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Stunning US hypocrisy over slain Saudi journalist.

The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia should trouble Americans.

We, along with the UAE and UK, are currently supporting the horrendous and illegal Saudi Arabian attacks on Yemen, offering logistics and weaponry in what can only be described as a terror campaign launched to interfere in Yemen’s internal politics.  Because of this Saudi/US war on one of the poorest nations on earth, a child in Yemen starves to death every ten minutes.  Tens of thousands of Yemenis have died, and millions more are likely to before this is over.  The Saudis have recently renewed their attacks on Hodeida, the major port city in Yemen, to deliberately keep food from entering the country.  Cholera, a preventable disease, is rampant.  The price of food and gas has doubled.  Yet we are making commitments to sell the Saudis even more weapons and both Obama, while he was in office, and now Trump tout the jobs that will be created by the sales of US-made weaponry, as though what these weapons will be used for is an utterly irrelevant bit of marginalia.

The personal ties of US politicians to Saudi Arabia were most obvious under the Bush regime, for the Bush family has had oil business ties to the Saudis going back generations.  [One may want to read “House of Bush, House of Saud”, by Craig Unger for information on that.]  Trump and his son-in-law have extensive business dealings with Saudi Arabia, as well, which no doubt contributes to Trump’s reluctance to take the still-evolving story about the Saudi murder of the US-based (but Saudi-born citizen), Jamal Khashoggi, very seriously. See:

Trump’s deep business ties with Saudi Arabia under scrutiny as tensions rise

We remember that Bush allowed wealthy Saudi Arabians to fly out of the US after the 9/11 attacks, while no-one else, American or foreign, was allowed to board a plane.

15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudi Arabian.  There is a new book about the Saudi involvement in 9/11 which came out in August of this year.  In “The Watchdogs Didn’t Bark: The CIA, NSA, and the Crimes of the War on Terror”,  authors John Duffy and Ray Nowosielski dismiss the official story of  9/11.  The book shows that the CIA covered up Saudi complicity in the event.  See:

https://www.newsweek.com/cia-and-saudi-arabia-conspired-keep-911-details-secret-new-book-says-1091935

I think perhaps the above mentioned book has serious merit, as clearly Saudi Arabia was involved in 9/11, but am of the same opinion as Dr. Kevin Barrett, who has been studying 9/11 since 2003:

[…] US officials assert that the attacks were carried out by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists – 15 of them were Saudi citizens — but many experts have raised questions about the official account.

“It’s a welcome development that we are getting some skeptical reportage in the mainstream about 9/11 during the run-up to the holy, sacred anniversary. The 9/11 human sacrifice event has been turned into a sort of religious myth here in the United States—and that has been done so that they can demonize the people who question the official story as heretics. And that way they can prevent any rational scrutiny of the story, because the official story falls apart instantly. It crumbles to dust under the most superficial scrutiny,” Dr. Barrett said.

[…] “They were CIA assets from Saudi Arabia who were brought to the United States. And the FBI saw that they were actually sheep-dipped in al-Qaeda, that is that they were made to look like they had some kind of relationship with al-Qaeda, and the FBI wanted to investigate them, and they were told by higher-ups not to, hands off,” the analyst noted.

[…] “The reason they are giving is that, well, perhaps the CIA was interested in recruiting these guys, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi among them, and therefore the FBI would be getting in the way of their recruitment. But that is a baby-step towards the actual truth, which is of course that the people who ordered the FBI not to investigate these patsies, did so precisely because these guys were being set up as proxies to be blamed for the September 11 events that they really had nothing to do with other than playing the role as patsies,” he stated.

“So this information does lead to the destruction of the official story of 9/11. And it leads towards the full truth that this was a false flag event, that the World Trade Center was blown up with explosives. It just did not fall down because of the minor office fire kindled by kerosene,” Dr. Barrett argued.

https://www.presstv.com/Detail/2018/09/01/572838/911-hijackers-were-brought-to-US-from-Saudi-Arabia-by-CIA

The events of 9/11 aside, it is simply a mystery as to why the US, which holds itself up as the bastion of democracy and equality, would consider this repressive country with its horrific human rights record a staunch ally worthy of support.  Saudi Arabia is a sharia nation which shares the fundamentalist Wahhabism values of ISIS and is known to support ISIS.  Crimes such as witchcraft, sorcery, repeated drug use, armed robbery, and adultery carry sentences of beheading (the last known execution for sorcery was carried out in 2014).  Other physical and/or capital punishments for various crimes include stoning to death, amputation, crucifixion, and whipping.   Some crimes lack harsh sentences; notably the crimes of rape or wife-beating.

