Monthly Archives: July 2012


“Late Lament”

Breathe deep the gathering gloom,
Watch lights fade from every room.
Bedsitter people look back and lament,
Another day’s useless energy spent.
Impassioned lovers wrestle as one,
Lonely man cries for love and has none.
New mother picks up and suckles her son,
Senior citizens wish they were young.
Cold hearted orb that rules the night,
Removes the colours from our sight.
Red is grey and yellow white.
But we decide which is right.
And which is an illusion?

Poem at the end of Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin”; poem by Graeme Edge.

Peter Van Buren has an article up about the swell idea from Congress, backed by Obama, to designate three new national parks.

The Obama administration is supporting bipartisan legislation in Congress that would designate sites in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, Hanford, Washington and Los Alamos, New Mexico as America’s newest national parks. They would stand alongside Yosemite, Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon as part of the country’s crown jewels. Familiar names? They should be. The Hanford site produced plutonium during WWII. The Oak Ridge site enriched uranium. Workers in Los Alamos used those materials to assemble the Little Boy and Fat Man bombs dropped on Japan, killing about 200,000 civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki as World War II ended. The sites were the production arms of the massive Manhattan Project that in large part created the current American Empire. Emerging from world war with the world’s largest army and only intact industrial society but also with the world’s only nuclear weapons gave the American Empire Project a kick start that is only now fading.[…]

Oh, yes, our national parks.  Take the family, camp out, hike the trails, have a cook-out.  Bring the in-laws and the babies.  Bring your guns and ammo.  (Thanks, you smart Congress people!)  Breathe in that air, citizens!  It’s good for you.  We swear.

Seriously – Hanford?  Los Alamos?  Oak Ridge?  Is this a herd-thinning program, or what?

Oak Ridge is also known as Y-12.   It is the world’s largest repository of enriched uranium.

“Uranium Center of Excellence.” Y-12 contains the world’s largest repository of highly enriched uranium (HEU) in metal form, storing approximately 400 MT of the material—enough for about 14,000 nuclear warheads. While Y-12 refers to itself as the “Fort Knox” for storage and management of HEU, there are a number of security risks posed by the site. Roughly 700,000 people live within a 100-mile radius of the facility. The 811-acre compound—over three miles long and half a mile wide—is nestled in a valley between two ridges. Because of its location, Y-12 is a difficult site to defend. Attackers could use the surrounding forested high ground to help gain control of the facility. Most of the HEU at Y-12 is stored in five World War II-era buildings. During NNSA’s 2007 force-on-force security test, the mock adversaries were successful in a theft scenario; meaning they were successful in removing mock SNM from Y-12.

In addition to storing uranium at Y-12, NNSA also manufactures, evaluates, and tests the uranium nuclear weapons components and canned subassemblies, which includes heavy metal cases and secondaries. The mission for these components and canned subassemblies, and the number produced, is not publicly available. Complex Transformation sets a future production target for canned subassemblies at Y-12 of about 125 per year, but the number could be increased to an annual rate of 200. Y-12 also conducts component dismantlement, storage, and disposition of surplus nuclear materials. Additionally, Y-12 supplies HEU for use in naval reactors and research reactors. The Complex Transformation SPEIS would continue these activities at Y-12.

Los Alamos.  Home to the nation’s largest supply of nuclear weapons. The place where during the New Mexico fires last June, it was discovered that as many as 30,000 55-gallon drums of plutonium-contaminated waste were stored in fabric tents above ground and that for decades, contaminated waste was put in drums which were then dumped into nearby ravines.  [ “…In 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy’s inspector general issued a report that said Los Alamos County firefighters weren’t sufficiently trained to handle the unique fires they could face with hazardous or radioactive materials at the site….” – That Los Alamos?  As Robert Oppenheimer put it on the 16th of October, 1945, “If atomic bombs are to be added as new weapons to the arsenals of a warring world, or to the arsenals of nations preparing for war, then the time will come when mankind will curse the names of Los Alamos and Hiroshima. The people must unite, or they will perish.”  I guess the people in charge have decided for us: we will perish while we make Los Alamos a national shrine rather than curse its name.  This is America, after all, the country of 9600 nukes.  The country that shares its depleted uranium graciously with a world just dying for it – literally.  We call it “spreading democracy”.

In 2009 and 2010, the administration of Barack Obama declared policies that would invalidate the Bush-era policy for use of nuclear weapons and its motions to develop new ones. First, in a prominent 2009 speech, U.S. president Barack Obama outlined a goal of “a world without nuclear weapons”.  To that goal, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a new START treaty on April 8, 2010 to reduce the number of active nuclear weapons from 2,200 to 1,550. That same week Obama also revised U.S. policy on the use of nuclear weapons in a Nuclear Posture Review required of all presidents, declaring for the first time that the U.S. would not use nuclear weapons against nonnuclear, NPT-compliant states. The policy also renounces development of any new nuclear weapons.

Momentum of the new era slowed and hard realities resurfaced in 2011, and no new breakthroughs occurred. The multilateral nuclear arms control agenda is stymied. The CTBT is no closer to ratification than when President Obama came into office. The FMCT negotiations remain stuck, and there is no indication that success is in the offing. 2011 has been more difficult and less hopeful than the recent past.

The Obama Administration, in its release of the 2012 defense budget, included plans to modernize, as well as maintain, the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal.

And Hanford, let’s talk about Hanford.  I assume they won’t tell potential park visitors that Hanford is considered the most contaminated site in the US.   Hey, dig this: they allow tours of the Hanford site already.
Some fun facts about Hanford:

The Hanford site represents two-thirds of the nation’s high-level radioactive waste by volume. Today, Hanford is the most contaminated nuclear site in the United States and is the focus of the nation’s largest environmental cleanup.
A U.S. government report released in 1992 estimated that 685,000 curies of radioactive iodine-131 had been released into the river and air from the Hanford site between 1944 and 1947.

While major releases of radioactive material ended with the reactor shutdown in the 1970s, parts of the Hanford Site remain heavily contaminated. Many of the most dangerous wastes are contained, but there are concerns about contaminated groundwater headed toward the Columbia River. There are also continued concerns about workers’ health and safety.

The most significant challenge at Hanford is stabilizing the 53 million U.S. gallons (204,000 m3) of high-level radioactive waste stored in 177 underground tanks. About a third of these tanks have leaked waste into the soil and groundwater. In recent years, the federal government has spent about $2 billion annually on the Hanford project.   Originally scheduled to be complete within thirty years, the cleanup was less than half finished by 2008.  Of the four areas that were formally listed as Superfund sites on October 4, 1989, only one has been removed from the list following cleanup.

Disposal of plutonium and other high-level wastes is a more difficult problem that continues to be a subject of intense debate. As an example, plutonium has a half-life of 24,100 years, and a decay of ten half-lives is required before a sample is considered to be safe.  The Department of Energy is currently building a vitrification plant on the Hanford Site. Vitrification is a method designed to combine these dangerous wastes with glass to render them stable. Bechtel, the San Francisco based construction and engineering firm, has been hired to construct the vitrification plant, which is currently estimated to cost approximately $12 billion. Construction began in 2001. After some delays, the plant is now scheduled to be operational in 2019, with vitrification completed in 2047. It was originally scheduled to be operational by 2011, with vitrification completed by 2028.  –

Got Bechtel on it; what could go wrong?  Everything, as it turns out.

Seven decades after scientists came here during World War II to create plutonium for the first atomic bomb, a new generation is struggling with an even more daunting task: cleaning up the radioactive mess.

The U.S. government is building a treatment plant to stabilize and contain 56 million gallons of waste left from a half-century of nuclear weapons production. The radioactive sludge is so dangerous that a few hours of exposure could be fatal. A major leak could contaminate water supplies serving millions across the Northwest. The cleanup is the most complex and costly environmental restoration ever attempted.

And the project is not going well.

A USA TODAY investigation has found that the troubled, 10-year effort to build the treatment plant faces enormous problems just as it reaches what was supposed to be its final stage.

In exclusive interviews, several senior engineers cited design problems that could bring the plant’s operations to a halt before much of the waste is treated. Their reports have spurred new technical reviews and raised official concerns about the risk of a hydrogen explosion or uncontrolled nuclear reaction inside the plant. Either could damage critical equipment, shut the facility down or, worst case, allow radiation to escape.

The plant’s $12.3 billion price tag, already triple original estimates, is well short of what it will cost to address the problems and finish the project. And the plant’s start-up date, originally slated for last year and pushed back to its current target of 2019, is likely to slip further.

“We’re continuing with a failed design,” said Donald Alexander, a senior U.S. government scientist on the project.  “There’s a lot of pressure … from Congress, from the state, from the community to make progress,” he added. As a result, “the design processes are cut short, the safety analyses are cut short, and the oversight is cut short. … We have to stop now and figure out how to do this right, before we move any further.”

Documents obtained by USA TODAY show at least three federal investigations are underway to examine the project, which is funded and supervised by the Department of Energy, owner of Hanford Site. Bechtel National is the prime contractor.

In November, the Energy Department’s independent oversight office notified Bechtel that it is investigating  “potential nuclear safety non-compliances” in the design and installation of plant systems and components. And the department’s inspector general is in the final stages of a separate probe focused on whether Bechtel installed critical equipment that didn’t meet quality-control standards.[…]

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent federal panel that oversees public health and safety at nuclear weapons sites, is urging Energy Secretary Steven Chu to require more extensive testing of designs for some of the plant’s most critical components.

“Design and construction of the project continue despite there being unresolved technical issues, and there is a lot of risk associated with that,” said Peter Winokur, the board’s chairman. The waste at Hanford, stored in 177 deteriorating underground tanks, “is a real risk to the public and the environment. It is essential that this plant work and work well.”  Energy Department officials acknowledged that the design questions are a significant challenge and likely to inflate the project’s cost and timetable.[…]

Everything about the waste treatment plant at Hanford is unprecedented — and urgent.  The volume of waste, its complex mix of highly radioactive and toxic material, the size of the processing facilities — all present technical challenges with no proven solution. […]

The plant will separate the waste’s high- and low-level radioactive materials, then blend them with compounds that are superheated to create a molten glass composite — a process called “vitrification.” The mix is poured into giant steel cylinders, where it cools to a solid form that is safe and stable for long-term storage — tens of thousands of glass tubes in steel coffins.

Once the plant starts running, it could take 30 years or more to finish its cleanup work.

The 177 underground tanks at Hanford hold detritus from 45 years of plutonium production at the site, which had up to nine nuclear reactors before it closed in 1989. Some of the tanks, with capacities ranging from 55,000 gallons to more than 1 million gallons, date to the mid-1940s, when Hanford’s earliest reactor made plutonium for the first atomic bomb ever detonated: the “Trinity” test at Alamagordo, N.M. It also produced the plutonium for the bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, in World War II.

