Monthly Archives: February 2013

Jack Lew answers questions. Kind of.

Updated below.

I do not care to spend much time on this subject, because there is simply no point, but wanted to at least touch on it.  Look, they could be nominating gerbils to these positions and hold these pretend “tough” question and answer sessions; the direction of this country and the intent of Congress is now baked into the cake, as they say.

Bernie Sanders’ view of Jack Lew, Obama’s nominee for Treasury Secretary (this is the opinion I agree with):

[…] In my view, we need a treasury secretary who is prepared to stand up to corporate America and their powerful lobbyists and fight for policies that protect the working families in our country. I do not believe Mr. Lew is that person.

We don’t need a treasury secretary who thinks that Wall Street deregulation was not responsible for the financial crisis.  We need a treasury secretary who will work hard to break up too-big-to-fail financial institutions so that Wall Street cannot cause another massive financial crisis.

We don’t need another treasury secretary who believes in ‘deficit neutral’ corporate tax reform. We need a treasury secretary willing to fight to make sure that large, profitable corporations pay their fair share in taxes to reduce the deficit and create jobs.

We don’t need a treasury secretary who will advise the president that he should negotiate with the Republicans to cut Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits. We need someone who is going to strengthen these programs.

We don’t need another treasury secretary who believes that NAFTA and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China have been good for the American economy. We need someone in the White House who works to fundamentally re-write our trade policy to make sure that we are exporting American goods, not American jobs.

Here’s part of the “grilling” Lew received from the Senate:

[…] The questioning was largely respectful and free of drama. Even the top Republican on the committee, Orrin Hatch, one of Lew’s most persistent critics, had only nice things to say at the end of the 3-1/2-hour vetting.

“Frankly, I think you’ve done really well,” he told Lew. […]

Hatch said he was unclear about what Lew did as chief operating officer at two Citigroup units, one of which engaged in proprietary trading. As treasury chief, Lew would oversee rules that seek to prevent such trading.

“If you were to be confirmed, it could lead to an awkward situation in which … you would effectively be saying to financial firms: Do as I say, not as I did,” Hatch told Lew.

Lew said there were no conflicts of interest. While at Citigroup, he said he was mainly in charge of managing an operating budget and was not involved in investment decisions.

Lew was also grilled about a $56,000 investment he once had in a Citigroup venture capital fund registered in the Cayman Islands. Republican Senator Pat Roberts briefly displayed a blown-up picture of Ugland House, a Cayman Island office building where thousands of companies registered, including the fund in which Lew invested.[…]

Lew told the panel he did not initially know his investment was registered in the Cayman Islands. He said he did not receive any tax benefit from the investment, as he sold it at a loss.

According to wikipedia, while at Citi, part of Lew’s job description was: “also had oversight of Citigroup subsidiaries in countries including Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, and Hong Kong; and during his time at Citigroup, Citigroup subsidiaries in the Cayman Islands increased to 113.”  Now, in light of his above answers, that there is a right interesting part of his curriculum vitae.

Getting back to the Senate Q & A, this from a different article:

At last we know how the grease is funneled to that revolving door between Wall Street and Washington. One only gets a $940,000 bonus from Wall Street’s Citigroup if you can land a “full time high level position with the United States Government or a regulatory body.” It can’t be just a part-time job, mind you; and you can’t be rank and file. Citigroup’s dangling carrot will only pay $940,000 if the company can add a “high level” government mover and shaker to their gold-plated Rolodex.

This was the bombshell dropped by Senator Orrin Hatch yesterday in Jack Lew’s confirmation hearing for one of the highest offices in the land – Secretary of the U.S. Treasury who will also head the body that makes critical decisions impacting Citigroup – the Financial Stability Oversight Council. (Lew held an executive position with Citigroup at the time of its collapse.)

Hatch made the disclosure as follows:

“First, could you explain what you did in 2008 for Citi that warranted payment to you of close to $1 million, most of which was a bonus. Second, what was it about your performance that merited your bonus from a company that was being propped up by taxpayer money and are there any records of your performance assessment – or are there any assessments of your performance. Third, your employment agreement included a clause stating that ‘your guaranteed incentive and retention award’ would not be paid upon exit from Citigroup but there was an exception that you would receive that compensation ‘as a result of your acceptance of a full time high level position with the United States Government or a regulatory body.’ Now is this exception consistent with President Obama’s efforts to ‘close the revolving door’ that carries special interest influence in and out of the government?” […]

Of course, Senator Hatch is completely misguided if he believes that Obama has made any effort whatsoever to “close the revolving door”;  Obama has permanently propped that door wide open and the wind is whistling mightily through the halls. Hatch seems unaware – or perhaps just wants to appear unaware – that by placing this clause in Lew’s package, Citigroup was actually signaling its anticipation of a Lew governmental position.  Now, how would they know to word it this way?  The question I have, in light of the Citigroup clause, is: “How long in advance was Citi made aware that Lew was headed back to a governmental position and who struck this deal with them?”  Also, it seems to me that the blame for the “revolving door” lies not with Lew, who merely made himself oozingly available in his greasy banker way (perhaps knowing in advance that some deal had been struck), but with whomever in the government was actually behind the peculiar structure of Lew’s package.  Surely Citi did not write that clause without impetus and a strong belief that this was the direction Lew’s career path would take and to influence his future career.  And to benefit from that.  How can this clause even be legal?  He is being paid by Citi to take a position in the government where he can influence policy and regulations directly benefiting Citi.   Compensated handsomely by a private company to take that influential government position.  (Who exactly is his employer in this case?)

What’s the payoff for Treasury Secretary?  An extra zero or even a comma, in an offshore account managed in a blind trust that he “doesn’t really know much about”?  The man has proven he takes money to influence policy.

