TBR News October 27, 2016

Oct 27 2016

A Compendium of Various Official Lies, Business Scandals, Small Murders, Frauds, and Other Gross Defects of Our Current Political, Business and Religious Moral Lepers.

“When a government is dependent upon bankers for money, they and not the leaders of the government control the situation, since the hand that gives is above the hand that takes… Money has no motherland; financiers are without patriotism and without decency; their sole object is gain.”- Napoleon Bonaparte, 1815


“Corrupted by wealth and power, your government is like a restaurant with only one dish. They’ve got a set of Republican waiters on one side and a set of Democratic waiters on the other side. But no matter which set of waiters brings you the dish, the legislative grub is all prepared in the same Wall Street kitchen”. – Huey Long


“I fired [General MacArthur] because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. That’s the answer to that. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail “- Harry S Truman


“When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” -Thomas Jefferson.


“Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage”

– H.L. Mencken


 “For a quarter of a century the CIA has been repeatedly wrong about every major political and economic question entrusted to its analysis.” 

-Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

The New York Times, 1991.


Don’t tell a lie! Some men I’ve known
Commit the most appalling acts,
Because they happen to be prone
To an economy of facts;
And if to lie is bad, no doubt
’Tis even worse to get found out!


My children, never, never steal!
To know their offspring is a thief
Will often make a father feel
Annoyed and cause a mother grief;
So never steal, but, when you do,
Be sure there’s no one watching you.


The Wicked flourish like the bay,
At Cards or Love they always win,
Good Fortune dogs their steps all day,
They fatten while the Good grow thin.
The Righteous Man has much to bear;

                              The Bad becomes a Bullionaire!




The Voice of the White House  

Washington, D.C.  October 27, 2016: “The international communities with large Muslim populations have been secretly meeting to agree upon corrective steps to deal with the problems attendant upon aan enormous flood of Muslim refugees. The commission is called ‘Energy Control Commission’  and its members are: The United States, India, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium and Italy. This commission has been meeting on a monthly basis in Copenhagen since July of 2006. Its sole purpose is to address the flood of potentially dangerous Muslims into Western countries. A good deal of intelligence material has surfaced in which telephone and internet communications between various Muslim activist groups point very clearly to deliberate infiltration of non-Muslim countries with the double goal of overwhelming the native populations with numbers and threats of physical violence, Muslim groups are strongly anti-Christian and are most especially vindictive towards any country that has engaged in military action against any Muslim country. The United States is considered a prime target for infiltration and domestic terrorism while Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden and France are also high on activist terrorist lists. The general agreement between all parties is that Muslims cannot remain in basically Christian countries because of their often-stated desire to not only take over these countries by population increase but also by the on-going threat of terrorism. This Islamic Diaspora will be implemented by a joint team of multi-national military personnel using aircraft and shipping that has already been allotted.”

DDoS attack that disrupted internet was largest of its kind in history, experts say

Dyn, the victim of last week’s denial of service attack, said it was orchestrated using a weapon called the Mirai botnet as the ‘primary source of malicious attack’Major cyber attack disrupts internet service across Europe and US

October 26, 2016

by Nicky Woolf

The Guardian

San Francisco-The cyber-attack that brought down much of America’s internet last week was caused by a new weapon called the Mirai botnet and was likely the largest of its kind in history, experts said.

The victim was the servers of Dyn, a company that controls much of the internet’s domain name system (DNS) infrastructure. It was hit on 21 October and remained under sustained assault for most of the day, bringing down sites including Twitter, the Guardian, Netflix, Reddit, CNN and many others in Europe and the US.

The cause of the outage was a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, in which a network of computers infected with special malware, known as a “botnet”, are coordinated into bombarding a server with traffic until it collapses under the strain.

What makes it interesting is that the attack was orchestrated using a weapon called the Mirai botnet. According to a blogpost by Dyn published on Wednesday, Mirai was the “primary source of malicious attack traffic”.

Unlike other botnets, which are typically made up of computers, the Mirai botnet is largely made up of so-called “internet of things” (IoT) devices such as digital cameras and DVR players.

Because it has so many internet-connected devices to choose from, attacks from Mirai are much larger than what most DDoS attacks could previously achieve. Dyn estimated that the attack had involved “100,000 malicious endpoints”, and the company, which is still investigating the attack, said there had been reports of an extraordinary attack strength of 1.2Tbps.

To put that into perspective, if those reports are true, that would make the 21 October attack roughly twice as powerful as any similar attack on record.

David Fidler, adjunct senior fellow for cybersecurity at the Council on Foreign Relations, said he couldn’t recall a DDoS attack even half as big as the one that hit Dyn.

Mirai was also used in an attack on the information security blog Krebs on Security, run by the former Washington Post journalist Brian Krebs, in September. That one topped out at 665 Gbps.

“We have a serious problem with the cyber insecurity of IoT devices and no real strategy to combat it,” Fidler said. “The IoT insecurity problem was exploited on this significant scale by a non-state group, according to initial reports from government agencies and other experts about who or what was responsible.

“Imagine what a well-resourced state actor could do with insecure IOT devices,” he added.

According to Joe Weiss, the managing partner at the cybersecurity firm Applied Control Solutions and the author of Protecting Industrial Control Systems from Electronic Threats, it is hard to know what Mirai could become. “A lot of these cyber-attacks start out as one particular type of attack and then they morph into something new or different,” he said. “A lot of this is modular software.

“I can’t speak for anyone else,” Weiss continued. “[But] I don’t know that we really understand what the endgame is.”

Sweden, with tightened borders, sees asylum requests down 80 percent in 2016

October 25, 2016


Asylum seeker numbers in Sweden are set to drop by around 80 percent this year from a record 163,000 in 2015 as a result of tighter borders and tougher immigration rules, a government agency said on Tuesday.

Sweden took in more asylum seekers than any other European Union state relative to population last year. But even many liberal Swedes are having second thoughts, put off by reports of crime including sexual assaults by asylum seekers and financial strains on the nation’s prized cradle-to-grave welfare system.

In a fresh forecast, the state Migration Agency said it expected Sweden to receive 28,000 to 32,000 asylum applications this year. Its previous forecast from July was 30,000 to 50,000.

Factors in the reduced numbers include the EU’s deal with Turkey curbing migration from that nation’s shores, border clampdowns along the main Balkan corridor to EU territory and the reimposition of selective identity checks at borders within the EU’s Schengen passport-free travel zone, it said.

“…It has become harder to travel into and through Europe to reach Sweden,” a Migration Agency statement said. Other EU countries including Germany also report a sharp fall in migrant arrivals from the more than one million registered in 2015.

Sweden’s reputation for tolerance and stability made it a haven for refugees for decades. But the mood has changed since 2015 with many Swedes unnerved by reports of rising foreigner crime including gang activity in immigrant-heavy cities.

In addition, soaring costs – spending on immigration and asylum measures will account for around 7 percent of the budget this year – are seen by many as a threat to the welfare net.

Tougher rules introduced by the center-left coalition last year, including border checks and limits on family reunion, have cut numbers – and costs – dramatically.

This year, asylum applications are down to about 22,000. But anti-immigrant sentiment may have permanently hardened.

A poll by SIFO in daily Svenska Dagbladet at the weekend showed more than 40 percent of Swedes want the government to take an even tougher stance on immigration. A second poll showed that while a majority still support a multi-cultural society, that number has fallen sharply since last year.

The popular backlash has also had a violent dimension, with dozens of asylum centers burned down in suspected arson attacks. Two centers were assaulted in the Stockholm region last week.