More than 60 of the tanks are thought to have leaked, losing a million gallons of waste into soil and groundwater. So far, the contamination remains within the boundaries of the barren, 586-square-mile site, but it poses an ongoing threat to the nearby Columbia River, a water source for communities stretching southwest to Portland, Ore. And, while the liquid most likely to escape from the older tanks has been moved to newer, double-walled tanks, the risk of more leaks compounds that threat.  “Each day without progress (in treating the waste) further threatens the Columbia River and its surroundings.” Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire warned in November. “There are critical public health and environmental issues at play.”

The Bechtel company, under the direction of the Department of Energy, is building this waste treatment plant at Hanford to turn liquid radioactive waste into glass for safer storage.

A 1989 legal agreement among the Energy Department, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Washington sets strict timetables for stabilizing the tank wastes, including a 2011 deadline to get the treatment plant running. Two years ago, a negotiated extension pushed the start-up date to 2019. But a November review  by the Energy Department reported that the deadlines are at “significant risk,” because of both engineering and budget concerns.[…]

Some of the high-level waste has turned out to be more complex than anticipated, with plutonium particles up to 10 times larger than expected. That has heightened concerns among several scientists, including Tamosaitis and the staff of the nuclear facilities safety board, that the systems designed to churn that waste need further testing to address the threat of hydrogen buildup or a nuclear reaction.

The mixers will be nearly impossible to repair or modify if they fail, because they will be too radioactive — they’re in fortified rooms, known as “black cells,” that will be sealed permanently when the plant begins operating. If the system malfunctions, Tamosaitis said, “the plant is dead in the water.”

Alexander, the Energy Department scientist, also worries about the pre-treatment mixing system. Because the mixing jets and vessels were not designed to handle the larger plutonium particles and other abrasives in the high-level waste, he said, the material is likely to erode the vessels’ lining. Alexander, who has detailed his concerns in official filings, has run simulations showing that the vessels could fail well before the end of the system’s 40-year design life, potentially causing a leak inside the plant.

When the jet mixers expel waste into the vessels, they’re “like a liquid sandblaster,” and the mixing system needs years of extra testing and refinement to account for the problem, Alexander said. “If they don’t make any changes and just move ahead, it lasts maybe 10 years.”

Tamosaitis and Alexander aren’t alone in their concerns. The mixing system “is not necessarily a solid design,” said Donna Busche, a URS employee who serves as manager for environmental and nuclear safety at the site. “The research isn’t done, the design isn’t done, and there are numerous technical and safety issues … to address.”[…]

In its November construction report, the Energy Department warned that it’s on a path to spend $800 million to $900 million more than the plant’s current, $12.3 billion budget. When the project was launched, on what was expected to be a much smaller scale, it was budgeted at about $4 billion.[…]

The overrun figures may be just a hint of what’s to come: They don’t include major modifications that officials now are contemplating to address some of the technical problems that have emerged.[…]

The 2012 appropriations bill that funds the Energy Department directed officials to do a major review of “contract management” for all nuclear facility cleanups with budgets over $1 billion. The study is due in May, according to the bill, and must assess whether practices “foster a positive nuclear safety culture or resolve nuclear safety-related design issues.”

Lawmakers also balked at the department’s 2012 funding request of $840 million for the project — a 22% increase from the $690 million a year that was projected. Instead, lawmakers agreed to $740 million.

The reduced amount probably is not enough to keep the construction on schedule given the engineering challenges that have emerged, Huizenga said. Still, he added, the project “is an extremely high priority for us,” and the department will push ahead until it is complete.[…]

Enjoy your visits to the Shrines of Death.  We honor and we value the invention of the nuclear bomb and the devastation wrought by it.  The national parks system, brought into existence to conserve into perpetuity the natural beauty of this country, will now hold within its expanses the sites where we developed the ways and means to end all life on earth, if Congress has its way.  You may develop some cancers or other issues after visiting these new parks but, after all, they are monuments to death and destruction – what could be more appropriate?   The deaths of a few civilians would be a celebration of sorts.  A forever pledge to remind us what is important to us.

Breathe deep the gathering gloom.

“Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount.” Gen. Omar Bradley

Update:  I was just speaking with a relative about this and it was suggested that the designation “national park” did not imply some sort of honor or reverence on these sites, but merely a method of changing the funding route. “Surely Congress does not intend for people to tour the places?”  I was asked.  Here are excerpts from the original Washington Post article about the subject.   You will note that, in fact, the making of these three spots into national parks is intended as an honor to our “greatest achievement”, and tours are being planned.

[…]The designations would make possible wider exposure of the aging laboratories, which altered history — and, some say, darkened it.

The Hanford site produced plutonium. The Oak Ridge site enriched uranium. And workers in Los Alamos used those materials to assemble the Little Boy and Fat Man bombs dropped on Japan, forcing the Japanese surrender and ending the war. About 200,000 civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki perished.

The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation called the creation and use of the atomic bomb “the single most significant event of the 20th century’’ in advocating the preservation of buildings once scheduled for demolition.

The president of the Japanese American Association of New York is not as nostalgic. Any commemoration of the sites, Gary S. Moriwaki said, should educate visitors “on the devastating effects of the bombs dropped” on Japan.[…]

“You can’t deny the impact nuclear weapons have had,” said Micah Zenko, a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who specializes in nuclear policy. Zenko said preserving the Manhattan Project sites makes sense. “It’s a part of American history that most people forget.”

America’s race with Nazi Germany to develop the first atomic bomb received its code name, the Manhattan Project, in late 1941. The establishment of the Manhattan Engineering District followed in August 1942.

Huizenga said he is certain that tourists can safely visit any Manhattan Project site. “Tours will steer well clear of contaminated areas. You would have to be directly digging up the waste to be at risk of being exposed by it,” he said.[…]

That thinking changed in 1997, when a team from the federal Advisory Council for Historic Preservation visited and team members were impressed by what they saw. Later the National Park Service recommended the establishment of parks at the sites that “could expand and enhance . . . public understanding of this nationally significant story in 20th century American history.’’[…]

As a national park, Oak Ridge could easily top the roughly 1,500 visitors a year who tour the site now, said Brown, of the city visitors bureau. Tours are conducted by the Energy Department five days a week from June to September.

Brown has ridden the tour bus that boards at the nearby American Museum of Science and Energy and passes through the tall laboratory fence. The lab’s graphite reactor, she said, is an awesome sight.
“It’s really cool. It’s very nostalgic,” she said.

The tour included an old control room, where a logbook encased in glass recorded the time when the reactor first went critical, about 5 a.m. Nov. 4, 1943.[…]

At Los Alamos National Laboratory,there are no tours currently, a spokeswoman said. Kelly, of the Atomic Heritage Foundation, said she hopes a park designation will open the site to tours that would include garagelike buildings where the bombs were assembled and Oppenheimer’s old house, a small cottage where a woman has lived since 1951.


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Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Congress, environment, MIC


Audit the Fed and other assorted Congressional Olympian Sports.

Did you get your tickets to the Olympic events of your choice?  No?  Not going to the Olympics?  Maybe you can’t afford to go.  What a shame.  Turns out there are unoccupied seats all over the place.  []  No-one seems entirely sure why the seats are empty; maybe the tickets for those seats were sold in blocks to corporations and the purchasers didn’t end up sending enough personnel to fill their sections.  Or maybe people took one look at the military, mercenaries, and their assorted collective hardware hired to protect the venue and decided it just didn’t look like it was worth all the hassle.  Hell, London even has its own teen-aged Nazi Youth involved in guarding the games. []  Perhaps the opening ceremony creeped out a bunch of people and they went home immediately after.  []   Empty seats at the Olympics.  All those millions spent (thanks, London!) and no-one to cavity-search.  Life is full of mystery.

But we can be thankful that here at home, we get to watch our own sporting events: the Congressional Olympics.  We’ve got Hide the Bill, the Bill Switcheroo, Dark of Night Bill Passing (this one is fun – turns out Congress is really good at passing bills while the lights are out – they can read bills and vote in complete blackout conditions like bats homing in on insects.  Reserved for elite bills that Americans might particularly object to.)  We’ve got your Battle of 10,000 Amendments, Bribe the Congressman, and Liar’s Gamble.  When those get tiresome, there are always the ever-popular Executive Order Runaround and the Filibuster Fake.  No end of games on which to spend your money – and trust me, these will all cost you plenty.

In the latest midway game, the carny barkers drew our attention to the “Audit the Fed” bill which just passed the House in a 327-98 vote.  Well, finally they are going to do something the people overwhelmingly support.  Polls show 75% of Americans want the Fed audited and the results made available to the public.  The Fed operates in almost complete secrecy (they only release full transcripts of their meetings after five years) and the public is sick of it.

In the very limited audit conducted by Bernie Sanders last year, it came out that the Federal Reserve had loaned out over 16 trillion dollars in interest-free money to the largest financial institutions between 2007 and 2010.  [Coincidentally, the US debt now stands at over 15 tt.  And bear in mind that the GDP for the entire US in 2011 was only slightly more than 15 tt bucks.]  The Fed has now agreed to backstop the derivatives markets, which now stands at a notionally valued 1.2 quadrillion dollars.  The partial audit also found that:

•    The Fed gave huge bailouts to foreign banks, including Gaddafi’s Libyan bank, the Arab Banking Corp. of Bahrain, and the Banks of Bavaria, Korea and Mexico
•    The Fed bailed out hedge funds, McDonald’s and Harley-Davidson
•    The Fed threw money at “several billionaires and tens of multi-millionaires”, including  Christy Mack, the wife of Morgan Stanley’s John Mack, billionaire businessman H. Wayne Huizenga, and Michael Dell, co-founder of Dell Computer, hedge fund manager John Paulson and private equity honcho J. Christopher Flowers
Moreover, there is strong evidence that the Fed’s decisions are often influenced by conflicts of interest.  The non-partisan Government Accountability Office calls the Fed corrupt and riddled with conflicts of interest.   Nobel prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz agrees, saying that the World Bank would view any country which had a banking structure like the Fed as being corrupt and untrustworthy.

This is sporting event, however, and Congress does not intend to actually allow the Fed to be audited.  It turns out that it is the Senate Democrats who will stop this bill.  It is their turn to be the bad guys in the Toss the Bill Wrestling Match.

[…]Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has said the Senate will not consider the bill, effectively killing its chances of becoming law.Some Democrats caution an audit would open the central bank to political interference, but [Ron] Paul argues taxpayers should have total transparency in federal spending.

