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Peter Lemkin
03-07-2017, 08:21 AM
DHS Proposal to Split Children from Parents at U.S. Border!
We turn now to look at a Department of Homeland Security proposal to radically shift how federal agents treat undocumented families, including asylum seekers, who attempt to enter the country. Reuters is reporting that DHS is considering a proposal to separate mothers from their children if they are caught trying to cross the border together. Under the plan, mothers would be held in custody while the children would initially be placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services.
AMY GOODMAN: Texas Congressman, Democrat Henry Cuellar, criticized the new proposal. He said, "Bottom line: separating mothers and children is wrong. That type of thing is where we depart from border security and get into violating human rights." We go now to Los Angeles where we are joined by Marielena Hincapié. She is executive director of the National Immigration Law Center. So this is a proposal, we understand, that is being floated by the Department of Homeland Security. Separating mothers from their children. Can you tell us what you understand, Marielena?
MARIELENA HINCAPIÉ: Thank you for the invitation, Amy and Juan. Yes, this is a proposal, which means we can still try our best to stop this. This really amounts—if it goes forward, this would amount to state-sanctioned violence against children, against families that are coming to the United States to seek safety. Everything is a administration right now is—there’s such a lack of transparency. We don’t have details, except what the media is reporting. And Reuters as you mentioned is reporting that there is a proposal based on some meetings that ICE has held starting in early February.
There were some notes from that that have been shared with both MSNBC and Reuters. And most recently, the Reuters reporter was able to confirm with attorneys at the Department of Homeland Security that this is very much part of a proposal that they are seriously considering.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And Marielena, what would be the purpose of separating the mothers from the children that accompany them?
MARIELENA HINCAPIÉ: Besides cruelty and inhumanity and inflicting emotional and psychological trauma? I think it is deterrence. Right? We saw this even under the Obama administration, and the Trump administration clearly has begun wanting to show that immigrants aren’t welcome here, even immigrants who are seeking refuge. We saw this with the refugee ban, Muslim ban, and now we’re seeing with the—baby ban, family ban? Not sure what we will call this next proposal if this comes to be a final policy. But the deterrence approach has been a failed approach. You cannot deter a mother from making the difficult decision of trying to save her children’s lives. Any mother, any parent will do that. And no wall, no level of detention is ever going to stop that.
AMY GOODMAN: So can you explain exactly how it would work? They would take the mother, put her in jail, and what would they do with these children?
MARIELENA HINCAPIÉ: Well, again, we don’t have the details yet. But what we understand that’s being proposed is, yes, the family units would first be detained. Right? They would be detained when they arrive at the border. And again, let’s remember these are called—currently, we have three family detention centers. There are two in Texas, and one in Pennsylvania. These are jails, right? These are families that are being put in jail. The children then are sent to a Health and Human Services facility, but again, that is still a jail. Neither the children nor the family members, nor the parents, belong in jail. Families belong together. Children belong with their mothers and their fathers. They belong in schools, they belong at home, they belong in parks.
What we believe will happen is that the families will be separated. Children will be ripped apart from their parents’ arms, and placed in these separate detention centers, and will then go through the legal process, which includes a credible fear interview. That means it’s an opportunity for the immigrants to show whatever evidence they have to explain that they are afraid of returning home to their home country because they fear persecution, and in many cases, murder. The fact that children will be, one, separated from their family and, two, we have no idea what process the children will have to go through—again, because they will be by themselves. And to do so, the fact that 88 percent of families that came in the last few years had passed their credible fear interviews. The majority of people are coming to seek asylum, which they have a right to do so, under both U.S. and international law.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, some of the Republicans in Congress are claiming that the women are willing to risk the dangers of making the journey with their children because they are assured they will be quickly released from detention and that then the court dates will be set months or even years into the future. What is your response to that?
MARIELENA HINCAPIÉ: My response is that those are completely uninformed comments. And frankly, again, they are comments that talk to how out of touch these Republican and policy makers that would say that. Again, let’s understand what is happening in Central America. In the Northern Triangle—in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—the levels of violence have increased dramatically over the last years. Most of the people—the numbers of people who are coming over have increased and in fact, the number of women, and particularly teenage girls, are increasing because the levels of femicide, gender-based violence, rape, kidnapping, et cetera, is what is driving people to leave and make the difficult decision.
Now, they’re not just coming just to the United States. Asylum rates have actually increased also to Nicaragua, to Belize, Costa Rica, and neighboring countries. So, the fact that a mother or a father would make the difficult decision to come to the United States and make the journey either by foot or on La Bestia, on the train—five, 10, 20, 25 days—that is not a decision that a parent makes lightly. And so these policymakers that claim that people are coming here just because they think they’re going to be able to get detained briefly and then go into the community, are completely uninformed. Lastly, I will also say they should be released immediately, right? Once they are initially detained and have the opportunity to prove through a credible fear interview that they are seeking asylum, they should be released, not kept in detention.

Peter Lemkin
03-07-2017, 08:23 AM
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, last month, President Donald Trump called his deportation plans a "military operation" during a meeting last month with the manufacturing CEOs.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You see what’s happening at the border. All of a sudden, for the first time, we’re getting gang members out. We’re getting drug lords out. We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country. And at a rate that nobody has ever seen before. And they’re the bad ones. And it’s a military operation because what has been allowed to come into our country, when you see gang violence that you have read about like never before, and all of the things, much of that is people that are here illegally. And they’re rough and they’re tough, but they’re not tough like our people. So we are getting them out.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: But while President Trump talks about deporting drug lords and bad dudes, we turn now to a case in Los Angeles where ICE officials tore a child away from her father as he was taking her to school. On Tuesday morning, Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez and his wife were driving their 13-year-old daughter Fatima to her school in the northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Highland Park just after dropping off their younger daughter, when two black, unmarked vehicles approached the family’s car. Fatima captured part of the arrest on her cellphone in which she can be heard sobbing as ICE agents arrest and detain her father. He has lived in the United States for more than two decades and is the father of four. In a statement, ICE defended its actions, saying Avelica-Gonzalez had a DUI in 2009 and an outstanding order of removal from 2014.
AMY GOODMAN: The family says he was less than two blocks away from the school at the time of the arrest.
Immigration attorneys and advocates fear the arrest signals a shift in ICE’s long-standing policy against conducting enforcement activities at so-called "sensitive locations" like schools, churches, and hospitals. Avelica-Gonzalez’s arrest comes amidst growing fears of mass deportations under President Trump. For more, we’re going to Los Angeles where we are joined by two guests. Jocelyn Avelica is the daughter of Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez. He was detained by ICE agents when dropping off Jocelyn’s sister, 13-year-old Fatima, at the school. And Emi MacLean is with us, an immigration attorney for National Day Laborer Organizing Network, who is assisting the Avelica-Gonzalez family. We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Jocelyn, can you tell us what happened when your parents were taking your sister to school? Describe the scene, and then we’re going to play a clip of the video that was taken from the car.
JOCELYN AVELICA: OK. Well, my parents, when they were taking my sisters to school, my younger—my sister who took the video—Fatima—she noticed that there was a car in the corner of our street. She said the windows were tinted, but she didn’t think anything of it. So when they were on their way to drop off my youngest sister, they left her and then they made a right. And once they made that right, my dad figured out that they were being followed and that it was ICE. My dad knew it was ICE. And as soon as he found out, they put little lights and—so he can stop. And my dad was really scared. He didn’t know what to do.
And so eventually, when he stopped, then that’s when my sister started crying and they told him, “What’s your name?” and “You have a deportation.” And when they—
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to play, Jocelyn, the video. Who took this video?
JOCELYN AVELICA: My sister, Fatima.
AMY GOODMAN: Fatima was actually…
JOCELYN AVELICA: My younger sister. She’s thirteen years old.
AMY GOODMAN: So she’s filming, and let’s just listen.

FATIMA: [crying]
AMY GOODMAN: So Jocelyn, what has happened to your father now? Where is he?
JOCELYN AVELICA: Right now my dad is in Adelanto, California.
AMY GOODMAN: Where?
JOCELYN AVELICA: In the detention center, from Adelanto, California.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And Emi MacLean, can you tell us a little bit about her father and his interactions back-and-forth with immigration over the past few years?
EMI MACLEAN: Yes. Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez has lived in the United States for over 25 years. He has four U.S. citizen daughters in the United States. Jocelyn is the second eldest. As she mentioned, he has a 12- and 13-year-old daughter, who were the ones who were being taken to school that day when ICE agents in two vehicles followed them to school, picking up and arresting Mr. Avelica literally right after he dropped one of the daughters to school, and as he was en route to drop the other daughter to school. ICE agents and ICE intended to deport Mr. Avelica that day, on Tuesday, when they were picked up.
They were planning—after more than 25 years in the United States, they were planning to put him on a bus to Tijuana within hours of picking him up outside of his daughter’s school. The community rallied, the school rallied, Jocelyn and her family rallied in a way that was truly extraordinary, and the community’s actions prevented his deportation that day. But as Jocelyn shared, Mr. Avelica is currently in a detention center—a private for-profit detention center in the desert, about an hour and a half outside Los Angeles. So, it was a really important victory on Tuesday, but there needs to be a lot more action and a lot more engagement from the community to push back on these egregious actions by ICE to prevent his ultimate deportation.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, how does this jibe? We’ve shown the quote of President Trump talking about that the government is deporting drug dealers, gang members, bad dudes. And here you have a situation of a father who apparently his only criminal violation is a DUI several years ago?
EMI MACLEAN: So, Mr. Avelica has two prior criminal convictions. One a DUI from about a decade ago and one a crime that we would consider a status crime—a crime essentially that is connected to someone being undocumented, where he used—misused a registration for a car, because he wasn’t able to get a driver’s license at the time, about 20 years ago. And that made him a priority, frankly, under the Obama administration, which also had egregious distinctions between so-called good and bad immigrants, and has made him a priority under the Trump administration where essentially everyone is a priority. Any distinction is not a real distinction. And part of why it has been so important to have the community rally around Romulo Avelica-Gonzalez’s case is to demonstrate that no one is disposable. That we need to contest every single case. That we need to fight back against these kinds of deportations, and this kind of rhetoric and propaganda that is coming from the mouth of the president.
AMY GOODMAN: I was at the Museum of Natural History yesterday, and I was talking to someone who was telling me about teachers. And I hear this all over now about teachers, whether they are in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, around the country, is that kids are now afraid to come to school. That undocumented families are holding their kids back, fearful that something like this will happen. That you do one arrest like this, and it sends the message that Trump wants to send around the country. Your thoughts on this, Emi?
EMI MACLEAN: Yeah, I think that’s one of the struggles with this case. It has gotten an extraordinary amount of attention, which Jocelyn can share how that has really energized her father and energized her family. The amount of people that are fighting back. In some ways, that can have the kind of deterrent effect that we know that Donald Trump wants. We know that he wants, as we heard in some of the previous stories, to make people afraid of coming to the United States. To make this country unwelcoming of immigrants. And a case like this getting the kind of attention that it’s got can have that effect, unless we use this case to fight back. Unless we refuse to be desensitized to the kind of horror and trauma that we see in the video that Fatima shot. Unless we use that as an opportunity to mobilize and to fight back and to say, “Not in our backyards, not in our cities, not in our community, not in our country.” We’re going to not be complicit in this kind of brutal immigration enforcement actions from this administration or any administration.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And Jocelyn, could you talk about the impact on your family, of your father now being in detention, taken away from you? And also, your reaction to the support you’ve gotten from the community and from advocates?
JOCELYN AVELICA: It is been amazing, the whole community, how they came together, and that’s really important. I think as a community coming together, we will win and we will have a victory in this. And my family, we are truly blessed to have all of this going on. When we feel drained, when we feel like we can’t go on, we hear my dad’s voice. And once we hear my dad’s voice, we want to do so much more. And we want this to help other families also, be able to speak out, to not stay in the shadows. Speak out, and also have a plan. And I think this is making my family so much stronger.
Although, my sisters—this has affected them in so many ways. They are in Students Run L.A., and they had a 22-mile yesterday, on Saturday. And they had to run 22 miles. And they were crying the day before to my mom saying, "I don’t want to go. I don’t want to go.” Because my dad was always the one cheering them on there. My dad was always, “We’re going to take the bikes, and we’re going to—after that, we can ride bikes.” And my—they’re going to do the LA Marathon for my dad. So the run is going to be for my dad—Release Romulo.
But I see their face every day and I know they are not the same. My sisters are not the same. But this is why we are fighting. We are fighting for our family back and we are fighting so that other families can also reach out and we’re not going to let Trump win in this. We’re going to stick together as a community, and we’re going to do anything possible to have my father back and so others can also be—so they can feel like they have the support.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we want to thank you for being with us, Jocelyn Avelica. Jocelyn, how old are you?
JOCELYN AVELICA: Nineteen years old.
AMY GOODMAN: And can you see your dad in jail now?
JOCELYN AVELICA: Right now, we haven’t gone to visit him. But we can go. But because there is a case of the chickenpox right now, so we haven’t been able to go. But as soon as that gets cleared up, we are going to go see my dad.
AMY GOODMAN: Jocelyn Avelica—
EMI MACLEAN: There’s a quarantine in the facility and they haven’t lifted it. So it has been very difficult for the family and they’re not allowed to go and visit.
AMY GOODMAN: There is a quarantine in the jail? So all the prisoners like her dad are being exposed to this?
EMI MACLEAN: We haven’t had a chance—actually, they haven’t let attorneys into the facility, either. Into the portion of the facility where there’s this quarantine. But I will say that Jocelyn and her family have been speaking to their father by phone regularly. And he, rather than being totally drained and depressed, has expressed to them how proud he is of them and how energized he is, and the community and others inside are, watching the kind of mobilization that the community has put forward to defend him, and to try to fight back against his deportation.
AMY GOODMAN:: So he’s brought into a sick facility and he’s quarantined there.
EMI MACLEAN: Yes.

Peter Lemkin
03-07-2017, 05:42 PM
Trump Plan Would Separate Immigrant Children From Their ParentsPosted on Mar 7, 2017By Jefferson Morley / AlterNet (http://www.alternet.org/trump-builds-machinery-mass-deportation)
http://www.truthdig.com/images/reportuploads/serinmigrante_590.jpg
This protester’s sign reads “Being an immigrant is not a crime!” CREDIT

While President Trump has repackaged his Muslim travel ban (http://www.alternet.org/immigration/donald-trump-rolls-out-new-muslim-travel-ban) to appease the military and the courts, his administration is expanding the use of private prison facilities to handle a massive increase in deportation and is considering a policy of separating women and children who illegally cross the border, according to news reports.
The revised travel ban has received most of the attention, but the new policies on detention will probably affect many more people.
The expansion of detention facilities, first reported by MSNBC (http://www.msnbc.com/all-in/exclusive-trump-admin-plans-expanded-immigrant-detention), would increase the government’s reliance on the private prison company Corrections Corporation of America (recently rebranded as CoreCivic). Conditions in the facilities have been criticized by immigration lawyers as inhumane.
In a town hall with Department of Homeland Security staffers last month, John Lafferty, chief of the DHS asylum division, said the agency had already located 20,000 beds for the indefinite detention of those seeking asylum, according to MSNBC.
“This would represent a nearly 500 percent increase from current capacity,” reported MSNBC’s Chris Hayes and Brian Montopoli.
The proposal to separate women from children is designed to deter mothers from migrating to the United States with their children, officials told Reuters (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-children-idUSKBN16A2ES).
“The policy shift would allow the government to keep parents in custody while they contest deportation or wait for asylum hearings. Children would be put into protective custody with the Department of Health and Human Services, in the ‘least restrictive setting’ until they can be taken into the care of a U.S. relative or state-sponsored guardian,” said the Reuters report.
A July 2016 federal court decision requires that immigrant children should be released from detention as quickly as possible, but permits continued detention of their parents. To comply with that order, the Obama administration implemented a policy of holding women and children at family detention centers for no more than 21 days before releasing them.
The Trump administration is considering changing that policy. The expanded detention facilities would accommodate the increase in mothers separated from their children.
“Bottom line: separating mothers and children is wrong,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat whose district borders Mexico. “That type of thing is where we depart from border security and get into violating human rights.”
About 54,000 children and their guardians were apprehended between Oct. 1, 2016, and Jan. 31, 2017, according to Reuters, more than double the number caught over the same time period a year earlier.

Peter Lemkin
03-07-2017, 07:25 PM
WHO/WHAT/WHY MARCH 6, 2017 | PETER DALE SCOTT (http://whowhatwhy.org/author/peter-dale-scott/)


TRUMP VS. ‘DEEP STATE?’ THAT’S HOW LIGHT GETS INhttp://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/image02-2-700x470.jpgPhoto credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Christopher Woodrich / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) (https://www.flickr.com/photos/63807998@N05/16049130079/) and Matt Popovich / Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/mattpopovich/16378383778)
The resignation of President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on February 13 was accompanied by a flood of speculation about a war between the Trump administration and the “Deep State,” meaning the intelligence agencies. In the midst of the furor, three remarkably similarly slanted stories about it appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Washington Post, all under headlines about an American “Deep State,” and all with references to perceived similarities to Turkey and Egypt.
According to a front-page story in The New York Times:
A wave of leaks from government officials has hobbled the Trump administration, leading some to draw comparisons to countries like Egypt, Turkey and Pakistan, where shadowy networks within government bureaucracies, often referred to as “deep states,” undermine and coerce elected governments.
So is the United States seeing the rise of its own deep state?
Not quite, experts say, but the echoes are real — and disturbing.
Though leaks can be a normal and healthy check on a president’s power, what’s happening now extends much further…[1] (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/06/trump-vs-deep-state-thats-light-gets/#1)
Edward Curtin sounded a more alarming note, accusing the Deep State of a “Reality-TV Coup d’etat in Prime Time”:
The day after his surprise election, the interlocking circles of power that run the show in sun and shadows — what C. Wright Mills long ago termed the Power Elite — met to overthrow him, or at least to render him more controllable. These efforts, run out of interconnected power centers, including the liberal corporate legal boardrooms that were the backers of Obama and Hillary Clinton, had no compunction in planning the overthrow of a legally elected president.[2] (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/06/trump-vs-deep-state-thats-light-gets/#2)
But there is no meeting-place that could ever accommodate the amorphous “circles” of US power (more conflicted than interlocked), and no concerted policy that could ever issue from such an imaginary meeting.
As Greg Grandin wrote in The Nation:
Much of the writing frames the question as Trump versus the Deep State, but even if we take the “deep state” as a valid concept, surely it’s not useful to think of the competing interests it represents as monolithic, as David Martin in an e-mail suggests. Big Oil and Wall Street might want deregulation and an opening to Russia. The euphemistically titled “intelligence community” wants a ramped-up war footing. High-tech wants increased trade. Trump, who presents as pure id wrapped in ambition motived by appetite, wants it all — which makes him both potentially useful and inherently unstable, simultaneously a product and target of the deep state. In 1956, C. Wright Mills wrote that “the conception of the power elite and of its unity rests upon the corresponding developments and the coincidence of interests among economic, political, and military organizations.” If nothing else, the “Trump v. Deep State” framings show that unity is long gone.[3] (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/06/trump-vs-deep-state-thats-light-gets/#3)
Following more customary usage, including studies of the phenomenon in Turkey and Egypt, Grandin does not (like The New York Times) confine the term “Deep State” to perhaps its most structural component, the intelligence agencies. As I tried to show recently, the deep state is not geographically confined to the Beltway agencies, but is everywhere, including inside the new Trump team.[4] (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/06/trump-vs-deep-state-thats-light-gets/#4)
In contrast, the Times, the Post, and the Los Angeles Times articles seek to limit the conflict to its most conspicuous feature: the recent flood of leaks about Trump, Flynn, Paul Manafort, Roger Stone (and now our new Attorney General Jeff Sessions) and Russia. And all three depict the leaks as traditional “pushback” (McManus’s term in theLos Angeles Times ) against dangerous new Trump policies, by officials who have been “forced” (according to The New York Times) “to ask how far they will go” in response to a president who “is playing to the edge of his powers.”
All three newspapers agreed moreover that the conflict weakens America, “is bad for the intelligence community, bad for the White House, and bad for the nation’s security” (The New York Times).
The Washington Post also warned
Such a disposition is simply unhealthy for a democratic system that is supposed to be based on checks and balances, deliberation and debate. It polarizes the political conversation, creating false binaries between “the people” — only, of course, those who voted for Trump — and the machinery of Washington. And, ironically, it can give would-be authoritarians license to subvert and remold that machinery into a deep state that’s more to their tastes.[5] (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/06/trump-vs-deep-state-thats-light-gets/#5)
Undoubtedly, the situation is unusually polarized, to the point that most of the recent discussion has expressed alarm. Some agree with Patrick Buchanan, attacking the forced resignation of Flynn, that “the deep state is after larger game than General Flynn. It is out to bring down President Trump and abort any move to effect the sort of rapprochement with Russia that Ronald Reagan achieved. For the deep state is deeply committed to Cold War II.”[6] (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/06/trump-vs-deep-state-thats-light-gets/#6)
On the other hand are those like Bill Kristol, who tweeted, “If it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.”[7] (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/06/trump-vs-deep-state-thats-light-gets/#7)
Many Americans see wrong on both sides, like Glenn Greenwald, who in a tweet wrote “Trump presidency is dangerous. CIA/Deep State abuse of spy powers to subvert elected Govt is dangerous. One can cogently believe both.”[8] (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/06/trump-vs-deep-state-thats-light-gets/#8) What makes them most dangerous, in my eyes, is the risk of great power confrontation, which may have increased with Trump’s plans to increase defense spending by $54 billion.
But the so-called conflict between Trump and the deep state, which the Times, L.A. Times, and Post all see as dangerous, I see as the best hope for limiting excessive power. When leaks from the FBI helped bring down Richard Nixon in the 1970s, the ultimate outcome was the post-Watergate reforms that curtailed excesses such as domestic spying by the CIA.[9] (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/06/trump-vs-deep-state-thats-light-gets/#9)
In 2003, as President George W. Bush and his Vice President Dick Cheney launched the Iraq War, neocon author Laurie Mylroie wrote a book whose title, resonant with our current situation, was Bush vs. The Beltway: How the CIA and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror.[10] (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/06/trump-vs-deep-state-thats-light-gets/#10) In it, according to her publishers, Mylroie described “how forces within the CIA and the State Department have conspired to discredit crucial intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s regime, from his links to al Qaeda to his development of chemical, biological, and nuclear weaponry [and] potential Iraq involvement in the fall 2001 anthrax attacks.” Still wilder were the charges in the book that Saddam was behind both the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City.
Today we can say with confidence that every one of these charges against Saddam (some of which were apparently fed her by neocons in the Bush administration) was false. On the other hand, she was correct in alleging that the CIA tried to discredit Bush’s and Cheney’s claims that Saddam was developing nuclear weapons.[11] (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/06/trump-vs-deep-state-thats-light-gets/#11)
We know a little bit more about both the presidency and the CIA, precisely because of this conflict between them in 2002-03. The conflict failed to prevent the Iraq War, but revelations from it eventually contributed to the war’s de-escalation when Barack Obama came to power. The lessons should be remembered today, when Flynn and others in the Trump camp have been advocating a re-escalation of the Iraq War. (Like others in Hillary Clinton’s camp.)[12] (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/06/trump-vs-deep-state-thats-light-gets/#12)
So when the Post, the Times, and the L.A. Times all in lockstep proclaim that such conflict “is bad,” I reach the opposite conclusion: conflict between competing power-hungry forces is the most proven way in Washington for checks and balances to restrain excessive power, and also to make for a more open politics. As Leonard Cohen wrote, “There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
References.
1. Amanda Taub and Max Fisher, “As Leaks Multiply, Fears of a ‘Deep State’ in America Increase,” New York Times, February 16, 2017,https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/world/americas/deep-state-leaks-trump.html. Cf. Doyle McManus, “Is the ‘deep state’ out to get Trump? We’re not there yet,” Los Angeles Times, February 19, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-mcmanus-deep-state-20170219-story.html; Ishaan Tharoor, “Is Trump fighting the ‘deep state’ or creating his own?” Washington Post, February 1, 2017,https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/02/01/is-trump-fighting-the-deep-state-or-creating-his-own/?utm_term=.0b698a2c4ba3.

2. Edward Curtin, “The Deep State Goes Shallow: A Reality-TV Coup d’etat in Prime Time,” OpEdNews 2/24/2017 at 14:03:50

3. Greg Grandin, What Is the Deep State?” Nation, February 17, 2017,https://www.thenation.com/article/what-is-the-deep-state/.

4. Peter Dale Scott, “Donald J. Trump And The Deep State,” WhoWhatWhy, February 6-7, 2017, http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/02/06/donald-j-trump-deep-state-part-1/ (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/02/07/donald-j-trump-deep-state-part-2/),http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/02/07/donald-j-trump-deep-state-part-2/.

5. Ishaan Tharoor, “Is Trump fighting the ‘deep state’ or creating his own?” Washington Post,
February 1, 2017,https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/02/01/is-trump-fighting-the-deep-state-or-creating-his-own/?utm_term=.0b698a2c4ba3.

6. Patrick Buchanan, “The Deep State Targets Trump,” RealClearPolitics, February 17, 2017,http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2017/02/17/the_deep_state_targets_trump_133119.html.

7. https://twitter.com/BillKristol/status/831497364661747712

8. https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/831850140940005377

9. See Kathryn S. Olmsted, Challenging the Secret Government: The Post-Watergate Investigations of the CIA and FBI (Durham, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).

10. Laurie Mylroie, Bush vs. The Beltway: How the CIA and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror (QQ: Regan Books, 2003).

11. Jason Leopold, “The CIA Just Declassified the Document That Supposedly Justified the Iraq Invasion,” Vice News, March 19, 2015, https://news.vice.com/article/the-cia-just-declassified-the-document-that-supposedly-justified-the-iraq-invasion:
“Thirteen years ago, the intelligence community concluded in a 93-page classified document used to justify the invasion of Iraq that it lacked ‘specific information’ on ‘many key aspects’ of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs.
But that’s not what top Bush administration officials said during their campaign to sell the war to the American public. Those officials, citing the same classified document, asserted with no uncertainty that Iraq was actively pursuing nuclear weapons, concealing a vast chemical and biological weapons arsenal, and posing an immediate and grave threat to US national security.
Congress eventually concluded that the Bush administration had ‘overstated’ its dire warnings about the Iraqi threat, and that the administration’s claims about Iraq’s WMD program were ‘not supported by the underlying intelligence reporting.’ But that underlying intelligence reporting — contained in the so-called National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that was used to justify the invasion — has remained shrouded in mystery until now.”

12. Whether Flynn in the White House was an advocate of military aggressiveness or of restraint is a complex issue still being debated. See Dana Priest, “The Disruptive Career of Michael Flynn, Trump’s National-Security Adviser, New Yorker, November 23, 2016,http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-disruptive-career-of-trumps-national-security-adviser.

Peter Lemkin
03-07-2017, 07:35 PM
President Trump and fellow Republicans have repeatedly promised to repeal and replace Obamacare, but their efforts have faced internal divisions as well as sustained outcry from constituents at town hall meetings across the country.

For more on the future of healthcare, we go to Boston, where we’re joined by John McDonough, professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. He is the former executive director of Health Care for All in Massachusetts, which played a key role in the passage of the 2006 Massachusetts health reform bill, which was known as Romneycare. He later became a top aide to the late Senator Ted Kennedy and worked on the development and passage of the Affordable Care Act. He’s also author of the book Inside National Health Reform.
Professor John McDonough, welcome to Democracy Now! Your assessment of what has been released so far?
JOHN McDONOUGH: What we see so far is not a surprise, and it’s been revealed in bits and pieces along the way. The Republican plan represents a massive tax cut to benefit wealthy households and powerful corporations in America. And in exchange, a significant number of millions of Americans, lower-income and lower-middle-income, are going to lose their health insurance coverage to make up for the lost revenue from these tax cuts.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, in what way do you say it’s a tax cut for the wealthy?
JOHN McDONOUGH: So, the Affordable Care Act is significantly financed—and most people don’t know this—by a major tax increase on wealthy households, both on earned income and on unearned income. And it has been a major target, although they don’t talk about it a lot, of Republicans to repeal these tax cuts. And just to give you some perspective on this, the bill that the Republicans put out would repeal these taxes. The 400 wealthiest households in America, because of this tax cut, will see annual tax cuts of $7 million per household. The 160 million households with incomes below $200,000 will get zero from this, except some 10 [million] to 20 million will lose health insurance coverage because of this law.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, another feature of the proposal appears to be dealing, clearly, with Medicaid and turning the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare for a greater number of low-income individuals into block grants that then would be capped. So, in essence, the states would, at one point or another, then face a cap on federal aid under Medicaid.
JOHN McDONOUGH: Yes, absolutely. And the Republican agenda is to try and shrink the federal obligation to low-income coverage through Medicaid as much as they can. This has been a tough balancing act for them, because 31 states expanded Medicaid to about 10 million low-income Americans, 10 [million] to 11 million. And there’s been a real struggle, because about half of those states are now represented by Republican governors, who do not want to see the dramatic losses in coverage that the Republicans would like to achieve if they were able to do what their instincts were leading them to do. So, there’s tension in the party. The conservatives want to see a much more drastic cut to Medicaid. The more moderate or less conservative Republicans from states that expanded are unwilling to see a wholesale throwing off of hundreds of thousands or millions of people from coverage. And so, the speaker, Ryan, and his team are really trying to walk a tightrope between those two sides. But either way, we’re looking, over years, in the significant reduction in the number of Americans covered through Medicaid.
By the way, we don’t have precise numbers on this, because the Republicans are pushing this forward before the Congressional Budget Office has put out a score, both in terms of cost and coverage losses. So, we are a little bit—we’ll probably learn within the next week to two weeks of what these numbers are, but right now we’re just doing our best estimating. But the trend is clear: fewer vulnerable Americans with health insurance and bigger tax cuts for wealthy Americans and for powerful companies.
AMY GOODMAN: Professor McDonough, can you explain age rating and what this means?
JOHN McDONOUGH: So, the Affordable Care Act created tax credits—they’re often referred to as subsidies—to enable people, sort of lower-middle-income people above Medicaid eligibility, to be able to get health insurance coverage. Republicans are also proposing tax credits for Americans who can’t get coverage elsewhere. The big difference is, the ACA has income—has tax credits that are income-adjusted, so the lower your income, the more generous the tax credit. And as you go up the income ladder, it scales out, and at four times the poverty level, you get no more support from those tax credits. Republicans are saying, "Let’s just create a flat tax credit, and it varies only by your age, whether you’re in your twenties, in which you get a $2,000 credit, up to your sixties, where you would get a $4,000 credit." In all of those cases, the support that you would get would be significantly less than what you would obtain under the ACA income tax credits for the people who need it the most, which is the people with less income. So, the new tax credits are a little bit like giving a six-foot ladder for someone to get out of a 20-foot hole. Most of the people who are getting coverage right now through the ACA will not be able to afford to buy coverage with the Republican-envisioned tax credits that no longer take account of your income, only your age.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about another section of the proposal called the continuous coverage provision.
JOHN McDONOUGH: Yes.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Apparently, this is a replacement for—to some degree, for the mandate. But under the old mandate, people would have to pay a fine, if they didn’t have insurance, to the government. What happens now under this continuous coverage provision?
JOHN McDONOUGH: You’re right. So, the so-called individual mandate in the ACA is by and far the least popular part, although it is essential for guaranteed issue and eliminating pre-existing conditions. But the current ACA mandate basically is a—it’s not a mandate. You don’t have to buy coverage; however, if you don’t buy coverage and you’re able to afford it, then you face a tax penalty, when you pay your taxes, of up to $695 for a full year without coverage or a percent of your income.
The Republican plan gets rid of that. It reduces all those penalties to zero. And it puts in place a different kind of a penalty. And the penalty says that if in the prior year, in the prior 12 months, you had a gap in health insurance coverage of more than 63 days, then when you go back to buy health insurance, you will pay a premium on top of your premium that will represent 30 percent more. So let’s say that I want to—I had a gap in coverage, and I want to buy health insurance in the following year, and I want to buy an individual policy that costs me, let’s say, $7,500 in a premium. So I would pay on top of that a penalty of an additional $2,200.
So the maximum penalty under the ACA is $695. But you’re looking at a penalty here right now, to replace the individual mandate, that is significantly more punitive and more difficult and will in fact keep many Americans from being able to get back and buy health insurance once they’ve had coverage. And there’s no hardship exemption. There is nothing. This is on everybody, if you had a gap in coverage of more than 63 days. So it will be a real impediment from people who say, "OK, I’m ready now. I’m able to afford it, and I want to buy health insurance coverage." It’s not making it easier for people to get coverage; it’s making it harder.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And there’s also a difference, isn’t there, in that the penalty under the Affordable Care Act went to the government to supposedly—
JOHN McDONOUGH: That’s right.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —help defray the costs of the overall plan? But this additional premium would go to the insurance companies, not to the government—
JOHN McDONOUGH: Absolutely.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: —to basically help their bottom line, right?
JOHN McDONOUGH: Enough said.
AMY GOODMAN: And what about—what about reproductive rights, Professor McDonough?
JOHN McDONOUGH: Yeah, so, in addition, the bill that’s being promoted by the Republican leadership will eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood very quickly, all funding for all services. There is no federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood for abortion, but this would eliminate all funding for any service to this one organization called Planned Parenthood, which is a significant political risk for them, because already there are at least two Republican senators, Susan Collins from Maine and Lisa Murkowski from Alaska, who have said they will not vote for a bill that eliminates funding for Planned Parenthood. And Republicans can only lose three votes in the Senate. They got a letter the other day from four senators saying that the House treatment of Medicaid is unacceptable, and they could not support that bill. So, it’s uncertain in the House politically, and it’s highly uncertain what’s going to happen to this plan over in the Senate.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about some of the more bizarre provisions of this bill. I understand it’s a 66-page bill, which the Republicans are actually touting, compared to the hundreds of pages of the original Affordable Care Act. But seven pages, or more than 10 percent, of the bill are dedicated to excluding lottery winners from the health—from the insurance? Can you explain that?
JOHN McDONOUGH: So, I—that’s one of those little curious tales that journalists will ferret out in the next couple of days. I am honestly not sure where that came from, except that, clearly, they had some advocacy from some lottery winners around this, and so there is an exclusion of lottery winners in terms of when they can get Medicaid and when they can’t. And it is bizarre to focus that much on it. But I’m sure there’s a tale behind that in terms of how that got in there.
AMY GOODMAN: In seeing people fan out to talk about this, the watchword, the buzzword, is "accessibility": People will have access to healthcare. But that’s not the same as people will be able to afford healthcare. So, overall, what is the takeaway you have right now? I mean, it was just released yesterday. As you said—and this is not a minor point—it hasn’t even been scored. What did it take—two years?—for you guys to figure out how much this was going to cost? Could it cost actually more, overall, for the country?
JOHN McDONOUGH: Well, it could. But I think that there are other parts of the ACA that remain untouched that have significant economic consequences. So, a big piece of the financing of the ACA represented substantial reductions in the Medicare program to healthcare providers—to hospitals, to home health agencies, to insurance companies in the Medicare Advantage program. And so, a significant—it’s about half the cost of the law was through reductions in Medicare payments. And for the most part, particularly from the hospitals—hospitals are giving up about $350 billion in revenue that they would otherwise collect, because they wanted to make a serious, real contribution to getting most of America to have health insurance. The hospital industry is now deeply alarmed and is ringing a lot of alarms, saying, "Hey, we gave up an enormous amount of money, $350 billion over 10 years, in order to get America covered with health insurance." And they are saying, "Listen, if you want to take away that coverage, then we want our money back." But Republicans are not planning on giving that money back, so they are going to be taking away the coverage, and they’re going to be leaving the cuts in place for hospitals, who are going to be on the front line of dealing with the millions of Americans who will be newly uninsured because of this law.
So, because they leave that money in place, it will not be challenging for this bill to in fact be—will be fiscally neutral and will not add to the deficit. I don’t anticipate that, because they’re leaving that whole other part of the law. So, they’re repealing each and every tax increase in the ACA, including things that you just wonder what was on their mind. There’s a tax on indoor tanning salons, which is a significant cause of skin cancer and melanoma and other serious skin cancers. But they leave in place all of the reductions to the medical providers who are on the sharp end of care. So, I wouldn’t expect this to be a deficit increaser. But, of course, we’ll see when the Congressional Budget Office score comes out in the next couple of weeks.

Peter Lemkin
03-09-2017, 04:55 AM
March 8, 2017 | Celia Wexler (http://whowhatwhy.org/author/celia-wexler/) Who.What.Why.


Daggers Drawn: Conservatives Plot Ways to Throttle Agency Power Critics of ‘Administrative State’ Aim to Slash Rules – Now and Forever http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/2-4-700x470.jpg Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Puck / Library of Congress (http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2012648718/)
Last Thursday, towards the end of The Time for Regulatory Reform in Congress, a four-hour conference (http://www.cvent.com/events/the-time-for-regulatory-reform-in-congress/event-summary-33dbadd0edae47eb8905e4369a02a648.aspx) on Capitol Hill, Chuck Gordon, a retired federal lawyer, raised his hand to ask a question.
“Agencies have made the air cleaner,’” and ensured that “workers are protected from asbestos,” he said. “Why do people here hate agencies?”
Gordon’s query was understandable. Most panelists expressed a distaste for agencies that was palpable. The conference was co-sponsored by the administrative law section of the American Bar Association, but the driving force behind the event appeared to be its partner, the Center for the Study of the Administrative State, a program of the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University. “It is fitting that an institution bearing the name of Antonin Scalia would sponsor this event,” keynote speaker Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) told conferees.
Lee railed against “executive branch bureaucrats who work in Soviet-style structures,” who go unnoticed by the public. But agencies’ “reputation for irrelevance” has never been deserved, he added, charging that the “administrative state is revolting” against the Trump White House.
Lee accused national intelligence leakers (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/15/us/politics/trump-condemns-leaks-to-news-media-in-a-twitter-flurry.html) of using their power to “go after” Michael Flynn, who resigned as national security adviser after media accounts of his meetings with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office. While not commenting on the merits of Flynn’s actions, Lee said he found the leakers’ actions reprehensible “behavior for a banana republic.”
Another sign of agency resistance, he said, was the effort of Environmental Protection Agency (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/us/politics/scott-pruitt-environmental-protection-agency.html)(EPA) (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/us/politics/scott-pruitt-environmental-protection-agency.html)staffers (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/us/politics/scott-pruitt-environmental-protection-agency.html) and their union to “pressure” the Senate to reject Scott Pruitt as EPA head.
Agencies, Lee insisted, “are operating almost as a fourth branch” of government, ignoring the US Constitution’s delegation of “all legislative powers” to Congress.
Lee’s speech confirmed the event’s main message: Congress had given away far too much power to federal agencies, and it was time to roll that power back. Panelists suggested a number of legislative and policy options to do just that.
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/3-3-1024x682.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/3-3.jpg)Utah Senator Mike Lee thinks agencies have too much power.
Photo credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0) (https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/16458730807/)

Todd Gaziano, the executive director of the conservative Pacific Legal Foundation (https://www.pacificlegal.org/), proposed that the Trump White House work with Congress to nullify regulations and policy positions that go far back in time. He said that the current law, the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which he helped draft as a congressional staffer, could be a far more powerful cudgel.
The CRA, passed in 1996, permits Congress to overrule economically significant regulations during a brief time period — 60 legislative days — after they have been finalized. To block a regulation, the president must also consent, meaning that the CRA is only effective when the political stars align, as they did in 2016: A Democratic president was replaced by a Republican president, and Republicans retained control of the House and the Senate.
The regulations targeted by the CRA are often termed “midnight regulations” — implying they were issued in the waning hours of a presidential administration — although many of them were actually years in the making. The law allows Congress (http://sensiblesafeguards.org/wp-content/uploads/CSS-Congressional-Review-Act-Fact-Sheet.pdf) to block these rules through a process that requires only 51 votes to pass in the Senate. Not only does the CRA kill rules, it states that a rule that is “substantially the same” as the rule that was killed can never be proposed again, unless Congress passes another law allowing it.
Until President Donald Trump was elected, Congress had overturned just one regulation under the CRA, a rule to address workplace injuries like carpal tunnel finalized by the Clinton White House shortly before George W. Bush was elected. The Department of Labor never tried to propose a similar rule again.
To date, Trump has axed two Obama rules, with several more on Congress’s plate. Matthew Owen, a senior aide to Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), predicted that Congress may use the CRA to kill “10-15” rules.. If that prediction comes to pass “we will have increased the use of CRA by a thousand or fifteen hundred percent,” Owens said with enthusiasm. (Owen also noted that he was speaking for himself and not Portman, but Portman has a long history of wanting to curb agencies.)
Owen described one of the recently killed rules as dealing with “gun rights and veterans.” The rule would have added (http://link.washingtonpost.com/view/54933bd23b35d0f8588bd90a5do6m.a576/58a1a9c9) 75,000 people receiving Social Security disability benefits because of mental illness or other incapacity to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s background check database for firearms. The other rule (http://www.vox.com/2017/2/2/14488448/stream-protection-rule) that Congress blocked would have barred coal companies from dumping toxic waste in streams.
But why kill just midnight rules? Gaziano contended that the CRA could be used (https://www.redtaperollback.com/a-new-idea/) to go after much older rules that fell through the cracks. The CRA requires agencies to send a report on their rules, and the rule’s costs and benefits, to both houses of Congress and to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) before the 60-day clock for congressional review starts ticking.
“Twenty-one years later, since the CRA was passed, studies show that hundreds of rules were never delivered to Congress and the GAO,” Gaziano claimed. There is a backlog of scores of rules that agencies could send to Congress and lawmakers could eliminate, he contended.
The beauty of “CRA 2.0,” Gaziano said, is that once Congress kills a rule, it cannot be resurrected in the future. Conservative media and groups have hailed the concept (https://cei.org/blog/congressional-review-act-game-changer-steps-spotlight) as a “regulatory game changer.”
The panelists also discussed many other legislative proposals that had kicked around for years, but now have new life with Republicans firmly in control. “The administrative state is in the crosshairs,” exulted Naomi Rao, the director of the Center for Study of the Administrative State, suggesting that the time for massive deregulation “has really come.”
Many panelists endorsed Portman’s Regulatory Accountability Act, which would add many more requirements for agencies to make rules, giving corporations more opportunities to block them. Christopher Walker, a law professor at Ohio State University, declared himself a “big fan” of the bill. He predicted it would allow “regulated entities to have a bigger role” in conceptualizing a rule before an “agency dives in.”
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/4-1-1024x682.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/4-1.jpg)Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Pixabay / Wikimedia (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Horror-silhouette-of-man-with-knife.jpg) and Drew Geraets / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) (https://www.flickr.com/photos/drewgeraets/3289368490)

One skeptic was George Washington University law professor Richard Pierce, who has written more than 20 books on administrative law and related issues. He found all the proposals discussed “ill advised” and based “on a misunderstanding of agency rulemaking.” The way agencies currently develop regulations is “not loosey-goosey,” Pierce said, and agencies now struggle to comply with burdensome rulemaking requirements. He cited a recent study that showed that the average EPA rule takes more than six years to implement.
Pierce also contended that agencies have issued rules whose public benefits far outweigh the costs of compliance. Pierce referred to a recent report by the White House Office of Management and Budget that reviewed 10 years of major agency rules and found that the benefits were seven to eight times greater than their costs.
But Pierce’s critique was largely ignored as panelists extolled yet another proposal: the Regulations from the Executive In Need of Scrutiny (REINS) (https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/26) Act. Members of Congress routinely expect agencies to write the rules to implement their broad legislative mandates. But REINS would put Congress in the driver’s seat. Any rule that cost at least $100 million annually or had other big impacts could not take effect until both the House and Senate approved, and the president gave his consent. REINS imposes a tight timeline on Congress — 70 legislative days. If Congress fails to act, the rule dies and stays dead for the duration of that Congress.
In the past, many lawmakers had believed that REINS was not workable, largely because Congress lacks both the expertise and the time for floor action. Even Senate staffer Owen predicted it would tie up the Senate.
But other panelists — feeling a conservative wind at their backs — were more enthused. Jonathan Adler, director of the Center for Business Law and Regulation at Case Western Reserve University, argued that REINS would ensure that agencies paid attention to the current Congress, not to the laws that an earlier Congress had actually passed.
The last time Congress modified the Clean Air Act was 1990, he said. But Adler questioned whether current lawmakers “agree with the view of that Congress 27 years ago.” Adler contended that the current Congress has no reason to honor the wishes of past elected officials when they strengthened the Clean Air Act. A current Congress, he argued, should treat agency regulations based on the Clean Air Act as “proposals” and nothing more.
For example, Adler said, Congress can tell an agency that “we’d like a proposal” about how to address air pollution in 2017, and then Congress will vote that proposal up or down.
Lee concluded the conference by insisting that lawmakers “like to pass platitudes,” about things like clean air and water, but then can blame federal agencies when their constituents complain about the rules. The administrative state, Lee said, fails “to put people in charge of their government,” leading to “a deep and bipartisan distrust.” With the cooperation of a Trump White House, Lee said, Congress “can regain that trust.”
But lawyer Amit Narang, a regulatory policy advocate for the progressive public interest group, Public Citizen (http://www.citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=183), found that message “deeply ironic.”
Congress already is actively rolling back regulations through the CRA, Narang observed. “Congress can pass a law to repeal any regulation,” he added. “Congress can also go after popular laws like the Clean Air Act.” The reason Congress doesn’t weaken the Clean Air Act or Clean Water Act or the Occupational Safety and Health Act is because lawmakers know “they would face public opposition,” Narang charged.
All these proposals under discussion, Narang contended, “would be damaging and harmful. Their practical impact would be extreme: blocking public protections wholesale.”

Peter Lemkin
03-09-2017, 03:56 PM
There are just under 1000 US troops in Syria now and another 1000 staging in the UAE nearby. It looks like soon we'll have massive troop involvement there [as soon as a real or false-flag event causes a lot of US troop deaths]. No real objective has been stated, it is illegal by US and international law, and even who's side(s) they are aligned with and who against are not clear. Another insanity is building and many [mostly civilians] will die. I see no difference in foreign policy and general belligerency between Trump and others prior apart from fine nuances not worthy of mention.

I took note of the idea that Flynn was 'removed' because of this open threat to Iran [which others in the Military and intelligence communities felt - rightly - was suicidal and unnecessary]. So, some of the targets of warfare are different, but most seem the same and I think some new ones are just on the horizon [Korea, China, others].

Meanwhile the Trumpf administration doesn't even speak about genocide in S. Sudan, starvation in Yemen and many other crises - they don't give a shit about human suffering - domestic and even less foreign. At least in the past lip service and eventually some aide was offered by the US...now I think there will be zero. The part of the World not wanted for US Corporate conquest is on its own now.

Lauren Johnson
03-09-2017, 04:09 PM
There are just under 1000 US troops in Syria now and another 1000 staging in the UAE nearby. It looks like soon we'll have massive troop involvement there [as soon as a real or false-flag event causes a lot of US troop deaths]. No real objective has been stated, it is illegal by US and international law, and even who's side(s) they are aligned with and who against are not clear. Another insanity is building and many [mostly civilians] will die. I see no difference in foreign policy and general belligerency between Trump and others prior apart from fine nuances not worthy of mention.

I took note of the idea that Flynn was 'removed' because of this open threat to Iran [which others in the Military and intelligence communities felt - rightly - was suicidal and unnecessary]. So, some of the targets of warfare are different, but most seem the same and I think some new ones are just on the horizon [Korea, China, others].

Meanwhile the Trumpf administration doesn't even speak about genocide in S. Sudan, starvation in Yemen and many other crises - they don't give a shit about human suffering - domestic and even less foreign. At least in the past lip service and eventually some aide was offered by the US...now I think there will be zero. The part of the World not wanted for US Corporate conquest is on its own now.

I think this has been in the works through the Obama admin. I think the Russians who basically own Syria have cut some kind of deal with the US. It will end up in partition of Syria. ISIS is over and done with, until they are reborn closer or in Russia and China. imo.

Cliff Varnell
03-09-2017, 04:59 PM
There are just under 1000 US troops in Syria now and another 1000 staging in the UAE nearby. It looks like soon we'll have massive troop involvement there [as soon as a real or false-flag event causes a lot of US troop deaths]. No real objective has been stated, it is illegal by US and international law, and even who's side(s) they are aligned with and who against are not clear. Another insanity is building and many [mostly civilians] will die. I see no difference in foreign policy and general belligerency between Trump and others prior apart from fine nuances not worthy of mention.

I took note of the idea that Flynn was 'removed' because of this open threat to Iran [which others in the Military and intelligence communities felt - rightly - was suicidal and unnecessary]. So, some of the targets of warfare are different, but most seem the same and I think some new ones are just on the horizon [Korea, China, others].

Meanwhile the Trumpf administration doesn't even speak about genocide in S. Sudan, starvation in Yemen and many other crises - they don't give a shit about human suffering - domestic and even less foreign. At least in the past lip service and eventually some aide was offered by the US...now I think there will be zero. The part of the World not wanted for US Corporate conquest is on its own now.

Il Douchebag Trump does care about human suffering -- he gets great satisfaction inflicting it.

"You're fired!" was his reality TV catch-phrase.

He especially enjoys sticking it to his own voters. He wasn't in the White House more than a few minutes before he rescinded a $500 a year tax cut for lower income home-buyers, hundreds of thousands of whom were his voters.

He rescinded regulations requiring professional financial advisers to put the interests of the client first, thus allowing predatory hucksters to prey on the elderly, another key Trump voting bloc.

The Trumpcare proposals will royally screw lower income, older Americans.

Trump loves to cause human suffering -- hence the proposal to separate children from their parents who get caught entering the USA illegally.

His Injustice Department wants to line up private prisons for the anticipated influx of prisoners from a new war on drugs.

We're in for a wave of unprecedented scum-baggery.

Peter Lemkin
03-09-2017, 06:01 PM
Resolution in Support of Congressional Investigation regarding
Impeachment of President Donald J. Trump


WHEREAS, the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution
provides that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United
States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present,
Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign
State,” thereby prohibiting conflicts of interest that could influence the conduct of
the foreign affairs of the United States,


WHEREAS, the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution
provides that, besides the fixed salary for his four-year term, the President “shall
not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any
of them,” thereby prohibiting conflicts of interest that could influence the conduct of
the domestic affairs of the United States,


WHEREAS, the term “emoluments” includes a broad range of financial benefits,
including but not limited to monetary payments, purchase of goods and services
even for fair market value, subsidies, tax breaks, extensions of credit, and favorable
regulatory treatment,


WHEREAS, Donald J. Trump, the President of the United States, owns various
business interests and receives various streams of income from all over the world,
WHEREAS, many of these businesses receive, and streams of income include,
emoluments from foreign governments, states of the United States, or the United
States itself,


WHEREAS, leading constitutional scholars and government ethics experts warned
Donald J. Trump shortly after the November 2016 election that, unless he fully
divested his businesses and invested the money in conflict-free assets or a blind
trust, he would violate the Constitution from the moment he took office,


WHEREAS, on January 11, 2017, nine days before his inauguration, Donald J.
Trump announced a plan that would, if carried out, remove him from day-to-day
operations of his businesses, but not eliminate any of the ongoing flow of
emoluments from foreign governments, state governments, or the United States
government,


WHEREAS, on January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump took the oath of office and
became President of the United States,


WHEREAS, from the moment he took office, President Trump was in violation of
the Foreign Emoluments Clause and the Domestic Emoluments Clause of the
United States Constitution,


WHEREAS, these violations undermine the integrity of the Presidency, corruptly
advance the personal wealth of the President, and violate the public trust,


WHEREAS, our democracy is premised on the bedrock principle that no one is
above the law, not even the President of the United States,


NOW, THEREFORE, THE [CITY/TOWN] RESOLVES to call upon the United
States House of Representatives to support a resolution authorizing and directing
the House Committee on the Judiciary to investigate whether sufficient grounds
exist for the impeachment of Donald J. Trump, President of the United States,
including but not limited to the violations listed herein; and,


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that copies of this resolution be transmitted
officially to the Member[s] of the United States House of Representatives that
represent[s] the city, namely, the Honorable _____________________; and,


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that copies of this resolution be transmitted
officially to certain other cities and communities in this state, namely, ___________.
Approved and enacted this day: _________

Peter Lemkin
03-10-2017, 08:11 AM
If one has followed Greg Palast and other's work on how the RNC has regularly rigged elections by a number of means: illegal suppression of minority and poor voters from voting; literally owning the companies who make the electronic voting machines; ways to electronically fake the vote count; gerrymandering districts to help elect conservatives; other.....so the EAC [nor FEC] was never doing much of a good job [understatement!], but to remove it as Trumpf supporter now plans is really to have elections like they do in small third-World countries ruled by despots. 'We won because we say we won....and we can prove it with the certified fake results here.' N.B. the DNC has also played fast and loose with elections, but on this the RNC is leaps and bounds ahead. There is a non-democratic future looming for the US....not that we've had much democracy before, but what little we had is going under Trumpf to zero - and fast.


Who.What.Why. March 9, 2017 | Mary McGowan (http://whowhatwhy.org/author/mary-mcgowan/)


Who Will Guard Election Integrity If GOP Takes Down the EAC?

http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/2-5-700x470.jpg Photo credit: Reinhard Jahn / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0) (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Explorer-sinking-2.jpg)
With the outrage of progressives largely focused on big-ticket items — such as the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the gutting of the Environmental Protection Agency and GOP attempts to reduce funding for public schools — other equally alarming proposals have slipped under the radar. A case in point: the proposed elimination of the federal agency tasked with ensuring a secure and smooth election process.
A House committee vote last month caused a momentary outcry, but it was short-lived as other issues quickly seized the headlines. Unlike many things on the GOP wishlist, however, shutting down the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) might actually happen.
“It is my firm belief that the EAC has outlived its usefulness and purpose,” said (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/2/7/1631189/-Election-Assistance-Commission-EAC-Elimination-Bill-Passes-House-Committee)Rep. Gregg Harper (R-MS) (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/2/7/1631189/-Election-Assistance-Commission-EAC-Elimination-Bill-Passes-House-Committee), chairman of the Committee on House Administration, who is the driving force behind this effort.
A Democratic congressional aide, who asked not to be named, strongly rejected that claim.
“If Mr. Harper spent more time talking to election officials, he would find that it hasn’t outlived it’s usefulness,” the aide told WhoWhatWhy.
The Democratic staffer argued that the EAC, which was created following the 2000 presidential election fiasco as part of the Help America Vote Act of 2002 (HAVA), benefits precisely the people who need it — voters and election officials.
“[Among] these two groups the EAC enjoys tremendous support,” the aide said. “Why do they want to get rid of it? I don’t know. It goes against the wishes of everyone it serves.”
These sentiments were echoed by Commissioner Thomas Hicks, the current vice chair of the EAC.
“In the days leading up to the mark-up of this legislation and in the days since, we’ve received notes from election officials and voters across the nation thanking us for our work and validating the important role we play,” Hicks told WhoWhatWhy in an email.
“We’ve also received widespread, bipartisan support from advocacy groups within the beltway and beyond. Anyone with questions about our value should speak directly with the election officials and voters we serve.”
Harper’s claim that the agency charged with helping states run secure elections is obsolete seems at odds with President Donald Trump’s assertion that millions of votes have been cast illegally and his contention that the 2016 election was in danger of being rigged.
Other Republicans also point to claims of voter fraud as they pass increasingly draconian Voter ID laws at the state level.
Democrats, on the other hand, have expressed their own concerns about Russia interfering in the election process.
For these reasons alone, it would be a sign of “ignorance” to vote to eliminate the agency, the Democratic aide told WhoWhatWhy.
“The EAC is the only federal agency that’s charged with making sure our elections are fair and transparent and secure…,” the staffer said.
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/3-4-1024x682.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/3-4.jpg)Rep. Gregg Harper, R-MS
Photo credit: Mississippi State University / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) (https://www.flickr.com/photos/msstatelibraries/8166928088/)

Forty-seven states currently rely on the EAC to assist them with some aspect of conducting elections.
Hicks, the agency’s vice chair, noted that state and local election officials nowadays “face immense pressures and tight budgets” and pointed to “national concerns about aging voting systems, cyber-threats, [and] election irregularities.”
By eliminating the agency — which develops voting-machine standards, helps test and certify these machines, shares best practices and conducts research — states would be forced to fend for themselves. This would leave them at a distinct disadvantage, especially as it relates to potential attempts of foreign powers to hack the vote.
“You’re asking a state to go toe-to-toe with a nation,” the Democratic aide told WhoWhatWhy.
Harper’s solution is to get rid of the EAC and let the Federal Election Commission (FEC) handle the agency’s responsibilities in the future.
Election integrity experts say that won’t work.
“No other federal agency has the capacity, willingness, or expertise to absorb its responsibilities and these responsibilities can only be effectively or efficiently performed at the national level,” Getachew Kassa, the manager of the NAACP Voting Rights Initiative, told WhoWhatWhy.
This isn’t the first time that Harper has attempted to dismantle the EAC. The GOP lawmaker has introduced the measure each Congress since 2011 — something most news articles on the party-line vote in Harper’s committee failed to mention.
The difference is that there is no Democrat in the White House who can veto the legislation if it were to pass Congress.
The key question is who would actually benefit from the elimination of an agency tasked with safeguarding the integrity of elections. There is one obvious answer: Anyone not interested in a secure vote.

Peter Lemkin
03-11-2017, 08:26 AM
THE CIA VS. DONALD TRUMPCIA Whistleblower: Agency has Neither Oversight nor Consciencehttp://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/1-3-700x470.jpgJohn Kiriakou, author of Doing Time Like a Spy. Photo credit: Rare Bird Books, A Vireo Book and Slowking4 / Wikimedia (CC BY-NC 3.0) (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_kiriakou_6889.JPG)
John Kiriakou spent 15 years working his way up the chain of command at the CIA. He speaks multiple languages, including Greek and Arabic, and was an analyst, case officer and, after 9/11, the director of counter-terrorism in Pakistan. He left the CIA in 2004.
Several years later, in an interview with ABC News, he was the first to fully expose the CIA’s complicity in torture, such as waterboarding and other forms of “enhanced interrogation.”
Kiriakou was ultimately charged with disclosing classified information to journalists, and served 23 months in federal prison.
In this week’s WhoWhatWhy interview, Kiriakou talks about a CIA that has grown ever larger following 9/11. Unchecked by oversight or budgetary constraints, it has, in his experience, metastasized from an analytical organization to a global paramilitary force with its own policy agenda.
He thinks that President Donald Trump makes a big mistake in underestimating the power and reach of the agency. He believes it was responsible for getting rid of Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and that there is more to come about the so-called “Trump dossier” of incriminating material compiled by the Russians.
John Kiriakou is the author of the upcoming Doing Time Like A Spy: How the CIA Taught Me to Survive and Thrive in Prison (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1945572418/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=who0ee-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1945572418&linkId=202a9d4d1a4fe1e312c4f151e630e76c) (Rare Bird Books, May 16, 2017); The Convenient Terrorist: Abu Zubaydah and the Weird Wonderland of America’s Secret Wars (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1510711627/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=who0ee-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1510711627&linkId=70e869084b8ae6e3240e22c42214b686) (with Joseph Hickman) (Hot Books, April 25, 2017); and The Reluctant Spy: My Secret Life in the CIA’s War on Terror (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1616086289/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=who0ee-20&camp=1789&creative=9325&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1616086289&linkId=3e772014096b541cccc2d35729e53775) (with Michael Ruby) (Skyhorse Publishing, February 27, 2010).

Radio player with Kiriakou interview here: http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/10/cia-vs-donald-trump/

Peter Lemkin
03-12-2017, 12:26 PM
Man climbs over White House fence with backpack. He was stopped somewhere inside and arrested. His backpack contained nothing harmful and perhaps most bizarre he claimed to be a friend of Trump's and that he 'had an appointment with Trump'. Strangely, details are coming very slowly about who this person is and whether or not he knew Trump and had 'an appointment'. If he did, he certainly doesn't like using the front door. ::clown::

Fred Steeves
03-12-2017, 03:22 PM
Man climbs over White House fence with backpack. He was stopped somewhere inside and arrested. His backpack contained nothing harmful and perhaps most bizarre he claimed to be a friend of Trump's and that he 'had an appointment with Trump'. Strangely, details are coming very slowly about who this person is and whether or not he knew Trump and had 'an appointment'. If he did, he certainly doesn't like using the front door. ::clown::

What I find interesting is how easily the average mentally unbalanced person can get to a door, with one even finding a door unlocked and getting inside. Remember that?

Now let's suppose say, 20 ex Navy SEAL members were to devise a plan to scale that fence all at once in the middle of the night. I'll bet they could not only get in, but take any given President hostage to boot.

Sorry to go off topic, but it seemed a good place to slip that in.

Peter Lemkin
03-13-2017, 06:49 AM
The Dance of DeathPosted on Mar 12, 2017By Chris Hedges (http://www.truthdig.com/chris_hedges/)
http://www.truthdig.com/images/eartothegrounduploads/Final_Sale_590.jpg

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminant and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.
The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus. The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population. The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.
The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war. President Trump’s decision to increase military spending (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/02/us/politics/trump-navy-warship-military-spending.html?_r=0) by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.
The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/477.The_Collapse_of_Complex_Societies),” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”
Civilizations in decline, despite the palpable signs of decay around them, remain fixated on restoring their “greatness.” Their illusions condemn them. They cannot see that the forces that gave rise to modern civilization, namely technology, industrial violence and fossil fuels, are the same forces that are extinguishing it. Their leaders are trained only to serve the system, slavishly worshipping the old gods long after these gods begin to demand millions of sacrificial victims.
“Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create even more dangerous messes,” Ronald Wright writes in “A Short History of Progress (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/331227.A_Short_History_of_Progress).” “Hope elects the politician with the biggest empty promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller knows, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism.”
The Trump appointees—Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Rick Perry, Alex Acosta and others—do not advocate innovation or reform. They are Pavlovian dogs that salivate before piles of money. They are hard-wired to steal from the poor and loot federal budgets. Their single-minded obsession with personal enrichment drives them to dismantle any institution or abolish any law or regulation that gets in the way of their greed. Capitalism, Karl Marx wrote, is “a machine for demolishing limits.” There is no internal sense of proportion or scale. Once all external impediments are lifted, global capitalism ruthlessly commodifies human beings and the natural world to extract profit until exhaustion or collapse. And when the last moments of a civilization arrive, the degenerate edifices of power appear to crumble overnight.
Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence. It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civilization_and_Its_Discontents),” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II.
“It is in sadism, where the death instinct twists the erotic aim in its own sense and yet at the same time fully satisfies the erotic urge, that we succeed in obtaining the clearest insight into its nature and its relation to Eros,” Freud wrote. “But even where it emerges without any sexual purpose, in the blindest fury of destructiveness, we cannot fail to recognize that the satisfaction of the instinct is accompanied by an extraordinary high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfillment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence.”
The lust for death, as Freud understood, is not, at first, morbid. It is exciting and seductive. I saw this in the wars I covered. A god-like power and adrenaline-driven fury, even euphoria, sweep over armed units and ethnic or religious groups given the license to destroy anything and anyone around them. Ernst Juenger captured this “monstrous desire for annihilation” in his World War I memoir, “Storm of Steel (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/240485.Storm_of_Steel).”

A population alienated and beset by despair and hopelessness finds empowerment and pleasure in an orgy of annihilation that soon morphs into self-annihilation. It has no interest in nurturing a world that has betrayed it and thwarted its dreams. It seeks to eradicate this world and replace it with a mythical landscape. It turns against institutions, as well as ethnic and religious groups, that are scapegoated for its misery. It plunders diminishing natural resources with abandon. It is seduced by the fantastic promises of demagogues and the magical solutions characteristic of the Christian right or what anthropologists call “crisis cults (http://referenceworks.brillonline.com/entries/encyclopedia-of-christianity/crisis-cult-C1474).”
Norman Cohn, in “The Pursuit of the Millennium (http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/191131.Pursuit_of_the_Millennium): Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and Its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements,” draws a link between that turbulent period and our own. Millennial movements are a peculiar, collective psychological response to profound societal despair. They recur throughout human history. We are not immune.
“These movements have varied in tone from the most violent aggressiveness to the mildest pacifism and in aim from the most ethereal spirituality to the most earth-bound materialism; there is no counting the possible ways of imagining the Millennium and the route to it,” Cohen wrote. “But similarities can present themselves as well as differences; and the more carefully one compares the outbreaks of militant social chiliasm (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/us/dictionary/english/chiliasm) during the later Middle Ages with modern totalitarian movements the more remarkable the similarities appear. The old symbols and the old slogans have indeed disappeared, to be replaced by new ones; but the structure of the basic phantasies seems to have changed scarcely at all.”
These movements, Cohen wrote, offered “a coherent social myth which was capable of taking entire possession of those who believed in it. It explained their suffering, it promised them recompense, it held their anxieties at bay, it gave them an illusion of security—even while it drove them, held together by a common enthusiasm, on a quest which was always vain and often suicidal.
“So it came about that multitudes of people acted out with fierce energy a shared phantasy which though delusional yet brought them such intense emotional relief that they could live only through it and were perfectly willing to die for it. It is a phenomenon which was to recur many times between the eleventh century and the sixteenth century, now in one area, now in another, and which, despite the obvious differences in cultural context and in scale, is not irrelevant to the growth of totalitarian movements, with their messianic leaders, their millennial mirages and their demon-scapegoats, in the present century.”
The severance of a society from reality, as ours has been severed from collective recognition of the severity of climate change and the fatal consequences of empire and deindustrialization, leaves it without the intellectual and institutional mechanisms to confront its impending mortality. It exists in a state of self-induced hypnosis and self-delusion. It seeks momentary euphoria and meaning in tawdry entertainment and acts of violence and destruction, including against people who are demonized and blamed for society’s demise. It hastens its self-immolation while holding up the supposed inevitability of a glorious national resurgence. Idiots and charlatans, the handmaidens of death, lure us into the abyss.

Peter Lemkin
03-13-2017, 05:18 PM
AMY GOODMAN: The Environmental Protection Agency has been overwhelmed by angry calls in recent days after the agency’s new head, Scott Pruitt, said carbon dioxide emissions are not a major contributor to global warming. Pruitt, the former attorney general of Oklahoma, made the comment during an interview with CNBC host Joe Kernen.
JOE KERNEN: Do you believe that it’s been proven that CO2 is the primary control knob for climate? Do you believe that?


SCOTT PRUITT: No, I––No, I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do, and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact. So, no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.


JOE KERNEN: OK. All right––


SCOTT PRUITT: But we don’t know that yet, as far as—we need to continue debate and continue the review and the analysis.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, speaking with CNBC host Joe Kernen. Well, Pruitt’s comment defies scientific consensus about the laws of physics. The EPA’s own website, even in the time of Trump, features a fact sheet declaring, "Greenhouse gases act like a blanket around Earth, trapping energy in the atmosphere and causing it to warm," unquote.
Well, on Friday, one day after Pruitt made the comment, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, revealed that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had risen at a record pace for a second year in row. Meanwhile, President Trump is proposing to cut 25 percent from the EPA’s budget and eliminate 3,000 jobs. Trump’s plan calls for the complete elimination of EPA programs on climate change, toxic waste cleanup, environmental justice and funding for Native Alaskan villages. It would slash funding to states for clean air and water programs by 30 percent.
Well, we now turn to a longtime EPA staffer who resigned last week to protest the agency’s new direction. Mustafa Ali is the former head of the EPA’s environmental justice program, which worked with low-income and marginalized communities dealing with industrial pollution and climate change. Ali helped found the office 24 years ago under President George H.W. Bush. He’s now working with the Hip Hop Caucus.
Mustafa Ali, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about why you resigned?
MUSTAFA ALI: Oh, yes, and thank you for having me. There were a number of reasons for resigning. One of them was that I felt that the values and priorities of our new administration did not line up with mine in relationship to our vulnerable communities and the work that needed to happen in that space. Secondly, I also had some great concerns about the rolling back of the budgets and the eliminating of offices that have played a significant role in helping to move those vulnerable communities forward. And then, thirdly, when I took a look at some of the proposals for rolling back regulations that have played a significant role in helping to protect the environment and public health of our most vulnerable communities, I just couldn’t be a part of that. Those regulations, many of those communities have been working for decades trying to make sure, one, that they’re in place, two, that they are more inclusive of protections for their communities and getting traction, being able to move forward.
AMY GOODMAN: The Trump administration has proposed zeroing out the budget of your office, the environmental justice program. Now, this hasn’t been approved, but this is the proposal. What exactly, concretely, would that mean? Talk about some of the areas in the country that you’ve been working on and just what the words and the movement "environmental justice" is.
MUSTAFA ALI: Yes, well, you have to kind of go back in history just a bit to understand environmental justice. The Office of Environmental Justice, which became, first, the Office of Environmental Equity, actually got created because of a set of recommendations that came from stakeholders. Those stakeholders were from grassroots organization. They were from academics. They were from faith-based institutions. And it actually started under William Reilly back in 1992. And the issues are numerous around the country. You could look at some of the things that are happening in Port Arthur, Texas, where there are a number of refineries, and the community is literally surrounded. Or you can look in Mossville, Louisiana, where communities have been impacted by toxic chemicals that have created some great public health challenges in those communities.
AMY GOODMAN: And these communities you’re talking about are African-American communities?
MUSTAFA ALI: These are communities of color, African-American communities, Latino communities, Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, Native American communities and low-income white communities.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me turn to Scott Pruitt’s recent speech to staff at the EPA when he first came in.
SCOTT PRUITT: I believe that we, as an agency, and we, as a nation, can be both pro-energy and jobs and pro-environment, that we don’t have to choose between the two. I think our nation has done better than any nation in the world at making sure that we do the job of protecting our natural resources and protecting our environment, while also respecting the economic growth and jobs our nation seeks to have.

AMY GOODMAN: Mustafa Ali, your response to, well, the man who was your boss, but you have since resigned, Scott Pruitt?
MUSTAFA ALI: Yes, I believe that we have to be as equally focused on the impacts that are happening inside of those communities. I personally think that when we are taking a look at regulations, we could ask a basic question: If we’re thinking about creating a new regulation, will it be beneficial to our most vulnerable communities? If we’re thinking about rolling back a regulation, will that be helpful to those most vulnerable communities, or will it move them in a negative direction? And if that is the case, then I think that we are making a mistake, that there needs to be a better analysis, that there needs to be conversations that are happening with those most vulnerable communities and getting their input as we move forward. I’m often wondering: What are the criteria that you’re using to make some of the decisions, of some of the proposals that I have seen being moved forward over the last few weeks?
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about some examples? You were recently in Flint, well known for the—what happened to the water supply of Flint, the poisoning of an American city, when it was taken off its traditional water supply by an emergency manager, who the Republican governor of Michigan had put in to rule that city. An unelected official took it off its traditional water supply of over half a century, the Detroit water system, and made the water supply the Flint River, which all knew was a corrosive, polluted body of water. Talk about the significance of the cutting of the EPA for communities like Flint, and then talk about South Carolina.
MUSTAFA ALI: Oh, sure. So, as it relates to Flint, you know, that is a situation that has just devastated the community, but there is still hope also in the community. So, recently there with the mayor and some of her staff and others, focusing on some environmental justice opportunities and how we can help to revitalize that community, you know, and speaking with many of the folks who are there. You know, they are still struggling to make sure that they have fresh water, clean water, something that many of us just take for granted every day. But there are also—I want to address the disinvestments that have happened over the years inside of the community, to be able to move forward, to create a healthier and safer place. So we’re very, very focused on being supportive there.
And, you know, the flip side of that is an example like Spartanburg, South Carolina, and why also I think it’s so important for the new administration to value the grant programs that exist in the agency that help communities to be able to move from surviving to thriving, as I often will frame it. In Spartanburg, South Carolina, they had a number of the issues that many of our communities have across the country. They had bad transportation routes. They had old housing. Some folks call it shotgun housing. They had lack of access to public health, to healthcare facilities. They had the environmental impacts of Superfund and brownfield sites and a number of other issues. They took that $25,000 small grant, began a visioning process with the community and asked, "What are some of the things that you would like to see fixed in our community, but also what are some of the opportunities, some of the benefits, that you’d like to see happen?" Took that $20,000 grant and leveraged it into over $300 million in changes.
So now in that community you now have new healthcare centers that are there, where, before, seniors had to travel great distances to be able to get to healthcare. You have new transportation routes that are in the community, that are much more healthier and less impactful on the community. You have a number of new housing units, over 500 new homes that are there, green homes that are energy-efficient. Now, before, in the summertime, folks were spending $300 to $400 on their energy costs. Because of this new housing, they’ve been able to lower it to $67 a month, which gives a lot more disposable income, especially to those who are on fixed incomes. And as this revitalization was happening, which was community-driven, they made sure that there were worker training programs in place, so that the community members, one, were able to create their own jobs to be able to be—play a significant role and to bring hope back to this community. And there are a number of other things that are very, very positive that are happening.
But these are the examples of what can happen when we value communities, when we listen to the voice of communities, and we begin to move forward in a collaborative way. They have now been able to bring the state and the local government into this process. A number of the community members, of course, are a part of the process. Business and industry is a part of the process. And as they cleaned up the brownfields and Superfund sites were being cleaned up, they now are moving forward, having a solar farm put into those cleaned-up areas, which will now zero out those electricity bills, and the excess, that can be sold to the grid, will then come back to the communities. So that’s what I talk about when I’m talking about environmental justice, addressing those past and present impacts and creating opportunities.
AMY GOODMAN: So, in our last minute, Mustafa Ali, you have worked for Republican and Democratic administrations. I mean, your office was founded under President George H.W. Bush. Why leave now?
MUSTAFA ALI: I felt that it was time for me to take my skills and talents to a place where I knew that they would be valued. But I also felt that it was necessary for me to stand up and share respectfully, in the letter of my resignation, with the administrator the challenges that still exist for vulnerable communities, but also the opportunities that exist, and implore him to do a serious analysis of that and to give consideration into making sure that these communities are protected and engaged in the process.
AMY GOODMAN: Did Scott Pruitt respond your resignation letter?
MUSTAFA ALI: I have not heard from him to date.

Peter Lemkin
03-14-2017, 05:13 AM
The GAO , generally considered a non-partisan accounting division, announced yesterday that their calculations show [under the currently devised plan] the changes in health insurance program would cause 14.000.000 people to loose their health insurance [completely - to none] almost immediately; 24.000.000 within a few years. And, that the richest people in the nation, as a direct result of this would, on average, get a 7.000.000$ boost. [i.e. the money saved on those 24.000.000 who would then have zero health care insurance and face death, or certainly financial ruin, if they needed anything more than minor health care would be re-distributed to the ultra-rich]. That's the USA's system of trickle-up [called trickle-down in double-speak] in action. Those not in the USA should keep in mind that despite 'Obamacare' about 30 million people in the USA still do not [U]now have any health insurance - and certainly will get none anytime soon - perhaps never; this would climb to about 54 million under the current administration [about 1/6th of the population]. Sick Nation! - devoid of humanity/compassion, which is not compatible with US-style capitalism. The largest causes now of bankruptcy, forced homelessness, and preventable death are health crises of the un- or under-insured. The under-insured covers another HUGE segment of the population; who have insurance but only up to a certain limit...exceed that limit and you have to pay or forfeit your car, home and all...certainly your health and often your life too. But we have the money to increase the already obscene budget of the military....no problemo

David Guyatt
03-14-2017, 07:35 AM
The GAO , generally considered a non-partisan accounting division, announced yesterday that their calculations show [under the currently devised plan] the changes in health insurance program would cause 14.000.000 people to loose their health insurance [completely - to none] almost immediately; 24.000.000 within a few years. And, that the richest people in the nation, as a direct result of this would, on average, get a 7.000.000$ boost. [i.e. the money saved on those 24.000.000 who would then have zero health care insurance and face death, or certainly financial ruin, if they needed anything more than minor health care would be re-distributed to the ultra-rich]. That's the USA's system of trickle-up [called trickle-down in double-speak] in action. Those not in the USA should keep in mind that despite 'Obamacare' about 30 million people in the USA still do not [U]now have any health insurance - and certainly will get none anytime soon - perhaps never; this would climb to about 54 million under the current administration [about 1/6th of the population]. Sick Nation! - devoid of humanity/compassion, which is not compatible with US-style capitalism. The largest causes now of bankruptcy, forced homelessness, and preventable death are health crises of the un- or under-insured. The under-insured covers another HUGE segment of the population; who have insurance but only up to a certain limit...exceed that limit and you have to pay or forfeit your car, home and all...certainly your health and often your life too. But we have the money to increase the already obscene budget of the military....no problemo

Hail the new neoliberal world order. Grand ain't it. Such an achievement of human ingenuity. Let's go fight some wars to preserve it.

Chris Hedges (in an article a few posts above) has it exactly right:

"The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants..."

Psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants. Yep.

Peter Lemkin
03-14-2017, 08:42 AM
The GAO , generally considered a non-partisan accounting division, announced yesterday that their calculations show [under the currently devised plan] the changes in health insurance program would cause 14.000.000 people to loose their health insurance [completely - to none] almost immediately; 24.000.000 within a few years. And, that the richest people in the nation, as a direct result of this would, on average, get a 7.000.000$ boost. [i.e. the money saved on those 24.000.000 who would then have zero health care insurance and face death, or certainly financial ruin, if they needed anything more than minor health care would be re-distributed to the ultra-rich]. That's the USA's system of trickle-up [called trickle-down in double-speak] in action. Those not in the USA should keep in mind that despite 'Obamacare' about 30 million people in the USA still do not [U]now have any health insurance - and certainly will get none anytime soon - perhaps never; this would climb to about 54 million under the current administration [about 1/6th of the population]. Sick Nation! - devoid of humanity/compassion, which is not compatible with US-style capitalism. The largest causes now of bankruptcy, forced homelessness, and preventable death are health crises of the un- or under-insured. The under-insured covers another HUGE segment of the population; who have insurance but only up to a certain limit...exceed that limit and you have to pay or forfeit your car, home and all...certainly your health and often your life too. But we have the money to increase the already obscene budget of the military....no problemo

Hail the new neoliberal world order. Grand ain't it. Such an achievement of human ingenuity. Let's go fight some wars to preserve it.

Chris Hedges (in an article a few posts above) has it exactly right:

"The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants..."

Psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants. Yep.

Absolutely correct Dave. Even more bizarre/sick is that most of the 'rulers' and their minions claim to be 'deeply religious' people. No mainstream, and most non-mainstream religions or philosophies believe in anything but values opposite to these. But then their 'god' is money and power, and their 'religion' preaches 'Americanism' as religion, 'free trade' (sic) = freedom, a stacked class deck of cards, oligarchy, racism, warfare, hate, intolerance, corporal punishment of children and prisoners, loathing of the poor and needy, lack of compassion, hate of the natural and Nature, casino capitalism, and many other horrors.

Lovely World we now inhabit, as this 'plague' is spreading far and wide into other countries and cultures. The 'shadow' threatens to become an 'eclipse'...and not a transient one. Of course these values are inculcated generally in Economics and Political Science departments, in media and governmental propaganda, in the 'values' of the society, and by keeping the Public struggling to just keep above water and afraid of everything.

We have a dark neo-Medieval future to look forward to unless we overthrow this evil stupidity - and rather quickly.

Magda Hassan
03-14-2017, 11:44 AM
The GAO , generally considered a non-partisan accounting division, announced yesterday that their calculations show [under the currently devised plan] the changes in health insurance program would cause 14.000.000 people to loose their health insurance [completely - to none] almost immediately; 24.000.000 within a few years. And, that the richest people in the nation, as a direct result of this would, on average, get a 7.000.000$ boost. [i.e. the money saved on those 24.000.000 who would then have zero health care insurance and face death, or certainly financial ruin, if they needed anything more than minor health care would be re-distributed to the ultra-rich]. That's the USA's system of trickle-up [called trickle-down in double-speak] in action. Those not in the USA should keep in mind that despite 'Obamacare' about 30 million people in the USA still do not [U]now have any health insurance - and certainly will get none anytime soon - perhaps never; this would climb to about 54 million under the current administration [about 1/6th of the population]. Sick Nation! - devoid of humanity/compassion, which is not compatible with US-style capitalism. The largest causes now of bankruptcy, forced homelessness, and preventable death are health crises of the un- or under-insured. The under-insured covers another HUGE segment of the population; who have insurance but only up to a certain limit...exceed that limit and you have to pay or forfeit your car, home and all...certainly your health and often your life too. But we have the money to increase the already obscene budget of the military....no problemo

But surely you don't want Socialised medicine do you Peter!? People need to be responsible for their own health and not bludge off other hard working people. They shouldn't be forced to have health insurance. Freedom is vital in matter of health choices.

Peter Lemkin
03-14-2017, 02:20 PM
The GAO , generally considered a non-partisan accounting division, announced yesterday that their calculations show [under the currently devised plan] the changes in health insurance program would cause 14.000.000 people to loose their health insurance [completely - to none] almost immediately; 24.000.000 within a few years. And, that the richest people in the nation, as a direct result of this would, on average, get a 7.000.000$ boost. [i.e. the money saved on those 24.000.000 who would then have zero health care insurance and face death, or certainly financial ruin, if they needed anything more than minor health care would be re-distributed to the ultra-rich]. That's the USA's system of trickle-up [called trickle-down in double-speak] in action. Those not in the USA should keep in mind that despite 'Obamacare' about 30 million people in the USA still do not [U]now have any health insurance - and certainly will get none anytime soon - perhaps never; this would climb to about 54 million under the current administration [about 1/6th of the population]. Sick Nation! - devoid of humanity/compassion, which is not compatible with US-style capitalism. The largest causes now of bankruptcy, forced homelessness, and preventable death are health crises of the un- or under-insured. The under-insured covers another HUGE segment of the population; who have insurance but only up to a certain limit...exceed that limit and you have to pay or forfeit your car, home and all...certainly your health and often your life too. But we have the money to increase the already obscene budget of the military....no problemo

But surely you don't want Socialised medicine do you Peter!? People need to be responsible for their own health and not bludge off other hard working people. They shouldn't be forced to have health insurance. Freedom is vital in matter of health choices.

Oh, my, NO!...never S-O-C-I-A-L-I-Z-E-D nothing! One of the big jokes and secrets hidden from the public is that all members of Congress get with their office single-payer complete healthcare from the government [i.e., socialized medical care]. Socialism is only for the rich; zombie capitalism is for the poorer classes - remember that! Remember the banks being bailed out by the poor, as just one of thousands of examples. What a system [for 'them']...what a horrible oppressive system [for most of us] - and getting worse at light speed.

Peter Lemkin
03-14-2017, 02:38 PM
Who.What.Why. BEN CARSON’S GIFT TO HISTORY REVISIONISTSWhy Words Matterhttp://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/2-6-700x470.jpgHistory isn’t brain surgery. Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy (CC BY-SA 2.0) See complete attribution below.
Picture this scenario: A young woman is kidnapped at gunpoint in Montreal. She is gagged and tied up, thrown into the trunk of a car and then driven across the border into the US. When the car finally stops in a small town near Des Moines, the kidnapper hands her off to another man in exchange for a payment. The woman is then locked in that man’s basement where she is chained to a radiator and forced to do manual labor with no chance of escape.
Some people might call that woman the victim of a horrible crime. According to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson, however, she is an immigrant.
The former GOP presidential candidate created quite a stir earlier this week when he referred to the millions of African slaves shipped to the US as “immigrants.”
“There were immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder, for less,” Carson said at an event addressing HUD employees.
To be fair, he isn’t the first politician who made this unfortunate comparison. Former President Barack Obama said something very similar in 2015 (http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/critics-carsons-slavery-immigration-remarks-similar-obamas/story?id=45981911) when he noted that life certainly “wasn’t easy for those of African heritage who had not come here voluntarily and yet in their own way were immigrants themselves.”
Carson deserves credit for walking back (http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/the-administration/322821-carsons-immigrant-remarks-were-the-same-as-obamas-but) his remarks, saying “the slave narrative and immigrant narrative are two entirely different experiences.”
His apologists also noted that, technically, the definition of “immigrant” is somebody who moves to another country and it doesn’t specify whether that move was voluntary or involuntary. But nobody would call the detainees at Guantanamo immigrants. Or refer to Genghis Khan as a “tourist,” which is defined as “a person who is traveling or visiting a place for leisure,” even though he and his Mongol horde had a lot of fun taking over much of Asia and parts of Europe.
So why does it matter if the nation’s leaders use such unfortunate language? Because somewhere in places like Texas, there is a State Board of Education member just itching to use these quotes to whitewash history.
The Lone Star State has a long and sad tradition of using its textbooks to “amend” history. A couple of years ago, a book had to be pulled off the shelves after a parentcomplained about a sentence (http://i1.mirror.co.uk/incoming/article6581376.ece/ALTERNATES/s1200/McGraw-Hill-World-Geography-textbook-main.jpg) saying that “the Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.”
If you want your kids to learn about Jim Crow laws or the atrocities the Ku Klux Klan committed, don’t send them to school in Texas, where those subjects are not on the curriculum and where one school board member considers slavery “a side issue to the civil war (https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/150-years-later-schools-are-still-a-battlefield-for-interpreting-civil-war/2015/07/05/e8fbd57e-2001-11e5-bf41-c23f5d3face1_story.html?utm_term=.0229fae85b2a).
These are just some recent examples of Texas officials trying to write textbooks and craft curricula that present an alternative history. There are many more. That is a particularly big problem because of the state’s size. Edits made to textbooks used in Texas often find their way into the books of other states as it is easier to mass produce the materials rather than printing different versions for each state.
With that in mind, officials such as Carson and Obama should be particularly careful how they word things — not just because children might be listening, but because Texas board of education members certainly are.

Peter Lemkin
03-14-2017, 05:22 PM
Pilger's Q&A after showing his film "The Coming War On China"....all good and here and there goes into Trump specifically, Bannon's statement on a coming war with China...and other relevant things. Pilger is always good. I'd like to see this film.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1Yx8-qynnY

Peter Lemkin
03-14-2017, 05:35 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRne69l__j8

Cliff Varnell
03-14-2017, 06:14 PM
The GAO , generally considered a non-partisan accounting division, announced yesterday that their calculations show [under the currently devised plan] the changes in health insurance program would cause 14.000.000 people to loose their health insurance [completely - to none] almost immediately; 24.000.000 within a few years. And, that the richest people in the nation, as a direct result of this would, on average, get a 7.000.000$ boost. [i.e. the money saved on those 24.000.000 who would then have zero health care insurance and face death, or certainly financial ruin, if they needed anything more than minor health care would be re-distributed to the ultra-rich]. That's the USA's system of trickle-up [called trickle-down in double-speak] in action. Those not in the USA should keep in mind that despite 'Obamacare' about 30 million people in the USA still do not [U]now have any health insurance - and certainly will get none anytime soon - perhaps never; this would climb to about 54 million under the current administration [about 1/6th of the population]. Sick Nation! - devoid of humanity/compassion, which is not compatible with US-style capitalism. The largest causes now of bankruptcy, forced homelessness, and preventable death are health crises of the un- or under-insured. The under-insured covers another HUGE segment of the population; who have insurance but only up to a certain limit...exceed that limit and you have to pay or forfeit your car, home and all...certainly your health and often your life too. But we have the money to increase the already obscene budget of the military....no problemo

But surely you don't want Socialised medicine do you Peter!? People need to be responsible for their own health and not bludge off other hard working people. They shouldn't be forced to have health insurance. Freedom is vital in matter of health choices.

Oh, my, NO!...never S-O-C-I-A-L-I-Z-E-D nothing! One of the big jokes and secrets hidden from the public is that all members of Congress get with their office single-payer complete healthcare from the government [i.e., socialized medical care]. Socialism is only for the rich; zombie capitalism is for the poorer classes - remember that! Remember the banks being bailed out by the poor, as just one of thousands of examples. What a system [for 'them']...what a horrible oppressive system [for most of us] - and getting worse at light speed.


Bernie Sanders 2020.

Cliff Varnell
03-14-2017, 06:49 PM
Trump Admin Ups Drone Strikes, Tolerates More Civilian Deaths

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/trump-admin-ups-drone-strikes-tolerates-more-civilian-deaths-n733336

Trump vs. CIA? What bullshit.




by Ken Dilanian, Hans Nichols and Courtney Kube






The Trump administration is moving ahead with plans to make it easier for the CIA and the military to target terrorists with drone strikes, even if it means tolerating more civilian casualties, U.S. officials told NBC News.


The military already has declared that parts of Yemen and Somalia are war zones — "areas of active hostilities" in Pentagon parlance — which means the U.S. has greater latitude to launch strikes even if civilian deaths are possible.


That is part of a broad policy shift underway, U.S. officials say, to grant the CIA and the military more autonomy to target and kill al Qaeda and ISIS militants without presidential sign-off in countries such as Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Afghanistan.


"Some of the Obama administration rules were getting in the way of good strikes," said one U.S. official briefed on the matter.


The Obama administration put in place a rule that no drone strike could take place outside a war zone unless there was a "near certainty" that no civilian would be harmed. Obama also put the White House in the decision loop on most strikes against high-value targets. And, outside a war zone, the military or the CIA had to show that the target posed an imminent threat to the United States.


These and other rules — along with a general policy preference by Obama — led to a dramatic drop in drone strikes toward the end of the Obama presidency. The drop was also due to the fact that the al Qaeda threat in Pakistan diminished considerably.


At the height of the Obama drone campaign against al Qaeda in Pakistan, the U.S. was carrying out an average of two strikes a week, according to various organizations that track the strikes through media reports. Many of those were so-called "signature strikes" (http://investigations.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/06/05/18781930-cia-didnt-always-know-who-it-was-killing-in-drone-strikes-classified-documents-show) against masses of militants whose names were not necessarily known.


By contrast, there were just 38 drone strikes in Yemen last year and three in Pakistan, according to Long War Journal (http://www.longwarjournal.org/), a web site that counts them. And the administration moved away from signature strikes, which tended to have a higher chance of mishap.


To be clear, none of this applied to the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, which was and is being waged as a military campaign under the laws of war.


But the Obama drone rules constrained the U.S. military last year in Yemen, according to a senior U.S. official briefed on the matter. After Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula made gains, the United Arab Emirates sent troops in April to retake territory seized by the group. But the U.S. was unable to fully support the operation with drone strikes because it couldn't show that each target posed an imminent threat to Americans, the official said.


A flurry of strikes in Yemen in recent weeks, against targets that had long been previously identified, was made possible by declaring parts of Yemen a war zone, the official said. The Pentagon no longer had to show that the targets posed an imminent threat to the U.S. or declare a near certainty that no civilian would be harmed.
A military commander can decide whether the risk of civilian casualties is "proportional" to the benefit of the strike, under the international law of war.
The military has yet to say how many civilians, if any, were killed in those Yemen air strikes.


Trump also appears to be reversing a policy preference by Obama to get the CIA, for the most part, out of the drone-killing business. A drone strike in Syria last month that killed Abu Hani al-Masri, a longtime terrorist with ties to Osama bin Laden, was the work of the CIA, U.S. officials told NBC News. Previously, the CIA had not been carrying out drone strikes in Syria.


Human rights groups, which fought for years to get Obama to rein in drone strikes, are dismayed by the Trump approach. At the same time, some former Obama officials told NBC News that many counter terrorism decisions were "over-lawyered" in Obama's National Security Council.


Many military and CIA officials welcome the changes, say officials. So far, no Democrat in Congress has voiced a public objection.


However, a group of former Obama administration officials and others sent Defense Secretary James Mattis a letter (https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3515908-Use-of-Force-Principles-FINAL.html) over the weekend urging that protection of civilians remain a top priority as the government reconsiders counter terrorism policies.


"I am concerned that loosening standards will harm our ability over time to carry out these operations, because it will affect our standing with the countries in which we need to operate," said Matt Olsen, a signer of the letter and the former head of the National Counterterrorism Center.


"I think these rules proved effective operationally — I never saw an instance where we missed an opportunity to carry out a strike because of too much lawyering."

LR Trotter
03-14-2017, 07:44 PM
The GAO , generally considered a non-partisan accounting division, announced yesterday that their calculations show [under the currently devised plan] the changes in health insurance program would cause 14.000.000 people to loose their health insurance [completely - to none] almost immediately; 24.000.000 within a few years. And, that the richest people in the nation, as a direct result of this would, on average, get a 7.000.000$ boost. [i.e. the money saved on those 24.000.000 who would then have zero health care insurance and face death, or certainly financial ruin, if they needed anything more than minor health care would be re-distributed to the ultra-rich]. That's the USA's system of trickle-up [called trickle-down in double-speak] in action. Those not in the USA should keep in mind that despite 'Obamacare' about 30 million people in the USA still do not [U]now have any health insurance - and certainly will get none anytime soon - perhaps never; this would climb to about 54 million under the current administration [about 1/6th of the population]. Sick Nation! - devoid of humanity/compassion, which is not compatible with US-style capitalism. The largest causes now of bankruptcy, forced homelessness, and preventable death are health crises of the un- or under-insured. The under-insured covers another HUGE segment of the population; who have insurance but only up to a certain limit...exceed that limit and you have to pay or forfeit your car, home and all...certainly your health and often your life too. But we have the money to increase the already obscene budget of the military....no problemo

But surely you don't want Socialised medicine do you Peter!? People need to be responsible for their own health and not bludge off other hard working people. They shouldn't be forced to have health insurance. Freedom is vital in matter of health choices.

Oh, my, NO!...never S-O-C-I-A-L-I-Z-E-D nothing! One of the big jokes and secrets hidden from the public is that all members of Congress get with their office single-payer complete healthcare from the government [i.e., socialized medical care]. Socialism is only for the rich; zombie capitalism is for the poorer classes - remember that! Remember the banks being bailed out by the poor, as just one of thousands of examples. What a system [for 'them']...what a horrible oppressive system [for most of us] - and getting worse at light speed.


Bernie Sanders 2020.

Only those who live in this country, not wealthy, and tried to purchase suitable health insurance on the open market, prior to the passing of the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act, can truly understand the problem. But, it needs remembering that someone has to pay for all healthcare, so all goods and services bought and paid for by consumers have to include the cost of healthcare for those same goods and services, when employees receive healthcare benefits. And, healthcare benefits are normally not taxed, so your company's customers pay for your benefits, and all taxpayers subsidize those benefits. All insurance is socialism to a degree, but not everyone can join the "party". HumptyDumpty sits upon it so tall, but he need not fall, for so soon crumble goes the wall.

Peter Lemkin
03-15-2017, 04:52 AM
But surely you don't want Socialised medicine do you Peter!? People need to be responsible for their own health and not bludge off other hard working people. They shouldn't be forced to have health insurance. Freedom is vital in matter of health choices.

Oh, my, NO!...never S-O-C-I-A-L-I-Z-E-D nothing! One of the big jokes and secrets hidden from the public is that all members of Congress get with their office single-payer complete healthcare from the government [i.e., socialized medical care]. Socialism is only for the rich; zombie capitalism is for the poorer classes - remember that! Remember the banks being bailed out by the poor, as just one of thousands of examples. What a system [for 'them']...what a horrible oppressive system [for most of us] - and getting worse at light speed.


Bernie Sanders 2020.

Only those who live in this country, not wealthy, and tried to purchase suitable health insurance on the open market, prior to the passing of the Patients Protection and Affordable Care Act, can truly understand the problem. But, it needs remembering that someone has to pay for all healthcare, so all goods and services bought and paid for by consumers have to include the cost of healthcare for those same goods and services, when employees receive healthcare benefits. And, healthcare benefits are normally not taxed, so your company's customers pay for your benefits, and all taxpayers subsidize those benefits. All insurance is socialism to a degree, but not everyone can join the "party". HumptyDumpty sits upon it so tall, but he need not fall, for so soon crumble goes the wall.

