TBR News September 23, 2016

Sep 23 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C.  September 23, 2016:”The background of the 911 attacks is so sensitive, to this day, that it is never openly discussed. Not only did the Administration know of its coming but certain powerful American political personages had a serious hand in implementing the attack. Its pupose was to present a situation wherein the new Bush Administration could an enabling act put in place that would greatly strengthen the position of both the White House and the Republicans. That the plot failed was due entirely to the crash of the hijacked passenger plane in Pennsylvania, a plane that was supposed to head towards Washington and crash into the capitol building with Congress in session. The death of many politicians would give George W. Bush the cause to rule by decree until some unspecified future date. The failure prevented a right-wing takeover of the shattered Congress. None of this information is secret but none of it is ever spoken of for reasons that are obvious. Karl Rove has vanished and George H.W. Bush, who visited Saudi Arabia four time in advance of the attack is retired and very quiet.”


Obama vetoes bill allowing 9/11 families to sue Saudi Arabia

The president has nixed legislation that would allow 9/11 terror victims to sue the Saudi government. Obama said the bill undermined national security.

September 23. 2016


President Barack Obama said on Friday he was nixing a bill that was passed by both the Senate and the House of Representatives, though Congress is expected to override the veto for the first time in his presidency.

The legislation, called the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), doesn’t refer specifically to Saudi Arabia. However, Obama has warned that by allowing families of 9/11 victims to take that country’s government to court, the bill would open up the possibility of other countries doing the same to Washington.

In a statement following the veto, Obama said he had “deep sympathy for the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” But he wrote that “the JASTA would be detrimental to U.S. national interests more broadly, which is why I am returning it without my approval.”

A group of 9/11 families said they were “outraged and dismayed” by the president’s decision. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer, normally an ally of Obama, criticized the move as well. “The families of the victims of 9/11 deserve their day in court, and justice for those families shouldn’t be thrown overboard because of diplomatic concerns.”

Saudi threatens US

Congress can override the veto, as long as the move garners a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate. If Congress were to go through with the override, it would be the first such instance in Obama’s two terms as president.

Meanwhile, Gulf states, led by Saudi Arabia, have come out swinging against the bill. After the JASTA was passed by Congress, just two days before the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council expressed “profound worry” over the bill.

Saudi Arabia also reportedly threatened to pull billions of dollars from the US economy, although the country’s foreign minister has denied it has made any threats over the bill.

Fifteen of the 19 hijackers behind the 9/11 attacks were from Saudi Arabia. Families of the victims have been lobbying the US government for years to be able to sue the Gulf state’s government.


Sunday, 23 September, 2001, 12:30 GMT 13:30 UK

Hijack ‘suspects’ alive and well

Another of the men named by the FBI as a hijacker in the suicide attacks on Washington and New York has turned up alive and well.

The identities of four of the 19 suspects accused of having carried out the attacks are now in doubt.

Saudi Arabian pilot Waleed Al Shehri was one of five men that the FBI said had deliberately crashed American Airlines flight 11 into the World Trade Centre on 11 September.

His photograph was released, and has since appeared in newspapers and on television around the world.

Hijacking suspects

Flight 175: Marwan Al-Shehhi, Fayez Ahmed, Mohald Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi and Ahmed Alghamdi

Flight 11: Waleed M Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Mohamed Atta, Abdulaziz Alomari and Satam Al Suqami

Flight 77: Khalid Al-Midhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaq Alhamzi, Salem Alhamzi and Hani Hanjour

Flight 93: Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, Ziad Jarrahi and Saeed Alghamdi

Now he is protesting his innocence from Casablanca, Morocco.

He told journalists there that he had nothing to do with the attacks on New York and Washington, and had been in Morocco when they happened. He has contacted both the Saudi and American authorities, according to Saudi press reports.

He acknowledges that he attended flight training school at Daytona Beach in the United States, and is indeed the same Waleed Al Shehri to whom the FBI has been referring.

But, he says, he left the United States in September last year, became a pilot with Saudi Arabian airlines and is currently on a further training course in Morocco.

Mistaken identity

Abdulaziz Al Omari, another of the Flight 11 hijack suspects, has also been quoted in Arab news reports.

Abdelaziz Al Omari ‘lost his passport in Denver’

He says he is an engineer with Saudi Telecoms, and that he lost his passport while studying in Denver.

Another man with exactly the same name surfaced on the pages of the English-language Arab News.

The second Abdulaziz Al Omari is a pilot for Saudi Arabian Airlines, the report says.

Meanwhile, Asharq Al Awsat newspaper, a London-based Arabic daily, says it has interviewed Saeed Alghamdi.

Khalid Al-Midhar may also be alive

He was listed by the FBI as a hijacker in the United flight that crashed in Pennsylvania.

And there are suggestions that another suspect, Khalid Al Midhar, may also be alive.

FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged on Thursday that the identity of several of the suicide hijackers is in doubt


Hijacking suspects

Flight 175: Marwan Al-Shehhi, Fayez Ahmed, Mohald Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi and Ahmed Alghamdi

Flight 11: Waleed M Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Mohamed Atta, Abdulaziz Alomari and Satam Al Suqami

Flight 77: Khalid Al-Midhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaq Alhamzi, Salem Alhamzi and Hani Hanjour

Flight 93: Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, Ziad Jarrahi and Saeed Alghamdi


Two Loud Words  

by William Rivers Pitt


William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times best-selling author of two books, War On Iraq (Context Books) and The Greatest Sedition is Silence (Pluto Press). His book Our Flag, Too: The Paradox of Patriotism will be available in August from Context Books.