“We should have privacy for the individual, but we should have openness of government all the time. We’ve drifted a long way from that,” Paul said Tuesday on the House floor.“I think when people talk about independence and having this privacy of the central bank, it means they want secrecy.”

The vote comes amid speculation that recent bad economic news will prompt the Fed to take new action to strengthen the economy. The bank could embark on a third round of “quantitative easing” — an asset-purchase plan intended to further reduce interest rates.[…]

Democrat Timmeh Geithner, Treasury Secretary and tax cheat, once stated that auditing the Fed is a “line that we don’t want to cross” and that if we did audit the Fed it would be “problematic for the country”.  Of course that is what he thinks.  Timmeh hates audits.  Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke (a Democrat, by the way) has warned the Audit the Fed bill could expose the Fed to “political pressures”.  Which is very funny, given that Bernanke has politicized the Fed more than any other chairman in the Fed’s history.  His report to Congress last week was full of political suggestions, straying into areas the Fed is not supposed to comment on.  This article is a very good summary of his comments and well worth reading in full:   Here, I’ll give you a brief summary of his remarks in my own words:

“I don’t know nothing about LIBOR or what Timmeh knew about LIBOR. I wouldn’t tell you nothing even if I knew something, which I don’t, you fucking jakes.  Economy?  Economy sucks.  Going to keep sucking.  Too bad for you guys.  I can’t do anything except print money.  I’ll make the following suggestions even though I am not supposed to comment on political matters – austerity for everyone.  Except the rich.  You need to keep the Bush tax cuts in place and cut the welfare queens off at the knees.  No job creation.  Fuck job creation.  Fuck you.  See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya.” – Bernanke, as interpreted.

Barney Frank, a Democrat, said,“This is a way to shake your fist at the big bad Fed, and it’s not a good way.”  – []

“[…]Some Democrats, generally less critical of the Fed, say such audits would undermine the Fed’s independence and erode market confidence in the central bank.  ‘That will politicize the making of such policy, and I think it’s a bad way to go,’ said Steny Hoyer, the number-two Democrat in the House.[…]” –

And to reiterate, it is the Senate Majority leader, Harry Reid – a Democrat – who won’t bring the bill to the floor of the Senate, although he supported similar bills over the years.  This all reminds me of 2006, when Americans voted in a majority of Democrats, thinking that it would put an end to Bush and his illegal, dangerous policies.  Instead, the first announcement the famous Democrat, Nancy Pelosi, made after the elections was “Impeachment is off the table”.  Congress has been at these games a long time.  It is about time for all of us to recognize that governing the US with any real effort to attend to the needs of her people is the last thing on the minds of these very special Olympians.  They are exhibited as the freaks in the midway shows to draw the crowds – behind the scenes, the Bearded Ladies take off their false hairpieces and report their take to the carnival owners.  We are not the owners; we are merely the marks.

See?  No need to travel to London to watch some games being played.


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Posted by on July 29, 2012 in Congress, economy


"Israel-first" now the law.

On 27 July, President Obama signed the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, thus making it the law of the land.  See my previous entry immediately under this one to read a summary of the bill.  I decided to post a new entry on this rather than merely an update to the previous, as I found some of the president’s remarks upon signing the bill to be rather remarkable and wanted to highlight them.

First, Obama’s remarks as he signed the bill.  I have bolded certain portions of interest: Obama actually brags about bringing Israel into our internal security operations (albeit without details), additional spending of US money on Israel (although he only cites the figure for the Iron Dome project and not overall increases), and how the US has to keep Israel secure and safe.  He notably does not mention that the bill allows the Israeli air force to practice within American air space or detail exactly how deep the “cooperation” on security matters will go.

Remarks upon signing the bill – full text:

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  Hope you guys are all staying cool.  Well, listen, I just wanted to welcome these outstanding leaders to the Oval Office.  I want to in particular acknowledge Congressman Howard Berman and Senator Barbara Boxer, who have done outstanding work in shepherding through this bipartisan piece of legislation that underscores our unshakeable commitment to Israel.

As many of you know, I have made it a top priority for my administration to deepen cooperation with Israel across the whole spectrum of security issues — intelligence, military, technology.  And, in many ways, what this legislation does is bring together all the outstanding cooperation that we have seen, really, at an unprecedented level between our two countries that underscore our unshakeable commitment to Israel security.

I’m also very pleased that this week we are going to be able to announce $70 million in additional spending — $70 billion [million]*, excuse me, in additional spending for Iron Dome.  [Teri’s note: the correct figure is $70 million additional for the Iron Dome program alone, and does not reflect overall US monetary benefits to Israel.]  This is a program that has been critical in terms of providing security and safety for the Israeli families.  It is a program that has been tested and has prevented missile strikes inside of Israel.  And it is testimony to the leadership of the folks sitting here that we’re going to be able to lock in that fund to assure that that program continues and that we are standing by our friends in Israel when it comes to these kinds of attacks.

Let me just close by saying that the tragic events that we saw in Bulgaria emphasize the degree to which this continues to be a challenge not just for Israel, but for the entire world — preventing terrorist attacks and making sure the people of Israel are not targeted.

And I hope that, as I sign as this bill, once again everybody understands how committed all of us are — Republicans and Democrats — as Americans to our friends in making sure that Israel is safe and secure.

Leon Panetta, our Secretary of Defense, will be traveling to Israel to further consult and find additional ways that we can ensure such cooperation at a time when, frankly, the region is experiencing heightened tensions.

So, with that, let me sign this bill.  Again, I want to thank all who are standing beside me for their outstanding leadership and their outstanding work on this issue.
(The bill is signed.)

Next, let’s look at the White House fact sheet about the bill.  Again, the bolding is mine.  The amount of money going to Israel is astounding and the White House even acknowledges that we are funding Israel generously “despite tough fiscal times”.  The priorities of Congress and Obama are repulsively laid out in microcosm here; while Americans continue to lose jobs and homes and get bitch-slapped into poverty in unprecedented numbers, Congress votes to take financial support from the American people and send US tax-payer monies overseas to fund military operations in a foreign country.  Because Israel can depend on the US to finance more than one-fifth of its military budget, the Israeli government can spend its money on such benefits as universal health care for its citizens.  I hope they appreciate it – it’s one thing we are never going to offer our own people, because we “don’t have the cash”.    [From wikipedia on Israel’s universal health coverage: “Health care in Israel is universal and participation in a medical insurance plan is compulsory. Health care coverage is administered by a small number of organizations, with funding from the government. All Israeli citizens are entitled to the same Uniform Benefits Package, regardless of which organization they are a member of, and treatment under this package is funded for all citizens regardless of their financial means. Generally, health care in Israel is of high-quality and is delivered in an efficient and effective manner. Partly as a result of this, at an overall 82 years, Israelis enjoy the fourth-longest life expectancy in the world as of 2012.”]

There is a significant amount of rhetorical threat against Iran in this WH “fact sheet” on the Israel-first bill.  Whether this is included simply as column B of the menu or to actually signal Obama’s increasing willingness to start another war remains to be seen.  In this fact sheet, Obama gloats about the long history of his sanctions against Iran – even bringing up his ex-Congressional executive orders – but neglects to admit that the sanctions are a form of economic warfare and the supposed reasons for sanctioning Iran have no basis in facts.  Iran, in truth, has not been found to be violating their nuclear agreements or to be developing nuclear weapons.  Obama says that “the impact on Iran has been severe”, but does not detail just how Iranian civilians are suffering because of them, with soaring food and medicine prices driving many of them into hunger and rising transportation costs preventing them from being able to keep their jobs.  Our State Department has admitted that the forced destitution of the Iranian people is our goal, in much the same way we deliberately intended to harm the Iraqis through the US/UN sanctions in the 1990’s.  We seem to think the sanctions will turn the Iranians against their own government even though time after time, in country after country, what really happens is that civilians tend to become more nationalistic and blame the sanctioning governments for their misery.

Notice that here again, no mention is made of the fact that we have offered to host the Israeli air force, nor are any specific details spelled out regarding the level of “help” Israel will give us with our own internal security.  Also not brought up is the part of the bill which starts the process of including Israel in NATO.

Fact Sheet on the bill from the White House, in full:

The President has strengthened Israel’s security in tangible and concrete ways.

On July 27, 2012 the President signed the “United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012”, which strengthens Israel’s qualitative military edge.  The bill expressed bipartisan Congressional support for Administration initiatives that deepen U.S. defense and security cooperation with Israel, to include providing Israel with financial and technological assistance to produce defensive systems to counter the threat of rockets and missiles; access to U.S. manufactured defense equipment and excess defense articles; and increased opportunities to train with U.S. military forces.

Despite tough fiscal times, the President fought for and secured full funding for Israel in FY 2012, including $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing – the largest amount of funding for Israel in U.S. history.

The President secured an additional $205 million in FY 2011 to help produce an Israeli-developed short-range rocket defense system called Iron Dome, which has helped defend Israeli communities against rocket attacks by successfully striking rockets as they are fired at Israeli civilians.

In July 2012, President Obama provided an additional $70 million to Israel to ensure that Israel could maximize its production of the Iron Dome system for 2012.  Over the next three years, the Administration intends to request additional funding for Iron Dome, based on an annual assessment of Israeli security requirements against an evolving threat.

Israeli forces now benefit from regular joint exercises and training opportunities, access to advanced U.S. military hardware, emergency stockpiles, and favorable terms for the acquisition of equipment.

Prime Minister Netanyahu told the AIPAC conference on May 23, 2012, that “Yesterday President Obama spoke about his ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.  He rightly said that our security cooperation is unprecedented… And he has backed those words with deeds.”

In a July 25, 2012, speech to the Israeli National Security College, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said, “The security ties between us and the current administration are at the highest level they have ever been.  The administration is consistently strengthening the depths of Israel’s security abilities.  The decision to expand the Iron Dome system with U.S. financial backing is yet another expression of this deep connection and commitment.”

The President has galvanized the international community to put more pressure on the Iranian regime than ever before.
President Obama has been clear that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  He has backed up this commitment with tangible steps to increase pressure substantially on the Iranian regime and raise the costs of its defiance of the international community.

With President Obama’s leadership, the United States gained the support of Russia, China, and other nations to pass United Nations Security Council resolution 1929, creating the most comprehensive and biting international sanctions regime the Iranian government has ever faced.  This resolution imposes restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities, ballistic missile program, conventional military exports to Iran, Iranian banks and financial transactions, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The Obama Administration also worked with allies such as the European Union, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia, Canada, and others to adopt additional national measures to increase pressure on the Iranian regime, including in the financial, banking, insurance, transportation, and energy sectors.  Iran is now virtually cut off from large parts of the international financial system and we are working aggressively to isolate Iran even further.

