Wake Up America: Report: 2.5 million U.S. children dumped like garbage in the street

NOVANEWS
By John McDevitt
Report: 2.5 million U.S. children dumped like garbage in the street

It’s hard to say what is the most indicting aspect of the profit system. One trend, however, the dumping of children onto the street in the richest country on the planet, certainly is among the most horrific.

The National Center on Family Homelessness at American Institutes for Research produced a 2014 report card on child homelessness in the U.S.

Not only are 2.5 million children homeless across the country, but this number represents an overall 8 percent increase nationally between 2012 and 2013—more than one-fifth of the states including Washington, D.C., report more than a 10 percent increase. The trend is toward more homelessness, not less.

This report was gathered from over 30 established datasets using more than 30 variables. In other words, it’s not an estimate nor a report from some renegade research group.

The report not only details, state by state, the epidemic of homelessness among children, but it presents the leading statistically significant causes: high poverty, lack of affordable housing, impact of the recession, racism, challenges of single parenting, and trauma such as domestic violence (order according to the report).

The 2007 Great Recession is listed as central in the report, as in its wake there has been tremendous long-term unemployment. When the 2006-7 housing bubble burst—pushing the market value significantly below the price homeowners paid for their homes—it resulted in an unprecedented number of foreclosures and bankruptcies. About six million families lost their homes in this period alone.

Racism fuels homelessness

Racism is the fuel that has exacerbated homelessness in the most disproportionate way. Blacks comprise 12.5 percent of the U.S. population but constitute 38 percent of those in shelters (HUD, 2012). One in four Black families live in poverty in the U.S.

The report also details that child and family homelessness surged during the mid-1980s after Ronald Reagan was elected, whose presidential goals included the smashing of the Soviet Union and any safety net of the U.S. working class.

”There are always going to be people who live in the streets by choice,” said Reagan in a 1988 interview at the closing of his two terms. “They make it their own choice for staying out there.”

So the fact that 2.5 million children are homeless today is not by accident or a mistaken policy—it was an outright plan.

To combat these draconian measures, there are people like Trudee Able-Peterson who have dedicated their lives to advocating for and serving homeless children. Trudee was awarded the National Network for Youth’s Lifetime Achievement Award among many other international and national recognitions.

Trudee told Liberation: “A couple of things come to mind right off the top of my head, like poor school performance. It’s hard to go to school from a shelter. There are dangers like predators in the street. I keep remembering that when I started the street outreach project in New York City, there were so many children running around in the street, in the video arcades. It was costing the city thousands of dollars a month to keep these children and their families in the Carter Hotel, rather than put them into housing.”

Trudee started the StreetWork Project in New York City in 1984 reaching thousands of children with services who had no place to go but to live in Times Square.

The National Center on Family Homelessness report warns that “[w]ithout decisive action and the allocation of sufficient resources, the nation will fail to reach the stated federal goal of ending family homelessness by 2020.”

That decisive action must also include fighting for a system where housing is a guaranteed human right so that no child grows up experiencing the hardships of homelessness.

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No more illusions: Missouri cops talked peace, prepared war

NOVANEWS
No more illusions: Missouri cops talked peace, prepared war

A State of Emergency is called in Missouri.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has just declared a State of Emergency. It includes the creation of a Unified Command of police forces and the activation of the National Guard to “ensure public safety” in the face of new social unrest.

This can only mean that an announcement is imminent that the grand jury will not indict Ofc. Darren Wilson, killer of Michael Brown. The press and police have been doing their best for weeks to sow fear into residents of suburbs nationwide with lurid suggestions of violence and chaos.

The country, then, is now prepped for the repression of anything that dares challenge the police, to be described as “rioting” or “mindless” violence.

The city and county of St. Louis have spent $325,000 on “riot gear” and sent hundreds officers for special training. Millions more have been spent by city, county, state and federal police since Mike Brown’s murder. Capt. Ron Johnson has presided over the operational merging of the local and regional police forces as school districts develop special plans to protect children.

The last preparation speaks to an entirely non-existent reality of mass attacks on children. (If anything, many children in Ferguson are more likely to join the protests and “disruptions.”)

What the media and government officials refuse to acknowledge is the enormous rage felt by the Black community of Ferguson and surrounding towns of St. Louis County, which has reverberated in Black communities across the United States.

The authorities had hoped that delaying their predictable conclusion of justified action by Wilson would cause the people to grow tired or lose interest. Their police preparations show that they know otherwise.

The declared State of Emergency—the governor’s decision to unleash the state’s legal monopoly on the use of force against the movement—comes after three months of entirely peaceful protest. It shows that the government never had any real interest in acting otherwise, and that the attempt by some movement groups to form a partnership with the police only helped the state prepare for a crackdown.

A ‘choreographed’ protest response?

As reported in the mass media, these political forces, having maneuvered into positions of leadership within the people’s movement, have been coordinating with authorities to shape—“choreograph” as the Washington Post writes—the response to the indictment announcement on the streets of Ferguson.

The terms of such a deal are essentially this: The state recognizes one section of organizers as the leadership of the movement in exchange for these organizers working to minimize those expressions of anger that are outside of their pre-approved actions.

Movement leaders in return have requested “adequate space” for protest action, a “demilitarized response” and—paradoxically—“sanctuary safe spaces” for protesters to retreat to. In reality, these would be places to corral protesters when the police unleash their military equipment and training on those they deem violent.

The police, recognizing the potential for mass resistance outside of these channels, have responded in their typical manner, and rejected the idea of limiting their militarized presence or tools of repression. They do, however, like the idea of the moderate forces trying to put a lid on the militancy of the demonstration.

The proposal of those partnering with the police may seem innocuous at first, simply a concern for protesters’ safety in the face of superior force. In reality, it is a dangerous ploy to divide the struggle, designating some as peaceful (read “legitimate”) and others as violent. The presentation of “good protester versus bad protester” simply helps the police crush more militant protest.

When St. Louis Metropolitan Police Chief Dotson said that most of the protest groups were “respectful,” he was merely preparing the groundwork for such action against the “disrespectful.”

It is sometimes necessary for social movement leaders to meet with the police and other state forces to secure permits and so on. But it is a complete deception to propagate the idea that the state can be a genuine partner for peace that will protect and respect protesters. The state uses all such meetings to gather intelligence on the movement, to hem in its range of activity, to foster divisions and set the groundwork for repression.

The state in effect was given an extended opportunity to talk peace while preparing for war.

Lessons of Aug. 17

One significant protest on Aug. 17, just one week after Mike Brown was murdered, shattered the myth that the police respect any protest in Ferguson. Almost 3,000 people marched peacefully down W. Florissant Avenue, starting four hours before the midnight curfew. As they neared the end of the street 45 minutes later, militarized police vehicles suddenly appeared blocking the street. Without warning, cops outfitted as if in a war zone fired rubber bullets and tear gas at the crowd, hitting many and causing serious injuries. Others, trapped and unable to retreat from the fire, were arrested. It was pure police terror unleashed on a community seeking justice.

Mike Brown was not a “violent” protester. In fact, he was not protesting at all. He was walking home down his neighborhood street on a summer day. He was headed for college. He had a future. To be gunned down, shot multiple times with his hands up, and then left more than four hours uncovered on the hot asphalt was a cold-blooded act of police murder.

Every young Black man in Ferguson knows that could have been him. That is why the youth rose up and protested day after day, night after night. That is why they defied the curfew to simply stand with hands up despite the tear gas and rubber bullets. After several days of protest, the state was forced to lift the curfew. Then the police banned people from standing longer than five seconds (!) on W. Florissant. They criminalized standing, not throwing rocks. Just standing.

Potential for rebellion

What the police and authorities want, of course, is no protest, and least of all, a protest of the youth of Ferguson and their families, who are also fed up with the daily repression that has existed for years.