There have always been ‘third-rail’ issues in American politics—subjects that, if touched upon, will lead to certain political death. For a long while, and until very recently, Social Security was one of these issues.

A new one, surrounding the attacks of 9/11, has been born in this political season. If 9/11 is discussed, the only allowable sub-topic to be broached is whether the Bush administration is capable of keeping us safe from another onslaught.

The Jan. 2 edition of The Boston Globe had a case in point on the front page. An article titled “For Bush, Readiness is Key Issue” stated that, “In speech after speech, President Bush has emphasized his administration’s pledge never to forget the lessons of Sept. 11. He says the top goal of his administration is to prevent another attack.” The Globe article contained, in the next paragraph, the standardized rejoinder: “And while Democratic opponents of the administration are unanimous in their hope that that vulnerability is not exposed with deadly results, they have also argued that Bush has done far too little to protect the country from another attack. He has refused to adequately reimburse state and local officials for homeland security costs, they argue, and has ignored dangerous gaps in air cargo and port security.”

Thus, the “preparedness-gap” becomes the whittled-down talking point du jour. This is a whiff of colossal proportions, the implications of which will echo down the halls of history unless someone develops enough spine to speak the truth into a large microphone. The talking point is not difficult to manage. It was splashed in gaudy multi-point font across the front page of the New York Post in May of 2002.

Two words: ‘Bush Knew.’

It is, frankly, amazing that this has fallen down the memory hole. Recall two headlines from that period. The first, from the UK Guardian on May 19, 2002, was titled “Bush Knew of Terrorist Plot to Hijack US Planes.” The first three paragraphs of this story read:

“George Bush received specific warnings in the weeks before 11 September that an attack inside the United States was being planned by Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network, US government sources said yesterday. In a top-secret intelligence memo headlined ‘Bin Laden determined to strike in the US’, the President was told on 6 August that the Saudi-born terrorist hoped to ‘bring the fight to America’ in retaliation for missile strikes on al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan in 1998. Bush and his aides, who are facing withering criticism for failing to act on a series of warnings, have previously said intelligence experts had not advised them domestic targets were considered at risk. However, they have admitted they were specifically told that hijacks were being planned.”

Another story on the topic came from The New York Times on May 15, 2002, and was titled “Bush Was Warned bin Laden Wanted to Hijack Planes.”

Unlike the Guardian piece, the Times chose to lead the article with the Bush administration’s cover story, one the administration has stuck with to this day:

“The White House said tonight that President Bush had been warned by American intelligence agencies in early August that Osama bin Laden was seeking to hijack aircraft but that the warnings did not contemplate the possibility that the hijackers would turn the planes into guided missiles for a terrorist attack. ‘It is widely known that we had information that bin Laden wanted to attack the United States or United States interests abroad,’ Ari Fleischer, the president’s press secretary, said this evening. ‘The president was also provided information about bin Laden wanting to engage in hijacking in the traditional pre-9/11 sense, not for the use of suicide bombing, not for the use of an airplane as a missile.'”

Yes, we were warned, said the Bush administration, but who could have conceived of terrorists using airplanes for suicide bombings?

A lot of people, actually.

According to a Time magazine story that appeared on Jan. 2, 2004, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice is balking at requests to testify before Thomas Kean’s 9/11 commission under oath. She also wants her testimony to be taken behind closed doors, and not in public. The crux of her hesitation would appear on the surface to be her comments of May 16 2002, in which she used the above-referenced excuse that no one “could have predicted that they would try to use a hijacked airplane as a missile.” If that excuse is reflective of reality, why does she fear to testify under oath?

Perhaps Ms. Rice fears testifying because too many facts are now in hand, thanks in no small part to the work of 9/11 widows like Kristen Breitweiser, which fly in the face of the administration’s demurrals. For example, in 1993, a $150,000 study was commissioned by the Pentagon to investigate the possibility of an airplane being used to bomb national landmarks. A draft document of this was circulated throughout the Pentagon, the Justice Department and to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In 1994, a disgruntled Federal Express employee broke into the cockpit of a DC-10 with plans to crash it into a company building in Memphis.

That same year, a lone pilot crashed a small plane into a tree on the White House grounds, narrowly missing the residence. An Air France flight was hijacked by members of the Armed Islamic Group, which intended to crash the plane into the Eiffel Tower. In September 1999, a report titled “The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism” was prepared for U.S. intelligence by the Federal Research Division, an arm of the Library of Congress. It stated, “Suicide bombers belonging to Al Qaeda’s Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and Semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the CIA, or the White House.”

Throughout the spring and early summer of 2001, intelligence agencies flooded the government with warnings of possible terrorist attacks against American targets, including commercial aircraft, by Al Qaeda and other groups. A July 5, 2001 White House gathering of the FAA, the Coast Guard, the FBI, Secret Service and INS had a top counter-terrorism official, Richard Clarke, state that “Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it’s going to happen soon.” Donald Kerrick, who is a three-star general, was a deputy National Security Advisor in the late Clinton administration. He stayed on into the Bush administration. When the Bush administration came in, he wrote a memo about terrorism, Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. The memo said, “We will be struck again.” As a result of writing that memo, he was not invited to any more meetings.