In addition to multilateral sanctions, President Obama worked with Congress to pass in 2010 the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act, which strengthens existing U.S. sanctions, and makes it harder for the Iranian government to buy refined petroleum and the goods it needs to modernize its oil and gas sector.  Already, close to $60 billion in energy-related projects in Iran have been put on hold or discontinued.

More recently, the Administration worked with Congress to develop Section 1245 of the National Defense Authorization Act, which makes sanctionable a host of transactions involving the Central Bank of Iran.

The United States has worked closely with partners during the first half of 2012 to secure their cooperation with these sanctions, resulting in the significant reduction of purchases of oil from all of Iran’s major oil trading partners.  For instance, the European Union has put in place a full embargo on Iranian oil.  The impact on Iran has been severe, with perhaps as much as 1 million barrels per day in sales revenue taken away from Iran, at the cost of billions per month.

International companies are increasingly recognizing the risks of doing business with Iran and are abandoning existing business opportunities, declining to take advantage of new ones, and scaling back any existing relationships.  This trend has been replicated across a broad range of industries.  Examples of companies withdrawing from business with Iran include:  Shell, Total, ENI, Statoil, Repsol, Lukoil, Kia, Toyota, Siemens, and foreign subsidiaries of U.S. firms such as GE, Honeywell, and Caterpillar.

The Obama Administration is working to develop more sanctions to further isolate and increase the pressure on the Iranian regime.  The President signed two new Executive Orders in April 2012 that addressed human rights violations and sanctions evasion, and we continue to look for new ways to expand our authorities and strengthen our implementation of existing ones to ensure that Iran understands that its failure to comply with its international obligations will have ever intensifying consequences.
The President has stood with Israel in times of crisis.

The President personally intervened to help avert catastrophe when a violent mob stormed the Israeli Embassy in Cairo.  Afterwards, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu said of the President: “I requested his assistance at a decisive—I would even say fateful—moment.  He said he would do everything possible, and this is what he did. He activated all of the United States’ means and influence — which are certainly considerable.  I believe we owe him a special debt of gratitude.”
The President has made clear that Israel cannot be expected to negotiate with Hamas, a terrorist group sworn to its destruction.

In his speech in Cairo and elsewhere, the President has consistently demanded that Hamas accept Israel’s right to exist, reject violence, and adhere to all existing agreements before it can play a role in achieving Middle East peace.
The President has spoken out forcefully to condemn Hamas attacks against Israelis.  He has made clear that “it is a sign neither of courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus.  That’s not how moral authority is claimed; that’s how it is surrendered.”  At the United Nations, he emphasized that “the slaughter of innocent Israelis is not resistance – it’s injustice.”

The President has forcefully opposed unbalanced and biased actions against Israel in the Security Council, the UN General Assembly, and across the UN system.

The President has consistently opposed attempts to shortcut the peace process through resolutions at the United Nations.  When an effort was made to insert the Security Council into matters that should be resolved through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, we vetoed it.  In his September 21, 2011 address to the United Nations General Assembly, the President said “I am convinced that there is no short cut to the end of a conflict that has endured for decades.  Peace is hard work. Peace will not come through statements and resolutions at the United Nations — if it were that easy, it would have been accomplished by now.  Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians who must live side by side.  Ultimately, it is the Israelis and the Palestinians — not us –- who must reach agreement on the issues that divide them: on borders and on security, on refugees and Jerusalem.”

When the UN General Assembly voted for a commemoration in September 2011 of the original 2001 Durban conference, we voted against it and announced we would not participate.  When the Goldstone Report was released, we stood up strongly for Israel’s right to defend itself.

The President has called on all sides – Arabs, Palestinians, and Israelis alike – to do their part to help achieve Middle East peace.
In Cairo, the President said that Arab states must recognize that they too have responsibilities to move towards peace, including by fostering a culture of peace.  He said clearly that “threatening Israel with destruction – or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews – is deeply wrong,” and that denying the Holocaust is “baseless, ignorant, and hateful.”
In his May 19, 2011 speech, President Obama emphasized that a peace agreement must meet the needs of both sides, including by:  ending the conflict and resolving all claims, achieving the goal of two states for two peoples with Israel as a Jewish state and homeland for the Jewish people, achieving secure and recognized borders for both sides, and devising robust security arrangements that will not leave Israel vulnerable.


On the above mentioned Goldstone report, you can read a summary of it here:

Hillary we-came-we-saw-he-died Clinton spoke the truth about why the US did not endorse the Goldstone report:  “On 26 February 2010, in testimony before the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, Hillary ‘admitted that the report was problematic for the United States and other countries, which face the same type of war on terrorism coming out of populated areas’. She also warned that if the Goldstone report were to set the international standards, the U.S. and many other countries might be accused of war crimes for their military operations.”  – from the wikipedia article mentioned above.

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Posted by on July 28, 2012 in Congress, Iran


In which we attempt to codify "Israel first" into law.

Updated below.

The Senate has passed its version of the “Israel-first” law, the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012 – S.2165.  The House announced it will vote on this bill, which originated in the Senate, this week;  if it passes the House, it presumably would then go to Obama for signature.  [Note: this bill is on the House schedule for vote today.]  The House has its own version of the bill (House bill HR4133) which has passed the House and now heads to the Senate – I am not sure why the redundancy exists. S.2165 originated in the Senate and HR4133 originated in the House, but they are basically the same thing.  I am going to focus on the Senate bill, since it seems to be moving ahead more quickly.

The stated purpose of the bill is to “enhance strategic cooperation between the United States and Israel, and for other purposes”.  In the bill, we pledge undying support for Israel, financially, militarily, and (weirdly) spiritually, and manage to castigate and threaten Iran at the same time.

In section two of the bill, we read:

•    Congress makes the following findings:
◦    (1) Since 1948, United States Presidents and both houses of Congress, on a bipartisan basis and supported by the American people, have repeatedly reaffirmed the special bond between the United States and Israel, based on shared values and shared interests.
◦    (2) The Middle East is undergoing rapid change, bringing with it hope for an expansion of democracy but also great challenges to the national security of the United States and our allies in the region, particularly to our most important ally in the region, Israel.
◦    (3) The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran is continuing its decades-long pattern of seeking to foment instability and promote extremism in the Middle East, particularly in this time of dramatic political transition.
◦    (4) At the same time, the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to enrich uranium in defiance of multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions.
◦    (5) A nuclear-weapons capable Iran would fundamentally threaten vital United States interests, encourage regional nuclear proliferation, further empower Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror, and pose a serious and destabilizing threat to Israel and the region.
◦    (6) Over the past several years, with the assistance of the Governments of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Syria, Hizbollah and Hamas have increased their stockpile of rockets, with more than 60,000 now ready to be fired at Israel. The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran continues to add to its arsenal of ballistic missiles and cruise missiles, which threaten Iran’s neighbors, Israel, and United States Armed Forces in the region.
◦    (7) As a result, Israel is facing a fundamentally altered strategic environment.
◦    (8) Pursuant to chapter 5 of title 1 of the Emergency Wartime Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2003 (Public Law 108-11; 117 Stat. 576), the authority to make available loan guarantees to Israel is currently set to expire on September 30, 2012.

In section three, we are for some reason making it policy to support the Jewishness of Israel, although our own Constitution calls for the separation of church and state here in the US.  Furthermore, we intend to help Israel maintain its military edge (note that we are here tacitly admitting that Israel has the military edge – thanks to us), veto any “one-sided anti-Israel resolutions at the UN” (so far, we have vetoed every UN resolution calling Israel to task – calling them “one-sided” and “anti-Israel” resolutions no matter what international laws Israel has violated), and call on other nations to recognize Israel’s right to exist, but we fail to ask for anyone to recognize Palestine’s right to exist.

•    It is the policy of the United States:
◦    (1) To reaffirm our unwavering commitment to the security of the State of Israel as a Jewish state. As President Barack Obama stated on December 16, 2011, `America’s commitment and my commitment to Israel and Israel’s security is unshakeable.’ And as President George W. Bush stated before the Israeli Knesset on May 15, 2008, on the 60th anniversary of the founding of the State of Israel, `The alliance between our governments is unbreakable, yet the source of our friendship runs deeper than any treaty.’.
◦    (2) To help the Government of Israel preserve its qualitative military edge amid rapid and uncertain regional political transformation.
◦    (3) To veto any one-sided anti-Israel resolutions at the United Nations Security Council.
◦    (4) To support Israel’s inherent right to self-defense.
◦    (5) To pursue avenues to expand cooperation with the Government of Israel both in defense and across the spectrum of civilian sectors, including high technology, agriculture, medicine, health, pharmaceuticals, and energy.
◦    (6) To assist the Government of Israel with its ongoing efforts to forge a peaceful, negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that results in two states living side-by-side in peace and security, and to encourage Israel’s neighbors to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.
◦    (7) To encourage further development of advanced technology programs between the United States and Israel given current trends and instability in the region.

Next, we move on to some particulars in how we will provide support for Israel.  These include giving Israel a lot of money and military hardware, including all the materiel we no longer need in Iraq.  We are planning to let Israel practice its air force training within the US because they have “limited air space”.  I guess this means that the first foreign military bases ever allowed in this country will be Israeli. We also want to start down the path for Israel’s inclusion in NATO.

•    It is the sense of Congress that the United States Government should take the following actions to assist in the defense of Israel:
◦    (1) Seek to enhance the capabilities of the Governments of the United States and Israel to address emerging common threats, increase security cooperation, and expand joint military exercises.
◦    (2) Provide the Government of Israel such support as may be necessary to increase development and production of joint missile defense systems, particularly such systems that defend against the urgent threat posed to Israel and United States forces in the region.
◦    (3) Provide the Government of Israel assistance specifically for the production and procurement of the Iron Dome defense system for purposes of intercepting short-range missiles, rockets, and projectiles launched against Israel.
◦    (4) Provide the Government of Israel defense articles and defense services through such mechanisms as appropriate, to include air refueling tankers, missile defense capabilities, and specialized munitions.
◦    (5) Provide the Government of Israel additional excess defense articles, as appropriate, in the wake of the withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq.
◦    (6) Examine ways to strengthen existing and ongoing efforts, including the Gaza Counter Arms Smuggling Initiative, aimed at preventing weapons smuggling into Gaza pursuant to the 2009 agreement following the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, as well as measures to protect against weapons smuggling and terrorist threats from the Sinai Peninsula.
◦    (7) Offer the Air Force of Israel additional training and exercise opportunities in the United States to compensate for Israel’s limited air space.
◦    (8) Work to encourage an expanded role for Israel with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), including an enhanced presence at NATO headquarters and exercises.
◦    (9) Expand already-close intelligence cooperation, including satellite intelligence, with Israel.

