Archive | August 3rd, 2018

Revolving Door: How Security Clearances Perpetuate Top-Level Corruption in the United States

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President Donald Trump is threatening to take away the security clearances of a number of former senior intelligence and security officers who have been extremely critical of him. Most Americans were unaware that any ex-officials continued to hold clearances after they retired and the controversy has inevitably raised the question why that should be so. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer.

A security clearance is granted to a person but it is also linked to “need to know” in terms of what kind of information should or could be accessed, which means that when you are no longer working as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency you don’t necessarily need to know anything about China’s spying on the United States. Or do you? If you transition into a directorship or staff position of a major intelligence or security contractor, which many retirees do, you might need to retain the qualification for your job, which makes the clearance an essential component in the notorious revolving door whereby government officials transit to the private sector and then directly lobby their former colleagues to keep the flow of cash coming.

At top levels among the beltway bandit companies, where little work is actually done, some make the case that you have to remain “well informed” to function properly. The fact is that many top-level bureaucrats do retain their clearances for those nebulous reasons and also sometimes as a courtesy. Some have even received regular briefings from the CIA and the office of the Director of National intelligence even though they hold no government positions. A few very senior ex-officials have also been recalled by congress or the White House to provide testimony on particular areas of expertise or on past operations, which can legitimately require a clearance, though it such cases one can be granted on a temporary basis to cover a specific issue.

The problem arises when former officials use their clearances as bona fides to enhance their marketability for non-clearance jobs in the media or corporate world, particularly when those individuals are criticizing current government policies and behaving in a partisan fashion regarding specific candidates for office. Donald Trump was especially assailed by former officials John Brennan, James Clapper, Michael Hayden and Michael Morell before the 2016 election, all of whom continue to attack him currently, most particularly for the recent meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. During the 2016 campaign, Morell, who openly supported Hillary Clinton and is the designated intelligence on-air contributor for CBS news, deliberately linked the fact that he was ex-CIA Acting Director to his assertion that Trump was somehow an “unwitting agent of the Russian Federation” to establish his credibility. That type of activity should be considered abusive and an exploitation of one’s former office.

Morell left CIA in June 2013 and by November was a senior counselor with Beacon Global Strategies. According to the firm’s website, Beacon Global Strategies is a government and private sector consulting group that specializes in matters of international policy, foreign affairs, national defense, cyber, intelligence, and homeland security. Morell may know little about those issues as they have evolved in the past five years, but citing his clearance gives him credibility for knowledge that he might not really possess and also gives him direct access to former colleagues that he can lobby to obtain government contracts.

Former CIA Director John Brennan, who famously voted for the Communist Party candidate for US president in 1976, has also profited greatly from his government service, becoming rich from his board memberships. He sits on the board of directors of SecureAuth + CORE Security and also on the board of The Analysis Corporation. More important in terms of his public profile, he is the “Intelligence Consultant” for NBC News and MSNBC and appears regularly.

Last week Senator Rand Paul met with President Trump and recommended that Brennan’s security clearance be revoked. He argued that Brennan, Trump’s most aggressive critic, has been using his credentials to provide credibility when he calls meeting with Russia’s president “treasonous” and describes the president as “wholly in the pocket of Putin.” Clearance holders also more generally use their privileged access to “secret information” to leverage speaking and television network pundit fees. In other words, Brennan and the others are using their security clearances to enhance their incomes, monetizing their access to classified information to enhance their value.

It is by no means clear whether Trump will revoke the clearances of Clapper, Brennan, Morell and Hayden. As he is the legal source of all government clearances he has the power to do so. An equitable solution on the clearance issue more generally speaking would be to cancel all security clearances on the day when one leaves government service unless there is a direct and immediate transition to a private sector position that absolutely requires such a qualification. That would be fair to lower level employees seeking a second source of income and it would also eliminate many of those who are merely cashing in on their presumed access. As it is a rational solution it is very unlikely that it will be entertained by either the White House or by Congress.

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Zimbabwe Incumbent President, ZANU-PF Re-elected in Historic Poll

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Opposition forces reject outcome seeking to continue western sanctions and attempted isolation

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Featured image: Zimbabwe MDC-A instigated violence on August 1, 2018 in Harare

National harmonized parliamentary and presidential elections in the Southern African state of Zimbabwe were held on July 30.

Over 70 percent of the electorate participated in the voting where some 23 presidential candidates and dozens of political parties were on the ballot.

This is the first election since the resignation of former President Robert Mugabe during late November 2017. His predecessor, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, has attempted to set the stage for improving the national economy through reforms aimed at lifting sanctions imposed nearly two decades ago by western imperialist states.

The Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) ruling party won two-thirds of the seats in the legislative branch of the republic. Results announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba said that Mnangagwa won 50.8 percent of the vote while his closest rival, Nelson Chamisa of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC-A), garnered 44.3 percent. Other smaller parties combined made up the remaining 4.9 percent of the votes.

Zimbabwe electoral laws mandate that if any leading candidate for president acquires less than 50 percent of the votes there will be a runoff contest between the two top candidates in a matter of weeks. Mnangagwa tallied over 50 percent and was therefore declared the victor.

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangawa at ZANU-PF gathering in Harare.

Numerous international monitoring teams came into Zimbabwe for the run-up and actual voting. This has been a tradition for many years although after 2000, a number of teams, particularly those from states which have imposed sanctions on the country, were barred from participation. 

Election monitors from the African Union (AU), Southern African Development Community (SADC), Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), United Nations, European Union (EU), the United States, Commonwealth of Nations, People’s Republic of China, among many others were on the ground in Zimbabwe to assess whether the poll was free and fair along with making a determination about the accuracy of the outcome.

Veronica Gwaze wrote on the regional view of the July 30 elections in an article published by the state-owned Zimbabwe Herald noting that:

“The Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC countries (ECF- SADC) has congratulated Zimbabwe and its various political parties on the manner in which they conducted themselves during the 2018 electoral period. In its preliminary report, ECF-SADC head Justice Semistocles Kaijage said a spirit of tolerance and restraint was prevalent during the campaign period. On polling day, the mission reported, most polling stations allowed for smooth flow of voters and the secrecy of the vote was safeguarded.” 

During the day of the voting there were no reported incidents of violence across the vast nation which borders South Africa, Zambia, Mozambique, Malawi and Botswana. Reports from the monitoring teams and the media indicated that the process was conducted in a calm, transparent and efficient manner. 

Despite the claims of vote rigging by the opposition MDC-A, there was no specific evidence cited which could substantiate these allegations. The terms of the elections were agreed upon by all parties involved which allowed observers to verify the counting and tabulation.