In a late November truthout interview, former Clinton advisor Sidney Blumenthal said:

“Richard Clarke was Director of Counter-Terrorism in the National Security Council. He has since left. Clark urgently tried to draw the attention of the Bush administration to the threat of al Qaeda. Right at the present, the Bush administration is trying to withhold documents from the 9/11 bipartisan commission. I believe one of the things that they do not want to be known is what happened on August 6, 2001. It was on that day that George W. Bush received his last, and one of the few, briefings on terrorism. I believe he told Richard Clarke that he didn’t want to be briefed on this again, even though Clarke was panicked about the alarms he was hearing regarding potential attacks. Bush was blithe, indifferent, ultimately irresponsible.”

“The public has a right to know what happened on August 6,” continued Blumenthal, “what Bush did, what Condi Rice did, what all the rest of them did, and what Richard Clarke’s memos and statements were. Then the public will be able to judge exactly what this presidency has done.”

George W. Bush is going to run in 2004 on the idea that his administration is the only one capable of protecting us from another attack like the ones which took place on 9/11. Yet the record to date is clear. Not only did they fail in spectacular fashion to deal with those first threats, not only has their reaction caused us to be less safe, not only have they failed to sufficiently bolster our defenses, but they used the aftermath of the attacks to ram through policies they couldn’t have dreamed of achieving on September 10. It is one of the most remarkable turnabouts in American political history: Never before has an administration used so grisly a personal failure to such excellent effect.

Never mind the final insult: They received all these warnings and went on vacation for a month down in Texas. The August 6 briefing might as well have happened in a vacuum. September 11 could have and should have been prevented. Why? Because Bush knew.

This administration must not be allowed to ride their criminal negligence into a second term. Someone needs to say those two words. Loudly. After all, Bush has proven with Social Security and with 9/11 that third rails can be danced across. All it takes is a little boldness.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on TruthOut.org on Jan. 5, 2004.


Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon authorized the leak of sensitive documents which reveal America’s spy agencies were warned about a terrorist strike weeks before September 11. The controversial move has now directly embroiled President George Bush in the ‘how-much-did-he-know?’ debate over the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Sharon’s reaction was a calculated response to growing U.S. claims that the Mossad has been running spy operations within the United States and also reveals a split in the “special relationship” between the two leaders. Mossad chiefs insist the Israeli spy agency was tracking Osama Bin-Laden’s terrorists in America before September 11 and that that the information was passed on to the CIA on five separate occasions before the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon. As late as August 24, less than two weeks before the

attacks, a Mossad warning, confirmed by German intelligence, BND, said that “terrorists plan to hijack commercial aircraft to use as weapons to attack important symbols of American and Israeli culture.” The warning alert was passed to the CIA.

The warning was also passed to Britain’s MI6. The agency made its own checks and also informed the CIA. Frustrated by its inability to alert the CIA to an impending attack, Mossad arranged on September 1, according to Tel Aviv sources last week, for Russian intelligence to warn Washington “in the strongest possible terms of imminent assaults on airports and government buildings.” Mossad’s fury at the failure of the US intelligence community to act has been compounded by the revelation that the Bush administration had ordered the FBI only a week Before the September attacks to curtail

investigations on two of Osama Bin-Laden’s close relatives living in the US state of Virginia at the time.

Sharon’s decision to allow the story of Bush’s prior knowledge of the attack to be leaked comes at a time when Israel is smarting over what Sharon sees as Bush pressuring the Jewish state into an accommodation with Arafat.

The feeling in Tel Aviv is that Bush’s much hyped war on terrorism does not actually fit into the aggressive policy Israel wants to pursue. Sharon has already suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of his archrival, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the central committee of their Likud Party ruled out the establishment of a Palestinian state last Sunday.

The party’s decision, formalized in a resolution backed by Netanyahu, directly contradicted Sharon’s own stated acceptance of a Palestinian state as the eventual conclusion of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. It came as Sharon faces mounting domestic and international pressure to find a way to stop more than 19 months of bloodshed and launch talks with the Palestinians.

The support he was expecting from America failed to materialize, said a source close to Mossad. “Ariel Sharon is furious because he thinks Bush has not supported him as fully as he could. His coalition is falling apart, Netanyahu has sneaked ahead of him and the Israelis are generally fed up of living in fear. Sharon is quite clear where the blame lies – in the White House. “Now he has really stirred things up by putting Bush right at the center of this storm by actively allowing these sensitive documents to be

leaked to the world. He feels he needs to teach Bush a lesson and this will certainly complicate America’s peace efforts in the region,” he said.

According to similar documents shown to the Sunday Express, Mossad was running a round-the-clock surveillance operation on some of the September 11

hijackers. The details, contained in classified papers, reveal that a senior Mossad agent tipped off his counterpart in America’s Central Intelligence Agency that a massive terrorist hit was being planned in the US. A handful of the spies had infiltrated the Al-Qaeda organization while a staggering 120others, posing as overseas art students, launched massive undercover operations throughout America.

Other documents leaked to the Sunday Express from several intelligence agencies including the Drug Enforcement Agency show that two Mossad cells of six Egyptian and Yemeni born Jews, trained at a secret base in Israel’s Negev Desert on how to penetrate Osama bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda network.

One team flew to Amsterdam and were under the control of Mossad’s Europe Station. This is based at Schipol Airport within the El Al complex. They later made contact in Hamburg with Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker on September 11.

The second group flew directly to New York. From there they traveled South to Florida and infiltrated the Bin laden organization. In August last year, the Mossad team in Europe flew with some of the Hamburg terrorists into Boston, a month before the attack on the twin towers.