Section five extends military support already promised to Israel and extends the loans already promised for a further period of time. Section six of the bill asks for reports from the President regarding Israel’s “military edge” in the region and for other reports.  Under “Other Reports” is a hint that Israel will be playing a part in our own internal security apparatus.

    (b) Reports on Other Matters- Not later than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the President shall submit to the appropriate congressional committees a report on each of the following matters:
(1) Taking into account the Government of Israel’s urgent requirement for F-35 aircraft, actions to improve the process relating to its purchase of F-35 aircraft, particularly with respect to cost efficiency and timely delivery.
(2) Efforts to expand cooperation between the United States and Israel in homeland security, counter-terrorism, maritime security, energy, cyber-security, and other related areas.
(3) Actions to integrate Israel into the defense of the Eastern Mediterranean.

Section seven is a definition of terms.  The term `qualitative military edge’… “has the meaning given the term in section 36(h)(2) of the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. 2776(h)(2))”. That definition relates specifically to Israel and is stated thusly:

“QUALITATIVE MILITARY EDGE DEFINED.—In this sub-section, the term ‘qualitative military edge’ means the ability to counter and defeat any credible conventional military threat from any individual state or possible coalition of states or from non-state actors, while sustaining minimal damages and casualties, through the use of superior military means, possessed in sufficient quantity, including weapons, command, control, communication, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities that in their technical characteristics are superior in capability to those of such other individual or possible coalition of states or non-state actors.’’.

The full text of Senate bill S.2165 may be read here:

Here is a brief summary of the amount of money Israel has already gotten from us over the years. We have maintained the 3 billion/year threshold even while we are in a depression and can’t afford to take care of our own infrastructure and people:

New data shows Washington has given more than 115 billion dollars in financial aid to Israel over the years, indicating Tel Aviv’s great dependence on the US.

According to the report published by the Congressional Research Service Israel has received more assistance from the US than 15 European countries did to recover from the devastation caused during World War II.

More than 67 billion dollars of the Washington’s aid to Israel has been in military, the report said.

The astonishing report adds that the US has allocated 3.1 billion dollars, around one-fifth of its defense budget, to Israel this year alone.

Americans also allow the Israeli army to use their emergency reserve ammunition stored in Israel. The value of the weapons held in the US emergency supplies is 1.2 billion dollars.

The US gives billions of dollars in American taxpayers’ money to the Tel Aviv regime each year in the form of military and economic aid, legally justified as part of US government’s foreign aid package.

Washington has never downsized its annual 3 billion dollars grant to the Israeli regime despite going through its worst recession in decades which has prompted the government to impose major cuts on most public service programs for citizens.

Update:  The House just passed this bill by voice vote this evening.  It now goes to Obama for his signature.


Posted by on July 17, 2012 in Congress, Iran


Connect the dots.

The SEC does not have prosecutorial power.  Neither do the FDIC, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) or the New York Stock Exchange.  They do, however, have investigative authority, and are responsible for being on the alert for fraud and criminal activity in the financial sector.  Supposedly, they do an investigation, gather evidence, and then present the case to the Justice Dept.  The Justice Dept. then brings the criminal case to court and presumably justice rules the land and the bad guys go to jail.  Oddly, no-one has been indicted, much less gone to jail, for the fraud, forgery, insider trading, perjury, bribery, and other assorted crimes committed by the banking sector since 2007, leading to the financial meltdown.  The practices continue, the bankers make huge bonuses and profits, cities get ripped off and homeowners lose their houses to companies that cannot show they own the mortgages.  There is no doubt that crimes have been and continue to be committed.  Why is no-one going to jail?

Obama’s Mortgage Fraud Task Force is supposed to be handling investigations and bringing charges, but it is apparently being stripped of funds and staff – if indeed it ever actually had any of either other than on paper – by the same Justice Dept. that is supposed to be running it.  Obama said in January, “This new unit will hold accountable those who broke the law, speed assistance to homeowners, and help turn the page on an era of recklessness that hurt so many Americans.”   Well, okay, lay it on me, babe.  You let the banks get off with a measly $25 bb fine, most of which will come from taxpayer funds rather than the banks themselves, and wrote in the settlement that the individual states could use the money for whatever they choose, rather than actually helping homeowners, but the Task Force is going to investigate and bring criminal charges on some of the perps, right?  Some of the assholes are gonna pay, right?

Here are excerpts from a couple of articles.  I have faith that you can connect the dots for yourself.

7/10/12, Richard Eskow

More and more Washington insiders are asking a question that was considered off-limits in the nation’s capital just a few months ago: Who, exactly, is Attorney General Eric Holder representing? As scandal after scandal erupts on Wall Street, involving everything from global lending manipulation to cocaine and prostitution, more and more people are worrying about Holder’s seeming inaction — or worse — in the face of mounting evidence.

Confidential sources say that the President’s much-touted Mortgage Fraud Task Force is being starved for vital resources by the Holder Justice Department. Political insiders are fearful that this obstruction will threaten Democrats’ chances at the polls. Investigators and prosecutors from other agencies are expressing their frustration as the ever-rowing list of documented crimes by individual Wall Street bankers continues to be ignored.

Meanwhile the scandals and revelations go on. The new LIBOR rate-fixing scandal led the bank-friendly and conservative magazine The Economist to run a cover about “Banksters” and to publish a piece entitled “The rotten heart of finance.” People like Robert Reich are saying this could be the story that finally brings down the banks.

But there have already been stories — lots of stories, terrible ones — about corruption, bribery, perjury, forgery and a dozen different kinds of fraud. There have been stories about laundering money for the Mexican drug cartels, including a new lead that surfaced this week. There’s already ample evidence that Wall Street bankers have defrauded cities, deceived investors and cheated their own clients.[…]

The problem isn’t a shortage of scandalous stories. We’ve seen a lot of those. What we haven’t seen, at least here in the United States, is a single indictment of a senior Wall Street banker from the United States Department of Justice. And that’s what has these political insiders concerned.

A growing number of people are privately expressing concern at the Justice Department’s long-standing pattern of inactivity, obfuscation and obstruction. Mr. Holder’s past as a highly-paid lawyer for a top Wall Street firm, Covington and Burling, is being discussed more openly among insiders. Covington & Burling was the law firm which devised the MERS shell corporation that has since been implicated in many cases of mortgage and foreclosure fraud.[…]

The Mortgage Fraud Task Force stands at the heart of the latest controversy.[…]  One source familiar with the task force said that other federal agencies were actively participating in the process, but that the Justice Department was preventing the group from getting even the relatively meager resources promised to it by the Justice Department.

While nobody provided precise numbers, several sources said the Task Force could show concrete results with twenty or thirty more staff members. Yet Holder’s Justice Department won’t make them available, said one source. By contrast, Republican officials allocated more than one thousand people to investigate the savings and loan scandal.[…]

Several of the people we spoke with expressed concern that senior Administration officials like Holder may be protecting their relationships on Wall Street because they hope to resume their careers there after leaving public service.[…]

It’s not as if there’s a shortage of suspects for the Justice Department to pursue. We examined the role of accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers in the AIG scandal. Now it’s been implicated in the LIBOR scandal. As American Banker points out, PwC had at least two opportunities to catch the LIBOR deceptions. We would add that auditors have a legal obligation, at least in this country, to report any irregularities before signing off on the bank’s financials.

And while a British official wants false reporting of lending rates (the heart of the LIBOR story) to be made illegal, fraud and misrepresentation already are illegal. Then there are the numerous violations of law admitted to by JPMorgan Chase. In the case of GE Capital, investigators were stunned by the lack of prosecutions after the SEC identified individuals inside that bank who prepared fraudulent documents.[…]

Meanwhile in the absence of punishment the bankers’s behavior is getting more and more extreme, like pyromaniac children begging to be caught. Some examples:

Wells Fargo has already been implicated in the laundering of money for the Mexican drug cartels that have murdered as many as sixty thousand people, as well as having been found to have engaged in some of the most egregious borrower fraud. Now, as attorney Field notes, it’s even illegally closing the bank accounts of unfriendly bloggers to extract revenge.

Despite its massive rap sheet, which includes investor fraud and the bribing of Alabama officials, and despite the SEC investigation of its “London whale” debacle, JPMorgan Chase is is defying a subpoena in California and refusing to turn its emails over to a judge. It’s charged with the same kind of criminal activity that was behind the Enron scandal: manipulating energy markets.

And despite Jamie Dimon’s suggestion that the head of the “London whale’s” group would be forced to return her ill-gotten millions, she was allowed to resign and keep the money. There’s no sign that a criminal investigation of this affair is underway, despite Dimon’s own admission that laws may have been broken.

Field also points out that Barclays has been caught red-handed at similar kinds of fraud before, but they didn’t stop. Without indictments, why would they? Those settlements are just the cost of doing business — a cost someone else pays, while the criminals themselves get rich.

The SEC and state law enforcement officials have been moving, issuing “Wells notices” (an SEC document sent to banks under investigation) and searching for information. That much is a matter of public record. Where’s Mr. Holder?

But there’s no evidence that Mr. Holder’s Justice Department has mounted a serious effort to investigate bank crime. Its first, much-touted “coordinated effort” to crack down on mortgage fraud turned out to be a PR trick, not a law enforcement effort, which the Columbia Journalism Review described with the headline, “The Obama Administration’s Financial-Fraud Stunt Backfires.” That’s not the kind of press a President wants to see repeated in an election year.[…]

While nobody we spoke with was willing to raise the subject of a Holder resignation, they did insist that time was running out for the Attorney General to show concrete results.

Without criminal investigations and indictments, bankers will continue to commit crimes. The LIBOR scandal, which implicates a number of leading banks, proves that. The Justice Department’s inaction is putting the world economy at risk by allowing bankers to continue their reckless and illegal behavior.[…]



The US Securities and Exchange Commission is quickly running out of time to file charges against financial firms and high-level executives involved in fraud and other crimes leading up to the 2008 financial crisis.

Federal laws require the SEC to file official charges within five years of the alleged crimes due to a statute of limitations. Officials at SEC, according to the Wall Street Journal, are now scrambling to file lawsuits before the five-year time limit runs out.

In one example, experts believe that the SEC should file a civil lawsuit against bankers involved in the high profile ‘Delphinus deal’ no later than next Thursday. Delphinus, a $1.6 billion deal, was a subprime mortgage scam which collapsed within months during 2007 and was a major player in the widespread financial collapse.

