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Category Archives: MIC

The oligarchs are hosting an election.

The oligarchs and corporatocracy are hosting an election in the United States this year.  They have chosen the candidates, the issues to be discussed, the methods of voting, the perimeters of the voting districts, and dictated what the media will say about the event.  You, as a member of the “voting public”, are invited to attend the event or just watch from a distance.  It hardly matters, since it is unlikely the outcome depends upon your participation.

This week-end, the media is exclusively talking about, in exhausting and tedious interviews with “the experts”, the potential results of the Iowa caucuses; the first in our series of caucuses or primary elections (depending on the state) that will decide the nominees for the Democrat and Republican parties.  I wasn’t sure how a caucus worked as Maryland is a primary state, so I dug up some information on the subject.  Turns out it is a fairly useless procedure which actually goes on for months in caucus states, although the pundits only pay attention to the first round of the affair.  The fact that the way the public votes during this first of the series of caucuses may not be proportionally represented once the Dem. and Rep. delegates make it to the National Conventions to cast their vote for the nominee goes completely unremarked.  Everyone eligible to vote during the general election can go to the caucuses, which are held in school auditoriums, churches, or even private homes.  Well, assuming there is not a blizzard in Iowa that night, that you have a babysitter – these things take hours – that you aren’t sick and that you don’t have to work that evening. There are close to 1700 precincts in this first round of caucuses.  Usually only about 20% of the voters show up, and Iowa is not one of our more populous states in any case; these facts do not deter the “experts” from declaring that the Iowa caucuses are really, really, really important.

So how do caucuses work?  Here’s the quick and dirty.  To start with, at the initial caucus, a delegate is chosen to represent the voting outcome at the next level of caucuses/conventions.  After the precinct caucus, there are the county conventions, the district conventions, the state convention and then the DNC or RNC national convention.  Are you beginning to get how silly it is to consider the first in this series of caucuses to be the most important?  The national committees of each of the two major parties decide the caucus rules, so how they are run differs.  The Republicans have a simple process.  First they say the Pledge of Allegiance.  Because, duh, they’re Republicans, and wherever two or more Republicans are gathered, there will be a flag and everyone will pledge to it.  Close scrutiny is given as to whether all those present appear sincere during the Holy Recitation.  [Aside: I always wondered about the idea of pledging to a flag rather than just the country, but that’s just me.  It appears that we are the only country that routinely uses a pledge like this, and certainly the only country which has schoolchildren doing a pledge of any sort, with the exception of North Korea, where the kids start their day pledging allegiance to their Dear Leader.  Originally, when Americans recited the pledge, people were expected to raise their right hands toward the sky while speaking, but after Hitler rose to prominence in Germany, that started to look, rather obviously, like the Heil Hitler salute, so the gesture was changed.]  Anyway, after reciting the pledge, the caucus-goers are treated to some speeches from someone or another.  Then they have a secret ballot where everyone writes down his/her choice for the nominee.  Some places use ballots, some just scraps of paper.  The votes are tallied and reported to the RNC.  Everyone goes home, except for the chosen delegate of that precinct and some party leaders, who shoot the shit a while longer.

The Democrats have a much more complicated system.  The voters arrive and are separated into groups depending on whom they support.  Then the various factions scream campaign slogans at each other, trying to convince anyone who doesn’t support their candidate to switch sides.  They throw water balloons at each other until a gong sounds, at which point, everyone scrambles for the limited number of seats available in the middle of the room.  Well, okay, I made up the part about the water balloons and the musical chairs, but the rest is pretty much correct.  After a designated time, people have to sort themselves out according to how they have decided to vote and a count is taken.  If the guy your side supports has less than 15% of the votes, he’s out.

If your guy has been tagged out for the rest of the game, you will then be harangued to join someone else’s group.  Eventually, someone calls a welcome end to this part of the process and a final tally is taken.  There is no secret ballot here: all your neighbors can see which group you are standing with.  The number of delegates to represent each candidate are chosen in proportion to the number of voters who chose him, and the delegates go on to the next round of caucuses at the county level, etc.   The delegates can switch their votes around to some other candidate at the later levels of caucus, and some delegates to the Democratic national convention are simply assigned by the DNC, so it would appear that there is absolutely no meaning in any of this.  For all I know, bags of money are left on doorsteps to convince the delegates to switch their votes later.

At both the Dem and the Rep caucuses, ties are sometimes settled by tossing a coin.  Maybe they should just start with the coin toss from the get-go.  If you want to read more about this stuff, you can go here:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iowa_caucuses

For the rest of us, there are primary elections where people go into their polling place and cast a ballot.  A number of states don’t allow Independents to vote in the primaries, since they are used to vote for the Dem and Rep nominees.  Delegates to the Rep and Dem national conventions, where they will vote for the final candidate of each party, are supposed to be chosen in proportion with the voter’s choices, but here you run into the issue of the strange “electoral college” system we use.  No-one knows how it works.  It has appeared in past elections that the delegates can vote randomly or that their votes can be over-ridden by the national committees.  In any case, after all that hoopla, everyone goes on to the national elections to vote for a president.  At that point, you can vote for whomever you want, although there will be names on the ballot you don’t recognize because the media has never mentioned them.  You can hope the voting machines aren’t rigged at either the primary or the general election level, but chances are about equal that they are.

http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/34607-will-the-2016-primaries-be-electronically-rigged

I mentioned that the caucuses use paper ballots or simply a head count, so you might think that those votes can’t be rigged; however, this year both parties have been given a free app from Microsoft so that party leaders can calculate the totals instantly and send them in to the press.  Thank you, Bill Fucking Gates!  You just never sleep, do ya?  Bernie Sanders, no dummy, is a mite suspicious about the motivation behind this free Gates swag offered to the process, and his team has built its own reporting system to verify the results.

The 2016 election, no matter who “wins”, will have the intended effect of shooting the hostages.  Those hostages would be us; the workers slaving away to the rules written by the oligarchs and corporate cartels and never able to catch up, the people unlucky enough to be living in  oil- and resource-rich countries (including the US – we just haven’t glommed onto the fact yet that our resources are vastly more important to the elites than we are; a truth that we will only dimly perceive and that, way too late), and those who try to protest the alarming rise of Monsanto, Exxon, Goldman Sachs, et al, and protest their enablers in the various houses of governments around the planet.  The protesters will be silenced by any means the cartels deem necessary.  These huge corporations and the bankers are in control of not only our human activities, but the natural world as well, and whomever wins the presidential election is unlikely to stand up for us.  At the congressional level, it is certain that a mere handful of “our elected representatives” gives a damn about the “voters”.  They will sell us down the river, as they have done for a long time now.  No matter which nominal candidate wins, the cartels and warmongers will be the actual winners.  This is the final Great Taking, and they will have it all – the money, the assets, the lands, the resources – and we are expendable.

The situation is far simpler than the media pundits and self-proclaimed experts would have you believe.  We are in the middle of a class war.  The rich versus all.  There is a secondary class war; that of the middle class versus the poor, which has been strategically engineered by the elites for decades.  The middle classes are narrowing and are, on the one hand, being taught to believe that the poor are the enemy and are to be despised as lazy and useless; and on the other hand, convinced that one day, they too will make it to financial success.  Liberals want to pretend the class war between the middle class and the poor doesn’t exist, or that it all about race.  Conservatives push the narrative that there is no class war at all, that we can all be rich if we just work hard enough.  We could have had a national discussion about our poverty crisis, but Obama was probably the last chance we had at seeing that happen.  And he doesn’t seem to notice, much less care about the issue.  The Democrats in Congress have agreed to all the austerity measures put to a vote, and finished off 2015 by nodding to the virtual end the food stamps for the elderly and the disabled and lowering these benefits drastically for the poor; the Republicans never wanted anyone to have food stamps or such in the first place.

The statistics on food poverty in the US are really staggering.  We currently have the highest level of food insecurity since the 1970s.  We had almost entirely eradicated hunger in our country back then.  Right now, one in six Americans is going hungry every day, while 30% of Americans are described as “food insecure” – meaning they can’t guarantee they have a way to put food on the table.

The low interest rates imposed by our economic policies (decided by a bunch of former big bank executives in cooperation with the private Fed) has resulted in zero interest income for Americans who try to save some money, and the same zero interest is realized on the skimpy retirement funds older people may have set aside.  Congress has basically done away with the annual cost of living increases given to those living on social security by using fake numbers for the rate of inflation.

Only two of the candidates, Sanders and strangely, Trump, talk about unemployment.  The real unemployment rate, if it were to be accounted for accurately, would be around 25%, not the 5% currently claimed by the Labor Department.  Wages have been stagnant for decades, and according to the last Oxfam report, “the 62 richest billionaires now own as much wealth as the poorer half of the world’s population.”  Just wait until the TPP trade agreement and the wonders of automation, technology, and robotics strips what’s left of the jobs right out from under our feet.  As economist Michael Whitney said:

[…] Obama and the Republican-led Congress have done everything in their power to keep things just the way they are by slashing government spending to make sure the economy stays weak as possible, so inflation is suppressed, the Fed isn’t forced to raise rates, and the cheap money continues to flow to Wall Street. That’s the whole scam in a nutshell: Starve the workerbees while providing more welfare to the slobs at the big investment banks and brokerage houses.  It’s a system that policymakers have nearly perfected as a new Oxfam report shows. […]

Wealth like that, “ain’t no accident”, brother. It’s the policy.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article44014.htm

Want to know how much the average person in the US earns?  The candidates won’t talk about it, but I will.

The Social Security Administration has released its data for 2014. Their chart shows actual W-2 earnings in the US as given by the IRS records based on tax returns for 2014.

The numbers are pretty abysmal. The median wage was under $29,000, meaning that half of American workers earned under that amount. The “average wage” is higher than that at $44,569, but is so skewed by the few on the highest income bracket that it is not a really meaningful number, in my opinion.  (The 134 people who earned over $50 mm last year can really alter that average; even taking that into account, 67% earned under the $44,569 “average wage” in 2014.)  In 2014:

-38 % of all American workers made less than $20,000
-51 % of all American workers made less than $30,000
-62 % of all American workers made less than $40,000
-71 % of all American workers made less than $50,000

Since the SSA and the IRS reports are based on each “wage-earner’s” tax-return total earnings rather than counting each and every W-2 turned in to the IRS as a discrete “wage”, this means that the data does not give any information on what the average job might pay and one should not make the mistake of coming to any conclusions about that. In other words, a “wage-earner” may have earned $30,000 in 2014, but might have had to work two or three jobs to earn that amount.  The SSA charts are easy to read, and there is a tool you can click on to look at charts from previous years.

https://www.ssa.gov/cgi-bin/netcomp.cgi?year=2014

This time around, the oligarchy has trotted out some of the most repugnant, bizarre, and downright ignorant candidates to which we have ever been treated.  Their motto for 2016 is: “2016 – the year we won’t give you any lesser evils to choose from.”  But this is the end result of the capitalist system on display, and we are a capitalist country on its down trajectory; at this point, Americans will buy dog shit if it is packaged properly and advertised heavily.

None of the candidates will cut any of the Pentagon’s budget, nor will any of them consider the possibility that we ought to end the crusades against foreign nations, none of which actually threaten us and with none of whom we are legally at war.  Last year, we dropped an estimated total of over 23,000 bombs in six countries.  This breeds terrorism, for the obvious reasons.  ISIS was a creation of the US; of our policies and actions, if not a direct creation of the CIA and secret ops in conjunction with mercenaries.  Yet according to the people running for president, what we need is more bombs, more American forces killing people abroad, and more help in the fight from “allies” like Saudi Arabia and Turkey.  There could be another way to fight terrorism, as one might note that in socially balanced societies, terrorism does not thrive, but we seem incapable of considering an alternative to bloodshed.  We are addicted to it now.

This has resulted in a flood of refugees and/or terrorists to the EU which did not exist prior to the destruction of law and order in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or Syria – before the “strong men” who ruled and did not tolerate bombings and mayhem by religious zealots were murdered by the US.  Now we are bent on some ridiculous quest to further “contain the Middle East” and kill those who are determined to avenge their loved ones. As always, the innocent on both sides get fried, while the war machine enjoys the profits.

Even Sanders thinks the [illegal] drone-bombing should continue; I wonder if he will feel okay about carrying out the “Terror Tuesday” duties should he become president?  Will he be surprised to find that he is just as adept and casual at ordering the murders of strangers across the planet as Obama has been?

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Sunday that if elected president he would not end the U.S.’s controversial drone program in the Middle East.

Sanders said on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos ” that he would continue with the targeted killing campaign but suggested he would somehow reform the program so that drones don’t kill innocent people abroad.

“I think we have to use drones very, very selectively and effectively. That has not always been the case,” Sanders said. […]

http://www.hngn.com/articles/124393/20150830/bernie-sanders-will-end-drone-program-elected-president.htm

We are going back in to Libya, as if we hadn’t already destroyed that once thriving country and created a failed state.  See “Pentagon prepares another war in Libya”:

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/01/29/pers-j29.html

We have never left Afghanistan and have re-entered Iraq.  We are the main drivers behind the destabilization and bloodshed in Syria, Yemen, Somalia and Ukraine.  We are aiming for Russia, Iran, and China.  Oh, Jesus, forget it; I can’t even begin to list all the countries we are bombing, invading, attempting to destabilize, ruin economically, or instigate coups in now.

Why do Americans approve of drone-bombing, ignore the CIA-instigated terrorism around the globe, seemingly enjoy being at war against countries that don’t threaten us, see the warrior class as superior and deserving of accolades and perqs despite the fact that they are engaged in killing people while we are legally at war with no nation, and scream with approval when some political demagogue talks about “keeping us safe” and nuking the rest of the world into submission?  Why is the public satisfied with the selection offered us in presidential candidates in which even the nominally Democratic “front-runner” is a woman who wants to invade yet another country and do away with their elected leader and who constantly threatens a multitude of other countries?   Why do none of the “candidates” talk about reducing the Pentagon’s budget, getting rid of the Fed, overturning the Patriot Act, or – at the least, for God’s sake – dislodging the most egregiously unconstitutional clauses in the NDAA?  Why do our “Christian” ministers approve of the “war on terror”?  Why do the pundits and the politicians promote violence against everyone and why does the public apparently agree with this as though it were reasonable and of some necessity?

Because in this country we have been taught that greed and theft are virtues, that bullying is the sum total of diplomacy, that other cultures are inherently dangerous and to even examine and consider their viewpoints is subversive. We have been taught that every country on the planet is inferior to our own.  The corporate oligarchs and their courtiers in Congress love ignorance, racism, and herd mentality and have worked very hard to see that Americans are poorly educated and even more poorly informed.

But we sure got Iraq’s gold. And Libya’s. And Ukraine’s. Wanted their oil, too, but it is proving to be a little more difficult to wrest complete control over the oil fields, because we created ISIS (in the case of Iraq and Libya), who are interfering in the process (which may be on purpose to hurt the Dread Russians, under the rather abstruse economic theory that harming Russia’s economy is worth the cost of harming ours) and because we created Nuland’s Nazis Civil War (in the case of Ukraine), which has so far blocked completion of the Biden Bid for Oil Takeover of Eastern Ukraine.

Even so-called “liberal” writers add their voices to the propaganda in support of more war, although they do it a little more subtly than the conservative pundits.  This is from the “liberal media” at Salon, reprinted by the “liberal media” compiler at Alternet, in an article ostensibly about the one of the GOP debates:

 […] Oh, the candidates know that Bashar al-Assad is on one side and ISIS is on the other and that Vladimir Putin is being a dick, all of which is probably more understanding than the typical Republican voter has regarding the whole thing. But memorizing these little factoids is hardly relevant when you still think the solution to an intricate civil war that mostly isn’t about us at all is to stand around declaring how tough you are. […]

http://www.alternet.org/comments/news-amp-politics/gop-debate-scorecard-big-winner-wasnt-anyone-stage-it-was-democrats#disqus_thread

Uh-huh. Those aren’t “factoids”; they’re bullshit.  While the rest of the article about the GOP debate that night is probably true and is certainly funny, this bit is typical blase media propaganda stupidity and why I quit reading Salon, which supposedly offers the liberal viewpoint of things.  Facts:  al-Assad is on one side.  ISIS, the US, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, the CIA, and the weapons’ manufacturers are on the other. Putin is not being a dick; Russia is the only country that is helping the legitimate government in Syria legally right now. Let’s say that again: Russia is there legally. The rest of the countries currently bombing Syria to hell and gone are not. Russia and al-Assad are trying to get the US-created and US-armed terrorists out of there.

Apparently, Sanders and O’Malley are the only two amongst the candidates who think that we should uphold the nuclear deal with Iran (which was not trying to develop nuclear weapons anyway), while even our former Sec. of State is of the opinion that we ought to show the Iranians just what dickhead liars we are and sanction them again; retroactively, mind you, since the ballistic missile test that has caused the uproar was carried out prior to our agreement with them.  The missiles tested by Iran were incapable of carrying a nuclear payload and so wouldn’t have broken the agreement no matter when it was signed at any rate.  Nonetheless, as soon as Clinton called for further sanctions, Obama signed an executive order to do just that.

US Treasury imposes new ballistic missile sanctions on Iran:

https://www.rt.com/usa/329240-us-sanctions-iran-ballistic/

Once again we have shown that we cannot keep our “agreements”, “treaties”, or “deals” for more than one second after the ink dries.  The only reason any country even “negotiates” with us any more is that they are aware that if they don’t, we will invade their country and bomb the fuck out of it.  As a nation, we have no morals, no rigorous intellect, and no diplomatic abilities.  As a nation, we are liars, thieves, and murderers, completely bereft of the normal human empathy, the ability to compromise, and the honest self-assessment required to interact in a mutually beneficial way with other societies.

How long before some other nation says, “basta!” and drops a Fat Man on our asses?

All the candidates swear undying support for Israel, none more vociferously than Clinton, as though this were some purity test they have to undergo, and sadly, many Americans see it just that way.  America is exceptional in this way: its politicians place allegiance to a foreign country above loyalty to their own, and the only promises they keep are the ones they make to that foreign country.  And sometimes that oath to serve the interests of the other country above their own nation is the tipping point to get them elected.

What this says about the political system, the politicians, and the electorate in the US is appalling and embarrassing.

So we are being offered for our viewing pleasure an assortment of motley con men and corporate stooges.  Sanders may be the exception to some extent and the fact that the media and the other candidates are busy red-baiting him and regularly try to dismiss his positions out of hand bolsters my belief in his sincerity in some measure.  As I said, however, he isn’t going to dismantle the war machine, and that is a large part of all the other problems this country has.

Then you have the narcissistic Trump, billionaire and game-show host, who has picked up on the unrest out in the flyover zones and plays to it with gusto.  It’s hard to tell what he would do if elected, since he can barely keep his proposals and ideas straight in his own head.  His speeches frequently contradict things he has said before, but it is hard for people to get through all his verbiage to pick up on that.  He’s so loquacious you’d think he was being paid by the word.  He was recently endorsed by our other great orator, Sarah Palin, who left off tending her miscreant brood to offer up this bit of gloss: “Where, in the private sector, you actually have to balance budgets in order to prioritize, to keep the main thing, the main thing, and he knows the main thing: a president is to keep us safe economically and militarily. He knows the main thing, and he knows how to lead the charge.”  You just know the two of them spent their time while waiting in the green room before the great endorsement speech fighting over who was hogging the mirror.  But Trump himself is one of the rich elite who has made his jack off the capitalist system; he isn’t going to gore that ox.  On the other hand, he probably wouldn’t start a hot war with Russia, so there’s that.

