Antisemitism Inquisition shifts up a gear in bid to wreck Labour’s election chances and remove the “loose cannon”.
With important local government elections a few days away the campaign against alleged antisemites reached a crescendo over the weekend, with the press and TV corps in full cry.
Their main quarry was former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, now suspended from the party; their instrument a Labour MP bully-boy called John Mann, who happens to be chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism. But no-one is in any doubt that the ultimate aim of this operation is the downfall of Labour’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
Zionists have a serious problem with Corbyn. His election to the leadership was a surprise brought about by a sudden influx of new supporters weary of sterile and corrupt politics. They had no time to groom him, not that he’s capable of being tamed like previous leaders. Corbyn has a long record of support for the Palestinians and other justice causes. As a loose cannon in a carefully controlled political battlefield he has to be disabled. One way to do that is to pick off his allies one by one and, with the help of a compliant media, derail his party’s election prospects.
Livingstone’s ‘crime’ is a remark about Zionists collaborating with Nazis in the 1930s. Though factually correct, it’s not the sort of thing the Inquisition likes to hear. So is it a flogging offence? Hardly, but such is the paralysing fear of being on the receiving end of an antisemitism smear that few in the party (or mainstream media) have the balls to say so.
Strange how the latest upsurge in allegations of antisemitism has coincided with the ambassadorial appointment to London of Mark Regev, former chief of Israel’s propaganda machine and spokesman for Israel’s extremist prime minister.
Regev was given a platform on the BBC’s flagship Andrew Marr programme at the weekend to complain about antisemites targeting the collective Jew: “If you’re saying… the Jewish people don’t have that right… to sovereignty and independence, you have to ask why you are holding Jews to a different standard. And there is a word for that.”
Yes, and the word is Jewish exceptionalism. Israeli Jews are not, and never have been, sanctioned for defying UN resolutions and international humanitarian law. On the contrary they are allowed to continue their crimes with impunity and rewarded by the West with eye-watering generosity.
As for Regev’s “collective Jew”, Israel insists on being recognised as the Jewish state, implicating Jews generally. As for the right of the Jewish people to sovereignty and independence, that is something they have consistently denied the Palestinians, whose lands they covet, occupy and creepingly annex. Israeli politicians, including Netanyahu, have gone further and declared that they will never allow the Palestinians self-determination.
So let us view the Labour Party’s freak-out over antisemitism in proper context.
An Israeli wise man — the former military intelligence chief and professor of International Relations, Yehoshafat Harkabi — warned some years ago that the Jewish state, which was supposed to solve the problem of antisemitism, could actually become a factor in the rise of antisemitism: “Israelis must be aware that the price of their misconduct is paid not only by them but also Jews throughout the world”.
However, not all Jews outside Israel are Zionists or supporters of the Israeli regime. A large number campaign energetically against it, so it is wrong to blame the worldwide Jewish community. On the other hand Israel claims to be “the only democracy in the Middle East”, in which case the government of Israel acts in its people’s name.
A New York Times obituary quotes Harkabi as saying: “I am for finalizing the conflict, and you can’t do that without recognizing that the Palestinians, like any other human group, deserve the right to self-determination.”
That right is still denied.
What about Labour’s links to Zionist criminals?
The trouble with UK Labour is its ignorance. That goes for other political parties that harbour Zionist stooges. If members knew the truth about the situation in the Holy Land, they would never swallow the false narrative peddled for years by the likes of Regev and Israel’s flag wavers such as Blair, Cameron and the Friends of Israel group – a UK version of the all-powerful AIPAC which dictates US foreign policy.
Friends of Israel repeatedly question Corbyn’s past association with Hamas and Hezbollah. But, as they well know, Hamas and Hezbollah were created out of necessity to resist Israeli aggression and are regarded as terrorists by no-one except the Washington-Tel Aviv axis and US-Israeli stooges in London and some other capitals – a number of which have evidently crept into the Labour Party.
For a branding-iron Bush used this definition: “The term “terrorism” means an activity that
(i) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, property, or infrastructure; and
(ii) appears to be intended —
(A) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population;
(B) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or
(C) to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, kidnapping, or hostage-taking.”
The joke is that it describes the behaviour of successive Israeli governments perfectly.
The media’s baying hounds and Labour’s fanatical inquisitors are entitled to question Jeremy Corbyn’s past connections, as long as they also ask Corbyn’s critics about their links to the Israeli terror regime.
Are Palestinians children of a lesser God?
We shouldn’t focus entirely on Labour. The biggest Zionist-occupied organisation outside America and what we loosely refer to as the Christian church is the British Conservative party. Eighty percent of its MPs and MEPs are reported to be signed-up Friends of the rogue regime and it was the recent Conservative-led coalition that reneged on Britain’s solemn obligations under the Geneva Conventions specifically to allow wanted Israeli criminals to come and go in the UK without fear of arrest.
Membership of Friends of Israel has long been a useful qualification in securing a place on the parliamentary candidates list and is said to be a stepping stone to high office. Hopefuls are ‘groomed’ on Tel Aviv’s propaganda conveyor-belt. Under the title ‘Team Cameron’s big Jewish backers’ the Jewish Chronicle in 2006 reported on the individuals bankrolling David Cameron’s bid for power and provided a fascinating insight into how the pro-Israel lobby infiltrates government and destroys the principles of integrity and accountability once prized in British public life.
As soon as Cameron became Conservative leader he proclaimed: “The belief I have in Israel is indestructible — and you need to know that if I become Prime Minister, Israel has a friend who will never turn his back on Israel.” Good dog.
Those who sign on as a Friend of Israel surely realise that they embrace and endorse the whole hellish Zionist enterprise including the terror and ethnic cleansing on which the state of Israel was built, the dispossession and expulsion of native Palestinians at gunpoint and the discriminatory laws against those who remain. They signal that they accept the abduction of civilians, including children, and their imprisonment and torture without trial. And presumably they are happy supporting and legitimizing a religious war that humiliates Muslims and Christians and prevents them visiting their holy places.
There is no room here to detail Israel’s cruel interference with Palestinian life at every level or describe the human misery it causes every minute of every day. Sufficient to say that anyone who defends these outrages deserves scant consideration of their feelings.
Even after a series of bloodbaths by the Israeli military in Gaza such people remain Israel’s special Friend. Will they still be comfortable when the next assault blows to smithereens hundreds more children, again shreds and incinerates thousands of innocent men and women, maims many more and destroys still more vital infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, power plants and clean water supplies?
Do they really believe Palestinians are children of some lesser God?
Oh, and Friends of Israel squeal “antisemitism!” at the very mention of BDS (the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement). Why? Respected Palestinian lawmaker, Dr Hanan Ashrawi, explains how BDS is “a legal, moral and inclusive movement struggling against the discriminatory policies of a country that defines itself in religiously exclusive terms, and that seeks to deny Palestinians the most basic rights simply because we are not Jewish.”
Practising BDS simply means you avoid purchasing Israeli goods or services and decline normal contact with individuals and organisations that are connected with or support the racist creed that squeezes the life out of the Holy Land. And you continue to do this until Israel ends its illegal occupation and honours its obligations under the UN Charter and international humanitarian law.
If Labour Friends of Israel don’t know these things, they should take the trouble to find out. If they don’t also know about Zionist ambitions for a Greater Israel, from the Nile to the Euphrates (the Yinon Plan), they should find out.
Corbyn knew of the Zionist threat to himself long before he became leader. At the outset he should have established a competent media group to anticipate trouble and formulate necessary communication strategies, including the case for curbing the use of the party as a platform to advance the interests of a foreign military power.
Now, instead of taking the fight to the troublemakers he’s letting them tear Labour apart. And Regev sits on his doorstep laughing.
As I sign off, a petition calling for MP John Mann to be disciplined has reached 19,000 signatures. Mann, a rabid pro-Zionist, started a shouting match with Livingstone in front of the cameras, putting rocket-boosters under the Inquisition and bringing the party into disrepute.
The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee held a hearing on a bill intended to streamline nuclear power regulatory rules, in order to allow safer and more efficient next-generation reactors to replace those being decommissioned.
The Advanced Nuclear Technology Development Act of 2016 (HR 4979), introduced by Representative Bob Latta (R-Ohio), was discussed during a Friday hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee to reduce regulatory hurdles for building advanced reactors. “Advanced” being defined as having significant improvements over contemporary nuclear reactor, such as better “inherent safety features, lower waste yields, greater fuel utilization, superior reliability, resistance to proliferation, and increased thermal efficiency.”
Currently, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) demands a complete and final design from potential nuclear developers. This, combined with expensive reviews that developers pay out of pocket, can deter potential startups with a multimillion dollar price tag with no assurance of ever being allowed to operate. The bipartisan panel’s tenor was that this needs to change.
“The future of the nuclear industry needs to start now, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission needs to be able to provide the certainty the provide sector needs to invest in innovative technologies.” Goodlatte said at the hearing. “As the United States looks to the future, more energy will be needed, and Nuclear power provides reliable, clean baseload power option.