A key trading partner and decades-long political ally of Zimbabwe, the People’s Republic of China’s head of its monitoring group reported that the electoral system was working properly and approved of the results. Zimbabwe Herald reporter Ishemunyoro Chingwere interviewed Liu Guijin of the Chinese team noting:

“[A]s a good friend of Zimbabwe, China had been very helpful in the past with Zimbabwe’s development process and was definitely going to continue on the same path after the elections. The peaceful and democratic elections, he said, will also send a positive signal to the Chinese investors, whom he said should up their investments in the country. He also urged the Zimbabwean private sector to take advantage of Chinese entrepreneurs and business counterparts who will be coming into the country in search of business opportunities.” (Aug. 2)

MDC-A Sparks Violence on August 1: Six People Confirmed Dead

Nonetheless, the MDC-A continued throughout the counting, verification and tabulation process to make claims through both social media and the international press that the ZEC was rigging the outcome. By the conclusion of the voting on July 30, Chamisa was already claiming that he had won the elections prior to any significant number of the votes having been counted.

When the ZEC announced the results of the parliamentary voting on August 1 giving the ruling ZANU-PF Party an overwhelming majority, it was denounced by the MDC-A as fraudulent. Hundreds of opposition supporters began staging a demonstration in the capital of Harare demanding that Chamisa and MDC-A be declared as the winners.

Both police and military units were deployed in response to the demonstration which soon turned violent. Dozens of vehicles were vandalized and set alight. Later government and ZANU-PF offices were physically attacked by demonstrators throwing bricks and other missiles at the buildings. 

Tires were left burning in the streets while protesters went on a rampage. Early reports said that three people died in the melee. The following day on August 2, the Zimbabwe police confirmed the deaths of six people directly related to the disturbances. 

Various elements within Zimbabwe society as well as the government placed blame for the destruction and death on the MDC-A supporters. Some said the riot was staged in order to cast aspersions on the ZANU-PF government tainting the electoral process and providing a rationale for the continued embargo by the West against Zimbabwe. 

Dr. Obert Mpofu, the Minister of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, wrote in an editorial on August 3 emphasizing:

“We condemn in the strongest terms these acts of violence which have reared their ugly face in Harare CBD (Central Business District) and we attribute to the MDC Alliance. The Government of Zimbabwe places full responsibility for the violence, destruction of property, injury and loss of life on the MDC-Alliance which has continuously and persistently churned out hate speech, inflammatory language and displayed propensity for violence since February 2018. MDC-Alliance’s political leadership has over the past three months heightened and psyched up their members to commit violence at political rallies, addressing Press conferences and even on social media.” (Herald)

International Dimensions of the Zimbabwe Situation

The attitude of the MDC-A is not surprising to anyone who has followed their political trajectory since 2000. Every election held during this time period in which they did not win has been denounced as illegitimate.

This current MDC-A configuration is actually an alliance of seven different parties which are by no means united even among themselves. Certain elements in the alliance of convenience objected to the tactics utilized on August 1 which resulted in the deaths and unwarranted destruction of government and private property. The MDC-A, as well as its previous iterations, are supported both politically and financially by interests in the western countries which have maintained draconian sanctions on Zimbabwe for nearly two decades. Obviously there is a concerted attempt to continue their economic war against the state in an effort to overthrow ZANU-PF as the ruling party.

It will be up to the ZANU-PF government and political leadership to develop a strategy for moving forward in regard to their relationship with the United States, Britain and the EU since these countries hold the key to the lifting of sanctions. Zimbabwe under the previous leadership of President Mugabe adopted a “Look East” policy where priority was placed on cultivating trade and joint economic projects with governments within the Global South.

China has demonstrated historically its commitment to expressing solidarity with Zimbabwe through partnerships and investment. Neighboring Republic of South Africa has rejected calls by the imperialist states to engage in a blockade against Zimbabwe. President Mnangagwa has gone out of his way to mend relations with the world capitalist nations which continue to impose sanctions on the country. All of these western governments were allowed to send observers into Zimbabwe for the elections. 

The entire SADC region recognizes that Zimbabwe must be supported in order to guarantee stability and progress throughout the sub-continent. This holds true as well for the AU. With the ongoing combined efforts of the progressive forces inside the country and the international community Zimbabwe will survive. 

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The Long History of America’s Violent Intervention in Afghanistan

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The people of Afghanistan are paying a horrible price for the protracted U.S. occupation.

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In October, America’s war in Afghanistan will turn 17. At that point, it will be old enough to go and fight in itself—and there is no end in sight. The United States escalated the war in 2018 by increasing the number of its troops and airstrikes, and this year is bringing a record-high number of civilian deaths. Afghanistan has the worst rate of infant mortality in the world and ranks 175 out of 186 countries on the Human Development Index. Millions of Afghans live in severe poverty, unemployment is high, 41 percent of Afghan children under the age of five are stunted and 33 percent of the population is food insecure. While the U.S-led efforts to pacify the country have often been rationalized on the grounds that they will supposedly lead to the emancipation of Afghan women, just 8.8 percent of adult women have reached secondary school (compared to 35.4 percent of men), and the Afghan government—which the United States is fighting to keep in power—is ignoring violence against women. Torture under that government is widespread and on the rise, with a quarter of the victims under the age of 18.

These are the conditions that prevail under U.S occupation.

Since the 2001 invasion, the United States and its partners have carried out spectacular crimes in Afghanistan. Less than a month into the war, the United States scattered cluster bombs over a civilian village, and bombed a mosque and a hospital. A 2007 U.S-NATO bombing in Helmand province’s Gereshk district killed manycivilians, possibly more than 100. A year later, a U.S-led coalition airstrike in Nangahar province killed 47 Afghan civilians at a wedding. The next month, an American bombing in Herat killed 90 civilians. An Amnesty International report examines 10 cases from 2009 to 2013 where “mainly U.S. forces were responsible for civilian deaths, mostly through air strikes or night raids. At least 140 civilians were killed in these incidents, including pregnant women and at least 50 children.”

No one has ever been held accountable for these atrocities. In October 2015, a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) trauma center in Kunduz was destroyed by a sustained bombing campaign by U.S.-led coalition forces that killed at least 42  patients, 14 staff and 4 caretakers. The United States claims that this was an accident, but MSF says it gave the hospital’s GPS coordinates to the coalition four days before the attack. MSF reports,

“Our patients burned in their beds, our medical staff were decapitated or lost limbs. Others were shot from the air while they fled the burning building.”

Deadly U.S. bombings continue to the present. Less than two weeks ago, a U.S. bombing killed 14 Afghan civilians, three of them children, in Kunduz. That’s not an exhaustive list of U.S crimes in Afghanistan, but as long as the United States and its partners are bombing Afghanistan, more horrors can be expected.