There is the skeevy and very creepy Ted Cruz, who was doubtless the Grand Inquisitor in Spain during his last incarnation on this earth.  He is in a fight with the establishment Republicans and neocons, or so we are told to believe, although his ideas about carpet-bombing the Middle East and “lifting the rules of engagement” in the fight with ISIS suggest he fits right in with the PNAC crowd.  He is talking here about illegal methods of warfare and getting rid of the Geneva Conventions, but that doesn’t bother too many of the people in charge, most of whom supported the same ideas when offered by George W. Bush.  Cruz is like some crazed fundamentalist faith-healer who wants to pray the gays away and damn it all, get his chance to nuke some shit for Jesus.  He responded to the Flint, Michigan water crisis by donating bottled water… teaming up with the anti-abortion group Flint Right to Life, with instructions that the water go exclusively to crisis pregnancy centers.  These centers are anti-abortion organizations that try to manipulate women into keeping their pregnancies.  Tough shit about those already-born children and adults who have been drinking toxins in Flint for the last few years.  He, like all the Republicans, wants to cut taxes for corporations, get rid of all bank regulations, privatize everything that could possibly turn a profit for the corporate world, doesn’t support any minimum-wage increases, and has a tax plan that completely decimates the poor and middle class while ass-kissing the wealthy.  He sort of forgot to report his Goldman Sachs campaign contributions to the FEC, and his wife works there; we have yet to see if anyone cares.  Cruz appeals to a certain evangelical, but hawkish, subset of the American public.   Despite their professed “Christian” faith, if Cruz and his base were given the choice between Jesus and that other guy, they’d be screaming, “Free Barabbas!” at the top of their lungs.

Marco Rubio sometimes rattles off sound-bytes like he’s on amphetamines, but he is not saying anything we haven’t heard from the farthest right of the right-wing; he’s just saying it hysterically.  Lots of people think he is cute and endearing, but the dude is one rabid neocon.  He loves the spy programs, Homeland Security, the Pentagon, and torture, and hates the needy, the LGBT community, and Muslims.  That’s his platform.

Chris Christie ruined his own home state and now wants to have a go at the rest of the country. He calls himself the “disaster governor” with pride (I put a different twist on the title than he does, I gather) while at the same time refusing to help the victims of the two disasters that have hit New Jersey since he’s been in office.  We just had a huge blizzard here on the East Coast, and parts of NJ were inundated with flood waters along with the snow.  He happily chirped that there was no “residual damage” because the flood had receded, although it’s quite obvious that buildings that have had 5 feet of water and icebergs wash through them are going to be left with damage, if not have to be outright condemned and torn down.  Not to mention the other stuff that got majorly fucked up in the flood.  We can guess what kind of relief he’s going to offer the affected cities.  He’s said some other things on the campaign trail.  I couldn’t say for sure what, though.

Carly Fiorina is just vicious as a wolverine with rabies, and Ben Carson thinks it would be okay to bomb children on general principles.  When asked if he would order airstrikes that might kill innocent children by the thousands, he mentioned operating on kids with brain tumors and how they hated it but later on loved him, and finished his comments by saying,”and by the same token, you have to be able to look at the big picture and understand that it’s actually merciful if you go ahead and finish the job, rather than death by 1,000 pricks.”   So in other words, Ben Carson thinks bombing civilians and children is somehow merciful because it finishes the job quickly.  The crowd applauded the twisted fuck for his bedside manner.

Jeb Bush is running and may end up being the Republican nominee if the oligarchy can finesse the situation properly.  This might not make him very happy, actually, as he seems most intent on making himself invisible.  He’s like the chubby kid who tried out for the soccer team because his daddy made him.

O’Malley has some fine ideas about the economy and doesn’t seem to be too enthusiastic about continuing the efforts to take over the world, so he will be quickly taken off the scene.  Poor guy barely made in on the scene, so eager are the Democrats to waylay one of their own.

I wrote an entire post about the war-pig Hillary Clinton, who is currently busy trying to paint Sanders as a Commie, so I’ll try not to repeat all the same stuff here.  She is so sure she will be the Democratic nominee, as are the pundits and mainstream media, that she hasn’t bothered to reciprocate to Sanders’ pledge to back the eventual nominee.  I think the media and the talking heads totally fail to understand the rancor and pure loathing felt for her at the street level.  If one reads the comment section on any article about the candidates, even articles supporting Mad Hillary, one sees the same thing over and over: people hate her.  People do not trust her.  People do not intend to vote for her even as “the lesser of two evils”; she is not seen as the lesser evil in any line-up.  To the public, she is defective and never should have made it through quality control.  Clinton is the least sincere candidate we have ever had running for office, and the people sense that.  She will sign the TPP into law given the chance, and you can be sure that she would reneg on all her promises, except the ones where she promises to bomb other countries, as quick as shit through a goose should she be elected.  She has a neocon’s view point toward the use of military power, which she and the media insist on referring to as “foreign affairs”, thus mistaking military policy with diplomacy and foreign policy, a viewpoint that made her such a bad and dangerous Sec. of State.  She felt her job in the State Dept. was to threaten other countries and to work arms deals instead of promoting civil discourse between nations.  She, in fact, gets “foreign policy guidance” from the same firm that advises Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.  (Which may help explain why all the ideas Clinton and the Republicans have for dealing with terrorist issues are similar in that they are illegal by US law, in violation of international laws, and break numerous treaties and agreements.)  The media that promotes her jabbers on about the “commander-in-chief” part of the president’s job because even they recognize in some part of their reptilian brains that Bernie Sanders’ domestic policies appeal to the voters more than hers do.  They – and she – hope that by presenting her as a hard and tough predator, she will gain some popularity with the fearful.  The constant talk about terrorism and terrorists, from all the candidates, serves to keep most of us focused away from the neglected and dismal state of things in our own country.

She may be running into trouble now.  With any luck, and with the assumption that some agencies in the US are still willing to do their jobs, she may be facing criminal charges.  God knows, she should have been jerked up short by the DoJ long before now.  I was very interested to see that one of the major legal threats to her involves the use of her position at the State Dept. to garner donations to the Clinton Foundation, and that Haiti is specifically mentioned.  I brought these things up in my last post about her.

Hillary Clinton’s Coming Legal Crisis

by Charles Lipson
January 13, 2016

The latest release of Hillary Clinton emails entails real risks for her, churning just beneath the surface of her successful primary campaign. True, Democratic voters have shown little interest, and the mainstream media only a bit more. Their focus, when they do look, is on the number of documents now considered classified, their foreign-policy revelations, and the political damage they might cause. These are vital issues, but Clinton faces a far bigger problem. She and her closest aides could be indicted criminally.

Secretary Clinton is exposed twice over. First, she used an unsecured, home-brew server to send and store reams of classified materials. Second, in her official capacity, she worked closely with major donors to the Clinton Foundation. Each poses legal risks, with potential ramifications for the Democratic frontrunner, her party, and the Obama administration.

To understand the gravity of these issues, it is important to recognize that this is not just an “email scandal.” It is an “email + server + foundation” scandal.” Secretary Clinton didn’t just send sensitive (and now-classified) emails over open lines, she stored them on private servers that didn’t meet the government’s cyber-security standards for sensitive documents. On its face, retaining classified materials in such vulnerable settings is a criminal violation. Senior intelligence officials have been charged for less – far less. Storing some 1,300 classified documents on a personal server, and doing it for years, poses a special problem because it shows the mishandling was not inadvertent. It was Clinton’s standard operating procedure.

The State Department has done everything it can to protect its former boss. When it finally received her documents, it flatly refused to comply with long-standing Freedom of Information Act requests by releasing them. It took several court orders for the agency to begin trickling out small batches with large sections blacked out. The redactions only underscore why the documents should never have been held on private, unsecured servers in the first place.

The latest document dump shows why the State Department is so skittish. One reveals the secretary of state telling a senior department official, Jake Sullivan, to strip all the security markings off one document and send it to her on an insecure connection. We don’t yet know if Sullivan actually complied, but, if he did, both he and Clinton face serious legal jeopardy.

Beside these national-security matters, the emails reveal obvious conflict-of-interest issues pertaining to the significant overlap between Clinton’s official duties and her family foundation’s operations.

Major donors to the foundation often had business before the State Department, and they sometimes received help. After the devastating 2010 earthquake in Haiti, for instance, Bill Clinton was named co-chairman of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission, and, according to the Wall Street Journal, “the State Department began directing parties interested in competing for Haiti contracts to the Clinton Foundation.”

Not surprisingly, many contractors became foundation donors, or were already. The FBI now has to decide if any of this was a “pay to play” arrangement. Proving a quid pro quo is notoriously difficult, but Fox News reported Monday that public corruption is now a second track in the FBI investigation.

So far, Hillary has suffered only modest political damage from these scandals. Democratic primary voters are mostly indifferent; her main challenger, Sen. Bernie Sanders, says he’s tired of hearing about it; and, other than Fox News, no major media outlet has done serious investigations.

But that doesn’t mean these messy issues are dead — depending on what happens inside the Justice Department. Clinton is about to face the most serious crisis of her candidacy — a set of legal decisions by the FBI and then the Department of Justice. Those will either kill the issue or kill her chances.

The FBI reportedly has assigned some 100 agents full time to the investigation and another 50 temporarily. The bureau would not commit such massive resources unless the initial investigation raised troubling questions of potential criminality. FBI Director James Comey is monitoring the case closely and coordinating with the intelligence agencies, which have to review the documents. Comey has a reputation for integrity, and it is his call whether to refer charges to the DOJ. Attorney General Loretta Lynch would then decide whether to indict.

Whatever Lynch decides, there will be a maelstrom if FBI agents found substantial evidence of criminal wrongdoing.[…]

Regardless of the attorney general’s decision, if the FBI does recommend criminal charges for Hillary Clinton or any of her associates, she will face two very pointed questions from the media, the electorate, and her Republican challenger.

“Secretary Clinton, if you are elected president, do you unequivocally promise to appoint an independent counsel to investigate these charges and, if warranted, prosecute them?”
“Do you promise you will not pardon anyone before these cases are fully adjudicated?”

She won’t be able to wave these questions off and say, “The attorney general decided all that.” It will look too much like a coverup by a Democratic administration for a Democratic Party leader.

To reach the White House, Hillary Clinton has to get past the coming legal crisis, and she will have to answer those hard questions.

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2016/01/13/hillary_clintons_coming_legal_crisis_129293.html

You should really read the whole article; I left some paragraphs speculating about the potential effects this could have on the elections out of the blockquote due to space.  Another interesting article is a brief one written by Glen Ford at blackagendareport regarding the Clintons’ interference into Haiti’s elections, and gives a bit of a rundown on their unwelcome and colonial-style relationship with Haiti.  See, “The Clintons: We Came, We Stole, Haitians Died”:

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article44069.htm

I fail to understand how anyone can think we still have a democracy in this country.  When you look at these candidates and take honest stock of what they are offering, how can you find any escape in some sad and outdated notion that this is a government of, by, and for the people?  Hell, the Obama trade agreements, the first of which (the TPP) is quietly coming up for a vote soon if Congress bothers to follow its own legislation, suffice to render our national sovereignty and any pretense of a government “for the people” null and void if they are passed.  I will allow some exception for Sanders in my condemnations, as I think he may actually mean at least some of what he says and is the only one who even affects to worry about how life is going for the average American.  He ought to talk more about the TPP, since it has come out that this dangerous piece of crap posing as a “trade agreement” will probably do away with the UK’s health system and could prevent universal healthcare forever in the US.  As to the rest, when any of those bought-and-paid-for bastards steps up to the podium and lies to the audience about how much he/she really, really cares about the working stiff and has our best interests at heart, I feel nothing but contempt and revulsion.  The corruption at the top of this country is so widespread and so legalized that we cannot avoid another financial catastrophe and perhaps even another world war.  These are the goals of the oligarchy so they can strip the US and the rest of the world of its remaining assets, and the dolts, criminals, grifters, and bullshit artists up there on the stage posing as “presidential material” are willing to lead us right into the pit.

No-one with enough neurons firing to keep breathing can take this election seriously.  I doubt I will bother to take a chance on the voting machines myself.  Seems pointless, unless by some weird happenstance Sanders is on the ballot.  If it comes to a race between Clinton and Trump, that might also motivate me enough to haul my ass out of the chair to go vote for Trump, just to help save us from her.

What a wretched selection we have in front of us.  Who shall we have?  Caligula or Nero?  Choices, choices.

I don’t blame those who think that perhaps it is time to join the dolphins and get the hell out of Dodge.  If only there were a way to escape to some other planet entirely.  A different country on this one may not be far enough – the Powers That Be have their clutches on all of them.

 

The governmental responses to the Paris terrorist attacks.

In response to the terrorist attacks in Paris last Friday night, France has rolled out its plans, seemingly prepared in advance much like the US’ response to 9/11: France is already increasing its bombing of Syria and is imposing strict new laws on its own people at home.

Despite the fact that at least half the terrorists in this case were already known to the French law enforcement community, the intelligence services mysteriously “ceased watching” the suspects a few days before the attacks. Oddly, and also reminiscent of 9/11, the French military and police forces were conducting anti-terrorist training exercises the morning of the attacks in Paris, so Paris was packed with law enforcement, but somehow the terrorists slipped around town to multiple locations unimpeded. The police response was notably slow at each location as well.  Despite these being obvious failures of the security community in France, the first steps rolled out in response are not directed as rebuke to or reform of these agencies, but are instead measures taken against the civilian population and which are a distinct curtailing of civil rights.  

Internally, French president Hollande has ordered a 3-month State of Emergency which will be extended further “as needed”. The state of emergency law allows French authorities to impose curfews, carry out random searches of private homes at any time, collect weapons owned by private citizens, use military tribunals rather than the courts, curtail public meetings, censor the press, order the house arrest of individuals (without trial), and close public places (most public places were closed for the week-end and the law allows for future closures at any time with little or no prior notification to the public).  The French government has already begun raids of private homes searching for accomplices to the terrorists and is increasing the number of soldiers patrolling Paris and suburbs. Right now, there are 5000 French military troops in Paris; there will be another 1500 added by Wednesday and the prime minister has promised to deploy another 10,000 troops throughout the rest of the country as quickly as possible. (There were already 7000 troops deployed internally in France since the “Charlie Hebdo” thing in January of this year, in addition to the number just in Paris alone.) This pretty much puts martial law in effect.

Hollande met with leaders of all the political parties in France over the week-end and they all agree with the new “state of emergency” law and to expanding participation of war abroad.  He asked for an increase in spending on security, police, and intelligence agencies, which will breach the EU’s budget agreements, and is seeking constitutional revisions to add to the powers of the president under emergency situations.   

Marie Le Pen, who is the leader of the National Front party (they are distinctly neo-fascists) called for the complete disarming of the suburbs, and Wauquiez, the secretary of the Le Republicans party (very right-wing) said that anyone in France who has an intelligence file (i.e., people being watched for one reason or another by the authorities) should be placed in internment camps.

Interior Minister Cazeneuve stated that the state of emergency might be used for “the dissolution of mosques in which people intervene to call for or promote hatred.”   What exactly constitutes “promoting hatred” is no doubt open to debate.

On Monday, Hollande made a speech to both houses of parliament in which he suggested sweeping changes to the democratic rights inherent in the French constitution and proposed modifying the constitution itself.  His measures would give arbitrary powers to the president and transfer authority from civilian institutions to the French military; he pointed out that the several articles supporting these sweeping changes were already part of the constitution under the state of emergency he imposed, but said that they needed to be modified and strengthened.  The articles in question allow the president full and arbitrary powers “when the institutions of the Republic, the independence of the Nation, its territorial integrity, or the carrying out of its international engagements are threatened in a grave and immediate way, and the regular functioning of the constitutional public authority is interrupted…”

It’s a fairly broad read of the articles to invoke them with the claim that ISIS could threaten all the institutions of France, or its independence and territorial integrity.  Nonetheless, massive changes appear to be in the works for the good people of France, who have enjoyed a free and democratic republic until now.

Joyeux Noel et bonne annee, gens. [Merry Christmas and happy new year, people.]

Other countries are calling for more bombing throughout the Middle East, as though killing more people will somehow stop blowback of the sort that the Paris attacks might have been.  It is also possible that the Paris events were a false flag designed to have the effect of solidifying the intent of the “coalition of the willing” to come together more firmly and utterly destroy Syria in particular and the Middle East in general.  We even had the requisite magic, indestructible passports and a peculiarly belated claim from ISIS that they were, in fact, behind the attacks.  It was only after Hollande claimed that he “knew” that ISIS was behind the attacks that ISIS thought to take credit.  I wonder how easy it is for someone fleeing a war-torn country to apply for a passport and how quickly that country can process the applications when it is under full military assault.  Millions of people have fled Syria; is it even likely that all, or most, of them waited for visitor’s passports before fleeing for their very lives?   It’s a moot point anyway; we are now being told the terrorists were not Syrian refugees, but French and Belgium nationals.  And why do these terrorists only target the civilian population, rather than the politicians and neocons who are responsible for the wars in their homelands?   If this is a case of false flag, it seems to be working.

At the G20 meeting taking place now, a bunch of countries (which are, well, noticeably not Syria nor territories of Syria nor colonies of Syria nor in any way, shape, or form countries going by the name of Syria) are deciding how Syria should be governed and run. The big questions seem to be: do we simply assassinate al Assad, demand he a) step down now or b) step down later, set up an [illegal] interim government without him (like we did in Libya just before we assassinated Ghaddafi), tell the people of Syria they will have early elections but al Assad cannot run for office this time, despite his winning the last election with 80% of the vote (like we did in Haiti, where we allowed Aristide to return home, but said he couldn’t run for office even if the people wanted him to – which they overwhelmingly did), and the final big question is, of course, do you suppose anyone will notice if we just fucking bomb Syria into a landfill and kill all the civilians in the meantime? Takes care of that part of the refugee problem, anyway.

The US now kind of wants Russia to take part in the bombing of Syria to get rid of our manufactured enemy ISIS (who, let’s face it, are getting a tad out of control), but don’t want Russia to bomb the “moderate” terrorists, who just happen to be aiming their sights on al Assad, whom we really want to get rid of.  I have to ask here, what the fuck is a “moderate” terrorist?  Is that a terrorist who will cut your head off but not eat your liver afterwards?  What we really want, of course, is that damn pipeline that al Assad won’t give us, and we hope Russia will ignore that losing the pipeline will hurt the Russian economy and can be convinced to not only help us get rid of ISIS, but along the way, also help us take down the only guy who is protecting Russia’s interests in that pipeline matter.  (“Real shame about your airplane there, Mr. Putin.  Shitty things happen when you don’t play by our rules.”)

Not one leader, and this is notably true in the US, which favors sanctions and other such assorted illegal actions in lieu of diplomacy, has suggested sanctions or investigations into who is buying all that black-market oil from ISIS which profits the group enormously.  Turkey and Iraq are among the known purchasers, and reports have been leaked that suggest at least two EU countries buy ISIS oil.  Somehow the US can sanction individuals and/or entire countries for any matter under the sun that affects “our interests”, but is completely nonchalant about the ISIS oil buyers or the methods of money transfers they utilize.  Remarkable.

France has placed itself in the absurd situation of seeking help from Russia against ISIS in Syria while at the very same time committed to the NATO buildup against Russia in Ukraine and eastern Europe.  The US and other NATO countries are doing the same thing, although few seem to have noticed the spectacular oddness of it all.  John Kerry, while in Paris a day ago, put the burden for intelligence-sharing on Russia and Iran (“…So the faster Russia and Iran give life to this process, the faster the violence can taper down, and we can isolate [IS] and Al Nusra and begin to do what our strategy has always set out to do”), despite the fact that we have been condemning both those countries for participating in military activity in the Syria up until this very moment, and have been making threats against both countries for decades.   We can only hope these idiots don’t start bombing each other (and us) in a mad melee while they are busy “coalescing” and bombing ISIS.

UK Prime Minister David Cameron announced he is adding financing to the military budget and doubling the drone fleet.  Countries all over the place are suddenly stating they are under “credible terrorist threats” and have begun canceling events, adding to their internal police forces and closing borders to refugees.  Roughly half the state governors in America have said they will not accept Syrian refugees – not that very many have come here in any case – despite the fact that it is not legal for them to bar refugees from their communities.