“Investment in new technology is already happening, with approximately 50 companies in this country working to develop the next generation of nuclear power. It’s time to insure that the NRC provides a framework so that innovators and investors can prepare to apply to licensing technologies.”
In order to create a conducive environment for investment in next-generation plants, HR 4979 would require the NRC to implement a new framework to streamline nuclear plant licensing, making it more efficient and cost-effective to investors by 2019. The commission would have to submit to an implementation plan for such a framework within 180 days of the enactment of the law.
The US’s 99 operational nuclear energy plants provide nearly 20 percent of the country’s power, but approximately 126,000 megawatts of nuclear power generation is set to be retired over the next 15 years. At the same time, the US Energy Information Administration forecasts a need for 287,000 megawatts of new electric capacity by 2040 – on top of replacing the electric capacity that is needed to replace the retired power plants.
This reality, combined with the fact that nuclear power produces no greenhouse gasses, has led to environmentally-conscious lawmakers on the committee making common cause with their innovation-minded colleagues worried about falling behind international competitors.
“Our nation will, by necessity, diminish its dependence on fossil fuels in order to fight climate change. And as we do so, we will need to turn more and more to nuclear power,” said Representative Jerry McNerney (D-Illinois), who co-signed the bill.
The hearing comes at a time of renewed anxiety about aging nuclear power infrastructure. Earlier this month, a Manhattan Project-era nuclear storage facility in Washington state had up to 3,500 gallons of waste leaking out. However, the Washington Department of Ecology said that there was no risk to the environment or nearby residents.
A few weeks after leaving office, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have breathed a sigh of relief and reassurance when Director of National Intelligence James Clapper denied reports of the National Security Agency eavesdropping on Americans. After all, Clinton had been handling official business at the State Department like many Americans do with their personal business, on an unsecured server.
In sworn testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on March 12, 2013, Clapper said the NSA was not collecting, wittingly, “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans,” which presumably would have covered Clinton’s unsecured emails.
But NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations — starting on June 5, 2013 — gave the lie to Clapper’s testimony, which Clapper then retracted on June 21 – coincidentally, Snowden’s 30th birthday – when Clapper sent a letter to the Senators to whom he had, well, lied. Clapper admitted his “response was clearly erroneous – for which I apologize.” (On the chance you are wondering what became of Clapper, he is still DNI.)
I would guess that Clapper’s confession may have come as a shock to then ex-Secretary Clinton, as she became aware that her own emails might be among the trillions of communications that NSA was vacuuming up. Nevertheless, she found Snowden’s truth-telling a safer target for her fury than Clapper’s dishonesty and NSA’s dragnet.
In April 2014, Clinton suggested that Snowden had helped terrorists by giving “all kinds of information, not only to big countries, but to networks and terrorist groups and the like.” Clinton was particularly hard on Snowden for going to China (Hong Kong) and Russia to escape a vengeful prosecution by the U.S. government.
Clinton even explained what extraordinary lengths she and her people went to in safeguarding government secrets: “When I would go to China or would go to Russia, we would leave all my electronic equipment on the plane with the batteries out, because … they’re trying to find out not just about what we do in our government, they’re … going after the personal emails of people who worked in the State Department.” Yes, she said that. (emphasis added)
Hoisted on Her Own Petard
Alas, nearly a year later, in March 2015, it became known that during her tenure as Secretary of State she had not been as diligent as she led the American people to believe. She had used a private server for official communications, rather than the usual official State Department email accounts maintained on federal servers. Thousands of those emails would retroactively be marked classified – some at the TOP SECRET/Codeword level – by the department.
During an interview last September, Snowden was asked to respond to the revelations about highly classified material showing up on Clinton’s personal server: “When the unclassified systems of the United States government, which has a full-time information security staff, regularly gets hacked, the idea that someone keeping a private server in the renovated bathroom of a server farm in Colorado is more secure is completely ridiculous.”
Asked if Clinton “intentionally endangered US international security by being so careless with her email,” Snowden said it was not his place to say. Nor, it would seem, is it President Barack Obama’s place to say, especially considering that the FBI is actively investigating Clinton’s security breach. But Obama has said it anyway.
“She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy,” the President said on April 10. In the same interview, Obama told Chris Wallace, “I guarantee that there is no political influence in any investigation conducted by the Justice Department, or the FBI – not just in this case, but in any case. Full stop. Period.”
But, although a former professor of Constitutional law, the President sports a checkered history when it comes to prejudicing investigations and even trials, conducted by those ultimately reporting to him. For example, more than two years before Bradley (Chelsea) Manning was brought to trial, the President stated publicly: “We are a nation of laws. We don’t let individuals make decisions about how the law operates. He [Bradley Manning] broke the law!”
Not surprisingly, the ensuing court martial found Manning guilty, just as the Commander in Chief had predicted. Though Manning’s purpose in disclosing mostly low-level classified information was to alert the American public about war crimes and other abuses by the U.S. government, Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison.
On March 9, when presidential candidate Clinton was asked, impertinently during a debate, whether she would withdraw from the race if she were indicted for her cavalier handling of government secrets, she offered her own certain prediction: “Oh, for goodness sake! It’s not going to happen. I’m not even answering that question.”
Prosecutorial Double Standards
Merited or not, there is, sadly, some precedent for Clinton’s supreme confidence. Retired General and ex-CIA Director David Petraeus, after all, lied to the FBI (a felony for “lesser” folks) about giving his mistress/biographer highly classified information and got off with a slap on the wrist, a misdemeanor fine and probation, no jail time – a deal that Obama’s first Attorney General Eric Holder did on his way out the door.
We are likely to learn shortly whether Attorney General Loretta Lynch is as malleable as Holder or whether she will allow FBI Director James Comey, who held his nose in letting Petraeus cop a plea, to conduct an unfettered investigation this time – or simply whether Comey will be compelled to enforce Clinton’s assurance that “it’s not going to happen.”
Last week, Fox News TV legal commentator Andrew Napolitano said the FBI is in the final stages of its investigation into Clinton and her private email server. His sources tell him that “the evidence of her guilt is overwhelming,” and that the FBI has enough evidence to indict and convict.
Whether Napolitano has it right or not, it seems likely that Clinton is reading President Obama correctly – no profile in courage is he. Nor is Obama likely to kill the political fortunes of the now presumptive Democratic presidential nominee. Yet, if he orders Lynch and Comey not to hold Hillary Clinton accountable for what – in my opinion and that of most other veteran intelligence officials whom I’ve consulted – amounts to at least criminal negligence, another noxious precedent will be set.
Knowing Too Much
This time, however, the equities and interests of the powerful, secretive NSA, as well as the FBI and Justice, are deeply involved. And by now all of them know “where the bodies are buried,” as the smart folks inside the Beltway like to say. So the question becomes would a future President Hillary Clinton have total freedom of maneuver if she were beholden to those all well aware of her past infractions and the harm they have done to this country.
One very important, though as yet unmentioned, question is whether security lapses involving Clinton and her emails contributed to what Clinton has deemed her worst moment as Secretary of State, the killing of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other U.S. personnel at the lightly guarded U.S. “mission” (a very small, idiosyncratic, consulate-type complex not performing any consular affairs) in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012.
Somehow the terrorists who mounted the assault were aware of the absence of meaningful security at the facility, though obviously there were other means for them to have made that determination, including the State Department’s reliance on unreliable local militias who might well have shared that inside information with the attackers.
However, if there is any indication that Clinton’s belatedly classified emails contained information about internal State Department discussions regarding the consulate’s security shortcomings, questions may be raised about whether that information was somehow compromised by a foreign intelligence agency and shared with the attackers.
We know that State Department bureaucrats under Secretary Clinton overruled repeated requests for additional security in Benghazi. We also know that Clinton disregarded NSA’s repeated warnings against the use of unencrypted communications. One of NSA’s core missions, after all, is to create and maintain secure communications for military, diplomatic, and other government users.
Clinton’s flouting of the rules, in NSA’s face, would have created additional incentive for NSA to keep an especially close watch on her emails and telephone calls. The NSA also might know whether some intelligence service successfully hacked into Clinton’s server, but there’s no reason to think that the NSA would share that sort of information with the FBI, given the NSA’s history of not sharing its data with other federal agencies even when doing so makes sense.
The NSA arrogates to itself the prerogative of deciding what information to keep within NSA walls and what to share with the other intelligence and law enforcement agencies like the FBI. (One bitter consequence of this jealously guarded parochialism was the NSA’s failure to share very precise information that could have thwarted the attacks of 9/11, as former NSA insiders have revealed.)
It is altogether likely that Gen. Keith Alexander, head of NSA from 2005 to 2014, neglected to tell the Secretary of State of NSA’s “collect it all” dragnet collection that included the emails and telephone calls of Americans – including Clinton’s. This need not have been simply the result of Alexander’s pique at her disdain for communications security requirements, but rather mostly a consequence of NSA’s modus operandi.
