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Bombing Syria.

I have a few questions regarding the choice made by the US, the UK, and France to bomb Syria on Friday night.

Why would al Assad gas his own people a mere couple of days after Trump announced he wanted to pull all US troops out of Syria?  It makes no sense, unless Assad has a death wish and wanted more bombs raining down on his country.

Syria joined the Chemical Warfare Convention and gave up its chemical weapons in 2013.  It has since been inspected numerous times by the OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons), which has verified Syria’s compliance.  Why are we so sure that Syria has reneged on its participation in the Convention?  Which is not to say it is impossible that Assad has entered into chemical weapons production again and has simply evaded the inspectors, but it seems unlikely.

The “proof” that Assad gassed his own people is based entirely on video evidence provided by the White Helmets.  This group is funded by the UK and is affiliated with al Qaeda, al Nusra Front and ISIS.  Just like the CIA weaponry, funds, and training offered to these terrorist groups, the idea is to strengthen the anti-Assad “rebels” in an effort to get rid of Assad (who was elected, one might remember) and partition Syria.  Given that we know who the White Helmets are, and given that some of their videos have been proven to be completely staged events – i.e., false flags – why does the media continue to use them as a source of supposedly reliable information?  The US generals admit that their assessment of the situation was based on the White Helmet video and on “social media”.  This would be the same social media that is supposedly infected with Russian trolls spewing fake news in an effort to ruin our democracy, but which has apparently turned the corner as of last week and redeemed itself.

The OPCW was scheduled to inspect the area of Assad’s reported chemical weapons attack against civilians in Douma on Saturday, the day after Trump, et al dropped the bombs.  Why would the US, UK, and France decide to blow things up before the investigation took place?  They didn’t even wait for the inspection, much less any report on the findings.  That is peculiar.

We bombed and obliterated some military areas, a science research center and two alleged chemical weapons storage facilities, all near the environs of Damascus.  Damascus is one of the largest cities in Syria and is a heavily populated area, with over a million civilians living there.  If we believed that these facilities were used to store and/or create chemical weapons, why on earth would we drop bombs and risk dispersing the chemicals into the surrounding area?  The fumes and explosions of the burning chemicals would have outright killed or seriously harmed tens of thousands of people. Why would we do that?  Either we knew there were no chemicals in those buildings, or we didn’t care if we gassed all those people during the bombing.  Since reporters were allowed to go into the buildings immediately after the bombs were dropped and walk around to film the results, without protective gear and without any physical harm to themselves, I suspect we knew all along that there were no weapons, chemical or otherwise, present.

Which all raises the final question: what the hell are we doing and why the hell are we doing it?

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Posted by on April 15, 2018 in Syria

 

The final steps in the Great Taking.

You might not have noticed, especially in light of the relentless drivel put out by the mainstream media in an effort to distract you, but the oligarchs have entered the final stages in their efforts to own and control everything and leave the rest of us living like serfs in some bleak rerun of the feudal ages.  Trump, it turns out, is the perfect vehicle for this purpose and is all too willing to aid the wealthy – of every country, not just the US – to strip the commons bare and set us against each other.  The man is inherently stupid, barely literate, easily manipulated, venal to a remarkable degree, and extraordinarily greedy.  He is also a vicious shit – never discount that part of his makeup.  He and his family are daily making personal profit from his position and it would be laughably simple to show that he is running afoul of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.  In fact, the photogenic new ruling prince of Saudi Arabia is currently making the rounds of American glitterati, boasting that Jared Kushner gave him classified information in exchange for promises of loans, information which let the prince know who his enemies were in the old regime so he could imprison them and snatch leadership for himself.  [See Note 1.]  Now, anyone who thinks the Trump/Kushner family would never use their security clearances for personal gain must not have taken even a passing gander at the members of this grifting lot.  However, neither party in Congress will ever broach the topic of emoluments, as they share the same basic goals as Trump; and these goals happen to be the ones that the oligarchs, the wealthy, and the corporate cartels demand be fulfilled.  Trump is getting them there, hence Trump will not be escorted off stage.  Congress will not stand up for the people because they simply do not see the public as their employers.  They will not serve the best interests of the people, whom they loathe and largely view as a nuisance.  I cannot understand writers who propose the notion that Trump is “being used against his will” (by the military industrial complex/the CIA/the powers behind the curtain who have threatened him and are making him do these things) or that he is not to be blamed because he is “no different” than the last couple of presidents.  While it’s true that he is a continuation of the trajectory, he cannot be held innocent of the results of his actions, which he takes voluntarily.  It is irrational to suggest that he has some fundamental disagreement with his own policies.

All that being said, we must remember that the choice offered to the US in 2016 was between the uncouth imbecile named Trump and the neoliberal, bloodthirsty Hillary Clinton.  The Clinton Foundation, which was allowed to rake in international donations while she was Secretary of State, would no doubt have continued operations had she won the presidency.  Clinton made it clear that she had no interest in public spending, calling reduced college tuition and universal healthcare ‘unreasonable dreams’.  She also constantly beat the war drums, and has long called for direct aggression against Russia, China and Iran.  She was the architect for the invasion and destruction of Libya, a crime that should have taken her and Obama straight to the Hague.  Everything I write about Trump, his family, and his administration could just as easily pertain to a Clinton regime; just swap out a few names.  In rough figures, 25% of the eligible voters chose Trump and 25% chose Clinton.  Half the eligible voters did not vote at all.  I think the 50% who stayed home took the best position.  There was no point in endorsing the electoral farce that was imposed on the public in the last election.

Trump will be the face of the empire for awhile.  It is important to both hold him accountable for his time in office and at the same moment understand that he is just the latest iteration spewed out from the maw of a plutocratic power structure that has no national borders. And so I when I write using particular names, remember that the names are easily interchangeable with others.

We are told by Trump, the media and Congress that we need to bomb Syria even more often, using bigger weapons, because al Assad has supposedly just gassed some of his own people again.  We are expected to believe that immediately after Trump announced he wants the US out of Syria, the cagey Assad staged an assault on civilians in Syrian order to lure us into the perpetual bombing of his country and that what he most desires is eternal US interference with his domestic affairs. The whole story makes no sense.  No investigation has taken place, no proof of blame has been offered, but just as in the lead-up to the Iraq war, we are given a tale where the ending is already assumed.  The media must bear much of the blame for this.  The “reporters” who refuse to investigate the truth, who make a deliberate choice to air whatever bullshit line is fed to them by the oligarchic warmongers, are collaborating with powers that will end up killing us all.  There is no excuse for this – none.  We have communication networks such as the internet and phone systems that allow information to travel globally and that are easily accessed.  It is only the desire for personal gain that prods media personalities to repeat prepared lines rather than ferreting out the truth.

We are told by Trump, the media, and Congress that we should bomb North Korea because they might have nuclear weapons.  No-one can say how it is that the US gets to decide who has nukes or how it happens that the US can arbitrarily take military action against the other countries that are developing them.  Those precepts are just taken as a given.  Trump is going to a) have Kim Jong-un assassinated, b) preemptively nuke North Korea, c) negotiate with North Korea, d) let South Korea negotiate with North Korea, e) let South Korea engage in talks but then scuttle any resulting agreements, or f) do nothing, and hope Kim keeps his fat mouth shut for awhile until we decide which country to bomb next and that may or may not be North Korea.  Most likely answer is f, because Syria, Iran and the dread Russia also need to be taken out and it is unclear at this point in which order we will proceed.  Economic demands require a new blood infusion, however, so some country or another is going to get it.  And any provocation, no matter how obvious a false flag it is, will be used to wag that dog.

In the meantime, our own country is being stripped bare.  Trump and both houses of Congress are racing as swiftly as possible to ruin the environment, pollute the water and air, give tax cuts to the wealthy, use almost all tax monies to bloat the Pentagon while any spending on the actual population is wiped out.  We are told by Trump, the media, and Congress that this is a good thing, a necessary thing.  Barack Obama, we are told, was not pro-military enough and “decimated” our military forces.  Yet Obama shut not a one of those 900+ bases we have around the world, he sent the military into even more countries than we were already interfering with when he took office, he greatly intensified the drone-bombing of multiple other countries, and he consistently increased the Pentagon’s budget year over year.  It was Obama who signed into law the first NDAA that authorized a president to assassinate even American citizens at his personal discretion, and he signed all subsequent NDAAs, each of which included that same clause.  That anyone on the planet believes the crap that Obama was not militant enough is proof that propaganda works and that the cheese has totally slid off our crackers.

Congress managed to pass a tax cut scam that so blatently engorges the coffers of the already wealthy and the biggest corporations that the fact that it didn’t, by itself, lead to a revolt is astonishing.  Those fuckers just openly passed a bill that adds to the “deficit” (a deficit which only exists because the US created the Federal Reserve and dropped the gold standard, choosing to let private banks create money that is loaned to the government at interest).  The same tax bill brazenly doubles down on the now-proven nonsensical trope of trickle-down supply-side economics.  They are already telling us that Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security will have to be slashed in order to pay for this nasty piece of lobbyist-written work, despite the fact that the bill itself already cuts half a trillion dollars from Medicare over the next ten years.

But the Democrats were too busy talking about the DACA kids at that juncture to spend much time talking about the goodies in the tax scam.  It was a peculiar choice of sticking points, given that the Democrats had ample opportunity to address that issue when they were in the majority under Obama and they had exactly zero interest in addressing it then.  Bringing up the topic of DACA was a ruse to obfuscate the fact that the Democrats really had few objections to the tax bill; in fact, the Democrats enthusiastically supported cutting corporate taxes, as they were quick to point out.  Few details of the tax bill were were discussed publicly by either party.  There can be no doubt that this was done intentionally with bipartisan cooperation; let us not forget that it was under Obama’s first term that he and the Democrats brought into being the “cat food commission”, whose job it was to look into ways to cut the so-called “entitlement” programs.  The commission was disbanded because the public wasn’t quite ripe enough to pluck yet, but the thinking never went away.  Now is the propitious time, obviously; they have managed to brainwash the public into believing, with the sure conviction of the new convert, that any money spent on themselves is money spent foolishly.

One of the overlooked details is this (and this is the only detail I am going to get into right now): there is a clause in the tax bill that switches the way inflation is measured from the current Consumer Price Index (CPI) to a “chained” CPI. The measure of inflation is used as a determinant for figuring tax rates, social security payments to retirees, funding for programs such as Medicaid, Headstart, food stamps, etc. Right now, the government uses a variety of indices in its CPI figures and the official inflation rate is kind of a mixed bag of several of them. By switching to a “chained” CPI, inflation is artificially held to a lower number; for instance, the “chained” CPI carries an assumption that if the price of beef goes up, people might buy chicken instead.  That might be a reasonable assumption, although eventually one runs out of substitutes. I mean, if the price of chicken goes up next, they assume people will buy oatmeal instead. Eventually, they are assuming we are all eating grass. You see how that works. The “chained” CPI even goes so far as to offer this substitution model for dissimilar items: if the price of food goes up, the assumption is that people will cut back on buying heating oil. Presto-change-o, the consumer has not suffered from an increase in inflation!

The government publishes both the traditional and the “chained” CPI numbers every month now, and one can see that the “chained” CPI numbers suspiciously do not include some common household expenses, such as housing costs. I can only assume this is because the price of renting or buying a home has grown so preposterous since ’08 that it would completely wipe out the official mantra that there is no inflation.