Not everyone now or ever got their health insurance through their employment; in fact, now many fewer do than before and employers now usually pay only a small part of it when they used to pay all of it. The self-employed, those who work for companies that pay zero or nearly nothing of their health benefits, and those unemployed still need health insurance [we all can get ill, and we all grow old]. You are correct in pointing out that insurance by its very nature is the fortunate paying for the unfortunate, and thus a kind of socialization and sharing of the money/risk. The very word 'socialism' [which most Americans can not distinguish from 'communism'] causes a reflexive negative reaction due to the propaganda since about 1900. That Sanders [who is only in part democratic 'socialist'] did as well as he did shows the growing cracks in the propaganda wall. He had to run as a Democrat to manage - and I'm sure had he run under the Socialist Party he'd have failed miserably for two reasons. That people chose Trump, however, shows me that the phony propaganda lines and false promises still work on a significant segment of the population. The same could also be said of those who thought Clinton could/would deliver a rosy USA for the majority. Most Trump supporters will soon learn he lied to them and cared nothing about them other than their vote and adulation. Sanders is too old to run again, I think, and he has no party at this point - though that could change. The USA is either going to change fast or end quickly.

Lauren Johnson
03-15-2017, 04:59 AM
Most Trump supporters will soon learn he lied to them and cared nothing about them other than their vote and adulation.

No matter what he does, he will be adored, just like Obama is still adored by the idiots who voted for him. ::worship::

Peter Lemkin
03-15-2017, 05:00 AM
US President Donald Trump paid $38m in taxes on more than $150m of income in 2005, the White House has said, acknowledging key details it previously refused to release.
The revelation came as a response to an MSNBC report on Tuesday that the US broadcaster had obtained two pages of his returns.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow said she received the documents from investigative journalist David Cay Johnston, who said on her show that he received them in the mail.


Speaking to Al Jazeera, Johnston said the $38m figure released by the White House included payroll taxes. When these are not taken into account, Trump's total 2005 federal tax bill was $36.5m, the investigative journalist said.


According to the leaked pages of the tax return, Trump and his wife Melania paid $5.3m in regular federal income tax, and an additional $31m in the alternative minimum tax (AMT) - which the president wants to eliminate.
"If the alternative minimum tax had not been in effect in 2005, Trump would have paid only $5m of tax on $183m of income - that tax rate is less than the tax rate paid by the poorest half of Americans" Johnston said from New York.
"Trump, this very wealthy man ... wants a tax system where he would pay the same rate of tax as people who make less than $33,000 a year in America."
'That makes me smart'

The returns showed Trump paid an effective federal tax rate of 25 percent in 2005 after writing off $100m in losses.
The White House said in a statement that Trump took into account "large scale depreciation for construction."
It said the former reality TV star, as head of the Trump Organization, had a responsibility "to pay no more tax than legally required".
Trump's refusal to release his tax returns despite decades of precedent featured heavily in the 2016 presidential race. He said he could not release the filings as he was under audit.
Democrats hinted that by not releasing the documents, Trump may be trying to hide that he pays little to no tax, makes less money than he claims, or gives a negligible amount to charity.
In January, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said the White House would not release the documents.
Trump said his taxes are not of interest to the general public.
"You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters," he said during a news conference after his January 20 inauguration.


Ahead of the November election, The New York Times published what it said were leaked tax filings from 1995 that revealed a deficit big enough for Trump not to pay federal income taxes (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/10/donald-trump-avoided-paying-taxes-years-161002050001300.html) for up to 18 years.
In the first presidential debate, when Trump's rival Hillary Clinton accused him of not having paid federal tax in years, he responded, "That makes me smart".
Questions remain

Al Jazeera’s Shihab Rattansi, reporting from Washington, DC, said that what many will be interested in is not Trump's 12-year-old tax return, but his potential conflicts of interest - specifically allegations that he has been receiving contributions from foreign governments that could influence policy.
But "any money that he's been making from foreign governments is unlikely to be in his personal income tax return, because he’s got so many different corporations, limited liability companies and so on," Rattansi noted.
He added that Tuesday's revelations could actually play out in Trump's favour.
"The way MSNBC hyped it beforehand, and the skillful way the White House handled it, could bolster Trump’s base, who’ll say 'look, it’s more fake news, there was nothing to see here'.
"Incidentally, at least for a while, it took the focus away from the controversy over the plan to replace the Obamacare system that will leave millions of people without healthcare coverage."
The White House lashed out at MSNBC over the leaks.
"You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago," it said in a statement.

In the end, the documents didn’t contain any overt bombshells which led some — including Johnston, who was given the documents anonymously — to wonder if Trump leaked them himself.
“Donald has a long history of leaking material about himself when it’s in his interest,” Johnston reminded Maddow. For all we know, Johnston added, Trump even could have released the “very sleazy girl-on-girl pictures of the First Lady” to the New York Post.

Peter Lemkin
03-15-2017, 06:06 AM
Was Firing of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Done to Cover Up Probes of Trump & Fox News?

Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking for the resignations of 46 U.S. attorneys Friday, angering the prosecutors, who say they weren’t warned in advance. Although the dismissal of U.S. attorneys is common during presidential transitions, those affected say the Trump administration bungled the layoffs, with many U.S. attorneys learning only through the media they had to clear out their desks by the end of the day.
One of the most high-profile prosecutors asked to resign, U.S. attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara, refused to step down Friday and was fired the next day. Bharara’s termination came as a surprise since President Trump met personally with Bharara at Trump Tower last November, after he was elected, and assured him he could remain at his post. The unusual circumstances of Bharara’s dismissal prompted Democrats to suggest it was politically motivated. Preet Bharara’s dismissal came as his office was probing Fox News, after it allegedly failed to inform shareholders about numerous settlements in sexual harassment and assault cases. The dismissal came less than a week after government watchdog groups sent a letter to the Manhattan prosecutor’s office asking for an investigation into whether President Trump violated a clause of the Constitution, the Emoluments Clause, barring federal employees from receiving benefits from foreign governments. In 2013, Preet Bharara was one of 18 U.S. officials barred from entering Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin was reportedly angered by Bharara’s prosecution of Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout.
On Sunday, Bharara tweeted (https://twitter.com/PreetBharara/status/841000145630175232) about his firing, writing, quote, "By the way, now I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like," end-quote. That’s a reference to an anti-corruption commission set up by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2013, which the governor then disbanded the next year. The tweet fueled speculation Bharara was fired because of his investigations into Trump’s businesses and the White House.
Well, for more, we’re joined by Harry Siegel, an editor at The Daily Beast and columnist at the New York Daily News. His most recent piece (http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/03/10/despite-trump-bharara-won-t-resign-yet.html) for The Daily Beast is headlined "Trump to U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara: You’re Fired."
Harry Siegel, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about what happened here and what this means, what Preet Bharara was looking at?
HARRY SIEGEL: So, I’m never sure with Donald Trump what he’s bungling and what he’s purposefully doing. With the publicly appointed—with the politically ambassadors, right away, he said, "Get out. Get out today." So, getting rid of the U.S. attorneys, again, these are all pretty conventional things a new administration does, but they seem to be proceeding with purposeful contempt: "Hey, great job! We don’t have your replacements lined up, but please leave your office, return your emails and be done with all your business today." It’s strange. It’s sort of insulting. And I’m not sure it’s accidental. As to what Bharara was investigating, the Southern District in New York—it’s called the sovereign district a lot, because it has so much on its plate.
AMY GOODMAN: The sovereign district.
HARRY SIEGEL: Mm-hmm. And so, Bharara, who showed real independence, was pursuing, which I think Trump liked, two Democrats, in Bill de Blasio, who he’s been investigating in various corruption things—
AMY GOODMAN: The mayor of New York.
HARRY SIEGEL: —and the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. He has two of Cuomo’s closest allies about to go on trial. And it wasn’t clear if he was done with the governor himself. At the same time, you know, Trump Tower is in Preet’s orbit. He’s had several—several cases, investigations and prosecutions that touch on—that touch on Russia and friends of Putin, that actually touch on Turkey and the Iran sanctions.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, that’s interesting, because we now know that, well, the former national security adviser, he was a paid lobbyist for Turkey—
HARRY SIEGEL: Correct.
AMY GOODMAN: —while he was advising Trump, right up into the election, General Flynn.
HARRY SIEGEL: Right. And Bharara was going after a very well-connected guy close to the—close to the political powers that be in Turkey, who had actually been dodging the Iran sanctions, and had been doing this, interestingly enough, over some quiet objections from the Obama administration as they were trying to negotiate their Iran deal. But there was so much that’s interesting on his plate.
And with Fox, this wasn’t just allegations that they covered up their settlements so shareholders couldn’t see what they were paying here. It also looks like, from my reporting and Gabe Sherman’s and others’, that this had to do with other sorts of wiretapping and listening in on people’s phone calls and their emails, which is something that Rupert Murdoch, of course, has a long history with.
So what’s incredible is that the guy who’s rumored to be Trump’s pick to replace Preet Bharara, Marc Mukasey—right?—among other things, represented Roger Ailes. And it’s—and, of course, his father was the attorney general. And he became the attorney general when Preet Bharara, who was Chuck Schumer’s chief counsel in the Senate, got Gonzales pushed out for politically booting U.S. attorneys midterm.
AMY GOODMAN: So that was Alberto Gonzales. He boots out U.S. attorneys. He’s thrown out.
HARRY SIEGEL: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And Michael Mukasey—
HARRY SIEGEL: Michael Mukasey, right.
AMY GOODMAN: —replaces him. And now his son, who has worked for what? Giuliani.
HARRY SIEGEL: For Giuliani, who’s a former U.S. attorney of the Southern District, is supposedly going to be the guy who fills that role. So, it’s an incredible set of full-circle developments.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain more about Preet Bharara’s investigation into Fox, what exactly the allegations are.
HARRY SIEGEL: We don’t know. There’s reportedly a grand jury impaneled. And what’s been reported, by myself and others, is that the SEC and Preet’s office, the Southern District, have been and are looking into their covering up payments that—effectively, hiding from shareholders what they were doing to pay off employees who had accused leadership there of sexual harassment and other things, but at the same time that Fox, which is a notoriously paranoid culture, and Ailes being a notoriously paranoid guy, you know, did all sorts of things to listen in on their employees—on their phone calls, on their emails, stuff like that. And reportedly, Bharara’s office was also looking into that. And now, of course, he’s gone.
The funny thing is, the simplest explanation here is that Trump said a bunch of stuff in November, had no idea what he was talking about. Jeff Sessions was reluctantly on board. He had a pretty rough confirmation time. He had to recuse himself from the Russia stuff, which is interesting because the two U.S. attorneys who he didn’t accept the resignations are the deputy—are the acting deputy attorney general and Trump’s pick to be the permanent deputy attorney general. And those are the people who would be leading the Russia probe because Sessions has recused himself. So those two he called personally and he kept. And he tried to call Bharara the day before firing him, which you could feed into more conspiratorial stuff, but I’m almost certain was Trump trying to be half-decent and say, "Hey, man, I’m sorry I told you this thing, and now you’re out."
AMY GOODMAN: And Sessions told him as early as last week that he was staying.
HARRY SIEGEL: Sessions told him—my reporting—he was the first guy. He told him—Sessions told him this week, I believe on a conference call with other U.S. attorneys, that he was definitely staying around. And then—
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think he was trying to deceive him, because if he were preparing in advance for leaving, he has access to a lot of information?
HARRY SIEGEL: Yes, yes. I think that’s what’s happening there. I think he was trying to deceive Bharara at that point. And I think when Sean Hannity started talking about a purge a day before, that it’s a lot more likely somebody said, "Hey, Sean, this thing is coming." Then Trump was watching TV and said, "OK, let me get rid of all the U.S. attorneys."
AMY GOODMAN: Have you ever seen anything like this? I mean, these U.S. attorneys, who have been involved for years in these cases, don’t have even a day to clear out their offices. Preet Bharara bought one day, because he refused to step down on Friday, so he stayed until Saturday.
HARRY SIEGEL: It’s pretty incredible. Also, this administration has nominated zero of their own U.S. attorneys, for anywhere in the country. So they’ve got 44 who are leaving. They’ve got 44 people to nominate and put through. And that means the people they just pushed out, that it’s their right hands who are going to be running these offices indefinitely, until that gets sorted out.

Magda Hassan
03-15-2017, 06:45 AM
Most Trump supporters will soon learn he lied to them and cared nothing about them other than their vote and adulation.

No matter what he does, he will be adored, just like Obama is still adored by the idiots who voted for him. ::worship::

Yes. Despite all the evidence for both of them. Irrelevant and heresy in the face of the faith of the true believers.

Peter Lemkin
03-15-2017, 07:57 AM
Oregon Man Shouts "Go Back to Your Country, Terrorist!" During AssaultMar 14, 2017
https://www.democracynow.org/images/headlines/07/35607/quarter_hd/04Oregon-Assault.jpg
In Salem, Oregon, police arrested a 52-year-old man Saturday after he allegedly entered a Middle Eastern restaurant and shouted racist epithets while beating an employee with a pipe. Jason Kendall told investigators he entered the Al Aqsa restaurant near the state Capitol building and decided to assault a "Saddam Hussein-looking guy," shouting, "Go back to your country, terrorist! Get out of America!"

Jan van den Baard
03-15-2017, 09:14 AM
another look at this:
http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/03/trump-fires-preet-bharara-and-45-other-us-attorneys-media-hysteria-ensures.html

David Guyatt
03-15-2017, 09:47 AM
What could be worse than Trump?

Well..... (http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2017-03-14/wikileaks-assange-claims-hillary-intel-officials-quietly-pushing-pence-takeover)

Peter Lemkin
03-15-2017, 09:51 AM
Most Trump supporters will soon learn he lied to them and cared nothing about them other than their vote and adulation.

No matter what he does, he will be adored, just like Obama is still adored by the idiots who voted for him. ::worship::

Yes. Despite all the evidence for both of them. Irrelevant and heresy in the face of the faith of the true believers.

You too can join the 'American Religion'.....Gee, its almost as interesting as being a Moonie [without the mass weddings]!

Peter Lemkin
03-15-2017, 04:17 PM
David Cay Johnston Speaks Out About Receiving & Revealing 2 Pages of Trump's 2005 Tax Returns


AMY GOODMAN: Calls are growing for President Trump to release his full tax returns after part of his 2005 return was made public Tuesday. Two pages from Trump’s tax return were obtained by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist David Cay Johnston of DCReport, who appeared last night on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. Soon after Maddow teased her big scoop, the White House confirmed the authenticity of the documents, but the White House continues to refuse to release any other tax returns from Trump.
The 2005 tax return shows Trump earned $153 million—that’s more than $400,000 a day. Trump paid out $36.6 million in federal income taxes, much of it in the form of what’s known as the alternative minimum tax, which Trump now wants to eliminate. The document also shows Trump wrote off more than $100 million in business losses to reduce his federal taxes. But the documents also leave many questions unanswered about Trump’s finances and his sources of income. In January, Trump dismissed calls to release his tax returns.

HALLIE JACKSON: Will you release your tax returns to prove what you’re saying about no deals in Russia?

PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I’m not releasing tax returns, because, as you know, they’re under audit.

HALLIE JACKSON: But every president since the ’70s—

PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: Oh, gee, I’ve never heard that. Oh, gee, I’ve never heard that. I’ve never heard that. You know, the only one that cares about my tax returns are the reporters. OK? They’re the only ones. But—

HALLIE JACKSON: You don’t think the American public is concerned about that?

PRESIDENT-ELECT DONALD TRUMP: But, no, I don’t think so. I won. I mean, I became president. No, I don’t think they care at all. I don’t think they care at all. I think you care. I think you care.
AMY GOODMAN: This morning, President Trump tweeted (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/841966077005463553), quote, "Does anybody really believe that a reporter, who nobody ever heard of, 'went to his mailbox' and found my tax returns? @NBCNews FAKE NEWS!" unquote. That’s despite the fact that the White House confirmed the authenticity of the documents on Tuesday.
For more, we’re joined by that man that Donald Trump is describing, David Cay Johnston, the journalist who obtained the two pages of Donald Trump’s 2005 1040 tax forms.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, David. So, well, this morning, Donald Trump is questioning how you got those tax returns.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Yeah, I must have gotten under Donald’s skin pretty deeply, that he has issued this tweet, whoever heard of me. I don’t know. Donald and I have been talking to each other for 30 years. And, clearly, he is at war with his own Press Office. By the way, I’m very pleased, Amy, that you got correctly in your intro facts that both my former newspaper, The New York Times, and The Washington Post got wrong. You had the right amount of tax and some other figures that were wrong in those major newspapers. And I think that says a lot about the quality of the work that you do, and your viewers should know that.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, David, can you talk about how you got these two pages of his 2005 tax return?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: I was in Palm Beach on Monday. And I had my cellphone in hand, and I was shooting pictures across the water of Mar-a-Lago, because I’m working on a new Trump biography, a second one—I have one out now, this one for Simon & Schuster—when I got a text from one of my eight grown children, said to call right away. And she had opened the mail at our home in Rochester, New York, and here was this envelope with the two pages of tax data. So, I immediately, you know, began to go to work on it, so that we could get the story out right away at DCReport.org (https://www.dcreport.org/).
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about what you see in these two pages, what you found, David, most significant.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, the most significant thing, I believe, is that Donald Trump wants to eliminate the alternative minimum tax. Almost all affluent Americans, people who own a home, have more than two children and live in the high-tax states, are on—and make more than $75,000 or $80,000 a year, are on the alternative minimum tax. Because of the alternative minimum tax, Donald paid $36.6 million in income tax. But if that was repealed—and he wants to repeal it—he would have paid only $5 million of income tax on $153 million of income. That is a tax rate of less than three-and-a-half percent. You know who pays a three-and-a-half percent tax rate in this country? The poorest half of Americans. They pay a little more than three-and-a-half percent. Donald Trump would have paid a lower tax rate than people who make less than $33,000 a year, if his tax plan had been in effect in 2005. So, you know, when Donald Trump says, "I’m the champion here of working people," don’t pay—don’t pay attention to that. When he says, you know, wages are too high, that’s one sign. But here’s one: his tax plan? Man, you make thirty—you make $600 a week, you’d be more heavily taxed than he is.
AMY GOODMAN: So how did he end up paying the amount of taxes he did?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, Donald had $103 million of negative income. That may be a hard concept for people to get around, but in tax law you can have a negative income, just like your bank account can be overdrawn, and then you have a negative bank balance. Donald’s negative income, I’m pretty confident, comes from a dubious tax shelter that he bought in 1995. That allowed him to get out of a very big tax bill. Donald did not pay back to his bankers $918 million that he borrowed from them. Now, ordinary people, they have to pay taxes on that. If you borrow money from a bank and don’t pay it back, that’s taxable income, according to the U.S. Congress. Donald bought a tax shelter that turned into tax savings for him.
Now, when the Republicans in Congress learned about this tax shelter, they shut it down right away. I mean, it was just considered odious. It only took them a couple days to shut it down. It was incredible how fast they moved in Congress to do this. But as often is the case, our Congress said, "Oh, those of you who already bought this dubious tax shelter, you can keep your ill-got tax savings." And so, Donald had $918 million that he could write off of negative income against his positive income. And this return, 11 years later, shows that he had $103 million left, although he may have had some additional tax losses in the meantime. But assuming that that represents the residue from the $918 million, it also tells us that Donald’s average income from 1995 through 2004 was $81.5 million a year.
AMY GOODMAN: What doesn’t these—what doesn’t the two pages tell us?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, it doesn’t tell us a lot of really important things we need to know. It doesn’t tell us who are the sources of his income. It’s only the kinds of income he gets: capital gains, business profits, wages. We don’t know how much money Donald is getting from the Russian oligarchs. We know he gets money from the Russian oligarchs, but we don’t know how much. And the Russian oligarchs are essentially a state-sponsored network of international criminals.
Secondly, we don’t know who his partners are in the various entities he has. Donald has over 500 partnerships and S corporations and other business entities.
Third, and perhaps most important, we don’t know who he is paying money to. We know he’s borrowed a lot of money from the Bank of China. That’s kind of remarkable to think about having a Republican president of the United States who has borrowed a huge sum from a communist government-owned bank, which, by the way, is also the biggest tenant in Trump Tower.
So, you know, we really need to know, on matters both of criminality and national security, who the president is doing business with, who his partners are, who his sources of income are, who he is paying fees to and who’s paying fees to him. And we need his complete tax returns for the last 30 years to do that. Other people running for office—Hillary Clinton, for example—have made public their complete tax returns going back into the 1970s.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s very interesting about China, considering Donald Trump is very laudatory of Russia. There’s a lot been made about his relationship with Russian oligarchs, but you don’t hear as much about China.
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Right, right. Well, and right now there is a deal in which a sketchy Chinese company is proposing to buy 666 Fifth Avenue in New York. That’s a building owned by the family of his son-in-law, Jared Kushner. And the offer is apparently for $1 billion more than the Kushners paid for the building a decade ago. The Kushners get all sorts of other special goodies in this. And this certainly raises the specter of whether the Beijing government may have decided that the best way to have decent relations with this White House is to bribe the president’s family.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to ask you about the White House statement yesterday. Today, they’re questioning how you got these documents. I mean, clearly, Donald Trump knows exactly who you are, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who worked for years at The New York Times. You wrote a book about Donald Trump. But last night, the White House said—just before you went to air, they wrote:
“You know you are desperate for ratings when you are willing to violate the law to push a story about two pages of tax returns from over a decade ago.
“Before being elected President, Mr. Trump was one of the most successful businessmen in the world with a responsibility to his company, his family and his employees to pay no more tax than legally required.
“That being said, Mr. Trump paid $38 million dollars even after taking into account large scale depreciation for construction, on an income of more than $150 million dollars, as well as paying tens of millions of dollars in other taxes such as sales and excise taxes and employment taxes and this illegally published return proves just that.
"Despite this substantial income figure and tax paid, it is totally illegal to steal and publish tax returns. The dishonest media can continue to make this part of their agenda, while the President will focus on his, which includes tax reform that will benefit all Americans."
Again, that from the White House last night. These illegally acquired and—published, rather, tax returns. So, David Cay Johnston, can you respond?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Yeah, Amy, there is so much falsehood in that statement, including the amount of tax the president paid. He paid $36.6 million, not $38 million. It just makes my head spin. It is absolutely well-established law in the United States that when a journalist receives a document that they did not solicit, then they can publish it. And there’s nothing illegal whatsoever about publishing this. This is part of the effort by Donald Trump to confuse people and that furthers his very authoritarian views. I mean, Donald clearly talks about his office as the president as a dictator. Judges don’t agree with him? "Bad judges," etc.
And what happened here is, somebody familiar with my work—and I’m very well known for my coverage of taxes, I won a Pulitzer Prize, I’ve been called the de facto chief tax enforcement officer of the United States because of my exposés of the tax system—decided to send me, rather than some other journalist, this document. Maybe it was sent to other journalists, and they haven’t looked in their mailbox. My report on what’s in that is absolutely accurate. The White House confirmed it.
And, you know, Amy, the White House did something actually quite unethical yesterday. I have been dealing with White Houses since Richard Nixon. I’ve been at this 50 years, and I’ve been dealing with White Houses since Nixon. I have never before sent the White House a document to allow them to comment on it and have them take my exclusive story and give the information to other reporters. And that’s what they did. They never responded to me. They instead went to other reporters and said, "Here’s what’s going to happen." That is just the most base, unethical conduct by the White House Press Office that I have ever seen. If they don’t want to answer the questions, they don’t have to answer your questions. But to do this is just indicative of the utter lack of moral character of Donald Trump, who I’m sure approved and roughed out that statement.
AMY GOODMAN: David, are you saying you gave the two pages that you had for verification—
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Yes, of course. Of course.
AMY GOODMAN: —to them, and they gave those two pages out to other press outlets?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: I don’t know if they actually gave the two pages. They clearly gave the numbers out. There are some journalists who wrote about this. I have not read their stories—my wife has simply told me about them—because I haven’t had time to look at them. But it’s very clear from various press reports. And when I was on another TV station today, the producer said to me, you know, "Did you know Trump gave out your story just before it went public at DCReport.org?" And then I went on The Rachel Maddow Show a minute later. And that really is just not the way you do things. It is—it lacks honor. Of course, Donald Trump lacks honor, so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Donald Trump doesn’t have any idea what honor is.
AMY GOODMAN: David Cay Johnston, when you got this envelope that had the two pages in it, where were you?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: I was using my cellphone to shoot a picture in Palm Beach of Mar-a-Lago from across the water, because it was part of the research I was doing for my next Trump biography. I have a book out now, The Making of Donald Trump. I have a new one that’s going to come out at the end of the year. And that’s when I got this message. And my—one of my eight grown children said, "You won’t believe what came in the mail," and then sent to my cellphone a PDF of the document. And I immediately said, "I’ve got to go to the airport and get back to work."



AMY GOODMAN: David, you talked about how much Donald Trump has paid in his taxes in 2005. In their response to you, they said, "We have to get back to more serious work of changing the tax system." If he succeeds in changing the tax system, this alternative minimum tax, that required that he pay even the amount he did, he would eliminate?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Yes. Donald Trump, in writing, in his campaign documents, has said, "We’re going to get rid of the alternative minimum tax." Well, of the $36.6 million in tax that he paid, more than $31 million was because of the alternative minimum tax. And the reason for that is that that $103 million that was disallowed under the alternative minimum tax—it’s allowed under the regular tax, disallowed under the alternative—even with it being disallowed, Donald Trump still got a 20 percent tax discount on his taxes. And here’s why. At that level of income in 2005, your tax rate is 35 percent of your income. But if you’re on the alternative minimum tax, your tax rate is only 28 percent. That’s 20 percent less. So he was only paying 80 cents on the dollar to begin with. And this is part of what I’ve been writing about for years. We really have a tax system in America that very effectively and efficiently taxes your wages, your labor income. But if, like Donald Trump, you’re a business owner, and if, like Donald Trump, you’re willing to buy aggressive and dubious tax shelters and do sketchy things, you can pay very little tax. And we know that there are at least two years when Donald Trump did not pay any income taxes, even though he had multimillion-dollar income, because he had to put some of that information into the public record.
AMY GOODMAN: Who do you believe sent you this, David?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, it’s possible that Donald sent it, although his attacks on me today—he tweeted about me today, so I clearly got under his skin—suggest not. When Donald has leaked something about himself, he usually doesn’t have a complaint. He didn’t complain about the really crude pornographic pictures of his wife when she was a porn model or the partial tax returns of his that were released last year, so I suspect those came from him. Most likely, this was somebody who’s familiar with my work, who knows that I have written a great deal about this idea of negative income and the alternative minimum tax, and trusted that I would get the maximum possible value out of these two pages.
AMY GOODMAN: And finally, if it were Donald Trump, why do you think he would do this? What even led you to think it might be?
DAVID CAY JOHNSTON: Well, first of all, because Donald has a long, well-documented history of leaking things about himself, of posing as his own PR man and calling himself John Barron or John Miller, planting stories that famous, beautiful women were pounding on his bedroom door, when in fact they had nothing to do with him. In this case, Donald wants to divert people from a couple things. He wants to get us off thinking about his connections to the Russian oligarchs, which raise fundamental questions about whether he is loyal to the United States or disloyal. He wants to get people off what appears to be the fiasco with the Republican healthcare plan, that he has put his name on without clearly understanding what it means and that contradicts his promises, and other matters. And Donald is very big, Amy, on distraction. He’s always trying to get journalists, you know, who are not well known for sticking to something for a long time—they’re generally not book writers—to distract them and get them to go write about something else or put on TV something else. So that may also—if he were to have done it, that would be part of that strategy.

Peter Lemkin
03-16-2017, 05:37 AM
Chris Hedges: The Enemy Is Not Donald Trump or Steve Bannon—It Is Corporate Power (Video)


Posted on Mar 15, 2017 Truthdig


In a recent speech titled “After Trump and Pussy Hats” delivered in Vancouver, British Columbia, Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges tells the audience that “resistance must also be accompanied by an alternative vision of a socialist, anti-capitalist society.”


After a fierce indictment of what he calls the kleptocracy that rules the United States, Hedges urges organizing “with lightning speed” because this is our “last chance” to do so.


“This resistance must also be accompanied by an alternative vision of a socialist, anti-capitalist society. Because the enemy in the end is not Trump or Bannon—it is corporate power,” Hedges says. “And if we do not stop corporate power, we will never dismantle fascism’s seduction of the white working class and unemployed.”


“Hope comes from the numerous protests that have been mounted in the streets, in town halls,” he continues. “We must engage in these battles on a local and on a national level ... we will have to build new radical movements and most importantly, new parallel institutions that challenge the hegemony of corporate power. It will not be easy; it will take time.”


Watch the entire rousing speech below.



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLaoJrg80JQ
— Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

...and another shorter interview of Hedges on the same themes....


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfhEWFMeT0o

David Guyatt
03-16-2017, 05:24 PM
I agree Pete. Brilliant and very ominous too. Allow me to be boring but everything he says speaks of the Collective Shadow that has become bloated to the point of disaster.

I think his solutions are very sensible. However, as with the days of the Third Reich fear immobilises people. MY fear is that the great bulk of people will simply turn away from messages such as this and watch their entertainment and sports and burrow into these distractions rather than face these realities. That's what's been happening for the past four decades.

Peter Lemkin
03-16-2017, 06:18 PM
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Just hours before the Trump administration’s new travel ban was set to go into effect, a federal judge in Hawaii issued a nationwide halt to the order. And then, this morning, a judge in Maryland also temporarily blocked the travel ban, which would have suspended entry to all refugees and blocked entry to visitors from six majority-Muslim nations: Iran, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. This is now the second time President Trump’s executive orders banning refugees and travelers from majority-Muslim countries have been blocked by the courts. U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson in Hawaii said evidence exists to show, quote, "the executive order was issued with a purpose to disfavor a particular religion."
AMY GOODMAN: In his ruling, Judge Watson also said there was nothing secret about the motive of Trump’s executive order, citing comments Trump made, as well as those of White House aide Stephen Miller and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who said Trump originally called it a Muslim ban. Speaking in Memphis Wednesday, Trump criticized the judge’s ruling.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: This ruling makes us look weak, which, by the way, we no longer are. Believe me. Just look at our borders. We’re going to fight this terrible ruling. We’re going to take our case as far as it needs to go, including all the way up to the Supreme Court.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: That was Trump speaking in Nashville. Last week, Hawaii became the first state to sue Trump over the travel ban. On Wednesday, Hawaiian Governor David Ige praised the court ruling.

GOV. DAVID IGE: We felt compelled to assure that we will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of national origin or religion, because that truly goes against the very essence of what makes Hawaii a very special place. And so, certainly, we felt compelled to file the lawsuit and are very happy that the court agreed with our position.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, we’re joined right now by Lee Gelernt, the ACLU attorney who presented the first challenge to Trump’s initial travel ban last month. The ACLU brought the case against the revised ban in Maryland.
Lee Gelernt, welcome back to Democracy Now!
LEE GELERNT: Thanks so much for having me.
AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about these two stays of the ban, first Hawaii and now in Maryland.
LEE GELERNT: Yeah. I mean, we’re extremely pleased. But I think we’re not surprised, because there is so much evidence out there that the primary purpose of this was religious discrimination. And I think the judges rightly saw that, and they saw that a few tweaks here or there would not eliminate—you know, what they said is, this doesn’t eliminate religious discrimination, because, to a reasonable observer, it’s clear what the president was trying to do. And the courts have said, "Don’t psychoanalyze government officials." Well, there’s no need to psychoanalyze here. The president stated, "We want a Muslim ban." And that’s what happens when you say we want religious discrimination. The courts push back.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: But how common is it to look at statements made in the past? I mean, the judge said—we played part of his words—that these plainly worded statements betrayed the executive order’s stated secular purpose. So, is it unusual for courts to reference statements made in the past to infer in the present that the intent is the same?
LEE GELERNT: It’s not unusual. And the Supreme Court has made clear you need to look at full context, and you can’t just avoid judicial scrutiny by cleaning up an order. You can look at statements. What I think is unusual is that the president of the United States made these kind of discriminatory statements, that there was so much evidence and so much direct evidence. I mean, normally, most government officials will try and hide it a little.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go back to Donald Trump last night speaking in Nashville.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: A judge has just blocked our executive order on travel and refugees coming into our country from certain countries. The order he blocked was a watered-down version of the first order that was also blocked by another judge and should have never been blocked to start with. ... This is, in the opinion of many, an unprecedented judicial overreach. The law and the Constitution give the president the power to suspend immigration when he deems—or she. Or she. Fortunately, it will not be Hillary "she."
AMY GOODMAN: That was Donald Trump speaking last night in Nashville, Tennessee. Lee Gelernt, your response?
LEE GELERNT: Well, you know, what he said was this is a "watered-down version." I mean, he’s admitting, again, we’re trying to do the same thing. And so, I think, you know, that’s telling: He’s not backing off the fact that they are trying to have a Muslim ban. And I think the courts are recognizing that.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, what is the difference between the first and the second travel ban?
LEE GELERNT: Right, so the second ban does a few things. It eliminates Iraq from the countries that are banned. It also takes out a preference for minority religions, which the courts said that’s so overtly discriminatory between religions. It takes out lawful permanent residents and some visa holders. So it cures certain problems. But, I mean, we’re pleased that the president retreated to that extent. I mean, that’s a victory unto itself. But what it doesn’t do is eliminate the religious discrimination. It doesn’t eliminate the primary purpose being to ban Muslims.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: But what about what Trump said, though, at the end of his statement, namely, that the president does have the authority to issue an executive order—
LEE GELERNT: Right.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: —to suspend immigration?
LEE GELERNT: And so, I want to be as clear as possible that the president has enormous authority in the area of immigration and does get deference, but what he cannot do is discriminate on the basis of religion. So, if there’s a genuine national security threat raised by particular individuals, of course they can investigate. What they can’t—they need to investigate particular threats to particular individuals. What they can’t do is base it on groups or religion, assume a particular religion is a threat.
AMY GOODMAN: In his ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Derrick Watson cited an appearance by White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller on Fox News talking about the new revised ban.

STEPHEN MILLER: Fundamentally, you’re still going to have the same basic policy outcome for the country, but you’re going to be responsive to a lot of very technical issues that were brought up by the court, and those will be addressed. But in terms of protecting the country, those—those basic policies are still going to be in effect.
AMY GOODMAN: Your response, Lee?
LEE GELERNT: Well, right. So, he’s saying the basic policies are going to still be in effect, and the courts are rightly calling him on it. He’s saying, "We’re going to try and do the same thing, but we’re going to weave around to see if we can get around what the courts have thought was Muslim discrimination." But the courts called him on it.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what’s the difference between the Maryland and the Hawaii stays?
LEE GELERNT: Right, so that’s a good question. So, what the Maryland judge said is, "I don’t think there’s enough evidence in the record to ban the refugee—to block the refugee part," but the six-country ban, which is the critical part, he did block. The Hawaii went further and said, "I’m going to block even the refugee part." But I think the critical thing about Maryland that’s different than Hawaii is, it’s a longer injunction. It’s what’s called a preliminary injunction. It will last through trial. The Hawaii judge only issued a short injunction that will expire in a few weeks.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, the Trump administration may still get its way here, right? Because an appeals court may decide that the Honolulu judge made a mistake in its assessment, or the Supreme Court could intervene. What do you see is the prospects?
LEE GELERNT: Right, but we’re not under any illusions that the litigation is over. I think that the government has made it clear that they intend to appeal. We are anticipating a long, hard legal battle, but we’re hopefully going to prevail at the end.
AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s talk about what happens when this is appealed, what—
LEE GELERNT: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: Hawaii is Ninth Circuit, that same Ninth Circuit that reviewed the first—
LEE GELERNT: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —Washington state stay on the ban. This could go to the Supreme Court.
LEE GELERNT: Absolutely.
AMY GOODMAN: And this could go to a Supreme Court that has a confirmed Judge Gorsuch as the ninth member.
LEE GELERNT: Right. It will depend on the timing, but absolutely. You know, it’s hard to predict where it will end up, when it will end up in the Supreme Court, if it will, or what the court will do. We’re hopeful that we will prevail if it does go to the Supreme Court, but we’re a long way from there, because we will have appeals courts rulings, not just by the Ninth Circuit, but it’s—potentially have a Fourth Circuit ruling, as well, out of the Maryland case. That’s the circuit that covers Maryland.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined by Congressman Luis Gutiérrez from Chicago. He’s in Washington, D.C., right now. I hope that you no longer have handcuffs on, but we’ll talk about that in a minute, Congressman Gutiérrez. ICE handcuffed you the other day for your—for staying in their office But we want to ask you about the travel ban, your thoughts on these two stays out of Hawaii and Maryland.
REP. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Well, it’s a victory for people. It’s a victory for democracy. I guess if you run a campaign and you, on repeated occasions, say you’re going to discriminate against a population of people, you’re going to have a Muslim ban, and then you initiate executive orders, people are going to remember. Apparently, judges read the papers, listen to the news and remember. And that’s all they really had to do yesterday, because even Stephen Miller reiterated, after the first lawsuit, these are just some small technical differences that we’re going to make. Then we have, of course, our all-star Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, who said, "Don’t worry. I advised him how to get a Muslim ban without it seeming like a Muslim ban or being able to pass on judicial muster." Look, they are human beings, too. They receive the news. They get the information. And apparently, the judges remember.
AMY GOODMAN: Lee Gelernt, thanks so much for being with us— the lawyer with the ACLU, who was the lawyer who brought the original lawsuit against the original ban in a Brooklyn court.

Peter Lemkin
03-16-2017, 06:19 PM
NERMEEN SHAIKH: In Chicago, federal police handcuffed Democratic Congressmember Luis Gutiérrez along with activists and lawyers Monday after they held a sit-in protest at a federal immigration office. Gutiérrez says the group refused to leave the Chicago office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, after the agency’s regional director refused to answer his questions about the Trump administration’s plans for immigration sweeps and mass deportation. Gutiérrez spoke out on Monday after he was handcuffed.

REP. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: We’ve accomplished our goal today. We stood up to the Department of Homeland Security and to Donald Trump’s hatred, bigotry today against refugees, against Muslims, against our immigrant community. And we stood up and said, "Your policies are morally bankrupt."
AMY GOODMAN: Monday’s meeting was Gutiérrez’s first with ICE officials since President Trump’s inauguration. Last month, Congressman Gutiérrez and fellow Congressional Hispanic Caucus member Norma Torres of California said Republican lawmakers had them thrown out of a meeting with a top ICE official.
For more, we are staying with Congressmember Luis Gutiérrez, who’s now back in Washington, D.C. He’s a member of the House Judiciary Committee and is co-chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
Congressman Gutiérrez, describe what happened on Monday.
REP. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Well, we had a meeting with ICE officials, as you reported. There were many community organizations, legal defense funds there. A group of us insisted that we receive answers to specific questions.
Much has been reported on the case of Francisca Lino. She’s a Mexican national. For 12 years, she has reported dutifully to ICE and to Homeland Security, and each year they said, "Come back next year." She is a mother of four American citizens, and an American citizen husband. And they have been showing discretion in terms of their enforcement action towards her—until this last meeting. And they won’t reverse their decision. We asked them. We demanded they reverse that decision. They keep saying to us, in a very—in this contradiction of terms, they keep saying to the American public, "We’re going after the criminals. We’re going after the bad people, the people that are out there to do harm." Well, they’re not. Francisca Lino, she’s a mom. She’s a—and she’s reported for 12 consecutive years. What changed? The only thing that changed was that Donald Trump got sworn in as president of the United States, and you have—you have Bannon and Miller, and you have the new attorney general of the United States, Sessions, who have all been talking. They didn’t start—they didn’t all come together during this administration. They have been cooperating with one another for many years, waiting to institute this kind of xenophobic, anti-immigrant policies.
Second—and I think this is very, very crucial—last Friday, through a series of tweets—imagine—the Department of Homeland Security, through a series of tweets, said, A, "Oh, those DREAMers, those that have got DACA, we’ve picked up 1,500 of them. They’re criminals and gang bangers." And then they went on to say in another tweet, "Oh, we’re going to go after them if they violate the law. DACA doesn’t give them protection against being criminals." Again, 750,000 wonderful young people—they’re doctors, they’re lawyers, they’re nurses, they’re school teachers in the Chicago public school system, they’re workers, they’re students—criminalizing them once again and saying they no longer have the protection against deportation. I thought it was important that we ask a fundamental question: Are you going after DACA recipients? Because we know you’ve done it in Washington state, we know you’ve done it in Mississippi, and we have other cases in which you have done it.
So, look, somebody’s got to stand up. If I tell people it’s right to give your government information—to give your information over to the government, go through a background check, that you’re going to be right with the law, and you are right with the law, and you have done absolutely nothing wrong, other than another president got elected, you’ve got to stand up for those people that have stood up for themselves. That’s what we were doing that day. And we said to them, "Until we have answers, we will not leave." Look, it shows you what happens with a system which is run by bullies. And what did they do? They handcuffed us. And as soon as they handcuffed us and they saw that we weren’t—didn’t have any fear, they released us. I’ve never seen such a situation before.
But the most important thing is, we raised the issue to the American public. And we’re going to continue to do that. And I’m really excited about the fact that, come this May 1st, across this country, we’re going to fill dozens of cities in a International Day of Workers in which immigrants are going to be the primary showcase of American workers.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, I want to ask you about Army veteran Miguel Perez Jr., a Mexican-born legal permanent resident of the U.S., an Army veteran who served two tours of duty in Afghanistan. He arrived in the U.S. at the age of eight and now faces deportation.
REP. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Yes.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: This is his father, Miguel Perez Sr., speaking through a translator to the Chicago Tribune.

MIGUEL PEREZ SR.: [translated] He was in special forces in the Army. And they sent him to Afghanistan. So, he was there from 2001 to 2003 in the first one. He came really proud, very happy. And I was very proud of him, as well, because he defended the Constitution, he defended the system, defended this land, defended the flag. And like my son says, "I was there. I was confronting there. I was in front of the battle. I should—I deserve an opportunity. I don’t know why I have to be deported."
NERMEEN SHAIKH: So, that was Miguel Perez Sr., the father of Miguel Perez. Now, he is a legal permanent resident of the U.S.
REP. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Yes, yes.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: How is it possible to deport him?
REP. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Well, because the Trump administration can and will. And he is under an order of deportation. He has recently lost his case. And I think—I’m so happy you’re highlighting. We have—he’s not the only veteran. There are literally hundreds of veterans that have served in the armed forces of the United States and, like Mr. Perez, are decorated veterans. Mr. Perez wasn’t—has never been a U.S. citizen. He’s a legal permanent resident, a green card holder. His mom is a citizen. His dad is a citizen. All of his family are citizens, with his exception. Under the Bush administration, he was supposed to be facilitated the process of American citizenship when he joined the armed forces. That did not happen. But he went on to serve not one tour of duty, but two. And I find it just so reprehensible that an administration led by a president of the United States that on multiple occasions refused to bear arms for this nation when he was called upon, said he had a bone spur—a bone spur that hasn’t stopped him from playing on every golf course in every continent of the world—would deport someone who did take up arms and wasn’t even a citizen of the United States—not one tour, but two tours.
So, look, we’re going to continue to fight for Mr. Perez. We are asking senators to look at this case and to file a private bill. And what is that? A private bill is when a senator says, "Here is my bill. Because of these extraordinary circumstances, I want to file this bill to make this individual a citizen of the United States, because that seems to be the one road." And you’re going to be hearing, Amy, more and more about them. They are along the border, by the hundreds, destitute.
Now, I want the American public to know one thing: Mr. Perez gets to come back after he’s deported. You know when he gets to come back? When he’s dead. He gets to come back in a coffin and buried in a military cemetery for his service to this country. But while he’s alive, he cannot live here.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Representative Gutiérrez, could you explain what the argument is that the Trump administration is using to justify his deportation?
REP. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Well, that he committed a crime. And he did. He was convicted of a felony. And look, I think you need to take everything into account. Yes, he’s suffering greatly from PTSD. He has wounds, head wounds, that have caused him great debilitation. That’s going to have an impact. That has an impact on a lot of our men and women who return and have a great difficulty. But look, you have to take that and balance that out with what? With the fact that this is the only country that he knows. They should have facilitated his American citizenship, because had he been an American citizenship, he would have simply been—gone to trial, paid his time and then be reintegrated into society.
We think this is an exceptional case in which the government should—and just so that we’re clear, I called the prosecutors, and I said, "This begs for you to show discretion. You do not have to deport Mr. Perez. You can show discretion and withdraw the charges. He’s already paid his—he went to jail for five years. The sentence of the judge, he fulfilled it completely. Don’t add an additional—how would I say?—burden to this man. Let him reintegrate, where he needs his family more than ever before." But we have hundreds of veterans like this that are on the other side of the border who have served in the armed forces of the United States faithfully and dutifully.
AMY GOODMAN: Last month, President Trump called his deportation plans a "military operation" during his meeting with CEOs.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You see what’s happening at the border. All of a sudden, for the first time, we’re getting gang members out. We’re getting drug lords out. We’re getting really bad dudes out of this country, and at a rate that nobody’s ever seen before. And they’re the bad ones. And it’s a military operation, because what has been allowed to come into our country, when you see gang violence that you’ve read about like never before, and all of the things, much of that is people that are here illegally. And they’re rough, and they’re tough, but they’re not tough like our people. So we’re getting them out.
AMY GOODMAN: If you could respond to that, Congressman Gutiérrez—
REP. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Sure.
AMY GOODMAN: —what he’s saying? Also the fact that the budget’s just been released and, you know, massively upping the Pentagon budget, Homeland Security budget, including paying for the wall, that President Trump said he would never do?
REP. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: Sure. Look, again, what they are doing is this new act of criminalizing all immigrants, right? So, every time—and they only talk about one border. They don’t talk about the border at JFK or the one at LAX or Miami or the one in O’Hare, where literally hundreds of thousands of immigrants come on a monthly basis, and millions of immigrants that have overstayed their visa arrived in the United States. They want to focus on brown people. They want to focus on that border with Mexico. And they want to make it appear that you have everything to fear from these bad hombres, because the criminal cartel that impacts your life is only the one that comes through that border. Nonsense.
Look, the fact is that border—entries through the border are at a record low and continuing to be reduced. You know who’s showing up at that border? Refugees. Yes, refugees from Guatemala, from El Salvador, that are coming from Honduras. Why? Because there are criminal cartels that are there. And let me just suggest to the American public this: Those criminal cartels are there because of the insatiable demand that exists in the United States for the drugs that they run into the United States, number one.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Representative Gutiérrez—
REP. LUIS GUTIÉRREZ: It’s an American dollars, it’s American guns, that are using and fortifying those cartels.

Peter Lemkin
03-16-2017, 06:27 PM
I agree Pete. Brilliant and very ominous too. Allow me to be boring but everything he says speaks of the Collective Shadow that has become bloated to the point of disaster.

I think his solutions are very sensible. However, as with the days of the Third Reich fear immobilises people. MY fear is that the great bulk of people will simply turn away from messages such as this and watch their entertainment and sports and burrow into these distractions rather than face these realities. That's what's been happening for the past four decades.

Well, needless to say I hope you are wrong, but there certainly is that risk, as the tendency over the last decades has been the zombification of the Plebs. Time to roll up our sleeves and try to wake them from their near-brain-dead existences. I'm not overly optimistic, but think there is a slim chance if people will only awake and see what is [and has been] going on! Just 9/11 or 7/7 alone [and one could name hundreds or thousands of others equally disinformation and evil] should be enough to get people off of their TV couches, their thumbs endlessly off of their facebook page - unless they want to make it political, not always going to/watching gladiator sports games, and all the other brain numbing escapist activities.

Peter Lemkin
03-17-2017, 05:45 PM
To get response to President Trump’s 2018 budget proposal to Congress, which calls for an unprecedented $54 billion increase in military spending while slashing scores of other programs and eliminating whole agencies, we go to Ralph Nader, four-time presidential candidate, longtime consumer advocate and corporate critic. Ralph, your response?
RALPH NADER: Well, so much for Donald Trump’s campaign promises to the forgotten men and women of America. They’re the ones who are the big losers, as you pointed out with your many examples of these budget cuts. Overall, this is a budget that reflects corporatism, militarism and racism. The mask is off Donald Trump, his braggadocio, his lurid promises, his assurances that everything will be safe, and people will have—all people will have health insurance, and there will be plenty of jobs. The mask is off. The fangs are now out. And he is collaborating with what is, on the record, the most vicious, ignorant Republican Party in its history, since 1854. Senator Robert Taft, a conservative in the Senate in the 1950s, would have been astonished at the viciousness, the corporatism, the militarism, the racism of these Republicans, with few exceptions.
Now, when you go into this 50-page-or-so budget—the details will all come out, Amy, in May, in a bigger budget. When you go into it, you see that Sean Spicer’s daily assurances, that they want to go after what he calls inefficiency, waste and government duplicity, leaves out hundreds of billions of dollars of corporate fraud on the taxpayer. For example, they talk about the need to cut healthcare in this way and that way and push 14 million people off the health insurance rolls in a year, and 24 million by 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office, or thereabouts. Just look at this. He says he doesn’t—he doesn’t want to fund programs that don’t work. OK. Almost $10 billion a year, since Reagan—a year—is spent on a total boondoggle project in the Pentagon called ballistic missile defense. It doesn’t work. It won’t work. We’re talking about the intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Society of Physicists, which includes physicists who consult with the Pentagon, have said that it won’t work, it’s too easily decoyed by balloons. There are a lot of other easier ways to get nuclear weapons in a country than this way. And yet, as a corporate welfare program for Raytheon, Boeing and others, it goes on every day. Now, this is a budget inside the Pentagon that’s bigger than the entire budget of the Environmental Protection Agency. So, you see they’re not going after the corporate crime, the corporate waste, the corporate fraud, that lathers itself throughout the federal budget.
Imagine. They talk about health insurance programs. OK, so they’re going to squeeze Medicaid. They’re going to threaten to corporatize Medicare. They’re cutting taxes on the drug companies, which was going to pay for Obamacare, on the health insurance companies, on the medical device companies, a few little taxes on the rich—getting rid of all of those in the pursuit of efficiency. Now look what they don’t talk about. They don’t talk about what the Government Accounting Office of the U.S. Congress said years ago, that 10 percent of all healthcare expenditures in this country goes down the drain because of computerized billing fraud and abuse. And that is considered a conservative figure by the expert on this, professor Malcolm Sparrow at Harvard University. Now, that means $340 billion—that’s with a B—this year down the drain. So if they’re interested in efficiency, why don’t you go after corporate crime? Just go to CorporateCrimeReporter.[com] (https://www.corporatecrimereporter.com/), and you’ll see more of this.
The second thing that’s fascinating and very tragic is that when they talk about healthcare and efficiency, they’re not talking about the huge numbers of people who die because they cannot afford health insurance to get diagnosed and treated in time. And now it’s about 35,000 a year. That’s based on an extrapolation from a Harvard Medical School peer-reviewed study that appeared in the Journal of Public Health in 2009. They never talk about that. They never talk about 60,000 people losing their lives every year due to air pollution—EPA figures. They never talk about 58,000 people losing their lives due to workplace-related diseases and trauma—OSHA figures.
So we know what their game is. So this whole corporatism, militarism, racism is a huge opportunity for just 1 percent of people becoming active and focusing on the one branch of government that can have beneficial consequences for the 2018 election, as well as stop the Trumpsters in their tracks, and that’s the U.S. Congress. So, you had less than a couple hundred thousand people in the last few weeks, Amy, apart from the demonstrations in Washington on January 21st, go to congressional town meetings. And the Republicans who were there came back to the Congress, and they were shuddering. They said, "What’s going on here? I mean, something’s changing. The seats are no longer empty." They used to have town meetings where sometimes the staff was more numerous than the attendees. Now, there are three major recesses in Congress, two coming up before the one-month August recess. Fill those seats. If the congresspeople do not have town meetings—they’re already considering canceling them or having telephone town meetings—so much for meeting the people—then you have your own town meetings. You announce your own town meetings, and you have a formal summons to your senators and representatives on a set date in a convenient public location, where they have to address your agenda. That’s why I wrote this book, Breaking Through Power, a little paperback, 140 pages. And it shows the way, how very few people have changed our country throughout the history. And it never takes more than 1 percent, often far less than 1 percent, to do so. So this is a great opportunity. By being so cruel, vicious and blatantly apparent in trying to further transform our government into the pits of militarism, corporatism and racism, it can become like a boomerang, if people take advantage of it.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you certainly—
RALPH NADER: And the summons—the summons itself, Amy, is in this book, the formal summons by the people back home to the senators and representatives.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, you certainly see the effect of this, for example, on Senator Tom Cotton, and the massive anger and response when he held a town hall meeting, with thousands there. You see Darrell Issa in California, perhaps for the first time we’ve seen him changing as a result of the huge town hall meeting, after he refused to—as we see all over the country, people putting up "wanted" signs for their congressmembers and actually take out ads in the papers, saying "wanted" or "have you seen?"
RALPH NADER: Yes, and not only that, but one of the worst members of Congress now, the head of the Oversight Committee in the House, Jason Chaffetz from Utah, found a thousand people at his town meeting, with 200, 300 outside. They couldn’t get in. They’re trying to say, you know, these are just professional organizers, and they’re paid. There was a 60-year-old couple in western New York that came in with a sign and said, "We’re not paid, Congressman Reed, but you are," which raises the question: Once people back home say to their members of Congress, "Don’t you dare pass any cuts for the vulnerable, the poor, the middle class, unless you have to share the same one"—so if they had a terrible health insurance bill, that the members of Congress have to be under it. Now they have taxpayer-paid nice health insurance bill, they have nice life insurance—health insurance, rather, plan, a nice life insurance plan. They even have housing assistance. They get almost $200,000 a year, and they have housing assistance, and they have huge pensions. So, if you force them to basically say, "What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. You want to do it to us, you, our representatives, so-called? Then you’re going to have to adhere to the same standards." You’ve got to have face-to-face interaction with members of Congress, not just massive rallies where the energy often goes into the ether on a weekend. You’ve got to get them into these public auditoriums or town halls back home, where you confront them face to face. Here’s another problem.
AMY GOODMAN: Wait. Let me—let me go to—
RALPH NADER: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —the clip of Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who was confronted, to say the least, by an absolutely packed auditorium, with perhaps as many people outside, as well, or more.

SEN. TOM COTTON: But that’s one reason why so many people come to the United States to get healthcare, because our healthcare system is the best in the world.

ARKANSAS CONSTITUENT: So, my question is: If we’re so concerned about the deficit, why are we building a wall that costs $20 billion?
AMY GOODMAN: So, that was Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who was fierce in taking on President Obama. But he came back from this town hall meeting, and he said, talking about the Affordable Care Act, "You have to do this slowly. You have to start again. There is no rush." Ralph Nader, talk about what’s happening, specifically around the Affordable Care Act.
RALPH NADER: What’s happening is, you have left-right opposition to what the Republicans and Trump are doing. That’s the big opportunity now. I think Senator Cotton was shaken, because he looked at that auditorium, and he said, you know, "Some of these people are my supporters." And when you get a left-right alliance back home on the senators, representatives, it’s politically unstoppable. So you have this health—so-called health insurance system—it’s not healthcare, often it’s confused—a health insurance system proposal that is going to throw millions of people off the rolls. It’s soliciting corporate support by getting rid of these taxes I mentioned on the health insurance industry and the medical device. But the hospital lobby is upset with Trump on this proposal. They see real problems down the road, and they’re already putting ads in papers. And they’re going to be a—they’re going to be joining with a lot of citizens in opposing this.
Now, there is an argument, Amy, that these crazy proposals—they are so nutty. I mean, they’re cutting further the IRS budget so it can’t collect any of the $430 billion that is uncollected taxes in this country. How are they going to pay for all this stuff, this infrastructure and so on? A lot of this stuff is really nutty. They’re increasing the Department of Homeland Security budget, but the indications are they want to cut the Coast Guard budget. So they can use money to build the wall, they’re going to further debilitate the hard-pressed Coast Guard, which is providing security and rescue on the coastlines of America. But what I think is going on here is these are trial balloons. Trump has this idea, throughout his business career and bankruptcies, where he says outrageous things, and then he backs down a little, and people say, "Oh, he’s really much more reasonable." So I think we’re seeing here a trial balloon situation to get the response. And in May, they’ll probably moderate these cuts.
But make no mistake about it: When you have Steve Bannon in the White House, when you have the Roy Cohn in the White House—name is Steve Miller—basically, influencing or pushing the more extreme attributes of Donald Trump in terms of militarism, corporatism and racism, there is going to be a lot of tension with some of the heads of the Cabinet. And that’s going to be in the news shortly. There’s going to be a lot of tension, for example, between the secretary of the interior, who does not want to sell off the public lands, who’s looking at a budget which is going to facilitate the selling off of some of the public lands. So—
AMY GOODMAN: Before we get to public lands, I want to ask you about Meals on Wheels.
RALPH NADER: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: During Thursday’s news conference, the OMB head, Mick Mulvaney, described the budget as "compassionate" when he was asked about cuts being made.

JIM ACOSTA: Just to follow up on that, you were talking about the steelworker in Ohio and the coal miner in Pennsylvania and so on, but those workers may have an elderly mother who depends on the Meals on Wheels program, who may have kids in Head Start. And yesterday or the day before, you described this as a "hard-power budget," but is it also a hard-hearted budget?

MICK MULVANEY: No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s—I think it’s probably one of the most compassionate things we can do to actually—you’re—

JIM ACOSTA: Cut programs that help the elderly and kids?

MICK MULVANEY: You’re only focusing on half of the equation, right? You’re focusing on recipients of the money. We’re trying to focus on both the recipients of the money and the folks who give us the money in the first place.
AMY GOODMAN: So, he’s saying the reporter is only focusing on the person who will lose Meals on Wheels, an elderly, perhaps disabled, veteran, Ralph Nader.
RALPH NADER: Yeah, look at the asymmetry, the cruel asymmetry. He’s a very glib guy—you’re going to get used to him—Mick Mulvaney, extremely radical, extreme in terms of cutting budgets that deal with vulnerable, sick, powerless people. He’s a bully, pure and simple. But there are other budgets that are going to be cut. Law enforcement on nursing homes are going to be cut. Public transit support is going to be cut, like Amtrak, that affect lower-income people.
So, we’re looking here—we should also pay some attention to the Democratic Party, Amy. Can they rise to the occasion? I mean, look at the wonkish talk of—that you just showed a clip of, of Nancy Pelosi: "deconstruction of the federal government." Boy, that really excites people to get out on the streets, doesn’t it? They’ve got to talk in common language. People are going to lose their lives because of this budget, here and abroad. They’re cutting support for international famines. They don’t want our country to be a humanitarian power, just a military brute force power. We’ve got a situation where you have a regime that’s going to be very soft on corporate crime. After all, you’ve got a former businessman, Donald Trump, who shafted his consumers, his workers, his creditors; used bankruptcy, in his terms, as a competitive advantage; tried to avoid all possible taxes. He’s shut down casinos, unemployed workers. Atlantic City is increasingly desolate economically, in part due to his bad business acumen.
So, what you have is—what is the Democratic Party going to do? You have this group, Indivisible.org (https://www.indivisibleguide.com/web/), which tells you, by the way, when there are town meetings with members of Congress back home. But what is the Democratic Party going to do? Are they going to field candidates in all 50 states who are viable? Are they going to spend their time dialing for corporate dollars? Or are they going to go the Bernie Sanders way, in small contributions in big volume? Are they going to really push for single payer? There are 64 members of the House, Democrats, who have signed on to John Conyers’ single payer. It’s HR 676, the gold standard. And they’re keeping quiet about it. They’re not pushing it, because Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer are telling them, "Keep quiet about single payer," supported by 60 percent of the American people already—
AMY GOODMAN: So, Ralph—
RALPH NADER: —according to a Pew poll.
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph, let me take that for one example. How would you see that playing out if at this point, when there’s major questioning of Obamacare, but clearly the Republican Party is crumbling over the repeal and replace, of whatever Ryan has put forward—clearly, it’s not going to be in the form he wants it. If you see this is the moment for single payer, for Medicare for all, how would you see it working? How would you see them strategizing to introduce it now?
RALPH NADER: Well, it’s a good idea for some of the progressive press to start talking about it, instead of getting mired in what’s being done to Obamacare. You almost never see the questions—Chuck Todd and others on Sunday TV programs—so they get it into the public dialogue.
But here’s what I see. Check out The Wall Street Journal recently. There was a lead editorial on what’s going on with Obamacare and the Republicans, etc. And at the end, they said, if the Republicans lose this battle to get rid of Obamacare, they might as well get on board with single payer, because that’s going to be the future of politics. And that was reaffirmed by a columnist in The Wall Street Journal very recently, this week, Henninger, who basically said the same thing. So here you have these right-wing corporatists basically saying, if the Republicans fall on this attempt to create this cockamamie system that deprives people of health insurance and gets rid of the ways to fund it by all these tax cuts on these corporations and so on, if they fail, then the only alternative left—that’s the way they talk in The Wall Street Journal—is full Medicare for all, everybody in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital, none of these narrow networks like in West Virginia, and which is called single payer.
So, the opportunity for the Democrats is classic. This is the time to move. And what do you see? The chief issue of Senator Bernie Sanders, when he’s running for president last year, was full Medicare for all, single payer. Has he introduced a bill yet? He hasn’t even introduced a bill yet in the Senate. Here’s the leader of the single-payer movement, being told by Chuck Schumer and others, "Stay low. Keep quiet, Bernie. We’ve got to deal with the Republicans trying to dismantle Obamacare."
AMY GOODMAN: Let me go to—
RALPH NADER: So the—yeah, so—
AMY GOODMAN: Let me go to foreign policy, very quickly.
RALPH NADER: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: You have the secretary of state, former head of ExxonMobil, Rex Tillerson, now in Asia. In Korea, in South Korea, he goes to the Demilitarized Zone. He says that the U.S. is going to take a different approach, may well take a military approach. At the same time, on the same trip, he endorses the massive cuts to the State Department. And we know the defense secretary, James Mattis, once famously said, while serving as the commander of U.S. Central Command, "If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition." Is this budget, in itself, leading to war?
RALPH NADER: Well, it certainly diminishes the diplomatic capability and the Foreign Service capability of the State Department. And what do you think is going to take the—fill the vacuum? But the State Department itself, under both Republicans and Democrats, and Hillary Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Ms. Rice, they’re all—they’re all militarists. And you began to wonder. The militarist language coming out of the State Department was often more militant than coming out of the Department of Defense. So, even though the budget is going to be cut, the question is: Is the culture of the State Department going to be true to their ancient charter, which was not just dealing with customs, but being the harbinger of diplomacy, the harbinger of soft impact on the world, the harbinger of negotiations?
For example, all this talk on cyberwarfare and cybersecurity, there isn’t a single move by our federal government in the last 20 years to bring all these nations together for an international treaty on cybersecurity and cyberwarfare, like was done in nuclear arms control with the Soviet Union and the chemical and biological warfare treaties. Rex Tillerson is sort of a dilemma wrapped into a conundrum. We don’t know what’s going on with him, other than he’s very, very low-key. But I was just looking at some—
AMY GOODMAN: Not just low-key, secretive, not allowing any reporters on the plane, but a reporter with a—
RALPH NADER: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: —a news organization most people don’t know the name of, that was set up by two Republican consultants, who has not covered the State Department in any regular way before. But, Ralph, before we end, the whole issue of Donald Trump saying that President Obama wiretapped him? We just have less than a minute right now before we move on to our next segment.
RALPH NADER: Well, first of all, it’s been repudiated by his Republican allies in the House Intelligence Committee. That’s a pretty severe thing. Second, he’s in control of all the classified information. He’s now president. He can say to the NSA, the CIA, he can say, "The FISA court decisions, bring them to me and prove my point," which was charging Obama, absurdly, with wiretapping Trump Tower in New York. And he hasn’t done that. And they say he hasn’t done it, because he doesn’t want to see that he’s interfering in the investigation. He wants Congress to do so. OK, already, his own Republicans on the Intelligence Committee are repudiating him. I think there should be a national petition demanding that Donald Trump do what he’s never done in his life, and that is publicly apologize to President Obama. It’s not that President Obama didn’t start six undeclared wars in six countries abroad, in the Middle East and elsewhere, which Donald Trump is pursuing. But on this one point, he’s got to show some humility and remorse.

Peter Lemkin
03-18-2017, 10:26 AM
Trump’s War on Dangerous Memory and Critical ThoughtPosted on Mar 16, 2017By Henry A. Giroux / Tikkun (http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/trumps-war-on-dangerous-memory-and-critical-thought)
http://www.truthdig.com/images/eartothegrounduploads/TrumpDangerousMemory_590.jpg

Flickr / CC 2.0 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/83057948@N07/32879795780/)
People living in the United States have entered into one of the most dangerous periods of the 21st century. President Donald Trump is not only a twisted caricature of every variation of economic, political, educational, and social fundamentalism, he is the apogee of an increasingly intolerant and authoritarian culture committed to destroying free speech, civil rights, women’s reproductive freedoms, and all vestiges of economic justice and democracy.
Trump is the fascist shadow that has been lurking in the dark since Nixon’s Southern Strategy. Authoritarianism has now become viral in America, pursuing new avenues to spread its toxic ideology of bigotry, cruelty, and greed into every facet of society. Its legions of “alt-right” racists, misogynists, and xenophobic hate-mongers now expose themselves publicly, without apology, knowing full well that they no longer have to use code (https://thinkprogress.org/steve-king-white-nationalist-tweet-5f43c687902a#.i4v2pgjei) for their hatred of all those who do not fit into their white-supremacist and ultra-nationalist script.
Trump’s victory makes clear that the economic crisis and the misery it has spurred has not been matched by an ideological crisis– a crisis of ideas, education, and values. Critical analysis and historical memory have given way to a culture of spectacles, sensationalism, and immediacy. Dangerous memories are now buried in a mass bombardment of advertisements, state sanctioned lies, and a political theater of endless spectacles. The mainstream media is now largely an adjunct of the entertainment industries and big corporations. Within the last 40 years training has taken the place of critical education, and the call for job skills has largely replaced critical thinking. Without an informed public, there is no resistance in the name of democracy and justice; nor is there a model of individual and collective agency rising to such an occasion. Of course, power is never entirely on the side of domination, and in this coming era of acute repression, we will have to redefine politics, reclaim the struggle to produce meaningful educational visions and practices, find new ways to change individual and collective consciousness, take seriously the need to engage in meaningful dialogue with people left out of the political landscape, and overcome the factionalism of single-issue movements in order to build broad based social movements.
Manufactured ignorance erases histories of repression, exploitation, and revolts. What is left is a space of fabricated absences that makes it easy, if not convenient, to forget that Trump is not some eccentric clown offered up to the American polity through the deadening influence of celebrity and consumer culture. State and corporate sponsored ignorance produced primarily through the disimagination machines of the mainstream media and public relations industries in diverse forms now function chiefly to erase selected elements of history, disdain critical thought, reduce dissent to a species of fake news, and undermine the social imagination. How else to explain the recent Arkansas legislator who is pushing legislation to ban the works (http://www.arktimes.com/ArkansasBlog/archives/2017/03/02/bill-introduced-to-ban-howard-zinn-books-from-arkansas-public-schools) of the late historian Howard Zinn? How else to explain a culture awash in game shows and Realty TV programs? How else to explain the aggressive attack by extremists in both political parties on public and higher education? Whitewashing history is an urgent matter, especially for the Trump administration, which has brought a number of white supremaciststo the center of power (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/28/magazine/jeff-sessions-stephen-bannon-justice-department.html?mtrref=undefined&gwh=ACF5366E618A44F248226A694EF1BFB6&gwt=pay) in the United States.
The great novelist, Javiar Marias, captures in a recent interview (https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/conversation-javier-marias/)why memory matters, especially as a resource for understand the present through the lens of the past. He writes:

I do not know what I might say to an American young person after Trump’s election. Probably that, according to my experience with a dictatorship – I was 24 when Franco died – you can always survive bad times more than you think you can when they start, when “thus bad begins.” Though the predictions are terrible, I suppose we must all wait and see what Trump does, once he is in office. It looks ominous, indeed. And [Vice President Mike] Pence does not seem better, perhaps even worse. It is hard to understand that voters in the United States have gone against their own interests and have decided to believe unbelievable things. One of the most ludicrous interpretations of Trump’s victory is that he represents the poor, the oppressed, the people “left behind.” A multimillionaire, and a very ostentatious one to boot? A man who surrounds himself with gilded stuff? A guy whose favorite sentence is, “You’re fired!”? A bloke who has scorned blacks, Mexicans, women, and of course, Muslims in general? He is the elite that he is supposed to fight. Indeed, it is a big problem that nowadays too many people (not only Americans, I’m afraid) don’t know anything about history, and therefore cannot recognize dangers that are obvious for the elder ones (those with some knowledge of history, of course, be it first- or second-hand).
As Marias suggest, historical legacies of racist oppression and dangerous memories can be troublesome for the neo-fascist now governing American society. This was made clear in the backlash toBen Carson’s claim (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/06/us/politics/ben-carson-refers-to-slaves-as-immigrants-in-first-remarks-to-hud-staff.html) that slaves were immigrants, Trump’s insistence (http://fortune.com/2016/09/26/presidential-debate-donald-trump-living-in-hell-black-people/) that all black communities are crime-ridden, impoverished hellholes, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s assertion (http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/03/07/devos-and-the-free-lunch-flimflam-orwell-neofeudalism-and-the-destruction-of-the-welfare-state/) that historically black colleges and universities were “pioneers of school choice.” Memories become dangerous when exposing this type of ideological ignorance aimed at rewriting history so as to eliminate its fascist and poisonous legacies. This is particularly true of the genocidal brutality waged against Native Americans and Black slaves in the United States and its connection to the memory of Nazi genocide in Europe and the disappearance of critics of fascism in Argentina and Chile in the 1970s.
Dangerous memories are eliminated by political reactionaries (http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/ben-carson-donald-trump-and-the-misuse-of-american-history)in order to erase the ugliness of the past and to legitimate America’s shop worn legacy of exceptionalism with its deadening ideology of habitual optimism, one that substitutes a cheery, empty Disney-like dreamscape for any viable notion of utopian possibility. The Disney dreamscape evacuates hope of any meaning while attempting to undercut a radical utopian element in the conceptual apparatus of hope that speaks to the possibility of a democratic future very different from the authoritarian present. Jelani Cobb is right in insisting that “The habitual tendency to excise the most tragic elements of history creates a void in our collective understanding of what has happened in the past and, therefore, our understanding of the potential for tragedian in the present.” The revival of historical memory as a central political strategy is crucial today given that Trump’s white supremacist policies not only echo elements of a fascist past, they also point to the need to recognize as Paul Gilroy has observed “how elements of fascism appear in new forms,” especially as “the living memory of the fascist period fades.” What historical memory makes clear is that subjectivity and agency are the material of politics and offer the possibility of creating spaces in which “the domestic machinery of inscriptions and invisibility” can be challenged. Catherine Clement is right in arguing that “Somewhere every culture has an imaginary zone for what it excludes and it is that zone we must try to remember today.” Historical and dangerous memories inhabit that zone in today’s neo-fascist (http://www.truthdig.com/tag/neofascism) social order.
While it would be irresponsible to underestimate Trump’s embrace of neo-fascist ideology and policies, he is not solely answerable for the long legacy of authoritarianism that took on a frontal assault with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980. This neoliberal attack was later embraced in the Third Way politics of the Democratic Party, its expansion of the mass incarceration state, and solidified under the anti-democratic, war on terror, permanent war policies of the Bush-Cheney and Obama administrations. During this period, democracy was sold to the bankers and big corporations. Whistleblowers were sent to prison. The financial elite and the CIA tortures were given the green light by the Obama administration that they could commit the gravest of crimes and act with impunity. This surge of repression was made possible mostly through the emergence of a savage neoliberalism, a ruthless concentration of power by the ruling classes, and an aggressive ideological and cultural war aimed at undoing the social contract and the democratic, political and personal freedoms gained in the New Deal and culminating in the civil rights and educational struggles of the 1960s.
Trump’s unapologetic authoritarianism has prompted Democratic Party members and the liberal elite to position themselves as the only model of organized resistance in such dark times. It is difficult not to see such moral outrage and faux pas resistance as both comedic and hypocritical in light of these centrist liberals have played in the last forty years–subverting democracy and throwing minorities of class and color under the bus. As Jeffrey St. Clair observes (http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/03/03/fools-on-the-hill-trump-and-congress/), “Trump’s nominal opponents,” the Democrats Party are “encased in the fatal amber of their neoliberalism” and they are part of the problem and not the solution. Rather than face up to their sordid history of ignoring the needs of workers, young people, and minorities of class and color, the Democratic Party acts as if their embrace of a variety of neoliberal political and economic policies along with their support of a perpetual war machine had nothing to do with paving the way for the election of Donald Trump. Trump represents the transformation of politics into a Reality TV show and the belief that the worth of a candidate can only by judged in terms of a blend of value as an entertainer and an advertisement for casino capitalism. Chris Hedges (http://www.truthdig.com/staff/chris_hedges) gets it right in revealing such hypocrisy for what it is worth – a carnival act. He writes (http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/www.truthdig.com/report/item/donald_trumps_greatest_allies_are_the_liberal_elit es_20170305):

Where was this moral outrage when our privacy was taken from us by the security and surveillance state, the criminals on Wall Street were bailed out, we were stripped of our civil liberties and 2.3 million men and women were packed into our prisons, most of them poor people of color? Why did they not thunder with indignation as money replaced the vote and elected officials and corporate lobbyists instituted our system of legalized bribery? Where were the impassioned critiques of the absurd idea of allowing a nation to be governed by the dictates of corporations, banks and hedge fund managers? Why did they cater to the foibles and utterings of fellow elites, all the while blacklisting critics of the corporate state and ignoring the misery of the poor and the working class? Where was their moral righteousness when the United States committed war crimes in the Middle East and our militarized police carried out murderous rampages? What the liberal elites do now is not moral. It is self-exaltation disguised as piety. It is part of the carnival act.
The production of dangerous memories and critical knowledge and the democratic formative cultures they enable must become central to resisting the armed ignorance of the Trump disimagination machine. While such knowledge is the precondition for militant resistance, it is not enough. A critical consciousness is the precondition of struggle but is only the starting point for resistance. What is also needed is a bold strategy and social movement capable of shutting down this neo-fascist political machine at all levels of government through general strikes, constant occupation of the political spaces and public spheres under the control of the new authoritarians, and the creation of an endless wave of educational strategies and demonstrations that make clear and hold accountable the different ideological, material, psychological, and economic registers of fascism at work in American society. This is a time to study, engage in critical dialogues, develop new educational sites, support and expand the alternative media, and fight back collectively. It will not be easy to turn the tide, but it can happen, and there are historical precedents.

The main strategies of change and political agency, in part, have to focus on both the young and those most vulnerable to the dictates of neo-fascism. Young people, workers, and those now considered disposable, especially, are the driving force of the future and we have to both learn from them, support them, contribute where possible, and join in their struggles. At the same time, as Robin D.G. Kelley argues in his Boston Review article (http://bostonreview.net/forum/after-trump/robin-d-g-kelley-trump-says-go-back-we-say-fight-back), “After Trump,” “we cannot build a sustainable movement without a paradigm shift. Stopgap, utilitarian alliances to stop Trump aren’t enough. … So where do we go from here? If we really care about the world, our country, and our future, we have no choice but to resist.”[xiv] This would also suggest building up unions again and putting their control in the hands of workers; working to build sanctuary cities and institutions that would protect those considered the enemies of white supremacy – immigrants, Muslims, Blacks, and those others considered disposable. Politics has to be revived at the local and state levels, especially given the control of 56 percent of state legislatures by right-wing Republicans. There is also a need to make education central to the formation and expansion of study groups throughout the country and to further a public pedagogy of justice and democracy through the alternative media and when possible in the mainstream media. Central to the latter task is expanding both the range of dialogue regarding how oppression works focusing not merely on economic structures but also the ways it functions ideologically, psychologically (as Wilhelm Reich once argued), and spiritually as Michael Lerner has pointed out in his book, The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right. (https://www.amazon.com/Left-Hand-God-Country-Religious/dp/0060842474)
It is not enough for progressives and others to examine the objective forces and underlying conditions that have pushed so many people to give up on politics, undercut acts of solidarity, and dismantle any viable notion of hope in the future. It is also crucial to understand the crippling emotional forces and psychological narratives that cripple them from the inside out.
It is worth repeating that at the core of any strategy to resist the further descent of the United States into authoritarianism, progressives must recognize that stopping Trump without destroying the economic, political, educational and social conditions which produced him will fail. In part a successful resistance struggle must be both comprehensive and at the same time embrace a vision that is as unified as it is democratic. Instead of reacting to the horrors and misery produced by capitalism, it is crucial to call for its end while supporting a notion of democratic socialism that speaks to the needs of those who have been left out of the discourse of democracy under the financial elite. At stake here is the need for both a language of critique and possibility, a rigorous analysis of the diverse forces of oppression and a discourse of educated hope.Such a task is both political and pedagogical. Not only do existing relations of power have to be called into question, but notions of neoliberal commonsense learning have to be disconnected from any democratic sense of political agency and notion of civic literacy. As Michael Lerner insightfully observes (http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/overcoming-trump-ism-a-new-strategy-for-progressives.), rather than engaging in a politics of shaming, progressives have to produce a discourse in which people can recognize their problems and the actual conditions that produce them. This is not just a political but a pedagogical challenge in which education becomes central to any viable notion of resistance. Making education central to politics means the left will have to remove itself from the discourse of meritocracy that often is used to dismiss and write off those who hold conservative, if not reactionary, views. Not doing so only results in a discourse of shaming and a self-indulgent congratulatory stance on the part of those who occupy progressive political positions. The hard political and pedagogical work of changing consciousness, producing new modes of identity, desires, and values conducive to a democracy doesn’t stop with the moral high ground often taken by liberals and other progressives. The right-wing knows how to address matters of self-blame and anger whereas the left and progressives dispense with the pedagogical challenges posed by those vulnerable groups caught in the magical thinking of reactionary ideologies.
While it is crucial to address the dramatic shifts economically and politically that have produced enormous anger and frustration in American society, it is also important to address the accompanying existential crisis that has destroyed the self-esteem, identity, and hopes of those considered disposable and those whom Hillary Clinton shamelessly called a “basket of deplorables (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/11/us/politics/hillary-clinton-basket-of-deplorables.html).” The ideological mix of untrammeled individualism, self-reliance, a culture of fear, and a war against all ethic has produced both a profound sense of precarity and hopelessness among not only immigrants, poor people of color, but also among working class whites who feel crushed by the economy and threatened by those deemed other as well as demeaned by so called elites.
Resistance will not be easy and has to take place on multiple fronts while at the same time enabling a view of politics that understands how a new class of financial scavengers operates in the free flow of a global space that has no national allegiances, no respect for the social contract, and exhibit a degree of power that is unparalleled in its ability to exploit, produce massive inequality, destroy the planet, and accelerate human suffering across and within national boundaries. Resistance is no longer an option, it is now a matter of life or death. The lights are going out on democracy across the globe and the time to wake up from this nightmare is now. There are no guarantees in politics, but there is no politics that matters without hope, that is, educated hope. This is not merely a call for a third political party, progressives need to create a new politics and new social and political formations. For instance, instead of mounting resistance through a range of single issue movements, it is important to bring such movements together as part of a broad-based political formation.
Any vision for this movement must reject the false notion that capitalism and democracy are synonymous. The crisis of democracy has reached its tipping point, and once again the possibilities for reclaiming the ideals and practices of democratic socialism seem capable of moving a generation of young people and others to act. Under the reign of Trump, the words of Frederick Douglass (http://www.blackpast.org/1857-frederick-douglass-if-there-no-struggle-there-no-progress#sthash.8Eoaxpmo.dpuf) ring especially true:

If there is no struggle, there is no progress. …This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.
Trump’s election is surely a tragedy for democracy and a triumph for neo-fascism and it must be challenged and stopped on a variety of levels. Yet, making clear Trump’s anti-democratic ideology and practices will not put an end to the current stage of neo-fascism in the United States, especially when memory no longer makes a claim on our understanding of the past. Trump’s election has unleashed a brand of savage capitalism that not only has and will continue to have horrible consequences, but is deeply rooted in a mode of historical and social amnesia that eliminates its relationship to an authoritarian past. Memory loses its role as a vehicle of liberation when policies that produce savage modes of austerity, inequality, racism, and contempt for public goods become frozen in historical time and consciousness and as such become normalized. Under such circumstances, organized structures of misrecognition define and legitimate memory as a threat.
Memory, reason and thoughtfulness have to awake from the narcotizing effects of a culture of spectacle, consumerism, militarism, and the celebration of unchecked self-interests. A society that enshrines the war of all against all, elevates self-interest as its highest ideal, reduces responsibility to a solely individual undertaking, makes distrust a virtue, and turns love and compassion into a pathology points to a social order that has lost its memory of self-worth, dignity, justice, and compassion. Evil in politics is no longer a figment of the past but a present day reality enshrined in the ethos of neoliberalism. The body of democracy is on life support and the wounds now being inflicted upon it are too alarming to either ignore or normalize.
A shorter version of this article was published in CounterPunch.
Henry A. Giroux is a contributing editor for Tikkun (http://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/) magazine and the McMaster University Professor for Scholarship in the Public Interest and The Paulo Freire Distinguished Scholar in Critical Pedagogy. His most recent books include “The Violence of Organized Forgetting” (City Lights, 2014), “Dangerous Thinking in the Age of the New Authoritarianism” (Routledge, 2015), coauthored with Brad Evans, “Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle” (City Lights, 2015), and “America at War with Itself” (City Lights, 2016). His website iswww.henryagiroux.com (https://www.henryagiroux.com/).

Cliff Varnell
03-18-2017, 05:36 PM
Henry A. Giroux's article was excellent until he got to this:



solidified under the anti-democratic, war on terror, permanent war policies of the Bush-Cheney and Obama administrations. During this period, democracy was sold to the bankers and big corporations. Whistleblowers were sent to prison. The financial elite and the CIA tortures were given the green light by the Obama administration that they could commit the gravest of crimes and act with impunity.


Bush-Cheney opened CIA torture black sites and okayed waterboarding.

How is that the same as Obama closing CIA black sites and outlawing waterboarding?

How was the Obama-Putin negotiated removal of chemical weapons from Syria the same as Bush-Cheney invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq?

How was the Obama-led negotiated removal of nuclear weapon technology from Iran part of a strategy of permanent war?

Obama deserves plenty of criticism for his Drone Terror Campaign, which creates more jihadism than it takes off the battlefield, but let's not indulge the false equivalency that Obama's policies were identical to Bush's.

A million dead Iraqis by the hand of Bush tell otherwise.

Obama deserves plenty of criticism for his crackdowns on whistle-blowers and undocumented aliens, but let's not forget that Trump's proposals in these areas are far worse.

The passage of Obamacare was the first top-to-bottom wealth transfer since the New Deal, so let's not forget Trumpcare's $1 trillion bottom-to-top wealth transfer proposal.

Obama made the internet a utility, preserving net neutrality -- let's not forget Trump's denunciation of net neutrality and vow to kill it.

Same sex marriage, trans-folks rights, the $11 billion returned to victims of credit card abuse, the opening to Cuba.

Let's critique the Obama years with clear eyes, but let's quit pretending he was just like Clinton/Bush.

Where the hell is Giroux's near-term "memory"?

David Guyatt
03-19-2017, 08:33 AM
"Let's critique the Obama years with clear eyes"? ::clown::

Magda Hassan
03-19-2017, 11:34 AM
How is that the same as Obama closing CIA black sites and outlawing waterboarding?


::orly::

Hey he outlawed all the black sites? And nothing bad ever happened in them again... and they lived happily ever after.





How was the Obama-Putin negotiated removal of chemical weapons from Syria the same as Bush-Cheney invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq?


::orly::

Obama and Putin? Not even Putin and Obama? I am sure Obama resupplied the 'rebels' with more to make up for their losses.





How was the Obama-led negotiated removal of nuclear weapon technology from Iran part of a strategy of permanent war?

Yep Obama sure put an end to all that permanent war business didn't he?


Obama deserves plenty of criticism for his Drone Terror Campaign, which creates more jihadism than it takes off the battlefield, but let's not indulge the false equivalency that Obama's policies were identical to Bush's.

A million dead Iraqis by the hand of Bush tell otherwise.


::orly::

Yeah, the millions of Syrians and Libyans who are dead and lost and destroyed just hate false equivalences too.




Obama deserves plenty of criticism for his crackdowns on whistle-blowers and undocumented aliens, but let's not forget that Trump's proposals in these areas are far worse.


And the apparatus was kindly set up and reinforced by Obama. And he used it extensively. But don't mention that. Proposals versus deeds.




The passage of Obamacare was the first top-to-bottom wealth transfer since the New Deal, so let's not forget Trumpcare's $1 trillion bottom-to-top wealth transfer proposal.


::orly::


Wow. Obamacare transferring wealth to for profit insurance companies is now top to bottom wealth distribution?

Cliff Varnell
03-20-2017, 05:31 AM
My comments in red.




How is that the same as Obama closing CIA black sites and outlawing waterboarding?


::orly::

Hey he outlawed all the black sites? And nothing bad ever happened in them again... and they lived happily ever after.


Excuse me?

Are you claiming that Obama didn't close CIA black sites?





How was the Obama-Putin negotiated removal of chemical weapons from Syria the same as Bush-Cheney invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq?


::orly::

Obama and Putin? Not even Putin and Obama? I am sure Obama resupplied the 'rebels' with more to make up for their losses.

Okay. Putin and Obama. Feel better?





How was the Obama-led negotiated removal of nuclear weapon technology from Iran part of a strategy of permanent war?


Yep Obama sure put an end to all that permanent war business didn't he?

I never made that claim. Are you denying that the Iran nuke deal didn't fit the permanent-war program?


Obama deserves plenty of criticism for his Drone Terror Campaign, which creates more jihadism than it takes off the battlefield, but let's not indulge the false equivalency that Obama's policies were identical to Bush's.

A million dead Iraqis by the hand of Bush tell otherwise.


::orly::

Yeah, the millions of Syrians and Libyans who are dead and lost and destroyed just hate false equivalences too.

Millions of Libyans?

I suppose Assad was an innocent by-stander in the death of Syrians?




Obama deserves plenty of criticism for his crackdowns on whistle-blowers and undocumented aliens, but let's not forget that Trump's proposals in these areas are far worse.


And the apparatus was kindly set up and reinforced by Obama. And he used it extensively. But don't mention that.

What part of "Obama deserves plenty of criticism for his crackdowns on whistle-blowers and undocumented aliens" didn't you understand?

Proposals versus deeds.




The passage of Obamacare was the first top-to-bottom wealth transfer since the New Deal, so let's not forget Trumpcare's $1 trillion bottom-to-top wealth transfer proposal.


::orly::


Wow. Obamacare transferring wealth to for profit insurance companies is now top to bottom wealth distribution?

No, the nearly $1 trillion tax on the wealthy to fund the medicaid expansion was top to bottom wealth distribution.

Peter Lemkin
03-20-2017, 06:02 AM
March 19, 2017 | DonkeyHotey and Klaus Marre (http://whowhatwhy.org/author/donkeyhotey-and-klaus-marre/) The Abdication of Morality

To Love or Deport Thy Neighbor

http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/image01-4-700x470.jpg
“Illegal aliens” or “undocumented immigrants” — what to call the people currently living in the United States without valid documents? How about José and Maria, Wang and Xiang, “mommy” and “daddy?”
As families are being torn apart by immigration raids every day, the nation’s leaders should not lose sight of the reality that their decisions will affect millions of human beings — and the moral standing of their country.
While President Donald Trump would have Americans believe that only “bad hombres” are being deported, the facts on the ground look different. In fact, the rate of non-criminals affected is about 50%, (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-39295297) which is much higher than in previous years.
But numbers don’t tell the entire story. This column intentionally does not delve into the economic consequences of mass deportations, because these deportations have far more than economic consequences, and create harms that cannot be captured by dollars and cents. In many cases, the only thing these immigrants did “wrong” was to walk across a desert from Mexico to the United States in search for a better life.
Millions of them found it. They worked, pai (http://www.itep.org/immigration/)d taxes (http://www.itep.org/immigration/), became respected members of their communities (http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/02/27/pro-trump-town-riled-up-after-immigration-officials-arrest-popular-restaurant-manager.html), got married and had American kids. Coming to the US with nothing, they are the embodiment of the American Dream.
Deporting these moms and dads and breaking up their families is a much bigger crime than crossing a border without papers could ever be.
Equally scandalous is a proposed plan of separating mothers from their children (http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-immigration-children-idUSKBN16A2ES) if they are caught crossing the border together without the proper documents. It would be an example of government-mandated cruelty.
At stake is not just the fate of these families, but also a part of the American soul. The US has a long history of atrocities and injustices committed against minorities and adversaries — from the near-eradication of the indigenous North American population to the enslavement of Africans, the internment of Japanese Americans and, most recently, the torture of prisoners.
Immigration, however, has been one of the bright spots in the country’s history and the narrative surrounding it has generally matched reality. At a time when the United States’ standing as the “leader of the free world” is in great jeopardy, the Trump administration and GOP leaders in Congress should think long and hard before they continue pursuing a strategy that will tarnish one of the few areas in which the US has been truly exceptional.

Peter Lemkin
03-20-2017, 08:02 AM
Henry A. Giroux's article was excellent until he got to this:



solidified under the anti-democratic, war on terror, permanent war policies of the Bush-Cheney and Obama administrations. During this period, democracy was sold to the bankers and big corporations. Whistleblowers were sent to prison. The financial elite and the CIA tortures were given the green light by the Obama administration that they could commit the gravest of crimes and act with impunity.


Bush-Cheney opened CIA torture black sites and okayed waterboarding.

How is that the same as Obama closing CIA black sites and outlawing waterboarding?

How was the Obama-Putin negotiated removal of chemical weapons from Syria the same as Bush-Cheney invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq?

How was the Obama-led negotiated removal of nuclear weapon technology from Iran part of a strategy of permanent war?

Obama deserves plenty of criticism for his Drone Terror Campaign, which creates more jihadism than it takes off the battlefield, but let's not indulge the false equivalency that Obama's policies were identical to Bush's.

A million dead Iraqis by the hand of Bush tell otherwise.

Obama deserves plenty of criticism for his crackdowns on whistle-blowers and undocumented aliens, but let's not forget that Trump's proposals in these areas are far worse.

The passage of Obamacare was the first top-to-bottom wealth transfer since the New Deal, so let's not forget Trumpcare's $1 trillion bottom-to-top wealth transfer proposal.

Obama made the internet a utility, preserving net neutrality -- let's not forget Trump's denunciation of net neutrality and vow to kill it.

Same sex marriage, trans-folks rights, the $11 billion returned to victims of credit card abuse, the opening to Cuba.

Let's critique the Obama years with clear eyes, but let's quit pretending he was just like Clinton/Bush.

Where the hell is Giroux's near-term "memory"?



Cliff, On some things the Obama Administration were better [or less bad] than what came before or after. On others, there was little change. On a few, such as drone strikes, NDAA, going after whistleblowers, bank bail-outs with none going to jail or even charged [and others], Obama may well have been even worse. If I had to choose, I'd choose Obama over Bush or Trump for sure - but that is not the real issue - nor choice. The 'pluses' were not ever going to change the system to be a fair and democratic one. Now, we have one that will make such a change even more difficult. Obama was infinitely more intelligent and savvy than Trump and cared a little [little is the operative word] for those at the bottom - on some things domestic; not on others that really displeased his 'masters'. Trump cares about no one but himself and his rich oligarch cronies. All that said, and I could detail more on the plus and minus side for Obama, in the end he carried out the 'usual' foreign policies and kept the trickle up going on, with the wars and the National Security State et al. We need none of the above - we need a total change. I miss having an African-American in the White House, especially when replaced by a White bigot and worse. As for the majority of Obama's important policies, they were the same old, same old [in part due to the Congress - but in part due to his agenda or that of those who pulled his strings]. Yes, on a few things he was more humane, but given Bush and Trump that was easy as pie. He did however mislead his flock. Hope and Change was his big theme and that hope and change never, IMO, came to pass - he really misled his followers. This endless hope for the lesser of evils will get us nowhere but with an 'evil', by definition. We can and must do better.

Magda Hassan
03-20-2017, 11:09 PM
Hope and Change was his big theme and that hope and change never, IMO, came to pass - he really misled his followers. This endless hope for the lesser of evils will get us nowhere but with an 'evil', by definition. We can and must do better.

Exactly. And some people wonder why other people voted for Trump. He too was offering hope and change. Not the Democrats. They even cheated to keep the status quo.

Peter Lemkin
03-21-2017, 05:15 AM
President Trump has unveiled his 2018 budget proposal to Congress, which calls for an unprecedented $54 billion increase in military spending while slashing environmental, housing, diplomatic and educational programs. The budget would also cut spending for the State Department and USAID by 28 percent and slash billions of dollars in funding for the United Nations.
The Office of Management and Budget director describes Trump’s proposal as an America First budget. The big winners are the Pentagon and Homeland Security. Trump is requesting a $2.8 billion increase in funding, largely to pay for expanding the border wall and hiring 1,500 new Border Patrol and ICE agents, despite the fact that for over a year he said Mexico would pay for that wall, which Mexico has adamantly refused to do.
The big losers are almost every other sector of government. The National Institutes of Health would see its funding slashed by 20 percent. And Trump is proposing a 31 percent cut to the Environmental Protection Agency along with the elimination of 3,200 jobs there. If approved, the EPA’s budget would become the smallest it’s been in 40 years. The budget calls to end funding for the Clean Power Plan, international climate change programs, climate change research and related efforts. It also reduces Superfund cleanup funding and eliminates funds to clean up the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay.
Meanwhile, Trump’s budget calls for the outright elimination of 19 agencies, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports public radio and television stations across the country, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Education Department would see a $9 billion cut, even as so-called school choice programs would receive $1.4 billion more in funding. Trump’s education secretary, Betsy DeVos, has been a major backer of such programs, which include vouchers for private and religious schools that divert public funding out of the public school system. Numerous programs to help the poor are on the chopping block, including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which helps the poor pay for heat during the winter, the Legal Services Corporation, which funds free legal aid nationwide, and the Community Development Block Grant program, which partially funds, among other things, Meals on Wheels to feed the elderly, the poor, veterans and the disabled.
During Thursday’s news conference, OMB head Mick Mulvaney described the budget as "compassionate" when he was asked about cuts being made.

JIM ACOSTA: Just to follow up on that, you were talking about the steelworker in Ohio and the coal miner in Pennsylvania and so on, but those workers may have an elderly mother who depends on the Meals on Wheels program, who may have kids in Head Start. And yesterday or the day before, you described this as a "hard-power budget," but is it also a hard-hearted budget?

MICK MULVANEY: No, I don’t think so. In fact, I think it’s—I think it’s probably one of the most compassionate things we can do to actually—you’re—

JIM ACOSTA: Cut programs that help the elderly and kids?

MICK MULVANEY: You’re only focusing on half of the equation, right? You’re focusing on recipients of the money. We’re trying to focus on both the recipients of the money and the folks who give us the money in the first place. And I think it’s fairly compassionate to go to them and say, "Look, we’re not going to ask you for your hard-earned money anymore." Single mom of two in Detroit, OK? "Give us your money." We’re not going to do that anymore, unless we can—unless we can—

JIM ACOSTA: And if the single mom has two kids—what if that single mom has two kids in Head Start?

MICK MULVANEY: —unless we can guarantee—please let me finish, please let me finish—unless we can guarantee to you that that monies actually be used in a proper function. And I think that is about as compassionate as you can get.

Cliff Varnell
03-21-2017, 06:35 AM
Henry A. Giroux's article was excellent until he got to this:



solidified under the anti-democratic, war on terror, permanent war policies of the Bush-Cheney and Obama administrations. During this period, democracy was sold to the bankers and big corporations. Whistleblowers were sent to prison. The financial elite and the CIA tortures were given the green light by the Obama administration that they could commit the gravest of crimes and act with impunity.