Concerns about immigration have boosted support for the rightist Sweden Democrats, now backed by around 17 percent of voters in polls, up from the 13 percent they received in a general election in 2014.

(Reporting by Simon Johnson and Daniel Dickson; editing by Mark Heinrich)


Religious people have poor understanding of reality, controversial study finds

October 27, 2016


Researchers have controversially claimed that those with religious or supernatural beliefs don’t have a clear understanding of the physical world.

The findings from the University of Helsinki state that people with either religious or paranormal beliefs have a poorer understanding of the physical world, and focus on it less. They instead turn to their beliefs, accepting more supernatural answers relating to demons and gods.

Controversially, scientists claim that such “supernatural beliefs may thus reflect a broad, hyper-mentalistic cognitive phenotype,” adding that “extreme forms” of this can often be found among those with autism.

Research saw 258 Finnish participants asked how much they agreed with the statement, “there exists an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving God,” and were also questioned about whether they believed in paranormal beings such as ghosts.

In the results, it was found that religious people usually act on instinct over critical or analytical thinking.

Scientific explanations for physical and biological things such as flowers, volcanoes and wind were less likely to be understood by those with religious or supernatural beliefs. They instead apply human characteristics and attributes to the world around them and think inanimate objects are able to think and feel.

Marjanna Lindeman and Annika Svedholm-Häkkinen, who carried out the research, found that those who believed in religion had lower “intuitive physics skills.”

“The more the participants believed in religious or other paranormal phenomena, the lower their intuitive physics skills, mechanical and mental rotation abilities, school grades in mathematics and physics, and knowledge about physical and biological phenomena were – and the more they regarded inanimate targets as mental phenomena,” they told The Independent.

A third of Germans fear war erupting with Russia over Ukraine, Syria: poll

October 26, 2016


One in three Germans worry that tensions between the West and Russia over Crimea, Ukraine and Syria could lead to a military confrontation, according to an opinion poll by the respected Forsa institute published on Wednesday.

The survey found that 32 percent of 2,504 Germans polled believe it is possible that war could break out between Russia and the European Union and its allies in the United States. But a majority of 64 percent said they did not share those fears.

Fears of war traditionally run high in Germany, a country sensitive to tensions that could lead to conflict after the devastation of World War Two and the partition of the nation into West Germany and East Germany during the Cold War.

The survey found supporters of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party were especially worried, 63 percent of them telling Forsa that war could break out.

Some 41 percent of all those polled said relations between Russia and the West were poor, 51 percent not good and only six percent said relations were good.

Chancellor Angela Merkel met in Berlin last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Francois Hollande about Syria and Ukraine.

Merkel and Hollande pressed Putin to extend a pause in air strikes on rebels in Syria and halt the “criminal” bombardment of civilians, and said four-way talks aimed at ending violence in eastern Ukraine made some progress.

(Reporting by Andreas Rinke; writing by Erik Kirschbaum; editing by Mark Heinrich)

Warring words over warships

As NATO defense ministers went into their fall meeting, Russian warships on the periphery of NATO territory highlighted tensions amid allies and nervousness about Moscow’s aims. DW’s Teri Schultz reports from Brussels.

October 26, 2016


A convoy of Russian warships on Wednesday led by the aircraft carrier Kuznetsov did not just cast a black cloud over the waterways it passed en route to the Mediterranean. It also dimmed NATO leaders’ hopes that their meeting would center on new details of the four battalions beefing up the deterrence factor along NATO’s eastern borders.

Controversy arose over Spain’s permission – granted a month ago – to allow a now-infamous convoy of Russian warships to refuel in the North African port of Ceuta. In the end, Russia itself withdrew the request, but not before it became clear that Spain had given little thought to the fleet’s end game, outraging fellow NATO members such as Britain. Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said his government “would be extremely concerned if a NATO member should consider assisting a Russian carrier group that might end up bombing Syrian civilians.”  Fallon suggested that action alone would be divisive to alliance unity, saying “on the contrary, NATO should be standing together.”

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg underscored that sentiment, saying, “We are concerned about the potential use of this carrier group to increase attacks against Aleppo,” but balanced that worry by stating it’s a “decision to be taken by individual allies whether they provide fueling and supplies to Russian ships.”

No NATO voice had been as scathing as European parliamentarian Guy Verhofstadt, leader of the ALDE group. Verhofstadt raged in a statement that it was “scandalous” Spain would have signed on to last week’s European Council position suggesting Russian actions in Aleppo could constitute war crimes, “yet today it provides assistance to a fleet that has one purpose: the annihilation of Aleppo and the harassment of EU and NATO forces.”

Despite all the heat on the sidelines, a spokesman for the Spanish defense ministry, Diego Mazon, told DW that not one country had raised the refueling issue with his boss, Pedro Morenes.

Russia beefs up in the Baltic

Meanwhile, Stoltenberg confirmed that two Russian warships “recently” entered the Baltic Sea near Kaliningrad. News reports say those ships are equipped with cruise missiles, but officials won’t speculate on whether Russia has also moved nuclear warheads to its western exclave – with Stoltenberg only pointing out “nuclear-capable Iskander missiles” were transferred to Kaliningrad earlier this month. He said NATO navies would monitor the activity “in a responsible and measured way,” as they had with the fleet headed toward the Mediterranean.

Polish Defense Minister Antoni Macierewicz expressed more alarm, telling Polish news agency PAP the Kaliningrad reinforcements by Russia were definitely cause for concern. “Moving such ships on the Baltic changes the balance of power,” he said.

But NATO has been gearing up for two years to have that balance in its own favor, culminating in Wednesday’s announcement of what equipment and staffing will be provided by allies for the biggest reinforcement of NATO’s military presence since the Cold War.

Battle groups and Black Sea boostBritain, Canada, Germany and the United States will lead battalions of roughly 1,000 military personnel each in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, respectively. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen says Germany will send 450-600 troops, making up the majority of its battalion.

The US will not only contribute most of the troops itself for its battalion in Poland, but also have another force ready to boost NATO’s presence to the South, part of land, air and sea reinforcements in Romania and the Black Sea region.

In addition to countering Russia’s most recent escalations, Stoltenberg pointed out the alliance had pledged at the NATO summit in Warsaw in July that these battalions would be deployed by early next year. He confirmed plans are on track and NATO forces will arrive on time to strengthen rattled eastern allies whose neighborhoods just keep getting more nervewracking.

The Russians don’t seem to want to talk things over. “Dialogue is even more important when tensions run high,” said Stoltenberg. But officials say there has been no Kremlin response to NATO’s offer to hold a meeting.


Clinton’s Slog Deeper into the Big Muddy

In the last debate, Hillary Clinton vowed to follow up the defeat of ISIS in Iraq’s Mosul with a march on ISIS’ capital in Raqqa, except that’s in Syria, a suggestion of a wider war

October 24, 2016

by Daniel Lazare


Attentive viewers may have noticed something curious about last week’s presidential debate. Asked if she would send troops to help stabilize Iraq once ISIS has been expelled from of the northern city of Mosul, Hillary Clinton replied that U.S. intervention would only make matters worse by providing Islamic State with a rallying point.

But then she said: “The goal here is to take back Mosul. It’s going to be a hard fight. I’ve got no illusions about that. And then [we should] continue to press into Syria to begin to take back and move on Raqqa, which is the ISIS headquarters. I am hopeful that the hard work that American military advisers have done will pay off and that we will see a really successful military operation.”

Move on Raqqah? What did that mean – that Clinton wants to follow up victory in Mosul with a push into Syria? That she envisions a coordinated military thrust into Syria from Iraq? The answer is not quite, although the results could hardly be more dangerous than if she did.