By using the “chained” CPI, Congress is already chipping away at retiree income, social programs, and raising the tax rate on lower-income workers. They don’t have to openly attack SS, for example; simply by switching how they measure inflation, they are using a back-door method to reduce benefits.  Not one single Democrat issued any statement, much less any objection, to this clause in the Republican’s tax plan.  Slowing those SS benefit increases would save around $125 billion over a decade, without the political pain of cutting benefits directly or raising the access age.  The Republicans didn’t have to specify they want to cut Social Security or Medicare. They just did so, and with a tool the Democrats won’t ever repeal.  It’s brilliant, if you admire that sort of cynical maneuver.  These misanthropes are ruthless.

The omnibus spending bill that was passed most recently is equally odious, although no objections were raised by anyone except the strange occupants of the farthest right fringe, who are repulsed by having to share even the oxygen in the room with what they consider the underachieving.  The Democrats helped to pass that bill, giving as their excuses the military, which has to be supported at all costs and thank God this bill does that plus some, and that a few little coins were kept in there for some public programs.  Never fear, however; Trump and the Republicans are working on a plan to get rid of some of the ruinous public spending that accidentally got included, and I am sure the Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief that they don’t have to do anything to fight it, as it doesn’t depend on their involvement at all.  Their civic affectations are not bearing up well under scrutiny, anyway; best to lay low for awhile.  And forget any minor Republican insurgency that might serve as opposition against this latest plan – Republicans have no pretense of community responsibility to maintain.

Let’s go back to a month ago when Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic advisor, announced his resignation after Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel, a trade war measure that Cohn opposed.  (By the way, in another example of misuse of office, Ivanka Trump’s clothing line is exempt from the latest batch of tariffs, imposed on China.  The White House explains that this is simply a happy accident of the algorithm they used to decide what items to include or exempt from the tariffs . That right there is what you might call a “lie”. [See Note 2.])   Cohn had gotten what he came for: the tax cuts for the wealthy and big business. Of course, that tax bill will end up ruining the economy and decimating the working class, but what’s that matter to someone like Cohn?  It was interesting to see one of the really big confidence men bailing out at this juncture; one might speculate that Cohn knows there is going to be some bad economic news headed our way and wants to be well out before the stink sticks to him (too late, Goldman Sachs dude).  Cohn was replaced by Larry Kudlow, a CNBC talking head, who is best known as a reformed coke-head and a fool who has the amazing ability to be wrong on everything remotely related to money, yet still manages to find a job in front of a camera opining on economic matters.  Being a blithering idiot, he was the most obvious choice to advise the current administration on financial policies, and has actually been doing so behind the scenes since Trump announced his candidacy.  He hates the “giveaways” to the mere commoners in the budget bill (as does Trump, who almost didn’t sign the thing because of them) and has begun touting a little-known method to weed these repugnant items out of the law post ipso facto.   The Republicans can use something called the Impoundment Act, which was written and passed in 1974.  This Act allows the president to rescind (i.e., retroactively erase) funds that have already been approved by Congress.  I had never heard of this before, although it was used under Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush a couple of times.  Amazing to find out about the voluminous ways Congress has gone about side-stepping the Constitution over the years.  In any case, Trump can target up to $117 billion – the difference between his request for domestic non-defense spending and the level that was actually included in it.  If he chooses to employ it, he would propose the items and amounts he wants cut, and Congress has 45 days after his proposal to approve the package.  The vote would be a simple majority vote, meaning the Republicans don’t need any Democratic support to alter federal spending more to their liking.

Non-defense spending is a relatively small portion of overall spending; the non-defense discretionary budget only accounted for roughly 15% of all federal spending in 2017.  However, this portion of the budget is the part that Trump has the ability to cut through impoundment.  He has suggested many of the programs he would like to eliminate before now, so his list will not surprise anyone if and when he comes out with it.  Since he has objected to the following items before, and has already stated he wants to save money (that was given away with the tax bill, one might note) by cutting them from the 2019 budget, the proposed programs to be rescinded might look something like this, just for starters:

• The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP ($3.4 billion in one-year savings)
• International financial assistance for global climate change initiatives ($160 million)
• Funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting ($480 million)
• Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Development Block Grants ($3 billion)
He also proposed cutting:
• Amtrak grants by $757 million
• HUD rental Assistance Programs by $4.2 billion
• The Federal Work Study program by $790 million
• State Department Educational and Cultural Exchange programs $475

The above details about the CPI and the Impoundment Act are but small samples of the general trend against the best interests of the people who live here in the US that has been ongoing for a generation now.  Of much wider import are the greatly accelerated attacks on the environment and food systems.  The choices made by the Trump administration are disastrous, but let’s not pretend that the previous administrations were exactly safeguarding the health of the planet, much less that of the people who live on her.  These are issues where the media and Congress again refuse to speak up, and yet, like the relentless drive to more war, will end up killing us.  We are letting the oil companies frack the entire country and the surrounding bodies of water, which is causing oil spills, earthquakes, and a constant infiltration of fracking chemicals into our water.  A four thousand square mile area of Texas is heaving and sinking due to oil extraction activity, and this is in an area of the country where our government decided it would be a good idea to bury nuclear waste.  The Pentagon is working on a plan to genetically alter some forms of sea life so as to use them for military purposes.  One third of all American wildlife species are headed for extinction.  The mega corporations Bayer and Monsanto are seeking to merge into one company, which will make them for all intents and purposes the owner of almost all the seed stock and much of the cropland on the planet.  The EU has already approved the merger, and the Trump administration is expected to do the same.  These two companies have worked in tandem for several decades now and have been allowed to poison the world with pesticides and chemicals, destroy native seed stocks in order to replace them with genetically modified “food” crops, and drive farmers across the globe out of business.  Monsanto, in particular, has been the recipient of financial backing and unceasing efforts to make it the primary food source in every country from people like the Clintons, Bill Gates, and Pierre Omidyar.  [For links to articles on all these topics, see Note 3.]

We have to do better than this.  We have to learn how to turn off the constant propaganda that incites us to hate one another and keeps us cheering for the slaughter of some group or another of strangers across the planet.  We have to take care of this planet and of each other.  It doesn’t matter what name you call it, what “ism” it goes by, but there is a societal system that works better for us all than capitalism.  And there are better people around than the oligarchy that wants to control our every move, spy on our every communication, and drive us to some final dismal destruction of ourselves.  We really are all stardust, and we need to regard each other and our fellow creatures with the respect and admiration that our common origin deserves.  For despite the humble beginnings of life on earth which arose accidentally from the dust of the cosmos, that dust formed a myriad of life-forms, all intrinsically related and yet each wonderfully different.

About two weeks ago, I was thinking about this turning point in our history and realized that it is somewhat comparative to that of Louis XVI of France in a couple of ways.  He (Louis XVI) announced he wanted to do away with serfdom as a “populist” reform measure, an idea which pissed off the nobles; in the end he listened to the wealthy and gave up the notion, thus abandoning the lower classes who had thought he would usher in a new era.  Then he deregulated the grain market, sending bread prices soaring (turns out deregulation has a very long history of being bad for the working class).  Then he decided to support the colonists (in what would become the US) in their fight against Great Britain and this took France into debt and dire financial straits (turns out getting involved in other people’s wars has a very long history of being a bad fiscal idea and bad for the working class).  His indecisiveness and waffling, which always seemed to end up with him supporting the nobility, erased all the popularity he had once enjoyed.  In an effort to bolster support for himself, he considered starting some new invasive wars, but as it happened, the public didn’t particularly find this a compelling sales pitch when they found out about the scheme.

Finally, the people rose up and took his head.

And then France embarked on a decade of wars anyway, which flowed seamlessly into the Napoleonic Wars, which lasted until 1815 – all told, 23 years of continuous warfare with multiple countries on several continents after Louis XVI was beheaded (turns out humans have a very long history of stupidity and apparently a genetic defect that leads them to kill each other with abandon and glee on a constant basis).  So… vive la revolution, etc., but beware what follows?  We better chose more carefully this time.  I will repeat the sentence with which I started this blog so many years ago:  Be a good human.

(I was tickled by the synchronicity, if you will, of hearing Richard Wolff, just five days ago, mention the same bit of history in the following discussion between him and Chris Hedges regarding the coming collapse of the American capitalist system.  The following video is about half an hour long, and certainly worth the time.)

Economist Richard Wolff discusses the coming economic collapse of the United States of America with Chris Hedges.

 

Note 1:

Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman bragged of receiving classified US intelligence from Jared Kushner and using it as part of a purge of ‘corrupt’ princes and businessmen, DailyMail.com can disclose. […]

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5575395/amp/Saudi-crown-prince-brags-Jared-Kushner-handed-U-S-intelligence.html?__twitter_impression=true

Note 2: The justification for the tariffs on the grounds of national security is a fiction created by Trump in order to apply the tariffs. US law allows the President to impose tariffs unilaterally for reasons of national security, but the trade arguments going on right now certainly don’t rise to that level.  Furthermore, the areas in which we are accusing China of malfeasance are already being arbitrated in the World Trade Organization; there is no reason for other actions at this point.  Aside from the claim of dire national security issues, tariffs can only be applied by Congress and Trump knows that won’t happen. This is an abrogation of power by the President and should be opposed for that reason alone.

[…] Many of the products branded by Ivanka Trump’s fashion and clothing line are manufactured in China. And China recently approved three new trademarks for Ivanka Trump’s brand there–on the same day she dined with Chinese President Xi Jinping in her official capacity as White House advisor.
Exempting clothing from the new round of U.S. tariffs therefore stands to immensely benefit the value of Ivanka Trump’s personal brand. Meanwhile, domestic clothing manufacturers have cried foul.
In a statement reacting to the tariffs and Trump’s noteworthy exemption for Chinese-produced clothing, Rick Helfenbein, chief executive of industry group the American Apparel & Footwear Association said, “This would directly raise costs on domestic manufacturers and impact our ability to grow Made in USA.”
Law&Crime reached out to Ivanka Trump’s press office for comment, but no response was forthcoming at the time of publication.

https://lawandcrime.com/awkward/ivanka-trumps-chinese-produced-clothing-not-subject-new-tariffs/
——————
And see:

The American Apparel & Footwear Association welcomed the decision by the Trump administration to avoid taxing American consumers by excluding new tariffs on apparel, footwear, travel goods, and related products imported from China.
The association’s President and CEO Rick Helfenbein released the following statement:
“We are pleased with the administration’s decision to avoid adding tariffs to U.S. imports of apparel, footwear, and travel goods from China. Tariffs are a hidden, regressive tax on Americans and such a decision would have had a disastrous impact on American consumers,” said Helfenbein.
“At the same time, we are concerned that the list includes tariffs on machinery used in our domestic manufacturing process. This would directly raise costs on domestic manufacturers and impact our ability to grow Made in USA. We will express these concerns with the administration in the coming days, and look forward to working with them on the core concerns of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer in China.”[…]

https://www.aafaglobal.org/AAFA/AAFA_News/2018_Press_Releases/Apparel_and_Footwear_Industry_Association_Reacts_To_Trump_Administration_Tariff_List.aspx

 

Note 3:  Various articles of interest on the environment, Monsanto, and stardust.