If nothing else, this reveals the gap between the authorities and the enraged Black community. The community’s rage has been clearly expressed week after week but has been completely ignored by the system. If Ofc. Wilson is not indicted, this will be just another confirmation of these feelings and of the reality that the system is in every way working against them.

What the authorities and apparently some of the protest leaders fear is that this anger will boil over and unrest will ensue, including property destruction.

The entire point of protest is not to “have your emotions heard” but to attempt to leverage the power of the people to disrupt and change the status quo. This sometimes means mass protests with permits, civil disobedience and other non-violent actions. These actions have their importance and place, but the forms of resistance against systematic injustice often run ahead of well-laid plans.

Resistance is justified and ‘productive’

It is entirely false that “unauthorized” forms of resistance are futile or counter-productive. To the contrary, the last era of uprisings—what the government called “riots”—in the 1960s was integral to social change, and helped propel a new revolutionary movement into existence.

These uprisings also forced concessions from the ruling class. In the wake of the 1967 Detroit uprising, the Big Three auto makers made major attempts to employ Black Detroiters, including “ghetto” youth. Following the Harlem uprising of 1964, a large-scale program of government programs for inner cities was launched. Perhaps most notably, the final stimulus for the passage of the Fair Housing Act came from the uprisings that took place in the wake of the murder of the Dr. Martin Luther King. The Chicago Freedom Movement, guided by Dr. King and the philosophy of non-violence, laid bare the wounds of segregation in the North. But it was the uprisings of 1968 in the wake of King’s death that impressed on the powers-that-be that the wound had to be stitched up or its infection would endanger U.S. capitalism as a whole.

At an SCLC staff retreat in 1966, Dr. King told his lieutenants to reject arguments that Black Power was responsible for the “white backlash” against civil rights happening that year. Instead, he said they should recognize that Black Power was the expression of those who felt the inadequacy of the pace of change.

The timelines of those facing the despair and rage of expression and exploitation often runs far ahead of organized political forces or processes.

Ferguson and a new leadership

Ferguson became a rallying cry across the country exactly because it represented that feeling of “enough!” and set a new standard for defying the state in the face of yet another police murder. It pushed the bounds of the permissible and showed that a new movement was emerging.

It is natural that in such moments there will be many competing ideas about how to chart a course forward.

But the historical pattern is that the ruling class, once it recognizes that a movement is too strong to go away, always then constructs and legitimizes a “moderate” leadership, which receives favorable media coverage and access to considerable infrastructure in exchange for keeping the movement in acceptable bounds, isolating radicals, and sharing information.

Those who have drawn the movement into a partnership with the police to coordinate “peaceful“ responses and set the red-lines for permissible action, are helping the system retain complete control.

Leadership with a revolutionary outlook must state first and foremost that the people of Ferguson, and similar communities nationwide have every right to rebel against police terror and the economic terror of poverty and marginalization.

They have chosen to rise up and assert their right to live on this Earth as human beings. They reject deference to a system that murderously fails them. They have no time for those who are telling them not to fight back and want to hear only from those who can help them defend themselves and fight more effectively.

Gloria La Riva is a long-time organizer in the people’s movements who participated in the August marches in Ferguson that were violently repressed by police.

Eugene Puryear recently received 10,000 votes as a candidate for D.C. Council and is a leader of the city’s #DC Ferguson movement that has repeatedly shut down city streets to demand justice for Mike Brown.

 

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‘To be murdered in the street, to be executed—this is systemic.’—Michele Kamal

NOVANEWS

Abdul-Wakil Kamal,
By John McDevitt

Justice for Abdul-Wakil Kamal!

A rally and march are being called in Newark, NJ on Sat., Nov. 15 at 2 PM at Springfield Ave. and West Market in front of the Lincoln Memorial to demand justice for Abdul-Wakil Kamal, murdered by the Irvington, NJ police just over a year ago.

“’The struggle continues’ is our theme this Saturday,” Michele Kamal, Abdul’s mother, told Liberation News. “We want to keep it out there, so people don’t forget.”

“Yesterday we met with the prosecutor. The case is going to the grand jury in the beginning of the year. I want to see demonstrations and rallies to bring light to what is going on with these police officers,” explained Michele.

“We need more than support with words, we need to be out there. We can’t just close our eyes to this. Our boys and young men—people of color—are the target. To be murdered in the street, to be executed—this is systemic,” said Michele as she called on others to come out to join this growing movement understanding that systemic oppression requires a united, organized national response.

Abdul-Wakil Kamal was shot by three Irvington police officers—a total of 15 shots were fired—10 bullets hit Abdul killing him. Abdul was unarmed at the time, trying to visit his children.

“It’s not just Irvington, New York and Missouri—it’s all over,” said Michele, linking local tragedies to the epidemic of racist police murders on the rise around the country.

“Abdul was a jokester and he loved making people laugh. He was a real family guy and he was so close to his kids. He just loved his kids. He had his faults, but that had nothing to do with what happened.”

“People say you can have closure, but there is no closure when it’s your child,” explained Michele, “I’m in this for the duration.”

Abdul-Wakil Kamal murdered by Irvington police on October 11, 2013. The people of New Jersey have not forgotten and continue to demand justice.

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Canada: Harper Government’s Subservience to Senator McCain and US Interests

NOVANEWS
Global Research
mackay mccain

The relations between the Government of Canada and U.S. warmonger Senator John McCain are indicative of the subservient relations with the U.S. imperialists that the Harper government imposes on Canada, and what to expect from this year’s Halifax war conference.

Illegitimate honorary degree

On June 18, 2013 then Defence Minister Peter MacKay went to Washington, DC to consult with his new master, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. News agencies carried brief reports that the topics included Canada’s participation in Obama’s Asia Pivot strategy and the continued deployment of Canadian warships and aircraft to the Caribbean and off the Pacific coast of Central America. MacKay reaffirmed this commitment in a keynote address to the Inter-American Defense Board of the Organization of American States, also meeting in Washington that same day.

The Defence Minister also used the visit to bestow an honorary doctorate of military science from the Royal Military College (RMC) on ignorant warmonger U.S. Sen. John McCain at a small ceremony held at the Canadian embassy. MacKay, in his formal capacity as Defence Minister, was Chancellor of RMC.

McCain was exalted for his alleged “dedication to our countries’ bilateral relationship and to his extensive work in promoting international security,” MacKay’s office said in a release. MacKay called McCain “a great friend to Canada, truly one of the great men of our generation.”

Both individuals were adorned in multi-coloured academic raiment. Dr. Joel Sokolsky, RMC Principal and a theorist of “interoperability” or military integration with the U.S. armed forces, and Major Ray Stouffer, Registrar, added lustre to a ceremony so outrageous that it was deliberately not held at the host institution, which is the norm when awarding honorary degrees.

Doctor of Law is an honorary and esteemed academic title. It can never be bestowed on demagogues and criminals who prepare war and intervention in violation of international law and be justified. Nobody having an ounce of self-esteem, conscience and culture would commit such a serious lapse in ethics.

Military science is a dedicated and disciplined field of enquiry, the theory and practice of enhancing military capability in conformity with the defence needs of one’s nation. No legitimate national defence college motivated by the ethics and ideals of defending the sovereignty and territory of one’s homeland would honour the proponent of naked aggression and the use of military force as the method to solve conflicts between countries and peoples. Not only is McCain an ignorant man, he has made zero contribution even in terms of U.S. imperialist military science or pseudo-science, from military education to combat capability, let alone strategy and tactics.

“A great friend of Canada”

What can Canadians possibly expect from such a “dedicated” advisor and such “a great friend to Canada”? With respect to Canada, McCain has attacked the health care system, commented that Obama should not be campaigning in a bus made “partly” in Canada, and said that the 9/11 terrorists came from Canada. He would reinforce security on United States borders, not just for the entry and exit of people, but also for the products that enter the country. He thinks that immigrants must speak English. He promised to reduce dependence on foreign energy. He is in favour of the death penalty, the growth and build-up of the armed forces, and the expansion of the Free Trade Agreements.