The United Nations finds that anti-government elements such as the Taliban and daesh (the so-called “Islamic State”) are behind the majority of the attacks that have killed civilians so far in 2018. But it also notes “a sharp increase in civilian casualties” from airstrikes carried out by pro-government forces, a coalition in which America is a central player, with 1,047 civilians killed by this side of the war thus far in 2018. There’s good reason to believe that the U.S-led coalition is responsible for a greater portion of the civilian deaths than the UN report suggest. Civilian casualty tracking in Afghanistan, conducted by the U.S. and Afghan governments, is grossly inadequate—hardly a surprise given that the perpetrators are in charge of determining their own guilt.

The United States and its partners also share blame for Afghan civilian deaths caused by anti-government forces. According to the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg conducted after World War II, a war of aggression is “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” What this means is that whoever starts a war is responsible for all the atrocities that occur in that war. The 2001 U.S-led invasion of Afghanistan was a war of aggression. The attack was not authorized by the United Nations, which means it was illegal. Nor is the argument that the United States had to invade because of the September 11, 2001 massacre tenable. In the early days of the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan, the Afghan government offered to discuss turning over Osama bin Laden if the United States stopped its airstrikes. But the Bush administration called this “non-negotiable,” opting to wage more war and to replace the oppressive, misogynistic Taliban with the Northern Alliance, an outfit, in the words of Robert Fisk, wrought with “gangsters,” and “well-known rapists and murders” of Afghan civilians.

That the United States and its partners are culpable for “the accumulated evil of the whole” in Afghanistan is even clearer in view of the longer-term history. America’s assault on the country did not really begin in 2001. As the journalist Robert Dreyfuss shows in Devil’s Game, it dates to the early 1970s when the United States and its partners—particularly Pakistan and Saudi Arabia—conspired to handcuff Afghanistan’s progressives, nationalists and leftists—all of whom were strong at the time. These policies undermined Afghanistan’s hopes for a democratic society, never mind one with any degree of socio-economic equality. The U.S-led alliance’s policy reached its apotheosis later that decade when it empowered an insurgency of violent arch-reactionaries, unleashing a devastating war and the emergence of the U.S-backed Taliban government in the 1990s.

Apirations of the ruling class

To understand America’s nearly 50 years of violent intervention in Afghanistan, it is necessary to evaluate the efforts of the U.S. ruling class to secure political and economic primacy, a process that necessary includes keeping potential challengers at bay. Afghanistan is rich with natural gas, and Afghanistan has oil reserves that in 2010 were discovered to be substantially larger than previously thought. Afghanistan has an estimated $1 to $3 trillion in mineral wealth that the Trump administration has ogled. This includes gold, copper, iron, mercury, lead, uranium, chromium, lithium and an array of rare metals, resources that are used in cell phones, computers and military goods.

As a result of the current war, the United States undertook supervision of the privatization segments of the Afghan economy. A 2010 U.S State Department report notes that Afghanistan has “taken significant steps toward fostering a business-friendly environment for both foreign and domestic investment.” Scholar Michael Skinner’s research leads him to conclude that the

war in Afghanistan is “being used by the U.S.-led Empire of Capital as a bridgehead to open all [of] Eurasia to global free trade while simultaneously containing the aspirations of potential challengers.”

Afghanistan shared a border with the Soviet Union and shares one with China, a competitor of the U.S ruling class, and another with Iran, at present one of U.S. elites’ most hated adversaries. The value of this real estate is laid bare by Chinese and Iranian infrastructure projects in Afghanistan—in addition to those of India—which are crucial for determining the trade routes that will be required to export Afghanistan’s resources. As Adam Hanieh of the University of London points out, the Afghanistan-Pakistan region is at the intersection of the Gulf and Central Asia, forming “the crossroads of these two energy-rich areas.” This may go a long way to explaining the military bases the United States has constructed in Afghanistan, some of which are massive, suggesting America may be intending to stay in the country and use it as a launching pad for attacks within and possibly beyond Afghanistan’s borders.

The degree to which the U.S ruling class has succeeded in its pursuit of these goals remains an open question, but it’s difficult to imagine that the U.S economic and foreign policy establishment does not value having a military presence and allied government in such a strategic neighborhood. Zbigniew Brzezinski, a chief architect of the Carter administration’s plan to arm the mujahedeen and later an advisor to President Obama, was frank about this in 1997, writing that “the distribution of power on the Eurasian landmass will be of decisive importance to America’s global primacy.”

Getting out of Afghanistan

Ending the war is the precondition for Afghans to be able to have even minimal physical safety and access to social services, let alone any loftier political aspirations beyond that. Danielle Bell, human rights chief for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, notes that conflict-related violence is eroding the rights of children to education, healthcare, freedom of movement, family life, playing outdoors and otherwise enjoying a childhood free of the “brutal effects of war.” The war displaced 437,907 people in 2017 alone, and internally-displaced people lack adequate housing, food, water, health care and opportunities to pursue education and employment. As the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs puts it,

“Afghanistan has been in protracted conflict for almost thirty five years, which has seriously hampered poverty reduction and development, strained the fabric of society and depleted its coping mechanisms.”

These are among “the accumulated evil of the whole” wrought by America’s war on Afghanistan.

After nearly a half century, the jury is in: Afghanistan will not be safe or free under U.S tutelage. It’s time for the war to end and a central requirement of that is that America get out.

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Russia’s Naval Strategy in the Indian Ocean

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Russia is pursuing a remarkably balanced naval strategy in the Afro-Bengal Ocean (Indian Ocean) that strives to maintain equal relations with its Pakistani and Indian counterparts, being drawn to the region not just because of its desire to maintain strategic stability between these two rivals through “military diplomacy”, but also to protect forthcoming offshore energy investments and participate in the game of prestige that all Great Powers are presently playing in this crucial body of water.

The Russian Navy isn’t usually the first branch of the Armed Forces that comes to mind when thinking about the country’s military, but it nevertheless has taken on a heightened strategic importance over the past few years following its participation in the anti-terrorist campaign in Syria, most notably through the launching of its Kalibr cruise missiles from positions in the Caspian and Eastern Mediterranean Seas. President Putin also announced over the weekend during the Navy Day celebrations in Saint Petersburg that his country’s flotilla will receive 26 new ships by the end of the year, further emphasizing the significance of naval assets for Russia’s grand strategy.

There are plenty of uses that Russia’s five existing fleets (Baltic, Black, Caspian, Northern, and Pacific) can have in advancing Moscow’s defensive designs across the 21st century, but this piece proposes that the country’s navy might begin expanding its scope of operations to the Afro-Bengal Ocean (still popularly known by its colonial-era name as the “Indian Ocean”). There was already a very minor presence here during the last decade in the Gulf of Aden in order to support the international mission against piracy in the region, but two recent developments point to a more pronounced shift towards this highly strategic southern body of water.