Bush-Cheney opened CIA torture black sites and okayed waterboarding.

How is that the same as Obama closing CIA black sites and outlawing waterboarding?

How was the Obama-Putin negotiated removal of chemical weapons from Syria the same as Bush-Cheney invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq?

How was the Obama-led negotiated removal of nuclear weapon technology from Iran part of a strategy of permanent war?

Obama deserves plenty of criticism for his Drone Terror Campaign, which creates more jihadism than it takes off the battlefield, but let's not indulge the false equivalency that Obama's policies were identical to Bush's.

A million dead Iraqis by the hand of Bush tell otherwise.

Obama deserves plenty of criticism for his crackdowns on whistle-blowers and undocumented aliens, but let's not forget that Trump's proposals in these areas are far worse.

The passage of Obamacare was the first top-to-bottom wealth transfer since the New Deal, so let's not forget Trumpcare's $1 trillion bottom-to-top wealth transfer proposal.

Obama made the internet a utility, preserving net neutrality -- let's not forget Trump's denunciation of net neutrality and vow to kill it.

Same sex marriage, trans-folks rights, the $11 billion returned to victims of credit card abuse, the opening to Cuba.

Let's critique the Obama years with clear eyes, but let's quit pretending he was just like Clinton/Bush.

Where the hell is Giroux's near-term "memory"?



Cliff, On some things the Obama Administration were better [or less bad] than what came before or after. On others, there was little change. On a few, such as drone strikes, NDAA, going after whistleblowers, bank bail-outs with none going to jail or even charged [and others], Obama may well have been even worse. If I had to choose, I'd choose Obama over Bush or Trump for sure - but that is not the real issue - nor choice. The 'pluses' were not ever going to change the system to be a fair and democratic one. Now, we have one that will make such a change even more difficult. Obama was infinitely more intelligent and savvy than Trump and cared a little [little is the operative word] for those at the bottom - on some things domestic; not on others that really displeased his 'masters'. Trump cares about no one but himself and his rich oligarch cronies. All that said, and I could detail more on the plus and minus side for Obama, in the end he carried out the 'usual' foreign policies and kept the trickle up going on, with the wars and the National Security State et al. We need none of the above - we need a total change. I miss having an African-American in the White House, especially when replaced by a White bigot and worse. As for the majority of Obama's important policies, they were the same old, same old [in part due to the Congress - but in part due to his agenda or that of those who pulled his strings]. Yes, on a few things he was more humane, but given Bush and Trump that was easy as pie. He did however mislead his flock. Hope and Change was his big theme and that hope and change never, IMO, came to pass - he really misled his followers. This endless hope for the lesser of evils will get us nowhere but with an 'evil', by definition. We can and must do better.

The lesser of two evils is one way to look at it.

A half of a loaf is better than no loaf at all -- that's another way to look at it.

Peter Lemkin
03-21-2017, 11:15 AM
Henry A. Giroux's article was excellent until he got to this:



solidified under the anti-democratic, war on terror, permanent war policies of the Bush-Cheney and Obama administrations. During this period, democracy was sold to the bankers and big corporations. Whistleblowers were sent to prison. The financial elite and the CIA tortures were given the green light by the Obama administration that they could commit the gravest of crimes and act with impunity.


Bush-Cheney opened CIA torture black sites and okayed waterboarding.

How is that the same as Obama closing CIA black sites and outlawing waterboarding?

How was the Obama-Putin negotiated removal of chemical weapons from Syria the same as Bush-Cheney invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq?

How was the Obama-led negotiated removal of nuclear weapon technology from Iran part of a strategy of permanent war?

Obama deserves plenty of criticism for his Drone Terror Campaign, which creates more jihadism than it takes off the battlefield, but let's not indulge the false equivalency that Obama's policies were identical to Bush's.

A million dead Iraqis by the hand of Bush tell otherwise.

Obama deserves plenty of criticism for his crackdowns on whistle-blowers and undocumented aliens, but let's not forget that Trump's proposals in these areas are far worse.

The passage of Obamacare was the first top-to-bottom wealth transfer since the New Deal, so let's not forget Trumpcare's $1 trillion bottom-to-top wealth transfer proposal.

Obama made the internet a utility, preserving net neutrality -- let's not forget Trump's denunciation of net neutrality and vow to kill it.

Same sex marriage, trans-folks rights, the $11 billion returned to victims of credit card abuse, the opening to Cuba.

Let's critique the Obama years with clear eyes, but let's quit pretending he was just like Clinton/Bush.

Where the hell is Giroux's near-term "memory"?



Cliff, On some things the Obama Administration were better [or less bad] than what came before or after. On others, there was little change. On a few, such as drone strikes, NDAA, going after whistleblowers, bank bail-outs with none going to jail or even charged [and others], Obama may well have been even worse. If I had to choose, I'd choose Obama over Bush or Trump for sure - but that is not the real issue - nor choice. The 'pluses' were not ever going to change the system to be a fair and democratic one. Now, we have one that will make such a change even more difficult. Obama was infinitely more intelligent and savvy than Trump and cared a little [little is the operative word] for those at the bottom - on some things domestic; not on others that really displeased his 'masters'. Trump cares about no one but himself and his rich oligarch cronies. All that said, and I could detail more on the plus and minus side for Obama, in the end he carried out the 'usual' foreign policies and kept the trickle up going on, with the wars and the National Security State et al. We need none of the above - we need a total change. I miss having an African-American in the White House, especially when replaced by a White bigot and worse. As for the majority of Obama's important policies, they were the same old, same old [in part due to the Congress - but in part due to his agenda or that of those who pulled his strings]. Yes, on a few things he was more humane, but given Bush and Trump that was easy as pie. He did however mislead his flock. Hope and Change was his big theme and that hope and change never, IMO, came to pass - he really misled his followers. This endless hope for the lesser of evils will get us nowhere but with an 'evil', by definition. We can and must do better.

The lesser of two evils is one way to look at it.

A half of a loaf is better than no loaf at all -- that's another way to look at it.

If one looks at 'Obamacare' that might be a reasonable analogy....but not on many other things. For most things Obama kept the half loaf of his predecessors but disguised it in eloquent speeches and musings. I'm even tempted to believe he believed some [not all] of that eloquent and humane verbage - but was constrained by the powers behind the office. Obama and soon 'Obamacare' will be gone, I'm afraid. Now, we need to fight for single payer - but so many other things totally unrelated to that important but single issue. Trump has defunded EPA and many other non-military agencies. He is going to do massive transfers of wealth from the poor and middle class [a dying species] to the ultra-rich, and he has started to 'Make American Hate Again' as it has not in a long time - although those undercurrents were always there, but are now given approval from the top. Time to think of new ways to move ahead, as all of the past leaders and more so the secret/hidden forces behind them have always failed the majority of citizens in most all countries. Democracy is a fiction to varying degrees in different countries and times - but rarely even almost a reality - and this is by design. The Environment is dying - and this is by design. Wealth is being transferred up and fast by design. The game of control of the populace with fear and spying on them is increasing. The use of sequel wars has now been replaced by endless war with lots of other mini-warlets by design. False-flag ops, always used, are not getting more common and held on bigger 'stages'. Things that help humans are giving way to things that only help a few grow more powerful and rich...and one could go on.

Peter Lemkin
03-22-2017, 05:33 AM
Richard Wolff giving his monthly economic analysis. Much of it is on Trumpf & Co. - the rest on the nefarious financial 'system' we have in the USA. Very good stuff not heard anywhere else, such as plans to enslave the illegal immigrants [to benefit the prison industrial complex] arrested, even before they see a immigration court...and many other 'delights'. Wolff is the best financial analyst of the US system and neoliberalism [and what came before it], IMO.

Note: the first 10 or so minutes of the video are not of much interest as they try to get everyone seated due to overflow crowd. Just skip that part, if wanted. It gets good soon enough!!!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdMCTlHl5RQ&list=PLH_qQFmOkmhdLbf_aBSZNunC qmsds8O1B&index=1

Peter Lemkin
03-22-2017, 09:33 AM
And if you liked Wolff, above, here is his February monthly review and views.....


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GlNmm-OoNvE&index=2&list=PLH_qQFmOkmhdLbf_aBSZNunCqmsds8 O1B

Peter Lemkin
03-23-2017, 05:55 AM
Texas judge: ICE raid in Austin was retaliation for sheriff's new 'sanctuary' policy (https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/3/21/1645767/-Texas-judge-ICE-raid-in-Austin-was-retaliation-for-sheriff-s-new-sanctuary-policy)



http://images.dailykos.com/avatars/1756627/small/_ClkDZ0d.jpg?1488817299
By Gabe Ortiz (https://www.dailykos.com/user/Gabe%20Ortiz)
Tuesday Mar 21, 2017· 7:07 PM CET





31Comments(22 New) (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/3/21/1645767/-Texas-judge-ICE-raid-in-Austin-was-retaliation-for-sheriff-s-new-sanctuary-policy#comments)68




http://images.dailykos.com/images/374496/story_image/GettyImages-162867266.jpg?1488847428















According to U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin, (https://www.texasobserver.org/federal-judge-ice-conducted-austin-raids-in-retaliation-against-sheriffs-new-policy/) a recent ICE raid in Austin, Texas, was payback for a new “sanctuary” policy from Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez designed to limit local law enforcement’s cooperation with federal immigration officials. As former American Immigration Lawyers Association president David Leopold tweeted earlier today, “a B.F.D. if true” (https://twitter.com/DavidLeopold/status/844141390028259335):

In a back-and-forth between ICE agent Laron Bryant, Judge Andrew Austin said he and another federal magistrate were briefed by ICE in late January about the upcoming raids. They were told that the agency would be conducting operations in the Austin area as a “result of the sheriff’s new policy” and because a meeting between ICE and Hernandez in January “didn’t go very well,” according to an audio transcript obtained by the Observer. Bryant confirmed that was the case. The Austin American-Statesman (http://www.mystatesman.com/news/judge-ice-said-austin-raid-was-payback-for-sanctuary-policy/dHWeSUd7nyp0XPJ6HcW8NP/) first reported the story.
In February, Hernandez implemented a policy limiting her department’s cooperation with detainer requests (https://www.texasobserver.org/immigration-sanctuary-cities/) from ICE to undocumented immigrants charged with serious crimes, such as murder, aggravated sexual assault and human trafficking. Such policies have attracted opposition from the Trump administration, Governor Greg Abbott (https://www.texasobserver.org/greg-abbott-sally-hernandez-fundraiser/) and other Republican lawmakers.
What ICE has always preferred is for local law enforcement to hold all undocumented immigrants—even those arrested for minor reasons, like traffic offenses—in jail for them to pick up later. But this is a waste of local resources and destroys the fragile trust between immigrant communities and police. If members of the community don’t trust law enforcement, they are less likely to report crimes, and that makes the entire community less safe for all. So, knowing where she lives best, Sheriff Hernandez took action—and apparently, so did ICE.
According to the Austin American-Statesman, (http://www.mystatesman.com/news/judge-ice-said-austin-raid-was-because-sanctuary-policy/dHWeSUd7nyp0XPJ6HcW8NP/) “ICE characterized the operation as routine and said the Austin area was not being targeted.” But as immigration advocates have long known, what ICE says and what ICE does are two different things. (http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/3/3/14801474/ice-detain-deport-immigrant) Donald Trump said he would be targeting only “bad hombres” and violent criminals for arrest and deportation, but according to the Statesman, 28 of the 51 immigrants rounded up in the February raid didn’t even have a criminal history.



While a retaliatory action from ICE would be truly vile, it would not be unprecedented. Just look at the case of Dreamer Daniela Vargas earlier this month: (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/03/daniela_vargas_embodies_the_casual_cruelty_of_trum p_s_war_on_immigrants.html)

Last week, officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested 22-year-old Dreamer Daniela Vargas (http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/02/us/daniela-vargas-dreamer-deportation-friday/index.html), a Mississippi resident who has been living in the United States since she was 7. But for a temporary lapse in her status under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/consideration-deferred-action-childhood-arrivals-daca) immigration policy, Vargas has been everything America says it wants in an immigrant: well-educated, ambitious, law-abiding, and patriotic. It should surprise nobody that she is about to be deported.
Vargas was taken into ICE custody just moments after she publicly criticized the Trump administration’s immigration raids (http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/07/us/daniela-vargas-detained-dreamer-petition/), a move that makes it appear as if she was swept up by the immigration agency on account of what she said to the press. ICE agents have confirmed that Vargas was taken into custody “during a targeted immigration enforcement action.”

This is just the kind of vindictiveness to expect from an administration that would so cruelly target immigrant moms and dads trying to provide for their families while pulling crap like this. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2017/03/21/1645734/-Eric-Trumps-winery-is-hiring-foreign-workers-because-US-born-workers-dont-want-the-job)

Peter Lemkin
03-23-2017, 05:56 AM
One of the most riveting moments in the Gorsuch hearing occurred when Minnesota Senator Al Franken questioned Gorsuch about his ruling in a case involving a truck driver who got fired after he disobeyed a supervisor and abandoned his trailer that he was driving, because he was on the verge of freezing to death. The truck driver couldn’t drive off with the trailer, because the trailer’s brakes had frozen. In the case, Judge Gorsuch cast the sole dissent ruling in favor of the trucking company against the trucker. In a moment, we’ll hear Franken questioning Judge Gorsuch about the case, but first let’s turn to the truck driver himself, Alphonse Maddin, who spoke in Washington, D.C., a few days ago at an event organized by Senate Democrats.
ALPHONSE MADDIN: In January of 2009, I was working as a commercial truck driver for TransAm Trucking Incorporated of Olathe, Kansas. I was hauling a load of meat through the state of Illinois. After stopping to resolve a discrepancy in the location to refuel, the brakes on the trailer froze. I contacted my employer, and they arranged for a repair unit to come to my location. I expected that help would arrive within an hour.


I awoke three hours later to discover that I could not feel my feet, my skin was burning and cracking, my speech was slurred, and I was having trouble breathing. The temperature that night was roughly 27 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. The heater in the cabin was not producing heat, and the temperature gauge in the truck was reading minus-7 degrees below zero. After informing my employer of my physical condition, they responded by telling me to simply hang in there.


As I sat there physically suffering in the cold, I started having thoughts that I was going to die. My physical condition was fading rapidly. I decided to try to detach the trailer from the truck and drive to safety. When I stepped out of the truck, I was concerned that I may fall, because I was on the verge of passing out. I feared that if I fell, I would not have the strength to stand up, and would die. I walked to the back of the trailer to place a lock on the cargo doors. The distance that I walked to the back of the trailer seemed like an eternity, as my feet absolutely had no feeling at all.


I eventually was able to detach the tractor from the trailer. Before I left, I called my employer to notify them that I had decided to head for shelter. And they ordered me to either drag the trailer or stay put. In my opinion, clearly, their cargo was more important than my life. My employer fired me for disobeying their orders. And I’d like to make it clear that although I detached the tractor from the trailer, I returned, and I completed my job. And I was still fired.


OK, I disputed my termination from TransAm Trucking and ultimately won. This was a seven-year battle. Seven different judges heard my case. One of those judges found against me. That judge was Neil Gorsuch.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Alphonse Maddin, the trucker, the driver, in the case involving Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. At Tuesday’s hearing, Senator Al Franken questioned Gorsuch about his dissent in the case.
SEN. AL FRANKEN: There were two safety issues here: one, the possibility of freezing to death, or driving with that rig in a very, very—a very dangerous way. Which would you have chosen? Which would you have done, Judge?


JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: Oh, Senator, I don’t know what I would have done if I were in his shoes, and I don’t blame him at all, for a moment, for doing what he did do.


SEN. AL FRANKEN: But—but—but—


JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: I empathize with him entirely.


SEN. AL FRANKEN: OK, just you’ve—we’ve been talking about this case. Don’t—you don’t—you haven’t decided what you would have done? You haven’t thought about, for a second, what you would have done in his case?


JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: Oh, Senator, I thought a lot about this case, because I—


SEN. AL FRANKEN: And what would you have done?


JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: I totally empathize and understand—


SEN. AL FRANKEN: I’m asking you a question. Please answer questions.


JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: Senator, I don’t know. I wasn’t in the man’s shoes. But I understand why he did—


SEN. AL FRANKEN: You don’t know what you would have done.


JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: I understand—


SEN. AL FRANKEN: OK, I’ll tell you what I would have done. I would have done exactly what he did.


JUDGE NEIL GORSUCH: Yeah, I understand that.


SEN. AL FRANKEN: I think everybody here would have done exactly what he did. ... It is absurd to say this company is in its rights to fire him because he made the choice of possibly dying from freezing to death or causing other people to die possibly by driving an unsafe vehicle. That’s absurd. Now, I had a career in identifying absurdity, and I know it when I see it. And it makes me—you know, it makes me question your judgment.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Senator Franken questioning Judge Gorsuch. We’re joined now by two guests. Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, she’ll be testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Elliot Mincberg is a senior fellow at People for the American Way, former chief counsel for oversight and investigations of the House Judiciary Committee.
Kristen, let’s begin with you. Can you talk about the significance of this case, Judge Gorsuch, the sole dissenter, siding with the company that this man should have remained in subfreezing weather in this broken-down truck, even if it meant he would die?
KRISTEN CLARKE: Well, you know, it’s not just this one case. At the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, what we historically do is we review the full record of nominees that are put forth for the Supreme Court. And we did that with Judge Gorsuch. We looked at many of the cases that he authored or joined the opinion in during his tenure on the 10th Circuit.
And what we found was a pattern that suggests that he is not someone who believes that victims should be using the courtroom as a place to vindicate their civil rights. He has a very narrow view of civil rights. This was a pattern that emerged for us as we evaluated the many cases that were issued or authored by Judge Gorsuch. We found this pattern especially pronounced in the criminal justice context—when we looked at cases involving police officers, for example. Judge Gorsuch is someone who is a—has a very law-and-order outlook. He’s somebody who is very pro-law enforcement. There’s one case that stands out from his record, in which an officer sought qualified immunity after being sued in a wrongful death matter after shooting a victim in the head at close range with a Taser. The victim died. And there, Judge Gorsuch determined that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity. And there were a number of cases like this.
In a separate criminal justice matter—you know, Judge Gorsuch, throughout these hearings, has gone to great lengths to say that he looks at people individually. But in some of the criminal justice cases, he talked about cops as a general group who, you know, we shouldn’t question or second-guess their judgments. So, he’s somebody who is bringing to bear a very pro-law enforcement perspective. And I think that’s important, because victims in the trucking case, victims in criminal justice cases, often are, you know, going to the courts as a forum of last resort, and Mr. Gorsuch is not somebody who views the courts as a place for victims of discrimination to really vindicate their rights. And that’s deeply problematic.
AMY GOODMAN: Elliot Mincberg of People for the American Way, this particular case is stunning, and Senator Franken spent a lot of time on this, asking Judge Gorsuch would he want to be on the road of a trucker who was experiencing hypothermia, who was not able to drive this road correctly. Not only would he be endangering himself, the trucker, but other people on the road. Can you talk more about this case?
ELLIOT MINCBERG: Well, you’re exactly right. And it’s interesting. In the excerpt you played, the judge continues to try to claim that he has empathy for this truck driver. But when the pedal hit the metal, so to speak, he did precisely the opposite. He did what he does in so many cases, but sided with the corporation, which claimed under the law that it had the ability to insist that that truck driver either drive the truck with the trailer attached or stay right where he is. As Senator Franken pointed out, the result of either one of those likely would have been his death. And the majority in that case and all the other judges that looked at it saw very clearly that the Labor Department was correct and that there was no good justification for what the employer had done. Gorsuch disagreed, as he so often does in cases involving corporations, where he very consistently tends to favor the corporation over the individual employee, consumer, whatever the case may be. In fact, we found that out of 11 dissents that he wrote relating corporations, 10 of them—all but one—were in favor of the corporation. The only exception was a case where a local community wanted to regulate an adult bookstore.
AMY GOODMAN: And what happened in that case?
ELLIOT MINCBERG: In that case, he went along with the local community and went against the corporation. That was the only dissent in which he did that. And even in those cases that he tried to talk about, under usually Republican questioning, where he favored employees—which he did occasionally—almost always they tended to be against a municipal corporation. When it’s a corporation, a private corporation, involved, the kind of corporation that he represented in private practice, he very, very consistently votes for the corporation, not the little guy. And that’s not what we want on the Supreme Court.

Peter Lemkin
03-23-2017, 05:58 AM
We turn now to what seems to be a growing chorus of U.S. citizens sharing accounts of having been detained at airports across the country since the start of the Trump administration.
Boston-based civil rights attorney Iván Espinoza-Madrigal says he was returning home on March 12th from a vacation in Portugal, when he was detained at Boston’s Logan Airport. In an article (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/airports-the-next-racial-profiling-frontier_us_58d045abe4b07112b64730d2) in The Huffington Post, Espinoza-Madrigal, who was born in Costa Rica, explains that he has lived in the U.S. for three decades, became a citizen, oh, 20 years ago, in 1996. He writes, quote, "It is disempowering and dehumanizing to have government officials question my citizenship and passport. My citizenship is not only a legal status; it is deeply rooted in my identity. ... If my personal experience at Logan is any indication, airport inspections are now targeting not only Muslims, but other minorities—including U.S. citizens—for 'extreme vetting.'"
A day later, the former police chief chief of Greenville, North Carolina, says he was detained for over an hour by Customs and Border Protection agents when he was flying into New York City’s JFK Airport after returning from visiting his mother in Paris. In a Facebook post (https://www.facebook.com/aden1312/posts/10155813550429298), he wrote he was a U.S. citizen and had worked in law enforcement in the U.S. for nearly 30 years. Hassan Aden wrote that after his detention, quote, "This country now feels cold, unwelcoming, and in the beginning stages of a country that is isolating itself from the rest of the world and its own people in an unprecedented fashion."
Espinoza-Madrigal and Aden now join us, along with many other citizens, including a U.S. Olympic medalist, a NASA scientist, the son of a boxing legend, Muhammad Ali Jr., who have all been detained at airports across the country since the start of the Trump administration. For more, we’re joined by Iván Espinoza-Madrigal and Hassan Aden.
Hassan Aden, let’s begin with you. You’re the former police chief of Greenville, North Carolina. Talk about what happened to you at JFK.
HASSAN ADEN: So, I had spent a weekend in Paris celebrating my mom’s 80th birthday and returned back to the United States. I was looking forward to seeing my family and, you know, getting back to work and doing my thing. And everything was business as usual. You know, I got off my flight, went through the automated passport check, got my customs sheet printed out. And I walked up and handed my passport to a CBP agent, who barely even looked up at me. He scanned my passport, looked at me, asked me if I was traveling alone. I responded "yes." And then he stood up and said, "Let’s take a walk"—my first red flag that something was not—was not the same as always. I travel frequently. I travel internationally. I travel nationally weekly, multiple times. And I have never, ever been stopped by CBP. And this is not to say that I don’t support and really appreciate the mission of CBP. They have a difficult job with lots of complexities. But the detention is the piece that I question, and the length of the detention.
So, I was taken back to a room, that was a makeshift office that appeared to be some sort of a storage room. And for the next hour and a half, they held my passport. I questioned whether I was being detained, and the original officer that took me back there said, "No, this is not a detention." There are lots of—lots of different arguments about that. I was clearly not free to leave. And eventually I was released. It took about 90 minutes. And it took one very respectful and helpful customs agent, or customs, yeah, agent, that she started her shift, and she took an interest in my case, because what I imagine she saw was a lot of foreign nationals being brought in and released in about five minutes after their passports were vetted, and I was just sitting there for about 90 minutes. And finally, she helped me get my—whatever the vetting was, done, and I was on my way.
But really, the issue for me here is the policies of CBP, and something has changed. As I have stated, I travel internationally frequently. And it’s always been a welcoming home, something that I always look toward when I get off my flight. Customs agents have always been polite, say, "Welcome back to the United States. Welcome home." Not the case. And this was the first time that I’ve traveled internationally in 2017.
AMY GOODMAN: They took your phone?
HASSAN ADEN: No.
AMY GOODMAN: You had your phone in your possession at all times?
HASSAN ADEN: I had my phone in my possession at all times. However, I was restricted from using it. There were two signs that were very, very clear in what they wanted you to do. One was remain seated at all times. And two, use of mobile devices and telephones strictly prohibited—another sign that I was actually being detained.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring in Iván Espinoza-Madrigal. Talk about your own experience.
IVÁN ESPINOZA-MADRIGAL: Thank you, Amy. My experience was somewhat similar. I was returning home from a vacation in Portugal, and I went through the passport control line, like usual. And the difference here is that instead of asking me, you know, "Where were you? How long were you gone for? Are you bringing any fruit and vegetables?" what the officer did is that he looked at me very suspiciously, as if I had done something wrong, and took my passport, left the kiosk and proceeded to confer with a couple of other CBP officers, returned, asked me questions like "Where did you get this passport? Who gave you this passport? Where does this passport come from?" clearly indicating that the authenticity of my passport was at issue, that there was some notion that my passport may be fake or invalid in some fashion, and questioning my citizenship and the fact that I have this U.S. passport.
At that point, the passport was scanned through the CBP system, clearly confirming my identify and that that passport was issued by the U.S. Passport Agency in New York. And instead of releasing me at that time, what the officer did was to escalate the matter by calling over another CBP officer to escort me to a separate security room, where my vetting continued and where I was asked to produce additional proof of identity so that they can confirm who I was. This is the first time that I traveled since the inauguration, and it was the first time ever that I had been subjected to this type of additional scrutiny and vetting. The last time I traveled was in January, right before the inauguration. And I came in through the country perfectly fine, like any other U.S. citizen.
AMY GOODMAN: So, well, let me ask you something, Iván. Your group sued President Trump this year on behalf of the—
IVÁN ESPINOZA-MADRIGAL: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —cities of Lawrence and Chelsea in Massachusetts over the president’s executive order defunding sanctuary cities?
IVÁN ESPINOZA-MADRIGAL: That’s right. We sued on February 8th. My organization was the first one in the country to sue on behalf of sanctuary communities. We represent two heavily immigrant towns in Massachusetts that are being threatened by the Trump administration for defunding based under immigrant-friendly policies. And the lawsuit is the only one in the East Coast at this time. This litigation was very important, because we need to protect all families and children in our communities. And so, it’s very important for my organization to be out there right now, at a time of significant federal uncertainty, protecting families. And to be treated as suspect at the airport was incredibly, not just humiliating, but unpowering, when my job, day to day, is to protect immigrant families.
AMY GOODMAN: Last month, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the president wanted to "take the shackles off" the nation’s immigration and customs agents.
PRESS SECRETARY SEAN SPICER: The president needed to give guidance, especially after what they went through in the last administration, where there were so many carve-outs that ICE agents and CBP members didn’t—had to figure out each individual, whether or not they fit in a particular category and they could adjudicate that case. The president wanted to take the shackles off individuals in these agencies and say, "You have a mission. There are laws that need to be followed. You should do your mission and follow the law."

AMY GOODMAN: Hassan Aden, your thoughts on what he’s saying? Do you see this—I mean, you’re law enforcement. Do you see this as an unshackling of law enforcement?
HASSAN ADEN: Well, they took the shackles off of CBP and placed them on others, U.S. citizens and others that are subjected to this kind of conduct now. It is humiliating, as Iván stated. It is a position of—you know, it just—it makes you extremely vulnerable, and you have no idea what is happening to you at the time that it’s happening. The reason why I really wanted to bring this up, and very publicly, was because there are so many people that are voiceless. Iván and I both have voices and platform, and I think that it is our responsibility to shed light on this problem.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, do you think you were targeted because of the lawsuit?
IVÁN ESPINOZA-MADRIGAL: I’m not sure. I don’t know what they were thinking. But what I know is that one of the greatest strengths of this country is that we do not have classes of citizenship. All citizens have the same rights and privileges. And that was certainly not my experience at the airport. So, for whatever reason it was, whether I was targeted for my civil rights advocacy or based on the color of my skin and my identity, it’s unconstitutional and un-American.
AMY GOODMAN: And, Hassan Aden, you’re familiar with databases that law enforcement use, as a former police chief. What database do you think you’re in?
HASSAN ADEN: I’m not sure. I do think that—I believe—I was never told that by CBP, but I believe it’s some sort of—what I was told was that my name was used as an alias and that some database flagged it. So I believe it’s something to do with a terrorist watchlist or fusion center. But what I do know is that one of three things is going on with this database. One, either the database is—
AMY GOODMAN: We have five seconds.
HASSAN ADEN: There’s a problem with the database and the policies behind it. It should not take 90 minutes to clear someone holding a U.S. passport.

Peter Lemkin
03-24-2017, 07:12 AM
NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to look at the man who is said to have out-Koched the Koch brothers in the 2016 election. His name is Robert Mercer, a secretive billionaire hedge-fund tycoon who, along with his daughter Rebekah, is credited by many with playing an instrumental role in Donald Trump’s election.
Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, said, quote, "The Mercers laid the groundwork for the Trump revolution. Irrefutably, when you look at donors during the past four years, they have had the single biggest impact of anybody, including the Kochs." Before Bannon and Kellyanne Conway joined the Trump campaign, both worked closely with the Mercers. The Mercers bankrolled Bannon’s Breitbart News, as well as some of Bannon’s film projects. Conway ran a super PAC created by the Mercers to initially back the candidacy of Ted Cruz.
The Mercers also invested in a data mining firm called Cambridge Analytica, which claims it has psychological profiles of over 200 million American voters. The firm was hired by the Trump campaign to help target its message to potential voters.
While the Mercers have helped reshape the American political landscape, their work has all been done from the shadows. They don’t speak to the media and rarely even speak in public.
AMY GOODMAN: During the entire presidential campaign, they released just two statements. One was a defense of Donald Trump shortly after the leak of the 2005 Access Hollywood tape that showed Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women. The Mercers wrote, quote, "We are completely indifferent to Mr. Trump’s locker room braggadocio." They went on to write, "America is finally fed up and disgusted with its political elite. Trump is channeling this disgust and those among the political elite who quake before the boombox of media blather do not appreciate the apocalyptic choice America faces on November 8th. We have a country to save and there is only one person who can save it. We, and Americans across the country and around the world, stand steadfastly behind Donald J Trump." Those were the words of Robert and Rebekah Mercer one month before Trump won the election.
Since the election, Rebekah Mercer joined the Trump transition team, and Robert Mercer threw a victory party of sorts at his Long Island estate. It was a hero and villain’s costume party. Kellyanne Conway showed up as Superwoman. Donald Trump showed up as himself.
To talk more about the Mercers, we’re joined now by Jane Mayer, staff writer at The New Yorker, her latest piece (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency) headlined "The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency: How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency." Jane is also author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, which just came out in paperback.
Jane Mayer, welcome back to Democracy Now! The beginning of the piece talks about a former colleague of Mercer’s saying, "In my view, Trump wouldn’t be president if not for Bob." Explain who Robert Mercer is.
JANE MAYER: Well, he’s a, as you’ve mentioned, a New York hedge-fund tycoon. He’s a computer scientist, a kind of a math genius and uber-nerd, who figured out how to game the stocks and bonds and commodities markets by using math. He runs something that’s kind of like a quant fund in Long Island, and it’s called Renaissance Technologies. He’s the co-CEO. And it just mints money. So he’s enormously wealthy. He earns at least $135 million a year, according to Institutional Investor, probably more.
And what he’s done is he has tried to take this fortune and reshape, first, the Republican Party and, then, America, along his own lines. His ideology is extreme. He’s way far on the right. He hates government. Kind of—according to another colleague, David Magerman, at Renaissance Technologies, Bob Mercer wants to shrink the government down to the size of a pinhead. He has contempt for social services and for the people who need social services.
And so, he has been a power behind the scenes in Trump’s campaign. He kind of rescued Trump’s campaign in the end, he and his daughter. And, you know, most people think Trump was the candidate who did it on his own, had his own fortune, and he often boasted that he needed no help and had no strings attached, and he was going to sort of throw out corruption. And, in fact, there was somebody behind the scenes who helped enormously with him.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about that moment, when you talk about them saving Donald Trump, which has become particularly relevant today. This was the time that Manafort was forced out as the campaign manager for Donald Trump. The campaign was in disarray. He was being forced out because of his ties to Ukraine and Russia and the money that was being revealed that he might or might not have taken. So, take it from there.
JANE MAYER: Well, right. And this was—really, Trump’s campaign was—it was floundering. It was in August, and there was headline after headline that was suggesting that Paul Manafort, who had been the campaign manager, had really nefarious ties to the Ukrainian oligarchs and pro-Putin forces. And it was embarrassing. And eventually, after a couple days of these headlines, he was forced to step down.
And the campaign was, you know, spinning in a kind of a downward spiral, when, at a fundraiser out in Long Island, at Woody Johnson’s house—he’s the man who owns the Jets—Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of this hedge-fund tycoon, Bob Mercer, sort of cornered Trump and said, "You know, we’d like to give money to your campaign. We’ll back you, but you’ve got to try to, you know, stabilize it." And basically, she said, "And I’ve got just the people for you to do the job."
And they were political operatives who the Mercer family had been funding for a couple of years, the main one being Steve Bannon, who is now playing the role to Trump—he’s the political strategist for Trump—that’s the role he played for the Mercer family prior to doing it for Trump. So, these are operatives who are very close to this one mega-donor. The other was Kellyanne Conway, who had been running this superfund, as you mentioned in your introduction, for the Cruz campaign, that was filled with the money from the Mercers. And so she became the campaign manager. Bannon became the campaign chairman. And a third person, David Bossie, whose organization Citizens United was also very heavily backed by the Mercer family, he became the deputy campaign manager. So, basically, as Trump’s campaign is rescued by this gang, they encircle Trump. And since then, they’ve also encircled Trump’s White House and become very key to him. And they are the Mercers’ people.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Jane Mayer, Rebekah Mercer, whom you mentioned, is known—described as "the first lady of the alt-right." Now, you tried to get Rebekah and Robert Mercer to speak to you for this piece. What response did you get?
JANE MAYER: Oh, I mean, it was hopeless, clearly, from the start. They have nothing but disdain for, you know, the mainstream media. Robert Mercer barely speaks even to people who he works with and who know him. I mean, he’s so silent that he has said often that he—or to a colleague, he said once—I should correct that—that he much prefers the company of cats to humans. He goes through whole meetings, whole dinners, without uttering a word. He never speaks to the media. He’s given, I think, one interview I know of, to a book author, and who described him as having the demeanor of an icy cold poker player.
His daughter, Rebekah Mercer, who’s 43 and has also worked at the family’s hedge fund a little bit and is a graduate of Stanford, she’s a little more outspoken. She has been in fundraising meetings on the right. She has spoken up—and very loudly and irately, actually. But she doesn’t speak to the press. And so, I had very little hope that they would.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about when they first met, the Mercers, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, first met Andrew Breitbart, and what that progression was and how they came to be linked up with Bannon?
JANE MAYER: Well, sure. The Mercer family, Robert and his daughter Rebekah, met Andrew Breitbart back—I think it was late 2011 or early 2012, speaking at a conference of the Club for Growth, another right-wing group. And they were completely taken with Andrew Breitbart. He was pretty much the opposite kind of character from Bob Mercer. Breitbart was outspoken and gleefully provocative and loved to offend people and use vulgar language just to catch their attention. And you’ve got this kind of tight-lipped hedge-fund man from the far right who just fell for Breitbart big time.
And he—mostly what he was captivated by, I think, was Breitbart’s vision, which was, "We’re going to"—he said, "Conservatives can never win until we basically take on the mainstream media and build up our own source of information." He was talking about declaring information warfare in this country on fact-based reporting and substituting it with their own vision. And what he needed, Breitbart, at that point, was money. He needed money to set up Breitbart News, which was only just sort of a couple of bloggers at that point.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about Breitbart News, about what the alt-right represented, whether we’re talking about anti-Semitism or white supremacy, and why they were attracted to this.
JANE MAYER: Well, I mean, you know, it changed. What happened was—I mean, it started as a—Andrew Breitbart had helped The Huffington Post get set up. And his idea was that he was going to launch The Huffington Post of the right. And so, he was setting it up, and his very close friend was Steve Bannon. And Bannon had been in investment banking. So Bannon got the Mercers to put $10 million into turning this venture into something that was really going to pack a punch. And they were just about to launch it in a big day—big way. They were a few days away from it, when Andrew Breitbart died. That was in March of 2012. He was only 43, and he had a sudden massive heart attack. And so, this operation was just about to go big. It was leaderless. And that’s when Steve Bannon stepped in and became the head of Breitbart News.
And in Bannon’s hands, it became a force of economic nationalism and, in some people’s view, white supremacism. It ran, you know, a regular feature on black crime. It hosted and pretty much launched the career of Milo Yiannopoulos, who’s sort of infamous for his kind of juvenile attacks on women and immigrants and God knows what. You know, just it became, as Bannon had said, a platform for the alt-right, meaning the alternative to the old right, a new right that was far more angry and aggressive about others, people who were not just kind of the white sort of conservatives like themselves.
AMY GOODMAN: So they made a $10 million investment in Breitbart. They owned it—
JANE MAYER: A 10 million.
AMY GOODMAN: —co-owned it.
JANE MAYER: They became the sponsors, really, behind it. And it’s interesting to me that—one of the things I learned was that Rebekah Mercer, this heiress, who’s had no experience in politics, is so immersed in running Breitbart News at this point. I mean, she—her family is the money, big money, behind it. That she reads every story, I’m told, and flyspecks, you know, typos and grammar and all that kind of thing. I mean, there is a force behind Breitbart News that people don’t realize, and it’s the Mercer family. So, anyway, it became very important, increasingly, on the fringe of conservative politics, because it pushed the conservatives in this country towards this economic nationalism, nativism, anti-immigration, pro-harsh borders, anti-free trade, protectionist. And it spoke the language of populism, but right-wing populism.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: And, Jane Mayer, I mean, as you’ve said, one of the things that has made the Mercers so successful in their political interventions is precisely this, the way in which they’ve invested in an alternative media and information network, of which Breitbart is, of course, a very significant part. But can you also talk about the Government Accountability Institute, which you discuss in your piece?
JANE MAYER: Sure. I mean, and this was, you know, very much a design. You’ve got this family with all the money in the world, wanting to change American politics. And they hadn’t been very effective in their earlier efforts at this, until they joined forces with Steve Bannon, who’s a very sort of farsighted strategist who kind of sees the big picture and understands politics. And so, he very much focused their efforts on this information warfare, first with Breitbart, $10 million into that. And then, after 2012, when the Mercers were very disappointed that Obama got re-elected, at Bannon’s direction, they started to fund a brand-new organization called the Government Accountability Institute. It’s based in Tallahassee. It’s small. It’s really a platform for one major figure, Peter Schweizer, who is a conservative kind of investigative reporter.
And what they did with this organization, which the Mercers poured millions of dollars into, was they aimed to kind of create the—drive the political narrative in the 2016 campaign. They created a book called Clinton Cash, which was a compendium of all the kinds of corruption allegations against the Clintons. And they aimed to get it into the mainstream media, where it would pretty much frame the picture of Hillary Clinton as a corrupt person who couldn’t be trusted. And their hope was that they would mainstream this information that they dug up. It was like an opposition research organization, sort of masked as a charity and nonprofit. And they took this book, Clinton Cash, gave it to The New York Times exclusively, early, and the Times then ran with a story out of it, that they said they corroborated. But they ran with it, nonetheless, on their front page, which just launched this whole narrative of Hillary Clinton as corrupt. And it just kept echoing and echoing through the media after that. So, it was a real home run for them. A year later, they made a movie version of it also, which they launched in Cannes.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about Peter Schweizer and, as well, the Mercers. What about Cambridge Analytica, in addition to the Government Accountability Institute? And also, the Mercers’ obsession with the Clintons, the whole issue that you write about.
JANE MAYER: Well, this is something that—
AMY GOODMAN: They’re talking about they’re murderers.
JANE MAYER: I mean, really—I mean, one of the—one of the challenges of writing about the Mercers, for me, was to figure out—OK, so they’re big players. There are players in the Democratic Party who put in tons of money, too. They’re not the only people who put money into politics. But they’re maybe the most mysterious people who put money into politics. Like nobody really knew what do they believe, what’s driving them. And so, I was trying to figure that out.
And what I finally was able to do what was talk to partners and people they work with in business and people who’ve known them a long time, who paint this picture of them as having these really peculiar beliefs, and based on kind of strange far-right media. Among their beliefs are that—Bob Mercer has spoken to at least three people who I interviewed, about how he is convinced that the Clintons are murderers, literally, have murdered people. Now, you hear that on the fringes sometimes when you interview people who are ignorant, but these are people who are powerful, well educated and huge influences in the country. And Bob Mercer was convinced that the Clintons are murderers. OK, so he’s driven by this just hatred of the Clintons and, coming into 2016, is determined to try to stop Hillary Clinton, and looking for a vehicle who would do that, who eventually becomes Trump.

Peter Lemkin
03-25-2017, 07:08 AM
In Major Defeat to Trump & Ryan, House GOP Pulls Bill To Repeal ObamacareWeb Exclusive (https://www.democracynow.org/categories/web_exclusive)March 24, 2017All Web Exclusive ⟶ (https://www.democracynow.org/categories/web_exclusive)

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House Republicans have pulled a bill to repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act after failing to secure enough votes despite heavy lobbying from President Trump. The bill was opposed by the entire Democratic party as well as some moderate Republicans and many members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus.
House Republicans have pulled a bill to repeal major parts of the Affordable Care Act after failing to secure enough votes despite heavy lobbying from President Trump. The bill was opposed by the entire Democratic party as well as some moderate Republicans and many members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus.
The bill was projected to leave 24 million fewer people insured by 2026 than under Obamacare. The bill also included over $275 billion in tax breaks for wealthy Americans.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) praised the news. "The defeat of the disastrous Trump-Ryan health care bill is a major victory for the working families of this country and for the hundreds of thousands who attended rallies and town hall meetings in opposition to this bill," Sanders said. "What the defeat of this bill shows is that the American people will not accept legislation that provides huge tax breaks to billionaires while 24 million people are kicked off their health insurance, massive cuts are made to Medicaid and Planned Parenthood and premiums for senior citizens are dramatically increased. Our job is to improve the Affordable Care Act, not repeal it. Our job is to guarantee health care to all people as a right, not a privilege."

Peter Lemkin
03-25-2017, 07:12 AM
Robert Mercer & the Dark Money Behind Trump and Bannon












GuestsJane Mayer (https://www.democracynow.org/appearances/jane_mayer)staff writer at The New Yorker. Her latest piece is headlined "The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency: How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency." Her book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, has just come out in paperback with a new preface on Trump.




Links

"The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency" (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency)



Image Credit: Getty Images
We look at Robert Mercer, the man who is said to have out-Koched the Koch brothers in the 2016 election. The secretive billionaire hedge-fund tycoon, along with his daughter Rebekah, is credited by many with playing an instrumental role in Donald Trump’s election. "The Mercers laid the groundwork for the Trump revolution," Trump’s chief strategist Stephen Bannon said. "Irrefutably, when you look at donors during the past four years, they have had the single biggest impact of anybody, including the Kochs." Before Bannon and Kellyanne Conway joined the Trump campaign, both worked closely with the Mercers. The Mercers bankrolled Bannon’s Breitbart News, as well as some of Bannon’s film projects. Conway ran a super PAC created by the Mercers to initially back the candidacy of Ted Cruz. While the Mercers have helped reshape the American political landscape, their work has all been done from the shadows. To talk more about the Mercers, we speak with Jane Mayer, staff writer at The New Yorker. Her latest piece is headlined "The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency: How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency." She is also author of "Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right," which just came out in paperback.


TRANSCRIPT

NERMEEN SHAIKH: We turn now to look at the man who is said to have out-Koched the Koch brothers in the 2016 election. His name is Robert Mercer, a secretive billionaire hedge-fund tycoon who, along with his daughter Rebekah, is credited by many with playing an instrumental role in Donald Trump’s election.
Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, said, quote, "The Mercers laid the groundwork for the Trump revolution. Irrefutably, when you look at donors during the past four years, they have had the single biggest impact of anybody, including the Kochs." Before Bannon and Kellyanne Conway joined the Trump campaign, both worked closely with the Mercers. The Mercers bankrolled Bannon’s Breitbart News, as well as some of Bannon’s film projects. Conway ran a super PAC created by the Mercers to initially back the candidacy of Ted Cruz.
The Mercers also invested in a data mining firm called Cambridge Analytica, which claims it has psychological profiles of over 200 million American voters. The firm was hired by the Trump campaign to help target its message to potential voters.
While the Mercers have helped reshape the American political landscape, their work has all been done from the shadows. They don’t speak to the media and rarely even speak in public.
AMY GOODMAN: During the entire presidential campaign, they released just two statements. One was a defense of Donald Trump shortly after the leak of the 2005 Access Hollywood tape that showed Trump boasting about sexually assaulting women. The Mercers wrote, quote, "We are completely indifferent to Mr. Trump’s locker room braggadocio." They went on to write, "America is finally fed up and disgusted with its political elite. Trump is channeling this disgust and those among the political elite who quake before the boombox of media blather do not appreciate the apocalyptic choice America faces on November 8th. We have a country to save and there is only one person who can save it. We, and Americans across the country and around the world, stand steadfastly behind Donald J Trump." Those were the words of Robert and Rebekah Mercer one month before Trump won the election.
Since the election, Rebekah Mercer joined the Trump transition team, and Robert Mercer threw a victory party of sorts at his Long Island estate. It was a hero and villain’s costume party. Kellyanne Conway showed up as Superwoman. Donald Trump showed up as himself.
To talk more about the Mercers, we’re joined now by Jane Mayer, staff writer at The New Yorker, her latest piece (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/27/the-reclusive-hedge-fund-tycoon-behind-the-trump-presidency) headlined "The Reclusive Hedge-Fund Tycoon Behind the Trump Presidency: How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency." Jane is also author of Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, which just came out in paperback.
Jane Mayer, welcome back to Democracy Now! The beginning of the piece talks about a former colleague of Mercer’s saying, "In my view, Trump wouldn’t be president if not for Bob." Explain who Robert Mercer is.
JANE MAYER: Well, he’s a, as you’ve mentioned, a New York hedge-fund tycoon. He’s a computer scientist, a kind of a math genius and uber-nerd, who figured out how to game the stocks and bonds and commodities markets by using math. He runs something that’s kind of like a quant fund in Long Island, and it’s called Renaissance Technologies. He’s the co-CEO. And it just mints money. So he’s enormously wealthy. He earns at least $135 million a year, according to Institutional Investor, probably more.
And what he’s done is he has tried to take this fortune and reshape, first, the Republican Party and, then, America, along his own lines. His ideology is extreme. He’s way far on the right. He hates government. Kind of—according to another colleague, David Magerman, at Renaissance Technologies, Bob Mercer wants to shrink the government down to the size of a pinhead. He has contempt for social services and for the people who need social services.
And so, he has been a power behind the scenes in Trump’s campaign. He kind of rescued Trump’s campaign in the end, he and his daughter. And, you know, most people think Trump was the candidate who did it on his own, had his own fortune, and he often boasted that he needed no help and had no strings attached, and he was going to sort of throw out corruption. And, in fact, there was somebody behind the scenes who helped enormously with him.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about that moment, when you talk about them saving Donald Trump, which has become particularly relevant today. This was the time that Manafort was forced out as the campaign manager for Donald Trump. The campaign was in disarray. He was being forced out because of his ties to Ukraine and Russia and the money that was being revealed that he might or might not have taken. So, take it from there.
JANE MAYER: Well, right. And this was—really, Trump’s campaign was—it was floundering. It was in August, and there was headline after headline that was suggesting that Paul Manafort, who had been the campaign manager, had really nefarious ties to the Ukrainian oligarchs and pro-Putin forces. And it was embarrassing. And eventually, after a couple days of these headlines, he was forced to step down.
And the campaign was, you know, spinning in a kind of a downward spiral, when, at a fundraiser out in Long Island, at Woody Johnson’s house—he’s the man who owns the Jets—Rebekah Mercer, the daughter of this hedge-fund tycoon, Bob Mercer, sort of cornered Trump and said, "You know, we’d like to give money to your campaign. We’ll back you, but you’ve got to try to, you know, stabilize it." And basically, she said, "And I’ve got just the people for you to do the job."
And they were political operatives who the Mercer family had been funding for a couple of years, the main one being Steve Bannon, who is now playing the role to Trump—he’s the political strategist for Trump—that’s the role he played for the Mercer family prior to doing it for Trump. So, these are operatives who are very close to this one mega-donor. The other was Kellyanne Conway, who had been running this superfund, as you mentioned in your introduction, for the Cruz campaign, that was filled with the money from the Mercers. And so she became the campaign manager. Bannon became the campaign chairman. And a third person, David Bossie, whose organization Citizens United was also very heavily backed by the Mercer family, he became the deputy campaign manager. So, basically, as Trump’s campaign is rescued by this gang, they encircle Trump. And since then, they’ve also encircled Trump’s White House and become very key to him. And they are the Mercers’ people.
NERMEEN SHAIKH: Well, Jane Mayer, Rebekah Mercer, whom you mentioned, is known—described as "the first lady of the alt-right." Now, you tried to get Rebekah and Robert Mercer to speak to you for this piece. What response did you get?
JANE MAYER: Oh, I mean, it was hopeless, clearly, from the start. They have nothing but disdain for, you know, the mainstream media. Robert Mercer barely speaks even to people who he works with and who know him. I mean, he’s so silent that he has said often that he—or to a colleague, he said once—I should correct that—that he much prefers the company of cats to humans. He goes through whole meetings, whole dinners, without uttering a word. He never speaks to the media. He’s given, I think, one interview I know of, to a book author, and who described him as having the demeanor of an icy cold poker player.
His daughter, Rebekah Mercer, who’s 43 and has also worked at the family’s hedge fund a little bit and is a graduate of Stanford, she’s a little more outspoken. She has been in fundraising meetings on the right. She has spoken up—and very loudly and irately, actually. But she doesn’t speak to the press. And so, I had very little hope that they would.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about when they first met, the Mercers, Robert and Rebekah Mercer, first met Andrew Breitbart, and what that progression was and how they came to be linked up with Bannon?
JANE MAYER: Well, sure. The Mercer family, Robert and his daughter Rebekah, met Andrew Breitbart back—I think it was late 2011 or early 2012, speaking at a conference of the Club for Growth, another right-wing group. And they were completely taken with Andrew Breitbart. He was pretty much the opposite kind of character from Bob Mercer. Breitbart was outspoken and gleefully provocative and loved to offend people and use vulgar language just to catch their attention. And you’ve got this kind of tight-lipped hedge-fund man from the far right who just fell for Breitbart big time.
And he—mostly what he was captivated by, I think, was Breitbart’s vision, which was, "We’re going to"—he said, "Conservatives can never win until we basically take on the mainstream media and build up our own source of information." He was talking about declaring information warfare in this country on fact-based reporting and substituting it with their own vision. And what he needed, Breitbart, at that point, was money. He needed money to set up Breitbart News, which was only just sort of a couple of bloggers at that point.
AMY GOODMAN: And talk about Breitbart News, about what the alt-right represented, whether we’re talking about anti-Semitism or white supremacy, and why they were attracted to this.
JANE MAYER: Well, I mean, you know, it changed. What happened was—I mean, it started as a—Andrew Breitbart had helped The Huffington Post get set up. And his idea was that he was going to launch The Huffington Post of the right. And so, he was setting it up, and his very close friend was Steve Bannon. And Bannon had been in investment banking. So Bannon got the Mercers to put $10 million into turning this venture into something that was really going to pack a punch. And they were just about to launch it in a big day—big way. They were a few days away from it, when Andrew Breitbart died. That was in March of 2012. He was only 43, and he had a sudden massive heart attack. And so, this operation was just about to go big. It was leaderless. And that’s when Steve Bannon stepped in and became the head of Breitbart News.
And in Bannon’s hands, it became a force of economic nationalism and, in some people’s view, white supremacism. It ran, you know, a regular feature on black crime. It hosted and pretty much launched the career of Milo Yiannopoulos, who’s sort of infamous for his kind of juvenile attacks on women and immigrants and God knows what. You know, just it became, as Bannon had said, a platform for the alt-right, meaning the alternative to the old right, a new right that was far more angry and aggressive about others, people who were not just kind of the white sort of conservatives like themselves.

Peter Lemkin
03-28-2017, 07:08 AM
Russ Baker and two other researchers have written a very long and COMPLEX story entitled Why FBI Can’t Tell All on Trump, Russia

It is posted on Who.What.Why. here http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/27/fbi-cant-tell-trump-russia/

I just read through it once and will have to read through it a few times - such are the complexities of the characters and their interconnections. At this point, I can't endorse or naysay about the general story or the details. It does seem, as I long suspected, that Trump has for a long time had loans and other business connections with wealthy Russians - some of them criminal oligarchs there. This may well play into his friendliness with Putin and Russia, generally. And while that [friendship with Russia] is NOT a bad thing, some of his business dealings with Russians might well be a 'Watergate' waiting to happen [and perhaps already beginning]. To add another layer of complexity, according to this investigative article, Trump is connected to a man who has long been used by the FBI as an informant on some Russian oligarchs and criminals. They posit that for this reason, and because the FBI doesn't want to expose its program and assets to penetrate these people, it can not do a fair evaluation of whatever nature of connections Trump and his friends have with Russians - or at least they can't reveal all they know. Again, I'm not saying yes or not to this, but it is worth reading and thinking about. I think this 'Russian Connection' to Trump is NOT going to go away and is much more complex than the MSM and the Democrats are trying to 'paint' it. That Trump rubs elbows with corrupt rich people is nothing new - and he is far from the only one within the Beltway guilty of that....in fact, most are. His attributing that he learned most of his business and political savvy from Roy Cohn gave away his penchant for being close to the completely corrupt long ago. All I can say is, if half of what they have so far come up with in this article is true, Trump may have a very hard time completely his term without a Watergate-like scandal and very possibly articles of Impeachment.

The one thing that confuses me about this, on first thought, it why the FBI obviously tried to undermine the campaign of Clinton if they indeed knew that Trump was involved in these kinds of matters - but the FBI itself is corrupt and very political and has never worked in the interest of justice and to uphold the law nor Constitution - let alone democracy.

This Trump-Russia 'thing' only grows more and more complex. I think soon many Republicans too will be wanting some kind of investigation of some of these matters - the problem is the LONG and HORRIBLE history of Congressional 'investigations' that are not investigations, but political efforts at non-investigation, or are so hamstrung they can't do the job they are empowered to do.

While I have little doubt that Trump and his associates [political and business] have some ties to 'criminal' businessmen and oligarchs in Russia, he also has ties to criminal businessmen and oligarchs in the USA and elsewhere. I don't think there is much of a moral distinction between the groups, although the US media, public, and propaganda machinery will make a big distinction, because Russia is always used as the 'evil other' to blame for much of the wrong in the World. It is guilty of wrongs, but then so are the 'Western' countries. So, I think the real problem is not that Trump and friends have dealings/associations with Russian criminals, but that he has such associations with criminals from wherever they have their passports. But on this, Trump is not the first President in such company, but he may be 'up there' in that league.

Me, I'm sitting here scratching my head over some of the connections and will now re-read this article. Russ Baker seems intent on continuing to pursue this matter further. Time will tell if he is on the right track or not. Take a read yourself and see how it strikes you. It certainly is in the 'stranger than we suspected' category, if true.


Felix Sater fits all of these (criminal) categories. A convicted felon, Sater worked in Trump Tower, made business deals with Donald Trump through Sater’s real estate firm, Bayrock, cooperated with the FBI and CIA (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/17/nyregion/17trump.html) and was subsequently protected by the DOJ from paying for his crimes. And the Moscow-born immigrant remains deeply linked to Russia and Ukraine

David Guyatt
03-28-2017, 09:54 AM
I also read it this morning. I normally find Russ Baker to be a very good journalist and his investigation and revelations over the Boston bombing were first class.

The immediate take away from this article and the events of the last few months is that the political class (of whichever complexion) and their elite controllers are now way beyond plain vanilla corruption and lies.

It seems to me we have entered a very dark and complex period.

Magda Hassan
03-28-2017, 12:33 PM
I just read through it once and will have to read through it a few times - such are the complexities of the characters and their interconnections.

We need that piece of software that used to show the connections between people. Can't recall the name right now. SUre the FBI have much better types of the same too.

Peter Lemkin
03-28-2017, 01:21 PM
It seems to me we have entered a very dark and complex period.

An understatement! Sadly, there is no 'Scotty' to 'beam us up'....so we have to deal with all the shit down here. A LOT of work to do!!!...and will take more than just a few of us to stop this Planet of the apes from going ape wild into fascist madness [real soon].

Tracy Riddle
03-28-2017, 02:49 PM
Russ Baker and two other researchers have written a very long and COMPLEX story entitled Why FBI Can’t Tell All on Trump, Russia

It is posted on Who.What.Why. here http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/27/fbi-cant-tell-trump-russia/

[/QUOTE]

That was an excellent article. Ties in with a lot of the things I've been ranting about lately, oddly enough (despite my being so naive and brainwashed by the MSM).

David Guyatt
03-28-2017, 04:35 PM
I just read through it once and will have to read through it a few times - such are the complexities of the characters and their interconnections.

We need that piece of software that used to show the connections between people. Can't recall the name right now. SUre the FBI have much better types of the same too.

Daniel Brandt's Namebase. As I remember Daniel got legally hounded by Chip Bertlet (HERE (http://www.conservapedia.com/Wikipedia:The_Daniel_Brandt_controversy)) and privately emailed or PM'd everybody in deep political circles (including me here at DPF) asking them to delete any post or article he'd made previously to avoid it being used in court against him. It was a great pity because he was a fabulous researchers and a big loss.

Peter Lemkin
03-28-2017, 05:54 PM
I just read through it once and will have to read through it a few times - such are the complexities of the characters and their interconnections.

We need that piece of software that used to show the connections between people. Can't recall the name right now. SUre the FBI have much better types of the same too.

I've never found that software available for free. It is called [among other names] personal association or social network software. There are commercial ones, and you can bet the NSA, CIA, FBI et al. have a very nice version of their own design. I still sometimes make such diagrams on paper or a white board to get a feel for who knows whom and what the nature of their relationship is. Trump has a very interesting network of past and current business associates. It seems that more than a few are known criminals, some convicted criminals, others not yet convicted but doing crimes. Nixon was similar in many ways, if not as rich. Somehow I think they will end the same - resigning so as not to be impeached. Couldn't happen to a 'nicer' guy!

Cliff Varnell
03-28-2017, 07:03 PM
I just read through it once and will have to read through it a few times - such are the complexities of the characters and their interconnections.

We need that piece of software that used to show the connections between people. Can't recall the name right now. SUre the FBI have much better types of the same too.

PROMIS.

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

Peter Lemkin
03-30-2017, 04:49 AM
Russ Baker and two other researchers have written a very long and COMPLEX story entitled Why FBI Can’t Tell All on Trump, Russia

It is posted on Who.What.Why. here http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/27/fbi-cant-tell-trump-russia/

I just read through it once and will have to read through it a few times - such are the complexities of the characters and their interconnections. At this point, I can't endorse or naysay about the general story or the details. It does seem, as I long suspected, that Trump has for a long time had loans and other business connections with wealthy Russians - some of them criminal oligarchs there. This may well play into his friendliness with Putin and Russia, generally. And while that [friendship with Russia] is NOT a bad thing, some of his business dealings with Russians might well be a 'Watergate' waiting to happen [and perhaps already beginning]. To add another layer of complexity, according to this investigative article, Trump is connected to a man who has long been used by the FBI as an informant on some Russian oligarchs and criminals. They posit that for this reason, and because the FBI doesn't want to expose its program and assets to penetrate these people, it can not do a fair evaluation of whatever nature of connections Trump and his friends have with Russians - or at least they can't reveal all they know. Again, I'm not saying yes or not to this, but it is worth reading and thinking about. I think this 'Russian Connection' to Trump is NOT going to go away and is much more complex than the MSM and the Democrats are trying to 'paint' it. That Trump rubs elbows with corrupt rich people is nothing new - and he is far from the only one within the Beltway guilty of that....in fact, most are. His attributing that he learned most of his business and political savvy from Roy Cohn gave away his penchant for being close to the completely corrupt long ago. All I can say is, if half of what they have so far come up with in this article is true, Trump may have a very hard time completely his term without a Watergate-like scandal and very possibly articles of Impeachment.

The one thing that confuses me about this, on first thought, it why the FBI obviously tried to undermine the campaign of Clinton if they indeed knew that Trump was involved in these kinds of matters - but the FBI itself is corrupt and very political and has never worked in the interest of justice and to uphold the law nor Constitution - let alone democracy.

This Trump-Russia 'thing' only grows more and more complex. I think soon many Republicans too will be wanting some kind of investigation of some of these matters - the problem is the LONG and HORRIBLE history of Congressional 'investigations' that are not investigations, but political efforts at non-investigation, or are so hamstrung they can't do the job they are empowered to do.

While I have little doubt that Trump and his associates [political and business] have some ties to 'criminal' businessmen and oligarchs in Russia, he also has ties to criminal businessmen and oligarchs in the USA and elsewhere. I don't think there is much of a moral distinction between the groups, although the US media, public, and propaganda machinery will make a big distinction, because Russia is always used as the 'evil other' to blame for much of the wrong in the World. It is guilty of wrongs, but then so are the 'Western' countries. So, I think the real problem is not that Trump and friends have dealings/associations with Russian criminals, but that he has such associations with criminals from wherever they have their passports. But on this, Trump is not the first President in such company, but he may be 'up there' in that league.

Me, I'm sitting here scratching my head over some of the connections and will now re-read this article. Russ Baker seems intent on continuing to pursue this matter further. Time will tell if he is on the right track or not. Take a read yourself and see how it strikes you. It certainly is in the 'stranger than we suspected' category, if true.


Felix Sater fits all of these (criminal) categories. A convicted felon, Sater worked in Trump Tower, made business deals with Donald Trump through Sater’s real estate firm, Bayrock, cooperated with the FBI and CIA (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/17/nyregion/17trump.html) and was subsequently protected by the DOJ from paying for his crimes. And the Moscow-born immigrant remains deeply linked to Russia and Ukraine

An interesting radio interview with the co-authors of this piece is now posted on Who.What.Why here: http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/27/behind-scenes-interview-exclusive-trump-russia-fbi-story/


Transcript:
Jeff Schechtman: Welcome to Radio WhoWhatWhy. I’m Jeff Schechtman.
Churchill said of Russia that it was a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. Much the same might be said of trying to untangle the relationship between Trump and his associates on the one hand, and Putin and a high power cast of Russian oligarchs and mobsters on the other. There comes a time in every political scandal when it reaches a tipping point. For Iran Contra, it was perhaps the revelation of the weapon sales. For Watergate, perhaps the testimony of Alexander Butterfield about the existence of the White House tapes. For Trump and Russia, it may very well be the revelations from a bombshell story just out from WhoWhatWhy.org.
The story gives us a whole new view of the Trump-Russia connection. One that stretches from Trump Tower to the FBI to the Kremlin. Here to reveal and explain all of this on Radio WhoWhatWhy, I’m joined by Russ Baker: the founder and editor in chief of WhoWhatWhy and Jonathan Larson, a former editor of the Village Voice and now a senior editor and board member of WhoWhatWhy. Russ Baker, Jonathan Larson, thanks so much for being here.
Russ Baker: Thank you.
Jonathan Larson: My pleasure.
Jeff Schechtman: Russ, I want to start with you because at the core of this story is this long running FBI investigation that was taking place that really involved things above and beyond politics. It really involved an international organized crime network. Talk a little about that first.
Russ Baker: I think the takeaway here is that Donald Trump was essentially partnered in business with a man who was connected to Russian organized crime and indirectly, to Vladimir Putin. The FBI knew about that and didn’t want any of that to come out, so we don’t see how the FBI can properly investigate Trump’s relationship to Russia.
Jeff Schechtman: Talk a little bit about what that investigation was all about, Russ.
Russ Baker: This goes back to the 1990s, when the FBI was becoming increasingly concerned about the organized crime from the former Soviet Union. I called it Russian organized crime; it’s basically from all of the various republics of the former Soviet Union – that they were getting foothold of the United States, they were getting into everything and they were particularly concerned that they were getting into Wall Street, they were getting into the financial system. As they saw more and more examples of this, they were looking to do something about it and they discovered a particular scheme, which was targeting vulnerable people, particularly elderly and unsophisticated investors and they managed to shut it down. In the course of shutting it down, they cut a deal with one of the defendants and he became a very important informant. This man, Felix Sater is essentially the core of our story, along with Trump himself.
Jeff Schechtman: Jonathan, Russ talked about the fact that this started back in the nineties. Talk a little bit about the even earlier aspect of Trump Tower and the Trump Tower as a place with something that the FBI was looking at back as early as 1983.
Jonathan Larson: There were a lot of mobsters that seemed to be in and out of Trump Tower from its earliest days, including associates of the Union Concrete Boss, who actually built Trump Tower. He helped his girlfriend get two floors worth of apartments underneath Trump’s triplex. She not only bought those apartments, she ended up getting mob money to help finance them and Trump also arranged for a mortgage for her and the bank that did that didn’t ask her for any paperwork; she didn’t have to sign anything, which is kind of unusual. There were a lot of strange characters from very early on, including some that had some ties to Russia.
Jeff Schechtman: It was remarkable how many of these strange characters populated Trump Tower. It was almost like if you put it on its side as an oil field, anywhere you would drill, you would run into somebody with a Russian connection. Talk about why that might have been.
Jonathan Larson: In the early days, there were a couple of Russian connections. There was a lot more of Italian organized crime. It’s hard to say how that could be. They seem to get the choicest floors, they would buy multiple apartments and this lady friend of the concrete boss actually demanded that she be able to put in a swimming pool, which actually meant they had to redesign the building and put in even more concrete; good for the concrete business. Why this was so, it’s very hard to say, but there certainly seem to be too many of them to be just a coincidence.
Russ Baker: One of the things I might add about that is that in terms of mobsters in general, certainly if you talk about the bling factor, I think they like the glitz and glamour associated with the Trump name and the building itself and as far as the people from the former Soviet Union whom we describe in some detail in the article, we only cover some of them who moved into the building and not to just get anybody who’s from those areas is necessarily involved in any sort of wrongdoing at all, but the fact of the matter is that when the Soviet Union came apart, all of these newly minted millionaires’ and billionaires’ questionable, perhaps you could say ill gotten fortunes, they had to get the money out of there and as you probably know Jeff, real estate is a favored method of money laundering.
Jeff Schechtman: Talk a little bit Russ, about why this investigation was so important to the FBI, this investigation into the Russian mob.
Russ Baker: The Russian mob had practices that you did not see with La Cosa Nostra and particularly at the end of the Soviet Union, it recruited many highly skilled people: computer scientists, mathematicians, financial whizzes and they went right where the money was, which is the financial system and Wall Street and what have you. They got in a big way and I think the FBI was late to realize what was going on and then there was this panic that the whole financial system of the United States and perhaps the world could be destabilized. As they began scrambling and identifying this issue as perhaps their number one problem, they focused on a man who was called the boss of bosses of this former Soviet Union organized crime, a fellow named Mogilevich and they began trying to figure out how to gather information on him and what we know is that this man that they turned, this Felix Sater was involved with Russian organized crime, that the financial wrongdoing that he was involved with, it was not just him but was being orchestrated from some other level. Also, his father allegedly was an associate of Mogilevich. This particular man, for whatever reason and we don’t know the details was considered to be an extremely, and I want to emphasize extremely high value asset, tremendously important figure in a tremendously, tremendously important operation.
Jeff Schechtman: Jonathan, talk a little bit more about Mogilevich and why he was so important and why he was considered such a real threat.
Jonathan Larson: Because he had global reach. He was beginning to send emissaries to the United States to set up money laundering operations, stock fraud operations and the Feds were beginning to believe that just one phone call from him could practically bring down the financial system. Felix Sater was part of one of these original groups, as Russ explained and in the indictment that the FBI brought against them, they figured that he was responsible for at least $40 million of fraud against his victims. The fact that they would turn him and make him a cooperating informant was kind of astonishing because they certainly could have put him away in jail and they kept working with him and he ends up in Trump Tower and doing business with Trump. Why was that? That’s the great mystery at the heart of this. Were they helping through Trump to find out more about the Russian mob? Was it even conceivable that they were working with Trump directly? These are all things that will need to come out eventually, but that’s part of the mystery of this FBI operation at the heart of Trump Tower.
Jeff Schechtman: Russ, talk about how the FBI originally came to Sater.
Russ Baker: They came to him because of this so called pump and dump stock scheme that he was involved with. As I mentioned, this was this thing where they victimized elderly and unsophisticated investors and this was the kind of thing that there was pressure on the bureau to shut them down and they did. One of the perps in there was this Felix Sater and I guess for whatever reason, once they either talked to him or investigated him, they found out what sort of connections he had and they became very, very interested. They became interested in Felix Sater prior to Felix Sater as John said, moved into Trump Tower with this company called Bayrock, which was a real estate development firm. Bayrock and Donald Trump became partners in a number of ventures around the world, most notably the Trump SoHo Hotel and Condominiums that’s here in New York. He became very, very important, so important in fact, that according to Sater himself, he and Trump were extremely close and he had an office just on the floor below Trump’s and that he would just walk up the stairs and just pop in to hang out with the Donald! Remarkably, he even had business cards of his own: Felix Sater, the Trump Organization. Here you’ve got a guy who is identified with Russian organized crime, he seems to be tied in with the most powerful gangster in the world and the number one target of the FBI, as we know and there he is, hanging out with the Donald. Obviously, this a very, very interesting relationship and it’s a relationship that we’d like to know more about. Now, the problem is we can’t know much more about it because the FBI and the US Attorney’s Office has worked for years, the Justice Department has worked for years to suppress the details of this thing from coming out.
Jeff Schechtman: I know it’s a little complicated to explain, but give it a try Jonathan. Why in fact, the revelation of so much of this, particularly with regard to the relationship between Sater and Trump puts the whole Trump financial empire at risk?
Jonathan Larson: The question is, did Donald Trump know that Felix Sater was a criminal and had this criminal history? If he did and he was in business with him in all of these various ventures as Russ mentioned, then he his liable for hundreds of millions of dollars from the other investors, people who bought condominiums, were co-investors in the hotel, like Trumps SoHo. In terms of Trump SoHo, that was really a Felix Sater operation from the beginning. He kind of thought it up. He got partners from Iceland, a bank called FL which seems to have relations with Putin and so he started bringing in Russian mob money to finance this so called Trump SoHo hotel. So, it was really more of a Sater SoHo than it was Trump SoHo hotel.
Jeff Schechtman: Russ, a lot of this money potentially was coming in at a time when Trump was in financial trouble as a result of some of his other operations.
Russ Baker: Well, that’s a key point: that as his fortunes went south with problems with his decisions against the advice of all kinds of people, taking huge risks with all of those casinos in Atlantic City and all kinds of other things went south, yeah he had more and more problems and it is at this period that we see not just Felix Sater and the potential connections to the Mogilevich outfit and to Putin but we see all these other figures and entities tied into Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Kazakhstan and so forth, all of these oligarchs again tied back to the approval of the Putin regime and they’re basically propping Donald Trump up. The issue becomes, when the FBI is looking at the issue of whether Russia meddled in the election, there’s a much larger issue, which is why did they like Donald Trump? What did they expect Donald Trump could or would do for them? To answer that question, you got to go back and look at this whole history of these people and these entities playing a critical role in his financial fortunes and their own relationships back to Putin.
Jeff Schechtman: Why then, now that so much of this is exposed, why does this present a problem for the FBI now in terms of its own priorities and where its investigation is going, Russ?
Russ Baker: We know that the FBI has strived mightily to keep this from coming out. There were some lawyers involved with a suit on behalf of someone who worked for Sater’s company who’s been trying to get to the bottom of some of this and they have been slammed down very, very hard, extraordinary measures where they’ve essentially been told, they say that they should not tell any of this to Congress. If the FBI is so concerned that none of this come out for some reason, one wonders how they could do that on one hand and on the other hand, be able to fairly and thoroughly investigate everything that we need to know about Donald Trump and Russia.
Jeff Schechtman: Why was the FBI, in your view and both of you can respond to this, Russ start with you, why was the FBI so concerned about this not coming out?
Russ Baker: We don’t know the full why. We can speculate. One of the likely issues here is simply the kind of posterior covering that goes on. The FBI was working with a man who was guilty of extensive crimes and they advocated for him to be let off with a slap on the wrist, if that. They did that because they were using him. This is very, very similar to what happened in the notorious case of the mob leader Whitey Bulger up in Boston. This was a huge problem for the FBI, one of its biggest embarrassments in its history. It was basically protecting this criminal while he was continuing to commit crimes, including murders ostensibly because he was so high value. What Felix Sater was doing, if anything and we don’t know. He may have gone straight and done nothing wrong but for some reason, they’re very, very concerned that that relationship not be revealed. Of course, it would be very interesting to find out what that is about.
Jonathan Larson: Let me add that this could be embarrassing for the FBI in other ways. One of the FBI agents who was basically handling Felix Sater is now working for President Trump in his private security operation. Two of the prosecutors who helped work out the original deal and then spoke later on behalf of Sater in court proceedings are now working for the law firm that is supposed to be sorting out President Trump’s conflicts of interest. There are kind of cross currents here that could be embarrassing, I think to the FBI and to Donald Trump.
Jeff Schechtman: How close did this investigation bring them to being able to do anything with respect to Mogilevich, Russ?
Russ Baker: Well, that’s the rub. We don’t really know if it was successful or if it was a colossal failure. Obviously, if it was a colossal failure, that’s not the kind of thing that they want to come out either, especially why make this sort of a deal if you’re not going to succeed. The indications are that they didn’t really succeed. We know that Mogilevich was on the FBI’s most wanted list and we know that several years ago, they removed him very mysteriously. We don’t know why they removed him, there’s nothing as far as we know. Reports one sees that world girdling criminal empire is very much still operating all over the place and now in many, many different facets and industries. What that was about, did they succeed, we don’t know?
Jeff Schechtman: What do we know about the connection between Mogilevich and Putin?
Jonathan Larson: You can’t operate in Russia without getting along with Putin. I think he put him in jail once very briefly to show that he was sort of in control, but let him off soon thereafter. The assumption is that they work pretty close together.
Russ Baker: Yeah, that’s right, what John said. Also, in Russia, there is no clear line between the official establishment and, let’s say, the unofficial establishment. Most experts believe that the government and the so called legitimate oligarchs and the underworld are intertwined in so many different ways that you can’t even sort it out. Experts also say that Putin and Mogilevich are close. I think the most important thing of all is a man named Ivankov who was Mogilevich’s lieutenant who came to the United States to run operations for him, who by the way, when the FBI wanted to find him, the first place they found him was living in Trump Tower. Then, they couldn’t track him down and then they next found him at Trump’s Taj Mahal. I think that’s very significant. That man later returned to the Soviet Union and he stated on one occasion that Putin and Mogilevich were very close. Shortly thereafter, he was assassinated by a sniper while walking on the streets of Moscow.
Jeff Schechtman: What is the status of Felix Sater today, Russ?
Russ Baker: We don’t know the exact status of Felix Sater, but he is certainly alive and well. This is another fascinating development. As you may know, in January, there was a meeting held at a hotel in New York City and at that meeting were Michael Cohen, Trump’s personal attorney and Felix Sater and they met with a Ukrainian member of Parliament who is pro-Moscow. What we are told from news accounts is that at that meeting, the Ukrainian presented a proposed peace plan for Ukraine, which seemingly had been approved by or perhaps sponsored by Putin himself and there he is, meeting with Felix Sater and Trump’s lawyer. According to this parliamentarian, they then agreed and Cohen took that proposal in an envelope and brought it to then national security advisor, General Michael Flynn. There’s been some backpedaling on that story but it seems to be true. That’s very, very interesting: that this mob person tied into Putin is still so active that he’s able to sit down with Trump’s personal lawyer and work something like this!
Jonathan Larson: By the way, when he surfaced at that meeting, he seemed to have gone back to his original spelling, which is S-A-T-E-R but the entire time he was being handled by the FBI, he gave his name at S-A-T-T-E-R, which is one reason why people cannot trace his criminal past and why many of his business associates had no idea that he was a convicted felon.
Russ Baker: Russ, I want to come back to this idea of why the FBI is so compromised as a result of this, particularly with respect to any further ongoing investigation with regards to Trump and the Russian connection.
Russ Baker: I think it’s because in order to tell the public or Congress or some combination everything that they know about Trump’s relationship with Russia and the back history and the origins, they would have to tell this story that we’re telling here, but the whole story, all the other details. I think they simply can’t do it. It’s problematical on a whole host of fronts and it’s probably a deep embarrassment as well.
Jonathan Larson: Even if it weren’t an embarrassment, they just don’t like to tell details of operations they’ve run because it gives inside into how they work an operation like this and they’d be very reluctant to reveal an operation this extensive.
Jeff Schechtman: What do you expect the reaction to this story to be, Russ?
Russ Baker: It’s hard to tell. Of course, there have been so many revelations large and small coming at us, seemingly by the hour that one really can’t tell. But, we would hope that this very thorough look at the larger picture behind this sort of more specific focus about hacking and so forth, the effort to get at the bottom of the whole matter to try to understand why Donald Trump seems to be so close with Vladimir Putin, what, if anything, Vladimir Putin or the Russians may have on him, that this would be seen as compelling enough and persuasive enough that the failure of the FBI – which we think would be a failure of the FBI to get to the bottom of this – could be circumvented through the appointment of an independent prosecutor or some kind of independent body to look into this whole matter.
Jeff Schechtman: It does seem that there are really three specific buckets and areas of investigation in all of this, and that’s what makes part of it so complicated. There’s the financial side, the criminal side and the political side.
Jonathan Larson: Right, Jeff. I think if this were really opened up, we’d find out just how much of Trump’s operation was financed, not just through Russian banks but through Russian mobsters, and money laundering and that could be quite revealing. That’s quite different than the rest of this investigation that Comey is conducting.
Jeff Schechtman: Finally, Russ, talk a little bit about the work that you and Jonathan and your associates have done in putting this story together. Give us a little background in how all of this came together over a period of several months.
Russ Baker: This was a team effort. The third member of the team: C. Collins did a tremendous amount of research on this, pouring over a large number of legal documents, extremely complicated technicalities in attempting to figure out what this all means. And then John and I came in to provide additional context, to do additional research and the three of us worked together very closely on this. And now we brought in more of our team, including a lot of editors and fact checkers, lawyers and so forth. It’s really a terrific team effort and it has to be with something of this enormity.
Jeff Schechtman: Russ Baker, Jonathan Larson, the story appears at WhoWhatWhy.org. I thank you both for sharing some of this and encourage folks to read the whole story. Thank you both.

While this is only the beginning of an investigation. and this investigation focuses on Trump-Russian connections, the 'take-away' I come out with is not that Trump has 'ties' to Russians because they are Russian, but rather that Trump has many ties to criminals and mobsters and oligarchs - and is an agnostic on what country they hail from - as long as they have lots of money and his kind of business 'ethics'...... Of course, due to the 1917 Revolution and the Cold War, Russia has a special place in the minds of many Americans; while they give a 'pass' to very similar types of Italian, Central American, European, African, U.S. and other mob-type people. ecumenical with corrupt rich people worldwide, as he is with attractive young women; one set he grabs in the wallet - the others he grabs elsewhere.]

Peter Lemkin
03-30-2017, 05:58 AM
President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday to dismantle a slew of climate rules established by President Obama. If carried out, the executive order will virtually guarantee that the United States will fail to meet its 2015 Paris Agreement pledge to reduce emissions in order to curb the effects of climate change. The executive order marks the first step to undo Obama’s Clean Power Plan to limit emissions and replace coal-fired power plants with new solar and wind farms. Trump signed the executive order at a ceremony at the Environmental Protection Agency while being surrounded by a group of coal miners, as well as EPA head Scott Pruitt, who himself denies the human impact on climate change.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Today I’m taking bold action to follow through on that promise. My administration is putting an end to the war on coal. Gonna have clean coal, really clean coal. With today’s executive action, I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion and to cancel job-killing regulations.
AMY GOODMAN: The executive order also ends President Obama’s 2013 Climate Action Plan, which outlined the federal government’s approach to curbing climate change. Trump never mentioned climate change or global warming during his remarks, even though 2016 was the warmest year on record, breaking the record set in 2015. He also only mentioned the EPA’s mission to protect the environment once.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to continue to expand energy production, and we will also create more jobs in infrastructure, trucking and manufacturing. This will allow the EPA to focus on its primary mission of protecting our air and protecting our water. Together, we are going to start a new energy revolution, one that celebrates American production on American soil.
AMY GOODMAN: For more, we’re joined by Jacqueline Patterson, director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, joining us from New Orleans.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Jacqueline. Talk about the effect of this executive order, its significance.
JACQUELINE PATTERSON: Yes, it is so significant. Thanks for having me. So, there are so many far-reaching implications for this rule, if the actions go forward as presented. Certainly—certainly, fortunately, labor experts and market experts say that regardless of this rule, which seeks to release the restriction on leasing of federal lands for coal, they’re saying that it’s not necessarily going to bring back the coal industry. But if it did, the coal industry is so harmful not only to the communities that are host to coal-fired power plants, but also to the very workers whose jobs that President Trump purports to save, including the fact that 76,000 coal miners have died of black lung disease since 1968, while the industry has fought against the regulations to protect them from coal mine dust. So we have those implications. We have implications like the communities that are host to coal-fired power plants are choking down sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, mercury, arsenic, lead, not to mention that coal is the number—coal-based energy production is the number one contributor to greenhouse—to carbon dioxide emissions, which is the number one greenhouse gas emission that drives climate change. So, those implications are significant.
AMY GOODMAN: And can you talk about how, in particular, it will affect communities of color?
JACQUELINE PATTERSON: Yeah, so, for example, African American—68 percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. And we know that with the emissions, such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, they’re known to have a link to exacerbating respiratory conditions such as asthma. We also know that African Americans—71 percent of African Americans live in counties in violation of air pollution standards. And we know that the African-American children are three to five times more likely to enter into the hospital from asthma attacks and two to three times more likely to die of asthma attacks. When we connect the dots in terms of exposure and in terms of the health conditions of African-American children and people, we start to see the ties in terms of the impact, the disproportionate impact, of the coal industry, in particular, on communities of color. We know that African-American adults are more likely to die from lung disease, but far less likely to smoke.
When we put out our report (http://www.naacp.org/climate-justice-resources/coal-blooded/), "Coal Blooded: Putting Profits Before People," back in 2012, we went around, and we visited with communities that were host to coal-fired power plants. And we heard time and time again from folks who had—half the kids in their school were on inhalers. Half the people in their church were on respirators. I spoke to a fellow in Indiana whose wife had died of lung disease. They lived within seeing distance of a coal-fired power plant. She had never smoked a day in her life. I spoke to a woman whose father worked in a coal plant and who died of lung cancer, but had never smoked a day in his life. So we see these stories—we hear these stories, and we see the statistics. And the disproportionate exposure and the differential impact are clear.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Earthjustice Policy Vice President Martin Hayden, who questioned whether President Trump’s executive order will have a significant effect on the coal industry.

MARTIN HAYDEN: [We] are a net exporter of coal, by a long shot. So, producing more coal isn’t going to make us more energy independent. And the other piece of producing more coal—and you saw many of the coal company executives say this last night—that while it may raise coal production some, it’s not going to create many more jobs, because they are more automated today, that the—that the trend has been fewer and fewer jobs in the coal fields, irrespective of how much coal is mined, because they’re using more mechanized approaches and less people approaches.
AMY GOODMAN: So, that issue, Jacqueline Patterson, of what the president keeps pushing, the issue of coal jobs?
JACQUELINE PATTERSON: Yes, so—yes, so, as I was saying at the very beginning, both the labor industry and the market say that it’s not necessarily going to bring back coal. I was saying what the implications would be if it did, in any way, increase—increase coal production—coal-based energy production in the United States.
But then there’s the other side of the fact, that even if we’re exporting coal, and other countries are using coal, as we know, any use of coal burning to produce energy affects climate change overall. And we know that communities of color and low-income communities are more likely to feel the impacts from climate change. And so, whether it’s communities that have poor housing stock, communities that are underinsured, communities that are—whose homes are located in the floodplains, we see that these communities are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change and more likely to be impacted by climate change. We know that these communities are often the ones that are—don’t have access to healthy and nutritious foods. They have food insecurity. And we know that shifts in agricultural yields is another impact of climate change and that—and that this might make food insecurity even greater in these communities. So the far-reaching implications of any type of increase in coal-based energy production are felt no matter where it happens, are felt globally, and particularly in vulnerable communities and vulnerable countries.
AMY GOODMAN: We’ve been talking about coal plants, but let’s talk about coal-fired plants. Jacqueline, talk by your own growing up in Chicago.
JACQUELINE PATTERSON: Yeah, so I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, where there were three coal-fired power plants within a 15-mile radius of where I lived, the Fisk and Crawford plants on the South Side of Chicago and the State Line plant on the northwest side of Indiana. So, unbeknownst to me, really, because, you know, these things are there, and you often just don’t know the impacts of these—of these facilities in your community, I was living in this toxic corridor.
And fast-forward to today, when I was doing the work on the "Coal Blooded" report, I visited with the Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, PERRO and others in Chicago who were doing work on the Fisk and Crawford plants. And they had done a partnership with the Harvard School of Public Health. And through the community-campus partnership, they found that 40 asthma deaths and a thousand hospitalizations were attributed to the Fisk and Crawford coal plants, which gave them what the—the fuel that they needed to be able to inform the community, which eventually resulted in the City Council passing an ordinance around clean air and Mayor Rahm Emanuel giving a ultimatum to either clean these coal plants up or shut them down, which eventually did happen.
And so, again, I was growing up in harm’s way. My father—my father passed away a few years ago of lung disease. And his doctor specifically cited that it was due to environmental exposures. And now I wonder what the cumulative impact might have been of living on the South Side of Chicago in that toxic corridor with those three coal plants and other toxins in the air.
AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Jacqueline Patterson, just the overall broader issue of cuts to the EPA and the whole direction the Trump administration is going? And, I mean, he signed this executive order at the Environmental Protection Agency, which he said he is going to slash by almost a third. This is with the acquiescence of the head of the EPA—right?—the former Oklahoma attorney general, Scott Pruitt, who sued the EPA 14 times before he’s now become its head.
JACQUELINE PATTERSON: Mm-hmm, yes. And unfortunately, not only—if it was just slashed off of the EPA budget in general, that would be bad enough. But the fact that it’s targeted slashing of environment justice programs, that are meant to protect communities like Mossville, Louisiana, which is in this petrochemical corridor, which is a cancer cluster, which has already these existing impacts for their community, communities like Uniontown, Alabama, which, again, has multiple assaults in terms of its environmental exposures, the communities across the nation that are, again, disproportionately communities of color, disproportionately indigenous communities and low-income communities, communities in Appalachia, who are suffering under the impacts of mountaintop removal and so forth and so on. And so, the Environmental Protection Agency, as we—as per its name, it is there to ensure that we have the monitoring and the enforcement of safeguards for our health and well-being. So I shudder to think what the impacts will be if that agency does not serve that function.

Peter Lemkin
03-30-2017, 05:59 AM
By a vote of 215 to 205, the House passed a bill to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s landmark broadband privacy rules established under the Obama administration. The vote will give companies like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T more power to collect people’s sensitive data, including your internet browsing history, as well as to sell that information. Last week, the Senate also approved the measure in a vote largely split across party lines. President Trump is expected to sign the bill.
For more, we go to Washington to speak with Laura Moy, deputy director of the Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown University Law Center. Her new piece (https://www.dailydot.com/layer8/congress-kill-isp-privacy-protections/) for The Daily Dot is titled "Think you can protect your privacy from internet providers without FCC rules? Good luck."
Laura Moy, welcome to Democracy Now!
LAURA MOY: Thanks.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the significance of the House vote yesterday.
LAURA MOY: Right. Thank you. Thanks so much for having me on.
Right. I mean, strange days in Washington. At a time when Americans overwhelmingly want more privacy protection, yesterday the House of Representatives, as you said, voted 215 to 205 to eliminate these really important privacy rules that would protect the information that Americans have no choice but to share with their internet service providers from being sold or shared without their permission. So, you know, essentially, when you go online, you have to tell your internet provider what website you want to visit, what app you want to use, so that it knows where to route the traffic online, knows which information to send you and where to send the information that you’re communicating. Americans pay for that service. They don’t expect that information to be shared or used for other purposes or sold without their permission. But repealing the rules that were put in place last October will do just that, will allow internet providers, as you said, like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, to share or sell that information without permission.
AMY GOODMAN: So give us a concrete example of how this would work, something you looked up, and how that’s going to make its way to some company.
LAURA MOY: Right. So, let’s say that you are browsing the web, and you are visiting a gun auction site or a healthcare site, perhaps a site that expresses your political viewpoints. Because you’re visiting those sites, your internet provider gets to see that you are traveling to those sites on the web. If you’re going to WebMD.com to look up a health condition, your internet provider sees that information. And now, with repeal of the rules, it is possible that internet providers will see this as a green light to go ahead and sell that information about you to entities that might want to use it, for example, to track you or monitor you or just to market you related goods to the things that you’re interested in.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you’re looking up something on addiction, and then they start to target you as perhaps someone who is addicted, or you’re afraid to start looking things up and getting vital information, because of that very tactic.
LAURA MOY: Right. Yeah, that’s exactly right. I mean, Americans absolutely need internet connectivity in today’s modern era. You need to go online to search for a job. You need to go online to complete your education. You need to go online often to communicate with your healthcare provider or conduct your banking. And we want people to use the internet, to view it as a safe space to communicate with others, to express their political viewpoints, to carry out these vitally important everyday activities, and to do so without fear that the information that they share with their internet service provider will be used to harm them in some way.
AMY GOODMAN: Well—
LAURA MOY: And—sorry, go ahead.
AMY GOODMAN: Republicans argued that the FCC overstepped its mandate, and it’s the job of the Federal Trade Commission to regulate privacy. This is Republican Congressmember Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN: Having two privacy cops on the beat will create confusion within the internet ecosystem and will end up harming consumers. Third, the FCC already has authority to enforce privacy obligations of broadband service providers on a case-by-case basis. These broadband privacy rules are unnecessary and are just another example of big government overreach.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Republican Congressmember Marsha Blackburn, who, according to Vocativ, has received over half a million dollars in campaign donations [from] internet providers, including AT&T, Comcast and Verizon. If you could respond to what she’s saying—this should be the FTC’s area—and also the fact that the Republicans have pushed this when President Trump is fighting against surveillance himself—
LAURA MOY: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —or of himself?
LAURA MOY: That’s right, yeah. So, as Representative Blackburn stated, the Federal Trade Commission has done a lot of work on privacy over the past couple decades. Unfortunately for us, the Federal Trade Commission does not have any authority to regulate internet service providers. So, a couple years ago, internet service was classified as a telecommunications service, because over 4 million Americans wanted it to be regulated as a common carrier service. And as a result, the Federal Trade Commission does not have the authority to protect the privacy of Americans from uses by internet providers. So, she is right that the Federal Trade Commission has done a lot of good work on privacy, but it is not true that the Federal Trade Commission can protect us here.
And then, you mentioned, of course, that President Trump has spoken out about surveillance or suspected surveillance of himself. This is a little bit ridiculous, because President Trump and the Trump White House has spoken out in support of the repeal of the privacy rule. Repeal of the privacy rule will, in addition to giving internet providers the green light to share and sell information without consumers’ consent, might help expand mass surveillance programs, as well.
AMY GOODMAN: In what way? We have 10 seconds.
LAURA MOY: So, because of the way that internet providers are required to protect information and not share it without a lawful order with the government, if it’s classified as protected information under this rule, with repeal of the rule, that could lead to the expansion of some of these surveillance programs.

Lauren Johnson
03-31-2017, 02:52 AM
Central to the Trump narrative is his withdrawal from foreign adventurism and devoting time and energy to putting America back to work. The narrative seems to be falling apart already. Ann Wright from Consortium News (https://consortiumnews.com/2017/03/30/trump-succumbs-to-bushobama-perpetual-war/) thinks Trump is continuing on with the post 9/11 trajectory my constant war.


By Ann Wright

Fourteen years ago on March 19, 2003, I resigned from the U.S. government in opposition to President George W. Bush’s decision to invade and occupy Iraq, an oil-rich Arab/Muslim country that had nothing to do with the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and that the Bush Administration knew did not have weapons of mass destruction.

In my letter of resignation, I wrote of my deep concerns about Bush’s decision to attack Iraq and the predictable large number of civilian casualties from that military attack. But I also detailed my concerns on other issues: the lack of U.S. effort on resolving the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the U.S. failure to engage North Korea to curb nuclear and missile development, and the curtailment of civil liberties in the United States through the Patriot Act.

Now, three Presidents into the Iraq War and other unsettled conflicts, the problems that I was concerned about in 2003 are even more dangerous a decade and a half later.

As a U.S. diplomat, I was on the small team that reopened the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, in December 2001. Sixteen years later, the U.S. is still battling the Taliban in Afghanistan, as the Taliban takes more and more territory, in America’s longest war, while the graft and corruption within the Afghan government due to the mammoth U.S.-funded contracts for support of the U.S. military machine continues to provide the Taliban with new recruits.

The U.S. is now fighting against ISIS, a brutal group that emerged because of the U.S. war in Iraq, but has spread from Iraq into Syria, as the U.S. policy of regime change has resulted in arming international as well as domestic Syrian groups to fight not only ISIS, but the Syrian government. The deaths of civilians in Iraq and Syria continue to rise with the acknowledgement this week by the U.S. military that it is “likely” that a U.S. bombing mission killed over 200 civilians in one building in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

Slaughtering Palestinians

With U.S. government acquiescence, if not complicity, the Israeli military has attacked Gaza three times in the past eight years. Thousands of Palestinians have been killed, tens of thousands have been wounded and the homes of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been destroyed.

Over 800,000 Israelis now live in illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian lands in the West Bank. Israeli government has built hundreds of miles of separation/apartheid walls on Palestinian land which separate Palestinians from their farms, schools and employment. Brutal, humiliating checkpoints purposely attempt to degrade the spirit of Palestinians. Israeli only highways have been built on Palestinian lands. The theft of Palestinian resources has ignited a worldwide, citizen-led boycott, divestment and sanctions program.

Imprisonment of Palestinian children for throwing rocks at Israeli occupation military forces has reached crisis levels. Evidence of the Israeli government’s inhumane treatment of Palestinians has now been formally called “apartheid” in a United Nations report that resulted in massive Israeli and U.S. pressure on the U.N to withdraw the report and force the Under Secretary of the U.N. who commissioned the report to resign.

The North Korean government continues to call for negotiations with the U.S. and South Korea for a peace treaty to end the Korean War. But the U.S. government has responded with a rejection of any discussions with North Korea until North Korea ends its nuclear program. The U.S. also has increased U.S.-South Korean military drills, the last one named “Decapitation,” moves that have resulted in the North Korean government continuing its nuclear testing and missile projects.

The war on civil liberties of U.S. citizens under the Patriot Act resulted in unprecedented surveillance through cellphones, computers and other electronic devices, massive illegal data collection and indefinite, perpetual storage of private information of not only U.S. citizens, but all inhabitants of this planet.

The Obama war on whistleblowers who have exposed various aspects of the illegal data collection has inflicted severe punishments on people accused of sharing truthful information with the public, including: bankruptcy for National Security Agency official Tom Drake in successfully defending against espionage charges; Pvt. Chelsea Manning’s long prison sentence for exposing war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan; forced exile for NSA contractor Edward Snowden for revealing U.S. government lies about the NSA’s bulk collection; Julian Assange’s virtual imprisonment in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy for fear of retaliation against WikiLeaks’ disclosures of U.S. government secrets.