While the press focuses on the latest Donald Trump groping scandal, few reporters have noticed the explosion of violence from Mosul all the way to Afrin, a Syrian Kurdish stronghold some 380 miles to the west. What Clinton sees as a simple two-pronged assault – first the U.S. and its allies wrest back Mosul, then they take Raqqah, and then they mop up whatever remains of ISIS in between – is already turning into something far messier, i.e., a multi-sided power struggle among Kurds, Turks, Shi‘ites, and Sunni Salafists. All are terrified that they will be shut out of the new post-ISIS order, and all are scrambling to gain an edge on their rivals.

Ironically, the winner could well turn out to be Islamic State, as ISIS is also known. The group is hyper-alert when it comes to divisions among its enemies and skilled at using them to its advantage. The greater the turmoil, the more likely that ISIS will be able to regain its footing once the battle of Mosul is over.

If so, ultimate responsibility will lie with the U.S. After all, it was the United States that tipped the region into chaos by invading Iraq in 2003 and then did seemingly everything in its power to compound the damage in the years that followed. Donald Trump’s claim that Barack Obama’s decision to pull American forces out of Iraq in 2011 allowed Al Qaeda to expand and regroup is not entirely incorrect [although the withdrawal timetable was actually negotiated by President George W. Bush’s administration at the insistence of the Iraqi government].

Still, after all but destroying the Iraqi state in 2003, U.S. withdrawal undoubtedly created a vacuum that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was quick to exploit. But the Obama administration’s decision to back an insurgency in Syria that it knew was dominated by Al Qaeda was no less significant in enabling such forces to regroup.

[Recall that ISIS is an Al Qaeda spinoff, originally called “Al Qaeda in Iraq,” although, in Syria, Al Qaeda’s official affiliate has been the Nusra Front, recently renamed Syria Conquest Front, a key part of the militant force holding east Aleppo.]

Making Matters Worse

The crisis in Syria was compounded by the decision under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama to give Saudi Arabia full backing in its growing anti-Shi’ite sectarian war. This was Bush’s policy shift that investigative reporter Seymour Hersh famously labeled “the redirection” toward overthrowing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a policy that Obama embraced in 2011 amid the Arab Spring protests.

After the collapse of the 2011 Arab Spring, U.S. support for the Saudi sectarian conflict has been no less important in fueling conflict across the region despite warnings from the Defense Intelligence Agency that the strategy would benefit radical Sunni jihadists in Syria.

[Obama partially shifted U.S. policy again in 2014 when ISIS began beheading Western hostages and capturing cities in Syria and Iraq, causing U.S. public outrage that prompted Obama to target ISIS for destruction but not Al Qaeda, whose jihadists were by then deeply enmeshed with the U.S.-backed anti-government rebels in Syria.]

Now the U.S. has launched its long-anticipated anti-ISIS offensive around Mosul. The problem is not so much the goal as the methodology. War-weary and overstretched, America is loath to commit significant numbers of ground troops. Instead, its strategy is to leverage its imperial power by enlisting a range of local actors to do its bidding.

This is a policy that Hillary Clinton helped craft as Secretary of State when she enlisted more than a dozen states to overthrow Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and then encouraged Saudi Arabia and others to fund the anti-Assad revolt in Syria. But the strategy has repeatedly backfired. Employing regional actors means empowering them, and that means triggering a host of secondary conflicts as differences multiply.

The most obvious such example is Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been on a rampage since last July’s attempted military coup. The U.S. has backed operation Euphrates Shield, the code name for last August’s Turkish incursion into northern Syria, even though it brought pro-Turkish forces into conflict with Kurdish fighters whom the U.S. also supports.

But now, with his “neo-Ottoman” ambitions in full flower, Erdogan is casting his eye on Mosul. He declared last week that the city and its ethnically variegated hinterlands are within Turkey’s legitimate sphere of influence. When Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi called on him to withdraw from a military enclave that he has established in Bashiqa, a small town seven miles northeast of Mosul, he told him to “know your place.”

“The army of the Republic of Turkey has not lost its standing so as to take instructions from you,” Erdogan said. “You are not my interlocutor, you are not at my level….  It’s not important at all how you shout from Iraq. You should know that we will do what we want to do.”

Sectarian Conflicts

Erdogan’s motives are many – imperial, ethnic, and religious. Not only does he claim a special right to intervene in Mosul, but he also sees himself as a champion of the Sunnis. He is up in arms, consequently, that Shi‘ite militias known as Al-Hashd al-Sha’bi, or Popular Mobilization Forces, are to take part in the “liberation” of a predominately Sunni city of more than 1 million inhabitants.

“They say 30,000 Shia militants are coming,” he warned last week.  “They should be prepared for what they will face.”

Unfortunately, Erdogan’s concerns are not entirely baseless. When Iraqi government forces took back the central Iraqi city of Tikrit from ISIS in April 2015, the same Popular Mobilization Forces looted, torched, or blew up hundreds of civilian houses and buildings, according to Human Rights Watch, and detained some 200 men and boys, at least 160 of whom remain unaccounted for.

Videos circulated of Shi‘ite militants beheading at least two Sunnis and using a sword to slice strips of flesh off the charred and burning remains of a third “like a shawarma.”  After taking back Fallujah in June, Shi‘ite militias reportedly executed more than a dozen Sunnis and beat and abused hundreds more taken into custody.

It is hardly reassuring, therefore, that the same groups are now looking to take Mosul or that a Shi’ite militia leader named Qais Al-Khaz’ali recently proclaimed that the battle will provide an opportunity for “vengeance and retribution” against Sunnis responsible for the death of Hussein, the prophet Muhammad’s grandson who is a major figure in Shi‘ite martyrology, more than 1,300 years ago. It’s as if a Christian warlord had vowed vengeance on the Jews for the death of Christ.

Al-Khaz’ali even suggested that Erdogan, Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, and Atheel Al-Nujaifi, a Sunni former governor of Nineveh province who commands his own militia, were all descendants of those responsible for Hussein’s death, words not likely to calm fears inside Mosul or to dispel passions across the border in Turkey.

Undoubtedly, the Obama administration is now leaning on Baghdad to keep the Shi‘ite militias under control. But Obama would undoubtedly love a clear-cut victory by Election Day, so he’s probably not leaning all that hard. Moreover, it’s not clear what he can do. Iraqi Prime Minister Al-Abadi’s government relies on the Shi‘ite militias for support, so U.S. leverage is limited.

After the fall of Tikrit, a Sunni political leader named Hamid al-Mutlik says he confronted al-Abadi “numerous times” about Shi‘ite abuses, but to no avail: “I told him, ‘you are the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi forces. The militias have kidnapped hundreds of innocent people. What is your role?’  He replied simply, ‘These militias have embarrassed me so much.’”

If Al-Abadi was powerless then, he’s not likely to be more forceful now. So the Shi‘ites are on the march, and the Turks as well.

And then there are the Kurds, the X-factor across the entire region. Kurdish peshmerga forces clashed with Shi‘ites last spring in the northern Iraqi town of Tuz Khurma while Sunni Arabs remember the massive looting that erupted when Kurdish units swept into Mosul on the heels of the U.S. invasion. Neither side is particularly happy to see the Kurds return, and neither is Erdogan.

The Kurdish Clash

But this is nothing compared to how Erdogan feels about the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, across the border in Syria. The YPG is his bête noire because it is closely allied with Abdullah Öcalan’s Kurdistan Workers Party, which heads up the Kurdish revolt inside Turkey. Hence Erdogan sees the Kurdish battle against ISIS in Syria as virtually part of the same insurgency.