Politically, McCain, cast in the glorious robes from the Canadian military academy of the “noble struggle for freedom” and for “international security,” even used the occasion of receiving his illegitimate doctorate to advocate war, subversion, and even more atrocities for the long-suffering peoples of the Middle East. According to a Canadian Press report, “McCain says military intervention in the Syrian conflict is necessary,” thereby declaring the naked feudal philosophy of his empire that Might Makes Right in its attempt to make us believe in its “democratic,” “pacific,” “altruistic” and “honest” nature. Regarding Canadian defence ministers and military scientists and their relation to the U.S.? It is well known that “an apple never falls far from the tree.” This was reflected in the marching orders given to MacKay by U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel and the Harper government’s strident warmongering during the Syria crisis over chemical weapons later in the summer.

Canada’s new Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Lynne Yelich announced on July 18 that it would be directly funding the International Republican Institute (IRI) through the approved budgets for the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and the Global Peace and Security Fund, specifically for one of two projects in the Middle East and North Africa aimed at organizing electoral coups. The combined cost of the two projects was $971,200. McCain is Chairman of the IRI Board of Directors, which is itself filled with other Republican Party operatives, many of them former state and government officials, as well as representatives of big U.S. monopolies. Much of IRI’s funding comes from the U.S. State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) both part of the U.S. government’s plans for aggression, war and regime change worldwide. In other words, the Harper government now provides straight payouts in the millions of dollars to the U.S. agencies of “democracy promotion,” such as the IRI.

The IRI, operating under NED and USAID, coordinates financial support to political parties and NGOs involved that undermine national interests in favour of U.S. interests – in violation of international law – in Latin America, the Middle East, Central Asia and elsewhere. For example, McCain has classified Venezuela as an enemy of the United States, vilifying the late President Hugo Chávez as a dictator. The IRI, under the leadership of McCain, funds and trains several opposition groups in Venezuela, mainly the neoconservative party Primero Justicia Un Nuevo Tiempo. The IRI is also one of the main funders of the different organizations and shock groups involved in the colour revolutions in Ukraine, Georgia, Serbia, Belarus, Iran and other countries. The IRI also financed the executors of the coup d’état against President Aristide in Haiti in 2004. In March 2005 McCain introduced a bill entitled “Advance Democracy Act of 2005,” authorizing funds, reinforcing subversion, establishing new structures and proposing additional mechanisms to exert pressure on Cuba.

McCain at the Halifax International Security Forum

For the 2013 Halifax war conference, MacKay dutifully formalized Hagel and McCain’s attendance as lead speakers. The HISF itself operates from a Washington-based office funded with over $7 million Canadian tax dollars supplied by the Department of National Defence in a straight payout to the U.S.

For the past four years, McCain has been the HISF’s most vitriolic advocate of the global “war against terrorism.” As co-leader of the U.S. Congressional delegation, the senator is given pride of place during the opening ceremonies of the forum to speak, following on the heels of the U.S. defence secretaries. Each November for the past four years McCain has used Canadian territory to call for an invasion against Iran and Libya and military aggression against Syria, Venezuela and Bolivia, etc.

The Doctor of War and Military Science shone in his participation at the 2011 HISF when he was the first U.S. state official to issue a public call (on November 19) for formal recognition of the Syrian National Council (SNC) and its proxy army of mercenaries and jihadists as the official U.S.-NATO instrument for destabilizing Syria. McCain – who was the Godfather of the Ahmad Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress – now serves as the Godfather of the SNC. At the 2010 Halifax war conference he and fellow U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham openly called for the “neutering” of Iran. In 2009 McCain insisted that the Iraqi surge can be replicated in Afghanistan and that within the next year to 18 months, “We can turn the situation around.” Time has issued the verdict on that boast.

John McCain is no friend of the Canadian people who hold him in the greatest contempt. The presence of this war criminal at the Halifax International Security Forum will surely be vigorously condemned.

Not In Our Name! War Criminals Out of Canada!

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Wall Street Banks and Commodities Fraud

NOVANEWS
Global Research
wall street globalresearch.ca

On Wednesday, the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations released a detailed report documenting yet another aspect of the insider dealing, price-fixing and general criminality that pervades the American financial system.

The 400-page report gives some insight into the extraordinary and malevolent power of a handful of banks and financial institutions. These corporations, the largest of which control hundreds of billions and even trillions of dollars in assets, dominate the economy and control the political system.

The document focuses on the role of three of the largest banks—Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase—in the physical control of commodities, including energy resources and metals. “The current level of bank involvement with critical raw materials, power generation and the food supply appears to be unprecedented in US history,” the report states.

After the deregulation of the commodities markets in the late 1990s—part of a broader banking deregulation under the Clinton administration—trading in commodity-related assets increased enormously. A vast array of derivatives were developed to allow for speculation on commodities, with the market in these assets increasingly divorced from its initial purpose of enabling producers and buyers to hedge against shifts in commodity prices. Markets such as the Commodity Mercantile Exchange in Chicago are now dominated by speculators, who control as much as 70 percent of all assets.

A great deal of money is made buying and selling financial instruments tied to the prices of such basic necessities as oil and wheat. The growth in the direct control of physical goods by banks has allowed them not only to influence the prices consumers pay, but also to leverage their control of commodities to manipulate the prices of the financial instruments on which they gamble. The consequences can be deadly. Speculation in food prices, for example, is a major factor in price swings that can throw millions of people into poverty and hunger all over the world.

Some figures from the report give a sense of what is involved. At one point, the investment bank Morgan Stanley “controlled over 55 million barrels of oil storage capacity, 100 oil tankers, and 6,000 miles of pipeline.”

JPMorgan built up a significant stake in the copper market, with “a copper inventory… comprising nearly 60 percent of the available physical copper on the world’s premier copper trading exchange.” Other activities of the banks documented in the report include trading in uranium, selling jet fuel to airlines, and owning mines and power plants.

One focus of the Senate subcommittee report is the control of the aluminum market by Goldman Sachs, which has been sued by dozens of companies accusing the bank of deliberately manipulating supply to increase aluminum prices and its own profits.

In 2010, Goldman purchased Metro International, a Detroit-area warehousing company that stores about 85 percent of exchange-traded aluminum in the United States. Goldman proceeded to implement complex new rules and incentives at its subsidiary to bottleneck supplies, according to the report.

The bank “approved ‘merry-go-round’ transactions in which warehouse clients [including banks and financial institutions such as Deutsche Bank and the London hedge fund Red Kite] were paid cash incentives to transfer aluminum from one Metro warehouse to another.” The result was curtailed supply and increased prices, which the bank and its financial trading arm could anticipate because they were directly responsible.

Wednesday’s report is only the latest in a long string of revelations of nefarious activities by Wall Street banks, including three major documents released by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations over the past three-and-a-half years.

The most significant thing about these exposés is that they have no repercussions. Detailed and damning evidence is presented showing that the likes of JPMorgan, Goldman, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Citigroup, etc.—and their top executives—lied, cheated, broke laws and, in general, profited handsomely from the economic and social disasters produced by their actions. But no bank or top banker is prosecuted, let alone jailed. No measures are taken to rein in the banks. The sporadic exposés assume the character of harmless rituals. The banks are and remain above the law.

At most, the banks are made to pay fines that amount to a small fraction of their revenues (and far less than the handouts and subsidies they have received from the government) in settlements that have been worked out between the banks and the government in closed-door negotiations—amounts the banks discount as the cost of doing business.

Just last week, JPMorgan, Citigroup, Bank of America, UBS, Royal Bank of Scotland and HSBC agreed to a collective fine of $4 billion for their role in manipulating foreign exchange rates. This followed similar settlements over the banks’ manipulation of the most important interest rate in the world, the London Interbank Offer Rate (Libor).