“Military Diplomacy”

The first is that Pakistan’s Vice Chief of Naval Staff visited Saint Petersburg last weekend and signed a Memorandum of Understand (MoU) with the Russian Navy, which coincided not just with Russia’s Navy Day celebrations, but also the first-ever visit of the Pakistani Navy to the Baltic Sea. Shortly afterwards, news reports circulated that Russia had earlier proposed a LEMOA-like logistics agreementwith India, though one that supposedly has to do more with servicing equipment than using the host country’s facilities for de-facto forward-operating purposes like the Americans have in mind. Taken together, it’s clear that Russia is trying to “balance” Pakistan and India in the Afro-Bengal Ocean.

At this point, it’s important to comment on Russia’s strategy of “military diplomacy”, which seeks to maintain the balance of power between multiple pairs of rival states through arms shipments and other forms of military cooperation with both. In the relevant context, this explains why Russia continues to export billions of dollars of weaponry to India while expanding its anti-terrorist military cooperation with Pakistan to the naval realm. Keeping this nuanced policy in mind, it wouldn’t be surprising if Russia’s offer to sell its Kalibr-armed Karakurt corvettes to India, Vietnam, and China was broadened to also include Pakistan one day in order to maintain the greatest degree of “balance” in the Afro-Pacific.

After all, the India-China and Vietnam-China pairs of rivaling states form the basis of Russia’s “balancing act” in Asia, especially its military component, but relentless American and “Israeli” inroads into India’s military-industrial complex in recent years have chipped away at Moscow’s former dominance of this sphere and compelled it to diversify its Asian arms portfolio. This is one of the many reasons why Russia is engaging in unprecedented levels of military cooperation with Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, and Pakistan as part of its “Ummah Pivot”, so it would follow that naval sales to Pakistan might eventually become a part of this larger strategy, especially if India rebuffs Russia’s LEMOA-like proposal because of American pressure.

“Energy Diplomacy” And Prestige

Looking beyond the indirect regional presence established through “military diplomacy”, Russia will soon have other reasons to directly involve itself in the Afro-Bengal Ocean if its prospective offshore Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline is ever built. All Great Powers have an interest in defending such multibillion-dollar investments, and Russia is no different. It could also be drawn closer to this body of water through any forthcoming energy cooperation with India and Myanmar, and especially if it acquires a foothold in the LNG-rich countries of Tanzania and Mozambique as part of its plan to become one of Africa’s main energy partners. Through these means, Russia’s “energy diplomacy” could actually drive its “military diplomacy”.

Fielding a flotilla in the Afro-Bengal Ocean isn’t just about simple pragmatism and the tangible defense of one’s national interests, but is also increasingly taking on a very influential prestige component whereby all emerging and established powers are feeling compelled to have a presence in this region simply by inertia of everyone else seemingly doing so too. This dynamic was first put on full display during the pre-“Scramble for Africa” of the 21st century that saw many countries dispatching naval forces to the Gulf of Aden to combat piracy, where most of them continued to remain in one capacity or another following the climax of that crisis.

From Sudan To Pakistan

Great Powers such as Italy and Japan, who aren’t normally associated with the Afro-Bengal Ocean, actually have bases in Djibouti that allow them to maintain a position in this strategic region, and even landlocked Ethiopia has plans to build a navy, proving just how far the prestige game is going in this part of the world. To that end, Russia might seriously consider taking Sudan up on its offer to build a naval facility in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan, from where it could simultaneously exert influence along the Sahelian-Saharan Silk Road inside the African hinterland through its terminal port and also into the Afro-Bengal Ocean beyond the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

Bearing in mind that Pakistan also has a developing interest in expanding its all-around connectivity with Africa in order to benefit from China’s increasing trade with the continent through CPEC, it would make sense for its navy to conceptualize a strategy for the Arabian Sea-Gulf of Aden (ASGA) region as a first step to advancing this vision. The overlap of naval interests between Russia and Pakistan could possibly even see the pairing of their proposed naval facilities in Port Sudan with Gwadar through a LEMOA-like logistics agreement between these two Great Powers, thereby facilitating the Russian Navy’s defensive patrols of the IPI pipeline and the Pakistani ones of CPEC’s Sea Lines Of Communication (SLOC).

Concluding Thoughts

It shouldn’t be forgotten that none of these possible long-term plans are aimed against any country, especially India and the US vis-à-vis Russia and Pakistan’s motivations respectively, but that the abovementioned ideas are intended to epitomize win-win cooperation in the emerging Multipolar World Order. Russia’s recently reported efforts to clinch a LEMOA-like deal with India are proof of its desire to preemptively quash any externally manipulated “security dilemma” between these two historic partners and signal that its fast-moving “military diplomacy” with Pakistan isn’t meant to disrupt the regional balance like the US’ moves with India are.

Given the enormity of energy investments that Russia is making in the Mideast, South Asia, and Southeast Asia (with reference off the Myanmar coast), and the plans that it has to expand its extraction operations into Africa (with a particular focus on Mozambique), it only makes sense that Moscow would begin preparing well in advance to field its navy in the Afro-Bengal Ocean just like it did during the Soviet period, albeit for entirely different reasons during the present era.  The game of Great Power prestige also has something to do with it as well, so be that as it may, Russia has plenty of reasons to resume its naval activity in this strategic space.

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Are We Saving Syrian ‘Heroes’… or Just Importing More Fanatics with Links to Al Qaeda?

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You may recall the fuss Theresa May made about getting rid of the Islamist preacher Abu Qatada. 

In the end it took 11 years of legal wrangling to get this fanatic, with his very nasty opinions, out of the country. 

Without her personal intervention at the end, he would probably still be here.

Why, then, is the British Government seriously considering welcoming into this country an unknown number of men who have been – I put this at its mildest – closely associated for several years with an armed faction linked to Al Qaeda, or with others perhaps even worse?

Was all the fuss about Abu Qatada just a public relations front? Or does the right hand just not know what the left hand is doing?

Here’s what is going on. Last week the new Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, put his name to a very odd statement about a very odd event.

I think the nicest thing to say here is that Mr Hunt is a bit inexperienced. The statement said that Britain would be ‘protecting’ a group of ‘White Helmets’, supposedly civil defence workers from Syria. That’s what they call themselves, anyway.

The 400 people involved (a quarter of them said to be ‘White Helmets’) had been caught by the sudden collapse of Islamist jihadi rebel forces in a southern corner of Syria next to the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

And, despite the defeated rebels being Islamist jihadi fanatics, they were mysteriously allowed to cross into Israel so that they could escape to Jordan.