With the mindset at NSA, one could readily argue that the Secretary of State – and perhaps the President himself – had no “need-to-know.” And, needless to say, the fewer briefed on the NSA’s flagrant disregard for Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures the better.
So, if there is something incriminating – or at least politically damaging – in Clinton’s emails, it’s a safe bet that at least the NSA and maybe the FBI, as well, knows. And that could make life difficult for a Clinton-45 presidency. Inside the Beltway, we don’t say the word “blackmail,” but the potential will be there. The whole thing needs to be cleaned up now before the choices for the next President are locked in.
Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He served as a CIA analyst for 27 years, during which he prepared and briefed the morning President’s Daily Brief for Presidents Nixon, Ford, and Reagan.
In their book “Network of Death”, three German journalists revealed illegal arms supplies from Germany to Mexico. However, instead of being praised for their efforts, all three of them may face a court trial on alleged breach of the German Press Act and disclosure of secret information.
The book written by German journalists Daniel Harrich, Danuta Harrich-Sandberg und Jürgen Grässlin revealed illegal arms supplies by German company Heckler & Koch to Mexico. It turned out that the weapons — G36 assault rifles made by the firm — appeared in the Mexican states of Guerrero and Chihuahua, although the supplies to these states were prohibited by German authorities.
In 2005, the German regulatory agency allowed the delivery of 9,000 assault rifles to Mexico between 2006 and 2009 on the condition that they won’t be available in the Mexican states of Guerrero, Jalisco, Chiapas and Chihuahua.
However, it recently became known that the arms not only leaked to these territories, but were also allegedly used during the assault on Ayotzinapa students on September 26, where six people were killed, 25 injured and 43 disappeared.
In their book, journalists not only revealed the fact that the German company illegally delivered G36 assault rifles to Mexico, but also accused German authorities of negligence and complicity in the deal.
“In our latest book, […] we’ve published highly sensitive documents as proof for our assumptions that not only Heckler & Koch is responsible for this, but also the Federal Office on Export and the Federal Ministry of Economics,” Grässlin said in an interview with Sputnik.
According to the journalist, both authorities made the deliveries to Mexico possible, although the German Foreign Ministry had initially prohibited the supply of weapons to the country. In 2010, Grässlin filed an application with a request to start an investigation into the case, but as a result only employees of the company, and none of the authorities were prosecuted.
“The Stuttgart public prosecution office still refuses to prosecute those in the Federal Ministry of Economics and the Federal Export Office responsible and co-responsible for it, and this is a scandal,” Grässlin said.
Instead, surprisingly, the Munich public prosecution office is currently considering an option to prosecute journalists themselves.
Under paragraph 353d of the Criminal Code, the journalists might be charged with “violation of professional and special secrecy”. The law prohibits disclosing messages, documents or any other information from a criminal case. The violation is punishable with a fine or imprisonment of up to one year.
President Obama is racing forward to establish his imperial legacy throughout Russia, Asia and Latin America. In the last two years he has accelerated the buildup of his military nuclear arsenal on the frontiers of Russia. The Pentagon has designed a high tech anti-missile system to undermine Russian defenses.
In Latin America, Obama has shed his shallow pretense of tolerating the center–left electoral regimes. Instead he is has joined with rabid authoritarian neo-liberals in Argentina; met with the judges and politicians engineering the overthrow of the current Brazilian government; and encouraged the emerging far-rightwing regimes in Peru under Keiko Fujimori and Colombia under President Santos.
In Asia, Obama has clearly escalated a military build-up threatening China’s principle waterways in the South China Sea. Obama encouraged aggressive and violent separatist groupings in Hong Kong, Tibet, Xinjian and Taiwan. Obama invites Beijing billionaires to relocate a trillion dollars in assets to the ‘laundry machines’ of North America, Europe and Asia. Meanwhile he has actively blocked China’s long-planned commercial ’silk route’ across Myanmar and west Asia.
In the Middle East, President Obama joined with Saudi Arabia as Riyadh escalated its brutal war and blockade in Yemen. He directed Kenya and other African predator states to attack Somalia. He has continued to back mercenary armies invading Syria while collaborating with the Turkish dictator, Erdogan, as Turkish troops bomb Kurdish, Syrian and Iraqi fighters who are engaged on the front lines against Islamist terrorism.
President Obama and his minions have consistently groveled before the Jewish State and its US Fifth Column, massively increasing US ‘tribute’ to Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, Israel continues to seize thousands of acres of Palestinian land murdering and arresting thousands of Palestinians, from young children to aged grandparents.
The Obama regime is desperate to overcome the consequences of his political, military and economic failures of the past six years and establish the US as the uncontested global economic and military power.
At this stage, Obama’s supreme goal is to leave an enduring legacy, where he will have: (1) surrounded and weakened Russia and China; (2) re-converted Latin America into an authoritarian free-trade backyard for US plunder; (3) turned the Middle East and North Africa into a bloody playpen for Arab and Jewish dictators bent on brutalizing whole nations and turning millions into refugees to flood Europe and elsewhere.
Once this ‘legacy’ is established, our ‘Historic Black President’ can boast that he has dragged our ‘great nation’ into more wars for longer periods of time, costing more diverse human lives and creating more desperate refugees than any previous US President, all the while polarizing and impoverishing the great mass of working Americans. He will, indeed, set a ‘high bar’ for his incumbent replacement, Madame Hilary Clinton to leap over and even expand.
To examine the promise of an Obama legacy and avoid premature judgements, it is best to briefly recall the failures of his first 6 years and reflect on his current inspired quest for a ‘place in history’.
Fear, Loathing and Retreat
Obama’s shameless bailout of Wall Street contrasted sharply with the desires and sentiments of the vast majority of Americans who had elected him. This was a historic moment of great fear and loathing where scores of millions of Americans demanded the federal government reign in the financial criminals, stop the downward spiral of household bankruptcies and home foreclosures and recover America’s working economy. After a brief honeymoon following his ‘historic election’, the ‘historic’ President Obama turned his back on the wishes of the people and transferred trillions of public money to ‘bailout’ the banks and financial centers on Wall Street.
Not satisfied with betraying the American workers and the beleaguered middle class, Obama reneged on his campaign promises to end the war(s) in the Middle East by increasing the US troop presence and expanding his drone-assassination warfare against Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Syria.
US troops re-invaded Afghanistan, fought and retreated in defeat. The Taliban advanced. The US expanded its training of the puppet Iraqi army, which collapsed on its first encounters with the Islamic State. Washington retreated again. Regime change in Libya, Egypt and Somalia created predator-mercenary states without any semblance of US control and dominance.
Obama had become both a master of military defeats and financial swindles.
In the Western Hemisphere, a continent of independent Latin American governments had emerged to challenge US supremacy. The ‘Historic President’ Obama was dismissed as a clueless hack of the US Empire who lacked any rapport with governments south of the Panama Canal. While trade and investment flourished between Latin America and Asia; Washington fell behind. Regional political and economic agreements expanded, but Obama was left without allies.
Obama’s clumsy attempts at US-backed ‘regime change’ were defeated in Venezuela and elsewhere. Only the small, corrupt narco-state of Honduras fell into Obama’s orbit with the Hillary Clinton-engineered overthrow of its elected populist-nationalist president.
China and Russia expanded and flourished as commodities boomed, wealth expanded and demand for Chinese manufactures exploded.
By 2013 Obama had no legacy.
The Recovery: Obama’s Lost Legacy
Obama began the road to establishing his ‘legacy’ with the US-financed coup in Ukraine, spearheaded by the first bona fide Nazi militia since WWII. After celebrating the violent ‘regime change’ against Ukraine’s elected government, Obama’s new oligarch-puppet regime and its ethno-nationalist army have been a disaster, losing control of the industrialized Donbas region to ethnic Russian rebels and completely losing the strategic Crimea when the population overwhelmingly voted to re-join Russia after 50 years. Meanwhile, the oligarch-’president’ Poroshenko and his fellow puppets have pilfered several billion dollars in ‘aid’ from the EU… all in pursuit of the Obama legacy’.
Obama then slapped devastating economic sanctions against Russia for its role in the Crimean referendum and its support for the millions of Russian speakers in Donbas, and in the process forced the European Union to make major trade sacrifices. For their role in creating a real “American legacy” for Mr. Obama, the Germans, French and the other twenty-eight countries have sacrificed billions of Euros in trade and investments – alienating large sectors of their own agricultural and manufacturing economy.
The Obama regime placed nuclear weapons on the Polish border with Russia, pointed at the Russian heartland. Estonians, Lithuanians and Latvians joined Obama’s military exercises stationing US ships and attack aircraft in the Baltic Sea threatening Russia’s security.
Obama’s Legacy in Latin America
The Obama regime intensified its efforts to re-establish supremacy with the demise of the center-left regimes following elections in late 2013 to the present.