Trump’s Complaint

In the latest bizarre twist, President Donald Trump has accused President Barack Obama of “wiretapping” the Trump Tower in New York City during the Presidential campaign but then – amid widespread denials – refused to provide any evidence, although it’s true that virtually all citizens have become targets of electronic surveillance.

The past 14 years have been difficult for the world due to U.S. wars of choice and the growth of the surveillance state. And, the next four years do not appear likely to bring any relief to the citizens of planet earth.

The election of Donald Trump, the first U.S. President who has never served in any level of government nor in the U.S. military, has led to – in a little more than two months – an unprecedented number of domestic and international crises, many self-inflicted:

–The Trump administration has attempted to ban persons from seven mostly Muslim countries (later reduced to six);
–The Trump administration has appointed to Cabinet positions members of the billionaire class from Wall Street and Big Oil, people who have the intention of destroying the agencies they are to lead.
–The Trump administration has proposed a budget that will increase the U.S. military war budget by 10 percent, but slash the budgets of other agencies to render them ineffective.
–The Department of State and International Affairs budget for conflict resolution by words not bullets will be slashed by 37 percent.
–The Trump Administration has appointed a person to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who has declared the worsening climate chaos a hoax.

In retrospect, I am glad I resigned from the U.S. government when I did. My decision to resign has allowed me to speak publicly in the United States and around the world on issues that jeopardize international security from the perspective of a former U.S. government employee with 29 years of experience in the U.S. Army and 16 years in the U.S. diplomatic corps.

I am glad that I could join the millions of citizens around the world who are challenging their governments when the governments violate legal standards, kill innocent civilians and wreck havoc on the planet.

Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She served as a U.S. diplomat for sixteen years before her resignation in March 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war. She is the co-author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.

Peter Lemkin
03-31-2017, 05:52 AM
Flynn discussing immunity for testimony on Russia
158COMMENTS (https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/politics/2017/03/30/flynn-reportedly-says-will-testify-russia-gets-immunity/mzllobIEtXL5YKTBju0WPP/story.html#comments)PRINThttps://c.o0bg.com/rf/image_960w/Boston/2011-2020/2017/03/30/BostonGlobe.com/National/Images/58448a34e3184d40a7f5e8a75082281d-58448a34e3184d40a7f5e8a75082281d-0.jpg
EVAN VUCCI/AP/FILEFormer national security adviser Mike Flynn in February.
By Adam Entous and Ellen Nakashima THE WASHINGTON POST MARCH 30, 2017
Former national security adviser Michael Flynn has offered to cooperate with congressional investigators in exchange for immunity from prosecution, a suggestion that has been met with initial skepticism, according to people familiar with the matter.
”General Flynn certainly has a story to tell, and he very much wants to tell it, should the circumstances permit,’’ Flynn’s attorney, Robert Kelner, said in a statement Thursday evening. ‘‘Out of respect for the committees, we will not comment right now on the details of discussions between counsel for General Flynn and the House and Senate intelligence committees, other than to confirm that those discussions have taken place. But it is important to acknowledge the circumstances in which those discussions are occurring.’’
The committees are both looking into whether any associates of Donald Trump may have coordinated with agents of the Russian government seeking to meddle in last year’s presidential election. The FBI is also investigating. The Trump administration has denied any such coordination.
The offer by Flynn’s lawyer was first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Flynn’s overture seemed to have been aimed principally at the Senate committee, as Democrats on the House committee said they had not received word of an offer of testimony for immunity.




Officials said the idea of immunity for Flynn - who is considered a central figure in the probes because of his contacts with the Russian ambassador to the United States - was a ‘‘non-starter,’’ particularly at such an early stage of the investigations. A wide-ranging grant of immunity could protect Flynn from potential future charges from the Justice Department, but Congress has the power to grant only limited ‘‘testimonial’’ immunity, which means prosecutors cannot use witnesses’ testimony against them in any prosecution. Ultimately, it is Justice’s decision whether to grant immunity from prosecution for any underlying conduct that is discussed, or other matters that don’t come up in testimony.
View Story



(https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2017/03/27/for-trump-russia-won-away/KqeHEcpN6tfx2LW9elq6IK/story.html?p1=Article_Related_Box_Article)

Read the statement of Mike Flynn’s lawyer (https://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2017/03/30/read-statement-mike-flynn-lawyer/6L09AKaYKmihEgHlXxTWUM/story.html?p1=Article_Related_Box_Article_More)

It is not unheard of for potential congressional witnesses to seek immunity in exchange for testimony. During the Obama administration, former IRS official Lois Lerner sought immunity for her testimony to Congress, which was investigating how she and other officials scrutinized conservative groups. The FBI was also investigating the matter at the time. The committee declined to grant her immunity, and she was still called to testify at a hearing, in which she repeatedly invoked her Fifth Amendment right to protect herself against self-incrimination.
Flynn’s attorney said his client, a decorated former general, was now the subject of ‘‘unfounded allegations, outrageous claims of treason, and vicious innuendo.’’
The lawyer added: ‘‘No reasonable person, who has the benefit of advice from counsel, would submit to questioning in such a highly politicized, witch hunt environment without assurances against unfair prosecution.’’
Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor and an assistant special counsel in the prosecution of I. Lewis ‘‘Scooter’’ Libby, said that the Senate committee apparently did not ‘‘want to screw up a possible prosecution.’’
But, he added, ‘‘there may be things more important than getting a prosecution of Flynn.’’ Such as learning the extent of contacts between Trump associates and Russian officials. ‘‘That is a compelling and urgent need. A prosecution of Flynn could take several years. I wouldn’t want them to wait that long to find out what Flynn knows.’’

Peter Lemkin
03-31-2017, 05:55 AM
I, for one, would welcome a 'Russia-Ukraine' peace plan. That said, everything related to Russia and Trump Administration is getting more and more cloudy and complex at the moment. While it IS illegal to act as one would when President BEFORE on IS President [and thus do things behind the back of the sitting Administration], no one did anything to those responsible for the October Surprise on Carter - to name just one such event meant to subvert a sitting President for political [and financial] gain. My own feeling about Trumpf and Co. is that they are motivated by making money for themselves and their pals - not by anything resembling normal geopolitical considerations.


Trump's lawyer has told 4 different stories about the Russia-Ukraine 'peace plan' debacle

http://static3.businessinsider.com/image/572babe052bcd01d7b8c0f4f-100-100/natasha-bertrand.jpg (http://www.businessinsider.com/author/natasha-bertrand)



Natasha Bertrand (http://www.businessinsider.com/author/natasha-bertrand)





Feb. 21, 2017, 11:17 AM




http://static5.businessinsider.com/image/58764779f10a9a29768b4b84-2400/ap16351601934760.jpgMichael Cohen, an attorney for Donald Trump, arrives in Trump Tower on December 16. Richard Drew/AP
President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, was at the center of a bombshellNew York Times report (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/19/us/politics/donald-trump-ukraine-russia.html)published Sunday that said he hand-delivered a "peace plan for Russia and Ukraine" to former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn before Flynn was asked to resign.
The plan — which The Times said was pushed by Cohen, businessman Felix Sater, and Ukrainian lawmaker Andrii Artemenko — involved lifting sanctions on Russia in return for Moscow withdrawing its support for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine, according to the report. It would also allow Russia to maintain control over Crimea, which it annexed in 2014.
Hours after the Times story was published, however, Cohen told The Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/amid-russia-scrutiny-trump-associates-received-informal-ukraine-policy-proposal/2017/02/19/72b0b264-f6eb-11e6-be05-1a3817ac21a5_story.html?utm_term=.f15f4fe28def) that he hadn't delivered the peace plan to Flynn nor discussed it with anyone in the White House.
In an interview with The Post, Cohen corroborated The Times' reporting that he had met with Sater and Artemenko in a hotel lobby on Park Avenue in Manhattan in late January to discuss the proposal. He said that the meeting lasted less than 15 minutes and that he left with the plan in hand.
However, he "emphatically" denied "discussing this topic or delivering any documents to the White House and/or General Flynn," adding that he told Artemenko that he could "send the proposal to Flynn by writing him at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.," The Post reported.
Cohen shifted his story again on Monday, telling Business Insider in a series of text messages that he denies "even knowing what the plan is." But he said in a later message that he met with Artemenko in New York for "under 10 minutes" to discuss a proposal that Artemenko said "was acknowledged by Russian authorities that would create world peace."
"My response was, 'Who doesn't want world peace?'" Cohen said.
One of the Times reporters who broke the peace-plan story, Scott Shane, pointed Business Insider to a statement the newspaper's deputy managing editor gave on Sunday: "Mr. Cohen told The Times in no uncertain terms that he delivered the Ukraine proposal to Michael Flynn's office at the White House. Mr. Sater told the Times that Mr. Cohen had told him the same thing."
Cohen then appeared to alter his story again, telling NBC News (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/trump-lawyer-confirms-meeting-ukrainian-denies-carrying-peace-plan-n723386) that even if he had taken an envelope with a peace plan to the White House, "So what? What's wrong with that?"
http://static4.businessinsider.com/image/58925a996e09a8c1078b45a9-2400Stephanie Keith/Reuters
Sater, a businessman of Russian descent who has boasted of his relationship with President Donald Trump, told The Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/former-mafia-linked-figure-describes-association-with-trump/2016/05/17/cec6c2c6-16d3-11e6-aa55-670cabef46e0_story.html?utm_term=.e4ae644ae99b) in May that he "handled all of the negotiations" for the Trump Organization's dealings in Russia in the mid-2000s. Trump has distanced himself (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/former-mafia-linked-figure-describes-association-with-trump/2016/05/17/cec6c2c6-16d3-11e6-aa55-670cabef46e0_story.html?utm_term=.c36a0b602ecf) from Sater, saying in sworn testimony as part of a 2013 lawsuit that "if he were sitting in the room right now, I really wouldn't know what he looked like."
Sater told The Post that he thought Cohen was going to deliver the plan to Flynn but that Cohen had to wait because Flynn was in the middle of a Russia-related firestorm.
Cohen was named as a "liaison" between Trump and the Kremlin in the explosive, unsubstantiated dossier (https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/3259984-Trump-Intelligence-Allegations.html) that surfaced last month, a summary of which had been presented by top US intelligence officials to Trump.
Sater was "not practicing diplomacy" in pushing the plan, which he entertained only because he "wanted to promote peace," he told Fox News (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/02/20/exclusive-felix-sater-man-at-center-ukraine-peace-plan-said-was-only-trying-to-help.html)on Monday. He did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Artemenko, who met with Trump's campaign (http://www.politico.com/story/2017/01/ukraine-sabotage-trump-backfire-233446) during the election, was also involved in drafting the proposal. Artemenko told The Times he had evidence of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko's corruption that could lead to his ouster.
Poroshenko has been locked in a war with pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine since he took power in 2014. He is considered friendlier to the West than his ousted predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych. Yanukovych's political rise was heavily aided by former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who worked as an adviser on Yanukovych's presidential campaign.
Cohen called the reporting surrounding the meeting "#fakenews." He said he stands by his story that he didn't do anything with the plan.
"Change your fake story or lose my number," Cohen said. "I have no time for Trump haters."

Peter Lemkin
03-31-2017, 06:09 AM
March 30, 2017 | WhoWhatWhy Staff (http://whowhatwhy.org/author/whowhatwhy-staff/)


Mobbed Up: Is Trump as Clean as He Claims?

http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/1-11-700x470.jpg Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from The White House / Wikimedia (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Donald_Trump_official_portrait.jpg), Juan Ramos / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) (https://www.flickr.com/photos/juanramos/14139407767/) and 591J / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0) (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Felix_Sater.jpg).
WhoWhatWhy’s (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/27/fbi-cant-tell-trump-russia/)story on President Donald Trump (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/27/fbi-cant-tell-trump-russia/), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Russian mob and Vladimir Putin has sparked enormous interest. Due to the complexity of the issues we presented and the wide-ranging cast of characters involved, the following video is definitely worth watching.
It will provide a glimpse at Trump’s mob ties and introduces Felix Sater, who plays a key role in our story as well. And you will hear the president in his own words claiming that he hardly knew Sater, even though the pair was involved in multiple business deals.

All of the connections mentioned in the BBC film below were mentioned during the campaign - if generally ignored.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=-k3B-tw2sB0

Peter Lemkin
03-31-2017, 06:37 AM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_aFo_BV-UzI

Peter Lemkin
03-31-2017, 05:23 PM
March 27, 2017 | WhoWhatWhy Staff (http://whowhatwhy.org/author/whowhatwhy-staff/)


Keystone XL Is a Dirty Deal for America http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/image01-10-700x470.jpg Photo credit: shannonpatrick17 / Wikimedia (CC BY 2.0) (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pipes_for_keystone_pipeline_in_2009.jpg) and Meclee / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Keystone-pipeline-route.png)
President Donald Trump’s announcement that he approved the controversial Keystone XL pipeline was welcome news for a Canadian company, foreign steel manufacturers, some rich guys, anybody who thinks the planet should be warmer and 35 ordinary Americans. It’s not a good deal for the rest of the country.
“This announcement is part of a new era of American energy policy that will lower costs for American families — and very significantly — reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and create thousands of jobs right here in America,” Trump said Friday.
What the president did not say is that the vast majority of the jobs created by the construction of the pipeline will be temporary. A 2014 State Department study (https://keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/documents/organization/221186.pdf) indicated that Keystone XL would create only 35 permanent jobs.
As WhoWhatWhy has shown, that is not the only issue with the pipeline. We thought that Trump’s announcement provided a good opportunity to revisit our previous coverage, which identified many of the problems that make the construction of Keystone XL a terrible decision on many levels.
This is Part 1 of a 2-part Series
(See Part 2 here: A Cautionary Tale—Tar Sands Oil and Health (http://whowhatwhy.org/2014/06/01/a-cautionary-tale-tar-sands-oil-and-health-part-2/))
Debate continues to rage over whether the Obama administration should approve TransCanada Corporation’s (http://www.transcanada.com/splash/) contentious Keystone XL pipeline. (http://www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov)
Meanwhile, little attention has focused on the impact of tar sands oil spills in far-flung states. Two accidents, in Arkansas and Michigan, raise largely unaddressed questions about the true cost to human health and the environment — and the high cost and difficulty of cleanup. But there are other issues as well, ranging from the political and economic impact to the behavior of the corporations involved to the very nature of the substance itself.
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/mayflower_tar_sands_oil_spill_EPA-300x225.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/mayflower_tar_sands_oil_spill_EPA.jpg)Pipe Dreams — or Nightmares?
The more recent of these disasters came on March 29, when a 22-foot gash opened in ExxonMobil’s 65-year-old Pegasus pipeline. It dumped some 210,000 gallons (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/us/oil-pipeline-ruptures-in-arkansas.html?_r=0) of tar sands oil into the streets of Mayflower, Arkansas, and into nearby Lake Conway.
More than six months after that lake of viscous tar sands crude engulfed a subdivision, many homes — both within the core spill area and at the periphery — stand deserted.
Among the few inhabitants who remain are those too old or too poor to leave, while many others simply have no place else to go. The streets are dotted with For Sale signs that beckon no buyers. Many people are ill, suffering from respiratory problems, chronic headaches, debilitating fatigue and other complaints.
Environmental scientist Wilma Subra (http://www.epa.gov/air/ej/conference2007/Wilma_Subra_Bio.pdf) says the symptoms are consistent with known effects from exposure to petroleum products — and to the volatile chemicals used to dilute the gummy Canadian oil so it can flow through a pipeline.
While cleanup continues, the legal battles have just begun. Among them are class action and civil suits, plus a lawsuit (http://www.justice.gov/iso/opa/resources/8802013613125743925625.pdf) filed by the US Justice Department and the state of Arkansas for alleged violations of state and federal environmental laws, including the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.
ExxonMobil Lied About What Spilled
For weeks after the spill ExxonMobil withheld crucial information about the nature of their product from state and local officials. The oil giant insisted it was conventional crude — which is cheaper and easier to clean up — while downplaying the amount and extent of contamination. Early on, company officials claimed that nearby Lake Conway was oil-free (https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/695572-mayflower-press-release-040813-draft-v3.html#document/p2/a101029)— though internal emails (https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/documents/695570/exxon-finds-benzene-in-lake-conway-4-3.pdf) showed that they knew otherwise.
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Capture.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Capture.jpg)http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/capture1.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/capture1.jpg)The March 2013 Exxon Tar Sands Spill in Mayflower, Arkansas

A Billion Dollar Spill?
Far to the north, 40 miles of Michigan’s Kalamazoo River shimmer with a slick rainbow sheen. It’s the toxic legacy of the largest, most expensive onshore oil spill in US history.
On July 26th, 2010, Enbridge Energy (http://www.enbridgepartners.com)’s “Line B” pipeline ruptured (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/28/us/28brfs-800000GALLON_BRF.html), belching over a million gallons of tar sands oil into a field near Marshall, Michigan. Some of that flowed into nearby Talmadge Creek and on into the Kalamazoo—sites of previous industrial dumping and heroic cleanup efforts.
Three years later, so much heavy Canadian crude still coats parts of the river bottom that last March, the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered Enbridge to resume dredging the river (http://www.epa.gov/enbridgespill).
The agency estimates that perhaps 180,000 gallons remain submerged (http://www.epa.gov/enbridgespill/), “plus or minus 100,000 gallons.” Federal fines of $3.7 million pale beside actual cleanup costs (https://www.edockets.state.mn.us/EFiling/edockets/searchDocuments.do?method=showPoup&documentId=%7bF1B13575-3D71-4CAA-A86A-05CE1EBBCA38%7d&documentTitle=20138-90363-03), which now exceed a billion dollars.
Enbridge contends it spilled a mere 843,000 gallons (http://response.enbridgeus.com/response/main.aspx?id=12783#How_much)— although EPA evidence (http://www.epa.gov/enbridgespill/) shows far more. The company waited a week to disclose that the spill was not ordinary oil, but instead thick tar sands oil. Some 320 people have reported health problems (http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/Enbridge_Oil_Spill_Air__PHA_-_PC_08-26-2014_466005_7.pdf), and litigation is ongoing in a host of lawsuits.
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Capture2.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Capture2.jpg)Oil and Water…
Even these accidents, however awful the consequences for local residents, fail to paint a picture of the potential for catastrophe in the Keystone XL Pipeline project.
If completed, this pipeline would funnel nearly 35 million gallons of Canadian tar sands oil — a day — from Alberta to Texas Gulf Coast refineries. Along that 1,179-mile route, the line would cross six states in America’s heartland, and traverse the Ogallala Aquifer that provides drinking water for two million people.
Though the location of oil and gas pipelines is public information, neither TransCanada nor the State Department has revealed Keystone XL’s exact route (http://keystone.steamingmules.com/about/background/). But the general path is clear. Keystone will cross a remarkable 1,748 bodies of water in all, including the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers.
In an accident, numerous toxic chemicals would be released, including benzene, a known human carcinogen. One at-risk ecosystem, Nebraska’s fragile Sandhills region, lies along the Keystone route, with ancient dunes so permeable that nearly 100 percent of rainfall enters the shallow Ogallala Aquifer. This means that a relatively minor spill can have major consequences.
***
While spills are the most immediate threat posed by the pipeline, much of the Keystone debate has focused on climate change. NASA climatologist James Hansen (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/tar-sands-and-keystone-xl-pipeline-impact-on-global-warming/) has called Canadian oil sands crude “one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fuels on the planet.”
How bad? It emits 14 to 20 percent more greenhouse gases than conventional crude, according to a congressional report (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42537.pdf). But the environmental group Rainforest Action Network (RAN) (http://ran.org/what-are-tar-sands) says it’s much, much worse:
Tar sands oil is the worst type of oil for the climate, producing three times the greenhouse gas emissions of conventionally produced oil because of the energy required to extract and process tar sands oil. . . increased greenhouse gas emissions associated with tar sands development is the main reason Canada will not meet its Kyoto reduction commitments.
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/TarSands-300x200.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/TarSands.jpg)Oil or “Molasses”
Tar sands oil should not be confused with conventional crude. Alberta’s oil is a gelatinous mix of tarry petroleum and sand, known as diluted bitumen or “dilbit.” It’s often likened to asphalt: it is so thick and gooey that it won’t flow through a pipeline on its own. For transport, it’s thinned with liquefied natural gas and a range of chemicals (http://www.matse.psu.edu/news/ionicliquids), some of which are extremely toxic.
It’s far stickier than other petroleum products — and it sinks in water, which is why oil sands spills are extremely difficult to clean up, said Stephen K. Hamilton, a Michigan State University aquatic ecology professor who’s advising the state and the EPA on the cleanup in Marshall. “The bitumen reverts to its molasses-like nature once the diluent evaporates, and is nearly impossible to remove from surfaces…and river banks,” he said. “The EPA estimates that a significant fraction of the spilled oil remains in the sediments even after all the time and money invested in cleanup, and I am sure we will never get it all out.”
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/pegasus-oil-spill-arkansas-exxon-300x203.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/pegasus-oil-spill-arkansas-exxon.jpg)Dirty Oil, Dirty Politics
Legally, bitumen is not even considered oil. In 2011, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) ruled (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-wd/1120019.pdf) that “the term ‘crude oil’ does not include “synthetic petroleum.” That distinction exempts Enbridge, ExxonMobil, TransCanada and other companies that transport tar sands crude from paying the 8-cents-per-barrel petroleum excise tax. Thus, the companies shipping a substance that’s more toxic and harder to clean up than standard petroleum products do not even have to pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (http://www.uscg.mil/npfc/About_NPFC/osltf.asp), which was created by Congress in 1986 and enacted four years later in response to the Exxon Valdez disaster.
Cleanup of the massive Deepwater Horizon (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d11397r.pdf) oil spill and a host of smaller accidents drained the fund to risky levels, according to a Government Accountability Office report (http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d10795t.pdf). As of March 2011, the fund had shelled out $629.5 million for Deepwater. Liability for oil companies caps at $350 million; the fund covers the rest, up to a billion dollars per incident.
But tar sands oil gets a free ride, with transport companies putting nothing aside to help pay for pipeline breaks or other accidents.
The House Natural Resources Committee (http://democrats.naturalresources.house.gov/sites/democrats.naturalresources.house.gov/files/documents/2012-07-31_IRS_Tarsands_Report.pdf) criticized the exemption, noting that “it is important that all oil companies be held responsible for the disasters associated with the products they sell and the taxpayers not be forced to pay the bills of cash rich oil companies.”
Indeed, keeping the exemption in place through 2017 would mean $409 million in lost revenue. With skyrocketing dilbit imports (http://www.nrdc.org/energy/files/tarsandssafetyrisks.pdf) from Canada, it’s no small concern. The 220,000 barrels (42 gallons each) imported per day in 2000 jumped to over 650,000 barrels in 2011. Producers hope to top 1.5 million barrels in the next six years, according to Canada’s National Energy Board (http://www.neb.gc.ca). A series of major spills could bankrupt the fund—leaving taxpayers with a massive cleanup bill.
TransCanada’s environmental assessment (http://keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/draftseis/) estimated that Keystone XL will discharge 11 “significant” spills of 2,100 gallons or more in the US over its 50-year lifespan. An independent analysis by Dr. John Stansbury, an engineer and professor at the University of Nebraska, presents a far more alarming scenario: up to 91 serious spills (http://watercenter.unl.edu/downloads/2011-Worst-case-Keystone-spills-report.pdf) over that same period. His study includes key data omitted by TransCanada.
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/large-300x187.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/large.jpg)A Hazard to “Life, Liberty, and the Environment”
Pipelines break for many reasons, from advancing age and weak welds to natural disasters and construction accidents. But transporting heavy, toxic dilbit further increases stress on pipelines, according to a recent Cornell University study (http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/globallaborinstitute/research/upload/GLI_Impact-of-Tar-Sands-Pipeline-Spills.pdf).
It’s 15 to 20 times more acidic than conventional heavy crude, with five to 10 times more sulfur. Because it’s so thick, it’s often pumped at higher temperatures and pressures than other petroleum products. Its varying composition and consistency bring large, frequent swings in pressure that can create new cracks or widen existing ones—a factor that may have played a role in ExxonMobil’s Arkansas break.
And that was no isolated case. From 2007 to 2010, dilbit pipelines in the northern Midwest dumped three times more oil per mile (http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/globallaborinstitute/research/upload/GLI_Impact-of-Tar-Sands-Pipeline-Spills.pdf) than the national average for conventional crude. Since the Keystone’s Phase 1 pipeline opened in June 2010, there have been at least 35 incidents. It pumps dilbit from Alberta to refineries in Illinois, a line that breezed through the permitting process during the Bush Administration, with little public awareness.
The string of accidents prompted pipeline safety regulators to subsequently deem Keystone 1 a hazard to “life, property, and the environment (http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/staticfiles/PHMSA/DownloadableFiles/Keystone%20CAO%20and%20Restart%20Approval.pdf)” — and issue a “Corrective Action Order” to address multiple problems.
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/oilincreek-300x233.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/oilincreek.jpg) “A Complete Breakdown of Safety”
Regulators realized in the late 1990s that pipeline operators were losing control of their systems, says Richard Kuprewicz, president of the engineering consulting company Accufacts, Inc. and adviser to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (http://www.phmsa.dot.gov) (PHMSA). Minimum safety guidelines were updated back then, but now, he says, “we’re seeing a rash of ruptures.There’s no doubt that there’s something wrong with current pipeline safety regulations.”
In a recent speech to oil and gas pipeline compliance officers, PHMSA associate administrator Jeffrey Wiese admitted (http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20130911/exclusive-pipeline-safety-chief-says-his-regulatory-process-kind-dying) that the regulatory process he oversees is “kind of dying” and that his office has “very few tools to work with” in enforcing safety rules. “Do I think I can hurt a major international corporation with a $2 million civil penalty? No,” he said.
Before they failed, both the Mayflower and Marshall lines were known to have developed cracks. The defect (http://www.documentcloud.org/documents/351569-enbridge-cong-test.html#document/p18/a61044) that caused the six-and-a-half-foot hole in Enbridge’s Line 6B was noticed at least three times, but both regulators and the company ignored it. Likewise, ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. inspected the section of Pegasus that later burst in 2010 and again in early 2013. But again, nothing was done.
At a hearing on the Michigan spill in 2012, National Transportation Safety Board chairman Deborah Hersman stated (https://web.archive.org/web/20120716022032/http://www.ntsb.gov/news/2012/120710.html), “This investigation identified a complete breakdown of safety at Enbridge,” and likened employees’ poor handling of the rupture to “Keystone Kops.”
Despite numerous alarms it took operators in Michigan nearly 12 hours to shut down the 30-inch wide pipeline. Another six hours passed before they located the spill site.
The transportation safety board also cited weak federal regulation and oversight of emergency procedures, and poor assessment and repairs of pipeline health.
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Capture3-300x215.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Capture3.jpg)Fast-Tracking the Pipelines
While TransCanada awaits a decision on Keystone XL, it’s unclear whether Exxon’s 858-mile Pegasus pipeline will reopen. The company hasn’t made public its plans for the line, which will require written permission from PHMSA to restart. Analysts conjecture that Pegasus may be in such poor shape that it will need significant repair — or that Exxon may be weighing construction of a new, larger replacement.
But other lines will soon be shipping tar sands products to the Gulf for refining and export. Enbridge plans to expand its Alberta Clipper pipeline (http://pstrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/AC-SL-Projects-Map.jpg) from Canada to Wisconsin, which would carry up to 880,000 barrels a day, more than Keystone’s planned 830,000-barrel capacity.
The company’s 774-mile Trunkline (http://pstrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/trunkline_800px.jpg) is scheduled to go into operation in 2015, using converted gas lines that run from Patoka, IL, to St. James, LA. There is concern that these lines, which have been in the ground for years, were not built to current standards and may not be able to withstand the heavier load of tar sands oil. But these conversions are subject to fewer regulations and generally win swift approval.
***
The safety issue clearly gets short shrift. PHMSA, the entity charged with oversight, has been understaffed (http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/homesec/R41536.pdf) by an average of 24 employees each year between 2001 and 2009. And last year, it had funding for just 137 inspectors in total. That’s nowhere near enough to police the industry.
As a result, regulators are forced to essentially leave safety evaluations up to the companies — even allowing them to plan their own future pipeline routes. The two assessments submitted for Keystone XL were prepared with blatant conflicts of interest: one by a former client of TransCanada, and the second by a member of the American Petroleum Institute (http://www.foe.org/news/news-releases/2013-07-conflict-of-interest-state-dept-kxl-contractor-lied-on-oil-ties), the oil and gas industry’s largest U.S trade association. The EPA commented (https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/690725-keystone-xl-project-epa-comment-letter-20130056.html) that the documents lacked needed information on water protection and an improved emergency response plan.
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/pipeline-safety-300x208.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/pipeline-safety.jpg)Americans Don’t Even Gain
Americans risk environmental catastrophe while gaining…next to nothing.
As the Rainforest Action Network notes:
Keystone XL is an export pipeline. In presentations to their investors (http://phx.corporate-ir.net/External.File?item=UGFyZW50SUQ9NDM2Nzk1fENoaWxkSUQ 9NDU3MjU1fFR5cGU9MQ==&t=1), Gulf Coast refiners have revealed plans to refine Keystone’s Canadian crude into diesel and other products for export to Europe and Latin America. Proceeds from these exports are earned tax-free. Much of the fuel refined from the pipeline’s heavy crude oil will never reach U.S. drivers’ tanks.”
(More on this point from the environmental advocacy group Oil Change International, here (http://priceofoil.org/2011/08/31/report-exporting-energy-security-keystone-xl-exposed/).)
With Liberty and Justice for…Oil
The pressure from industry has been considerable. With well-funded publicity campaigns promoting “energy independence,” it’s not so surprising that in March 2012, President Obama signed an executive order (http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-03-28/pdf/2012-7636.pdf) expediting infrastructure permits that will fast-track oil and gas pipeline projects.
One of the loudest arguments for Keystone XL approval is job creation — a projected 20,000 construction and manufacturing jobs, according to TransCanada (http://www.transcanada.com/keystone.html). But the Cornell Global Labor Institute (http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/globallaborinstitute/research/upload/GLI_Impact-of-Tar-Sands-Pipeline-Spills.pdf) examined their data and came up with a far lower estimate: somewhere between 2,500 and 4,650 temporary, direct jobs (http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/sites/ilr.cornell.edu/files/GLI_keystoneXL_Reportpdf.pdf) would come from pipeline construction over a two-year period.
In fact, the U.S. State Department estimates that the six states along the pipeline route will gain a total of just 20 permanent pipeline operation jobs. Meanwhile, with 571,000 agricultural workers employed in those states, a spill that poisons farmland and ground water could mean a significant economic hit, not to mention the potential harm to the region’s substantial tourism industry (which in South Dakota alone brings in $865 million a year).
If Obama is under pressure to hand the industry another fortune, imagine the pressure the Canadian leadership faces. Evidence of this was on display during a late September visit to New York City by Canada’s Conservative Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. In an unusually pugilistic stance for a Canadian, Harper declared that he “won’t take no for an answer (http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/canada-pm-accept-rejection-keystone-xl-20386394)” from his much larger neighbor to the south.
“The logic behind this project is simply overwhelming,” he said. And he added (apparently drawing another bloated figure out of the north-of-the-border air), it “will create 40,000 jobs in the U.S.” His incentive to sell the project is clear enough: Canada’s share of U.S. crude oil imports rose to 38.7 percent in February, the highest in at least two decades, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration data (http://www.eia.gov/dnav/pet/pet_move_impcus_a2_nus_epc0_im0_mbbl_m.htm).
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/PipelineSpillAftermathinArkansas060513-300x180.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/PipelineSpillAftermathinArkansas060513.jpg)As Kuprewicz, the engineering consultant, notes: “We’re not going to get rid of oil and gas pipelines, so we need to operate them safely.” But the question remains: Is shipping more tar sands oil into the US the wisest choice?
(Next: Part 2—A Cautionary Tale: Tar Sands Oil and Health (http://whowhatwhy.org/2014/06/01/a-cautionary-tale-tar-sands-oil-and-health-part-2/))
http://www.whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/image00.png (http://www.whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/image00.png)The question of whether tar sands are hazardous to our health is growing stickier.
A final decision from the Obama administration on the Phase 4 construction of the much-debated Keystone XL pipeline (http://www.keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov) remains on hold, stalled by legal challenges (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/19/us/politics/us-delays-decision-on-keystone-xl-pipeline.html?_r=0) to its planned route through the state of Nebraska.
But other questions have been raised in Congress about the possible health effects that may result from pumping 35 million gallons a day of diluted bitumen — tar sands oil — through a pipeline every day from Alberta, Canada, through the heart of America to refineries on the Gulf Coast. And there are questions that are barely being asked or answered. Here, we take a look at some of them.
***
It has now been over a year since ExxonMobil’s Pegasus pipeline (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/us/oil-pipeline-ruptures-in-arkansas.html?_r=1&) ruptured, immersing the Northwoods subdivision in Mayflower, Arkansas, and nearby Lake Conway in 210,000 gallons of Canadian heavy crude. Many residents are still suffering from serious health problems they blame on that spill.
A far larger spill in July 2010 dumped more than a million gallons of tar sands oil from an Enbridge Energy pipeline into yards, fields, and the Kalamazoo River in Marshall, Michigan (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/28/us/28brfs-800000GALLON_BRF.html). Citizens are still waiting for information on chemical exposure and health risks from the Michigan Department of Community Health — information that’s now three years overdue, according to Marshall resident Susan Connolly, a paralegal who testified at a Congressional hearing on the spill.
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2-300x1681.pngDead fish in Lake Conway. By Genieve Long.

No one knows exactly which chemicals were in the oil that inundated these communities — nor do doctors, researchers or regulators know just how harmful they might be.
As we explained in Part 1 (http://whowhatwhy.org/2013/10/07/new-reasons-to-be-terrified-of-xl-pipeline-obama-is-considering-part-of-1-of-a-2-part-series/) of this series, published in 2013, tar sands oil is not conventional crude. It’s a viscous mix of sand and tarry petroleum known as bitumen that is so thick that it must be diluted with liquefied natural gas and various chemicals so it can flow through a pipeline. Any of 1,000 chemicals may be used to make diluted bitumen, or “dilbit” — and companies are permitted by the government to conceal those formulas as trade secrets.
These unknowns prompted the U.S. Senate Environment Committee to request a “comprehensive study on the human health impacts of tar sands oil and the proposed pipeline.” In a letter (http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressRoom.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=57BC3951-F0AE-2001-C467-7CC1BBD72A93) to Secretary of State John Kerry in February, senators called the health information in the most recent State Department environmental review “woefully inadequate.” In April, a State Department official confirmed that they “will address health impacts” but did not talk about plans to start a broad independent health study.
Acute Exposure
On March 29, 2013, oil streamed from the ruptured pipeline and fumes enveloped Mayflower in a caustic petrochemical plume, sickening hundreds of people in this small working class community of 2,200 people. It smelled like asphalt, but worse, says Genieve Long, a mother of four who lives beside the lake. “The air was so thick it burned your lungs. It burned your eyes,” Long told WhoWhatWhy.
Crude oil contaminated 22 properties in the Northwoods subdivision; those families were evacuated, but neighbors who lived just a few hundred yards away or along oil-slicked Lake Conway were not. Many, including Arkansas’ Attorney General Dustin McDaniel, later questioned why everyone living in close proximity had not been removed.
Intense exposure sparked acute symptoms that for many, persisted for three to four months: Residents dry heaved or vomited for days on end; they suffered from bowel issues, endless migraines, nosebleeds, exhaustion, dizzy spells and confusion; their skin was covered in rashes that resembled chemical burns — and they gasped for breath.
It was a mirror image of what had happened to the citizens of Marshall, Michigan, after the Enbridge spill three years before. A state report (http://www.michigan.gov/documents/mdch/enbridge_oil_spill_epi_report_with_cover_11_22_10_ 339101_7.pdf) found that nearly 60 percent of those living in the vicinity experienced the same health problems.
“These are classic symptoms of acute exposure to both airborne petrochemicals and to the chemicals used to liquefy the thick Canadian tar sands oil,” says Wilma Subra (http://www.epa.gov/air/ej/conference2007/Wilma_Subra_Bio.pdf), an environmental scientist who works with communities impacted by oil spills. “There’s an entire population that’s been made very, very sick by the emissions.”
Limited Information
Because ExxonMobil barred news reporters (http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2013/04/reporters-say-exxon-impeding-spill-coverage-arkansas) from the area after the Arkansas spill, little information was available in the early days, said Ann Jarrell, who lived 300 yards from the site. Those who contacted police, the health department, or the company, she said, were repeatedly assured there was no danger.
The overpowering stench in their oil-soaked neighborhood prompted her daughter, Jennifer, to call the Mayflower police department: She was worried about her four-month-old infant. When she asked if they should evacuate, she was told that if there was no oil on their property, they should be fine—but both Ann and Jennifer were nauseous and coughed constantly, their heads pounding.
***
No government agency stepped forward to educate the public about health risks, and state officials told residents that contaminants in the air (http://www.adeq.state.ar.us/hazwaste/mayflower_oil_spill_2013/oil_spill_air.htm) were “below levels likely to cause health effects for the general population” in an online press release. So even though they were sick, most people stayed in their homes, either because they’d been told to, couldn’t afford to leave, or simply had nowhere else to go.
In the event of an oil spill, there is little guidance from the federal government: There are no federal guidelines on when — or if — the public should be evacuated, nor protocols for evaluating public health after exposure. At a press conference (http://m.arkansasonline.com/news/2013/may/07/mcdaniel-concerns-remain-about-health-after-oil-sp/?latest), Attorney General McDaniel expressed concern about “the short- and long-term effects of carcinogens released into the air which are still detectable in the living rooms of people in that area.”
Five months after the spill, the state finally offered Mayflower residents free health assessments. For many, their problems had been compounded by the fact that most doctors have little training or experience diagnosing or treating chemical exposures. And though citizens pushed Exxon and the health department to establish a centrally located clinic and bring in specialists versed in occupational and environmental medicine, it never happened.
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/3-300x3001.pngLake Conway, slicked in oil. By Genieve Long

Long-term Effects
It’s hard to know what, if anything, to do about tar sands oil, since there are no data on the long-term health effects of exposure to it. And there are few efforts to correct that knowledge gap — so it’s difficult to assess what safety regulations are needed to properly protect the public.
Susan Connolly advocated for an ongoing epidemiological study of those who were affected in Marshall, but was repeatedly rebuffed. April Lane, an expert on the health effects of fossil fuels, also wanted to collect health data in Mayflower, but her request for federal funding was turned down. Without such studies, it is impossible to track the incidence of chronic illnesses or cancers that may result from living amidst an oil spill. Subra notes that these people are continually re-exposed.
For some Mayflower residents, pre-existing conditions have worsened. Others now suffer from chronic health issues that have appeared in the months since the spill. Among the more serious cases are people hospitalized with kidney infections or “chemical pneumonitis,” a type of pneumonia. “It’s not a ‘one size fits all,’” says Lane. “Each person reacts differently to toxins.”
Severe respiratory problems have repeatedly landed Jennifer Jarrell’s son, Logan, in the emergency room over the past year and he now uses a steroid inhaler twice daily to breathe. His grandmother Ann, lost her voice, her thyroid levels skyrocketed, and her headaches grew so intense that her doctor suspected a brain tumor and sent her for an MRI.
***
Genieve Long, who lives on Lake Conway, stayed because it was impossible to uproot four kids without any assistance. Six months post-spill, she mysteriously developed gallstones and kidney stones that weren’t there nine months earlier when she’d had diagnostic scans for something else. She was told that it should take years, not months, to develop stones as large as hers. Her question now: “What’s going to happen to me or my kids in 20 years?”
Though they no longer smell oil every day, whenever boaters disturb Lake Conway’s shallow waters, or windy, rainy weather stirs up the water, tar balls rise and petroleum rainbows slick the lake’s surface. The family’s early, acute symptoms return along with a metallic, chemical taste in their mouths. They start wheezing, they can’t think straight, and they’re again plagued by headaches. Long’s two youngest children have been left with poorly functioning lungs, she says, and struggle to breathe every day.
Residual dilbit is a big problem, especially around waterways. Unlike normal oil, heavy tar sands oil sinks. Once the diluting chemicals evaporate, it reverts to its original viscous state and is almost impossible to remove.
ExxonMobil’s remediation work in Lake Conway is still under way. And in Michigan, Enbridge’s cleanup efforts (http://www.epa.gov/enbridgespill/) continue as the company struggles to remove the estimated 180,000 gallons of dilbit that remains submerged in the Kalamazoo River and its tributaries, which has already cost over a billion dollars (http://www.onearth.org/articles/2013/12/epa-to-enbridge-clean-up-your-oil-spill-already), with a minimum of $22 million in fines still looming for Clean Water Act violations.
With Petrochemicals, How Little is Too Much?
Aaron Stryk, a spokesperson for ExxonMobil, told WhoWhatWhy that contractors hired by the company conducted “exhaustive” air sampling and continuous air quality tests in Mayflower. They tested for three substances: benzene, hydrogen sulfide, and total volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also sampled air and monitored air quality, but only released data on total VOCs.
These grouped VOC readings don’t identify what chemicals are actually present in the air, nor their concentrations, says fossil fuels expert Lane. She explains that without identifying which chemicals are present — and in what amounts — it’s impossible to accurately gauge health risks.
Much of the focus was on benzene. It’s toxic (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=38&tid=14) in miniscule doses, and is known to cause leukemia and neurological problems and to lower immunity. In Mayflower, airborne benzene levels at the spill site averaged 0.6 parts per million, sometimes spiking to 2.2 parts per million.
There are dozens of government guidelines (http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/roc/twelfth/profiles/benzene.pdf) for benzene exposure. For example, Federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov) (ATSD) standards estimate that people can breathe air containing 9 parts-per-billion (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxguides/toxguide-3.pdf) (ppb) for up to two weeks — or 6 ppb for up to a year — without adverse health effects. However, these guidelines did not include cancer risk — even though benzene is a known carcinogen (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=38&tid=14).
Moreover, public health decisions become the domain of county or state officials after an oil spill — though such decisions often fall well outside their experience or expertise. The variations are staggering. In Arkansas, the Department of Health established the benzene exposure threshold at more than five times ATSD standards: 50 parts per billion for up to a six-month period. Lori Simmons, who runs the agency’s environmental epidemiology department, said that residents could be exposed to these levels without long-lasting health problems.
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/42-300x2241.pngLake Conway, mired in oil. By Genieve Long

Health experts, including Wilma Subra, April Lane and others, are concerned that the state’s “safe” levels were set too high to protect the public — and that the health department failed to issue special warnings for those who are the most vulnerable to chemical exposures: pregnant women, the elderly and young children.
Communities get sick even when the concentrations are well below the more stringent federal “acceptable standards,” says Subra, and monitoring protocols are frequently insufficient. State and federal agencies may rely on equipment that monitors only in the parts-per-million range, which for some substances is not sensitive enough.
A growing body of research shows that infinitesimal doses of some chemicals can have serious effects. Over the last few decades, scientists have discovered that low-dose toxins may disrupt endocrine functions that orchestrate everything from growth, development, reproduction, immunity and cognition to memory and metabolism. The unborn are particularly at risk: Exposure in-utero (http://endocrinedisruption.org/prenatal-origins-of-endocrine-disruption/critical-windows-of-development/overview) can interfere with the gene-controlled signaling systems that influence every aspect of fetal development.
***
Effects of early exposure may not appear until later in life, and damaging genetic changes can be inherited by future generations. Health problems caused by these “endocrine disruptors” is a problem of such growing global concern that it prompted research on the state of the science (http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1306695/) by the World Health Organization in 2012.
But most chemicals have never been safety-tested. When the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (http://www2.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-toxic-substances-control-act) (TSCA) was introduced, it grandfathered in some 60,000-plus existing chemicals, assuming they were safe until proven otherwise. Since then, the EPA has required testing of about 200 of them and has partially regulated just five.
Manufacturers have provided little if any information to the agency on the safety of 22,000 chemicals created since then. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, (http://www.nrdc.org/health/toxics.asp) an environmental group, TSCA makes it “nearly impossible for the EPA to take regulatory action against dangerous chemicals, even those that are known to cause cancer or other serious health effects.”
For a decade prior to his death last year, Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), fought to overhaul chemical safety laws. But the Chemicals in Commerce Act (https://energycommerce.house.gov/fact-sheet/chemicals-commerce-act-cica) that was introduced in the House in February has drawn fire, with critics arguing that the proposed legislation would weaken current regulations by pre-empting state standards and allowing companies to conceal the chemicals used in their products.
In both Marshall and Mayflower another knowledge gap became glaringly obvious: There has been virtually no testing of either the cumulative effects of various chemicals — or their combined, synergistic effects — on the human body.
Trade Secrets May Endanger Public Health
It’s all a little like KFC and their secret recipe. Companies can legally withhold their “proprietary” dilbit formulas from regulators, including the EPA. Even the State Department’s 2013 Keystone XL environmental impact study (http://keystonepipeline-xl.state.gov/documents/organization/205621.pdf) lacked specific information on diluents: “The exact composition of the dilbit is not publicly available because the particular type of bitumen and diluents blend produced is variable and is typically a trade secret.”
That leaves the overseers in the dark. Carl Weimer, the executive director of the Pipeline Safety Trust (http://pstrust.org), says that though regulators have some knowledge of what’s being used to thin heavy crude, they don’t know the contents of any particular batch. Over 1,000 chemicals may be present in dilbit, depending on what’s cheapest at the time. Many are hazardous to humans.
Independent air samples taken by Lane and analyzed by Subra on the first four days following the Mayflower accident were found to contain 30 chemicals.
“Each of the 30 hydrocarbons measured in the Mayflower release is a toxic chemical on its own and may pose a threat to human health depending on exposure and individual factors,” said Neil Carman, a former Texas Commission on Environmental Quality inspector who now is a Clean Air Program director with the Sierra Club.
What else citizens were breathing may be anyone’s guess because of the limited testing done on the air samples, Lane says. Her monitoring charted high levels of benzene, potentially dangerous concentrations of n-hexane, octane, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=25), which naturally occur in oil and tar deposits. Lower levels of butane, toluene, and other chemicals were also detected. Some of these are among the most toxic airborne chemicals regulated under the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (http://epa.gov/oar/caa/caaa_overview.html).
Heavy Metals in the Heavy Crude
Alberta’s tar sands oil also carries heavy metals in significantly larger concentrations (http://www.etc-cte.ec.gc.ca/databases/OilProperties/pdf/WEB_Athabasca_Bitumen.pdf) than those in conventional oil: mercury, manganese, nickel and chromium, which are toxic at high doses, as well as arsenic and lead, which damage the nervous system at relatively low doses. The list of potential maladies (https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/metalsheavy/) from these chemicals and heavy metals is long and frightening.
In 2009, the Alberta Research Council, a government-funded research and development corporation focusing on energy, reported (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0CDAQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ptac.org%2Fattachments%2F513% 2Fdownload&ei=FDszUu24GK3e4APt0IG4BQ&usg=AFQjCNGx3GSWRSzlsQ4dpdKHEqxUWgnjug&bvm=bv.52164340,d.dmg) that the region’s bitumen had 10 times the chromium and 38 times the manganese as Canada’s standard crude oil.
Without testing, it’s unclear whether these metals and other chemicals in bitumen are seeping into dwellings, gardens, the water table, or are present in dust and soil — and if so, at what levels.
Water testing in an oil-soaked area of Lake Conway known as “the Cove” has repeatedly measured manganese in amounts exceeding EPA safety standards for drinking water. In some cases, it has tested at 30 times acceptable levels.
Rising Imports, Rising Risks?
Concerns about tar sands extend beyond just the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Tar sands oil imports (http://www.nrdc.org/energy/files/tarsandssafetyrisks.pdf) from Canada have tripled over the past decade, jumping from 9.2 million gallons per day in 2000 to more than 27.3 million gallons in 2011. Producers hope to double that in the next five years, according to Canada’s National Energy Board (http://www.neb.gc.ca).
To transport Canada’s heavy crude from Alberta’s landlocked tar sands to American refineries, the U.S. is constructing, or repurposing, a plethora of existing oil and gas pipelines, some of which have been in use for decades — and were constructed for much lighter loads. So no one knows how well those pipes will handle the tar sands oil.
In part because of the controversy and delays over the pipeline, Exxon is already making other plans: Starting in 2015, it will ship Canadian oil by train out of a newly built terminal (http://fuelfix.com/blog/2014/01/30/exxon-to-move-canadian-crude-by-rail-amid-pipeline-shortage/), up to 4.2 million gallons a day. Rail transport poses its own risks. The last three years have seen seven out of the nation’s worst 10 railroad oil spills (http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2014/02/map-railway-oil-spills)— dumping 1.2 million gallons in 2013 alone.
The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works recently raised the larger issue about bringing greater quantities of diluted bitumen into the U.S., though they were specifically questioning Keystone XL.
“We believe that putting more Americans at risk for asthma, cancer, and other serious health impacts is not in our national interest,” the senators wrote (http://www.epw.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Majority.PressReleases&ContentRecord_id=57bc3951-f0ae-2001-c467-7cc1bbd72a93&IsPrint=true).
Residents of Mayflower understand the risks firsthand. “There’s no fence that stops toxins,” says Genieve Long. “We’re the collateral damage.”

Peter Lemkin
03-31-2017, 06:09 PM
On Capitol Hill, Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking Senate vote Thursday on a bill that will allow states to cut off federal funding to women’s health clinics that provide abortions. All but two Republicans—Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—voted in favor of the measure, but few Republicans joined Senate debate Thursday. This is Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington.

Sen. Patty Murray: "The deafening silence from the group of almost entirely male Republican senators who are voting today to make it harder for women to get the healthcare they need—not one spoke today to justify this vote. Where are those Republican senators, Mr. President? Why did they feel so entitled not just to interfere with women’s healthcare decisions, but to do so without explaining themselves?"

Peter Lemkin
04-01-2017, 06:23 PM
The Feuding KleptocratsPosted on Mar 26, 2017By Chris Hedges (http://www.truthdig.com/chris_hedges/)
http://www.truthdig.com/images/eartothegrounduploads/Face_the_Nation_590.jpg

Mr. Fish / Truthdig
The Trump kleptocrats are political arsonists. They are carting cans of gasoline into government agencies and Congress to burn down any structure or program that promotes the common good and impedes corporate profit.
They ineptly have set themselves on fire over Obamacare, but this misstep will do little to halt the drive to, as Stephen Bannon promises, carry out the “deconstruction of the administrative state (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/top-wh-strategist-vows-a-daily-fight-for-deconstruction-of-the-administrative-state/2017/02/23/03f6b8da-f9ea-11e6-bf01-d47f8cf9b643_story.html?utm_term=.374a7ca4146d). Donald Trump’s appointees are busy diminishing or dismantling the agencies they were named to lead and the programs they are supposed to administer. That is why they were selected. Rex Tillerson at the State Department, Steven Mnuchin at the Treasury Department, Scott Pruitt at the Environmental Protection Agency, Rick Perry at the Department of Energy, Tom Price at Health and Human Services, Ben Carson at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Betsy DeVos at the Department of Education are eating away the foundations of democratic institutions like gigantic termites. And there is no force inside government that can stop them.
The sparing of Obamacare (https://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2017/03/24/house-republicans-call-off-vote-on-obamacare-replacement-plan/#12aae71dd30f) last week was a Pyrrhic victory. There are numerous subterfuges that can be employed to cripple or kill that very flawed health care program. These include defunding cost-sharing subsidies for low-income families, allowing premium rates for individual insurance to continue to soar (they have gone up 25 percent this year), cutting compensation to insurers in order to drive more insurance companies out of the program, and refusing to enforce the individual mandate that requires many Americans to purchase health insurance or be fined. The Trump administration’s Shermanesque march to the sea has just begun.
William S. Burroughs in his novel “Naked Lunch (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113610846)” creates predatory creatures he calls “Mugwumps.” “Mugwumps,” he writes, “have no liver and nourish themselves exclusively on sweets. Thin, purple-blue lips cover a razor-sharp beak of black bone with which they frequently tear each other to shreds in fights over clients. These creatures secrete an addictive fluid though their erect penises which prolongs life by slowing metabolism.” Those addicted to this fluid are called “Reptiles.”
The addiction to the grotesque, to our own version of Mugwumps, has become our national pathology. We are entranced, even as the secretion of Trump’s Mugwump fluid repulses us. He brings us down to his level. We are glued to cable news, which usually sees a huge falling off of viewership after a presidential election. Ratings for the Trump-as-president reality show, however, are up 50 percent. CNN, which last year had its most profitable year ever, looks set in 2017 to break even that record (http://www.sfgate.com/entertainment/the-wrap/article/CNN-Will-Post-Record-Profits-in-2017-Time-Warner-9222439.php) and is projecting a billion dollars in profit. The New York Times added some 500,000 subscribers, net, over the past six months. The Washington Post has seen a 75 percent increase in new subscribers over the past year. Subscriptions to magazines like The New Yorker and The Atlantic have increased.This growth is provoked not by a sudden desire to be informed, but by Americans’ wanting to be continually updated on the soap opera that epitomizes the U.S. government. What country will the president insult today? Mexico? Australia? Sweden? Germany? What celebrity or politician will he belittle? Arnold Schwarzenegger? Barack Obama? John McCain? Chuck Schumer? What idiocy will come out of his mouth or from his appointees? Can Kellyanne Conway top her claim that microwave ovens that turned into cameras (http://www.snopes.com/2017/03/13/kellyanne-conway-microwave-spying/) were used to spy on Donald Trump? Will DeVos say something as stupid as her assertion that guns are needed in schools to protect children from grizzly bears (http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/betsy-devos-schools-might-need-guns-due-potential-grizzlies-n708261)? Will Trump make another assertion such as his insistence that Obama ordered his phone in Trump Tower to be tapped?
It is all entertainment all the time. It is the result of a media that long ago gave up journalism to keep us amused. Trump was its creation. And now we get a daily “Gong Show” out of the White House. It is good for Trump. It is good for the profits of the cable news networks. But it is bad for us. It keeps us distracted as the kleptocrats transform the country into a banana republic. Our world is lifted from the pages of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel “The Autumn of the Patriarch,” in which the “eternal” dictator was feared and mocked in equal measure.

The kleptocrats—and, now, those they con—have no interest in the flowery words of inclusivity, multiculturalism and democracy that a bankrupt liberal class used with great effectiveness for three decades to swindle the public on behalf of corporations. That rhetoric is a spent force. Barack Obama tried it when he crisscrossed the country during the presidential campaign telling a betrayed public that Hillary Clinton would finish the job (http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/barack-obama-hillary-will-finish-the-job-i-started-34918803.html) started by his administration.
Political language has been replaced by the obscenities of reality television, professional wrestling and the daytime shows in which couples find out if they cheated on each other. This is the language used by Trump, who views reality and himself through the degraded lens of television and the sickness of celebrity culture. He, like much of the public, lives in the fantasy world of electronic hallucinations.
The battle over health care was all about the most effective way to hand money to corporations. Do we stick with Obamacare, already a gift to the for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical industries, or do we turn to a sham bill of pretend care that gives even more tax cuts to the rich? This is what passes for nuanced political debate now. The courtiers in the media give the various sides in this argument ample airtime and space in print, but they lock out critics of corporate power, especially those who promote the rational system of Medicare for all. Health care costs in the United States, where 40 cents of every health care dollar goes to corporations, are double what they are in industrial countries that have a national health service. This censorship on behalf of corporations is the press’ steadfast lie of omission. And it is this lie that leaves the media at once distrusted by the public and complicit in Trump’s fleecing of America. When we are not being amused by these debates among corporate lackeys we listen to retired generals, all making six-figure incomes from the weapons industry, selling the public on the imperative of endless war and endless arms purchases.
Trump understands the effectiveness of illusions, false promises and lies, an understanding that eludes those in the Freedom Caucus (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/10/20/house-freedom-caucus-what-is-it-and-whos-in-it/), many of whom want to do away with health care systems that involve government. If the ruling kleptocrats strip everything away at once, it could provoke an angry backlash among the population. Better to use the more subtle mechanisms of theft that worked in Trump’s casinos and his fake university. Better to steal with finesse. Better to strip the government on behalf of corporations while promising to make America great again.
The kleptocrats, whatever their differences, are united by one overriding fear. They fear large numbers of people will become wise to their kleptocracy and revolt. They fear the mob. They fear revolution, the only mechanism left that can rid us of these parasites.
They are perverting the legal system and building mechanisms and paramilitary groups that will protect the kleptocrats and oligarchs when the last bits of the country and the citizens are being “harvested” for corporate profit. They don’t want anything to impede the pillage, even when climate change forces people to confront the reality that they and their children may soon become extinct. They will steal despite the fact that the ecosystem is collapsing, heat waves and droughts are destroying crop yields, the air and water are becoming toxic and the oceans are being transformed into dead zones. There will be hundreds of millions of desperate climate refugees. Civil society will break down. They won’t stop until their own generators have run out of fuel in their gated compounds and their private security forces have deserted them. When the end comes they will greet it with their characteristic blank expression of idiocy and greed. But most of us won’t be around to see their epiphany.

The kleptocrats have placed all citizens under surveillance. This is by design. They sweep up our email correspondence, tweets, web searches, phone records, file transfers, live chats, financial data, medical data, criminal and civil court records and information on movements. They do this in the name of the war on terror. They have diverted billions of taxpayer dollars to store this information in sophisticated computer systems. They have set up surveillance cameras, biosensors, scanners and face recognition technologies in public and private places to obliterate our anonymity and our privacy. They are watching us constantly. And when a government watches you constantly you cannot use the word “liberty.” The people’s relationship to government is that of slave to master.
The kleptocrats have used the courts to strip us of due process and habeas corpus. They have constructed the largest prison system in the world. They have militarized police and authorized them to kill unarmed citizens, especially poor people of color, with impunity. They have overturned the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, which once prohibited the military from acting as a domestic police force, by passing Section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act. Section 1021 gives the kleptocrats the power to carry outextraordinary rendition (https://www.google.com/search?sclient=psy-ab&biw=1486&bih=772&noj=1&q=extraordinary+rendition+&oq=extraordinary+rendition+&gs_l=serp.3..0l10.77455.78007.1.78417.2.2.0.0.0.0. 126.239.0j2.2.0%E2%80%A6.0%E2%80%A61c.1.64.serp..0 .1.112.0.EKKzx3FqAT4) on the streets of American cities and hold citizens indefinitely in military detention centers without due process—in essence disappearing them as in any totalitarian state. The kleptocrats have handed the executive branch of government the power to assassinate U.S. citizens (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jun/23/us-justification-drone-killing-american-citizen-awlaki). And they have stacked the courts with corporate loyalists who treat corporations as people and people as noisome impediments to corporate profit.
This omnipresent surveillance state and militarization of the forces of internal security are designed to thwart popular revolt. These tools are the moats the kleptocrats have built to protect themselves from the threatening hordes. Full surveillance, as political philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote, is not a means to discover or prevent crimes, but a device to have “on hand when the government decides to arrest a certain category of the population.” The most innocuous information will be twisted and used by the kleptocrats to condemn anyone considered a threat.
The kleptocrats, in the end, have only one real enemy: us. Their goal is to make sure we are mesmerized by their carnival act or, if we wake up, shackled while they do their dirty work. Our goal must be to get rid of them.

Peter Lemkin
04-03-2017, 04:46 AM
U.N. Experts: Americans’ Right to Protest Is in Danger Under Trump

Posted on Apr 2, 2017

By Common Dreams staff (http://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/04/02/un-americans-right-protest-grave-danger-under-trump)
http://www.truthdig.com/images/eartothegrounduploads/CallingAttentionDAPL_590.jpg
Demonstrators against the Dakota Access pipeline project face police in Bismarck, N.D., in late 2016. Throughout the United States, anti-protest bills are being passed, raising an alarm among human rights experts. (Donald Kaufman / Truthdig)

At least 19 U.S. states have introduced bills that attack the right to protest since Donald Trump’s election as president, an “alarming and undemocratic” trend, U.N. human rights investigators said this week.
Maina Kiai and David Kaye, independent U.N. experts on freedom of peaceful assembly and expression respectively, are calling on lawmakers in the United States to stop the “alarming” trend of “undemocratic” anti-protest bills designed to criminalize or impede the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression.
“The trend also threatens to jeopardize one of the United States’ constitutional pillars: free speech,” they said in a statement, calling for action to reverse such legislation.
“From the Black Lives Matter movement, to the environmental and Native American movements in opposition to the Dakota Access oil pipeline, and the Women’s Marches, individuals and organizations across society have mobilized in peaceful protests, as it is their right under international human rights law and US law,” Kiai and Kaye said.● The Arizona State Senate in February voted to expand racketeering laws (http://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/02/23/new-law-would-let-arizona-treat-organized-dissent-organized-crime) to allow police to arrest anyone involved in a protest and seize their assets, treating demonstrators like organized criminals. ::darthvader::
● Portland, Oregon activists organizing against police killings of Black men, white nationalist politicians, and the countless systems of racism throughout our local, state, and federal governments are now considered “domestic terrorists” (http://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/03/10/why-dhs-labeling-protesters-domestic-terrorists) by Department of Homeland Security. ::facepalm:: ::darthvader::
● In January, North Dakota Republicans proposed legislation to legalize running over protesters (http://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/01/16/shocking-north-dakota-republicans-want-legalize-running-over-protesters) if they are blocking roadways. (The legislation failed, for now.) ::facepalm::
● Missouri lawmakers want to make it illegal (http://house.mo.gov/billtracking/bills171/hlrbillspdf/0794H.01I.pdf) to wear a robe, mask or disguise (remarkably, a hoodie would count) to a protest.
● In Minnesota, following the police shooting death of Philando Castile, protests caused part of a highway to shut down. Then, at the beginning of the state legislative session, Minnesota legislators drafted bills that would punish highway protestors (http://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/02/18/where-protests-flourish-anti-protest-bills-follow) with heavy fines and prison time and would make protesters liable for the policing costs of an entire protest if they individually were convicted of unlawful assembly or public nuisance.
● Republicans in Washington state have proposed (http://www.kiro7.com/news/local/washington-state-senator-seeks-to-criminalize-illegal-protests/467962158) a plan to reclassify as a felony civil disobedience protests that are deemed “economic terrorism.”
● Lawmakers in North Carolina want to make it a crime to heckle lawmakers (http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article128185274.html). ::facepalm::
● In Indiana, conservatives want to allow police to use “any means necessary” (https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2017/bills/senate/285#document-79282dd2) to remove activists from a roadway. ::dictator::
● Colorado lawmakers are considering a big increase (http://leg.colorado.gov/bills/sb17-035) in penalties for environmental protesters. Activists who tamper with oil or gas equipment could be, under the measure, face felony charges and be punished (https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/14%20FELONY%20INTRO.pdf) with up to 18 months behind bars and a fine of up to $100,000.
● A bill before the Virginia state legislature (http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?171+ful+SB1055) would dramatically increase punishment for people who “unlawfully” assemble after “having been lawfully warned to disperse.” Those who do so could face a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
The experts took particular issue with the characterization in some bills of protests being “unlawful” or “violent”.
“There can be no such thing in law as a violent protest,” the experts said. “There are violent protesters, who should be dealt with individually and appropriately by law enforcement. One person’s decision to resort to violence does not strip other protesters of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly. This right is not a collective right; it is held by each of us individually,” the experts stressed.
“Peaceful assembly,” they added, “is a fundamental right, not a privilege, and the government has no business imposing a general requirement that people get permission before exercising that right.”
The experts also emphasized that legislators should be mindful of the important role that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly has played in the history of American democracy and the fight for civil rights.
“We call on the U.S. authorities, at the federal and state level, to refrain from enacting legislation that would impinge on the exercise of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, expression and opinion,” they concluded.

Peter Lemkin
04-06-2017, 05:43 AM
April 5, 2017 | Russ Baker and C. Collins (http://whowhatwhy.org/author/russ-baker-and-c-collins/) http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/04/05/felix-sater-problematical-friend-trump-forgot/


More About Felix Sater — the Problematical Friend Trump Forgot FBI Informant at the Heart of Trump-Russia Story http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2-700x470.jpg Photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Emilio Labrador / Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (https://www.flickr.com/photos/3059349393/6866575323), 591J / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0) (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Felix_Sater.jpg), and Boing Boing – CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 (http://boingboing.net/2017/02/24/longtime-trump-associate-behin.html).
Note to Readers: Our recent 6,500-word exclusive (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/27/fbi-cant-tell-trump-russia/) on Donald Trump and Russia was, admittedly, long. But based on the tremendous response, you liked it a lot. We still weren’t able to fit in everything important, so in the coming days we’ll be publishing supplementary pieces with noteworthy material and additional reporting and analysis. Here is one such piece.
WhoWhatWhy’s March 27 exclusive on Donald Trump, the FBI, Russia, and the mob focused on several key figures. One was Felix Sater, a Trump associate and prized FBI informant. We delved into his criminal past, his company, Bayrock, and its work with the Trump Organization.
Sater was even more intimately involved with Trump and his fortunes than we initially realized. According to a sworn 2008 deposition in a suit Trump filed against the author Timothy O’Brien, the developer gave Sater’s company, Bayrock, an exclusive on all development deals in Russia.
Sater expanded on the point of how central their relationship was.
“It’s highly unlikely I’ve had conversations prior to the end of 2005 with almost any developer where I didn’t use my ‘Trump card’ — my ‘Trump card’ was what is my value added, my competitive advantage. My competitive advantage is anybody can come in and build a tower. [But] I can build a Trump Tower, because of my relationship with Trump.”
Sater had even proposed to take the Mar-a-Lago brand global, to pitch a “high-end resort situation.” He was going around the world selling Trump’s name while playing to Trump’s megalomaniacal instincts.
Because of his close relationship with Trump, understanding more about Sater may prove illuminating as the story continues to unfold. Let’s go back to the beginning for some background — as well as previously unreported information on figures at Sater’s first employer who later showed up in the recent Trump political orbit.
“The Shabby Side of the Street”.Felix Sater was born in 1966 in what was then the Soviet Union. Sater’s father, who had been born in Kiev, Ukraine — then a republic of the Soviet Union — moved the family to Israel when Sater was a child. In the 1970s, the Saters emigrated to the United States and joined the expanding enclave of Russian-speaking immigrants in Brooklyn.
Sater took some classes at Pace University, and from about the age of 20 he went to work at a series of brokerages, eventually landing at Gruntal & Co. in 1988.
By the 1980s, the once-staid Gruntal was known for its “anything goes” atmosphere on the “shabby side of the street, (http://archive.fortune.com/magazines/fortune/fortune_archive/2003/03/03/338360/index.htm)” where the emphasis was on volume of sales rather than profits for customers, and punctuated by charges of racial and sexual harassment — an “Island of Misfit Toys” where no one seemed in control.
Regulators nearly shut it down in 1995. “The culture at Gruntal was to push as much product as possible, whether the client makes money or not,” notes an unnamed former executive quoted in a 2003 Fortune profile of Gruntal by Richard Behar.
Despite its less-than-sterling reputation, a number of future well-known financiers cycled through Gruntal. The future billionaire “activist investor” Carl Icahn (now President Trump’s special adviser on regulatory reform) created the options department at the firm in the late 1960s before its reputation took a turn for the worse in the 1970s.



Another Fox in the Hen House.Here’s another Sater contemporary: Steven A. Cohen. He went to work for Gruntal straight out of college in 1978; Cohen became part of the options arbitrage department and was managing his own pool of funds by 1984, when he bragged about making $100,000 a day.
Cohen — who is invariably described as “secretive (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/28/steven-cohen-sac-capital_n_2205544.html)” — finally left Gruntal in 1993 to found SAC Capital Management, going on to run what again was referred to as “a highly (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2003-07-20/the-most-powerful-trader-on-wall-street-youve-never-heard-of)secretive (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2003-07-20/the-most-powerful-trader-on-wall-street-youve-never-heard-of)and stupendously successful (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2003-07-20/the-most-powerful-trader-on-wall-street-youve-never-heard-of)” group of hedge funds worth $4 billion by 2003. He became one of the wealthiest men on Wall Street, despite a later years-long effort by US Attorney Preet Bharara to make a case against him for alleged criminal insider trading. He was never charged with a crime, though SAC agreed to pay $1.8 billion in fines.
We were intrigued by the connections between Kevin J. O’Connor and Cohen. Trump brought O’Connor, formerly Number 3 in George W. Bush’s Department of Justice (DOJ), onto his transition team to help oversee DOJ picks (https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2016-11-14/steve-cohen-s-general-counsel-is-part-of-trump-transition-team). He had worked for Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani’s law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, and then, in 2015, began serving as Cohen’s own general counsel — a position he continued to hold during his transition advisory role about DOJ.
With Cohen having cut a deal (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/01/16/when-the-feds-went-after-the-hedge-fund-legend-steven-a-cohen) in 2013 with the DOJ, and with Trump bringing in Cohen’s guy for advice on picking prosecutors and then firing Cohen’s nemesis Bharara, it seems clear who has — thus far — won.
Stephen Feinberg, Also in Trump’s Ear.Another previously unreported connection between Sater and Trump World is Gruntal alum Stephen Feinberg, who also worked at the firm at the same time as Sater. Feinberg joined Gruntal in 1985 and left in 1992, when he co-founded Cerberus Capital Management. This extremely successful private equity firm is deeply involved with outside contracts in military and intelligence work. As Bloomberg noted (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-16/at-cerberus-feinberg-built-a-web-of-national-security-contacts), “Feinberg has bought companies that refuel spy planes, train Green Berets, make sniper rifles and watch America’s foes from space.”
By 2017, Feinberg was worth about $1.2 billion, according to Forbes (https://www.forbes.com/sites/noahkirsch/2017/02/04/stephen-feinberg-private-equity-billionaire-trump-administration/#58eeb5ac4c91), and Cerberus managed over $30 billion in assets. Feinberg, one of Trump’s largest campaign contributors, was a member of the economic advisory team (https://assets.donaldjtrump.com/TRUMP_ECONOMIC_ADVISORY_COUNCIL_FINAL.pdf) during the transition, and early on he was tapped by Trump to lead a review of intelligence agencies (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/15/us/politics/trump-intelligence-agencies-stephen-feinberg.html), with the backing of advisors Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner, it was reported (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/federal_government/trumps-approach-to-intel-agencies-shows-anxiety-distrust/2017/03/31/c5970b9a-1676-11e7-bb16-269934184168_story.html?utm_term=.e8528942fbb2). That plan was later walked back; no reporting on the topic mentioned a possible connection to Felix Sater.
(Neither Cohen nor Feinberg could immediately be found in the broker-listing database (https://brokercheck.finra.org/)maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority [FINRA], at Gruntal or elsewhere; standard biographies indicate that both Cohen and Feinberg “managed” funds at Gruntal, thus precluding their need to be registered (http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/100515/what-licenses-does-hedge-fund-manager-need-have.asp) as brokers. However, in a 2003 Bloomberg Businessweek (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2003-07-20/the-most-powerful-trader-on-wall-street-youve-never-heard-of) profile, a former boss notes that Cohen made $8,000 profit there “his very first day.”)
A Cutting Remark.Late in 1991, Sater was at a chic upper East Side restaurant-bar with Salvatore Lauria, a friend from Gruntal, celebrating Lauria’s success at passing the brokerage exam. (Lauria had been trading quite successfully, but illegally, before he passed his exam, apparently a not-uncommon practice at Gruntal, according to The Scorpion and the Frog, by Lauria and journalist David S. Barry.)
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/3-1024x682.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/3.jpg)Photo credit: documentcloud.org (https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3119518/v3-FELIX-SATER-SKIP-TRACER.txt)

According to Lauria, Sater flew into a sudden rage at comments made by a man at the bar about a woman, in a scene to which he would remain forever tied. He smashed a martini glass on the bar and shoved its stem into the man’s face, severing a nerve, resulting in injuries that required more than 100 stitches.
For that crime, Sater not only spent a year in jail, but the National Association of Securities Dealers barred him for life from working as a broker or otherwise associating with firms that sell securities to the public.
Yet by 1994, Sater, Lauria, Gennady Klotsman, and another Gruntal trader controlled the brokerage White Rock Partners and Company, which in 1995 changed its name to State Street Capital Markets Corporation. They brought in a number of traders who had worked at Gruntal as well as other, mobbed-up brokerages, including members and associates of four of the five major New York City organized crime families, such as the nephew of mobster Carmine “the Snake” Persico and the brother-in-law of Gambino hit man Sammy “the Bull” Gravano. Klotsman, like Sater, had been born in the Soviet Union and was connected to the Russian mob.
White Rock existed only to defraud its customers. For the few years it was in existence, its illegal profits reached an astounding $40 million to $60 million and it fleeced thousands (some of whom were Holocaust survivors). The scams centered around “pump and dump” schemes: artificially inflating the price of stocks, selling them to unsophisticated, often elderly, buyers — usually through cold calls and using high-pressure tactics — and then walking away with the commission.
It did so by gaining control of certain “house stocks” and then hiking their prices through various illegal schemes, including paying off complicit brokerages to sell them, and then aggressively selling those stocks. There were also phony investment opportunities in companies whose shares White Rock insiders and other associates secretly controlled. Barred, unregistered, and non-compliant brokers, and brokers with long histories of complaints also found a home at White Rock. The principals then laundered the funds.
One of White Rock/State Street’s scams was a phony investment scheme for a casino in Colorado near Black Hawk, about an hour west of Denver, associated with Country World Casinos, an over-the-counter stock based in Pennsylvania. State Street and affiliated brokerages touted the stock, while complicated shell companies shuffled the funds back to the principals.
In 1999, Country World roped in Max Baer, Jr., who played “Jethro” on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” in an agreement (http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/beverly-hillbillies-gaming-entertainment-llc-and-westwood-capital-llc-join-forces-to-develop-themed-gaming-properties-in-multiple-jurisdictions-74907967.html) to create “Jethro’s Beverly Hillbillies Mansion and Casino;” Baer had long nurtured hopes of founding a chain of casinos after he had secured a licence to use the Beverly Hillbillies name. The casino never happened, of course.
Another company, Holly Products (http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/money/40m-stock-scam-19-ties-u-s-russian-mobs-charged-article-1.857592), bought a small electronics manufacturer and moved it to a Navajo reservation near Shiprock, New Mexico; tribal officials contributed the collateral so that the company could obtain a loan to renovate a manufacturing site there. The tribe lost the collateral — $600,000 — when the factory closed. Frank Coppa Sr., identified by the government as a captain of the Bonanno organized crime family, owned Holly Products.
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/4.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/4.jpg)Alleged Russian organized crime boss Semion Mogilevich.
Photo credit: Mark Nilstein / Getty Images

White Rock’s rise very much coincides with the arrival in the US in 1992 of Vyacheslav “Yaponchik” Ivankov, an associate of Russian boss Semion Mogilevich. Ivankov promptly went to work brutally organizing the Russian mob in the US. Soon he launched a number of complicated large-scale money laundering operations. When the Feds finally tracked Ivankov down (after he skipped out of his Trump Tower pad and abandoned his haunts at the Trump Taj Mahal in Atlantic City), the Feds arrested him in an early morning raid in Brooklyn in 1995.
By 1996, the Feds had begun to close in on State Street. According to court documents, State Street stopped operating that year, and Sater and Lauria left the country. Eventually, Sater, Lauria, and Klotsman signed agreements to serve as “cooperating witnesses” against the 19 other defendants; Sater signed his agreement in December 1998.
Sater never served any time, nor was he forced to pay any restitution to his victims, as his cooperation agreement mandated: $60 million. Just a few years later, Sater was working at the real estate firm Bayrock, in Trump Tower, a floor below the Trump Organization, making deals with Donald Trump himself.
A request to Sater’s attorney for an interview received no reply by publication time.

Peter Lemkin
04-07-2017, 10:17 AM
Resurrecting the Unholy Trinity: Torture, Rendition and Indefinite Detention Under TrumpPosted on Apr 6, 2017By Rebecca Gordon / TomDispatch (http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176263/)
http://www.truthdig.com/images/eartothegrounduploads/goodmantorture_590.jpg

Phansak / Shutterstock (http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-294894665/stock-photo-vertical-barbed-wires-against-evening-sky.html?src=OPQGlSZfR3ET_xsvmpUKjw-1-50)
When George W. Bush and Dick Cheney launched their forever wars (http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176251/tomgram%3A_rebecca_gordon%2C_war_without_end/)—under the banner of a “Global War on Terror”—they unleashed an unholy trinity of tactics. Torture, rendition and indefinite detention became the order of the day. After a partial suspension of these policies in the Obama years, they now appear poised for resurrection.
For eight years under President Obama, this country’s forever wars continued, although his administration retired (https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2013/05/23/obama-global-war-on-terror-is-over) the expression “war on terror,” preferring to describe its war-making more vaguely as an effort to “degrade and destroy (http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/why-obama-administration-keeps-saying-degrade-destroy-n201171)” violent jihadists like ISIS. Nevertheless, he made major efforts to suspend Bush-era violations of U.S. and international law, signing executive orders to that effect on the day he took office in 2009. Executive Order 13491, “Ensuring Lawful Interrogations,” closed the CIA’s secret torture centers—the “black sites”—and ended permission for the Agency to use what had euphemistically become known as “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
On that same day in 2009, Obama issued Executive Order 13492, designed—unsuccessfully, as it turned out—to close the U.S. military prison at Guantánamo Bay, the site of apparently endless detention without charges or trials. In 2015, Congress reinforced Obama’s first order in a clause (https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/42/2000dd%E2%80%932) for the next year’s National Defense Authorization Act that limited permissible interrogation techniques to those described in the U.S. Army Field Manual section on “human intelligence collector operations.”
All of that already seems like such ancient history, especially as the first hints of the Trump era begin to appear, one in which torture, black sites, extraordinary rendition, and so much more may well come roaring back. Right now, it’s a matter of reading the Trumpian tea leaves. Soon after the November election, Masha Gessen, a Russian émigrée who has written two books about Vladimir Putin’s regime, gave us some pointers (http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/11/10/trump-election-autocracy-rules-for-survival/) on how to do this. Rule number one: “Believe the autocrat.” When he tells you what he wants to do—build a wall, deport millions, bring back torture—“he means what he says.” Is Gessen right? Let’s examine some of those leaves.
Torture ReduxIt should come as no surprise to anyone who paid minimal attention to the election campaign of 2016 that Donald Trump has a passionate desire to bring back torture. In fact, he campaigned on a platform of committing war crimes of various kinds, occasionally even musing about whether the United States could use nukes (https://thinkprogress.org/9-terrifying-things-donald-trump-has-publicly-said-about-nuclear-weapons-99f6290bc32a)against ISIS. He promised (http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/gop-primaries/268530-trump-calls-for-hell-of-a-lot-worse-than-waterboarding) to return waterboarding to its rightful place among twenty-first-century U.S. practices and, as he so eloquently put it, “a hell of a lot worse.” There’s no reason, then, to be shocked that he’s been staffing his administration with people who generally feel the same way (Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis being (http://thehill.com/policy/defense/316356-mattis-remains-opposed-to-torture-pentagon-says) an obvious exception).
The CIA was certainly not the only outfit (https://www.wired.com/2012/02/jsoc-ambinder/) engaged in torture in the Bush years, but it’s the one whose practices were most thoroughlyexamined and publicized (https://www.feinstein.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/senate-intelligence-committee-study-on-cia-detention-and-interrogation-program). Despite his enthusiasm for torture, Trump’s relationship with the Agency has, to say the least, been frosty. Days before his inauguration, he responded to revelations of possible Russian influence on the U.S. election by accusing its operatives of behaving like Nazis, tweeting: “Intelligence agencies should never have allowed this fake news to ‘leak’ into the public. One last shot at me. Are we living in Nazi Germany?”
He quickly appointed a new director of the CIA (as hasn’t been true of quite a few other positions in his administration). He chose former Congressman Mike Pompeo, whose advice about torture he has also said he would consider seriously. A polite term for Pompeo’s position on the issue might be: ambiguous. During his confirmation hearings, he maintained (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-cia-director-mike-pompeo-open-waterboarding-enhanced-interrogation-torture-a7541026.html) that he would “absolutely not” reinstate waterboarding or other “enhanced techniques,” even if the president ordered him to. “Moreover,” he added, “I can’t imagine that I would be asked that.”
However, his written replies to the Senate Intelligence Committee told quite a different, far less forthright tale. Specifically, as the British Independent reported (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-cia-director-mike-pompeo-open-waterboarding-enhanced-interrogation-torture-a7541026.html), he wrote that if a ban on waterboarding were shown to impede the “gathering of vital intelligence,” he would consider lifting it. He added that he would reopen the question of whether interrogation techniques should be limited to those found in the Army Field Manual. (“If confirmed, I will consult with experts at the Agency and at other organizations in the U.S. government on whether the Army Field Manual uniform application is an impediment to gathering vital intelligence to protect the country.”)
In other words, as the Independent observed, if the law prohibits torture, then Pompeo is prepared to work to alter the law. “If experts believed current law was an impediment to gathering vital intelligence to protect the country,” Pompeo wrote to the Senate committee, “I would want to understand such impediments and whether any recommendations were appropriate for changing current law.” Unfortunately for both the president and him, there are laws against torture that neither they nor Congress have the power to change, including the U.N. Convention against Torture, and the Geneva Conventions.
Nor is Mike Pompeo the only Trump nominee touched by the torture taint. Take, for instance, the president’s pick for the Supreme Court. From 2005 to 2006, Neil Gorsuch worked in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, the wellspring for John Yoo’s and Jay Bybee’s infamous “torture memos (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torture_Memos).” Gorsuch alsoassisted in drafting (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/03/23/us/politics/document-Gorsuch-DOJ-War-on-Terror-Documents.html) Bush’s “signing statement” on the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act. That act included an amendment introduced by Senator John McCain prohibiting the torture of detainees. As the White House didn’t want its favorite interrogation methods curtailed, Gorsuch recommended putting down “a marker to the effect that… McCain is best read as essentially codifying existing interrogation policies.” In other words, the future Supreme Court nominee suggested that the McCain amendment would have no real effect, because the administration had never engaged in torture in the first place. This approach was the best strategy, he argued, to “help inoculate against the potential of having the administration criticized sometime in the future for not making sufficient changes in interrogation policy in light of the McCain portion of the amendment.”
In his brief tenure at the Office of Legal Counsel, Gorsuch provided (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/15/us/politics/neil-gorsuch-torture-guantanamo-bay.html)further aid to the supporters of torture by, for example, working on government litigation to prevent the exposure of further “Darby photos.” These were the shocking pictures (http://www.antiwar.com/news/?articleid=8560) from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison that came into the possession of U.S. Army Sergeant Joe Darby. He then passed them up the chain of command, which eventually led to the public revelation of the abuses in that U.S.-run torture palace.
Trump’s new attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is also a torture enthusiast. He was one of only nine senators to vote against the 2005 Detainee Treatment Act. The Act limited the military to the use of those interrogation methods found in the Army Field Manual. In 2015, he joined just 20 other senators in opposing an amendment to the next year’s military appropriations bill, which extended the Field Manual rules to all U.S. agencies involved in interrogation, not just the military.
Reviving the Black Sites?
So far, President Trump hasn’t had the best of luck with his executive orders. His two travel bans, meant to keep Muslims from entering the United States, are at present trapped in federal court, but worse may be in the offing.
Trump promised during the campaign to reopen the CIA’s notoriousblack sites (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/08/13/the-black-sites) and bring back torture. Shortly after the inauguration, a draft executive order surfaced (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/25/us/politics/document-Trump-draft-executive-order-on-detention-and.html?action=click&contentCollection=Politics&module=RelatedCoverage&region=EndOfArticle&pgtype=article) that was clearly intended to do just that. It rescinded President Obama’s orders 13491 and 13492 and directed the secretary of defense and the attorney general, together with “other senior national security officials,” to review the interrogation policies in the Army Field Manual with a view to making “modifications in, and additions to those, policies.” That would mean an end run around Congress, since it doesn’t take an act of that body to rewrite part of a manual (and so reinstitute torture policy).
It also called on the director of national intelligence, the CIA director, and the attorney general to “recommend to the president whether to reinitiate a program of interrogation of high-value alien terrorists to be operated outside the United States and whether such program should include the use of detention facilities operated by the Central Intelligence Agency.” In other words, they were to consider reopening the black sites for another round of “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
As in so many such documents, that draft order included a cover-your-ass clause, in this case suggesting that “no person in the custody of the United States shall at any time be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, as proscribed by U.S. law.” As we learned in the Bush years, however, such statements have no real effectbecause, as in a2002 memo (http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/NSAEBB/NSAEBB127/02.08.01.pdf) produced by John Yoo and Jay Bybee, “torture” can be redefined as whatever you need it to be. That memo certified that, to qualify as torture, the pain experienced by a victim would have to be like that usually associated with “serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” In other words, if he didn’t die or at least come close, you didn’t torture him.

After the recent draft executive order on these subjects was leaked to the media and caused a modest to-do, a later version appeared (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/02/08/us/document-Revised-draft-Trump-EO-on-detainees-and-Gitmo.html)to drop the references to black sites and torture. While no final version has yet emerged, it’s clear enough that the initial impulse behind the order was distinctly Trumpian and should be taken seriously.
As soon as the draft order surfaced (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/25/us/politics/executive-order-leaked-draft-national-security-trump-administration.html?_r=1) in the press in late January, the White House disclaimed all knowledge of it and no version of it appears on current lists of Trump executive actions since taking office. But keep in mind that presidents can issue secret executive orders that the public may never hear about—unless the news spills out from an administration whose powers of containment so far could be compared (https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/the-trump-administration-has-sprung-a-leak-many-of-them-in-fact/2017/02/05/a13fad24-ebe2-11e6-b4ff-ac2cf509efe5_story.html?utm_term=.3031e4df6c15) to those of a sieve.
Déjà Vu, Rendition Edition
Notably, neither of Obama’s Inauguration Day executive orders addressed extraordinary rendition. In fact, this was a weapon he preferred to keep available.
What is extraordinary rendition?Ordinary rendition simply means transferring someone from one legal jurisdiction to another, usually through legal extradition. Rendition becomes “extraordinary” when it happens outside the law, as when a person is sent to a country with which the United States does not have an extradition treaty, or when it is likely (or certain) that the rendered person will be tortured in another country.
In the Bush years, the CIA ran an extraordinary rendition machine (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175650/tomgram%3A_greg_grandin,_why_latin_america_didn%27 t_join_washington%27s_counterterrorism_posse/), involving the kidnapping (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/7789/the_cia_s_la_dolce_vita_war_on_terror) of terror suspects (sometimes, as it turned out, quite innocent people (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2005/jan/14/usa.germany)) off the streets of global cities as well as in the backlands of the planet, and sending them to those brutal CIA black sites or rendering them to torturing regimes around the world. Rendition continued in a far more limited way during Obama’s presidency. For example, a 2013 Washington Poststory described (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/renditions-continue-under-obama-despite-due-process-concerns/2013/01/01/4e593aa0-5102-11e2-984e-f1de82a7c98a_story.html?utm_term=.26f047b7a377) the rendition of three Europeans “with Somali roots” in the tiny African country of Djibouti and of an Eritrean to Nigeria. The article suggested that, in part because of congressional intransigence on closing Guantánamo and allowing the jailing and trial of suspected terrorists in U.S courts, rendition represented “one of the few alternatives” to the more extreme option of simplykilling suspects outright (http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176166/tomgram%3A_rebecca_gordon,_how_extrajudicial_execu tions_became_%22war%22_policy_in_washington/), usually by drone.
Recently, there was news that a Trump associate might have been involved in planning a rendition of his own. Former CIA Director James Woolsey told (https://www.wsj.com/articles/ex-cia-director-mike-flynn-and-turkish-officials-discussed-removal-of-erdogan-foe-from-u-s-1490380426) the Wall Street Journal that, last September, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn discussed arranging an extralegal rendition with the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. At the time, he was serving as an adviser to the Trump campaign. He later—briefly—served as President Trump’s national security adviser.
The target of this potential rendition? Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who has lived for decades in the United States. President Erdogan believes that Gulen was behind a 2016 coup attempt against him and has asked the U.S. to extradite him to Turkey. The Obama administration temporized on the subject, insisting on examining the actual evidence of Gulen’s involvement.
Flynn’s foray may have been an instance of potential rendition-for-profit, a plan to benefit one of his consulting clients. At the time, Flynn’s (now-defunct) consulting firm, the Flynn Intel Group, was working for a Dutch corporation, Inovo, with ties to Erdogan. The client reviewed a draft op-ed eventually published (http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/foreign-policy/305021-our-ally-turkey-is-in-crisis-and-needs-our-support#.WCPhv1d4UUU.twitter) in the Hill in which Flynn argued that Gulen should be extradited, because he is a “radical cleric” and Turkey is “our friend.” In addition to lying (http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/michael-flynns-russia-connections-back-spotlight/story?id=46492214)about his contacts with the Russian ambassador during the election campaign, it turns out that Flynn was probably working (http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/what-mike-flynn-did-for-turkey) as an unregistered foreign agent for Turkish interests at that time.
Mike Pompeo also appears to be bullish on renditions. In hiswritten testimony (https://www.intelligence.senate.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pre-hearing-b-011217.pdf) to the Senate Intelligence Committee, he indicated that under him the CIA would probably continue this practice. When asked how the Agency would avoid sending prisoners to countries known to engage in torture, his reply could have come straight from the Bush-Cheney playbook:
“I understand that assurances provided by other countries have been a valuable tool for ensuring that detainees are treated humanely. In most cases other countries are likely to treat assurances provided to the United States government as an important matter.”
Asking for such assurances has in the past given the U.S. government cover for what was bound to occur in the prisons of countries known for torture. (Just ask Maher Arar (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maher_Arar) rendered to Syria or Binyam Mohammed (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1160238/How-MI5-colluded-torture-Binyam-Mohamed-claims-British-agents-fed-Moroccan-torturers-questions--WORLD-EXCLUSIVE.html) rendered to Morocco about what happened to them.)
We’ll Always Have Guantánamo…
“We’ll always have Paris,” Rick reminds (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pa-dGYjSq5k) Ilsa during their bittersweet goodbye in the classic film Casablanca. Our Guantánamo lease with Cuba (which reads, “for use as coaling [refueling] or naval stations only, and for no other purpose”) is a permanent one. So it looks like we’ll always have Guantánamo, with its memories of torture and murder (http://harpers.org/archive/2010/03/the-guantanamo-suicides/), and its remaining 41 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Guantanamo_Bay_detainees)prisoners, undoubtedly stranded there forever.
As it happens, Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch’s fingerprints are all over the Bush administration’s Guantánamo policy, too. While at the Office on Legal Counsel, he helped the administration fight a major legal challenge to that policy in Hamdan v.Rumsfeld (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamdan_v._Rumsfeld). In that case, the government argued that detainees at Guantánamo did not have the right of habeas corpus, that the president has the authority to decide not to abide by the Geneva Conventions, and that detainees could be tried by military “commissions” in Cuba rather than by U.S. courts. Given that history, it’s unlikely he’d rule in favor of any future challenge to whatever use President Trump made of the prison.
While on the campaign trail, Trump made it clear that he would keep Guantánamo eternally open. In a November rally in Sparks, Nevada, he told (http://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/11/14/502007304/trump-has-vowed-to-fill-guantanamo-with-some-bad-dudes-but-who) a cheering crowd:
“This morning, I watched President Obama talking about Gitmo, right, Guantánamo Bay, which by the way, which by the way, we are keeping open. Which we are keeping open… and we’re gonna load it up with some bad dudes, believe me, we’re gonna load it up.”
In mid-February, Trump Press Secretary Sean Spicer reiterated (http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article134277479.html)his boss’s affection for the prison, when he told the White House press corps that the president believes it serves “a very, very healthy purpose in our national security, in making sure we don’t bring terrorists to our seas.” Perhaps Spicer meant “our shores,” but the point was made. Trump remains eager to keep the whole Guantánamo prison system—including, we can assume, indefinite detention—up and running as an alternative to bringing prisoners to the United States.
It seems that the head of the Pentagon agrees. In December 2016, retired Marine General (now Secretary of Defense) James Mattistold (http://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/world/americas/guantanamo/article119705658.html) the Senate Armed Services Committee that any detainee who “has signed up with this enemy” and is captured wherever “the president, the commander-in-chief, sends us” should know that he will be a “prisoner until the war is over.” Given that our post-9/11 military conflicts are truly forever wars, in Mattis’s view, pretty much anyone the U.S. captures in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, or who knows where else will face at least the possibility of spending the rest of his life in Guantánamo.
Reading the Tea Leaves
As far as we know, President Trump has yet to green-light his first case of torture or his first extraordinary rendition, or even to add a single prisoner to the 41 still held at Guantánamo. All we have for now are his ominous desires and promises—and those of his underlings. These are enough, however, to give us a clear understanding of his intentions and those of his appointees. If they can, they will resurrect the unholy trinity of torture, rendition, and indefinite detention. The future may not yet be inscribed in Trumpian gold anywhere, but on such matters we should believe the autocrat.

Peter Lemkin
04-12-2017, 01:16 PM
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: On Friday, the stock price of the military contractor Raytheon briefly surged after the U.S. attack on a Syrian airbase, which used 59 of the company’s Tomahawk missiles, estimated to cost $1.4 million apiece. While the stock surge was brief, it called attention to the fact that President Trump himself has held personally—has been personally invested in Raytheon in the past. A 2015 Federal Election [Commission] disclosure, filed when Trump launched his presidential bid, reveals that he held Raytheon stocks worth $1,000 to $15,000 in value.
AMY GOODMAN: While the value is low, the revelations have raised additional questions about the lack of transparency in Trump’s financial holdings and the fact that he could potentially benefit from almost any military decision he makes as president. Overall, the stocks of military contractors, such as Boeing and General Dynamics, have increased since Trump’s election, further fueled by his promise of an "historic" tens of billions of dollars’ increase in U.S. military spending.
For more, we’re joined by Bill Hartung. He’s the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. Latest book, Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex.
William Hartung, welcome back to Democracy Now!
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: So, tell us, as those Tomahawk cruise missiles were pummeling this base, though not enough to take it out—it was immediately in use again—how did President Trump profit personally?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, as far as we know, he may still have shares in Raytheon, as reported in his financial disclosure. Of course, as with all things Trump, there’s a black box here, because he’s not reporting his tax returns, he hasn’t done a blind trust. As you said, virtually anything he does, not just in the military sphere, could benefit him, his family, his inner circle financially. And the only way to deal with that is release the tax returns, that people have demanded, and have a true blind trust that’s not run by his family. But it’s—no question, it’s an outrage to have the commander-in-chief profiting from a military contract in the middle of a conflict, however small the amount may be. And the fact that he’s not willing to disclose his current position, in some ways, makes it even worse.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you, in terms of this—the emphasis on military action that’s emerging in the first few weeks of the Trump administration—you wrote a piece (http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/176250/tomgram%3A_william_hartung%2C_the_generals_vs._the _ideologues_or_the_generals_and_the_ideologues/#more) for TomDispatch titled "Could War with Iran Be on Washington’s Agenda?" Could you talk about that?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Sure. Well, there’s this sort of notion that, you know, the adults in the room are Mattis and McFarland—rather, McMaster, who are, you know, military people, they’ll be careful, they know the costs of war. But they’re also among the most hawkish generals of their generation. Mattis himself wanted to attack Iran during the Iraq War, which is one of the reasons—
AMY GOODMAN: This is "Mad Dog" Mattis, self-described.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Yes, exactly, is his self-described moniker. And he, you know, in the middle of that war, actually left the administration, because he wanted to attack them at the very same time they were negotiating to limit Iran’s nuclear options. So, they’ve already stepped up in Yemen—more special forces, more airstrikes. They’re still arming the Saudis, who are killing thousands with civilian bombings. So, they see that as a strike against Iran. Of course, Iran is not the problem there, but their worldview says it is. And now the step up in Syria, of course, Iran is allies with Assad, so it’s another kind of potential strike at Iranian concerns. Now the question is: Will they go further? And I think there, you know, Iran would have many ways to respond—through nonstate actors, through missile strikes. It’s not a small country. You know, invading Iran would make the Iraq War look like a walk in the park. So, how are these military people going to address this? But there’s certainly a danger of some sort of military action. And, of course, they’re not going to telegraph it. I mean, Trump apparently decided this on rather short notice, if we’re to believe the accounts. He saw something on TV, and he got exercised.
AMY GOODMAN: You’ve got the advertisements on television, and then the news being an advertisement, as well, for these weapons contractors. Let’s turn to MSNBC’s Brian Williams the night of the Tomahawk cruise missile attack.
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Go into greater detail. We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: "I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons." And they are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them a brief flight over to this airfield. What did they hit?

