Press TV has conducted an interview with Peter Rushton, a historian and political commentator from London, and Lawrence J. Korb, a former US Assistant Secretary of Defense in Washington, to discuss Washington’s delivery of new F-35 fighter jets to Israel.
Rushton says the delivery of fighter jets truly shows that the policies of US President Barack Obama are totally in line with those of his predecessor, George W. Bush, adding the most worrying fact is that the White House continues its military deals with Tel Aviv despite the regime’s longstanding aggressive policies.
The analyst slammed the recent military deal with Israel, which is the sole possessor of nuclear arms in the Middle East, saying such an accord strips Washington of any means of leverage that could enable the US to contain Tel Aviv’s warmongering policies.
Meanwhile, Korb believes the US is selling the equipment to Israel only to bolster the regime’s deterrence power in the face of dangers in the region.
President Obama claims to value “openness” as a core principle of democracy, but the truth is that his administration has been among the most secretive and manipulative in modern times, tailoring what the public hears about foreign crises to what serves his agenda.
In disclosing the deaths of two Western hostages in a U.S. drone strike on an Al-Qaeda compound, President Barack Obama said on Thursday that he had ordered the declassification of the secret operation because “the United States is a democracy committed to openness in good times and in bad.”
But the reality of the past six years has been that his administration has enforced wildly excessive secrecy, selectively declassified material to mislead the American people, and failed to correct erroneous information on sensitive international issues.
A photograph of a Russian BUK missile system that U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt published on Twitter in support of a claim about Russia placing BUK missiles in eastern Ukraine, except that the image appears to be an AP photo taken at an air show near Moscow two years ago.
This failure to trust the people with accurate information has arguably done great harm to U.S. democracy by promoting false narratives on a range of foreign conflicts. With all its talk about “public diplomacy” and “information warfare,” the Obama administration seems intent on using half-truths and falsehoods to herd the people into a misguided consensus rather than treating them like the true sovereigns of the Republic, as the Framers of the Constitution intended with the explicit phrase “We the People of the United States.”
For instance, the Obama administration rushed to judgments on pivotal international events – such as the Syrian-sarin case in 2013 and the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down over Ukraine in 2014 – and then refused to update those assessments as new evidence emerged changing how U.S. intelligence analysts understood what happened.
Instead of correcting or refining the record – and pursuing meaningful accountability against the perpetrators of these crimes – the Obama administration has left outdated, misleading accusations in the public domain, all the better to fit with some geopolitical goals, such as delegitimizing the Syrian and Russian governments. In other words, providing the American people with substantive updates on these atrocities and advancing the cause of justice take a back seat to keeping some geopolitical foe on the defensive.
In both the Syrian-sarin case and the MH-17 shoot-down, I’ve been told that U.S. intelligence analysts have not only refined their understanding of the events but – to a significant degree – reversed them. But the original assessments, which were released nine and five days after the events, respectively, were still being handed out to the press many months later. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Fact-Resistant Group Think on Syria” and “US Intel Stands Pat on MH-17 Shoot-down.”]
What is perhaps most troubling in both cases, however, is that the killings involved serious crimes against humanity and the perpetrators have not been identified and brought to justice. Whatever new evidence U.S. intelligence has collected could help track down who was responsible but that doesn’t appear to be a priority for President Obama.
In the MH-17 case, the timetable for the next scheduled release of information is on the first anniversary of the shoot-down, which occurred on July 17, 2014. Given that the shoot-down, which killed 298 people, should be an active criminal investigation, it makes little sense to delay disclosures for something as artificial as an anniversary, giving whoever was responsible more time to slip away and cover their tracks.
In the meantime, the U.S. government continues to re-release its initial claims putting blame on foreign adversaries – the governments of Bashar al-Assad and Vladimir Putin – so the assumption may be drawn that the updated analyses go in different directions, possibly implicating U.S. allies, such as Turkey or Saudi Arabia regarding the sarin attack and elements of the U.S.-backed Ukrainian regime in the MH-17 case. Whatever the truth, however, it is hard to justify why the U.S. government has withheld evidence in these criminal cases, whoever is implicated.
Of course, double standards sometimes appear to be the only standards when the U.S. government is involved these days. When ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine resist a coup that overthrew their elected president in 2014 – and get some help from Russians next door – the Obama administration and the mainstream U.S. news media decry “Russian aggression.”
On Wednesday, the Obama administration declassified its own claims that Russia had deployed air defense systems in eastern Ukraine and had built up its forces along the border with Ukraine, assertions that Russian officials denied, though those denials were not included in the article on Thursday by New York Times’ national security reporter Michael R. Gordon, who treated the allegations essentially as flat fact.
After citing some analysts musing about different explanations for Russian President Putin’s supposed actions, Gordon wrote, “Either way, the new military activity is a major concern because it has significantly reduced the amount of warning that Ukraine and its Western supporters would have if Russian forces and separatists mounted a joint offensive.”
Gordon then quoted State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf saying: “This is the highest amount of Russian air defense equipment in eastern Ukraine since August. … Combined Russian-separatist forces continue to violate the terms of the ‘Minsk-2’ agreement signed in mid-February.”
Though Gordon included no Russian response to these charges, he did mention that Russia had complained about what Gordon called “a modest program” of 300 American troops in Ukraine training national guard units, a program that Russian officials said could “destabilize the situation.” Gordon wrote that the Obama administration, in response to this Russian complaint. “declassified intelligence describing a range of Russian military activities in and near Ukraine.”
But the intelligence appeared to be just U.S. accusations. In Kiev, U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt tweeted about “the highest concentration of Russia air defense systems in eastern Ukraine since August” and illustrated his claim by showing a photo of a BUK anti-aircraft missile system. But the photo appeared to be an Associated Press photograph taken of a BUK system on display at an air show near Moscow two years ago, as the Russian network RT noted.