Erdogan’s worst fear is that the U.S. will rely on the YPG to spearhead an assault on Raqqah, thereby enabling it to solidify its position in northern Syria and channel aid across the border to its comrades in arms in Turkey. His goal, therefore, is to shut out the YPG by taking Raqqah himself.

Last week, Turkey pounded YPG positions near Afrin with airstrikes and artillery, killing 200 fighters, according to Turkish sources, although Kurds put the losses at just ten. When the assault continued a day later, the YPG accused the U.S. of providing aid behind the scenes. Given the YPG’s long-standing cooperation with the U.S. in the war against ISIS, it was indicative of just how much alliances are splintering and tempers are beginning to fray.

Former Secretary Clinton’s idea about a simple two-pronged offensive is thus pouring gasoline on the ethno-religious fires. So why does the U.S. do it? Why doesn’t it pause and reconsider where it is heading and consider a different strategy?

The answer is that it can’t because all other options are even worse. It can’t abandon the fight against ISIS because that would leave its clients in Baghdad in the lurch and leave them with no choice but to turn to Iran and Russia for aid. The Obama administration also can’t join forces with the Syrian government to defeat ISIS — no matter how logical that might seem — since its regional partners, Israel and Saudi Arabia, want Assad out and Obama has been promising to remove him since late 2011. Reversing course now would be inconceivable.

The U.S. also can’t buck Turkey, a NATO member and an important regional power, and it can’t afford to alienate the YPG either since it is the only reliable anti-ISIS force that is still on the U.S. side.

Deep in the Big Muddy

So America has no choice but to continue with the present strategy. It’s neck deep in the Big Muddy, yet can only push on. Since pushing on is Hillary Clinton’s specialty, she is the perfect choice for the job. As she once told a roomful of angry Pakistani students, according to her memoir Hard Choices: “It is difficult to go forward if we’re always looking in the rearview mirror.”

History, in other words, is irrelevant bunk. So stop dwelling on a long list of foreign-policy disasters and just keep pressing on.

As Gordon Adams and Lawrence Wilkerson, veterans of the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, observed recently in The National Interest, Clinton’s penchant for military intervention and her deep belief in American exceptionalism put her in tune with Washington’s foreign-policy establishment, which is “why a large number of neoconservative national security experts have endorsed Clinton over Trump.”

But the fact that foreign-policy experts agree with her doesn’t make her right. Since their view is increasingly at odds with reality, reality, all it means is that hers is as well. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Hillary Clinton’s ‘Exceptionalist’ Warpath.”]

“This ‘consensus’ judgment of foreign-policy makers,” Adams and Wilkerson write, “which Clinton’s views reflect and support, not only fails to perceive the changed world we live in correctly, but executing its strategy risks producing precisely the opposite result from what is intended.

“A no-fly zone in Syria seriously risks putting US military forces at the heart of the conflict, creating the third US invasion in the region since 2001. There is no gain to such a step; there is only high risk of more American lives being lost in an unwinnable war as well as exacerbating regional hostility toward the United States.

“Similarly, a direct confrontation with Russia in central Europe and Ukraine increases by orders of magnitude the paranoia already infecting the Russian leadership that the United States intends to put itself right at the periphery of Russia and perhaps beyond. Not for nothing have Russian military exercises for three years running emphasized attacks by NATO – even on Russian territory itself.”

The search for stability, in other words, leads to less rather than more. Yet Clinton forges ahead regardless.

“I’m going to continue to push for a no-fly zone and safe havens within Syria,” she vowed during last week’s debate with Donald Trump, “not only to help protect the Syrians and prevent the constant outflow of refugees, but to frankly gain some leverage on both the Syrian government and the Russians.”

Cooler heads may well prevail by the time she gets into office, not only because of the 70,000-plus military personnel who would be needed to institute such a “no-fly” policy, but because the advanced anti-aircraft systems that Russia has recently installed in Syria would raise the stakes immeasurably.

But that doesn’t mean that conflict will have been averted. To the contrary, closing one door merely assures that conflict will enter via another. The United States would have to engage in an immense effort merely to begin undoing the damage it has done since 2003. But if Obama has not been up to the task, a deep-dyed American exceptionalist like Clinton will be even less so. If she is elected, the chaos can only intensify.


Waking Up in Hillary Clinton’s America

Wall Street in the Saddle

by Nomi Prins


As this endless election limps toward its last days, while spiraling into a bizarre duel over vote-rigging accusations, a deep sigh is undoubtedly in order. The entire process has been an emotionally draining, frustration-inducing, rage-inflaming spectacle of repellent form over shallow substance. For many, the third debate evoked fatigue. More worrying, there was again no discussion of how to prevent another financial crisis, an ominous possibility in the next presidency, whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton enters the Oval Office — given that nothing fundamental has been altered when it comes to Wall Street’s practices and predation.

At the heart of American political consciousness right now lies a soul-crushing reality for millions of distraught Americans: the choices for president couldn’t be feebler or more disappointing. On the one hand, we have a petulant, vocabulary-challenged man-boar of a billionaire, who hasn’t paid his taxes, has regularly left those supporting him holding the bag, and seems like a ludicrous composite of every bad trait in every bad date any woman has ever had. On the other hand, we’re offered a walking photo-op for and well-paid speechmaker to Wall-Street CEOs, a one-woman money-raising machine from the 1% of the 1%, who, despite a folksiness that couldn’t look more rehearsed, has methodically outplayed her opponent.

With less than two weeks to go before E-day — despite the Trumptilian upheaval of the last year — the high probability of a Clinton win means the establishment remains intact. When we awaken on November 9th, it will undoubtedly be dawn in Hillary Clinton’s America and that potentially means four years of an economic dystopia that will (as would Donald Trump’s version of the same) leave many Americans rightfully anxious about their economic futures.

None of the three presidential debates suggested that either candidate would have the ability (or desire) to confront Wall Street from the Oval Office. In the second and third debates, in case you missed them, Hillary didn’t even mention the Glass-Steagall Act, too big to fail, or Wall Street. While in the first debate, the subject of Wall Street only came up after she disparaged the tax policies of “Trumped-up, trickle down economics” (or, as I like to call it, the Trumpledown economics of giving tax and financial benefits to the rich and to corporations).

In this election, Hillary has crafted her talking points regarding the causes of the last financial crisis as weapons against Trump, but they hardly begin to tell the real story of what happened to the American economy. The meltdown of 2007-2008 was not mainly due to “tax policies that slashed taxes on the wealthy” or a “failure to invest in the middle class,” two subjects she has repeatedly highlighted to slam the Republicans and their candidate. It was a byproduct of the destruction of the regulations that opened the way for a too-big-to-fail framework to thrive. Under the presidency of Bill Clinton, Glass-Steagall, the Depression-era act that once separated people’s bank deposits and loans from any kind of risky bets or other similar actions in which banks might engage, was repealed under the Financial Modernization Act of 1999. In addition, the Commodity Futures Modernization Act was passed, which allowed Wall Street to concoct devastating unregulated side bets on what became the subprime crisis.

Given that the people involved with those choices are still around and some are still advising (or in the case of one former president living with) Hillary Clinton, it’s reasonable to imagine that, in January 2017, she’ll launch the third term of Bill Clinton when it comes to financial policy, banks, and the economy. Only now, the stakes are even higher, the banks larger, and their impunity still remarkably unchallenged.