Israel? Such people normally regard Israel with violent hatred, a feeling Israel returns with interest.

As far as I can discover, other defeated groups of Syrian rebels and their hangers-on have been bussed under safe conducts to the rebel-held north of Syria, under Turkish and Russian supervision. Why not this time?

Later, the Jordanian government revealed that some of them would now be resettled in Britain. Its spokesman announced that Britain, Germany and Canada made a ‘legally binding undertaking’ to resettle them ‘within a specified period of time’ due to ‘a risk to their lives’. Legally binding, eh?

What was this risk? What were they so worried about? Why do they need to come to Britain when the whole Arab Muslim world must presumably long to welcome these glorious, self-sacrificing heroes?

For, according to the Foreign Office, and many others, the ‘White Helmets’ are the good guys.

They like them so much they have so far spent £38.4million of your money and mine on supporting them.

The FO is in a mess over this. It has for years been backing the Islamist rebels against the Syrian government, a policy which involves supporting exactly the sort of people we would arrest if we found them in Birmingham.

Perhaps that is why it claims the ‘White Helmets’ are ‘volunteers’ (they are often paid) and that they have ‘saved over 115,000 lives during the Syrian conflict’ and done ‘brave and selfless work’ to ‘save Syrians on all sides of the conflict.’

When I asked them to provide independent, checkable evidence for these assertions, they came up empty after three days of searching.

This is not surprising, as the ‘White Helmets’ generally operate only in areas controlled by unlovely bodies such as the Al-Nusra Front, until recently an affiliate of Al Qaeda, and the equally charming Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam), famous for putting captured Syrian Army soldiers in cages and using them as human shields.

Independent Western observers, whether they are diplomats or journalists, can’t really go to these zones, because they are quite likely to end up very dead and probably headless.

So you can choose whether to believe the ‘White Helmets’ and their flattering picture of their own goodness, or wonder why exactly they are in such need of protection that these much-feted and saintly humanitarians are willing to be evacuated through a country that most Arab Muslims loathe and despise, rather than rely on the mercy of their own countrymen.

Is it possible (I only ask) that, while undoubtedly brilliant at public relations, and at making slick videos showing themselves rescuing wounded children, the ‘White Helmets’ are not quite as nice as they say they are?

Even the USA, which has for years (like us) helped the Syrian rebels, refused entry to the leader of the ‘White Helmets’, Raed Saleh, when he arrived at Washington’s Dulles Airport in 2016. They won’t say why.

The FO tells me that the Home Office, not them, will be vetting those chosen to come here. I hope they are careful when they do so. I am sure that future Home Secretaries will not be grateful if any of the new arrivals turns out to have the same opinions as Abu Qatada.

In any case, it is time the British Government came clean about who it has been helping in Syria.

Posted in SyriaComments Off on Are We Saving Syrian ‘Heroes’… or Just Importing More Fanatics with Links to Al Qaeda?

America’s Largest Creditor: Will China End U.S. Trade War with a “Debt Reset”, by Dumping U.S. Treasury Holdings?

NOVANEWS

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One of the reasons why it has seemed so bizarre that the United States would engage in a trade war with its largest creditor in China, is that China has a move that the United States simply can’t defend against.

In terms of any sort of engagement between the United States and China, for at least the last decade or so, it’s always seemed to me that China has an incredibly large amount of leverage over the United States. To the degree that if push comes to shove, China has available actions that the U.S. simply has no answer to.

For the simple reason that they do have the ability to end the U.S. Treasury scheme at any point in time. Because if China did just dump its U.S. Treasury holdings, that would very well likely end the debt bubble overnight.

Of course things are not always quite so simple. Because that means China would take a massive loss on its own position. And to the degree that such an event would also have an impact on global economic conditions, it’s a nuclear option not to be exercised lightly.

My best guess is that the Chinese would prefer an environment of free and fair trade, where everyone prospers. Yet to the degree that if they are pushed into a corner, they do have the ability to respond.

Because the situation is somewhat analogous to someone who has found themselves in a gambling debt that’s larger than they could conceivably imagine a way to be free of. And the lender is faced with the choice of continuing to extend more credit, or accepting that further borrowing is just going to increase the ultimate loss.

Of course if China has also been taking steps to mitigate the impact of such an action, that would further suggest that whether they have to use such an option or not, they have quietly insulated themselves from the fallout, should such an option need to be used.

In terms of prepping for a trade war with the U.S., China has implemented several important steps. For example, for at least the past 10 years the country has been shifting away from a pure export economy and reducing its reliance on sales of goods to the U.S. In 2018, Chinese consumer purchases of goods are expected to surpass that of American consumers. For the past five years, domestic consumption in China accounted for between 55% to 65% of economic growth, and private consumption was the primary driver of the Chinese economy — NOT exports.

The argument that China is somehow dependent on U.S. markets and consumers in order to keep its economy alive is simply a lie. China is now just as enticing a retail market as the U.S., and its domestic market can pick up some of the slack in the event that U.S. markets are suddenly closed to Chinese exports.

This was part of an excellent article by Brandon Smith of alt-market.com, and it’s really worth reading and considering. He raises a lot of points that I have agreed with for a long time, and feel are not often voiced as publicly as some of the other perspectives out there.

Again, you would like to think that the world can agree on a fair and just economic system without resorting to further escalation of a trade war. Yet more and more I continue to wonder if some sort of debt reset, or global default is not rapidly becoming inevitable. 

Although perhaps in the end it’s all digital and paper money at this point anyway. Which has long ago lost touch with underlying economic reality. And hopefully when the bubbles collapse, what rises from the ashes will be a monetary system that serves the people, rather than the banking cartel.

It’s interesting to note that in Venezuela where the currency collapse is already in a later stage than that of many of the developed paper currencies, reports of the people going back to a barter economycontinue to surface. 

Similar to what happened in this fascinating Greek Village (that I actually had the blessing of visiting in person back in 2014), where once again it was evident that even when the paper currencies collapse, what’s valued is our true natural abilities and contributions.

I continue to remain fascinated to see how all of the events ultimately unfold. And I agree with Brandon Smith, that whether it’s ultimately used or not, China does have knockout punch to which the U.S. cannot respond. 

Posted in USA, ChinaComments Off on America’s Largest Creditor: Will China End U.S. Trade War with a “Debt Reset”, by Dumping U.S. Treasury Holdings?

Who Will Stop Trump From Tweeting Us into War With Iran?

NOVANEWS

The president hopes we’ll break our Russia tunnel vision and set sights on Iran. We should.

Supporters of the Iran nuclear accord rally outside the White House on Oct. 12, 2017.