The Pentagon’s Scary Plan to Militarize Ocean Life:

http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/elist/eListRead/the_pentagons_scary_plan_to_militarize_ocean_life/

****

America’s wildlife crisis; one-third of species are vulnerable to extinction, a crisis ravaging swaths of creatures, conservationists say in call to fund recovery plans:

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/mar/29/us-wildlife-extinction-species-report

****

Radar images show large swath of West Texas oil patch is heaving and sinking at alarming rates:

http://blog.smu.edu/research/2018/03/20/radar-images-show-large-swath-of-texas-oil-patch-is-heaving-and-sinking-at-alarming-rates/

****

Bayer and Monsanto have a long history of collusion to poison the ecosystem for profit. The Trump administration should veto their merger not just to protect competitors but to ensure human and planetary survival:

The Bayer-Monsanto Merger Is Bad News for the Planet

****

Joni Mitchell was right, we really are all stardust:

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/01/150128-big-bang-universe-supernova-astrophysics-health-space-ngbooktalk/

 

Let’s talk about that Russia thing, Hillary.

Hillary Clinton recently referred to the supposed Russian interference in the 2016 election as a “cyber 9/11”.  I don’t give a crap about that Russia thing, Hillary; instead let’s talk about this Russia thing….which is a real thing.

I have written several times about the Uranium One deal that Clinton oversaw while she was the Secretary of State under Obama.  This strange State Dept. bargain granted a Russian company, Uranium One, the mining rights to 1/5 of the uranium mines in the US.  Furthermore, the deal coincided (as did a suspicious number of other State Dept contracts under her purview) with some large donations made to the Clinton Foundation.  This sort of Clinton pay-for-play was largely ignored by the mainstream media during the ’16 campaign season, although several investigative reporters covered numerous examples of the Clinton grift machine and tried desperately to bring some attention to the issue.

At one point, I posted part of an article on the topic written by one of these journalists, and wrote this:

[…] In the above article, you might have noted the mention of a Russian uranium mining company (it’s in the second paragraph I quoted.)  I want to highlight this particular deal, although to be clear this is but one of dozens that are questionable.

Because the US does not have nationalized resources, but instead allows private, for-profit corporations to bid on long-term leases (usually lasting 99 years) for the rights to mine our land and make enormous sums of money off our natural resources, these leases are highly sought-after.  The US Sec. of State is the person who controls the awarding of the contracts and leases.  (And, by the way, the Mining Act has only been updated once, and then only slightly, in the 150 years it has been in existence.  The Act is seriously in need of overhaul, as that law has been the wellspring of perpetual obscene profiteering for the extraction industries in the same manner as the Federal Reserve Act has been for the banking cartel.)

While Hillary was SoS, she oversaw many of these deals as part of her job.  This one stands out for a couple of reasons.  She has referred to Putin, the president of Russia, as “Hitler”.  She clearly hates Putin, and has made numerous remarks over the years about the “danger” Russia presents to “American interests”.  (I wrote an article some time ago about this specific topic.  See my article in the archives:  clinton-pokes-the-bear-and-the-dragon, 7/6/12)  Now consider what uranium is used for, as this particular lease is owned by Russian company, Uranium One [U1], to mine uranium.  Uranium has three basic uses: as a component in medical devices, for nuclear power, and for nuclear weapons.  Hillary granted a lease for 20% of America’s uranium to be mined by what was originally a Canadian company which, at the time she inked the deal and known at that time by both her and Obama, was being sold to the Russians.   Seems kind of odd, given that simultaneously the two of them were in the middle of trying to restart a second “Cold War” with Russia and are now doing their level best to make it go hot.  The company, Uranium One, can sell their mined product to whomever they choose, but Russia is crowing about having the lease-rights to 1/5 of our uranium, so clearly it is being shipped there. […]

https://terisrandomthoughts.wordpress.com/2015/10/15/ms-anthrope/

As it turns out, this Uranium One deal was a huge problem at the time it was being bartered.  And the Obama administration knew it – not only knew it, but in 2009, the FBI had already collected evidence that the deal involved money-laundering, blackmail and bribery.  The FBI even specifically cited proof that millions of dollars flowed from Russian nuclear officials to the Clinton Foundation through a circuitous route involving cutouts.  (The FBI director at the time – and up until Sept., ’13 – was Robert Mueller, who is now the special counsel looking into the “Russian meddling” in the last election.  This is a very strange and odd circumstance, which one newspaper today suggests ought to be explained before he is allowed to continue on as special counsel.  One wonders if Clinton had been elected, would Mueller now be serving as a special counsel for a committee looking to impeach her?)  Despite the FBI’s information, probe, and finally a sting operation that brought absolute proof of this crime to the attention of the Obama administration, the only person who was ever charged with anything was a former Russian official named Mikerin, who was sentenced to 48 months in prison and fined over $2 million in 2015.  The Justice Dept. said very little about the case and it turns out that few in the FBI, even the assistant director in charge of criminal cases, or in Congress were ever informed that the matter existed.  In other words, it was covered up by the Obama administration to protect and benefit Hillary Clinton.

The news is out now, finally, in the MSM.  Perhaps Hillary Clinton should shut the hell up about the whole other “Russia-gate” thing and slink away, forever into the future wondering when that knock at her door is going to come due to her own Russia thing.  More likely, however, this will go nowhere, as it appears she still has some serious protectors amongst the political elites. Still, under the circumstances, it is very weird that she has been so vocal about election meddling vis a vis Russia.  You’d think she would want everyone to look at something else, anything else, but a politician’s connections to Russia.  Obama, being somewhat more intelligent than Clinton, is keeping a low profile these days.  This sort of thing may partly explain why.

I am going to reprint two articles about this subject.  The first is fairly brief.  The second is much longer, but full of details that will leave the reader appalled that this criminal activity was covered up on behalf of someone who was actually running to be the president of the United States, and was probably covered up so she could run.

[As a disclaimer, I am not suggesting that Trump is a satisfactory substitute for Clinton.  He is a miserable, hustling imbecile who is making such serious coin off the taxpayers, to enrich himself and his family, that there is no other reason needed to get the bum out of office.  At this time, I won’t go into the multiple ways he and the Republicans are taking the country back to the dark ages; that will be a topic for another day.]

From the NYPost:

It turns out the Obama administration knew the Russians were engaged in bribery, kickbacks and extortion in order to gain control of US atomic resources — yet still OK’d that 2010 deal to give Moscow control of one-fifth of America’s uranium. This reeks.

Peter Schweizer got onto part of the scandal in his 2015 book, “Clinton Cash”: the gifts of $145 million to the Clinton Foundation, and the $500,000 fee to Bill for a single speech, by individuals involved in a deal that required Hillary Clinton’s approval.

The New York Times confirmed and followed up on Schweizer’s reporting — all of it denounced by Hillary as a partisan hit job.

But now The Hill reports that the FBI in 2009 had collected substantial evidence — eyewitnesses backed by documents — of money-laundering, blackmail and bribery by Russian nuclear officials, all aimed at growing “Vladimir Putin’s atomic-energy business inside the United States” in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The bureau even flagged the routing of millions from Russian nuclear officials to cutouts and on to Clinton Inc.

Hillary Clinton, again, sat on a key government body that had to approve the deal — though she now claims she had no role in a deal with profound national security implications, and during the campaign called the payments a coincidence.

The Obama administration — anxious to “reset” US-Russian relations — kept it all under wraps, refusing to tell even top congressional intelligence figures.

And when the Obamaites in 2014 filed low-level criminal charges against a single individual over what the FBI found, they did so with little public fanfare.

“The Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats, all of which raised legitimate national security concerns,” one veteran of the case told The Hill.

Yet the administration let Moscow move ahead — publicly insisting that there were no national security worries — and no evidence of Russian interference, despite many lawmakers’ concern at the time.

There’s more: Until September 2013, the FBI director was Robert Mueller — who’s now the special counsel probing Russian meddling in the 2016 election. It’s hard to see how he can be trusted in that job unless he explains what he knew about this Obama-era cover-up.

https://nypost.com/2017/10/17/team-obamas-stunning-coverup-of-russian-crimes/

Longer article from The Hill.  There is a lot to unpack here, and quite a few details I didn’t comment on.  Read carefully:

Before the Obama administration approved a controversial deal in 2010 giving Moscow control of a large swath of American uranium, the FBI had gathered substantial evidence that Russian nuclear industry officials were engaged in bribery, kickbacks, extortion and money laundering designed to grow Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the United States, according to government documents and interviews.

Federal agents used a confidential U.S. witness working inside the Russian nuclear industry to gather extensive financial records, make secret recordings and intercept emails as early as 2009 that showed Moscow had compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, FBI and court documents show.

They also obtained an eyewitness account — backed by documents — indicating Russian nuclear officials had routed millions of dollars to the U.S. designed to benefit former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation during the time Secretary of State Hillary Clinton served on a government body that provided a favorable decision to Moscow, sources told The Hill.

The racketeering scheme was conducted “with the consent of higher level officials” in Russia who “shared the proceeds” from the kickbacks, one agent declared in an affidavit years later.

Rather than bring immediate charges in 2010, however, the Department of Justice (DOJ) continued investigating the matter for nearly four more years, essentially leaving the American public and Congress in the dark about Russian nuclear corruption on U.S. soil during a period when the Obama administration made two major decisions benefiting Putin’s commercial nuclear ambitions.

The first decision occurred in October 2010, when the State Department and government agencies on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States unanimously approved the partial sale of Canadian mining company Uranium One to the Russian nuclear giant Rosatom, giving Moscow control of more than 20 percent of America’s uranium supply.

When this sale was used by Trump on the campaign trail last year, Hillary Clinton’s spokesman said she was not involved in the committee review and noted the State Department official who handled it said she “never intervened … on any [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] matter.”

In 2011, the administration gave approval for Rosatom’s Tenex subsidiary to sell commercial uranium to U.S. nuclear power plants in a partnership with the United States Enrichment Corp. Before then, Tenex had been limited to selling U.S. nuclear power plants reprocessed uranium recovered from dismantled Soviet nuclear weapons under the 1990s Megatons to Megawatts peace program.

“The Russians were compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats, all of which raised legitimate national security concerns. And none of that evidence got aired before the Obama administration made those decisions,” a person who worked on the case told The Hill, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution by U.S. or Russian officials.

The Obama administration’s decision to approve Rosatom’s purchase of Uranium One has been a source of political controversy since 2015.

That’s when conservative author Peter Schweitzer and The New York Times documented how Bill Clinton collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in Russian speaking fees and his charitable foundation collected millions in donations from parties interested in the deal while Hillary Clinton presided on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

The Obama administration and the Clintons defended their actions at the time, insisting there was no evidence that any Russians or donors engaged in wrongdoing and there was no national security reason for any member of the committee to oppose the Uranium One deal.

But FBI, Energy Department and court documents reviewed by The Hill show the FBI in fact had gathered substantial evidence well before the committee’s decision that Vadim Mikerin — the main Russian overseeing Putin’s nuclear expansion inside the United States — was engaged in wrongdoing starting in 2009.

Then-Attorney General Eric Holder was among the Obama administration officials joining Hillary Clinton on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States at the time the Uranium One deal was approved. Multiple current and former government officials told The Hill they did not know whether the FBI or DOJ ever alerted committee members to the criminal activity they uncovered.

Spokesmen for Holder and Clinton did not return calls seeking comment. The Justice Department also didn’t comment.