Consider President Obama’s current treasury secretary, Jack Lew. It was Hillary who hit the Clinton Rolodex to bring him back to Washington. Lew first entered Bill Clinton’s White House in 1993 as special assistant to the president.  Between his stints working for Clinton and Obama, he made his way into the private sector and eventually to Wall Street — as so many of his predecessors had done and successors would do.  He scored a leadership role with Citigroup during the time that Bill Clinton’s former Treasury Secretary (and former Goldman Sachs co-Chairman) Robert Rubin was on its board of directors.  In 2009, Hillary selected him to be her deputy secretary of state.

Lew is hardly the only example of the busy revolving door to power that led from the Clinton administration to the Obama administration via Wall Street (or activities connected to it). Bill Clinton’s Treasury Under Secretary for International Affairs, Timothy Geithner worked with Robert Rubin, later championed Wall Street as president and CEO of the New York Federal Reserve while Hillary was senator from New York (representing Wall Street), and then became Obama’s first treasury secretary while Hillary was secretary of state.

One possible contender for treasury secretary in a new Clinton administration would be Bill Clinton’s Under Secretary of Domestic Finance and Obama’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission chairman, Gary Gensler (who was — I’m sure you won’t be shocked — a Goldman Sachs partner before entering public service). These, then, are typical inhabitants of the Clinton inner circle and of the political-financial corridors of power. Their thinking, like Hillary’s, meshes well with support for the status quo in the banking system, even if, like her, they are willing on occasion to admonish it for its “mistakes.”

This thru-line of personnel in and out of Clinton World is dangerous for most of the rest of us, because behind all the “talking heads” and genuinely amusing Saturday Night Live skits about this bizarre election lie certain crucial issues that will have to be dealt with: decisions about climate change, foreign wars, student-loan unaffordability, rising income inequality, declining social mobility, and, yes, the threat of another financial crisis. And keep in mind that such a future economic meltdown isn’t an absurdly long-shot possibility. Earlier this year, the Federal Reserve, the nation’s main bank regulator, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the government entity that insures our bank deposits, collectively noted that seven of our biggest eight banks — Citigroup was the exception — still have inadequate emergency plans in the event of another financial crisis.

Exploring a Two-Faced World

Politicians regularly act one way publicly and another privately, as Hillary was “outed” for doing by WikiLeaks via its document dump from Clinton campaign manager John Podesta’s hacked email account. Such realities should be treated as neither shockers nor smoking guns. Everybody postures. Everybody lies. Everybody’s two-faced in certain aspects of their lives. Politicians just make a career out of it.

What’s problematic about Hillary’s public and private positions in the economic sphere, at least, isn’t their two-facedness but how of a piece they are. Yes, she warned the bankers to “cut it out! Quit foreclosing on homes! Quit engaging in these kinds of speculative behaviors!” — but that was no demonstration of strength in relation to the big banks. Her comments revealed no real understanding of their precise role in exacerbating a fixable subprime loan calamity and global financial crisis, nor did her finger-wagging mean anything to Wall Street.

Keep in mind that, during the build-up to that crisis, as banks took advantage of looser regulations, she collected more than $7 million from the securities and investment industry for her New York Senate runs ($18 million during her career). In her first Senate campaign, Citigroup was her top contributor.  The four Wall-Street-based banks (JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley) all feature among her top 10 career contributors. As a senator, she didn’t introduce any bills aimed at reforming or regulating Wall Street. During the lead-up to the financial crisis of 2007-2008, she did introduce five (out of 140) bills relating to the housing crisis, but they all died before making it through a Senate committee. So did a bill she sponsored to curtail corporate executive compensation. Though she has publicly called for a reduction in hedge-fund tax breaks (known as “closing the carried interest loophole”), including at the second debate, she never signed on to the bill that would have done so (one that Obama co-sponsored in 2007). Perhaps her most important gesture of support for Wall Street was her vote in favor of the $700 billion 2008 bank bailout bill. (Bernie Sanders opposed it.)

After her secretary of state stint, she returned to the scene of banking crimes. Many times. As we know, she was also paid exceedingly well for it. Friendship with the Clintons doesn’t come cheap. As she said in October 2013, while speaking at a Goldman Sachs AIMS Alternative Investments’ Symposium, “running for office in our country takes a lot of money, and candidates have to go out and raise it. New York is probably the leading site for contributions for fundraising for candidates on both sides of the aisle.”

Between 2013 and 2015, she gave 12 speeches to Wall Street banks, private equity firms, and other financial corporations, reaping a whopping $2,935,000 for them. In her 2016 presidential run, the securities and investment sector (aka Wall Street) has contributed the most of any industry to PACs supporting Hillary: $56.4 million.

Yes, everybody needs to make a buck or a few million of them. This is America after all, but Hillary was a political figure paid by the same banks routinely getting slapped with criminal settlements by the Department of Justice. In addition, the Clinton Foundation counted as generous donors all four of the major Wall Street-based mega-banks. She was voracious when it came to such money and tone-deaf when it came to the irony of it all.

Glass-Steagall and Bernie Sanders

One of the more illuminating aspects of the Podesta emails was a series of communications that took place in the fall of 2015. That’s when Bernie Sanders was gaining traction for, among other things, his calls to break up the big banks and resurrect the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933.  The Clinton administration’s dismantling of that act in 1999 had freed the big banks to use their depositors’ money as collateral for risky bets in the real estate market and elsewhere, and so allowed them to become ever more engorged with questionable securities.

On December 7, 2015, with her campaign well underway and worried about the Sanders challenge, the Clinton camp debuted a key Hillary op-ed, “How I’d Rein in Wall Street,” in the New York Times. This followed two months of emails and internal debate within her campaign over whether supporting the return of Glass-Steagall was politically palatable for her and whether not supporting it would antagonize Senator Elizabeth Warren. In the end, though Glass-Steagall was mentioned in passing in her op-ed, she chose not to endorse its return.

She explained her decision not to do so this way (and her advisers and media apostles have stuck with this explanation ever since):

“Some have urged the return of a Depression-era rule called Glass-Steagall, which separated traditional banking from investment banking. But many of the firms that contributed to the crash in 2008, like A.I.G. and Lehman Brothers, weren’t traditional banks, so Glass-Steagall wouldn’t have limited their reckless behavior. Nor would restoring Glass-Steagall help contain other parts of the ‘shadow banking’ sector, including certain activities of hedge funds, investment banks, and other non-bank institutions.”

Her entire characterization of how the 2007-2008 banking crisis unfolded was — well — wrong.  Here’s how traditional banks (like JPMorgan Chase) operated: they lent money to investment banks like Lehman Brothers so that they could buy more financial waste products stuffed with subprime mortgages that these traditional banks were, in turn, trying to sell. They then backed up those toxic financial products through insurance companies like AIG, which came close to collapse when what it was insuring became too toxically overwhelming to afford.  AIG then got a $182 billion government bailout that also had the effect of bailing out those traditional banks (including Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, which became “traditional” during the crisis). In this way, the whole vicious cycle started with the traditional banks that hold your deposits and at the same time could produce and sell those waste products thanks to the repeal of Glass-Steagall. So yes, the loss of that act caused the crisis and, in its wake, every big traditional bank was fined for crisis-related crimes.

Hillary won’t push to bring back Glass-Steagall. Doing so would dismantle her husband’s legacy and that of the men he and she appointed to public office. Whatever cosmetic alterations may be in store, count on that act remaining an artifact of the past, since its resurrection would dismay the bankers who, over the past three decades, made the Clintons what they are.

No wonder many diehard Sanders supporters remain disillusioned and skeptical — not to speak of the fact that their candidate featured dead last (39th) on a list of recommended vice presidential candidates in the Podesta emails. That’s unfortunately how much his agenda is likely to matter to her in the Oval Office.

