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August 17, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular, Video | | 1 Comment

Israel’s Chorus Sings Again

Less than total loyalty to Israel is un-American

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • August 15, 2017

Congress is on a one-month summer recess. You would think that given the recent turmoil over the bill to eliminate Obamacare and the upcoming debate over tax policy the nation’s legislators would be back in their home districts talking to the voters. Some are, but many are not. “More than fifty” Congressmen are off on an all-expenses paid trip to Israel to demonstrate that “there is no stronger bond with any ally we have.” Yes indeed, a congress which cannot pass legislation to benefit the American people finds that it has only one voice when it comes to our troublesome little client state that also doubles as the leading recipient of U.S. tax dollars in the world.

How do they do it? They do it by relentless courting of the congress critters and media talking heads, all of whom know how to repay a favor. Some readers might be asking how Congress (spouses included) can accept these free trips from a foreign government? The current trip is estimated to be costing $10,000 per person. Well, the answer is that they can’t do it directly, which would be illegal, so the clever rascals at the American Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) have created an “charitable” foundation that pays the bills. It’s called the American Israel Education Foundation (AIEF). AIEF is a tax exempt 501(c)3 foundation that had income of more than $80 million in 2015. As it is tax exempt that means that its activities are, in effect, being subsidized by the U.S. Treasury so the congressmen are being “charitably educated” while they are also being wined and dined and propagandized in part on the taxpayers’ dime. A couple of the congress critters hardly hit the ground before they were singing the praises of their hosts, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy crooning “We have shared values! Shared security interests! No stronger bond!” And plenty of feel-good all around as Israel is “The Only Democracy in the Middle East!”

Democratic House Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, who has had his head up the Israeli derriere for decades, was also quick on the uptake, enthusing how support for Israel is completely bipartisan, “We are not here as Democrats and Republicans, we are here as Americans who support Israel’s security, its sovereignty and the safety of its people.” And as if it is not enough to go around bragging how one is subordinating U.S. sovereignty to that of Israel, the gnomes are hard at work back at home preparing to pass into law the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, which will criminalize for many Americans their First Amendment right to criticize Israel, and a completely bipartisan bit of new legislation being pushed by the Israeli government that will take away aid currently given to the Palestinians as long as the Palestinian Authority continues to provide subsidies to help support the families of those individuals being held prisoner by the Israelis. As most aid actually goes towards training Palestinian security forces that are intended to prevent terror attacks against Israelis, the bill is as wrong-headed as can be, but it just goes to show how far Congress will go to punish Arabs on behalf of Israel.

And finally there has been a series of Israel-centric attacks on leading members of the Trump Administration. A month ago, the State Department released its annual Country Reports on Terrorism for 2016. The report, as always, describes threats of violence in the Middle East from an Israeli perspective, but it was honest enough to also include two sentences that state that “Continued drivers of violence included a lack of hope in achieving Palestinian statehood, Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, settler violence against Palestinians… and IDF tactics that the Palestinians considered overly aggressive. The PA has [also] taken significant steps… to not create or disseminate content that incites violence.”

B’nai B’rith immediately blasted the report for “parroting the false Palestinian narrative” and the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) demanded that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson resign because the report was “bigoted, biased, anti-Semitic, Israel hating, error ridden.” ZOA went on to praise the co-chairman of the Republican Israel Caucus, Congressman Peter Roskam for demanding that the State Department correct the “numerous mischaracterizations” in the report.

Tillerson has long been a target of the American-Jewish media because of the perception that oil company executives are traditionally not friendly to Israel. There have also been claims that he is “less hard” on Iran than the Israel Lobby would like. But what Tillerson is really experiencing is the hard truth regarding Israel: that its Lobby and friends in congress are both unrelenting and unforgiving. Even when they get 90% of the pie they are furious over someone else getting 10%.

Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has also been under siege for the past several weeks and his “loyalty” to Israel is now under the microscope. McMaster made the mistake of firing three National Security Council officials that were brought in by his predecessor Michael Flynn. The three – Ezra Cohen-Watnick, Rich Higgins, and Derek Harvey – are all regarded by the Israel Lobby as passionately pro-Israel and virulently anti-Iran. It was therefore inevitable that McMaster would take some heat, but the “speed and intensity” of the attacks has surprised even The Atlantic, which failed to note in its thorough examination of the development that while much of the anger flows from extreme right-wing sources there is also considerable pressure coming directly from friends of Israel.

It is interesting to note just how and by whom the argument against McMaster is being framed. Caroline Glick, an American-born Israeli journalist who might reasonably be described as extreme right wing, has led the charge in a posting that described McMaster as “deeply hostile to Israel.” She cites anonymous sources to claim that he refers to Israel as an occupying power and also has the audacity to claim that there once existed a place called Palestine. Oh, and he apparently also supports the nuclear agreement with Iran, as does Tillerson.

McMaster’s other crimes consist of allegedly altering the agenda of Donald Trump’s recent trip to Israel in ways that are somewhat arcane but which no doubt contributed to Glick’s sense of grievance. What is most interesting, however, is the unstated premise supporting Glick’s point of view, which is that the United States national security team should be subject to approval by Israel. Her view is not dissimilar to what lies behind the attacks on Tillerson and the real irony is that neither Tillerson nor McMaster has actually demonstrated any genuine animosity towards Israel, so the whole process is part of a perverse mindset that inevitably sees nearly everything as a threat.

We Americans are way beyond the point where we might simply demand that Israel and its partisans butt out of our politics. Israel-firsters are literally deeply embedded everywhere in the media, in politics at all levels, in academia, and in the professions. They are well funded and highly disciplined to respond to any threats to their hegemony. Their policy is to never give an inch on anything relating to Israel and their relentless grinding is characteristic of how they behave. The Israel Lobby controls Congress and can literally get any bill it wants through the legislature. And it also has its hooks in the White House, though the unpredictable Trump obviously makes many American Zionists nervous because it is rightly believed that once the president takes a position on anything he cannot be trusted either to understand what he has committed to or to stick with it subsequently.