As for the larger US, we are suddenly bombing Libya again, in addition to Syria.  (Along with the seven or so other nations we are bombing.)  No authorization for any of the bombing we are doing anywhere, of course, and particularly egregious to be bombing a country we already ruined beyond repair a couple of years ago, but no-one in the media seems disturbed. Matter of fact, it is so humdrum that I’ve only seen one or two articles on the incident.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/us-officials-leader-of-islamic-state-in-libya-believed-killed-in-us-airstrike/2015/11/14/b42cb714-8af0-11e5-be39-0034bb576eee_story.html

The final paragraph in the above article sums up the media’s insouciance for facts and displays its ability to re-write even recent history, replacing truth with bullshit.

The Islamic State has been able to thrive in Libya in large part because of the country’s political instability four years after its revolution. Since last year, Libya has had two governments vying for resources and legitimacy. But neither is able to impose security across the vast desert nation or curb a sprawling array of militias, militant cells, smugglers and criminal groups.

It was not a revolution, those were CIA-funded, al Qaeda-affiliated “rebels” brought into the country of Libya to overthrow the then-current government.  Then an unbelievable amount of bombs were dropped under the lead of the US, ruining damn near everything, and then we assassinated the leader of this sovereign nation.  The country had been working pretty well up until that point, with Ghaddafi having over a 90% approval rating from the Libyans themselves.  And, by the way, the “sprawling array” of militias, militant cells, smugglers and criminal groups weren’t a problem until we wrecked the country.

In response to the events in Paris, I guess the PTB have decided their course of action: more of the same of what they’ve been doing.  Yeah, because that’s been working so well up to now.  We managed to create and fund al Qaeda and ISIS through our activities in the Middle East for all these long years, and we supply weapons to our “ally” Saudi Arabia, which in turn follows much the same set of Wahhabi beliefs that ISIS and the other Islamist militant groups do and which actively provides material and financial backing for terrorist groups worldwide.  The House of Saud is loathe to bomb ISIS, but has been savagely willing to use those weapons to bring hell on earth to Yemen and Pakistan.  Yesterday, it was announced that the US State Dept. has approved a new $1.3 bb sale of smart bombs to Saudi Arabia, which the Pentagon says will be used in the Saudis’ military campaigns in Syria and Yemen.  We consider Turkey an ally even as they purchase black-market oil from ISIS and back the “moderate terrorist” groups [al Qaeda and ISIS allies] and ignore the reports that our ally Israel is giving medical aid to ISIS wounded.  One thing that no-one will consider is to let the Arab nations figure out if they really want the kind of life ISIS is selling and let them sort it out for themselves.  

To underscore that our desire to spread weaponry, mayhem and misery is equal opportunity for the entire globe, the US Senate just cleared the revised Defense Authorization legislation for vote, legislation that will provide $715 mm to Iraqi forces fighting ISIS, $406 mm for the Syrian opposition forces (the so-called moderate terrorist groups), and $300 mm for lethal weapons for the neo-Nazis we put in power in Ukraine.

Obama has promised a quarter of a billion dollars to sponsor “maritime security” in the South China Sea.  The money will fund gunboat patrols and surveillance for Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Malaysia as the US tries to gin up the territorial disputes with China in that area.  (Wait’ll he finds out that China, Japan and South Korea are holding meetings to work out some trade questions and the sea-lane disputes without him.  See note at bottom.)  Escalation of war threats all over the globe.

Sounds like a plan, if a dismal one.

Note: Looks like China and Japan are starting to figure out they need each other more than either needs the stupid war-mongering US. and its manufactured dispute over some sand bars:

Nov 2015 – S Korea, Japan, and China agree to restore trade ties. 
Regional powers also agree to restart trilateral meetings that have not been held since 2012 due to strained relations.
 Two articles.

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/11/korea-japan-china-agree-restore-trade-ties-151101130148174.html

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-11-01/south-korea-china-japan-vow-to-strengthen-ties-at-summit/6903686

 
2 Comments

Posted by on November 16, 2015 in China, civil rights, Iran, Iraq, Libya, MIC, Russia, security state, Syria, Ukraine, Yemen

 

News of the day, 25 March, 2015.

I have four articles from other sources for you today.  I am dealing with some eye issues and so cannot do too much writing myself.  Probably for the best all around,

Here is an article on Israel spying on the negotiations between the US and Iran.  I know that everyone spies on everyone now, but what strikes me in this instance is the sharing of information with certain US Congressmen, who recently have used this information to try to undermine any diplomatic and negotiating efforts of the Obama administration, insincere and half-assed as those efforts may be.  I will mention in passing that Iran is not seeking nuclear weapons status, according to the IAEA, whose inspectors have been allowed more investigations and inspections in Iran than were even requested and also according to top US Pentagon officials.  Furthermore, I will note that the US began [illegal] sanctions on Iran decades ago, stealing their money, freezing their assets, causing deprivation to the civilians of Iran through embargoes and trade sanctions, largely cutting their oil trading ability, and has escalated these sanctions under Obama.  All this to punish a country which has never threatened the US nor started a war in over 200 years, and which is not doing what we claim they are doing.  One might ask how the US sees itself fit to unilaterally decide who gets nuclear weapons in any case, especially given that we have armed the entire globe, have broken our nuclear-disarmament treaties, and have made sure that the nation most intent on obliterating Iran out of sheer belligerence (Israel) has nuclear capacity itself.  No-one asks this question, of course.

I am of the opinion that members of Congress committed sedition when they invited Netanyahu to speak and “advise” them on US policy matters, and that particularly those in Congress who publicly stated they would “follow his lead” are guilty of this. [sedition: conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch.]  [see: http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/228125-congress-set-to-take-up-iran-sanctions-bill-next-month-graham-says]

With this latest revelation, that certain Congressmen were given information obtained through a foreign country spying on ours, and used this information to undermine our own on-going negotiations with another sovereign country, I think a bona fide case could be made that they have committed treason.  [treason: the crime of betraying one’s country.]  The recipients did not, after all, report the spying and subterfuge to the White House.  Nor did these people go to the CIA, or the DoJ; they conspired with Israel to use it in attempts to thwart the foreign policies of the sitting administration of the US.

That WH officials found out about this and did nothing aside from calling Israel’s ambassador onto the carpet and then merely engaging in some political jawboning with the Congressmen involved in attempts to sway them toward the WH position is an interesting notation on how unabashedly beyond the law the entire political structure of the US has become.  With this sort of government, a Congress that openly conspires with a foreign country against its own president, a president who openly murders people all over the globe and claims the right to likewise assassinate Americans as well, a judicial that constantly gives decisions favorable to big business over the common good and disregards the Constitution, a government that is actively working to decimate the health and livelihoods of the people and that obeys the dictates of the banks and business cartels, a government hell-bent on invading other countries, overthrowing foreign nations, murdering foreign leaders and starting wars all over the globe – with this sort of government, it is hard to make any case that this one little incident is of much import.  I agree; in and of itself, it is merely a pimple on the ass-end of the country.  However, it serves to indicate how corrupted things have become in Washington.

Israel Spied on Iran Talks, Gave Intel to US Lawmakers to Kill Deal: Report

US officials angered, reports Wall Street Journal, that Israelis used captured information from high-level negotiations to thwart chances of nuclear agreement

The Israeli government secretly spied on high-level talks between the U.S., Iran, and other countries and attempted to sabotage the ongoing nuclear negotiations by serving captured information back to U.S. lawmakers opposed to a deal, the Wall Street Journal is reporting on Tuesday.

According to the WSJ:
Soon after the U.S. and other major powers entered negotiations last year to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, senior White House officials learned Israel was spying on the closed-door talks.

The spying operation was part of a broader campaign by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to penetrate the negotiations and then help build a case against the emerging terms of the deal, current and former U.S. officials said. In addition to eavesdropping, Israel acquired information from confidential U.S. briefings, informants and diplomatic contacts in Europe, the officials said.

The espionage didn’t upset the White House as much as Israel’s sharing of inside information with U.S. lawmakers and others to drain support from a high-stakes deal intended to limit Iran’s nuclear program, current and former officials said.
“It is one thing for the U.S. and Israel to spy on each other. It is another thing for Israel to steal U.S. secrets and play them back to U.S. legislators to undermine U.S. diplomacy,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter.

Israeli officials on Tuesday quickly denied specific aspects of the reporting. “These allegations are utterly false,” a senior official in the Israeli Prime Minister’s office told CNN. “The state of Israel does not conduct espionage against the United States or Israel’s other allies.”

Officials made similar claims to the WSJ, but the newspaper stood by its reporting which it said was based on interviews with more than a dozen current and former U.S. and Israeli diplomats, intelligence officials, policy makers, and lawmakers.

That the U.S. and Israel routinely spy on one another is no secret. As the WSJ notes, citing remarks from U.S. officials, the “U.S. expends more counterintelligence resources fending off Israeli spy operations than any other close ally.”

But in this case, as noted, it was the act of supplying U.S. lawmakers with Israeli captured intelligence on the talks that appears to have most irked the White House and other officials.

According to the WSJ, “Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer met with U.S. lawmakers and shared details on the Iran negotiations to warn about the terms of the deal” as a way to undermine the talks.

Mr. Dermer started lobbying U.S. lawmakers just before the U.S. and other powers signed an interim agreement with Iran in November 2013. Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Dermer went to Congress after seeing they had little influence on the White House.
Before the interim deal was made public, Mr. Dermer gave lawmakers Israel’s analysis: The U.S. offer would dramatically undermine economic sanctions on Iran, according to congressional officials who took part.

After learning about the briefings, the White House dispatched senior officials to counter Mr. Dermer. The officials told lawmakers that Israel’s analysis exaggerated the sanctions relief by as much as 10 times, meeting participants said.

Despite repeated attempts by the Israeli government and their allies in the U.S. Congress to derail nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 nations, those talks continue to make progress as foreign ministers remain under active negotiations in Switzerland this week.

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/03/24/israel-spied-iran-talks-gave-intel-us-lawmakers-kill-deal-report

I’m not sure what endears Israel to the higher-ups in the US.  An ally in the region, blah-blah-blah, yeah, I know, but seriously.  We supply most of their income (so their citizens can have the free healthcare and college educations denied to Americans) and the only things we seem to get in return are instruction manuals on how to run a police state and co-dependent paranoia.  It turns out that a significant number of people in high positions in the US hold dual citizenship with Israel.  This is partly due to the fact that if you are Jewish and set foot on Israel’s soil, you are granted automatic citizenship.  Every other country on the globe requires a naturalization process of some sort.  Some visitors may not even be aware they are legally counted as Israelis by the government there.  Certainly, Israel takes pains to invite our Jewish congress-members to visit as frequently as possible, and our government encourages and pays for these visits.  (We are also now sending local police forces to train in Israel; I would assume some of them qualify for automatic Israeli citizenship, too.)  I guess it is sort of like the Mormons allowing post-death baptism into their church, with the new member being brought into the flock through the sponsorship of a living Mormon; increases the rolls without the trouble of door-to-door proselytizing.  Here is an interesting thing: anyone recognized as an Israeli citizen, including those holding dual citizenship, is subject to mandatory military service in Israel’s armed forces.  I can only surmise that our politicians and well-heeled dual citizens are somehow granted an exemption to this law, since I have never heard of any of them going over there and bombing Palestinians while they hold office here at home.

On the American side, laws have been enacted that allow special exceptions for Israel to our basic rules about dual citizenship and naturalization.  In most cases, one may not be a dual citizen with another country, but we allow it in the case of Israel and a select few other countries. If someone has dual citizenship by birth one might be considered an automatic citizen of Austria, for example, just because his parents were Austrians, although he himself was born in the US and is thus legally an American, too (Austria is one of these “special exception” countries, as well).  In the case where someone is going through the naturalization process as a newly arrived adult immigrant, however, he has to renounce his former citizenship – except if he was formerly an Israeli.

It is nearly impossible to find out exactly how many of our politicians hold dual citizenship with Israel because that information is not required to be published and all freedom-of-information requests about members of Congress have been denied under freedom of religion claims.  Which is kind of racist, come to think of it, since it assumes that all Israelis are Jews, and that is simply not true.  It’s a little odd that Homeland Security doesn’t have a registry of dual citizens (involving any countries and the US) considering all the blather about security issues and foreigners and all, but they don’t.  Most people don’t care about the whole duality thing or are too worried that they’d be labelled anti-Semitic to talk about it out loud, but I can’t imagine we’d have the same attitude if there were suddenly dozens of Iranian-Americans holding office.  Or Muslim-Americans, if you want to put the religious spin on it.  You can bet your ass we’d be talking about divided loyalties and conflict of interest in those situations.

In any case, the only numbers we have come from the individuals themselves openly saying they hold duality.  To the best of my knowledge, there are currently at least 9 or 10 dual Israeli/American citizens in high offices in this administration, including Jack Lew (chief of staff), Gary Gensler (Comm Futures Trading Comm), Dan Shapiro (amb. to Israel), Gene Sperling (dir., Nat’l Econ. Council), Mary Schapiro (chair, SEC), Steven Simon (head, ME/North Africa Nat’l Security Council), Eric Lynn (ME policy advisor), Elena Kagan (supreme court), and Stanley Fischer (vice chair, Fed and former head of Israel Nat’l Bank).

In the first Obama administration, dual citizens included Rahm Emanuel, David Axelrod, Peter Orszag, Larry Summers, and Jared Bernstein.  There are also at least 13 sitting Senators and 27 House members who hold citizenship in Israel.  I won’t list all of them, but here are a few names that might surprise you: Barbara Boxer, Ben Cardin, Dianne Feinstein, Al Franken, Bernie Sanders, Ron Wyden, Charles Schumer, Eric Cantor, Barney Frank, Gabrielle Giffords, Jane Harman, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Harry Waxman, and Anthony Weiner.  I have read a couple of articles recently that aver there are actually over 100 of these members of Congress, but it’s too hard to ascertain for sure, so that might simply be speculation.  The list of prominent people who formerly served in some office or another and who acknowledge dual citizenship with Israel is practically endless.  Mukasey, Chertoff, Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith, Libby (yeah, “Scooter”), Abrams, Bolten (both Josh and John), Haass, Frum, Kissinger, etc., and the Fed and major banks are notable for dual citizens.

It’s an interesting and verboten phenomenon in our political system.

The following is an interview between “The Saker” and Paul Craig Roberts.  The Saker runs a site which has lately been devoted to the war in Ukraine.  It is probably the best source of information for that subject available in English (link to his website at the end of the article).  I also recommend any articles written by Eric Zuesse on this topic. [for one source of Zuesse’s articles, see: http://www.washingtonsblog.com/author/eric-zuesse-2 ]  This particular piece is not about Ukraine, however; it is about the United States.

Does Washington Intend War With Russia

The Saker interviews Paul Craig Roberts

I had been wanting to interview Paul Craig Roberts for a long time already. For many years I have been following his writings and interviews and every time I read what he had to say I was hoping that one day I would have the privilege to interview him about the nature of the US deep state and the Empire. Recently, I emailed him and asked for such an interview, and he very kindly agreed. I am very grateful to him for this opportunity.

The Saker
March 24, 2015 “ICH” –  The Saker: It has become rather obvious to many, if not most, people that the USA is not a democracy or a republic, but rather a plutocracy run by a small elite which some call “the 1%”. Others speak of the “deep state”. So my first question to you is the following. Could you please take the time to assess the influence and power of each of the following entities one by one. In particular, can you specify for each of the following whether it has a decision-making “top” position, or a decision-implementing “middle” position in the real structure of power (listed in no specific order)
Federal Reserve
Big Banking
Bilderberg
Council on Foreign Relations
Skull & Bones
CIA
Goldman Sachs and top banks
“Top 100 families” (Rothschild, Rockefeller, Dutch Royal Family, British Royal Family, etc.)
Israel Lobby
Freemasons and their lodges
Big Business: Big Oil, Military Industrial Complex, etc.
Other people or organizations not listed above?
Who, which group, what entity would you consider is really at the apex of power in the current US polity?

Paul Craig Roberts: The US is ruled by private interest groups and by the neoconservative ideology that History has chosen the US as the “exceptional and indispensable” country with the right and responsibility to impose its will on the world.

In my opinion the most powerful of the private interest groups are:
The Military/security Complex
The 4 or 5 mega-sized “banks too big to fail” and Wall Street
The Israel Lobby
Agribusiness
The Extractive industries (oil, mining, timber).

The interests of these interest groups coincide with those of the neoconservatives. The neoconservative ideology supports American financial and military-political imperialism or hegemony.
There is no independent American print or TV media. In the last years of the Clinton regime, 90% of the print and TV media was concentrated in 6 mega-companies. During the Bush regime, National Public Radio lost its independence. So the media functions as a Ministry of Propaganda.

Both political parties, Republicans and Democrats, are dependent on the same private interest groups for campaign funds, so both parties dance to the same masters. Jobs offshoring destroyed the manufacturing and industrial unions and deprived the Democrats of Labor Union political contributions. In those days, Democrats represented the working people and Republicans represented business.
The Federal Reserve is there for the banks, mainly the large ones.The Federal Reserve was created as lender of last resort to prevent banks from failing because of runs on the bank or withdrawal of deposits. The New York Fed, which conducts the financial interventions, has a board that consists of the executives of the big banks. The last three Federal Reserve chairmen have been Jews, and the current vice chairman is the former head of the Israeli central bank. Jews are prominent in the financial sector, for example, Goldman Sachs. In recent years, the US Treasury Secretaries and heads of the financial regulatory agencies have mainly been the bank executives responsible for the fraud and excessive debt leverage that set off the last financial crisis.

In the 21st century, the Federal Reserve and Treasury have served only the interests of the large banks. This has been at the expense of the economy and the population. For example, retired people have had no interest income for eight years in order that the financial institutions can borrow at zero costs and make money.

No matter how rich some families are, they cannot compete with powerful interest groups such as the military/security complex or Wall Street and the banks. Long established wealth can look after its interests, and some, such as the Rockefellers, have activist foundations that most likely work hand in hand with the National Endowment for Democracy to fund and encourage various pro-American non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in countries that the US wants to influence or overthrow, such as occurred in Ukraine. The NGOs are essentially US Fifth Columns and operate under such names as “human rights,” “democracy,” etc. A Chinese professor told me that the Rockefeller Foundation had created an American University in China and is used to organize various anti-regime Chinese. At one time, and perhaps still, there were hundreds of US and German financed NGOs in Russia, possibly as many as 1,000.

I don’t know if the Bilderbergs do the same. Possibly they are just very rich people and have their proteges in governments who try to protect their interests. I have never seen any signs of Bilderbergs or Masons or Rothchilds affecting congressional or executive branch decisions.
On the other hand, the Council for Foreign Relations is influential. The council consists of former government policy officials and academics involved in foreign policy and international relations. The council’s publication, Foreign Affairs, is the premier foreign policy forum. Some journalists are also members. When I was proposed for membership in the 1980s, I was blackballed.

Skull & Bones is a Yale University secret fraternity. A number of universities have such secret fraternities. For example, the University of Virginia has one, and the University of Georgia. These fraternities do not have secret governmental plots or ruling powers. Their influence would be limited to the personal influence of the members, who tend to be sons of elite families. In my opinion, these fraternities exist to convey elite status to members. They have no operational functions.

The Saker: What about individuals? Who are, in your opinion, the most powerful people in the USA today? Who takes the final, top level, strategic decision?

Paul Craig Roberts: There really are no people powerful in themselves. Powerful people are ones that powerful interest groups are behind. Ever since Secretary of Defense William Perry privatized so much of the military in 1991, the military/security complex has been extremely powerful, and its power is further amplified by its ability to finance political campaigns and by the fact that it is a source of employment in many states. Essentially Pentagon expenditures are controlled by defense contractors.

The Saker: I have always believed that in international terms, organizations such as NATO, the EU or all the others are only a front, and that the real alliance which controls the planet are the ECHELON countries: US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand aka “AUSCANNZUKUS” (they are also referred to as the “Anglosphere” or the “Five Eyes”) with the US and the UK are the senior partners while Canada, Australia and New Zealand are the junior partners here. Is this model correct?