Go Regulate Yourselves!

Before he resigned with his nine-figure golden parachute, Wells Fargo CEO and Chairman John Stumpf addressed Congress over disclosures that 5,300 of his employees had created two million fake accounts, scamming $2.4 million from existing customers. The bank was fined $185 million for that (out of a total $10 billion in fines for a range of other crimes committed before and during the financial crisis).

In response, Hillary wrote a letter to Wells Fargo’s customers. In it, she didn’t actually mention Stumpf by name, as she has not mentioned any Wall Street CEO by name in the context of criminal activity. Instead, she simply spoke of “he.”  As she put it, “He owes all of you a clear explanation as to how this happened under his watch.” She added, “Executives should be held individually accountable when rampant illegal activity happens on their watch.”

She does have a plan to fine banks for being too big, but they’ve already been fined repeatedly for being crooked and it hasn’t made them any smaller or less threatening.  As their top officials evidently view the matter, paying up for breaking the law is just another cost of doing business.

Hillary also wrote, “If any bank can’t be managed effectively, it should be broken up.” But the question is: Why doesn’t ongoing criminal activity that threatens the rest of us correlate with ineffective management — or put another way, when was the last time you saw a major bank broken up? And don’t hold your breath for that to happen in a new Clinton administration either.

In her public letter, she added, “I’ll appoint regulators who will stand with taxpayers and consumers, not with big banks and their friends in Congress.”  On the other hand, at that same Goldman Sachs symposium, while in fundraising mode, she gave bankers a pass relative to regulators and commented: “Well, I represented all of you for eight years. I had great relations and worked so close together after 9/11 to rebuild downtown, and [I have] a lot of respect for the work you do and the people who do it.”

She has steadfastly worked to craft explanations for the financial crisis and the Great Recession that don’t endanger the banks as we presently know them. In addition, she has supported the idea of appointing insider regulators, insisting that “the people that know the industry better than anybody are the people who work in the industry.” (Let’s not forget that former Goldman Sachs CEO and Chairman Hank Paulson ran the Treasury Department while the crisis brewed.)

Among the emails sent to John Podesta that were posted by WikiLeaks is an article I wrote for TomDispatch on the Clintons’ relationships with bankers.  “She will not point fingers at her friends,” I said in that piece in May 2015. She will not chastise the people who pay her hundreds of thousands of dollars a pop to speak or the ones who have long shared the social circles in which she and her husband move.” I also suggested that she wouldn’t call out any CEO by name. To this day she hasn’t. I said that she would never be an advocate for Glass-Steagall. And she hasn’t been. What was true then will be no less true once she’s in the White House and no longer has to make gestures toward the platform on which Bernie ran and so can once again more openly embrace the bankers’ way of conducting business.

There’s a reason Wall Street has a crush on her and its monarchs like Goldman Sachs CEO and Chairman Lloyd Blankfein pay her such stunning sums to offer anodyne remarks to their employees and others. Blankfein has been coy about an official Clinton endorsement simply because he doesn’t want to rock her campaign boat, but make no mistake, this Wall Street kingpin’s silence is tantamount to an endorsement.

To date, $10 trillion worth of assets sits on the books of the Big Six banks. Since 2008, these same banks have copped to more than $150 billion in fines for pre-crisis behavior that ranged on the spectrum of criminality from manipulating multiple public markets to outright fraud. Hillary Clinton has arguably taken money that would not have been so available if it weren’t for the ill-gotten gains those banks secured. In her usual measured way, albeit with some light admonishments, she has told them what they want to hear: that if they behave — something that in her dictionary of definitions involves little in the way of personalized pain or punishment — so will she.

So let’s recap Hillary’s America, past, present, and future. It’s a land lacking in meaningful structural reform of the financial system, a place where the big banks have been, and will continue to be, coddled by the government. No CEO will be jailed, no matter how large the fines his bank is saddled with or how widespread the crimes it committed.  Instead, he’s likely to be invited to the inaugural ball in January. Because its practices have not been adequately controlled or curtailed, the inherent risk that Wall Street poses for Main Street will only grow as bankers continue to use our money to make their bets. (The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act was supposed to help on this score, but has yet to make the big banks any smaller.)

And here’s an obvious corollary to all this: the next bank-instigated economic catastrophe will not be dealt with until it has once again crushed the financial stability of millions of Americans.

The banks have voted with their dollars on all of this in multiple ways. Hillary won’t do anything to upset that applecart. We should have no illusions about what her presidency would mean from a Wall Street vs. Main Street perspective. Certainly, JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon doesn’t. He effectively endorsed Hillary before a crowd of financial industry players, saying, “I hope the next president, she reaches across the aisle.”

For Wall Street, of course, that aisle is essentially illusory, since its players operate so easily and effectively on both sides of it. In Hillary’s America, Wall Street will still own Main Street.

At Hillary Clinton’s Favorite Think Tank, a Doubling Down on Anti-Iran, Pro-Saudi Policy

October 26 2016

by Zaid Jilani

The Intercept

The Center for American Progress hosted a sort of preview of Hillary Clinton’s Middle East policy on Tuesday, with a Clinton adviser and a Gulf state diplomat agreeing that the next president should double down on support for the Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, while ramping up action against Iran.

It is a signal that a future Clinton administration would overwhelmingly favor the Gulf states in their ongoing, Middle East-wide power struggle with Iran, implicitly rebuking President Obama, who has come under fire from Gulf states for mild criticism of their foreign policy and his nuclear deal with Iran.

The founder of the Center for American Progress, John Podesta, is the campaign chair for Clinton’s presidential bid; many of the candidate’s closest advisors are alumni of CAP and it is widely viewed as a launching pad for policy staff for Democratic presidents. The center is currently helmed by Clinton transition co-chair Neera Tanden.

Panelists at the event, titled “Strengthening U.S. Partnerships in the Middle East,” argued for what is essentially a supercharged anti-Iran, pro-Saudi posture, with little disagreement from CAP moderator Brian Katulis.

Former acting CIA Director and Clinton foreign policy advisor Mike Morell called for escalation of sanctions “that bite” on Iran in response to their “malign behavior in the region.” And in what would be a dramatic escalation of U.S. power in the region, he called for intercepting Iranian vessels traveling to Yemen to supply weapons to Houthi rebels.

“I know there’s issues of international law here,” Morell said. “Ships leave Iran on a regular basis carrying arms to the Houthis in Yemen. … I would have no problem, from a policy perspective, of having U.S. Navy board those ships and if there’s weapons on them for the Houthis, turn those ships around and send those ships back to Iran. I think that’s the kind of action, tough action that would get the attention of the Iranians and will get the attention of our friends in the region to say the Americans are now serious about helping us deal with this problem.”

The United States objected to the Houthi capture of Yemen’s governing institutions in 2014, and considers the leader they ousted, Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi, to be the legitimate leader of the country. And when Gulf countries started bombing Yemen in the Spring of 2015 in defense of Hadi’s exiled government, the National Security Council said it “strongly condemns ongoing military actions taken by the Houthis against the elected government of Yemen.”

But there is no state of war between the U.S. and the Houthis and the State Department does not consider the group to be terrorists.

Furthermore, the Iranian relationship to the Houthis is tenuous and has grown primarily due to the Saudi-led intervention. And the Houthis have also been known to be fierce opponents of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which our government does designate as a terrorist group and a threat to the United States.

United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the U.S. Yousef al-Otaiba began his remarks by praising a CAP report released last week that advocates for continued cooperation with Gulf states like Saudi Arabia and the UAE while urging consideration of use of force against Syria’s Iran-allied government.