So what is to be done? To match the passion of the Israel Lobby we Americans have to become passionate ourselves. Do what they do but in reverse. Write letters to congressmen and newspapers opposing the junkets to Israel. When a congress critter has a town hall, show up and complain about our involvement in the Middle East. Keep mentioning the pocket book issues, i.e. how Israel costs the taxpayer $9 million a day. Explain how its behavior puts our diplomats and soldiers overseas in danger. The reality is that Israel is built on a lot of lies promoted by people who frequently cite the holocaust every time they turn around but who have no actual regard for humanity outside their own tribe. The hypocrisy must stop if the United States is to survive as a nation. Pandering to Israel and engaging in constant wars to directly or indirectly defend it, be they against Iran or in Syria, will wear our country down and erode our freedoms. We are already on a slippery slope and it is past time to put our own interests first.

August 15, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 3 Comments

US govt spends $76bn to arm & equip Afghan forces – new report

RT | August 11, 2017

The Pentagon has spent $76 billion on weapons and equipment for the Afghan army and police since 2001, the US Government Accountability Office said. The report comes as President Donald Trump says he is “very close” to announcing a new strategy on Afghanistan.

The US has paid for 600,000 weapons, including rifles and pistols, for the Afghan army and police, the GAO report released on Thursday said. The funding also went to buy more than 25,000 grenade launchers and almost 10,000 rocket-propelled weapons to be used by the Afghans.

Additionally, the US has given to the government in Kabul 162,643 pieces of communications equipment and nearly 76,000 vehicles.

Earlier this summer, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) slammed the Pentagon for spending money on uniforms that Afghan forces didn’t need.

The US has spent $93.81 million over the past decade to provide Afghan troops with uniforms of a “forest” camouflage pattern which is largely unsuitable for Afghanistan’s landscape, a SIGAR report said.

Billions have been squandered on projects that were useless, or lost to waste and corruption, according to SIGAR.

The US’s profligate spending in Afghanistan is “the definition of insanity — doing the same things over and over again, expecting a different result,” Special Inspector General John F. Sopko told NBC News last year.

The US is overall estimated to have spent over $700 billion on military assistance, reconstruction and economic aid to Afghanistan in the past 17 years of war, which began in 2001 as a response to Afghanistan’s harboring of Al-Qaeda following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. With Al-Qaeda in the country largely defeated, the war has morphed into a fight with local Taliban insurgents.

On Thursday, President Trump told reporters that he’s “very close” to announcing his administration’s new strategy on Afghanistan.

“It’s a very big decision for me. I took over a mess and we’re going to make it a lot less messy,” he said.

US officials had earlier promised to deliver an updated strategy by mid-July, but the decision-making stalled.

The commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, as well as Trump’s national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, suggested adding some 4,000 American troops to the nearly 9,000 already deployed in Afghanistan.

Trump reportedly lashed out at top US military officials in a July meeting for losing ground in Afghanistan and questioned whether America’s longest war is still worth fighting. “We are losing,” Trump said, according to an NBC report.

The president also reportedly considered firing the commander of US forces in Afghanistan.

In 2013 Trump tweeted: “We have wasted an enormous amount of blood and treasure in Afghanistan. Their government has zero appreciation. Let’s get out!”

The US-backed government in Kabul controls about 60 percent of the country – down from 65 percent the same time last year, according to the US military headquarters in Kabul.

Meanwhile, the Taliban is gaining ground. Last week, militants gained control of a key area in Afghanistan’s north Sari Pul province.

Earlier this summer, the Taliban raided and seized the district of Jani Khel in Paktia province, south of Kabul. The fall of Jani Khel marked its third victory in just four days.

Deaths of Afghan security forces in the early months of 2017 were “shockingly high,” SIGAR recently reported.

The Obama administration said a political solution that would involve the Taliban was necessary to end the conflict. The Trump administration has yet to outline its position.

August 11, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Illegal Occupation, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Israel’s secret attempt to buy-out North Korea’s missile export program

Sputnik – 10.08.2017

In an exceptional episode, little-known and never acknowledged in the Western mainstream media, Israel secretly negotiated a billion dollar buy-out of North Korea’s missile export program to the Middle East. […]

Supporters of the effort believe Israel could have forged ties with North Korea and aided the “rogue” nation’s rapprochement with the West — detractors dismiss the idea as foolish fantasy.

While Israel recognized China in 1950, it had never established relations with North Korea. Perhaps as a result, perhaps unrelatedly, the latter provided Libya, Iran, Syria and other countries in the region hostile to Israel with advanced missile technology.

Tensions between the two countries remained frosty at best, and outright hostile at worst, until the early 1990s.

The severe economic crisis that befell North Korea at that time, and the terminal illness of founder and President Kim Il-sung, opened up doors on both sides for potential conciliation.

Efforts began in earnest September 1992, when Eytan Bentsur, the then-Foreign Ministry’s deputy director-general, proposed to Pyongyang that Israel would purchase a defunct gold mine in North Korea in exchange for the country freezing or limiting its arms deals with Iran.

The offer was top secret — not even the head of the Foreign Ministry’s Asia department was informed.

On November 1, 1992, five Israelis, including Bentsur, and two geologists flew to Pyongyang to assess the mine. They received a fairly warm welcome upon arrival, staying for several days in the government’s official guesthouse, being flown around the country in Il-sung’s private helicopter and entertained grandly. A meeting with Kim’s son-in-law, responsible for the country’s arms exports, was set up.

What Bentsur et al didn’t know was they weren’t the only Israelis in Pyongyang at that time. A second delegation, headed by Mossad chief Efraim Halevy, was also visiting the capital.

Perhaps predictably, it’s unknown what Mossad’s representatives did during their trip — conversely, the Foreign Ministry contingent was taken to the Unsan gold mine. Bentsur and colleagues were certain North Korea was genuinely open to rapprochement at the time, a view he holds to this day — and government representatives did express a willingness to allow Israel to open a diplomatic mission in Pyongyang, and host an official visit from President Shimon Peres.