Mikerin was a director of Rosatom’s Tenex in Moscow since the early 2000s, where he oversaw Rosatom’s nuclear collaboration with the United States under the Megatons to Megwatts program and its commercial uranium sales to other countries. In 2010, Mikerin was dispatched to the U.S. on a work visa approved by the Obama administration to open Rosatom’s new American arm called Tenam.

Between 2009 and January 2012, Mikerin “did knowingly and willfully combine, conspire confederate and agree with other persons … to obstruct, delay and affect commerce and the movement of an article and commodity (enriched uranium) in commerce by extortion,” a November 2014 indictment stated.

His illegal conduct was captured with the help of a confidential witness, an American businessman, who began making kickback payments at Mikerin’s direction and with the permission of the FBI. The first kickback payment recorded by the FBI through its informant was dated Nov. 27, 2009, the records show.

In evidentiary affidavits signed in 2014 and 2015, an Energy Department agent assigned to assist the FBI in the case testified that Mikerin supervised a “racketeering scheme” that involved extortion, bribery, money laundering and kickbacks that were both directed by and provided benefit to more senior officials back in Russia.

“As part of the scheme, Mikerin, with the consent of higher level officials at TENEX and Rosatom (both Russian state-owned entities) would offer no-bid contracts to US businesses in exchange for kickbacks in the form of money payments made to some offshore banks accounts,” Agent David Gadren testified.

“Mikerin apparently then shared the proceeds with other co-conspirators associated with TENEX in Russia and elsewhere,” the agent added.

The investigation was ultimately supervised by then-U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein, an Obama appointee who now serves as President Trump’s deputy attorney general, and then-Assistant FBI Director Andrew McCabe, now the deputy FBI director under Trump, Justice Department documents show.

Both men now play a key role in the current investigation into possible, but still unproven, collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign during the 2016 election cycle. McCabe is under congressional and Justice Department inspector general investigation in connection with money his wife’s Virginia state Senate campaign accepted in 2015 from now-Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe at a time when McAuliffe was reportedly under investigation by the FBI. The probe is not focused on McAuliffe’s conduct but rather on whether McCabe’s attendance violated the Hatch Act or other FBI conflict rules.

The connections to the current Russia case are many. The Mikerin probe began in 2009 when Robert Mueller, now the special counsel in charge of the Trump case, was still FBI director. And it ended in late 2015 under the direction of then-FBI Director James Comey, whom Trump fired earlier this year.

Its many twist and turns aside, the FBI nuclear industry case proved a gold mine, in part because it uncovered a new Russian money laundering apparatus that routed bribe and kickback payments through financial instruments in Cyprus, Latvia and Seychelles. A Russian financier in New Jersey was among those arrested for the money laundering, court records show.

The case also exposed a serious national security breach: Mikerin had given a contract to an American trucking firm called Transport Logistics International that held the sensitive job of transporting Russia’s uranium around the United States in return for more than $2 million in kickbacks from some of its executives, court records show.

One of Mikerin’s former employees told the FBI that Tenex officials in Russia specifically directed the scheme to “allow for padded pricing to include kickbacks,” agents testified in one court filing.

Bringing down a major Russian nuclear corruption scheme that had both compromised a sensitive uranium transportation asset inside the U.S. and facilitated international money laundering would seem a major feather in any law enforcement agency’s cap.

But the Justice Department and FBI took little credit in 2014 when Mikerin, the Russian financier and the trucking firm executives were arrested and charged.

The only public statement occurred a year later when the Justice Department put out a little-noticed press release in August 2015, just days before Labor Day. The release noted that the various defendants had reached plea deals.

By that time, the criminal cases against Mikerin had been narrowed to a single charge of money laundering for a scheme that officials admitted stretched from 2004 to 2014. And though agents had evidence of criminal wrongdoing they collected since at least 2009, federal prosecutors only cited in the plea agreement a handful of transactions that occurred in 2011 and 2012, well after the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States’s approval.

The final court case also made no mention of any connection to the influence peddling conversations the FBI undercover informant witnessed about the Russian nuclear officials trying to ingratiate themselves with the Clintons even though agents had gathered documents showing the transmission of millions of dollars from Russia’s nuclear industry to an American entity that had provided assistance to Bill Clinton’s foundation, sources confirmed to The Hill.

The lack of fanfare left many key players in Washington with no inkling that a major Russian nuclear corruption scheme with serious national security implications had been uncovered.

On Dec. 15, 2015, the Justice Department put out a release stating that Mikerin, “a former Russian official residing in Maryland was sentenced today to 48 months in prison” and ordered to forfeit more than $2.1 million.

Ronald Hosko, who served as the assistant FBI director in charge of criminal cases when the investigation was underway, told The Hill he did not recall ever being briefed about Mikerin’s case by the counterintelligence side of the bureau despite the criminal charges that were being lodged.

“I had no idea this case was being conducted,” a surprised Hosko said in an interview.

Likewise, major congressional figures were also kept in the dark.

Former Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), who chaired the House Intelligence Committee during the time the FBI probe was being conducted, told The Hill that he had never been told anything about the Russian nuclear corruption case even though many fellow lawmakers had serious concerns about the Obama administration’s approval of the Uranium One deal.

“Not providing information on a corruption scheme before the Russian uranium deal was approved by U.S. regulators and engage appropriate congressional committees has served to undermine U.S. national security interests by the very people charged with protecting them,” he said. “The Russian efforts to manipulate our American political enterprise is breathtaking.”

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/355749-fbi-uncovered-russian-bribery-plot-before-obama-administration

 

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2017 in Congress, elections, Russia, State Dept/diplomacy

 

Stay classy, USA.

Updated below.

Hurricane Irma is battering the north edge of Cuba as a category 5 hurricane as I write this.  The only comment I have heard on the news about Cuba vis a vis Irma has been relief expressing that by hitting Cuba first, some of the force may be drained off before she makes landfall in the US.

Here’s how the state of Florida is preparing for Irma: mandatory evacuations from cities along the projected path of the worst of the storm.  Repeated announcements that you are on your own to either heed the evacuation notices and get out, or to survive as best you can if you stay.  Repeated warnings to potential looters (note: the term “looters” only means desperate people looking for food or shoes or a free TV after their home just got blown away; it does not refer to the bankers, insurers, and real estate speculators who will rape and pillage the entire area for profit after the storm is over.  Those guys will not only be encouraged to loot wholesale, they will be given tax breaks for doing so.).  Warnings to those who may have criminal charges pending against them that if they seek safety in public shelters, they will be taken to jail because the ID check required as one enters the emergency shelters will expose their status.  The gas stations immediately ran out of gas and the roads north immediately filled with congested traffic.  The airlines jacked up their prices and started cancelling flights.  There were no emergency bus or train services offered, aside from the usual scanty routes already available, because we do not invest in public transportation in the US.  All those people heading north in their cars can only hope they don’t run out of gas along the way.  And where, exactly, they are going seems to be a mystery, as the hotels are completely booked for several states above Florida.  So much for trying to heed those evacuation orders.  After the hurricane, you might be able to get a loan to rebuild your house.  (Or maybe not.  See:https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/30/business/harvey-aid-sba-disaster-loans.html)

Congress has approved some emergency funding for the victims of both hurricanes (Harvey in Texas, and Irma in Florida), at the same time that the current administration is making sure the agencies charged with emergencies like these are defunded and understaffed.  This is the rugged individualism of the US.  You are on your own, although in a somewhat schizophrenic manner, you will be praised for helping your neighbors after the fact, and we all join in with the feel-good sentiment that in an emergency, we “all come together”.  If you haven’t noticed, what they mean is that we “come together” and “help one another out” by sharing our own meager scraps of what we have left after paying taxes and jacked-up exorbitant prices for necessities, while the government only considers “helping one another” to be some socialist plot.  It’s just kind of a shame that the politicians and the media don’t think that spending US taxpayer money on actual US taxpayers should happen except in the most dire of circumstances, and even then, it is done begrudgingly, and demands will be made that US’ians have to give up social spending elsewhere later to pay for it.  Probably not going to get much infrastructure spending in the next budget for the rest of the country, because Congress gave a little something-something to Texas and Florida now, and you may find that Medicare and Social Security get cut to pay for this, as well.  Note must be made here that the ‘infrastructure spending plan’, such as it is, is mostly a plan to give the common infrastructure over to private companies to run at a profit anyway, but now Congress may decide to do away with any public ownership or investment altogether.  When things are rebuilt in these two states, they will be built in the same way they were built before: defiant of the inexorable demands of nature.  If you pave over the swamps and bury hazardous materials under your homes, you get floods because the water has nowhere to go and you get lethal shit released into the air and water when a bad weather event occurs.  In Houston, it is estimated (this is an early estimate, sure to be calibrated upwards as the weeks go on) that two million pounds of hazardous chemicals had been released into the air during the flood.  Texas took care of the problem by turning off its air monitors in the Houston area during hurricane Harvey.  (Can’t worry about what you don’t know, is the theory behind this.)  30,000 gallons of crude oil flowed into the floodwaters that people were wading in when two oil tanks ruptured.  The current condition of all the Superfund sites in the flood zone is unknown.  [Superfund sites are locations polluted with hazardous and toxic materials that require long-term clean-up responses.]  In Florida, there are 54 Superfund sites at risk of flooding and leeching out of containment during heavy rains and storm surges; the EPA claims that all of them have been secured, although reporters found no-one working at any of them in the past week.  Nonetheless, no lessons will be learned and nothing will change, as we will insist that our way is the best because we are just that exceptional.   This brings to mind the “healthcare” debacle. The US politicians refuse to ask all those other countries how they set up their universal healthcare systems – which apparently work efficiently enough and save enough money that none of them ever want to give them up – and instead simply declare that universal healthcare is “not feasible”.  And when the insurance costs skyrocket this winter, as they will due to the shortfalls of the ACA combined with the deliberate efforts of Trump and the Republicans to sabotage the little bit that works, the public will be told it was inevitable and that they must accept something even worse.

In Cuba, as compared to the US emergency system, there has been a network in place for decades where each family, household or neighborhood is paired with one or more of the same on the opposite side of the island.  Evacuation transportation, by any and all available means, and emergency routes have been planned in advance to cover any contingency, as part of the networks.  Everyone therefore is able to be moved quickly and they already have a place to stay during the emergency.  Despite the fact that Cuba is hit fairly frequently with hurricanes, there is very little death toll thanks to this pre-planning based on the public good.  Of course, this is an example of Dread Socialism at work, so the media in the US simply doesn’t talk about how Cuba manages hurricane preparedness, nor do they talk about Cuba at all, except as I said above, to crow that by running over Cuba first, Irma will be less dangerous to the US.

To add insult to injury, because there is nothing the US likes more than jabbing sharp sticks in the eyes of small nations everywhere, last night at the same exact time that Irma was making landfall along the northern coast of Cuba, the Trump administration announced that the trade embargo against Cuba is going to be extended for another year, until Sept., 2018.  Trump’s presidential memo states that the embargo, which prevents American companies from importing goods from Cuba or exporting goods to the island nation, has been extended under the Trading with the Enemy Act “in the national interest of the United States.”

I guess this presidential memo stands in lieu of any statement of support for, or commonality with, Cuba during an event that is likely to harm both countries severely.

USA, always classy!