“Thank you for the report on the Middle East, which I happen to completely agree with,” al-Otaiba said.

For al-Otaiba, the main problem with current U.S. policy is that it isn’t friendly enough to the Gulf’s Sunni autocracies. “At the risk of trying to solve every policy first, I think for the next administration what I’d like to see is to rebuild those relationships, to rebuild the trust.”

Part of that distrust, in the ambassador’s view, was built by Obama’s opposition to Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak during the Arab Spring and his strategic silence during the Green Revolution in Iran. “If I was a Martian watching the events of the Middle East over the last few years,” he joked, “and I saw the U.S. reaction to the events in Iran and then shortly after I watched the U.S. reaction to the events in Egypt, I would be a very confused Martian. I would think it was the other way around. I would think Iran is the U.S. ally, but Egypt was the adversary.”

But U.S. policy towards the military regime in Egypt has hardly been uncharitable, and the government of Iran would be surprised to hear any suggestion that the U.S. is siding with it. In reality, the U.S. gave $6.5 billion in military aid to Egypt between 2011 and 2015 and has maintained a stringent set of economic sanctions targeting Iran.

Al-Otaiba named a group of “core allies” — Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, and Jordan — that he’d like to see the U.S. reaffirm its commitment to. “I think the first order for the new administration is try to get that band back together, operating on the same wavelength.”

That wavelength is an increasingly controversial one, however, as militant movements inspired by Saudi-aligned ideology have spread throughout the region. The hacked Clinton campaign emails released by Wikileaks, for example, show that Hillary Clinton privately is troubled by Gulf state foreign policy. In a 2014 email to Podesta, she wrote of a need “to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.”

But the others panelists did not disagree with the UAE ambassador. Morell, in particular, chose to frame Gulf behavior in the region as simply a defense against an imperial Iran.

Morell said tension in the region is “often referred to as the struggle between Iran and the Sunni Gulf states, struggle for influence in the region. You often hear that. It is the wrong way to think about it,” he said. “It is a desire on behalf of the Iranians to be the hegemonic power in the region, their efforts to achieve that, and it is the Sunni Gulf states pushing back against that. That is what’s happening.”

But there is in fact an ongoing struggle for influence between Iran and the Gulf states, as reflected in the proxy struggles around the region. Most notably, the region’s most violent conflict is taking place in Syria, where an Iran-backed government is doing battle with rebels that Gulf states have flooded with arms and other resources.

Former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff James Winnefeld, Jr., another panelist, concurred with Morell. He essentially advised that the United States adopt the Saudi view of Yemen and Iran.

“Iran understands the language of power. They also understand the language of weakness,” he said.

He then turned to the issue of international law and Morell’s suggestion. “A very very strict interpretation of international law would say you can’t interdict an Iranian ship at the high seas,” he noted. But he insisted that the United States could interdict their ships if it was a matter of self defense. “My opinion and I think Michael would agree with me is that we could probably be a little bit more liberal in our interpretation of what collective self defense means when Iran is shipping arms to the Houthis to operate in Yemen which threatens the whole region.”

Al-Otaiba took the opportunity to defend his own country’s support for the Saudi intervention in Yemen, pointing to what he claimed was growing Iranian influence through the Houthis. “We were not going to allow for this to happen on the border of a country that produced 10 million barrels [of oil] a day, and is home to Mecca and Medina,” he said.

No one at the event offered criticism of al-Otaiba’s defense of the war or the more than $20 billion of U.S. arms sales to the Saudi Arabia over the past 18 months. The thousands of Yemenis who have been killed by the Gulf coalition’s military intervention went unmentioned. The Gulf states’ role in fostering extremism in Syria and elsewhere was also not extensively discussed. And the wisdom of adopting a more hostile posture towards Iran was never questioned.

Katulis did not respond to a request for comment.

Israel, the Bastion of Mid-East Peace

October 27, 2016

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

The Israeli government refuses to officially confirm or deny that it has a nuclear weapon program, and has an unofficial but rigidly enforced policy of deliberate ambiguity, saying only that it would not be the first to “introduce nuclear weapons in the Middle East” . Israel is one of three sovereign nation-states that possess nuclear weapons not to sign or ratify the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the other two being India and Pakistan.

The United States had been opposed to Israel acquiring the bomb – an August 2005 BBC investigation showed that in the late 1950s the US rejected an Israeli request to sell it heavy water, because of Israel’s refusal to guarantee it would be used only for civilian purposes. Consequently, because the world’s largest supplier of heavy water, Norway, did not have enough stock, Britain sold Israel 20 tons of surplus heavy water, without requiring safeguards, or informing the US. The decision to ship 10 tons in June 1959, and another 10 tons a year later, appears to have been made entirely by civil servants at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, without political involvement. A 1961 request for a further five tons was declined – again without ministerial involvement – after a Daily Express report the year before on Israel’s activities at Dimona had made the issue too politically sensitive.

The first public revelation of Israel’s nuclear capability (as opposed to development programme) came in the London-based Sunday Times on October 5, 1986, which printed information provided by Mordechai Vanunu, formerly employed at the Negev Nuclear Research Center, a facility located in the Negev desert south of Dimona. For publication of state secrets, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison for treason and espionage. Although there had been much speculation prior to Vanunu’s revelations that the Dimona site was creating nuclear weapons, Vanunu’s information indicated that Israel had also built thermonuclear weapons.

In 1998, former Prime Minister Shimon Peres admitted publicly that Israel “built a nuclear option, not in order to have a Hiroshima but an Oslo.”. The “nuclear option” may refer to a nuclear weapon or to the nuclear reactor in Dimona, which Israel claims is used for scientific research. (“Hiroshima” refers to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, while “Oslo” refers to the Oslo Peace Accords). Peres, in his capacity as the Director General of the Ministry of Defense in the early 1960s, was responsible for building Israel’s nuclear capability.

According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative, based on Vanunu’s information, Israel has approximately 100-200 nuclear explosive devices and a Jericho missile delivery system. A United States Defense Intelligence Agency report (leaked and published in the book “Rumsfeld’s War” by journalist Richard Scarborough in 2004) puts the number of weapons at 82. The difference might lie in the amount of material Israel has on store versus assembled weapons.

Israel has operated three modern German-built Dolphin class submarines [4] since 1999. Various reports indicate that these submarines are equipped with American-made Harpoon missiles modified to carry small nuclear warheads [5] and/or the larger Israeli-made ‘Popeye Turbo’ cruise missiles, originally developed for air-to-ground strike capability.

No known nuclear weapons test has been conducted within Israel, although the boosted weapons shown in Vanunu’s photographs may well have required testing. It is also possible that the Israelis received results from French nuclear testing in the 1960s. Another story has it that, it was Britain who assisted Israel in 1958. In June 1976, the West Germany Army Magazine, Wehrtechnik, claimed that a 1963 underground test took place in the Negev, and other reports indicate that some type of non-nuclear test, perhaps a zero yield or implosion test, may have occurred on 2 November 1966. In September 1979, a Vela satellite may have detected a 3 kiloton oceanic nuclear explosion near to South Africa, accompanied by underwater acoustic and ionospheric effects which may have been a joint nuclear test between Israel and South Africa

Chemical weapons

Israel has signed but not ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). There are speculations that a chemical weapons program might be located at the Israel Institute for Biological Research (IIBR) in Nes Ziona. Professor Marcus Klingberg, deputy director of the institute, was sentenced in 1983 to 18 years in prison for being a Soviet spy, a matter so sensitive that it was kept secret for a decade.