Previous deals were reached to settle charges of money-laundering for drug cartels, deceit and fraud in the sale of mortgage-backed securities, concealment of losses from derivatives trading, complicity in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, fraud in the foreclosure of homes, and other crimes.

After the Permanent Subcommittee’s release of a 640-page document in 2011 on the 2008 financial collapse, the committee’s chairman, Senator Carl Levin, declared that the investigation had found “a financial snake pit rife with greed, conflicts of interests and wrongdoing.” The longest chapter of the report was a detailed, fact-filled review of Goldman Sach’s unloading of toxic sub-prime loans in 2007 and 2008 to counterparties who were not informed that Goldman was betting against the very securities it was hailing as sound investments.

Nevertheless, the Obama administration announced in 2012 that it was ending its investigation of Goldman Sachs for manipulating the sub-prime mortgage market and would file no charges against the bank.

The Subcommittee’s second major report on banking fraud, published in 2013, focused on fraud and deception by JPMorgan Chase over $6.2 billion in losses from speculative trades in financial derivatives (the so-called “London whale” trades). Despite documentary evidence that the bank’s top management, including Chairman and CEO Jamie Dimon, deliberately concealed information from investors about the loss, no one was prosecuted or held accountable.

This latest report will produce similar results. That the Senate committee has no intention of seriously pressing for a criminal investigation is shown by its failure to summon a single top bank executive to testify at two days of hearings it is holding on its investigation into the banks’ commodities dealings.

The functionaries who populate the state apparatus, Democratic and Republican, are either directly or indirectly on the payroll of the banks and corporations whose interests they safeguard. The so-called regulatory agencies are staffed by former or future officers of the very banks they are supposed to be policing. They run interference for the financial mafia.

The inescapable conclusion from this cesspool of corruption and criminality is that the financial system cannot be reformed. The dictatorship of the banks can be broken only through the independent, revolutionary mobilization of the working class. Among the very first tasks of a workers’ state will be the expropriation of the banks, their transformation into public utilities under the democratic control of the working class, and the prosecution of all those who have amassed unimaginable wealth on the basis of parasitism and fraud.

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Obama Announces Right-wing Immigration “Reform” in National Address

NOVANEWS
Global Research
immigration-reform-obama

US President Barack Obama delivered a nationally televised address on Thursday night, giving a preview of an executive order to be signed and made public on Friday.

As with most speeches by Obama, Thursday’s remarks exuded hypocrisy and cynicism. The proposal that Obama is implementing is thoroughly right-wing. His comments combined empty homilies describing the United States as a “nation of immigrants” with proclamations that the estimated 11-12 million undocumented immigrant workers must “play by the rules” and be held “accountable.”

The program outlined by Obama would cover less than half of the 11-12 million undocumented immigrant workers and children now in the US, with the remainder subject to immediate detention and deportation as “illegals.” In its six years in office, the Obama administration has already deported more immigrants than any government in US history.

Despite the howls of “amnesty” from sections of the Republican Party, and praise for the White House from its media backers and Democratic Party-affiliated Latino groups, Obama’s executive order is anything but a green light for immigrant workers seeking legal status, economic security and recognition of their human rights.

As Obama explained in his speech, the bulk of the 5 million or so immigrants who qualify for non-deportation and work permits must have lived in the United States more than five years and have children who are American citizens or legal residents. They must register with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), pass a criminal background check, and pay any back taxes. In return, they will “be able to stay temporarily,” Obama said.

Obama’s speech was entirely within the right-wing framework of official American politics, in which workers who come to the United States fleeing poverty and dictatorship—for which American imperialism is principally responsible—and take the hardest and worst-paid jobs are demonized as criminals who must be “held accountable.” Meanwhile, the true criminal class in America, the financial aristocracy that controls both the Democratic and Republican parties, amasses untold and unearned wealth.

Referring to immigrant workers, Obama said, “All of us take offense at anyone who reaps the rewards of living in America without taking on the responsibilities of living in America.” Who is he talking about? Who is reaping rewards without taking responsibility?

Such terms apply with much greater justice to the parasitic ruling elite that Obama and the congressional Republicans and Democrats represent. These gentlemen were bailed out to the tune of trillions following the 2008 financial crash. But no banker or hedge fund mogul has had to repay these infusions of taxpayers’ money or been held accountable for the financial manipulations and fraud that wiped out the jobs and living standards of tens of millions of working people.

“Undocumented workers broke our immigration laws, and I believe that they must be held accountable,” Obama declared. The Obama administration has refused to apply this standard to bankers and speculators who broke laws against swindling, or CIA agents who broke laws against torture, or top officials of the Bush administration who waged illegal wars and lied to the American people. And, of course, the Obama administration itself operates outside the law, trampling on the US constitution in its assertion of unlimited presidential powers to spy on, arrest, detain and even assassinate American citizens.

Under the Obama plan, the majority of workers who have entered the country without legal documents will still be treated as criminals, to be expelled from the country as soon as they are discovered. The four million to five million covered by the executive order will become a federally regimented cheap labor force. Those who register with the DHS will gain only temporary security, subject to the decisions of the next president—or Obama himself if circumstances change in the next two years—in which case the DHS database will become an invaluable resource for the resumption of mass roundups, detentions and deportations.

Obama hailed as a model the reactionary immigration bill passed last year by a bipartisan majority in the US Senate, while complaining that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives had refused to bring it to a vote. This bill placed its main emphasis on border security while establishing a draconian 17-year-long process through which some undocumented workers could gain citizenship.

The administration has already implemented many of the Senate bill’s border security measures. Obama boasted of the record number of federal agents, sensors and drones mobilized on the US-Mexico border and announced, as the first part of his executive order, even further militarization: “We’ll build on our progress at the border with additional resources for our law enforcement personnel so that they can stem the flow of illegal crossings, and speed the return of those who do cross over.”

White House officials said that some provisions of the Senate bill, such as the citizenship process and special provisions for temporary agricultural workers, were beyond the president’s legal authority to enact in an executive order. The immigration measure was drafted under the rubric of “prosecutorial discretion,” in which the president, as chief executive, can decide to prioritize enforcement of immigration laws against particular categories of immigrants, given that the federal government lacks the resources to immediately round up 12 million people.

Obama spent a considerable portion of his speech defining how narrow the executive order would be, including denying Medicaid, food stamps or other benefits to immigrants given work permits.

“This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently,” he said. “It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive—only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.”

As in many of his policy statements, Obama sought to present his immigration order as a happy medium between two extremes. “Mass amnesty would be unfair,” he claimed. “Mass deportation would be both impossible and contrary to our character. What I’m describing is accountability—a commonsense, middle ground approach: If you meet the criteria, you can come out of the shadows and get right with the law.”

“Mass amnesty” is, in fact, the only policy compatible with democratic principles. All workers should have the right to live in whatever country they choose with full citizenship rights. But under the capitalist system, capital is globally mobile while the working class is imprisoned within the borders of the nation-state.

Obama’s claim that mass deportation is “contrary to our character” conceals a contradiction. Certainly, for the vast majority of working people, the police state measures that would be required to round up and deport 12 million people, ripping apart millions of families, would be abhorrent. (By one estimate, 13 percent of all school children in California and Texas have at least one undocumented parent).

But for the US ruling elite, and for the Obama administration in particular, “rounding up millions” is perfectly conceivable. In its six years in office, the Obama administration has rounded up nearly three million immigrants already. Large sections of the Republican Party advocate detention and expulsion of millions more.

The dispute between the parties, insofar as it exists, reflects divisions within the ruling elite over how politically explosive such an operation would be and how disruptive of the functioning of large sections of the US economy that depend on superexploited immigrant labor.

Sections of the Republican Party, particularly those linked to the ultra-right Tea Party groups, have long used demagogic attacks on immigrants as a political weapon. Republican Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma suggested that any action by Obama perceived as pro-immigrant could touch off vigilante-style actions.