AMY GOODMAN: I daresay Leonard Cohen might be rolling over in his grave and not rock 'n' rollin’.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: No question.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill Hartung?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, you know, obviously, it’s obscene to worship weaponry, whoever it’s targeted at. And on Raytheon’s webpage, where they’re advertising the cruise missile, they have exactly the same kind of pictures. So, to have them on MSNBC and CNN is all the publicity money could buy and more. And, of course, this has happened before in wartime, and even in the first Persian Gulf War under Bush the elder, where these kinds of displays have upped the images of these companies and almost made the weapons seem benign. There’s all these things about how accurate they are and how they’re not going to hit civilians, which has been disproved almost uniformly in the history of U.S. intervention in the Middle East. So there’s that. And also it’s a question of how it’s going to affect Trump’s push for his military buildup, because he’s going to sort of posture as the wartime president. You know, as Fareed Zakaria said, much to his detriment, he’s now the president; he’s proved he’s the president, because he can launch a military strike—which, again, to me, is not what this country should stand for.

Cliff Varnell
04-13-2017, 12:08 AM
Trump has a new bromance.

Putin out, Xi in.

With an eye on mega-fortune for Trump, Inc.

Peter Lemkin
04-13-2017, 04:37 AM
Trump has a new bromance.

Putin out, Xi in.

With an eye on mega-fortune for Trump, Inc.



While the MSM won't mention it, Eric Prince is the brother of DeVoss and has long been a hidden adviser to Trumpf.

Peter Lemkin
04-14-2017, 05:19 PM
U.S. Drops ‘Mother of All Bombs’ in Afghanistan

Posted on Apr 13, 2017

http://www.truthdig.com/images/eartothegrounduploads/MOAB_bombWikimedia_590.jpg
A Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) weapon is prepared for testing at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida in 2003. (Wikimedia Commons (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GBU-43/B_Massive_Ordnance_Air_Blast#/media/File:MOAB_bomb.jpg))

The U.S. military announced on Thursday that it dropped a 21,600-pound non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan. The GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GBU-43/B_Massive_Ordnance_Air_Blast) (MOAB), nicknamed the “mother of all bombs,” was developed in 2003 but never used on a battlefield.CNN reported (http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/13/politics/afghanistan-isis-moab-bomb/):
[MOAB] was dropped at 7:32 pm local time Thursday, the sources said. A MOAB is a 21,600-pound, GPS-guided munition that is America’s most powerful non-nuclear bomb.
The bomb was dropped by an MC-130 aircraft, stationed in Afghanistan and operated by Air Force Special Operations Command, Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump told CNN.
Officials said the target was an ISIS cave and tunnel complex and personnel in the Achin district of the Nangarhar province. ...
Gen. John Nicholson, commander of US forces in Afghanistan, signed off on the use of the bomb, according to the sources. The authority to deploy the weapon was granted to Nicholson by the commander of US Central Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, Stump said. [BothNicholson (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_W._Nicholson,_Jr.) and Votel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Votel) assumed their current positions during the Obama administration.]

According to the online news site Heavy, the Achin district has a population (http://heavy.com/news/2017/04/mother-of-all-bombs-moab-gbu43/) of around 95,000 people.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a subsequent press conference that the U.S. “took all precautions necessary to prevent civilian casualties.”
“The United States takes the fight against ISIS very seriously and in order to defeat the group we must deny them operational space,” he added.
Pressed by reporters for more information on the use of MOAB, Spicer responded, “Please refer to Department of Defense for specifics.”
According to CNN, the military is still “assessing the damage” from MOAB.
A 2003 article (http://articles.latimes.com/2003/mar/16/world/fg-bomb16) in the Los Angeles Times explained the massive bomb’s effect:
Military analysts in the U.S. say that because the 21,000-pound massive ordnance air burst, or MOAB, is so huge, it can be dropped only from a military cargo plane that flies slowly and at relatively low altitudes, making the plane vulnerable to antiaircraft weapons. And because the bomb causes devastation across such a broad swath, it is unlikely to be used against anything but a large concentration of entrenched enemy troops—just the kind of target likely to be armed with antiaircraft weapons.
“It’s really quite improbable that it would be used,” said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, a defense think tank in Arlington, Va.
“The Pentagon is committed to avoiding large concentrations of civilians, and it is committed to avoiding putting its pilots and its planes at unnecessary risk. The only real use for this kind of indiscriminate terror weapon is to scare the bejesus out of Saddam Hussein.”

According to The Fiscal Times, MOAB “took $314 million to develop (http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2017/04/13/Heres-How-Much-Mother-All-Bombs-Costs) and has a unit cost of $16 million.” Below, watch a video of a test drop of MOAB:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9H50tHiHjs

Peter Lemkin
04-17-2017, 04:17 PM
Some very interesting analysis and history from John Pilger on Trump and current political hotspots.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WShrY1Fdyg4

Albert Doyle
04-17-2017, 05:32 PM
US has quietly dropped "Free Tibet"...

Peter Lemkin
04-18-2017, 04:17 PM
Tech Giants Are Destroying Privacy, Producing Inequality and Undermining DemocracyPosted on Apr 18, 2017By Don Hazen / AlterNet (http://www.alternet.org/books/move-fast-break-things-jonathan-taplin-tech-interview)
http://www.truthdig.com/images/eartothegrounduploads/8250657417_d7f14a62c4_z.jpg

Jon Russell (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jonrussell/) / CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)
Most of us are active on Facebook, use many of Google’s assets (search, YouTube, calendar) and get Amazon products dropped at our doorsteps. But have we ever stopped to think about the enormous impact these three companies have had on our lives and our society?
Well, Jonathan Taplin has given it a lot of thought. The result is a breakthrough, must-read book, Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy (https://www.amazon.com/Move-Fast-Break-Things-Undermined/dp/0316275778/?tag=alternorg08-20). The book tells the tale of how the internet “was hijacked by a small group of right-wing radicals [led by Trump supporter Peter Thiel] for whom the ideas of democracy and decentralization were an anathema.”
The upshot is that the dominant philosophy of Silicon Valley became heavily based on the radical libertarian ideology of Ayn Rand. The internet is not the product of any mythical cooperative notion as the public may think, shaped by the pervasive, effectively marketed illusion of goodness symbolized by Google’s tagline: “Don’t Be Evil” (changed to “Do the Right Thing” in 2015 in Google’s code of conduct).
The result: “Not since Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan has there been such a concentration of wealth and power” in the hands of so few, according to Taplin’s book. “And the enormous unprecedented fortunes created by the digital revolution have done much to increase inequality in America.”
The five largest firms in the world (based upon market valuation) are Apple, Google (now known as Alphabet), Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook. In terms of their monopoly power, Google has an 88 percent market share in search and search advertising. Google’s Android operating system has an 80 percent global market share in its category. Amazon has a 70 percent market share in ebooks, and 51 percent of goods purchased online are from Amazon. Facebook has a 77 percent share on mobile social media. Google and Facebook have more than one billion customers, and Amazon has 350 million.As their “relentless pursuit of efficiency leads these companies to treat all media as commodity,” according to Taplin, “the real value lies in the gigabytes of personal data scraped from your profile as you pursue the latest music video, news article or listicle.”
The value amassed from their methods is enormous. Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos are in the top 10 of the wealthiest people in America, according to the Forbes 400 list. Each has a personal fortune worth over $37 billion, with Bezos recently becoming the second wealthiest (http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/jeff-bezos-just-surpassed-warren-buffet-second-richest-person-planet) person in the world with a net worth of $75.6 billion.
Jonathan Taplin is an insider/outsider in the music, film and tech businesses. His career stretches from his college days as a roadie and tour manager for The Band and Bob Dylan, to a collaborator and producer of music, film and TV for 30 years, working with Martin Scorsese, among others. He started his own tech business only to run up against many of the realities he describes in his book. He has been a longtime professor and is currently director emeritus of the Annenberg Innovation Lab at the University of Southern California.
Taplin’s book is a tour de force—a compelling, story-driven work focusing on the handful of men who have shaped and essentially taken over the massive tech industry. Along the way, Taplin tells his own personal story with charm and insight. If you want to understand what has happened to our country and where tech will take us in the era of Trump, put aside some time to read this book. It will take your breath away.
Taplin and I spoke by phone in early April.
Don Hazen: Do you agree with me that your story about the dominance of antidemocratic, monopoly-oriented, radical libertarianism values of the titans of technology is not well known? And if so, why?
Jonathan Taplan: I totally agree it’s not well known. The reason is because the tech barons, who are the new robber barons, have done a PR job on America that has been very successful… The strange thing is that the one guy who was not a libertarian, Steve Jobs, probably did more to raise the halo effect of tech than anybody.
He is the one guy whose company respected copyright. In a regular speech I give, I point out that a musician who got a million downloads of one song on iTunes would make $900,000; and if they got a million downloads on YouTube (owned by Google) they’d make $900.
DH: Wow, that’s really depressing. Another aspect could be that most of us use Google and Facebook all the time. We want these companies to be benign in our lives, right? We don’t want to deal with the fact that they are both destructive and convenient.
JT: Well, it seems like it has no cost, but that of course isn’t true. It has many costs. Obviously, fake news could not exist without Google and Facebook. A kid in Macedonia with a Facebook page and a Google AdSense account could make $10,000 a week just putting out phony stuff.
That could never happen if you didn’t have these open platforms. Also, we all pay more because advertisers have to pay a premium to buy ads on Facebook and Google, because they’re what they call micro-targeted. An advertiser says, “I want women in the Nashville metro area who drink bourbon and drive trucks,” and Facebook can do that.
DH: We can even do that at AlterNet—we call it geo-targeting. We’re a progressive nonprofit that’s dependent on Google for close to half of our revenue.
JT: Yeah. Well, there’s no place else to go.
DH: That’s the definition of a monopoly, right?
JT: Yep.
DH: You say the real value in these companies and their profits lies in the gigabytes of personal data scraped from profiles as you pursue the latest music video, news article, etc. Can you say more about that? Are we fundamentally all being victimized? What are the ramifications?
JT: They are essentially monetizing your life, your desires, your dreams, whatever, and you’re not really getting any advantage for that monetization; they are. Certainly the people who make the content, whether it’s AlterNet or most other content makers, are not getting much advantage considering the size of your audience… You are on the bottom end of the food chain in terms of where the advertising dollars flow.
For most it feels like, Oh, well, I’m just exchanging all in my life in return for convenience. That isn’t to say you couldn’t have convenience if there were more players in the marketplace. There’s nothing implicit about having one social network and one search engine.
DH: Peter Thiel is the chief villain of your book. He is a very powerful Silicon Valley radical libertarian, who started PayPal, is on the board of Facebook, and is a mentor and funder of what is sometimes called the PayPal mafia—many who have gone on to start other big successes like LinkedIn. Some of what he says is pretty scary, like: “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible.” What’s the path forward for Peter Thiel? Is his influence growing?
JT: His influence since I wrote the book has grown immensely, because he’s Jared Kushner’s best friend and he’s inside the White House and Donald Trump is holding his hand. He has extraordinary power in the White House in terms of determining technology policy. In fact, there’s even some rumors that Trump’s second Supreme Court appointment would be Peter Thiel.
DH: Oh my god, I didn’t hear that. Kushner has always been a moderate Democrat. How does he become so simpatico with somebody like Thiel, who is so right wing?
JT: Here’s the deal. These people in Silicon Valley have been able to put a Svengali move on the Democrats just as much as they put on the Republicans. Obama was under the spell of Google more than anybody I know about. Eric Schmidt [executive chairman of Alphabet] visited the White House by a factor of five more than any other CEO, and that’s just the official stuff that was written down at the White House gate.
DH: You mention the fact that Sean Parker, Larry Page and I think Thiel all went to the secret meeting of Republicans too, so they’ve got all the bases covered at Google?
JT: They don’t have any political affiliation whatsoever. They may pretend that they’re liberals, but they’re perfectly happy to be conservatives. In fact, one of the stories I tell in the book is that when the conservatives and Fox News and Rush Limbaugh were pounding on Facebook that their trending topics thing was being slanted against conservative media because the kids who were running it, who were the curators, were too liberal, Zuckerberg said, “Okay, well, I’m getting rid of the kids.” He fired them all and he just let the algorithm determine what got into trending topics.
Which was exactly what Steve Bannon and Cambridge Analytica wanted, because then they could play the algorithm with their armies of bots that they deployed, and completely push anything up trending topics that they wanted to.
DH: Further on in the book, you give Zuckerberg a bit of an optimistic pass in terms of hoping or thinking that he really cares about the four billion people who are not on the internet. He’s not at the same level as Page and Thiel and Parker?
JT: I don’t know. I probably would say that Bill Gates’ wife, Melinda, had more to do with him changing his life than anything. My sense is that Zuckerberg’s wife [Priscilla Chan] is a deeply committed humanist. She was a teacher, and I think like any of these guys, there’s probably a little bit of a battle for his soul. The very fact that she convinced him to give away 99 percent of their Facebook stock to a charity, even though it’s kind of a weird charity organization that he controls, is something.
It’s certainly not what Larry Page or Peter Thiel are doing. They’re giving money to organizations so they can live to 150 years old.
DH: We’re going to save that part until the end, because going to Mars and living forever is a whole final question about what makes these guys tick. Before we get there, let’s go backwards to Ayn Rand. When we were in college, these were crackpot theories, and we always thought they were books that kids read in high school or maybe as sophomores in college, and then we all grew up. Peter Thiel, who is apparently one of the smartest guys in the world, seems to worship the Ayn Rand narrative. What is that about?
JT: You know, it mystifies me so much. Paul Ryan and Donald Trump have both cited Ayn Rand as major influences on their life. My guess is it appeals to a certain kind of man who believes that he is better than most people, and he’s not appreciated.
If you look at those Ayn Rand heroes, they always thought that the average citizen was a total dunce, and that democracy wasn’t a good idea, and that really things had to be run by men of iron will who had no sense of responsibility for other people, just for themselves. They were the kind of people [who would ask], the line that she used is, “Who will stop me?” It’s that kind of pushing, that “I’m going to just forge ahead,” and it’s the will of the power. Like all that stuff we studied about Nietzsche in Princeton probably.
DH: Thiel also said he was for Trump because he would discipline the unthinking demos, the democratic public that constrains capitalism. That’s pretty scary as well. Do we think Trump understands that?
JT: Well, look, I think that they believe capitalism works best when there’s no rules, and they tend to think that the people who want to try and make rules for capitalism don’t understand it, and so they’re going to just screw it up. What Trump is doing right now is trying to get rid of every regulation, whether it’s environmental or internet privacy or anything you can imagine. He just wants to get rid of all these regulations, because he wants Verizon or Google or Exxon or Koch Industries to be able to just do whatever they want to do and not worry about regulation.
Of course, I think that’s what leads to things like the financial crisis in 2008, when the banks had no regulation and they just went crazy.
DH: Speaking of deregulation, you write about a New York Times article on a World Bank report that says internet innovation stands to widen inequality, and even hasten the hollowing out of the middle class. How does this happen?
JT: Well, first place, tech delivers extraordinary monetary returns to a very small group of people. The biggest tech company is employing 20,000-30,000 people, compared to, say, an auto company or General Electric that employs hundreds of thousands. That’s the first thing.
Secondly, it delivers returns to the highest level of those executives of those companies on such a level that Zuckerberg is worth $58.6 billion (fifth richest person in the world), that Bezos is worth $80 billion. In other words, if you’re at the top, your wealth is so great that it inevitably leads to inequality, because what tech does also obviously is eliminate a lot of working-class jobs. The better Elon Musk gets at making his cars, the fewer people he has to hire. He lets the robots do it.
DH: Apparently, according to Capital and Main, the workers at Tesla (http://www.alternet.org/labor/electric-car-workers-accuse-tesla-low-pay-and-intimidation) are not very happy either.
JT: I bet they aren’t.
DH: It was lovely to read in your book about The Band, Bob Dylan, Music from Big Pink and Woodstock, the story of your early days of rock ‘n’ roll, when you began to understand how this digital music system worked. It’s a sad story, because it ends up with Levon Helm, a member of The Band, dying of throat cancer and not being able to make any money because he couldn’t go on the road. Performers didn’t really have anyone protecting them like writers who had ASCAP and BMI.
Of course, behind this is Sean Parker, the king of digital destruction. Can you juxtapose for a moment Sean Parker and Levon Helm and what happened?
JT: Right. Sean Parker was kind of a bratty kid who got into trouble for doing hacking, and while he was on probation, he met another guy who was named Shawn Fanning, and they invented Napster. Their thought was, Well, look at all these tunes [that] are digital now that the CD is out, and what we need to do is build this service that allows anybody to share their music with anybody else for free; what we need to do is just index it.
That’s what they did. Of course, not being musicians, at first they had no idea that it would destroy the music business. And when they fairly quickly got the idea that it was destroying the music business, they didn’t give a f**k. What they cared for was to build this business, which they did to about 70 million users in two years. Once people got a taste of getting music for free, then that made it seem like all music should be free.
Same thing happened in the newspaper business. Once people got a little free news, then why should they pay for news? Why should I buy a newspaper? Newspaper revenues and music revenues plunged by 70 percent from the year 2001 until 2015. That’s just extraordinary, the business cut by two-thirds. I think that what happened is obviously Levon could no longer make a living off of the music, even though if you went to YouTube, the number of plays of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” was in the millions; but he wasn’t getting any money from that.
That’s the sad story, and it’s not just Levon. There’s thousands of musicians. T-Bone Burnett and I do a talk every once in a while, and we run into just hundreds of musicians who can’t make a living anymore.
DH: What does it mean, what you describe as the surveillance marketing business? You say that both Facebook and Google are in this business now.
JT: Their main business is what I’ve begun to call surveillance capitalism. Basically, it’s a new kind of capitalism, which means that the greatest value that I hold is the amount of data that I have been able to sweep up from every possible realm on you, Don Hazen. I’m going to get it from your mobile phone, from your shopping online, from your location, from in your home if you have an Amazon Alexa, with the microphone on. I’m going to vacuum it up from there. I’m going to basically look for more places where I can grab your data.
The key to doing that of course is to get you to go on my services, whether it’s YouTube or search or on Facebook, and stay there as long as possible, and the more you stay there, the more data I’m grabbing from you. Now, I take that data, and I sell it back to advertisers in a way of being able to target a very narrow page of just who I want to get to. And it is not just companies that do that. Politicians, as we saw in the past election, can do that just as easily. If you want to suppress the vote among young black men in Detroit, it’s very easy to just send to them a piece of content that says, “Hillary Clinton says all young black men are predators.” You can be assured that that will be somewhat successful.
DH: How did the $84 billion Koch brothers get into your book about tech monopolies?
JT: Because they provided, through ALEC and the other organizations that they finance, the underlying power in Washington, D.C., to make sure that companies don’t get regulated. If you think about some of the problems that Trump is having now, these guys thought that the Republican health care bill was too much regulation in it, and so they offered basically a bounty to any of the Freedom Caucus who would vote against it.
They said, “We’ll put up to $2 million in ad money for your campaign if Trump comes after you.” Basically, these people have so much money, they’re just… basically the Peter Thiels and Larry Pages have just kind of surfed behind their propaganda, which says the market is always right, and the government is always wrong. When the government tried to do a few things to regulate Google, they come down on the government like a ton of bricks. Why do you think this internet privacy law was passed so quickly? Because the Koch brothers said it was fine.
DH: This question has to do with what you mentioned earlier about outsized imaginations. Musk is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to go to Mars, and Page and Thiel are investing as many millions to extend their lives. What does this tell us about these guys?
JT: It just seems so bizarre to me that we haven’t solved malaria or typhoid or cholera, and these guys are spending millions of dollars so they personally can live to be 200 years old. Now, to my mind the whole idea is insane because I would imagine by the time you were 130, you had spent four or five million to extend your life—because it’ll be expensive, and only the rich will be able to afford it—you’d be so afraid to come out of your house because you might get hit by a car and your whole $5 million investment would go down the tubes. It would seem to me you’d become a prisoner of your own longevity. I don’t know, but the whole thing is so screwy to me.
Elon Musk, at this conference that I went to that Vanity Fair put on, literally said, “We should set off a nuclear bomb on Mars, and it would melt the ice, and then we could grow vegetables to feed the colonies.”
DH: That’s wild. Really crazy. All right, anything else I should be asking you?
JT: I think you’ve covered it, man. I’m pleased that you liked the book.
DH: There is so much shocking and sobering information in your book that it should be required reading for everyone who wants to understand how we have arrived at this point in history, and the connections between tech monopoly, inequality and even Trump’s election.
JT: Sean Wilentz, a Princeton professor friend who runs the history department there, said, “Tap, you’re the new muckraker.” I said, “Well, that’s kind of cool.” Because in a sense, 100 years ago we had to face this same problem with Standard Oil and J.P. Morgan and the railroads. We’ve been here before. The 1912 election between Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt was run on [the question:] what do we do about monopolies? That was the main issue.
DH: Yes, but it is more difficult now because there’s no split in the ruling class. Obama was just as tight with Google as the Republicans, or more so. It was easier to scapegoat the railroads or Rockefeller and Standard Oil than it is to do the same thing to the guys wearing hoodies and sneakers, and saying, “We do no evil.”
JT: I know. I know. I will tell you, Don, that I think the dialogue is beginning to change. I was at a Chicago conference last week on monopoly, and it was at the Chicago School of Business, which is the most conservative, where Milton Friedman dominated. By the end of the conference even the old-fashioned Friedmanites were saying, “This surveillance capitalism is different, and we may have to rethink what we thought about regulation and monopoly.” I think something’s changing.
DH: The challenge is that many of us just don’t want to hear the reality about these companies because it makes our lives more uncomfortable, more challenging. Because we shouldn’t be doing half the stuff we’re doing, it’s just easier. We hang out on Facebook, give our information to Google, don’t take our money out of Merrill Lynch, Chase or Citibank. And often we don’t support local business—just have Amazon delivering those packages, helping make Bezos a gazillionaire, because it is easier to do. Anyway, congratulations on the book. I hope it is a big success.

Peter Lemkin
04-19-2017, 05:15 AM
This Commission has freed many wrongly convicted prisoners and pointed out fallacies in forensic work done by \FBI and other law-enforcement on major and minor cases. Now, they can fake the results again for political purposes. Some of the Commission's work also pointed out problems with the JFK case - but so many others. More dis-assembly of anything that brings accountability of government rule by dictate....we are quickly heading to a totally authoritarian police-state, if we aren't already there.....





The Justice Department will not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science, a panel of judges, defense attorneys and law-enforcement officials that advises the attorney general on the use of scientific evidence in the criminal justice process.

By SADIE GURMAN (http://www.seattletimes.com/author/sadie-gurman/)





WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Monday he is ending an Obama-era partnership with independent scientists that aimed to improve the reliability of forensic science, as longstanding concerns remain about the quality of such evidence in court cases.
The Justice Department will not renew the National Commission on Forensic Science, a panel of judges, defense attorneys, researchers and law enforcement officials that had been advising the attorney general on the use of scientific evidence in the criminal justice process. The department will instead appoint an in-house adviser and create an internal committee to study improvements to forensic analysis, Sessions said.

Their tasks will include a broad look at the personnel and equipment needs of overburdened crime labs.

“As we decide how to move forward, we bear in mind that the department is just one piece of the larger criminal justice system,” said Sessions in a statement, adding that most forensic science is done by state and local laboratories and used by local prosecutors.


The Obama administration formed the commission in 2013 to address wide-ranging concerns about problematic forensic techniques.
The Justice Department also is reconsidering an effort launched last year to review forensic sciences practiced by the FBI. That review sought to determine whether other scientific disciplines have been tainted by flawed testimony, a problem that surfaced in 2015 when the Justice Department revealed that experts had overstated the strength of their evidence in many older cases dating back decades involving microscopic hair analysis.
The disbanding of the commission was yet another way in which Sessions is shifting away from his Obama-era predecessors, who pushed for changes in forensic science and tried to establish federal standards. Last year, for example, acting on the commission’s recommendations, the Justice Department announced a new code of professional responsibility for its forensic science laboratories and also cautioned its examiners and prosecutors to use restraint in discussing the strength of their findings, among other standards.
Sessions, who frequently articulates a tough-on-crime agenda, called the availability of accurate forensic analysis “critical to integrity in law enforcement, reducing violent crime and increasing public safety.” He said the Justice Department would seek public comment on how to improve crime labs and “strengthen the foundations of forensic science.”
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said it was disappointed by the move. Association President Barry Pollack said the commission was important because it allowed “unbiased expert evaluation of which techniques are scientifically valid and which are not.”

Peter Lemkin
04-19-2017, 08:53 AM
Trump Rejects Calls for Transparency, Vowing to Keep Tax Returns & White House Visitor Logs Secret

Magda Hassan
04-19-2017, 09:29 AM
Trump Rejects Calls for Transparency, Vowing to Keep Tax Returns & White House Visitor Logs Secret



They will just get leaked sooner or later. ::clown::

Peter Lemkin
04-21-2017, 12:21 PM
Trump’s CIA Director Pompeo, Targeting WikiLeaks, Explicitly Threatens Speech and Press Freedoms (https://theintercept.com/2017/04/14/trumps-cia-director-pompeo-targeting-wikileaks-explicitly-threatens-speech-and-press-freedoms/)https://prod01-cdn06.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2014/02/Glenn-Greenwald-Original_350.jpgGlenn Greenwald (https://theintercept.com/staff/glenn-greenwald/)
April 14 2017, 3:43 p.m.







IN FEBRUARY, after Donald Trump tweeted that the U.S. media were the “enemy of the people,” the targets of his insult exploded with indignation, devoting wall-to-wall media coverage to what they depicted as a grave assault on press freedoms more befitting of a tyranny (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/26/world/europe/trump-enemy-of-the-people-stalin.html?_r=0). By stark and disturbing contrast, the media reaction yesterday was far more muted, even welcoming, when Trump’s CIA Director, Michael Pompeo, actually and explicitly vowed to target freedoms of speech and press in a blistering, threatening speech (https://www.cia.gov/news-information/speeches-testimony/2017-speeches-testimony/pompeo-delivers-remarks-at-csis.html) hedelivered to (https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=85&v=0067wS26n_E) the D.C. think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies.
What made Pompeo’s overt threats of repression so palatable to many was that they were not directed at CNN, the New York Times or other beloved-in-D.C. outlets, but rather at WikiLeaks, more marginalized publishers of information, and various leakers and whistleblowers, including Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.
Trump’s CIA Director stood up in public and explicitly threatened to target free speech rights and press freedoms, and it was almost impossible to find even a single U.S. mainstream journalist expressing objections or alarm, because the targets Pompeo chose in this instance are ones they dislike – much the way that many are willing to overlook or even sanction free speech repression if the targeted ideas or speakers are sufficiently unpopular.
Decreeing (with no evidence) that WikiLeaks is “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia” a belief that has become gospel in establishment Democratic Party circles – Pompeo proclaimed that “we have to recognize that we can no longer allow Assange and his colleagues the latitude to use free speech values against us.” He also argued that while WikiLeaks “pretended that America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice,” but: “they may have believed that, but they are wrong.”
He then issued this remarkable threat: “To give them the space to crush us with misappropriated secrets is a perversion of what our great Constitution stands for. It ends now.” At no point did Pompeo specify what steps the CIA intended to take to ensure that the “space” to publish secrets “ends now.”

BEFORE DELVING INTO the chilling implications of the CIA Director’s threats, let’s take note of an incredibly revealing irony in what he said. This episode is worth examining because it perfectly illustrates the core fraud of U.S. propaganda.
In vilifying WikiLeaks, Pompeo pronounced himself “quite confident that had Assange been around in the 1930s and 40s and 50s, he would have found himself on the wrong side of history.” His rationale: “Assange and his ilk make common cause with dictators today.”
But the Mike Pompeo who accused Assange of “making common cause with dictators” is the very same Mike Pompeo who – just eight weeks ago – placed one of the CIA’s most cherished awards in the hands of one of the world’s most savage tyrants, who also happens to be one of the U.S. Government’s closest allies. Pompeo traveled to Riyadh and literally embraced and honored the Saudi royal next-in-line to the throne.
This nauseating event – widely (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/02/cia-director-medal-top-saudi-royal-170212073731973.html) covered by (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/cia-saudi-arabia-crown-prince-muhammed-bin-naye-medal-counter-terrorism-work-intelligence-a7577221.html) the (http://www.diplomatmagazine.nl/2017/02/13/saudi-crown-prince-honoured-cia/) international press (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hgoYPwXKklI) yet almost entirely ignored by the U.S. media – was celebrated by (https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/02/10/CIA-awards-Saudi-Crown-Prince-for-efforts-against-terrorism-.html) the Saudi-owned outlet Al Arabiya: “The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, received a medal on Friday from the CIA . . . . The medal, named after George Tenet, was handed to him by CIA Director Micheal Pompeo after the Crown Prince received him in Riyadh on Friday in the presence of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.”
https://prod01-cdn07.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2017/04/Pompeo-Saudi-1492176011-540x304.jpg (https://prod01-cdn07.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2017/04/Pompeo-Saudi-1492176011.jpg)
The description of this Pompeo/Saudi award ceremony was first reported by (http://www.spa.gov.sa/viewfullstory.php?lang=en&newsid=1590820)the official Saudi Press Agency, which published the above photographs. It gushed: “In a press statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), following the reception, the Crown Prince expressed appreciation of the CIA for bestowing on him such a grace, laying assertion that this medal is a fruit of endeavors and instructions of the leaders of the kingdom, notably the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, bravery of security men and cooperation of all walks of the community to combat terrorism.”
Then there’s the venue Pompeo chose: the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). As the New York Times reported in 2014 (https://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/09/07/us/politics/foreign-powers-buy-influence-at-think-tanks.html?_r=1&referrer=), the CSIS – like so many of D.C.’s most prestigious think tanks – is itself funded by dictators.
In particular, the United Arab Emirates has become “a major supporter” of the group, having “quietly provided a donation of more than $1 million to help build the center’s gleaming new glass and steel headquarters not far from the White House.” Other CISIS donors include (https://www.csis.org/support-csis/our-donors/government-donors) the regimes of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Kazakhstan.In return, UAE officials are treated like great statesmen at CSIS.
https://prod01-cdn07.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2017/04/uaecsis-1492170608-1000x424.png (https://prod01-cdn07.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2017/04/uaecsis-1492170608.png)UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba, with CSIS President John J. Harme
Photo: UAE Embassy

This is all independent of the fact that Pompeo’s boss, President Trump, just hosted (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-welcomes-egypts-sissi-to-white-house-in-reversal-of-us-policy/2017/04/03/36b5e312-188b-11e7-bcc2-7d1a0973e7b2_story.html?utm_term=.77c0c179458d) at the White House and lavished praise on one of the world’s most repressive tyrants (and closest allies of the U.S. Government), Egyptian leader Abdel Fatah al-Sissi. And the government of which Pompeo is a part sends arms, money and all kinds of other support to dictators across the planet.
So how could Mike Pompeo – fresh off embracing and honoring Saudi tyrants, standing in a building funded by the world’s most repressive regimes, headed by an agency that for decades supported despots and death squads – possibly maintain a straight face as he accuses others of “making common cause with dictators”? How does this oozing, glaring, obvious act of projection not immediately trigger fits of scornful laughter from U.S. journalists and policy makers?
https://prod01-cdn07.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2017/04/pompeo-1492171056-440x240.png (https://prod01-cdn07.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2017/04/pompeo-1492171056.png)Pompeo in Riyadh with Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Crown Prince Prince Muhammed bin Nayef
Photo: ABNA

The reason is because this is a central and long-standing propaganda tactic of the U.S. Government, aided by a media that largely ignores it. They predicate their foreign policy and projection of power on hugging, supporting and propping up the world’s worst tyrants, all while heralding themselves as defenders of freedom and democracy and castigating their enemies as the real supporters of dictators.Try to find mainstream media accounts in the U.S. of Pompeo’s trip to Riyadh and bestowing a top CIA honor on a Saudi despot. It’s easy to find accounts of this episode in international outlets, but very difficult to find ones from CNN or the Washington Post. Or try to find instances where mainstream media figures point out what should be the unbearable irony of listening to the same U.S. Government officials accuse others of supporting dictators while nobody does more to prop up tyrants than themselves.
This is the dictatorship-embracing reality of the U.S. Government that remains largely hidden from its population. That’s why Donald Trump’s CIA Director – of all people – can stand in a dictator-funded think tank in the middle of Washington, having just recovered from his jet lag in flying to pay homage to Saudi tyrants, and vilify WikiLeaks and “its ilk” of “making common cause with dictators” – all without the U.S. media taking note of the intense inanity of it.
https://prod01-cdn07.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2017/04/pompeo2-1492168817-540x360.jpg (https://prod01-cdn07.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2017/04/pompeo2-1492168817.jpg)

BUT IT IS Pompeo’s threatening language about free speech and press freedoms that ought to be causing serious alarm for journalists, regardless of what one thinks of WikiLeaks. Even more extreme than the explicit attacks in his prepared remarks is what the CIA Director said in the question-and-answer session (https://pastebin.com/awFkv4QW) that followed. He was asked about WikiLeaks by the unidentified questioner, who queried of “the need to limit the lateral movements such as by using our First Amendment rights. How do you plan to accomplish that?” This was Pompeo’s answer:

A little less Constitutional law and a lot more of a philosophical understanding. Julian Assange has no First Amendment privileges. He is not a U.S. citizen. What I was speaking to is an understanding that these are not reporters doing good work to try to keep the American Government on us. These are actively recruiting agents to steal American secrets with the sole intent of destroying the American way of life.
That is fundamentally different than a First Amendment activity as I understand them. This is what I was getting to. We have had administrations before that have been too squeamish about going after these people, after some concept of this right to publish. Nobody has the right to actively engage in the theft of secrets from American without the intent to do harm to it.
Given how menacing and extreme this statement is, it is remarkable – and genuinely frightening – that it received so little notice, let alone condemnation, from the U.S. press corps, most of which covered Pomepo’s speech by trumpeting his claim (https://twitter.com/jimsciutto/status/852606870732890112) that WikiLeaks is an agent of an enemy power, or noting the irony that Trump had praised WikiLeaks and Pompeo himself had positively tweeted about their revelations.
Pompeo’s remarks deserve far greater scrutiny than this. To begin with, the notion that WikiLeaks has no free press rights because Assange is a foreigner is both wrong (http://www.salon.com/2010/02/01/collins_5/) and dangerous. When I worked at the Guardian, my editors were all non-Americans. Would it therefore have been constitutionally permissible for the U.S. Government to shut down that paper and imprison its editors on the ground that they enjoy no constitutional protections? Obviously not. Moreover, what rational person would possibly be comfortable with having this determination – who is and is not a “real journalist” – made by the CIA?
But the most menacing aspect is the attempt to criminalize the publication of classified information. For years, mainstream U.S. media outlets – including ones that despise WikiLeaks – nonetheless understood that prosecuting WikiLeaks for publishing secrets would pose a grave threat to press freedoms for themselves. Even the Washington Post Editorial Page – at the height of the controversy over WikiLeaks’ publishing of diplomatic cables in 2010 – published an editorial headlined (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/12/11/AR2010121102564.html) “Don’t Charge WikiLeaks”:

Such prosecutions are a bad idea. The government has no business indicting someone who is not a spy and who is not legally bound to keep its secrets. Doing so would criminalize the exchange of information and put at risk responsible media organizations that vet and verify material and take seriously the protection of sources and methods when lives or national security are endangered.
The Obama administration, in 2010, explored theories (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/08/world/08leak.html) for how it could prosecute WikiLeaks, and even convened a Grand Jury (http://www.salon.com/2011/06/09/wikileaks/) to investigate. But it ultimately concluded that doing so would be impossible without directly threatening First Amendment press freedoms for everyone. As former Obama DOJ spokesman Matthew Miller yesterday said (https://twitter.com/matthewamiller/status/852636857741578242) of Pompeo’s threats:


But back in 2010, the Obama DOJ briefly flirted with, but then abandoned, the possibility that it could get around this problem by alleging that WikiLeaks did more than merely publish secrets, that it actively collaborated with its source (Chelsea Manning) on what documents to take. As the New York Times’ Charlie Savage reported then (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/08/world/08leak.html): “a government official familiar with the investigation said that treating WikiLeaks different from newspapers might be facilitated if investigators found any evidence that Mr. Assange aided the leaker, who is believed to be a low-level Army intelligence analyst — for example, by directing him to look for certain things and providing technological assistance.”
Ultimately, though, no evidence was found that this happened. And, beyond that, many in the DOJ concluded – rightly so – that even this “collaboration” theory of criminalization would endanger press freedoms because most investigative journalists collaborate with their sources. As Northwestern Journalism Professor Dan Kennedy explained in the Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2010/dec/16/julian-assange-wikileaks-eric-holder):

The problem is that there is no meaningful distinction to be made. How did the Guardian, equally, not “collude” with WikiLeaks in obtaining the cables (https://www.theguardian.com/world/the-us-embassy-cables)? How did the New York Times not “collude” with the Guardian when the Guardian gave the Times a copy following Assange’s decision to cut the Times out of the latest document dump?
For that matter, I don’t see how any news organisation can be said not to have colluded with a source when it receives leaked documents. Didn’t the Times collude with Daniel Ellsberg when it received the Pentagon Papers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Ellsberg) from him? Yes, there are differences. Ellsberg had finished making copies long before he began working with the Times, whereas Assange may have goaded Manning. But does that really matter?
The dangers to all media outlets from this theory should have been crystal clear when Joe Lieberman (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/dec/07/wikileaks-joe-lieberman-new-york-times-investigated) and former Bush Attorney General Mike Mukaseyargued that (http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/12/mukasey-prosecute-assange-easier-times/) the New York Times itself should be prosecuted for publishing and reporting on WikiLeaks’ secret documents – on the ground that no meaningful distinction could be made between the NYT and WikiLeaks.
https://prod01-cdn07.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2017/04/lieberman-1492174406-1000x307.png
But criminalizing WikiLeaks’ publication of documents is clearly part of what Pompeo is now planning. That’s what he meant when he argued that “administrations before have been too squeamish about going after these people, after some concept of this right to publish”: he was criticizing the Obama DOJ for not prosecuting WikiLeaks for publishing secrets. And this is why Pompeo yesterday claimed – with no evidence – that WikiLeaks “directed Chelsea Manning in her theft of specific secret information.” He clearly intends to pursue prosecution of WikiLeaks and Assange for publishing classified information.
It has long been a dream of the far right, as well as hawkish Obama followers, to prosecute journalists and outlets that publish secret information based on this theory. As Newsweek noted in 2011 (http://www.newsweek.com/why-journalists-arent-defending-julian-assange-66821): “Sarah Palinurged (http://www.newser.com/story/106447/sarah-palin-julian-assange-should-be-hunted-like-al-qaeda-leaders.html) that Assange be ‘pursued with the same urgency we pursue Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders,’ and The Weekly Standard’s William Kristol wants (http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/whack-wikileaks_520462.html) the U.S. to ‘use our various assets to harass, snatch or neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators.'”
This same “collaboration” theory that Pompeo is advocating is what various Obama loyalists, such as MSNBC’s Joy Reid (https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2013/06/25/msnbcs-reid-raises-questions-about-guardians-glenn-greenwald/?utm_term=.b6237d57345a), spent months hyping in order to justify the prosecution of the journalists (such as myself) who reported the Snowden materials: that we did not merely report them but “collaborated” with our source. Her theory then became the basis for her NBC colleague David Gregory asking (https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/erik-wemple/wp/2013/06/23/david-gregory-whiffs-on-greenwald-question/) if I should be prosecuted on the ground that I “aided and abetted” Snowden.
This – the “collaboration” theory propounded back then by Bill Kristol and Joe Lieberman and Joy Reid, and now by Mike Pompeo – is the mentality of people who do not understand, who do not practice, and who hate journalism, at least when it exposes the bad acts of the leaders they revere. Just as is true of free speech abridgments, if you cheer for it and endorse it because the people targeted in the first instance are ones you dislike, then you are institutionalizing these abridgments and will be unable to resist them when they begin to be applied to people you do like (or to yourselves).
WikiLeaks now has few friends in Washington: the right has long hated it for publishing secrets about Bush-era war crimes (http://www.salon.com/2010/12/24/wikileaks_23/), while Democrats now despise them for its perceived role in helping defeat Hillary Clinton by exposing the secret corruption of the DNC. But the level of affection for WikiLeaks should have no bearing on how one responds to these press freedom threats from Donald Trump’s CIA Director. Criminalizing the publication of classified documents is wrong in itself, and has the obvious potential to spread far beyond their initial target.
People who depict themselves as part of an anti-authoritarian #Resistance — let alone those who practice journalism — should be the first ones standing up to object to these creepy threats. The implications of Pompeo’s threats are far more consequential than the question of who one likes or does not like.
Top photo: CIA Director Mike Pompeo speaks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, on April 13, 2017.






CONTACT THE AUTHOR:https://prod01-cdn06.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2014/02/Glenn-Greenwald-Original_350.jpg (https://theintercept.com/staff/glenn-greenwald/)Glenn Greenwald (https://theintercept.com/staff/glenn-greenwald/)✉glenn.greenwald@​theintercept.com (glenn.greenwald@theintercept.com)t@ggreenwald (https://twitter.com/@ggreenwald)


˅ ⎕ 316 Comments (https://theintercept.com/2017/04/14/trumps-cia-director-pompeo-targeting-wikileaks-explicitly-threatens-speech-and-press-freedoms/?comments=1#comments)

Peter Lemkin
04-21-2017, 06:29 PM
As Vice President Mike Pence railed against ISIS-linked terrorism Thursday, we speak with longtime investigative journalist Allan Nairn about his shocking new exposé that reveals backers of Donald Trump in Indonesia have joined army officers and a vigilante street movement linked to ISIS in an attempt to oust Indonesia’s president. Writing in The Intercept, Nairn reveals that Indonesians involved in the coup attempt include a corporate lawyer working for the mining company Freeport-McMoRan, which is controlled by Trump adviser Carl Icahn. Video has even emerged showing the lawyer at a ceremony where men are swearing allegiance to ISIS. According to Nairn, two of the other most prominent supporters of the coup are close associates of Donald Trump—Fadli Zon, vice speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives, and Hary Tanoe, Trump’s primary Indonesian business partner, who is building two Trump resorts, one in Bali and one outside Jakarta. Nairn’s article is making waves in Indonesia.


TRANSCRIPTThis is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Vice President Mike Pence visited the largest mosque in Southeast Asia Thursday during a trip to Indonesia. A day earlier, he addressed reporters at a press conference with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Jakarta.

VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: The United States is also proud to be one of Indonesia’s oldest and most engaged defense partners. And under President Trump, we are firmly committed to continuing to collaborate on the security of both of our peoples. A stronger defense partnership will serve us well as we confront the various security threats and challenges that we now face. And, of course, one of the greatest threats we face is the rise and spread of terrorism. Sadly, Indonesia is no stranger to this evil, nor is the United States of America, as the president and I discussed. The world watched with heartbreak in January of last year when ISIS-linked terrorists struck in central Jakarta in a barbaric suicide bombing. Our hearts broke for your people. This vile attack claimed the lives of five innocents, injured more than two dozen others. What I can assure you and the people of Indonesia is that you had the condolences and the prayers of the American people as you confronted this tragedy.
AMY GOODMAN: While Vice President Mike Pence railed against ISIS-linked terrorism, a shocking new exposé (https://theintercept.com/2017/04/18/trumps-indonesian-allies-in-bed-with-isis-backed-militia-seeking-to-oust-elected-president/) by longtime investigative journalist Allan Nairn has revealed backers of Donald Trump in Indonesia have joined army officers and a vigilante street movement linked to ISIS in an attempt to oust Indonesia’s democratically elected president. Writing in The Intercept, Nairn reveals Indonesians involved in the coup attempt include a corporate lawyer working for the mining company Freeport-McMoRan, which is controlled by Trump adviser Carl Icahn. Video has even emerged showing the lawyer at a ceremony where men are swearing allegiance to ISIS. According to Allan Nairn, two of the other most prominent supporters of the coup are close associates of Donald Trump: Fadli Zon, the vice speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives, and Hary Tanoe, Trump’s primary Indonesian business partner, who’s building two Trump resorts, one in Bali and one outside Jakarta. Nairn’s article is making waves in Indonesia. The Indonesian military is threatening legal action against the news portal tirto.id, after it published a partial translation of the article and ran a profile about Allan Nairn. In response, Nairn tweeted a message to the Indonesian military, saying, quote, "Dear TNI: If you want to threaten brave Indonesian reporters and publishers, please threaten me too," unquote.
Well, I recently sat down with Allan Nairn in our Democracy Now! studio and asked him to outline what he’s uncovered.

ALLAN NAIRN: Indonesia is in the midst of a political crisis, in that there is an attempt to stage what people on both sides of the conflict call the coup. And this is a de facto, or even direct, coup against the elected president, the elected government of Indonesia, which is headed by President Joko Widodo, Jokowi. Jokowi was the first person from outside the political elite who ever was elected president. He’s—on certain issues, in certain respects, he’s a bit of a reformist. He got elected, in an important part because he speaks the language of the poor, and people relate to him. He has been pushing social programs on health and education. But, especially in recent months, his government has been fighting for survival. Those backing this coup project include the top generals in the country, who are seeking to escape any whisper of accountability for their past mass murders—mass murders that have been supported by the U.S.—and for their ongoing atrocities in West Papua, also the friends and business partners and political associates of Donald Trump. The local Trump people in Indonesia, including his top political backer, the politician Fadli Zon, including his local business partner, Hary Tanoe, and others, have been funding and backing this coup movement.

The instrument they have been using is a—what purports to be a radical Islamist street movement, which has been staging massive demonstrations on the streets of Jakarta, demonstrations drawing out hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people. And their hook is what they claimed to be a religious issue, where they are attacking and demanding the death by hanging of the incumbent governor of Jakarta, who happens to be an ethnic Chinese Christian who is currently standing trial for insulting religion, for insulting Islam. And he could actually be sent to prison. And he’s also currently standing for re-election. But this Islamist street movement is, in a sense, a front for the real powers, the real interests, which are trying to use the demonstrations and the attacks on Governor Ahok—that’s his name, Ahok—to bring down the government of President Jokowi. I know this because for much of the past year I’ve been talking to people within the Jokowi government and also people within the coup movement, and they’ve been describing what’s happening as it—as it goes along. The group that they are using to front the street demonstrations is called the FPI. The FPI is what are known in Indonesia as preman, street thugs. They were created by the Indonesian army and police shortly after the fall of Suharto, in order to do killings—

AMY GOODMAN: U.S.-backed dictator.

ALLAN NAIRN: Yes—in order to do repression and, when needed, killings on behalf of the army, without the army having to take responsibility for it. And they would do it under the banner of radical Islam, kind of diverting attention from the fact of army and police sponsorship behind it. This group, the FPI, has been implicated in attacks on mosques—they frequently attack Islamic religious denominations that they do not agree with—attacks on churches and murders, one of which, in spectacular fashion, was videotaped, and their mob is seen beating and kicking to death a man who’s lying face down in the mud. They openly call for the hanging and murder of various politicians who displease them. They live day to day by—in addition to the funds they get from the army and the police, by extortion. They claim to be religiously compliant, but one of their key tactics over the years has been to go into strip clubs, go into bars; if the owners haven’t been giving their weekly payoff to the FPI in a timely fashion, breaking the place up with heavy sticks, then taking the liquor and drinking it or reselling it. I mean, this is famous on the streets of Jakarta. Everybody knows about this. Another of their big activities has been evicting the poor. They would be rented out to army, police, rich developers, landlords, in order to violently evict poor people so that their homes could be demolished and used for other purposes.

The group also happens to be listed by Western intelligence, including ASIO, the Australian intelligence service, as a violent extremist organization—a term they use for "terrorist." And this happens to be one of the cases where their characterization of a movement as violent and extremist is accurate. This group FPI also has numerous connections to ISIS. The leader of the FPI militia is a lawyer who is a corporate lawyer for Freeport-McMoRan, the giant U.S. mining corporation that is controlled by Carl Icahn, Donald Trump’s good friend and White House deregulation adviser. This lawyer—his name is Munarman—he represents a local corporate front for Freeport. And he is there presiding over the militia, as—the FPI militia, as they commit violence, and standing next to the FPI leaders as they call for the death by hanging of Jakarta’s governors. This lawyer for Carl Icahn’s Freeport was videotaped not long ago at an ISIS swear-in ceremony, where he was one of two people presiding as a group full of young men pledged allegiance to—swore allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. The program of massive street demonstrations, aimed at ultimately bringing down the Jokowi elected government, has been endorsed by Indonesians who have gone to Syria and joined up as ISIS fighters, as they describe themselves, etc.

This is the group which is being used by the U.S.-trained Indonesian generals and being backed by Donald Trump’s key Indonesian business partner, Donald Trump’s key Indonesian political backer and the lawyer for Carl Icahn’s Freeport-McMoRan. Maybe it was about a year ago, we did a short segment (https://www.democracynow.org/2015/9/8/allan_nairn_donald_trump_meets_praises) on Democracy Now! regarding the fact that one of these figures, Fadli Zon, the politician who was involved in this coup movement, he appeared at Trump Tower along with Donald Trump. This was shortly after Trump launched his presidential campaign. He launched his campaign by attacking Mexicans as rapists, and he got some heat for that. And one of the things Trump did, apparently, was to say to his people, "Get me some foreigners." One of the foreigners they got him was this Indonesian politician, Fadli Zon. He appeared at the press conference with Donald Trump. For doing so, he was fiercely attacked by the grand imam of the Indonesian mosque here in New York City—a very courageous act, by the way, by that imam, given the fact that Fadli Zon is not just a politician but is also the right-hand man of General Prabowo. Prabowo is the most notorious mass-killing general in Indonesia. He was also the general who was the closest protégé of the U.S. Pentagon and intelligence during his military career. So, Fadli Zon was attacked by—

AMY GOODMAN: And Prabowo was instrumental in East Timor.

ALLAN NAIRN: Yes. He did massacres in Timor and many other places. But now, it is his right-hand man, Fadli Zon, who was appearing with Trump at Trump Tower, helping in the—the initial stages of launching the campaign, and who is now one of the main supporters of this movement, which has as its final goal the toppling of Indonesia’s democratically elected president. And among the generals—and this is in a piece that I’ve been working on, and maybe by the time this airs the piece will have already been released—that have been complicit, in one degree or another, in this movement, include General Prabowo; General Wiranto, who is currently still under indictment for war crimes in Timor; General Gatot, who is currently the commander of the Indonesian armed forces.
AMY GOODMAN: We’ll be back with investigative journalist Allan Nairn in 30 seconds.
[break]
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we continue our conversation with investigative journalist Allan Nairn, who has just published a shocking exposé (https://theintercept.com/2017/04/18/trumps-indonesian-allies-in-bed-with-isis-backed-militia-seeking-to-oust-elected-president/) at The Intercept revealing backers of Donald Trump in Indonesia have joined army officers and a vigilante street movement linked to ISIS in an attempt to oust Indonesia’s president. I asked Allan Nairn to talk more about Trump’s connection to Fadli Zon, the Indonesian politician who was seen with Trump at Trump Tower during the presidential campaign.

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, after Fadli Zon returned to Indonesia, as I mentioned, he was fiercely and very courageously attacked by the grand imam of the Indonesian mosque here in New York City. And then he was also attacked by his colleagues in the Indonesian congress. Fadli was and is the number two person in the Indonesian congress. And they tried to censure him for appearing with Donald Trump, on the grounds that it was unethical. And as the imam had pointed out, the thing that Trump is famous for in New York—in U.S. politics is being a racist and being anti-Islam. And this was especially sharp and ironic, because Prabowo and Fadli Zon have used as their main political tactic attacking any of their opponents on the grounds that their opponents are, one, anti-Islam, not as Islamic as they are, and, two, tools of foreigners. Prabowo, of course, as he had told me in our extensive discussion, himself was the most—the closest partner of U.S. intelligence in Indonesia when he was helping to run the mass-murdering Suharto military. He worked for the DIA, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency. But in the campaign, he was running as a phony nationalist.

So, after he returned to Indonesia, Fadli Zon was under pressure from the congress. He, in the end, escaped any serious censure. But he did not repudiate Donald Trump. He became Donald Trump’s most vocal defender within Indonesian politics. And indeed, after the point in the campaign when Trump said that he was going to ban all Muslims from the United States, including in its first version, in its first iteration, ban even Muslims who were citizens of the U.S., even members of the U.S. military who happened to be overseas at that moment—he was going to ban them from returning home; he later had to modify and back off from that—after Trump made his first outrageous call for the Muslim ban, Fadli Zon defended him in Indonesia. And he said, "Trump is not anti-Islam. Donald Trump is not anti-Islam. And just you wait and see. As soon as he becomes president, he’s going to drop all that stuff, because that’s only campaign rhetoric." So, in essence, Fadli Zon has been Donald Trump’s political spokesman in Indonesia.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Allan Nairn, who is Hary Tanoe.

ALLAN NAIRN: Hary Tanoe is one of Trump’s two business partners in Indonesia. They’re working on a resort and some other projects. And there was recently a report within BIN, the Indonesian intelligence agency, which asserted that Hary Tanoe was covertly donating funds to the anti—the coup involving the FPI and the generals. Hary Tanoe is a media magnate like Trump. They actually have a similar profile in business. He’s in media, and he also sponsors beauty pageants. Tanoe’s media stations have been, in a sense, propaganda wings of the—of the coup, the street coup movement, to the extent to which they were actually admonished, officially admonished, by the Indonesian state broadcasting board, which is a very—usually a very weak, quiescent body. So these stations have been serving as kind of the propagandists for Trump. And the internal intelligence—

AMY GOODMAN: For Trump?

ALLAN NAIRN: As propagandists for the coup movement. And the internal intelligence report, which I had access to, asserts that Tanoe was also going beyond that and directly contributing funds to the movement.

Now, the background to this is very important. The Indonesian military came to power in 1965 in a coup, where they ousted the country’s founding father, Sukarno. They consolidated power with a massacre of anywhere from 400,000 to a million civilians. The massacre was enthusiastically backed by the U.S. The CIA gave them a list of 5,000 communists to start with. The U.S. press hailed it as, in the words of one New York Times column, "a gleam of light in Asia." The army installed General Suharto as the country’s dictator. The Clinton White House, years later, described Suharto as "our kind of guy." President Ford and Henry Kissinger gave—personally gave Suharto the green light to invade East Timor, which produced the most extensive proportional slaughter since the Nazis. The army implemented a regime which involved kind of a semi-religious glorification of the army and stigmatization of any kind of reformist element, which they would characterize as communist. And, when needed, or when they felt like it, over the years, they would stage additional massacres.

Then, in ’98, partly as a result of the Asian financial crisis, triggered by banks, partly as a result of the amazing courage of activists who came out on the streets of Jakarta to demand the ouster of Suharto, partly as a result of the fact that the grassroots movement here in the U.S. had succeeded in cutting off most of the arms pipeline from the U.S. to Indonesia, which then constrained them, in the extent to which they were willing to open fire on those demonstrators, Suharto fell.

After Suharto came what is referred to as Reformasi, reform, which is still underway. The army is still the dominant number one power in Indonesia, but their power is much less than it used to be. The fact that Jakowi, the civilian who related to the poor, was able to defeat the mass-murdering U.S. protégé, General Prabowo, in the presidential election was a real watershed in Indonesian politics. A very courageous movement of survivors of army massacres and human rights activists in Indonesia has persisted for year after year after year, putting their own lives at risk and sometimes dying in the process, like in the case of Munir, the brilliant and heroic human rights activist and my friend, who was assassinated by arsenic poisoning in 2004. They have persisted with this movement to bring the generals to justice. And in past few years, they’ve succeeded in upping the pressure. They’ve made gains, to the point that some generals have started to worry about whether they might be brought to justice, or at least might be publicly humiliated by their crimes being acknowledged publicly and the survivors gaining some degree of public legitimacy. So, the generals, to a degree much more than I realized before I started talking to people about this coup movement, have become obsessed with the idea of staving off justice.

And what has happened with their sponsorship, the sponsorship of many generals of this coup movement, is that they’ve created a very elegant win-win strategy. If they succeed in toppling President Jokowi, then no worry about accountability. On the other hand, if they don’t succeed, Jokowi will owe the generals who are supporting him, because although the bulk of the mass-murdering generals are affiliated in one way or another with the coup movement, there’s another fraction who are backing Jokowi and helping him to fend off the coup movement, and are getting—exacting a de facto guarantee. "Hey, we’re keeping you alive here. No prosecution, right? No public exposure of our crimes. No humiliation for the atrocities that we have committed." So, whichever way it turns out, in their mind—and there’s certainly reason to think that it’s a not unreasonable expectation— justice and accountability lose—loses, and the army wins.

AMY GOODMAN: Is Jokowi aware of the Trump connections to the supporters of the coup movement?

ALLAN NAIRN: That’s a good question. I don’t know. I don’t know when this will air, but as we are speaking, as this is being recorded, next week, on Wednesday, the Jakarta gubernatorial election is due to happen. That’s when it will be decided whether the governor, who is the kind of pretext for this street movement, will be voted in or voted out as—

AMY GOODMAN: This is April 19th.

ALLAN NAIRN: —as governor. Yes. And the day after the scheduled gubernatorial election, Vice President Mike Pence is due to arrive in Indonesia for two days and to meet with President Jokowi. Now, one interesting aspect of this is: Where does the U.S. stand on all of this? Because, on the one hand, the U.S. has a longtime policy, in countries around the world, of backing the repressive armies and security forces, but, on the other hand, also backing elected presidents—as long as those elected presidents do not have a program that threatens U.S. corporate interests or the interests of the local rich or the fact that the U.S. is allowed to back the local army and security forces. Barring that, the U.S. is all for local elected presidents. So, in accord with that historic worldwide policy, the U.S. has, up to this moment—as far as I know, up until at least recently, been backing Jokowi against the coup movement.

But it’s Trump’s local people who have been helping to push the coup movement. Now, I don’t know whether this question has come to the attention of President Trump himself. It could come to his attention through his business partner, Hary Tanoe, through his main Indonesian political partner, Fadli Zon, through his other business partner, Setya Novanto, who is a famously corrupt politician, or it could come to his attention through Carl Icahn, who is close to Trump, is his deregulation adviser from the White House and who is the controlling shareholder of Freeport-McMoRan, the oil and—the mining giant of copper and gold which has been ravaging West Papua, taking their gold and copper, but which—and this is quite significant—recently has been under challenge from the Jokowi government. For years, Freeport-McMoRan has had a free ride in Indonesia. As long as they paid off General Suharto and his cronies, as long as they paid off the army, various bureaucrats, they were able to do whatever they want. They were able to just strip the mountains of West Papua, turn the rivers indescribable primary colors from their pollution, knock off their dissident workers when necessary. They were able to do anything. But now, just in the past year and a half or so, they have been under challenge from the Jokowi government, which is demanding a renegotiation of the contract between the Indonesian government and Freeport-McMoRan, and which has been restricting Freeport’s copper exports. So this is creating a problem for Icahn, a serious economic problem for Carl Icahn. As this conflict between the Jokowi government and Icahn’s Freeport has been going on, the local lawyer for Icahn’s Freeport has been helping to lead the coup movement to oust—to oust Jokowi.

Now, I don’t know how much Trump knows about this, but I know there’s some question among some officials in Indonesia as to, in the end, which side will the U.S. come down—come down on. Will it continue the traditional U.S. policy of wanting to keep an elected president in for kind of stability purposes and front purposes, or might it align with Trump’s personal and business connections on the other side, who are backing the coup?

Peter Lemkin
04-23-2017, 01:18 PM
March for Science puts Earth Day focus on global opposition to Trump


video of all the speeches can be seen here https://www.democracynow.org/live/coming_up_on_april_22nd_democracy (https://www.democracynow.org/live/coming_up_on_april_22nd_democracy)


More than 600 marches held around the world, with organizers saying science ‘under attack’ from a White House that dismisses the threat of climate change


Why March for Science? Because when it is attacked, only elites benefit (https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/22/march-for-science-when-attacked-only-elite-benefit)


Oliver Milman (https://www.theguardian.com/profile/oliver-milman) in Washington DC

(https://twitter.com/olliemilman)
Saturday 22 April 2017 18.23 BSTFirst published on Saturday 22 April 201717.23 BST

Hundreds of thousands of climate researchers, oceanographers, bird watchers and other supporters of science rallied in marches around the world on Saturday, in an attempt to bolster scientists’ increasingly precarious status with politicians.

https://i.guim.co.uk/img/media/9430d03af220311fc0fbf253b7b31983e3f98e59/186_16_1507_903/master/1507.jpg?w=460&q=55&auto=format&usm=12&fit=max&
Bill Nye the Science Guy on Trump: 'We are in a dangerous place'


The main March for Science (https://www.marchforscience.com/) event was held in Washington DC, where organizers made plans for up to 150,000 people to flock to the national mall, although somewhat fewer than that figure braved the rain to attend. Marchers held a range of signs. Some attacked Donald Trump, depicting the president as an ostrich with his head in the sand or bearing the words: “What do Trump and atoms have in common? They make up everything.”
More than 600 marches took place around the world, on every continent bar Antarctica, in events that coincided with Earth Day.
The marches, the first of their kind, were officially non-political. They were however conceived by three US-based researchers – Caroline Weinberg, Valorie Aquino and Jonathan Berman – after Trump’s inauguration. Organizers have said science is “under attack” from the Trump administration and many protesters excoriated the president with signs that likened him to a dangerous orange toxin or disparaged his now defunct university .
Trump released a statement that insisted his administration was committed to preserving the “awe-inspiring beauty” of America, while protecting jobs.
“Rigorous science is critical to my administration’s efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection,” Trump said. “My administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks.
“As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.”
There’s very low morale among government scientists because science is under assault from this administration
Michael Mann
The US marches were some of the last to take place, following hundreds across the world. A common theme among protesters was a worry that politicians have rejected science-based policies.
“I’m encouraged by the marches I’ve seen already taking place around the world,” said Rush Holt, a former congressman and head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “For generations scientists have been reluctant to be in the public square. There is a lot of concern.”
Speakers in Washington included Christiana Figueres, the former United Nations climate chief and climate scientist Michael Mann. Hundreds of scientific institutions, environmental groups and union groups partnered with the march.
“There’s very low morale among government scientists because science is under assault from this administration,” Mann told the Guardian. “That being said, events like this will lift the spirits of scientists. They are finding a voice.”
Pharmaceutical companies, concerned about the impact on research talent of Trump’s attempts to ban or restrict travel from certain Muslim-majority countries, risked his wrath by supporting the march. In a video (https://www.facebook.com/Pfizer/videos/10155168836517243), Pfizer said it was “proud to stand behind our scientists”.
Trump has galvanized scientists with his comments about climate change, which he has called a “hoax”, as well as questions about whether vaccines are safe and threats to cut funding to universities that displease him (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/827112633224544256?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nbcnews.com%2Fnews%2Fus-news%2Fcan-trump-block-money-punishment-uc-berkeley-protests-n715901).
The White House’s recent budget proposal would remove around $7bn (http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/3/16/14940444/2018-budget-trump-science-nih) in science funding, with the National Institutes of Health, which funds medical research, bearing much of the pain. Earth sciences, ranging from weather satellites to marine research to coastal preservation, are also lined up for severe cuts.

Thousands rally around the world for ‘March for Science’ (https://www.theguardian.com/science/video/2017/apr/22/thousands-rally-around-the-world-for-march-for-science-video)Climate change was at the heart of the March for Science, spurred on by dismissals of the issue by Trump and his top advisers. Budget director Mick Mulvaney has said climate research is a “waste of your money”. Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, has erroneously denied (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/09/epa-scott-pruitt-carbon-dioxide-global-warming-climate-change)that carbon dioxide is a primary driver of global warming.

Other areas of science have been all but abandoned. The president has yet to nominate administrators for Nasa and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, nor to appoint his own science adviser.
John Holdren, science adviser during Barack Obama’s presidency, said Trump had “shown no indication of awareness of the role of science and the role of science in government”.
“Scientists are understanding that they have to become activists, that they have to speak up, that they have to be heard,” he said. “The message isn’t, ‘Please save our jobs.’ Scientists would be in another line of work if they were just interested in their salaries. If funding for science is slashed, all of society will lose out.”
The march has proved controversial within the science community, which is typically reluctant to be overtly political. Some scientists have raised concerns that the marches will invite attacks by Trump and his supporters, or will fail to convince the public that science has inherent value.
But several famous voices have joined the cause. “Science has always been political but we don’t want science to be partisan,” Bill Nye, a prominent engineer and TV personality, told the Guardian (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/apr/22/bill-nye-the-science-guy-donald-trump-march-washington).
“Objective truths have become set aside and diminished and lawmakers are acting like a strong belief in something is as valid as careful peer review.”
Nye said science was in a “dangerous place” but hoped the march would help nudge Trump to a more amenable position.
“The president changes his mind quite frequently,” he said. “We want to influence the people who influence him. That’s our goal for the march.”


FullscreenMute

Head of EPA denies carbon dioxide causes global warming (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/video/2017/mar/09/epa-scott-pruitt-carbon-dioxide-global-warming-video)Leland Melvin, a former Nasa astronaut who participated in two missions, criticized the administration’s plans to eliminate Nasa’s education budget.
“Doing that would keep people like me from getting a masters or PhD,” he said. “If we want brown people and women getting these degrees and get them involved in science, we have to fund it. The administration needs to get its head out of the sand.”



Cristian Samper, president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the march aimed “to celebrate science, not to politicize it”.
“Science is behind the good news and bad news about wildlife conservation ,” he said. “it has nothing to do with the fake news. Science is the antithesis of fake news.”
The marches came one week before the People’s Climate March (https://peoplesclimate.org/), a series of large-scale events focused on climate change that will be more overtly political.
“Attacks on science don’t just hurt scientists, they hurt scientists’ ability to protect the people, and climate change epitomizes that,” said Dr Geoffrey Supran, an expert in renewable energy at Harvard University.
“When politicians cater to fossil fuel interests by denying the basic realities of climate science and pursuing anti-science climate policy, they endanger the jobs, justice, and livelihoods of ordinary people everywhere.”

Peter Lemkin
04-23-2017, 04:15 PM
As U.S. Preps Arrest Warrant for Assange, Glenn Greenwald Says Prosecuting WikiLeaks Threatens Press Freedom for AllStoryApril 21, 2017
https://assets.democracynow.org/assets/icons/watch-icon-52b3526e27a20ade1b75a8055ed8fd5d47bca5d4b7c9be4dab c14c522f21d91a.pngWatch Full Show (https://www.democracynow.org/shows/2017/4/21?autostart=true)










https://www.democracynow.org/2017/4/21/glenn_greenwald_trumps_doj_prosecuting_wikileaks

<iframe width="640" height="360" src="https://www.democracynow.org/embed/story/2017/4/21/glenn_greenwald_trumps_doj_prosecuting_wikileaks" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen="true"></iframe>








"Trump's CIA Director Pompeo, Targeting WikiLeaks, Explicitly Threatens Speech and Press Freedoms." (https://theintercept.com/2017/04/14/trumps-cia-director-pompeo-targeting-wikileaks-explicitly-threatens-speech-and-press-freedoms/)



Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Glenn Greenwald responds to reports that the Trump administration has prepared an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed the report at a news conference Thursday. Last week, CIA chief Mike Pompeo blasted WikiLeaks as a "hostile intelligence service," in a stark reversal from his previous praise for the group. Pompeo made the remarks last week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in his first public address as CIA director. Pompeo went on to accuse WikiLeaks of instructing Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning to steal information. He also likened Julian Assange to a "demon" and suggested Assange is not protected under the First Amendment. It’s been nearly five years since Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorean Embassy in London seeking political asylum, fearing a Swedish arrest warrant could lead to his extradition to the United States. Greenwald’s story for The Intercept is "Trump’s CIA Director Pompeo, Targeting WikiLeaks, Explicitly Threatens Speech and Press Freedoms."


CNN is reporting the Trump administration has prepared an arrest warrant for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Attorney General Jeff Sessions confirmed the report at a news conference on Thursday.

REPORTER: Can you talk about whether it’s a priority for your department to arrest Assange, once and for all, and whether you think you can take him down?

ATTORNEY GENERAL JEFF SESSIONS: We are going to step up our effort and already are stepping up our efforts on all leaks. This is a matter that’s gone beyond anything I’m aware of. We have professionals that have been in the security business of the United States for many years that are shocked by the number of leaks. And some of them are quite serious. So, yes, it is a priority.
AMY GOODMAN: Last week, CIA chief Mike Pompeo blasted WikiLeaks as a, quote, "hostile intelligence service," in a stark reversal from his previous praise for the group. Pompeo made the remarks last week at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in his first public address as CIA director.

MIKE POMPEO: It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it really is: a nonstate, hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia. ... In reality, they champion nothing but their own celebrity. Their currency is clickbait, their moral compass nonexistent. Their mission, personal self-aggrandizement through destruction of Western values.
AMY GOODMAN: In his speech, Pompeo went on to accuse WikiLeaks of instructing Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning to steal information. He also likened Julian Assange to a "demon" and suggested Assange is not protected under the First Amendment. It’s been nearly five years since Julian Assange entered the Ecuadorean Embassy in London seeking political asylum, fearing a Swedish arrest warrant could lead to his extradition to the United States.
For more, we go to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where we’re joined via Democracy Now! video stream by Glenn Greenwald, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and one of the founding editors of The Intercept. His recent piece (https://theintercept.com/2017/04/14/trumps-cia-director-pompeo-targeting-wikileaks-explicitly-threatens-speech-and-press-freedoms/) is headlined "Trump’s CIA Director Pompeo, Targeting WikiLeaks, Explicitly Threatens Speech and Press Freedoms."
Glenn, welcome back to Democracy Now! Your response to this latest news that the U.S. government, that the Justice Department, is preparing an arrest warrant for Julian Assange?
GLENN GREENWALD: What’s interesting is, the Justice Department under President Obama experimented with this idea for a long time. They impaneled a grand jury to criminally investigate WikiLeaks and Assange. They wanted to prosecute them for publishing the trove of documents back in 2011 relating to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as the U.S. State Department diplomatic cables. And what they found, the Obama Justice Department found, was that it is impossible to prosecute WikiLeaks for publishing secret documents, without also prosecuting media organizations that regularly do the same thing. The New York Times, The Guardian, many other news organizations also published huge troves of the documents provided by Chelsea Manning. So it was too much of a threat to press freedom, even for the Obama administration, to try and create a theory under which WikiLeaks could be prosecuted.
Fast-forward five years later, there’s been a lot more WikiLeaks leaks and publications, including some really recent ones of sensitive CIA documents, as well as having spent all of last year publishing documents about the Democratic National Committee, which means they’ve made enemies not just of the right in America, but also the Democratic Party. And the Trump administration obviously believes that they can now safely, politically, prosecute WikiLeaks. And the danger, of course, is that this is an administration that has already said, the President himself has said, the U.S. media is the enemy of the American people. And this is a prosecution that would enable them not only to prosecute and imprison Julian Assange, but a whole variety of other journalists and media outlets that also routinely publish classified information from the U.S. government.
AMY GOODMAN: So let’s go back to what CIA chief Mike Pompeo said in his first address as CIA director.

MIKE POMPEO: The days like today, where we call out those who grant a platform to these leakers and so-called transparency activists. We know the danger that Assange and his not-so-merry band of brothers pose to democracies around the world. Ignorance or misplaced idealism is no longer an acceptable excuse for lionizing these demons.
AMY GOODMAN: And CIA chief Mike Pompeo continued.

MIKE POMPEO: Julian Assange and his kind are not the slightest bit interested in improving civil liberties or enhancing personal freedom. They have pretended America’s First Amendment freedoms shield them from justice. They may have believed that, but they’re wrong. Assange is a narcissist who has created nothing of value. He relies on the dirty work of others to make himself famous. He’s a fraud, a coward hiding behind a screen.
AMY GOODMAN: Julian Assange responded to the comments earlier this week while speaking with Jeremy Scahill on the Intercepted podcast.

JULIAN ASSANGE: Pompeo said explicitly that he was going to redefine the legal parameters of the First Amendment to define publishers like WikiLeaks in such a manner that the First Amendment would not apply to them. What the hell is going on? This is the head of the largest intelligence service in the world, the intelligence service of the United States. He doesn’t get to make proclamations on interpretation of the law. That’s a responsibility for the courts, it’s a responsibility for Congress, and perhaps it’s a responsibility for the attorney general. It’s way out of line to usurp the roles of those entities that are formally engaged in defining the interpretations of the First Amendment. For any—frankly, any other group to pronounce themselves, but for the head of the CIA to pronounce what the boundaries are of reporting and not reporting is a very disturbing precedent. This is not how the First Amendment works. It’s just—it’s just legally wrong.

The First Amendment is not a positive definition of rights. It’s a negative definition. It limits what the federal government does. It doesn’t say the federal government must give individuals rights and enforce that. It limits what the federal government can do to take away a certain climate of open debate in the United States. So, the First Amendment prevents Congress and the executive from engaging in actions themselves which would limit not only the ability of people to speak and to publish freely, but would also limit the ability of people to read and understand information, because it is that climate of public debate which creates a check on a centralized governmental structure from becoming authoritarian. It’s a right, from that perspective, for all the people, not just the publisher.
AMY GOODMAN: So that’s Julian Assange speaking on the Intercepted podcast. Glenn Greenwald, if you can respond to both—both Julian as well as the CIA director, Pompeo, and what he’s alleging?
GLENN GREENWALD: I think the key point here to understand is the way in which governments typically try and abridge core freedoms, because what they know is that if they target a group that is popular or a particular idea that people agree with, there will be an uprising against the attempt to abridge freedom. So what they always do, for example, when governments try and abridge freedom of speech, is they pick somebody who they know is hated in society or who expresses an idea that most people find repellent, and they try and abridge freedom of speech in that case, so that most people will let their hatred for the person being targeted override the principle involved, and they will sanction or at least acquiesce to the attack on freedom because they hate the person being attacked. But what happens is, the abridgment then gets institutionalized and entrenched. And that way, when the government goes to start to apply this abridgment to other people that you like more, it’s too late, because you’ve acquiesced in the first instance. And that’s why groups like the ACLU, when they want to defend civil liberties, are often—so often defending the most marginalized and hated groups, like neo-Nazis or white supremacists or the KKK, because that’s where the attacks happen.
This is what Mike Pompeo is strategizing to do now and what Jeff Sessions wants to do, as well, is they know WikiLeaks is hated on all sides of the political spectrum. The right has long hated WikiLeaks because of all the publications they did of Bush-era war crimes, and Democrats now despise WikiLeaks, probably more than anybody else that they hate, because of the role that Democrats believe WikiLeaks played in helping to defeat Hillary Clinton. And so, what Jeff Sessions is hoping, and probably with a good amount of validity, is that Democrats, who should be the resistance to these sorts of attacks, will actually cheer for the Trump administration while they prosecute WikiLeaks, because they hate WikiLeaks so much, and that U.S. media outlets, which also hate WikiLeaks, won’t raise much of a fuss. And that way, this very dangerous precedent of allowing the CIA and the Trump Justice Department to decide who is and who is not a journalist, what types of journalism are protected by the First Amendment and what types aren’t, will be entrenched as precedent. And that way, the next time there’s a leak that they hate in The New York Times or by NBC News, they will have this theory, that everybody signed on to, that said that the First Amendment doesn’t apply to certain people if you publish documents that are sensitive enough, or if you work enough with certain sources before the publication, that you’re deemed a collaborator. That’s what makes this moment so dangerous for core press freedoms.
AMY GOODMAN: Let me get your response to this other point that CIA chief Mike Pompeo made.

MIKE POMPEO: In January of this year, our Intelligence Committee determined that Russian military intelligence, the GRU, had used WikiLeaks to release data of U.S. victims that the GRU had obtained through cyber-operations against the Democratic National Committee.
AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, first of all, there’s been no evidence, of course, presented by the U.S. government that that’s actually true. They’ve stated that over and over, but there’s been no evidence presented of it so far.
But let’s assume for the sake of argument that they’re actually telling the truth, that the Trump CIA director is being honest and that that’s really what happened. What does that mean in terms of WikiLeaks? Nobody suggests that WikiLeaks did the actual hacking. In this case, even if what they’re saying is true, it would mean that WikiLeaks received information from a source—in this case, a foreign government—and then published that information that every U.S. media outlet in the country deemed newsworthy, because they constantly reported on it. This is a very common practice, where U.S. media outlets receive information from sources, often foreign sources, including officials within foreign governments, and then publish or report on the information that they’ve been provided. If you allow that process to be criminalized simply because WikiLeaks’ source in this particular case happened to be a foreign government or a foreign intelligence agency, you are, again, endangering press freedoms in a very substantial way, because that is something that media outlets do very often. That’s where they get their information from.
AMY GOODMAN: And let’s turn to CIA Director Mike Pompeo talking about your news organization, that you co-founded, Glenn, The Intercept.

MIKE POMPEO: The Intercept, which has in the past gleefully reported unauthorized disclosures, accused WikiLeaks in late March of, quote, "stretching the facts" in its comments about the CIA. In the same article, The Intercept added that the documents, quote, "were not worth the concern WikiLeaks generated by its public comments."
AMY GOODMAN: Glenn Greenwald, your response?
GLENN GREENWALD: So that was an article written by one of our reporters assessing WikiLeaks’s journalism. We criticize the journalism of pretty much every media outlet. We’ve certainly written far more scathing critiques of The New York Times and NBC News and The Washington Post when they’ve published fake stories or when they’ve done misleading and deceitful journalism. So the fact that we’ve been critical of some of WikiLeaks’s journalism, just as WikiLeaks has sometimes been critical of ours, doesn’t justify turning them into felons and prosecuting them. If bad journalism or making poor journalistic choices can now justify having the Justice Department prosecute you, there will be no media organizations left. So, he was trolling there by citing one of our articles that was mildly critical of WikiLeaks’s journalism, but that obviously does not remotely justify prosecuting WikiLeaks for having published secret documents.
AMY GOODMAN: So, what happens right now? There is Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorean Embassy for almost five years now. What does it mean that there is an arrest warrant from him by the United States—for him?
GLENN GREENWALD: Well, that’s—that’s a really significant question, Amy. And when Mike Pompeo made his speech, the one that you’ve been playing, it was very deliberately threatening. He was saying things like "We are no longer going to allow them the space to publish this information. This ends now." And the question that you just raised is the towering one for me, which is, OK, so the U.S. government indicts WikiLeaks and issues an arrest warrant for Julian Assange. It doesn’t change the fact that he’s currently in the Ecuadorean Embassy, where he has received asylum. And remember, the reason the Ecuadorean government gave Julian Assange asylum in the first place was because they said they were worried that if he were extradited to Sweden, that that would then be used to send him to the United States, where he would be prosecuted for publishing information, for doing journalism. That was always what Ecuador was most worried about. So it seems very unlikely that Ecuador is going to voluntarily withdraw its asylum.
So then the question becomes: Do they have any plans to physically seize Julian by invading the Ecuadorean Embassy, something the U.K. government actually thought about doing early on? Do they—are they trying to do a deal with the new Ecuadorean government to provide them benefits, or threaten them, in exchange for handing Julian over and withdrawing the asylum? Or is this just theater? Is this just show? Is this just a way of the Trump administration showing that they’re trying to crack down on leaks? I don’t think we know the answer to that question. But the asylum that Julian has should prevent the U.S. government from apprehending him, even if they do decide to go ahead and indict WikiLeaks.
AMY GOODMAN: Chelsea Manning is about to be released in May. The argument that he’s making that Julian Assange solicited Manning, the information, your final comment, Glenn?
GLENN GREENWALD: So the Obama administration, when they were trying to prosecute WikiLeaks, thought about: How can we do this in a way that makes it so that we’re accusing them of more than just publishing? And they said, "Maybe we can find evidence that Julian actually participated with Chelsea Manning in the theft of this material." And ultimately, they found no evidence whatsoever to support that theory. Nonetheless, Mike Pompeo asserted that this was true, obviously in anticipation of trying to use this as a theory to say, "We’re not prosecuting WikiLeaks for publishing. We’re prosecuting them for collaborating or conspiring in the theft of this information." There’s been no evidence ever that the Obama administration found. And I seriously doubt the Trump administration has found evidence for that, as well, but they asserted it in order to say, "We’re not prosecuting them for publishing."

Peter Lemkin
04-24-2017, 07:51 AM
Shutting Down American-Style AuthoritarianismPosted on Apr 22, 2017By Henry A. Giroux
http://www.truthdig.com/images/eartothegrounduploads/TrumpResistanceGiroux_590.jpg
A protest outside Trump International Hotel in Chicago. (Rob Walsh / CC 2.0 (https://www.flickr.com/photos/53556792@N07/32450752541))

Editor’s note: A shorter version of this piece appeared inCounterPunch (http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/17/toward-a-politics-of-ungovernability-shutting-down-american-style-authoritarianism/).
It is impossible to imagine the damage Trump and his white nationalists, economic fundamentalists, and white supremacists friends will do to civil liberties, the social contract, the planet, and life itself in the next few years.
Rather than address climate change, the threat of nuclear war, galloping inequality, the elimination of public goods, Trump and his vicious acolytes have accelerated the threats faced by these growing dangers. Moreover, the authoritarian steam roller just keeps bulldozing through every social protection and policy put in place, however insufficient, in the last few years in order to benefit the poor, vulnerable, and the environment.
A neo-fascist politics of emotional brutality, militant bigotry, and social abandonment has reached new heights in the United States. Think about the Republican Party call to eliminate essential health benefits such as mental health coverage, guaranteed health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions, and the elimination of Meals on Wheels program that benefit the poor and elderly.As the Trump regime continues to hollow out the welfare state, it builds on Obama’s efforts to expand the surveillance state but with a new and deadly twist. This is particularly clear given the Congressional Republicans’ decision to advance a bill that wouldoverturn privacy protections (http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/senate_passes_resolution_to_roll_back_fcc_privacy_ rules_20170323) for Internet users, allow corporations to monitor, sell, and use everything that users put on the Internet, including their browsing history, app usage and financial and medical information.
This is the Orwellian side of Trump’s administration, which not only makes it easier for the surveillance state to access information, but also sells out the American public to corporate demagogues who view everything in terms of markets and the accumulation of capital.
On the other side of the authoritarian coin is the merging of the punishing society and permanent warfare state with a culture of fear and cruelty (http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_culture_of_cruelty_in_trumps_america_20170322) . Under these circumstances, everyone is viewed as either a potential terrorist or narcissistic consumer making it easier for the Trump machine to elevate the use of force to the most venerable national ideal while opening up lucrative markets for defense and security industries and the growing private prison behemoth.
At the level of everyday life, the merging of corporate and political brutalism into a war culture were on full display in the savage beating of a United Airlines passenger who refused to give up his seat because the airlines over booked. Couple this with the Star War spectacle of the United States dropping a 21,600 pound non-nuclear bomb (http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/us_drops_mother_of_all_bombs_in_afghanistan_201704 13) on the Achin district in Afghanistan, which has a population of around 95,000 people. Nobody on the plane came to the aid of the passenger as he was being assaulted (http://abc7.com/travel/doctor-dragged-off-united-flight-suffered-concussion-broken-nose/1869113/) and dragged from his seat as if he were a dangerous criminal suggesting that brutality, fear, and powerlessness have become normalized in America.
Moreover, the relative silence of the American public in the face its government dropping the “Mother of All Bombs” in Afghanistan and unloading endless weapons of death and destruction in Syria testify to the amnesiac state of the country and the moral coma which has settled like a dense fog on so many of its inhabitants. As historical memory is erased, public spheres and cultural spaces are saturated with violence and the endless spectacles of civic illiteracy. Pedagogies of repression now enable the suffering produced by those most vulnerable, who disappear amidst the endless trivialization produced by the mainstream media, which anxiously awaits for Trump’s next tweet in order to increase their ratings and fuel the bottom line.
The government propaganda machine has turned into a comic version of a failed Reality TV series. Witness the daily spectacle produced by the hapless Sean Spicer. Spicer dreams about and longs for the trappings of Orwell’s dystopia in which he would be able to use his position as a second rate Joseph Goebbels to produce, legitimate, and dictate lies rather than be in the uncomfortable scenario, in which he now finds himself, of having to defend endlessly Trump’s fabrications. For Spicer, the dream of the safety of Orwell’s dystopia has given way to the nightmare of him being reduced to the leading character in the Gong Show. Actually, maybe he is the confused front man for our stand-in-president who increasingly resembles the psychopath on steroids, Patrick Bateman, from the film, American Psycho—truly a symbol for our times. Ignorance is a terrible wound, when it is the result of systemic constraints or self-inflicted, but it is a pathology and plague when it is willful—the active refusal to know- and translates into power. Trump and his mostly incompetent and ignorant government appointees are not just stupid and offensive in their ideological smugness, they are a threat to the very act of thinking and its crucial connection to memory, justice and truth.
Neo-fascist policies and practices now feed a war culture and demand more than a political and moral outrage. At the very least, it must be recognized that neo-fascism must be restored as Paul Gilroy has argued (http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674006690&content=reviews) “to its proper place in the discussions of the moral and political limits of what is acceptable.” This would suggest making visible not only the elements of neo-fascism that animate the new policies and political formations being produced in the Trump administration, but also unveiling how power is reproduced through those architects, managers, and intellectuals and institutions for hire that legitimate this distinctively American neoliberal-military machine.
The supine response of the mainstream press (http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/corporate_media_and_dc_politicians_praise_trumps_a irstrikes_20170407) and the general public to ongoing acts of state and corporate violence is a flagrant and horrifying indication of the extent to which the United States government has merged the corporate state with the military state to create a regime of brutality, sadism, aggression, and cruelty. State sovereignty has been replaced by corporate sovereignty. All the while, militarized ignorance expands a culture awash in public stupidity and views critical thought as both a liability and a threat making it all the more difficult to recognizes how authoritarianism appears in new forms.
The established political parties and politicians are nothing more than crude lobbyists and shock troops for the financial elite who believe everything is for sale. The boundaries of humanity are now inscribed and defined exclusively through the metrics of the twin logic of commercial transactions and the politics of disposability. The horrors unfolding under the Trump administration are not only abetted by white supremacists, religious evangelicals, but also by liberals who still believe that capitalism and democracy are synonymous, and who appear to delight and rush to support any military intervention or act of aggression the United States wages against a foreign power. Liberals are affronted over alleged charges of Russian spying but say nothing about their own country which does far more than spy on other countries it disagrees with, it overthrows them through either illegal means or military force.
Trump’s brand of authoritarianism is a combination of the savagery of neoliberalism and civic illiteracy on steroids. This legacy of neo-fascism represents more than a crisis of civic literacy and courage, it is a crisis of civic culture, if not politics itself. As civic culture wanes, a market based ideology increases its grip on the American public. This militant ideology of sadism and cruelty is all too familiar and is marked by unbridled individualism, a disdain for the welfare state, the elevation of unchecked self-interest to an organizing principle of society, the glorification of militarism, and a systemic erosion of any viable notion of citizenship.
This ideology has produced over the last forty years an agency killing form of depoliticization that paved the way for the election of Donald Trump and an updated version of American authoritarianism. This homegrown and new edition of neo-fascism cannot be abstracted from the cultural spectacles that now dominate American society and extend from the trivializing influence of celebrity culture and the militarism of video game culture to the spectacles of violence that dominate Hollywood and the mainstream media.
The new technologies increasingly lock people into orbits of isolation and privatization while the wholesale deformation of the formative cultures and public spheres that make a democracy possible disappear at a terrifying pace. Neo-fascism feeds on the spectacle, a misplaced populism, and a “mood economy” that reduces all problems to matters of self-blame and defective character. Under such circumstances, the militarization of society expands more readily to reaches deeply into everyday life producing militarized subjects, exalting military-style discipline, criminalizing an increasing range of social behaviors, transforming local police into paramilitarized soldiers, and normalizing war and violence. Rather than viewing war and militarization as a source of alarm, they become sources of national pride (https://www.mediamatters.org/video/2017/04/16/dan-rather-condemns-media-calling-trump-presidential-dropping-bombs-and-having-missile-strikes/216042). The curse of the theatrical performance so endemic to fascism has been updated with the Internet and new digital technologies and allows the legacies of fascism to live on in a distinctively American modality.
The war culture must be stopped and hopefully more and more efforts will be made in the name of collective struggle to think anew what an effective form of resistance might look like. Any struggle that matters must acknowledge (https://thenewinquiry.com/this-is-going-to-hurt/) “that eradicating racial oppression ultimately requires struggle against oppression in all of its forms… [especially] restructuring America’s economic system.”
There is no shortage of diverse movements operating in multiple spheres that extend from the local to national levels. Some aim at winning general elections, conduct sit-ins, or engage in direct action such as blocking the vehicles of immigration officers. Others provide support for sanctuary movements that include institutions that range from churches to institutions of higher education. Many of these movements do not call for a qualitative change in fundamental institutions of power, especially in the economic realm, and as such offer no long term solutions. But, no viable form of collective struggle will succeed if it fails to link resistance efforts among the local, state, federal, and international spheres.
There are a wealth of strategies (https://georgelakoff.com/2017/02/10/ten-points-for-democracy-activists/) available that contain the possibility of become more radical (https://josephinedemocrats.org/political-activist-says-resistance-is-not-enough/), capable of merging with other sites of resistance, all of which look beyond tactics as diverse as organizing massive protests, direct resistance (https://www.commondreams.org/views/2017/02/22/ten-examples-direct-resistance-stop-government-raids), and rebuilding the labor movement.
Martin Luther King, Jr. in his speech at the Riverside Church spoke eloquently to what it meant to use non-violent, direct action as part of a broader struggle to connect racism, militarism, and war. Hiscall to address (http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/mlkatimetobreaksilence.htm) a “society gone mad on war” and the need to “address the fierce of urgency of now” was rooted in an intersectional politics, one that recognized a comprehensive view of oppression, struggle, and politics itself. Racism, poverty, and disposability could not be abstracted from the issue of militarism and how these modes of oppression informed each other.
This was particularly clear in a program (https://www.amazon.com/Power-People-World-Black-Panthers/dp/1419722409) put forth by The Black Panther Party, which called for “equality in education, housing, employment and civil rights” and produced a 10 Point Plan (https://www.marxists.org/history/usa/workers/black-panthers/1966/10/15.htm) to achieve its political goals. A more recent example of a comprehensive notion of politics and can be found (http://www.haymarketbooks.org/pb/From-BlackLivesMatter-to-Black-Liberation) in the Black Lives Matter movement’s call to connect police violence against wider forms of state violence, allowing such a strategy to move from a single-issue protest movement into a full-fledged social movement.




Such struggles at best must be about both educating people and creating broad-based social movements dedicated not merely to reforms but transforming the ideological, economic, and political structures of the existing society. Social transformation has to be reconnected (https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/joan-pedro-cara-ana-simona-rentea/glimpse-into-key-party-debate-deciding-future-o) with institutional change. This means rejecting the notion that global capitalism cannot be challenged successfully at any of these levels alone, especially if such resistance, however crucial, is not connected to a comprehensive understanding of the reach of global power. Lacino Hamilton is right in arguing (https://thenewinquiry.com/this-is-going-to-hurt/) that “institutional patterns and practices will not change unless protesters go beyond rallying, marching, and what usually amounts to empty slogans. “The function of activists,” he writes, “is to translate protest into organized action, which has the chance to develop and to transcend immediate needs and aspirations toward a radical reconstruction of society.”
Clearly, resistance to this impending and ongoing reality of neo-fascism is more urgent than ever and necessitates challenging not only the commanding structures of economic power but also those powerful cultural apparatus that trade in the currency of ideas. A formidable resistance movement must work hard to create a formative culture that empowers and brings together the most vulnerable along with those who inhabit single issues movement.
The power of such a broad-based movement could draw inspiration from the historically relevant anti-war, anti-racist, and civil rights movements of the sixties and the ACT UP (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ACT_UP) movement of the late eighties. At the same time, current social movements such asPodemos (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Podemos_(Spanish_political_party)) in Spain also offer the possibility of creating new political formations that are anti-fascist and fiercely determined to both challenge authoritarian regimes such as the Trump regime and dismantle the economic, ideological, and cultural structures that produce them. What all of these movements revealed was that diverse issues ranging from the war abroad to the racist and homophobic wars at home were symptomatic of a more profound illness and deeper malady that demanded a new understanding of theory, politics, and oppression.

There is certainly something to be learned from older proven tactics (http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/40239-trump-a-symptom-of-what-a-radical-message-from-a-half-century-ago) such as using education to create a revolution in consciousness and values along with broad-based alliances to create the conditions for mass disruptions such as the use of the general strike. Such tactics combine theory, consciousness and practice as part of a strategy to paralyze the working of this death dealing machinery of casino capitalism and its recent incarnation in the Trump administration.
One of the most powerful tools of oppression is convincing people that the conditions of oppression they experienced are both normal and cannot be changed. At the same time, this oppressive ideology of normalization prevents any understanding of the larger systemic forces of oppression by insisting that all problems are individually based and ultimately a matter of individual character and responsibility. Dominant ideology spread its message through a range of cultural apparatuses extending from the schools to the mainstream media. The message was generally the same in that it insisted that there are no structures of domination only flawed individuals solely responsible for the problems they experience and that the system of capitalism as a whole was organized for their own good. The sixties produced a range of critical thinkers who challenged this central element of oppression, and included Herbert Marcuse, Malcom X, W. E. B. Du Bois, James Baldwin, Robin Morgan, and Susan Willis to brilliant theorists such as Stanley Aronowitz, Mary Daly, Louis Althusser, Pierre Bourdieu, Zygmunt Bauman, and many others. For them structures of domination were rooted in both subjectivity itself as well as in larger economic apparatuses.
Those who believe in a radical democracy have got to find a way to make this regime ungovernable. Planting seeds and local actions are important, but there is a more urgent need to educate and mobilize through a comprehensive vision and politics that is capable of generating massive teach-ins all over the United States so as to enable a collective struggle aimed at producing powerful events such as a nation-wide boycott, sit-ins, and a general strike in order to bring the country to a halt.The promise of such resistance must be rooted in the creation of a new political party of democratic socialists, one whose power is rooted in the organization of unions, educators, workers, young people, religious groups, and others who constitute a popular progressive base. There will be no resistance without a vision of a new society and new mechanisms of resistance. In this instance, resistance registers as a form of total paralysis for the financial elite, religious fundamentalists, and neo-conservative warmongers. In doing so, it gives birth to what we might term a politics of ungovernability.
America now chokes on its claim to innocence. Up until now, it has been successful in both evading that fact and covering up its lies—lies about its history, about social mobility, about freedom, about justice, about the end of racism, about the value of meritocracy, about spreading democracy abroad, and so it goes. The era of hiding behind this mythical innocence has passed. In the age of Trump, the raw brutality of casino capitalism, with its highly visible acts of violence against all aspects of ethical and political decency, is enacted without apology.
A moral political coma now drives an authoritarian society that embraces greed, racism, hatred, inequality, stupidity, disposability, and lawlessness, all of which are celebrated as national virtues. The dark present is now the endpoint of a history of violence and barbarism that can no longer be camouflaged, in part, because it is unapologetic about the viciousness of its practices and the savagery of its effects. I want to hope that this moment of unmitigated violence, this period of punitiveness, and era of unimaginable cruelty will provoke people to wake up from the nightmare that has befallen the American public. Hopefully, in that wakefulness, in a resurgent act of witnessing and moral outrage will grow and provide the basis for a new kind of politics, a fierce wind of resistance, and a struggle too powerful to be defeated.