190 liters of dimethyl methylphosphonate, a CWC schedule 2 chemical used in the synthesis of Sarin nerve gas, was discovered in the cargo of El Al Flight 1862 after it crashed in 1992 en-route to Tel Aviv. Israel insisted the material was non-toxic, was to have been used to test filters that protect against chemical weapons, and that it had been clearly listed on the cargo manifest in accordance with international regulations. The shipment was from a U.S. chemical plant to the IIBR under a U.S. Department of Commerce licence.

In 1993, the U.S. Congress Office of Technology Assessment WMD proliferation assessment recorded Israel as a country generally reported as having undeclared offensive chemical warfare capabilities.

Biological weapons

Israel is not a signatory to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention (BWC). Israel is alleged to have a possible biological weapons

‘America First!’ Is Current Again

October 26, 2016

by Justin Raimondo

The American Conservative

I suspect that the publishers of Bill Kauffman’s America First! Its History, Culture, and Politics brought out a new edition of this 1996 book in part due to the newsworthiness of the title: after all, there’s a well-known person whose presidential campaign has taken this very phrase as its theme. And we’ll get to that in a moment, but in the meantime one has to recall what the author was trying to get at.

When it first came out, Kauffman’s book was hailed by those of us on the “isolationist”/Buchananite right as a masterpiece of historical, literary, and political analysis. We loved not only the subject matter—the resurrection of nearly forgotten writers, political figures, and other colorful characters whose eccentricities are not only charming but downright seditious—but also the Kauffman style: witty without being smug and crammed full of learned allusions without being exhibitionistic. Robinson Jeffers, the poet of the Old Right who paid for his bitter opposition to World War II and all things Rooseveltian by being banished forever from “respectable” literary society, is herein described as having “prescience, which we often confuse with pessimism.”

In the first part of the book, an historical overture to the “America First” tradition, Kauffman draws on an unlikely amalgam of politicos, polemicists, and literary adventurers, some obscure, others famous: Senators Gerald P. Nye, Burton K. Wheeler, and J. William Fulbright and novelists Hamlin Garland, Edward Abbey, Jack Kerouac, and Gore Vidal, to name a few. Here he constructs a common mindset beyond mere eccentricity, underscoring their uniquely American traits, characteristics of a common creed that upholds anti-militarism, love of country—not America as an “idea,” but as an actual place—and in all cases a certain curmudgeonliness.

The thread that binds this concatenation of idiosyncratic leftists, libertarians, progressives-turned-conservatives, and downright unclassifiables is the phrase contained in the book’s title: America First. This also happens to be the name of the biggest anti-interventionist—heck, antiwar!—movement in our history, the America First Committee, which opposed Franklin Roosevelt’s relentless campaign to involve us in the European conflict and was eventually outwitted when, as the historian Charles Callan Tansill put it, he got us in “through the back door.”

The AFC comes in for a brief—and bold—analysis, in which Kauffman goes so far as to defend Charles Lindbergh’s infamous Des Moines speech, which is something I would not do. John T. Flynn, a prominent America Firster, put it best when, in a letter to Lindbergh, he wrote that while the tactic of smearing anti-interventionists as anti-Semites was employed by some Jewish leaders, pointing this out was “a far different matter from going out upon the public platform and denouncing ‘the Jews’ as the war-makers. No man can do that without incurring the guilt of religious and racial intolerance.” What is lost in the conventional historical account, however, is that Lindbergh and the AFC—a broad movement that included Gerald Ford and Norman Thomas, as well as conservative businessman and publicist Henry Regnery—were hardly synonymous.

In any case, Kauffman goes on to distill this “America First” sensibility into a political phenomenon that encompasses Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, the libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard, and the paleoconservatives around Chronicles magazine, which, taken together, he calls “The new party of the Old Republic.” In this new edition of his book, Kauffman extends this analysis to include Buchanan’s subsequent political career, Ron Paul and his movement—which he, in my view wrongly albeit admiringly, dubs “quasi-pacifist”—and the latest entrant to the America First sweepstakes: none other than Donald Trump.

Of course, Trump—who, much to the horror of our ideological police, has made the slogan “America First!” current again—belongs in this book, despite the fact that Kauffman isn’t so sure. “Donald Trump is and is not in the tradition of the men and women profiled in this book,” writes Kauffman, who confesses to being “conflicted about Trump.”

I think a better word is squeamish, because it seems that Trump’s stance on the issue of immigration—specifically of Mexicans and Muslims—is what the author finds hard to square with his own (uncertain) views. After all, in the previous edition, the author spent pages heaping praise on Buchanan; now he disdains Trump’s proposal to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border—he purports to see it as a mere “public works” program—and yet this proposal was first made by Buchanan.

While Kauffman makes a rather interesting point, likening Trump to media mogul and part-time populist William Randolph Hearst, in programmatic terms it is Buchananism that is clearly the ideological precursor to Trumpism. Clearly Kauffman has been imbibing the left-libertarian soma of open borders, and yet if Kauffman purports to imagine a cultural “America-Firstism,” then what exactly does this consist of aside from the glorification of small-town America and its literary paladins?

The author admits that he “largely ignored immigration in this book,” because he’s “of two, or two thousand, minds on the subject.” Yet the small-town ethos Kauffman valorizes as the last remnants of the Real America, as opposed to the homogenized, politically correct urban monstrosity that now rears its ugly head, is being driven to extinction by the floodtide of immigrants who know or care nothing about the Bill of Rights and would no sooner support “the new party of the Old Republic” than they’d vote for … Donald Trump.

Aside from this blind spot, however, Kauffman—unlike all too many conservative and libertarian anti-interventionists—gives Trump full credit for his brave foreign-policy stance, in which he not only opposed the Iraq War but declared we were deliberately lied into it. To Kauffman’s credit, he sees through the smear campaign aimed at Trump, which he rightly describes as “a full-bore campaign of media vilification unrivaled in American history for its comprehensiveness.” And it’s not just the New York Times, but the “Never Trump” faction of the GOP—“scholars for hire, fundraising wizards, and Republican fronts”—who are “slavering over the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency.”

In the end, Kauffman’s ambiguity about Trump wins out. The author doesn’t want to make America great again: “Nah. Let’s make America good.” Well, that’s nice, but a little too safe for my Trumpian tastes. Aside from which: a person is good, while a nation can be great in spite of the ungoodness of all too many of its most influential citizens.

“Is Trump a fluke?” asks Kauffman, or is he “a bell in the night pealing for an America that minds its own business … that believes there was and is a country somewhere underneath the carapace of Empire?” Actually, the sentence I’m quoting is much longer, but you get the idea. Kauffman’s answer is: “Damned if I know.”

If I might venture an opinion where Kauffman is loath to give one, I’d go for the “bell in the night” option. Despite the appalling defection of some of the few conservative intellectuals who have been critics of neoconservative globalism, and who apparently care more for their careers than for any ostensible principles they think they hold dear, Trumpism isn’t going away. You don’t beat the entire GOP establishment and then just fade, quietly, into the night. Trumpism and the Trumpist constituency are here to stay—and that, as far as I’m concerned, is the best thing about the Trump campaign. I suspect Kauffman agrees with me: “I am conflicted about Trump,” he avers, “but I love as countrymen the Trump supporters, drawn from that narrowing swath of Americans who remain patriotic, desperately so, their naivete laced with cynicism (or is it the other way around?), scorned by their (our) country’s enemies (chicken-hawks; social-justice warriors; Conservatism, Inc.).”

Yes, these are our people, the constituency of the “new party of the Old Republic”—and they will not be denied.






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