The Senate Q and A session did not end right there as it obviously should have, with Lew being leg-cuffed and frog-marched out of there and his nomination process stopped cold.  He was not disqualified immediately?  He was paid a million dollars, by contract, to take the most influential position in government that he could.  Unbelievable.  This is open corruption, in my view; perhaps I am totally naive and this is now common practice in the world of US government and business.  I have not seen this particular clause mentioned in any mainstream papers – I would have expected this to be headline news; not that there is corruption, but that there is corruption by written contract and Congress doesn’t raise a ruckus.

I would have thought that between the compensation clause flim-flam and the misdirection Lew gave in his answers about his Cayman Island investments and duties while at Citi, the guy’s nomination would have been completely derailed.  But then, I thought for sure Timmeh had hoist himself on his own petard when it came out he cheated on his taxes.  (HA HA HA HA HA HA HA, oh, me, how young and foolish I was back then.)

Well, I suppose there is always the possibility that a bright star arose over the crib of Jack Lew and shone all around it, and the magis of Wall Street in the North, recognizing the portent as prophecy fulfilled, left their homes in the New York City, mounted their camels and traveled laden with many gifts – including a New Clause to the Compensation Package of Jack Lew written on finest parchment –  to the City Upon the Hill to share the Good News with The One there ensconced.   The One received them warmly and, loathe to impede prophecy Most Divine, studied the testaments of the magi and took Jack Lew verily unto his bosom.

But I doubt it.

As my Dad is wont to remark, “Ye saw I was a stranger and ye took me in.”

The position of Treasury Secretary is perhaps the most important position in the US right now, the most holy, so to speak.  Whoever sits in that seat is all that stands between Bernanke and his infinite monetary gifts, giving 80 billion dollars a month to the five largest banks (roughly 10 bb/month to Citi alone).  A strong Treasury Secretary could oppose this practice and stand against this clear and unbelievably large criminal financial fraud.  A complicit Secretary, such as Geithner and Hank Paulson before him, and now Lew, ensures the government is just greasing the skids for the private corporation called the Federal Reserve and that the shadow banking system finally reaches a worth of over a quadrillion dollars.  That is a Thousand Trillion.  $1,000,000,000,000,000.  The estimated size of the securities derivatives market is over one quadrillion dollars.

Now tell me about that sequestration thingie again.

[Edited after initial publication.]

UPDATE, Thurs. 28 Feb.
Jack Lew has been confirmed as the next Treasury Secretary.  His nomination “sailed through” with a Senate vote of 71 – 26, only one day after the Finance Committee approved him.

I particularly like the juxtaposition of the final two sentences of the below linked article, which may or may not have been intentional on the part of the editors.  A bit of sadistic humor, which we Americans thrive on, kind of like the clips on “America’s Funniest Home Videos” – half of which show boys being hit in the groin with various objects and then writhing in pain (ha, ha, what a hoot) and the other half showing doting American parents grinding birthday cakes into the faces of their beloved toddlers (isn’t that a riot?  Happy birthday, ya little fucker).  In this case, we are collectively the butt of the cruel joke, but still we will enjoy it, if we even notice that it has been played on us.  We are just stupid that way.

[…] The huge payout he received when he left the bank to join the Obama administration, a bonus reportedly stipulated by his contract, sparked questions that he is too close to the banks and would be too accepting of the practices that stoked the financial crisis.

Lew is expected to be sworn in on Thursday morning.



Posted by on February 23, 2013 in Congress, corporatocracy, Wall St and banks



I mentioned in the last post that there is an underground tank at the Hanford Nuclear site leaking radiation.  “[…] The Hanford nuclear site is leaking radioactivity again, but we are assured that there is no “immediate threat”.  (No, there is not immediate threat – one does not fall over dead the day after exposure to radioactive material.  Eventually, though, of course…) […]” –

It turns out there are at least six tanks leaking nuclear waste.

At least six underground tanks containing nuclear waste in the northwestern US state of Washington are leaking, but there is no imminent threat to public health, a spokeswoman said Friday.

The US Energy Department told the state last week that one tank was leaking at the Hanford nuclear site, but Energy Secretary Steven Chu informed its governor Jay Inslee on Friday that more leaks had been discovered.

“Secretary Chu let him know today that there are actually more tanks they’ve discovered leaking, at least six, possibly more,” Inslee’s spokeswoman Jaime Smith told AFP, after the meeting between Inslee and Chu in Washington DC.

“At this point we don’t believe that there’s any imminent threat to public health. Of course we’re concerned, because we don’t have any information yet about the extent of the leak or how long they’ve been going on.”

Asked for details of the leaking material, she said: “It’s nuclear waste. Different tanks have slightly different kinds of waste that they’re holding. We’re not clear yet on exactly what has been leaking for how long.”

The Hanford nuclear site in the southwest of the US state was used to produce plutonium for the bomb that brought an end to World War II.

Output grew after 1945 to meet the challenges of the Cold War, but the last reactor closed down in 1987. Its website says: “Weapons production processes left solid and liquid wastes that posed a risk to the local environment.”

The ecological threat extends to the Columbia River, it added, noting that in 1989 US federal and Washington state authorities agreed a deal to clean up the Hanford Site.

The Washington governor’s spokeswoman said they hoped for more information about the leaking tanks soon.

“The Department of Energy has committed to try and get us more information pretty quickly, hopefully within the next week or so. So we should have more information soon,” she said.

Despite not knowing the extent of the leaks, how long they’ve been going on, or exactly which materials have been leaking, they can assure the public that there is not imminent threat.    I can assure you that without knowing those key pieces of information, they have no idea what the level of threat to public health is.  There undoubtedly is one – we are talking about nuclear waste here.  Hey, wait a minute – how could the leaks have gone undetected and why are they ‘waiting for information’?  Hanford has supposedly been undergoing attempts to clean up, repair and contain problems since the 1980’s – yet no-one is monitoring it closely enough to notice these multiple leaks?  How very strange.