For their part, Israeli representatives made clear any relationship between the two was contingent on arms exports to the Middle East ceasing.

In the initial weeks after the trip, there was much optimism that a deal could be struck, and Pyongyang seemed genuinely interested in warming relations with the US and other Western powers.

However, Mossad chief Halevy quickly concluded the regime was going to continue selling missiles to Israel’s enemies, a deal was improbable, and it would be advisable to jettison their ambitions.

Nonetheless, in January 1993, North Korea invited Peres and Bentsur to Pyongyang, but Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin, who agreed with Havely, refused.

Those who believe a deal could’ve been struck are adamant Mossad played the key role in derailing negotiations. Bentsur suggests the agency lobbied the CIA into pressuring US Secretary of State Warren Christopher to call for a halt to all talks.

Others are more circumspect. In an interview with local media, Moshe Yegar, the then-Foreign Ministry’s Asia chief, said the “ugly” episode was a “fiasco from every angle” and “nonsense of the first order.” He believes there was “absolutely no way” Israel could have ever gotten Pyongyang to play ball. … Full article

August 10, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Democratic Demagogues and ‘The Better Deal’

By James Petras • Unz Review • August 9, 2017

Introduction

After 6 months of blaming Russia for the Democratic Party’s Presidential election debacle, the Party stalwarts have finally realized that the American electorate is not listening.

Democratic Party investigators in Washington still hold hearings and the mass media are still scandal mongering, but the public is not rallying to their cause.

Trump’s demagogy may have lost its appeal, while the Republican Administration purges and internecine squabbles have been met with a huge collective yawn by the public. The Democratic Party proves itself to be a weird sideshow for the vast majority of American voters… and for good reason.

Their perpetual (corrupt and senile) leaders are unwavering supporters of every indignity and economic hardship that the majority of worker families have suffered for the last three decades.

Democratic Party Senator Chuck ‘the Schmuck’ Schumer and Congresswomen Nancy ‘The Loser’ Pelosi have spent a collective sixty-five years in Congress. Their joint tenure marks a period of long decline in working class living standards and even worker life expectancy, while they have made possible the greatest concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1% plutocrats.

The Democratic Party’s ‘Better Deal’ – But for Whom?

In July 2017, nearly a dozen of the top Democratic Party honchos and Congress people met to spin out a new electoral manifesto for American workers which they are marketing as ‘A Better Deal’.

They issued prophetic press releases claiming to have received (presumably from the Holy Mountain) ‘a new vision of the party’. They claimed ‘the vision’ was also the result of their humble ‘listening to the American people’. They confessed that ‘the American people deserve better’. But their sweetly harmonized collective ‘Mea Culpa’ omitted any mention of the four previous Democratic Party Presidential terms, under Bill ‘The Shill’ Clinton and Barak ‘The Con” Obama, which ushered in this deplorable state of affairs for the American working class.

The Democratic Party’s ‘new vision’ wallows in the muddy demagogic footsteps of ‘The Donald’ Trump: Their new ‘product’ is just ‘demagogy lite’.

Tossing electoral fodder to the multitude, they have trotted out three ‘new promises’: 1. cheaper drug prices, 2. the regulation of ‘monopolies’ and 3. more funds to retrain workers. Their new marketing campaign does not include even a tiny whisper about a single payer national health system (favored by the majority of the public and by tens of thousands of doctors and nurses). Their cheap shots on ‘drug prices’ does not mention how Obama and Clinton facilitated the Big Pharma’s pillage of the public for decades. They mention ‘monopolies’ but made no attack on Wall Street billionaires. Their ‘job re-training’ promises have no provision for any national public employment program. The ‘Better Dealers’ with their ‘New Vision’ have banished all mention of ‘trade unions’.

The minimalist program of these old hack Democrats, re-packaged as the ‘Better Deal’, will not attract American workers for several clear reasons:

Reason #1: The Democrats Have a Rotten Record

For the majority of the American electorate there is no reason to believe or trust the Democratic Party leadership in the Senate. The leading Senate Democrat is New York’s ‘Chuck, the Schmuck’ Schumer, best known for his three decade residence in the pockets of Wall Street, his open loyalty to the dictates of Tel Aviv and his cozy relationship with the Brighton Beach mafia.

Schumer promoted the ‘trillion-dollar tax-payer bailout’ of Wall Street while foreclosing on 2 million household mortgages. He consistently defended AIPAC officials caught spying for Israel and has led the Zionist attack against the UN whenever questions of Israel’s war crimes and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people arise. He led the Senatorial Pack of wolves into destroying Iraq in 2003 and Libya in 2011. He has now turned his tribal ire against his ‘fellow’ American citizens, leading the Senate campaign to make criticism of Israel by boycotting Israeli products punishable by a fine of $1 million dollars and 20 years in Federal Prison. Huge numbers of law-abiding Americans who support the BDS movement for justice and international law will now be targeted with felony convictions and loss of their civil rights by the Israel Anti-Boycott Law (S720). That Senator Schumer would condemn thousands of his own compatriots to virtual life imprisonment for the ‘crime’ of exercising their First Amendment Right of Free Speech speaks volumes about his respect for the Constitution. This thug has brow-beaten scores of his fellow representatives in Washington to support this tyrannical legislation by threatening them with the career-ending accusation of ‘anti-Semitism’ if they waver in their fealty to the war criminals in Israel.

Throughout his political career, Senator Schumer consistently supported Federal Reserve free marketer Alan Greenspan, whose wholesale deregulation of the banks and finance sector led directly to the financial crash of 2008.

Geographically closer to Senator Chuck than Tel Aviv are the factory towns, green hills and valleys of Upstate New York where his forgotten constituents have suffered from decades of de-industrialization, 30% de-population and a raging socio-economic crisis of which the opioid epidemic is only part. Meanwhile, the warmonger Schumer prefers to rant for war against North Korea demanding Trump impose trade sanctions on China. If Beijing finally decides to tell Netanyahu how ‘the Shumck’s’ sanction bombast would harm Israel’s lucrative trade with China, a gentle whisper from Tel Aviv would silence Schumer’s bluster.