Gordon, who co-authored with Judith Miller the famously bogus Times’ exposé in 2002 about Iraq procuring aluminum tubes for building nuclear bombs, has been an eager conduit for U.S. government propaganda over the years, including his role last year in a page-one Times scoop that cited State Department and Ukrainian government claims about photographs that proved Russian troops were in Ukraine but turned out to be false. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “NYT Retracts Russian Photo Scoop.”]
Yet, while Russia is not supposed to mind the forced ouster of a friendly government on its borders or the presence of U.S. and NATO forces supporting the successor regime, a more sympathetic view is taken when Saudi Arabia intervenes in Yemen’s civil war by bombing the country indiscriminately, reportedly killing hundreds of civilians and devastating ancient cities with priceless historical sites that date back thousands of years.
“They’re worried about their own security – and of course we’ve supported them,” stated White House communications director Jen Psaki. “But, again, we’re trying to redirect this to a political discussion here.” (The New York Times article about this “Saudi resolve” – with a similarly understanding tone toward the Saudis – was co-authored by Gordon.)
This pattern of perverting U.S. intelligence information to bolster some U.S. foreign policy agenda has become a trademark of the Obama administration – along with an unprecedented number of prosecutions of U.S. government whistleblowers who release real information that exposes government wrongdoing or waste. This double standard belies President Obama’s assertion that he values openness in a democracy. [For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “President Gollum’s ‘Precious’ Secrets.”]
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
Hints of the dark place he is taking us
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | April 24, 2015
Obama has been quoted saying he “takes full responsibility” for the two hostages, one American and one Italian, killed recently in a drone attack. At the same time, Obama praised the United States for its transparency in such matters.
What in God’s name does he mean? How can you have responsibility with no consequences? Isn’t that a bit like patting yourself on the back for high principles, having just committed murder? And transparency? That also is a word without meaning when applied to a country which runs a string of secret wars and coups, a country which spies on virtually the entire planet, and a country whose warehouses bulge with so many classified documents it would take a thousand years to review them.
Obama’s use of words has no meaning, much like the lack of meaning inherent in the kind of world into which he is eagerly helping to pitch us.
He has killed two innocent people in the course of an extrajudicial killing of others who were themselves, as is usual in these attacks, mere suspects.
And it is not the first time he has done this, only the first time where we know the names and faces of his victims. We only know the names and faces here because they were an American and an Italian. Our feeble and utterly corrupt press never lifts a finger to investigate who the thousands of others have been.
Estimates vary, but something on the order of 2,500 people have been murdered this way by the United States, almost all of them innocent, ordinary people, and even America’s intended targets, supposed terrorists, are guilty of nothing in law.
If a leader uses the word terror today, he can pretty much do anything he or his sadistic military/ security/ intelligence creeps want to do. I do not see any difference in these acts from those of the former military juntas in South America who made thousands of “undesirable” people simply disappear.
There’s an old saying about democratic governments that you pretty much deserve the government you get, but the glib saying is, of course, considerably less than true. Besides, it is not a great stretch to say of America today that it is about as much a democracy as was the former Soviet Union, with the key difference being voters in America get two choices instead of one on their ballots, each of them however ready to do exactly the same things, with only minor stylistic variations. You might say the choices represent two fashion statements in one official party.
However, if Western people in general just quietly accept the institutional barbarism Obama represents, they will indeed deserve the governments they get.
And what’s hurtling towards us, far more quickly than many realize, is government entirely by and for elites – wealthy, wealthy people with their paid mouthpiece political leaders and the vast military/ security apparatus they employ – the rest of humanity being reduced to unimportant mobs to be kept under control at the smallest sign of their becoming difficult, not so very much different from prisoners and perhaps even livestock.
We actually have an early prototype of the kind of society our leaders are working towards. We see it in Israel. The word “terror” there plays the same ugly role, almost like an air raid siren, justifying literally any response.
Has the world said one word of the 2,200 people slaughtered in Gaza recently and left to rot in its rubble? How about Israel’s treatment of refugees of color? I see no protest over their being horribly abused and even being turned away against international laws and conventions.
And now Israel uses dirty tricks like shipping refugees off to questionable African states whose leaders have been paid bribes to take them. Can you imagine a bright future for any of them under such circumstances? They too are more than a little likely to disappear.
Of course, assassination in many forms and in many places has played a large role in Israel’s brief history. Anyone Israel does not like is expendable, and America’s whole response to “terror” is right out of an official Israeli manual.
Israel loves to sing tired songs about democracy, but half the people under its control have no rights, no vote, no future, and are frequently openly told they are undesirable and should get out. Thousands are kept in prisons, and brutal acts like spraying farm land with filthy waste-water or with potent herbicides or cutting off power supplies are fairly regular events. When those on the receiving end get too uppity, they will be either assassinated or bombed or have their homes stolen through some of the most unjust laws on the planet.
Apart from the ghastly lives enforced upon millions of non-Jews by the “Jewish state,” Israel’s Jewish population demonstrates another part of the social model. Ordinary Israelis have quite unpleasant lives by Western standards, with home ownership out of reach, the price of everything exorbitant, being subject to oppressive army service, and living in a place which in many ways resembles a high security prison with guards, spies, and restrictions everywhere. The elites of Israel do very handsomely, thank you, just as oligarchs anywhere do, all the groaning mass of other residents’ problems and limits providing them with boundless opportunities, and most of the oligarchs freely move back and forth between continents with their dual passports to cut deals or avoid troubles.
That set of conditions and practices has become a model now for the United States, and where the United States goes, so go its weak-kneed allies like Britain, France, Germany, and even our once fair-minded Canada.
Last week two prominent Ukrainian opposition figures were gunned down in broad daylight. They join as many as ten others who have been killed or committed suicide under suspicious circumstances just this year. These individuals have one important thing in common: they were either part of or friendly with the Yanukovych government, which a US-backed coup overthrew last year. They include members of the Ukrainian parliament and former chief editors of major opposition newspapers.