By then the Mossad team had established an attack on the US was “imminent”. It reported this to its Tel Aviv controller through the Israeli Embassy in Washington using a system of secure communications. In early September Mossad Chief Efraim Halevy sent a warning to the CIA of the possibility of such an attack. The warning was noted and acknowledged. But CIA chief George Tenet is understood to have described it as “too non-specific.” The FBI was also informed. Halevy sent a second alert to the CIA that reached Washington on or around September 7.

A spokesman for the FBI refused to discuss specific details of the Mossad operation but said: “There are Congressional hearings with regard to possible intelligence failures arising from September 11. We can’t verify your information because it is part of an ongoing investigation.”

Neither the DEA or the CIA would comment on the record, but a senior US intelligence source said: “Anyone can be wise after the event but it was extremely difficult to act on a non specific threat given in a couple of tips from Israeli intelligence. It would be interesting to know if they could have been more specific with their information.

”Their surveillance teams must have observed Atta and his accomplices going to flying schools. I guess we might never know the real truth.”

The spying operations first came to the attention of the DEA in January 2001 according to a classified 90-page dossier which has been seen by the British Sunday Express. The names, passport details and other personal records of some of the Israeli-born spies are also detailed in the dossier.

Online safety after the Yahoo hack: How safe is your data?

The data breach at Yahoo has left half a billion people around the world in panic about the safety of their online data. But can consumers, especially in Germany and Europe, do anything protect themselves from attacks?

September 23, 2016


Half a billion Yahoo users received a message this week saying that they may have had their personal information stolen – including user names, email addresses, phone numbers, and dates of birth. While the hack may not have affected more sensitive data such as unprotected passwords, credit card data or bank account information, the leaked data could still allow outsiders to access user accounts.

The data hack at Yahoo – reportedly dating back to 2014 – is regarded as one of the biggest of its kind to date. Yahoo said that it assumes it to be “state-sponsored” but why details have only now emerged remains unclear.

“An increasingly connected world has come with increasingly sophisticated threats. Industry, government and users are constantly in the crosshairs of adversaries,” Yahoo said in response to the data breach.

The data breach could also have an impact on the impending sale of Yahoo’s core business to US telecom Verizon to the tune of nearly $5 billion (4.3 billion euros), which has been in the making for months.

While the company added that its ongoing investigation had found “no evidence that the state-sponsored actor is currently in Yahoo’s network” unassuming consumers still feel alarmed and worried about their online data.

But can people take precautionary measures to minimize the likelihood of such hacks affecting their lives?

Consumers not at fault

Dirk Hensel from Germany’s Federal Commissioner for Data Protection (BfDI) and Freedom of Information underlined the fact that in the case of Yahoo, this was a hack and not any sort of shortcoming on part of consumers.

“This is a data security issue and not directly a question of data protection. This was a malicious hacker attack, which could generally be prevented by establishing the right security measures, and not by consumers taking any action in their own right on their online accounts,” Hensel told DW.

Although the two issues – data protection and data security – are related to each other they also have clear limitations in terms of consumer protection issues. Data security deals with safeguarding information shared online, while data protection limits the ways in which companies can use your information and are allowed to retain it

Yahoo tried its best to control the damage caused, announcing that massive data hacks were becoming increasingly commonplace, while millions of people around the world raced to change their account passwords. However, this course of action may likely be useless. Germany’s Federal Office for Information Security (BSI) agrees that the Yahoo hack could not have been prevented by consumers shifting their behavior.

BSI press representative Tim Griese did, however, stressed the moral responsibility of giant tech firms, pointing out that “millions of consumers had entrusted their data” to the US-based company.

“Consumers have next to no power or protection after they entrust a company with their data if it gets stolen. We summon companies to handle the data that is put in their trust with care, and to make sure their systems are protected,” Griese told DW.

Rules and regulations in an age of globalized data

Dirk Hensel added that Germany had no jurisdiction over providers based overseas anyway, drawing the boundary of where consumer protection rights in Germany begin and end.

“Yahoo is a major provider, and therefore will likely ensure that proper security measures are in place simply out of its own self-interest. But, since it is a US-based company, we have no way of knowing what exact security measures they have taken, and whether these are sufficient in our view,” Hensel explained, stressing that it was down to the consumer to decide whether they wanted to use US-based services.

“We are certainly working on establishing more transparency with providers based outside of Germany and the EU. There will hopefully be improved frameworks for this in place in the next two years,” he added.

The consumer decides

Hensel emphasized that the best thing consumers can do is to always be informed about the products and services they subscribe to online, as more and more providers move to app-based platforms, which often demand even greater control over consumer data.

“With German providers, we get to asses what safety mechanisms they have and whether they are up to scratch. But companies like Yahoo or Google don’t fall under German regulation, and so we can’t assess them along those same lines,” he said.

BSI’s Tim Griese added that people should give more thought to whom they may choose to entrust their personal information.

“With regards to passwords, we advise people not to use the same password for different services and also to be more economical with giving out data. Think carefully who you want to share your data with and what data you are willing to share.”

Regulations and jurisdictions aside, the question of what rights and protection consumers should be able to rely on remains open, as the world at large is still settling into the digital age.

Sunoco, behind protested Dakota pipeline, tops U.S. crude spill charts

September 23, 2016

by Liz Hamptom


Houston-Sunoco Logistics (SXL.N), the future operator of the oil pipeline delayed this month after Native American protests in North Dakota, spills crude more often than any of its competitors with more than 200 leaks since 2010, according to a Reuters analysis of government data.