“The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very serious situation,” he told USA Today. “You’re going to see—hopefully not—but you could see instances of anarchy. You could see violence.”

Obama made repeated appeals to ultra-right sentiment in the course of his television speech, pleading with Republicans that disagreement over immigration should not prevent collaboration in other policy areas once they take full control of Congress in January.

There is particular concern in Corporate America that the immigration issue could disrupt passage of a federal budget for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which began October 1. A continuing resolution to fund the government expires December 11, and House and Senate Republican leaders have been at pains to reassure Wall Street that there will be no repetition of the 2013 temporary shutdown of the government and no default on federal debt payments.

The Los Angeles Times, in one of the few press commentaries that cut through the pretense of huge disagreements between the two parties, noted Thursday that “the strong reaction by Republican leaders has less to do with opposition to the nuts and bolts of the president’s immigration policy and more to do with fear and anger that the issue will derail the agenda of the new Republican majority before the next Congress even convenes.” This includes making deals with Obama over pro-business measures on taxes, trade and energy policy.

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Introducing “Natural Gas Exports: Washington’s Revolving Door Fuels Climate Threat”

NOVANEWS
Global Research
climatechange2

DeSmogBlog’s Steve Horn and Republic Report’s Lee Fang have co-written an in-depth report on the influence the government-industry revolving door has had on Big Oil’s ability to obtain four liquefied natural gas (LNG) export permits since 2012 from the Obama Administration.

Titled “Natural Gas Exports: Washington’s Revolving Door Fuels Climate Threat,” the report published here on DeSmogBlog and on Republic Report serves as the launching pad of an ongoing investigation. It will act as the prelude of an extensive series of articles by both websites uncovering the LNG exports influence peddling machine.

The report not only exposes the lobbying apparatus that has successfully opened the door for LNG exports, but also the PR professionals paid to sell them to the U.S. public. It also exposes those who have gone through the “reverse revolving door,” moving from industry back to government and sometimes back again.

It reveals that many former Obama Administration officials now work as lobbyists or PR professionals on behalf of the LNG exports industry, as do many former Bush Administration officials. So too do those with ties to potential 2016 Democratic Party presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton.

They include:

David L. Goldwyn – Goldwyn is an industry consultant who also works as an attorney at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan LLP, a go-to law firm for the oil and gas industry.

David Goldwyn; Photo Credit: U.S. Department of State

Sutherland represented Enterprise Product Partners in its successful quest to obtain the first permit in four decades to export crude oil from the Obama Administration back in June and has also represented numerous firms seeking LNG export permits from the Obama Administration.

In addition to his consulting firm Goldwyn Global Strategies, David Goldwyn is a fellow at industry-funded think-tanks Brookings Institution and Atlantic Council and an outspoken advocate for both LNG exports and oil exports, though his industry ties often go undisclosed when he speaks in public or appears in the media.

While not working for industry, Goldwyn worked in both the Clinton and Obama Administrations.

He headed up the Obama State Department’s influential Bureau of Energy Resources and helped found its Global Shale Gas Initiative, a global fracking missionary force of sorts. For Clinton, Goldwyn worked as an assistant secretary of energy for international affairs for the U.S. Department of Energy and in other high-level roles.

Heather Zichal – Zichal formerly served as deputy assistant to President Obama for energy and climate change, leaving the White House in October 2013.

Not long after leaving, Zichal accepted a spot on the board of directors for Cheniere Energy, the first company to receive an LNG export permit from President Obama in April 2012 for its Louisiana-based Sabine Pass LNG facility.

While working for the Obama White House, Zichal had many private meetings with Cheniere officials, including with Cheniere CEO Charif Souki, DeSmogBlog revealed.

Prior to working for Obama, Zichal worked for then-Senator John Kerry.

David Leiter – Leiter is the president and founder of the lobbying firm MLStrategies, LLC. Leiter previously served as chief of staff for then-Sen. John Kerry (D-Ma.) and as deputy assistant secretary of energy under President Bill Clinton.

Leiter now lobbies on behalf of Sempra Energy, owner of the Cameron LNGexport facility in Louisiana, which received final approval from the U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) earlier this year. His wife Tammy Luzzatto formerly served as chief of staff to then-Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY).

Blue State Digital and Blue Engine Media – A key email list-keeping platform and public relations firm for the Democratic Party, respectively, both firms have done the bidding of the LNG exports industry.

Blue State maintains the email list for America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA), while Blue Engine until recently did PR work for LNG industry front group, “Our Energy Moment.”

David A. Merkel – Merkel formerly worked for the Bush Administration State Department, in which he served as deputy assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs. He formerly worked for the International Republican Institute, an offshoot of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

David Merkel; Photo Credit: U.S. Department of State

After leaving the Bush Administration, Merkel and many other former Bush Administration officials founded the Texas-based LNG export company UnitedLNG, which co-owned the Main Pass Energy Hub with Freeport McMoran.

United LNG has since disbanded and taken down its website.

But while it still existed, Joe Davis — former principal deputy director of public affairs and spokesman for former Bush Administration Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham and communications director and policy advisor for Abraham when he was a U.S. Senator — lobbied on behalf of the firm.

Spencer Abraham – Chairman and CEO of The Abraham Group, he formerly served as U.S. Secretary of Energy for the Bush Administration and is a former Republican Senator from Michigan.

Spencer Abraham; Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The Abraham Group has provided crucial support for Cheniere’s lobbying efforts. Many top Abraham aides now work directly in-house lobbying for Cheniere.

This is just a tiny taste of what is in the 16-page, 5,000+ word report.

At its core, Natural Gas Exports: Washington’s Revolving Door Fuels Climate Threat“ is a sequel to DeSmogBlog’s 2011 report titled, Fracking the Future: How Unconventional Gas Threatens our Water, Health, and Climate.”

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The New World Order of “Neoliberal Globalization”. Russia at the Crossroads

NOVANEWS
Global Research
BRICS-300x177

In this keynote article, the present criminal New World Order of neoliberal globalization ― which, through its military and economic violence, has led to despair the majority of the world population for the benefit of a small minority ― is analyzed, in the light of the decisions taken by the latest G20 meeting in Brisbane. It is shown that the BRICS countries, which subscribed to a communiqué constituting a pure celebration of neoliberal globalization extolling the basic principles on which the NWO is based, have forfeited any right to an alternative pole in a new multipolar world. The only potential exception is Russia which, exactly because of its uneven relationship to this criminal World Order, is presently the main target of the Transnational Elite that runs it. In this sense, Russia stands once more, following the 1917 revolution, at an historic crossroads and not only its own fate but also that of the entire world will be determined by the decisions it takes, i.e. whether a new long period of Dark Ages will emerge, or whether instead the foundations will be set for a real society of self-determination.

The G20 summit which just ended revealed, by its actions and omissions, a great deal about the present New World Order (NWO) of neoliberal globalization and, even more significantly, about Russia’s uneven relationship with this criminal Order. Criminal, in a double sense. First, because of its millions of victims, as a result of the military violence used by the Transnational Elite (TE ― i.e. the network of elites mainly based in the G7 countries which runs the NWO)[1] in its systematic effort to integrate every corner on the earth into this Order. That is, the victims of the wars it launched in the last quarter of a century or so with this aim (Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya) as well as of its proxy wars (Syria and Ukraine). Second, because of the even greater number of victims who have suffered as a result of the economic violence that the NWO of neoliberal globalization had institutionalized all over the world.

This was the direct result of the opening and/or liberalizing of markets for commodities, capital and labor and the consequent destruction of the social welfare systems imposed through the various structural adjustment programs by the international institutions (IMF, World Bank etc.) controlled by this elite, as well as by economic unions like the EU. Such programs were forcing people in the South to try to emigrate en masse to the North, where they had to compete with local workers for badly paid jobs under exhausting working conditions, thanks to the “flexibility” of labor ― another basic element of neoliberal globalization ― that was bringing down wages generally and attracting consequently the hostility of (uninformed) local workers.