A criminal investigation into that deal began months ago; however, prosecutors have yet to file charges.

The failure of the SEC to file charges and allow these crimes to go unchallenged “feeds the public sense of cynicism,” Arthur Wilmarth, a law professor at George Washington University and consultant to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, told the Journal.


4/9/12, David Dayen

CREDO, the online progressive organizing group, alleges in a new email to supporters that the Justice Department has not delivered the promised (and paltry) number of 55 staff members to the RMBS working group, the task force co-chaired by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate the mortgage securitization practices of the leading banks.

We have heard very little from that task force since it was inaugurated in January, and CREDO has become the first progressive group to come forward with their concerns. But more is coming. This is the kickoff of a pressure campaign among several groups, querying the Administration in public about what was described to me last week as “the case of the missing task force.”

CREDO starts by asserting that 55 staffers from the Justice Department are not nearly enough to tackle a multi-trillion dollar fraud. Comparable investigations of much smaller financial crises, like the savings and loan scandal or the Enron collapse, have featured investigation staffs that were several orders of magnitude larger.

But the really damning charge is here:

“And now we’re hearing from insiders in Washington DC, that the full complement of 55 promised investigators — which is already not nearly enough — haven’t even been deployed to the task force […]

“The 55 investigators promised to the financial crimes task force is not nearly enough. And to find out that President Obama hasn’t delivered on those investigators, let alone resourced the effort at the levels appropriate to the biggest financial fraud in U.S. history, is shocking.”

In addition, CREDO alleges that none of the other co-chairs of the task force, including three Administration officials who were already on previous financial fraud task forces that amounted to little, “has done literally anything that achieves our goal of holding banks accountable or prosecuting bankers for criminal activity.”

This matters not just because of broken promises, but because the foot-dragging has serious consequences. Many of the various types of fraud that this task force is supposed to be investigating have statutes of limitations, some of which will run out on the very last securitization deals completed before the housing bubble collapsed. There are several 10-year statutes of limitations, particularly through the federal law FIRREA. But other statutes have a 5-year limit, and the last deals were made in 2007. So this looks suspiciously like running out the clock.



Posted by on July 15, 2012 in corporatocracy, economy, MERS, Wall St and banks


Obama reflects on his big mistake.

Obama reflects on his biggest mistake as president
July 12, 2012

President Obama’s biggest mistake during his first term, he told CBS News in an exclusive interview, has been putting policy over storytelling.

Mr. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama sat down Thursday with “CBS This Morning” anchor Charlie Rose in the White House Blue Room, where they discussed the failures and successes of his administration as he heads into another election, among other things.

“When I think about what we’ve done well and what we haven’t done well,” the president said, “the mistake of my first term – couple of years – was thinking that this job was just about getting the policy right. And that’s important. But the nature of this office is also to tell a story to the American people that gives them a sense of unity and purpose and optimism, especially during tough times.”

Mr. Obama acknowledged the dissonance between others’ perception of his strength as an expert orator, and his own.

“It’s funny – when I ran, everybody said, well he can give a good speech but can he actually manage the job?” he said. “And in my first two years, I think the notion was, ‘Well, he’s been juggling and managing a lot of stuff, but where’s the story that tells us where he’s going?’ And I think that was a legitimate criticism.”

Pressed by Rose about what he felt he needed to explain better to the American people, the president corrected that he wanted to do more “explaining, but also inspiring.”

“Because hope is still there,” Mrs. Obama added.|UNKNOWN&emvAD=360×615&nbcol=0|unknown

Why does it sound so wan and, well, hopeless, when Mrs. O says, “Because hope is still there”?  It sounds like what you tell Great-aunt Sukie as Great-uncle Jake lies there hooked up to the heart-lung-kidney machine.  “Don’t give up, Aunt Sukie.  Where there’s life, there’s hope, dear.”

Sure.  The problem, see, isn’t your policies.  It isn’t that you mandated we buy our health care from for-profit companies and didn’t set a limit on what they could charge us, or that you whitewashed the BP oil spill, let them off the hook and then allowed even more deep-water drilling in the Gulf and the Arctic while at the same time insisting that the Gulf seafood drenched in Corexit was safe to eat.  It isn’t that you didn’t go after the Bush administration.  It isn’t that you refuse to go after the big financial firms who are still raping the economy and stealing everyone’s homes, savings, and everything else of value across the globe.  It isn’t that you do go after the whistle blowers who might shed some light on what the fuck is going on in this nuthouse.  It isn’t that you keep bombing the hell out of countries with whom we are not at war, or demand that we spend even more money on weapons and military bases, or let the wealthy keep amassing improbable amounts of cash and assets while we give up jobs and lose more and more of the fragile, minute security offered by food stamp programs, unemployment benefits and the like.  It’s not that you stack your administration with Goldman, Sachs and Monsanto guys.  It’s not that you sign secret deals to give away our sovereignty and wreck what few ecological safeguards we have left, or that you keep letting the security agencies expand their spying on us and control over us.  It didn’t bother us when you invaded another country, killed Osama bin Laden without a trial, and dumped his body in the briny deep like you were some mafioso thug. Hell, we’re going to make a movie of it, which we will pay a couple hours’ worth of wages to watch.  No-one complained when you utterly ruined Libya and had its leader tortured and assassinated.  It isn’t even that you decided you could kill any of us you wanted or jail us indefinitely – without trials, hearings, judges or juries – for whatever reason you pulled out of your ass. Or for no reason at all.

It’s not the policies, which are just about perfect.  It’s that you didn’t spend enough time spinning the stories.

Gee, and being able to spin a good lie story is why the oligarchy picked you for the job.  But don’t fret, sir.  We have reached the requisite level of idiocy now where you can just tell the bald-faced truth without picturesque narrative attached. Notice how most of us these days seem to buy the shit that the wealthy create jobs?  You can tell us right out front that you are going after Iran for no legitimate reason whatsoever, and no-one cares.  Hardly a peep when you announced you were assassinating Americans just because you felt like it.  Congress doesn’t bother to restrain corporations from poisoning our food, water and air; we are swilling toxic sludge, eating it and breathing it, and yet the people are convinced that regulations are the bane of society.  You guys don’t have to spin the stories any more.  The beachhead has been softened and the country is ready for the final plundering.  Don’t lose sleep over the imagined need for fanciful, yet believable, story-lines.  We welcome the opportunity to be groped at the airports and bus terminals and have completely discarded our silly notions of civil rights  – you don’t even have to make up any imaginary terrorists any more.  So just take a page from your friend, Jamie Dimon.  Tell us you are going to take all our stuff and then take it.

We’ll let you.  We love that shit now.


Posted by on July 14, 2012 in corporatocracy, elections


Guantanamo Bay: not closing.

Updated below.

Obama promised he would close the Guantanamo Bay military facility in Cuba as soon as he took office.  Shortly after taking office, he signed an executive order to that effect: the order read that Guantanamo Bay would close no later than one year after the issuance of the order, which was dated 22 Jan., ’09.  Two years later, with the base still open, Obama issued another executive order, setting up review processes for the detainees held at Guantanamo and released a White House statement about the new executive order.  The statement did not mention closing the base, or even use the word ‘Guantanamo’.

When Congress passed a bill which prevented federal money from being used to transfer and house the Guantanamo prisoners on US soil, Obama signed the bill, saying that he didn’t like that part, but that the overall bill on military spending was too important to refuse signing.  Of course, he could have taken matters into his own hands and issued a signing statement or sent out an executive order, but he only seems to take charge when it comes to making the decision on who to kill and how.

Releasing prisoners who have been cleared of wrong-doing, as 89 of the men held at Guantanamo have, well, in that decision, his hands are “tied” and he bows to a Congress too frightened to let these tortured, broken humans set foot outside of the prison where they have been held for over ten years.  46 of the 169 prisoners still held cannot be tried or released, according to the government (they are “too dangerous” to release, something the government intuitively knows without holding any trials, but have been tortured and so cannot be brought to trial – a perfect set up, if one is running one of Kafka’s fictional prisons).  Those 46 will be held indefinitely.  Ninety-two percent of the 169 prisoners have no affiliation with al Qaeda, according to the government’s own experts.

As for the rest of the men held at Guantanamo, Obama has returned to the use of military tribunals, which he condemned when he was a candidate running for office.  To make a thorough mockery of the whole “trial” process, the US government reserves the right to continue holding the person indefinitely, even if he has been acquitted, for “national security reasons”, of course.

The base at Guantanamo Bay has existed since 1903, when the US demanded a lease to the property from Cuba, which was then a protectorate of the US.  Cuba has not cashed the $4000 monthly lease checks since 1959 in protest, as they want the base closed and the land returned to Cuba.  The government of Cuba insists the lease was coerced and is not legal under international law.  The base is the only one in a country with which the US does not maintain diplomatic ties.  However, the base has the first, the one and the only, McDonald’s in Cuba.  It also boasts other American fast-food restaurants, none of which are available to Cubans, and there are reports that prisoners housed on the base are rewarded with Happy Meals from the Mickey D’s if they “cooperate” during “interrogations”.  God, are we great, or what?

Given that the US is now going to spend 40 million dollars to lay an underwater fiber-optic cable from Florida to Cuba to serve the base, it seems highly unlikely that the plan to close Guantanamo still exists.  This is but one of the upgrades scheduled or currently underway at the base.  Even the military commanders on the base remark that they don’t believe the base is going to close any time soon.  Maybe we need the place to house a few American prisoners out of sight now that Congress has decided that any number of us may be subject to indefinite detention under the NDAA.  At least we won’t have to give up our Happy Meals.

The Pentagon has decided to lay an estimated $40 million underwater fiber-optic cable from Guantánamo Bay to South Florida, The Miami Herald has learned, in the latest sign that the military is preparing for detentions and other operations at the Navy base for the long-term.

It only makes sense to do if we’re going to be here for any period of time,” said Navy Capt. Kirk Hibbert, disclosing the project in an interview last week before ending a two-year tour as the Navy base commander.

Construction won’t start for more than a year. And communications won’t come online for probably two more years.

But the American military has already notified the Cuban military to expect a surveyor ship, the USNS Zeus, off the base’s coastline this summer — a first step toward getting the program funded and then out to bid.

The fiber-optics plan is the largest known infrastructure improvement for the base by the Pentagon, which has undertaken expansion and building projects in a mostly piecemeal and sometimes secretive fashion in the decade of housing war on terror captives there.[…]

The base, population about 6,000, is like a small town with a seaport, airport and the detention center that houses 169 foreign men as captives, with 1,700 troops and contractors on temporary assignment to imprison them.[…]

Even if President Barack Obama were to succeed in his ambition to close the detention center, Stimson said, the infrastructure there could be put to other use.