Congress had a bill before it during the last session to make Hanford one of three nuclear sites part of the US National Park system (complete with tours and, I presume, lovely picnic areas); the bill did not make it through during the last session, but will be reintroduced this year.

For some background and information on Hanford, see:

Money to clean up Hanford (and to clean up and upgrade nuclear sites across the US – Hanford is not the only site with contamination problems; it is merely the worst one) will be curtailed if Congress allows their Sequester Bomb to explode.  But what are a few dead Americans?  If Obama’s detention and drone programs don’t bother these people, surely a little nuclear waste doesn’t.  Besides, they’ve been ignoring these particular problems for a very long time.  And there is no point in mentioning the imminent threat to the environment – to the officials in charge, “the environment” means  “who designed your office furniture?”

Further reading:


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Posted by on February 23, 2013 in environment


The state of our union.

I heard the news today, oh, boy.

Were you surprised the other night when you turned on the news and heard talk about Obama’s assassination program which can target and kill Americans without trial?  Not only can kill Americans, but already has.  Here you thought we had the right to hear the charges against us and the right to a trial, complete with a judge and jury.  We’ve been guaranteed those rights since the founding of this country, and Western nations have had those rights since the days of the Magna Carta.

You may not know what to make of this killing Americans thing and the drone program.  You may not even believe it – God knows, we have been subjected to such random and far-flung bullshit lately that you only listen with half an ear, knowing that quite a sizable chunk of what is presented on the news is simply untruth.  Besides, you think, we have a Constitution and a Congress sworn to uphold that constitution, and they wouldn’t allow such a thing.

The targeted assassination drone program has existed for some time, although the major news outlets have given it scant coverage until the Brennan nomination hearings.  We are told that the targets only recently included three Americans and that they are really, really bad Americans.  Presumably, no-one cares about the foreigners killed every week based upon nothing more than the suspicions of a secret cabal in the White House.  We don’t seem to care that the drone strikes abroad are actually creating more terrorists with each killing.  Hell, we don’t even seem to be cognizant any longer that the president is not sworn to keep us safe; the oath he takes is to uphold the Constitution.

Ironically, it turns out that the number one cause of injury-related deaths amongst American civilians is suicide.  The number one cause of death amongst members of the American military is suicide. In other words, we Americans are killing ourselves in greater numbers than is any terrorist group.

Bush accidentally had an American living abroad killed via drone strike, but we are assured that the fellow was traveling with a member of al-Qaeda, and not just anyone, but an al-Qaeda leader (which somehow, without explanation, makes the American’s death okay):

“[…] A fourth American-born citizen, Kamal Derwish, was killed by predator drone in Yemen in 2002. Derwish was not the primary target of the strike, but was riding in an SUV carrying an al-Qaida leader.” –

The other three Americans, all selected by Obama in his Disposition Matrix program, were “reasonable” targets.  [On Dispostion Matrix, see:  This is part one of a three part series.]  The Obama Dept of Justice wrote a memo, recently leaked, claiming the legal right to kill whomever they chose.  Ah, a memo from the legal department – now that sounds familiar.  These memos did not actually make torture legal when Bush used them as rational and they don’t make assassinations legal when Obama has them written up.  [An excellent article on the Obama DoJ memos: ]

The assassinated American’s name you will hear most frequently is Anwar al-Awlaki.  He was killed 17 months ago, although most of us are just now learning about it, which has given the media plenty of time to consider how to paint the portrait of this man; in most of the articles of the past couple of weeks, there are almost always suggestions (just hints and a whisper) that al-Awlaki had ties to 911.  The fact is that no-one in the government, CIA, FBI, etc. ever seriously thought he had anything to do with 911 and he was radicalized some years after 911….after seeing Muslims being repeatedly harassed and accused just for being Muslim and after the illegal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. Also after he had been imprisoned in Yemen for about 18 months with the encouragement of the CIA, who, oddly if they really felt he had some involvement in 911, okay’d his release later. (He was imprisoned for being part of a tribal dispute, not for terrorism against the US or 911 or any such thing.) The powers that be want him to appear as unAmerican and foreign as possible so as to excuse the decision to assassinate him. Hell, I fully expect to hear any day now that al-Awlaki has ties to the sinking of the Lusitania and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. You might note that the media is not talking much about the other three Americans assassinated abroad by presidential fiat.

The first time they tried to kill al-Awlaki, they missed him, but the cruise missiles they were using killed over 50 other people.  (More than half of whom were women and children.)  After finally killing al-Awlaki, his 16-year-old son, Abdul, was also assassinated upon Obama’s orders.  For obvious reasons, the administration declines to say much about killing the boy, although WH spokesman Robert Gibbs expressed the shocking sentiment, “I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children.”  That is pretty much all the administration will say about the matter.

Despite the fact that Congress has been holding hearings on the nomination of John Brennan during which the subject of drone killings and the CIA drone program has been featured to a large extent, the White House Dept. of Justice still maintains that the CIA drone program is classified secret material and won’t confirm or deny its existence.   I think we all know it exists by now.  The whole nominating process is a study in the freakish web of secrecy we live under.  Congress set up the CIA from the beginning so that it did not have to fully reveal its activities.  Congress allows the CIA budget to remain secret from even Congress itself.  At this point, the CIA is running a military drone program (although the CIA answers to no Commander-in-Chief, I’ll remind you) and will not answer questions about it.  Brennan heads up a small group that goes over a “targeted kill list”, but can’t say too much about it because it’s secret.  He agonizes over it though, he says, so there’s that.  So now Congress wants to know more about it and complains because they are being kept in the dark.  I see.  A couple of bright bulbs in Congress suggested that there be a Disposition Matrix Court set up to hear about and make decisions on the cases being considered for the Final Solution.

A Court for Targeted Killings
No American prosecutor can imprison or execute someone except on the orders of a judge or jury. That fundamental principle applies no less to the suspected terrorists that the executive branch chooses to kill overseas, particularly in the case of American citizens.