It was through this process of opening and/or liberalizing the markets for commodities, capital and labor that neoliberal globalization (which was instigated by the Transnational Corporations-TNCs), brought about the economic growth that has been achieved in the last quarter of a century or so. This process has led also to the mass movement of capital to countries like China and India, which were offering cheap and flexible labor, creating the corresponding economic “miracles” in these countries, as well an inevitable de-industrialization in the North. Byproducts of the same process of neoliberal globalization are the “zero hours” contracts, the generalization of part-time/occasional employment and the essential freezing of real incomes in the North and almost slavery conditions in vast zones of the South, particularly in the cases of “economic miracles”. No wonder as a result of this kind of growth, resulting in prosperity for the few and desperation for the many, according to the latest statistics, the concentration of income and wealth in fewer and fewer hands has led to the present unbelievable situation when the richest 1 percent in the world (i.e. the population of the two largest cities in the world, Tokyo and Seoul), share almost the same wealth as the rest of the planet![2]

Yet, the G20 Communiqué of 2014 announced on 16 November was a pure celebration of neoliberal globalization with almost every single clause of it extolling the basic principles on which the NWO is based. Just indicatively[3]:

  • We are implementing structural reforms to lift growth and private sector activity, recognizing that well functioning markets underpin prosperity. (clause 2)
  • Trade and competition are powerful drivers of growth increased living standards and job creation… We reaffirm our longstanding standstill and rollback commitments to resist protectionism. (clause 8)
  • To help business make best use of trade agreements, we will work to ensure our bilateral, regional and plurilateral agreements complement one another, are transparent and contribute to a stronger multilateral trading system under World Trade Organization (WTO) rules. (Clause 16)

It is important to note that this Communiqué was signed not just by the TE countries and their associate and client regimes but also by the BRICS countries. This is far from inexplicable given that, apart from Russia which under the Putin presidency has taken measures to protect Russia’s industry (getting Russia into frequent frictions with the WTO in the process), and to control the activities of Transnational Corporations, the other BRICS countries and particularly the economic miracles of India and China have based their entire economic development on the sheer exploitation of local labor by TNCs and local oligarchs. Of course, Russia too suffers the consequences of the terrible legacy of Yeltsin ― a period justifiably celebrated by the TE ― who presided over the pillage of the country’s social wealth and the complete destruction of a social services system which had indeed managed to meet the basic needs of all its citizens.[4] However, it is well known that although the oligarchs do still exercise significant economic power and (indirectly political power as well, through the “globalist” faction of the Russian elite) they have seen their economic power curtailed as a result of social legislation and their direct political power controlled by the Kremlin. In other words, Putin’s presidency restored Russia’s economic and national sovereignty, unlike the other BRICS countries, which never enjoyed for long such periods of sovereignty, apart from China during the Maoist period. That was a crime for the TE, as the NWO is based exactly on the abolition of economic sovereignty of every country integrated into it, and, by implication of its national sovereignty as well. Instead, a transnational sovereignty has been created, which is shared by the elites that constitute the TE.

Yet, although the G20 Communiqué was very wordy in describing the advantages of free trade and open, as well as “flexible,” markets it did not have a single word to utter on the greatest violation of these market principles today, i.e. the severe sanctions imposed by the TE not just on the “usual suspects” (Iran, Syria, Cuba etc.) but even on the most important member of the BRICS: Russia itself! All the same, the fellow BRICS countries, with whom Russia is supposed to build an alternative pole according to the liberal “Left”[5] (which does not object to the neoliberal globalization adopted by BRICS but just demands some “improvements”), did not dare even to express their objections to them and demand their abolition. This was, of course, far from accidental as the economic “miracles” of these countries was very much the result of the movement of significant TNCs activities to these countries, which could easily move their operations to other “paradises”. Every country integrated into the NWO begs them to invest in their own territory in order to create some growth and investment opportunities.[6] Furthermore, it can easily be shown that even if the economic “superpower,” China were to decide to dump its huge holdings of foreign reserves to “punish” the U.S, it would be China that would suffer an economic catastrophe whereas the U.S could easily find other buyers, as long as the U.S dollar continues to be generally acceptable as a reserve currency.[7]

However, economic sanctions are a particularly effective form of warfare against a country like Russia, whose advanced technology and size makes a military attack against it inconceivable, if not suicidal, even for the TE and the all-powerful U.S army. No wonder that it was economic warfare which gave “victory” to the West in the Cold War (although there were internal contradictions involved as well) and it is exactly the same success story that the TE attempts to repeat now. Particularly so, when the chances of success of such an economic war against Russia are much higher at present than in the 1980s. This is for two main reasons.

First, because an economic war against Russia is much easier than the similar war against the USSR for a variety of reasons shown elsewhere[8] but mainly, because Russia is much more integrated into the NWO than the USSR (though not as much as the other BRICS countries). Although sanctions against Russia do have an effect on the TE countries, clearly, the benefits that the latter will have in the event it manages to integrate Russia into the NWO as a subordinate member (so that the pillage of the Yeltsin era could continue unabated), far outweigh any side effects of the present sanctions. Furthermore, as I had shown in another Pravda article, the present dramatic fall (and continuing decline), in the oil price is also part of the same economic war against Russia.[9] The effects of this economic warfare against Russia are clearly to be seen already in terms of the significant fall in the value of the ruble and the consequent domestic inflationary pressures, which might lead to deflationary policies and some recession and so on.

Second, because Russia is much more vulnerable to an economic war ― than the USSR ― since, as a FT analyst pointed out recently, Russia, unlike the USSR, “does not have an alternative ideology to sell”.[10] However, this claim will not be true if Russia adopts the ideology of the Eurasian Union (EEU) in its original conception, as an economic union of sovereign nations (politically, economically, culturally and so on) which aims at the creation of an alternative pole to the present NWO of neoliberal globalisation. This clearly implies a break with the present international institutions controlled by the TE which impose the rules of neoliberal globalization (WTO, IMF, World Bank etc.). Yet, an alternative pole is at present more imperative than ever. Not only for socioeconomic reasons, as it would allow member states ― if it is organized on the basis of the above principles ― to impose social controls on markets and create new social welfare institutions and socialized industries controlled by employees and citizens’ bodies. But, also, for geopolitical reasons, as it is obvious that Ukraine is in fact the pretext used by the TE to subordinate Russia.

Alternatively, if Russia continues remaining a member of the NWO, it will have only two options: either full subordination to the TE, or resistance with its hands tied. Particularly so as resistance under conditions of an economic war could easily lead to social unrest, with the decisive help of the TE and its organs within the fifth column, i.e. the globalist faction within the Russian elite. In that case, even resistance will not be possible to take the form of a new Patriotic War and, instead, it may well take the form of a “velvet revolution”!

In conclusion, Russia is the only country today that can lead the struggle for the building of a really alternative pole to the NWO, provided however that this pole would consist of countries committed to alternative principles of socio-economic organization, like the ones described above. The sovereign nations that will choose to be its members should therefore discard the principles on which the present NWO is based and be committed instead to self-sufficiency (at the economic union level, something that would imply complementarity within the union). Of course this should not preclude bilateral trade relations with, for instance, BRICS countries, which prefer not to break relations with the NWO.

Russia stands once more at an historic crossroads and not only its own fate but also that of the entire world will be determined by the decisions it takes, i.e. whether a new long period of Dark Ages will emerge, or whether instead the foundations will be set for a real society of self-determination.


 This article is also published simultaneously in Pravda. It was edited by Jonathan Rutherford.

Notes 

[1] See for an analysis of the TE concept, “The Transnational Elite and the NWO as ‘conspiracies’”, Pravda.Ru (20/10/2014).