Update, 4:30 p.m. 9 Sept., 2018

Earlier today, the weather services announced that they think the track of Irma will run up the west coast of Florida rather than the east coast (which is what they had predicted a couple of days ago).  This led to newly-declared mandatory evacuations of some cities on the western side of Fla.  These places seem very unprepared, which seems rather odd, given that the hurricane is wider than the entire state. No matter which coast it runs up, the entire state will get hurricane force winds, both coasts will get storm surge, rain and possibly tornadoes.  One would think the entire state would have prepared emergency shelters.  Anyway, about two hours ago, I saw a bit on one of the news shows wherein the reporter was walking along a line of people who were waiting to be accepting into a stadium that had just been opened as an emergency shelter in one of the west-coast Fla. cities.  These were people who had not been under mandatory evacuation orders until around noon today.  In other words, they had just been told they had to leave and, gas no longer being available and the storm making landfall by tomorrow morning, they headed for the only place made ready for them as a shelter.  Thousands of them were lined up, some with babies in strollers and old people in wheelchairs, some carrying packages of bottled water, and little satchels of clothes.  The line wasn’t moving at all.  The stadium can hold about 6000 people (without their wheelchairs, strollers and suitcases).  Why is the line not moving?  As the reporter got to the front of the line, he mentioned that he couldn’t get any officials to talk to him.  However, you could see that behind him, the people at the front of the line were filling out multiple sheets of paper clasped on clipboards before they were allowed to present these papers to some official and be let into the stadium.  A stunningly bizarre insistence on some byzantine paperwork while moving people into emergency shelter.  There is no way in hell they are going to get all those people inside before dark.  It will be dark around 7 p.m. here on the east coast of the US, just a few hours from now, and the eye of the storm will make landfall around 8 tomorrow morning.  But the eye wall is rather irrelevant, since the outer bands are already over Fla, and the winds are picking up right now.  Get the people in and settled, assholes.  Asking for papers to be filled out right this minute is just arbitrary bureaucracy.

Something else: last night, in the wee hours, I caught a re-run of some Fox News segment which apparently aired earlier in the evening.  I don’t know the reporter’s name or the name of the show, and it’s Fox News, so who gives a fuck anyway?  The lady reporter was practically shrieking that the “fake news” outlets were trying to use a hurricane to sell the Fake Idea of fake climate change.  Under her angry twisted-up face, there was a banner which read, “Liberal news sites try to promote global warming.”  She and her co-hosts were appalled that a hurricane, of all things, was used as an example of climate change.  And, they pointed out, the projected path of Irma had been changed, like, a lot over the past week, by the incompetent weather people, all of whom, they insisted, work for the government, which is totally run by liberals and whackaloons, except for the parts run by Trump and the Republicans, but they aren’t the ones to blame for the liberal, fake weather people and their sinister global warming hoaxes, and the altered trajectory of the storm proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that climate change is bullshit.  Some people  – maybe a lot of people – watch this crap and believe it.  So let’s consider climate change for a moment, while we are talking about hurricanes and weather.  Imagine you are sitting on your porch on a breezy autumn day.  A leaf falls from a tree and gets caught in the wind.  It swirls and dances around the yard.  Where will it land, you might idly wonder as you watch it flutter about.  Thing is, no matter what you predict, you will probably be wrong; there are too many variables at work, from the air temperature to the ground temperature, to the strength of the breeze, to the air pressure, to obstacles in your yard.  Weather prediction is hard.  It is a science and it is currently enhanced by computers, but it is still hard.  The expected path of Irma changed a little within the past twelve hours because it went over Cuba’s landmass, because the temperature of the ocean below it may have changed a bit, because the prevailing winds shifted a tad, but it is still heading for Florida and it is still a huge storm.  To claim that this slight alteration means climate change as a whole is therefore false is just ignorant.

There are other theories about why we are having massive droughts some places, record-breaking rainfall in others, hurricanes, flooding and wildfires all over the planet aside from man-caused global warming.   You might believe that the weather is always changing and this is just part of a normal cycle of cooling and warming.  You might believe that the government is playing with the weather so as to force us to pay higher taxes to alleviate the bad weather they caused on purpose.  You might think the power companies are hyping a fake story so they can usher in carbon taxes, where they can collect a shit-ton of money from you on top of whatever they rip you off for in normal circumstances.  You might believe that reptile space aliens are screwing with weather patterns as part of their plan to take over the earth.  I’m not sure why Americans are so wedded to their simplistic belief systems that they can only believe in binary truths; everything has to be just one thing or it can only be the exact opposite thing.  We have no nuance in this country and no ability for complex thought.

I think it is proven that the climate is changing due to the burning of fossil fuels.  But it can also, simultaneously, be true that there are normal cycles of the weather in the long term, and the effects of these normal cycles are merely enhanced by our mistaken overuse of coal and oil.  It can also be true that politicians and energy companies want to abuse the science to foist financial misery on everyone for their own profit.  It can also be true that the US government plays with the weather  – hell, they were already doing it during the Vietnam war, and proud of it.  Probably the space alien thing isn’t true, though.  Point is, it doesn’t have to be all one or the other, and claiming the whole shebang is a hoax is dangerously simpleminded and keeps us from doing what we ought to ameliorate the worst of the effects of climate change.  The climate is changing.  And that is a fact.

Another fact is that the US military wants to, or already is, using the weather as a weapon against other countries.  Don’t take my word for it; read this white paper, written in 1996 as a precis for the Pentagon.  This is major fucked-up fuckery, right here:

Title: Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025

Opening disclaimer: “2025 is a study designed to comply with a directive from the chief of staff of the Air Force to examine the concepts, capabilities, and technologies the United States will require to remain the dominant air and space force in the future. Presented on 17 June 1996, this report was produced in the Department of Defense school environment of academic freedom and in the interest of advancing concepts related to national defense. The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Air Force, Department of Defense, or the United States government.  This publication has been reviewed by security and policy review authorities, is unclassified, and is cleared for public release.”

[This is followed by over 40 pages of how the US can manipulate the weather to create adverse conditions for other countries, to use the weather as a weapon of mass destruction, and to weaponize space for the same purposes.]

http://csat.au.af.mil/2025/volume3/vol3ch15.pdf

 

White House statement on the terrorist attacks in Iran.

Updated at bottom: Sunday, 11 June, 2017

Yesterday, Iran suffered two terrorist attacks.  The coordinated attacks targeted the Parliament complex in Tehran and the mausoleum of Ayatollah Khomeini, 15 miles to the south.   Nineteen people were killed and 43 wounded.

ISIS has claimed responsibility, although the attack bears the hallmarks of MEK, a cultish group of Iranian exiles formed with the purpose of bringing down the Iranian government through violence and terrorist activities.  More than 16,000 people are known to have been killed by MEK’s attacks since 1979. MEK, also known by the acronym MKO, is the officially titled as the “People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran” or the “Mojahedin-e Khalq”.   Saudi Arabia, one of the US’ foremost allies in the Middle East, and itself a sponsor of extremist Islamic groups such as ISIS, recently said it would “take the fight against Iran into Iran itself” and has sponsored MEK since its inception in the late 1970’s; either terrorist organization, MEK or ISIS, would suit this purpose.   MEK was labeled a terrorist organization by all Western governments until fairly recently; the US removed them from that list in 2012, under the direction of then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who lauded their public statements that they were “renouncing violence”.  In fact, MEK simply spent a lot of money lobbying US officials, and have not renounced violence at all, but in the US, money will always top honesty.  Always.  MEK makes its money the old-fashioned way: through fraud and money laundering and from support from Israel, which has donated money to them so they could assassinate Iranian scientists and educators, and from Saudi Arabia, which considers Iran its most prominent enemy.   In the US, MEK simply paid high-profile US officials upwards of $50,000 for each appearance they made giving speeches favorable to the removal of MEK from the terrorist organization list.  This sort of thing used to be known as bribery; now it is called “lobbying”.  The US officials, both retired and active, who prompted the removal of MEK from terrorist designation made no bones about their reasoning: they said they supported MEK on the grounds that they “acted as opposition to the Iranian government”.

Iran has long been a target of the US, partly at the behest of Saudi Arabia and Israel, but mostly due to our own desire to control the entirety of the oil producing areas of the world.  We are constantly told by the media that Iran is the “biggest sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East”, although no-one has yet offered any proof backing this statement, and the evidence is all to the contrary – the biggest supporters of terrorism in the ME would have to be considered the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel, in no particular order.  Iran has not invaded any country in over 200 years.  They are currently involved in Syria, at the invitation of the Syrian government, which asked them to help oust ISIS and al Qaeda from that country.  One might think that would place Iran on the list of US allies in the “fight against terrorism” (aren’t ISIS and al Qaeda the enemies?), but apparently the media doesn’t notice that the reasoning gets somewhat muddled and illogical when American politicians supply the information.  Iran is still “our enemy” despite their fight against ISIS, while Saudi Arabia, whose Wahhabi belief system mirrors that of ISIS and whose money supports ISIS is “our ally”.  The US Congress is working on new sanctions against Iran, which unbelievably and inexplicably revolve around the concept that although Iran is following to the letter the non-nuclear agreement worked out between them and the US under Obama, they need further crippling sanctions levied against them in order to induce them to follow the agreement better.  One cannot even conjecture what they could possibly do to improve upholding their end of the bargain better than perfectly, but the US doesn’t feel the need to explain the nonsensical.  Congress has already passed a resolution that states the president may unilaterally bomb Iran at his whim, without notification beforehand to Congress or the American people, should he feel the need to do so.  This is, obviously, not only a preemptive declaration of war against a foreign country with no reason offered, but an abdication of Congressional power (for whatever that is worth – Congress ceded their powers way back in the Bush era).

We are also assured that the Iranians want nuclear weapons, even though their religious beliefs preclude the use of nuclear bombs.  This alleged “fact” of Iranian desire for nuclear capability has long been proven false by the IAEA itself, the group that monitors the development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons and performs inspections internationally.  They have been allowed unlimited, free access to all Iranian facilities for years.  [By the way, you know who told the US that the Iranian government was trying to develop nuclear weapons in the first place?  Yeah, MEK, the anti-Iranian-government terrorist group that we no longer call terrorists.]  Fact is, the Pentagon and both parties in Congress view Iran as an obstacle, an intolerable one, to completely unbridled US hegemony in the area.  The Trump administration has gone further than even the Bush and Obama administrations in its stepped-up vitriol and programs against Iran.  They have created a new CIA “mission center” targeting Iran in the hopes that we can use American spies to help overthrow the Iranian government (a recycling of that successful coup we did in Iran so long ago).  Our forces in Syria have been told to change the rules of engagement so as to allow them to target the Iranian forces who are there assisting Assad in the fight against ISIS.  Our airstrikes are allowed to be carried out rather indiscriminately now, without consideration of collateral damage; i.e., without concern about civilian deaths or the accidental hitting of another government’s troops.

A few days ago, Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Yemen all cut their ties to Qatar and began an economic blockade against it.  Trump immediately hailed this as a wonderful development, which is sort of deranged, considering the unrest and conflict in the Middle East already.  Furthermore, the largest US military base in the Middle East is located in Qatar.  Maybe he thinks the US should spend a few billion bucks to move the base to Saudi Arabia, or possibly he doesn’t even know we have a base in Qatar.  (The latter is more likely, frankly.)  Iran’s president, Rouhani, on the other hand, immediately came out and offered food and economic aid to Qatar, recognizing that what these other countries are doing could bring on starvation conditions to Qatar fairly quickly.  Rouhani remarked, “We need to have peace here, not conflict,” a statement that clearly puts blame for the Middle East tensions on Saudi Arabia, which had initiated the blockade against Qatar.  It is easy to see how this situation could be twisted to frame Iran for any further escalation in the Middle East, however, especially if the other countries don’t change their tactics, and Iran has to act to fulfill its promise to not let the Qataris suffer unduly.  At that point, we can expect a US-led false flag operation against Iran to occur forthwith.