Paul Craig Roberts: NATO was a US creation allegedly to protect Europe from a Soviet invasion. Its purpose expired in 1991. Today NATO provides cover for US aggression and provides mercenary forces for the American Empire. Britain, Canada, Australia, are simply US vassal states just as are Germany, France, Italy, Japan and the rest. There are no partners; just vassals. It is Washington’s empire, no one else’s.

The US favors the EU, because it is easier to control than the individual countries.

The Saker: It is often said that Israel controls the USA. Chomsky, and others, say that it is the USA which controls Israel. How would you characterize the relationship between Israel and the USA – does the dog wag the tail or does the tail wag the dog? Would you say that the Israel Lobby is in total control of the USA or are there still other forces capable of saying “no” to the Israel Lobby and impose their own agenda?

Paul Craig Roberts: I have never seen any evidence that the US controls Israel. All the evidence is that Israel controls the US, but only its MidEast policy. In recent years, Israel or the Israel Lobby, has been able to control or block academic appointments in the US and tenure for professors considered to be critics of Israel. Israel has successfully reached into both Catholic and State universities to block tenure and appointments. Israel can also block some presidential appointments and has vast influence over the print and TV media. The Israel Lobby also has plenty of money for political campaign funds and never fails to unseat US Representatives and Senators considered critical of Israel. The Israel lobby was able to reach into the black congressional district of Cynthia McKinney, a black woman, and defeat her reelection. As Admiral Tom Moorer, Chief of Naval Operations and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: “No American President can stand up to Israel.” Adm. Moorer could not even get an official investigation of Israel’s deadly attack on the USS Liberty in 1967.
Anyone who criticizes Israeli policies even in a helpful way is labeled an “anti-Semite.”

In American politics, media, and universities, this is a death-dealing blow. You might as well get hit with a hellfire missile.

The Saker: Which of the 12 entities of power which I listed above have, in your opinion, played a key role in the planning and execution of the 9/11 “false flag” operation? After all, it is hard to imagine that this was planned and prepared between the inauguration of GW Bush and September 11th – it must have been prepared during the years of the Clinton Administration. Is it not true that the Oklahoma City bombing was a rehearsal for 9/11?

Paul Craig Roberts: In my opinion 9/11 was the product of the neoconservatives, many of whom are Jewish allied with Israel, Dick Cheney, and Israel. Its purpose was to provide “the new Pearl Harbor” that the neoconservatives said was necessary to launch their wars of conquest in the Middle East. I don’t know how far back it was planned, but Silverstein was obviously part of it and he had not had the WTC for very long before 9/11.

As for the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, US Air Force General Partin, the Air Force’s munitions expert, prepared an expert report proving beyond all doubt that the building blew up from the inside out and that the truck bomb was cover.

Congress and the media ignored his report. The patsy, McVeigh, was already set up, and that was the only story allowed.

The Saker: Do you think that the people who run the USA today realize that they are on a collision course with Russia which could lead to thermonuclear war? If yes, why would they take such a risk? Do they really believe that at the last moment Russian will “blink” and back down, or do they actually believe that they can win a nuclear war? Are they not afraid that in a nuclear conflagration with Russia they will lose everything they have, including their power and even their lives?

Paul Craig Roberts: I am as puzzled as much as you. I think Washington is lost in hubris and arrogance and is more or less insane. Also, there is belief that the US can win a nuclear war with Russia. There was an article in Foreign Affairs around 2005 or 2006 in which this conclusion was reached. The belief in the winnability of nuclear war has been boosted by faith in ABM defenses. The argument is that the US can hit Russia so hard in a preemptive first strike that Russia would not retaliate in fear of a second blow.

The Saker: How do you assess the current health of the Empire? For many years we have seen clear signs of decline, but there is still not visible collapse. Do you believe that such a collapse is inevitable and, if not, how could it be prevented? Will we see the day when the US Dollar suddenly become worthless or will another mechanism precipitate the collapse of this Empire?

Paul Craig Roberts: The US economy is hollowed out. There has been no real median family income growth for decades. Alan Greenspan as Fed Chairman used an expansion of consumer credit to take the place of the missing growth in consumer income, but the population is now too indebted to take on more. So there is nothing to drive the economy. So many manufacturing and tradable professional service jobs such as software engineering have been moved offshore that the middle class has shrunk. University graduates cannot get jobs that support an independent existence. So they can’t form households, buy houses, appliances and home furnishings. The government produces low inflation measures by not measuring inflation and low unemployment rates by not measuring unemployment. The financial markets are rigged, and gold is driven down despite rising demand by selling uncovered shorts in the futures market. It is a house of cards that has stood longer than I thought possible. Apparently, the house of cards can stand until the rest of the world ceases to hold the US dollar as reserves.

Possibly the empire has put too much stress on Europe by involving Europe in a conflict with Russia. If Germany, for example, were to pull out of NATO, the empire would collapse, or if Russia can find the wits to finance Greece, Italy, and Spain in exchange for them leaving the Euro and EU, the empire would suffer a fatal blow.

Alternatively, Russia might tell Europe that Russia has no alternative but to target European capitals with nuclear weapons now that Europe has joined the US in conducting war against Russia.

The Saker: Russia and China have done something unique in history and they have gone beyond the traditional model of forming an alliance: they have agreed to become interdependent – one could say that they have agreed to a symbiotic relationship. Do you believe that those in charge of the Empire have understood the tectonic change which has just happen or are they simply going into deep denial because reality scares them too much?

Paul Craig Roberts: Stephen Cohen says that there is simply no foreign policy discussion. There is no debate. I think the empire thinks that it can destabilize Russia and China and that is one reason Washington has color revolutions working in Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. As Washington is determined to prevent the rise of other powers and is lost in hubris and arrogance, Washington probably believes that it will succeed. After all, History chose Washington.

The Saker: In your opinion, do presidential elections still matter and, if yes, what is your best hope for 2016? I am personally very afraid of Hillary Clinton whom I see as an exceptionally dangerous and outright evil person, but with the current Neocon influence inside the Republican, can we really hope for a non-Neocon candidate to win the GOP nomination?

Paul Craig Roberts: The only way a presidential election could matter would be if the elected president had behind him a strong movement. Without a movement, the president has no independent power and no one to appoint who will do his bidding. Presidents are captives. Reagan had something of a movement, just enough that we were able to cure stagflation despite Wall Street’s opposition and we were able to end the cold war despite the opposition of the CIA and the military/security complex. Plus Reagan was very old and came from a long time ago. He assumed the office of the president was powerful and acted that way.

The Saker: What about the armed forces? Can you imagine a Chairman of the JCS saying “no, Mr President, that is crazy, we will not do this” or do you expect the generals to obey any order, including one starting a nuclear war against Russia? Do you have any hope that the US military could step in and stop the “crazies” currently in power in the White House and Congress?

Paul Craig Roberts: The US military is a creature of the armaments industries. The whole purpose of making general is to be qualified to be a consultant to the “defense” industry, or to become an executive or on the board of a “defense” contractor. The military serves as the source of retirement careers when the generals make the big money. The US military is totally corrupt. Read Andrew Cockburn’s book, Kill Chain.
The Saker: If the USA is really deliberately going down the path towards war with Russia – what should Russia do? Should Russia back down and accept to be subjugated as a preferable option to a thermonuclear war, or should Russia resist and thereby accept the possibility of a thermonuclear war? Do you believe that a very deliberate and strong show of strength on the part of Russia could deter a US attack?

Paul Craig Roberts: I have often wondered about this. I can’t say that I know. I think Putin is humane enough to surrender rather than to be part of the destruction of the world, but Putin has to answer to others inside Russia and I doubt the nationalists would stand for surrender.
In my opinion, I think Putin should focus on Europe and make Europe aware that Russia expects an American attack and will have no choice except to wipe out Europe in response. Putin should encourage Europe to break off from NATO in order to prevent World War 3.

Putin should also make sure China understands that China represents the same perceived threat to the US as Russia and that the two countries need to stand together. Perhaps if Russia and China were to maintain their forces on a nuclear alert, not the top one, but an elevated one that conveyed recognition of the American threat and conveyed this threat to the world, the US could be isolated.
Perhaps if the Indian press, the Japanese Press, the French and German press, the UK press, the Chinese and Russian press began reporting that Russia and China wonder if they will receive a pre-emptive nuclear attack from Washington the result would be to prevent the attack.

As far as I can tell from my many media interviews with the Russian media, there is no Russian awareness of the Wolfowitz Doctrine. Russians think that there is some kind of misunderstanding about Russian intentions. The Russian media does not understand that Russia is unacceptable, because Russia is not a US vassal. Russians believe all the Western bullshit about “freedom and democracy” and believe that they are short on both but making progress. In other words, Russians have no idea that they are targeted for destruction.

The Saker: What are, in your opinion, the roots of the hatred of so many members of the US elites for Russia? Is that just a leftover from the Cold War, or is there another reason for the almost universal russophobia amongst US elites? Even during the Cold War, it was unclear whether the US was anti-Communist or anti-Russian? Is there something in the Russian culture, nation or civilization which triggers that hostility and, if yes, what is it?

Paul Craig Roberts: The hostility toward Russia goes back to the Wolfowttz Doctrine:

“Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”

While the US was focused on its MidEast wars, Putin restored Russia and blocked Washington’s planned invasion of Syria and bombing of Iran. The “first objective” of the neocon doctrine was breached. Russia had to be brought into line. That is the origin of Washington’s attack on Russia. The dependent and captive US and European media simply repeats “the Russian Threat” to the public, which is insouciant and otherwise uninformed.

The offense of Russian culture is also there–Christian morals, respect for law and humanity, diplomacy in place of coercion, traditional social mores–but these are in the background. Russia is hated because Russia (and China) is a check on Washington’s unilateral uni-power. This check is what will lead to war.

If the Russians and Chinese do not expect a pre-emptive nuclear attack from Washington, they will be destroyed.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal. He was columnist for Business Week, Scripps Howard News Service, and Creators Syndicate. He has had many university appointments. His internet columns have attracted a worldwide following.
http://thesaker.is/the-saker-interviews-paul-craig-roberts/

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article41331.htm

The following article covers information that everyone should know if your intention is to remain in the US for the long slog. We will see more of this sort of thing as we continue our downward spiral. I have mentioned civil forfeiture and asset seizures before; these “legal” thefts are one of the most obvious signs of a nation teetering on the brink of outright fascism, with the people in charge simply taking whatever they can from the powerless and gorging themselves on the decaying flesh of the country.

Orwell and Kafka Do America:
How the Government Steals Your Money–“Legally,” Of Course

Charles Hugh Smith

March 24, 2015 “ICH” –  Did you know that the government of Iran steals your cash if they find more than loose change in your car? They don’t arrest you for any crime, for the simple reason you didn’t commit any crime; but it isn’t about crime and punishment–it’s about”legalizing” theft by the state.

So the government toadies don’t charge you with a crime or arrest you–they just steal your money.

Pity the poor Iranian people–clearly, there is no rule of law to protect them from their predatory, rapacious, fake-democracy, quasi-totalitarian government.

Did you also know that if you deposit too much money in modest sums, the government of Iran steals all your deposits? They will claim–oh, the twisted logic of Orwellian, repressive governments–that you are obviously a drug dealer who is avoiding laws that require banks to report large deposits to the government.

Once again, you won’t be charged with a crime–in true Orwellian fashion the suspicion that you may have committed a crime is sufficient reason to steal your cash. Pity the poor Iranian people, living in such a banana-republic kleptocracy.

Did you also know that if you are caught with any drug paraphernalia in your vehicle, the government of Iran steals your vehicle? The crime isn’t a drug crime–it’s a property crime: what are you doing with the government of Iran’s vehicle?

Pity the poor Iranian people, living in a Kafkaesque nightmare where suspicion alone justifies the government stealing from its citizens, and an unrelated crime (possessing drug paraphernalia) is used to justify state theft.

As in a Kafkaesque nightmare, the state is above the law when it needs an excuse to steal your car or cash. There is no crime, no arrest, no due process–just the state thugs threatening that you should shut up and be happy they don’t take everything you own.

Your car and cash are guilty–and your house, too.

Alas, dear reader, I have misled you. It is not the Iranian government that uses these tricks to steal from its people–it is the  U.S. government that uses these above-the-law excuses to blatantly steal from its citizens. I presented these Orwellian, Kafkaesque travesties of the rule of law as being Iranian so you would see them for what they are–the actions of an above-the-law, predatory state which falsely claims to be a democracy with a functioning judiciary.

All these forms of civil forfeiture in America are well documented:

Taken: Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we’re losing?:[http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/08/12/taken]

Stop and Seize (six parts):[http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/collection/stop-and-seize-2/ ]

I strongly recommend reading every word of these articles before you start spouting nonsense about what a great and glorious government and legal system we have here in America.

After six years of gorging on the ill-gotten civil forfeiture gains of kleptocratic local government mafias, the Attorney General of the U.S., Eric Holder, recently announced that the federal government would no longer be taking its 20% share of the pounds of flesh stripped from the bones of U.S. citizens.

As my old African-American foreman F.B. would say: that’s awful white of you, Eric, after feasting on the billions of dollars stolen from Americans for six long years. The same can be said of President Obama, who has ignored the officially sanctioned thievery by government thugs and toadies for six long years.

Why Eric Holder’s civil forfeiture decision won’t stop civil forfeiture abuse: [http://tinyurl.com/qfao9f3]

This is how Orwell and Kafka do America: each absurd justification for stealing private property is more outrageous than the next.

But wait–there’s More! That bastion of liberal politics, the state of California, a state completely dominated by Democrats claiming the cherished mantle of Progressive, is undoubtedly the most rapacious, thieving, Kafkaesque government in any nation claiming to be a democracy.

As I have documented in detail, the mere suspicion that you might owe the state of California some tax is enough for the state to steal all the money it finds in any of your bank accounts. And in a fashion that would have made the NKVD of the former Soviet Union proud, you also have to pay the bank a $100 (or more) fee for stealing your money for the state of California. (At least in some accounts, you had to pay for the bullet the NKVD would put in the back of your head.)

After they take all your money, you can call the state tax office and listen to a recording. If you have any money left, you can spend it trying to prove your own innocence, since the state of California already declared you guilty without any evidence or due process.

Welcome to the Predatory State of California–Even If You Don’t Live There (March 20, 2012):

[http://www.oftwominds.com/blogmar12/predatory-California3-12.html]

The Predatory State of California, Part 2 (March 21, 2012): [http://www.oftwominds.com/blogmar12/predatory-state3-12.html]

Welcome to the United States of Orwell, Part 2: Law-Abiding Taxpayers Are Treated as Criminals While the Real Criminals Go Free (March 27, 2012):

[http://www.oftwominds.com/blogmar12/taxpayers-as-criminals3-12.html]

When the state steals our cash or car on mere suspicion, you have no recourse other than horrendously costly and time-consuming legal actions. So you no longer have enough money to prove your innocence now that we’ve declared your car and cash guilty?

Tough luck, bucko–be glad you live in a fake democracy with a fake rule of law, a fake judiciary, and a government of thugs with the officially sanctioned right to steal your money and possessions without any due process or court proceedings.

Be glad we don’t have to torture a confession out of you, like the NKVD/KGB did in the former Soviet Union, because your cash and car are already guilty.

And that’s how Orwell and Kafka work in America–a nation that once was a democracy and could once claim to live under rule of law. Wake up and smell the stench of a gilded gulag, America; we’re living in one whether you care to admit it or not.

Charles Hugh Smith is an American writer and blogger. He is the chief writer for the site “Of Two Minds”. Started in 2005, this site has been listed No. 7 in CNBC’s top alternative financial sites. http://charleshughsmith.blogspot.com 

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article41341.htm 

And finally, (hat-tip to Paxhonu, who sent me this), this seems to be the latest strategy, regardless of the industry: Congress writes non-regulations (federal) that do less than nothing, but which include language forbidding states, counties, or towns from doing any regulating on their own behalf or citizens protecting themselves on their own.  And the strategy has the fully complicit support of the federal judiciary.  The legislation discussed in this article has bipartisan support AND it fulfills Oblahblah’s so-called “goals”.  That’s all you need to guarantee the continuing destruction of the environment and sport-killing of human beings by the fuckers in charge.  You’d think the states’ rights advocates (like the Teabaggers supposedly are) would be all up in arms and shit. But somehow they love this sort of thing.

His Chemical Romance: Tom Udall Teams Up With the Chemical Industry, With Explosive Results

Enviros thought this senator was on their side. Now they accuse him of shilling for the chemical industry.
—Jenna McLaughlin on Mon. March 23, 2015 6:15 AM PDT
KIKE CALVO/AP
A lot of environmentalists are mad at Tom Udall. And they’re surprised about this.

The Democratic senator from New Mexico has a long and distinguished record as an environmentalist, and two weeks ago he introduced legislation to reform the testing and regulation of chemicals. But his former green allies—including environmentalists, lawmakers, professors, and public health officials—oppose the legislation, and accuse Udall of becoming too cozy with the chemical industry, which spends over $60 million a year to lobby Congress. They claim that Udall is sacrificing public health for chemical industry profits and that his bipartisan bill, which is co-sponsored by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), doesn’t protect people from dangerous chemicals, such as asbestos, BPA, and formaldehyde, and, moreover, cripples the regulatory efforts of individual states.

“To be 100-percent candid and direct, [Udall’s] bill has been generated by the chemical industry itself,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said at a press conference last Wednesday. Indeed, the chemical industry has been outspoken in its support of Udall. “This bill is the best and only opportunity to achieve a pragmatic, bipartisan solution to reform chemical regulation,” said American Chemistry Council president Cal Dooley last week in a press release.

Boxer has introduced competing legislation­—supported by many environmental groups—that includes provisions that mandate a quicker turnaround time for testing chemicals for safety and grant states more power to regulate chemicals. Her bill is unlikely to win passage; last week, the Republican Senate leadership didn’t allow Boxer to present the bill on the floor.

Udall and his allies insist that his bill, with nine Republican and eight Democratic co-sponsors, has a chance for success. Udall aide Jennifer Talhelm tells Mother Jones that negotiations between Udall, Vitter, and the chemical industry were often strained and that on at least two occasions Udall’s disagreements with industry reps nearly led to a collapse in the talks and no legislation. Supporters of the Udall-Vitter measure contend that the bill is a vital would give the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to control or eliminate dangerous chemicals. Its detractors argue that the chemical industry still has the upper hand.

Backers of the bill and its critics do tend to agree that the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act has failed to protect public health. That law has permitted the $800 billion-a-year chemical industry to produce over 80,000 substances whose traces now appear nearly everywhere—such as in household items including plastic baby bottles, food, and rugs. Only five of those chemicals have been tested for safety and regulated. And under the current law, according to John Stephenson, director of natural resources and the environment at the Government Accountability Office, the burden of proof is on the EPA to show a chemical is dangerous, not on the chemical industry to demonstrate that it is safe. And if a chemical is determined to be a health risk, its use can only be restricted in a way that is “least burdensome”, which is least expensive, for industry. Even a known carcinogen like asbestos—which is linked to the deaths of 10,000 Americans a year—has not been banned under this law because of an industry lawsuit.

So there is a consensus the 1976 law needs to be revamped and bolstered. But most enviros say the Udall-Vitter bill is not sufficient. The critics have three main complaints:

State Preemption: “States have been important leaders in developing rules to protect their residents from harmful chemicals,” says Michael Green, the executive director of the Oakland-based Center for Environmental Health. California’s Prop 65 Law has pressured companies to eliminate lead from products such as baby bibs and vinyl lunch boxes, and to stop using arsenic-based wood preservatives in children’s playgrounds.

But Udall’s legislation would undermine strong state action by mostly removing the authority of states and handing it to the EPA, except for chemicals deemed “low priority.” Under this bill, states would not be allowed to develop new restrictions on specific uses of a chemical after the EPA has decided to put the substance on a list of “high priority” chemicals to review. Yet reviewing the chemical could take up to seven years. Thus, the states would essentially be blocked from moving forward with safeguards.