Supporters of the Iran nuclear accord rally outside the White House on Oct. 12, 2017. (Photo: Stephen Melkisethian/flickr/cc)

Donald Trump may be taking us to war on Iran and those who should be trying to stop him—from Congress to the grassroots—are too obsessed with Russia to even pay attention.

Trump is well aware that a war with Iran could be a good diversion from his domestic and Russia travails, and could even help Republicans in the November elections. In 2012, when President Obama was down in the polls, Trump tweeted: “Looks like he’ll have to start a war or major conflict to win. Don’t put it past him!” So we certainly shouldn’t put it past Donald Trump.

On July 22, just after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had wrapped up a speech in which he compared Iran’s leaders to the Mafia, Trump sent out this threatening tweet, in all caps, to Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani. “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!”

Trump’s Twitter tirade was in response to comments by Rouhani warning that a U.S. war with Iran would be the “mother of all wars” and that Trump should not “play with the lion’s tail.” Also a factor were Rouhani’s earlier comments implying that if U.S. sanctions stopped Iran from exporting oil, Iran could close down the Strait of Hormuz, a slender waterway at the mouth of the Gulf through which twenty percent of the world’s oil is shipped.

Trump’s explosive tweet was reminiscent of the “fire and fury” comments he directed toward Kim Jong-un before he started negotiating with the North Korean leader, but it’s unlikely that this twitterstorm will be the prelude to talks with Iran.

The Korean talks took place with the support of South Korea, and in the absence of any significant U.S. opposition lobby. With Iran, both Saudi Arabia and Israel have been trying to suck the United States into their decades-old feud with Iran. Both opposedthe Iran nuclear deal, and Israel has been advocating for the U.S. military to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities (even though Israel has several hundred nuclear weapons of its own and Iran has none.)

Saudi Arabia insists that Iran is spreading terrorism throughout the region, even though the Saudis have spent billions spreading their intolerant version of Islam, Wahhabism. And let us not forget the terror of the Saudi bombing of Yemen that has caused the world’s greatest humanitarian catastrophe.

United States lobby groups from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) to the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies have also been stoking the conflict with Iran. So has the dissident group Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK). The MEK, a cult-like group that has killed Iranians and Americans alike and was on the U.S. terrorist list until 2012, is hated inside Iran for having sided with Saddam Hussein when he invaded Iran in 1980.

In recent years, the MEK has spent lavishly (with what is rumored to be Saudi money) to acquire political support from liberals like Howard Dean to conservatives like Newt Gingrich and Rudy Giuliani, both of whom were key speakers at the group’s May gathering in Paris. But the MEK’s most influential cheerleader is John Bolton, who has spoken at their meetings eight times, for which he was well compensated. Bolton considers the MEK a legitimate opposition movement even though they have absolutely no base of support inside Iran.

Trump delighted this dangerous melange of Iran opponents by withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal on May 8, despite Iran’s compliance with its side of the bargain, as continuously certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

In defiance of the deal’s five co-sponsors—Britain, China, France, Germany, and Russia—the Trump Administration unilaterally restored sanctions, which will go into effect in two waves during August and November. The devastating sanctions not only prohibit U.S. companies from doing business in Iran, but will also punish foreign companies and banks.

Despite efforts by European governments to shield their companies, the companies themselves—from oil giant Total to airplane manufacturer Airbus—do not want to take the risk and are already pulling the plug on trade deals they had negotiated with Iran. The value of the Iranian rial has plummeted this year by forty percent. With the economy reeling from sanctions and the threat of war, along with mismanagement and corruption, Iranians have taken to the streets in protest.

The administration’s goal now is to cut off the Islamic Republic’s ability to export oil, its prime source of revenue and foreign exchange. These particularly crippling sanctions will go into effect on November 4.

What it comes down to is that the Trump Administration believes its policy of choking Tehran economically and supporting internal dissent can topple the government.

“We are now very realistic in being able to see an end of the regime in Iran,” Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani shouted triumphantly to cheers at the June 2018 gathering in Paris of the MEK’s political arm, the National Council of Resistance of Iran. “The collapse of the Islamic Republic of Iran is around the corner.”

But an overthrow of the regime, with no entity ready to take over, would not only lead to chaos internally but could quickly spread throughout the region. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its allies, like Hezbollah in Lebanon, are ready to attack both Israel and U.S. troops stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and on the myriad of military bases surrounding Iran. The Iranian government has already threatened to block oil shipments, a move that could rock the entire global economy.

Many Iranians desperately want to change their government, but not with U.S. intervention. They look around the region in horror, seeing how U.S. militarism has contributed to massive chaos, misery, and death in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Palestine. They believe their best option is internal reform.

A group of prominent Iranian-Americans urged Secretary Pompeo in an open letter to lift the administration’s Muslim travel ban, stick to the Iran nuclear deal and provide economic relief to the Iranian people. “Those measures, more than anything,” they wrote, “will provide the Iranian people with the breathing space to do what only they can do—push Iran towards democracy through a gradual process that achieves the benefits of freedom and liberty without turning Iran into another Iraq or Syria.”

Before all hell breaks loose with the Trump wrecking crew taking us into a cataclysmic conflict with Iran, Congress and the American public better get their heads out of the Russiagate sand and rush to stop them.

Posted in USA, IranComments Off on Who Will Stop Trump From Tweeting Us into War With Iran?

American Society Would Collapse If It Weren’t for These 8 Myths

NOVANEWS

These myths are accepted and basically never questioned.

A young girl holds a flag in front of a sign reading 'Re-imagine.'

Why are we all choosing to continue on like this? it comes down to the myths we’ve been sold. (Photo: Glenn Halog/flickr/cc)

Our society should’ve collapsed by now. You know that, right?

No society should function with this level of inequality (with the possible exception of one of those prison planets in a “Star Wars” movie). Sixty-three percent of Americans can’t afford a $500 emergency. Yet Amazon head Jeff Bezos is now worth a record $141 billion. He could literally end world hunger for multiple years and still have more money left over than he could ever spend on himself.

Worldwide, one in 10 people only make $2 a day. Do you know how long it would take one of those people to make the same amount as Jeff Bezos has? 193 million years. (If they only buy single-ply toilet paper.) Put simply, you cannot comprehend the level of inequality in our current world or even just our nation.

So … shouldn’t there be riots in the streets every day? Shouldn’t it all be collapsing? Look outside. The streets aren’t on fire. No one is running naked and screaming (usually). Does it look like everyone’s going to work at gunpoint? No. We’re all choosingto continue on like this.

Why?

Well, it comes down to the myths we’ve been sold. Myths that are ingrained in our social programming from birth, deeply entrenched, like an impacted wisdom tooth. These myths are accepted and basically never questioned.