Peter Lemkin
04-24-2017, 02:28 PM
First 100 days of Trumpf - day by day https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2017/jan/20/donald-trump-first-100-days-president-daily-updates

Peter Lemkin
04-25-2017, 04:50 AM
Among those who came from around the country to participate in the first-ever March for Science in Washington, D.C., was Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel for Our Children’s Trust, which has filed a landmark lawsuit on behalf of 21 young people all under the age of 21. The lawsuit argues the government has failed to take necessary action to curtail fossil fuel emissions. Democracy Now! spoke with Olson and some of her young clients.




AMY GOODMAN: Hundreds of thousands came out around the world. Thousands came down in the downpour to the National Mall. Among those who came from around the country to participate was Julia Olson, executive director and chief legal counsel for Our Children’s Trust, which has filed a landmark lawsuit on behalf of 21 young people under the age of 21. The lawsuit alleges the government has failed to take necessary action to curtail fossil fuel emissions. I spoke to Olson and some of her young clients.

JULIA OLSON: I’m Julia Olson. I’m the executive director of Our Children’s Trust. And I’m a lawyer representing 21 young people who filed a lawsuit against the government. They’re now suing the Trump administration and the whole fossil fuel industry for violating their fundamental constitutional rights to a climate system that will protect them and their future.

AMY GOODMAN: So, but this—I remember, when we broadcast from Stanford University, you were suing the Obama administration.

JULIA OLSON: That’s right. And now we have a new president and a new administration that is denying the facts of climate change. And so, it’s a very interesting situation, where Obama admitted that these kids are facing a crisis, and now we have an administration working hand in hand with the industry to fight them.

AMY GOODMAN: And on what grounds are you suing?

JULIA OLSON: It’s a case under the U.S. Constitution. This is about the Fifth Amendment and these young people’s rights to life, liberty and property. It’s also their right to have their public trust resources, like their atmosphere and their oceans, protected for them and for their kids and grandkids.

AMY GOODMAN: So, why don’t you introduce us to some of the plaintiffs right here?

JULIA OLSON: Sure. I’d love to. So, over here—

AMY GOODMAN: We’re passing a sign that says, "President Trump & Fossil Fuel Industry... #YouthvGov See you in court."

JULIA OLSON: So, this is Hazel. She’s one of our younger plaintiffs. And Hazel’s from Eugene, Oregon.

AMY GOODMAN: Hazel, can you talk about why you’re here today in your T-shirt in the pouring rain?

HAZEL VAN UMMERSEN: Well, I’m from Oregon. And in Oregon, all it does is rain. And it’s extremely important for us young people to stand up to our government, where the adults are doing nothing to prevent climate change and to stop the harmful effects of ocean acidification and sea level rising.

AMY GOODMAN: How old are you?

HAZEL VAN UMMERSEN: I’m 12 years old.

AMY GOODMAN: How did you get involved with this lawsuit?

HAZEL VAN UMMERSEN: Well, I went to a camp with Julia Olson. I met Kelsey Juliana, and I became very inspired by her and many of the other plaintiffs that are now on this case. And I believed in this cause. We have hope, and we have the power to change.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think is getting in the way?

HAZEL VAN UMMERSEN: I think our president, currently, who I feel is one of the biggest climate deniers, with a pretty substantial control of power, and he does not believe that science is real. He thinks it’s a hoax made up by the Chinese, but we have science to prove him wrong. We will see him in court, and we will win.

Peter Lemkin
04-26-2017, 04:38 AM
While this is good news , I fear when it gets up to the newly 'packed' Supreme Court, it may be overturned.




A Huge Defeat For Trump As Federal Judge Blocks His Order Cutting Funds To Sanctuary Cities[I]By Jason Easley (http://www.politicususa.com/author/jasoneasley-2-2-2-2-2-2) on Tue, Apr 25th, 2017 at 5:34 pm
President Trump's first 100 days of failure continued as a federal judge has blocked his executive order that cuts funds to sanctuary cities.





http://15130-presscdn-0-89.pagely.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Trump-pouting.png (http://pinterest.com/pin/create/button/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.politicususa.com%2F2017%2F04 %2F25%2Fhuge-defeat-trump-federal-judge-blocks-order-cutting-funds-sanctuary-cities.html&media=http://www.politicususa.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Trump-pouting.png&description=A%20Huge%20Defeat%20For%20Trump%20As%2 0Federal%20Judge%20Blocks%20His%20Order%20Cutting% 20Funds%20To%20Sanctuary%20Cities)
President Trump’s first 100 days of failure continued as a federal judge has blocked his executive order that cuts funds to sanctuary cities.The AP reported, (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/judge-blocks-president-trump-order-cutting-sanctuary-city-funds-article-1.3100047) “A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a Trump administration order to withhold funding from communities that limit cooperation with U.S. immigration authorities, saying the president has no authority to attach new conditions to federal spending. U.S. District Judge William Orrick issued the temporary ruling in a lawsuit against the executive order targeting so-called sanctuary cities. The decision will stay in place while the lawsuit works its way through court.”Stop me if you have heard this one before, but the judge blocked Trump’s executive order because it was too broad and impacted grants and funding that are not related to immigration. The system of checks and balances in our federal government has once again done its job.The Trump administration can not rule unilaterally. They can’t simply decide to gut all federal funding to sanctuary cities. Trump continues to fail as president because he doesn’t understand that the Executive Branch is only one of three equal branches of government. Trump is having his dreams of an imperial presidency checked on a regular basis.It’s fitting that as Trump approaches his 100th day in office, the president has been handed another crushing defeat.

Peter Lemkin
04-27-2017, 04:00 AM
Trump’s Pentagon Bombs Caves Built by the CIA (https://www.newsbud.com/2017/04/22/newsbud-exclusive-trumps-pentagon-bombs-caves-built-by-the-cia/)KURT NIMMO (https://www.newsbud.com/author/kurt-nimmo/) | APRIL 22, 20171 COMMENT (https://www.newsbud.com/2017/04/22/newsbud-exclusive-trumps-pentagon-bombs-caves-built-by-the-cia/#comments)
https://www.newsbud.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/042017_KNPost1.pngAfter the United States dropped a GBU-43B, or Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb—the largest conventional bomb in its arsenal—on a tunnel complex in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, both WikiLeaks and Edward Snowden tweeted the complex was built by the CIA.
“Those tunnels the U.S is bombing in Afghanistan? They were built by the CIA,” WikiLeaks tweeted (http://twitter.com/wikileaks/status/852681705391521792?ref_src=twsrc%255Etfw&ref_url=https%253A%252F%252Fwww.informationliberat ion.com%252F%253Fid%253D56593) on April 13.
“Those mujahedeen tunnel networks we're bombing in Afghanistan? We paid for them,” Edward Snowden tweeted (http://mobile.twitter.com/Snowden/status/852597443237732352) on the same day.
Both cited an article published by The New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/11/magazine/lost-at-tora-bora.html?mtrref=t.co&gwh=AEE7C130855BC5CBF705205FC02B3927&gwt=pay&_r=0) on September 11, 2005, four years after the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.
It is worth quoting the Times at length:
“The first time bin Laden had seen the Tora Bora caves, he had been a young mujahedeen fighter and a recent university graduate with a degree in civil engineering. It had been some 20 years before, during Washington's first Afghan war, the decade-long, C.I.A.-financed jihad of the 1980's against the Soviet occupation. Rising to more than 13,000 feet, 35 miles southwest of the provincial capital of Jalalabad, Tora Bora was a fortress of snow-capped peaks, steep valleys and fortified caves. Its miles of tunnels, bunkers and base camps, dug deeply into the steep rock walls, had been part of a C.I.A.-financed complex built for the mujahedeen. Bin Laden had flown in dozens of bulldozers and other pieces of heavy equipment from his father's construction empire, the Saudi Binladin Group, one of the most prosperous construction companies in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Persian Gulf. According to one frequently told story, bin Laden would drive one of the bulldozers himself across the precipitous mountain peaks, constructing defensive tunnels and storage depots.” (Emphasis mine.)
This fact was not reported by the establishment media after the MOAB—Mother of All Bombs—was dropped in Nangarhar, allegedly on a faction of the Islamic State said to have occupied the tunnel and cave complex.
The Tora Bora caves, known locally as the Spīn Ghar cave complex, are also located in Nangarhar on the border with Pakistan.
According to reports, fighters from the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP) present at the complex when the MOAB was dropped were from Uzbekistan and Pakistan and included a group of Orakzais and other tribal fighters from the Tehrik Taleban Pakistan, veterans of Pakistan’s tribal area insurgency who were forced across the border by the Pakistani military in the Zarb-e Azb offensive, launched in June 2015, according to Borhan Osman, Kate Clark, and Martine van Bijlert writing for the Afghanistan Analysts Network (http://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/mother-of-all-bombs-dropped-on-iskp-assessing-the-aftermath/).
https://www.newsbud.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/042017_KNPost2.pngNangarhar is in the same region as the Khost province. In 1986 during the CIA engineered war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden and the Pakistani intelligence service ISI worked together to build a tunnel complex in Khost.
Matthew Forney (http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,188029,00.html) of Time Magazine visited part of the Tora Bora cave complex. “For the first time, the infamous man-made caves of Tora Bora were thrown open,” he wrote on December 11, 2001. “These weren't the five-star accommodations with internal hydroelectric power plants and brick-lined walls, areas to drive armored tanks and children's tricycles, and tunnels like capillaries that have captured the world's imagination. Such commodious quarters might exist higher in the White Mountains, but these were simply rough bunkers embedded deep into the mountain. They were remarkable nonetheless.”
Noted Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid (http://books.google.com/books?id=dld2wJ2Z__4C&pg=PA132&lpg=PA132&dq=khost+tunnel+complex&source=bl&ots=j0wlRuu_ZL&sig=T4WZ3mWac9CpyjzLC27EXH_pWE4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwit9bea9bPTAhVCsFQKHQ5YDmA4ChDoAQg8MAY#v =onepage&q=khost%2520tunnel%2520complex&f=false) wrote in his book, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, bin Laden “helped build the Khost tunnel complex, which the CIA was funding as a major arms storage depot, training facility, and medical center for the Mujaheddin, deep under the mountains close to the Pakistan border. For the first time in Khost he set up his own training camp for Arab Afghans, who now increasingly saw this lanky, wealthy and charismatic Saudi as their leader.”
The Guardian (11/13/2000), The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (9/23/2001), the Hindu (9/27/2001) and other newspapers reported the CIA had helped build the complex (see 1986: Bin Laden Works Indirectly with CIA (http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a86buildingkhost#a86buildingkhost )).
Although the establishment media briefly touched on Osama bin Laden’s connections to the CIA prior to and shortly after the 9/11 attack, since that time any serious mention of the connection has either found its way to the memory hole or is dismissed as a baseless conspiracy theory. The CIA insists it had no relationship with the Saudi later said to be assassinated on the orders of President Barack Obama (in fact, numerous news reports state bin Laden died of natural causes in December, 2001; this was reported by the Egyptian newspaper al-Wafd (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1212851/Has-Osama-Bin-Laden-dead-seven-years--U-S-Britain-covering-continue-war-terror.html) on December 26, 2001).
Omission, however, does not change historical fact. According to Michael Scheuer (http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a1979600million#a1979600million), head of the CIA’s first bin Laden unit, between 1980 to 1989 about $600 million passed through Osama bin Laden’s charity fronts. Most went to Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), also known as Al-Kifah, and came primarily from rich donors in the Persian Gulf. The money was used to supply the Mujahideen fighting against the Soviets (See Robert Dreyfuss: Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam; The New Yorker also reported this on January 24, 2000 but the article has since disappeared from the internet). Elements of the Mujahideen eventually splintered into al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
As noted, MAK was also supported by Pakistani intelligence. “MAK nurtured by Pakistan’s state security services, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, the CIA’s primary conduit for conducting the covert war against Moscow’s occupation,” NBC News (http://www.nbcnews.com/id/3340101/#.WPkoAVPyskg) reported on August 24, 1998, well before the official narrative on Osama bin Laden changed following 9/11. A United Press International (http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a86buildingkhost#a86buildingkhost ) article published on June 14, 2001 states that “bin Laden worked closely with Saudi, Pakistani, and US intelligence services to recruit mujaheddin from many Muslim countries.”
“With the support of Pakistan's military dictator, General Zia-ul-Haq, the U.S. began recruiting and training both mujahideen fighters from the 3 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and large numbers of mercenaries from other Islamic countries,” writes Phil Gasper (http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Afghanistan/Afghanistan_CIA_Taliban.html). “Estimates of how much money the U.S. government channeled to the Afghan rebels over the next decade vary, but most sources put the figure between $3 billion and $6 billion, or more. Whatever the exact amount, this was "the largest covert action program since World War II”—much bigger, for example, than Washington's intervention in Central America at the same time, which received considerably more publicity.”
How much of this money was spent on the Khost and the Nangarhar province cave and tunnel complexes is unknown.
The MOAB bombing in the Nangarhar province is not the first time the US targeted caves and tunnels in Afghanistan. In November, 2001 the CIA urged then President Bush to attack the caves of Tora Bora where it was said Osama bin Laden was hiding (although this is improbable considering the Saudi was deathly ill and passed away a few weeks later).
“A fierce debate was raging inside the upper reaches of the US government. The White House had received a guarantee from [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf in November that the Pakistani army would cover the southern pass from the caves,” writes Ron Suskind (http://books.google.com/books?id=BVWnIR1FDXAC&pg=PT83&lpg=PT83&dq=%2522A+fierce+debate+was+raging+inside+the+uppe r+reaches+of+the+US+government%2522&source=bl&ots=ROvMgYQySN&sig=icf5YzSeRMwZZSxro9hul75Zh-M&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjr5rbvg7TTAhXpv1QKHb62A8IQ6AEIJTAA#v=on epage&q=%2522A%2520fierce%2520debate%2520was%2520raging% 2520inside%2520the%2520upper%2520reaches%2520of%25 20the%2520US%2520government%2522&f=false), author of [I]The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11.
Musharraf and the Pakistanis, however, didn’t live up to their end of the deal and al-Qaeda fighters were allowed to escape after a ceasefire arranged by US-allied warlord Haji Zaman Ghamsharik and Hazrat Ali. The US also made the escape possible by refusing Brigadier General James Mattis (currently Donald Trump’s Secretary of Defense) to move around 4,000 troops into the Tora Bora area to seal off the caves. The New York Times (http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=a120501mattis#a120501mattis) later reported the Bush administration secretly concluded “that the refusal of Centcom to dispatch the marines—along with their failure to commit US ground forces to Afghanistan generally—was the gravest error of the war.”
The recent MOAB bombing and the earlier attack on Tora Bora reveal a distinct pattern—the United States is in the business of covertly creating terrorist organizations and infrastructure and using these to perpetuate the war on terror and thus permitting a huge windfall realized by the military industrial complex and associated industries.
The Mother of All Bombs attack was not a strategic military move by the Pentagon. It is a political stunt designed to send a message to North Korea as tensions between the Hermit Kingdom and the United States reach an unprecedented level. It is also being used to shore up consensus for the use of large munitions. According to polls (https://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/04/20/whats-worse-trump-dropping-mother-all-bombs-or-70-americans-approve), the bombing is supported by nearly 70 percent of the American people.
According to former Afghan President Hamid Karzai (http://time.com/4742236/hamid-karzai-moab-afghanistan-atrocity/), the use of the weapon "an immense atrocity against the Afghan people."
Despite claims by the government the bomb killed 96 militants, we will never know for sure the extent of the damage or the real number of casualties. On Thursday, Defense Secretary James Mattis (http://apnews.com/a8b95c4b39664d9e9d54ffce34471c08/US-defense-chief:-Pentagon-won't-reveal-damage-from-big-bomb) said during a trip to Israel he does not intend to discuss damage estimates. "For many years we have not been calculating the results of warfare by simply quantifying the number of enemy killed," Mattis said.
Journalists have not been allowed to access the area.

Peter Lemkin
04-27-2017, 05:01 AM
The Balkanization of Syria & Iraq: The Roadmap to US-Israeli Hegemony in the Middle East (https://www.newsbud.com/2017/04/23/newsbud-exclusive-the-balkanization-of-syria-iraq-the-roadmap-to-us-israeli-hegemony-in-the-middle-east/)BAS SPLIET (https://www.newsbud.com/author/bas-spliet/) | APRIL 23, 2017LEAVE A COMMENT (https://www.newsbud.com/2017/04/23/newsbud-exclusive-the-balkanization-of-syria-iraq-the-roadmap-to-us-israeli-hegemony-in-the-middle-east/#respond)
https://www.newsbud.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/042317_BASPost1.pngWe are often told that the invasion and occupation of Iraq and the war in Syria are disastrous failures of Western foreign policy. This article, however, argues that the architects of these wars were, and are, well aware of the destabilising consequences of their military efforts, and in fact, had always regarded the breakup of Iraq and Syria along sectarian lines as a desirable outcome. The millions of deaths and injuries resulting from these horrific wars, as well as the displacement of several more millions, then, are nothing more than “collateral damage” to achieve US-Israeli hegemony in the region. Viewed from this perspective, post-9/11 Western Middle East policy in retrospect is not a failure, but a success.
Part I: Partition, the only solution?
“Let’s look at the reality on the ground in the Middle East: Iraq and Syria are effectively partitioned along sectarian lines. [...] In the current, chaotic moment, we see two post-imperial systems collapsing at once: the state boundaries drawn by the Versailles Treaty in 1919 to replace the Ottoman Empire [...], and a U.S.-led system that kept the region in a rough balance [which has been shattered] by America’s failed intervention in Iraq. The ‘line in the sand’, as author James Barr called the 1916 Sykes-Picot agreement to partition the region, is dissolving before our eyes, and the primary beneficiaries are ruthless Islamic terrorists.”[1]-David Ignatius, member of the Council on Foreign Relations, in a 2014 article in the Washington Post
In early 2016, then US Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that “it may be too late to keep [Syria] as a whole,” and that “I know that [partition] is the best way to try to end the war and it is the only alternative available to us if indeed we are going to have a political settlement.”[2] Kerry coined the possible breaking up of Syria as “plan B,” making it sound like the proposal was a desperate move to save the peace. Both the Syrian government and the armed opposition rejected federalism, let alone partition, however,[3] and even the Kurdish National Council strongly denounced the federalism declaration of its PYD rivals in the wake of Kerry’s statement.[4] In addition, Maram Susli has pointed out that partitioning Syria would happen along sectarian lines instead on whether or not any particular state would be able to sustain its population. Therefore, as Syria’s scare water resources, as well as its agriculture and oil, would end up in the hands of only a small percentage of the population, perpetual war between divided Syrians would be the likely result.[5] So, if breaking up Syria is a recipe for endless conflict between weakened enclaves and is opposed by almost all Syrians, why did Kerry brought it up? Was it just a hastily mistake in his otherwise brave humanitarian endeavour to save the Syrian populace, or are there other agendas at play?
https://www.newsbud.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/042317_BASPost2.pngActually, Kerry’s plan B sounds an awful lot like the plan A of various Anglo-American policy makers, strategists, think tanks and imperialist organs. Six months prior to Kerry’s statement, the Brookings Institute argued for the establishment of Western-backed “safe zones” that would eventually develop into more or less autonomous areas.[6] In October 2015, the author of the Brookings article, Michael O’Hanlon, specified his vision of Syrian balkanisation in an op-ed for Reuters as follows:

“One largely Alawite (Assad’s own sect) [sector], spread along the Mediterranean coast; another Kurdish, along the north and northeast corridors near the Turkish border; a third primarily Druse, in the southwest; a fourth largely made up of Sunni Muslims; and then a central zone of intermixed groups in the country’s main population belt from Damascus to Aleppo.”[7]
From 2013 onwards, variations to this plan have repeatedly been proposed by US establishment figures, such as Henry Kissinger for instance, who in June 2013 contended that he preferred “an outcome in which the various nationalities agree to co-exist together but in more or less autonomous regions.” Interestingly, he also claimed that although he supported the expulsion of Assad, he prioritised balkanising Syria.[8] John Bolton, another neocon war-hawk, advocated for the creation of an American-backed Sunni state, which he admitted would be “unlikely to be a Jeffersonian democracy for many years,” in an op-ed for the New York Times. This would counteract “the vision of the Russian-Iranian axis and its proxies,” he asserted, because “their aim of restoring [the] Iraqi and Syrian governments to their former borders is a goal fundamentally contrary to American, Israeli and friendly Arab state interests.”[9]
Most proponents of balkanisation imagine a threefold partition into an Alawitestan - perhaps ruled by Assad, but perhaps not - and Kurdistan aside from a Sunni heartland.[10] A year before ISIS declared its caliphate, Robin Wright, scholar at two Washington-based think tanks, even proposed a Sunni state crossing the Sykes-Picot border into Iraq:

“Syria has crumbled into three identifiable regions, each with its own flag and security forces. A different future is taking shape: a narrow statelet along a corridor from the south through Damascus, Homs and Hama to the northern Mediterranean coast controlled by the Assads’ minority Alawite sect. In the north, a small Kurdistan, largely autonomous since mid-2012. The biggest chunk is the Sunni-dominated heartland. Syria’s unraveling would set precedents for the region, beginning next door. Until now, Iraq resisted falling apart because of foreign pressure, regional fear of going it alone and oil wealth that bought loyalty, at least on paper. But Syria is now sucking Iraq into its maelstrom. [...] Over time, Iraq’s Sunni minority - notably in western Anbar Province, site of anti-governments protests - may feel more commonality with eastern Syria’s Sunni majority. Tribal ties and smuggling span the border. Together, they could form a de facto or formal Sunnistan.”[11]
https://www.newsbud.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/042317_BASPost3.pngBarak Mendelsohn, in an article in Foreign Affairs - the quarterly of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) - bluntly called “Divide and conquer in Syria and Iraq: why the West should plan for a partition,” also argued for a US-backed “independent Sunni state that would link Sunni-dominated territories on both sides of the border.”[12] Although most of the time this dramatic measure is promoted as a solution to the only recent threat posed by ISIS, disclosed DIA documents reveal that the US and their allies desired a Sunnistan based on the principles of Salafi Islam at least since 2012, prior to ISIS’s emergence. “If the situation unravels,” the documents obtained by Judicial Watch show, “there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality [aka Islamic State] in Eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition [defined elsewhere in the document as the West, the Gulf countries and Turkey] want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”[13]
For Iraq, division was of course already longer on the table. Plans to split the country into three parts have often been advocated by US officials since the 2003 invasion of the country. Leslie Gelb, president emeritus of the CFR, was the first to officially propose a three-state solution - “Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south” - in an op-ed for the New York Times a mere eight months after the US and Britain had entered Iraq.[14] Three years later he adjusted his plan to try to get all parties on board, reformulating it as “unity through autonomy” by way of decentralisation in an article published in the same newspaper, which he co-authored with Joe Biden, future Vice President under Obama and likewise a CFR member.[15] Also in 2006, retired Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters outlined a map comprising a divided Iraq that circulated widely in US and NATO military circles,[16] and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice provisioned the rise of a “new Middle East” out of the ashes of Israel’s aggressive assault on Lebanon.[17] By 2007, amid rising sectarian violence, many Anglo-American strategists and think tanks that would years later push for the balkanisation of Syria began to argue that breaking up Iraq into three statelets would be the only viable solution to the conflict their governments had created. Indeed, in January 2007, John Bolton, one of the leading architects of the 2003 invasion, stated that the US had no strategic interests in keeping Iraq united,[18] and later that year, the Brookings Institute’s Saban Center produced a paper calling for the “soft partition” of Iraq.[19] Interestingly, the report was co-authored by Michael O’Hanlon, who in 2015 was one of the first to call for the establishment of “safe zones” in Syria, which essentially is just a stepping stone towards partition.
https://www.newsbud.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/042317_BASPost4.pngAlthough officially the above-mentioned map for a “new Middle East” envisaged only the loss of Syria’s upper northeastern part in favour of a “Free Kurdistan,” leaked Wikileaks cables show that the US was as far back as 2006 already working on fomenting a civil war in the country. William Roebuck, at the time chargé d’affaires at the US embassy in Damascus, clearly expressed hostility towards the Syrian leadership, focusing an entire briefing assigned to both Washington and Tel Aviv to possible actions to destabilise the Assad government. Aside from highlighting Kurdish complaints, he advised his superiors to coordinate more closely with Egypt and Saudi Arabia to fan the flames of sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims inside the country.[20]
Although plans to break up Iraq and Syria into microstates based on religion or ethnicity are always presented as humanitarian efforts, they completely ignore the fact that it is Western post-9/11 policy that created much of the problems to which NATO strategists and officials are now offering self-serving solutions. In Syria, balkanisation proponents suggest that their ideas are the only solution to a civil war that has naturally unfolded after the Syrian people rose up against the dictatorial and tyrannical Assad government in the wake of the “Arab Spring” protests in northern Africa. They fail to mention, however, that rather than a civil war, the six-year debacle is actually an artificial proxy war on Syria; a war that likely would not have happened - or at least would not have raged on for so many years and killed so many people - absent 1) the financial, logistical, ideological and armaments-support that Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and NATO provided from the very onset of the conflict to the armed insurgency, and 2) the influx of foreign jihadis from all around the world from 2012 onwards, who were allowed to cross the borders into Syria by the Turkish and Jordanian governments and were often trained by the CIA in advance.[21]
https://www.newsbud.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/042317_BASPost5.pngFurthermore, they completely disregard the popular support the government maintained throughout the whole conflict, which can almost completely be established by admissions in sources linked to Assad’s adversaries. A Turkish poll from late 2011 showed that only 5% of the Syrian respondents supported violent protest, while 91% opposed it,[22] and a Qatar-sponsored enquiry from around the same time found that 55% of the Syrian population wanted Assad to stay.[23] In addition, an internal NATO study in 2013 estimated that 70% supported the president in contrast to a mere 10% support for the armed opposition.[24] After constitutional amendments following a referendum, the first real democratic and competitive presidential elections in decades were held in 2014. Although Western media were quick to dismiss the credibility of the elections, the over 100 international observers present - coming from allied (e.g. Russia and Iran) as well as nonpartisan (e.g. Brazil, Venezuela and Uganda) countries around the world - issued a statement in which they declared that the elections were “free and fair” and were held “in a democratic environment, contrary to Western propaganda.”[25] Assad won the elections against his two opponents with 88,7% of the vote, with a massive participation rate of 73,4%.[26] This means that a staggering 64% of the eligible voters chose for Assad to remain in power, which is more than double of the 26% of the eligible American voters that put Donald Trump into office. As Sunnis make up 75% of the population and Alawites only 11%, this completely shatters the false representation put forward by Western media and officials of the Syrian government’s rule as a sectarian Alawite dictatorship suppressing a Sunni majority.
In Iraq, on the other hand, tensions between the Sunnis, Shias and Kurds had existed for several decades, although the image of a sectarian divided country prior to the war is to a large extent an American self-fulfilling prophecy as well.[27] The architects of the 2003 invasion were nonetheless well aware of the ethnic and religious tensions, however, and they clearly sought to exploit them. In 1996, David Wurmser, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith predicted the chaos that would follow an invasion not long after they published their Clean Break report, a neocon-Israeli policy plan that sought the removal of Saddam Hussein and the containment of Syria. Contrary to arguments of certain scholars, they believed that Iraq would be “ripped apart by the politics of warlords, tribes, clans, sects, and key families” because “underneath facades of unity enforced by state repression, [the country’s] politics is defined primarily by tribalism, sectarianism, and gang/clan-like competition.”[28] In addition, Carne Ross, a British diplomat who negotiated several UN Security Council resolutions on Iraq, admitted in retrospect that in the build-up to the Iraq war “we would frequently argue, when the US raised the subject, that ‘regime change’ was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos.”[29] The American intelligence community, too, knew the consequences of a potential invasion. A 2007 report published by the US Senate Intelligence Community revealed that many of the country’s intelligence documents had predicted that violent sectarian divides would follow an invasion. Specifically, intelligence assessments that widely circulated within the Bush administration in January 2003, three months before the war, suggested that an “American invasion would bring about instability in Iraq that would be exploited by Iran and al Qaeda terrorists.”[30]
Rather than trying to control the internal sectarian divisions, Washington actually even further exacerbated them during the occupation. In abolishing the Iraqi army (as well as large parts of the massive state sector), thereby making some 400.000 armed and embittered soldiers jobless, the US created a vacuum that was filled by a Sunni-dominated insurgency. To counteract that insurgency in the short term, the occupation started to back the larger Shia population and effectively gave them control over the central government. Shia leaders were soon running militias and death squads of their own, however, and due to Iran’s influence with Iraq’s Shia community, Washington began to support extremist Sunni jihadis, thus abetting the rise of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which would eventually morph into ISIS.
Part II: Divide and rule: the US-Israeli quest for a new regional order
“The Iraqi situation cannot be separated from the Palestinian issue. Our failure in dealing with the Iraqi situation means our failure in dealing with the Palestinian issue. [This war] will give them [the Israelis] the ability to completely surround the [Arab] resistance and will lead to the final solution; that is, a peace imposed by the Israelis, which is rejected by us all. And this could lead to the partition of Iraq in order for Israel to gain legitimacy in the region. When Israel would be surrounded by smaller nations, divided, Israel will gain then its legitimacy politically and socially. So when we are talking about the Iraqi situation, let us not forget our brothers in Palestine, and let us not forget the legitimate rights of the peoples in Syria and Lebanon.”[31] -Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the Arab League two weeks before the 2003 Iraq war

The Israeli-American goal is “the drawing of a new map for the region. [Partitioning Lebanon, Syria and Iraq would leave Israel surrounded by] small tranquil states. I can assure you that the Saudi kingdom will also be divided, and the issue will reach to North African states. There will be small ethnic and confessional states. In other words, Israel will be the most important and strongest state in a region that has been partitioned into ethnic and confessional states that are in agreement with each other. This is the new Middle East.”[32]
https://www.newsbud.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/042317_BASPost6.pngHezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah in an interview with Seymour Hersh in 2007
The idea of balkanising the Middle East has deeper roots than the current era of imperialism under the guise of the fraudulent “war on terror.” The carving up of the Arab world was brought up for the first time in NATO strategist circles by British-American historian Bernard Lewis. Lewis - a British military intelligence officer during the Second World War, advocate of the clash of civilisations theory, longtime supporter of the Israeli right and, you guessed it, member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) - wrote an article as far back as 1992 called “Rethinking the Middle East,” published in the CFR’s own Foreign Affairs. In it, he predicted the “lebanonisation” of the Middle East:

“Most of the states of the Middle East - Egypt is an obvious exception - are of recent and artificial construction [sic][33] and are vulnerable to [“lebanonisation”]. If the central power is sufficiently weakened, there is no real civil society to hold the polity together, no real sense of common national identity or overriding allegiance to the nation-state. The state then disintegrates - as happened in Lebanon - into a chaos of squabbling feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions and parties.”[34]
According to Lewis, American policy is mainly aimed at preventing adversarial regional hegemony (whether in the form of multilateral pan-Arabism or in the form of one strong regional power) that would establish monopolistic control over the Middle Eastern oil reserves. The US does not pursue this policy of “lebanonisation” in a classical imperial fashion, hints Lewis, but instead by invigorating Islamic fundamentalism, as religious opposition groups are the only ones that have at their disposal a network outside the control of the state.[35] Hence, just like Zbigniew Brzezinski would advocate for playing out the newly-created weak states in Central Asia and the Caucasus region and the ethnic minorities residing in them against each other in order to maintain American hegemony over Eurasia five years later,[36] Lewis laid out a model for American domination by divide and rule over the Arab world.
But there is another player involved, however, one that would benefit even greater from the disintegration of Syria and Iraq, who happen to be two of its main adversaries. The tactic of breaking up existing Arab states into small and inter-fighting weakened microstates was described in detail for the very first time not by an American or European strategist, but an Israeli one. Oded Yinon, a journalist with a past in the country’s Foreign Ministry, published an article called “A strategy for Israel in the nineteen eighties” in the journal of the World Zionist Organisation in 1982, in which he argued that in order for his country to become an imperial regional power, it must affect the division of all existing Arab nations into microstates based on ethnicity or religion. According to Yinon:

“Lebanon’s total dissolution into five provinces serves as a precedent for the entire Arab worldincluding Egypt, Syria, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula and is already following that track.The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target. Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon, so that there will be a Shi’ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the Aleppo area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor, and the Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan. [...] Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other, is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel. [...] Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and in Lebanon. In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul, and Shi’ite areas in the south will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north. It is possible that the present Iranian-Iraqi confrontation [1980-1988] will deepen this polarization.”[37] (emphasis added)
https://www.newsbud.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/042317_BASPost7.pngIronically, according to Yinon, “this state of affairs will be the guarantee for peace and security in the area in the long run.”[38] Of course, he means that weakened Arab enclaves in a state of perpetual warfare with one another will bring “peace and security” only to Israel. Interestingly, some analysts have pointed out that the area Yinon wanted balkanised roughly coincides with “Greater Israel,” which, according to Theodor Herzl, extends all the way from the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates.”[39] Indeed, just as biblical references are often used in legitimising the colonisation of Palestine, Zionist mythology might one day strengthen Israel’s imperial claims over the Arab world as well. This is not to say that Israel seeks to annex large parts of the Middle East, but rather that it wants to establish a new regional order in which the Zionist state asserts control over an ethnically and religiously diverse Arab world.
Noam Chomsky has called this the “ottomanisation” of the Middle East; that is, the recreation of the state of affairs that existed prior to the arrival of the European colonialists but with Israel replacing the Ottoman Empire as the dominant power exercising hegemony. Chomsky further noted that Israel’s drive for an Ottoman-style imperial domination over the Arab world has been advocated by figures in the Israeli mainstream as well, such as Daniel Elazar, president of the Jerusalem Institute for Federal Studies, and Yoram Peri, former advisor to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and European representative of the Labor Party. The former argued that ethno-religious communities, not states, are the natural form of organisation in the Middle East and suggested as an alternative to the present-day situation an Ottoman millet system, which was a system in which each ethno-religious group had its own internal administration but under Ottoman rule; while the latter observed that a “true revolution” was taking place, in which Israeli foreign policy is gradually replacing co-existence for hegemony, as the country is increasingly becoming committed to the destabilisation of the region. Rather than seeking recognition with the status quo, Peri advocated that Israel should use its military dominance to expand its borders and to create a “new reality,” a “new order.”[40]
It is remarkable that most major Middle East conflicts following the publication of the Yinon plan served this agenda. In the short run, before 9/11, the US-backed Muslim Brotherhood insurgency in Syria’s Hama,[41] the Iran-Iraq war[42] and the First Gulf War[43] all weakened Ba’ath central governance or at least led to outrage and isolation from the international community, and in the long run, the post-9/11 Anglo-American invasion and occupation of Iraq and the NATO-Gulf-Turkey-orchestrated proxy war on Syria reinforced the minorities mentioned by Yinon and eventually brought partition into the picture.
Although a common-held view about the 2003 Iraq invasion is that it was all about oil, Israeli pressure played a pretty unacknowledged yet fundamental role as well. In their in depth article called “The Israel lobby and U.S. foreign policy,” distinguished American professors John Maersheimer and Stephen Walt have shown that the central focus of American foreign policy lies not in its own interests but rather in its relationship with Israel. Writing at the height of the US occupation of Iraq in 2006, Maersheimer and Walt put forward a myriad of evidence that Israeli pressure in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks was absolutely crucial in the final push towards Washington’s decision to invade Iraq.[44] British-Israeli journalist Jonathan Cook further corroborated this thesis in his eye-opening book [I]Israel and the clash of civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the plan to remake the Middle East, published in 2008. When the US invaded Iraq, Cook argued, it broke with its traditional policy of rewarding and punishing strongmen and resorted instead to regime overthrow and direct occupation. This policy change, which predictably brought sectarian divide with it, was opposed by the oil industry as well as the US State Department, however, as both preferred the old tactic of replacing Saddam Hussein with another US handpicked dictator. Rather than the oil giants, Cook concluded, it was the Israel lobby that persuaded the neocons that this new policy of invasion and occupation would be beneficial not only to Israel, but to American interests, too.[45]
https://www.newsbud.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/042317_BASPost8.pngA full month prior to the invasion of Iraq, senior Israeli officers were already foreseeing a domino effect, with the fall of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq followed by the demise of Israel’s other enemies, from the PLO’s Arafat to Hezbollah’s Nasrallah, the ayatollah in Iran, Libya’s Gaddafi and Syria’s Assad.[46] Just after the US started military operations in March, Uzi Benziman wrote in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz that “after the war in Iraq, Israel will try to convince the US to direct its war on terror at Iran, Damascus and Beirut.”[47] Once Baghdad fell in mid-April, Israeli officials, the Zionist lobby in the US and pro-Israel American officials started to put pressure on actions against Syria,[48] and since the outbreak of the war on Syria, many of them have voiced support for Assad’s extralegal removal from office. In December 2016, Israel’s right-wing defense minister, Avigdor Liberman, reiterated that the balkanisation of the Middle East would be vital to Israeli “national interests:”

“Many of the countries in the Middle East were established artificially, as a result of the Sykes-Picot Agreement and based on colonial considerations that did not take into account the pattern of inhabitance and the deep sectarian rifts within the respective societies. Thus, to genuinely solve the region’s problems, borders will have to be altered, specifically in countries like Syria and Iraq. Boundaries need to be redrawn between Sunnis, Shia and other communities to diminish sectarian strife and to enable the emergence of states that will enjoy internal legitimacy. It is a mistake to think that these states can survive in their current borders.”[49]
Taking all this into account, it might be easier to grasp why Ze’ev Schiff, the military correspondent of Ha’aretz, proclaimed just before Israel’s 1982 Lebanon war that the best that can happen for Israeli interests in Iraq is its dissolution into three states;[50] or why American-born Israeli journalist Caroline Glick in 2007 postulated that Israel should wage a preemptive war against Damascus as a follow-up to Washington’s invasion of Iraq in order to destroy Syria’s central authority;”[51] or why a leaked 2012 e-mail forwarded by former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed Israel’s welcoming of a destructive ethnic standoff in the Middle East, because “the fall of the House of Assad could well ignite a sectarian war between Shiites and the majority Sunnis of the region drawing in Iran, which, in the view of Israeli commanders would not be a bad thing for Israel and its Western allies;”[52] or finally, why Efraim Inbar, an Israeli think tank director, recently expressed his belief that the destruction of ISIS would be a strategic mistake for his country, saying that “allowing bad guys to kill bad guys sounds very cynical, but it is useful and even moral to do so if it keeps the bad guys busy and less able to harm the good guys.”[53]
Part III: Different president, same plan
“As the international community continues to search for ways to resolve Syria’s civil war, this Perspective argues that recent developments in Syria and the region - including the cessation of hostilities that was sponsored by Russia, Iran, and Turkey - reinforce the prospects for a national ceasefire based upon agreed zones of control backed by external powers. [...] After nearly six years of humanitarian catastrophe and geopolitical upheaval from Syria, the prospects of the removal of the Assad regime and a near-term transition to the ‘moderate opposition’ are poorer than ever. But there is a chance for the new administration in Washington to make real progress on de-escalating the conflict and contributing to stability in Syria if it focuses on a realistic but achievable end-state: a decentralized Syria based on agreed zones of control recognized and supported by outside partners.”[54] -RAND Corporation in its third proposal for a “peace plan” for Syria in February 2017
While Hillary Clinton was the pre-eminent candidate for war in the 2016 US presidential elections, Donald Trump campaigned on a more non-interventionist policy. Campaign-Trump spoke out against attacking the Syrian government many times, suggesting that American involvement could embroil his country into a global war with Russia. Although he said he would continue the war against ISIS, he expressed reservations about supporting the “moderate rebels” and also about ousting Assad, as he shared a mutual enemy with him.[55] On 30 March, following steady Syrian army military gains throughout the country, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced a dramatic u-turn in Washington’s long-held policy of removing Assad, stating that “the long term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”[56] Following Tillerson’s remarks, a senior Trump administration official admitted that the policy change is “a measure of just realism, accepting the facts on the ground,” adding that “Assad is never going to have sufficient force to reassert control over the whole country.”[57] A week later, however, both Trump and Tillerson signalled they again sought Assad’s expulsion.[58] The reason? Assad, in a most suicidal move one can think of, supposedly gassed his own people in an area of no strategic significance on the eve of peace talks that would most likely have consolidated his future.
While at first hand it looked like Trump’s Middle East policy would have differed to some extent from that of his predecessor, it does not seem likely that he is going to put a halt to the agenda of balkanisation. To the contrary, a few days into office, Trump said he “will absolutely do safe zones” and reportedly requested the Pentagon and State Department to craft a plan within 90 days for setting them up.[59] Moreover, the temporarily frozen CIA funding of “moderate rebels” was restored in early April after a Western, Gulf and Turkey-backed new military alliance was set up, with al-Qaeda clone Ahrar al-Sham likely to play a dominate role.[60] Finally, the debate over “safe zones” coincides with the increased involvement of US troops and military assets into both Syria and Iraq,[61] which would in all likelihood further exacerbate sectarian tensions as the US keeps playing the divide and conquer-game by providing logistical support and funding to ethnic and religious minorities with whom it is aligned. Following the recent missile strikes on a Syrian army airbase near Homs, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster even advised Trump to sign off on a plan that would put 150.000 troops on the ground in Syria.[62]
All this suggests that Trump is not really in charge of US foreign policy. In addition to his unconditional support for Israel, a myriad of hawkish war-hungry generals occupy senior posts in the Trump administration. In his article “The president who loved generals,” William Hartung has shown that Trump’s foreign policy will in all probability be led by the military rather than by diplomats.[63] Indeed, investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed has observed that:

“the Trump regime is not operating outside the deep state, but mobilizing elements within it to dominate and strengthen it for a new mission. [It] is not acting to overturn the establishment, but to consolidate it against a perceived crisis over a wider transnational deep system [and] to save the deep state from a decline caused by the failures of successive American administrations. [...] It would be mistaken to assume that Trump’s conflicts with the US intelligence community mean he is necessarily at odds with the military-industrial complex. On the contrary, his defense appointees and advisors are embedded across the military-industrial complex.”[64]
So, while mainstream pundits opposed to the Trump administration - such as the New York Times(Thomas Friedman; Bilderberg attendee and member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Trilateral Commission) and the Guardian (Hamish de Bretton-Gordon)[65] - keep advocating for the breakup of Syria, Trump happily follows their advice. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security advisor, even suggested a multinational occupation of Syria in a 2015 interview with Der Spiegel:

“The sad fact is that we have to put troops on the ground. We won’t succeed against this enemy [ISIS] with air strikes alone. [...] We can learn some lessons from the Balkans. Strategically, I envision a break-up of the Middle East crisis area into sectors in the way we did back then, with certain nations taking responsibility for these sectors. [...] The United States could take one sector, Russia as well and the Europeans another one. The Arabs must be involved in that sort of military operation, as well, and must be part of every sector.”[66]
https://www.newsbud.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/042317_BASPost9.pngThe Trump administration, and the influential generals in it, are thus likely to follow orders from the Pentagon. Therefore, current US policy might be close to a strategy for partitioning Syria as laid out in a three-part series called A peace plan for Syria published by RAND corporation, a think tank closely aligned to the Pentagon. The first paper was initiated after Philip Gordon, senior fellow at the CFR and Bilderberg attendee, resigned as advisor to Obama and wrote an op-ed for Politico arguing for radical decentralisation in September 2015.[67] In the first RAND report, the authors, among them Gordon, claimed that establishing “safe zones” was “far better than the status quo and far more practical than any of the available alternatives;”[68] in the second piece, they presented a number of options, ranging from decentralisation to autonomy;[69] and in the last one, published in February 2017, they advised the new administration to enforce a balkanised Syria by establishing “control zones,” even though by then the Syrian army had retaken Aleppo and had made other military and diplomatic gains that shattered RAND’s previous plans.[70]
From their first publication onwards, RAND, just like Kissinger (who started advising Trump not long after his election), prioritised breaking up Syria over Assad’s removal, and in their last article, the authors even acknowledged that “it is now virtually certain, and widely accepted, that Assad will remain in power for the foreseeable future.”[71] Moreover, whereas they in 2015 envisioned the sovereign Syrian government’s “control zone” to stretch only from the border area with Lebanon from Damascus through Homs to Hama to the Latakia and Tartus governorates along the Mediterranean coast, they were now forced to accept government control over the whole of Western Syria, including Aleppo and Palmyra but absent the area around Daraa in the south and Idlib and the Kurdish and Turkish controlled areas in the north. RAND did not recommend the US to leave the cleansing of the remaining pockets of the Western- and Gulf-backed terrorist insurgency to the Syrian government, however, the latter which has proven to be capable of doing just that with the help of the Russians, certainly if foreign countries would stop aiding and abetting the jihadis. Rather, the think tank proposed to carve out as much territory from sovereign Syria as possible, which they deemed possible because:

“In the west, the regime would be primarily focused on consolidating its rule, stamping out pockets of resistance, dealing with extremist threats from JFS [Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nursah, aka al-Qaeda] in Idlib, and rebuilding areas devastated by six years of war. Russia and Iran, having committed to preserve the Assad regime but not to assist in efforts to reconquer the areas it does not currently control, would focus their assistance on reconstruction and defense, rather than continued offensive operations.”[72]
https://www.newsbud.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/042317_BASPost10.pngRAND recognised that Idlib will likely fall to the government, but that does not mean that Turkey, the Gulf states, Israel and the US are going to let their proxies go down without a fight. Due to an agreement Turkey made with Russia, Turkish-supported armed groups, with their weapons, were allowed to leave for Idlib in the wake of east Aleppo’s liberation from years of extremist occupation.[73] Indeed, thanks to the Western media’s hypocritical outcry surrounding the retaking of Aleppo and their heroisation of the foreign-backed jihadis, thousands of al-Qaeda-linked fighters were allowed to be bussed out to rebel-held Idlib.[74] In addition, two days after the Khan Shaykhun chemical weapons attack in early April, the CIA restored logistical support and funding to the insurgents in northern Syria after a new military alliance of “rebel groups” was set up to “consolidate military control over Idlib province, the western part of Aleppo province and parts of Latakia province” under the auspices of the “Friends of Syria” coalition.[75]
According to a “Free Syrian Army” (FSA) source, Turkey is planning to install a unified rebel army to lead a second phase of Turkish operations in Syria which would focus on Idlib province.[76] In addition, RAND estimated that it is unlikely that Turkey will give up the territories it acquired under Operation Euphrates Shield, adding the possibility that Turkey will seek to further expand its “control zone” to include al-Bab (which it indeed captured from ISIS not long after the publication of RAND’s report) and Manbij (currently still under Kurdish control). As Turkey is now training a “Free Syrian Police” to assist the FSA with “secondary operations,” it does indeed look like Turkey is not going to leave Syria any time soon.[77] Regarding the Kurdish-Turkish rivalries in northern Syria, RAND foresaw a freezing into three zones of control - two Kurdish zones, separated by an Arab one controlled by the FSA and backed by Turkey. It concluded that “the United States could continue to support - but also restrain - both its Kurdish and Turkish partners,” or in other words, play them out against each other.
In the south, RAND claimed that the opposition around Daraa, where the foreign-backed jihadi insurgency started in March 2011, is comprised of more moderate Western-backed groups. As the area does not pose a strategic risk to Damascus any longer, the authors postulated, the Syrian government might tolerate them in the context of a national ceasefire. In light of this, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in early April expressed his desire to establish a buffer zone against Syria, Iran and Hezbollah on Syria’s border with Israel and Jordan.[78] This would undoubtedly further decrease the chances of Israel ever giving back the illegally occupied Golan Heights to Syria. As an American company linked to Dick Cheney has obtained the right to explore oil and natural gas in the Golan Heights from the Israeli government in 2013, this would benefit the US, too.[79]
Finally, ISIS-controlled areas in eastern Syria are to be carved out as well according to RAND. On the grounds that it would “antagonize most U.S. allies in the region” and that somehow the Syrian army, contrary to Washington’s “moderate” proxies, would not be capable of preventing a return from ISIS, the authors desired that the US-supported Kurdish forces, along with their Arab auxiliaries, would outstrip and precede the Russian-backed Syrian government’s effort to retake Raqqa. They recognised, however, that a Kurdish-controlled Raqqa would not be tolerated by Turkey and thus proposed that the Kurdish component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) should leave the city once it is taken, leaving behind the Arab “liberators.” Lastly, RAND called for a joint American-Russian effort to drive ISIS out of its last stronghold around Deir Ezzor, but given that Damascus already has a foothold there (and held onto it after the US bombed it, supposedly by accident, in September 2016), it acknowledged that the city is likely to fall back under the authority of the Syrian government. Just recently, the US deployed forces along the Syrian-Jordanian border, however, and could therefore nevertheless try to reach Deir Ezzor before the Syrian army following a potential incursion into Syrian territory.[80]
https://www.newsbud.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/042317_BASPost11.pngIn this way, the Sunni-dominated heartland the Gulf countries, Turkey, Israel and NATO had long hoped to carve out of sovereign Syrian territory would come about after all. But crucial to that effort is the exclusion of the Syrian government from the operation to remove ISIS from Raqqa. Therefore, when government forces were making rapid gains east of Aleppo and southward alongside Lake Assad, the SDF, with ample support from the US, was able to cross the Euphrates river in March, thereby cutting off possible government advances towards Raqqa (see map). By the end of March, the SDF had also reached the strategically important Tabqa Dam, which sustains its reservoir Lake Assad, thereby gaining control over one of the country’s main sources of water for agriculture and livestock.[81] This echoes concerns raised by Maram Susli, who has pointed out that the Kurdish controlled al-Hasakah governorate in northeastern Syria holds many of the country’s agriculture and oil riches. Whereas the governorate’s wealth was previously shared by all of Syria’s 23 million inhabitants, federalism or partition will leave the recourses to only a fraction of the population.[82] The Syrian government might thus have consolidated control over the country’s main population centres, less populated parts of the country, with resources that are badly needed to sustain those populous regions, might never return to their previous owners.
Meanwhile in Iraq, the years-long Anglo-American occupation, the subsequent rule by Shia-led governments, stronger autonomy grievances of the Kurds, the rise of sectarian militias and the emergence of al-Qaeda and ISIS have all contributed to further sectarian divide, as Iraqis are killing one another like never before. Now, other minorities aside from the Sunnis, Shias and Kurds are vowing for autonomy, too. In 2016, al-Monitor reported that Turkmens were calling for independence in the centre of Ninevah province, while Christians and Yazidis were opting for their own autonomous areas in the same province as well.[83] In March this year, this eventually resulted in the three minorities presenting a joint statement calling for three contiguous semi-autonomous regions in the country’s north: Tal Afar for the Turkmens, Ninevah Plain for the Assyrian Christians and Sinjar province for the Yazidis.[84] It remains to be seen what will happen to Iraq after ISIS has vanished from the face of the earth, but the long process of gradual balkanisation seems almost irreversible today.
# # # #Bas Spliet, Newsbud Analyst & Author, is a bachelor’s student in History and Arabic at the University of Ghent, Belgium. He is interested in geopolitics, focusing most of his time on getting a better understanding of wars in the Middle East. Mr. Spliet is proficient in English, Dutch and Arabic, and his analyses can be found at www.scrutinisedminds.com (http://www.scrutinisedminds.com/). He can be reached at bas.spliet@gmail.com (bas.spliet@gmail.com)
Notes
PART I
[1] David Ignatius, “Piecing together the shattering Middle East,” Washington Post, 17.06.2014,http://washingtonpost.com/opinions/david-ignatius-piecing-together-the-shattering-middle-east/2014/06/17/e73812f8-f63a-11e3-a606-946fd632f9f1_story.html?tid=pm_opinions_pop&utm_term=.336d6cf999ef.
[2] Patrick Wintour, “John Kerry says partition of Syria could be part of ‘plan B’ if peace talks fail,”Guardian, 23.02.2016, http://theguardian.com/world/2016/feb/23/john-kerry-partition-syria-peace-talks.
[3] Sharif Nashashibi, “Is a federal Syria desirable or feasible?”, Al-Jazeera, 17.03.2016,http://aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2016/03/federal-syria-desirable-feasible-160315051734382.html; “Syria government, opposition reject federal system: de Mistura,” Press TV, 17.03.2016, http://presstv.ir/Detail/2016/03/17/456328/Syria-UN-Mistura-Daesh.
[4] Wladimir van Wilgenburg, “Kurdish National Council in Syria condemns federalism declaration by Kurdish rival,” ARA News, 19.03.2016, http://aranews.net/2016/03/kurdish-national-council-syria-condemns-federalism-declaration-kurdish-rival/.
[5] Maram Susli, “Kerry’s plan at balkanizing Syria,” New Eastern Outlook, 29.03.2016, http://journal-neo.org/2016/03/29/kerry-s-plan-at-balkanising-syria/.
[6] Michael O’Hanlon, “Deconstructing Syria: a new strategy for America’s most hopeless war,” The Brookings Institute, 30.06.2015, http://brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2015/06/30/deconstructing-syria-a-new-strategy-for-americas-most-hopeless-war/.
[7] Michael O’Hanlon, “Syria’s one hope may be as dim as Bosnia’s once was,” Reuters, 06.10.2015,http://blogs.reuters.com/great-debate/2015/10/06/syrias-one-hope-may-be-as-dim-as-bosnias-once-was/.
[8] Paul O’Neill, interview with Henry Kissinger, Ford School (interview, New York, 13.06.2013), 26m00 to 29m05, http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZVasCE1uOf4#t=1232.
[9] John Bolton, “To defeat ISIS, create a Sunni state,” New York Times, 24.11.2015,http://nytimes.com/2015/11/25/opinion/john-bolton-to-defeat-isis-create-a-sunni-state.html?_r=0.
[10] E.g. James Stavridis, “It’s time to seriously consider partitioning Syria,” Foreign Policy, 09.03.2016,http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/03/09/its-time-to-seriously-consider-partitioning-syria/; James Dobbins, Philip Gordon and Jeffrey Martini, A Peace Plan for Syria (RAND Corporation, 2015),http://rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PE182.html.
[11] Robin Wright, “Imagining a remapped Middle East,” New York Times, 28.09.2013,http://nytimes.com/2013/09/29/opinion/sunday/imagining-a-remapped-middle-east.html?pagewanted=1.
[12] Barak Mendelsohn, “Divide and conquer in Syria and Iraq: why the West should plan for a partition,” Foreign Affairs, 29.11.2015, http://foreignaffairs.com/articles/turkey/2015-11-29/divide-and-conquer-syria-and-iraq.
[13] Defence Intelligence Agency, “Pgs. 287-293 (291) JW v DOD and State 14-812,” Judicial Watch, 18.05.2015, http://judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf.
[14] Leslie Gelb, “The three-state solution,” New York Times, 25.11.2003,http://nytimes.com/2003/11/25/opinion/the-three-state-solution.html.
[15] Joseph Biden and Leslie Gelb, “Unity through autonomy in Iraq,” New York Times, 01.05.2006,http://nytimes.com/2006/05/01/opinion/01biden.html?pagewanted=all&_r=2&.
[16] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, “Plans for redrawing the Middle East: the project of a ‘new Middle East’,” Global Research, 18.11.2006, http://globalresearch.ca/plans-for-redrawing-the-middle-east-the-project-for-a-new-middle-east/3882.
[17] Toby Harnden, “Death and despair amid US pursuit of ‘new Middle East’,” Telegraph, 30.07.2006,http://telegraph.co.uk/news/1525200/Death-and-despair-amid-US-pursuit-of-new-Middle-East.html.
[18] “French report: former U.N. envoy Bolton says U.S. has ‘no strategic interest’ in united Iraq,”International Herald Tribune, 29.01.2007, as cited in Jonathan Cook, Israel and the clash of civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the plan to remake the Middle East (London: Pluto Press, 2008), 138.
[19] Edward Joseph and Michael O’Hanlon, The case for soft partition in Iraq (Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institute, analysis paper no. 12, June 2007), http://brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/06iraq_joseph.pdf.
[20] William Roebuck, “Influencing the SARG in the end of 2006,” 13.12.2006 (Wikileaks, Cable 06 Damascus 5399 a), http://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/06DAMASCUS5399_a.html.
[21] Bas Spliet, “The proxy war on Syria,” Scrutinised Minds, 03.01.2017,http://scrutinisedminds.com/category/the-proxy-war-on-syria/.
[22] Mensur Akgün and Sabiha Senyücel Gündogar, The perception of Turkey in the Middle East 2011, transl. Jonathan Levack (Istanbul: TESEV Publications, 2011), 16.
[23] Jonathan Steele, “Most Syrians back President Assad, but you’d never know from Western media,” Guardian, 17.01.2012, http://theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jan/17/syrians-support-assad-western-propaganda.
[24] Poll: 70% of Syrians support Assad, NATO says,” Before It’s News, 13.06.2013,http://beforeitsnews.com/middle-east/2013/06/poll-70-of-syrians-support-assad-says-nato-2452134.html.
[25] Anahita Mukherji, “Foreign delegation in Syria slams West, endorses elections,” Times of India, 05.06.2014, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/middle-east/Foreign-delegation-in-Syria-slams-West-endorses-elections/articleshow/36069541.cms.
[26] Tim Anderson, The dirty war on Syria: Washington, regime change and resistance (Montréal: Global Research Publishers, 2016), 33-5.
[27] Sectarian identities indeed date back several centuries in present-day Iraq, but violence did not accompany them as a social constant throughout. The dominating Ba’ath Party was secular, and violently suppressed communitarian or ethnic extremism, as a result of which the social divisions reflected the levels of urbanisation, class differences, political power, tribal membership and national identity more so than sectarian affiliation. But American policy makers tended to see only the sectarian divisions between the Shias, Sunnis and Kurds, thus laying the groundwork for an “imagined community” that became true after the Anglo-American invasion and occupation: Nabil al-Tikriti, “US policy and the creation of a sectarian Iraq,” Middle East Institute, 02.07.2008,http://mei.edu/content/us-policy-and-creation-sectarian-iraq.
[28] Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, Coping with crumbling states: a Western and Israeli balance of power strategy for the Levant (report, December 1996), reprinted athttp://scotthorton.org/fairuse/coping-with-crumbling-states-a-western-and-israeli-balance-of-power-strategy-for-the-levant-by-david-wurmser-1996/.
[29] “The full transcript of evidence given to the Butler inquiry,” Independent, 15.12.2006,http://independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/the-full-transcript-of-evidence-given-to-the-butler-inquiry-428550.html.
[30] Walter Pincus and Karen DeYoung, “Analysts’ warning of Iraq chaos detailed,” Washington Post, 26.05.2006, http://washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/25/AR2007052501380.html.
PART II
[31] “Arab League summit,” C-SPAN, 01.03.2003, http://c-span.org/video/?175319-1/arab-league-summit, 57m25 to 59m00.
[32] Seymour Hersh, “The redirection,” New Yorker, 05.03.2007,http://newyorker.com/magazine/2007/03/05/the-redirection.
[33] Contrary to what is often asserted, Syria is an exception, too. The term Syria dates back to Roman times, and has been used to describe the area for thousands of years. If Syria is not a historical state, no state is. The Sykes-Picot agreement was indeed a colonial endeavour to divide spheres of influence between France and Britain, but if anything, it did not draw the borders of Syria too large, but rather too small, as historical Syria included Lebanon and Iskandaron, too. As I pointed out in part I, the sectarian divisions in Iraq prior to the 2003 invasion are to a large extent a self-fulfilling prophecy as well.
[34] Bernard Lewis, “Rethinking the Middle East,” Foreign Affairs 71, no. 4 (1992): 116-7.
[35] Lewis, “Rethinking the Middle East,” 107-16.
[36] Zbigniew Brzezinski, The grand chessboard: American primacy and its geostrategic imperatives(New York: Basic Books, 1997), 123-50.
[37] Oded Yinon, “A strategy for Israel in the nineteen eighties,” Kivunim, translated by Israel Shahak (Massachusetts: Association of Arab-American University Graduates, 1982), paragraph 26 and 27.
[38] Yinon, “A strategy for Israel in the nineteen eighties,” paragraph 22.
[39] Theodor Herzl, Complete Diaries of Theodor Herzl, vol. 2 (New York: Herzl Press, 1960), 711.
[40] Noam Chomsky, Fateful triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (London: Pluto Press, 1999), 766-79.
[41] After years of sectarian attacks, the Brotherhood initiated a last final uprising in Hama around the time the Yinon plan was published, which at the same time marked its defeat as a real political force in Syria. The violent crackdown by the Syrian army, however, was met by international outrage. Just like with the events of Daraa in March 2011, which sparked the current crisis, the Islamist militants were backed by foreign countries, and in spite of the fact that the insurrection was initiated by a Brotherhood’s ambush in which 70 soldiers were slaughtered, the events are mainly remembered as a government massacre: Tim Anderson, The dirty war on Syria: Washington, regime change and resistance (Montréal: Global Research Publishers, 2016), 15-6.
[42] Although the US provided logistical, intelligence and armaments-support to Iraq in the war, it publicly condemned Saddam Hussein’s usage of chemical weapons (many ingredients of which were provide by the US) against Kurdish civilians and Iran, and from the First Gulf War onwards, it was used to ascribe the brutal character of Hussein’s rule.
[43] Israel in fact pushed and lobbied the US both via the diplomatic and covert channels very hard to initiate an attack on Saddam Hussein. The Israelis even regarded the American response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait as moderate and wanted a harsher policy, to such an extent that Israeli President Chaim Herzog recommended that the Americans use nuclear weapons. See Harun Yahua, “Plan for Iraq invasion drawn up decades ago,” Rense, 10.07.2004,http://rense.com/general58/decades.htm.
[44] John Maersheimer and Stephen Walt, “The Israel lobby and U.S. foreign policy,” Middle East Policy 13, no. 3 (2006).
[45] Jonathan Cook, Israel and the clash of civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the plan to remake the Middle East (London: Pluto Press, 2008).
[46] Aluf Benn, “Background enthusiastic IDF awaits war in Iraq,” Ha’aretz, 16.02.2003,http://haaretz.com/news/background-enthusiastic-idf-awaits-war-in-iraq-1.18896.
[47] Uzi Benziman, “Who would give the go-ahead?”, Ha’aretz, 22.03.2003, as cited in Cook, Israel and the clash of civilisations, 45.
[48] Maersheimer and Walt, “The Israel lobby and U.S. foreign policy,” 59-60.
[49] Avigdor Liberman, “Israel’s national security in a turbulent Middle East,” Defense News, 02.12.2016, http://defensenews.com/articles/avigdor-leiberman-israels-national-security-in-a-turbulent-middle-east.
[50] Ze’ev Schiff, “the Israeli interest in the Iraq-Iran war,” Ha’aretz, 02.06.1982, as cited in Chomsky,Fateful Triangle, 769.
[51] Caroline Glick, “Fighting the next war,” Jerusalem Post, 19.04.2007, as cited in Cook, Israel and the clash of civilisations, 148.
[52] Wikileaks, “H: New intel Syria, Turkey, Israel, Iran. SID,” Hillary Clinton email archive,http://wikileaks.org/clinton-emails/emailid/12172.
[53] Efraim Inbar, “The destruction of the Islamic State is a strategic mistake,” BESA Center Perspectives, paper no. 352 (2016).
PART III
[54] James Dobbins, Philip Gordon and Jeffrey Martini, A peace plan for Syria III: agreed zones of control, decentralisation and international administration (RAND Corporation, 2017), 1,http://rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PE233.html.
[55] Tom McKay, “Here are 45 times Trump said attacking Syria was a bad idea and might start World War III,” Mic, 07.04.2017, http://mic.com/articles/173471/trump-world-war-iii-attacking-syria-wwiii-ww3#.9PunjXMW8.
[56] Tyler Durden, “McCain furious at Rex Tillerson for saying Assad can stay,” Zero Hedge, 31.03.2017, http://zerohedge.com/news/2017-03-31/mccain-furious-rex-tillerson-saying-assad-can-stay.
[57] “US changes its policy on Assad staying in power,” New York Post, 31.03.2017,http://nypost.com/2017/03/31/us-changes-its-policy-on-assad-staying-in-power/.
[58] Jacob Pramuk, “Trump, Tillerson suggest Assad should be removed, in apparent reversal,”CNBC, 06.04.2017, http://cnbc.com/2017/04/06/trump-tillerson-suggest-assad-should-be-removed-in-apparent-reversal.html.
[59] Julia Edwards Ainsley and Matt Spetalnick, “Trump says he will order ‘safe zones’ for Syria,”Reuters, 25.01.2017, http://reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-syria-safezones-idUSKBN1592O8.
[60] Mariya Petkova, “Syria’s ‘moderate rebels’ to form a new alliance,” al-Jazeera, 06.04.2017,http://aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/04/syria-moderate-rebels-form-alliance-170403064144285.html.
[61] Whitney Webb, “Safe zones as soft military occupation: Trump’s plan for Syria, Iraq is taking shape,” Mintpress News, 04.04.2017, http://mintpressnews.com/226552-safe-zones-as-soft-military-occupation-trumps-plan-for-syria-iraq-is-taking-shape/226552/.
[62] Mike Cernovich, “H. R. McMaster manipulating intelligence reports to Trump, wants 150,000 ground soldiers in Syria,” Medium, 09.04.2017, http://medium.com/@Cernovich/h-r-mcmaster-manipulating-intelligence-reports-to-trump-wants-150-000-ground-soldiers-in-syria-83346c433e99; “Report: US boots on the ground in Syria by June,” Russia Insider, 09.04.2017, http://russia-insider.com/en/report-us-plans-send-troops-syria-enforce-safe-zones/ri19514.
[63] William Hartung, “The president who loved generals: Trump’s foreign policy will be led by the military, not diplomats,” Salon, 10.03.2017, http://salon.com/2017/03/10/the-president-who-loved-generals-trumps-foreign-policy-will-be-led-by-the-military-not-diplomats_partner/.
[64] Nafeez Ahmed, “How the Trump regime was manufactured by a war inside the deep state,”Insurgence Intelligence, 10.02.2017, http://medium.com/insurge-intelligence/how-the-trump-regime-was-manufactured-by-a-war-inside-the-deep-state-f9e757071c70.
[65] Thomas Friedman, “President Trump’s real-world Syria lesson,” New York Times, 05.04.2017,http://nytimes.com/2017/04/05/opinion/president-trumps-real-world-syria-lesson.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-right-region&region=opinion-c-col-right-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-right-region; Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, “After missiles, the plan: here’s how Syrian safe zones could actually work,” Guardian, 07.04.2017, http://theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/apr/07/missiles-plan-syrian-safe-zones-donald-trump.
[66] Matthias Gebauer and Holger Stark, “We were too dumb: ex-US intelligence chief on Islamic State’s rise,” interview with Michael Flynn, Der Spiegel, 29.11.2015,http://spiegel.de/international/world/former-us-intelligence-chief-discusses-development-of-is-a-1065131.html.
[67] Philip Gordon, “It’s time to rethink Syria,” Politico, 25.09.2015, http://.politico.eu/article/syria-assad-war-russia-us/.
[68] James Dobbins, Philip Gordon and Jeffrey Martini, A Peace plan for Syria (RAND Corporation, 2015), 9, http://rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PE182.html.
[69] James Dobbins, Philip Gordon and Jeffrey Martini, A peace plan for Syria II: options for futuregovernance (RAND Corporation, 2016), http://rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PE202.html.
[70] Dobbins, Gordon and Martini, A peace plan for Syria III.
[71] Dobbins, Gordon and Martini, A peace plan for Syria III, 4-5.
[72] Dobbins, Gordon and Martini, A peace plan for Syria III, 7.
[73] Fehim Tastekin, “Is Turkey rattled by Russian-Kurdish deal?”, al-Monitor, 24.03.2017, http://al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/03/turkey-syria-russian-troops-arrive-afrin.html.
[74] Bas Spliet, “Coverage of Aleppo: a new low in the mainstream media’s integrity,” Scrutinised Minds, 03.02.2017, http://scrutinisedminds.com/2017/02/03/coverage-of-aleppo-a-new-low-in-the-mainstream-medias-integrity/.
[75] Petkova, “Syria’s ‘moderate rebels’ to form a new alliance.”
[76] Petkova, “Syria’s ‘moderate rebels’ to form a new alliance.”
[77] Khaled al-Khateb, “Free Syrian Army getting backup from Turkish-trained police,” al-Monitor, 23.03.2017, http://al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/03/turkey-trained-free-syrian-police-deployed-in-nothern-aleppo.html.
[78] “Israel seeks buffer zone on borders with Syria,” Middle East Monitor, 08.04.2017,http://middleeastmonitor.com/20170408-israel-seeks-buffer-zone-on-borders-with-syria/.
[79] Daniel Graeber, “Cheney-linked company to drill in occupied Golan Heights,” Oil Price, 22.02.2013, http://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/Cheney-Linked-Company-to-Drill-in-Occupied-Golan-Heights.html.
[80] “Syrian war report - april 10, 2017: US deploys forces at Syrian-Jordanian border,” South Front, 10.04.2017, http://southfront.org/syrian-war-report-april-10-2017-us-deploys-forces-at-syrian-jordanian-border/; Tony Cartalucci, “Syria: watching the Jordanian border,” Land Destroyer, 14.10.2017, http://landdestroyer.blogspot.be/2017/04/syria-watching-jordanian-border.html.
[81] “Syria’s Tabqa Dam: a strategic prize,” Arab News, 29.03.2017,http://arabnews.com/node/1075756/middle-east.
[82] Maram Susli, “Why a Kurdish enclave in Syria is a very bad idea,” Global Research, 06.04.2016,http://globalresearch.ca/why-a-kurdish-enclave-in-syria-is-a-very-bad-idea/5519109.
[83] Wassim Bassem, “Iraq’s Turkmens call for independent province,” al-Monitor, 14.10.2016,http://al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2016/10/turkmens-iraq-mosul-tal-afar.html.
[84] Saad Salloum, “Iraqi minorities move forward with autonomy plan,” al-Monitor, 16.03.2017,http://al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2017/03/rafedin-minorities-iraq-nineveh-plain-autonomy.html.

Peter Lemkin
05-02-2017, 07:49 PM
Reign of IdiotsPosted on Apr 30, 2017
By Chris Hedges (http://www.truthdig.com/chris_hedges/)
http://www.truthdig.com/images/eartothegrounduploads/Ubu_Trump_590.jpg

Mr. Fish / Truthdig
The idiots take over in the final days of crumbling civilizations. Idiot generals wage endless, unwinnable wars that bankrupt the nation. Idiot economists call for reducing taxes for the rich and cutting social service programs for the poor, and project economic growth on the basis of myth. Idiot industrialists poison the water, the soil and the air, slash jobs and depress wages. Idiot bankers gamble on self-created financial bubbles and impose crippling debt peonage on the citizens. Idiot journalists and public intellectuals pretend despotism is democracy. Idiot intelligence operatives orchestrate the overthrow of foreign governments to create lawless enclaves that give rise to enraged fanatics. Idiot professors, “experts” and “specialists” busy themselves with unintelligible jargon and arcane theory that buttresses the policies of the rulers. Idiot entertainers and producers create lurid spectacles of sex, gore and fantasy.
There is a familiar checklist for extinction. We are ticking off every item on it.
The idiots know only one word—“more.” They are unencumbered by common sense. They hoard wealth and resources until workers cannot make a living and the infrastructure collapses. They live in privileged compounds where they eat chocolate cake and order missile strikes. They see the state as a projection of their vanity. The Roman, Mayan, French, Habsburg, Ottoman, Romanov,Wilhelmine (https://www.revolvy.com/topic/Wilhelminism&item_type=topic), Pahlavi (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pahlavi_dynasty) and Soviet dynasties crumbled because the whims and obsessions of ruling idiots were law.
Donald Trump is the face of our collective idiocy. He is what lies behind the mask of our professed civility and rationality—a sputtering, narcissistic, bloodthirsty megalomaniac. He wields armies and fleets against the wretched of the earth, blithely ignores the catastrophic human misery caused by global warming, pillages on behalf of global oligarchs and at night sits slack-jawed in front of a television set before opening his “beautiful” Twitter account. He is our version of the Roman emperor Nero, who allocated vast state expenditures to attain magical powers, the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang (http://launchistory.blogspot.com/2013/03/qin-shi-huangs-quest-for-immortality.html), who funded repeated expeditions to a mythical island of immortals to bring back the potion that would give him eternal life, and a decayed Russian royalty that sat around reading tarot cards and attending séances as their nation was decimated by war and revolution brewed in the streets.
This moment in history marks the end of a long, sad tale of greed and murder by the white races. It is inevitable that for the final show we vomited a grotesque figure like Trump. Europeans and Americans have spent five centuries conquering, plundering, exploiting and polluting the earth in the name of human progress. They used their technological superiority to create the most efficient killing machines on the planet, directed against anyone and anything, especially indigenous cultures, that stood in their way. They stole and hoarded the planet’s wealth and resources. They believed that this orgy of blood and gold would never end, and they still believe it. They do not understand that the dark ethic of ceaseless capitalist and imperialist expansion is dooming the exploiters as well as the exploited. But even as we stand on the cusp of extinction we lack the intelligence and imagination to break free from our evolutionary past.
The more the warning signs are palpable—rising temperatures, global financial meltdowns, mass human migrations, endless wars, poisoned ecosystems, rampant corruption among the ruling class—the more we turn to those who chant, either through idiocy or cynicism, the mantra that what worked in the past will work in the future, that progress is inevitable. Factual evidence, since it is an impediment to what we desire, is banished. The taxes of corporations and the rich, who have deindustrialized (http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/deindustrialization.html) the country and turned many of our cities into wastelands, are cut, and regulations are slashed to bring back the supposed golden era of the 1950s for white American workers. Public lands are opened up to the oil and gas industry as rising carbon emissions doom our species. Declining crop yields stemming from heat waves and droughts are ignored. War is the principal business of the kleptocratic state.
Walter Benjamin (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/benjamin/) wrote in 1940 amid the rise of European fascism and looming world war:

A Klee painting named Angelus Novus (https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4b/Klee%252C_paul%252C_angelus_novus%252C_1920.jpg&imgrefurl=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angelus_Novus&h=400&w=321&tbnid=pXecmQFJAgk7rM:&tbnh=186&tbnw=149&usg=__iStlP1DhuCboWQ6kxj6DtGLBFOE=&vet=10ahUKEwjNgK67kc3TAhUN_WMKHVJ-CK0Q_B0IggEwCg..i&docid=P4w54is3_SbRfM&itg=1&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjNgK67kc3TAhUN_WMKHVJ-CK0Q_B0IggEwCg&ei=u1gGWY03jfqPA9L8oegK#h=400&imgdii=Trjr1WMKZ5ug_M:&tbnh=186&tbnw=149&vet=10ahUKEwjNgK67kc3TAhUN_WMKHVJ-CK0Q_B0IggEwCg..i&w=321) shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.
Magical thinking is not limited to the beliefs and practices of pre-modern cultures. It defines the ideology of capitalism. Quotas and projected sales can always be met. Profits can always be raised. Growth is inevitable. The impossible is always possible. Human societies, if they bow before the dictates of the marketplace, will be ushered into capitalist paradise. It is only a question of having the right attitude and the right technique. When capitalism thrives, we are assured, we thrive. The merging of the self with the capitalist collective has robbed us of our agency, creativity, capacity for self-reflection and moral autonomy. We define our worth not by our independence or our character but by the material standards set by capitalism—personal wealth, brands, status and career advancement. We are molded into a compliant and repressed collective. This mass conformity is characteristic of totalitarian and authoritarian states. It is the Disneyfication of America, the land of eternally happy thoughts and positive attitudes. And when magical thinking does not work, we are told, and often accept, that we are the problem. We must have more faith. We must envision what we want. We must try harder. The system is never to blame. We failed it. It did not fail us.
All of our systems of information, from self-help gurus and Hollywood to political monstrosities such as Trump, sell us this snake oil. We blind ourselves to impending collapse. Our retreat into self-delusion is a career opportunity for charlatans who tell us what we want to hear. The magical thinking they espouse is a form of infantilism. It discredits facts and realities that defy the glowing cant of slogans such as “Make America great again.” Reality is banished for relentless and baseless optimism.Half the country may live in poverty, our civil liberties may be taken from us, militarized police may murder unarmed citizens in the streets and we may run the world’s largest prison system and murderous war machine, but all these truths are studiously ignored. Trump embodies the essence of this decayed, intellectually bankrupt and immoral world. He is its natural expression. He is the king of the idiots. We are his victims.

Peter Lemkin
05-03-2017, 03:13 PM
In 19 states so far, laws have been proposed by conservative legislators that would crack down on peaceful protests1, infringing on our right to free speech, undermining democracy, and putting human lives at risk. Peaceful assembly is protected under the Constitution — and these assaults on our First Amendment rights are nothing but scare tactics.
In North Dakota, where we protested with our allies against the Dakota Access Pipeline, a new bill would allow drivers to mow down protesters with their cars. If the driver’s actions were “unintentional,” the driver would not be held legally accountable for hitting protesters in the street.2
A bill moving through the Minnesota legislature would let cities charge protesters with the cost of policing the protest. Protesters found liable for “unlawful assembly or public nuisance” could be sued for the cost of police response.3
In North Carolina, a bill would create a new “economic terrorism” felony charge for any protester who caused $1,000 or more in economic damages and who was thought to be attempting to intimidate the government or the public.4
These attempts to silence dissent should be huge red flags for anyone who values the First Amendment rights to free speech and assembly. A healthy democracy, speaking truth to power, and political expression, are values fundamental to our nation’s identity from the start.
So we cannot let governments and corporations silence us. We must stop these unconstitutional measures now, and your state leaders need to hear from you. These bills are a threat to our democracy, a threat to our ability to enact change, and even a threat to human lives.


(1) https://www.thestar.com/news/world/2017/04/02/americans-right-to-protest-is-in-grave-danger-un-warns.html (https://click.everyaction.com/h/129463/1346685?nvep=ew0KICAiVGVuYW50VXJpIjogIm5ncHZhbjovL 3Zhbi9UU00vVFNNR1AvMS81NTY3OCIsDQogICJEaXN0cmlidXR pb25JZCI6IG51bGwsDQogICJEaXN0cmlidXRpb25VbmlxdWVJZ CI6ICI2NzA0MTc3Yy02NDE5LWU3MTEtODBjMy0wMDBkM2ExMDQ 2ZDgiLA0KICAiRW1haWxNZXNzYWdlSWQiOiAiYmY4MzMyNTAtY zQxOC1lNzExLTgwYzMtMDAwZDNhMTA0NmQ4IiwNCiAgIkVtYWl sTWVzc2FnZUNvbnRlbnRJZCI6ICJjMDgzMzI1MC1jNDE4LWU3M TEtODBjMy0wMDBkM2ExMDQ2ZDgiLA0KICAiRW1haWxBZGRyZXN zIjogImRpY2tydXNsQGFvbC5jb20iLA0KICAiRGlzdHJpYnV0a W9uVHJhY2thYmxlSXRlbUlkIjogMA0KfQ%3D%3D&hmac=rflqz95n2bYQZOIJ80vxY0DXwrwJnY-v13I_nYdiIVQ=)
(2) https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/02/24/republican-lawmakers-introduce-bills-to-curb-protesting-in-at-least-17-states/ (https://click.everyaction.com/h/129464/1346686?nvep=ew0KICAiVGVuYW50VXJpIjogIm5ncHZhbjovL 3Zhbi9UU00vVFNNR1AvMS81NTY3OCIsDQogICJEaXN0cmlidXR pb25JZCI6IG51bGwsDQogICJEaXN0cmlidXRpb25VbmlxdWVJZ CI6ICI2NzA0MTc3Yy02NDE5LWU3MTEtODBjMy0wMDBkM2ExMDQ 2ZDgiLA0KICAiRW1haWxNZXNzYWdlSWQiOiAiYmY4MzMyNTAtY zQxOC1lNzExLTgwYzMtMDAwZDNhMTA0NmQ4IiwNCiAgIkVtYWl sTWVzc2FnZUNvbnRlbnRJZCI6ICJjMDgzMzI1MC1jNDE4LWU3M TEtODBjMy0wMDBkM2ExMDQ2ZDgiLA0KICAiRW1haWxBZGRyZXN zIjogImRpY2tydXNsQGFvbC5jb20iLA0KICAiRGlzdHJpYnV0a W9uVHJhY2thYmxlSXRlbUlkIjogMA0KfQ%3D%3D&hmac=rflqz95n2bYQZOIJ80vxY0DXwrwJnY-v13I_nYdiIVQ=)
(3) https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jan/25/minnesota-protesters-bill-liable-policing-costs (https://click.everyaction.com/h/129465/1346687?nvep=ew0KICAiVGVuYW50VXJpIjogIm5ncHZhbjovL 3Zhbi9UU00vVFNNR1AvMS81NTY3OCIsDQogICJEaXN0cmlidXR pb25JZCI6IG51bGwsDQogICJEaXN0cmlidXRpb25VbmlxdWVJZ CI6ICI2NzA0MTc3Yy02NDE5LWU3MTEtODBjMy0wMDBkM2ExMDQ 2ZDgiLA0KICAiRW1haWxNZXNzYWdlSWQiOiAiYmY4MzMyNTAtY zQxOC1lNzExLTgwYzMtMDAwZDNhMTA0NmQ4IiwNCiAgIkVtYWl sTWVzc2FnZUNvbnRlbnRJZCI6ICJjMDgzMzI1MC1jNDE4LWU3M TEtODBjMy0wMDBkM2ExMDQ2ZDgiLA0KICAiRW1haWxBZGRyZXN zIjogImRpY2tydXNsQGFvbC5jb20iLA0KICAiRGlzdHJpYnV0a W9uVHJhY2thYmxlSXRlbUlkIjogMA0KfQ%3D%3D&hmac=rflqz95n2bYQZOIJ80vxY0DXwrwJnY-v13I_nYdiIVQ=)
(4) https://thinkprogress.org/protester-crackdown-in-north-carolina-would-sanctify-commerce-over-free-speech-fc264c4558d4 (https://click.everyaction.com/h/129466/1346688?nvep=ew0KICAiVGVuYW50VXJpIjogIm5ncHZhbjovL 3Zhbi9UU00vVFNNR1AvMS81NTY3OCIsDQogICJEaXN0cmlidXR pb25JZCI6IG51bGwsDQogICJEaXN0cmlidXRpb25VbmlxdWVJZ CI6ICI2NzA0MTc3Yy02NDE5LWU3MTEtODBjMy0wMDBkM2ExMDQ 2ZDgiLA0KICAiRW1haWxNZXNzYWdlSWQiOiAiYmY4MzMyNTAtY zQxOC1lNzExLTgwYzMtMDAwZDNhMTA0NmQ4IiwNCiAgIkVtYWl sTWVzc2FnZUNvbnRlbnRJZCI6ICJjMDgzMzI1MC1jNDE4LWU3M TEtODBjMy0wMDBkM2ExMDQ2ZDgiLA0KICAiRW1haWxBZGRyZXN zIjogImRpY2tydXNsQGFvbC5jb20iLA0KICAiRGlzdHJpYnV0a W9uVHJhY2thYmxlSXRlbUlkIjogMA0KfQ%3D%3D&hmac=rflqz95n2bYQZOIJ80vxY0DXwrwJnY-v13I_nYdiIVQ=)

Peter Lemkin
05-03-2017, 03:30 PM
cartoon video of the first 100 days....


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0vNdRAK3xIw

Peter Lemkin
05-05-2017, 06:31 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9asNCNBJ7qY

Peter Lemkin
05-05-2017, 06:42 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIB3rmSia1I

Peter Lemkin
05-06-2017, 01:58 PM
For a dramatized version of where Trump and Pence want to take the USA, watch The Handmaids Tale on HULU....::hitler:: It's good....very good...and very bleak...written in 1985 by a Canadian writer Margaret Atwood. It is a dystopian tale in a totalitarian theocracy which has overthrown the USA - it fits the current time like a glove. Give Trump and Pence a year or two and it could come to pass.....