Maintaining Guantánamo is expensive, and the constant churn of prison staff adds to the cost. Navy Cmdr. Tamsen Reese, the recently departed public affairs officer, said the prison estimates it costs taxpayers $77 a day to house and feed a soldier or sailor assigned to detention center duty.

The Bush administration built a series of prison camps for the 779 detainees who have passed through the place, including a still-secret building for former CIA captives. The Navy also put in a sports field, renovated housing and leases trailer parks for rotating detention center forces. And it has a variety of overlapping and at-times unreliable communications systems — from a contract cable TV and Internet plan that troops must pay for, to a no-charge, molasses-slow Wi-Fi system and sophisticated teleconferencing for the commanders.[…]

It turns out that most Americans are quite pleased with the gulag system we have set up at Guantanamo and elsewhere, and equally happy with the idea that our president can use drones to murder people wherever he wants.  I would also guess that the use of mercenary contractors is also quite acceptable to the majority of us, although the poll does not ask that question.  If the results of the following poll are truly indicative of the opinion of the public, I can only surmise that consuming too many Happy Meals addles brain functions and decimates moral sensibility.  We might be comfortable, then, housed in a facility like Guantanamo, where there are ten guards for every prisoner, but if we are very, very good, we get our daily ration of cholesterol and e-coli on a bun.  If the results of this poll leave you feeling lonely and somewhat bewildered as to the state of mind of your fellow ‘Mericans – congratulations.  You might be one of few remaining actual and sentient human beings in the US.

The sharpest edges of President Obama’s counterterrorism policy, including the use of drone aircraft to kill suspected terrorists abroad and keeping open the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, have broad public support, including from the left wing of the Democratic Party.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that Obama, who campaigned on a pledge to close the brig in Cuba and to change national security policies he criticized as inconsistent with U.S. law and values, has little to fear politically for failing to live up to all of those promises.[…]

Americans favor a national security approach that relies more on technology than troops. By a margin of more than 2 to 1, Americans say the president’s handling of terrorism is a major reason to support rather than oppose his bid for reelection.

The survey shows that 70 percent of respondents approve of Obama’s decision to keep open the prison at Guantanamo Bay. He pledged during his first week in office to close the prison within a year, but he has not done so.

Even the party base appears willing to forgive that failure.

The poll shows that 53 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats — and 67 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats — support keeping Guantanamo Bay open, even though it emerged as a symbol of the post-Sept. 11 national security policies of President George W. Bush, which many liberals bitterly opposed.

Obama has also relied on armed drones far more than Bush did, and he has expanded their use beyond America’s defined war zones. The Post-ABC News poll found that 83 percent of Americans approve of Obama’s drone policy, which administration officials refuse to discuss, citing security concerns.

The president only recently acknowledged the existence of the drone program, which some human rights advocates say operates without a clear legal framework and in violation of the U.S. prohibition against assassination.

But fully 77 percent of liberal Democrats endorse the use of drones, meaning that Obama is unlikely to suffer any political consequences as a result of his policy in this election year.

Support for drone strikes against suspected terrorists stays high, dropping only somewhat when respondents are asked specifically about targeting American citizens living overseas, as was the case with Anwar al-
Awlaki, the Yemeni American killed in September in a drone strike in northern Yemen.[…]

Update, Thurs., 12 July:

We will never know all that goes on in the taxpayer-funded secret hell-holes like Guantanamo, but sometimes a tiny window opens and we get to view another little atrocity being committed in our name.  This is what the majority of Americans support.  From Robert Beckhusen for wired’s dangerroom:

Prisoners inside the U.S. military’s detention center at Guantanamo Bay were forcibly given “mind altering drugs,” including being injected with a powerful anti-psychotic sedative used in psychiatric hospitals. Prisoners were often not told what medications they received, and were tricked into believing routine flu shots were truth serums. It’s a serious violation of medical ethics, made worse by the fact that the military continued to interrogate prisoners while they were doped on psychoactive chemicals.

That’s according to a recently declassified report (.pdf) from the Pentagon’s inspector general, obtained by Truthout after a Freedom of Information Act Request. In it, the inspector general concludes that “certain detainees, diagnosed as having serious mental health conditions being treated with psychoactive medications on a continuing basis, were interrogated.” The report does not conclude, though, that anti-psychotic drugs were used specifically for interrogation purposes.

The only drug explicitly named in the report was Haldol, first marketed in the 1960s and still used today as a relatively cheap — and hard-boiled — anti-psychotic sedative in psychiatric hospitals (more commonly in emergency rooms). Haldol has declined since the widespread introduction of newer anti-psychiatric drugs in the 1990s.

Its side effects are not great. A full list would be too long to reproduce here, but they include depression, muscle contractions and suicidal behavior. A patient on Haldol can develop long-term movement disorders and life-threatening neurological disorders. There’s a possibility (though not common) of heart problems that can lead to sudden death.

Haldol’s main effect, though, is that it makes you really groggy. Now combine that with sleep deprivation and intense, fearful questioning. Brent Mickum, an attorney for detainee Abu Zubaydah, said Zubaydah was “routinely overdosed” with the drug, Truthout notes. (Zubaydah was also waterboarded 83 times in one month.)

The inspector general report also notes that former Guantanamo prisoner and former Saudi policeman named Adel al-Nusairi, was never given Haldol shots during interrogations, but was forced to take monthly injections as he was diagnosed as ”schizophrenic and psychotic with borderline personality disorder.” Other ”uncooperative” detainees were also forced to take injections.

An unnamed detainee told the inspector general he was given unidentified red and blue pills while traveling to Guantanamo from Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, in 2002. ”At the time they said it was some candy,” he said. After eating the “candy,” the prisoner said he felt like in a “state of delusion” for several days.

At least one detainee, so-called “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla was tricked into believing he was injected with a “truth serum” during an interrogation, possibly a form of LSD or PCP. In reality, it was a flu shot. Still, it’s a “serious breach of medical ethics,” Georgetown University law professor and health policy specialist Gregg Bloche told Truthout. “It undermines trust in military physicians and it’s an unfair insult to the integrity of the vast majority of military doctors, who quite rightly believe that this sort of thing is contrary to their professional obligation,” Bloche said.

The military’s response has been muted. A Pentagon spokesman refused to comment to Truthout as “doing so might not only compromise security,” but added that the military’s operating procedures “are ‘living’ documents, subject to regular change and updating.” The inspector general report noted comments from Guantanamo’s former medical commander that drugs were giving “to help control serious mental illnesses,” and that the practice was approved by an ethics committee.

But did they consent? (No.) Did the medics consult the prisoners’ medical background before administering drugs? Were prisoners still under the effect of the drugs during interrogation? The report concludes: very likely.

And what kind of confessions were interrogators receiving? They may not have been the most reliable, or truthful. Worse, men with serious mental disorders were given heavy sedatives, while interrogations continued. Not many medical professionals would call that treatment.

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Posted by on July 10, 2012 in MIC


Clinton pokes the Bear and the Dragon.

Updated below, Sat., 7 July.

Our top “diplomat”, Hillary we-came-we-saw-he-died Clinton, is now threatening punishment for Russia and China because they refuse to support regime change in Syria.  Russia and China, let us remember, are founding members of the Shanghai Cooperative Organisation (the SCO), and are working jointly in this economic and military partnership – formed largely to protect themselves and other participating nations from attempted US hegemony.  We are fools to ignore the SCO group and bigger fools to take a sharp stick and poke at them, especially on a matter where we are in the wrong.  Forced regime change by an outside country is illegal under international law.

The situation in Syria is murky at best.  The US, via the CIA, and several other nations are arming the “rebels”.  Reporting is bizarre, with some articles reading that the Syrian military is killing every civilian within range and others pointing out that the Syrian military itself is the target and on the losing side of each confrontation.  Reporting in the US consists mostly of canned quotes from “anonymous” persons in “positions of authority”.  I suspect that this will one of those matters where the truth is brought to light many decades after the events.  Clinton has called for regime change (again – illegal under international law) and baldly stated that Assad’s “days are numbered”.   al Qaeda, as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula or AQAP, is once again surfacing as the enemy de jour, although the entire al Qaeda brand name is beginning to be questioned in some quarters as a CIA operation.

We were oddly on the same side as al Qaeda in Libya, where the “rebels” were known to be both al Qaeda- and CIA-backed.  Our regime change there has left the country bereft of any meaningful leadership, embroiled in a civil war, mired in lawlessness, with a vigorous turn toward sharia by the “recognized government” the US preferred.  However, the oil derricks are being protected by US troops and the oil is once again beginning to flow under the auspices of the newly enshrined for-profit corporations, so there’s that.  Libya’s oil fields are no longer facing any threat of being nationalized, one of Ghaddafi’s final projects; the profits will go to the multinational companies instead of the Libyan people.  We call this A Success.  This is what we thought was better for Libya than what they had.

Russia and China both state that they do not approve of way Assad rules Syria, but that the issues must be worked out internally and that they cannot participate in the proposed forced regime change.

China joined Russia on Thursday in boycotting a meeting aimed at coordinating efforts to stop the bloodshed in Syria, where three senior army officers were among more than 150 people reported killed in 48 hours.

Moscow confirmed that some Western countries had asked it to offer Syrian President Bashar al-Assad a haven in exile, saying it had dismissed the idea as a “joke.”

In Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said China would not attend the so-called “Friends of Syria” gathering in Paris on Friday. China “at present does not consider attending the meeting,” Liu said.

Russia has also said it will stay away from the meeting after accusing the West of seeking to distort a weekend deal by world powers in Geneva aimed at achieving a transition of power.

The Paris meeting follows one in Tunis and another in Istanbul, both of which called in vain for tougher action against Assad’s government.

China did not attend either of those meetings, in which the United States, France, Britain, Germany and Arab nations Saudi Arabia and Qatar lead a group of more than 60 members, including most EU states and many Arab League nations.

China backed Russia in Geneva on insisting that Syrians must decide how the transition should be carried out, rather than allow others to dictate their fate, and did not rule out Assad remaining in power in some form.

The West has said Assad should not be part of any new unity government.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed that Western nations had asked Moscow to offer Assad asylum and that the idea was first raised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during June 1 talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  “Our side thought this was a joke and responded with a joke — how about you, the Germans, take Mr Assad instead,” Lavrov said during a press appearance with his German counterpart, Guido Westerwelle.

Lavrov said he was “quite surprised” when the idea was raised again during the meeting in Geneva on Saturday.