[2] Credit Suisse, Global Wealth Report (14/10/2014), Reuters/RT

[3] The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, November 16, 2014, G20 Leaders’ Communiqué

[4] see Takis Fotopoulos, ’The Catastrophe of Marketization’, DEMOCRACY & NATURE, Vol. 5, No. 2, (July 1999)

[5] see e.g. Pepe Escobar, “G20 in Australia: Buffoons v the Global South”, RT (17/11/2014).

[6] see also “BRICS and the myth of the multipolar world”, Pravda.Ru (06/10/2014).

[7] Martin Wolf and David Pilling, “China: On top of the world”, Financial Times (02/05/2014).

[8] see UKRAINE: THE ATTACK ON RUSSIA AND THE EURASIAN UNION, The struggle against the World Order of Neoliberal Globalization(published in December 2014 by Progressive Press), ch. 7.

[9] See “Oil, economic warfare and self-reliance”, Pravda.Ru (27/10/2014).

[10] Philip Stephens, “Gorbachev is wrong about a new cold war”, Financial Times (13/11/2014).

 

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Bought-and-Paid Congress Divides the Spoils

NOVANEWS

Never has the Golden Rule of Politics glittered so bright: the corporate-person with the most gold rules. And the Republicans are now firmly in control of Congress after having their pockets filled more than the Democrats, as Bill Moyers and Michael Winship explain.

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

We’ve been watching Congress since the mid-term elections and reading Zephyr Teachout’s terrific history book, Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United.

That snuff box was a gift from King Louis XVI of France. His Majesty was a good friend of the American Revolution but when he gave Benjamin Franklin the gold box, featuring the monarch’s portrait surrounded with diamonds, some of our Founding Fathers objected. They worried that the gift would corrupt his judgment and unduly bias Franklin in France’s favor.

After unprecedented spending on the mid-term elections, Congress returns to Washington.

After unprecedented spending on the mid-term elections, Congress returns to Washington.

The Framers debated the meaning of corruption at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, and Americans have been arguing about it ever since. Today, gifts to politicians that were once called graft or bribes are called contributions. The Supreme Court has granted corporations the rights our Founders reserved for people, and told those corporations they can give just about anything they want to elect politicians favorable to their interests.

Diamond and gold snuff boxes are as outmoded as the king’s powdered wig. Now we’re talking cash — millions upon millions of dollars. Quadrupled, quintupled and then some – and it’s not considered corruption.

Consider the new report from the watchdog Sunlight Foundation: From 2007 to 2012, the 200 most politically active corporations in the United States spent almost $6 billion for lobbying and campaign contributions. And they received more than $4 trillion in U.S. government contracts and other forms of assistance. That’s $760 for every dollar spent on influence, a stunning return on investment.

Peter Overby at National Public Radio reported that “Military contractors lead the list of contract recipients, and they hover in the upper ranks of companies with the biggest campaign contributions.” Raytheon, BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin – all of them made hefty political donations to Republican campaigns. Not coincidentally, this year the Pentagon is due to spend $163 billion on research, development and procurement.

Then look at who’s expected to be the new Republican chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee – Thad Cochran of Mississippi. Breathlessly, The Washington Post writes, “This could mean additional funding for the Navy to modernize its fleet and potentially benefit contractors such as shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls.”

Guess what company describes itself asthe largest manufacturing employer in Mississippi and a major contributor to the economic growth of the state,” not to mention a major contributor this year to Thad Cochran’s re-election campaign? Why, shiver our timbers, it’s Huntington Ingalls.

“The other dominant corporate sector is finance,” Overby said. “Some of the country’s biggest financial institutions — Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and others — are the top recipients of federal aid. That’s because it cost so much to rescue the financial sector after the 2008 market crash.”

Throw in the health insurers, media and telecommunications, retailers, Big Pharma – no wonder Washington’s K Street is lobbying’s road to Paradise. But it runs in both directions. NPR’s Overby talked with political scientist David Primo, who thinks Congress may be spending more time studying The Godfather than Robert’s Rules of Order.

Primo told him, “The conventional wisdom out there is that businesses are going to Washington, writing checks and expecting big returns. But the other side of the story is that members of Congress may implicitly threaten businesses that if they don’t change their policy, or if they are not heavily involved in the political process, that bad things might happen to them.”

It’s not personal, Sonny, it’s strictly business. Our government has become a clearing house for corporations and plutocrats whose dollars grease the wheels for lucrative contracts and easy regulation. It’s all pay for play, and look the other way. Partisans of the system say, hey, it’s just business as usual, but that, of course, is the problem.

We were struck by this headline in The Washington Post after the November elections: Parties head back to Capitol to begin carving up spoils, remains from midterms.” Right: Not only leadership posts and committee chairmanships, but carving, dividing up the spoils also means divvying up the loot. And those contributions were not made for the sake of charity.

Once upon a time the GOP stood for Grand Old Party — now it stands for Guardians of Privilege, and this is payback time for everything from fracking to getting the big banks off the hook; from doing away with the minimum wage and coddling off-shore corporate tax avoiders to privatizing Medicare and Social Security; to gutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Environmental Protection Agency, even the U.S. Postal Service.

And that’s just for starters. House Speaker John Boehner, his majority now greater than ever, will govern as you might expect from the man who once handed out checks from the tobacco industry to members on the floor. And Mitch McConnell, finally in his ascendancy as Senate Majority Leader, will manipulate more powerfully than ever the Capitol Hill and K Street mechanisms that he has mastered – helped along by the clever placement of loyal former staff members in positions of influence. They assist him in the dispensation of favors to donors from on high.

“We’re very excited,” one Republican lobbyist told the Post, the understatement of the century.

Democrats, meanwhile, are so compromised by their own addiction to Big Money they have forgotten their history as champion of the working stiff, the little folks down there at the bottom. The great problems facing everyday people in America – inequality, stagnant wages, children in poverty, our degraded infrastructure and stressed environment — are not being seriously addressed because the political class is afraid to offend the people who write the checks — the corporations and the rich. Everyone else can be safely ignored.

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CIA’s Torturous Maneuvers on Torture

NOVANEWS

Exclusive: The CIA is fighting congressional demands to release a report on its covert program for torturing “war on terror” suspects, even as the spy agency contemplates a reorganization that could give the covert-action side more ways to bend the truth, writes ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern.

By Ray McGovern

“CIA may revamp how it is organized” announced a front-page Washington Post headline leading into an article based on remarks by unnamed “U.S intelligence officials” to the Post’s Greg Miller. The anonymous officials were authorized to share some of the contents of a Sept. 24 letter from CIA Director John Brennan to CIA staff, in which Brennan says, “The time has come to take a fresh look at how we are organized as an agency.”

On Brennan’s orders, senior agency officials were put to work on what Miller reported would be “among the most ambitious [reorganizations] in CIA history.” But Miller’s sources emphasized that the activity was in its preliminary stages and that no final decisions had been made; the proposed changes might be scaled back or even discarded.

CIA Director John Brennan at a White House meeting during his time as President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser.

CIA Director John Brennan at a White House meeting during his time as President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism adviser.

But the reorganization story on Thursday – with its suggestion of CIA “reform” – came at an opportune time to possibly distract attention from another behind-the-scenes battle that is raging over how – and indeed whether – to release the findings of a five-year Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into the CIA’s use of torture during George W. Bush’s administration and how the agency lied to Congress about the efficacy of torture techniques – and their humaneness.

A New York Times article on Friday by Mark Mazzetti and Carl Hulse described a Donnybrook at the White House on Thursday, with Senate Democrats accusing White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough of acquiescing in CIA attempts to redact the report so thoroughly that its conclusions would be undermined.

The Democratic members of the Senate intelligence Committee are said to be in high dungeon. But some may have mixed feelings about release of the report because it would surely reflect poorly on their own failures as congressional “overseers” of the CIA.