The bill would also strip states of the power to enforce federal standards, a process known as “co-enforcement.” Supporters of the Udall bill acknowledge that state preemption has some downsides, but they note that existing state laws passed before January 1, 2015, would not be affected by the legislation.

Safety Standard: Critics say Udall’s bill won’t keep people safe because the language of the legislation is too vague and weak. Under the new bill, the EPA must consider “unreasonable risks” to human health and the environment when testing and regulating chemicals, but it never explicitly defines what an “unreasonable risk” is. Though the wording seems like a step up from former legislation, which explicitly requires the EPA to consider monetary cost as well as health before even testing a chemical, critics believe this cost-benefit analysis will continue to be a priority, because the bill still requires the EPA to consider cost when it is restricting a chemical proven to be dangerous. A group of 34 professors, environmentalists, and legal experts sent a letter detailing these concerns to Sen. James Inhofe and Sen. Barbara Boxer on Monday. The Environmental Working Group, Greenpeace, Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families, the Center for Environmental Health, the Breast Cancer Fund, and others agree. Rick Hind, the legislative director of Greenpeace called Udall and his co-sponsors “liars” for insisting that the cost-benefit analysis was removed from the bill. “Even if you had Rachel Carson running the EPA, she wouldn’t be able to do anything,” he says.

But Udall and those involved in negotiations say these complaints are not based on the facts. The phrase that essentially severely limited EPA’s authority as a result of its lawsuit over banning asbestos is removed from the bill. In this 1991 suit, the EPA was required to choose the “least burdensome” restriction in regulating a chemical. In Udall’s bill, the EPA must regulate chemicals based on health “without taking into consideration cost or other nonrisk factors.”  If the chemical is determined unsafe, the EPA must regulate it so that it will not pose a risk to health and the environment.
Timeline: Most environmental groups are concerned that the bill would give regulators too much time to conduct safety investigations of chemicals: up to seven years for each review. Also, the chemical industry only has to foot 25 percent of the cost of testing, with a cap of $18 billion a year. Udall’s staff insists that these proposed guidelines come straight from the EPA, which maintains that this timeline and budget are the only feasible ways for them to test and regulate chemicals without fear of missing deadlines.

Last Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a hearing where Udall spoke for his side, and Boxer spoke for the opposition. Udall acknowledged that “there is still room to improve” the bill. But he is not phased by the opposition. “I’m not going to stand by and let our best chance to protect our kids from dangerous chemicals to be torpedoed,” Udall tells Mother Jones.
Despite controversy over the bill, it seems likely that it will advance out of committee with a large amount of bipartisan support. While the EPA told The Hill that the administration isn’t currently taking a position on the bill, an agency official who spoke at last Wednesday’s hearing noted that it fulfilled the Obama administration’s goals to reform chemical legislation set out in 2009.

Copyright ©2015 Mother Jones and the Foundation for National Progress. All Rights Reserved.

http://m.motherjones.com/politics/2015/03/war-over-chemical-reform?google_editors_picks=true

 

Two men.

Come sit with me for a moment or two.  I want to talk about two men, how US foreign policy affected their lives, and how the American media handles the stories about them.  Because I never hesitate to look for other stuff to do when I should be working and I feel better about it when I can get someone else to play hooky with me.

The first guy I want to talk about is James Foley, who was a free-lance journalist and video/photog dude.  He was beheaded by ISIS last week, leading to calls for the US to seek revenge.  Foley mostly worked for a paper called the GlobalPost.  He had embedded with the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan for awhile and then felt the call to represent the viewpoints of oppressed people everywhere.  Well, okay, the US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan weren’t really oppressed, but one finds one’s calling where one can.  To that end, he later embedded with the “Libyan rebels”.  You remember those guys, the Libyan rebels, the ones who rose up against the evil dictator strongman tyrant despot Ghaddafi.  Yeah, the ones Ghaddafi said were CIA-funded operatives and later it turned out they were CIA operatives and the whole “rebel” thing was a bullshit undercover op to overthrow Ghaddafi and snatch Libya’s gold and oil resources.  Foley “embedded” with them to bring their revolution and plight to the attention of the world.  Unfortunately, he did not ever seem to discover the CIA and black-ops machinations behind the “rebel uprising” while covering the story.  I have no doubt he really meant well and was a very nice man, and surely a brave man, but the history of Libya has been forever altered in part because all kinds of well-meaning people did not see the truth, or the ones who did, did not report on it until after Libya was destroyed.  We are to refer to this period of history, the so-called rebel uprising, as “Libya’s civil war”, according to the new Truth Protocols set out by the Council on Foreign Relations and PNAC, although some of us “fact hard-liners” might decline to do so at our own risk.  Anyhow, Foley was “in country” in Libya for a mere matter of weeks before being captured by the despot’s military forces and held captive for 44 days.  His captivity, and that of the 3 other journalists with him, was said to be one of the final straws leading to the “humanitarian intervention” in Libya.  Near the end of his captivity, he could hear the NATO bombs falling and knew that help was on the way and that his suffering had not been in vain.  Mission, as they say, accomplished.

As to his ordeal while being held by the evil despot’s Torturous Torturers and Torture Brigade, Foley later recounted events for the public thusly [this is from two different articles]:

[…] Myself and two colleagues had been captured and were being held in a military detention center in Tripoli….Later we were taken to another prison where the regime kept hundreds of political prisoners. I was quickly welcomed by the other prisoners and treated well….[he was allowed a phone call to mom] “How are you, Jim?” [his Mom asked]. I told her I was being fed, that I was getting the best bed and being treated like a guest.

“Are they making you say these things, Jim?”

“No, the Libyans are beautiful people,” I told her.

[…] He said he was treated fairly well, fed regularly, and never tortured or beaten. He shared a cell with political prisoners, incarcerated for acts such as sending disparaging texts about Khadafy. Foley said he saw physical evidence that some of the other prisoners suffered electrical shock, beatings, and whippings. Foley said he became worried when the other two journalists were moved from the Tripoli prison on April 29 and he was left behind without explanation. Then, eight days later, Foley said he was blindfolded, placed in the back of a van and driven to a luxury villa. He was greeted by Gillis and Brabo, who had been staying there since their removal from the prison. Another captured journalist, Nigel Chandler, a British freelancer, was also there.

Foley said he spent his last days in custody at the villa, eating three-course meals, sleeping in a room of his own, and watching cable television, which included world news reports on the BBC. He said he was told that Khadafy’s son, Saadi, believed Western journalists should be treated well. Foley, who completed his graduate studies in 2008 at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, worked as an embedded reporter with US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan before arriving in Libya about three weeks before his capture.

http://www.prwatch.org/news/2014/08/12576/remembering-james-foley
and: http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2011/05/27/after-release-james-foley-recounts-dark-secret-libya/Q0HClqVr8iat181WHO7YuL/story.html

Partly in response to the despot’s temerity at housing a journalist in a luxury villa (on a beautiful warm, white beach; I’ve seen the photos), feeding him three-course meals and letting him watch cable TV, we ruined Libya. Foley flew to Milwaukee to thank the US-ians for their prayers during his captivity. (And for the tens of thousands of dollars donated to his family to secure his release.) Being the intrepid reporter that he was, he then flew back to Libya and was there reporting on the “civil war” when Ghaddafi fell and eventually died.  Remember that?  When Ghaddafi just fell and died?  According to Foley’s own newspaper, GlobalPost, there was no bounty placed on Ghaddafi’s head by the US State Dept., there was no illegal invasion, Ghaddafi’s murder was not orchestrated by the US pointing the “rebels” to the place where Ghaddafi was hidden, the US did not condone (and perhaps instruct) Ghaddafi’s torture and assassination, nor did the US media gleefully circulate the video of his torture and murder repeatedly while Hillary giggled maniacally in orgasmic joy at the thought of a man, the leader of a sovereign nation, being tortured at her behest.  No, no, no: Ghaddafi just “fell” and “eventually died”.  The video of Foley’s death at the hands of ISIS, on the other hand, is deemed too brutal to be watched by the same media that slavered over Ghaddafi’s murder.

[…] While covering the Libyan civil war in 2011, Foley and two other journalists, American Claire Gillis and Spaniard Manu Brabo, endured a 44-day captivity in April and May of that year at the hands of then Libyan strongman Col. Muammar Gaddafi. A fourth journalist, South African Anton Hammerl, was killed when the journalists were captured by Gaddafi fighters near Benghazi in eastern Libya. Foley later returned to Libya to cover Gaddafi’s fall and eventual death. Foley and GlobalPost correspondent Tracey Shelton were at the scene of Gaddafi’s capture in October,2011[….]

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/middle-east/syria/131016/american-journalist-james-foley-remains-missin

The above summary, written in recent days as part of Foley’s biography, implies that Foley was right there when Ghaddafi was captured and that he witnessed Ghaddafi’s murder. In fact, he did not witness the event.  He went to the scene after the fact to do on-the-ground interviews and to describe the event and the place.  The wording is ambiguous, perhaps intentionally so. All kinds of media outlets are linking to the above to baldly claim Foley was present when Ghaddafi was killed as though this [false] story somehow adds to Foley’s luster.  Even Truthdig made the claim, without doing any research, when they named Foley as their “Truthdigger of the Week”: “[…] Foley returned to Libya after a short time spent in the U.S. after his release. He wanted to speak with some of the people he had met in prison with the aim of telling their stories, and he ended up witnessing Gadhafi’s capture.[…]”

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/truthdigger_of_the_week_james_foley_20140824

The true story of Foley’s involvement in Ghaddafi’s death was published by the same paper (the paper Foley freelanced for), GlobalPost, which wrote that so-misunderstood remark in the first place.

[…] “Jim couldn’t bear to watch from afar as the rebel tide finally turned against Gaddafi,” recalls Solana Pyne, his video editor at GlobalPost. On that last day in Libya, “rebels claimed Gaddafi had been killed in a firefight, but Jim found eyewitnesses who confirmed the despot had in fact died at the hands of his former subjects.”

That scoop would change the narrative of Gaddafi’s demise, and prompt United Nations officials to call for a war crimes investigation. It would also win the prestigious Overseas Press Club award for Foley and for colleague Tracey Shelton, who obtained the video of Gaddafi’s final moments [….]

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/140827/what-james-foley-meant-to-us

To his credit, and this is what should actually be used from his reporting to burnish his biography, Foley and Shelton exposed the brutal assassination of Ghaddafi and did not sit on the story out of fear that it would make Foley’s rebels look bad. It’s odd that Truthdig, et al, are not reporting the event in this light:

(Reuters) – “The death of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was captured and killed by rebels in October, may have been a war crime”, the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court said on Thursday.  The U.N. Security Council referred Gaddafi’s crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators to the ICC in February and authorized military intervention to protect civilians in March. The ICC indicted Gaddafi, his son Saif al-Islam and the former intelligence chief for war crimes.

Saif al-Islam is now in the custody of the Libyan authorities who have said they plan to try in him in Libya instead of handing him over to The Hague-based ICC.   Moreno-Ocampo has said this was possible.

Moreno-Ocampo has also said he was investigating allegations that the anti-Gaddafi forces and NATO were also guilty of war crimes during the civil war.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/12/16/us-libya-icc-idUSTRE7BF08820111216

As a side note, if Foley had been there at the exact moment, one would have to wonder how he knew where to be and when to be there. It would be odd, to say the least.  You may think about that for one second.  Okay, moving along.

Foley then went to Syria.  To report on the repressed and oppressed Syrians who were rebelling against the evil tyrant Assad.  He wanted to tell the story of the “rebels” belonging to such groups as al Nusra Front and the Free Syrian Army.  Bring their plight to the world and support their cause of overthrowing the Assad government.  You know the drill.  We will ignore, as did Foley, that these “rebels” were funded by the US, the CIA, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, trained by the CIA and given arms and cash (oops, I mean “non-lethal aid”) by the US and Sauds.  We will also pay no attention to the fact that these groups, along with parts of al Qaeda in Iraq, later morphed into the Dread Terrorists now known as ISIS. (We will also ignore, as we have for 11 years now, that there was no al Qaeda in Iraq before we invaded.)  We will ignore the coincidence that Foley happened to embed with rebels who later turned out to be CIA front groups in two different countries and that both these countries happen to be on the neocon list of countries to destroy.  It is vitally important that you ignore these facts, as you will see while we go through the narrative here.

We were originally told that Foley was kidnapped in Nov, ’12 by one of Assad’s militias, the Shabiha militia.  He was held, the story went, by the Assad government in a Syrian Air Force complex, although the translator kidnapped with him was released.  This brought us undeniable proof of the horrible horribleness of the Assad regime.  The US State Dept. insisted that Assad had Foley, as well as numerous other reporters, and repeatedly said through their spokesmen that “of course the Assad regime denies it.  What else are they going to do?” and words to that effect.  Foley’s family and the GlobalPost stated it as fact, as well.

BOSTON — The family of a New Hampshire journalist abducted in Syria on Thanksgiving last year says they believe they now know where he is. James Foley’s family on Friday claimed the Syrian government is holding him in a military detention center. […]

http://www.wbur.org/2013/05/03/foley-family-syrian-prison

However, we now know, because they told us so, that Foley was beheaded by ISIS. Now how on earth did they get ahold of him?  A new “The Wire” article [See: http://www.thewire.com/global/2014/08/timeline-of-james-foleys-captivity/378898/] with a (partially theoretical) timeline that suggests al Nusra Front had Foley by March ’13, although no explanation is given as to why they would want to hold him (he reported favorably on the “moderate rebels”, remember), or where he was before the al Nusra Front had him (he disappeared in Nov ’12 and the timeline simply remarks that from Nov ’12 to March ’13 his whereabouts were “unknown”.  Nor does the article suggest who captured him in the first place.)   The Wire article offers that he was transferred to an ISIS training camp around Sept ’13.  In Nov., the US gov’t was given Foley’s location by a former fellow ISIS camp prisoner who had “left the camp”.  Escaped?  Just walked away?  Who knows?  The article does not say.  It was in May of 2013 that GlobalPost and the Foley family reported that they were confident that the Syrian government had him in a detention center, yet, according to The Wire, he was held by al Nusra well before that.  If, by November, the US knew that he was being held by ISIS, nothing was ever done to correct the erroneous reports that he was being detained by Assad’s government.

So how did ISIS or al Nusra Front get Foley from Assad?  I’m glad you asked. American media has provided us with the answer. And their answer is not that the “rebels” kidnapped him in the first place. Conveniently, the answer reveals further proof of the god-awfullness of the Assad regime, who perversely collaborated with the same guys who originally banded together to take down his government. He is obviously the worst of the worst, worse even than ISIS, since he not only hates his own people and the misunderstood repressed rebels, he hates his own self enough to want to take himself and his regime out. He is secretly working with the very group that wanted him gone!  (You have to say this breathlessly, hence the exclamation point.)

[…] What is unclear is if previous investigations into Foley’s whereabouts were inaccurate, if ISIS militants somehow captured Foley from some of the regime’s most elite security, or if the Assad regime provided Foley to ISIS.

“Until recently, James Foley was thought to be in hands of pro-Assad forces. If Assad is handing over Westerners to ISIS to be killed, it indicates Assad feels cornered, looking for leverage,” BBC’s Kim Ghattas tweeted, adding that the assessment jibes with what her sources in Damascus have told her recently.

Ghattas added that Assad providing Foley to ISIS “would confirm Assad tacitly working [with] ISIS and silence any suggestions Assad is the better alternative. “[…]

http://www.businessinsider.com/how-did-isis-kidnap-james-foley-2014-8]

I am not sure what “leverage” Assad would gain by kidnapping an American citizen and then turning him over to Assad’s own enemies to be killed, nor do I understand how it is possible for a rational person to think that Assad is “tacitly working with ISIS”, but then I can’t figure out why the fuck the press writes any of the crap they do nowadays.  But now you know why not only must ISIS be destroyed, but forcing Assad out must happen as well (preferably by bombing Syria to the same place we bombed Libya to: hell).  Any idea that Syria might be an ally in taking out ISIS is flat off the table.  And you surely see what a fine president Hillary would make; she is verily a prophet.  Did she not say shortly after the despot Ghaddafi’s murder – I mean, his fall and eventual death – that the tyrant Assad’s days were numbered as well?  We’ll go into Syria to get whatever part of ISIS remains there, and we don’t need to inform Assad of this decision.  If a few bombs take out some other stuff, like Assad’s air force, well, shit happens.  The beauty part of all this is that with one atrocity blamed on two different entities, the US might get to bomb both of them.  Now, if only we could find a way to blame Russia for ISIS as well…

If some of the stories are beginning make no sense to you, I can only remind you that bullshit, propaganda, and obfuscation are the prime purposes of the US media.  To make matters even more confusing, GlobalPost is now saying they knew for some time, although not immediately, that Foley was not held by Assad’s military.

But on Thanksgiving day in 2012, near the Turkish border after reporting from the war zones near Aleppo, he was captured by armed militants, a fact that remained under media blackout, to improve his chances of release. […]

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/140827/what-james-foley-meant-to-us

By Nov. of last year, the GlobalPost knew he had originally been taken by the rebels and was still in their custody, and that information had been given to the US, but the paper continued to let the US government publicly blame Assad.  I see.  Furthermore, Syria has given information to the United Nations that Foley was actually killed a year ago, with the video and photos only now released by ISIS. They also repeat that Foley was originally captured by the very rebels he embedded with. We will never know the absolute truth on the matter here in the US.

August 26 (RIA Novosti) – American journalist James Foley may have been murdered by Islamic State militants a year ago, The Daily Mail reported, citing Syrian President Bashar Assad’s official spokesperson, Bouthaina Shaaban.

“James Foley was first arrested by the Free Syrian Army and he was sold to ISIS [an earlier name for the IS]. You can check with the UN…James Foley was killed a year ago, not now, they only released the pictures now, but he was killed a year ago. We have definite information, the UN has the information,” Shaaban said as cited by The Daily Mail.[…]

http://en.ria.ru/world/20140826/192348464/US-Journalist-Foley-Murdered-by-IS-Militants-1-Year-Ago–Assad.html

A sampling of the response to Foley’s death:

Senior Republicans on Sunday called for expanded air strikes against Islamic State (Isis) militants in Iraq and for the first time in Syria, in order to destroy their terrorist network in the wake of the killing of the American journalist James Foley and to protect against an attack on American soil. […]

The White House has been reported to be considering strikes in Syria, after Foley’s murder was classified as a terror attack. […]

Senator Lindsey Graham, from South Carolina, told CNN he did not believe the US needed to signal its intent to the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, before carrying out air strikes within Syria.
“The purpose of going into Syria is to deal with the threat to the homeland, the goal is to hit Isis and you cannot deal with the threat in Iraq without also hitting them in Syria,” he said.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/24/republicans-isis-militants-us-air-strikes

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Numerous Senate Democrats oppose bringing military operations in Iraq and Syria to a vote before Congress because they think going on the record as for or against will be harmful to their bids for office during an election season, The Hill reported Wednesday. Critics slammed this reluctance to take a position as a sign that cowardice and self gain—not principle—rule the legislature.

Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.) has been vocally pushing for President Obama to put the expanding U.S. military attacks on ISIS in Iraq and Syria to a vote before Congress, as required by the War Powers Resolution.[…]

Kaine’s position is not new. He had previously worked with Senator John McCain to “reform the War Powers Resolution in a way that lays out a clear consultative process between Congress and the President on whether and when to engage in military action,” according to a statement released from Kaine’s office. However, The Hill notes that McCain has held back on demanding congressional authorization of military strikes on ISIS because, according to a Democratic aide, this could get in the way of U.S. bombings.[…]

Since August 8, the U.S. has carried out nearly 100 air strikes across Iraq and currently has nearly 1,000 U.S. military service members deployed to the country. Public information about the attacks—including the military branches carrying them out, the civilians and combatants killed, and the role of private contractors—remains scarce. Furthermore, President Obama’s stated aims for the strikes have shifted throughout the month—from assisting refugees to protecting U.S. personnel to “eradicating” the “cancer” of ISIS. Meanwhile, U.S. drones are currently conducting surveillance flights over Syria, in what many warn is a sign of U.S. air strikes in that country as well.[…]

http://www.commondreams.org/news/2014/08/27/when-it-comes-war-iraq-and-syria-senate-dems-prefer-no-congressional-vote

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(Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama expressed revulsion on Wednesday at the beheading of an American journalist by Islamist militants and vowed the United States would do what it must to protect its citizens as international condemnation of the insurgents grew.[…]

France said it wanted the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and regional countries, including Arab states and Iran, to coordinate action against Islamic State. President Francois Hollande called for an international conference to discuss how to tackle the group.[…]

Germany and Italy said they were ready to send arms to bolster the military capabilities of Iraqi Kurds fighting Islamic State in northern Iraq.[…]

U.S. Senator John McCain, a Republican, said Foley’s death should serve as a turning point for Obama in his deliberations over how to deal with Islamic State. “First of all, you’ve got to dramatically increase the air strikes. And those air strikes have to be devoted to Syria as well,” McCain said in a telephone interview.[…]

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/20/us-iraq-security-idUSKBN0GH0JL20140820

How does Syria feel about all this?

The United States, one of the biggest supporters of the extremist-marked insurgency in Syria says it doesn’t need Syrian government’s permission to carry out military strikes in the Syrian soil.

The United States has started sending spy planes into Syria to track the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL) radicals, but said it would seek no permission to do so.

A US official confirmed the plans after Syria said on Monday it was willing to work with the international community, including Washington, to tackle extremist militants, whose advances have sparked international concern and American air strikes in neighboring Iraq.

American officials said they did not plan to ask Damascus for permission for the attacks, a move that openly undermines Syria’s sovereignty.[…]

On Monday, Damascus said for the first time that it was willing to work with the international community, including the United States and Britain, to tackle terrorists including ISIL and Al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate Al-Nusra Front.

But Foreign Minister Walid Muallem also made it clear that Syria would not accept unilateral military strikes by the United States or any other country.

“Any violation of Syria’s sovereignty would be an act of aggression,” he said.  There would be “no justification” for strikes on Syrian territory “except in coordination with us to fight terrorism”.

Muallem said Syria was seeking cooperation within an international or regional coalition, or at the bilateral level within the framework of a recent UN Security Council resolution targeting ISIL and Al-Nusra.

Syria has been gripped with a deadly unrest since 2011. The insurgency that is marked with extremist acts of violence and has al-Qaeda at its core, has received broad political and military support from Washington and its allies since it started.

http://en.alalam.ir/news/1626584

The US armed and supported the jihadist militias in Libya and in Syria. The US promoted the civil war in Syria and did not say a word as ISIS emerged from the various factions to rampage throughout Syria; at that time, they were doing us a favor by opposing Assad.  Libya is in complete collapse, with rival groups (one led by a Libyan who spent 20 years living in the US near CIA headquarters before returning to Libya in 2011) fighting over ascendancy and forcing Libyans to flee the country.  Now ISIS is in Iraq and has taken the credit for murdering an American journalist. Iraq, being ruined by the US invasion and occupation, is unable or unwilling to deal with them. (We might remember that Saddam Hussein and Ghaddafi were, and Assad is, all secular opponents of al Qaeda, and that ISIS is a spinoff of that group and the other fundamentalist Islamic militias.)   Buried deep underneath the sweltering blankets of conflicting stories is one basic truth.  If the US had not invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and Libya [and, and, and] under false pretenses, if the US had not decided to go all in and destroy entire nations in order to steal their resources, if the US had not claimed the self-declared right to take out leaders and governments in foreign countries rather than deal with these other sovereignties with dignity and diplomacy and honesty, James Foley would doubtless still be alive.  At the least, he would not have died the way he did.  The US is ultimately responsible for Foley’s death.

As a postscript to Foley’s story, Obama and just about everybody who is anybody calls Foley a hero, which perhaps he was. I have no doubt he is dead, and despite my disbelief and anger at the appalling, flagrant propaganda being whipped out over his death, I do feel sympathy for his family. I would also like to make it clear that I think Foley was probably as fine a person as all the stories about him indicate. Perhaps a little misguided in whom he placed his trust and rather naive about the lengths the US is willing to go to in an effort to mess with other countries and interfere with their sovereignty, but a decent man, nonetheless.

This shit (below), however, is too much, and it doesn’t even come from some media mouthpiece. This is just the mind-blowing, idiotic, weirdness of the American public responding to the MIC propaganda.  Even the Pope, for God’s sake, has joined in, as a sign of solidarity with the US, I suppose.  We spent the past 13 years mocking and condemning the fundamentalist jihadis for their “willingness to die as martyrs”; yet now, without any irony, we are swept by patriotic fervor and want some of our own martyrs.  We have gone so far as to use that very word, and to furthermore compare Foley with Jesus Christ. Can we stop this crap?  Just stop it.  It is ridiculous, okay?  It is for these simple-minded people that the media stories are written the way they are, and why they work.  No disrespect to the Foley family, but they ought not to encourage this sort of over-the-top religious rhetoric.

[…] Many who entered Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, the church of Foley’s parents, said they didn’t know the reporter but felt compelled to be near his family.

“I feel my soul is united to them,” said Sandra Harrington, who made the hourlong drive from her home in Manchester. She had followed news reports for months, stories of how he ventured into some of the world’s most dangerous regions to cover conflicts and the suffering of those affected.

James Foley was like Christ,” said Harrington said. “He wanted to bring truth, and he suffered greatly.” […]

http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/08/24/friends-and-family-gather-rochester-honor-slain-journalist-jame-foley/MtZ7YCpQJN4W9cWwwM0bhM/story.html

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Many people – including Pope Francis – are now arguing that slain American journalist James Foley is a martyr, and some believe he should be considered for sainthood….

[Jim] reminds us of Jesus. Jesus was goodness, love — and Jim was becoming more and more that,’ his grieving mother Diane Foley told reporters gathered outside her New Hampshire home, according to the National Catholic Reporter.

James Foley’s younger brother, Michael Foley, told Katie Couric in a recent interview that Pope Francis “referred to Jim’s act as, really, martyrdom” in an unprecedented phone call to the family.

Many cable news pundits and religious bloggers agree with the Pope.[…]

http://www.aol.com/article/2014/08/27/is-slain-us-journalist-james-foley-a-martyr/20953187/

At the beginning of this post, I promised you stories about two men, didn’t I?  The second story I want to tell you is about a man named Shaker Aamer.  He is being held without charges or trial in Guantanamo Bay by the US government and has been there for close to 13 years now.   That would be the same prison that Obama pledged to shut down when he took office.  You will not hear much about Shaker Aamer in the US press.  As a matter of fact, unless you read a few of the really fringe-y “far left” media sites, you won’t ever read his name.  He is one of the invisible men, one of our embarrassments.  Or he would be, if we found such things embarrassing any longer. He has been cleared for release by both the Bush and the Obama administrations, as there is no evidence against him, but the US won’t actually set him free.  It may simply be the case that we are afraid the guy might tell everyone what we have been doing to him, although he has agreed to keep silent as part of his release.  The US insists that if he is released, he only be allowed to go to Saudi Arabia, where he would certainly be killed.  His family lives in the UK, where he used to live.  While Aamer is certainly not a terrorist or a member of al Qaeda, the very existence of Guantanamo Bay is an incentive that fuels the anger of groups like ISIS.  ISIS seemed to be making a point of that when they dressed James Foley in an orange jumpsuit like that worn by the Guantanamo detainees.

Here is part of Shaker Aamer’s story:

July, 2014:

Shaker’s British wife and his four British children live in Battersea, where they lived with Shaker before he was seized after the 9/11 attacks in Afghanistan. He had travelled to Afghanistan with his family to provide humanitarian aid, but while his wife and children safely returned to the UK, he was caught by bounty hunters, and was eventually sold to US forces.

Shaker was first cleared for release from Guantánamo under the Bush administration, in 2007, and he was cleared for release again in January 2010 by the high-level, inter-agency Guantánamo Review Task Force that President Obama appointed to review the cases of all the prisoners after he took office in 2009. His release has also been requested by successive UK governments since 2007. And yet, although all the other British citizens and residents held in Guantánamo have been freed, he is still imprisoned, perhaps because he is a charismatic and eloquent man, who has always stood up for the prisoners’ rights, and both the US and the UK governments fear what he will say on his release.

Sadly, although Shaker would agree to a life of silence if it ensured that he could be reunited with his family, he remains held, and is suffering physically and mentally, as Dr. Emily A. Keram, an independent psychiatrist, explained in a submission to a US court after being allowed to meet with him for three days in December. That submission also included shocking details, in Shaker’s own words, of how he was treated in US custody in Afghanistan as well as his treatment in Guantánamo.

Unfortunately, on June 24, District Judge Rosemary Collyer rejected Shaker’s request for her to order his release on that grounds that, as the New York Times decribed it, “he is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental and physical ailments.”

Judge Collyer gave her rejection in what the Times described as “a terse one-page order.” An accompanying memorandum opinion, which explained her ruling, was sealed, as was the submission of the Justice Department. Judge Collyer ordered the DoJ “to file a public version of her order and its documents by July 9,” but that date has come and gone, with no sign of any release of documents. […]
http://www.andyworthington.co.uk/2014/07/22/photos-free-shaker-aamer-from-guantanamo-parliamentary-vigil-july-16-2014/

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August, 2014:

Shaker Aamer ‘Beaten’ in Latest Guantanamo Crackdown

LONDON – British resident Shaker Aamer has reportedly been beaten at Guantánamo Bay, in evidence of a new crackdown on prisoners protesting their detention without charge.

In new letters received by legal charity Reprieve, detainees reveal what one calls a new “standard procedure” of abuses at the prison. Emad Hassan, a Yemeni detained without charge since 2002, wrote that “an FCE [Forcible Cell Extraction] team has been brought in to beat the detainees […] On Sunday, Shaker ISN 239 was beaten when the medical people wanted to draw blood.” Mr Hassan adds that guards had beaten another detainee for nearly 2 hours.

‘Forcible Cell Extraction’ or ‘FCEing’ is the process by which a detainee is forced out of his cell by a group of armed guards, often before being taken to the force-feeding chair. Mr Aamer has previously described being beaten by the FCE team up to eight times a day.[…]

In June, former Foreign Secretary William Hague told Reprieve that UK officials were confident Mr Aamer had access to a “detainee welfare package” and that his health “remain[ed] stable.” In a letter sent this week, Reprieve director Clive Stafford Smith urged Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond to raise urgent questions with the US Government about these latest reports of mistreatment.

Cori Crider, Strategic Director at Reprieve and a lawyer for Mr Aamer, said: “Just weeks ago, the UK Government dismissed our concerns about Shaker Aamer’s wellbeing, relying on US assurances about a so-called Guantanamo ‘welfare package.’ Now we hear that Shaker, already a seriously ill man, has been beaten. Phillip Hammond should seek answers from the US without delay about why, instead of simply releasing Shaker, it prefers to detain and abuse him.”

http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2014/08/27/shaker-aamer-beaten-latest-guantanamo-crackdown

You may also read about him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaker_Aamer

I will close with a poem Shaker Aamer wrote, published as part of a book of poems written by Guantanamo detainees in 2007.

THEY FIGHT FOR PEACE

by Shaker Abdurraheem Aamer, Guantanamo detainee.

Peace they say.
Peace of mind?
Peace of earth?
Peace of what kind?

I see them talking arguing, fighting –
What kind of peace are they looking for?
Why do they kill? What are they planning?

Is it just talk? Why do they argue?
Is it so simple to kill? Is this their plan?

Yes, of course!
They talk, they argue, they kill –
They fight for peace.

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2014 in Iraq, Libya, MIC, Syria

 

John Kerry's magical mystery tour.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington is “not responsible” for either the crisis in Libya, or violence in Iraq, where militants of the Al-Qaeda offshoot group ISIS are capturing cities one by one.

“The United States of America is not responsible for what happened in Libya, nor is it responsible for what is happening in Iraq today,” said Kerry at a press conference in Cairo after a short visit to Egypt for talks with its newly elected President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as part of his Middle East tour. […]

http://rt.com/usa/167708-us-kerry-iraq-libya/

I can only guess we are supposed to believe that, like Bill Clinton, John Kerry does not inhale whatever it is he smokes.

Our leaders may deny and bluster all they want, but I doubt there is another country on the planet that buys this horse-shit.  The US is the direct cause of the ongoing violence in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine, Pakistan, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan,…

There are about 5000 more words I could have written here, but then I thought to myself, why bother?  When our Secretary of State tours the Middle East (just one area of the globe aflame with the civil strife we inflicted upon it) making such buffoonish remarks, there is nothing to do but gawp like a rube at the county fair taking his first gander at the two-headed boy and hope no-one recognizes you as an American.

[…] The Magical Mystery Tour

Is hoping to take you away

Hoping to take you away […]

The Magical Mystery Tour

Is coming to take you away

Coming to take you away

The Magical Mystery Tour

Is dying to take you away

Dying to take you away

Take you today

[“Magical Mystery Tour” is track #11 on the album The Beatles 1967-1970 (The Blue Album). It was written by Lennon, John Winston / Mccartney, Paul James]

Our foreign policy encapsulated in another Beatles’ song:

 
2 Comments

Posted by on June 23, 2014 in Iraq, Libya, MIC, State Dept/diplomacy

 

Greenwald to name names?

Updated below.

Glenn Greenwald, the man Edward Snowden handed the NSA “spying documents” over to, has announced that he has neared the end of the material he will release to the public.  If you haven’t been satisfied with the number of documents published through a few media outlets so far, you can buy his new book, which I understand has a couple more new “revelations” in it.  The book is oddly separated from the documents themselves (I gather you can go to a website and download the documents the book mentions for yourself) and has no index (strange editing choice for a book on such a subject).  Maybe there will be more in his upcoming movie, although that is being publicized as the story of how he and Snowden met and planned the release of the documents; no mention has been made that the movie will include any revealing of the document materials.  Now he has plans for the ending point, a final release of one last item, a “Grand Finale”,  which he will publish later this year at his new billionaire Pierre Omidyar-funded website, The Intercept: he is going to release the names of individuals targeted by the NSA.  (What the hell happened to all those other tens of thousands of documents never released?  We just don’t get to see what’s in them?)

According to this Realclearpolitics article, entitled ” Greenwald’s Finale: Naming Victims of Surveillance”:

The man who helped bring about the most significant leak in American intelligence history is to reveal names of US citizens targeted by their own government in what he promises will be the “biggest” revelation from nearly 2m classified files.

His [Greenwald’s] plan to publish names will further unnerve an American intelligence establishment already reeling from 11 months of revelations about US government surveillance activities. […]

“One of the big questions when it comes to domestic spying is, ‘Who have been the NSA’s specific targets?’,” he said. 

“Are they political critics and dissidents and activists? Are they genuinely people we’d regard as terrorists?

What are the metrics and calculations that go into choosing those targets and what is done with the surveillance that is conducted? Those are the kinds of questions that I want to still answer.”

Greenwald said the names would be published via The Intercept, a website funded by Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire founder and chairman of eBay. […]

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/05/26/greenwalds_finale_naming_victims_of_surveillance_122747.html

From a Commondreams article :

And in an interview with The Sunday Times published over the weekend, the award-winning journalist spoke about a coming “finale” that would expose specific individuals who have been targeted by the powerful spy agency. […]”

http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/05/27-3

Now hold on just a daggone minute.  Greenwald has repeatedly stated that one reason he has vetted the releases with the US government prior to publication is that he and Snowden wanted to make sure that the innocent targets of the NSA would not have their lives disrupted and possibly put in danger by revealing their names.  He has also made numerous times, in what is basically the same wording, the remark that a major factor explaining the slow release of documents is the painstaking work of making sure that the names of individuals targeted by the NSA have their identities (including other potential identifying information aside from their names) redacted prior to public release of any given document.

And the “grand finale” will be…releasing these victims’ names??

I want to be clear: I’m not speculating on what the names are.  I personally don’t care whose names are on the list and am repulsed by the people who are speculating about which names will be revealed.  I am not speculating on whether or not the targets are “innocent”, or what level of “innocence” they hold.  (They are all “innocent” in that none of us should have had our communications spied on, collected, and stored.  Actually, I thought that was one of the major points Snowden had to make.)   Once the list is released, are we all going to pore over the names and opine on who deserved to be spied on?  Are we going to join the NSA in picking out the targets who “deserved” to be targets (based on who we “dislike”) and feign horror over other outed names, saying, “Oh, so-and-so shouldn’t have been a victim of the spying”?

I am not going to play along with that game because it makes me complicit.  It turns us –  all of us the victims and targets in this governmental shredding of our rights – into the same “judge and jury” the spy agencies have been acting as (illegally) all these years.  But that isn’t my main point here.  My point is that when Greenwald has been taken to task for working with the government in vetting the releases, one part of his answer has always been that he needs to keep the targets’ identities secret and secure.  When people complain that the leaks are happening too slowly, he says that it takes a considerable amount of time to redact the names and any identifying information of the victims of the NSA spying in order to protect their privacy and possibly their lives.  He has made these points over and over.

Has Greenwald tried to get in touch with these NSA surveillance victims privately to warn them that they were among the specific targets?  Has he contacted them to ask their permission to out their names on this “grand finale” list?  Is he going to publish every single name he has in his possession, only the names of the people he doesn’t like, or just the names that he thinks will have some shock value?  If he is only publishing some of the names (I am of the opinion that releasing any names is grotesque), how is it that he thinks he is the one who should choose which names to display to the public?  If he is picking and choosing the names on his own, well, by God, what a misuse of power; power that came into his hands only through fate and accident.

I have to say that if the “grand finale” is indeed the naming of the targets’ names, this is weird, inexplicable, and completely contradictory given the lengths Greenwald supposedly went through to protect these people from the beginning.

UPDATE, 3 July:

Turns out Greenwald is going to delay the Big Reveal based on “last-minute claims” from the government that he needs to “investigate”, so my concern over the the so-called list  of names was premature.  He made this announcement via Twitter, where he does his most prolific writing.  That is also where he made the announcement (earlier the same day) that the article was going to be published at midnight on The Intercept:

GG Twitter feed, June 30, 11:56 am:
Tomorrow at 9am ET, I’m doing a @reddit_AMA with @MazMHussain about our new NSA story to be published tonight at midnight on @the_intercept

GG Twitter feed, June 30, 7:32 pm:
After 3 months working on our story, USG today suddenly began making new last-minute claims which we intend to investigate before publishing

So all his fans were waiting breathlessly at the comment section for midnight.  Midnight happened and then someone pointed out the second “tweet”.  Now they are all making a gazillion excuses for him and praying for his safety.  No-one seems to much question that he claims to have been working on this article for three whole months or that the intrepid whistleblowers can’t blow the whistle on the government because, gosh darn it, once again, the mean old government won’t let them.  It would all be pretty funny if it weren’t so stupid.  Some other reporter just published an article a day or two ago which states the NSA has been collecting emails on the entire planet based on “suspicions” raised regarding 230 individuals.  He did not name the names.  Still, kind of a scoop on Greenwald.

Me, I’m just glad that something is preventing Greenwald from publishing the names of the innocent and illegally targeted.  But I must say, this whole weird episode – the really small number of articles Greenwald has written since getting the Snowden documents, the abrupt statement that he was done with what he was going to write about them (aside from this last Grand Finale) despite the dearth of articles and information, the odd notion that the whistleblower and his chosen oracle vet everything through the same government they are whistleblowing on prior to publication of any articles, Snowden’s recent claim that he still works for the government, Greenwald’s and Snowden’s defense of “some spying” as being “useful and necessary”, the very idea behind the “Grand Finale” and now the indefinite postponement of said “fireworks” – makes it look like Greenwald just pulled the best freaking rick-roll in the history of rick-rolling.