Obama’s ‘legacy’ in Latin America is based on the return to power of neo-liberal elites in the region. Their successful elections were the result of several factors, including: (1) the rise of rightwing economic power in Latin America; (2) the decay and corruption of political power within the Left; 3) incapacity of the Left to develop its own independent mass media to challenge the media monopoly of the right; and (4) the failure of center-left regimes to diversify their economy and develop growth outside the boundaries defined by the dominant capitalist sectors.
The Obama regime worked closely with the political-business elite, organizing the political campaigns and controlling key economic policies even during the center-Left governments. The Left regimes had financed, subsidized and rewarded right-wing business interests in agro-mineral industries, banking, and the media as well as in manufacturing and imports.
As long as worldwide demand for primary materials was strong, the Center-Left governments had plenty of room to adjust their social spending for workers while accommodating business interests. When demand and prices fell, budget deficits forced the Center-Left to cut back on social spending for the masses as well as subsidies for the business elite. In response, the business sector organized a full-scale attack on the government – in defense of elite power. The Center-Left failed to counter the growing power and position of their business elite adversaries.
The business elite launched a full-scale propaganda war via its captive mass media – focusing on real or imagined corruption scandals discrediting Center-Left politicians. The Left lacked its own effective mass media to answer the Right’s accusations, having failed to democratize the corporate media monopolies.
The Center-Left parties adopted the elite’s technique of financing political campaigns – namely, through bribes, contract concessions, patronage other deal making with billionaire private and state contractors. The center-Left imagined it could compete with the free-market rightwing in financing campaigns and candidates via swindlers – and not through class struggle. This was a game they could never master.
The Right, however, mobilized their allies within police, judicial and public institutions to prosecute and disqualify the Center-Left for committing the same crimes the Right had evaded.
The Center-Left did not mobilize the workers and employees to establish even minimal controls over the elite and assume some managerial power. They thought they could compete with the Right on its own terms, through shady business and chicanery.
The Center-Left relied on financing its administration and policies through the commodity boom in demand for its natural resources – overlooking the fundamental instability and volatility of the global commodity market. While the Right openly condemned the ‘weakness of the Center-Left’ – in private, it pursued policies even more dependent on overseas speculators and narrow elites.
In Argentina, as the economy declined, the leadership of the rightwing, led by Mauricio Marci, launched a successful presidential campaign involving the mass media, banks, middle class voters and agro-mining elites. Immediately upon taking power, the Macri regime cut social services for workers and the lower middle class, slashing their living standards and lay off thousands of government employees. Obama saw Macri as his kind of legacy savior and viewed Argentina as the new center of US power in Latin America – with plans for more regime change in Brazil, Venezuela and throughout the region.
In Brazil, the Center-Left Workers’ Party (PT) faced a massive attack on its power base by the extreme rightwing parties. Corruption scandals rocked the entire spectrum of the political class, but the PT was most heavily implicated by massive fraud in Brazil’s huge national oil company, Petrobras. The PT regime’s troubles intensified as the country entered a recession with the drop in demand for its agro-mining exports. Growing fiscal deficits compounded the regime’s problems. The Brazilian hard Right mobilized its entire apparatus of elite power – the courts, judges, police and intelligence agencies – in a bid to overthrow the PT government and impose an authoritarian neo-liberal regime seizing all financial, business and productive assets.
The Center-Left had never been very left, if at all. Under Presidents Lula and Rousseff (2003-2016), the powerful mining and agricultural elites flourished; banking, investment and multi-national enterprises prospered. The Center-Left made some paternalistic concessions to the lowest income classes, and increased wages for labor and farm workers. But the PT relegated labor to the background while it signed business agreements and granted tax concessions to capital. It failed to engage Brazilian workers in class struggle.
The Right was never engaged in any struggle with a genuine leftist government pressing business for structural changes. Nevertheless, the Right sought to eliminate even the most superficial reforms. It would accept nothing short of total control, including: the privatization of the major national oil company, the reduction of wages, pensions and transport subsidies and a slashing of social programs. The Brazilian Rightwing coup – a fake impeachment organized by indicted crooks – is designed to vastly re-concentrate wealth, and re-establish the power of business, while plunging millions into poverty and repressing the principal organized mass movements. In Brazil, the elite-controlled media, courts and politicians act as judge, jury and jailers – against a center-left regime which had never taken control over the major institutions of elite power.
Obama and the Axis of his Legacy
Political rightists join police to control the multitudes and seize power, re-establishing deep ties among Brazil, Washington and Argentina. They will then move toward the neo-liberal re-conquest of all Latin America. Against this new wave, it must be understood that Obama’s Latin American legacy is too recent, too hasty and too disjointed – the new Right exhibits the same or even worse features of the recently deceased Left.
Argentina’s Marci borrows $15 billion at 8% interest, when the economy is fracturing, employment is collapsing, exports and worldwide demand is declining. At the same time, President Mauricio Marci’s cabinet is plagued by major financial scandals ‘a la Panama Papers’. The entire political party-trade union-employed working class is profoundly disenchanted with Marci’s minority rule.
Argentina may not turn out to be Obama’s enduring Latin Legacy: While Macri may open the door for a brief Washington take-over, the results will be catastrophic and the future, given Argentina’s recent history of popular street uprisings, is uncertain.
Likewise in Brazil, the impeachment/coup will result in new and more numerous investigations with trials of post-impeachment politicians and a deepening economic crisis. Brazil’s Vice-President, who turned against Rouseff, now faces corruption charges, as do his supporters. The prolonged confrontation precludes any basic continuity. The rightwing regime’s policy of slashing wages, pensions and poverty ‘baskets’ will detonate large-scale confrontations with the polarized population. Obama’s ‘legacy’ will be a brief episode – celebrating the ouster of the Workers’ Party President followed by a long period of instability and disorder.
Rightist regimes in Venezuela, Colombia and Peru will be part of Obama’s ‘legacy’ but to what lasting end?
The Venezuelan rightwing congress – dubbed the MUD – seeks to overthrow the elected president. It demands the release of several right-wing assassins from prison, the privatization of the oil industry, and a deep cut in social programs (health and education). They would reduce employees’ wages and eliminate food subsidies. The MUD has no competent plan or capacity to grow the oil economy and overcome chronic food shortages. The MUD would merely replace the Left’s subsidized economy with massive price increases for basic commodities — reducing domestic consumption to a fraction of its current level. In other words, the right-wing offensive may defeat the Chavista left but it will not stabilize Venezuela or develop a viable neo-liberal alternative. Any new rightwing regime will deteriorate rapidly and the chronic problem of criminal violence will exceed the current levels. The alliance between Washington and Venezuela’s far right will hardly support Obama’s claim to a historic legacy. More likely, it will serve as another example of a failed right wing state unable to replace a weakening left regime.
Similar circumstances can be found among other ‘emerging’ rightist regimes.
In Colombia, the current rightwing President Santos talks to the FARC guerrillas, but also accommodates the paramilitary death squads. His talks of peace settlements and social reform are linked to the genocidal right, led by the former President Uribe. Meanwhile, the economy stagnates with oil and metal prices collapsing on the world market. Colombian living standards have declined and the promise of a rightwing revival grows dim. The US-Colombian alliance may undercut the FARC but the rightwing does not offer any prospect for modernizing the economy or stabilizing the society.
Similarly in Peru, the rightwing wins votes and embraces free markets, but growth declines, investments and profits dry up and mass disenchantment grows among the poor promising street conflicts.
The Obama ‘legacy’ in Latin America has followed a series of brutal victories, which have no capacity to re-impose a stable ‘new order’ of free markets and free elections. The initial wave of favorable investments and lucrative concessions will fail to revive and recalibrate a new growth dynamics.
More ominously, Obama relied on mass murder to replace an elected leftist-nationalist president in Honduras and imposed a regime of terror against the poor and indigenous population. Meanwhile, illicit offshore handouts reward speculators in Argentina.
Obama’s legacy in Latin America reflects an entire spectrum from illicit-rightwing coups to oust the elected governments in Brazil and Venezuela, to elected authoritarian presidents in Peru and Colombia with historic links to death squads and multi-million dollar overseas accounts.
Obama’s contemporary ‘Latin American legacy’ reeks of gross electoral manipulation preparing the ground for bloody class wars.
Obama’s Legacy in the Ukraine, Yemen and Syria
The Obama regime thought it could manage widespread conflicts, uprisings and wars to advance its global supremacy.
To that end, Obama spent billions of dollars in weapons and propaganda arming Neo-Nazi para-military troops to seize power in Ukraine. A grotesque, brutal gang of oligarchs (and disgraced, foreign fugitives – like the ousted Georgian leader, Mikhail Saakashvili) served Washington in the puppet Kiev regime. Critics, journalists, jurists and citizens are being assassinated. The economy has collapsed; prices skyrocket; incomes declined by half; unemployment tripled and millions have sought refuge abroad. Wars raged between Russian ethnic citizen armies in the Donbas and the puppet Kiev regime. The people of Crimea voted to rejoin Russia. Meanwhile, economic sanctions against trade with Russia have exacerbated shortages for the people of Ukraine.