A growing number of lawmakers and experts are beginning to recognize that some form of judicial review is necessary for these killings, usually by missiles fired from unmanned drones. Last week, at the confirmation hearing of John Brennan to be the director of the C.I.A., several senators said they were considering the establishment of a special court, similar to the one that now decides whether to approve wiretapping for intelligence gathering.[…]

A special court, which we first proposed in a 2010 editorial, would be an analogue to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that Congress set up in 1978. If the administration has evidence that a suspect is a terrorist threat to the United States, it would have to present that evidence in secret to a court before the suspect is placed on a kill list.

“Having the executive being the prosecutor, the judge, the jury and the executioner, all in one, is very contrary to the traditions and the laws of this country,” Senator Angus King Jr. of Maine said at the Brennan hearing. “If you’re planning a strike over a matter of days, weeks or months, there is an opportunity to at least go to some outside-of-the-executive-branch body, like the FISA Court, in a confidential and top-secret way, make the case that this American citizen is an enemy combatant.”

Mr. Brennan said the idea was worthy of discussion, adding that the Obama administration had “wrestled with this.” Two other senators, Dianne Feinstein of California, the chairwoman of the Intelligence Committee, and Ron Wyden of Oregon, also expressed interest. Even Robert Gates, a former C.I.A. director who was defense secretary under President George W. Bush and President Obama, said on CNN that such a judicial panel “would give the American people confidence” that a proper case had been made against an American citizen.[…]

Creating an even stronger court to approve targeted killings is the first step Mr. Obama can take if he is serious about bringing national security policy back under the rule of law.

The above editorial is fascinating for a few reasons.  First, having a secret court decide who lives and dies, without that person being present to hear the charges and allowed to defend himself is in and of itself against our fundamental principles, as is the very idea that the person would not be allowed to have a public trial by an impartial jury.  It may spread the eventual blame for each assassination around to more people, but it does not due process make.  Secondly, the FISA court has been accused of overstepping its bounds repeatedly – since its decisions are all made in secret, it has been nearly impossible to overturn any of them.  This is not a good model upon which to build a court that decides executions.  Thirdly, how does having a secretive agency (the CIA) running a secret kill program under the auspices of a secret court create “more transparency”?   And finally, how can anyone seriously suggest that there is any way to reconcile “targeted killings” and a “kill list” with “the rule of law”?   While the NYT editorial board wants to claim the right to brag about being the first to suggest this secret court, what they are talking about here is setting up a Star Chamber in the United States.  (Although even the original Star Chamber did not allow itself the power to decide life and death issues.)  To give some perspective on this loathsome idea, it was the Habeas Corpus Act of 1640 which finally abolished England’s secret Star Chamber.

What did you expect?  When Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, et al named it the “Global War on Terror”, they did not add, “Except in the United States”.  Despite our much touted exceptionalism, we are not exempted from the war on terror; it very much includes the Homeland.   To this end, the Bush administration hussled through Congress as quickly as possible after 911 the Patriot Act, much of which Congress had not bothered to read and some of which remains secret, insisted we were in a State of Emergency, continued to this day and which allows the government unknown powers, Continuity of Government plans, most of which are secret, even from Congress, expanded the reach of the FISA Court, a secretive and extralegal “court” to rubberstamp the collecting of emails and phone calls, and set up the Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS).  The DHS has been allowed its own interpretation of the 4th amendment for some reason (this is the amendment giving us the right to be secure in our homes, papers, and effects and protects us against unreasonable searches and seizures).  Obama, and Pelosi as leader of the House before he was elected president, refused to go after the Bush administration for their lawlessness and have expanded on it.  The Constitution is pretty much dead.  Congress feels no need to correct this situation for us; in fact, they extend the powers of these agencies every time they get a chance.

From the DHS website: “The Department of Homeland Security has a vital mission: to secure the nation from the many threats we face. This requires the dedication of more than 240,000 employees in jobs that range from aviation and border security to emergency response, from cybersecurity analyst to chemical facility inspector. Our duties are wide-ranging, but our goal is clear – keeping America safe.”

-In fiscal year 2011, DHS was allocated a budget of $98.8 billion and spent, net, $66.4 billion.
A spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection “acknowledged that the agency can, will and does open mail coming to U.S. citizens that originates from a foreign country whenever it’s deemed necessary”:
“All mail originating outside the United States Customs territory that is to be delivered inside the U.S. Customs territory is subject to Customs examination,” says the CBP Web site. That includes personal correspondence. “All mail means ‘all mail,’” said John Mohan, a CBP spokesman, emphasizing the point.
The Department declined to outline what criteria are used to determine when a piece of personal correspondence should be opened or to say how often or in what volume Customs might be opening mail.

DHS declares the right to seize laptops, etc at border crossings:

[…] An internal review of the US Department of Homeland Security’s procedures regarding the suspicionless search-and-seizure of phones and laptops near the nation’s border has reaffirmed the agency’s ability to bypass Fourth Amendment-protected rights [.pdf].

In a two page executive summary published quietly last month to the official DHS website, the agency explains that a civil rights and civil liberties impact assessment of the office’s little-known power to collect personal electronics near international crossings has passed an auditor’s interpretation of what does and doesn’t violate the US Constitution.  [Teri’s note: Oh, good, another memo.  This one from an auditor, so it must be kind of legal and all.]

Since 2009, the DHS has been legally permitted to seize and review the contents of personal electronic devices, including mobile phones, portable computers and data discs, even without being able to cite any reasonable suspicion that those articles were involved in a crime.[…]

As further reading, if you want to indulge in a scary little bedtime story, do an internet search for the DHS program called “Operation Endgame”, and at the end of this article, I will provide links to articles about the internal militarization of our country and other assorted items of interest.