Peering over his bifocals, ‘Commandante Schumer’ now claims to lead the “The People’s Resistance against Trump”. While his party activists vent against the ‘Trump and the deplorables’ over the internet, Chuck will be attending the Bar Mitzvahs of Brighten Beach mobsters at the Waldorf Astoria and soirees with his Wall Street billionaire backers, consulting over strategy with his real constituents. Under Schumer, New York City has become the most socially and economically polarized and unequal city in the US.

Most voters know that Schumer’s ‘reincarnation’ as a ‘resistance politico’ is laughable and that the Senator’s re-election rests comfortably with the multi-million dollar contributions from his brothers on Wall Street.

Across the nation, most working class voters have dismissed the antics of the Democratic Party’s ‘Maestro of Demagogy’, Bernie Sanders – who spoke pious piffle to the workers while running errands for the ‘Queen of Chaos’, Hilary Clinton, would-be President and life-long Wall Street warmonger.

The citizens rightly reject the Presidential and Senatorial demagogues, Trump and ‘The Schmuck’. According to a recent Bloomberg Poll, 58% of Americans disapprove of the Democrats, a few points lower than the Republicans level of disapproval. An ABC /Washington Post poll revealed that only 37% of Americans believe that the Democratic Party stands for something!

Nine months after the Clinton debacle, the Democrats remain at or below their dismal voter-approval. Trump has skillfully managed to sink a few points below the Democrats.

In other words, nearly 60% of the voters disapprove of leaders from both parties.

The ‘anti-Trump circus and road show’ increasingly takes place to an empty audience. Their “fight” for ‘transgender rights’ attracts the 1% while studiously ignoring the basic life supporting interests of the seventy million Americans (including both transgendered and straight) who work at lousy part-time contingent and minimum wage jobs and desperately need full-time employment at living wages.

In multiple national polls, one hundred and fifty million Americans have registered their support for a national, single payer health system to insure fairness and access to competent medical care. Instead the ‘newly visioned’ Democrats are merely offering cheaper opioids for their social pain. The people want billions of dollars in public investment for deteriorating schools and infrastructures, not bi-partisan (sic) expansion in military spending for seven ongoing wars and new wars in the making.

Warmongers are not Vote-getters

The high level of voter disapproval against the Democrats results from ultra-militarism, as well as their demands for provocative economic sanctions against Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Palestine and China – exceeding Trump and his warmongers.

The voters know that the Democrats ‘new vision’ is a thinly veiled recipe for costly new wars and economic sanctions that will spill their children’s blood, cripple their families futures and reduce job opportunities everywhere for everyone.

New Candidates, Grass-roots Movements and the Democratic Party

The Democratic Party’s fiasco and their election losses, as well as the growing realization that the socio-economic demands of the American people are never going to be addressed by the ‘old-new visionaries’, have led to a new ‘crop’ of candidates for the 2018 elections.

Over 200 Democratic Party candidates have registered to run in 2018 elections, hoping that ‘new faces’ and a new style of demagogy will bring back the disenchanted voters. These much-ballyhooed ‘upstarts’ toss out empty promises to the victims of the dying economy, industrial towns in ruins, villages with social and health crises, big cities with skyrocketing rents and stagnant wages. They offer nothing that can bring workers back to a Democratic Party still tightly controlled by the Tel Aviv-Wall Street shilling, war-mongering Pelosis and Schumers.

The Democratic Party ‘insurgents’ try to imitate the ‘Bernie’ Sanders double-speak, attacking the billionaires while shilling for the oligarchs’ stable of loyal Democratic Party hacks. The ‘new vision’ Democrats have motes in both eyes and a long road to regaining the votes of the disillusioned ‘deplorables’!

Media-sponsored trips to Rust Belt States to bad-mouth ‘The Donald’ and his anti-health agenda provides no alternative to the decades of Democratic Party betrayal on health care, especially during the last Democrat Presidents whose policies facilitated the rise of Big Pharma’s prescription opioid epidemic which has killed over 500,000 overworked and underpaid workers since 1999. Their continued refusal to hold these policies and their authors to account does not reflect any vision of a viable solution to the crisis.

Conclusion

In place of the discredited bipartisan electoral system, numerous grass roots groups are emerging: Some are operating parallel to the flurry of new Demo-demagogues while many are working against it.

Many community-based groups have taken radical positions, which demand vast new job programs and public finance for a national, accountable, high quality health care system.

They demand prosecution and long prison sentences for Wall Street swindlers, money launderers, tax evaders and corporate drug pushers.

They demand a 90% tax rate ‘adjustment’ on the trillion dollar corporations- Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, Google etc.

The grass roots movements are more than just an ‘anti-Trump’ bandwagon (secretly driven by the old pols of the Democratic Party): They are against both parties and all demagogues. They are especially opposed to any phony ‘Better Deals’ coming out of the backsides of the billionaire-backed ‘shilling and dealing’ Democrats!

August 9, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Economics, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

Jeff Sessions Endorses Theft

By Ron Paul | August 7, 2017

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently ordered the Justice Department to increase the use of civil asset forfeiture, thus once again endorsing an unconstitutional, authoritarian, and increasingly unpopular policy.

Civil asset forfeiture, which should be called civil asset theft, is the practice of seizing property believed to be involved in a crime. The government keeps the property even if it never convicts, or even charges, the owner of the property.

Police can even use civil asset theft to steal from people whose property was used in criminal activity without the owners’ knowledge. Some have even lost their homes because a renter or houseguest was dealing drugs on the premises behind the owners’ backs.

Civil asset theft is a multi-billion dollar a year moneymaker for all levels of government. Police and prosecutors receive more than their “fair share” of the loot. According to a 2016 study by the Institute for Justice, 43 states allow police and prosecutors to keep at least half of the loot they got from civil asset theft.