While some journalists here in the US have started to notice the strange series of opposition killings in Ukraine, the US government has yet to say a word.
Compare this to the US reaction when a single opposition figure was killed in Russia earlier this year. Boris Nemtsov was a member of a minor political party that was not even represented in the Russian parliament. Nevertheless the US government immediately demanded that Russia conduct a thorough investigation of his murder, suggesting the killers had a political motive.
As news of the Russian killing broke, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Ed Royce (R-CA) did not wait for evidence to blame the killing on Russian president Vladimir Putin. On the very day of Nemtsov’s murder, Royce told the US media that, “this shocking murder is the latest assault on those who dare to oppose the Putin regime.”
Neither Royce, nor Secretary of State John Kerry, nor President Obama, nor any US government figure has said a word about the series of apparently political murders in Ukraine.
On the contrary, instead of questioning the state of democracy in what looks like a lawless Ukraine, the Administration is sending in the US military to help train Ukrainian troops!
Last week, just as the two political murders were taking place, the US 173rd Airborne Brigade landed in Ukraine to begin training Ukrainian national guard forces – and to leave behind some useful military equipment. Though the civil unrest continues in Ukraine, the US military is assisting one side in the conflict – even as the US slaps sanctions on Russia over accusations it is helping out the other side!
As the ceasefire continues to hold, though shakily, what kind of message does it send to the US-backed government in Kiev to have US troops arrive with training and equipment and an authorization to gift Kiev with some $350 million in weapons? Might they not take this as a green light to begin new hostilities against the breakaway regions in the east?
The Obama administration is so inconsistent in its foreign policy. In some places, particularly Cuba and Iran, the administration is pursuing a policy that looks to diplomacy and compromise to help improve decades of bad relations. In these two cases the administration realizes that the path of confrontation has led nowhere. When the president announced his desire to see the end of Cuba sanctions, he stated very correctly that, “…we are ending a policy that was long past its expiration date. When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, it’s time to try something new.”
So while Obama is correctly talking about sanctions relief for Iran and Cuba, he is adding more sanctions on Russia, backing Saudi Arabia’s brutal attack on Yemen, and pushing ever harder for regime change in Syria. Does he really believe the rest of the world does not see these double standards? A wise consistency of non-interventionism in all foreign affairs would be the correct course for this and future US administrations. Let us hope they will eventually follow Obama’s observation that, “it’s time to try something new.”
Hillary Clinton was widely quoted telling a handful of Iowans on April 14: “We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all — even if it takes a constitutional amendment.” The Washington Post identified this statement as “one of several pillars of her 2016 presidential campaign.” CBS based its headline for this Clinton story on the quote that this pillar represented one of “four big fights that I think we have to take on.” Her communications director, elaborating on the transcript of Clinton’s spare comments on the subject, added “It’s something she’s really concerned about.”
It is safe to assume that after months crafting the four policy pillars of her candidacy, and the way the message itself was tightly controlled from Iowa, that Clinton’s particular phrasing for her “unaccountable money” pillar was precisely as intended by her campaign team.
The Post’s headline writers and others converted Clinton’s hypothetical statement, “if it takes a constitutional amendment,” into a far more definite “support for a constitutional amendment,” as if Clinton is expected to propose or endorse a constitutional amendment during her campaign.
Slate‘s dog-whistle headline, relying on nothing more than the above quote in the Post, transformed her statement even further: “Hillary Clinton Hints at Support for Constitutional Amendment to Overturn Citizens United.” The Post, and presumably Clinton in Iowa, said nothing at all about Citizens United, let alone support for any “amendment to overturn” it. What Clinton did say is closer to the opposite of either of those two concepts.
Clinton’s statement “supports” not getting all or any part of interested money out of politics, which is what people advocating an “Amendment to Overturn Citizens United” think they are supporting. Clinton is speaking solely about “unaccountable money.” Such money can become fully “accountable” without being excluded from the pay to play system of US politics. Clinton is simply advocating its disclosure.
Under her proposal the embarrassing flood of money into US politics, anticipated to explode even further in her own campaign, will not be stanched. It would be accounted for by disclosing its provenance, which is now often left undisclosed by use of 527s and other IRS conduits. She considerately wants Americans to know who is buying the power to operate their erstwhile democracy against their every interest. There is no assurance that such disclosure would have any significant impact on the pervasive corruption of U.S. politics.
Under systemic corruption, disclosure actually can help circumvent one of the few remaining inconveniences to plutocrats. Plutocrats who feel their “freedom of speech” constrained by new $5 million contribution limits per person per election cycle jointly endorsed by Congress and the Supreme Court can spend as much as they want on “independent” electioneering provided, so the cover story goes, they do not “coordinate” their expenditures with the campaigns. But to buy influence the candidate needs to know who is paying them off. By bridging this inconvenient gap in the system, formal disclosure required for everyone by law is a perfect solution for legalized coordination. Accordingly, disclosure is the reform that Democrats and their allies are selling to their supporters, and the reform the plutocrat justices of the Roberts Court also promote with no fear of significantly upsetting the corrupt political system they maintain.
Where corruption is systemic, Clinton’s proposition that actual “accountability” is even possible, other than in the sense of mere disclosure, is itself highly dubious. When the system requires all competitors to be on the take, disclosure alone fails to create any effective new options for making politicians actually accountable to voters. In this system where the Supreme Court legalizes corruption and the mass media collects a toll to mediate their messages, only the proxies of plutocrats are on offer to voters.
As a lawyer, Clinton must already understand that no constitutional amendment is required to accommodate a legislative remedy for her “unaccountable money” pillar. Laws under the existing Constitution can require all the additional disclosure that she could possibly want. Disclosure requirements for campaign contributions have existed in federal law since the Progressive Era’s Publicity of Political Contributions Act of 1910, 36 Stat. 822. The constitutionality of such disclosure laws has never been doubted.