Even Nancy Pelosi, who is ostensibly a Democrat, is not sure we ought to be told when an American is targeted for death by drone:

WASHINGTON — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is not sure whether the public should be told when the federal government kills an American citizen.

“Maybe. It just depends,” she said in an interview with The Huffington Post this week, when asked whether the administration should acknowledge when it targets a U.S. citizen in a drone strike. […]

“It’s interesting how popular it is in the public,” she said, recalling that the same polling dynamic prevailed during the fight over warrantless wiretaps. “People just want to be protected. And I saw that when we were fighting them on surveillance, the domestic surveillance. People just want to be protected: ‘You go out there and do it. I’ll criticize you, but I want to be protected.'”

The Obama administration currently takes the position that it can essentially disappear U.S. citizens. It is never under any legal obligation to admit, even after the deed is done, that it has assassinated anyone.

Pelosi appeared conflicted over whether it was acceptable for the administration to simply disappear American citizens, a term that had previously been used as a verb only outside the United States.

“It depends on the situation,” she said. “Maybe it depends on the timing, because that’s right — it’s all about timing, imminence. What is it that could be in jeopardy if people know that happened at this time? I just don’t know.” […]

The American public is also not supportive of targeting people simply because they are members of al Qaeda, rather than senior commanders. A New America Foundation report found that only 2 percent of the thousands killed by drone strikes have been high-level operatives.


We are not entirely sure what it is we want to be protected from.  The “terrorists”, “al Qaeda”, “those who would harm us”, etc. Yet al Qaeda is not a nation – it is a group of small activist cells very loosely connected with each other.  No-one in the US media or government explains what their goals are – in fact, al Qaeda seems to have different goals in different countries – nor can anyone adequately explain how we can possibly be “at war” with these disparate groups in some cases and on the same side as them in others. (As in Libya and Syria.)  That the terrorist groups seem to congregate in the poorest nations in the world is irrelevant to us, although one might reasonably ask what kind of danger we are protecting ourselves from when we bomb a hut in Afghanistan that has no electricity, no phone, no internet, but only a family huddled over a wood-fire trying to cook dinner.

We accept the notion that an attack on “US interests” is an attack on the nation; no-one asks what the hell a US interest is.  Obama told us what his conception of the “War on Terror” and “American interests” are within his Strategic Guidance; the US has the right to constantly force any other country on the planet into accepting our economic well-being as paramount before their own.  He calls it “projecting power”.  That other countries may resent this makes them threats to US interests; i.e., our right to make some cash off their resources.  [“Our idea of diplomatic, democratic foreign policy is summed up in documents like Obama’s Strategic Guidance (see:, which contains wording such as this: ‘In order to credibly deter potential adversaries and to prevent them from achieving their objectives, the United States must maintain its ability to project power in areas in which our access and freedom to operate are challenged’ and this: ‘We will field nuclear forces that can under any circumstances confront an adversary with the prospect of unacceptable damage‘.  This is not diplomacy, nor is it democratic.” – ]  They (whomever “they” are) do not hate us for our freedoms, which we have pretty much given up in any case, they hate and/or fear us because we insist on stealing their shit, invading their sovereign territories, and killing their people with bombs.

While the media is obfuscating the economic news here at home with jargon, mumbo-jumbo, and, frankly, outright bullshit, there is an odd openness coming from the government in regards to our foreign policy.

Here are two paragraphs from a Wired article on the sentiments of our nominated AFRICOM commander:

[…] U.S. Army Gen. David Rodriguez, most recently the day-to-day commander in Afghanistan, all but laid out a hit list to a Senate panel during his confirmation hearing to run the military’s newest regional command organization. “A major challenge is effectively countering violent extremist organizations, especially the growth of Mali as an al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb safe haven, Boko Haram in Nigeria, and al-Shabaab in Somalia,” Rodriguez told the Senate Armed Services Committee in advanced questions on Thursday morning, as “each present a threat to western interests in Africa.”

[…]There are questions about the extent of the threat that al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Shabab and Boko Haram actually pose to the United States. Rodriguez conceded in his advance questions that the three groups “have not specifically targeted the United States.” Instead, they’ve “carried out attacks on western interests and engaged in kidnapping,” he said, warning that they’d be an “even larger threat” if they “deepen their collaboration.” Asked by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Rodriguez said Boko Haram in Nigeria “has committed some acts that can be associated with terrorism.” Rudy Atallah, the Pentagon’s former top Africa counterterrorism officer, told Danger Room last month that “The short answer is they are regionally focused for now,” rather than threatening the United States at home.

This is an example of how our military and State Dept. have changed in the past couple of decades.  It is certainly provable that in our history, we have used the military and State to interfere in countries simply for the purpose of gaining markets for US corporate power; the change is that now we openly admit to doing so.  It seems rather like a challenge thrown to the American public – when they outright tell us that they (we) are going around the world and beating people up so as to force them into accepting Walmarts, Exxons,  and Halliburtons in their countries, will we object?  If they stop pretending that they are “keeping democracy safe” and just say that “we want to make Mali accept our oil companies tearing up their landscape”, “make Somalia a safe haven for Bechtel”, “make Libya de-nationalize their oil fields so that Exxon can make profits there”, “threaten the EU with sanctions so they allow Monsanto to market their shit there”: is that acceptable to Americans?

Do we not see that we are using the military to force other countries to buy our capitalist system, countries which do not threaten our safety or our nation, but merely the ever-expanding profits of the big corporations?  Do we really not see that?  They are no longer covering up what they are doing – they are trying to make us complicit.  And here’s an additional thought: if the free market (which system we do not actually have) worked so well and was so great, why do the corporations need the biggest military in the world to force their way on the rest of the globe?