I’m going to cover eight of them. There are more than eight. There are probably hundreds. But I’m going to cover eight because (A) no one reads a column titled “Hundreds of Myths of American Society,” (B) these are the most important ones and (C) we all have other shit to do.

Myth No. 8—We have a democracy.

If you think we still have a democracy or a democratic republic, ask yourself this: When was the last time Congress did something that the people of America supported that did not align with corporate interests? … You probably can’t do it. It’s like trying to think of something that rhymes with “orange.” You feel like an answer exists but then slowly realize it doesn’t. Even the Carter Center and former President Jimmy Carter believe that America has been transformed into an oligarchy: A small, corrupt elite control the country with almost no input from the people. The rulers need the myththat we’re a democracy to give us the illusion of control.

Myth No. 7—We have an accountable and legitimate voting system.

Gerrymandering, voter purging, data mining, broken exit polling, push polling, superdelegates, electoral votes, black-box machines, voter ID suppression, provisional ballots, super PACs, dark money, third parties banished from the debates and two corporate parties that stand for the same goddamn pile of fetid crap!

What part of this sounds like a legitimate election system?

No, we have what a large Harvard study called the worst election system in the Western world. Have you ever seen where a parent has a toddler in a car seat, and the toddler has a tiny, brightly colored toy steering wheel so he can feel like he’s driving the car? That’s what our election system is—a toy steering wheel. Not connected to anything. We all sit here like infants, excitedly shouting, “I’m steeeeering!”

And I know it’s counterintuitive, but that’s why you have to vote. We have to vote in such numbers that we beat out what’s stolen through our ridiculous rigged system.

Myth No. 6—We have an independent media that keeps the rulers accountable.

Our media outlets are funded by weapons contractors, big pharma, big banks, big oil and big, fat hard-on pills. (Sorry to go hard on hard-on pills, but we can’t get anything resembling hard news because it’s funded by dicks.) The corporate media’s jobs are to rally for war, cheer for Wall Street and froth at the mouth for consumerism. It’s their mission to actually fortify belief in the myths I’m telling you about right now. Anybody who steps outside that paradigm is treated like they’re standing on a playground wearing nothing but a trench coat.

Myth No. 5—We have an independent judiciary.

The criminal justice system has become a weapon wielded by the corporate state. This is how bankers can foreclose on millions of homes illegally and see no jail time, but activists often serve jail time for nonviolent civil disobedience. Chris Hedges recently noted, “The most basic constitutional rights … have been erased for many. … Our judicial system, as Ralph Nader has pointed out, has legalized secret law, secret courts, secret evidence, secret budgets and secret prisons in the name of national security.”

If you’re not part of the monied class, you’re pressured into releasing what few rights you have left. According to The New York Times, “97 percent of federal cases and 94 percent of state cases end in plea bargains, with defendants pleading guilty in exchange for a lesser sentence.”

That’s the name of the game. Pressure people of color and poor people to just take the plea deal because they don’t have a million dollars to spend on a lawyer. (At least not one who doesn’t advertise on beer coasters.)

Myth No. 4—The police are here to protect you. They’re your friends.

That’s funny. I don’t recall my friend pressuring me into sex to get out of a speeding ticket. (Which is essentially still legal in 32 states.)

The police in our country are primarily designed to do two things: protect the property of the rich and perpetrate the completely immoral war on drugs—which by definition is a war on our own people.

We lock up more people than any other country on earth. Meaning the land of the free is the largest prison state in the world. So all these droopy-faced politicians and rabid-talking heads telling you how awful China is on human rights or Iran or North Korea—none of them match the numbers of people locked up right here under Lady Liberty’s skirt.

Myth No. 3—Buying will make you happy.

This myth is put forward mainly by the floods of advertising we take in but also by our social engineering. Most of us feel a tenacious emptiness, an alienation deep down behind our surface emotions (for a while I thought it was gas). That uneasiness is because most of us are flushing away our lives at jobs we hate before going home to seclusion boxes called houses or apartments. We then flip on the TV to watch reality shows about people who have it worse than we do (which we all find hilarious).

If we’re lucky, we’ll make enough money during the week to afford enough beer on the weekend to help it all make sense. (I find it takes at least four beers for everything to add up.) But that doesn’t truly bring us fulfillment. So what now? Well, the ads say buying will do it. Try to smother the depression and desperation under a blanket of flat-screen TVs, purses and Jet Skis. Now does your life have meaning? No? Well, maybe you have to drive that Jet Ski a little faster! Crank it up until your bathing suit flies off and you’ll feel alive!

The dark truth is that we have to believe the myth that consuming is the answer or else we won’t keep running around the wheel. And if we aren’t running around the wheel, then we start thinking, start asking questions. Those questions are not good for the ruling elite, who enjoy a society based on the daily exploitation of 99 percent of us.

Myth No. 2—If you work hard, things will get better.

According to Deloitte’s Shift Index survey: “80% of people are dissatisfied with their jobs” and “[t]he average person spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime.” That’s about one-seventh of your life—and most of it is during your most productive years.

Ask yourself what we’re working for. To make money? For what? Almost none of us are doing jobs for survival anymore. Once upon a time, jobs boiled down to:

I plant the food—>I eat the food—>If I don’t plant food = I die.

But nowadays, if you work at a café—will someone die if they don’t get their super-caf-mocha-frap-almond-piss-latte? I kinda doubt they’ll keel over from a blueberry scone deficiency.

If you work at Macy’s, will customers perish if they don’t get those boxer briefs with the sweat-absorbent-ass fabric? I doubt it. And if they do die from that, then their problems were far greater than you could’ve known. So that means we’re all working to make other people rich because we have a society in which we have to work. Technological advancements can do most everything that truly must get done.

So if we wanted to, we could get rid of most work and have tens of thousands of more hours to enjoy our lives. But we’re not doing that at all. And no one’s allowed to ask these questions—not on your mainstream airwaves at least. Even a half-step like universal basic income is barely discussed because it doesn’t compute with our cultural programming.

Scientists say it’s quite possible artificial intelligence will take away all human jobs in 120 years. I think they know that will happen because bots will take the jobs and then realize that 80 percent of them don’t need to be done! The bots will take over and then say, “Stop it. … Stop spending a seventh of your life folding shirts at Banana Republic.”

One day, we will build monuments to the bot that told us to enjoy our lives and … leave the shirts wrinkly.

And this leads me to the largest myth of our American society.

Myth No. 1—You are free.

And I’m not talking about the millions locked up in our prisons. I’m talking about you and me. If you think you’re free, try running around with your nipples out, ladies. Guys, take a dump on the street and see how free you are.