Under Obama’s stewardship the Ukraine became a world-class… basket case: so much for his European legacy. He can rightly claim credit for imposing a thoroughly retrograde regime of Klepto-capitalism with no redeeming feature.
Obama embraced Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen – destroying the life and cities of the poorest nation in the Middle East. Obama’s ‘legacy’ in Yemen stands for the systematic obliteration of a sovereign people: Obama performs his tricks for billionaire Saudi despots while savaging the innocent. To the Israelis in Palestine and the Saudis in Yemen, Obama pays homage to the criminals responsible for millions of shattered lives.
What of the Obama ‘legacy’ in Syria and Libya? How many million Africans and Arabs have been murdered or fled on rotten boats in destitution. Only the rankest gang of corrupt media pundits in the US media can pretend this gangster President should evade a war crimes tribunal.
The Obama regime has pursued wars of unremitting destruction. It has forged partnerships with terrorists and death squads as it seeks short-term imperial victories, which end in dismal failures.
The imperial legacy of this ‘historic’ president is a mirage of pillage, squalor and destruction. The effect of his political lies has even begun register here among the American public: Who trusts the US Congress and the President? And in Europe, who trusts Obama’s European partners as they eagerly pushed for wars in the Middle East and North Africa and now fear and loathe the millions of their victims–refugees fleeing to the cities of Europe, with the drowned corpses of uprooted communities spoiling their beaches?
Obama pushed for wars and the Europeans receive the victims – with fear and disgust.
Obama’s victories are temporary, blighted and reversed.
Obama bombed Afghanistan yesterday and now flees renewed resistance.
Obama’s allies are again plundering Latin America but face imminent ouster via popular uprisings.
Obama terrorized and fragmented Syria yesterday but lost elections the day after.
Obama threatens China’s economy while eagerly buying China’s products.
The Obama legacy began as a failed military and economic offensive accompanying a profound social crisis. During his final year in office, Obama tries to forge alliances with the dregs of the hard right to save his legacy. His brief advance into this sordid world of neo-liberals, neo-Nazis and Saudi despots is a prelude to more retreat and chaos.
Obama’s public celebration of the right turn in Asia, Latin America, Europe and the Middle East applauds the most retrograde alignment of forces in modern times: Saudis and Israelis; Egyptian generals and Libyan jihadis; neo-Ottoman Turks with Ukrainian gangster-oligarchs. Regime changes in Argentina and Brazil encourage Obama to claim vindication of his imperial legacy.
His ‘moment’ of imperial truth is brief, all too brief. Everywhere, we witness the rapid rise of imperial success followed by a series of debacles.
Throughout Latin America capitalist profiteers plunge into wild financial adventures, theft and chaos. In the Middle East, the US stands on the crumbling palaces of a moribund Saudi regime. The much-proclaimed imperial advances are based on grand theft everywhere, from Egypt and Turkey to the Ukraine.
Simply stated: the US formula for a successful legacy is failing at the precise moment that it claims success! Obama and the Right have created a world of chaos and disintegration. Obama and his legions, the US and Europe have no future in peace or war, election or defeats.
There is no imperial legacy for the ‘historic’ President Obama!
The 2016 presidential elections are proving historic, and not just because of the surprising success of self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders, the lively debate among feminists over whether to support Hillary Clinton, or Donald Trump’s unorthodox candidacy.
The elections are also groundbreaking because they’re revealing more dramatically than ever the corrosive effect of big money on our decaying democracy.
Following the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision and related rulings, corporations and the wealthiest Americans gained the legal right to raise and spend as much money as they want on political candidates.
The 2012 elections were consequently the most expensive in U.S. history. And this year’s races are predicted to cost even more. With the general election still six months away, donors have already sunk $1 billion into the presidential race — with $619 million raised by candidates and another $412 million by super PACs.
Big money in politics drives grave inequality in our country. It also drives war.
After all, war is a profitable industry. While millions of people all over the world are being killed and traumatized by violence, a small few make a killing from the never-ending war machine.
During the Iraq War, for example, weapons manufacturers and a cadre of other corporations made billions on federal contracts.
Most notoriously this included Halliburton, a military contractor previously led by Dick Cheney. The company made huge profits from George W. Bush’s decision to wage a costly, unjustified, and illegal war while Cheney served as his vice president.
Military-industrial corporations spend heavily on political campaigns. They’ve given over $1 million to this year’s presidential candidates so far — over $200,000 of which went to Hillary Clinton, who leads the pack in industry backing.
These corporations target House and Senate members who sit on the Armed Forces and Appropriations Committees, who control the purse strings for key defense line items. And cleverly, they’ve planted factories in most congressional districts. Even if they provide just a few dozen constituent jobs per district, that helps curry favor with each member of Congress.
Thanks to aggressive lobbying efforts, weapons manufacturers have secured the five largest contracts made by the federal government over the last seven years. In 2014, the U.S. government awarded over $90 billion worth of contracts to Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, Raytheon, and Northrop Grumman.
Military spending has been one of the top three biggest federal programs every year since 2000, and it’s far and away the largest discretionary portion. Year after year, elected officials spend several times more on the military than on education, energy, and the environment combined.
Lockheed Martin’s problematic F-35 jet illustrates this disturbingly disproportionate use of funds. The same $1.5 trillion Washington will spend on the jet, journalist Tom Cahill calculates, could have provided tuition-free public higher education for every student in the U.S. for the next 23 years. Instead, the Pentagon ordered a fighter plane that can’t even fire its own gun yet.
Given all of this, how can anyone justify war spending?
Some folks will say it’s to make us safer. Yet the aggressive U.S. military response following the 9/11 attacks — the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the NATO bombing of Libya, and drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen — has only destabilized the region. “Regime change” foreign policies have collapsed governments and opened the doors to Islamist terrorist groups like ISIS.
Others may say they support a robust Pentagon budget because of the jobs the military creates. But dollar for dollar, education spending creates nearly three times more jobs than military spending.
We need to stop letting politicians and corporations treat violence and death as “business opportunities.” Until politics become about people instead of profits, we’ll remain crushed in the death grip of the war machine.
And that is the real national security threat facing the United States today.
IN THE FINAL DAYS leading up to Maryland’s Democratic voters going to the polls on Tuesday to choose their U.S. Senate nominee, Rep. Donna Edwards has been barraged by ads and mailers from the Super PAC backing her opponent, Rep. Chris Van Hollen, called the Committee for Maryland’s Progress.
A television ad assails Edwards as “one of the least effective members of Congress,” contrasting her career with Van Hollen’s legislative record. It mentions no foreign policy issues, despite the dominant issue motivating one of the Super PAC’s largest funders.
Recently released disclosures reveal that $100,000 — a sixth of what the Super PAC has raised —comes from a single source: a donation by pro-Israel billionaire Haim Saban.
A “One-Issue Guy”
Saban, who made his fortune in the media and entertainment industry, has spent millions of dollars influencing the foreign policy establishment, including by sponsoring the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy and funding the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). He is also one of the largest donors to Hillary Clinton’s Super PACs. In a 2010 interview with the New Yorker, he described himself as a “one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.”
Last year, he briefly teamed up with GOP megadonor Sheldon Adelson to sponsor an effort to counter university boycotts and divestment from Israel’s occupation. “When it comes to Israel, we are absolutely on the same page,” he said of Adelson. “When it comes to this, there is no light between us at all.”
Following the Paris terrorist attacks, Saban called for “more scrutiny” of Muslims. “You want to be free and dead? I’d rather be not free and alive. The reality is that certain things that are unacceptable in times of peace — such as profiling, listening in on anyone and everybody who looks suspicious, or interviewing Muslims in a more intense way than interviewing Christian refugees — is all acceptable [during war],” he told The Wrap. “Why? Because we value life more than our civil liberties and it’s temporary until the problem goes away.”
Days later, he walked back his remarks, saying he “misspoke” and that all “refugees coming from Syria” should “require additional scrutiny,” regardless of religion.
A Maryland Divide Over Israel and the Palestinians
Last week, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the New York Times wrote that the Maryland Senate race involves “slight differences in policy.” But on Israel and the Palestinians, Edwards has significantly departed from the status quo in votes and statements in ways that her opponent has not.
During “Operation Cast Lead,” the sustained bombing campaign of Gaza that began in late 2008 and lasted through the middle of January 2009, 390 members of Congress, including Van Hollen, voted in favor of a one-sided resolution affirming support for Israel’s conduct during the war; Edwards voted “present.”
In November of 2009, the House of Representatives voted 344 to 36 to call on the administration to oppose endorsement of the United Nations’ “Goldstone Report,” which described war crimes by both Israel and Hamas during the previous year’s war. Van Hollen voted with the majority, and Edwards was one of the few who voted no.