Public gathering places are segregated by gender and this is enforced by law.  This is true even under the “reforms” that the new crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, has ushered in.  Just last month, a man who was dining with a woman co-worker was arrested after a video surfaced of him engaged in this “crime”.  Of course, most of the reforms promised by the crown prince, known chummily as MbS by the media, Hollywood stars, Silicon Valley moguls, and American politicians who enjoy kissing the ass of royalty, have turned out to be so much bullshit; in fact, arrests and persecution of human rights activists have risen under his rule. The reform most praised by Western press, that of allowing women the right to drive, has resulted in women activists who fought for this right suddenly disappearing or going into exile.

https://theintercept.com/2018/10/06/saudi-arabia-women-driving-activists-exile/

Now, apparently the House of Saud has murdered one of their own, a journalist named Jamal Khashoggi, who has been a legal resident of the US since last year and who worked for the Washington Post, while he was inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey to get wedding papers.  Now to be clear, Khashoggi did not have too many objections to the basic policies of the Saudi government.  Prior to his relocation to the US, he worked for the Saudi government as a media editor and media advisor.  He did not like the aforementioned MbS, whom he felt did not support the Saudi principles fully or properly enough.  He wrote some relatively mild articles criticizing MbS while at the WaPo, and felt (correctly, as it has turned out) that he would be targeted with reprisal for those articles.

All across the US, the media and some of our politicians are calling for justice in this case, demanding that Saudi Arabia be held to account.  The WaPo took out a full page ad regarding the matter and one of the editors, Karen Attiah, said in an interview with Reuters, “We’re not going to let this go….Attacking or detaining or murdering a US resident…is unacceptable. If whoever did this can get away with silencing him, just imagine all the other journalists who they could go after without consequences.”

This is the correct and laudable position to take, obviously.  The silencing of journalists is inexcusable.  The murder of anyone based solely on his/her opinions is inexcusable.  It is egregiously wrong, and Trump’s persistent habit of calling the media the “enemies of the people” and urging his crowds of cultish followers to mindlessly chant nasty slogans about reporters (or anyone else, for that matter), does not alter that fact.  Before you start muttering about the Fake News and the Lamestream Media, let me say that I understand the sentiment.  A whole lot of media outlets are doing terrible jobs at covering any real news, and some of them – hell, a lot of them, especially in the US – are little more than propaganda outlets.  On the other hand, if you don’t have any reporters, if you reject them all, you are left with only the lies put forward by politicians, and those suckers lie for a living.  Discernment, people.  Find some reliable sources.  Read with your bullshit detector tuned to high.  The internet is huge and there are some honest reporters affiliated with news organizations, and a vast number of independent journalists and writers around the world trying desperately to get the truth out into the public realm.

While the Saudis do need to be accountable for the death of Khashoggi, the hypocrisy being displayed by the US is astounding.  It’s unfuckingbelievable, in fact. The Washington Post itself, in May of this year, ran an article about two journalists who are currently facing death every day.  One is an American journalist and one is a journalist who holds dual citizenship with Pakistan and Syria.

They are threatened with death every day.  By the United States of America.

They are on the president’s remarkable, extra-constitutional “kill list”, officially dubbed the “Disposition Matrix”.  This is a list of names compiled by a secret cabal of CIA operatives, certain unknown governmental officials, and the president, which designates the intended target as a “capture”, an “interrogate”, an “assassination” (carried out by drone bombing), or as “extraordinary rendition” (yes, we still do that; ask our new CIA director, Gina Torture Queen Haspel, about it).  The targets are usually picked by a computer algorithm that finds people suspected of terrorism mainly through their associations, phone calls and computer activity.  In the case of a war correspondent, such as these two journalists are, it should be clear that during their daily activities, where they may be carrying out interviews or reporting on various rebel groups in places like Syria or Afghanistan, what may look like “nefarious connections” to “terrorist groups” might actually be simply the gathering of pertinent material for an article.