The foreign minister also repeated Russia’s displeasure with the slow pace of reforms pursued by its Soviet-era ally, but again argued that any attempts at forced regime change were doomed to end in even greater violence.

“Yes, the regime bears the main responsibility,” but those who seek regime change “ignore the fact that we are not talking about a few dozen people — as they tell us we are — but a very large part of the Syrian population that ties its security to the current president.”

On the eve of the Paris meeting, Amnesty International called for an immediate arms embargo on the Syrian government and for caution over the supply of weapons to rebels. [Teri’s note: it was Amnesty International France which supplied the original story that Ghaddafi was going to massacre civilians – a story that they later admitted was untrue and based on unfounded rumors, although they carefully did not admit that they themselves had begun the rumors.  It seems they are being a little more careful WRT to Syria.]

“Amid growing reports of abuses by members of the armed opposition, states should also stop arms transfers to the opposition wherever there is a substantial risk that they are likely to be used for war crimes or other human rights abuses,” it said.[…]

Despite their rather reasonable pleas for handling the matter in a way that allows for the national sovereignty of Syria to be honored, Clinton just issued a belligerent threat to both countries today while attending the “Friends of Syria” meeting.

Moscow and Beijing will be punished for supporting the regime of President Bashar Assad in Syria, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton harshly stated at the “Friends of Syria” meeting of over 100 Western and Arab nations in Paris on Friday.

“I do not believe that Russia and China are paying any price at all – nothing at all – for standing up on behalf of the Assad regime.  The only way that will change is if every nation represented here directly and urgently makes it clear that Russia and China will pay a price,” Clinton warned.

Russia and China once again opted not to attend the “Friends of Syria” meeting. Neither Moscow nor Beijing believe the meeting in the French capital will be helpful in uniting the Syrian opposition “on a constructive basis”.

“We have frankly laid out the reasons why we have restrained from joining the mechanism, the very name of which has a contradiction between the word and the deed,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said earlier this week.
The US Secretary of State further criticized Russia for the maintenance of Syria’s Soviet-made helicopters. Two weeks ago Hillary Clinton lashed out at Russia for repairing three Syrian helicopters, saying their presence “will escalate the conflict quite dramatically.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry swiftly refuted the allegations. “In 2008 there was a contract to repair them. They are still to be assembled after delivery”, Lavrov said. ”That entire process will take at least three months. So to speak about something we have just sold to Syria, which is then to be used in action, is not true at all,” he added.

French President Francois Hollande demanded Bashar Assad step [down] while delivering an opening statement at the Friends of Syria meeting on Friday. Hollande believes a transition of political power is the only way to end the 16-month conflict in Syria.  The Friends of Syria meeting comes just a week after a UN-led summit in Geneva where the international community endeavored to reach a consensus on the conflict. They agreed to get behind UN envoy Kofi Annan’s plan for a transition government in Syria.

However, Russia said that western powers were purposely distorting the terms of the agreement to push for the removal of Assad.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton claimed that the agreement said Assad must leave office, whereas Moscow claims that the original accord made no allusion to the removal of the Syrian president.

RT further updates its article with the following rumination from someone who actually studies the use of diplomacy:

Mark Almond, a professor of international relations at Bilkent University in Turkey, told RT that the US probably has its own solution for the Syrian problem and is not prepared for any sort of compromise.

“The rhetoric of Mrs Clinton recalls that of the Bush era,” the professor said. “There is a great deal of congeniality in international policy between George Bush and Barack Obama’s administrations,” he said. 

“After all France, Russia and China opposed the invasion of Iraq in 2003. (Then US Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice threatened (Then French President) Jacques Chirac by name that he would pay a price with the distraction of his reputation and public esteem,” Almond recalled.

“Mrs. Clinton is converting a regional problem, a crisis in Syria and its neighbors, into a potential global problem,” he said. “Those countries that do not agree with every word of Mrs Clinton are to be considered supporters of tyranny and enemies of the good. This is creating a much more dangerous global answer,” he continued.  

“Maybe Mrs. Clinton is simply speaking out of frustration at the fact that her policies have not yet achieved the goal of overthrowing Assad,” Almond argued, adding that Clinton is known for using harsh rhetoric towards people she does not like.

“Remember her comments on Gaddafi. She said ‘We came, we saw, he died’, which was broadcasted on American TV. Falling out with Mrs Clinton can prove fatal,” he concluded.

One would think that after the ruin we have imposed on Iraq, Libya, and many South American and African countries through these coups and regime changes that we indulge in, after the obvious bad results wrought by our interference and invasions in foreign lands (think the Philippines, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.) we would stop this sort of thing.  Just stop.  It makes no sense and produces nothing remotely passing for democracy or peace in the nations thus “handled” by the US – if that weren’t obvious before, it certainly should be by now.  Still, we intend to forge ahead in yet another country; and this time we are threatening two nuclear armed giants with “punishment” for not agreeing with the process.

Our leaders are clinically insane.

UPDATE: Sat. 7 July:

This has nothing to do with Russia and China, but with Clinton – and as it comes immediately on the heels of her statements a day or two ago, I am posting it with this article.

Apparently, Hillary and Barrack have just posted a sign in Afghanistan which reads, “Please excuse our mess as we remodel to better serve our customers”.  Clinton just announced that Afghanistan is now a major non-NATO ally of the US.

Mercy.  Slap me on the ass and call me Betsy.  I could have sworn that the United States invaded and has been at war with Afghanistan for over a decade.  Can you call a country an ally if you only like half the people who live there and are doing your best to kill the other half?  We have a rather, um, visible group of military and mercenary forces in Afghanistan and last I heard, they were armed with a vengeance and using those arms against Afghans.  We are also running a number of prisons to house Afghans we don’t like so much.  Guess we will go through neighborhood by neighborhood to decide which ones are allies and which not.  Although, come to think of it, we consider Pakistan and Yemen allies and we are drone-bombing the hell out of certain people in those countries.  Perhaps the fact that we are “accidentally” arming both the Afghans we like and the Afghans we are at war with makes the designation somehow more acceptable and meaningful.  Or maybe not.  Maybe nothing means anything any more.

The truth is, it would seem that by naming Afghanistan an “ally”, Obama and Clinton have just assured that boatloads of US taxpayer dollars will eternally flow into the place and, despite our agreement to withdraw troops by 2014, we will now have cover for keeping forces there forever – as we do in our other “non-Nato ally” countries such as Japan and the Philippines.  Clinton said at a press conference in Kabul, “Please know that the United States will be your friend and your partner. We are not even imagining abandoning Afghanistan. Quite the opposite.”  Your friend and partnerAbandoning them?  This is what we say to a country we invaded?  They did not, to the best of my recollection, ask us to come in and start a jolly little war.  Yeah, excuse our mess…

(Reuters) – Washington declared Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally on Saturday, a largely symbolic status reinforcing its message to Afghans that they will not be abandoned as the war winds down.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced the decision, made by President Barack Obama, during her unannounced visit to Kabul where she met President Hamid Karzai on the eve of a major donors’ conference in Tokyo which will draw pledges for aid.

The status upgrade may help Afghanistan acquire U.S. defense supplies and have greater access to U.S. training as the Afghan army takes more responsibility for the country’s security ahead of the 2014 withdrawal of most NATO combat troops.

“Please know that the United States will be your friend and your partner. We are not even imagining abandoning Afghanistan. Quite the opposite,” Clinton told a press briefing with Karzai before jetting off to Tokyo.

Obama’s decision meets a pledge he made on a visit to Afghanistan this year to upgrade Kabul to a special security status given to only a limited number of U.S. partners — including close allies like Israel and Japan — which are not members of NATO.

Participants at the Tokyo meeting are expected to commit just under $4 billion annually in development aid for Afghanistan at Sunday’s meeting, though the central bank has said the country needs at least $6 billion a year to foster economic growth over the next decade.

This is on top of the $4.1 billion committed annually by NATO and its partners for Afghanistan’s security forces, pledged at a Chicago summit in May.

U.S. officials with Clinton declined to say how much aid the United States would pledge, which has significantly reduced aid since the peak year of 2010 when more than $6 billion was given, two thirds from Washington.[…]

U.S. officials may be reluctant to cite a specific pledge because the sum actually given is ultimately controlled by Congress, which holds the U.S. government’s purse strings. Enthusiasm for foreign aid has generally waned in Congress because of massive U.S. budget deficits.

(Writing by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)


[…]Clinton announced the new alliance to diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, according to the Associated Press. She was in Afghanistan to meet with President Hamid Karzai.

The White House had informed Karzai of  its plans when President Barack Obama made a secret trip to Afghanistan in May, on the anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death. At the time, a White House statement said the move would “provide a long-term framework for security and defense cooperation.”

The list of major non-NATO allies includes Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand.  Notably, these countries are eligible for priority delivery of military hardware and can get U.S. government help to buy arms and equipment.

But the designation does not include the mutual-defense pledge that is at the heart of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance.

NATO has agreed to give Afghan security forces the lead in their strife-torn country by mid-2013, on the road to a full withdrawal by the end of 2014. But Obama has always said that U.S.-Afghan cooperation will continue beyond that date.

Welcome to the fold, Afghanistan:

A video has surfaced online that appears to show a US helicopter crew singing “Bye-bye Miss American Pie” before blasting a group of Afghan men with a Hellfire missile.

The footage comes in the wake of a string of damaging videos and pictures showing US forces in Afghanistan urinating on the bodies of dead insurgents, and posing with the remains of both suicide bombers and civilians killed for sport by a group of rogue soldiers.[…]

Men spotted digging in Afghan roads by the US or other foreign forces are likely to fall under suspicion that they are insurgents burying home-made bombs, one of the Taliban’s main weapons.

If the US military is confident it has identified them as insurgents, bombs are sometimes used to kill them, although Afghan officials have accused troops in the past of killing farmers and people working on irrigation ditches when they thought they were targeting people laying bombs.

In the video, after the bomb appears to hit the group, survivors scatter, and the helicopter aims machine gun fire at them.[…]

In April, the Los Angeles Times published pictures that appeared to show American soldiers posing with the bodies of dead Afghans in the south of the country, and the US president, Barack Obama, called for an investigation.[…]

In March a US soldier killed 16 civilians on a solo night-time shooting rampage. Deadly violence erupted in February over the burning of copies of the Qur’an by US troops. In January a video surfaced of marines apparently urinating on Taliban corpses, and last year a group were tried for murdering three Afghan civilians for sport.

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Posted by on July 6, 2012 in Afghanistan, Libya, MIC, Russia, SCO, State Dept/diplomacy, Syria