In Ex Parte Curtis (1882) (8-1) the Supreme Court ruled, without even bothering to argue the point, that the power of Congress to prohibit political corruption outweighs any asserted First Amendment interest in allowing political donations. If the First Amendment argument made by the petitioner in Curtis, and dismissed by the government’s brief as unworthy of serious attention, albeit accepted by a lone dissenter, could not legalize money in politics against a total ban, then certainly requirements that political investments merely be disclosed could have raised no conceivable objection before the Nixon Court reversed the Curtis rule without mentioning it nearly a century later.
The Supreme Court held disclosure laws to be constitutional in Burroughs v. United States (1934) (9-0) when it upheld the strengthened disclosure requirements of the 1925 Federal Corrupt Practices Act. As that Court explained, disclosure requirements are “calculated to discourage the making and use of contributions for purposes of corruption.” This most conservative of any Supreme Court majority prior to the current Roberts 5 resoundingly rejected the very idea that disclosure requirements might be constitutionally invalid, calling the “proposition so startling as to arrest attention.” Quoting from another deeply conservative Gilded Age Court lineup in Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 651 (1884), the 1934 Court explained that “government … must have the power to protect the elections on which its existence depends from violence and corruption … the two great natural and historical enemies of all republics.”
Later in United States v. Harriss, 347 U.S. 612, 625 (1954) the Supreme Court again expressly approved mandatory disclosure of political investments connected with some actual speech in the context of lobbying. See also National Association of Manufacturers v Taylor (D.C. Cir. 2009) (upholding lobbying disclosure under Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007). Chief Justice Warren held in Harriss that,
the voice of the people may all too easily be drowned out by the voice of special interest groups seeking favored treatment while masquerading as proponents of the public weal. This is the evil which the Lobbying Act was designed to help prevent… Congress… is not constitutionally forbidden to require the disclosure of lobbying activities. To do so would be to deny Congress in large measure the power of self-protection.
Since the outset of the current era of systemic corruption of politics the Supreme Court responsible for making that corruption systemic has nevertheless, without reservation, reaffirmed the same principles. Disclosure was endorsed by Buckley v Valeo (1976), the judicial mother lode for legalizing systemic corruption, and again by Citizens United (2010), the bete noir of all professional activists working the campaign finance silo. When the Roberts Court overturned aggregate limits for political investors in McCutcheon (2014) , Justice Roberts lauded this “less restrictive alternative” which also “given the Internet, … offers much more robust protections against corruption” than ever.
Though the constitutionality of disclosure laws has for a century been of little or no demonstrable utility in preventing the current systemic levels of political corruption, it is nevertheless regularly trotted out in this manner as a cure-all by politicians and other operatives of this corrupt system. Clinton has built her “unaccountable money” pillar on this well-worn tradition, and nothing more. Current disclosure laws are certainly inadequate. But this is because Congress is now too mired in systemic corruption, and the FEC too deadlocked, to enact even tepid and marginal reforms necessary to make disclosure even potentially more effective.
Clinton surely knows the Supreme Court’s historic, consistent, and virtually unanimous, rulings make clear that there is no need for a constitutional amendment to require full disclosure of currently “unaccountable” or “dark” money. She must have spent some tiny fraction of what has been projected to be an over $2 billion campaign to do some elementary initial research and strategy development about one of her expensive campaign’s four basic policy pillars – which she offers as her reason for running. Her issues team must have advised her to use the hypothetical “if” when mentioning an amendment because they know that an amendment is not necessary to accomplish the limited Clinton disclosure agenda. Hypothetical mention of an amendment does helps obfuscate the limited nature of her agenda. Besides, mentioning the Constitution makes her proposal sound more important. Amendment advocacy, however hypothetical in the case of the “unaccountable money” pillar, does help distract constituents’ political energies to futile pursuits, while also deflecting responsibility to others. This is the strategy that has worked for Democrats on the corruption issue.
The rush to enlist Clinton in their cause by the Democrats’ professional activist allies who have committed themselves to an amendment approach suggests that they either do not know, or do not care, that no amendment is necessary to achieve the mostly useless “accountability” for money in politics that Clinton supports. Clinging to their futile amendment approach such activists mistakenly insist there is “no question that an amendment will be needed.” They do not know or care that it would be a counter-productive waste of time to confirm, by constitutional amendment, the validity of general powers of Congress which have never been seriously questioned on constitutional grounds and only recently exalted by the defender of plutocracy himself, Chief Justice Roberts. Presumably at the behest of such mistaken activists, Bernie Sanders has proposed an amendment that does include such a provision that risks not just wasteful but also counterproductive results.
Given the uninformed quality of the constitutional amendments that have been proposed on this subject by Democrats and their professional activist allies, one can easily imagine that an amendment for this purpose, although unnecessary, could well do more harm than good. The close parsing by a hostile Roberts Court of any particular new constitutional text on this subject could be turned on its head to reduce Congress’ current unrestricted authority to mandate all the disclosure of money in politics they may desire.
Clinton’s mention of the amendment should be no surprise. The constitutional amendment idea has been used as a theatrical prop to give cover to Democrats who are mired in the corrupt system as deeply as Republicans. Republicans embrace plutocracy as some surreal 21st century manifestation of the founders concept of “freedom of speech,” a notion formed long before there was a mass broadcast media to be bought for the political propaganda of marketing specialists. Accepting the Republican’s game, Democrats misleadingly propagate the idea that a constitutional amendment is the sole means by which they could limit money in politics. The resulting stalemate from this diversion absolves Democrats’ failure to advance far more effective and available legislative measures. By such deceit about their support for a futile amendment, a majority of Senate Democrats in the 113th Congress were empowered to vote on behalf of Wall Street in December 2014 to increase, by an order of magnitude, the money that plutocrats can give to buy political parties. Democratic support for the “CRomnibus” Act betrayed the notion that Democrats’ professed commitment to “campaign finance reform” meant that they would seek laws mandating less, not considerably more, money in politics. But the betrayal met with little, if any, protest from their activist allies who keep their eyes safely diverted to the futile amendment approach that would not even have stopped Congress from increasing money in politics as they did in 2014 even if it had been adopted.