Obviously, this gives police an incentive to aggressively use civil asset theft, even against those who are not even tangentially involved in a crime. For example, police in Tenaha, Texas literally engaged in highway robbery — seizing cash and other items from innocent motorists — while police in Detroit once seized every car in an art institute’s parking lot. The official justification for that seizure was that the cars belonged to attendees at an event for which the institute had failed to get a liquor license.

The Tenaha police are not the only ones targeting those carrying large sums of cash. Anyone traveling with “too much” cash runs the risk of having it stolen by a police officer, since carrying large amounts of cash is treated as evidence of involvement in criminal activity.

Civil asset theft also provides an easy way for the IRS to squeeze more money from the American taxpayer. As the growing federal debt increases the pressure to increase tax collections without raising tax rates, the IRS will likely ramp up its use of civil asset forfeiture.

Growing opposition to the legalized theft called civil asset forfeiture has led 24 states to pass laws limiting its use. Sadly, but not surprisingly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions is out of step with this growing consensus. After all, Sessions is a cheerleader for the drug war, and civil asset theft came into common usage as a tool in the drug war.

President Trump could do the American people a favor by naming a new attorney general who opposes police state policies like the drug war and police state tactics like civil asset theft.

August 7, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption | , | Leave a comment

‘Leaked transcripts show mania in DC – nothing too bad to do to Trump’

RT | August 4, 2017

What could be more damaging to national security if the US president can’t talk to a foreign leader frankly without the fear of his or the other person’s comments going public, questions former US diplomat Jim Jatras?

The Washington Post published Thursday two leaked confidential transcripts of President Trump’s phone calls with foreign leaders.

Both calls took place in January and, according to the paper, the transcripts had been prepared by White House staff, but not released.

According to the call records, Trump insisted Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, stop publicly saying his country will not pay for Trump’s proposed wall on the US-Mexican border.

Additionally, the report revealed details of Trump’s phone call with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the issue of refugees.

The leak comes a day before Attorney Jeff Sessions is scheduled to hold a news conference detailing efforts to crack down on leaks.

RT:  How damaging is it to US national security that the president’s confidential phone calls are leaked?

Jim Jatras: What could be more damaging if the President of the US cannot talk to a foreign leader frankly without fear of his comments going public, or those of the person he’s talking to? How do you conduct diplomatic business which should be the top priority of the president? The leaking of this information just simply shows the kind of mania we have here in Washington – that nothing is too bad to do to this president. He is such an illegitimate, such a bad president that all the rules can be broken and this criminal activity, this criminal leaking is – “sure, why not, it is actually patriotic to do that.”

RT:  Could these leaks of the president’s confidential phone calls make foreign leaders less apt to speak openly with the US president?

JJ: Of course, I think it is indeed a part of the purpose in leaking them in the first place – to put a chilling effect on anything this president might do while they continue to set him up for removal. I’ll be very interested to hear what Attorney General Jeff Sessions has to say. Frankly, from the day he walked in his office, the first thing he should have done was convene a high-level task force to track down these leakers, prosecute them and put them in jail. He should have impaneled a Grand Jury months ago.

Meanwhile, we hear today that Mr. (Robert) Mueller has impaneled a Grand Jury, even though we haven’t heard any evidence there has even been a crime committed. So there is a complete disconnect between the real criminality – we know it’s going on, it is not being dealt with – and these efforts to essentially bring down the constitutionally elected president.

RT:  White House staff reportedly made the two transcripts. What’s the likelihood there are one or more moles inside Trump’s team?

JJ: It is very unlikely this came from Trump’s team or the White House. Remember one of the last things Mr. Obama did, when he left the White House was to open up the purview for distribution of certain types of information, which means a lot more agencies and a lot more bureaucrats if you will ‘deep staters,’ have access to this information. And of course, the Washington Post is a primary outlet for this kind of information and has a very cozy relationship with their, if you will burrowed in sources, mainly in the intelligence community. I’m guessing that is partly where it came out. Is it going to be tough to track down – you bet it is. So that is why you need a top investigatory team, whose job is to find it.

RT:  Do you believe that those who would like to undermine Trump have gone too far in their effort to show him in a bad light?

JJ: It’s been going too far for quite some months now. Indeed from even before Mr. Trump took the oath of office these efforts were already underway. It is a conscious effort, if you will, a conspiracy to overturn the results of the election. This is simply another symptom of it, and you can bet that tomorrow and next week there’ll be another shoe dropping, and another shoe dropping, and another shoe dropping, and this will continue going on. These people want to remove Trump; they want to neutralize him, pending that. But let’s make no mistake about what the agenda is here.

August 4, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | 4 Comments

Canada enables Barrick’s bad corporate behaviour

By Yves Engler · August 3, 2017

Will the Canadian government continue to support Barrick Gold’s exploitation of mineral resources in Tanzania no matter what abuses the company commits?

Would the Trudeau government stop backing the Toronto-based firm if it bilked the impoverished nation out of $10 billion? Or, what if one thousand people were raped and seriously injured by Barrick security? Would Ottawa withdraw its support if one hundred Tanzanians were killed at its mines?

Barrick’s African subsidiary, Acacia Mining, is embroiled in a major political conflict in the east African nation. With growing evidence of its failure to pay royalties and tax, Acacia has been condemned by the president, had its exports restricted and slapped with a massive tax bill.

In May a government panel concluded that Acacia significantly under-reported the percentage of gold and copper in mineral sand concentrates it exported. The next month a government commission concluded that foreign mining firms’ failure to declare revenues had cost Tanzania $100 billion. According to the research, from 1998 to March 2017 the Tanzanian government lost between 68.6 trillion and 108.5 trillion shillings in revenue from mineral concentrates.

The controversy over Barrick’s exports led President John Magufuli to fire the minister of mining and the board of the Minerals Audit Agency. Tanzania’s parliament has also voted to review mining contracts and to block companies from pursuing the country in international trade tribunals.