The lands of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sit a half mile south of the proposed route of the Dakota Access pipeline. The tribe fears the line could destroy sacred sites during construction and that a future oil spill might pollute its drinking water.

A tribal protest over the $3.7 billion project drew broad support from other Native American tribes, domestic and international environmental groups and Hollywood celebrities.

In response to the tribe’s objections, the U.S. government earlier this month called for a temporary halt to construction along a section of the 1,100 mile line in North Dakota near the Missouri River.

While environmental concerns are at the heart of the Standing Rock Sioux protest, there is no reference to the frequency of leaks by Sunoco or its parent Energy Transfer Partners (ETP.N) in a legal complaint filed by the tribe, nor has Sunoco’s spill record informed the public debate on the line.

Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II told Reuters the tribe was aware of the safety record of Energy Transfer, but declined to elaborate.

Sunoco Logistics is one of the largest pipeline operators in the United States. Energy Transfer is constructing the Dakota Access pipeline to pump crude produced at North Dakota’s Bakken shale fields to the U.S. Gulf Coast. Once completed, it will hand over the pipeline’s operation to Sunoco.

Sunoco acknowledged the data and told Reuters it had taken measures to reduce its spill rate.

“Since the current leadership team took over in 2012, Sunoco Pipeline has enhanced and improved our integrity management program,” Sunoco spokesman Jeffrey Shields told Reuters by email.

This significantly cut the amount of barrels lost during incidents, he said.

The U.S. Department of Justice did not make any reference to the company’s spill rate when it decided to stall the project. It highlighted the need for reform in the way companies building infrastructure consult with Native American tribes.

Spokespeople for the Departments of Justice and the Interior, and the Army Corps declined to comment to Reuters on whether they were aware of Energy Transfer’s leak statistics when they jointly decided to halt construction of the line.


Reuters analyzed data that companies are obliged to disclose to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) when they suffer spills and found that Sunoco leaked crude from onshore pipelines at least 203 times over the last six years.

PHMSA data became more detailed in 2010. In its examination, Reuters tallied leaks in the past six years along dedicated onshore crude oil lines and excluded systems that carry natural gas and refined products. The Sunoco data include two of its pipeline units, the West Texas Gulf and Mid-Valley Pipeline.

That made it the operator with the highest number of crude leak incidents, ahead of at least 190 recorded by Enterprise Products Partners (EPD.N) and 167 by Plains All American Pipeline (PAA.N), according to the spill data reported to PHMSA, which is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Enterprise said it has comprehensive safety and integrity programs in place and that many spills happened at its terminals.

Sunoco and Enterprise both said most leaks take place within company facilities and are therefore contained.

Plains All American did not respond to a request for comment.

Sunoco’s spill rate shows protestors may have reason to be concerned about potential leaks.

The main option that was considered for routing the line away from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation was previously discarded because it would involve crossing more water-sensitive areas north of the capital Bismarck, according to the project’s environmental assessment.

To be sure, most pipeline spills are small and pipelines are widely seen as a safer way to move fuel than alternatives such as rail.

Sunoco and its units leaked a total of 3,406 net barrels of crude in all the leaks over the last six years, only a fraction of the more than 3 million barrels lost in the largest spill in U.S. history, BP Plc’s (BP.L) Macondo well disaster in 2010.

Sunoco said it found that crude lines not in constant use were a significant source of leaks, so it had shut or repaired some of those arteries.

In 2015, 71 percent of pipeline incidents were contained within the operator’s facility, according to a report by the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, a trade group.

While total pipeline incidents have increased by 31 percent in the last five years, large spills of 500 barrels or more are down by 32 percent over the same time, the report said.

Sunoco accounted for about 8 percent of the more than 2,600 reported liquids pipeline leaks in the past six years in the United States.


The company has made previous efforts to improve safety, a former Sunoco employee who declined to be identified said. It overhauled safety culture after a spill in 2000, and did so again another in 2005 that dumped some 6,000 barrels of crude into the Kentucky River from its Mid-Valley Pipeline.

Sunoco acknowledged that some of its pipeline equipment dates back to the 1950s.

A 2014 corrective measure regulators issued for Sunoco’s Mid-Valley Pipeline cited “some history of internal corrosion failures” as a potential factor in a leak that sent crude into a Louisiana bayou near an area used for drinking water.

Crude spills on Sunoco’s lines in 2009 and 2011 drew a rebuke from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a settlement announced this year.

The EPA said the settlement aimed to “improve the safety of Sunoco’s practices and to enhance its oil spill preparedness and response.”

In September, Sunoco received another corrective measure for its newly constructed Permian Express II line in Texas, which leaked 800 barrels of oil earlier this month. The company is already contesting a proposed $1.3 million fine from regulators for violations related to welding on that line.

(Additional reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing By Terry Wade, Simon Webb and Edward Tobin)

 Big Players, Little Stocks, and Naked Shorts

September 23, 2016

by David Dayen

The Intercept

Part 2

A self-appointed stock sleuth finds financial giants trading extensively in little penny stocks like the one he owned that tanked. And he learns something amazing: Some brokers can sell shares that don’t actually exist.

Chris DiIorio had lost a million dollars when the penny stock he was betting on shed 98 percent of its value in a matter of weeks. But when he looked deeper, he realized this wasn’t a typical penny stock pump-and-dump scheme. He was determined to get to the bottom of it.

For one, there were two huge companies involved.