Amendment advocacy has served to divert attention from corrupt Democrats for five years. The eventual, and inevitable, collapse, on September 11, 2014, of the Democrats anti-”Citizens United” constitutional amendment theatrics caused those professional activists who got the memo to pivot to a new advertising slogan for 2015. Their new advertising campaign promotes disclosure of “Dark Money,” while attempting to make that slogan sound even worse than their “Citizens United” soundbite. This latest piecemeal fad by non-profit fundraisers for what is actually a much reduced new demand ignores Justice Elena Kagan’s koanic axiom: “Simple disclosure fails to prevent shady dealing…. So the State remains afflicted with corruption.” But it serves Clinton’s straddle between disclosure and amendment.
The recent solicitations from political non-profits have reduced expectations so far as to ask that you send them money to help eliminate Dark Money electioneering by government contractors. This is a reform Obama could accomplish on his own, as a matter of seeing that the law are executed, and should have long ago when the subject first arose in 2011. The activists scrambled on board after the New York Times recently approved this approach. This reform would, they say, “unmask major corporate political donors with a simple executive order.” Of all the plutocrats and their corporate agents who make political investments, this reform would only reach the subset of government contractors. Instead of demanding mere disclosure of political investments from government contractors, activists should at the very least demand policies for this subset that would totally abolish political kickbacks from the procurement system. Their demand should be for strengthening and robust enforcement of — while disqualifying any federal contractor that “directly or indirectly … make[s] any contribution …to any person for any political purpose or use” in violation of — 2 U.S. Code § 441c (“Contributions by government contractors”). Demanding mere disclosure in this context, as it usually does, serves to divert attention from more meaningful reform.
Even this anti-corruption best-practice no-brainer for disclosure, let alone disqualifying firms with a history of conflict of interest electioneering expenditures, has been too much for a Democratic President. Obama uses highly contingent and distancing language whenever he mentions money in politics, such as his statement (emphasis added) about: the “need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn’t revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight on the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.”
The multiple italicized contingencies Obama employed indicate that he understood an amendment to be little more than political theatrics. By mentioning Citizens United, not Buckley, and Super-PACs instead of the whole corrupt system, he slices and dices the problem into its manageable but piecemeal soundbites. As a former constitutional law lecturer and record-setting fundraiser, Obama must know that the independent corporate electioneering legalized by Citizens United had very little to do with Super-Pacs, which are overwhelmingly funded by a handful of rich individuals and their non-profit proxies, with very little (only 12%) coming from for-profit corporations. Moreover Super-Pacs already have adequate spotlights on them from a largely outraged public. If in any event the “amendment process” is expected by him to “fall short,” then exactly what is the “change” that Pres. Obama believes can be obtained by “pressure” that might arise from this failure?
Failure due to misdirection usually depletes energy, causes frustration, and alienates voters, which only relieves the “pressure” on politicians. But Obama presumably knows that. His latest tepid statement, sounding like a bystander to the process of policy making, was that he would “love to see some constitutional process that would allow us to actually regulate campaign spending the way we used to, and maybe even improve it.” This could mean almost anything while committing Obama to nothing. One suspects that Obama’s “love” will not give birth to any effective strategy; nor will Clinton.
By mentioning a constitutional amendment without endorsing anything specific Clinton is doing little more than what Obama and his party has done. In formulating her disclosure pillar, Clinton adopted similar language to, while cleverly promising considerably less than, the commitment made in the 2012 Democratic Party platform: “We support campaign finance reform, by constitutional amendment if necessary.” The rubric of “campaign finance reform” could include disclosure of “unaccountable” money as one tactic. But that would need to be accompanied by a more comprehensive legislative package to accomplish any actual “reform.”
By mentioning a constitutional amendment in this context, although the inadequacy of disclosure laws has nothing to do with the text of the Constitution, Clinton not only blows the dog-whistle for those diverted to that futile approach by professional activists for the past five years, but also prepares a convenient exit for herself from even the truncated “dark money” issue. As one commenter observed, she can “endorse the concept without too many expectations about personally making an amendment happen.” A president has no formal role in adopting an amendment so it serves to shift responsibility for the issue away from her, as it has done for Obama.
Clinton should be asked to disclose her legislative plan, since in fact no amendment is necessary, whether to force disclosures of money in politics, or to enact far more robust prohibitions than any amount of disclosure could possibly accomplish. It is those other, strategic legislative solutions for banning money from politics, such as strengthened conflict of interest recusal rules, and Exceptions Clause or Eleventh Amendment jurisdiction-stripping, that Clinton, along with the Democratic Party, can be safely expected to avoid at all costs.
Democrats using effective strategy to get money out of politics would be even less likely than landing a gyrocopter on the White House lawn by a “showman patriot” would dramatize the issue effectively in the complicit mass media. The Wall Street masters would not consent to any effective strategy to restrain their plutocracy.
Rob Hager is a public interest litigator who filed an amicus brief in the Montana sequel to Citizens United and has worked as an international consultant on anti-corruption policy and legislation.
One longs for a candidate for president of the United States possessing those rare traits of statesmanship, honesty and integrity. One looks back in vain to see such an example, and the near and far horizons offer no such hope, either.
We will take no time looking at the GOP (Generally Opposed to Progress) candidates, either announced or still keeping everyone on the edge of their seats as they ‘decide’ whether or not to toss their hat into the soon-to-be-crowded ring. Most, including Florida Governor and brother of one of the nation’s worst presidents ever, Jeb Bush, and New Jersey Governor, the obnoxious blowhard Chris Christie, have already decided, but enjoy the spectacle of endless conjecture. So they wait.