The Handmaid's Tale is set in the Republic of Gilead (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/There_Is_a_Balm_in_Gilead), a theocratic military dictatorship (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Military_dictatorship) formed within the borders of what was formerly the United States of America.
Beginning with a staged attack that kills the President and most of Congress (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Congress), a Christian fundamentalist (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_fundamentalist) movement calling itself the "Sons of Jacob" launches a revolution and suspends the United States Constitution (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Constitution) under the pretext of restoring order. They are quickly able to take away women's rights, largely attributed to financial records being stored electronically and labelled by gender. The new regime, the Republic of Gilead, moves quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society along a new militarized, hierarchical regime of Old Testament (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Testament)-inspired social and religious fanaticism among its newly created social classes. In this society, human rights are severely limited and women's rights are even more curtailed; for example, women are forbidden to read.
The story is told in the first person by a woman called Offred (literally Of-Fred). The character is one of a class of women kept for reproductive purposes and known as "handmaids" by the ruling class in an era of declining births due to sterility from pollution and sexually transmitted diseases. Offred describes her life during her third assignment as a handmaid, in this case to Fred (referred to as "The Commander"). Interspersed in flashbacks are portions of her life from before and during the beginning of the revolution, when she finds she has lost all autonomy to her husband, through her failed attempt to escape with her husband and daughter to Canada, to her indoctrination into life as a handmaid. Offred describes the structure of Gilead's society, including the several different classes of women and their circumscribed lives in the new theocracy.
The Commander is a high-ranking official in Gilead. Although he is supposed to have contact with Offred only during "the ceremony", a ritual of sexual intercourse intended to result in conception and at which his wife is present, he begins an illegal and ambiguous relationship with her. He offers her hidden or contraband products, such as old (1970s) fashion magazines, cosmetics and clothes, takes her to a secret brothel run by the government, and furtively meets with her in his study, where he allows her to read, an activity otherwise prohibited for women. The Commander's wife, Serena Joy, also has secret interactions with Offred, arranging for her secretly to have sex with Nick, the Commander's driver, in an effort to get Offred pregnant. In exchange for Offred's cooperation, Serena Joy gives her news of her daughter, whom Offred has not seen since she and her family were captured trying to escape Gilead.
After Offred's initial meeting with Nick, they begin to rendezvous more frequently. Offred discovers she enjoys sex with Nick, despite her indoctrination and her memories of her husband. She shares potentially dangerous information about her past with him. Through another handmaid, Ofglen, Offred learns of the Mayday resistance, an underground network working to overthrow Gilead. Shortly after Ofglen's disappearance (later revealed as a suicide), the Commander's wife finds evidence of the relationship between Offred and the Commander. Offred contemplates suicide. As the novel concludes, she is being taken away by the secret police, the Eyes of God, known informally as "the Eyes", under orders from Nick. Before she is put in the large black van, Nick tells her that the men are part of the Mayday resistance and that Offred must trust him. Offred does not know if Nick is a member of the Mayday resistance or a government agent posing as one, and she does not know if going with the men will result in her escape or her capture. She enters the van with her future uncertain.
The novel concludes with a metafictional epilogue (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epilogue) that explains that the events of the novel occurred shortly after the beginning of what is called "the Gilead Period". The epilogue is "a partial transcript of the proceedings of the Twelfth Symposium on Gileadean Studies" written in 2195. According to the symposium's "keynote speaker" Professor Pieixoto, he and colleague, Professor Knotly Wade, discovered Offred's story recorded onto cassette tapes. They transcribed the tapes, calling them collectively "the handmaid's tale". Through the tone and actions of the professionals in this final section of the book, the world of academia is highlighted and critiqued, and Pieixoto discusses his team's search for the characters named in the Tale, and the impossibility of proving the tapes' authenticity. Nevertheless, the epilogue implies that, following the collapse of the theocratic Republic of Gilead, a more equal society, though not the United States that previously existed, re-emerged with a restoration of full rights for women and freedom of religion.
CharactersOffredOffred is the protagonist (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protagonist) and narrator. She was labeled a "wanton woman" when Gilead was established because she had married a man who was divorced. All divorces were nullified by the new government, meaning her husband was now considered still married to his first wife, making Offred an adulteress. In trying to escape Gilead, she was separated from her husband and daughter. She is part of the first generation of Gilead's women, those who remember pre-Gilead times. Proven fertile, she is considered an important commodity and has been placed as a handmaid (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handmaid) in the home of the Commander Fred and his wife Serena Joy, to bear a child for them (Serena Joy is believed to be infertile).[7] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-GradesaverCharList-7)
Offred is a slave name that describes her function: she is "of Fred", i.e. she belongs to Fred, her commander, and is considered a concubine (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concubine). In the novel, Offred says that she is not a concubine, but a tool; a "two legged womb". "Offred" is also a pun on the word "offered", as in "offered as a sacrifice".[5] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-The_New_York_Times-5) It is implied that her birth name is June. The women in training to be handmaids whisper names across their beds at night. The names are "Alma. Janine. Dolores. Moira. June", and all are later accounted for except June. In addition, one of the Aunts tells the handmaids-in-training to stop "mooning and June-ing".[8] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-FOOTNOTEAtwood1986220-8) Miner suggests that "June" is a pseudonym. As "Mayday" is the name of the Gilead resistance, June could be an invention by the protagonist. The Nunavut conference covered in the epilogue takes place in June.[9] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-Miner-9)
The CommanderThe Commander says that he is a sort of scientist and was previously involved in something similar to market research (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_research), pre-Gilead. Later, it is hypothesized, but not confirmed, that he might have been one of the architects of the Republic and its laws. Presumably, his first name is "Fred", though that, too, may be a pseudonym.
He engages in forbidden intellectual pursuits with Offred, such as playing Scrabble (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrabble), and introduces her to a secret club that serves as a brothel for high-ranking officers. Offred learns that the Commander carried on a similar relationship with his previous handmaid and that she killed herself when his wife found out. In the epilogue the academics speculate that one of two figures, both instrumental in the establishment of Gilead, may have been Fred, based on his first name. It is strongly suggested that the Commander was a man named Frederick R. Waterford who was killed in a purge shortly after Offred was taken away, charged with harboring an enemy agent.
Serena JoySerena Joy is a former televangelist (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Televangelist) and the Commander's wife in the fundamentalist theocracy. The state took away her power and public recognition, and tries to hide her past as a television figure. Offred identifies her master's wife by recalling seeing her on TV when she was a little girl early on Saturday mornings while waiting for the cartoons to air. Believed to be sterile (although the suggestion is made that the Commander is sterile-Gileadean laws attribute sterility only to women), she is forced to accept that he has use of a handmaid. She resents having to take part in the monthly fertility ritual. She strikes a deal with Offred to arrange for her to have sex with Nick in order to become pregnant. According to Professor Pieixoto in the epilogue, "Serena Joy" or "Pam" are pseudonyms; the character's real name is implied to be Thelma.
OfglenOfglen is a neighbour of Offred's and a fellow Handmaid. She is partnered with Offred to do the daily shopping. Handmaids are never alone and are expected to police each other's behaviour. Ofglen is a member of the Mayday resistance. In contrast to Offred, she is daring. She knocks out a Mayday spy who is to be tortured and killed in order to save him the pain of a violent death. Offred is told that when Ofglen vanishes, it is because she has committed suicide before the government can take her into custody due to her membership in the resistance, possibly to avoid giving away any information.
A new handmaid, also called Ofglen, takes Ofglen's place, and is assigned as Offred's shopping partner. She threatens Offred against any thought of resistance. She breaks protocol by telling her what happened to the first Ofglen.
NickNick is the Commander's chauffeur, who lives above the garage. By Serena Joy's arrangement, he and Offred start a sexual relationship to increase her chance of getting pregnant. If she were unable to bear the Commander a child, she would be declared sterile and shipped to the ecological wastelands of the Colonies. Offred begins to develop feelings for him. Nick is an ambiguous character, and Offred does not know if he is a party loyalist or part of the resistance, though he identifies himself as the latter. The epilogue suggests that he really was part of the resistance, and aided Offred in escaping the Commander's house.
MoiraMoira has been a close friend of Offred's since college. A lesbian, she has resisted the homophobia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homophobia) of Gilead society. Moira is taken to be a Handmaid soon after Offred. She escapes by stealing an Aunt's pass and clothes. Offred later encounters her working as a prostitute in a party-run brothel. She had been caught and chose the brothel over being sent to the Colonies.
LukeLuke was Offred's husband prior to the formation of Gilead. He had divorced his first wife to marry her. Under Gilead, all divorces were retroactively nullified, resulting in Offred being considered an adulteress and their daughter a bastard. Offred was forced to become a Handmaid and her daughter was given to a loyalist family. Since their attempt to escape to Canada, Offred has heard nothing of Luke.
Professor PieixotoPieixoto is the "co-discoverer [with Professor Knotly Wade] of Offred's tapes". He talks in his presentation about "the 'Problems of Authentication in Reference to The Handmaid's Tale'".[7] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-GradesaverCharList-7)
SettingThe novel is set in an indeterminate future, speculated to be around the year 2005,[10] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-10) with a fundamentalist theocracy ruling the territory of what had been the United States but is now the Republic of Gilead. Individuals are segregated by categories and dressed according to their social functions. The complex sumptuary laws (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sumptuary_law) (dress codes) play a key role in imposing social control within the new society and serve to distinguish people by sex, occupation, and caste (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste).
The action takes place in the Harvard Square (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvard_Square) neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambridge,_Massachusetts);[11] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-FOOTNOTEAtwood1998An_Interview-11) Atwood studied at Radcliffe College (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radcliffe_College), located in this area.
PoliticsIn Gilead, the bodies of women are politicized and controlled. The North American population is falling as more men and women become infertile (though in Gilead, legally, it is only women who can be the cause of infertility). Gilead's treatment of women is based upon a narrow, fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible, meaning that women are the property of and subordinate to their husband, father, or head of household. They are not allowed to do anything that would grant them any power independent of this system. They are not allowed to vote, hold a job, read, possess money, or own anything, among many other restrictions. A particular quote from The Handmaid's Tale sums this up: "The Republic of Gilead, said Aunt Lydia, knows no bounds. Gilead is within you" (HT 5.2). This describes that there is no way around the societal bounds of women in this new state of government. Handmaids, being not allowed to wed, are given two-year assignments with a commander, and lose their own name: they are called "Of [their Commander's first name]", such as the novel's heroine, known only as Offred. When a handmaid is reassigned, her name changes with her. Their original identities before the revolution are supressed, although while being reeducated as handmaids, they surreptitiously share their names with each other.
In this book, the government appears to be strong though "no one in Gilead seems to be a true believer in its revolution" (Beauchamp). The Commanders, portrayed via Commander Fred, do not agree with their own doctrines. The commander takes Offred at one point to a club in order to have sex with her in an informal setting apart from the Ceremony. The wives, portrayed via Serena Joy, former television evangelist, disobey the rules set forth by their commander husbands. Serena smokes black market cigarettes and expresses the forbidden idea that men may be infertile, and schemes to get Offred impregnated by her chauffeur.
Caste and classAfrican Americans, the main non-white ethnic group in this society, are called the Children of Ham (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamitic). A state TV broadcast mentions they have been relocated en masse to "National Homelands" in the Midwest, which are suggestive of the Apartheid-era homelands (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bantustan) set up by South Africa. Roman Catholics are only briefly mentioned: nuns who refuse conversion are considered "Unwomen" and banished to the Colonies due to their reluctance to marry and refusal/inability to bear children. Priests unwilling to convert are executed and hung from the Wall. Jews (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jews) are called Sons of Jacob (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob), also the name of the fundamentalist group that rules the Republic of Gilead. Offred observes that Jews refusing to convert are allowed to emigrate to Israel, and most choose to leave. However, in the Epilogue, Professor Pieixoto reveals that many of the emigrating Jews ended up being dumped into the sea while on the ships ostensibly tasked with transporting them to Israel, due to privatization of the "repatriation program" and capitalists' effort to maximize profits. Offred mentions that many Jews who chose to stay were caught secretly practicing Judaism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crypto-Judaism) and executed.
Gender and occupationThe sexes are strictly divided. Gilead's society values reproduction by white women most highly. Women are categorised "hierarchically according to class status and reproductive capacity" as well as "metonymically (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metonymic) colour-coded according to their function and their labour" (Kauffman 232). The Commander expresses the prevailing opinion that women are considered intellectually and emotionally inferior to men.
Women are segregated by clothing, as are men. With rare exception, men wear military or paramilitary uniforms, which takes away their individualism as it does the women, but also gives them a sense of bravado and empowerment. All classes of men and women are defined by the colors they wear (as in Aldous Huxley (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aldous_Huxley)'s dystopian Brave New World (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World)), drawing on color symbolism and psychology. All lower-status individuals are regulated by this dress code. All non-persons are banished to the "Colonies" (usually forced-labor camps in which they clean up radioactive waste, becoming exposed and dying painful deaths as a result). Sterile, unmarried women are considered to be non-persons. Both men and women sent there wear grey dresses.
WomenSix main categories of "legitimate" women make up mainstream society. Two chief categories of "illegitimate" women live outside of mainstream society:
Legitimate womenhttps://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/44/Old_Dutch.gif (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Old_Dutch.gif)


The wings that Handmaids wear are modeled on the Old Dutch Cleanser.[5] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-The_New_York_Times-5)


WivesThey are at the top social level permitted to women. They are married to the higher-ranking functionaries. Wives always wear blue dresses, suggesting traditional depictions of the Virgin Mary (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virgin_Mary) in historic Christian art. When a Commander dies, his Wife becomes a Widow and must dress in black.DaughtersThe natural or adopted children of the ruling class (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruling_class). They wear white until marriage, which is now pre-arranged (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arranged_Marriage). The narrator's daughter has been adopted by an infertile Wife and Commander.Handmaids (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handmaid)Fertile women whose social function (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_function) is to bear children for the Wives. They dress in a red habit that completely conceals their shape, plus red shoes and red gloves. They wear white wings around their heads to prevent their seeing or being seen except when standing directly in front of a person. Handmaids are produced by re-educating (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brainwashing) fertile women who have broken the gender and social laws. Needing fertile Handmaids, Gilead gradually increased the number of gender-crimes. The Republic of Gilead justifies use of the handmaids for procreation based on biblical stories: Jacob took his two wives' handmaids, Bilhah (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bilhah) and Zilpah (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zilpah), to bed to bear him children, when the wives could not (Gen. 30:1–3), and Abraham took his wife's handmaid, Hagar (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hagar_%28Bible%29) (Gen. 16:1–6). Handmaids are generally assigned to Commanders, allowed to live in their houses, but remanded back to Aunts' facilities in the event a Commander is deployed in order to be guarded (and returned to the Commander's house upon his return from deployment). Handmaids who successfully bear children to term assist in raising them for a short time, and are then sent away to a new assignment, never to see the child they bore again. Their success as a Handmaid, however, means they will never be declared an "Unwoman" and sent to the Colonies, even if they never have another baby.AuntsThey train and monitor the Handmaids. They promote the role of Handmaid as an honorable and legitimate one, and a method by which women who have committed crimes can redeem themselves. They directly control and police women; serving as an Aunt is the only role for such unmarried, infertile, and often older women to have any autonomy. It allows them to avoid going to the colonies. Aunts dress in brown. They are the only class of women permitted to read. ("The Aunts are allowed to read and write." Vintage Books, p. 139. However, on p. 100 of the Vintage Books edition: "They played it (the Beatitudes) from a disc; the voice was a man's." In the Anchor Books edition: "They played it (the Beatitudes) from a tape, so not even an Aunt would be guilty of the sin of reading. The voice was a man's. (p.89.)")MarthasThey are older infertile women who have domestic skills and are compliant, making them suitable as servants. They dress in green smocks. The title of "Martha" is based on a story in Luke (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_Luke) 10:38–42, where Jesus visits Mary, sister of Lazarus (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary,_sister_of_Lazarus) and Martha (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martha); Mary listens to Jesus while Martha works at "all the preparations that had to be made".EconowivesWomen who have married relatively low-ranking men, not part of the elite. They are expected to perform all the female functions: domestic duties, companionship, and child-bearing. Their dress is multicoloured red, blue, and green to reflect these multiple roles.The division of labor (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Division_of_labor) among the women generates some resentment. Marthas, Wives and Econowives perceive Handmaids as promiscuous and are taught to scorn them. Offred mourns that the women of the various groups have lost their ability to empathize with each other. They are divided in their oppression.
Illegitimate womenUnwomenSterile women, the unmarried, some widows, feminists, lesbians, nuns, and politically dissident women: all women who are incapable of social integration (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_integration) within the Republic's strict gender divisions. Gilead exiles unwomen to "the Colonies", areas both of agricultural production and of deadly pollution. Joining them are those handmaids who fail to bear a child after three two-year assignments.JezebelsWomen forced to become prostitutes and entertainers. They are available only to the Commanders and to their guests. Offred portrays Jezebels as attractive and educated; they may be unsuitable as handmaids due to temperament. They have been sterilized, a surgery that is forbidden to other women. They operate in unofficial but state-sanctioned brothels, unknown to most women. Jezebels, whose title also comes from the Bible (note Queen Jezebel (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jezebel) in the Books of Kings (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Books_of_Kings)), dress in the remnants of sexualized costumes from "the time before", such as cheerleaders' costumes, school uniforms, and Playboy Bunny (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Playboy_Bunny) costumes. Jezebels can wear make-up, drink alcohol, and socialize with men, but are tightly controlled by the Aunts. When they pass their sexual prime and/or their looks fade, they are discarded, without any precision as to whether they are killed or sent to "the Colonies" in the novel.MenMen are classified into four main categories:
Commanders of the FaithfulThe ruling class (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruling_class). Because of their status, they are entitled to establish a patriarchal household with a Wife, a Handmaid if necessary, Marthas (female servants) and Guardians. They have a duty to procreate, but many may be infertile, as a possible result of exposure to a biological agent in pre-Gilead times. They wear black to signify superiority. They are allowed cars.EyesThe secret police attempting to discover those violating the rules of Gilead.AngelsSoldiers who fight in the wars in order to expand and protect the country's borders. Angels may be permitted to marry.Guardians (of the Faith)Soldiers "used for routine policing and other menial functions". They are unsuitable for other work in the republic being "stupid or older or disabled or very young, apart from the ones that are Eyes incognito" (chapter 4). Young Guardians may be promoted to Angels when they come of age (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coming_of_age). They wear green uniforms.Men who engage in homosexuality or related acts are declared "Gender Traitors"; they are either hanged or sent to the "colonies" to die a slow death.
BabiesIn this society, birth defects have become increasingly common.
There are two main categories of human children:
Unbabies, also known as "shredders"Babies born physically deformed or with some other birth defect. They do not last, but Offred does not know or want to know what happens to them. Pregnant Handmaids fear giving birth to a damaged child, or unbaby. Gilead forbids abortion and has done away with other testing to determine prenatal health of a fetus.KeepersBabies that are born alive with no defects.The Ceremony"The Ceremony" is a non-marital sexual act (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_sexual_activity) sanctioned for reproduction. The ritual requires the Handmaid to lie on her back between the legs of the Wife during the sex act as if they were one person. The Wife has to invite the Handmaid to share her power this way; many Wives consider this both humiliating and offensive. Offred describes the ceremony:

My red skirt is hitched up to my waist, though no higher. Below it the Commander is fucking. What he is fucking is the lower part of my body. I do not say making love, because this is not what he's doing. Copulating too would be inaccurate, because it would imply two people and only one is involved. Nor does rape cover it: nothing is going on here that I haven't signed up for.[12] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-FOOTNOTEAtwood199894-12)
LanguageIn the novel's fictional fundamentalist society, sterile (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/sterile) is an "outlawed" word.[13] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-FOOTNOTEAtwood1998161-13) In this society, there is no such thing as a sterile man anymore. In this culture, women are either fruitful or barren, the latter of which is declared to be an "unwoman" and is sent to the colonies with the rest of the "unwomen" to do life-threatening work until their death, which is, on average, three years.
Atwood emphasises how changes in context affect behaviours and attitudes by repeating the phrase "Context is all" throughout the novel, establishing this precept as a motif (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motif_%28narrative%29).[14] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-FOOTNOTEAtwood1998144.2C_192-14) Playing the game of Scrabble (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrabble) with her Commander illustrates the key significance of changes in "context"; once "the game of old men and women", the game became forbidden for women to play and therefore "desirable".[15] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-FOOTNOTEAtwood1998178.E2.80.9379-15) Through living in a morally rigid society, Offred has come to perceive the world differently from earlier. Offred expresses amazement at how "It has taken so little time to change our minds about things".[16] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-FOOTNOTEAtwood199836-16) Wearing revealing clothes and makeup had been part of her former life, but when she sees Japanese tourists dressed that way, she now feels the women are inappropriately dressed.[16] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-FOOTNOTEAtwood199836-16)
Offred can read but not translate the phrase "nolite te bastardes carborundorum (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Illegitimi_non_carborundum)" carved into the closet wall of her small bedroom; this mock-Latin (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_Latin) aphorism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aphorism) signifies "Don't let the bastards grind you down".[17] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-FOOTNOTEAtwood1998235-17) The significance of this phrase is intensified by the challenges the book has faced, creating a "Mise en abyme (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mise_en_abyme)" as both the protagonist and the reader decipher subversive texts.
Genre classificationFurther information: Science fiction (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Science_fiction), Social science fiction (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_science_fiction), and Speculative fiction (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculative_fiction)
In interviews and essays Atwood has discussed generic classification of The Handmaid's Tale as "science fiction" or "speculative fiction (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculative_fiction)", observing:

I like to make a distinction between science fiction proper and speculative fiction. For me, the science fiction label belongs on books with things in them that we can't yet do, such as going through a wormhole in space to another universe; and speculative fiction means a work that employs the means already to hand, such as DNA identification and credit cards, and that takes place on Planet Earth. But the terms are fluid.[3] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-Angels-3)
Hugo-winning (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Award) science fiction critic David Langford (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Langford) observed in a column: "The Handmaid's Tale won the very first Arthur C. Clarke Award (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_C._Clarke_Award) in 1987. She's been trying to live this down ever since." He says:

Atwood prefers to say that she writes speculative fiction—a term coined by SF author Robert A. Heinlein (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_A._Heinlein). As she told the Guardian, "Science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen." She used a subtly different phrasing for New Scientist, "Oryx and Crake is not science fiction. It is fact within fiction. Science fiction is when you have rockets and chemicals." So it was very cruel of New Scientist to describe this interview in the contents list as: "Margaret Atwood explains why science is crucial to her science fiction." ... Play it again, Ms Atwood—this time for the Book-of-the-Month Club: "Oryx and Crake is a speculative fiction, not a science fiction proper. It contains no intergalactic space travel, no teleportation, no Martians." On BBC1 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BBC_One) Breakfast News (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breakfast_News) the distinguished author explained that science fiction, as opposed to what she writes, is characterized by "talking squids in outer space".[4] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-Langford-4)
In distinguishing between these genre labels science fiction and speculative fiction (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Speculative_fiction), Atwood acknowledges that others may use the terms interchangeably. But she notes her interest in this type of work to explore themes in ways that "realistic (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Realism_%28arts%29) fiction" cannot do.[3] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-Angels-3)
Historical contextFitting with her claims that The Handmaid's Tale is a work of speculative fiction, not science fiction, Atwood's novel offers a satirical (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satire) view of various social, political, and religious trends of 1980s United States. Further, Atwood questions what would happen if these trends, and especially "casually held attitudes about women" were taken to their logical end.[18] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:0-18) Atwood continues to argue that all of the scenarios offered in The Handmaid's Tale have actually occurred in real life—in an interview she gave regarding Oryx and Crake, Atwood maintains that "As with The Handmaid's Tale, I didn't put in anything that we haven't already done, we're not already doing, we're seriously trying to do, coupled with trends that are already in progress... So all of those things are real, and therefore the amount of pure invention is close to nil."[19] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-19) Atwood was also known to carry around newspaper clippings to her various interviews to support her fiction's basis in reality.[20] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:1-20) Atwood has explained that The Handmaid's Tale is a response to those who claim the oppressive, totalitarian, and religious governments that have taken hold in other countries throughout the years "can't happen here"—but in this work, she has tried to show how such a takeover might play out.[21] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:2-21)
Atwood's inspiration for the Republic of Gilead came from her time studying early American Puritans (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Puritans) while at Harvard (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harvard_University), which she attended on a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodrow_Wilson_Fellowship).[18] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:0-18) Atwood argues that the modern view of the Puritans—that they came to America to flee religious persecution (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_persecution) in England and set up a religiously tolerant society—is misleading, and that instead, these Puritan leaders wanted to establish a monolithic (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monolith_%28disambiguation%29) theocracy (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theocracy) where religious dissent would not be accepted.[18] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:0-18) Atwood also had a personal connection to the Puritans, and she dedicates the novel to her own ancestor Mary Webster (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Webster_%28alleged_witch%29), who was accused of witchcraft in Puritan New England but survived her hanging.[22] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-22) Due to the religious nature of Gileadan society, Atwood clearly drew from the Bible for both the title of this novel as well as some of the specific traits and practices of this theocracy.[23] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-23) In fact, Atwood has often argued that in order for a coup (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coup_d%27%C3%A9tat) such as the one depicted in The Handmaid's Tale to occur, religion would have to be evoked:

... if you wanted to seize power in the US, abolish liberal democracy and set up a dictatorship, how would you go about it? What would be your cover story? It would not resemble any form of communism or socialism: those would be too unpopular... Nations never build apparently radical forms of government on foundations that aren't there already. Thus China replaced a state bureaucracy with a similar state bureaucracy under a different name, the USSR replaced the dreaded imperial secret police with an even more dreaded secret police, and so forth. The deep foundation of the US – so went my thinking – was not the comparatively recent 18th-century Enlightenment structures of the republic, with their talk of equality and their separation of church and state, but the heavy-handed theocracy of 17th-century Puritan New England, with its marked bias against women, which would need only the opportunity of a period of social chaos to reassert itself. Like any theocracy, this one would select a few passages from the Bible to justify its actions, and it would lean heavily towards the Old Testament, not towards the New.[24] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:3-24)
In 1984, when Atwood began writing The Handmaid's Tale, women in the United States were experiencing a reduction in many of the social, political, and economic gains that they had made during the 1960s and 1970s. In her work "'Just a Backlash': Margaret Atwood, Feminism, and The Handmaid's Tale", Shirley Neuman outlines many of the attacks on women that occurred during the Reagan administration:

... women made up an increasing percentage of those in the lowest-paid occupations, and they made no gains or lost ground in the better-paid trades and professions. The number of elected and politically appointed women declined. One-third of all federal budget cuts under Reagan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ronald_Reagan)'s presidency came from programs that served mainly women, even though these programs represented only 10 per cent of the federal budget. The average amount a divorced man paid in child support fell 25 per cent. Murders related to sexual assault and domestic violence increased by 160 per cent while the overall murder rate declined; meanwhile the federal government defeated bills to fund shelters for battered women, stalled already approved funding, and in 1981 closed down the Office of Domestic Violence it had opened only two years earlier. Pro-natalists bombed and set fire to abortion clinics and harassed their staff and patients; Medicaid ceased to fund legal abortions, effectively eliminating freedom of choice for most teenage girls and poor women; several states passed laws restricting not only legal abortion but even the provision of information about abortion. The debate about freedom of choice for women flipped over into court rulings about the rights and freedom of the fetus. The Equal Rights Amendment died.[20] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:1-20)
The leaders of the New Right (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Right) and Moral Majority (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moral_Majority) of 1980s America preached against the feminist movement, arguing that feminists "encourage women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians", as explained by former minister Pat Robertson (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pat_Robertson) in a letter to his congregation.[25] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-25) Women such as Phyllis Schlafly (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phyllis_Schlafly) and Tammy Faye Messner (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tammy_Faye_Messner) built their careers preaching against feminism, telling women to "return home, to let their husbands provide, and to use their femininity and feminine wiles as the core of their success and fulfilment as women".[20] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:1-20) Schlafly and Messner are often viewed as potential inspirations for the characters Aunt Lydia and/or Serena Joy.
Atwood also draws connections between the ways in which Gilead's leaders maintain their power and other examples of actual totalitarian governments. In her interviews, Atwood offers up Iran (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran) and Afghanistan (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Afghanistan) as examples of religious theocracies forcing women out of the public sphere and into their homes, as in Gilead.[20] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:1-20)[18] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:0-18) The "state-sanctioned murder of dissidents" was inspired by the Philippines (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippines), and the last General Secretary of the Romanian Communist Party (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Romanian_Communist_Party) Nicolae Ceausescu (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicolae_Ceau%C8%99escu)'s obsession with increasing the birth rate led to the strict policing of pregnant women and the outlawing of birth control and abortion.[20] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:1-20) However, Atwood clearly explains that many of these deplorable acts were not just present in other cultures and countries, "but within Western society, and within the 'Christian' tradition itself".[24] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:3-24)
The Republic of Gilead struggles with infertility (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infertility), making Offred's services as a Handmaid vital to producing children and thus reproducing the society. Handmaids themselves are "untouchable", but their ability to signify status is equated to that of slaves (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slavery_in_the_United_States) or servants throughout history.[24] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:3-24) Atwood connects their concerns with infertility to real-life problems our world faces, such as radiation (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radiation), chemical pollution, and venereal disease (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venereal_disease) (HIV/AIDS (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HIV/AIDS) is specifically mentioned in the "Historical Notes" section at the end of the novel, which was a relatively new disease at the time of Atwood's writing whose long-term impact was likely still unknown). Atwood's strong stance on environmental issues and their negative consequences for our society has presented itself in other works such as her MaddAddam (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MaddAddam) trilogy, and refers back to her growing up with biologists and her own scientific curiosity.[26] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-26)
Critical receptionThe Handmaid's Tale was well received by critics, helping to cement Atwood's status as a prominent writer of the 20th century. Not only was the book deemed well-written and compelling, but Atwood's work was notable for sparking intense debates both in and out of academia.[27] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-27) Atwood maintains that the Republic of Gilead is only an extrapolation of trends already seen in the United States at the time of her writing, a view supported by other scholars studying The Handmaid's Tale.[28] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-28) Indeed, many have placed The Handmaid's Tale in the same category of dystopian fiction (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dystopian_fiction) as Nineteen Eighty-Four (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nineteen_Eighty-Four) and Brave New World (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brave_New_World),[21] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:2-21) with the added feature of confronting the patriarchy, a categorization that Atwood has accepted and reiterated in many articles and interviews.[29] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:4-29) Even today, many reviewers hold that Atwood's novel remains as foreboding and powerful as ever, largely because of its basis in historical fact.[30] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-30)[31] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-31) Yet when her book was first published in 1985, not all reviewers were convinced of the "cautionary tale" Atwood presented. For example, Mary McCarthy's New York Times review argued that The Handmaid's Tale lacked the "surprised recognition" necessary for readers to see "our present selves in a distorting mirror, of what we may be turning into if current trends are allowed to continue".[32] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:5-32)
Feminist readingMuch of the discussion around The Handmaid's Tale has centered on its categorization as feminist literature. Atwood does not see the Republic of Gilead as a purely feminist (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminism) dystopia, as not all men have greater rights than women.[24] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:3-24) Instead, this society presents a typical dictatorship: "shaped like a pyramid, with the powerful of both sexes at the apex, the men generally outranking the women at the same level; then descending levels of power and status with men and women in each, all the way down to the bottom, where the unmarried men must serve in the ranks before being awarded an Econowife".[24] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:3-24) Additionally, Atwood has argued that while some of the observations that informed the content of The Handmaid's Tale may be feminist, her novel is not meant to say "one thing to one person" or serve as a political message—instead, The Handmaid's Tale is "a study of power, and how it operates and how it deforms or shapes the people who are living within that kind of regime".[21] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:2-21)[29] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:4-29) Some scholars have offered such a feminist interpretation, however, connecting Atwood's use of religious fundamentalism in the pages of The Handmaid's Tale to a condemnation of their presence in current American society.[33] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:6-33)[34] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:7-34) Yet others have argued that The Handmaid's Tale critiques typical notions of feminism, as Atwood's novel appears to subvert the traditional "women helping women" ideals of the movement and turn toward the possibility of "the matriarchal (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matriarchy) network ... and a new form of misogyny: women's hatred of women".[35] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-35) In a similar vein, Atwood's own work may suggest that "'excessive' feminism" was partially responsible for creating some of the negative attitude towards sex in the Republic of Gilead: in the novel, women fought against pornography (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist_views_of_pornography)'s perceived oppression of women by burning racy magazines, and the "women's world" that many feminists fought for was eventually created, although still "policed by men".[32] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-:5-32)
Awards

1985 – Governor General's Award for English language fiction (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Governor_General%27s_Award_for_English_language_fi ction) (winner)
1986 – Booker Prize (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booker_Prize) (nominated)
1986 – Nebula Award (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nebula_Award) (nominated)
1987 – Arthur C. Clarke Award (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_C._Clarke_Award) (winner)[a] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-36)
1987 – Prometheus Award (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prometheus_Award) (nominated)[b] (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Handmaid%27s_Tale#cite_note-37)

Peter Lemkin
05-09-2017, 04:25 PM
“TRUMP SAYS WE DON’T HAVE TO LET YOU IN” — REPORT SAYS U.S. BORDER OFFICIALS ARE TURNING AWAY ASYLUM SEEKERS (https://theintercept.com/2017/05/03/trump-says-we-dont-have-to-let-you-in-report-says-u-s-border-officials-are-turning-away-asylum-seekers/)


Cora Currier (https://theintercept.com/staff/cora/)

May 4 2017, 2:51 a.m.








THREE TIMES THIS winter a Honduran woman named Alma went to U.S. officials at the border between Reynosa, Mexico, and Hidalgo, Texas, to ask for asylum for herself and her three children. She had fled Honduras because her other child had been killed by gang members, and she had brought documentation to prove it, but three times she was told by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that she would have to wait in Mexico. In February, the family was kidnapped.
Alma’s is one of the cases included in a report (https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/sites/default/files/hrf-crossing-the-line-report.pdf) released today by Human Rights First, which alleges that officials at the U.S.-Mexico border have been routinely and illegally turning away asylum seekers. The report provides dozens of examples of officials providing false information about the law, asking misleading questions or pressuring people to take back statements about fearing persecution, and frustrating lawyers who try to facilitate claims.
Human Rights First, together with other groups working at the border, has documented 125 cases since November 2016 where individuals or families were wrongly denied the chance to claim asylum. Although 8,000 people were referred to the asylum process nationwide during the same time, the report states that many abuses probably go unreported due to dangerous conditions, lack of legal counsel along the border, and little oversight of CBP officials as they receive and process asylum seekers’ claims.
Donald Trump’s election seems to have empowered some officials to fuel a malicious rumor mill: One Central American was told by an officer in South Texas, “Trump says we don’t have to let you in,” according to the report. In recent months, Cubans reported being told, “the law has changed, you have to go back,” and that asylum from Cuba “does not exist anymore. To go to the United States, you have to get a visa from a consulate.” (Before leaving office, Barack Obama did lift a policy (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/world/americas/cuba-obama-wet-foot-dry-foot-policy.html) that gave Cubans automatic parole on arrival in the United States, but Cubans are still eligible to apply for asylum like any other nationality.) Mexican immigration officials have also said to local advocates, “Stop lying to people, CBP told us they are not giving asylum in the United States anymore.”
In a statement, a CBP spokesperson said that “CBP has not changed any policies affecting asylum procedures” and that “as an agency CBP does not tolerate any kind of abuse.”
The statement outlined the asylum process as it is supposed to work:
If an officer or agent encounters a U.S.-bound migrant without legal papers and the person expresses fear of being returned to his/her home country, our officers processes them for an interview with an asylum officer. … CBP officers are not authorized to determine or evaluate the validity of the fear expressed. The applicant does not have to specifically request asylum, they simply must express fear of being returned to their country.

If the asylum officer, from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, decides that their fear is credible, the petitioner has a right to request asylum from a judge. They can stay in the United States, often not in immigration detention, during those proceedings.
Even before the election, however, there were problems: Lawyers and advocacy groups have documented similar complaints (https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/sites/default/files/general_litigation/cbp_systemic_denial_of_entry_to_asylum_seekers_adv ocacy_document.pdf) from earlier last year, and the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in areport (https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/Barriers%20To%20Protection.pdf) based on research from 2012 to 2015, found “outright skepticism, if not hostility, toward asylum claims” among some CBP officers.
In Tijuana last summer, responding to a sharp increase in arrivals from Haiti, CBP began working with Mexican immigration officials to streamline asylum claims by creating an appointment system. But that fix, according to the report, has led to a situation where CBP won’t see people without an appointment — and Mexican officials are refusing to give out those appointments. And for Mexicans looking for protection in the United States from cartels and corrupt authorities, it could mean they find themselves referred back to the very government they are fleeing.
The report comes down hard on Mexico, saying that its own asylum system is woefully understaffed and “riddled with deficiencies,” and that authorities can offer little protection to vulnerable refugees. Many of the asylum seekers coming through Mexico are refugees from gang violence or political persecution in the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and their abusers’ networks can follow them to Mexico. It’s also difficult for Central Americans stuck without documents (https://theintercept.com/2017/03/12/refugees-fleeing-violence-in-central-america-hope-for-asylum-in-mexico/) to get work, and they are vulnerable to kidnapping and other abuse by cartels and traffickers. The report also notes that denying asylum can push refugees to give up on official channels and attempt more remote and dangerous unauthorized crossings.

Peter Lemkin
05-09-2017, 04:25 PM
“TRUMP SAYS WE DON’T HAVE TO LET YOU IN” — REPORT SAYS U.S. BORDER OFFICIALS ARE TURNING AWAY ASYLUM SEEKERS (https://theintercept.com/2017/05/03/trump-says-we-dont-have-to-let-you-in-report-says-u-s-border-officials-are-turning-away-asylum-seekers/)


Cora Currier (https://theintercept.com/staff/cora/)

May 4 2017, 2:51 a.m.








THREE TIMES THIS winter a Honduran woman named Alma went to U.S. officials at the border between Reynosa, Mexico, and Hidalgo, Texas, to ask for asylum for herself and her three children. She had fled Honduras because her other child had been killed by gang members, and she had brought documentation to prove it, but three times she was told by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that she would have to wait in Mexico. In February, the family was kidnapped.
Alma’s is one of the cases included in a report (https://www.humanrightsfirst.org/sites/default/files/hrf-crossing-the-line-report.pdf) released today by Human Rights First, which alleges that officials at the U.S.-Mexico border have been routinely and illegally turning away asylum seekers. The report provides dozens of examples of officials providing false information about the law, asking misleading questions or pressuring people to take back statements about fearing persecution, and frustrating lawyers who try to facilitate claims.
Human Rights First, together with other groups working at the border, has documented 125 cases since November 2016 where individuals or families were wrongly denied the chance to claim asylum. Although 8,000 people were referred to the asylum process nationwide during the same time, the report states that many abuses probably go unreported due to dangerous conditions, lack of legal counsel along the border, and little oversight of CBP officials as they receive and process asylum seekers’ claims.
Donald Trump’s election seems to have empowered some officials to fuel a malicious rumor mill: One Central American was told by an officer in South Texas, “Trump says we don’t have to let you in,” according to the report. In recent months, Cubans reported being told, “the law has changed, you have to go back,” and that asylum from Cuba “does not exist anymore. To go to the United States, you have to get a visa from a consulate.” (Before leaving office, Barack Obama did lift a policy (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/world/americas/cuba-obama-wet-foot-dry-foot-policy.html) that gave Cubans automatic parole on arrival in the United States, but Cubans are still eligible to apply for asylum like any other nationality.) Mexican immigration officials have also said to local advocates, “Stop lying to people, CBP told us they are not giving asylum in the United States anymore.”
In a statement, a CBP spokesperson said that “CBP has not changed any policies affecting asylum procedures” and that “as an agency CBP does not tolerate any kind of abuse.”
The statement outlined the asylum process as it is supposed to work:
If an officer or agent encounters a U.S.-bound migrant without legal papers and the person expresses fear of being returned to his/her home country, our officers processes them for an interview with an asylum officer. … CBP officers are not authorized to determine or evaluate the validity of the fear expressed. The applicant does not have to specifically request asylum, they simply must express fear of being returned to their country.

If the asylum officer, from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, decides that their fear is credible, the petitioner has a right to request asylum from a judge. They can stay in the United States, often not in immigration detention, during those proceedings.
Even before the election, however, there were problems: Lawyers and advocacy groups have documented similar complaints (https://www.americanimmigrationcouncil.org/sites/default/files/general_litigation/cbp_systemic_denial_of_entry_to_asylum_seekers_adv ocacy_document.pdf) from earlier last year, and the bipartisan U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, in areport (https://www.uscirf.gov/sites/default/files/Barriers%20To%20Protection.pdf) based on research from 2012 to 2015, found “outright skepticism, if not hostility, toward asylum claims” among some CBP officers.
In Tijuana last summer, responding to a sharp increase in arrivals from Haiti, CBP began working with Mexican immigration officials to streamline asylum claims by creating an appointment system. But that fix, according to the report, has led to a situation where CBP won’t see people without an appointment — and Mexican officials are refusing to give out those appointments. And for Mexicans looking for protection in the United States from cartels and corrupt authorities, it could mean they find themselves referred back to the very government they are fleeing.
The report comes down hard on Mexico, saying that its own asylum system is woefully understaffed and “riddled with deficiencies,” and that authorities can offer little protection to vulnerable refugees. Many of the asylum seekers coming through Mexico are refugees from gang violence or political persecution in the Northern Triangle of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and their abusers’ networks can follow them to Mexico. It’s also difficult for Central Americans stuck without documents (https://theintercept.com/2017/03/12/refugees-fleeing-violence-in-central-america-hope-for-asylum-in-mexico/) to get work, and they are vulnerable to kidnapping and other abuse by cartels and traffickers. The report also notes that denying asylum can push refugees to give up on official channels and attempt more remote and dangerous unauthorized crossings.





https://deeppoliticsforum.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=9109&stc=1

Peter Lemkin
05-10-2017, 04:08 AM
James Comey, FBI director, fired by Donald Trump

US president sacks James Comey over his handling of the probe into Hillary Clinton's emails.


http://www.aljazeera.com/mritems/imagecache/mbdxxlarge/mritems/Images/2017/3/20/5ae3280e5086479295a930a8cf646e25_18.jpgComey was appointed as FBI chief four years ago [File: Reuters]US President Donald Trump has abruptly fired FBI Director James Comey in the fallout over Comey's probe of Democrat Hillary Clinton's emails last year, saying Comey was no longer able to effectively lead the law enforcement agency.
Comey had been leading an FBI investigation (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/fbi-head-james-comey-confirms-russia-election-probe-170321054242336.html)into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 US presidential election and possible collusion with Trump's campaign. His dismissal on Tuesday will likely fuel concerns about the integrity of the probe and renew calls for an independent investigation.
The FBI director had been embroiled in a controversy surrounding his probe into whether Clinton's use of a private email server while US secretary of state during President Barack Obama's first term compromised national security.
"It is essential that we find new leadership for the FBI that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission," Trump said in a letter to Comey released by the White House.
Trump told Comey in the letter he accepted the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he could no longer provide effective leadership. Comey's term was to run through September 2023.
'Political bombshell'

The decision, announced by White House press secretary Sean Spicer in a brief appearance before reporters, caught Washington off guard.
"President Trump’s nearly four months in office have been controversial, but this is almost certainly the most controversial decision yet," said Al Jazeera's Washington Editor James Bays, calling the move "a political bombshell that will reverberate for a long time.
"It doesn't end here, because a new FBI director has to be confirmed by the Senate, where the Republicans hold a very slim majority."
Comey had said in July (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/07/fbi-recommends-charges-clinton-email-probe-160705160510312.html)the Clinton email case should be closed without prosecution, but then declared - 11 days before the November 8 election in which Clinton was the Democratic nominee - that he had reopened the investigation (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/10/fbi-clinton-emails-investigation-161028185242864.html)because of a discovery of a new trove of Clinton-related emails.

Clinton said last week that she partly blames (http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/05/clinton-russia-misogyny-election-loss-170503014706809.html)Comey's decision for her election loss.
The White House released a memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that provided the administration's justification for firing Comey.
"I cannot defend the Director's handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton's emails, and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken," Rosenstein wrote.
Top US Democrat Chuck Schumer said firing Comey was "a big mistake", and questioned the timing of the move.
"We know the FBI has been looking into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians," he said.
"Were these investigations hitting too close to home for the president?"
In a letter, Trump told Comey: "While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau."
Russia investigations

There are several Russia probes ongoing in Congress. The US House of Representatives’ main investigation has been stymied in recent weeks by partisan squabbles, while the Senate’s parallel probe has been slow-moving and equipped with a much smaller staff than previous high-profile congressional investigations.
The Senate Republican leading that investigation, Richard Burr, said he was "troubled by the timing and reasoning" behind the firing.
He said he found Comey to a public servant of the highest order, and his dismissal "further confuses an already difficult investigation" by his panel.
Matthew Schmidt, an assistant professor of national security and political science at the University of New Haven, said Trump's move gives the impression that his administration has something to hide, as there have been no new revelations about the email probe to motivate the timing of the firing.
"Now there's no way that any report coming out of the FBI that is favourable to the president will be seen as being not tainted," he told Al Jazeera. "The only way to save this is to appoint a special prosecutor that is seen as being independent of White House interference."
Some Republican lawmakers supported Trump's argument that the FBI needs a "fresh start".
But Republican Senator John McCain, a former presidential candidate, said he was "disappointed" in the president's decision to fire Comey, whom he called "a man of honour and integrity".
McCain said he had long called for a special congressional committee to investigate Russia's interference in the 2016 election.
"The president's decision to remove the FBI director only confirms the need and the urgency of such a committee," he said.
Senator Bernie Sanders, Democratic presidential candidate in 2016, said Trump's decision to fire Comey "raises serious questions about what his administration is hiding.
"President Trump has repeatedly taken steps to kill inquiries into Russia's involvement in the US election. It is clear that whomever President Trump handpicks to lead the FBI will not be able to objectively carry out this investigation," he said in a statement.

https://deeppoliticsforum.com/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=9111&stc=1

Peter Lemkin
05-10-2017, 04:15 AM
President Trump Fires F.B.I. ChiefPosted on May 9, 2017http://www.truthdig.com/images/reportuploads/James_Comey_October_surprise_590.jpg
Former FBI Director James Comey testifing before the House Judiciary Committee (https://judiciary.house.gov/hearing/oversight-federal-bureau-investigation/) in September. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP (http://www.apimages.com/metadata/Index/Congress-FBI/193f44d203f946e4ab9035921977eaac/25/0))

Update: 4:29 p.m. PDT: The head of the American Civil Liberties Union and former National Security Agency contractor-tuned whistle-blower Edward Snowden both commented publicly about Comey’s firing after the news broke. ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero offered his thoughts in a statement (https://www.aclu.org/news/aclu-comment-trump-firing-fbi-director-comey):

The independence of the FBI director is meant to ensure that the president does not operate above the law. For President Trump to fire the man responsible for investigating his own campaign’s ties to the Russians imperils that fundamental principle.
Regardless of how one judges the performance of James Comey in either the Hillary Clinton or Russia investigations, President Trump’s dismissal of a sitting FBI director raises serious alarm bells for our system of checks and balances.
The terms of FBI directors were purposefully structured to span across sitting presidents to ensure the FBI’s independence and insulate the bureau from partisan politics. President Trump’s dismissal of Comey raises questions about the administration’s inappropriate meddling in bureau operations — precisely at a time when the bureau appears to be investigating the president, his advisors, and his campaign for potential collusion with Russian agents in our last election.
Meanwhile, Snowden sounded off on President Trump’s favoredplatform (https://twitter.com/Snowden?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ct wgr%5Eauthor)—Twitter:
* * *He weathered a contentious election season—to which he added no small measure of conflict—and the tumultuous transition that ensued from the Obama administration to the Trump White House, but as of Tuesday, F.B.I. Director James Comey was obliged to step down from his post.
The reason? According to officials from the current regime, it once again came down to Hillary Clinton’s infamous emails.
The New York Times relayed word that President Trump fired Comey over his handling of the investigation into the former secretary of state’s use of a private email server for State Department-related communications
Mr. Comey was leading an investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr. Trump said in a letter to Mr. Comey dated Tuesday.
“It is essential that we find new leadership for the F.B.I. that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” Mr. Trump wrote.
Sen. Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a post on Twitter that Mr. Comey “should be immediately called to testify in an open hearing about the status of Russia/Trump investigation at the time he was fired.”
The paper also reported that the newly installed Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein advised the president to oust Comey.

Peter Lemkin
05-10-2017, 01:02 PM
AMY GOODMAN: On Sunday, comedian John Oliver dedicated nearly 20 minutes of his HBO program to explain that net neutrality is under threat. He directed much of his criticism to FCC Chairman Ajit Pai.
JOHN OLIVER: Pai’s main argument is that we don’t need Title II to have net neutrality. But some of his ideas for what to have instead are almost laughably lax. For instance, he reportedly floated just having ISPs voluntarily agree not to obstruct or slow consumer access to web content by putting that promise in their terms of service—you know, the things that no human being has ever read, and that can change whenever companies want them to. That idea would basically make net neutrality as binding as a proposal on The Bachelor.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s John Oliver, who ended his show by calling on his viewers to write to the FCC, just as he did after a similar segment in 2014. Once again, the enormous response broke the commission’s website. So, Craig Aaron, talk about net neutrality, what it means, and what it means under a Trump administration and Ajit Pai, the chair of the FCC.
CRAIG AARON: Well, net neutrality is just a way of saying no discrimination. Net neutrality is what ensures that when you go online, you can go wherever you want, do whatever you want, download whatever you want. And it’s not up to your cable company or the phone company to decide which websites and services are going to work and which won’t.
We fought a fight—I’ve talked about it many times on this show—over 10 years to push the FCC to pass strong net neutrality rules and have clear legal authority to enforce them. And the Trump FCC has really declared war on those rules. The chairman has said he wants to take a weed whacker to them. He’s trying to undo the rules passed at the end of the Obama administration, undo the rules supported by millions and millions of Americans, just to give Comcast, Verizon and AT&T more ability to create special fast lanes for their own content, to favor the content and sites and services that they own or who they’re in business with, and cut off competitors, undermine the competition, make it harder for independent voices to be heard, really damage the amazing tools that so many political organizers have used to build social movements using the free and open internet. All of this is at risk if we lose net neutrality.
Now, the good news is, it is easier said than done. They actually have to build a case for doing this. They have not done that so far, but they are starting the process. So, here, in a couple weeks at the FCC, Ajit Pai is going to move to reopen these rules, make new rules. We’re certainly going to be there at Free Press with all of our allies, speaking out in opposition and preparing the case against what Ajit Pai is going to do on all fronts, whether that’s Congress, the courts, at the agency itself. This net neutrality victory was an incredibly important victory for free expression, for the public interest. And Donald Trump’s FCC is prioritizing taking it away.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Craig, what about this claim by the FCC, because after the—after the Oliver broadcast, that they were—their site crashed. They claimed that they were victims of a denial-of-service attack. And you would think that if anyone had sufficient bandwidth to take in public comments, it would be the Federal Communications Commission. That’s their job. And your response to their claim that they’ve been victimized by an attack?
CRAIG AARON: You know, I really don’t know. What I would—what I would urge the FCC to do is, if that is indeed the case, they should share the logs of what happened, so people can understand, if they indeed did come under attack, because, given the timing, you can’t help but question: Were they under attack, or was it actually just an attack of democracy, with so many people coming in, trying to make their voices heard, and the FCC being unprepared? The FCC should be better prepared. They need to open up these systems so the public can actually comment. Congress needs then to give them the money to be able to do that. These are important things. So I am skeptical of those claims, but I would certainly hope the FCC will share what exactly happened. And hopefully they’ll get the support they need to secure their systems and actually give people the time and the space to make their voices heard. And really what the FCC needs to be doing is make it a lot easier for the public to weigh in. They have a lot to say. They care about the future of the internet. Millions and millions of people are going to speak out in this proceeding. And the FCC shouldn’t be, you know, closing off its ears because of technical difficulties.
AMY GOODMAN: Craig, I want to turn to the FCC Chair Ajit Pai speaking at the Newseum last month. During his speech on the future of internet regulation, he attacked your group, Free Press.
AJIT PAI: Consider, for example, the leading special interest in favor of Title II: a spectacularly misnamed Beltway special interest called Free Press. Its co-founder and current board member makes no effort to hide the group’s true agenda. While he says that we’re not at the point yet where we can completely eliminate the telephone and cable companies, he admits that—and I quote—"the ultimate goal is to get rid of the media capitalists and the phone and cable companies and to divest them from control."

AMY GOODMAN: Craig Aaron, defend yourself.
CRAIG AARON: Well, I appreciate being called the leading group. Besides that, you know, obviously, this is the kind of sort of neo-McCarthyism and red-baiting that we thought we left in the past. The reality is that Free Press, for 10 years, has fought for the free and open internet, advocated for net neutrality, and there are thousands and thousands and thousands of pages filed at the FCC, op-eds published, emails sent. Our website is filled with content saying exactly why we stand where we do and exactly what we want, which is actually just a free—the free and open internet. So if they want to go dig around the internet to find out-of-context quotes from one of my board members, I guess that says a lot about the chairman and his priorities. We’re happy to have this fight and win on the facts.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And what would—what would the internet look like if these forces prevail and net neutrality is abolished?
CRAIG AARON: Well, I think the simplest way to think about it is that the internet, the free and open internet and all that it offers, starts to look a lot like cable TV, where a company picks and chooses the channels for you, decides what’s going to get the best service, decides what’s available in a package. And everything that makes the internet so great, the fact that anyone with a great idea can go online, start their own business, find their own voice, make their own art, that’s really in jeopardy if you lose this fundamental protection of net neutrality. And suddenly these companies will have free rein to interfere however they want, often in ways that would almost be impossible for the average user to see or recognize.

Peter Lemkin
05-10-2017, 01:04 PM
Arkansas had initially planned to execute 11 men during the month of April, but several of those executions were blocked by the courts. One of the judges who blocked the state’s efforts is now facing calls to be impeached. On April 14th, state Judge Wendell Griffen issued a temporary restraining order halting six of the executions over concerns that the state used false pretenses to obtain a key drug slated to be used in the executions. Following his ruling, Judge Wendell Griffen took part in an anti-death penalty protest outside the Governor’s Mansion organized by his church to mark Good Friday. In addition to being a judge, Griffen is an ordained Baptist minister. Calls for Judge Wendell Griffen’s impeachment began soon after photographs from the vigil appeared in the press showing him lying down on a cot with his hands bound together as though he were a condemned man on a gurney. The state’s high court soon barred Judge Griffen from hearing cases involving executions, capital punishment and the state’s lethal injection protocol. Then, last week, lawmakers set the stage to impeach Judge Griffen. If they succeed, Griffen would become the first judge ever impeached in the state of Arkansas. While Wendell Griffen’s future as a judge is in question, he has opted not to stay silent. Today he joins us in his first national television interview.
Judge Wendell Griffen, welcome to Democracy Now! Can you talk about your actions—your ruling in a death penalty case and then going outside to protest outside the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion? Welcome to Democracy Now!
JUDGE WENDELL GRIFFEN: Thank you, Amy. Thank you, Juan.
First of all, let me correct the narrative. The case in which I ruled was not a death penalty case. The case involved a complaint by a distributor of a pharmaceutical product, a drug, that had—that drug obtained by the Arkansas Department of Corrections under false pretenses. The drug was obtained, and the distributor sought to get the drug back. The distributor filed a motion for a temporary restraining order on Good Friday, the afternoon of Good Friday, shortly before I was going to attend a prayer vigil that our congregation had scheduled in front of the Governor’s Mansion. Based on the law that governs contracts and property—basically, property law—I found that the distributor had a case and that the distributor’s chance of having its property returned was likely to be destroyed, unless I entered temporary restraining order. I entered the temporary restraining order, went to the prayer vigil, and the ruling was incorrectly reported as a ruling as blocking executions. Actually, the effect of the temporary restraining order was to simply hold the status quo, to simply say to everybody, "Listen, do not dispose of this drug until we can get all of the parties before me and we can sort this out, whether or not the Department of Corrections correctly has the right to hold this drug, or whether or not this drug in fact was wrongly obtained." The evidence before me showed it was wrongly obtained. And so I did what I was supposed to do.
Now, I also went to the—I also went to the prayer vigil. That’s what I’m supposed to do. I’m a pastor. Good Friday is the religious holiday before Easter when followers of Jesus commemorate the death of Jesus. Our congregation had planned to have our Good Friday observance in front of the Governor’s Mansion before this motion was submitted to me. And so, as a pastor, as a follower of Jesus, I went to the Good Friday prayer vigil. And as a follower of Jesus, in solidarity with the religion of Jesus, I lay on a cot to show my solidarity with Jesus, who was a condemned man, condemned by the Roman Empire to death. And so that’s what happened.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Judge Griffen, were you surprised by the firestorm that followed your participation in that vigil, and the calls for your impeachment?
JUDGE WENDELL GRIFFEN: I was surprised that there was such a refusal to even ask about the facts. The case, as I mentioned earlier, was not a death penalty case. It was a case about the return of wrongfully obtained property. I was surprised that people did not understand that no matter what my views are on the death penalty, the law on the right to get your property back is the law on getting your property back. And no matter who the judge is, that law has to be followed. As a matter of fact, after the Arkansas Supreme Court removed me from the case, the judge who took that case after me heard the same case, heard the same facts and ruled the same way. So, the issue is not what one’s view is or what people want one’s view to be about capital punishment. The issue is whether or not a judge will follow the law regardless of how he or she feels about an issue. I did that. Now, what surprised me is that people who claim to believe in the integrity of judiciary and judicial independence now somehow believe that judicial independence is a threat, so that they believe that judges who follow the law should be impeached. That surprises me. And really, it disappoints me.
AMY GOODMAN: Judge Griffen, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge told KTHV it was inappropriate for you to participate in the Good Friday protest against the death penalty. She suggested it impacted your decision to grant a temporary restraining order on the use of the execution drug. This is what she said.
ATTORNEY GENERAL LESLIE RUTLEDGE: Those actions are inappropriate, and that’s why we have asked the Supreme Court to vacate Judge Griffen’s temporary restraining order, and that it is inappropriate for Judge Griffen to be on this case.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Judge Griffen, state Senator Trent Garner questioned whether your views on the death penalty threaten your ability to be fair and impartial as a judge. This is Garner speaking to Fox 16. .
SEN. TRENT GARNER: Making a public statement, a protest, in front of the Governor’s Mansion is unacceptable. It’s a disgrace to the judiciary system.

AMY GOODMAN: So I wanted to get your response to both of these people, Judge Griffen, and also if you can describe the scene outside the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion when you did lay down on that cot.
JUDGE WENDELL GRIFFEN: Let’s talk about the scene. First of all, members of our congregation were present at the Governor’s Mansion. There were also other persons present, other persons who were protesting the death penalty. They all had a right to be there. Our congregation had no right to chase off other people. And other people had no right to expect that our congregation would not be present. And, in fact, our congregation led the protesters in singing "This Little Light of Mine" and "Amazing Grace." Those are songs of our faith. And so, we did, as the followers of Jesus’ congregation, what we had a right to do. And as a judge, I did what I had a right to do as a citizen, by practicing my faith. That’s not disgraceful. That’s American. That’s democratic. We believe, because of the First Amendment, that every person has the right to live out his or her conscience. As a judge, I have an obligation to follow the law. That means that when a case comes before me, I have an obligation, as a judge, to apply the law that applies to that state, no matter what my personal views may be on an issue. It is not disgraceful for a judge to have views one way or the other way about capital punishment or anything else. It is not disgraceful for a judge who holds views to hold those views and decide cases involving those issues. What is inappropriate is for people to believe that when a judge decides a case according to the law, he or she should somehow be suspected as not being faithful to the law simply because he or she is faithful to their faith. "Faithful to faith" and "faithful to law" are not mutually exclusive terms. We can be faithful to our faith and faithful to the law, and the law can be followed even when we, as a people of faith, find questions about the law. And I think that’s something that we have to understand.
Now, let me speak about Attorney General Rutledge. Attorney General Rutledge represented the Department of Corrections, the governor of Arkansas and the director of the Department of Corrections in the lawsuit in which the distributor was trying to get its drug back. If Attorney General Rutledge believed that I was not qualified to decide the case, she had an obligation, as a lawyer, to bring that issue up before me. She didn’t do so. She did not tell me she was bringing the issue before the Supreme Court when she did that. The Supreme Court did not tell me that it was considering Attorney General Rutledge’s motion to disqualify me when it did so. The Supreme Court did not give me an opportunity to tell the Supreme Court what the facts were, before it removed me from the case and disqualified me from hearing all death penalty cases in Arkansas or any case involving the death penalty. That’s unfair, because no matter how thinly you pour it, every pancake’s got at least two sides. And part of what a judge is supposed to do is hear all the sides. It’s unethical for judges to refuse to hear the sides simply because one side doesn’t want the other side heard. And it’s unethical for a lawyer who’s supposed to be representing the judges—the attorney general of Arkansas represents judges—to basically go behind a judge’s back and try to have a judge removed, without even telling the judge that she’s doing so and giving the judge opportunity—a chance to hire their own lawyer and set the record straight on what the facts are. So, I am not concerned about my conduct. I’m very concerned about the conduct of the attorney general and the conduct of our Supreme Court, because, ethically, our justice system depends upon people trusting that our officials will follow the law. And when the attorney general of Arkansas doesn’t follow the law, when the Supreme Court doesn’t follow the rules that say that every dispute must be heard by all sides, people are going to have questions. If they will not follow the procedures when it affects a judge, how can they expect the procedure to be followed when it affects people who are ordinary citizens? So I’m concerned about that. And I think we should all be concerned about that.
Now, as to Senator Garner, I think that we should all be concerned about the notion that a legislator believes that it’s something somehow undemocratic for people to think about issues affecting public policy. What’s undemocratic about practicing your faith? What’s disgraceful about living according to your faith? And what’s disgraceful about following the law even when you have to follow the law and have questions about an issue involving the law? By point of fact, I followed the law in another case involving the death penalty where I refused to allow an amended complaint to challenge the Arkansas death penalty case, because the Arkansas Supreme Court had said the death penalty inmates could no longer challenge the constitutionality of the death penalty. I followed the law in that case, even though I oppose the death penalty. So, when Trent Garner says to me, and to the world, "Judge Griffen is disgraceful," I don’t understand how he defines "disgrace," because, quite frankly, by following the Supreme Court’s ruling, I disprove his claim of disgrace. By following the Supreme Court’s ruling, I disprove Attorney General Rutledge’s notion that I can’t follow the law. And by not allowing me to tell the Supreme Court that, the Supreme Court basically has prevented me from letting the record be made clear.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Judge Griffen, this is not the first time you’ve been involved, obviously, in controversy over your personal views. You’ve been—you’re a native of Little Rock, Arkansas. You’ve openly voiced support for raising the minimum wage, for opposition to the war in Iraq and opposition to demonizing of immigrants and LGBT people. Have you—could you talk about the reactions you’ve gotten in the past to your personal views?
JUDGE WENDELL GRIFFEN: Thank you, Juan. I think, really, that is what we’re really talking about here. The issue is not whether or not I followed the law on Good Friday. The issue really is—and I think Trent Garner has made this very clear. Senator Trent Garner has made it clear. He has a long-standing objection to the fact that Wendell Griffen, as a person, and Wendell Griffen, as a judge, holds views about public policy and life that he finds objectionable. I believe that people should earn a living wage, and I’m not afraid to say so. I believe that it is wrong for us to demonize immigrants, for us to pick on our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, for us to marginalize people because they are different. I supported marriage equality. I am glad that we have finally in Arkansas embraced the notion that all persons are entitled to live out their love openly and honestly without being demonized for it and having to be forced to live in the shadows. There are people who find my perspective on life and on faith abhorrent. They have a right to do that. But they don’t have a right as public officials to punish me or to try to punish anybody else simply because they disagree with what I view life should be.
I think that we, as public officials, have a responsibility to honor the freedom in this society to disagree. That’s a wonderful thing. And it is something very dishonorable—we have a word for it, "tyranny"—something very dishonorable when we use power to punish people with whom we disagree. And so, this issue involving impeachment is nothing that I need to think about, other than simply the latest effort to punish a judge, a black judge—I will say it, a black judge—with whom the white power structure in Arkansas disagrees. And I am a black judge and a black preacher. And just like the power structure disagreed with Martin King and found him objectionable, the power structure in Arkansas disagrees with Wendell Griffen and finds me objectionable. But I think that the important thing for me to remember is, if I am to be faithful to the law, I’ve got to follow the law, no matter whether the people agree with me or not, or whether people approve of me or not. If I’m going to be faithful to my faith, I’ve got to live true to my faith, even if people find my faith objectionable and even if they’re willing to punish me for it. And I’ve got to be willing to say, "If you want to punish me for my faith, I’m going to live out my faith. You can decide whether to punish me."
AMY GOODMAN: Judge Griffen, we want to thank you so much for being with us. Judge Wendell Griffen, judge of the 6th Circuit for Pulaski County in Arkansas. This is Democracy Now! Stay with us.
[break]
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman in Chicago. Juan González is in New York.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We’re joined now by Mike Laux, civil rights attorney. He’s one of the attorneys representing Judge Wendell Griffen, the Arkansas judge who is facing calls to be impeached for participating in an anti-death penalty protest. Can you talk about how unusual it is for a judge in Arkansas to face impeachment?
MIKE LAUX: Sure. Let me just say, first, thank you very much for having me. And I am just one of the attorneys that represents Judge Wendell Griffen. Also on our legal team is Mike Matthews of Foley & Lardner of Tampa, Florida, and Austin Porter of Little Rock, two great attorneys.
How rare is it? It’s extremely rare. The latest version of the Arkansas Constitution was adopted in 1874. So, in almost 150 years, there has never been an effort to impeach a sitting judge the way that they’re doing here with Judge Griffen.
And I think that, you know, you’ve really got to like kind of put this in context here. A lawyer smarter than myself recently said to me, "You know, normally when there is some type of a race against time involving an execution, that race against time is to save a life." Well, not here. This was a race against time to kill people before drugs expired. So I think it’s important to always kind of see this entire kind of situation through that prism.
You know, going on after Judge Griffen is always kind of a challenge, because he’s so eloquent, and he covers the bases so well. But let me just recap a bit here. Judge Griffen followed the law. On Good Friday, that TRO, or temporary restraining order, petition came before him. And it sought to maintain the status quo, so that these property issues could be settled. Again, McKesson claimed that the false pretenses were used to get the drug. This was the conservative thing to do. And the judge heard the petition. The elements were satisfied. The complaint was verified. Affidavits were attached. The movant alleged imminent risk of irreparable harm. When you check those boxes, you’re supposed to grant the temporary restraining order. And that’s what he did. The fact that it involved a paralytic in this kind of breakneck-paced execution schedule by the state of Arkansas is really immaterial to his decision.
So, you know, this is a witch hunt of the first order. Judge Griffen has been singled out because of his history of outspokenness, his history of advocacy on social issues. And this is just another attempt at trying to take him down, like so many attempts before.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, what happens now? The significance, if he is impeached, the first time a judge in Arkansas would be impeached, Mike Laux?
MIKE LAUX: Yeah, I mean, the possibilities are frightening and staggering. This is such an extraordinary measure that they’re taking here, and it really speaks to the naked political motivation behind these maneuvers. You know, this happened on Good Friday. The TRO was entered on the 14th. Later that evening, literally hours after that, hours after the prayer vigil and the rally there at the Governor’s Mansion, moments after that, you heard state senators and state representatives taking to the airwaves and making statements impugning Judge Griffen and threatening impeachment, a mere hour after this protest. And, you know, that really speaks, I think, to the zeal and the rabidness with which they are kind of approaching this matter. It’s clear that they’re trying to take Judge Griffen down. They saw an opportunity to do so, and they wasted no time in doing that.

Peter Lemkin
05-10-2017, 04:40 PM
MAY 10, 2017 | MATTHEW HARVEY AND RUSS BAKER (http://whowhatwhy.org/author/matthew-harvey-and-russ-baker/)


WWW ANALYSIS: TRUMP’S EVEN MORE DESPERATE REASON FOR COMEY FIRINGhttp://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/1-7-700x470.jpgJames Comey, former Director of the FBI. Photo credit: FBI (https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/director-comey-honors-law-enforcement-officers-in-national-police-week-message)
Trump’s firing of James Comey yesterday proves that even those who carry water for the president are not safe. Trump is in greater peril, it seems, by the hour. And in response, the long knives are out for anyone who is less than 100 percent dependable.
He needs unquestioned loyalists around him — especially in the office that could send almost anyone to prison.
After all, Trump and his cronies are investigable for so very many things, from questionable business dealings and conflicts of interest to tax matters to allegedly colluding with the Russian government.
Comey, under criticism for his own actions, faced significant public pressure to demonstrate that the FBI does its job. That could not have sounded good to Trump.
As it happened, just hours before the Comey news broke,WhoWhatWhy had published a lengthy investigation (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/05/09/exclusive-trump-backers-weaponized-anthony-weiner-defeat-clinton/) into the back story to Comey’s most famous — or infamous — act. It chronicled how Trump’s close surrogates and media allies pressured the FBI director to reopen the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Evidence strongly suggests that this surprising move days before the election was decisive in Trump’s unexpected victory.
Overall, having Comey at the Bureau was a blessing for Trump. Besides damaging Clinton, he also aided Trump by withholding information about the Bureau’s potentially much more serious probe into the Trump campaign’s ties with Russia.
The incoming president knew he had a good thing going. In early January, during a reception for top law-enforcement officials, an obviously grateful Trump singled Comey out for special praise and even a hug. But he soon cooled on the FBI director — as he so often does with people.

Also, Comey’s life was growing increasingly complicated, and he himself appeared to have lost his footing. In recent days, he looked incompetent in front of Congress, even bungling key testimony, such as exponentially overstating the quantity of Clinton emails forwarded to Anthony Weiner’s computer. Trump, who if anything is about appearances, could not have enjoyed watching this televised spectacle.
But the real problem was, as they say in mafia movies, you’re either with us or you’re….out.
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Trump said in a letter dated Tuesday (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/09/us/politics/james-comey-fired-fbi.html).
Comey is only the second FBI director ever to be fired. He joins William Sessions, who was dismissed by Bill Clinton in 1993 (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=46868).
Ostensibly, the reason for Comey being sacked was his “handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails,” according to a May 9th memorandum from Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein. That reasoning rings hollow, however, as the alleged fireable offense took place more than six months ago.
It is much more likely that Comey’s revelation that Trump’s campaign is being investigated for its Russia ties as well as his testimony before the Senate last week were the real reason for his dismissal.
Trump and his team are desperately seeking to stifle Russiagate. Matters continue to heat up on that front. As we write, CNN is reporting that prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas. Firing one of the people in government who knows most about that sensitive topic would serve that aim twofold.
The FBI is itself entwined in the matter and urgently needs to clear the air. As WhoWhatWhy reported in another major investigation (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/27/fbi-cant-tell-trump-russia/), published in late March, the Bureau maintained a long and close informant relationship with a Trump business associate working out of Trump Tower. The president may have been worried about where that thread could lead, as it includes hints as to Trump receiving long-term financing from oligarchs tied to Vladimir Putin and organized crime.
Comey now can’t make any trouble on the matter; and it serves to put any other determined federal appointees — planning to rigorously follow Russiagate even if it leads to the Oval Office — on notice that such conduct will mean the end of their career.
Not surprisingly, Trump acolytes are presenting the firing as long in coming. As the veteran Trump strategist and hatchet man Roger Stone, himself under scrutiny in Russiagate, tweeted yesterday:

Peter Lemkin
05-10-2017, 04:44 PM
FBI Chief James Comey Was Fired Days After Reportedly Seeking Resources for Russia InvestigationPosted on May 10, 2017http://www.truthdig.com/images/reportuploads/James_Comey_October_surprise_590.jpg
James Comey, then FBI director, is sworn in before the House Judiciary Committee in September. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP (http://www.apimages.com/metadata/Index/Congress-FBI/193f44d203f946e4ab9035921977eaac/25/0))

This post was originally published Tuesday.
Update: Wednesday, 8:45 a.m. PDT: New reports indicate that several days before being fired by President Trump, James Comey had asked the Justice Department for increased resources to aid in the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The New York Times writes (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/10/us/politics/comey-russia-investigation-fbi.html):

Mr. Comey asked for the resources during a meeting last week with Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who wrote the Justice Department’s memo that was used to justify the firing of the F.B.I. director this week.
Mr. Comey then briefed members of Congress on the meeting in recent days.
The Times notes that this new evidence comes from “three officials with knowledge of his request.”
Update: Tuesday, 4:29 p.m. PDT: Anthony Romero, head of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Edward Snowden, National Security Agency contractor-turned-whistleblower, both commented publicly about Comey’s firing after the news broke. Romero offered his thoughts in a statement (https://www.aclu.org/news/aclu-comment-trump-firing-fbi-director-comey):

The independence of the FBI director is meant to ensure that the president does not operate above the law. For President Trump to fire the man responsible for investigating his own campaign’s ties to the Russians imperils that fundamental principle.
Regardless of how one judges the performance of James Comey in either the Hillary Clinton or Russia investigations, President Trump’s dismissal of a sitting FBI director raises serious alarm bells for our system of checks and balances.
The terms of FBI directors were purposefully structured to span across sitting presidents to ensure the FBI’s independence and insulate the bureau from partisan politics. President Trump’s dismissal of Comey raises questions about the administration’s inappropriate meddling in bureau operations — precisely at a time when the bureau appears to be investigating the president, his advisors, and his campaign for potential collusion with Russian agents in our last election.
Meanwhile, Snowden sounded off on President Trump’s favoredplatform (https://twitter.com/Snowden?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ct wgr%5Eauthor)—Twitter:
* * *He weathered a contentious election season—to which he added no small measure of conflict—and the tumultuous transition that ensued from the Obama administration to the Trump White House, but as of Tuesday, F.B.I. Director James Comey was obliged to step down from his post.
The reason? According to officials from the current regime, it once again came down to Hillary Clinton’s infamous emails.
The New York Times relayed word that President Trump fired Comey over his handling of the investigation into the former secretary of state’s use of a private email server for State Department-related communications
Mr. Comey was leading an investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election.
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau,” Mr. Trump said in a letter to Mr. Comey dated Tuesday.
“It is essential that we find new leadership for the F.B.I. that restores public trust and confidence in its vital law enforcement mission,” Mr. Trump wrote.
Sen. Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon and a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a post on Twitter that Mr. Comey “should be immediately called to testify in an open hearing about the status of Russia/Trump investigation at the time he was fired.”
The paper also reported that the newly installed Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein advised the president to oust Comey.

Peter Lemkin
05-10-2017, 04:56 PM
A Very Unfunny Look at the Enduring Politics of Hate

Posted on May 8, 2017

By Bill Blum (http://www.truthdig.com/bill_blum/)
http://www.truthdig.com/images/reportuploads/Love_Trumps_Hate_Protester_sign_590.jpg
A Donald Trump opponent in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / AP (http://www.apimages.com/metadata/Index/Election-Protests-Washington/6e30e184c0424add938e39b8820a5199/4/0))

I don’t always agree with Bill Maher (witness his views on Islam (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Maher)and the death penalty), but the comedian was at his best on the April 28 installment of “Real Time,” his Friday night HBO talk show. In both his opening interview with Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren and his closing “New Rules” monologue, Maheradmonished liberals (http://www.rawstory.com/2017/04/bill-mahers-stop-trying-to-win-over-trump-voters-with-facts-youre-wasting-your-breath/) to stop trying to win over Trump voters, especially his white working-class backers, with facts.
“You’re wasting your breath,” Maher quipped. “Trump supporters aren’t changing their minds because the problem isn’t in the mind. It’s lower. It’s emotional. He could have Ann Frank’s skeleton in his closet. They’d all vote for him again.”
True to Maher’s observations, notwithstanding Trump’s buffoonish ineptitude on the job and the many ways he has already undermined the objective interests of his working-class supporters—appointing a cabinet stocked with right-wing billionaires and zealots committed to destroying public education and environmental protections; promoting a tax plan that is a shameful giveaway to the wealthy; pushing an Obamacare replacement bill that will strip millions of health insurance; backing proposed legislation that will end overtime pay, to cite just four initiatives—the president’s GOP base hasn’t deserted him. To the contrary, despite an overall approval rating that hovers at historic lows just above 40 percent, only 2 percent of those who voted for Trump in November say they now regret doing so, according to a Washington Post/ABC poll released (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/nearing-100-days-trumps-approval-at-record-lows-but-his-base-is-holding/2017/04/22/a513a466-26b4-11e7-b503-9d616bd5a305_story.html?utm_term=.c729220f2f0a) on April 23.
If anything, in focusing on emotions, Maher touched only the surface of a complex and critically important dynamic that to date has left activists and pundits flummoxed, stunned and appalled. The question thus arises: If the key to understanding Trump’s core support lies in grasping its emotional underpinnings, what kind of emotions or attitudes are at work?Is the thrust of Trump’s allure based on racism? Is it a derivative of misogyny? Is it related to the fear of changing demographics, and the frustrations and anger engendered by the economic losses inflicted by globalization and neoliberalism?
Clearly, all of these attitudes are very much in play across the land. I’ve written before (http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/is_john_roberts_coming_for_your_vote_20120905/a%20href=) in this column of the widespread appeal on the right of “racial and gender-based nostalgia’”—the longing for a mythologized past that harkens back to the pre-civil rights era following World War II.
Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan masterfully channeled this mythology. At the heart of Trump’s presidential run was a hyper-nationalist vision of America drawn from distorted allusions to the wisdom of the founding fathers, the infantile narcissism and individualism of Ayn Rand and, on a more mundane level, patriarchal 1950s sitcoms like “Father Knows Best.” In the vision, America prevails über alles internationally, while white Christian men hold all positions of authority at home, and women and racial minorities happily accept their second-class citizenship.
But in the wake of Trump’s first three months in office and prompted by Maher’s musings, I’ve come to think there’s something far deeper going on at an emotional level among Trump voters.
What is that something? Bluntly put, it’s this: Trump’s base has given him unwavering support because he professes to hate the same people, institutions and values they hate.
I’m talking about hatred of immigrants and Muslims (the all-purpose sociological “others,” who can be easily scapegoated as the source of our collective miseries); distrust of the press and the “fake” media; rejection of science and the disquieting truths it pursues; distain for judges and the rule of law, and the repudiation of civil rights. Many Trump voters also loathe the super-rich, having been flimflammed into believing Trump, one of the gaudiest and most predacious men on the planet, isn’t part and parcel of the despised global elite.
Hate is central to Trump’s power, and for good reason: Hate is a primal passion. Hate is part of our inherent makeup. We’re hard-wired for it and can never entirely free ourselves from its grip.
No one understood this better than the founder of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. According to Freud, as elaborated especially in his later texts—and I apologize for simplifying an extraordinarily intricate body of work and bypassing the contributions of later analysts who amended and critiqued Freud’s ideas—human beings are driven by two basic instincts: the life impulse (Eros, from the Greek god of love) and its opposite, the death impulse (dubbed by later disciples, though not by Freud himself, as Thanatos, the winged Greek demon of death).

Eros in this conception is directed at self-preservation and the quest to prolong life, both individually and socially. It embraces (http://www.whomakesthenazis.com/2010/11/freud-fascism-and-death-instinct.html?m=1) not only sexual gratification, but also life-affirming impulses and behaviors associated with communal engagement, harmony, collaboration and cooperation.

Hate is an expression of Thanatos, as are the impulses to destruction, sadism and masochism, envy, fear, violence, and above all, war. Freud’s genius was his recognition (http://study.com/academy/lesson/eros-life-instinct-definition-lesson-quiz.html) that the life and death instincts don’t exist in isolation. Rather, they overlap and interpenetrate, forming an inseparable duality, forever clashing and vying for dominance.
Freud laid out his instinct theory most concisely in a relatively unknown and underappreciated batch of letters (http://www.public.asu.edu/~jmlynch/273/documents/FreudEinstein.pdf) exchanged with Albert Einstein in 1931-32. Although the correspondence between the great thinkers took place in the brutal aftermath of the First World War and during the uneasy quiet before World War II, it remains vitally relevant to Trump’s America.
Einstein and Freud met only once (http://articles.latimes.com/2004/jul/19/entertainment/et-book19) in person in 1927 and didn’t have further contact until 1931, when the Institute for Intellectual Cooperation, an advisory group to the League of Nations, invited Einstein (https://www.brainpickings.org/2013/05/06/why-war-einstein-freud/) to undertake a cross-disciplinary dialogue on war and peace with a scholar of his choosing.
Einstein selected Freud, to whom he wrote (http://www.public.asu.edu/~jmlynch/273/documents/FreudEinstein.pdf) in April, 1931. He asked Freud to reflect on the “evils of war” in light of his theory of “how inseparably the aggressive and destructive instincts are bound up in the human psyche with those of love and the lust for life.” In a subsequent letter written in July, 1932, he asked directly if there was “any way of delivering mankind from the menace of war” once and for all, and if hate could ever be erased from society.


Freud’s response was less than sanguine. “All my life,” he told a League of Nation’s official about Einstein’s effort to reach out to him, “I have had to tell people truths that were difficult to swallow. Now that I am old [he died in 1939 at age 83], I certainly do not want to fool them.” Still, he promised to answer Einstein’s query.
In September, he penned a lengthy and wide-ranging reply. “Conflicts of interest between man and man,” he explained, “are resolved, in principle, by the recourse to violence.” After summarizing his dark view of the instincts, he added, “The upshot of these observations … is that there is no likelihood of our being able to suppress humanity’s aggressive tendencies. … It is all too clear that the nationalistic ideas, paramount today in every country, operate in quite a contrary direction.”
But all was not lost, Freud cautioned. Although war and aggression could never be completely eliminated, mitigating measures could be taken, emphasizing reason, culture, empathy and community. “From our ‘mythology’ of the instincts,” he wrote, “we may easily deduce a formula for an indirect method of eliminating war. If the propensity for war be due to the destructive instinct, we have always its counter-agent, Eros, to our hand. All that produces ties of sentiment between man and man must serve us as war’s antidote. … All that brings out the significant resemblances between men calls into play this feeling of community, identification, whereon is founded, in large measure, the whole edifice of human society.”
Becoming more concrete, Freud cited the “satisfaction of material needs and enforcing the equality between man and man” as additional components of tempering aggression—goals, he added, the Bolsheviks had pursued in vain. He also endorsed the League of Nations as an international arbiter of justice.
The exchange between Einstein and Freud was published in pamphlet form in 1933. The rise of Hitler, however, limited the press run to 2,000 copies, causing the correspondence to fall into obscurity.There are at three basic takeaways to be drawn from the correspondence to burnish our efforts to combat and counter Trumpism:
First, to return to Maher, there is a pressing need to appreciate the full gravity of the hatred Trump represents. Attitudes of hate among Trump’s base cannot be assessed simply as a regrettable but rational response to the depredations of Wall Street and globalization, as Elizabeth Warren and even Bernie Sanders have argued. They are decidedly more than that.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), in the spring issue of its quarterly Intelligence Report, warns (https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2017/year-hate-and-extremism) that “After half a century of being increasingly relegated to the margins of society, the radical right entered the political mainstream last year in a way that had seemed virtually unimaginable since George Wallace ran for president in 1968.”
The SPLC estimates there were at least 917 hate organizations active throughout the U.S. in 2016, to go along with another 623 extreme groups. They are but the most obvious manifestation of a much larger phenomenon.
Second, while progressives may never convert the KKK, skinheads, the Oath Keepers and other entrenched extremists, larger segments of Trump’s base can be reached, and turned around. The lies behind Trump’s faux populism can be exposed—and in this essential enterprise, facts, faithfully and accurately presented, still matter.
The hate Trump has directed against immigrants, constitutional rights and egalitarian values can be turned against him through clear expositions of his hypocrisies, conflicts of interest and his obscene quest to gut the social safety net for the purpose of enriching himself, his family and his cronies. Although the progress made on this front has been uneven, elements of both the mainstream and alternative media—from The New York Times and the Washington Post to The Intercept and Truthdig—have accomplished a good deal, publishing articles and analyses that have helped to arouse and fortify resistance movements the across the country. Those efforts must redouble.
Finally, and most important of all, in the spirit of Freud’s Eros, the left will have to fashion and promote a positive, life-affirming vision of the future to rival and displace the death instinct behind Trump’s “Make America Great Again” mantra.
Every major movement of social and political transformation, in addition to championing specific short-term reforms, has been animated by higher principles promising both solidarity and liberation. The American Revolution was moved by the demand for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The French version was driven by the ideals of “liberté, égalité, fraternité.” The civil rights movement was propelled by Martin Luther King Jr.’s “dream” of racial harmony and justice.
What, then, in this critical hour is our shared vision of the future? I don’t pretend to have the answers, except to say that in the broadest terms it will be communitarian, diverse, inclusive, respectful of democratic institutions and the environment, and welcoming toward individual freedoms. It will not, if it is to succeed, call for a restoration of the hierarchical neoliberalism of the recent past. Try as Hillary Clinton might to convince us that she, too, is part of the resistance (http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/hillary_clinton_does_not_belong_in_the_anti-trump_resistance_20170504) and perhaps worthy of another bid for high office, she isn’t. Period. Full stop.
In the meantime, Donald Trump remains the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. We remain mired in the politics of hate.

Peter Lemkin
05-11-2017, 06:32 AM
WHY WAS JAMES COMEY FIRED? DONALD TRUMP CAN’T FIND THE WORDS. (https://theintercept.com/2017/05/10/why-was-james-comey-fired-donald-trump-cant-find-the-words/)


Mattathias Schwartz (https://theintercept.com/staff/mattathiasschwartz/)

May 10 2017, 4:57 p.m.








WE KNOW THAT Donald Trump fired James Comey, his FBI director and perhaps the greatest threat to his presidency, yesterday afternoon. What we don’t know, at least not in any official way, is why. Almost as striking as Trump’s sudden decision to dismiss Comey are the wildly disparate reasons that he and his administration have put forth for taking such drastic action, and the presumption that Trump does not owe the country a substantive explanation. “He’ll do it when he wants to,” said White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on CNN this morning. Having this president hand-pick his own FBI director, as many have noted, poses a serious threat to our democracy. So does the notion that he can fire the old one and never have to say why.
On Tuesday afternoon, Trump released three documents (https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/3711116/White-House-Fires-James-Comey.pdf) relating to Comey’s firing — one from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, one from Rod J. Rosenstein, Sessions’s deputy, and one from Trump himself. Trump’s letter is short — just 121 words. There is one sentence of reasoning, a sarcastic one, which leans on “the judgment of the Department of Justice.”
https://prod01-cdn07.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2017/05/james-comey-testify-1494427346-1024x683.jpg (https://prod01-cdn07.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2017/05/james-comey-testify-1494427346.jpg)FBI Director James Comey prepares to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 3, 2017.
Photo: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

So what was the judgment of the Department of Justice? Sessions’s letter is only slightly longer — 157 words. It vaguely says that the head of the FBI should be someone “who faithfully follows the rules and principles of the Department of Justice.” Instead of explaining how Comey broke those rules, Sessions, like Trump, leans on his subordinate to churn out the fine print. He says that his conclusions are also “based on my own evaluation.” He gives no indication as to what his own evaluation was based on.
The third document, a “Memorandum for the Attorney General” from Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, is much longer. Some reports have Rosenstein working on the memo for a week or more; nevertheless, it bears the same date as Trump’s letter:
https://prod01-cdn07.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2017/05/Screen-Shot-2017-05-10-at-9.54.38-AM-1494424506-1000x371.png (https://prod01-cdn07.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2017/05/Screen-Shot-2017-05-10-at-9.54.38-AM-1494424506.png)
The subject makes no mention of Comey or the FBI’s leadership. Instead, it is “Restoring Public Confidence in the FBI.” Most of the memo is devoted to Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails. Rosenstein criticizes Comey for publicly stating that the email investigation was closed in July 2016 and then sending his controversial letter to Congress, just before the November election, that it was open once again. He quotes many former attorneys general and deputy attorneys general who agree that Comey made some big mistakes. He refers to the department’s “longstanding policy that we refrain from publicizing non-public information.” Those words could refer to Clinton. They could also refer to Comey’s hints last week (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/05/03/read-the-full-testimony-of-fbi-director-james-comey-in-which-he-discusses-clinton-email-investigation/?utm_term=.e47cba957cf1) in congressional testimony about a federal grand jury, which is nowcollecting evidence (http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/09/politics/grand-jury-fbi-russia/index.html) of Russian influence over the Trump campaign in the Eastern District of Virginia. They seem to stand in direct contradiction to Trump’s own words about the Clinton emails:


But what’s most notable about the Rosenstein memo is what it does not say. The memo does not explicitly recommend that Comey should be fired, let alone give a reason. The closest Rosenstein comes to doing so is at the letter’s conclusion:
https://prod01-cdn07.cdn.firstlook.org/wp-uploads/sites/1/2017/05/Screen-Shot-2017-05-10-at-9.02.48-AM-1494421426-540x159.png
One could interpret Rosenstein’s words as saying he would be satisfied if Comey owned up to his mistakes. Rosenstein does not go into what he considers “the necessary corrective actions” to be, or whether Comey was ever given a chance to implement them. And so “the judgment of the Department of Justice,” which Trump claims is the underlying cause of Comey’s firing, remains opaque.
The aftermath of Comey’s firing will play out over weeks, if not months. It may well be remembered as the beginning of the end of Donald Trump’s abbreviated presidency. Getting rid of Comey was obviously Trump’s decision; the first thing Congress should do is demand that Trump stop hiding behind his deputy attorney general and explain, in his own words, why he did it. The only other dismissal of an FBI director — the firing of William Sessions by President Bill Clinton in 1993 — was backed by a 193-page report (http://www.governmentattic.org/3docs/DOJ-OPR-WlliamSessions_1992-1993.pdf) from the FBI’s own Office of Professional Responsibility, which detailed Sessions’s misconduct.
Over the last few hours, Trump’s mysterious and capricious reasoning has created a sense of chaos around the White House. His aides are struggling to explain an event they themselves do not understand. This morning, Trump repeated the platitudinal desire to rebuild the FBI:


According to the Washington Post, White House press secretary Sean Spicer hid in the bushes (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2017/05/10/as-trump-fired-comey-his-staff-scrambled-to-explain-why/?utm_term=.13ea9ef34681) to avoid being questioned on the reasoning behind Trump’s actions. When pressed, he put the decision on Rosenstein, saying, “It was all him … that was a DOJ decision.”
“There is a lot of cleaning house that needs to be done,” one anonymous official told CNN. “This is a shitshow,” said another (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/862265729718128641) to CNN via text.
Last night, I called Roger Stone, a member of Trump’s eccentric kitchen cabinet, who reportedly urged (http://www.politico.com/story/2017/05/10/comey-firing-trump-russia-238192) the president to fire Comey, reports thatTrump himself (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/862290442129461249) denied. “He was basically becoming J. Edgar Hoover,” Stone said. “He wasn’t subject to the rule of either the executive or the Congress. He acted as if he was above civilian rule.” Stone was referring to Comey, of course, but his words fit Trump like a glove.

Peter Lemkin
05-12-2017, 04:43 AM
There are many bizarre aspects to the Comey firing, but I just 'loved' Trumpf saying he [Comey] was a 'showboater' and 'grandstanding'.....surely things not characteristic of Trumpf himself.::laugh::

Personally, I had not considered there was much fire behind the smoke of the Trumpf-Russia stories until the Comey firing. A very bizarre move on SO many levels. First, apparently Trumpf thought the Democraps and everyone else would simply accept it - it has created a firestorm that I think will not die down; he apparently thought it would terminate some investigations - but it has only made them larger than life and the focus of everyone's attention; he and those around him have lied and lied about the timing, reasons, and finger-pointing - seemingly indicating a cover-up and not a 'disagreement' with his style.

If Trumpf appoints a new FBI director who is a sycophant of Trumpf he will be putting his own head in a noose. Anyone else would have to complete the investigation started by Comey and follow the evidence. I still think that Trump is trying to hide the fact that Russian Oligarchs and bankers have kept him afloat the last decades. I begin to think he now may not finish out his four year term...but Pence is another horror of a different kind.

While there is a very slow movement to start a new 'third' party that could actually win over the Republifascists & Democraps, it is going too slow to be ready IMHO by three years from now. The USA is sinking into the ashes that all Empires before have been consumed in. It is not going to be a pretty picture, as dying Empires usually go out in wars that are bloody and also at home......

Any who think after Trumpf, the USA will go back to 'business as usual', i think is naive. The false-flag events of 2001 are very much with us still; the deep political class very much have things under control - and have since 1963 if not from the 'end' of WWII...and have only tightened their grip. Trumpf is only an anomaly in his personality and style - not so far in his policies and actions. A Democrat will always be kinder and gentler on domestic issues; but the two parties are the same on 'Wall Street', the growing divide between rich and poor and most importantly on foreign intervention and wars... It is time for something new or an end to America [very, very soon]. I for one will not cry at its demise, but fear for what horrors could come out of the ashes - as well as hope for something better. The problem is that about one third of the persons in the USA are so ill informed of history, brainwashed by propaganda, and devoid of empathy toward others I can't see them allowing something better than the current system. Perhaps what will follow will be several smaller states - a direction I'd like to see worldwide...the smaller the better; the more the merrier and the more brother/sister-hood between the new mini-states the better.

Dawn Meredith
05-12-2017, 12:48 PM
Now THAT may be a story Peter. But the Russian interference in the election is pure hogwash. Putin did not send the emails to Assange. The firing of Comey sure looks bad. And I agree that it will only become worse. Trump is really such an idiot. He may have fired the man over something simple like a negative comment about Trump who is so thin skinned he can't take even light criticism. I think the beginning of the end may be near.

Peter Lemkin
05-12-2017, 04:41 PM
Trumpf has now publicly THREATENED Comey:




Follow (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump)
https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/1980294624/DJT_Headshot_V2_normal.jpgDonald J. Trump
✔@realDonaldTrump (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump)

James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!
2:26 PM - 12 May 2017 (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/863007411132649473)



(https://twitter.com/intent/tweet?in_reply_to=863007411132649473)

14,76214,762 Retweets (https://twitter.com/intent/retweet?tweet_id=863007411132649473)

39,78339,783 likes (https://twitter.com/intent/like?tweet_id=863007411132649473)






Trump threatens Comey with provocative reference to ‘tapes’05/12/17 10:12 AM



By Steve Benen (http://www.msnbc.com/byline/steve-benen)
Donald Trump had the latest in a series of Twitter tantrums this morning, which wouldn’t ordinarily be especially notable, except this one (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/863007411132649473) included what appeared to be a provocative threat:

“James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”
As 19-word presidential missives go, this may be prove to be quite consequential.

On the surface, Trump’s tweet appears to be a not-so-veiled threat against the former FBI director, whom the president fired this week because of Trump’s opposition to Comey’s investigation into the Russia scandal. This, in and of itself, is outrageously inappropriate and of dubious legality.

Indeed, the fact that the president is publicly warning a potential witness to remain quiet only adds to concerns about Trump possibly obstructing justice. Norm Eisen, the chief ethics lawyer in the Obama White House, characterized (https://twitter.com/NormEisen/status/863008799170453504) the president’s tweet this morning as a possible crime.

But then there’s that reference to “tapes.”

The word admittedly appears in quotes – and we know that the president hasn’t the foggiest idea how quotation marks work – so it’s possible that Trump wasn’t being literal. It’s also possible that Trump just revealed the existence of recordings he has of private conversations.

If such tapes exist, of course, they can be subpoenaed, either by Congress or by federal investigators. It was the revelations about Richard Nixon’s recordings (https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/the-man-who-knew-too-much-about-richard-nixon/2015/10/12/fa87b954-7063-11e5-8d93-0af317ed58c9_story.html) at the height of the Watergate scandal that marked the beginning of the end of his presidency.

I’m looking for an adjective that captures the madness that’s unfolding in our White House, but I’m afraid words fail me.

Lauren Johnson
05-12-2017, 05:55 PM
I still think that Trump is trying to hide the fact that Russian Oligarchs and bankers have kept him afloat the last decades.

::thumbsup::

Peter Lemkin
05-12-2017, 06:41 PM
I still think that Trump is trying to hide the fact that Russian Oligarchs and bankers have kept him afloat the last decades.

::thumbsup::

....and he knows that if it were known [along with his business dealings, generally] he'd be seen as a fake/fraud/dishonest businessman and not be electable...and now not unimpeachable for conflicts of interest and other dodgy dealings past and present. That said, his recent behavior, to me, seems very close if not exactly: witness tampering, obstruction of justice, making threats, conduct unbecoming a President, and just bizarre - even more bizarre than the past 108 days. I think some of the viruses left by Nixon are now taking hold in Trumpf...and it will end very much the same.

Peter Lemkin
05-13-2017, 05:14 AM
Former FBI Director James Comey has declined an invitation to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week. ::hush::

I hope they will subpoena him!...and others.

Peter Lemkin
05-13-2017, 05:52 AM
Trump picks Al Capone of Vote Rigging
To investigate Federal Voter Fraud
by Greg Palast for Alternet

Kris Kobach is the GOP mastermind behind a secretive system that purged 1.1 million Americans from the voter rolls.

https://gallery.mailchimp.com/33e4ec877eed6a43863a4a92e/images/ca34419d-abec-4e48-af9c-22f56b318eaf.pngKobach screams at Greg Palast while eating ice cream

Kris Kobach was spooning down vanilla ice cream when I showed him the thick pages of evidence documenting his detailed plan to rig the presidential election of 2016.The Secretary of State of Kansas, sucking up carbs at a Republican Party Fundraiser, recognized the documents – and yelled at me, "YOU'RE A LIAR!" and ran for it while still trying to wolf down the last spoonful.

But documents don't lie.
That was 2015 (yes, the ballot heist started way back). Today this same man on the run, Kris Kobach, is now Donald Trump’s choice to head the new “Voter Integrity Commission.”
It’s like appointing Al Capone to investigate The Mob.
How did Kobach mess with the 2016 vote? Let me count the ways—as I have in three years of hunting down Kobach’s ballot-box gaming for Rolling Stone and Al Jazeera.
Just two of Kobach’s vote-bending tricks undoubtedly won Michigan for Trump and contributed to his “wins” in Ohio, North Carolina and Arizona.
First, Interstate Crosscheck.
Kobach is the GOP mastermind behind this secretive system which purged 1.1 million Americans from the voter rolls.
When Trump said, “This election’s rigged,” the press ignored the second part of his statement: “People are voting many, many times.” Trump cited three million votes illegally cast.
The White House said Trump got this information from Kobach. Indeed, it specifically comes from a list of 7 million names—or, as Kobach describes it, a list of 3.5 million “potential double voters.” How did Kobach find these three million double voters?
He matched their names, first and last. And that’s it.
Here’s an unedited screen-shot of a segment of his list:
https://gallery.mailchimp.com/33e4ec877eed6a43863a4a92e/images/2dd73a7a-4686-4711-8ba9-9ae190f556e1.jpg (http://gregpalast.us4.list-manage1.com/track/click?u=33e4ec877eed6a43863a4a92e&id=92b558f8f7&e=f44f59150a)
James Edward Harris Jr. of Richmond, Virginia, is supposed to be the same voters as James R. Harris (no Jr.) of Indianapolis, Indiana. Really? Note that not one middle name matches.

And here’s the ugly part. Both James Harris (in fact, hundreds of them) are subject to getting scrubbed off the voter rolls.

And these are Kobach’s lists, tens of thousands of names I showed Kobach, falsely accused of the crime of double voting.

And that’s why Kobach was stunned and almost dropped his vanilla, because he and his GOP colleagues kept the lists of the accused strictly confidential. (The first of the confidential lists was obtained by our investigative photojournalist, Zach D. Roberts, through legal methods—though howling voting officials want them back.)

In all, about 1.1 million voters on that list have been scrubbed already—and they don’t know it. They show up to vote and they’re name has simply vanished. Or, the voter is marked “inactive.” “Crosscheck” is not marked on the victim voter’s record. It’s a stealth hit.

And it’s deadly. Doubtless, Crosscheck delivered Michigan to Trump who supposedly “won” the state by 10,700 votes. The Secretary of State’s office proudly told me that they were “very aggressive” in removing listed voters before the 2016 election. Kobach, who created the lists for his fellow GOP officials, tagged a whopping 417,147 in Michigan as potential double voters.

And not just any voters. Mark Swedlund, a database expert who advises companies such as Amazon and eBay on how not to mis-match customers was “flabbergasted” to discover in his team’s technical analysis, that the list was so racially biased that fully one in six registered African-Americans were tagged in the Crosscheck states that include the swing states of Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Arizona and more.

The effect goes way beyond the Trump v. Clinton count. I spoke to several of the targeted voters on the list in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional district where the Democratic candidate fell just short of the margin to win a special election. Especially hard hit in the northern Atlanta suburbs were Korean-Americans, like Mr. Sung Park, who found he was tagged as voting in two states in 2012 simply because he had a name that is as common in Korea as James Brown.

And Kobach, in fact, tagged 288 men in Georgia named James Brown on his Crosscheck blacklist.

As Crosscheck spreads—and it was just signed into law in New Hampshire in the last days of a lame-duck Republican governorship—it will undoubtedly poison the count in the fight for Congress in 2018.

And that’s why Trump needs Kobach on his “Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity (http://gregpalast.us4.list-manage.com/track/click?u=33e4ec877eed6a43863a4a92e&id=d385a9f050&e=f44f59150a)”: To spread Crosscheck with an official federal endorsement and, likely, Congressional legislation.

And if Crosscheck isn’t enough to scare you, Kobach is also pushing Trump to require voters to prove their citizenship.

At first blush, it seems right to demand people prove they are US citizens to vote. But here’s the rub: We are not Red China and don’t carry citizenship cards. Resident Aliens holding Green Cards have, indeed are required to have, Social security cards and drivers’ licenses, if they drive or work.

The readiest proof of citizenship is a passport. And what is the color of the typical passport holder, their income—and the color of their vote?

The other form of proof, besides naturalization papers, is your original birth certificate.

And there’s the rub: the poor, minorities and especially new young voters do not have easy access to a passport or their birth certificates. Kobach took his citizenship proof requirement out for a test drive in Kansas. The result: 36,000 young voters were barred from voting… that is, until a federal judge, citing the National Voter Registration Act, told Kobach that unless he could produce even one alien among those 36,000, she was ordering him to let them vote.

Kobach’s response: a private meeting with Trump at Trump Tower where he proposed changing the Act.

All of this to eliminate a crime which does not occur. Besides Trump’s claims of alien voters swimming the Rio Grande to vote for Hillary, I have found only two verified cases of votes cast by aliens in the US in the last decade. (One, an Austrian who confessed to voting for Jeb Bush in Florida.)

Don’t laugh. The threat of “alien voters” – long a staple claim by Kobach on his appearances on Fox TV – will be the Kobach Commission’s hammer to smash the National Voter Registration Act’s protections. Based on the numbers from Kansas, and its overwhelming effect on young – read “Democratic” – voters, this shift alone could swing the election of 2018.

Indeed, Kobach’s Crosscheck con together with his “alien” voter attack, could mean the choice of the electorate in 2020 may already be trumped.

Peter Lemkin
05-14-2017, 09:45 AM
Comey Reportedly ‘Willing to Testify, but Wants It to Be in Public’Posted on May 13, 2017http://www.truthdig.com/images/eartothegrounduploads/ComeyWillingtoTestify_590.jpg
James Comey speaking in 2016. (Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FBI_Director_Speaks_on_Civil_Rights_and_Law_E nforcement_at_Conference_(27182463191).jpg))

Numerous questions remain unanswered after President Trumpunexpectedly fired (http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/president_trump_fires_fbi_chief_james_comey_201705 09) FBI chief James Comey this week, and, several days later, warned Comey (http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/trump_threatens_comey_open_press_early-morning_twitter_rant_20170512) via Twitter that he’d “better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press.”
The ensuing backlash from Comey’s dismissal, apparently unanticipated by White House officials, stems from concern that Trump fired Comey due to the FBI’s investigation into potential Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election. The public eagerly awaits answers, especially after an unhelpful Friday press briefing (http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/spicer_shuts_down_questions_on_trumps_tapes_tweet_ 20170512) held by Sean Spicer.
There is a chance, however, that Comey could testify before Congress. The New York Times reports (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/12/us/politics/trump-threatens-retaliation-against-comey-warns-he-may-cancel-press-briefings.html):

[Comey] declined a request to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. According to a close associate of Mr. Comey, he is willing to testify, but wants it to be in public.
Earlier this week, acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe publicly testified (http://www.truthdig.com/avbooth/item/watch_intelligence_agency_heads_testify_live_befor e_congress_video_20170511) in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee and made it clear that his bureau will not bend to any pressure from the White House.
The news of Comey’s willingness to testify comes one day after Trump’s former business acquaintances shared information regarding Trump’s possible “tapes.” According to the Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/trump-has-a-long-history-of-secretly-recording-calls-according-to-former-associates/2017/05/12/b302b038-372d-11e7-b412-62beef8121f7_story.html?utm_term=.9a125e7dd354):

Throughout Donald Trump’s business career, some executives who came to work for him were taken aside by colleagues and warned to assume that their discussions with the boss were being recorded.
“There was never any sense with Donald of the phone being used for private conversation,” said John O’Donnell, who was president of the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in the 1980s. ...
Trump’s fascination with recording his conversations reaches back to the early years of his real estate career, when he installed in his 26th-story office in Trump Tower a “system for surreptitiously tape recording business meetings,” according to an eyewitness account in Harry Hurt’s 1993 biography, “Lost Tycoon.” And BuzzFeed News reported last year that Trump listened in on calls made by staff at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Trump sometimes informed reporters who were interviewing him by phone that he was recording their conversation.

As Ken Hughes, a presidential historian with the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, noted in an interview with the Los Angeles Times (http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-nixon-tapes-20170512-htmlstory.html), any potential recordings of conversation with Comey would become “evidence in any investigation of whether his firing of Comey amount to obstruction of justice.”
“If so,” Hughes explained, “they are evidence related to a criminal investigation and therefore they can be subpoenaed, either by Congress, or by a prosecutor, or special prosecutor if one is appointed, and Trump has to turn them over, as the Supreme Court ruled way back in 1974.”