I first read about this case in the WaPo, as a matter of fact, whose editorial board seems to have forgotten their own article about it in their furor over Khashoggi and his alleged murder.  Or perhaps they just don’t think that our own government needs to be “held to account”.

I will summarize the case in brief, and then give some quotes from an article on it written by Matt Taibbi in July and published in the Rolling Stone.

This is a current legal case working its way through the US court system brought by two journalists.  It was presented to the court last year and the first hearing was held in May of this year.  Bilal Abdul Kareem is an American freelance journalist and photographer.  Ahmad Zaidan is a Pakistani who was formerly an Al Jazeera bureau chief.  Both say they have been mistaken as terrorists, or “national security threats”, because they have contact with members of al Qaeda or other such groups, which they frequently report on.  Zaidan is mostly working out of Qatar these days, and Kareem reports from Syria.  The US is not legally at war with either of these countries; Syria is in the midst of a US-instigated civil war but not a threat to or at war with the US, and Qatar is not at war with anyone.

They have joined as co-plaintiffs, represented by the legal group Reprieve, and have brought forward a case pleading to have their names removed from the kill list.  They say their inclusion on the list is erroneous, and ask that they be given a chance to show that they are not, in fact, terrorists, preferably before a drone blows them into pieces.  It now appears that at the initial hearing, the judge pretty much decided that Zaidan, the Pakistani journalist, is shit out of luck and has “no standing”, since he couldn’t sufficiently prove he was on the list.  (He had found his name listed as a “highest scoring target” on one of Edward Snowden’s leaked NSA documents, but that was apparently not enough proof for the judge.)  Both these men were originally targeted under the Obama administration, but their names remain on the list under Trump.  Both wrote, separately, to Trump asking for mercy before being summarily killed, but neither received an answer. Trump, who endorses drone bombings and targeted killings just as much as Bush and Obama before him, has loosened the rules (if one can claim such egregious activities can even have exist under what might be called “rules”) about where these drone killings can take place and who can be targeted.  On the campaign trail, he said he would “take out their families, as well” as the targets; we may never know if he has made good on that promise. Obama increased the assassination program ten fold over Bush’ numbers, and Trump has increased the numbers some four to five times over Obama’s, according the best estimates that reporter Matt Taibbi could find.

While the list was originally designed to go after suspected al Qaeda terrorists specifically in Pakistan, the Disposition Matrix database now includes operations in Afghanistan, Yemen, Algeria, Egypt, Mali, Libya, Iran, Somalia, and parts of east Africa.  US officials state that the kill lists will expand for at least another decade, if not indefinitely.

US drone “warfare” has killed 10,858 individuals since 2004, when Bush first initiated the practice.  We are left uncertain as to how many of these people were “targets”, and how many were simply bystanders.  We do not know if the ones deemed terrorists really were; they are executed without charges being brought, without any hearings in any court being held, without any witnesses or evidence being presented.  We don’t know how many people are on the kill list or why they are on it.  But once a drone drops a bomb on your head, you can be pretty sure your name is not on the list any more.

Excerpts from Matt Taibbi’s July article on this case; the original is a long article and well worth reading in full:

[…] Kareem appealed for help to Clive Stafford Smith, an Anglo-American attorney he’d met in his travels, who’d founded a London-based human rights organization called Reprieve.

With Reprieve’s help, Kareem did what the system asks a law-abiding American citizen with a grievance to do. He sued, filing a complaint in district court in Washington, D.C., on March 30th, 2017, asking the U.S. government to take him off the Kill List, at least until he had a chance to challenge the evidence against him.

The case, still unresolved more than a year later, has awesome implications not just for Kareem but for all Americans – all people everywhere, for that matter.
It’s not a stretch to say that it’s one of the most important lawsuits to ever cross the desk of a federal judge. The core of the Bill of Rights is in play, and a wrong result could formalize a slide into authoritarianism that began long ago, but accelerated after 9/11.

Since that day, we have given presidents enormous power – to make war, to torture, to detain indefinitely – and our entire legal system has been transformed on a variety of fronts, placing huge questions about illegal searches, warrantless arrest, indefinite detention, torture and other matters behind an impenetrable wall of secrecy, outside the reach of courts.

And yet, nobody is paying attention. While America obsesses over Russia, Stormy Daniels and Kim Jong-Un, almost no one is covering Kareem’s trial. His race-against-time effort to escape the American killing machine is too surreal, even in the Trump era. But it’s also a potentially devastating last-straw moment in the history of America’s recent dystopian slide, with the executive branch asking for the ultimate in dictatorial powers: the right to kill even its own citizens without having to explain itself.