But on the Democratic side, no less a worthy than Hillary Rodham Clinton, lawyer, former First Lady, former senator, former Secretary of State, has slow-balled her tattered hat into an otherwise empty ring. Her handlers claim, disingenuously, that she expects competition, and a hard-fought primary campaign. Who, one wants to know, is going to take her on? She has a war chest rumored to hold $2.5 billion, more than twice what Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Barack Obama each spent on their campaigns in 2012; the total is more than their campaign expenditures combined. The only other potential candidate with anything close to her name recognition is Vice President Joe Biden, and it will be impossible for him to generate the puzzling enthusiasm that seems to follow Mrs. Clinton. And there does not appear to be anyone waiting in the wings to grab the spotlight from her, as Mr. Obama did in 2008.
So, while her various aides struggle to avoid any appearance of invincibility, let us all make the assumption that Mrs. Clinton will be the nominee, and work from there. What possible objections can anyone from the moderate to liberal political philosophy spectrum have to her nomination? Well, this writer asks: how much time do you have?
In the interest of time, let’s just look at a single area; there will be plenty of time to discuss others as the relentless torture session known as a U.S. political campaign drags on.
One of the most horrific oppressions of people currently happening in the world today is being perpetrated by Israel on the people of Palestine. Now, before anyone says that this is a complex, decades-old problem, and Mrs. Clinton can’t be blamed for not solving it, we question these statements, and at the same time object to her worsening of the situation. And, when one looks at her four years as Secretary of State, one can, indeed, blame her for not resolving the situation. Some facts:
* Clinton is beholden to AIPAC (American Israel Political Affairs Committee), and takes her disgraceful, self-appointed obligation to that lobby group more seriously than she does human rights. During her stint as Secretary of State, she blocked every effort Palestinians made at the United Nations to achieve recognition; these successful efforts to thwart the self-determination of an oppressed people win the kudos of AIPAC. She has spoken of Israel in almost romantic terms: “Protecting Israel’s future is not simply a question of policy for me, it’s personal,” she said in 2013, discussing various visits she has made to that apartheid land. She regularly worships at the AIPAC altar.
* In 2014, as Israel was using U.S.-provided weaponry, some of it illegal under international law, to carpet-bomb the beleaguered and blockaded Gaza Strip, Mrs. Clinton had nothing but praise for Israeli Prime Murderer Benjamin Netanyahu. She further echoed the tired old line about Israel’s ‘right to defend itself’ from rocket fire, as if an occupied nation does not have an internationally-recognized right to fight its occupier. One must note that, during 55 days in the summer of 2014, Israel fired more rockets into the Gaza Strip than Gaza fired into Israel in the previous 14 years. Additionally, Dr. Norman Finkelstein, the son of Holocaust survivors and an outspoken critic of Israel (he is no longer allowed in that country), calls those ‘rockets’ fired from Gaza ‘enhanced fire works’. No one refers to the advanced weaponry the U.S. gives to Israel in such terms.
*During her last campaign for the presidency, she stated that, if Iran attacked her beloved Israel with nuclear weapons, the U.S., under her presidency would attack Iran and could ‘totally obliterate’ it. One must take her at her word, since she voted to authorize the invasion of Iraq, a nation that in no way threatened the U.S., and in which over half the population was under the age of 15. So she would, one assumes, not hesitate to invade Iran, a nation with twice the population of Iraq, if it, too, did nothing to threaten the U.S.
So why, one wonders, is there so much enthusiasm among Democrats for a woman who, by all accounts, is a hypocritical war-monger, who is more motivated to enhance her own bottom line than to serve the cause of human rights? What is it that draws adoring crowds to her? Perhaps people are seduced by the idea of another first: they elected the first African-American president, so why not follow it up with the first woman president? Maybe it is her resume, which is, indeed, impressive. But any job-seeker will highlight notable job titles on their resume, but once at the interview, may have difficulty pointing to any real accomplishments. The voters, as interviewers, should take a close look at what achievements, if any, Mrs. Clinton has to support those remarkable job titles. They will find little.
But what is all this, when the candidate is surrounded by the magic of invincibility, the aura of newness, and represents the final shattering of the glass ceiling? Does she not deserve the presidency, for all her hard work, regardless of the lack of any real accomplishment? Don’t we, the voters, owe her this?
No, we don’t. She isn’t fit to serve in any capacity in government, due to the reasons detailed above, in addition to many others (stay tuned). In this case it is the empress, not the emperor, who has new clothes, only seen by Democrats stricken with some sudden myopia that prevents them from seeing the reality of her accomplishments which, like the new clothes, simply don’t exist.
One can generally rely on the Republicans to nominate a worse candidate than the Democrats; one hesitates to say the Democrat is usually better, since we are not operating in a ‘good, better, best’ zone here; far beneath it, unfortunately. But this time around, there may simply be no ‘lesser of two evils’ choice to make. And the U.S. will provide yet another tragedy for the country, and the world.
Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).
Israel said it is pleased with a compromise bill being floated on the Hill, which would give US legislators oversight in the Iran nuclear deal. The White House agreed to the bill adopted by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“We are certainly happy this morning, this is an achievement for Israeli policy… [Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s] speech in Congress … was decisive in achieving this law, which is a very important element in preventing a bad deal, or at least, in improving the agreement and making it more reasonable,” Yuval Steinitz, Netanyahu’s intelligence, foreign relations and strategic minister, told Israel Radio.
Israel has been opposing US reengagement with Iran, claiming the result of the nuclear negotiations would be a bad deal that would compromise Israel’s national security. Netanyahu made his case in the US through pro-Israeli legislators, who are opposed to US President Barack Obama.
“What was achieved last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, but a historic mistake,” said Netanyahu, after a preliminary deal paving the way for negotiations was reached in 2013.
Under the 2010 “Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act,” the president can waive sanctions imposed by Congress for a limited time, as a policy measure. However, Senate Bill 615 would remove that option and insist on congressional review of the final nuclear agreement with Iran before any of those sanctions could be waived.