Peter Lemkin
05-15-2017, 04:29 AM
Trump Is the Symptom, Not the DiseasePosted on May 14, 2017By Chris Hedges (http://www.truthdig.com/chris_hedges/)
http://www.truthdig.com/images/eartothegrounduploads/Disease_590.jpg

Mr. Fish / Truthdig
Forget the firing of James Comey. Forget the paralysis in Congress. Forget the idiocy of a press that covers our descent into tyranny as if it were a sports contest between corporate Republicans and corporate Democrats or a reality show starring our maniacal president and the idiots that surround him. Forget the noise. The crisis we face is not embodied in the public images of the politicians that run our dysfunctional government. The crisis we face is the result of a four-decade-long, slow-motion corporate coup that has rendered the citizen impotent, left us without any authentic democratic institutions and allowed corporate and military power to become omnipotent. This crisis has spawned a corrupt electoral system of legalized bribery and empowered those public figures that master the arts of entertainment and artifice. And if we do not overthrow the neoliberal (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/8/16/1007496/-), corporate forces that have destroyed our democracy we will continue to vomit up more monstrosities as dangerous as Donald Trump. Trump is the symptom, not the disease.
Our descent into despotism began with the pardoning of Richard Nixon (http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/president-ford-pardons-former-president-nixon), all of whose impeachable crimes are now legal, and the extrajudicial assault, including targeted assassinations and imprisonment, carried out on dissidents and radicals, especially black radicals. It began with the creation of corporate-funded foundations and organizations that took control of the press, the courts, the universities, scientific research and the two major political parties. It began with empowering militarized police to kill unarmed citizens and the spread of our horrendous system of mass incarceration and the death penalty. It began with the stripping away of our most basic constitutional rights—privacy, due process, habeas corpus, fair elections and dissent. It began when big money was employed by political operatives such as Roger Stone, a close Trump adviser, to create negative political advertisements and false narratives to deceive the public, turning political debate into burlesque. On all these fronts we have lost. We are trapped like rats in a cage. A narcissist and imbecile may be turning the electric shocks on and off, but the problem is the corporate state, and unless we dismantle that, we are doomed.
“What’s necessary for the state is the illusion of normality, of regularity,” America’s best-known political prisoner, Mumia Abu-Jamal, told me (https://www.rt.com/shows/on-contact/388304-philadelphia-police-bombing-move/) last week by phone from the prison where he is incarcerated in Frackville, Pa. “… In Rome, what the emperors needed was bread and circuses. In America, what we need is ‘Housewives of Atlanta.’ We need sports. The moral stories of good cops and evil people. Because you have that …. there is no critical thinking in America during this period. You have emotion [only]. When I look at someone who is demonized, I can do anything [to him or her]. I can do anything. That’s how the state works, by demonizing people and putting them in places where they’re virtually invisible.”
“Here’s the reality,” he went on. “America has never come to grips with what a lot of scholars and thinkers call the Original Sin. That’s because it never stopped happening. This country brags about being founded on freedom. It was founded on slavery. It was founded on holocaust. It was founded on genocide. After slavery ended, after the Constitution was rewritten and amended, we have the Reconstruction amendments, the 13th (https://www.google.com/#q=13th+amendment), 14th (https://www.google.com/#q=14th+amendment) and 15th (https://www.google.com/#q=15th+amendment)amendments. But what did the South do? They ignored it for a century.”
“It isn’t until the ’60s that you see this deep, rich emergence of people fighting for rights that were enshrined in the Constitution a century before [between 1865 and 1870],” he said. “That’s because every state in the South and many states in the North were allowed to make exceptions to the Constitution when it came to black people. We learned that’s not just a Southern reality. You can’t talk about AEDPA (http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-destruction-of-defendants-rights), the so-called Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty [Act of 1996] unless you have the same mindset that makes the Constitution an exceptional document.”Racist, violent and despotic forces have always been part of the American landscape and have often been tolerated and empowered by the state to persecute poor people of color and dissidents. These forces are denied absolute power as long as a majority of citizens have a say in their own governance. The corporate elites, however, frightened by what the political scientist Samuel Huntington called an “excess of democracy” that originated in the 1960s, methodically destroyed the democratic edifice. They locked the citizens out of government. And by doing so they made sure that power shifted into the hands of the enemies of the open society. When democratic institutions cease to function, when the consent of the governed becomes a joke, despots, cranks, conspiracy theorists, con artists, generals, billionaires and proto-fascists fill the political void. They give vent to popular anger and frustration while arming the state to do to the majority what it has long done to the minority. This tale is as old as civilization. It was played out in ancient Greece and Rome, the Soviet Union, fascist Germany, fascist Italy and the former Yugoslavia.
Trump, an acute embarrassment to the corporate state and the organs of internal security, may be removed from the presidency, but such a palace coup would only further consolidate the power of the deep state (https://www.google.com/#q=define+deep+state) and intensify internal measures of repression. Millions of people, including the undocumented, those who have felony convictions, those locked in cages and poor people of color, have already been stripped of their rights, and some have been indiscriminately murdered by police. These minorities’ reality of daily state terror, unless this process of corporate pillage is halted, will spread and become normative with or without Trump.
In Abu-Jamal’s book “Live From Death Row (https://books.google.com/books?id=GF3jhfdhxY0C&printsec=frontcover&dq=live+from+death+row&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiFvvezh_DTAhVJHGMKHafnB_sQ6AEIJzAA#v=on epage&q=live%20from%20death%20row&f=false),” he recounts his protest at a 1968 rally in Philadelphia held by the segregationist George Wallace in one of the Alabama governor’s runs for the Democratic presidential nomination. It is a reminder that Trump’s racism and lust for violence have long been part of the American character.
Abu-Jamal writes of attending the rally with three other black teenagers:

We must’ve been insane. We strolled into the stadium, four lanky dark string beans in a pot of white, steaming limas. The bank played “Dixie.” We shouted, “Black Power, Ungowa, black power!” They shouted, “Wallace for president! White power!” and “Send those niggers back to Africa! We shouted, “Black power, Ungowa!” (Don’t ask what “Ungowa” means. We didn’t know. All we knew was that it had a helluva ring to it.) “Black power!” They hissed and booed. We stood up in our seats and proudly gave the black power salute. In answer, we received dubious gifts of spittle from those seated above. Patriots tore American flags from their standards and hurled the bare sticks at us. Wallace, wrapped in roars of approval, waxed eloquent. “When I become president, these dirty, unwashed radicals will have to move to the Sov-ee-yet Union! You know, all throughout this campaign these radicals have been demonstrating against George Corley Wallace. Well, I hope they have the guts to lay down in front of my car. I’ll drive right over ’em!” The crowd went wild.
“Some police and other security came,” Abu-Jamal told me about the incident. “They escorted us out. We thought hey, we had a little fun. Our voices were heard. We went to the bus stop. And two or three of us were on the bus. A young guy named Alvin and a young guy named Eddie. I was usually the slowest, so I was behind them. A guy walked up and hit me with a blackjack. Knocked me down. Pulled Eddie and Alvin off the bus. We were getting our asses kicked. It never dawned on us these were cops. They can’t just walk up to us and beat us up [I thought].”“I remember seeing a cop’s leg walk by,” he said. “I shouted help! Help, police! The guy looked at me. Looked down at me. He walked over and kicked me right in the face. Then it dawned on me all of these guys were cops. That was a little taste of [what would happen later in] Philadelphia. An introduction to trauma. We see it today. I can hear Trump saying, ‘Beat the hell out of them.’ It’s like the old days. Those weren’t good days. Those were ugly days. And the ugly day is today.”
“I have been thankful to that faceless cop ever since,” Abu-Jamal writes of the assault, “for he kicked me straight into the Black Panther Party.”
Abu-Jamal’s experience embodies the endemic racism and collapse of the American court system that railroad young black men and women into prison and onto death row. The Federal Bureau of Investigation placed him under surveillance when he was 15 years old. His FBI file swelled to 700 pages. His crime was to be a dissident. He was followed, hauled in for questioning at random and threatened.
“While walking to work one day,” he writes, “I passed in front of an idling cop car. I glanced at the driver—white, with brown hair, and wearing dark shades. He ‘smiled,’ put his hand out the car window, and pointed a finger at me, his thumb cocked back like the hammer of a gun: bang—bang—bang—the finger jerked, as if from the recoil, and the cop gave it a cowboyish blast of breath before returning it to an imaginary holster. He and his pal laugh. Car rolls.”
The 1960s and 1970s saw a war on black radicals, which included FBI assassinations of leaders such as Fred Hampton (http://spartacus-educational.com/USAhamptonF.htm). This war against radicals, President Nixon’s so-called battle for “law and order,” put the police, the FBI and other organs of internal security beyond the reach of the law. This power has only expanded since. We are all under state surveillance. And we can all become victims if the state deems us to be a threat. The loss of civilian oversight, along with the lack of transparency, is ominous.

Abu-Jamal was convicted of the 1981 murder of Daniel Faulkner, a white Philadelphia police officer. His trial was a sham. It included tainted evidence, suppressed defense witnesses, prosecution witnesses that contradicted their earlier testimony, a court-appointed lawyer, like most within the system, who was allotted few resources and had little inclination to defend his client, and a series of unconstitutional legal rulings by a judge out to convict the defendant. Terri Maurer-Carter, the stenographer at the trial, later signed an affidavit stating that during the trial she overheard the judge, Albert F. Sabo, say of Abu-Jamal, “Yeah and I’m gonna help ’em fry the nigger.” Sabo during his time on the bench sent 31 people to death row, more than any other judge in Pennsylvania. Abu-Jamal, who grew up in the housing projects of north Philadelphia, is imprisoned for our sins.
By 1977, Abu-Jamal, distressed by the internal feuding that tore apart the Black Panthers, had developed a close relationship with members of the Philadelphia MOVE organization (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOVE). MOVE members lived communally, preached Third World radicalism, ate natural foods and denounced the established black leaders as puppets of the white, capitalist ruling elites.
The Philadelphia police, who constantly harassed the group, besieged the MOVE compound in late 1977. On Aug. 7, 1978, a gun battle erupted between people in the compound and police outside. A police officer was killed. Delbert Africa, a MOVE member, was savagely beaten in front of television cameras. Nine MOVE members would be charged with murder. The trial, like the one held four years later for Abu-Jamal, was a farce. It was clear, Abu-Jamal wrote of the legal lynching of the MOVE members, that “the law did not matter.” Two of the nine, Merle and Phil Africa, have died in prison. The other seven MOVE members remain, like Abu-Jamal, locked away and denied freedom by parole boards. Abu-Jamal was given life without parole after being taken off death row by the courts.
The Philadelphia police and the FBI were determined to root what remained of MOVE out of the city and do so with enough brutality to discourage any other black radicals from organizing.
“On May 12 [the date the two-day-long attack began], Sunday, Mother’s Day of 1985, our home was surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of cops who came out there to kill not because of any complaints from neighbors but because of our unrelenting fight for our MOVE sisters and brothers known as the MOVE 9,” Ramona Africa told me in an interview last week. (Authorities, as one of their supposed justifications for acting against MOVE, cited neighborhood complaints about activities and conditions at the compound.) “We had been attacked and arrested in 1978. Thirty-nine years later, this August, they are still in prison. They became eligible for parole in 2008. The parole board just refuses to parole them.” [Chris Hedges’ interview with Ramona Africa begins at the 11-minute mark—click here (https://www.rt.com/shows/on-contact/388304-philadelphia-police-bombing-move/) for the video.]
“What people really need to understand is they did come out there [in 1985] to kill, not to arrest,” she said. “They could have arrested at any time. They did not come out there for any complaint from neighbors. Those running this country, this entire worldwide system, have never cared about black people complaining about their neighbors. It’s never been an issue. Obviously, it was something other than that. Which was our unrelenting fight for our family members who are still in prison. They shot over 10,000 rounds of bullets in on us within 90 minutes. They dropped a bomb.”
The bomb ignited a fire that burned down a city block containing 61 homes.



“The fire department, who was out there from the very beginning, was immediately aware that there was a fire on our roof,” she said. “A conscious decision was made to not fight the fire. To let it burn. When we realized our home was on fire, we immediately tried to get our children, our animals, and ourselves out of that blazing inferno. The instant we were visible to cops we were met with a barrage of police gunfire aimed at us so that we couldn’t escape that fire. After several attempts to get out, I got out first. I was able to get one of our children, a little boy named Birdie, out. We were immediately snatched into custody. I’m looking for the rest of my family. Trying to see if I could see anyone else. It was a little later after they had taken us into custody that I found out nobody else [in the MOVE group] survived.”
Eleven members of MOVE, including the founder of the group, John Africa, and five children, were killed in the police assault.
“The people who killed my family were never charged, never prosecuted, never imprisoned for anything,” she said. “Meanwhile, my nine MOVE sisters and brothers [convicted in the 1978 shootout], Mumia Abu-Jamal, Leonard Peltier [a Native American activist imprisoned in a South Dakota murder case], all the way down to line, are in prison with the accusation of murder.”
Abu-Jamal wrote, “May 13th, 1985, is more than a day of infamy, when a city waged war on its own alleged citizens, but also when the city committed massacre and did so with perfect impunity, when babies were shot and burned alive with their mothers and fathers, and the killers rewarded with honors and pensions, while politicians talked and the media mediated mass murder. On that day, the city, armed and assisted by the US government, dropped a bomb on a house and called it law. The fire department watched buildings ignite like matches in the desert and cut off water. The courts of the land turned a blind eye, daubed mud in their socket, and prosecuted Ramona Africa for having the nerve to survive an urban holocaust, jailing her for the crime of not burning to death. Eleven men, women and children died, and not one killer was even charged with a misdemeanor.”
Ramona Africa, charged with “rioting,” spent seven years in prison.[For a 69-second video showing the bomb exploding on the Philadelphia compound roof in 1985, click here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IvEzA8aUJoU). For a 56-minute documentary on the assault on the compound and the circumstances surrounding it, click here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8eHpRjxk7N4&t=2448s).]
Our failure to defend those who are demonized and persecuted leaves us all demonized and persecuted. Our failure to demand justice for everyone leaves us all without justice. Our failure to halt the crushing of popular movements that stand unequivocally with the oppressed leaves us all oppressed. Our failure to protect our democracy leaves us without a democracy. The persecution of Mumia Abu-Jamal, MOVE members and all the radicals of four decades ago is not ancient history. It is the genesis of the present. It spawned the corporate coup and the machinery of state terror. We will pay for our complacency.

Peter Lemkin
05-15-2017, 05:07 AM
May 14, 2017 | DonkeyHotey and Klaus Marre (http://whowhatwhy.org/author/donkeyhotey-and-klaus-marre/)


Want to Improve Election Integrity? Lock Up Vote Suppressors http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/image2-6-700x470.jpg Protecting our precious franchise. Photo credit: DonkeyHotey / WhoWhatWhy (CC BY-SA 2.0) See complete attribution below.
Republicans often deride government as ineffective. There is one way, however, in which they have gotten it to work just as they intended: The GOP’s voter suppression effort is a well-oiled machine and it will likely be cranked up in even more states before the next election.
If it hadn’t been for President Donald Trump’s FBI debacle, it is very likely that election fraud and voter integrity would have been featured prominently in the news this week because the commander-in-chief signed an Executive Order (https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2017/05/11/presidential-executive-order-establishment-presidential-advisory) creating an “Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.”
On its face, that sounds like a good idea. The problem is that this commission will likely not look into the many, very real, election integrity problems that plague the US and have been documented extensively by WhoWhatWhy.

“We already know that millions of people did not vote illegally in the last election. Period. The real problem is that too few eligible people are registered to vote and turning out on Election Day — not too many.”
Instead, it is probably going to spend a good bit of time trying to find evidence for Trump’s completely unsubstantiated claim that millions of illegal votes were cast last November — every single one for his rival Hillary Clinton.
A major red flag to the purpose of the commission is that Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has been appointed as its co-chair. WhoWhatWhy readers will recognize the name. Kobach is a main architect of voter suppression efforts throughout the country. (For the horrifying details, please go here (http://whowhatwhy.org/2016/04/09/fighting-fraud-undermining-voting-rights/), here (http://whowhatwhy.org/2016/08/31/dirty-tricks-election-thieves/), and here (http://whowhatwhy.org/2016/12/11/making-sure-right-people-vote/).)
Election integrity advocates are worried that the commission will be used to justify further laws designed to keep minorities and other Democratic constituencies away from the ballot box.
“This commission begins with zero credibility and should be recognized for what it is: a highly partisan and deeply cynical diversion premised on justifying the President’s past lies about illegal voting,” said Brenda Wright (http://www.demos.org/press-release/statement-demos-trump-%E2%80%9Celection-integrity%E2%80%9D-commission), Vice President for Policy and Legal Strategies at the public policy organization Demos.
“We already know that millions of people did not vote illegally in the last election. Period. The real problem is that too few eligible people are registered to vote and turning out on Election Day — not too many.”
The ACLU called Kobach “Public Enemy #1” with regard to voter suppression.
Unfortunately, a new study by Civis Analytics and Priorities USA shows that voter suppression works (http://www.demos.org/sites/default/files/publications/2017.05.03%20Voter%20Suppression%20Memo%5b1%5d.pdf ). Turnout increased in states in which no new Voter ID laws were passed, while it shrank in states that instituted strict legislation on that front. This effect was particularly pronounced in districts with a large African American population.

After all, if somebody commits a felony and gets five years in the slammer for trying to cast an illegal vote, shouldn’t the penalty for preventing a legal vote be just as harsh?
So, instead of having a commission, chaired by a known vote suppressor — trying to validate something Trump made up out of thin air — what should actually be done?
First of all, there should be a Constitutional Amendment guaranteeing the right to vote as explicitly as, for example, the Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms. Hopefully, that would prevent GOP-led states from passing laws that restrict access to the ballot box. It is unlikely that Congress will do this, so corresponding language should be placed on the ballot in all 50 states.
In addition, a second set of laws should be passed. There is no dispute that in-person voter fraud (or other types of voter fraud) should be punished severely. And the penalties in these rare cases are quite harsh. Voter fraud in a federal election carries a prison sentence of up to five years and a $10,000 fine.
But the exact same penalty should apply to anybody denying an eligible voter the opportunity to cast a ballot in any way, shape or form.
After all, if somebody commits a felony and gets five years in the slammer for trying to cast an illegal vote, shouldn’t the penalty for preventing a legal vote be just as harsh?
So, if you intimidate a voter, or give him/her misleading information on when and where to vote, you get up to five years. And let’s go further. If you lobby for a law that would disenfranchise voters and is later deemed illegal, you should also face five years in jail.
And finally, the same penalty should apply to state and federal lawmakers or other officials if there is evidence that they passed a law or instituted a measure that knowingly denied a certain group of people the right to vote.
We think that would put a quick stop to all of these voter suppression laws. And people like Kris Kobach should only be rigging votes on the selection of cell block spokesmen.

Peter Lemkin
05-15-2017, 05:47 AM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNqDAYWYFuQ


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z0D9WroKjRw


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OK-lf-G2cSY


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GcToqSoiy30

Peter Lemkin
05-15-2017, 05:40 PM
The Kazakhstan Connection: Trump, Bayrock And Plenty Of Questions
‘There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.’—Buffalo Springfield song, “For What It’s Worth,” 1967By Richard Behar
Is a former Mob-connected hustler—a real estate developer who in 2010 worked on the same floor as Donald Trump as his “Senior Advisor”—threatening to spill some beans that could harm the President’s reputation?
https://ui6lfrrydp-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Felix-Sater-300x169.jpgFelix Sater

Sure looks that way, based on an intriguing Wall Street Journal story (https://www.wsj.com/articles/publicity-over-dispute-by-former-trump-partners-could-tarnish-president-one-warns-1492680604) that exposed aspects of a bitter feud between two of Trump’s former key business associates. The newspaper revealed that the Russia-born Felix Sater—a twice-convicted one-time Mafia associate—is demanding hush money from a former boss, Kazakhstan-born Tevfik Arif, whose Bayrock Group worked in a close partnership for nearly a decade with the Trump Organization.
Sater warned Arif, in writing, that news headlines will read: “The Kazakh Gangster and President Trump,” unless Arif forks over $3.5 million to reimburse Sater for legal expenses he claims he’s owed, the Journal reported. Specifically, Sater is threatening to reveal negative information about Arif’s “past relationship with President Trump and the Republic of Kazakhstan”—as well as Arif’s alleged connections to “organized crime figures and his business activities in Kazakhstan,” which involve “dealings in the post-Soviet metals industry there.”
Spokespeople for Bayrock and Arif have called the allegations “unsubstantiated falsehoods.” The general counsel of Trump Organization didn’t respond to calls and emails.
Why this story mattersI discovered some missing bricks in the murky Bayrock-Trump edifice as reported by Forbes in October (https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardbehar/2016/10/03/donald-trump-and-the-felon-inside-his-business-dealings-with-a-mob-connected-hustler/#608f88742282). As for Kazakhstan, sorting out the bewildering tangle (what Russians call a zaputannyj klubok) could take years. But why should anyone even care about it?
https://ui6lfrrydp-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Trump-Artif-Sater-NPO-image-300x181.jpgTrump, Tevik Arif and Felix Sater (NPO screen shot)

Here are just a few reasons:
It’s a good bet that the Trump-Bayrock relationship will receive scrutiny in Washington. It certainly should be front and center in any serious investigation. Two months ago, Sater burst onto the front-pages when it was revealed that he and one of Trump’s top lawyers delivered a Ukraine peace proposal to the White House. In late March, then-FBI director James Comey was asked about Sater’s relationship with the FBI when he appeared before the House Intelligence Committee. (He declined to comment on it, likely because the twice-convicted Sater spent a decade as a secret government cooperator for both the FBI and at times, the CIA).
Trump fired Comey on Tuesday, just as the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe into Russia’s interference in the presidential election has been shifting into a higher gear. Apart from that probe, Republican Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham said on Tuesday that he wants his committee to look into whether Trump has any business dealings in Russia. Near the start of a hearing that committee held on Monday, another Senator dropped the name “Sater.”
Trump and Sater have been doing an odd dance around each other during the past few years, regarding how much they’ve interacted. In 2010, Sater was made a “Senior Advisor to Donald Trump” and given an office on Trump’s floor in the Trump Tower, where he worked for roughly one year. Nevertheless, Trump consistently has testified in civil cases that he barely knew Sater, barely dealt with him and “wouldn’t recognize him if he was sitting in this [deposition] room.” However, Sater, in another civil case said he would often pop his head into Trump’s office to give him updates on a Moscow hotel deal he had in the works. (It doesn’t appear that the project came to fruition.) Last September, I half-joked to Sater that he must have a photo album filled with pictures of himself with Trump. “A photo album?” he responded. “How aboutsix!”
While it seems unlikely that the Bayrock real estate enterprise will be Trump’s Waterloo, it is, without a doubt, a subject that reporters need to continue chipping away at. In part, because all the key players—from Sater and Arif to Trump and his aides, to tycoons in and from Kazakhstan and Russia—refuse to shed any real sunlight on it. And, as the late Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once famously said: “Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.”

—Richard Behar
Sater, however, may not even need the dough. I’ve discovered that he and a former Trump Organization colleague, Daniel Ridloff, received roughly $20 million—in a settlement of a case that is linked to an alleged multi-billion-dollar global money laundering scheme originating in Kazakhstan, and stretching to Russia and the U.S.
https://ui6lfrrydp-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Tri-County-Mall-Google-satellite-image-300x158.jpgTri-County Mall (Google satellite image)

Specifically, both men were accused in a 2013 complaint filed by a Swiss financier of absconding with nearly $43 million from the sale of an Ohio shopping mall (Tri-County Mall near Cincinnati) to—American Pacific International Capital (APIC). That company is based in San Francisco. One of the directors is businessman Neil Bush—the son of former President George H.W. Bush and brother of former President George W. Bush.
In the shopping center complaint, the financier included an exhibit (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/17/nyregion/17trump.html)—a 2007 New York Times article that revealed numerous details about Sater’s criminal past. The article said Sater had pled guilty and become a cooperating federal witness. Sater’s cooperation agreement was unsealed by a federal judge in 2013, but many other documents in related cases are under court seal.
Five days after the Tri-County mall complaint was filed, the case was settled.
Neither Sater or Ridloff, whose LinkedIn bio (https://www.linkedin.com/in/daniel-ridloff-33182b40/) says he worked in “Acquisitions & Finance” in 2010 for the Trump Organization, will comment about the subject. In his own LinkedIn bio (https://www.linkedin.com/in/felix-s-153455), Sater describes himself as a former “Senior Advisor to Board of Directors” of one of Neil Bush’s oil companies (TxOil) that once drilled in Turkmenistan, an oil-rich part of the former Soviet Union.
Bush tells me he’s never heard of Sater. Bush also says that the mall was purchased for $43 million by APIC at a public auction, and then transferred to a Singapore publicly-held real estate company that he chairs called SingHaiyi Group. “I helped the group [SingHaiyi] find the property through a friend,” he says. When told about the subsequent litigation against Sater and Ridloff, Bush says: “I don’t remember anything like that. We bought it at a sheriff’s auction. If the funds filtered through some undesignated [entity] or intermediary, I’m unaware of that.”
A second lawsuit filed in U.S. Federal Court (Southern District of New York) may shed additional light on Sater and Ridloff’s Kazakhstan-related business activity. In this case, the BTA Bank (once one of Kazakhstan’s largest banks) and the government of Almaty (the country’s largest city) are accusing three Kazakh men—a former Almaty mayor, his son, and a former chairman of BTA Bank—of absconding with billions of dollars and laundering the money.
The defendants—Viktor and Ilyas Khrapunov, and Mukhtar Ablyazov, respectively—deny the allegations and claim the charges are politically motivated.
That’s not the view of Matthew L. Schwartz, a former federal prosecutor, now in private practice at the prestigious law firm of Boies Schiller Flexner, who represents the city of Almaty and the bank. “The international financial fraud perpetrated by Ablyazov, Viktor and Ilyas Khrapunov, and their associates is as large and far-flung as they come,” Schwartz says. “It involves billions of dollars and has touched at least two dozen different countries—from Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine to the United States, England, and France—and just about everyplace else.”
Schwartz adds: “We’ll follow the money stolen by these fugitives wherever they may try to hide it.” (A Switzerland-based spokesperson for the family welcomed questions, but declined to respond to any.)
Needless to say, the saga—a saga within a saga—is very complicated. A declaration in the Khrapunov case is by Nicolas Bourg, who happens to be the same Swiss financier who accused Sater and Ridloff of stealing the $43 million from the Ohio mall deal. In the declaration, he says that he was president of a real estate fund (named Swiss Development Group, or SDG) that was controlled by the Khrapunov family “and used to conceal the movement and investment of his family’s money.”
https://ui6lfrrydp-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/Trump-SoHo-Hotel-195x300.jpgTrump SoHo Hotel (Google Streetview)

Time out. Where does Trump fit into all this? In October, the Financial Times (https://www.ft.com/content/33285dfa-9231-11e6-8df8-d3778b55a923) revealed that three Trump Soho condos in Manhattan were bought in 2013 with $3.1 million that came from the alleged Khrapunov laundering caper. Trump Soho was 18% owned by Trump at the time. There is no evidence that Trump was involved or knowledgeable about the Khrapunovs. But he seems to have benefitted.
In addition, bank statements submitted by City of Almaty lawyers indicate that the ultimate beneficiary of the companies that bought the condos was Elvira Kudryashova—the California-based daughter of Viktor Khrapunov. The FT reported that correspondence and company documents seen by the newspaper showed that Sater and Ridloff worked closely with Kudryashova in 2012.
“They agreed to serve as directors of a company through which she would pour $3 million into a business venture as part of her efforts to secure a U.S. investor visa,” wrote the newspaper.
Sater and Ridloff, my reporting shows, ran the U.S. arm of the Khrapunov’s SDG entity at the time. Another connection is in the Linked-In bio of Ridloff’s, where he refers to himself as the former vice president of SDG-Investment Fund.
Bourg, the Swiss financier alleging fraud in the Ohio mall sale, maintains in his declaration that a shell entity he created in Luxembourg—Triadou—was an investment vehicle wholly-owned and controlled by SDG. Bourg states that Triadou was also the entity used to buy the Ohio shopping mall.
An exhibit with the declaration from Swiss financier Bourg includes emails to Felix Sater and others in 2014 with “swift code” details for an account at a now-defunct rogue bank that was headquartered in Dubai. Swift codes are used for international money transfers. In 2015, the bank, FBME, formerly Federal Bank of the Middle East, was banned from operating in the U.S. due to money laundering and terror financing allegations. The email to Sater cites an entity called Telford International, which was allegedly used to move the money toFBME.
And—closing the circle—Telford was used to fund Triadou, the entity that bought and sold the Ohio mall, according to Bourg.
DCReport.org has obtained an audio recording in which three of Bayrock’s top four executives can be heard discussing coal and oil projects involving Bayrock and Sater, in which the name “Khrapunov” and “his son” are mentioned. The recording was made in Bayrock’s offices in the Trump Tower in 2008. In all likelihood, the references are to Viktor Khrapunov and his son Ilyas.
The recording was made just three months before Viktor reportedly fled Kazakhstan as a fugitive. Ilyas is also accused by Kazakh authorities of money laundering and is a fugitive. Excerpts from the audio are here (https://www.scribd.com/document/348218683/Audio-Excerpts-May-2008), and emails penned by Sater in 2007 from Kazakhstan also talk about a coal deal he had just closed—three days after arriving in Kazakhstan without a visa. Whether the emails are referring specifically to a Khrapunov deal is unknown.
The Russian-born Sater spent a year in prison in 1993 after pleading guilty to assaulting a man with a broken glass during an argument with in a bar. (The victim required more than 100 facial stitches.) Next, he pled guilty in 1998 to racketeering. Specifically, he helped run a huge pump-and-dump stock fraud with members and associates from four of New York’s five Italian mafia families—including the brother-in-law of Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano, the Mafia hitman turned Gotti-informer.
In a press release two years later that cited Sater, New York’s then-police commissioner dubbed the case “Goodfellas meets Boiler Room”—a reference to both the classic film and to cold-calling operations where salespeople often peddle fraudulent securities. This time around, Sater avoided prison by becoming a government cooperator for more than a decade, ratting out mobsters.

Peter Lemkin
05-16-2017, 04:11 AM
MAY 15, 2017 | C. COLLINS (http://whowhatwhy.org/author/c-collins/)


WWW EXCLUSIVE: FELIX SATER LINKS TRUMP TO COMEY’S REPLACEMENThttp://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/image3-3-700x470.jpgActing FBI Director Andrew McCabe testifying during US Senate hearing on Global Threats, May 11, 2017. Photo credit: Watch the video on C-SPAN (https://www.c-span.org/video/?428161-1/comey-firing-russia-probe-loom-global-threats-hearing)
President Donald Trump’s own words link the firing of James Comey as FBI director to the Bureau’s Russia probe. That move, however, might not have been well thought out because Andrew McCabe, Comey’s deputy and temporary replacement, could have unique firsthand knowledge of potential ties between Trump and organized crime in the former Soviet Union.
This creates an intriguing if complex and nuanced situation that could influence Trump as he decides whether to replace McCabe as interim director.
How this important but overlooked factor — discussed in no other reporting of the drama around the Comey firing, the search for an interim FBI director, McCabe, and Trump — will play out is uncertain. But the importance of McCabe’s prior history is part of the hidden backstory between the FBI and Trump.
First, a quick review.
In an exclusive WhoWhatWhy investigation (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/27/fbi-cant-tell-trump-russia/) published in March, we told the story of Felix Sater, the Russian-born financial criminal whose real estate development firm Bayrock partnered with Trump on numerous troubled projects — while Sater was working as an FBI informant. Further, pending civil litigation alleges that Bayrock, whose offices were just a floor beneath Trump’s in Trump Tower, served as a massive money laundering operation for funds from the former Soviet Union.
In the mid-1990s, Sater had been one of the chiefs of State Street, a mobbed-up financial brokerage that racked up tens of millions of dollars in profits in a few short years and fleeced thousands. Sater and 21 others were swept up in the high-profile FBI operation that targeted the brokerage, which included associates of both Italian crime families and the Russian mob — which includes Sater. Sater then “flipped” and became an informant, after pleading guilty to a single count of racketeering. He was working at Bayrock a few short years later.
It turns out that the paths of Andrew McCabe and Felix Sater intersect.
McCabe worked for 20 years in the New York field office of the FBI. According to older FBI biographical information (https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/news/pressrel/press-releases/andrew-mccabe-named-assistant-director-of-counterterrorism-division), he joined the New York office in 1996, when he worked on “organized crime matters.” In 2003, “he became the supervisory special agent of the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force, a joint operation with the New York City Police Department.”
“Eurasian organized crime” is the FBI designation for crime that originates from the former Soviet Union, including Russia and Ukraine.
Curiously, McCabe’s most recent (https://www.fbi.gov/history/directors/andrew-mccabe)official biography does not include this aspect of his career, and recent (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/11/us/politics/andrew-mccabe-fbi-acting-director.html) press profiles also do not include this fact (although older press releases (https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/news/pressrel/press-releases/andrew-mccabe-named-assistant-director-of-counterterrorism-division) do so). (This reporter could find no discussion of this period of McCabe’s career in previous press reporting.)
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/image1-3-1024x682.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/image1-3.jpg)FBI Deputy Director Andrew G. McCabe speaks at a press conference on July 20, 2016; with US Attorney General Loretta Lynch. Photo credit: FBI (https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/us-seeks-to-recover-1-billion-in-largest-kleptocracy-case-to-date)

It was the FBI’s organized crime unit in New York that investigated State Street, the mobbed-up brokerage where Felix Sater held sway in the mid-1990s. Sater has been named in numerous (https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardbehar/2016/10/03/donald-trump-and-the-felon-inside-his-business-dealings-with-a-mob-connected-hustler/#3a51f4c42282) press reports (https://www.the-american-interest.com/2016/12/19/the-curious-world-of-donald-trumps-private-russian-connections/) in connection with the Russian mob. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), during hearings into Russian interference in the US election, last week noted (https://www.whitehouse.senate.gov/news/videos) that Sater’s family has links to organized crime and called Sater a “colorful character.” Sater’s father has been tied to the criminal organization of Semion Mogilevich, perhaps the most powerful of organized crime bosses in the former Soviet Union, and considered a national security threat by US law enforcement. (To WhoWhatWhy, Sater has denied knowledge of or connections to Eurasian mobsters.)
Whether McCabe worked specifically on the State Street case is unclear, but he certainly was in the organized crime section while that high-profile, multi-year investigation was ongoing.
State Street closed as the FBI got close in 1996, Sater signed his cooperation agreement in 1998, the State Street indictments were unsealed in 2000 — and Sater was working at Bayrock in Trump Tower by early 2002.
Sater and Bayrock went on to partner on multiple deals with Trump, including the Trump SoHo. Most of the Bayrock projects failed very badly, leaving a string of lawsuits across multiple states.
While at Bayrock, Sater regularly traveled to Europe, including Poland, Russia, and Ukraine, with numerous trips to Crimea, ostensibly in search of possible development projects that could bear the Trump name — projects that never seemed to reach the drawing board stage. To reiterate, Sater was working as an FBI informant throughout the years he was at Bayrock (until early 2008).
Thus McCabe, as supervisory special agent of the Eurasian organized crime unit in New York from 2003 to 2006, would seem likely to have known very well what Sater was up to and intelligence he had gathered. In addition, he would have been aware of Sater’s relationship with Trump and possibly Trump’s financial relationships in the former Soviet Union at a time when he was struggling to find funding in the US after his numerous bankruptcies.
McCabe also would likely be privy to information about goings-on at Trump Tower, which was a hive of wealthy Russians and others from the former Soviet Union, as well as people like Paul Manafort, who lived in Trump Tower and was actively engaged in supporting pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2016/04/paul_manafort_isn_t_a_gop_retread_he_s_made_a_care er_of_reinventing_tyrants.html) and business interests (http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/03/19/married-to-the-ukrainian-mob/)tied to organized crime (http://foreignpolicy.com/2014/03/19/married-to-the-ukrainian-mob/) — including Mogilevich — from 2005. (Manafort is Trump’s long-time friend who served for a period as his campaign manager.)
As must be stressed, Trump’s risk regarding Sater is enormous in multiple ways. While at Bayrock — and serving as an FBI informant — Sater was entering contracts with lenders and clients, and because of his past as a financial criminal, this was a crime. Indeed, Sater was forced to pull out of Bayrock after a New York Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/17/nyregion/17trump.html)in late 2007 outed him as a felon, making his position at Bayrock untenable.
If it could be proven that Trump knew that Sater was a financial criminal and did business with him anyway, it would expose Trump to massive financial liability. This is because parties to bank loans and investment contracts must confirm that no owner or manager has been convicted of fraud, and if that confirmation is false, anyone who knew of the fraud is potentially liable.
If Trump or anyone around him — such as other Trump Organization executives, accountants, and lawyers — had knowledge of Sater’s criminal past and yet entered into contracts with Sater and Bayrock, Trump and his company would then be liable for hundreds of millions of dollars and possible jail time. The same would be true even if someone learned about Sater’s criminal status aftersigning the contract but continued with it.
Yet what if that criminal was considered protected by his informant status with the FBI?
Revealing the criminality on the part of anyone who entered into contracts with Sater despite being aware of his criminal history would also reveal the role of the FBI and Department of Justice and what they knew about Sater’s alleged shady deals and activities while using him as an informant.
McCabe, as a former supervisory special agent of the Eurasian Organized Crime Task Force in New York, would be especially well informed of the players and issues regarding the former Soviet Union.
These insights, gained over a 20-year career in New York, would provide him with a unique understanding while overseeing an investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia as well as Trump business connections to those in the former Soviet Union. New York is not only the unofficial headquarters of the Russian-speaking community in the US, it is also the center of much financial and other crime tied to the former Soviet Union.
McCabe would likely also have knowledge of potentially problematic issues, such as possible crimes committed by Sater at Bayrock while working as an informant (from which Trump could have profited), questions regarding Trump’s previous relationship with the Bureau, as well as the current and former FBI agents who either are or may have been connected to Trump or his campaign (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/was-rudy-giuliani-at-the-center-of-an-fbi-trump-campaign_us_585ad14ce4b014e7c72ed993).
This is something the president could be aware of: members of his private security detail during the campaign and after included former FBI agents, one of which — Gary Uher — not only worked in the organized crime section at the same time as McCabe, but investigated and then worked with Sater on the State Street case, as reported exclusively (http://whowhatwhy.org/2017/03/27/fbi-cant-tell-trump-russia/) by WhoWhatWhy.
This information, completely overlooked by the rest of the media, adds another layer of complexity and intrigue to the unfolding drama of the Russia investigation that will overshadow everything Trump does until it is resolved one way or another. It also underscores how much we do not know — or are not being told.

Peter Lemkin
05-16-2017, 04:30 AM
Well worth reading and thinking about....no matter how much one hates Trumpf and what he stands for [as I do!!!!], to remove him or try to in any means other than legally and with good and real rationale, will further weaken the already nearly dead democracy of the USA. Personally, I think the Trumpf administration will go down in history as a marker - a turning point - after which the unraveling of what remained of US democracy came apart quickly and utterly.


Will Russiagate Hysteria Lead to an American ‘Soft Coup’?Posted on May 15, 2017By Robert Parry / Consortiumnews (https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/13/the-soft-coup-of-russia-gate/)
http://www.truthdig.com/images/reportuploads/Donald_Trump_Sergey_Lavrov_590.jpg
President Trump meets with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, second from left, at the White House last Wednesday. Lavrov is Vladimir Putin’s top diplomat, and the meeting was Trump’s highest-level face-to-face contact with a Russian government official since taking office. Fourth from right is the Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergei Kislyak. (Russian Foreign Ministry via AP (http://www.apimages.com/metadata/Index/United-States-Russia/b7558d0847684adc89e65388ad1a1d44/7/0))

Where is Stanley Kubrick when we need him? If he hadn’t died in 1999, he would be the perfect director to transform today’s hysteria over Russia into a theater-of-the-absurd movie reprising his Cold War classic, “Dr. Strangelove,” which savagely satirized the madness of nuclear brinksmanship and the crazed ideology behind it.
To prove my point, The Washington Post on Thursday published a lengthy story (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-to-meet-russian-foreign-minister-at-the-white-house-as-moscows-alleged-election-interference-is-back-in-spotlight/2017/05/10/c6717e4c-34f3-11e7-b412-62beef8121f7_story.html?utm_term=.7204b13c13e7) entitled in the print editions “Alarm at Russian in White House” about a Russian photographer who was allowed into the Oval Office to photograph President Trump’s meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
The Post cited complaints from former U.S. intelligence officials who criticized the presence of the Russian photographer as “a potential security breach” because of “the danger that a listening device or other surveillance equipment could have been brought into the Oval Office while hidden in cameras or other electronics.”
To bolster this alarm, the Post cited a Twitter comment from President Obama’s last deputy CIA director, David S. Cohen, stating, “No, it was not” a sound decision to admit the Russian photographer who also works for the Russian news agency, Tass, which published the photo.One could picture Boris and Natasha, the evil spies in the Bullwinkle cartoons, disguised as photographers slipping listening devices between the cushions of the sofas.
Or we could hear how Russians are again threatening to “impurify all of our precious bodily fluids,” as “Dr. Strangelove” character, Gen. Jack D. Ripper, warned us in the 1964 movie.
Watching that brilliant dark comedy again might actually be a good idea to remind us how crazy Americans can get when they’re pumped up with anti-Russian propaganda, as is happening again now.
Taking Down Trump
I realize that many Democrats, liberals and progressives hate Donald Trump so much that they believe that any pretext is justified in taking him down, even if that plays into the hands of the neoconservatives and other warmongers. Many people who detest Trump view Russiagate as the most likely path to achieve Trump’s impeachment, so this desirable end justifies whatever means.
Some people have told me that they even believe that it is the responsibility of the major news media, the law enforcement and intelligence communities, and members of Congress to engage in a “soft coup” against Trump – also known as a “constitutional coup” or “deep state coup (https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/10/watergate-redux-or-deep-state-coup/)” – for the “good of the country.”
The argument is that it sometimes falls to these establishment institutions to “correct” a mistake made by the American voters, in this case, the election of a largely unqualified individual as U.S. president. It is even viewed by some anti-Trump activists as a responsibility of “responsible” journalists, government officials and others to play this “guardian” role, to not simply “resist” Trump but to remove him.
There are obvious counter-arguments to this view, particularly that it makes something of a sham of American democracy. It also imposes on journalists a need to violate the ethical responsibility to provide objective reporting, not taking sides in political disputes.
But The New York Times and The Washington Post, in particular, have made it clear that they view Trump as a clear and present danger to the American system and thus have cast aside any pretense of neutrality.
The Times justifies its open hostility to the president as part of its duty to protect “the truth”; the Post has adopted a slogan aimed at Trump, “Democracy Dies in Darkness.” In other words, America’s two most influential political newspapers are effectively pushing for a “soft coup” under the guise of defending “democracy” and “truth.”
But the obvious problem with a “soft coup” is that America’s democratic process, as imperfect as it has been and still is, has held this diverse country together since 1788 with the notable exception of the Civil War.
If Americans believe that the Washington elites are removing an elected president – even one as buffoonish as Donald Trump – it could tear apart the fabric of national unity, which is already under extraordinary stress from intense partisanship.
That means that the “soft coup” would have to be carried out under the guise of a serious investigation into something grave enough to justify the president’s removal, a removal that could be accomplished by congressional impeachment, his forced resignation, or the application of the 25th Amendment, which allows the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to judge a president incapable of continuing in office (although that could require two-thirds votes by both houses of Congress if the president fights the maneuver).
A Big Enough ‘Scandal’
That is where Russiagate comes in. The gauzy allegation that Trump and/or his advisers somehow colluded with Russian intelligence officials to rig the 2016 election would probably clear the threshold for an extreme action like removing a president.
And, given the determination of many key figures in the establishment to get rid of Trump, it should come as no surprise that no one seems to care that no actual government-verified evidence has been revealed (https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/11/the-scandal-hidden-behind-russia-gate/) publicly to support any of the Russiagate allegations.
There’s not even any public evidence from U.S. government agencies that Russia did “meddle” in the 2016 election or—even if Russia did slip Democratic emails to WikiLeaks (which WikiLeaks denies)—there has been zero evidence that the scheme resulted from collusion with Trump’s campaign.
The FBI has been investigating these suspicions for at least nine months, even reportedly securing a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act warrant against Carter Page, an American whom Trump briefly claimed as a foreign policy adviser when Trump was under fire for not having any foreign policy advisers.
One of Page’s alleged offenses was that he gave a speech to an academic conference in Moscow in July 2016 that was mildly critical of how the U.S. treated countries from the former Soviet Union. He also once lived in Russia and met with a Russian diplomat who – apparently unbeknownst to Page – had been identified by the U.S. government as a Russian intelligence officer.
It appears that is enough, in these days of our New McCarthyism (https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/07/the-mccarthyism-of-russia-gate/), to get an American put under a powerful counter-intelligence investigation.
The FBI and the Department of Justice also reportedly are including as part of the Russiagate investigation Trump’s stupid campaign joke calling on the Russians to help find the tens of thousands of emails that Hillary Clinton erased from the home server that she used while Secretary of State.
On July 27, 2016, Trump said, apparently in jest, “I will tell you this, Russia: If you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing.”
The comment fit with Trump’s puckish, provocative and often tasteless sense of humor, but was seized on by Democrats as if it were a serious suggestion—as if anyone would use a news conference to seriously urge something like that. But it now appears that the FBI is grabbing at any straw that might support its investigation.
The (U.K.) Guardian reported (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/may/11/justice-department-fbi-documents-trump-russia-hack-clinton-email?utm_source=esp&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=GU+Today+USA+-+Collections+2017&utm_term=225569&subid=1473532&CMP=GT_US_collection) this week that “Senior DoJ officials have declined to release the documents [about Trump’s comment] on grounds that such disclosure could ‘interfere with enforcement proceedings’. In a filing to a federal court in Washington DC, the DoJ states that ‘because of the existence of an active, ongoing investigation, the FBI anticipates that it will … withhold all records’.
“The statement suggests that Trump’s provocative comment last July is being seen by the FBI as relevant to its own ongoing investigation.”
The NYT’s Accusations
On Friday, in the wake of Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and the President’s characterization of Russiagate as “a total hoax,” The New York Times reprised what it called “The Trump-Russia Nexus” in a lead editorial (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/11/opinion/trump-russia-fbi-investigation.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region&_r=0) trying to make the case of some fire behind the smoke.


Though the Times acknowledges that there are “many unknowns” in Russiagate and the Times can’t seem to find any evidence of collusion, such as slipping a Russian data stick to WikiLeaks, the Times nevertheless treats a host of Trump advisers and family members as traitors because they’ve had some association with Russian officials, Russian businesses or Russian allies.
Regarding Carter Page, the Times wrote: “American officials believe that Mr. Page, a foreign policy adviser, had contacts with Russian intelligence officials during the campaign. He also gave a pro-Russia speech in Moscow in July 2016. Mr. Page was once employed by Merrill Lynch’s Moscow office, where he worked with Gazprom, a government-owned giant.”
You might want to let some of those words sink in, especially the part about Page giving “a pro-Russia speech in Moscow,” which has been cited as one of the principal reasons for Page and his communications being targeted under a FISA warrant.
I’ve actually read Page’s speech and to call it “pro-Russia” is a wild exaggeration. It was a largely academic treatise that faulted the West’s post-Cold War treatment of the nations formed from the old Soviet Union, saying the rush to a free-market system led to some negative consequences, such as the spread of corruption.
But even if the speech were “pro-Russia,” doesn’t The New York Times respect the quaint American notion of free speech? Apparently not. If your carefully crafted words can be twisted into something called “pro-Russia,” the Times seems to think it’s OK to have the National Security Agency bug your phones and read your emails.The Ukraine Case
Another Times’ target was veteran political adviser Paul Manafort, who is accused of working as “a consultant for a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine and for Ukraine’s former president, Viktor Yanukovych, who was backed by the Kremlin.”
Left out of that Times formulation is the fact that the Ukrainian political party, which had strong backing from ethnic Russian Ukrainians—not just Russia—competed in a democratic process and that Yanukovych won an election that was recognized by international observers as free and fair.
Yanukovych was then ousted in February 2014 in a violent putsch that was backed by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt. The putsch, which was spearheaded by right-wing nationalists and even neo-Nazis, touched off Ukraine’s civil war and the secession of Crimea, the key events in the escalation of today’s New Cold War between NATO and Russia.
Though I’m no fan of U.S. political hired-guns selling their services in foreign elections, there was nothing illegal or even unusual about Manafort advising a Ukrainian political party. What arguably was much more offensive was the U.S. support for an unconstitutional coup that removed Yanukovych even after he agreed to a European plan for early elections so he could be voted out of office peacefully.
But the Times, the Post and virtually the entire Western mainstream media sided with the Ukrainian coup-makers and hailed Yanukovych’s overthrow. That attitude has become such a groupthink that the Times has banished the thought that there was a coup (https://consortiumnews.com/2015/01/06/nyt-still-pretends-no-coup-in-ukraine/).
Still, the larger political problem confronting the United States is that the neoconservatives and their junior partners, the liberal interventionists, now control nearly all the levers of U.S. foreign policy. That means they can essentially dictate how events around the world will be perceived by most Americans.
The neocons and the liberal hawks also want to continue their open-ended wars in the Middle East by arranging the commitment of additional U.S. military forces (https://consortiumnews.com/2017/05/12/making-trump-an-endless-war-president/) to Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria—and perhaps a new confrontation with Iran.
Early in Obama’s second term, it became clear to the neocons that Russia was becoming the chief obstacles to their plans because President Barack Obama was working closely with President Vladimir Putin on a variety of projects that undermined neocon hopes for more war.
Particularly, Putin helped Obama secure an agreement from Syria to surrender its chemical weapons stockpiles in 2013 and to get Iran to accept tight constraints on its nuclear program in 2014. In both cases, the neocons and their liberal-hawk sidekicks were lusting for war.
Immediately after the Syria chemical-weapons deal in September 2013, key U.S. neocons began focusing on Ukraine as what National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman called “the biggest prize (https://consortiumnews.com/2014/02/27/a-shadow-us-foreign-policy/)” and a first step toward unseating Putin in Moscow.
Gershman’s grant-giving NED stepped up its operations inside Ukraine while Assistant Secretary Nuland, the wife of arch-neocon Robert Kagan, began pushing for regime change in Kiev (along with other neocons, including Sen. John McCain).
The Ukraine coup in 2014 drove a geopolitical wedge between Obama and Putin, since the Russian president couldn’t just stand by when a virulently anti-Russian regime took power violently in Ukraine, which was the well-worn route for invasions into Russia and housed Russia’s Black Sea fleet at Sevastopol in Crimea.
Rather than defend the valuable cooperation provided by Putin, Obama went with the political flow and joined in the Russia-bashing as key neocons raised their sights and put Putin in the crosshairs (https://consortiumnews.com/2016/10/07/key-neocon-calls-on-us-to-oust-putin/).
An Unexpected Obstacle
For the neocons in 2016, there also was the excited expectation of a Hillary Clinton presidency to give more momentum to the expensive New Cold War. But then Trump, who had argued for a new détente with Russia, managed to eke out an Electoral College win.
Perhaps Trump could have diffused some of the hostility toward him, but his narcissistic personality stopped him from extending an olive branch to the tens of millions of Americans who opposed him. He further demonstrated his political incompetence by wasting his first days in office making ridiculous claims about the size of his inaugural crowds and disputing the fact that he had lost the popular vote.
Widespread public disgust over his behavior contributed to the determination of many Americans to “resist” his presidency at all junctures and at all costs.
Russiagate, the hazy suggestion that Putin put Trump in the White House and that Trump is a Putin “puppet” (as Clinton claimed), became the principal weapon to use in destroying Trump’s presidency.
However, besides the risks to U.S. stability that would come from an establishment-driven “soft coup,” there is the additional danger of ratcheting up tensions so high with nuclear-armed Russia that this extreme Russia-bashing takes on a life—or arguably many, many deaths—of its own.
Which is why America now might need a piercing satire of today’s Russia-phobia or at least a revival of the Cold War classic, “Dr. Strangelove,” subtitled “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.”

Peter Lemkin
05-16-2017, 06:43 PM
Beyond the Madness of King DonaldPosted on May 15, 2017By Paul Street (http://www.truthdig.com/paul_street/)
http://www.truthdig.com/images/reportuploads/Donald_Trump_Nope_590.jpg
Donald Trump has a 40 percent approval rating (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/trump-approval-ratings/). (Pixabay (https://pixabay.com/p-1915253/?no_redirect))

President Frankenstein, Donald Trump, has been pretty much the bizarre “insane clown president” (Matt Taibbi’s phrase (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rf37rwgnwLU)) that I and many others expected. He’s only shocked me twice: his weird Twitter meltdown alleging that Barack Obama wiretapped his phones (http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2017/mar/21/timeline-donald-trumps-false-wiretapping-charge/) and his appallingly timed firing of FBI Director James Comey (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/09/us/politics/james-comey-fired-fbi.html?_r=0) on grounds that seemed to take us all for complete idiots.
‘Banana Republic’ President
Does Trump’s dismissal of Comey prove that the president is in cahoots with Russia? No, it shows that Trump was incensed with Comey for cooperating with the Senate investigation into alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, for ramping up the FBI’s inquiry into the same matter, for drawing too much media attention and for contradicting Trump’s wacky wiretapping charge.
Lack of outward devotion to the new commander in chief is what got Comey canned. His sin was insufficient fealty to Herr Donald. In a sharp New Yorker essay published one day before the Comey discharge, Evan Osnos reported on an instructive dialogue (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/05/08/how-trump-could-get-fired) he had with Jerry Taylor, president of the libertarian Niskanen Center:
It is not a good sign for a beleaguered President when his party gets dragged down, too. From January to April, the number of Americans who had a favorable view of the Republican Party dropped seven points, to forty per cent, according to the Pew Research Center. I asked … Taylor … if he had ever seen so much skepticism so early in a Presidency. “No, nobody has,” he said. “But we’ve never lived in a Third World banana republic. I don’t mean that gratuitously. I mean the reality is he is governing as if he is the President of a Third World country: power is held by family and incompetent loyalists whose main calling card is the fact that Donald Trump can trust them, not whether they have any expertise.” [emphasis added]

Comey was shown the door because he failed to obsequiously kiss the ring of the orange-haired beast, who shows great admiration for authoritarian strong men like Vladimir Putin (Russia), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines), Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi (Egypt) and Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey).
Whatever his motives and intentions, Trump has, if anything, poured fuel on the Russiagate fire. Recall that it was the cover-up, not the Watergate burglary itself that undid Richard Nixon—another strange and paranoid authoritarian with a knack for cloistering himself off from reality and surrounding himself with frightened yes men.
The firing certainly looks like a Russia-related cover-up to many, especially to political and media actors who are locked into a neo-McCarthyite Russia witch-hunt. Many top Democrats and corporate news elites are fiercely determined to tar Trump with a Kremlin brush. Now they can probably enlist some key Republicans (http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/how-comeys-firing-accelerates-the-russia-investigations) to join them in calling for an independent special committee or special prosecutor to investigate Russia’s alleged involvement in the 2016 election.
‘Fortress Trump: His Drug is Himself’
Trump fanned the flames further with his preposterous initial claim to have acted because of how Comey reignited the Hillary Clinton email scandal on the eve of the election. As anyone who pays remotely serious attention to U.S. politics knows, candidate Trump praised Comey’s disturbing October surprise (http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-trump-comey-timeline-20170509-htmlstory.html), which may have inflicted significant damage on the Clinton campaign. Now Trump is angry at how Comey helped undermine “Crooked Hillary”? It doesn’t wash.
Did Trump really think that Democrats and others would fall for his pretext for firing Comey and not see Comey’s removal as an effort to derail federal investigations into his real and/or alleged Russian connections—and into whatever else might come up in the process? Is he really surprised, as he tells Fox News, that his move sparked a huge backlash (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/05/13/fox-news-exclusive-trump-talk-about-obstructions-from-media-to-democrats-with-judge-jeanine-pirro.html)? Could he really be that out of it? Seriously?
Yes, it’s quite possible that he is that clueless. Look at what Osnos discovered from his in-depth research on the young Trump presidency:

By this point in George W. Bush’s term, Bush had travelled to twenty-three states and a foreign country. Trump has visited just nine states and has never stayed the night. He inhabits a closed world that one adviser recently described to me as ‘Fortress Trump.’ Rarely venturing beyond the White House and Mar-a-Lago, he measures his fortunes through reports from friends, staff, and a feast of television coverage of himself. Media is Trump’s ‘drug of choice,’ Sam Nunberg, an adviser on his campaign, told me recently. “He doesn’t drink. He doesn’t do drugs. His drug is himself.”
It’s not clear how fully Trump apprehends the threats to his Presidency. Unlike previous Republican Administrations, Fortress Trump contains no party elder with the stature to check the President’s decisions. “There is no one around him who has the ability to restrain any of his impulses, on any issue ever, for any reason,” Steve Schmidt, a veteran Republican consultant, said, adding, “Where is the ‘What the fuck’ chorus?”
Trump’s insulation from unwelcome information appears to be growing as his challenges mount. His longtime friend Christopher Ruddy, the C.E.O. of Newsmax Media, talked with him recently at Mar-a-Lago and at the White House. “He tends to not like a lot of negative feedback,” Ruddy told me. Ruddy has noticed that some of Trump’s associates are unwilling to give him news that will upset him. “I don’t think he realizes how fully intimidating he is to many people, because he’s such a large guy and he’s so powerful,” Ruddy went on. “I already sense that a lot of people don’t want to give him bad news about things. I’ve already been approached by several people that’ll say, ‘He’s got to hear this. Could you tell him?’ ”
The madness of would-be king Donald is no small matter. It’s all very Czar Nicholas and Richard Nixon-like.
Malignant Dunning-Kruger Narcissism
It is the on-record opinion of many mental health professionals that Trump exhibits hallmark characteristics of the psychological condition known as “malignant narcissism … characterized by grandiosity, a need for admiration, sadism, and a tendency toward unrealistic fantasies,” Osnos reported.
READ: The Psychopathology of Donald Trump (http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_psychopathology_of_donald_trump_20160731)
Malignant narcissists live in bizarre defiance of reality and of anything that doesn’t fit their lavish sense of their own superiority and excellence. They delight in the humiliation and even the crippling and killing of others.
I would add another psychological dimension here: the “Dunning-Kruger effect.” As Wikipedia explains: (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect) This is “a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is. Psychologists David Dunning and Justin Kruger attributed this bias to a metacognitive incapacity, on the part of those with low ability, to recognize their ineptitude and evaluate their competence accurately.”
It’s not just that Trump is stupid. It’s that he thinks he’s really, really smart, something the outside world has certainly been telling him for decades by showering him with absurdly undeserved riches and power. And he’s got nobody around him with the standing or courage to tell him otherwise to check either his folly or his hubristic taste for ruling with sheer impunity.
On this last characteristic, recall Trump’s “locker room” comment (http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/trump-hot-mic-when-you-re-star-you-can-do-n662116): “When you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.” Remember also his campaign statement (http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/01/23/donald-trump-iowa-rally-shooting-sot.cnn) that he could stand on New York’s Fifth Avenue “and shoot somebody” and still not lose voters.
Removal Prior to 2020?
Could Trump be removed before the end of his first term either through a 25th Amendment ejection (on grounds of incapacitation) or impeachment (on criminal grounds)? Given Republican control of both the U.S. House and the Senate, I would have put the chances of that at less than 10 percent before the Comey firing.
Now, the chances have gone up significantly, especially if Democrats take back the House in 2018. Trump is counting on keeping enough of his base supporters—people who would let him “do anything,” even shoot somebody in broad daylight—so Republican legislators will not feel compelled to abandon him.


The most likely scenario is that Trump will just limp through three-and-a-half more years as a badly damaged and epically ineffective president and not be put up again in 2020. Look for “deep state” actors from the intelligence agencies he so foolishly antagonized to undermine his waning legitimacy with a steady drumbeat of crippling revelations. The stress of the presidency (for which he is clearly not fit) may elicit a stroke, heart attack or some other health crisis that will finish him off as president. He already shows significant signs of dementia (http://www.salon.com/2016/04/25/maybe_donald_trump_has_really_lost_his_mind_what_i f_the_gop_frontrunner_isnt_crazy_but_simply_not_we ll/).
For ‘A New Organizing of Institutions’
How excited should we on the left be at the possibility of Trump being removed prior to the next presidential election? It is certainly desirable that we not have a wicked moron and malicious narcissist with his fingers on the U.S. nuclear arsenal. From that perspective, Trump cannot be defenestrated from the Oval Office soon enough. Yes, Mike Pence is a dangerous white nationalist and Christian fascist, but he would be a very weak caretaker for whatever period he occupied the White House.
Of course, Nixon’s forced resignation did nothing to change the dark and neoliberal trajectory of United States history after 1974. Jimmy Carter got four years to advance the corporate and Wall Street agenda and hand the ball off to the monstrous right-winger Ronald Reagan.
The real (democratic-socialist, environmentalist, anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-imperialist) left is no great friend of the FBI and the CIA, the intelligence and police state agencies with which Trump has been tussling. It is not about to hit the streets in support of these repressive agencies or for the dismal dollar Democrats, who have been using the Russiagate ruse to deny their own responsibility (http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/how_the_republican_party_rules_a_nation_that_hates _it_20161125) for putting a neofascist in the White House (https://monthlyreview.org/2017/04/01/neofascism-in-the-white-house/) and the white nationalist GOP in control of Congress, the Supreme Court and most of the state governments.For any left movement worthy of the label, Trump should be removed because of his racism, his ecocidalism, his fake-populist arch-plutocracy, his sexism, and his murderous militarism, not because he’s a friend of Russia and has ticked off the FBI, the CIA and the neoliberal masters of the Democratic Party.
All this talk about how Russia supposedly intervened to undermine our supposed great “democracy” is quite childish. You don’t have to be a Marxist to understand that U.S. politics and policy have been subject to an “unelected dictatorship of money (https://mronline.org/2009/07/24/riding-the-green-wave-at-the-campaign-for-peace-and-democracy-and-beyond/)” over the past three-plus decades. Six years into Obama’s presidency, the liberal political scientists Martin Gilens (Princeton) and Benjamin Page (Northwestern) reported the U.S. political system has become “an oligarchy (http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/princeton-scholar-demise-of-democracy-america-tpm-interview),” where wealthy elites and their corporations “rule.” Examining data from more than 1,800 different policy initiatives in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Gilens and Page found that wealthy and well-connected elites consistently steer the direction of the country, regardless of (or even against) the will of the U.S. majority, and regardless of which party holds the White House or Congress.
“The central point that emerges from our research,” Gilens and Page wrote, “is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.” As Gilens explained to the liberal online journal Talking Points Memo, “ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States.” (Maybe it’s not “their government”?)
That would be no less true if the “lying neoliberal warmonger (https://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/08/18/vote-lying-neoliberal-warmonger-its-important)” Hillary Clinton (as Adolph Reed Jr. described the Democratic presidential nominee last summer) occupied the White House instead of Trump.
Such is the harsh reality of “really existing capitalist democracy” in the U.S.—what Noam Chomsky calls “RECD, pronounced as ‘wrecked (https://zcomm.org/zcommentary/chomsky-at-left-forum-by-paul-street/).’ ”
I was very impressed by this comment from Yasser Louati (https://www.democracynow.org/2017/5/8/neoliberal_investment_banker_macron_defeats_openly ), talking to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! about the election of the neoliberal investment banker Emmanuel Macron as president of France one week ago: “France does not need an umpteenth new president; it needs a new republic, a new constitution, a new organizing of institutions.”
Much the same can be said about the United States. Political institutions that claim to be “democratic”—offering voters a binary choice between regressive and dissembling neoliberal shills like the Clintons, Obama, Emmanuel Macron, Justin Trudeau and Angela Merkel, on one hand, and neofascist, white nationalists like Marine Le Pen, Geert Wilders, Frauke Petry and Donald Trump, on the other hand—do not deserve our respect.
Impeaching or otherwise removing the Clockwork Orangatun won’t alter that basic reality. The United States doesn’t need a new and 46th president as much as it needs a democracy, a new constitution, a new organizing of institutions—including its frankly absurd and plutocratic election and party systems.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to the end of his life with the belief that the real faults in American life lay not so much in men as in the oppressive institutions and social structures that reigned over them. He wrote that “the radical reconstruction of society itself” was “the real issue to be faced (https://www.scribd.com/doc/184971711/Martin-Luther-King-Jr-A-Testament-of-Hope-1969)” beyond “superficial” matters. He had no interest, of course, in running for the White House (https://www.amazon.com/Bearing-Cross-Christian-Leadership-Conference/dp/0060566922).
There’s also the matter of time, what King called the “fierce urgency of now.” Impeachment or 25th Amendment removal will have to evolve over many months and even years. But we need to be building great social and political movements for King’s project now and cannot be distracted from that endeavor by intra-ruling class power struggles.
The environmental clock telling us to undertake a radical and eco-socialist “reorganizing of institutions” is ticking with each new carbon-warmed day.
If Trump gets dumped, good riddance to him. He’s a despicable ogre.
The ruling class is divided. Good. Let us build the organizations that might carry out the great popular and democratic revolution required to save the social and ecological commons and thus preserve chances for a decent and democratic future. Given capitalism’s systemically inherent war on livable ecology—emerging now as the biggest issue of our or any time—the formation of such a new and united left-wing popular and institutional presence has become a matter of life and death for the species. “The uncomfortable truth,” the Hungarian Marxist philosopher István Mészáros rightly argued 16 years ago (https://monthlyreview.org/product/socialism_or_barbarism/), “is that if there is no future for a radical mass movement in our time, there can be no future for humanity itself.”

Peter Lemkin
05-16-2017, 06:45 PM
President Trump has appeared to confirm parts of a bombshell Washington Poststory (https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/trump-revealed-highly-classified-information-to-russian-foreign-minister-and-ambassador/2017/05/15/530c172a-3960-11e7-9e48-c4f199710b69_story.html) that he disclosed highly classified intelligence last week to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak last week during a meeting at the White House. Earlier this morning, Trump tweeted (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/864436162567471104), quote, "As President I wanted to share with Russia (at an openly scheduled W.H. meeting) which I have the absolute right to do, facts pertaining to terrorism and airline flight safety. Humanitarian reasons, plus I want Russia to greatly step up their fight against ISIS & terrorism," the president tweeted (https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/864438529472049152). Trump’s comment appears to contradict statements from top administration officials last night who claimed The Washington Post report was false.
According to the paper, Trump disclosed highly classified intelligence, what’s known as code-name information, about the possible threat of ISIS launching an attack on an airplane using a computer bomb. This is The Washington Post’s Greg Miller, one of the co-authors of the article.

GREG MILLER: At some point, Trump starts talking about the great intelligence he gets. He’s telling his visitors, 'I get the best briefings. I get the best intelligence,' and proceeds to talk about this threat that is underway that, you know, has been actually publicly talked about for some time. But he goes into details about the specifics of this plot and how it’s coming together and what the Islamic State is doing to try to make this—to try to pull this off. And the problem is that the United States knows much of this information because of intelligence that came from a partner, another country.

And you have his own National Security Council staff members, senior officials, who see readouts of what happened. They call the CIA director, call the NSAchief, to warn them: "Look, look, something happened in this meeting with the Russians we need to tell you about." This is in part because they’re alarmed and concerned about the blowback. These are agencies, the CIA, that would be directly communicating or dealing with this foreign partner, and they would be most concerned about that relationship going south.
AMY GOODMAN: Senior White House officials were apparently so alarmed by Trump’s disclosures that they called the CIA and National Security Agency afterward to warn them of what had happened. Officials said they were concerned Trump’s disclosure would jeopardize a critical source of intelligence on the Islamic State. There’s been some speculation that the country of Jordan was the source of the classified intelligence. President Trump is reportedly scheduled to speak by phone this morning with Jordan’s King Abdullah. One current U.S. official told BuzzFeed the situation is, quote, "far worse than what has already been reported."
To talk more about the story, we’re joined now by two guests. In London, Scott Horton is with us, lecturer at Columbia Law School and contributing editor atHarper’s magazine, author of Lords of Secrecy: The National Security Elite and America’s Stealth Warfare. Here at Stanford University, Larry Diamond is with us, from the Hoover Institution and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. He has served as senior adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad at the invitation of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. Back in 2004, he blasted the Bush administration’s handling of the invasion and called for Defense Secretary Rumsfeld to be fired and the entire Pentagon leadership to be changed. He’s also author of the book Squandered Victory: The American Occupation and the Bungled Effort to Bring Democracy to Iraq.
We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Professor Larry Diamond, let’s begin with you. Your response to this explosive Washington Post exposé?
LARRY DIAMOND: Well, good morning, Amy. It’s nice to be with you again. And I would say I’m shocked. I am—even knowing that President Trump is new to national security matters, this is shocking. It’s frightening. It’s intolerable. And I think if we had a Democratic Congress, in itself, it would be grounds for an impeachment investigation.
AMY GOODMAN: Why?
LARRY DIAMOND: Well, because even though it is literally true, in this case, that the president can declassify any information, he has done, potentially, if the story is, I’d say, even substantially true, grave damage to U.S. national security by burning a major ally, by revealing, if the report is true, intelligence that was so sensitive, we wouldn’t even share it with an ally.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what you mean by this is an ally’s information and how the U.S. burned them.
LARRY DIAMOND: Well, according to the reports, there was someone that one of our allies, presumably in the Middle East—you’re now, in your reporting, suggesting it may be Jordan, which would be logical—it’s one of our closest allies in the region. And it’s right there near the center of gravity of ISIS, which is in Syria and Iraq. And they probably had a plant inside ISIS that was revealing this information. So they may have shared that, their intelligence agency, with us, indicating, you know, that it was of the most sensitive nature. People’s lives could be at risk from this covert operation. I’m speculating, but it’s a logical projection. And to share this not only beyond what they asked, but with a major adversary, who is on the opposite side of this conflict in Syria—namely, Russia—is, I think, breathtakingly irresponsible. And so, either he did this in cavalier disregard for the rules and standard procedures in the sensitivity of such highly classified information, or, if his tweet is correct and he decided that he should share this kind of information with Russia, without, it appears, even consulting with his top national security officials—I mean, what’s worse? Gross incompetence, gross misjudgment, or possibly a confirmation of compromising ties with the Russians?
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to what happened last night. At an emergency news conference Monday, the national security adviser, General H.R. McMaster, spoke for less than a minute and did not take any questions. He said The Washington Poststory, as reported, is false, but he did not deny Trump may have disclosed classified information.

H.R. McMASTER: I just have a brief statement for the record. There is nothing that the president takes more seriously than the security of the American people. The story that came out tonight, as reported, is false. The president and the foreign minister reviewed a range of common threats to our two countries, including threats to civil aviation. At no time—at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of state, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. Their on-the-record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources. And I was in the room. It didn’t happen.
AMY GOODMAN: So that’s the national security adviser, General McMaster. He was a colleague of yours here at Stanford University. What do you make of what he’s saying?
LARRY DIAMOND: Well, I think I can speak for my Hoover colleagues, at least the ones I know, in saying that, you know, he is widely respected and highly regarded by people at the Hoover Institution, who have interacted with him, I’d say, over the last 14 or 15 years, since he’s spent a year now. He’s a very loyal and dedicated servant of our national security. And it pains me that he’s having to go through this torture of justifying in a statement here, that was, you will note, very carefully and specifically worded.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean by that?
LARRY DIAMOND: He did not say that the president, as you just said, didn’t reveal any sensitive information. He said he didn’t reveal sources and methods. But what he revealed, if The Washington report—Post report is substantially accurate, what he revealed could enable a sophisticated adversary like Russia to deduce or infer sources and methods.
AMY GOODMAN: So, Professor Diamond, you come from a conservative institution here, the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, with your colleague Condoleezza Rice, who you worked with back in the Iraq War. At the time, she sent you to Iraq. You called for Rumsfeld’s resignation, a change of leadership, condemned President—what President Bush was doing in the Iraq War. What is the response of your colleagues at Hoover right now to President Trump?
LARRY DIAMOND: Well, I’m not going to speak for my colleagues at Hoover. First of all, I can’t speak for them collectively. I will say, more generally, I know many Republicans and many conservatives who obviously said this man isn’t fit to be president before he was elected and whose concerns, I think, are being vividly confirmed on an almost daily basis now. And I’ll just speak for myself in saying that I think we now have increasingly abundant and urgent evidence that this man is not fit to be president, is not fit to handle the national security challenges of the office, doesn’t want to read and be briefed with anything like the depth or discipline that a president must, doesn’t understand the burdens and sensitivities of these national security issues. And that’s just speaking to his incompetence. We don’t even know about the extent to which he may be compromised or his campaign may have been compromised by explicit ties with the Russians. And we have, just last week, if you can believe it, the firing of the FBI director in what increasingly appears to have been an explicit effort to shut down the FBI investigation of his campaign’s ties to the Russians. And I think it’s only going to get worse.

Peter Lemkin
05-17-2017, 05:01 AM
I'm sure everyone by now has heard that Comey was in the habit of committing to memos what had transpired in meetings with politically powerful persons. It seems he also did so whenever he met with Trump or Trump associates. He then circulated a few copies he had initialed of these in the FBI upper-echelons. These have now been subpoenaed in some inquiries and no doubt soon will be in all, along with Comey himself. Trump is a buffoon of a man and has tried to use intimidation throughout his life. He now has cornered himself with [at minimum] obstruction of justice, and very likely more. It begins to look like we'll have a President Pence sooner than later [not a great prospect either]. I currently envisage Trump will put up a great fight, but when it looks as if he will not prevail, he will just resign his office and try to return to his businesses....which may well collapse along with his Presidency, leaving him a man without money. I won't cry. The hardest thing to understand is that 37% or so of the US voting population still have trust in him and his actions. While the Trump Presidency is undergoing a meltdown [as was always likely], I think this will further erode the entire false edifice of the US Political System.......and one can only hope so, and that some will wake up that business/politics/oligarchy as usual is NOT the way forward!...and that the Democrats or a more 'normal' Republican are NOT the solution...we need something completely different and to build a real bottom-up democracy - something we have never had. We also need real choices in the political spectrum...not just A to B on the right. Clinton was a horrible choice and Trump was worse, sadly all too many chose to either not vote, were not allowed to vote or chose the new devil over the old. There was NO sane choice and there hasn't been most of our recent history. If we can't break up the stranglehold of the two [almost one] party system, backed by the Secret Governmental structures, we are a failed Empire soon to end....and I stress soon!

One more side note. Michael Moore has been quietly working on a film designed to bring down Trump and it is about half done and the rights for distribution have been signed and sealed. In a few months when it is released, if Trump is still battling his impeachment and daily scandals, word has it this film will go a long way to sealing his fate with the public - or at least that part of it that still can think for themselves.

I predict that Trump will do the only thing he can in the next weeks - and that will be to get deeply involved in military events and war to rally the folks at home around the flag and what remains of his administration. So more will die needlessly to prop up a failing authoritarian and clown President.


Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation

By MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT (https://www.nytimes.com/by/michael-s-schmidt)MAY 16, 2017







https://static01.nyt.com/images/2017/05/17/us/17comey/merlin-to-scoop-121845026-214438-master768.jpg

James B. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing this month. CreditGabriella Demczuk for The New York TimesWASHINGTON — President Trump asked the F.B.I. (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/organizations/f/federal_bureau_of_investigation/index.html?inline=nyt-org)director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.
“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.
The documentation of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. Late Tuesday, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the F.B.I. turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey.
Such documents, Mr. Chaffetz wrote, would “raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede” the F.B.I.

Michael S. Schmidt, a New York Times reporter, explains new revelations from a memo written by James B. Comey, the fired F.B.I. director. The memo showed that President Trump may have tried to halt the agency's investigation into Michael T. Flynn.

Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/13/us/politics/donald-trump-national-security-adviser-michael-flynn.html), according to two people who read the memo. It was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.

The Trump White House (https://www.nytimes.com/news-event/donald-trump-white-house)

The historic moments, head-spinning developments and inside-the-White House intrigue.



A New Goal for President Trump’s First Foreign Trip: Damage ControlMAY 16

(https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/us/politics/president-foreign-trump-russia-israel.html?rref=collection%2Fnewseventcollection% 2FThe%20Trump%20White%20House)
What Is Obstruction of Justice? An Often-Murky Crime, ExplainedMAY 16

(https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/us/politics/obstruction-of-justice-explained-russia-investigation.html?rref=collection%2Fnewseventcoll ection%2FThe%20Trump%20White%20House)
Woman Is Caught Trying to Scale White House Fence, Officials SayMAY 16

(https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/us/white-house-fence-jumper-secret-service.html?rref=collection%2Fnewseventcollection %2FThe%20Trump%20White%20House)
John Cornyn Takes Himself Out of Running to Lead the F.B.I.MAY 16

(https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/us/politics/john-cornyn-fbi.html?rref=collection%2Fnewseventcollection%2FT he%20Trump%20White%20House)
At a Besieged White House, Tempers Flare and Confusion SwirlsMAY 16
(https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/16/us/white-house-staff.html?rref=collection%2Fnewseventcollection%2 FThe%20Trump%20White%20House)



Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
https://static01.nyt.com/images/2017/05/16/us/politics/image-Chaffetz-FBI-Letter/image-Chaffetz-FBI-Letter-master180.gif


Document: Representative Jason Chaffetz’s Letter to the F.B.I.

(https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/05/16/us/politics/document-Chaffetz-FBI-Letter.html)Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong, according to the memo.
Mr. Comey did not say anything to Mr. Trump about curtailing the investigation, replying only: “I agree he is a good guy.”
In a statement, the White House denied the version of events in the memo.
“While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the statement said. “The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”
Mr. Chaffetz’s letter (https://oversight.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/2017-05-16-JEC-to-McCabe-FBI-Memos.pdf), sent to the acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, set a May 24 deadline for the internal documents to be delivered to the House committee. The congressman, a Republican, was criticized in recent months for showing little of the appetite he

But since announcing in April (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/19/us/politics/jason-chaffetz-congress-utah-house-oversight.html) that he will not seek re-election in 2018, Mr. Chaffetz has shown more interest in the Russia investigation, and held out the potential for a subpoena on Tuesday, a notably aggressive move as most Republicans have tried to stay out of the fray.
In testimony to the Senate last week, Mr. McCabe said, “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.” Mr. McCabe was referring to the broad investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. The investigation into Mr. Flynn is separate.
A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment.
Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.

Peter Lemkin
05-17-2017, 11:49 AM
MAY 16, 2017 | JIMMY FALLS (http://whowhatwhy.org/author/jimmy-falls/)


TRUMP AND EVANGELICALS, THE CULMINATION OF AN UNHOLY ALLIANCEhttp://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/image4-2-700x470.jpgPresident Ronald Reagan speaking at "Baptist Fundamentalism '84," led by the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Donald Trump listening to Jerry Falwell Jr. Jerry Falwell. Photo credit: US Air Force / Wikimedia (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reagan_BaptistConvention1984.jpg), CSPAN (https://www.c-span.org/video/?428429-1/president-trump-delivers-liberty-university-commencement-address) and Liberty University / Flickr (CC BY-SA 3.0) (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Jerry_Falwell_portrait.jpg)
To an objective observer, it might seem odd that President Donald Trump received a hero’s welcome at Liberty University Saturday. However, the religious right’s idol-worship of the president is only the latest chapter in a long history of conservative Christians selling their souls for 30 pieces of silver, which, in American politics, is a seat at the table.
President Trump was invited to deliver the commencement speech for the graduating class of 2017, the second time a sitting president has done so since George H.W. Bush gave the address there in 1990.
Jerry Falwell, the legendary televangelist and conservative leader who died ten years ago yesterday, founded the university in 1971. Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University is well known as a bastion of conservative, fundamentalist evangelicalism.
For nearly four decades, evangelicals and the GOP have maintained a strong alliance, the seeds of which were planted by the late Falwell. They shared policy positions and goals such as wanting small government, a strong military, pro-life, pro-Israel, pro-Second Amendment, favoring supply-side economics, and being suspicious of multiculturalism.
Over the years, Falwell helped grow Liberty into thelargest Christian university in the world (https://www.forbes.com/colleges/liberty-university/), with over 80,000 online students (http://www.liberty.edu/news/index.cfm?PID=18495&MID=56836), a $1.1 billion endowment (http://www.wsls.com/education/education-matters/liberty-university-labeled-higher-education-phenomenon-online-education-allowing-growth_20170330135033136), sprawling 7,000 acre campus, and a soon-to-open campus gun range (http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/liberty-university-open-top-notch-shooting-range-2017-article-1.2912342).
The school has become a mandatory campaign stop for would-be Republican politicians. Texas Senator Ted Cruz chose Liberty as the place to announce his presidential candidacy in March 2015. And Trump’s May 13 commencement address was the third visit for the president. Last January, he made a campaign stop on the campus right before the Iowa caucuses.
On the occasion of his first visit in 2012, the university conferred on him an honorary doctorate in business. Trump seemed eager to demonstrate his faith credentials (https://whowhatwhy.org/2016/03/08/the-gospel-according-to-donald-trump/), declaring, “But the truth is I went to Sunday school, and I loved going to Sunday school, and I did for years.”
You could forgive those who had a hard time picturing the reality TV star as the embodiment of piety.
During his speech on Saturday, he made a point of expressing his gratitude to his local supporters. With good reason. “And I want to thank you, because boy did you come out and vote,” said the president, speaking to LIberty’s packed football stadium.
On Election Day, 81% of white evangelical Christians voted for Trump, a slightly higher percentage (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/09/how-the-faithful-voted-a-preliminary-2016-analysis/) than their previously overwhelming votes for the past three Republican presidential candidates.
Pundits were not entirely sure how the evangelical vote would turn out, considering Trump’s known baggage: twice divorced, previously pro-choice and in favor of universal healthcare, and feeling the heat from the recently leaked Access Hollywood “grab them by the pussy” remarks. (Jerry Falwell, Jr., the current president of Liberty, blamed the leak on a conspiracy of GOP establishment leaders (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/10/10/jerry-falwell-jr-the-gop-establishment-could-be-behind-donald-trump-video-leak/).)
Indeed, some evangelical leaders, such as Southern Baptist president Al Mohler, expressed grave concern (https://caffeinatedthoughts.com/2016/07/albert-mohler-russell-moore-donald-trump-christians-voting/): “But I could not possibly be consistent and somehow vote for someone whose character I believe eclipses Bill Clinton on so many of those very same concerns.” He later referred to Trump as a sexual predator (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2016/10/09/donald-trump-has-created-an-excruciating-moment-for-evangelicals/).
“Donald Trump is a deeply ambivalent hero for any religious movement, whose only explicit religious beliefs seem to be impulses rather than a deeply-held worldview and whose spiritual loyalties seem malleable,” Professor Kate Bowler, who teaches church history at Duke Divinity school, told WhoWhatWhy.
But by and large evangelical leaders got behind the billionaire tycoon, including Franklin Graham Jr., the son of Billy Graham; Focus on the Family’s James Dobson; 700 Club founder Pat Robertson; theologian Wayne Grudem; and of course, Jerry Falwell, Jr.
At the Liberty commencement, after prayers, the pledge of allegiance, and the singing of the national anthem, Jerry Falwell Jr. introduced the president: “I do not believe that any president in our lifetimes has done so much that has benefitted the Christian community in such a short time span than Donald Trump.”
For his part, the president reminisced about Reverend Falwell, Sr.:“I used to love watching him on television, hearing him preach. He was a very special man.”
Outsiders may have trouble understanding the evangelicals’ embrace of Donald Trump. Yet the symbiotic relationship between evangelicals and the GOP stretches back to the 1970’s, just before Ronald Reagan’s election.
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/image2-7-1024x682.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/image2-7.jpg)President Donald Trump delivers remarks at the Liberty University Commencement Ceremony, May 13, 2017 Photo credit: The White House / YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B421uhrOV-o)

A Georgia Peanut Farmer and “The Moral Majority”.In 1976, Jimmy Carter seemed like the evangelicals’ dream president. A peanut farmer from Georgia who taught Sunday school every week, he was widely seen as a person of integrity — likely one of the reasons he was elected in the wake of the Nixon-Watergate scandals.
Carter was very open about his Christian faith, and many evangelical leaders had high hopes for him. Bailey Smith, a mega-church pastor from Oklahoma, said (http://www.academia.edu/11258988/_Worse_than_cancer_and_worse_than_snakes_Jimmy_Car ters_Southern_Baptist_Problem_and_the_1980_Electio n) that the country needed a “born again man in the White House. And his initials are the same as our Lord!”
Jimmy Carter won the presidency as a Democrat, andNewsweek magazine declared (http://www.newsweek.com/editors-desk-106637) 1976 the Year of the Evangelical.
An admirer of President John F. Kennedy, Carter was instrumental in the historic peace agreement between Egypt and Israel in 1978, known as the Camp David Accords, and he was a strong advocate for civil rights, a commitment that went back to his farming days in Georgia.
Carter posthumously awarded (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=7784) the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1977.
But increasingly, evangelicals found themselves uncomfortable with Carter’s politics and policies, especially his stand on civil rights. The history of slavery, Jim Crow, and segregation in the south was intimately tied up with churches that condoned it for generations. The genesis of the Southern Baptist denomination itself was born out of a split over slavery, with the northern Baptists siding with the abolitionist movement.
It took the Southern Baptist church until 1995 (http://www.nytimes.com/1995/06/21/us/baptist-group-votes-to-repent-stand-on-slaves.html) to formally renounce slavery and segregation, and to issue an apology for their long-standing failure to support the civil rights movement.
Indeed, Jerry Falwell Sr. was a vocal opponent (http://www.civilrights.org/publications/reports/striking-a-balance-march-2016/chapter-iii-historical-uses.html) of Brown v. Board of Education, though he later repented of his sin.
“Falwell founded Lynchburg Christian Academy, a K-12 school in 1967, the same year that Lynchburg public schools desegregated, and it was a whites-only school for two years,” Seth Dowland, associate Professor of Religion at Pacific Lutheran University, told WhoWhatWhy.
Four years later, Falwell founded Lynchburg Baptist College, which was later to be renamed Liberty University.
While opposition to desegregation was common among evangelicals, it wasn’t the only issue at play. Many evangelicals thought that public schools were forcing a kind of “secular humanism” on their children, indoctrinating them with belief systems antithetical to their own.
Other important factors in the evangelical disaffection with the Democratic Party were abortion, the Equal Rights amendment, and gay rights. But it was a dispute over money that sealed the political alliance between evangelicals and the GOP.
During the 1970s, the IRS attempted to take away the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University, an ultra-conservative Christian college in Greenville, South Carolina, because of its history of racial discrimination, including the failure to admit African-American students, and later prohibition of interracial dating.
The possibility of losing their tax exempt status was a threat to many private Christian schools throughout the south and midwest, many of whom were on a tight budget. Jerry Falwell was incensed (https://www.thenation.com/article/agent-intolerance/) and used the collective outrage of southern evangelicals to organize vocal political opposition to what he saw as extreme government overreach.
Falwell’s influence and power grew, and an alliance was forged between conservatives and evangelicals who were fed up with the federal government’s intrusion into their “religious” affairs. Falwell managed to focus their frustration against Carter, even though the IRS actions predated his presidency (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5502785).
The alliance between religious and political conservatives found its ultimate expression in Falwell’s political organization known as “The Moral Majority.”
Despite its origins (http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/16/opinions/prothero-trump-liberty/) in opposition to desegregation (http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2014/05/religious-right-real-origins-107133#.U4cuc15MkmY) and concern for maintaining tax exemptions for religious institutions, the Moral Majority fashioned itself as a pro-America, pro-family values political organization.
Its adherents were strongly opposed to abortion, and though Carter was opposed to it personally on moral grounds, he did not waver from the Democratic party’s support of the Supreme Court decision, in Roe v. Wade, permitting abortion under certain circumstances.
“Carter made a distinction between his private faith and what he would try to do in public policy that was hugely disappointing to evangelicals,” explained Professor Dowland from Pacific Lutheran University. “The thing that Carter didn’t do that these high-profile evangelical endorsers wanted him to do was to really champion an evangelical policy agenda in office.”
Falwell and his organization actively campaigned for GOP candidate Ronald Reagan in the 1980 presidential election, and raised money for TV and radio ads that targeted Carter.
“He [Falwell] showed himself to be more loyal to Republican politicians, particularly Reagan, than virtually any other evangelical leader,” said Dowland.
Reagan won the presidency in a landslide, and the Moral Majority became a force to be reckoned with. No longer could any presidential candidate afford to ignore evangelicals as a political power.
http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/image1-4-1024x682.jpg (http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/image1-4.jpg)President Jimmy Carter, Moral Majority membership card and Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute flyer, 1981. Photo credit: Children’s Bureau Centennial / Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (https://www.flickr.com/photos/67331818@N03/8360975497/), S B Rosencrans / Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) (https://www.flickr.com/photos/starlen/38941462/) andYale Law Library / Flickr (CC BY 2.0) (https://www.flickr.com/photos/yalelawlibrary/33071925272/)

Fast forward to 2004. The US is in the midst of a bloody conflict against insurgents in Iraq, one year after President George W. Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech. Americans are tired of the war and coming to the realization that the case for invading Iraq was based on lies.
Despite the bloodshed and deceit perpetrated by the Bush administration, the incumbent president won re-election. The consensus of journalists and political scientists (http://www.nssa.us/journals/2007-27-2/2007-27-2-06.htm) was that many Americans, despite any doubts they might have had about the war, voted for Bush over the Democratic candidate Senator John Kerry because of what they called “moral values.” This translated into concern about abortion and gay rights, issues which divided Kerry from the evangelical voting bloc, who overwhelmingly rallied to Bush.
The disconnect between a “moral” vote for someone who initiated a pre-emptive war under false pretenses which led to hundreds of thousands of deaths remained inexplicable to many outside the faith.
But when evangelical zeal was translated into politics by the likes of Jerry Falwell, the result was a focus on maintaining traditional institutions and customs against what was perceived as a relentless assault by the forces of modernity .
As a consequence, the nearly 40-year alliance with the GOP has put evangelicals in the awkward position of supporting a president and political party whose policies would appear profoundly antithetical to many of their core principles.
They are preaching the Prince of Peace, who was a champion of outliers of all kinds, yet reluctant to denounce endless war and show concern for sexual minorities. They believe in God’s good earth but appear unconcerned about its environmental degradation. They warn of the dangers of money while lauding billionaire oligarchs and tax breaks for the wealthy. They teach compassion and care for the poor and sick but aligned with politicians whose actions belie their claims of empathy.
But these apparent contradictions did not prevent an overwhelming majority of white evangelicals from casting their vote for Donald Trump in the 2016 election. For many of them, “Make America Great Again” signified a cause they identified with, on the conviction that their economic duress and ever decreasing influence on popular culture were maladies that Trump could remedy, despite his not knowing the proper way to cite “2 Corinthians (http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/20/politics/donald-trump-tony-perkins-sarah-palin/).”
As Dowland explained, “that nostalgia is implicitly connected to an era when white Christians had more control, and the ideal was assimilation, not multiculturalism.”
So evangelicals went to the voting booth in 2016 with their minds made up. Trump was on the right side of the issues they cared about the most.
“In the course of the campaign,” said Bowler, the Duke University professor, “Trump became the unlikely advocate for hot-button evangelical issues — a thrice-married man fighting for ‘traditional families,’ a sexual braggart at the helm of a purity-obsessed culture.”
And the students at Liberty who enthusiastically cheered Trump were following in a long tradition of evangelicals who have learned to redefine “moral values” in ways that would be unrecognizable to the founder of their own religion.

Dawn Meredith
05-17-2017, 02:22 PM
Surprised that no one over here is posting about the new Seth Rich story that broke yesterday. According to a PI (and former DC homicide det.) Rod Wheeler he has been told by an sider that Rich WAS the wikileaks leaker and that the DC police were told to stand down, re Rich's murder. Many of us have been saying this for months.

Peter Lemkin
05-17-2017, 03:45 PM
It is interesting and noteworthy and needs to be confirmed. Wheeler is a VERY strange person who has not always been on the mark in the past. I am not passing judgement on this....but here is the outline of the story.



Surprised that no one over here is posting about the new Seth Rich story that broke yesterday. According to a PI (and former DC homicide det.) Rod Wheeler he has been told by an insider that Rich WAS the wikileaks leaker and that the DC police were told to stand down, re Rich's murder. Many of us have been saying this for months.

Murdered DNC Staffer Seth Rich Shared 44,053 Democrat Emails With WikiLeaks: Report


http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/pictures/picture-5.jpg (http://www.zerohedge.com/users/tyler-durden)
by Tyler Durden (http://www.zerohedge.com/users/tyler-durden)
May 16, 2017 7:31 PM







For the past several months, Democrats have based their "Resist 45" movement on unsubstantiated assertions that the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian intelligence officials to undermine the 2016 Presidential Election thereby 'stealing' the White House from Hillary Clinton. Day after day we've all suffered through one anonymously sourced, "shock" story after another from the New York Times and/or The Washington Post with new allegations of the 'wrongdoing'.
But, new evidence surfacing in the Seth Rich murder investigation may just quash the "Russian hacking" conspiracy theory. According to a new report from Fox News (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/05/16/slain-dnc-staffer-had-contact-with-wikileaks-investigator-says.html), it was former DNC staffer Seth Rich who supplied 44,000 DNC emails to WikiLeaks and not some random Russian cyber terrorist, as we've all been led to believe.
According to Fox News, though admittedly via yet another anonymous FBI source, Rich made contact with WikiLeaks through Gavin MacFadyen, an American investigative reporter and director of WikiLeaks who was living in London at the time. According to Fox News sources, federal law enforcement investigators found 44,053 emails and 17,761 attachments sent between DNC leaders from January 2015 to May 2016 that Rich shared with WikiLeaks before he was gunned down on July 10, 2016.




The Democratic National Committee staffer who was gunned down on July 10 on a Washington, D.C., street just steps from his home had leaked thousands of internal emails to WikiLeaks, law enforcement sources told Fox News.

A federal investigator who reviewed an FBI forensic report detailing the contents of DNC staffer Seth Rich’s computer generated within 96 hours after his murder, said Rich made contact with WikiLeaks through Gavin MacFadyen, a now-deceased American investigative reporter, documentary filmmaker, and director of WikiLeaks who was living in London at the time.

“I have seen and read the emails between Seth Rich and Wikileaks,” the federal investigator told Fox News, confirming the MacFadyen connection. He said the emails are in possession of the FBI, while the stalled case is in the hands of the Washington Police Department.

Then, on July 22, just 12 days after Rich was killed, WikiLeaks published internal DNC emails that appeared to show top party officials conspiring to stop Bernie Sanders from becoming the party’s presidential nominee. As we've noted before, the DNC's efforts to block Sanders resulted in Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigning as DNC chairperson.

Peter Lemkin
05-18-2017, 04:02 AM
May 17, 2017 | Russ Baker, C. Collins and Jonathan Z. Larsen (http://whowhatwhy.org/author/russ-baker-c-collins-and-jonathan-z-larsen/)


Why FBI Can’t Tell All on Trump, Russia Incomplete Investigation Would Jeopardize US Democracy http://whowhatwhy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/image9-1-700x470.jpg Photo credit: James Hughes / NY Daily News via Getty Image
As much as President Donald Trump would like to make the various investigations into Russia’s interference in the US election go away, it is still the biggest story of the year. WhoWhatWhy has done its part in advancing it by publishing several (https://whowhatwhy.org/2017/04/05/felix-sater-problematical-friend-trump-forgot/) exclusives (https://whowhatwhy.org/2017/04/27/government-must-tell-trump-associate-russian-mob-ties/) on the issue.
The biggest one was undoubtedly our bombshell article on whether the FBI’s Russia investigation was compromised because it could interfere with the Bureau’s objective of fighting organized crime originating in the former Soviet Union. Part of that story details Trump’s various ties to organized crime and contacts associated with mobsters.
A lot has happened since we published it 7 weeks ago, not the least of which was the firing of James Comey. Another recent development was the airing of an engaging Dutch documentary by the program Zembla, which highlights some of Trump’s most dubious connections (Part 1 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bEdMuKq30I) & Part 2 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvd7PqI_Lx0)). Although there are some errors of fact, including miscasting a plaintiff’s attorney as a state prosecutor, it’s still worth watching.
And you’ll definitely want to brush up on our original article (reprinted below) and our deep-digging followups, which we linked to above. Because this story isn’t going away. It’s just going to get bigger.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation cannot tell us what we need to know about Donald Trump’s contacts with Russia. Why? Because doing so would jeopardize a long-running, ultra-sensitive operation targeting mobsters tied to Russian President Vladimir Putin — and to Trump.
But the Feds’ stonewalling risks something far more dangerous: Failing to resolve a crisis of trust in America’s president. WhoWhatWhy provides the details of a two-month investigation in this 6,500-word exposé.
The FBI apparently knew, directly or indirectly, based upon available facts, that prior to Election Day, Trump and his campaign had personal and business dealings with certain individuals and entities linked to criminal elements — including reputed Ru