[…] In the week after 9/11, the House and Senate passed a joint resolution called the AUMF (Authorization to Use Military Force) that gave the president license to use “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons” who “planned, authorized, committed, or aided” the 9/11 attacks.

Robotized killings began almost immediately. The first known drone assassination took place in Afghanistan in 2001. By 2012, we were flying at least 16 drone missions per day, mostly for reconnaissance but some for more deadly reasons, and we had committed lethal drone attacks in six countries…

[…] A crucial Rubicon was crossed in 2011, when the Obama administration decided to drone-bomb New Mexico-born Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen and suspected Al Qaeda terrorist.

There was some outcry about the president now having authority to kill even Americans without due process – “I think it’s sad,” said U.S. Congressman Ron Paul – but the uproar soon faded, and America’s assassination program accelerated still more. By late 2011, we’d killed more than 2,000 “militants.”

[…] Is the case against Kareem based upon a mistake, or is it based on something more substantive? The answer to that question represents the difference between killing a terrorist, and creating one.
We need to know if we’ve become the very thing we ostensibly created the drone program to combat: a secret authoritarian sect that confuses murder and justice.

https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/how-to-survive-americas-kill-list-699334/

We have wasted enough time avoiding a discussion about our national sins, which we surely have committed, just as all countries and all governments make mistakes.  We need to face them and strive to correct them, as all we are doing is creating terrorists and destroying the lives of millions of people for no reason other than to use up the weapons we spend all our tax money on.  And then we spend more money to make more weapons and name more “enemies” so we can use those up in a viciously pointless cycle.  Our resources and our youth are being squandered on endless wars that aren’t even really wars, as they are illegal, undeclared police actions taken against countries that were never a threat to us, had nothing to do with 9/11, and do not threaten us now. And this is the main reason why we won’t do a thing about Saudi Arabia for killing a journalist, abusing their own people, bombing Yemen, or sending terrorists here to perpetrate 9/11; they buy a huge amount of arms from the US.  And unlike Israel, they actually pay for them.  We have allowed ourselves to be misinformed and uninformed on everything.

We are ignoring issues that we should be working on together along with all other nations:  the threat of nuclear war, climate change, new “super-bugs” that are resistant to antibiotics, genetically altered foods whose effects to the human genome are unknown, the degradation of the environment, the rampant abuse of human labor across the planet.  We are being driven by politicians, here and abroad, into not only hating other societies – about whom we do not care to inform ourselves – but into hating each other.   I get it: human beings are a hot mess.  People kill each other every day in every country and always have.  But I’ll tell you straight up that if we can’t figure out a better way to travel the hard road ahead of us than by creating more exotic and lethal weapons to kill each other off and looking for more excuses to use them on some “others”, we deserve to die off as a species.  The earth will go on without us.

Further reading on the Kareem/Zaidan case:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/in-kill-list-case-judge-questions-governments-unilateral-authority-to-kill-us-citizens-abroad/2018/05/01/ee4077e8-4d5c-11e8-b725-92c89fe3ca4c_story.html?utm_term=.d88246939d8d

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180501-journalists-challenge-their-inclusion-on-a-us-drone-kill-list/

On the ad taken out by the WaPo, and statements from their editor regarding the murder of Khashoggi:

https://www.rt.com/usa/441128-washington-post-confronts-saudis-khashoggi/

ACLU blog post regarding  Trump’s expanding use of targeted killings”

https://www.aclu.org/blog/national-security/targeted-killing/trump-administration-looking-make-it-easier-kill-more-people

Over 5 million children face starvation as US-backed forces attack Yemeni aid port

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2018/09/20/yeme-s20.html

—————
Sometimes we can stop the wars.  Sometimes we can work together and make the war pigs listen to us.  Sometimes, we can reject the vile creatures who would have us tearing each other apart, who want to separate us by race, or ethnicity, or gender.  Sometimes, we do heed the calls of the angels of peace. Sometimes. We did it back then, when this song was written, and we can do it again.  We, us, together, have to create a new and better system that spurns personal greed and the learned, useless hatred of those different from ourselves that is fed to us daily by the masters of war.  We must reject, with prejudice, their grotesque ways and their savage methods.  It starts with one person at a time, one individual making the choice to think for himself, and then another joins him and another, and then we become an “us” that has a voice to be reckoned with.