UBS, one of the world’s largest private banks, seemed to have no business trading in penny stocks. “This was a $50 billion-plus bank, it didn’t seem like penny stocks would move the needle,” DiIorio said. But just in December 2011, UBS’s trades in 32 penny stocks represented over half of the firm’s total share volume, according to his calculations.

In a one-line response to a series of detailed questions from The Intercept, UBS media relations director Peter Stack wrote in an email: “UBS applies strict due diligence and anti-money-laundering standards to all its business.”

After some research, DiIorio became even more disturbed by the presence of the other company, Knight Capital, which has traded an average of more than 2 billion shares of penny stocks daily for the past three years.

Based in Jersey City, N.J., Knight is what is called a “market maker,” a dealer that facilitates trading by actually holding shares itself, if ever so briefly, so investors can buy and sell without any delay. “They’re selling the service of convenience to investors, like a car dealer makes it easier to buy or sell a car quickly,” said Jim Angel, an associate professor specializing in market structure at Georgetown University.

Knight Capital is a giant in the field; it alone was responsible for 11 percent of all trading in U.S. stocks by volume as of 2012. It’s known in particular for speed. The ability to jump in and out of stocks quickly through electronic markets is attractive to customers and enables Knight to trade nearly $30 billion every single day. “Market making is a business where the spreads are small but the volumes are large,” Angel said. The spread is the difference between the buy price and the sell price, and it’s how Knight makes money.

DiIorio looked closely at how Knight operated. He determined that between 80 and 90 percent of its share volumes came from penny and fractional penny stocks. According to DiIorio’s calculations, Knight traded over 10 trillion shares of OTC and Pink Sheets securities from 2004 to 2012.

This level of volume persists — the most recent statistics show that 73 percent of the company’s equity share volumes in August 2016 came from penny stocks, and 81 percent as recently as May.

A share in a penny stock is worth magnitudes less than a share in Google or Apple. But the spreads — where the market makers cash in — are proportionately bigger on a penny stock. For example, if the market maker earns a penny per share of a $50 stock, that’s only a spread of .02 percent. But a stock worth 25 cents where a market maker sees even a tenth of a penny in profit represents a spread of 2 percent — a 100-fold increase.

Still, DiIorio wondered how much volume a broker would need to make any money through penny stock trading. “You would have to move hundreds of millions of shares per trade,” he said.

And, because his personal investigation had started after his shares in a company called Best Rate Travel tanked precipitously, he also wondered: Why was Knight so involved with them in particular?

While DiIorio was mulling that, he started talking to his fellow traders and reading rumors online from owners of dozens of small companies who blamed the rapid destruction of their penny stocks on a practice known as naked short selling.

Let’s take that step by step. A short sale, generally speaking, is a bet that a stock price will drop over time. Typically, short sellers borrow shares of a stock from a broker and sell them on the open market, hoping to buy them back at a cheaper price in the future and make money on the exchange. This can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, if done right. Short selling can cause a market panic, and the prices drop in the frenzy.

But in naked short selling, you don’t even borrow the stock. You sell additional, phantom shares. This is even more likely to drive down the price than regular shorting, because suddenly the supply is larger but the demand is the same. “I can think of a number of stocks where the shares on the short exceeded the shares ever issued by the company,” said Alabama Securities Commission Director Joseph Borg. “You can’t do that unless it’s naked.”

Naked short selling is, not surprisingly, illegal in most circumstances.

But market makers like Knight have an exemption from naked short selling restrictions, on the grounds that they use the practice to maintain liquidity in markets. For example, if there’s high demand for a stock, the market maker can fill orders even if it doesn’t have the shares available.

As the Securities and Exchange Commission explains, “A market maker engaged in bona fide market making, particularly in a fast-moving market, may need to sell the security short without having arranged to borrow shares.” This often occurs in thinly traded stocks, like penny stocks.

DiIorio reasoned that naked short selling would explain where all the trades were coming from on Best Rate Travel; while he and his counterparts were locked into their investments for a year after the company’s merger, maybe someone was flooding the market with shares and battering the stock with ease.

At this point, DiIorio had no evidence that Knight did anything but facilitate trades. But he began to suspect that Knight somehow used naked short selling for its own devices. DiIorio’s attempts to get some explanations from Knight were brushed off — as were The Intercept’s during the reporting of this series.

Did Knight manipulate the stock price of Best Rate Travel, costing DiIorio and other investors millions? If so, why? Who benefited? Who needed this obscure, tiny penny stock to tank?

The Crazy Years

They’re here

September 23, 2016

by Justin Raimondo


Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.”

While I’m all for passionate intensity, you have to admit old William Butler Yeats had a point. He also had our era pretty well pegged. And speaking of literary allusions, good ol’ Robert Heinlein saw what was coming in his “Future History” series: he may have gotten the timeline wrong, but the era he dubbed “The Crazy Years” should certainly ring a bell:

“Considerable technical advance during this period, accompanied by a gradual deterioration of mores, orientation, and social institutions, terminating in mass psychoses in the sixth decade, and the Interregnum.”

Looks like we’re homing in on those mass psychoses: why, just the other day someone left an empty suitcase in front of a MacDonald’s in Times Square – and the cops shut down the whole place in the midst of rush hour. And with good reason: a terrorist, one Ahmad Khan Rahami, had recently placed bombs in New York City’s Chelsea district, injuring 29 and scaring the country out of its wits. Crazy.