Following the 2010 deaths of activists aboard a Gaza-bound flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the territory under Israeli blockade, Israeli officials and right-wing supporters of the government there denied that there was a growing humanitarian crisis in the territory.
“I think all international institutions have acknowledged a humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” Edwards told me at the time. “I have long said that I don’t think the blockade is really sustainable for the people of Gaza.” Van Hollen’s statement on the event — highlighted on AIPAC’s website — was more muted; it did not condemn the embargo but affirmed that the “U.S. must also continue to make sure humanitarian assistance is able to reach the people of Gaza.”
In November 2015, all but one member of the Maryland congressional delegation signed onto a House letter written to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas condemning the “recent wave of Palestinian violence in Israel and the West Bank.” By mid-October seven Israelis had been killed in stabbings and similar incidents, and dozens had been wounded. In the same time frame, almost 30 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli military attacks and nearly 2,000 had been injured.
Van Hollen signed the letter, Edwards did not. Asked by Washington Jewish Week why she did not sign the letter, she gave a brief statement condemning the violence as a whole, not just one side’s attacks:
I condemn the violence affecting the lives of Israelis and Palestinians, and urge both sides to return to the negotiating table to seek peace. It is critical that we ensure the State of Israel as a secure Jewish democratic state by making a two-state solution a reality, with the recognition of an independent Palestinian state that respects and recognizes the State of Israel.
“If you take their records side by side, she’s in the bottom 5 percent of the class and he’s up there, among the top,” Morris J. Amitay, a former AIPAC executive director, said in comments to the Baltimore Sun. “I’ve never seen such a disparity.”
British security services “routinely” collect personal data on bulk from thousands of public and private organizations, including confidential medical and financial records, newly-disclosed documents show.
The previously-confidential files, obtained by campaign group Privacy International (PI) as part of an ongoing legal case challenging the collection of bulk personal datasets (BPDs), have revealed “the staggering extent to which the intelligence agencies hoover up our data.”
In March 2015, the government first owned up to the use of BPDs by its intelligence agencies, including by MI6, MI5 and GCHQ. BPDs include call logs, internet traffic, and medical, financial and travel records of British citizens.
“It goes far beyond monitoring our text messages, email messages, and social media posts. The intelligence agencies have secretly given themselves access to potentially any and all recorded information about us,” PI explains.
“The agencies themselves admit that the majority of data collected relates to individuals who are not a threat to national security or suspected of a crime. This highly sensitive information about us is vulnerable to attack from hackers, foreign governments, and criminals,” PI’s legal officer Millie Graham Wood said in a statement.
BPDs currently account for 5 percent of all data stored by GCHQ, the files reveal.
An oversight committee reviews the storage of BPDs every six months. Since 2005, home secretaries have had to reauthorize the collection of these data sets twice a year.
Wood warned the government’s controversial Investigatory Powers Bill would codify and legitimize these practices.
“The agencies have been doing this for 15 years in secret and are now quietly trying to put these powers on the statute book for the first time, in the Investigatory Powers Bill, which is currently being debated in Parliament. These documents reveal a lack of openness and transparency with the public about these staggering powers and a failure to subject them to effective Parliamentary scrutiny.”
In a statement, the Home Office defended the use of BPDs, saying their acquisition provides “vital and unique intelligence.”
The document cache also contains guidance for intelligence officers who have access to surveillance systems. One document aimed at MI6 employees warns officers not to scour the surveillance databases “for information about other members of staff, neighbors, friends, acquaintances, family members and public figures unless it is necessary to do so as part of your official duties.”
The revelations come after a survey revealed the majority of Britons remain unconcerned about the potential ramifications of the Investigatory Powers Bill.
Of 1,600 respondents surveyed by Broadband Genie, 75 percent said they had not heard of the IP Bill. Asked if they backed the government’s plans to ramp up mass surveillance in Britain, a third said they didn’t care either way.
Other countries, not the U.S., have oligarchs apparently.
I’d submitted several questions, but first a word on the choreography of the event: Virtually every “news maker” event I recall seeing at the Press Club had the speaker at the head table which is on a stage a few feet up, speaking at a podium. This event, it was just her and the moderator, Press Club President Thomas Burr on two cushy chairs on the stage, with the “head table” below them. Whether this was to elevate the two of them, save her the trouble of having prepared remarks, a new thing, an attempt to cast the billionaire in a more casual light — inspired by Davos type events — I don’t know. But it was weird.
Speaking of choreography, on the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue around the same time, several hundred people were arrested at the Capitol Building as part of the “Democracy Spring” and “Democracy Awakening” actions. It seemed odd to me, protests happening, with “arrests” as part of a very planned action, aimed in part against money in politics, while the very personification of big business advocacy in government received virtually no scrutiny.
It’s not just her job, or that she and her family is incredibly rich. It’s that Pritzker enriched herself by crashing a bank with sub-prime loans, causing 1,400 people to lose their savings. In addition, a relation of hers was mentioned in the Panama Papers. So while so many were breathlessly reporting on associates of official bad guys like Putin being mentioned in the Panama Papers, hardly a soul noted the Pritzker connection. Finally, and perhaps most incredibly, Forbes several years ago did an investigation in to the Pritzker family and found that they set up shell companies decades ago in ways that would be illegal now. It’s in a sense not just oligarchy, it’s aristocracy. A newly rich person can’t do what they’ve done, according to Forbes. [See a summery off each of these issues, based on investigations by Tim Anderson, Dennis Bernstein, Stephane Fitch and McClatchy.]
And off shore shell companies were in the news of late. Oxfam just released a report claiming: “Tax dodging by multinational corporations costs the U.S. approximately $111 billion each year and saps an estimated $100 billion every year from poor countries” [PDF]. A prior report from the Tax Justice Network would seem to indicate that this was a severe under estimate. That found that as of 2010, the super-rich are hiding at least $21 trillion in accounts outside their home countries [PDF].
I’d at least expected a mild question about off shore activity — and figured she’d talk about how the Obama administration is allegedly now making moves to stop tax inversions.
But there was nothing about any of this. At the news maker event, the question I wrote on a card on the nub of the issues at play, was something like this: “A relation of yours — Liesel Pritzker Simmons — is mentioned in the recently released Panama Papers. Do you have comment on the extent of off shore shell companies — especially given your family uses them through grandfather clauses in ways that would not be legal for anyone new now?”
That didn’t get asked, nor did several I’d submitted in an email prior to the to the Press Club president by email:
The Pope — and Bernie Sanders — talk about a “moral economy” — that it’s inherently unjust if a very few individuals and families have enormous wealth while billions on the planet have virtually nothing. Your family of course is enormously wealthy — What do you think of that? (for overview, “Panama Papers: Pritzkers, American Oligarchs“.)
You have been charged with crashing Superior Bank in Chicago with a subprime mortgage scheme, resulting in 1,400 people losing their savings. How do you respond to these charges? (“Obama’s Subprime Conflit” and Bloomberg “Pritzker’s Superior Bank Subprime Losses Blemish Resume“)
Do you argue that your massive fundraising efforts for Obama in 2008 and 2012 had nothing to do with him appointing you as Sec of Commerce? (See from Public Campaign “Penny Pritzker, Not Just an Obama Donor.”)
The name of Liesel Pritzker Simmons appears in the recently released Panama Papers, a relative who sued much of the rest of the family for allegedly trying to cheat her. But what’s perhaps notable about your family, as Forbes has written, is that you set up shell companies decades ago and thus can do things because of grandfather clauses that are not legal any more. Is that moral?
Forbes — which estimates your net worth at 2.3 billion — had specific questions for you for —
* ‘Tell us from the very, very beginning: What led to your being paid $53.6 million in “consultant” income by your family’s offshore trusts in 2012?
* ‘Did your family’s carve-up finally produce significant tax payments?
* ‘Why are you your own biggest debtor?
* ‘Why is even your house in an LLC?
* ‘How do you rack up $250,000 on an American Express card?’
On trade issues and the TPP — how do you respond to —
Zahara Heckscher, a breast cancer patient and writer: “If ratified, the TPP would lock in monopolies for certain new medicines, biological medicines that help people like me stay alive. Monopolies allow drug companies to increase prices dramatically, and high prices decrease access.”
Lori Wallach of Public Citizen: “The aggregate U.S. goods trade deficit with Free Trade Agreement (FTA) partners is more than five times as high as before the deals went into effect, while the aggregate trade deficit with non-FTA countries has actually fallen.”
Manuel Pérez-Rocha of the Institute for Policy Studies — who has argued that NAFTA has pushed many Mexicans to migrate to the US since it has become an “engine of poverty in Mexico” since it has gutted family farming in Mexico, as wells as mom and pop stores, and indigenous industry.