It is also easy to see how Trump could be convinced that what he really needs to bolster his popularity is a serious war, as opposed to the on-going multiple wars we started and are engaged in around the globe right now.  He wants to get attention away from the Russia investigation fiasco, one of the most remarkable bits of dumbassery and meaningless wastes of taxpayer monies ever dreamed up, all on behalf of Hillary Clinton, who can’t accept the fact that she lost the goddamn election because she was a horrible, hated candidate whom the public distrusts for good reason.  [See my note at the end of this post regarding election meddling.]   Let’s be honest here.  Clinton is toxic.  The only people who don’t want her to just go away seem to be the establishment Democrats, the Clinton wing, who take the party a foot closer to nonexistence each time they parade her in front of the cameras.  And let’s be honest about Trump: the guy is mental.  He’s got the emotional stability of a poorly raised five-year-old and he rows with only one oar in the water.  He appealed to the portion of the population whose tastes run to the louche, the garish; this represents a significant portion of Americans, to be sure.   Enough to get him elected, in any case, although half the eligible voters couldn’t be aroused enough by either Trump or Clinton to even go mark the ballot.  Since the election, the only praise this carnival barker got from the media or the Democrats was when he [illegally] bombed the shit out of the vacant Syrian airstrip and [illegally] dropped “the big one” on a hillside in Afghanistan.  He is not aware of much, but he surely marked that applause, and has noted that both major parties have long sought an excuse to take out Iran.  He sees that the politicians, the Pentagon, and most of the American population loves war, any war.  The creation of war footing and all its attendant financial accoutrements are, after all, the only economic plan Congress has, in the long term.  Of course, since Trump has already given his Pentagon generals unilateral authorization to carry out any and all missions they deem necessary without notifying him or the public first, Trump may only find out we are at war with Iran after the bombs start falling.  He will not stop, and will in fact welcome, the latest iteration of America’s War of Terror wherever it next roars to life, and whatever the given excuse; he will be quickly advised by his padrones that is is a useful distraction against not only the Russia-hacking bullshit, but also gets attention away from the Republican plan to tear up any social agreement between the US government and the US people.  The Democrats will also welcome an exciting new war to distract from the fact that they have no intention of serving the interests of the commoners either and actually agree with all the loathsome, hateful Shock Doctrine ideas the Republicans dream up.  War with Iran, war with Russia, war with Outer Mongolia – throw a dart at the map.  The only good news for the rest of the world is that the uncouth, stupid president of the United States is so rapidly burning bridges with our traditional allies that maybe this time no other country will allow itself to be dragged into whatever new monstrous adventure we Yanks cook up.  Too bad for us that we may find ourselves having to do our wilding alone in the future; but at some point, others surely must call quits to suffering fools lightly and step back to let fate and karma extract their inexorable dues.

So Iran was attacked by terrorists, and here is the official White House response:

Statement by the President on the Terrorist Attacks in Iran

We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times. We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/06/07/statement-president-terrorist-attacks-iran

That is the statement in its entirety.  Read that second sentence again.  Let it soak in, with all its appalling ugliness, ungodly falsity, and unmitigated American gall and hypocrisy on full display to the world, and be filled with wonder that no country as yet has ever dared to say such a thing to the United States, which, unlike Iran, utterly deserves such denunciations.

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A note on the election “meddling” involving Russia:  There is a serious lack of proof that Russia did much of anything to influence the 2016 election in the US.  So far, we have one dubious report offered up by the intelligence agencies (no names of actual personnel who work for these agencies, just a generic “all agencies” is attached to the report as authorship).  The report is headed with a disclaimer that none of the “findings” contained within it represent hard evidence or conclusions, but that the report is merely a summary of suspicions, assumptions, or inferences, some of which are based on “previous assessments”.  What the previous assessments are, or if those assessments were found to be accurate, is left unsaid.  The disclaimer states that the report is provided “as is” for informational purposes only, and that “The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not provide any warranties of any kind regarding any information contained within.”   Well, alrighty then.  A report based on unidentified old reports, and not guaranteed to be factual; this is the report the media is hanging its hat on.  By far, the biggest section of the report (it uses up 6 out of the 14 pages, and page 14 is blank) is a fatuous commentary on the Russian media outlet, RTNews, wherein it is “discovered” that RTNews has a “pro-Russian bias”, leading to the conclusion that it is – aha! – a “propaganda outlet”.  This is akin to stating that the Wall Street Journal has a “pro-American bias”.  No doubt the Russians have some apparatchiks whose job it is to write findings like these for the Russian intelligence community.  In any case, this lengthy commentary on RTNews, added to the US intelligence summary on Russian meddling in the 2016 elections, was actually written in 2012 (the original date of this section of the report is not obscured), and its inclusion in said report is without merit.  Offered as proof that RTNews is Russian propaganda meant to infect Americans with pro-Russian sentiment is that they covered Occupy Wallstreet and were critical of the treatment of the Occupy protesters, they reported on the increased use of fracking in the US, and (this is my favorite part), “In an effort to highlight the alleged ‘lack of democracy’ in the United States, RT broadcast, hosted, and advertised third-party candidate debates and ran reporting supportive of the political agenda of these candidates.”   Need I say that only American politicians and spook agencies would consider it subversive to disseminate to US voters that there are actually more than two political parties extant in the US.

Aside from this report, we have suggestions from these same political sources that the Russians had internet “trolls” leaving comments attached to articles about Trump or Clinton.  Supposedly, these trolls – paid to leave comments that bashed Clinton – might have swayed people into disliking her and voting for Trump.  This is possible, although it seems unlikely that voters would change their votes based on such things.  Most people tend to argue more strenuously for their own positions when they encounter opposition in a comment section, not have their viewpoint entirely altered.  Speculation about supposed Russian trolls aside, we know for a fact that the Clinton campaign paid people to troll comment sections on her behalf throughout the campaign season.  The Russians did not hack into voting machines (which can’t be hacked into over the internet, anyway), nor did they physically alter anybody’s vote.  As far as one can tell from the evidence presented so far, the Russians didn’t even spend much money, if any, trying to meddle in our election.  Internet trolls aren’t known to make the big bucks.

The entire sideshow about Russian meddling leaves the country bereft of any coverage regarding the serious internal issues surrounding US elections: the results of the Supreme Court Citizen’s United decision, which allows unlimited amounts of corporate and oligarchic monies into the process, thereby vastly altering the potential of actual democratic outcomes; gerrymandered districts; voter suppression; ballot purging; reduction in the number of polling stations; lack of verifiable paper ballots; the peculiar way the primary elections are run (and the fact, disclosed in the leaked DNC and Pedestal emails themselves, that the DNC rigged the primary to assure Clinton would be the Democratic nominee); our arcane electoral college system for the general election; the utter inability of any third party candidate to find a way to be presented to the public, which is engineered deliberately by the two major parties and guaranteed to continue into the foreseeable future through the electoral college system; etc.

The US itself has directly meddled in the elections of other countries over 80 times between 1946 and 2000.  The lists of countries we have fucked with this way only include mild examples of election interference; things like spending money to promote one candidate over the other, articles written in behalf of one or another candidate, US politicians speaking publicly about elections abroad, etc., and do not include the most egregious examples of interference, such as assassinations, forced regime changes, invasions, and coups – all of which the US has done to interfere with the governance and/or political structure of foreign countries.  [Not included on these lists are actions like having Patrice Lumumba, the first person elected democratically in the Congo after they achieved independence from Belgium, kidnapped and shot by firing squad in 1961, shortly after he won his election.  The US also arranged for the coup d’etats in Iran in 1953, Guatemala in 1954, and Haiti in both 1991 and 2004.  Both the coups in Haiti were directed against the elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had won his second successful election for office in 2000; and in 2004, he and his wife were kidnapped and flown to South Africa, where George W. Bush declared he had to remain “exiled from the Western hemisphere for life”.  During his exile, Aristide’s party, the Fanmi Lavalas, was not allowed to field any candidates in the 2009 Haitian election by order of US president, Barack Obama. (!! Let that one sink in.)  This was widely protested in Haiti, where Aristide and the Fanmi Lavalas party were extremely popular.  Obama finally rescinded the [grossly illegal] exile of Aristide in 2011, although he demanded that the flight returning Aristide to Haiti be delayed until after the run-off elections took place in March that year.  As a condition of his return to his native country, Aristide was forced by the US to sign an agreement that he would never seek public office again.  During the 2016 US elections, there were protests against Hillary Clinton, both in the US and in Haiti, demanding an accounting for the Help Haiti Funds; Bill Clinton and George HW Bush had been put in charge of the funds after the 2010 earthquake there, and the money never seemed to quite make it to Haiti, instead disappearing into the Clinton Foundation coffers.  Also not included as election meddling is the 1996 Russian election, wherein the US finagled an IMF loan to Russia in a blatant attempt to shore up support for the re-election of the alcoholic Boris Yeltsin, whom they then promoted as the only one who could secure financial aid for his country. We were so obvious about this meddling that Time Magazine wrote a cover story about it entitled, “Yanks to the Rescue.”  Since the lists offered in articles about US interference in other nations’ elections end at the year 2000, you also won’t see an inclusion of US direct manipulation of the election in Ukraine two years ago, our messing with Russia’s last elections, or our current manipulations in Venezuela.]

Some articles regarding US election interference in foreign countries:

http://www.npr.org/2016/12/22/506625913/database-tracks-history-of-u-s-meddling-in-foreign-elections

https://ww2.kqed.org/lowdown/2017/03/02/a-history-of-u-s-meddling-in-foreign-elections/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/10/13/the-long-history-of-the-u-s-interfering-with-elections-elsewhere/?utm_term=.9ba0bcac4dda

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/05/americans-spot-election-meddling-doing-years-vladimir-putin-donald-trump

** ** **

UPDATE: Sunday, 11 June:

Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) made comments during a Congressional discussion about the terror attacks in Iran.  He is currently serving his 13th term in Congress (astonishing, but nonetheless factual).  An interesting tidbit, given what he says in the video clip below, from the biography page on his website is this: “Rohrabacher is a most forceful spokesman for human rights and democracy around the world.”  As you will see, this most forceful spokesman for human rights and democracy praises a terrorist group, ISIS, for attacking civilians in Iran.  Whether the true perpetrators are ISIS or MEK is not germane; at this point, ISIS has claimed credit, and this is taken at face value by the US, the US Congress, and the world.  Rohrabacher not only praises ISIS, he flat out states that the US should support them in this attack on Iran.  Support for ISIS, nominally the worst terrorist organization on the planet, is officially against current US law, punishable by imprisonment, but here we have a sitting US Congressman voicing support and approval for them.