Obama is now considering intervention into the Syrian civil war. [ ]  Syria is a target only because it is a pathway into Iran – that is our entire interest in the place.  According to the Wall Street Journal, Obama is thinking about adding an Algerian militant to his kill list, despite the fact that the Algerian military seems to be handling the problem all by themselves:  I can only assume that for some reason Obama finds the Algerian military response insufficient and feels the need to interfere in their internal decisions.  It’s a strange situation, as though we think we are the global terrorist-busters and feel compelled to get involved in everyone’s business. (“Got a terrorist in your neighborhood?  Who ya gonna call?”)

I want to know why we are so focused on our supposed “security” and yet ignoring the actual dangers which surround us.  We are bankrupting the country by spending huge sums on wars of choice, while completely ignoring problems that need to be addressed right here and now.  Congress has passed laws preventing us from knowing which chemicals are being dumped into our drinking water through fracking processes.  The BP Macondo well site is still leaking and we are encouraged to eat seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, although sea life there has been demonstrably poisoned by the Corexit which was dumped into it.  The FDA has not released its study on the arsenic in US rice crops, the EPA is delaying its research into bee colony collapse for several more years (until 2018), by which time there may no longer be any bees to study – and no bees, no food – the Wall Street banks have increased derivative holdings to the point where there is now over a quadrillion dollars’ worth of this junk in the system and the Fed is swapping this crap out for actual money.  None of the grifters in the big banks have gone to jail despite their crimes and wrecking of the global economy and now the banks are bigger than ever.  They are taking out entire countries and we don’t seem to be in the least aware of how this came to be or curious as to how we could stop them.  Congress declines to get involved, unless you count enabling as involvement.  Ocean fish stocks are nearing complete collapse.  Our media plays silly little games (they gave a typical New England snowstorm a name as though it were some unique event and called it the Storm of the Century, which it decidedly was not – as if the fact that it snows in the northeast in the winter were novel) but have yet to inquire as to why the electric companies, with record profits, can’t manage to maintain the lines with as much efficiency as they did 30 years ago.  Congress keeps pushing for the privatization of everything as though the idea that private, for-profit companies would somehow, through some arcane magical process heretofore unknown to man, save us money made any sense whatsoever.  The Hanford nuclear site is leaking radioactivity again, but we are assured that there is no “immediate threat”.  (No, there is not immediate threat – one does not fall over dead the day after exposure to radioactive material.  Eventually, though, of course…)  Obama mentioned the Trans-Pacific Partnership in his State of the Union address and talked about expanding it to the Atlantic countries.  Very few of us seem interested in this trade agreement; certainly it has been barely mentioned in the press, even after Obama so openly bragged about the negotiations, albeit without revealing any details.  This is despite the fact that it makes our government and the governments of any signatory nation subservient to corporate rule.  Congress wrote a provision in the NDAA that allows for the indefinite detention of anyone anywhere on the planet including Americans – and Obama signed it.  They like this provision so much that they included it in the NDAA two years in a row and Obama signed it two years in a row.  For those fools who claim that our leaders are not really interested in detaining Americans without charges for indefinite periods of time, I must ask: then why the fuck did they write this law?  And why is Obama’s Dept. of Justice fighting so hard to keep it in place?

On the economy, a few facts are worth bringing up. The deficit as a percentage of the economy is down by almost half since 2009.  The spending cuts already enacted have hurt our economy; passing more cuts will lead to more job losses. If we had publicly financed health care, and less military spending, we would not have a deficit problem – instead, we have allowed the for-profit companies to rake in ever increasing profits.  The GDP, aka “the economy”, is actually shrinking; while corporate profit is up.  Non-bonus and non-stock-compensation wages declined in 2012 as did the overall payroll figures. The bonus and stock related income of the tiny percentage that receive such income (certainly well below 1% of the total employed population) was so dramatic that the bonus and stock compensation category alone lifted the aggregate total national payroll cost by nearly 3%, i.e. excluding Jamie and Lloyd, total national payroll cost actually declined (proving a dramatic increase in the inequality of compensation and wealth).  Both the “unemployment rate” and the “jobless rate” ticked up.  We are experiencing a negative savings rate.  Consumer debt is up, which is wrongfully attributed to evidence of consumer spending.  The statistics would only be positively correlated under different circumstances, but given the current circumstance of negative GDP growth, negative savings rate, negative wage income growth, and increasing joblessness, can only mean that households are taking on additional debt to meet basic, recurring expenses.  More than 20 million people are still in need of full-time work.  More people than when Obama first took office are living in poverty.  Fewer people have health insurance than did before Congress passed the Affordable Care Act.  The economy declined in the fourth quarter of 2012, and spending cuts and tax hikes already passed will impede 2013 growth. A new study shows that the richest Americans captured more than 100% of all recent income gains.

This is what a nation in rapid decline looks like.

We let them take it all away while they distracted us with the “keeping us safe from terrorists” and “the deficit” nonsense.  Congress is fully complicit in this.  They protect the bankers as they steal from us.  They have loaded all the regulatory agencies, including the agencies dealing with our food and environmental issues, with industry insiders.  They openly strip us of our constitutional rights while we watch dumbly.  We are just letting it all happen as though it were some sort of natural event outside our control.  As though we had no choice in the matter.

The country has gone full retard.

For God’s sake, wake up, people. We are not on the slippery slope; we are writhing around in the mud at the bottom of the ravine.


Outside links:

On the increased use of mercenaries – now a booming business:

On the domestic use of the military:

An example of the military hardware going to local police departments:

and: http//

The shit used to spy on you:

On the fast-tracking of drone use over America:

On Brennan’s refusal to rule out drone assassinations within the US and on number of domestic drone permits issued by the FAA since ’07:

On Yale University to train U.S. Special Forces in interrogation techniques by practicing on immigrants:

On bee colony collapse:

On the new leaks at Hanford:

On the Trans-Pacific Partnership:

On the NDAA and the Obama DoJ:


Update on latest NDAA hearing:


Posted by on February 18, 2013 in civil rights, Congress, corporatocracy, drones, economy


US policy: “You can’t say because they haven’t done something they’re not going to do it.”