Recent press reporting would have us believe that the main bone of contention revolves around if and how to use pseudonyms of CIA officers involved in torture, though that seems implausible since there are obvious workarounds to that concern. In past cases, for instance the Iran-Contra report, numbers were used to conceal actual identities of entities that were deemed to need protection.

Ex-CIA General Counsel Spilled the Beans

Hat tip to the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, who took the trouble to read the play-by-play of testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee by former CIA General Counsel (2009-2013) Stephen W. Preston, nominated (and now confirmed) to be general counsel at the Department of Defense.

Under questioning by Sen. Mark Udall, D-Colorado, Preston admitted outright that, contrary to the CIA’s insistence that it did not actively impede congressional oversight of its detention and interrogation program, “briefings to the committee included inaccurate information related to aspects of the program of express interest to Members.”

That “inaccurate information” apparently is thoroughly documented in the Senate Intelligence Committee report, which, largely because of the CIA’s imaginative foot-dragging, cost taxpayers $40 million. Udall has revealed that the report (which includes 35,000 footnotes) contains a very long section titled “C.I.A. Representations on the C.I.A. Interrogation Program and the Effectiveness of the C.I.A.’s Enhanced Interrogation Techniques to Congress.”

Preston also acknowledged that the CIA inadequately informed the Justice Department on interrogation and detention. He said, “CIA’s efforts fell well short of our current practices when it comes to providing information relevant to [the Office of Legal Counsel]’s legal analysis.”

As Katherine Hawkins, the senior investigator for last April’s bipartisan, independent report by the Constitution Project’s Task Force on Detainee Treatment, noted in an Oct. 18, 2013 posting, the memos from acting OLC chief, Steven Bradbury, relied very heavily on now-discredited CIA claims that “enhanced interrogation” saved lives, and that the sessions were carefully monitored by medical and psychological personnel to ensure that detainees’ suffering would not rise to the level of torture.

There’s more. According to the Constitution Project’s Hawkins, Udall complained – and Preston admitted – that, in providing the materials requested by the committee, “the CIA removed several thousand CIA documents that the agency thought could be subjected to executive privilege claims by the President, without any decision by [Barack] Obama to invoke the privilege.”

Worse still for the CIA, the Senate Intelligence Committee report apparently destroys the agency’s argument justifying torture on the grounds that there was no other way to acquire the needed information save through brutalization. In his answers to Udall, Preston concedes that, contrary to what the agency has argued, it can and has been established that legal methods of
interrogation would have yielded the same intelligence.

Sen. Udall has been persistent in trying to elicit the truth about CIA torture, but has failed. Now that he has lost his Senate seat in the November elections, he has the opportunity to do what Sen. Feinstein is too afraid to do – invoke a senator’s Constitutional right to immunity by taking advantage of the “speech or debate clause” to read the torture report findings into the record, a tactic used most famously by Sen. Mike Gravel in 1971 when he publicly read portions of the Pentagon Papers.

Sen. Udall has said he would consider doing something along those lines with the torture report, and that is precisely what is needed at this point. It remains to be seen whether Udall will rise to the occasion or yield to the fear of ostracism from the Establishment.

A Terrible Idea

One of the issues to be addressed by the reorganization group that Brennan has set up reportedly is whether or not the agency should be restructured into subject matter divisions in which analysts and clandestine operators work together.

There are far more minuses than plusses in that kind of structure. Greg Miller cites the concerns expressed by his sources over the potential for analysts’ judgments to be clouded by working too closely with the operators. Miller quotes one officer who worked in the Counter-Terrorism Center, which is being cited as the template for reorganizing the rest of the CIA.

The former CTC officer – speaking from personal experience – said, “The potential for corruption is much greater if you have analysts directly involved in helping to guide operations. There is the possibility for them to get too close to the issue and to be too focused on trying to achieve a certain outcome.” Like targeting/killing suspected “militants” by Hellfire missiles from drones, rather than pausing long enough to try to discern what has made them “militants” in the first place – and whether killing them is a major fillip to recruitment of more and more “militants.”

Or take Iran, for example. If the leaders of a new Iran “issues center” are focused on sabotaging Tehran’s nuclear development program, how much visibility will be given to analysts who are trying to discern whether there is enough evidence to conclude that Iran is actually working toward a nuclear weapon.

As some may recall, in November 2007 an honest National Intelligence Estimate concluded unanimously and “with high confidence” that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon four years earlier – in the fall of 2003 – and had not resumed work on a nuclear warhead.

The importance of such independent analysis cannot be overestimated. In that particular case, the Estimate played a huge role in preventing the war with Iran planned by Bush and Cheney for their last year in office. Read what Bush himself writes in his Decision Points about how that “eye-popping” NIE deprived him of the military option:

“But after the NIE, how could I possibly explain using the military to destroy the nuclear facilities of a country the intelligence community said had no active nuclear weapons program?” (Decision Points, p. 419)

Split the CIA in Two

There are examples galore of the important value of keeping analysts free from leaders and pressures more in favor of operations than cogent intelligence analysis. Indeed, there is a strong argument to split the CIA in half and let the covert operations part, which President Harry Truman said he never intended to be joined with the analysis part of the agency, go its own way

The Defense Department and Air Force can surely find extra chairs for those CIA killing-by-drone aficionados not already at the Pentagon. And “regime change” specialists could likely find space with others engaged in similar work at the National Endowment for Democracy or the State Department.

It is of transcendent importance to insulate the serious analysts from politically motivated managers and directors or other easy-to-manipulate bureaucrats who are enmeshed in covert operations. Harry Truman, who established the CIA, had very strong thoughts about this – for very good reason.

Truman’s Edict

On Dec. 22, 1963, exactly one month after President John Kennedy was assassinated, former President Truman published an op-ed in the Washington Post titled “Limit CIA Role to Intelligence.” The timing was no coincidence. Documents in the Truman library show that nine days after Kennedy was murdered, Truman sketched out in handwritten notes what he wanted to say.

The op-ed itself reflected Truman’s concern that he had inadvertently helped create a Frankenstein monster, lamenting that the agency had “become removed from its intended role. … It has become an operational and at times a policy-making arm of the government.” Truman complained that the CIA was shaping policy through its control of intelligence and “cloak and dagger” operations.

Truman appealed for the agency to be “restored to its original assignment as the intelligence arm of the President … and that its operational duties be terminated or properly used elsewhere.”

Five days after Truman’s op-ed appeared, retired Admiral Sidney Souers, whom Truman has appointed to lead his first central intelligence group, sent a “Dear Boss” letter blaming former CIA Director Allen Dulles for making the CIA “a different animal than the one I tried to set up for you.”

Souers was particularly sour on Dulles’s attempt “to conduct a ‘war’ by invading Cuba with a handful of men and no air cover.” He also lamented the fact that the agency’s “principal effort” had evolved into arranging “revolutions in smaller countries around the globe,” adding, “With so much emphasis on operations, it would not surprise me to find that the matter of collecting and processing intelligence has suffered some.”

Souers and Truman both felt that the CIA’s operational tail had been wagging the analytical dog – a serious problem that persists today.

Five years ago, on the anniversary of Truman’s Washington Post op-ed, I posted a piece titled Break the CIA in Two,” demonstrating that it is indeed time that the agency’s operational duties be, as Truman had suggested, “terminated or properly used elsewhere.” In another piece, posted on the 50th anniversary of Truman’s prescient op-ed, I went into more detail not only on Truman’s article, but also on fresh signs of corruption and lying to Congress on the part of senior CIA officials.

The coin of the realm in intelligence analysis is truth and the trust that comes of consistently speaking truth to power. For intelligence analysts to have a decent chance at being taken seriously, there has to be some space between them and the self-licking ice cream cone of covert action.

Surely, there is no better way to create a steadily increasing supply of jihadists than by ignoring clear-headed analysis about why young Muslims are angry enough to strap bombs to themselves and instead dreaming up new covert operations that will have that inevitable effect of creating more jihadists.

Posted in Human Rights, USA0 Comments

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