Even crazier: in spite of the billions spent on “anti-terrorism” programs since well before 9/11 – by Bill Clinton – Mr. Rahami wasn’t on the FBI’s radar. His own father had turned the 28 year old in as a potential terrorist in 2014, but the feds had waved this off as inconsequential – until Dad’s prediction came true two years later. Adding to the craziness is the sense of deja-vu one gets when comparing the Rahami case to that of the previous terrorist, Omar Mateen, the 29 year old jihadist who shot up an Orlando, Florida, nightclub, killing dozens. He too had come to the FBI’s attention on two occasions: once when he made “inflammatory” comments to co-workers, and again when authorities noted his connection to the first American-born suicide bomber (who just happened to live 20 minutes from his Florida residence).

And the similarities don’t end there: in both cases the response of the authorities and the media was to downplay the terrorist angle and suggest that the acts committed by these two sons of Afghan immigrants were something other than what they clearly were. Mateen was described as someone whose alleged sexual ambiguity was the real cause of his murderous rampage: he had “issues,” none of which apparently had anything to do with his devotion to the jihadist cause, which was just a symptom of his inner turmoil. And the Chelsea bomber was initially described by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio as someone who had committed an “intentional” act, but hey kids we can’t call it terrorism. This was followed up by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who opined that while it was indeed terrorism it wasn’t “international” terrorism. When it turned out that Rahami had traveled to Afghanistan, and Quetta, Pakistan – the headquarters of the Taliban – we heard no more from the Governor on this point.

There’s a pattern to this craziness, as there is to most psychoses, and in this instance I would diagnose it as election year insanity. Because Donald Trump has made not only immigration but also our vulnerability to terrorism a big issue, both de Blasio and Cuomo felt obligated to downplay the clear reality of what was happening before our very eyes and try to convince us that what we were seeing wasn’t what was actually happening. This is the essence of what it means to be crazy: living in an alternate reality.

“Things fall apart, the center cannot hold” – well, yes, and what is falling apart is the central canon of statist mythology: the idea that the government will protect us, and can protect us from the kind of craziness that is infecting our world and spreading like a plague from the deserts of Syria to a nightclub in Miami and beyond.

One aspect of this plague is quite interesting, and gives us a clue not only to the source of the contagion but also to a possible cure: it seems to be spreading in a top down manner. That is, it seems to have been incubated in the upper echelons of the social scale, and is now steadily percolating downward, where the resistance to it is greatest.

The evidence for this is all over the place, but to take just one recent example: while the US is literally besieged by an escalating series of terrorist attacks on the home front, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has identified the main enemy as … Russia! Likening Russian President Vladimir Putin to Hitler, she and her supporters have gone on to accuse Trump of being a “Kremlin pawn.” Indeed, their most recent project is a web site, putintrump.org, which features “analysis” of the alleged Russian conspiracy to subvert our electoral process and elect her opponent. And yes, that is a hammer-and-sickle in between photos of Trump and Putin: apparently they want us to forget that the Communists were overthrown in 1989 – temporal displacement being a common delusion shared by many psychotics, e.g. someone who thinks they are Napoleon.

Yet the Crazy Years are not uniformly nutso: flashes of sanity, perhaps auguring a return to normalcy, occasionally light up the horizon. Take this op ed piece in Politico by one Adam Walinsky, Robert F. Kennedy’s former speechwriter:

“Where are we sending our warriors, our ships, our planes? Why to Russia, which the U.S. general who commands NATO has announced is the prime “existential” threat to America. As you read this, ground, air and naval forces of NATO, led and largely paid for by the United States, have been moving about the Western borders of Russia, carrying out the largest military maneuvers since World War II. At the same time, our most powerful carriers and naval air forces have been steaming about the South China Sea, there perhaps to find encounters of unknowable potential with the rising forces of China, our second said to be “existential” enemy.

“There are no Russian terrorists ravaging France or Italy or America. ISIS is not to be found on Russian soil. The only Russian terrorists who have attacked the West are the Islamists whom President Putin first asked us to join in the fight against in 1999. The only Chinese terrorists are Uighurs who are attacking not us but China itself. It would seem elementary common sense that America would have long since sought, not to fight with Russia and China, but to cooperate with both to suppress the terrorists and the terrorism that have plagued us for over a generation, including the ISIS that is terrorizing Europe today.”

Ah, but the exception proves the rule. I’m afraid Mr. Walinsky isn’t going to be listened to – and certainly not by the political class, which makes up the great bulk of Politico’s readership. They are hopelessly compromised by the virus of loony-ness that has gotten into the nation’s bloodstream, and is flowing outward from Washington, D.C. and Manhattan – the twin Ground Zeroes of the plague – and infected all the land.

Walinsky comes from another era – a time before the madness took hold, when the lunacy we now see erupting all around us was a subterranean phenomenon that had yet to break out into a general malaise. Yet he does not belong entirely to the past, because no civilization can long survive with lunatics directing its course. As long as voices such as his are not stilled there is hope of renewal.

One good thing about our current condition is that it refutes the myth of automatic progress – the liberal idea, born in the 19th century, that humanity’s course is a series of ever-upward leaps toward some universal ideal. History has refuted this delusion time and again, and yet it persists: perhaps this time it will be finally debunked, even as we descend into another Dark Age.