When Hillary Clinton testified before a Senate committee on the Benghazi consulate shootings, she inadvertently summed up the entire foreign US policy in one pithy sentence: “You can’t say because they haven’t done something they’re not going to do it.”  She said this specifically in regards to the US helping France in its attacks on Mali, but it captures the essence of our relationship with most of the world today.

“We are in for a struggle, but it is a necessary struggle. We cannot permit northern Mali to become a safe haven,” she said.[…]

U.S. military planes have helped to ferry French soldiers and equipment to Mali after France launched air strikes and deployed some 2,150 ground forces this month to halt a surprise Islamist offensive toward the Mali capital Bamako.

The United States is also helping to train and equip African forces from the ECOWAS regional group of West African countries who are mobilizing to join the battle. U.S. officials stressed there are no plans to dispatch American combat troops.

Clinton said the security situation in northern Mali is complicated by an inflow of weapons from neighboring Libya following the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. She said such weapons were used in the Algeria attack.

“There is no doubt that the Algerian terrorists had weapons from Libya. There is no doubt that the Malian remnants of AQIM have weapons from Libya,” she said, referring to al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, the regional affiliate of the al Qaeda network.

The United States must prepare for the possibility that groups like AQIM could threaten direct attacks on U.S. interests as they gain power, Clinton said.

You can’t say because they haven’t done something they’re not going to do it. This is not only a terrorist syndicate, it is a criminal enterprise. So make no mistake about it, we’ve got to have a better strategy.”

Clinton said she had no information to substantiate a report in the New York Times quoting an Algerian official as saying that some of the militants involved in the Algeria attack had also taken part in the Benghazi attack.

The United States was pressing officials in Libya and elsewhere in the region to keep up the hunt for the Benghazi attackers and improve overall security, she said.

“I have found the Libyan officials to be willing but without capacity. And part of our challenge is to help them build greater capacity because now it’s about them,” Clinton said.

“They are having leaders attacked and assassinated on a regular basis, so we have to do more to help them build up their security capacity.”

(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Will Dunham and Christopher Wilson)

Although the US previously voiced support for the people in the Arab Spring countries, we now blame their quest for democracy and freedom for the lack of security in the area.  The fact that we interfered, sometimes openly, but more often covertly, in the outcomes in these countries is one of the great unmentionables.

Hillary Clinton on Benghazi: ‘Arab Spring shattered security in region’

Hillary Clinton said the Arab Spring “shattered” security in North Africa, pointing to instability in Mali and Algeria, as she was finally grilled on the attack on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya.[…]

“Benghazi didn’t happen in a vacuum,” Mrs Clinton said at the start of the hearing. “The Arab revolutions have scrambled power dynamics and shattered security forces across the region.” […]

The Senate committee was completely incurious as to how Libya’s officials came to be “without capacity” (the US took down its real government and installed a puppet government), where the weapons used in the Benghazi attack originally came from (the US and NATO passed them out to the “rebels” during the invasion of Libya), how Libya suddenly became so destabilized (the US and NATO sent the CIA and some foreign operatives in to stir up trouble and pretend to be “rebelling Libyans”, thus creating a situation specifically designed to lead to a civil war), why some Libyans might be seeking revenge on the US (we bombed schools, food depots, water supply routes, orphanages, television stations, killed Ghaddafi, whom a significant percentage of the Libyan population supported, obliterated a number of cities, and caused the deaths of over 50,000 Libyans).  No-one asked her about the rumored CIA black site in Benghazi or why our “ambassador” might be involved in the collecting of weapons which had previously been passed out to “rebels” like so much candy.

Never in our history have we been less inclined toward introspection, ethics, or logic; rather, facile and dogmatic rhetoric hold sway over not only our leaders, but the entire media and public domain.  There is no such thing as “blowback” or “imperial overreach” as far as we are concerned.  We are entitled to whatever we set our sights on, no matter where it is or how we have to go about obtaining it, and any who question this droit du seigneur or the methods we employ are considered foolish or childish and are scorned.

No-one asked Hillary why she thought the torture and assassination of Ghaddafi was so funny or questioned her mental capacity.    Nor did anyone ask her why the State Dept. posted a bounty on his head – “wanted: dead or alive, large reward”.

Not one senator queried her regarding the statements she and Leon Panetta made admitting that the US was backing al Qaeda in Libya and Syria.  [See: ]

No-one asked why we had invaded and ruined Libya in the first place.  The truth is that our senators all know why we did it: because it was there and it looked to have some good stuff that we wanted.  It’s just what we do.

Obama, in his inaugural speech, said this:

Obama: […] We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.

Our brave men and women in uniform tempered by the flames of battle are unmatched in skill and courage.

Our citizens seared by the memory of those we have lost, know too well the price that is paid for liberty. The knowledge of their sacrifice will keep us forever vigilant against those who would do us harm. But we are also heirs to those who won the peace, and not just the war. Who turn sworn enemies into the surest of friends. And we must carry those lessons into this time as well. We will defend our people, and uphold our values through strength of arms, and the rule of law.

We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully. Not because we are naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.

America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad. For no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation. We will support democracy from Asia to Africa, from the Americas to the Middle East, because our interests and our conscience compel us to act on behalf of those who long for freedom. And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice.[…]

“We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”  This comes from a guy who is currently running clandestine shadow wars and directing drone killings in a dozen or so different countries.  He drops a bomb on someone somewhere once every hour and a half or so. [See:  ]  Despite the rhetoric about Lasting Peace, his very next sentence is an homage to the Warriors.  The remark on “uphold[ing] our values through strength of arms, and the rule of law” is simply laughable coming from him.  Perhaps the rule of law bit was added as an afterthought to the original speech.  Take that phrase out, as it is a blatant untruth at this point, and what’s left is the crux of matter.