Proposed by Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Democrat Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the “Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015” envisions a 52-day review period during which the president “may not waive, suspend, reduce, provide relief from, or otherwise limit the application of statutory sanctions with respect to Iran under any provision of law.” The White House can still suspend, waive or remove sanctions imposed by executive order.
If the bill is adopted, then Congress would be able to reject the nuclear agreement with Iran through a joint resolution, preventing Obama from lifting any congressional sanctions and possibly scuppering the treaty.
Iranian officials have said that the preliminary agreement reached in Geneva earlier this month would see most nuclear-related sanctions lifted immediately, while US officials maintain the sanctions would be lifted in phases, depending on Tehran’s compliance. This is one of the issues that still needs to be resolved before the June deadline for the final agreement.
“We have two and a half months more to negotiate, that’s a serious amount of time with some serious business left to do,” Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters Monday, after meeting with the legislators behind closed doors. “We hope Congress listens carefully and asks the questions that it wants. But also give us the space and the time to be able to complete a very difficult task which has high stakes for our country.”
Under the amended text of the bill agreed in committee, Obama would also have to certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran was complying with the final agreement, and submit detailed reports on Iran’s nuclear program, ballistic missile program, and “support for terrorism,” all of which remain thorny issues between Washington and Tehran.
Announcing the preliminary agreement on April 2, Obama said he wanted Congress to play a “constructive oversight role” in the negotiating process. However, the White House has argued that making international agreements is a constitutional prerogative of the executive branch, and that congressional oversight of the Iran deal would set a dangerous precedent. It now appears that Corker-Menendez has enough support from the congressional Democrats to override the veto Obama has been threatening, a senior Democratic aide told the New York Times.
Amendments proposed by several Republican Senators, including presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, could erode the bipartisan support. There were several amendments that would “pull this bill sharply to the right if adopted,” Senator Chris Coons (D-Del) told reporters Tuesday.
With Republicans making up the majority of the Foreign Relations Committee, these amendments could be adopted through a party-line vote. If that happens, Coons cautioned, “I’d drop off of it in a second.”
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | April 13, 2015
Yes, there is still bias “out there,” as some have written, about an American woman running for President, but I do not believe the bias is decisive: after all, America has broken what surely was its fiercest taboo with the election of a black man, twice. There is, however, another bias “out there,” and a decisive one: a bias against the Clintons, a ghastly pair in almost every respect, America’s contemporary version of the Borgias – both of them grasping, vicious, ruthless, two-faced, and lacking only the Borgias’ good taste in art and literature.
Among the distinguished achievements of Hillary’s husband are the bombing of Serbia’s capital, including the offices of journalists, and the bombing of a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan claimed to be a chemical weapons plant. President Clinton bragged of “ending welfare in our time,” quite the claim for a self-styled liberal. It was his blundering, belligerent FBI and ATF that committed the atrocities at Waco. He embarrassed everyone with his grotesque personal behavior, and he pardoned some ghastly criminals in return for huge contributions to his “foundation.” He is good friends with people like Jeffrey Epstein, a registered sex offender who solicited and kept underage girls to “service” guests on his private island or on the “Lolita Express,” nick-name for his private jet – both jet and island having Clinton recorded as a guest.
Bill Clinton failed every major undertaking of worth, including healthcare reform, Hillary playing a large role in that failure. Sometimes forgotten, he also frequently played the public coward, not standing behind appointments he made when they were attacked viciously in the Senate, allowing honorable people to be pilloried, then finally withdrawing their nominations. Perhaps his greatest act of cowardice involved the genocidal horrors of Rwanda. He was aware of them quite early, but his government was instructed not to use inflammatory language in public, and he made virtually no effort to save a million lives.
His contemptible behavior should, in theory, have nothing to do with Hillary, but in fact it very much does. They were the ones going around talking up the idea of getting “two for one” during his term of office. She still treats him as a confidant and advisor, having been photographed a number of times engaged in serious tête-à-têtes, and he has had several sessions with Obama, and big money sources, concerning Hillary’s ambitions.
Both Clintons have long records of chasing, indeed grovelling in much the same fashion as the smarmy Tony Blair, after big money – money for the foundation, money for elections, she having set an unenviable record for cancerous spending when running for the Senate in New York, and they have both been involved in at least as many questionable deals on the side as several former Israeli Prime Ministers combined.
I wish a woman could run for President, but must the candidate be someone who resembles Richard Nixon in drag and shares views the late ogre, J. Edgar Hoover? Everyone who doubts what a colossally unpleasant character Hillary has in private should read the memoirs of former secret service agents. Her behavior was appalling, tasking agents with things like holding her purse in public, and shouting a stream of “f–k off” invective at them if they declined.
She has always voted for war in the Senate, including the horrible war crime of invading Iraq. She goes around making speeches – at $300,000 a pop plus a whole printed list of demanded perquisites – about America’s need for a strong defense. Strong defense? America? How does one manage to spend more than America already spends on death and destruction? Park a nuclear-loaded B-52 at every civilian airport? Supply every Boy Scout troop with heavy machine guns and plenty of ammo? The woman borders on deranged here.
She has lied countless times in office and while running for office. The bloody mess at Benghazi was her baby, and she has done nothing but lie about its embarrassing and deadly failure. The last time she ran for President, in order to bolster her image for toughness, she bragged of coming under gunfire when she landed on a visit to Bosnia as First Lady, but a news video promptly appeared which showed nothing but a sweet little girl presenting flowers to her at the airport. Of course, she had to lie again when the video turned up, saying she hadn’t remembered events clearly, but no one ever forgets coming under gun fire. It is not possible unless your faculties are in such a jumbled state you should be disqualified from office.
Of course, in the end, Hillary’s mass of deceptions and terrible associations and rotten personality really do not matter because America’s real government, its ongoing unelected one, allows no President to depart much from the established script. The last one who made a serious try had half his head blasted into the streets of Dallas.