Here’s your Grand Finale, people:

 
3 Comments

Posted by on May 28, 2014 in security state, Uncategorized

 

News round up, week ending 5/3/14.

Updated below.

Today’s post is brought to you by our corporate sponsor, the BigusFawk Co. [Big United States Fuckers Aligned for the World Kill.  Their slogan: Fuck you!  And you, and you, and you!].

First, we see that Ukraine not only got an unelected, US-picked junta installed courtesy of USA/CIA/NED/USAID interference in their country and now have to suffer under the austerity measures forced on them by the IMF, they also just got their draft reinstated.  It’s a free bonus gift they weren’t even expecting.

Ukraine reinstates military draft as NATO threatens Russia

NATO officials escalated their military build-up against Russia yesterday, as the pro-Western puppet regime in Kiev reinstated conscription in order to boost its crackdown on spreading pro-Russian protests in eastern Ukraine. […] [Teri’s note:  The acting  (e.g., installed, or interim government) President  Turchinov signed a decree (what we in the US call an executive order, as it comes from the president rather than going through Congress, or in Ukraine’s instance, through their parliament) reinstating compulsory military service for men aged between 18 and 25.]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/05/02/ukra-m02.html

38 people, all of them protesters against the neo-Nazi regime we have installed in Ukraine,  have been killed as a building was set on fire in Odessa. God help these people, who are being used as pawns in our games.  They had it bad enough before we decided to meddle in their affairs.

Washington responsible for fascist massacre in Odessa

3 May 2014

In what can only be described as a massacre, 38 anti-government activists were killed Friday after fascist-led forces set fire to Odessa’s Trade Unions House, which had been sheltering opponents of the US- and European-backed regime in Ukraine.

According to eye-witnesses, those who jumped from the burning building and survived were surrounded and beaten by thugs from the neo-Nazi Right Sector. Video footage shows bloodied and wounded survivors being attacked.

The atrocity underscores both the brutal character of the right-wing government installed in Kiev by the Western powers and the encouragement by the US and its allies of a bloody crackdown by the regime to suppress popular opposition, centered in the mainly Russian-speaking south and east of Ukraine.[…]

Despite Western media attempts to cover up what happened in Odessa—with multiple reports stating that “the exact sequence of events is still unclear”—there is no doubt that the killings in the southern port city were instigated by thugs wearing the insignia of the Right Sector, which holds positions in the Kiev regime, along with the like-minded Svoboda party. […]

The Odessa massacre is the largest death toll so far since the Ukrainian regime, at the urging of the Obama administration, renewed its full-scale military assault on anti-government protests and occupations. […]

At his press conference with Merkel, Obama seized on reports that two Ukrainian helicopters had been struck by ground fire. He cited unconfirmed allegations by the Ukrainian intelligence agency SBU that one was hit by a heat-seeking missile as proof that Russian forces were involved. By the evening, however, even the New York Times admitted that no evidence had been produced of heat-seeking missiles.

Along with Obama’s incendiary claim, his backing for Kiev’s military onslaught points to a drive by the US and its European partners to create civil war conditions and goad Russian President Vladimir Putin’s administration into intervening, in order to provide the pretext for crippling economic sanctions and a NATO confrontation with Russia. […]

Russia called another emergency UN Security Council meeting Friday to denounce Ukraine’s actions. Moscow’s ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, warned of “catastrophic consequences” if the military operation continued, only to be denounced by his US counterpart, Samantha Power, who called the attack “proportionate and reasonable.”

Power, who made a name for herself by championing US military interventions in Libya and elsewhere in the name of “human rights” and the “protection of civilians,” declared that Russia’s concern about escalating instability was “cynical and disingenuous.” In keeping with US government propaganda since the beginning of the crisis, she baldly asserted that Russia was the cause of the instability. […]

Ukraine’s initial military assault last month began after CIA Director James Brennan surreptitiously visited Kiev. A second push followed a visit by US Vice President Joseph Biden.

There is evidence of ongoing US involvement. The Russian Foreign Ministry said English-speaking foreigners had been seen among the Ukrainian forces mounting the assault on Slavyansk on Friday, echoing its previous charges that Greystone, a US military contractor, is working alongside the Ukrainian military. […]

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/05/03/ukra-m03.html

Also see: http://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2014/05/02/washington-intends-russias-demise-paul-craig-roberts/

and:

http://chewhatyoucallyourpasa.blogspot.com/2014/05/what-happened-in-odessa.html

The US has worked out an agreement with the Philippines which will allow us access to five military bases there, despite the Philippine constitution, which has barred US forces from operating bases since the 1990’s.  Obama makes the repeated point that we are not opening new bases,  which is true enough.  We are just stationing our Navy in 5 already-existing bases “temporarily“;  the new agreement stipulates that we will have this access for ten years.   The US is claiming that this re-deployment, which is what it really is, is being done in part to help with “disaster response and humanitarian assistance”.  I’m a little surprised any country on earth falls for that line any more.  I wonder where we found the money for this – perhaps China gave us another loan?

United States troops will soon have access to upwards of five military bases across the Philippines as the result of an agreement signed earlier this week between nations, the Asian country’s chief negotiator told reporters on Friday. […]

Soon, officials are expected to announce which bases will formally be opened up to the US based off of maritime security, maritime domain awareness and humanitarian assistance and disaster response, according to Rappler’s report.

http://rt.com/usa/156428-philippines-edca-five-bases/ 

Azcueta’s announcement opens the door for the first American military deployments to Clark Air Force Base and the naval base in Subic Bay since DOD officially shuttered the facilities in 1991 and 1992, respectively. […]

Manila will receive $30 million in foreign military funding from the the United States this year, according to news reports — nearly three times the $11.9 million in military funds Washington pledged to the Philippines in 2011.  

That money will likely help support the hundreds of Marines expected to flood into the Philippines in the coming years. […]

http://thehill.com/policy/defense/231257-philippines-re-opens-military-bases-to-us-forces-

Here at home, we have a new proposal coming from the White House regarding highway maintenance.  [Spoiler alert: POTUS is not suggesting that we spend less money blowing up bridges, roads and other infrastructures abroad and instead spend that money on US infrastructure.]  My personal notes, not to be confused with the original text, are, as always, bracketed and in red.

White House opens door to tolls on interstate highways, removing long-standing prohibition.

With pressure mounting to avert a transportation funding crisis this summer, the Obama administration Tuesday opened the door for states to collect tolls on interstate highways to raise revenue for roadway repairs.  [As opposed to, for instance, taking the money from the bloated Pentagon budget, or reducing the amount we spend on spying programs, or making corporations pay their taxes, or ending the practice of sending “aid” money to affluent foreign countries, or any number of other more commonsense and fair ideas that would reduce the amount of already burdensome taxes the average person forks over every fucking day.]

The proposal, contained in a four-year, $302 billion White House transportation bill, would reverse a long-standing federal prohibition on most interstate tolling.  [I’ll say – the entire idea of the Federal Highway system was to avoid a toll system being imposed by the various states.]

Though some older segments of the network — notably the Pennsylvania and New Jersey turnpikes and Interstate 95 in Maryland and Interstate 495 in Virginia — are toll roads, most of the 46,876-mile system has been toll-free.

“We believe that this is an area where the states have to make their own decisions,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We want to open the aperture, if you will, to allow more states to choose to make broader use of tolling, to have that option available.”  [I will, out of respect for my gentle reader, decline to take the opportunity of making the obvious joke about “open aperture” offered by Mr. Foxx in his remarks.]

The question of how to pay to repair roadways and transit systems built in the heady era of post-World War II expansion is demanding center stage this spring, with projections that traditional funding can no longer meet the need.

That source, the Highway Trust Fund, relies on the 18.4-cent federal gas tax, which has eroded steadily as vehicles have become more energy efficient.  [We can thus infer that the decline in funds is caused by the stupid taxpayers themselves, who should now pony up.  You did not think you were going to be allowed to save money on gas and keep that savings, did you?  You haven’t any idea how this capitalistic model works.]

“The proposal comes at the crucial moment for transportation in the last several years,” Foxx said. “As soon as August, the Highway Trust Fund could run dry. States are already canceling or delaying projects because of the uncertainty.”

While providing tolling as an option to states, the White House proposal relies on funding from a series of corporate tax reforms, most of them one-time revenue streams that would provide a four-year bridge to close the trust-fund deficit and permit $150 billion more in spending than the gas tax will bring in.  [Corporate tax reform?  Corporate tax reform?  The Obama proposals on corporate tax reform always include reducing corporate taxes. I am perplexed.  However, since this article declines to state what these reforms are, exactly, I will have to remain mystified.]  […]

Details of the president’s proposal, which he first outlined almost two months ago, were welcomed as a sign of growing momentum toward a resolution, even by those who couldn’t fully embrace his plan. […]

Terry O’Sullivan, president of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, said the bill helped “advance the discussion” but said a federal gas tax increase should be used to fund it.

“The gas tax remains the most tested and logical way of meeting our critical investment needs,” O’Sullivan said.

“For too long, Congress’s duct-tape approach has made our roads and bridges unsafe, destabilized the construction industry and slowed our economy.”  [Well, the duct tape approach, combined with austerity measures, while banks and corporations get free money and pay no taxes.]
The federal tax last was raised in 1993 and has not been adjusted for inflation.  [Neither has my pay, but I digress] […]

“Congress has an opportunity to not only save the transportation program, but to recommit to investing in the repairs and improvements our communities and businesses need,” said James Corless, the group’s director [the nonprofit Transportation for America].

Corless predicted that most Americans would accept tax increases to fund transportation.  [By this he means that most Americans will have tax increases foisted upon them whether they like it or not, and aside from some minor and insignificant written protests by unknown bloggers, most will be dumbly clueless about the issue.  Besides, the only alternative currently in play being the President’s proposed every-road-a-toll-road scheme, a gas tax increase might, in the end, be more digestible for the public.  Here in Maryland, the state just increased its state gas taxes by 3 cents per gallon this year.  This is what is known as a regressive tax.]

“When people understand where the dollars are being spent, the direct impact to their lives, they support paying their fair share,” he said.
Foxx said the highway trust fund would face a $63 billion shortfall over the next four years.  [Ironically, on Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee “sent a package of bills to the House floor that would cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years by making permanent tax provisions multinational corporations use to avoid paying U.S. taxes”.  I will give quotes from an article which covers this BigUSFawk project below the article you are currently reading.]   […]

The proposal emphasizes a fix-it-first approach that would give funding priority to existing roads, bridges and transit systems rather than expanding their network.

It would expand reforms intended to streamline environmental reviews and project delivery that were begun in the current federal highway bill.  [Ah, yes, streamlining environmental reviews.  The same procedure that brings BP back into the Gulf, allows rampant fracking without regard to consequences to the water we drink, and gives us many opportunities to view exciting youtube videos of oil-transport trains exploding into flames.  In for a penny, in for a pound, I always say; streamline it all.]

It also would expand popular loan-guarantee programs that have been used by state and local governments to fund projects. The White House plan would almost double funding — from $12.3 billion to $22.3 billion — for transit systems and intercity passenger rail.  [This sounds suspiciously like some public/private partnership deal in the works.  It also sounds much like the bond programs the big banks have been using to scam local governments for a decade now, and which have resulted in the broke-ass states having to cut public pension funds and, uh, do away with stuff like road repairs.]

In addition, the plan would increase the fine an automaker could face for a safety violation from the current $35 million to $300 million.
Though that proposal is not new, it takes on greater significance amid the debate over General Motors’s delayed recall of 2 million cars with faulty ignition switches that are alleged to have led to at least 13 deaths.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/trafficandcommuting/white-house-opens-door-to-tolls-on-interstate-highways-removing-long-standing-prohibition/2014/04/29/5d2b9f30-cfac-11e3-b812-0c92213941f4_print.html

Well, hey now, it turns out Yves Smith over at Naked Capitalism also thinks the above proposal might be a public/private partnership piece of shit:

Will “Highway Cliff” Allow Obama to Revive “Public/Private Partnership” Infrastructure Scam?:

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2014/05/will-highway-fiscal-cliff-allow-obama-to-revive-public-private-partnerships-for-infrastructure.html

Now, let’s take a gander at the latest “corporate tax reform” as envisioned by our Congress.

Do-Nothing Congress Continues Helping GE, Apple, Other Multinational Tax Dodgers

On Tuesday, the House Ways and Means Committee sent a package of bills to the House floor that would cost American taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars over the next ten years by making permanent tax provisions multinational corporations use to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

“For all of the talk in Washington about getting our fiscal house in order, the Committee did not consider how to pay for these expensive tax breaks,” said Dan Smith, U.S. PIRG Tax and Budget Advocate, “despite repeated attempts by Ranking Member Sandy Levin to raise the issue.”

H.R. 4429 would re-enact the currently expired “active financing” provision, and make it permanent. This provision is known as the “GE” loophole, because General Electric not only prodigiously benefits from it, but also because the company has sent an army of lobbyists to ensure the provision, which expired last year, was re-enacted.

Making the GE loophole permanent would cost nearly $60 billion over ten years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. The relevant Senate Committee took a slightly different approach, sending a two-year extension to the Senate floor that would cost “only” $7 billion. Another bill that cleared committee Tuesday was H.R. 4464, which would re-enact the “CFC look through” rule and make it permanent.

This provision is known as the Apple loophole, because Apple innovated it and uses it to protect billions it would owe U.S. tax on, if the tax code looked at where the money was earned – where the value was actually generated – rather than where companies can assign the profits. Making the Apple loophole permanent would cost $20.3 billion over ten years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

The Senate bill, since it would extend the provision for two years, would cost “only” $2 billion. “While Wall Street banks, tech giants, and pharmaceutical companies would get a windfall from these loopholes,” Smith added, “average taxpayers and small business owners would get stuck footing the bill through cuts to public programs, higher taxes, or a larger deficit.”  [Cuts to public programs like road and transportation upkeep, addressed in the preceding article.]

Two other corporate tax cuts that cleared committee Tuesday were not about tax havens, however. They reflected other problematic policies. One is called the “Research Credit.” As Steve Wamhoff, Legislative Director for Citizens for Tax Justice, explained, “The so-called research credit does not encourage research. Congress should not re-enact it, much less make it permanent until it addresses the problems so that it actually encourages research.”

If the House gets its way, the “Research” Credit would cost $155 billion over 10 years. Again, the Senate is considering a two-year extension of a slightly different version of the credit, which also does not address the issues that concerns Wamhoff.

The last and arguably least problematic tax cut bill to clear committee Tuesday aims to inspire smaller businesses to invest in their businesses by making the tax treatment of such investment more favorable. But, Wamhoff says, “I do not expect it to encourage investment or help grow the economy. We work with some small business folks, and they say what will get them to invest is more customers, not more tax breaks.”  [These customers would be the now mythical “US consumer base”.  Since the current labor participation rate is only 62.8% and 1 in 5 American households have no-one in the house actually working, the “US consumer base” is largely a rumor not related to any fact in evidence.]

The smaller business tax cut would cost $73 billion over 10 years. Wamhoff, like Smith, praised Michigan Democrat Sandy Levin: “Under Levin’s leadership,” Wamhoff said, “even those Democrats who support the tax breaks decided that if the country couldn’t afford to deficit-finance unemployment insurance and food stamps, it couldn’t afford to deficit-finance these tax breaks.”

Unfortunately for taxpayers, House Republicans didn’t agree and sent these bills to the House floor.

http://www.benzinga.com/news/14/04/4508611/do-nothing-congress-continues-helping-ge-apple-other-multinational-tax-dodgers?utm_campaign=partner_feed&utm_source=marketfy_partners_bobz&utm_medium=marketfy_partners&utm_content=site

On my note in the above article, “1 in 5 American households have no-one in the house actually working”:

“[…] In 20% of American families in 2013, according to new data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), not one member of the family worked.  A family, as defined by the BLS, is a group of two or more people who live together and who are related by birth, adoption or marriage. In 2013, there were 80,445,000 families in the United States and in 16,127,000—or 20%–no one had a job. The BLS designates a person as ’employed’ if ‘during the survey reference week’ they ‘(a) did any work at all as paid employees; (b) worked in their own business, profession, or on their own farm; (c) or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family.’ […]”

http://www.theautomaticearth.com/debt-rattle-apr-30-2014-the-boy-in-the-bubble/

Furthermore, although the official unemployment rate went down for the month of April (to 6.3 %), this was largely because the labor force participation rate [LFPR] also went down again.  I explained the LFPR in my last post; this number basically tells us how many people, out of the number of people eligible to work, who are actually employed.  The labor force number has suddenly dropped again, from the previous 63.2% to 62.8%, the lowest since 1978.  800,000 people dropped out of the labor force in March.  These are people who have simply abandoned  the search for nonexistent jobs.  That is simply a staggering number.

This means that, despite the bogus, heavily massaged, and virtually meaningless number given to us as the “unemployment rate”, the population of job-eligible people who are working is declining rapidly.  Average wages have also remained completely stagnant, but I suppose we must be grateful that the oligarchy didn’t cut our wages significantly last month.

Moving on, the Supreme Court has once again offered irrefutable proof that it has no interest in upholding the Constitution.  There is no need to mention the WH or Congressional positions on constitutional law; that horse left the barn some years (and administrations) ago.

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to NDAA Detention Power
By Jason Ditz On April 28, 2014

The US Supreme Court has further enhanced the administration’s ability to detain anyone, at any time, on any pretext today, when it refused to hear the Hedges v. Obama case, meaning an Appeals Court ruling on the matter will stand.

The case stems from a 2012 lawsuit brought by Chris Hedges, Daniel Ellsberg, Noam Chomsky and others, and sought to block the enforcement of a 2012 National Defense Authorization Act statute that allows the president to unilaterally impose indefinite detention on anyone, without access to courts, if he personally believes something they did “aided” the Taliban or al-Qaeda.

Courts initially banned such detentions, over intense objection from President Obama, who argued that prohibiting the detentions would be an unconstitutional restriction of presidential power.

The Appeals Court eventually restored the detention power, however, insisting that Hedges et al didn’t have standing to contest their future detention because they couldn’t prove that the president might decide to detain them at some point in the future.

The standing argument effectively makes it impossible to challenge the NDAA statute, as it precludes challenges before the detention takes place, and once a person has been disappeared into military custody under the NDAA, the law explicitly denies them any access to the courts.

http://news.antiwar.com/2014/04/28/supreme-court-rejects-challenge-to-ndaa-detention-power/

There have been a number of articles about the EPA’s proposal to allow a massive increase in the use of the herbicide known as 2,4-D, one of the main ingredients in the defoliant used during the Vietnam War (Agent Orange). Because the weeds in fields where genetically modified foods are grown (commonly referred to as GMOs, or as genetically engineered – GE – crops) are becoming resistant to glyphosate, the Big Ag growers would like to resort to more powerful herbicides.  The GMO crops are inherently immune to RoundUp (glyphosate) and 2,4-D; that was the whole point in developing them and why they are called “RoundUp Ready”.  Another GMO crop, Bt Corn, was created to act as a pesticide in and of itself.  However, insects feeding on the Bt Corn are likewise becoming immune to the pesticide within the corn.  Time to spray stronger crap and lots of it.  Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, et.al., are quick to point out that it was not the 2,4-D which turned out to be the big human killer in Agent Orange, but another active ingredient called 2,4,5-T, which was itself contaminated with something else (dioxins). Studies conducted by independent scientists and research labs (e.g., those not employed by Monsanto) are now showing that glyphosate and 2,4-D do, in fact, have an adverse effect on people and animals, especially given the massive amounts of the stuff being sprayed on the crops throughout the growing cycle.