Not only that, but within the first minute (the clip is less than 2 minutes long), Rohrabacher suggests that the US is behind the attack and that the Trump administration may be taking what Rohrabacher considers necessary and praiseworthy steps to go after Iran by using ISIS as a proxy force.  This is quite remarkable coming from a US Representative, especially in light of the fact that he is speaking on camera in open session.  This man may be a total whack-job as a general rule, but still, the suggestions that the US, and Trump specifically, are behind these attacks and that the US is (or should be) using ISIS as mercenaries to further our interests ought to be ringing bells all over the place.  Shit, ISIS should be using this clip as a recruitment video.  Now, it may be true, as I think and as many people in many countries believe, that ISIS is a creation of the US and is a proxy group being used by the US and Israel to disrupt the Middle East, but this is, of course, tacitly denied by US officialdom each time they name ISIS as the “greatest threat to mankind”.  Here, Rohrabacher seems to be admitting that US backing of ISIS is either a) the truth of the matter, or b) that it ought to be.  In either case, such declarations ought to concern the US government, which goes to great pains to appear to be dead-set on destroying ISIS.

His statement reveals peculiar labyrinthian thought processes wherein he makes it clear that in his view, our involvement in the Middle East is primarily to shore up and protect the Sunni side of the Sunni-Shia religious argument (and here we’ve thought all these years that it had something to do with 9/11 and terrorism), he can’t seem to distinguish between the mullahs of Iran (whom he thinks were attacked) and the Iranian civilians (who actually were attacked), and includes a bizarre comparison between Stalin killing Nazis to ISIS killing innocent people who just happened to be visiting public areas.  Thankfully, his remarks are brief; surprisingly, they weren’t deleted from youtube already by the CIA.

 
 

Trump celebrates Black History Month.

February is Black History Month in the US.  Following in the tradition of past presidents, Trump held an event on Monday, Jan. 30, to mark the occasion.  His event was called a “listening session”.  He invited a lot of African-American people from various walks of life to attend the session, and opened the event with his own reflections on black history in the US.

Since we already know the man is a buffoonish carnival barker, it will come as no surprise that his remarks displayed a deplorably shallow knowledge on the subjects of black life, black history, and the contributions of prominent African-Americans throughout our history as a country.  However unsurprising his ignorance might be, what is remarkable is that the sitting president of the US didn’t even bother pretending to be interested in the topic.  He clearly hadn’t even asked a staffer to do some internet searches and come up with some facts on a few prominent blacks that he could mention, or a couple of notable quotes from them that he could include in his introduction.  He couldn’t even bring himself to offer up a single sentence about slavery or the civil rights movement.  There was no symbolic reference to unity or equality.  He never uttered the name Obama, although certainly the occasion must have invoked at least the passing thought of our first black president.  Trump’s remarks were almost entirely about….Trump.

Here’s what he had to say about Dr. Martin Luther King, jr.: “Last month, we celebrated the life of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., whose incredible example is unique in American history.  You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office, and it turned out that that was fake news.  (Laughter.)  It was fake news.  The statue is cherished.  It’s one of the favorite things in the — and we have some good ones.  We have Lincoln and we have Jefferson and we have Dr. Martin Luther King, and we have — but they said the statue, the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King was taken out of the office.  And it was never even touched.  So I think it was a disgrace, but that’s the way the press is.  Very unfortunate.”

There ya go; Dr. king reduced to being merely a bust in the White House, which is apparently the sum total of what makes him a famous black person in Trump’s wee little brain.  That was the end of Trump’s commentary on Dr. King.

Trump mentioned Frederick Douglass as well and apparently thinks the man is still alive and is busy doing an amazing job at something or another these days: “I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things.  Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice — Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today.  Big impact.”  Okay, so he knows the names of four black people from history, but he does mention “millions more”, so I suppose that counts for something.  Someone in the press noticed the use of the present tense in Trump’s sentence about Douglass and asked the president’s press secretary about it a day or two later.  Sean Spicer, not to be outdone by his boss in exhibiting blind ignorance to the public, said, “I think he [Trump]  wants to highlight the contributions that he [Douglass] has made.  And I think through a lot of the actions and statements that he’s going to make, I think the contributions of Frederick Douglass will become more and more.”  Whatever the hell most of that gobblety-gook statement means, it’s obvious as fuck that Sean Spicer doesn’t know who Douglass is either, and also thinks he is still alive and kicking.  Douglass died in 1895.  But you knew that, right?  Because you took a second to freaking “google” it, which neither of these two white crackers did before talking in public.  I’m sure by the time Betsy Devos gets done “improving” our school systems as the new head of the Dept. of Education, nobody else will know jackshit about Douglass either; or about anything else, for that matter.   (She’ll be approved for the position; her brother, Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, being such a close advisor to Trump and all guarantees that she will be heading that agency – one way or another.)

Trump made sure to mention his new HUD [Housing and Urban Development] director, Ben Carson, a couple of times, no doubt because the man is pretty much the only black guy he personally knows, and he was present in the room at the time.  Dr. Carson, whose singular qualification for heading up HUD is the fact that he is a home-owner, once said on the campaign trail that he thinks it would be okay to bomb children on general principles.  When asked if he would order airstrikes that might kill innocent children by the thousands, he mentioned operating on kids with brain tumors and how they hated it but later on loved him, and finished his comments by saying,”and by the same token, you have to be able to look at the big picture and understand that it’s actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job, rather than death by 1,000 pricks.”   So in other words, Ben Carson thinks bombing civilians and children is somehow merciful because it finishes the job quickly.  The crowd applauded the twisted fuck for his bedside manner.  He later dropped out of the presidential race, but has found a way to be Trump’s token African-American in the administration.  Trump’s first nod to Carson in his Black History Month intro is a bit condescending to the black community in general.  He said, “I’ve gotten a real glimpse — during the campaign, I’d go around with Ben to a lot of different places that I wasn’t so familiar with.  They’re incredible people.”  They?  You mean black people?  Those people – are those the ones you aren’t so familiar with?  Asshole.  Later, Trump told the gathering that part of Carson’s job is working on the inner cities, and that “Ben is going to be doing that big league.  It’s one of his big things that we’re going to be looking at.”  Then he threatened the “inner cities” with more law enforcement.  Where’s Black Lives Matter when you need them?  Oh, yeah, they weren’t invited to this Black History Month listening session.  “We need safer communities, and we’re going to do that with law enforcement.  We’re going to make it safe.  We’re going to make it much better than it is right now.  Right now it’s terrible [..],” Trump said.  After his opening remarks, Trump had everyone in the room introduce themselves to each other.  One man, a pastor, commented that some gang leaders from Chicago invited him to work with them on reducing violence in that city and that they wanted to focus on social programs.  Studies show that social programs, jobs, and better educational resources are key to reducing city violence, by the way, as opposed to the “stop and frisk” policies and the militarized police forces that Trump endorses.  While acknowledging that the pastor working with these gang members might be a good thing, he nonetheless managed to turn that compliment into a threat:  “If they’re not going to solve the problem — and what you’re doing is the right thing — then we’re going to solve the problem for them because we’re going to have to do something about Chicago.”

I’m amazed that Trump could find enough blacks to fill in all the seats around that table for his “event”.  The man is not interested in the black community, except as a policing problem.  The people who attended, however, seemed quite obsequious and happy to be there, however, so what do I know?

Below is the entire transcript, which I copied from the White House website.  That way, you know I didn’t just make this shit up as some sort of fake news to make the Dear Leader look stupid.  To be entirely honest, I myself did not believe some of the quotes I had read in other sources were accurate; I thought for sure the journalists were mangling the remarks or taking them out of context on purpose.  But here it is – no deletions, no alterations – Trump’s Black History Month event:

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  These are a lot of my friends, but you have been so helpful.  And we did well.  The election, it came out really well.  Next time we’ll triple it up or quadruple it, right?  We want to get over 51, right?  At least 51.  [Teri’s note: I’m not sure to what he is referring here.  The number of states he won?  The percentage of black votes he won?  The number of people sitting in the room at that moment?]
Well, this is Black History Month, so this is our little breakfast, our little get-together.  Hi, Lynne, how are you?
MS. PATTON:  Hi, how are you?
THE PRESIDENT:  Nice to see you.  And just a few notes.  During this month, we honor the tremendous history of the African Americans throughout our country — throughout the world, if you really think about it, right?  And their story is one of unimaginable sacrifice, hard work and faith in America.
I’ve gotten a real glimpse — during the campaign, I’d go around with Ben to a lot of different places that I wasn’t so familiar with.  They’re incredible people.  And I want to thank Ben Carson, who’s going to be heading up HUD.  It’s a big job, and it’s a job that’s not only housing, it’s mind and spirit, right, Ben?  And you understand that.  Nobody is going to be better than Ben.
Last month, we celebrated the life of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., whose incredible example is unique in American history.  You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office, and it turned out that that was fake news.  (Laughter.)  It was fake news.  The statue is cherished.  It’s one of the favorite things in the — and we have some good ones.  We have Lincoln and we have Jefferson and we have Dr. Martin Luther King, and we have — but they said the statue, the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King was taken out of the office.  And it was never even touched.  So I think it was a disgrace, but that’s the way the press is.  Very unfortunate.
I am very proud now that we have a museum on the National Mall where people can learn about Reverend King, so many other things.  Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice — Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today.  Big impact.
I am proud to honor this heritage, and we’ll be honoring it more and more.  The folks at the table in almost all cases have been great friends and supporters.  And Darrell — I met Darrell when he was defending me on television.  (Laughter.)  And the people that were on the other side of the argument didn’t have a chance, right?  And Paris has done an amazing job in a very hostile CNN community.  (Laughter.)  He’s all by himself — seven people and Paris.  So I’ll take Paris over the seven.  (Laughter.)  But I don’t watch CNN so I don’t get to see you as much as I want to.  (Laughter.)  I don’t like watching fake news.
PARTICIPANT:  None of us watch it either anymore.
THE PRESIDENT:  But Fox has treated me very nice — wherever Fox is, thank you.
We’re going to need better schools, and we need them soon.  We need more jobs, we need better wages — a lot better wages.  We’re going to work very hard on the inner city.  Ben is going to be doing that big league.  It’s one of his big things that we’re going to be looking at.
We need safer communities, and we’re going to do that with law enforcement.  We’re going to make it safe.  We’re going to make it much better than it is right now.  Right now it’s terrible, and I saw you talking about it the other night, Paris, on something else that was really — you did a fantastic job the other night on a very unrelated show.  I’m ready to do my part — it’s the only time I can see him.  I’m ready to do my part, and I will say this:  We’re going to work together.
This is a great group.  This is a group that’s been so special to me.  You really helped me a lot.  If you remember, I wasn’t going to do well with the African American community, and after they heard me speaking and talking about the inner city and lots of other things, we ended up getting — I won’t go into details, but we ended up getting substantially more than other candidates who had run in the past years.  And now, we’re going to take that to new levels.
I want to thank my television star over here.  (Laughter.)  Omarosa is actually a very nice person.  Nobody knows that, but — (laughter) — I don’t want to destroy her reputation.  She is a very good person and she’s been helpful right from the beginning of the campaign.  And I appreciate it.  I really do.  Very special.
And so I want to thank everybody for being here.  Could we maybe just go around the room and we’ll introduce ourselves.  And the press can stay for that, and I’m sure they have no questions about last night because it was such a good launch.  We have a fantastic, hopefully, new justice of the Supreme Court.  And hopefully, that will be — he’ll be approved very, very quickly.  He’s outstanding in every way — academically.  He’s done almost as well as you did, Darrell, in college.  (Laughter.)  Not quite, right?  But he’s a great man and I think he’ll be a great, great justice.  And he’s being very well-received.  It was a big evening.  Very big evening.
So, Paris, why don’t we start with you?  Go ahead.
MR. DENNARD:  Pleasure to be here, Mr. President.  Honor to be here.  Paris Dennard.  Thurgood Marshall College Fund represents the 47 publically supported historically black colleges and universities, which I know you are very much in support of.  So it’s a pleasure to be here, sir.
THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’m glad you’re in support of me because I’d be all — I’d be in the wilderness without you guys.  You are so effective.  I appreciate it.
MR. DENNARD:  Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.
MR. CLEVELAND:  Bill Cleveland.  I’m a retired Capitol police officer, former vice mayor of the city of Alexandria, and substitute teacher in the Alexandria school system.  Glad to be here.
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you.
MR. MATTHEWS:  Bill is also a Vietnam veteran, sir.
THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, good.
MR. MATTHEWS:  I’m Earl Matthews, sir.  I work for you at the Department of Defense.  I was sworn in an hour after you were.  Also a veteran and a longtime supporter of yours.  I’ve worked for you since late summer.  I’m happy to be here.
THE PRESIDENT:  Lieutenant Colonel — good job.
MS. SCOTT:  I’m Belinda Scott, Darrell’s wife.  New Spirit Revival Center from Cleveland, Ohio.  Pastor of New Spirit.  Great amount of support in the African American community where we are.  We love the Lord, we love our new President, and we are praying for our President on a regular basis.
THE PRESIDENT:  You know, the one thing I didn’t understand about Belinda — I thought they were married maybe five or six years, because look how they look so young.  (Laughter.)  Should you say how many years you’ve been married?
MS. SCOTT:  Thirty-five.
PASTOR SCOTT:  We’ve been together for 38.
MS. SCOTT:  Been together for — but in the Lord –(laughter) —  35, yes.
PASTOR SCOTT:  Two years under — (inaudible.)  (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT:  That’s actually amazing.  I wouldn’t have known.
MS. SCOTT:  But can I say this — I am so grateful that our President gives us that ear to listen to the community — to listen.  And people like us are just here to constantly put that message out into the community.  And we love you for that.  We love you for listening and we thank you for that.
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.
PASTOR SCOTT:  Darrell Scott, pastor at New Spirit Revival Center and black Trump supporter.  (Laughter and applause.)  But speaking of the community, let me just say this real quick.  Omarosa, I told you I’m going to try to throw it in.  I was recently contacted by some of the top gang thugs initiative Chicago for a sit-down.  They reached out to me because they associated me with you.  They respect you, they believe in what you’re doing, and they want to have a sit-down about lowering that body count.  So in a couple of weeks, I’m going into Chicago.
THE PRESIDENT:  That’s a great idea because Chicago is totally out of control.
PASTOR SCOTT:  Well, I let him know — I said, we’ve got to lower that body count.  We don’t want to talk about anything else — get that body count down.  And they agreed.  But the principle is they can do it.  These are guys straight from the streets — no politicians — straight street guys.  But they’re going to commit that if they lower that body count, we’ll come in and we’ll do some social programs.  So they’re in agreement.
THE PRESIDENT:  If they’re not going to solve the problem — and what you’re doing is the right thing — then we’re going to solve the problem for them because we’re going to have to do something about Chicago.  Because what’s happening in Chicago should not be happening in this country.
PASTOR SCOTT:  But they want to work with this administration.
THE PRESIDENT:  Good.
PASTOR SCOTT:  They want to.  They reached out — I didn’t reach out to them.  They reached out to me.
THE PRESIDENT:  I understand.
PASTOR SCOTT:  They want to work with this administration.  They believe in this administration.  They didn’t believe in the prior administration.  They told me this out of their mouth.  But they see hope with you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP:  I love it.
MR. WILLIAMS:  Mr. President, I’m a member of what we call the media, but we try to be fair and objective.  (Laughter.)  Not all media seems to be the opposition party.  There are those that see the good that you’re doing.  We report it.  I’m just honored to have a seat at the table today.
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  And it is — I mean, a lot of the media is actually the opposition party.  They’re so biased and really is a disgrace.  Some of you are fantastic and fair, but so much of the media is opposition party and knowingly saying incorrect things.  So it’s a very sad situation.  But we seem to be doing well.  It’s almost like, in the meantime, we won.  So maybe they don’t have the influence they think, but they really are — they really have to straighten out their act.  They’re very dishonest people.
James.
PASTOR DAVIS:  Pastor James Davis.  We’ve been — Mr. President, we’ve been a supporter of yours from the beginning alongside Mr. Michael Cohen and Dr. Darrell Scott with the National Diversity Coalition.  It helped to bring out a huge number in the black community with respect to the vote.  And we’re still happy to be in support as we go forward.
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  You’ve been great.  Thank you, James.
And, Lynne.
MS. PATTON:  Hi, Mr. President.  Yes, I am, as you know, the former vice president of the wonderful charity that your son founded — Trump Foundation.  I’ve been with your family for about eight years now, right, Jared?  And I was an RNC speaker and I will be landing with Dr. Carson at HUD as one of his senior advisors —
THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, that’s great.  You’ve got a good person.
MS. PATTON:  — and Director of the Office of Public Liaison.
THE PRESIDENT:  That’s great.  You did a fantastic job.
MS. PATTON:  Thank you.
MR. ROBINSON:  Mr. President, my name is Gerard Robinson.  I’m a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and I was proud to be the leader of the education policy team for the Trump transition.
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.
MR. BELL:  Mr. President, good to be with you.  I’m Ashley Bell, Gainesville.  Chairman Priebus called me out (inaudible) African American outreach for your campaign.  I’m glad you support Omarosa, glad to be here, and I’ll be wanting to help you out at the State Department.
THE PRESIDENT:  Fantastic.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.
MS. MANIGAULT:  Tucker was a star at the inauguration.
MR. DAVIS:  I’m Tucker Davis.  I ran your campaign in West Virginia, working for you in the —
THE PRESIDENT:  We did well in West Virginia.  (Laughter.)
MR. DAVIS:  Coal miners love you.
THE PRESIDENT:  And we love the coal miners.  We’re going to put them back to work.
MR. DAVIS:  Absolutely.
MS. LEVELL:  Leah LeVell.  I was at the RNC and also at PIC.  And I helped launch the video series every week — the midweek message that reached out to millennials and college students and helped launch the college Republican chapter at Howard University.
MS. MANIGAULT:  That’s Chris LeVell’s daughter.  We snagged her.  (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, really?  Great job.
MS. ALEXANDER:  Mr. President, Monica Alexander, executive administrative assistant in the office of public liaison, supporting Omarosa.
PRESIDENT TRUMP:  Okay, well, that’s nice.
MR. SMITH:  Mr. President, Ja’Ron Smith.  I’m with the Domestic Policy Council, Andy Bremberg’s team, and I’ll be focusing on urban affairs and revitalization.
THE PRESIDENT:  Fantastic.
MS. MANIGAULT:  And Howard graduate.  (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT:  Howard graduate.  That’s good stuff.  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.

END

https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/02/01/remarks-president-trump-african-american-history-month-listening-session

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2017 in civil rights, elections, Uncategorized

 

A quick note on unemployment numbers.

This year, Sears Holdings plans to close 42 Sears stores and 108 Kmart stores, or roughly 10% of their locations. They already closed more than 200 locations in 2016.

Macy’s plans to close 100 stores this year, 68 of them by mid-year. It is eliminating 10,000 jobs. CVS plans to close 70 stores this year. The Limited is closing almost all of its 250 stores, costing 4000 jobs, although it will offer on-line shopping.  Men’s Warehouse/Jos. A Banks is closing 250 stores. Office Depot will close another 300 stores by the end of 2018, after closing 400 stores in recent years. Walmart is closing 269 stores globally this year.

I guess the bottom line is that when you shop on-line, you are costing someone a job.

The labor force participation rate in the US remains at less than 63%. [It stands at 62.7 right now.] The labor force participation rate (LFPR) is the number of able-bodied, job-eligible, people over the age of 18 who either have a job or who are actively looking for a job. The numbers do not include the military, people in prison, those who are disabled, anyone under 18 or anyone over 65. Do note, however, that if you are unemployed, but looking for a job, you are still counted as “participating” in the labor force. Still, the LFPR is doubtless the most accurate picture of how many people are working in a country, since the other ways they use to count employment rates are so absurdly calculated as to completely discount the reports out of hand. For instance, we are told that our current unemployment rate is 4.7. Utterly impossible, given that only 63% of us have jobs or are actively seeking jobs.  I must make a note here that 100% LFPR is not to be desired, either.  Certainly, no country wants a society where everyone works: it would mean that there are no mothers or fathers staying home to raise the children or care for their elderly relatives, for one thing.  It would also imply that living expenses are so high that every single adult has to work to support themselves, as opposed to a society where one wage-earner can support a family on his/her salary.  We used to have that in the United States.  I believe the low LFPR in the 1950’s and 1960’s was a reflection of this desirable situation rather than an indication that there was massive unwanted unemployment.  In other words, one must use some discernment in looking at unemployment rates, no matter where one gets the numbers.  All that being said, let’s just go with the cold LFPR numbers as the accurate indicator of unemployment rates.

If the labor force participation rate is around 63 (i.e., 63% of eligible Americans have jobs), that means that 37% of able-bodied, job-eligible Americans do not have employment.  How does that not translate into a 37% unemployment rate?

Interestingly, I have noted that when the US media reports on unemployment in foreign countries, they use the labor force participation rates exactly as they should be used.  In Greece, the LFPR is 52, meaning that there is a 48% unemployment rate.  The US media therefore reports, usually with dismayed shock, that unemployment in Greece is 48%.  I don’t understand why it is reported accurately in the one case, and not in the other, unless the idea is to obfuscate the true unemployment numbers here in the US. (One might add “duh” here, but that would be unnecessary silliness.)

Also, I can only shake my head when I read mainstream articles that state we have “recovered all the jobs lost” since the start of the recession.  We lost roughly 10 million full-time jobs since ’08 or ’09 and we did replace them with 10 million jobs as of 2015 – all part-time, low-paying jobs – but this does not do anything about the population increase in the meantime.   Touting the equation of jobs gained = jobs lost does not take into account the millions and millions of Americans who came of age during this time frame with no new jobs actually created for them to work at.

By the way, the LFPR for Russia is currently 69.5% (making it equal to Switzerland in the high number of employed people it has).  We beat the participation rate in Ukraine by a mere 0.3% , and they are currently involved in a civil war (thanks to the “indispensable” USA).  We also have a higher employment rate than Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq – but we kind of inflicted some problems on those countries as well, to say the least.   The US LFPR is lower than Armenia, the Philippines, Colombia, Italy, Ecuador, Latvia, El Salvador, and Malaysia, just to name a few other countries.  We have a lower percentage of employed people in our population than these countries do; think about that. (We also have a lower percentage than North Korea, but then, I think they do forced labor there.)

It’s not quite the “recovery” that occurred after the Great Depression, is it?  Does it even qualify as a recovery if you have fewer people employed now than you did at the start of the “economic downturn”?  We know for shit sure it isn’t because suddenly everyone in the US is so wealthy that they don’t need jobs any more, and we are certainly not in the 1950’s situation at all, where one person could support a household with his one well-paying job.  And still the politicians can’t fathom the disenchantment of the masses.

 

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2017 in economy