For What It Is Worth

Buffalo Springfield, 1967

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

It’s s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, now, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Songwriter: Stephen Stills

For What It Is Worth lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

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Did the Senate just break its own rules?

Yesterday, Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to be a Supreme Court justice with a vote of 50 – 48 in the Senate.  We have been told repeatedly that the so-called “nuclear option”, a new rule put into place by the Republicans to get Trump’s earlier nominee, Neil Gorsuch, onto the court means that a Supreme Court nominee needs a “simple majority of 51 votes” to be confirmed.  Prior to the Gorsuch nomination (and subsequent confirmation), the Senate rules required a majority of 60 yes votes to confirm a justice to the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh did not get 51 votes. He got 50.

One Republican dude, Steve Daines of Montana, who would have voted yes, was at his daughter’s wedding and did not come to DC to vote – his vote would have given Kavanaugh the full 51 votes required to confirm. Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was going to vote no, but instead voted “present”, which is the same thing as “I decline to vote one way or the other”, so her vote didn’t count in the final tally.  Had Daines and Murkowski both actually voted, and voted the way they said they intended to, the final count would have been 51 – 49.   With Daines not there to cast a vote, had Murkowski voted the way she intended, the final vote would have been 50 – 49.  Murkowski said she voted “present” because it would be too embarrassing for Kavanaugh to be confirmed by only one vote.  To put it more simply, the fact that Daines did not show up to cast his vote meant that Kavanaugh could not get to 51 votes, because Murkowski felt she could not change her vote to a yes under any circumstances.  (Good for her, because Kavanaugh is a far rightwing prick who wants to overturn Roe v Wade, helped write torture excuses for Bush, favors corporations over workers and corporations over environmental concerns, thinks NSA spying is somehow constitutional, agrees with indefinite detention, agrees with unlimited political spending and gerrymandering, believes a president has unlimited power, and does not believe in the separation of church and state.  And that’s just off the top of my head.)

It is now apparent that the “51 vote simple majority” phraseology contradicts itself.  Or that “the rule” is not a rule at all.  Is it the rule that 51 votes are needed, or is it that a simple majority of those showing up to vote are needed?

Because if the threshold is not 51 votes, but instead a simple majority, then you could hypothetically confirm a nominee under very weird and clearly undemocratic circumstances.  Supposing that only 10 senators showed up to vote on a nominee’s confirmation – would he still be confirmed if the vote were 6 – 4?  Or imagine a scenario where all 100 senators showed up, but 97 of them voted “present”, with only 3 actually casting yes or no votes, as another example.  Could someone make it to the Supreme Court with only two senators voting in favor?  Would these situations still count as a legitimate confirmation vote?

So which is it?  Is the rule “51 votes”, or is it a “simple majority of whomever bothers to cast a vote”?   Because if it’s the latter, that renders the whole idea of mentioning a specific threshold number moot; but the nuclear option rule clearly stipulates a number.  Throughout this entire process, as with the nomination of Gorsuch, the public has been told repeatedly that the nominee needs 51 votes, and the media and politicians spent a lot of time counting the possible ‘yes’ votes in advance to predict if the person would meet that number.  You can read any number of articles on the topic, look it up on wikipedia, google the information, and every time you will see that the Senate rule is stated as being that a Supreme Court nominee must receive a “51 vote simple majority” to be confirmed.

Here is the wording of a wikipedia article on the “nuclear option”, for instance.  Note that the phrase “simple majority” is defined as 51 votes, as it is in every other article about the topic:

The nuclear option (or constitutional option) is a parliamentary procedure that allows the United States Senate to override a rule – specifically the 60-vote rule to close debate – by a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the two-thirds supermajority normally required to amend the rules.

Seems to me someone just arbitrarily changed the “simple majority of 51 votes” to mean “simple majority” without explanation.  We can only take a stab at it and guess that the Senate didn’t mean the “51 votes” part of their own rule.  And the media has not noticed.  But then we live in an age where lies are called “alternative facts”; no-one can keep up with the random bullshit being flung far and wide, and no-one can be held to account for anything.

 
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Posted by on October 7, 2018 in Congress

 

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

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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.