Anticipation and excitement about the first woman candidate reminds me of America’s electing and celebrating its first black – a seemingly charming and intelligent man at the time – and he has proved just another George Bush, giving ordinary Americans nothing, and especially his own people. He weekly approves extrajudicial killings in a half dozen places, behavior completely in keeping with former South American juntas who made thousands of people just disappear, and he happily does business with tyrants and absolute monarchs and madmen like Netanyahu. Hillary would do precisely the same.
In the end, the person America elects as President makes no appreciable difference to what America does in the world or how its wealthy rulers treat their own people, a presidential election being little more than the most costly theater performance in the world, “a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.”
The U.S. is once again increasing its intelligence-sharing with Saudi Arabia to help the kingdom expand its air campaign in Yemen, U.S. officials told Reuters on Friday.
“We have opened up the aperture a bit wider with what we are sharing with our Saudi partners,” one official said. “We are helping them get a better sense of the battlefield and the state of play with the Houthi forces.”
The Saudi military began its aerial assault on Yemen in late March in coordination with 10 other Gulf Arab allies, as well as the U.S., when civil unrest between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels threatened to boil over. Weeks of relentless bombings and air strikes have contributed to what the Red Cross called a “catastrophic” situation in Yemen, with civilian deaths already in the hundreds and food and water shortages worsening.
The U.S. has backed the Saudi air strikes in Yemen since they began, with the White House authorizing “logistical and intelligence support” the day after the operation was confirmed from the ground in Sana’a.
However, Washington’s role in the fight increased significantly over the following weeks. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken said on Tuesday that the administration had “expedited weapons deliveries, we have increased our intelligence sharing, and we have established a joint coordination planning cell in the Saudi operation center.”
That move came despite warnings from international aid groups that the operation, which is also supported by Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain, has brought war to “every street and every corner” in Yemen.
The White House and the Pentagon would not comment on the specifics of the increased intelligence-sharing on Friday, Reuters reports. In addition to intelligence-sharing, the U.S. also began daily air-to-air refueling flights of Saudi and U.A.E. fighter jets.
As Common Dreams reported on Friday, the coalition is also blocking nearly all food and medical aid from entering Yemen.
At the same time as the U.S. announced its intelligence-sharing plans, the UN warned that the heavily targeted southern city of Aden was in danger of completely running out of water “within a matter of days.”
In this excerpt from Bob Coen and Eric Nadler’s film “Shadow War of the Sahara”, broadcast on the Franco-German channel ARTE charts the rise of the U.S.military’s AFRICA COMAND (AFRICOM). This excerpt reveals why AFRICOM’s chief critic, Libya’s Mohammar Gaddafi, had to be removed from power for the project to succeed.
Caracas – On the eve of the much-anticipated Summit of the Americas, Senior White House Advisor Benjamin J.Rhodes downplayed his government’s designation of Venezuela as a threat to U.S. national security on Tuesday.
On March 9, President Obama issued an Executive Order branding Venezuela an “unusual and extraordinary threat” and imposing new sanctions, a move which has been roundly condemned by a multitude of nations and multilateral blocs, including UNASUR, the Non-Aligned Movement, CELAC, and the G77+China.
In response to the global outcry, the White House has appeared to soften its tone, with Rhodes dismissing the aggressive language of the Executive Order as “completely pro forma”.
“The United States does not believe that Venezuela poses some threat to our national security,” Rhodes stated in a press conference. The Presidential advisor did not, however, indicate that the U.S. administration had any intention of rescinding the executive decree.
The White House statement comes just days prior to the Summit of the Americas in Panama, which may mark a new chapter in U.S.-Latin American relations as the former continues to rebuild diplomatic ties with Cuba.
However, this supposed watershed moment has been vastly overshadowed by the Obama administration’s aggressive measures against Venezuela which have united the region behind Caracas and are likely to be a key point of contention at the summit.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has launched a petition campaign to gather 10 million signatures demanding the repeal of Obama’s Executive Order, of which 9 million have been collected so far. The Venezuelan head of state intends to personally deliver the signatures to the U.S. president during the summit this weekend.
Opposition Leaders Seek to Discredit Venezuela
While the U.S. attempts to downplay its aggressive posture against Venezuela, Venezuelan opposition leaders head to Panama where they plan to denounce the Bolivarian nation before the gathering of regional leaders.
The Panama summit will feature various parallel fora that will give “civil society” leaders the opportunity to present on the political and social situation in their respective countries.
Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed far right opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, will be given four minutes to present on Venezuela, which she claims is “on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe“. Lopez, awaits trial for his role in leading last year’s violent opposition protests known as “the Exit” which sought the ouster of President Nicolas Maduro, taking the lives of at least 43 people.
Also attending is Rocio San Miguel of Citizen Control, who is a journalist specializing in military affairs closely linked to the U.S. embassy and various programs of USAID. She has actively worked to discredit President Nicolas Maduro’s relationship with the Venezuelan military as well as coordinates the provision of U.S. funds to anti-government groups.
Representing the Civil Consortium for Development and Justice, attendee Carlos Ponce Silen is the director of the Latin American and Caribbean Network for Democracy (RELIAL), which funnels the millions it receives in National Endowment for Democracy (NED) funding to Venezuelan opposition groups.
According to U.S. embassy cables published by Wikileaks, Ponce Silen organized a meeting between the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) acting country representative and right wing student leaders in 2008.
Participating on behalf of the Venezuelan Institute of Social and Political Studies (INVESP) is Carlos Correa, director of the NGO Public Space, which has been revealed by a Freedom of Information Act request to be one of the principal fronts for over $4 million in NED funds channelled to Venezuelan opposition journalists between 2008 and 2010.
The Venezuelan opposition has received hundreds of millions in U.S. funding over the past decade, including $14 million between 2013 and 2014 alone, provided via USAID and the NED.