The questions that did get asked were fairly pedestrian and quite friendly: “Can you give us your perspective on the trade and trade agreements, in particular, and any fears about possible trade wars that have been talked about? … What is the Commerce Department doing with the U.S. and international partners to combat the cyber threat to the United States businesses? … Intellectual property of U.S. businesses in many forms; music, movies, have been stolen and stolen frequently. How much does this cost American businesses? [Prizker: ‘I don’t have the exact number in front of me.’] … Do you believe that China is manipulating its currency to gain a trade advantage, and do you see any other countries doing that?” The toughest question was probably “We’ve added nearly $10 trillion to the U.S. debt in the last seven, eight years. Is this a ticking time bomb for the U.S. and the global economy?” See video and PDF.
The last question was: “I understand you are a marathon runner. I would like to know, and our audience, I think, would like to know, what is the secret for training for a marathon?”
It turned out Pritzker didn’t have to run from much in her appearance at the Press Club.
The #PanamaPapers leaks have exposed David Cameron as a hypocrite and consequently done great harm to his reputation.
If the political fall-out from the leaks does eventually bring the British Prime Minister down then he can’t really complain as he’s had a dream ride up to now.
He didn’t deserve to become Conservative Party leader in 2005 as his main rivals for the job were better qualified and more experienced and he most certainly, given his track record in office, didn’t deserve to get another term as Prime Minister in 2015.
In fact, if we look back at Cameron’s career, it’s apparent that from very early on he was placed on the ‘Fast Track’ to power. It’s hard to think of another leading political figure in recent British political history who has had it quite so easy.
Cameron didn’t have to fight his way to the top as others have to do: He was eased into his position by influential Tory neocon ‘modernizers’ who were confident that he would serve their interests better than his rivals.
Cameron had three major advantages to help kick start his career: He was from a very wealthy Establishment background (with money on both sides of the family dating back several generations), he went to Eton, the country’s most prestigious public school, and then studied at Oxford University. During his gap year between Eton and Oxford he worked as a researcher in the House of Commons for his godfather Tim Rathbone, a Tory MP and former banker – who incidentally also went to Eton and Oxford.
At Oxford, Cameron was a member of the Bullingdon Club – an exclusive all-male dining and drinking club with a reputation for wild, outrageous behavior (George Osborne, Cameron’s Chancellor since 2010, was a fellow member).
After he got his degree, Cameron spent five years working at the Conservative Party research department, making valuable contacts within the party.
In 1994, feeling he needed experience in the private sector to boost his career prospects in the Tory party, he entered the media/PR world, landing a job as ‘Director of Corporate Affairs’ at Carlton TV.
“The manner in which he obtained the job says much about how men of Cameron’s background tend to progress through life,” James Robertson and David Teather noted in the Guardian in 2010.
“With no experience outside politics, he did what any old Etonian might do and worked his contacts”, Robertson and Teather continued.
“The mother of Cameron’s then-girlfriend Samantha, Lady Astor, was friends with Michael Green, then executive chairman of Carlton and one of Margaret Thatcher’s favorite businessmen. She suggested he hire Cameron, and Green, a mercurial millionaire, obliged. The 27-year-old was duly recruited on a salary of about £90,000 a year (the equivalent of more than £130,000 today).”
Nice work if you can get it, eh? But you’ll only get it if, like Cameron, you have the ‘right connections’. Experience and indeed ability has nothing to do with it: Cameron‘s career is proof that Britain is a long way off from being a ‘meritocracy’ – a place where people get jobs because of their talent and not because of who they know.
Carlton TV’s ‘Director of Corporate Affairs’ was selected for the winnable seat of Stafford for the Tories in the 1997 general election, but lost out in the Labour landslide.
However, three years later Cameron was selected for the very safe Tory seat of Witney in Oxfordshire, and was duly elected as an MP in 2001.
Just four years later, at the age of 39, ‘Call Me Dave’ was Conservative Party leader. How was it done?
Cameron’s main rivals for the Tory leadership in October 2005 had stronger CVs. Ken Clarke aka ’Big Beast’, was a former Home Secretary and a Chancellor of the Exchequer who had presided over an economic recovery from 1993-7.
David Davis, a successful self-made businessman who had been born and brought up by a single mother on a council estate, had been a Minister of State for Europe, a Chairman of the Conservative Party and was now Shadow Home Secretary.
Not only did Clarke and Davis have far greater experience than Cameron, they also had greater voter appeal than the Old Etonian.
A BBC Newsnight poll in September 2005 revealed that Clarke was FOUR times as popular with ordinary voters than his nearest rival in the Tory party leadership race: 40 percent said Clarke would be the best Tory leader, 10 percent said Davis, but only 4 percent said Cameron.
Yet ‘Mr 4%’ David Cameron was the candidate anointed in editorials and comment pieces by influential Tory-supporting media pundits and the novice cruised to victory. Why did Cameron get such a leg-up?
In October 2005, I attempted to explain Cameron’s rapid elevation in The Guardian.
“Cameron’s meteoric rise from leadership no-hoper to frontrunner has taken many by surprise,” I wrote. “But what has happened is that British neoconservatives, faced with the nightmarish possibility that in a straight fight between David Davis and Kenneth Clarke the more charismatic and anti-war former chancellor would prevail, sought to undermine support for the latter by reinventing Cameron, the pro-war Thatcherite, as the voice of Tory ‘moderation'”.
The big negative with Ken Clarke for the Tory neocon ‘modernizers’ was that the former Chancellor had opposed the Iraq war.
As I noted in the Guardian, Cameron’s leadership campaign was masterminded by the ‘neoconservative trio’ of George Osborne, Michael Gove and Ed Vaizey. The last two men were signatories to the Statement of Principles
of the uber neocon ‘Henry Jackson Society’ which launched in the UK in 2005, the same year Cameron became Tory leader.
The Tory neocons wanted a man who could be relied to carry on an interventionist foreign policy. The fresh-faced Cameron – who unlike ‘Big Beast’ Ken Clarke had supported the Iraq invasion – could be the Tory party’s Tony Blair. A man cast as a ‘moderate’, but who could be relied upon to carry out extreme policies, like cuts and privatization at home and further redistribution of wealth to the super-rich, while carrying on UK support for ‘wars on intervention’ abroad.
As Cameron himself declared during the leadership campaign: “I am the heir to Blair”.
We can’t say we weren’t warned.
In Part 2: How Cameron repaid his neocon backers
Follow Neil Clark on Twitter @NeilClark66
It’s questionable now whether David Cameron will be able to survive 2016 as prime minister. The crushing combination of the #PanamaPapers and the UK Brexit referendum may well be enough to pulverize ‘Teflon Tory’ and bury him.
In Part One of ‘A Charmed Life’, I explained how David Cameron, a man born into great wealth and privilege, had been fast-tracked to power by influential neocons. After just four years as an MP he was anointed as Tory party leader, even though his rivals had much stronger credentials and greater public appeal.
Since his elevation ‘Call Me Dave’ has certainly not let his backers down! His governments, under the pretext of ‘austerity’, have cut welfare payments and social services and helped the one percent become even richer. The top rate of income tax was cut and corporation tax has also been slashed.
Remaining publicly owned assets have been privatized, or have been earmarked for privatization with rich City insiders and party donors benefiting. In 2013, the Royal Mail, in state hands since its inception in the 16th century, was privatized, with a hedge fund whose co-head of development strategy was the best man at Chancellor George Osborne’s wedding, netting a profit of £36m.
The government now plans to sell the Land Registry – in public hands since the days of Queen Victoria.
In foreign policy, Cameron continued where Bomber Blair left off. In the same way that Tony Blair helped destroy Iraq, ‘Tory Blair’ helped wreck Libya. A country that had the highest living standards in Africa was transformed, thanks to NATO’s ’humanitarian intervention’, into a failed state and a haven for radical jihadists and terrorists.
Cameron and his governments also played a very negative and destructive role in relation to Syria, enthusiastically supporting ‘regime change‘ and championing the cause of violent jihadists and terrorists – euphemistically labeled ‘rebels’- who were fighting to overthrow a secular government implacably opposed to Al-Qaeda and its affiliates.
In 2013, Cameron, faithfully serving neocon interests, tried desperately to get Parliament to support airstrikes on Syrian government targets. Thankfully, that was defeated. Had it not been, then it’s likely that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and Al-Qaeda affiliates would now be in charge of the whole of Syria.
If ever a British Prime Minister deserved to lose a General Election it was David Cameron in 2015. ‘Call Me Dave’ had presided over the longest fall in living standards in the country for 50 years.
His government had pledged to improve public finances, but in fact had made them worse: the UK’s debt increased by 50 percent under Cameron‘s watch.
Furthermore, Cameron’s foreign policy has undoubtedly made the world a much more dangerous place.
However, helped once again by a very friendly media, and in particular the Murdoch press – which thought it of the utmost importance that we saw a photo of Labour leader Ed Miliband eating a bacon sarnie on the front page of The Sun, Cameron scraped home in last year‘s election.