It’s all bullshit and flim-flammery, of course; the fact is that the problem is not glyphosate alone, or 2,4-D alone, or any of the other major ingredients of these herbicides and pesticides alone, all of which are questionable enough, but the addition of inert ingredients.  These additions create entirely new compositions with their own unique hazards.  Although the combinations can be highly toxic, the EPA does not test these cocktails.  Why?  Hey, I’m glad you asked.  Turns out the mixtures are “proprietary trade secrets” and don’t have to be disclosed to anyone.  Exactly like the protected “proprietary” mix of toxic sludge going into fracking fluids and then dumped into our water supplies.  When Agent Orange was created, it was produced expressly for the purpose of chemical warfare.  Were we a more alert and informed society, we might still recognize it as such.

Used in yards, farms and parks throughout the world, Roundup has long been a top-selling weed killer. But now researchers have found that one of Roundup’s inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.

The new findings intensify a debate about so-called “inerts” — the solvents, preservatives, surfactants and other substances that manufacturers add to pesticides. Nearly 4,000 inert ingredients are approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.[…]

Until now, most health studies have focused on the safety of glyphosate, rather than the mixture of ingredients found in Roundup. But in the new study, scientists found that Roundup’s inert ingredients amplified the toxic effect on human cells—even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns.[…]

“This clearly confirms that the [inert ingredients] in Roundup formulations are not inert,” wrote the study authors from France’s University of Caen. “Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death [at the] residual levels” found on Roundup-treated crops, such as soybeans, alfalfa and corn, or lawns and gardens. […]

Inert ingredients are often less scrutinized than active pest-killing ingredients. Since specific herbicide formulations are protected as trade secrets, manufacturers aren’t required to publicly disclose them. Although Monsanto is the largest manufacturer of glyphosate-based herbicides, several other manufacturers sell similar herbicides with different inert ingredients.

The term “inert ingredient” is often misleading, according to Caroline Cox, research director of the Center for Environmental Health, an Oakland-based environmental organization. Federal law classifies all pesticide ingredients that don’t harm pests as “inert,” she said. Inert compounds, therefore, aren’t necessarily biologically or toxicologically harmless – they simply don’t kill insects or weeds.

But some inert ingredients have been found to potentially affect human health. Many amplify the effects of active ingredients by helping them penetrate clothing, protective equipment and cell membranes, or by increasing their toxicity. […]

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/weed-whacking-herbicide-p/

On to this week’s news about 2,4-D then:

The US Environmental Protection Agency has revealed a proposal for mass use of Dow Chemical’s herbicide 2,4-D on the company’s genetically-engineered corn and soybeans.

The GE [genetically engineered] crops were developed to withstand several herbicides, including 2,4-D. Dow would be allowed to sell the herbicide if the EPA approves it following a 30-day public comment period.[…]

Dow’s genetically-engineered corn and soybeans – known as Enlist – have received preliminary approval from the US Department of Agriculture. Should Enlist crops win ultimate authorization, the USDA said that would increase the annual use of 2,4-D (2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid) in the United States from 26 million pounds per year to possibly 176 million pounds.

The crops are designed to withstand high doses of glyphosate – brought to market by biotech giant Monsanto as their Roundup weed killer – and 2,4-D. […]

Scientists, human and environmental health advocates, farming organizations, and food transparency groups have urged government regulators to think twice about unleashing more 2,4-D. […]

Medical researchers have linked exposure to 2,4-D, and other chemicals like it, to increased rates of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disruption, and low sperm counts, among other conditions. Higher rates of birth anomalies have been found where there is heavy use of 2,4-D.

Health concerns had prompted the Natural Resources Defense Council to petition the EPA to halt use of the herbicide, though that effort was defeated in 2012.  “With this decision it is clear that the EPA is serving the interests of Dow Chemical and the biotech industry rather than protecting our health and the environment,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety.

In an agribusiness chemical arms race, Dow’s development of 2,4-D-resistant crops came about once first-generation genetically-modified crops made by Monsanto evolved to resist the company’s Roundup herbicide. The flood of new GE crops increased the use of glyphosate, which has its own links to a host of ill health effects, and glyphosate-resistant “superweeds.”

“2,4-D is not a solution to glyphosate-resistant weeds,” Kimbrell said. “Weeds will rapidly evolve resistance to 2,4-D as well if these crops are approved, driving a toxic spiral of ever-increasing herbicide use. Dow’s Enlist crops are a textbook example of unsustainable farming, profiting pesticide companies to the detriment of American farmers, public health and the environment.”

Nevertheless, Dow maintains that farmers need an answer for “hard to control” weeds. […]

http://rt.com/usa/156272-epa-dow-agent-orange-herbicide/

Monsanto’s GMO “Bt Corn”, which now makes up 86% of the corn crop in the US, is not technically a food product.  If you were confused by the references to both the EPA and the USDA in the above article, part of that is because Bt Corn is registered and regulated by the EPA as a pesticide.  The bacteria, bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, is genetically inserted into the corn.  Thus the pesticide is actually produced inside the plant, as part of the plant, so not only can it never be washed off: it makes the plant itself a pesticide.  Which you are eating every time you eat anything containing corn or corn syrup; the latter ingredient is found in damn near every food product on American grocery store shelves.  The EPA lists these GMOs as Plant-Incorporated Protectants (PIP).  You can find the list of GMOs thus recognized on the “Type of Pesticide: Plant-Incorporated Protectant (PIP)” chart at:
http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/biopesticides/pips/smartstax-factsheet.pdf

One might think that being listed as a pesticide would automatically create the need for mandatory labeling on food products containing this ingredient.  One would be, in a word, wrong.  There is an inherent doublespeak going on with GMOs in general anyway, and has been since they were first formulated.  The biotech firms were allowed to patent their grotesque creations based on the idea that they were “unique”, which they sure as shit are.  Bt could have never naturally become part of corn seed, for example.  Another GMO patent exists on tomatoes combined with salmon genes (yes, the fish), done to make the tomatoes viable into the cold weather season.  But when it comes to labeling and regulating these things, we are told that the products needn’t be labeled because they are “just the same” as the traditional food products.  They obviously shouldn’t be allowed to have it both ways.  And, no, these products are not equivalent to hybrids, an argument I see all the time presented by GMO proponents.  Hybrids can occur naturally between closely related species, especially among plants.  A cross between a tomato and a salmon would never occur in nature, nor would a cross between corn and the Bt bacteria.

GMO “RoundUp Ready” crops are genetically altered so the plant can take multiple hits of glyphosate and/or 2, 4-D without being killed.  The weeds around them are deader than dead, but the RoundUp Ready crops are not.  This does not mean they aren’t absorbing the herbicide; they are.  They just aren’t killed by it.  When you eat these foods, you are eating the glyphosate as well.  The crops are sprayed many, many times during the growth period and right before harvest are put through what is called “crop desiccation”; i.e., fully saturating the fields with RoundUp to kill off all the green matter (as opposed to the fruit or vegetable itself) to make it easier for the harvesting equipment to go through.  Desiccation is done immediately before the harvest; it is absorbed by the crop, just like the earlier applications of herbicide and cannot be washed off.  Then the “food” is harvested, processed, packaged, and sold to you.  I don’t know how much RoundUp a human can safely eat before getting sick or dying, but since the warning label on RoundUp reads, in part, “Keep out of reach of children, harmful if swallowed, avoid contact with eyes or prolonged contact with skin,” I suspect it is much less than what we are being fed.

Pre-harvest crop desiccation (also siccation) refers to the application of a herbicide to a crop shortly before harvest. The herbicide most widely used is glyphosate, while use of diquat and glufosinate is much more limited. For potatoes, carfentrazone-ethyl is used. Other desiccants are cyanamide, cinidon-ethyl, and pyraflufen.

Uneven crop growth is a problem in northern climates, with wet summers, or poor weed control. With desiccation a number of advantages are cited: More even ripening is achieved and harvest can be conducted earlier; weed control is initiated for a future crop; earlier ripening allows for earlier replanting; desiccation reduces green material in the harvest putting less strain on harvesting machinery. Some crop may be mechanically destroyed when crop desiccation machinery moves through the field.

The application of glyphosate differs between countries significantly. It is commonly used in the UK where summers are wet and crops may ripen unevenly. Thus in the UK 78% of oilseed rape is desiccated before harvest, but only 4% in Germany. Other countries have banned desiccation practices, such as Austria[6] and Switzerland.

Pre-harvest desiccation has been applied to a wide variety of plants including: cereals, oilseed rape, legumes, linseed, lupins, flax, linola, maize, sunflower, kiwi, wine grapes, raspberries, apples, soy, alfalfa, and potatoes.

Criticism:
Glyphosate is applied to plants just before harvest and absorbed by plants; it cannot be washed out prior to human use. Herbicides can also reach humans through meat and milk of cattle that has been fed herbicide-treated fodder. It has been identified in the urine of urban dwellers who do not handle glyphosate at concentrations of 0.5-2ng/ml, much higher than allowed in drinking water (<0.1ng/ml).  The extent and the effects of an accumulating glyphosate contamination of humans and animals deserve further studies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crop_desiccation

Suggested further reading on GMOs:
http://www.gmfreeze.org/site_media/uploads/publications/glyphosate_residues_in_UK_food_final.pdf

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/10/23/glyphosate-found-in-human-urine.aspx

http://www.globalresearch.ca/monsanto-roundup-the-impacts-of-glyphosate-herbicide-on-human-health-pathways-to-modern-diseases/5342520

http://www.organicconsumers.org/monsanto/roundup.cfm

EPA denies petition to halt use of 2,4-D in 2012:
http://www.epa.gov/oppfead1/cb/csb_page/updates/2012/2-4d-petition.html

A new study reveals an insecticide produced in GM corn actually gets absorbed into the human body:
http://foodintegritynow.org/2011/05/19/gmo-study-omg-you’re-eating-insecticide/

and:
http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/toxin-from-gm-crops-found-in-human-blood/1/137728.html

An accessible intro and explanation of genetically engineered products and why there is cause for concern with genetic splicing.  If you choose only one article to read out of the list, this is probably the one you want:   http://thegeneticengineeringdebate.blogspot.ca/2014/02/genetics-101-why-you-should-be.html

Update Sunday, 4 May:

On the US military agreement with the Philippines, we are finally seeing the document itself.  I will remind you that the Philippines’ president, Aquino, signed this agreement without any consultation with his legislature: this is basically another “presidential executive order”, which bypasses the normal legal processes in a country.

US military basing deal sets legal framework for neocolonial rule in the Philippines

The US basing deal signed during US President Barack Obama’s recent visit to the Philippines, and now surreptitiously published in the “Historical Papers” section of the Philippine government’s web site, marks a reactionary political milestone in the Philippines and Asia. […]

Under the EDCA [Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement], Washington receives exclusive access to bases, referred to as “agreed locations,” throughout the Philippines. The list of “agreed locations,” which the document does not even bother to specify, can also be added to at the request of the US military. The “agreed locations” are to be exclusively accessed by US forces and contractors. […]

Effectively, moreover, the US military is being given free rein throughout the country. The EDCA states that, in addition to the “agreed locations,” US forces have access to “public land and facilities (including roads, ports, and airfields), including those owned or controlled by local government.” There is no space or facility within the Philippines exempted from this clause.

The agreement authorizes the deployment of unlimited numbers of US military and civilian personnel and US military contractors to the Philippines. Once there, they are authorized to conduct “training, transit, support, and related activities; refueling of aircraft; bunkering of vessels; temporary maintenance of vehicles, vessels and aircraft; temporary accommodation of personnel; communications; prepositioning of equipment, supplies and materiel; deploying of forces and materiel; and any other such activities as the Parties may agree.”

Any US war materiel in the country is for the “exclusive use of United States forces,” which shall be provided with “unimpeded access to Agreed Locations.”

These terms provide a legal framework for Washington to use the Philippines as a staging area for war against China, or whatever other target is selected by US imperialism. During the Vietnam War, Washington used its bases in the Philippines to launch bombing raids targeting North Vietnam and Cambodia. […]

The agreement is being imposed in blatant violation of the Philippine constitution, which bans the presence of any foreign troops or bases in the country without the approval of a treaty by a two-thirds majority in the Senate. The Philippine legislature, which is not party to the agreement, has been left with no legal recourse to contest it. […]

The agreement exempts US forces from oversight under Philippine or international law—a measure recalling US policy in occupied countries like Iraq, or imperialist extraterritoriality clauses on colonial countries of 19th-century Asia. Instead, US forces and contractors will “operate under US law, regulations and policies.” […]

Article XI of the EDCA states, “Disputes and other matters subject to consultation shall not be referred to any national or international court, tribunal or other similar body, or to any third party for settlement.”

This article precludes the review of the EDCA by either the Philippine judiciary or legislature. Should a US serviceman shoot or rape a Filipino, or run over a child with his car—events which have repeatedly occurred around US military bases in Asia—he will be subject to US law and jurisdiction. Any disputes over the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the United States within the Philippines, or any other aspect of the agreement, may not be reviewed by the Philippine judiciary.

The United States is to pay no rent whatsoever for its Philippine bases. The document even arrogantly specifies that if Washington chooses to vacate a particular base, it can exact from Manila “compensation for improvements” it has made.

Washington is also guaranteed access to “water, electricity, and other public utilities” at the same rate paid by the Philippine government. All taxes and fees exacted on these utilities, which all Filipinos are obliged to pay, will be paid for the US military by the Philippine government. […]

In one of the few restrictions imposed on US forces, the agreement stipulates that, as dictated by the Philippine constitution, Washington may not “preposition” any nuclear weapons in the country.

Declassified documents from the period of the US occupation of Subic naval base and Clark Airbase have shown that in the past Washington illegally stored nuclear weapons in the Philippines. What is more, Washington routinely refuses to comment on which of its ships carry nuclear weapons. Given the limits imposed by the EDCA on the inspections that can be conducted by the Philippine “authorized representative,” this clause is toothless.

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/05/03/phil-m03.html

On Ukraine, I would like to note that this weekend, I have seen the repeated use of the word “rebels” by the Western media (i.e., US and Europe) to describe the protesters in Ukraine.  The protesters are not “rebels”, a word used to deliberately provoke images of insurgents and terrorist groups.  They are Ukrainian citizens who are protesting against the junta installed in Kiev.  Some of the protesters want to rejoin Russia, but not many, and certainly not most of them.  Some agreed with their ousted president that Ukraine would have been better served by financial aid coming from Russia rather than through the EU.  The EU/US aid comes via the IMF, and includes serious austerity measures and steps to make Ukraine a NATO border country.  Most of the protesters are federalists.  Seeing that the new government, which they did not elect, is largely comprised of fascists, who are making distasteful agreements with the IMF and NATO, this group – by far the majority in the protest movement – want autonomous states within Ukraine, each having a locally-elected government allowed some independence from the central Ukraine government, which they would like to be weaker.

The BBC, the Washington Post, and Reuters have all begun using the word “rebels” to describe these Ukrainians, as evidenced by this Reuters headline, “Moscow May Day parade lauds Putin as rebels seize more Ukraine buildings”, and this quote from the WaPo, in an utterly over-the-top, rancid piece of jingoistic filth: “Ukraine suffered its bloodiest day in nearly three months on Friday, with at least nine people killed when the army launched its first major assault on a rebel stronghold and 34 killed in clashes between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian mobs in the Black Sea port city of Odessa. […]”.  [http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/ukraine-army-launches-assault-on-rebel-stronghold/2014/05/02/b1c589e8-be8f-43a1-9927-13310c24b653_story.html?hpid=z1]

A poll taken in Ukraine mid-April revealed the following (this was a poll in which Ukrainians themselves were invited to participate; not one of those stupid “what do Americans think” things):

2/3 of the respondents think Ukraine should remain a united country.  Only a minority support reunification with Russia.  Majorities also favor the idea of autonomous states with locally elected officials rather than power concentrated in Kiev.  [Hence, we see that protesters are not necessarily “pro-Russian”.  That label is a simplistic political term used by the media.  The Ukrainian citizens themselves are obviously much more capable of thinking about and forming opinions on complex issues than are western media and western leaders.]

Over 50% believe acting President Turchynov is “illegally occupying his post,” and just under half felt the same way about about acting Prime Minister Yatsenyuk [“Yats”].

74% in Donetsk and 70% in Luhansk feel that the entire interim government is “illegitimate”.

Ukraine is supposed to hold an actual national election on May 25.  Despite the fact the acting government is merely a temporary, interim group (more accurately called a junta) and was not elected, the IMF is releasing the first $3 bb of its $17 bb loan to this acting government immediately.  In other words, an illegally installed “government” gets to make the decision of putting the entire country in debt to the western banking cartel and additionally, to decide how to start spending that money.  An IMF staff report reads that should the central government in Kiev “lose control” over the eastern section of Ukraine, the terms of the loan will have to be re-designed.  The US and Europe do not seem to regard this as blackmail or an instigation toward civil war: the IMF is sort of goading the junta into further violence against protesters as Turchynov and Yatsenyuk try to keep their deal with the IMF in place.

The US State Dept. announced that USAID is giving another $1.2 mm to “support Ukrainian media outlets” as they prepare for the Ukrainian presidential election.

“This additional funding will help to protect vulnerable journalists while also advancing press freedoms and democratic governance in Ukraine. USAID supports respect for universal rights around the world as central to its mission that we’ve talked a lot about in here as well.” – State Dept briefing, 2 may ’14

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2014/05/225545.htm

Yessirreebob, that good old USAID (CIA) and its love of press freedom and democratic governance.

There had been an interesting exchange during the previous day’s press briefing where a reporter asked the State Dept. spokeswoman what she thought about the May Day demonstrations in Russia, which the reporter first mistakenly called “protests”.  Because he opened with that word, and because Ms. Harf was completely clueless as to what he was talking about (callowness being the predominant trait exhibited by State Dept personnel), this amusing conversation took place:

QUESTION: It’s the first time – well, apparently since the break-up of the Soviet Union that they’ve had such large May Day protests in Moscow.

MS. HARF: Well, we – I actually haven’t seen those reports, but we do support the rights of people to peacefully protest.

QUESTION: So – but they were shouting out things like Putin is right, proud of their country, let’s support Putin’s decisions.

MS. HARF: Well, just because I disagree with what they’re saying doesn’t mean I don’t think they should be able to say it.

QUESTION: So given that you support the right to protest, did you see the similar protests that were happening in the Red Square as well in Russia?  But, I mean, obviously, we’ve talked a lot in here about the propaganda that the United States feels that the Russian people are being fed through such things as RT. Do you – are these – are the hundred thousand people who turned out in Moscow, are they deluded?

MS. HARF: Again, I haven’t seen all those reports. But we don’t agree with the notion that what President Putin and Russia has done is right, that there’s any legal basis for it, certainly, and that’s why we’ve been very clear that there will be continued consequences.

http://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/dpb/2014/05/225493.htm

Since Ms. Harf cannot tell you about it, I will.  100,000 people gathered in Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate May Day.  The crowd was jubilant and carried signs supporting Russia itself, Putin, and the joining of Crimea back into Russia.  Putin currently has an 82% approval rating in Russia.  There has been an upswell of patriotism and loyalty in Russia.  This is only to be expected: as I have said before, when a country is threatened from without, either through military actions or economic sanctions (a form of warfare), the people do not tend to start hating their own government, but instead protectively “circle the wagons” around their country and respond with heightened feelings of unity and loyalty.

Americans would react the same way, were some country to sanction us and try to ruin us economically.  We don’t much notice or care when this is done to us by our own leaders and corporate oligarchy, but you won’t hear me accusing Americans of being overly discerning and insightful.

May Day was also joyfully celebrated in Cuba.  You won’t read about that either, Cuba being another country we have been sanctioning and trying to ruin for generations, so our media won’t report on anything which shows Cubans actually liking their country.  Nonetheless, 600,000 Cubans marched through Revolution Square and millions more held celebrations in other cities, exhibiting signs, waving Cuban flags, and expressing support for their revolution and leaders.  There were thousands of banners honoring Fidel and Raul Castro, Che Guevara, and the late Venezuelan president Chavez.   And I doubt the Cubans, by and large, much give a shit if our reporters cover their holidays.