In our quest for Lasting Peace, we are undertaking plans to place our military in 35 African nations [see: ] and are seeking to build a spy drone base in northern Africa; the drones can be militarized rapidly if need be.

U.S. Weighs Base for Spy Drones in North Africa
WASHINGTON — The United States military is preparing to establish a drone base in northwest Africa so that it can increase surveillance missions on the local affiliate of Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups that American and other Western officials say pose a growing menace to the region.

For now, officials say they envision flying only unarmed surveillance drones from the base, though they have not ruled out conducting missile strikes at some point if the threat worsens.

The move is an indication of the priority Africa has become in American antiterrorism efforts. The United States military has a limited presence in Africa, with only one permanent base, in the country of Djibouti, more than 3,000 miles from Mali, where French and Malian troops are now battling Qaeda-backed fighters who control the northern part of Mali.

A new drone base in northwest Africa would join a constellation of small airstrips in recent years on the continent, including in Ethiopia, for surveillance missions flown by drones or turboprop planes designed to look like civilian aircraft.[…]

The immediate impetus for a drone base in the region is to provide surveillance assistance to the French-led operation in Mali. “This is directly related to the Mali mission, but it could also give Africom a more enduring presence for I.S.R.,” one American military official said Sunday, referring to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

A handful of unarmed Predator drones would carry out surveillance missions in the region and fill a desperate need for more detailed information on a range of regional threats, including militants in Mali and the unabated flow of fighters and weapons from Libya. American military commanders and intelligence analysts complain that such information has been sorely lacking.[…]

American military officials said that they were still working out some details, and that no final decision had been made. But in Niger on Monday, the two countries reached a status-of-forces agreement that clears the way for greater American military involvement in the country and provides legal protection to American troops there, including any who might deploy to a new drone base. […]

Some Africa specialists expressed concern that setting up a drone base in Niger or in a neighboring country, even if only to fly surveillance missions, could alienate local people who may associate the distinctive aircraft with deadly attacks in Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. […]

Obama is now considering intervening in Syria as well, with or without Congressional approval.  Not that Congress disapproves of any sort of warfare at this point in our history, so this is a hypothetical argument Obama need not waste too much time preparing for:

[…] Now, Obama is reportedly debating whether to intervene in yet another civil war — undeterred by the now superfluous constitutional limits on his war-making authority. Israel has also publicly stated that it is considering a preemptive strike on Syria and reserves the right to make such an attack if it feels threatened by events in that civil war.[…]

President Barack Obama said he has been struggling with the decision whether to enter into another war as the 22-month civil war in Syria drags on. Here is what he considers to be the operative question:
“In a situation like Syria, I have to ask: can we make a difference in that situation?”

That is a bit different from the question that the Framers wanted him to ask: “Do I have authority from Congress to engage in a war?” That question is now just a quaint concern for a president who has acquired unprecedented unchecked powers. Once again, the Democrats are silent because it is Obama not Bush who is speaking of war. It is the type of hypocrisy that is not just laughable. It is lethal.[…]

 We have taken a balanced and well-reasoned system and turned it on its head. The result is precisely what the Framers anticipated: continued foreign wars carried out on a unilateral basis.

As an update to Turley’s article above, it appears that Israel has indeed taken preemptive action against Syria.  See this: and this:

Barack is not alone; Hillary has been hankering to do away with Assad, Syria’s president, for a long time:

“[…] Late last week, [note: this article was written in Aug. ’12] during a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Turkey, Ankara and Washington agreed that ‘a unified task force with intelligence, military and political leaders from both countries would be formed immediately to track Syria’s present and plan for its future.’

“After meeting with her Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoðlu, Secretary Clinton said that the United States and Turkey are discussing various options for supporting opposition forces working to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad, including the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over rebel-held territory in Syria.[…]” –

Remember that she also gave forth with the opinion that “Assad’s days are numbered”; this is our Secretary of State speaking here.  And yesterday, Chuck Hagel stepped up to the plate and proved that, rumors to the contrary, he was no damn hippie liberal – he could monger war with the best of them.  He bared his teeth – no, not at Congress, silly, God forbid he not fit in with that crowd – at Iran and imaginary enemies everywhere.

Obama’s nominee for secretary of defense told Congress he will ensure the US can strike Iran, if necessary. Former Senator Chuck Hagel, who was criticized for his dovish stance on Iran, has made an apparent U-turn by saber-rattling towards Tehran.

Hagel addressed Congress ahead of his confirmation hearing on Thursday, stressing that although there is “time and space” for negotiation with Iran, “the window is closing” on a diplomatic solution.

If confirmed, I will focus intently on ensuring that [the] US military is in fact prepared for any contingency,” Hagel said in a write-up of questions and answers for the confirmation hearing obtained by Reuters. […]

Hagel also outlined his “unshakable” commitment to maintaining the longstanding US alliance with Israel. […]

­Defending his record, Hagel said he’s always believed in the need for a strong American military presence in the world and the use of “all tools of American power” for protecting US interests.[…]

The defense secretary nominee assured he always supported multilateral sanctions, and believed that Iran was a state sponsor of terrorism.[…]

RT’s Gayane Chichakyan suggested that the nomination of Hagel might be a way of toning down the war rhetoric in Washington. However, the possibility of a less aggressive strategy has angered some in Washington.

“Since the beginning of the attack campaign against Chuck Hagel over these two months or so, many of the attackers have withdrawn their objections,” said Chichakyan, suggesting that maybe they received confirmation behind closed doors that Hagel would not do anything drastic upon assuming the post of secretary of defense.

Any talk smacking of peace is now considered “drastic” and unacceptable to our Congress, whose outlook on the rest of the inhabitants of this planet is, “You can’t say because they haven’t done something they’re not going to do it”.  This is also the Congressional point of view on Americans, but that’s a post for a different day.

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Posted by on February 1, 2013 in Congress, Iran, Libya, MIC, State Dept/diplomacy, Syria