As I noted in an RT op-edge about the election campaign: “There was little, if any, proper discussion of the Conservatives’ many failures in office… If there had been proper media coverage of the way Tories have sold off public assets to their City chums, and the future privatizations Cameron and Co have planned (Chancellor George Osborne has pledged to sell off £20 billion more of state assets by 2020), then the Tories would not get anywhere near the amount of seats they did.”
It’s clear that Cameron was chosen, from quite early on as the best ‘front man’ for taking the neocon project on to the next stage. The question now is: will those who helped put Cameron into power – and who did everything they could to help him stay in 10 Downing Street during the 2015 General Election campaign, continue to support him?
Up to now Cameron has been the ‘Teflon Tory’ – the man against whom no charge seems to stick. While Tony Blair is rightly reviled for what he did to Iraq, Cameron has largely escaped censure for his role in the destruction of Libya. Even allegations of Cameron taking part in a weird initiation ceremony involving the head of a dead pig at Oxford didn’t do too much harm to his ratings.
The #PanamaPapers leaks, however, could be a game changer. In Parliament last week, Cameron tried to draw a line under the revelations by making a Commons statement. Toadying Tory MPs stood up to declare that The Great Leader had done nothing wrong. One MP, the very wealthy oil trader Sir Alan Duncan, tried to make out that the outrage over the Panama Papers was due to envy over people’s wealth – and made a snobbish reference to ‘low-achievers’.
The smug, self-congratulatory mood was splendidly punctured by veteran left-wing Labour MP Dennis Skinner, who dubbed the prime minister ‘Dodgy Dave‘.
Shortly afterwards, I sent out a tweet saying that Skinner was a ‘National Treasure’ and asked people to retweet my message if they agreed with it. At the time of writing the tweet has been retweeted almost 6,000 times and liked over 3,000 times.
The tweet, I note, has got more endorsement than any from establishment gatekeepers and members of the elite punditocracy, who were keen to label Skinner as ‘rude’ for having the temerity to voice the views of millions of ordinary Britons.
It’s not just on social media that members of the public are making their voices heard. A poll in the Daily Mirror newspaper asked readers if they thought Skinner should have been thrown out of the Commons for his ‘Dodgy Dave’ remark: 95 percent voted ‘No’.
The Mirror is a Labour supporting publication, so perhaps you’d expect such a result. But another poll in the Daily Express – which does not support Labour – showed that 83 percent of readers thought Cameron should resign over the Panama Papers scandal.
A few days ago, Cameron was overtaken by Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn in approval ratings for the first time, with almost 60 percent of people saying that he’s doing badly as PM.
‘Call Me Dave’ and his Chancellor George Osborne are now the least trusted politicians on tax avoidance. Meanwhile, over 160,000 people have signed a petition calling for a snap general election.
The neocons who backed Cameron in 2005 are divided over Europe, which also doesn’t help the PM’s cause. Michael Gove, who helped mastermind Cameron’s campaign in 2005, is one of six Cabinet ministers campaigning for Britain to leave the EU in a referendum that Cameron – given the dip in his ratings – could easily lose. Even if the ‘Remain’ side does sneak home narrowly, Cameron would still be very vulnerable.
We know just how ruthless the Conservative Party can be when they feel they’ve got a leader who’s gone past their sell-by date: even the fact that she had won three general elections wasn’t enough to save Mrs. Thatcher in 1990.
Cameron has already declared he won’t serve a third term as prime minister, but it must now be doubtful that he will even be able to survive 2016. Whether it’s the #PanamaPapers or the EU referendum in June which finishes him, the dream ride for the ‘Teflon Tory’ has almost certainly come to an end. About time, too!
(*What Anne Applebaum really meant but couldn’t say in her Washington Post column.)
The Washington Post’s foreign affairs columnist seems to believe that Dutch people are stupid and, as a result, they shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Of course, she can’t write it directly. So, instead, she blames RT, and other Russian media, for a democratic choice that delivered a result she doesn’t like.
In the legendary 1976 movie, Network, Peter Finch, as Howard Beale, famously bellowed: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” The film was loaded with preachy rants and self-righteous contempt for ordinary folk watching the television channel in question.
Anne Applebaum is a pro-establishment Howard Beale. Given to similar hubris from her various soapboxes. Yet, her visceral hatred of Russia helps makes her position even more entrenched than the fictional anti-hero. As a result, Applebaum seems incapable of reviewing a situation without seeing Russia’s hand somewhere.
Take last week’s Dutch Referendum on the proposed association agreement between Ukraine and the EU.
Numerous analysts, actual EU officials, the Dutch Prime Minister and voters themselves, have given reasons why the scheme was rejected. They have, most prominently, cited anger with the EU’s lack of transparency, Ukrainian corruption, fear of eventual EU membership for another large, poor eastern state and internal Dutch disillusion with the country’s elite.
Over in Kiev, locals have blamed “their (own) political leaders for not doing enough to tackle corruption and improve the country’s image,” according to Reuters correspondents on the ground. Here’s a sample reaction: “People there in Europe understand the level of corruption, that the authorities are now simply incapable of doing anything better for their own citizens,” said Ilya Zhyzhyyan, a 29-year-old Kiev resident. “So the Dutch probably think – why do they need a country that can’t do any good for its own people?”
The head of the Ukrainian parliament’s own committee on European integration MP, Iryna Herashchenko, blasted the fallout from the Panama Papers. The massive data leak contained information that Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko was probably evading taxes while his impoverished country endured a brutal civil war.
As you can see, people directly affected by the Netherlands ballot are capable of offering reasonable explanations for the negative verdict. They make grown up, measured arguments. Yet, Applebaum can only see Russia, Russia, Russia!
In her latest Washington Post column, her primary argument is that “the Dutch just showed the world how Russia influences Western European elections.” You can translate that to mean that Applebaum refuses to accept any other reason for failure aside from dastardly Russian meddling. This is utterly bizarre.
She takes issue with 59 percent of Dutch ‘no’ voters stating that Ukrainian corruption motivated their unfavorable ballots. Applebaum derides their, quite understandable, worries as “hardly a rational argument.” Yet, two years ago, she wrote: “The West has let Russian corruption destabilize Europe. It’s time to stop it.” It’s beyond reasonable logic that anybody could believe that Russian corruption is a grave threat to Europe, but extortion in Ukraine is totally harmless.
Even Ukrainians admit that bribery in their nation is endemic. In fact, Transparency International reports that it’s the “most corrupt country in Europe.” Indeed, many experts believe that graft has actually worsened since the Maidan coup in 2014. Even the Wall Street Journal has acknowledged the fact. Without question, this situation is depressing, considering that corruption was ostensibly the motivation for the initial, peaceful, marches against Viktor Yanukovich’s government. Nevertheless, remaining in denial about it isn’t going to help matters.
A European Dream
She also argues that Dutch voters are wrong to blame Ukraine for the MH17 disaster. However, families of the victims are suing Kiev for not closing its airspace during a time of war. Even if, as investigators believe, the Donbass rebels were responsible, they didn’t have control of civilian aviation.
Applebaum further rails against the belief “that the treaty would (eventually) guarantee Ukraine’s membership in the European Union.” The problem is that it’s not Russians scaring people with this notion. It’s Ukrainians. President Poroshenko has stated that Ukraine will be “ready to join the EU in five years.” Meanwhile, outgoing Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk recently said that he is “sure that Ukraine will become a European Union member state despite all the challenges and hardships.”
Applebaum has written extensively about her support for democracy. Indeed, she’s warned that we “shouldn’t take it for granted.” Now, because of a verdict she objects to, she backtracks. “A treaty already approved by 27 countries can’t be renegotiated from scratch,” our hero writes.
The problem here is that these countries didn’t vote on the Ukrainian question. Their governments merely nodded through the agreement, as is the norm on EU issues. Yet, when one country actually let the people decide, the verdict was an overwhelming ‘no.’ Now, Applebaum, a self-styled champion of democracy, suggests we ignore that choice. This is amazing hypocrisy.
Applebaum is blinkered by her association with a Eurocrat elite, who are doing their best to suppress suffrage within the EU. Despite platitudes about “liberation” and “freedom,” these people are vigorously anti-populist and are determined to deny people the right to choose their own fate. It’s revealing that Carl Bildt, a close political ally of Applebaum’s husband Radoslaw Sikorski, expressed almost identical sentiments on Twitter after the results became known.
Utterly convinced that their Atlanticist, neoliberal outlook is the only possible future for Europe, they are unwilling to accept their own inadequacies or admit their own failures. Thus, whenever something puts a brake on their plans, they need to blame a third-party. Russia, as the only major European nation outside the EU/NATO blocs, is their favorite whipping boy.
If something doesn’t go the way Brussels/Washington establishments want, the Kremlin is always behind it. This denies ordinary EU citizens any kind of respect for their own concerns and interests.
Nobody, with any grip on reality, could honestly believe that 2.5 million Dutch voters rejected closer cooperation with Ukraine because Russia, and its media services, told them to. So why does the Washington Post’s star foreign affairs columnist, and, presumably, the editorial board who appointed her, think people will swallow this nonsense?