While the political battle over royalty payments grows, human rights violations continue unabated at Barrick’s North Mara mine. A recent MiningWatch fact-finding mission discovered that “new cases have come to light of serious un-remedied harm related to encounters between victims and mine security and police who guard the mine under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the companies involved and the Tanzanian Police Force. New cases documented in June 2017 include: loss of limbs, loss of eyesight, broken bones, internal injuries, children hit by flying blast rocks, and by teargas grenades thrown by mine security as they chase so-called intruders into the nearby villages. As in past years, villagers reported severe debilitating beatings, commonly with gun butts and wooden batons. Some are seriously wounded by teargas ‘bombs,’ or by so-called rubber bullets. Others are shot, including from behind. As in past years there were a number of deaths.”

At least 22 people have been killed and 69 injured near or at the North Mara mine since 2014. Most of the victims were impoverished villagers who scratch rocks for tiny bits of gold and who often mined these territories prior to Barrick’s arrival. An early 2016 government report found security and police paid by Barrick had killed 65 people and injured 270 at North Mara since 2006. Tanzanian human rights groups estimate as many 300 mine-related deaths and the Financial Times reports that not a single police officer or security guard working for the company has been killed on duty.

Amidst the violence at North Mara and an escalating battle over unpaid tax, Canada’s High Commissioner set up a meeting between Barrick Executive Chairman John Thornton and President Magufuli. After accompanying Barrick’s head to the encounter in Dar es Salaam Ian Myles told the press:

Canada is very proud that it expects all its companies to respect the highest standards, fairness and respect for laws and corporate social responsibility. We know that Barrick is very much committed to those values.

Appointed by Trudeau last year, Myles – whose “passion for international development began” when he was 17, according to a University of Toronto profile – took a page out of Stephen Harper’s playbook. During a 2007 trip to Chile the former prime minister responded to protests against various ecological and human rights abuses at the firm’s Pascua Lama project by saying: “Barrick follows Canadian standards of corporate social responsibility.”

A Tanzania Business Ethics columnist was not happy with the High Commissioner’s intervention. In response, Samantha Cole wrote:

It is so insulting that these Canadians and British still think they can trick us with their fancy nonsense ‘spin’ politics and dishonesty. What values is Barrick committed to? Have our nation not witnessed with our own eyes killings? rape? arson and burning our homes? destruction to our environment? poison in our water? corruption? fraud? hundreds of legal cases with local Tanzanian companies who are abused, bullied and suffer? and the list goes on. What ‘values’ is Ambassador Myles boasting about? How dishonest and unethical to stand there and lie about values. He should rather say NOTHING because every country where Barrick operates has a long, long list of illegal activities and crimes.

Disregarding its election promise, the Trudeau government is openly throwing this country’s diplomatic weight behind Canada’s most controversial mining company in the country where it has committed its worst abuses. When asked about Canada’s massive international mining industry during the election the party responded:

The Liberal Party of Canada shares Canadians’ concerns about the actions of some Canadian mining companies operating overseas and has long been fighting for transparency, accountability and sustainability in the mining sector.

The Liberals’ statement included explicit support for An Act Respecting Corporate Accountability for Mining, Oil and Gas Corporations in Developing Countries, which would have withheld some diplomatic and financial support from companies found responsible for significant abuses abroad. Similarly, the Liberals released a letter about the mining sector during the 2015 election that noted, “a Liberal government will set up an independent ombudsman office to advice Canadian companies, consider complaints made against them and investigate those complaints where it is deemed warranted.”

Nearly two years into their mandate the Trudeau regime has yet to follow through on any of their promises to rein in Canada’s controversial international mining sector. In fact, the Liberals have largely continued Harper’s aggressive support for mining companies.

If they are prepared to openly back Barrick in Tanzania one wonders what exactly a firm would have to do to lose Trudeau’s support?

August 3, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Rutherford Institute Asks Virginia Supreme Court to Prohibit Police From Using License Plate Readers as Surveillance Tool to Track Citizens

Rutherford Institute | August 2, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. — Denouncing the fact that Americans cannot even drive their cars without being enmeshed in the government’s web of surveillance, The Rutherford Institute has asked the Virginia Supreme Court to prohibit Virginia police from using license plate readers as surveillance tools to track drivers’ movements. Mounted next to traffic lights or on police cars, Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR), which photograph up to 3,600 license tag numbers per minute, take a picture of every passing license tag number and store the tag number and the date, time, and location of the picture in a searchable database. The data is then shared with law enforcement, fusion centers and private companies and used to track the movements of persons in their cars. There are reportedly tens of thousands of these license plate readers now in operation throughout the country. It is estimated that over 99% of the people being unnecessarily surveilled are entirely innocent. In challenging the use of license plate readers by Fairfax police, Rutherford Institute attorneys argue that Fairfax County’s practice of collecting and storing license plate reader data violates a Virginia law prohibiting the government from amassing personal information about individuals, including their driving habits and location.

The amicus brief in Neal v. Fairfax County Police Department is available at www.rutherford.org.

“We’re on the losing end of a technological revolution that has already taken hostage our computers, our phones, our finances, our entertainment, our shopping, our appliances, and now, it’s focused its sights on our cars,” said constitutional attorney John W. Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute and author of Battlefield America: The War on the American People. “By subjecting Americans to surveillance without their knowledge or compliance and then storing the data for later use, the government has erected the ultimate suspect society. In such an environment, there is no such thing as ‘innocent until proven guilty.’”

Since 2010, the Fairfax County Police Department (FCPD) has used Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR) to record the time, place, and driving direction of thousands of drivers who use Fairfax County roads daily. License plate readers capture up to 3,600 images of license tag numbers per minute and convert the images to a computer format that can be searched by tag number. This information, stored in a police database for a year, allows the police to determine the driving habits of persons as well as where they have been. In 2014, Fairfax County resident Harrison Neal filed a complaint against FCPD asserting its collection and storage of license plate data violates Virginia’s Government Data Collection and Dissemination Practices Act (Data Act), a law enacted because of the fear that advanced technologies would be used by the government to collect and analyze massive amounts of personal information about citizens, thereby invading their privacy and liberty. The lawsuit cited a 2013 opinion by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli that ALPR data is “personal information” that the Data Act forbids the government from collecting and storing except in connection with an active criminal investigation. Despite this opinion, FCPD continued its practice of collecting and storing ALPR data in order to track the movements of vehicles and drivers. In November 2016, a Fairfax County Circuit Court judge ruled that license plate reader data was not “personal information” under the Data Act because license tag numbers identify a car and not a person. In weighing in on the case before the Virginia Supreme Court, Rutherford Institute attorneys refute the lower court ruling and argue that the history of the Data Act affirms its prohibition on the collection and maintenance of ALPR data by the government.

The Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties organization, provides legal assistance at no charge to individuals whose constitutional rights have been threatened or violated and educates the public on a wide spectrum of issues affecting their freedoms.

August 2, 2017 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , | 3 Comments

Going Soft on Corporate Crime a Bipartisan Affair

By Russell Mokhiber | CounterPunch | July 31, 2017

Donald Trump is not a fan of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the law that says it’s illegal for any person — corporate or human — to bribe overseas.

Trump has called the FCPA “a horrible law” and has said that the law “puts us at a huge disadvantage.”

And you could argue that the Trump Justice Department’s first two FCPA enforcement cases reflect Trump’s point of view.

Both were declinations — despite the fact that the companies disclosed illegal overseas payments and agreed to disgorge illegally gained proceeds.

Some are using the cases to ask the question — is Trump soft on corporate crime?

As the lawyers say, let’s stipulate for the record that he is.

But let’s also remember that going soft on corporate crime was perfected by the Democrats.

The Obama Justice Department, for example, regularly used declinations — five in Obama’s last year in office — and non prosecution agreements — 22 over the eight years of his administration — to settle corporate FCPA matters.

And since September 2015, when the Obama administration put out the Yates memo calling for more prosecutions of individual executives, there have been 20 FCPA corporate prosecution agreements — yet not one individual has been charged in connection with those cases.

There are those in the get tough on corporate crime camp — like David Uhlmann, former head of the Environmental Crimes Section at the Justice Department and now a University of Michigan Law professor — who argue that if a corporation commits a serious crime, then a corporation should be convicted.

We’re talking guilt — as in guilty pleas.

For environmental crimes, that has been the practice.

Over the past fifteen years, 93 percent of major corporate criminal environmental cases ended with public companies pleading guilty to their crimes.

Same for antitrust corporate crimes.

Over the past fifteen years, 74 percent of major corporate criminal antitrust cases ended with public companies pleading guilty to their crimes.

But only 29 percent of corporate criminal FCPA cases were settled with guilty pleas.

And only 8 percent of securities fraud cases have been settled with guilty pleas.

Why?

You might ask — maybe these corporations weren’t guilty?

Not likely, because in almost every one of these cases — no matter the type of soft settlement — deferred prosecution, non prosecution, declination — the company admits to illegal wrongdoing.

The companies admit to their criminal wrongdoing in documents that are now publically available on a new web site — the Corporate Prosecution Registry — created by University of Virginia Law School Professor Brandon Garrett.

And what do we learn from this comprehensive corporate crime database?

That there is a two tier system of corporate criminal justice — one for the smaller, politically less well connected companies — which generally are forced to plead guilty to their crimes — and one for large, politically well connected public companies — which generally enter into softer alternative resolutions — declinations, non prosecution agreements and deferred prosecution agreements.

Or if they are forced to plead guilty, it’s not the parent forced to plead guilty but some unit that won’t be adversely affected by any debarment or other collateral sanction that might follow.

The dominant corporate narrative —  driven by the corporate crime defense law firms — is that big public companies — especially banks and financial institutions — even if they commit the crimes, can’t withstand the brunt force trauma of a guilty plea.

They say — the company will be driven out of business. Innocent shareholders will lose money and innocent workers lose their jobs. A corporate guilty plea is the equivalent of the corporate death penalty.

Not true.

Top corporate crime prosecutors and defense attorneys — they’re interchangeable and regularly swap places via the revolving door — are expert at crafting guilty pleas that avoid these consequences.

That’s why when prosecutors want to, they can get guilty pleas — even for big banks — who for years dodged any personal or corporate criminal liability for causing the 2008 financial collapse.

Burned by that public criticism, the Obama Justice Department in May 2015, thought it was necessary to throw the public a bone.

And they did just that by forcing Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, The Royal Bank of Scotland, UBS and Barclays to plead guilty to felonies in connection with a conspiracy to fix foreign exchange markets.

Why doesn’t the Justice Department demand felony guilty pleas from parents in more big corporate crime cases?

Power and money. The big companies don’t want to plead guilty even when they are guilty. They have corporate reputations to protect. And they have the power and money to hire the best corporate criminal defense law firms to get the job done.

The lawyers’ marching orders?

For the corporate parent, anything but a guilty plea.

Move down the corporate crime ladder from guilty plea to deferred prosecution to non prosecution to declination.

In the parallel Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) case, move down the ladder from admission to no admission with a neither admit nor deny consent decree.

In a World Bank proceeding, move down the ladder from a debarment to a reprimand or a conditional non-debarment agreement.

Some say that it was Obama’s slippery slide down the corporate crime ladder — he hit bottom with not one executive or bank criminally charged for the 2008 financial meltdown — that fueled the populist revolt that helped Trump take the White House.

We don’t want to become Brazil, a country battered by wave after wave of corporate crime and corruption.

It’s time to restore a modicum of corporate criminal justice that will deliver tangible deterrence.

Let’s start by moving back up the ladder of corporate justice.

If a company commits a felony, it should plead guilty to a felony.

No more deferrals, non prosecutions and declinations in major corporate crime cases.

Russell Mokhiber is the editor of the Corporate Crime Reporter..

August 1, 2017 Posted by | Corruption | , | Leave a comment

World’s Richest Person Escapes Scrutiny From His Own Paper—and Its Rivals

By Adam Johnson | FAIR | July 28, 2017

The three most prominent US newspapers haven’t run a critical investigative piece on Jeff Bezos’ company Amazon in almost two years, a FAIR survey finds.