I understand there are certain restrictions on freedom we actually desire to have in our society—maybe you’re not crazy about everyone leaving a Stanley Steamer in the middle of your walk to work. But a lot of our lack of freedom is not something you would vote for if given the chance.

Try building a fire in a parking lot to keep warm in the winter.

Try sleeping in your car for more than a few hours without being harassed by police.

Try maintaining your privacy for a week without a single email, web search or location data set collected by the NSA and the telecoms.

Try signing up for the military because you need college money and then one day just walking off the base, going, “Yeah, I was bored. Thought I would just not do this anymore.”

Try explaining to Kentucky Fried Chicken that while you don’t have the green pieces of paper they want in exchange for the mashed potatoes, you do have some pictures you’ve drawn on a napkin to give them instead.

Try running for president as a third-party candidate. (Jill Stein was shackled and chained to a chair by police during one of the debates.)

Try using the restroom at Starbucks without buying something … while black.

We are less free than a dog on a leash. We live in one of the hardest-working, most unequal societies on the planet with more billionaires than ever.

Meanwhile, Americans supply 94 percent of the paid blood used worldwide. And it’s almost exclusively coming from very poor people. This abusive vampire system is literally sucking the blood from the poor. Does that sound like a free decision they made? Or does that sound like something people do after immense economic force crushes down around them? (One could argue that sperm donation takes a little less convincing.)

Point is, in order to enforce this illogical, immoral system, the corrupt rulers—most of the time—don’t need guns and tear gas to keep the exploitation mechanisms humming along. All they need are some good, solid bullshit myths for us all to buy into, hook, line and sinker. Some fairy tales for adults.

It’s time to wake up.

Posted in USAComments Off on American Society Would Collapse If It Weren’t for These 8 Myths

‘Poverty Is Criminalized, Wealth Is Immunized’: Report Shows Corporate Crime Enforcement Has Plummeted Under Trump

NOVANEWS

“The message to big business couldn’t be more clear: Feel free to run roughshod over rules that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat.”

"When it comes to large corporations, the supposedly 'tough-on-crime' Trump administration is undertaking an epic retreat from law enforcement—slashing fines, declining to bring cases against corporate wrongdoers, and cutting enforcement programs," Public Citizen president Robert Weissman said in a statement on Wednesday. (Photo: Public Citizen)

“When it comes to large corporations, the supposedly ‘tough-on-crime’ Trump administration is undertaking an epic retreat from law enforcement—slashing fines, declining to bring cases against corporate wrongdoers, and cutting enforcement programs,” Public Citizen president Robert Weissman said in a statement on Wednesday. (Photo: Public Citizen)

In addition to padding the bottom lines of America’s largest corporations by cutting their taxes and eliminating scores of longstanding regulations, President Donald Trump is also protecting major companies’ profits by refusing to punish them for ripping off consumers and trampling federal rules that safeguard the planet.

“When it comes to large corporations, the supposedly ‘tough-on-crime’ Trump administration is undertaking an epic retreat from law enforcement—slashing fines, declining to bring cases against corporate wrongdoers, and cutting enforcement programs.”
—Robert Weissman, Public Citizen
That is the central conclusion of a new Public Citizen analysis out Wednesday, which finds that corporate America has largely been exempt from Trump’s so-called “law-and-order” agenda. Titled Corporate Impunity (pdf), the report shows that enforcement actions carried out by major government agencies declined drastically during Trump’s first year in the White House.

“When it comes to large corporations, the supposedly ‘tough-on-crime’ Trump administration is undertaking an epic retreat from law enforcement—slashing fines, declining to bring cases against corporate wrongdoers, and cutting enforcement programs,” Public Citizen president Robert Weissman said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The message to big business couldn’t be more clear,” Weissman added. “Feel free to run roughshod over rules that protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, as well as ensure the safety of the cars we drive and protect us against bank rip-offs and consumer fraud.”

According to Public Citizen, the largest drop in enforcement actions came at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is currently headed by former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler after previous agency chief Scott Pruitt resigned amid an ever-growing mountain of scandals.

The consumer group’s new analysis shows that EPA penalties against corporate criminals has dropped a staggering 94 percent since Trump took office last year.

https://twitter.com/Public_Citizen/status/1022116976620183553/photo/1

The decline in penalties leveled by other White House agencies has been similarly striking.

Trump’s Department of Justice (DOJ), for instance, imposed $4.9 billion in penalties against major corporations for violating the law. In contrast, during the last year of the Obama administration—which could hardly be described as tough on corporate crime—the DOJ imposed $51.5 billion in fines against businesses.

“The greedy leader sets the pace,” noted legal scholar Jennifer Taub in response to Public Citizen’s figures. “Under the Trump doctrine, it’s corruption without accountability all the way down.”

https://twitter.com/Public_Citizen/status/1022141658840924160/photo/1

Because the Trump administration has demonstrated that it is not interested in holding corporations accountable for defrauding consumers and wrecking the environment, Public Citizen argues in its report that we can expect an even larger wave of corporate crime in the near future.

“If the chances of being prosecuted for lawbreaking drop and the penalties when caught are slight, we should expect a surge in corporate wrongdoing,” the analysis notes. “That means more workers needlessly injured and killed on the job. It means more consumers ripped off by predatory lenders… It also means a greatly increased chance of corporate catastrophes, on the scale of the BP Gulf oil disaster and the 2008 financial crash, both of which can be traced directly to regulatory enforcement failures.”

Succinctly summarizing America’s two-tiered justice system—which Trump has tilted even further in favor of the rich by letting corporations run “roughshod”—Public Citizen’s Rick Claypool wrote, “While poverty is criminalized, wealth is immunized.”

Posted in USAComments Off on ‘Poverty Is Criminalized, Wealth Is Immunized’: Report Shows Corporate Crime Enforcement Has Plummeted Under Trump

Naziyahu Declares Readiness to Join Saudi-Zio-Wahhabi Led Bloody War on Yemen

NOVANEWS
Netanyahu Declares Israel’s Readiness to Join Saudi-Led Bloody War on Yemen

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, during a graduation ceremony of navy officers in the northern port city of Haifa, Israel, Sept. 11, 2013. Dan Balilty | AP

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, speaks with Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, during a graduation ceremony of navy officers in the northern port city of Haifa, Israel, Sept. 11, 2013. Dan Balilty | AP

Netanyahu has shown his willingness to use Iran’s fabled presence as a pretext for military action anywhere in the region, particularly when the true motives for military escalation would prove more difficult to justify.

Posted in ZIO-NAZI, Saudi Arabia, YemenComments Off on Naziyahu Declares Readiness to Join Saudi-Zio-Wahhabi Led Bloody War on Yemen


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