying my family and friends.”
However, he explained to Cuban TV that he will “go back in the first days of of the new year to Sierra Leone.”
“We are going to fulfil the commitment to return to Cuba, all of us, safe and sound with the satisfaction of having fulfilled our duty”
“The first day they (Cuban colleagues in Africa) told me, ‘take care of yourself, you have to come back’ and I told them ‘of course, I’m going to be with you, don’t worry, I’m going to be back with you again as soon as possible’,” Baez continued.
Baez, 43, is one of the hundreds of Cuban medical professionals deployed in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia – the nations most affected by the disease.
The United Nations has praised Cuba for its contribution to tackle the disease, which according to the World Health Organization has infected more than 19,000 people and killed about 7,000.
Mon, Dec 29 in Winnipeg: Communist Party Open House
| December 28, 2014 | 12:05 am | Announcements | No comments

Dear Friends, Sisters and Brothers,

The Communist Party is again hosting our annual End of the Year Open House:

Monday, Dec. 29, 3:00 to 6:30 pm
387 Selkirk Ave. (at Salter)
Buses 16 or 38
Music, guitars, poetry and dancing welcome

It is pretty clear that working people will be confronted by many challenges next year. From the U.S. Congress’ heavily censored report on torture to NATO efforts to have Europe prepare for war against Russia, reaction and militarism are on the rise.

Food bank use is way up in Manitoba since the 2008 economic crisis. Canadian government finances are in crisis because of a failed gamble to spend 1/3 of our capital investment each year on energy, mainly on the heedless expansion of carbon energy.

It truly is a year where we need to rally for a new country, and change course away from its corporate destruction.

Looking farther ahead, this holiday season please remember you can give the gift of socialism to your family and friends. We have a fine 2015 People’s Voice calendar available at our office ($10, $15 mailed from here), and books, too. Phone to be sure we are here before stopping by!: 792-3371.

Another thoughtful gift is a PV sub for your child or relative who is asking lots of questions about socialism and why the working class has a historic role to achieve a socialist society in Canada. (20 issues per year, $30 or low income $15.)

The calendar has an arts and cultural theme, celebrating great communist artists including Pablo Picasso, Bertolt Brecht, Dorothy Livesay, Louis Aragon, Ousmane Sembene, Violetta Parra, Mikhail Sholokhov, Katharine Susannah Prichard, Pablo Neruda, Mercedes Sosa, Nicolas Guillen, Faiz Ahmad Faiz, and Oswaldo Guayasamin.

We have a few copies still of Stephen Endicott’s Raising the Workers’ Flag ($35). Twenty years in the writing, it is I think the best working class book in many decades. It is more than the history of the Workers’ Unity League; it was written with an eye to the problems facing the labour movement and all workers today. A page-turner with stories of incredible courage against great odds!

In the spirit of the holiday season, you can also help the Communist Party and our efforts to strengthen and unite the labour and democratic movements and to advance socialism as the only realistic future for humanity. A gift donation to our party is welcome indeed and qualifies for a 75% tax credit (if you have a taxable income; the rate is reduced after $400 for both the federal party and “Communist Party of Canada – Manitoba”). Quite simply, we need your support to keep going and to grow!

Comradely holiday and New Year’s greetings,
Darrell Rankin
Manitoba office, Communist Party of Canada