A review of 190 articles from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Bezos-owned Washington Post over the past year paints a picture of almost uniformly uncritical–ofttimes boosterish–coverage. None of the articles were investigative exposes, 6 percent leaned negative, 54 percent were straight reporting or neutral in tone, and 40 percent were positive, mostly with a fawning or even press release–like tone.

The last major investigative piece we found in any of these three publications was a 4,500-word critique of Amazon’s labor practices in the New York Times  (8/16/15) almost two years ago. Considering that Amazon is the fourth-most-valuable company in the world, with a 43 percent (and growing) share of all US online commerce, it’s a striking absence of journalistic scrutiny.

The line between straight reporting and fawning coverage wasn’t always clear, given the nature of technology journalism, but, in general, a distinction was drawn when reporting on Amazon’s latest moves featured no criticism or contrary third-party input, and the article was mostly indistinguishable from a press release.

Examples of this type of breathless corporate coverage, from a one-week span in 2016, included “Amazon’s Latest Weapon in the E-Commerce Wars: Its Own Air Force” (Washington Post, 8/6/16), “Amazon Reveals ‘Prime Air’ Cargo Jet” (Wall Street Journal, 8/5/16) and “Think Amazon’s Drone Delivery Idea Is a Gimmick? Think Again” (New York Times, 8/10/16). The most embarrassing example of outright PR pablum was this Washington Post “exclusive look,” based primarily on futurist porn speculation (3/2/17):

WaPo: An exclusive look at Jeff Bezos’s plan to set up Amazon-like delivery for ‘future human settlement’ of the moon

Amazing how a Bezos-owned paper got an “exclusive” on Jeff Bezos!

One can review the list and determinations here. We included articles about Amazon.com, Inc. (reviews of Amazon TV shows or stories about Amazon bestsellers, for example, were not included) that were significant enough for the outlets’ respective Twitter accounts to post the stories.

One might expect the Washington Post—the personal property of Bezos—to provide more favorable coverage of its owner’s company, but the Post’s level of uncritical praise, though very high, was roughly par for the course. About 95 percent of Post coverage ranged from neutral (43 percent) to positive/fawning (48 percent) in tone.

Ninety-three percent of New York Times coverage of Amazon and 94 percent of the Wall Street Journal’s ranged from straight news to press release. Fifty-seven percent of the Times‘ coverage and 31 percent of the Journal‘s could be characterized as somewhat to extremely flattering. (Note that the Post‘s level of positive coverage fell in between the two other papers’.)

One of the major reasons Amazon gets such glowing coverage is that tech journalism is traditionally not a very critical vertical. Tech company X reveals it’s doing Y or will do Z—that is, by the beat’s definition, newsworthy, and the press release is rewritten, with some added commentary from friendly talking heads and market analysts. Because it’s “tech,” the political or labor implications come in a distant second to the shiny-object quality of the beat.

Occasionally issues such as privacy or anti-trust or union unrest will be touched on, but this is usually in response to legal action taken by the state or by activists, not as a topic raised by reporters themselves. On a case by case basis, this is understandable (clearly not every tech write-up has to be an exposé), but on the whole, tech journalism is a media landscape dominated by corporate stenography.

With Amazon’s stock surging to well over $1,000 a share, and its head recently crowned the richest person in the world, the stakes for putting Amazon and Bezos in a critical light couldn’t be higher. Yet time and again, the pillars of US media provide them all the critical rigor a high school paper typically provides the spring dance committee.

July 30, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

Audit shows that pharma companies are still cheating by suppressing trials

By Cory Doctorow | BoingBoing | July 27, 2017

It’s been years since the major pharma companies agreed to participate in the Registry of All Trials, meaning that they’d end the practice of only reporting on trials whose outcomes they were pleased with, leaving about half of all trials unreported-on.

Today, Ben Goldacre (who is the Registry’s most prominent advocate) and colleagues released a paper in the British Medical Journal reporting on their audit of pharmaceutical companies’ record on keeping that promise.

What they found is pretty dismal: to put it bluntly, pharma companies are cheating like crazy.

The paper is accompanied by a website that will shortly publish a ranking showing which pharma companies are most honest in reporting in on their trials.

This is a vital scientific/health question: pharmaceutical companies have spent decades cherry-picking their studies, suppressing those that put their products in a bad light, only telling regulators about the successful ones. About half of all pharmaceutical trials were never reported on. If you were trialing a quarter to see if it always came up heads, and you got to suppress half of your results, you could prove that it was fair, that it was all-heads, or all-tails, or anything in between.

So what did we find? The results on the individual companies are important, but we also came across some fascinating patterns. While companies superficially have commitments to register and report clinical trials, in reality, there are often huge gaps in their policies, with many failing to include past trials (trials on the medicines we use today) and trials on off-label uses or unlicensed medicines, which are both important. We also found a huge range of commitments, which is exactly what audits are good for: identify who’s doing well, and who’s doing badly, so that everyone can learn from the best players. Lastly, as we went along we collected some fascinating examples of problematic policies, ambiguous language, inconsistent commitments, odd exclusions, and so on.

Overall this audit was a huge project, and we hope it will be widely used. You can see which companies are the best, and the worst. If you’re a researcher trying to get information on a trial from a company, you can use this to determine whether a company are breaching their commitments. If you’re an ethical investor (at the AllTrials campaign we have a network of dozens, covering €3.5t trillion of investments) you can use this to guide your activist investment choices. If you’re a doctor, or a patient, you might use this as a benchmark for the trustworthiness of a company.

+AllTrials Transparency Index

Pharmaceutical companies’ policies on access to trial data, results, and methods: audit study [Ben Goldacre, Kamal R Mahtani, Carl Heneghan, Igho Onakpoya, Ian Bushfield and Liam Smeeth,/BMJ ]

How do the world’s biggest drug companies compare, in their transparency commitments? [Ben Goldacre/Bad Science ]

July 28, 2017 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science | Leave a comment