History isn’t a straight line of ascension, but rather a series of ups and downs, a record of forward leaps and subsequent retrogressions. As we backslide into another cold war with Russia, and make the same mistakes made by previous empires whose rulers never imagined they would one day be dust, we are clearly on the cusp of yet another great leap backward – how far backward has yet to be determined. However, as long as there are a few clear-eyed men and women who remember a better time, and are bold enough to unfurl the banner of sanity in the Crazy Years, there is hope.

Tomgram: Engelhardt, War, Peace, and Absurdity You Must Be Kidding!

Adventures in an American World of Frustration

by Tom Engelhardt

Tom Dispatch

Recently, sorting through a pile of old children’s books, I came across a volume, That Makes Me Mad!, which brought back memories. Written by Steve Kroll, a long-dead friend, it focused on the eternally frustrating everyday adventures of Nina, a little girl whose life regularly meets commonplace roadblocks, at which point she always says… well, you can guess from the title!  Vivid parental memories of another age instantly flooded back — of my daughter (now reading such books to her own son) sitting beside me at age five and hitting that repeated line with such mind-blowing, ear-crushing gusto that you knew it spoke to the everyday frustrations of her life, to what made her mad.

Three decades later, in an almost unimaginably different America, on picking up that book I suddenly realized that, whenever I follow the news online, on TV, or — and forgive me for this but I’m 72 and still trapped in another era — on paper, I have a similarly Nina-esque urge.  Only the line I’ve come up with for it is (with a tip of the hat to Steve Kroll) “You must be kidding!”

Here are a few recent examples from the world of American-style war and peace.  Consider these as random illustrations, given that, in the age of Trump, just about everything that happens is out-of-this-world absurd and would serve perfectly well.  If you’re in the mood, feel free to shout out that line with me as we go.

Nuking the Planet:  I’m sure you remember Barack Obama, the guy who entered the Oval Office pledging to work toward “a nuclear-free world.”  You know, the president who traveled to Prague in 2009 to say stirringly: “So today, I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons… To put an end to Cold War thinking, we will reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy, and urge others to do the same.” That same year, he was awarded the Nobel Prize largely for what he might still do, particularly in the nuclear realm.  Of course, that was all so 2009!

Almost two terms in the Oval Office later, our peace president, the only one who has ever called for nuclear “abolition” — and whose administration has retired fewer weapons in our nuclear arsenal than any other in the post-Cold War era — is now presiding over the early stages of a trillion-dollar modernization of that very arsenal.  (And that trillion-dollar price tag comes, of course, before the inevitable cost overruns even begin.)  It includes full-scale work on the creation of a “precision-guided” nuclear weapon with a “dial-back” lower yield option.  Such a weapon would potentially bring nukes to the battlefield in a first-use way, something the U.S. is proudly pioneering.

And that brings me to the September 6th front-page story in the New York Times that caught my eye.  Think of it as the icing on the Obama era nuclear cake.  Its headline: “Obama Unlikely to Vow No First Use of Nuclear Weapons.”  Admittedly, if made, such a vow could be reversed by any future president.  Still, reportedly for fear that a pledge not to initiate a nuclear war would “undermine allies and embolden Russia and China… while Russia is running practice bombing runs over Europe and China is expanding its reach in the South China Sea,” the president has backed down on issuing such a vow.  In translation: the only country that has ever used such weaponry will remain on the record as ready and willing to do so again without nuclear provocation, an act that, it is now believed in Washington, would create a calmer planet.

You must be kidding!

Plain Old Bombing: Recall that in October 2001, when the Bush administration launched its invasion of Afghanistan, the U.S. was bombing no other largely Islamic country.  In fact, it was bombing no other country at all.  Afghanistan was quickly “liberated,” the Taliban crushed, al-Qaeda put to flight, and that was that, or so it then seemed.

On September 8th, almost 15 years later, the Washington Post reported that, over a single weekend and in a “flurry” of activity, the U.S. had dropped bombs on, or fired missiles at, six largely Islamic countries: Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia.  (And it might have been seven if the CIA hadn’t grown a little rusty when it comes to the drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal borderlands that it’s launched repeatedly throughout these years.)  In the same spirit, the president who swore he would end the U.S. war in Iraq and, by the time he left office, do the same in Afghanistan, is now overseeing American bombing campaigns in Iraq and Syria which are loosing close to 25,000 weapons a year on those countries.  Only recently, in order to facilitate the further prosecution of the longest war in our history, the president who announced that his country had ended its “combat mission” in Afghanistan in 2014, has once again deployed the U.S. military in a combat role and has done the same with the U.S. Air Force.  For that, B-52s (of Vietnam infamy) were returned to action there, as well as in Iraq and Syria, after a decade of retirement.  In the Pentagon, military figures are now talking about “generational” war in Afghanistan — well into the 2020s.

Meanwhile, President Obama has personally helped pioneer a new form of warfare that will not long remain a largely American possession.  It involves missile-armed drones, high-tech weapons that promise a world of no-casualty-conflict (for the American military and the CIA), and adds up to a permanent global killing machine for taking out terror leaders, “lieutenants,” and “militants.”  Well beyond official American war zones, U.S. drones regularly cross borders, infringing on national sovereignty throughout the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa, to assassinate anyone the president and his colleagues decide needs to die, American citizen or otherwise (plus, of course, anyone who happens to be in the vicinity).  With its White House “kill list” and its “terror Tuesday” meetings, the drone program, promising “surgical” hunting-and-killing action, has blurred the line between war and peace, while being normalized in these years.  A president is now not just commander-in-chief but assassin-in-chief, a role that no imaginable future president is likely to reject.  Assassination, previously an illegal act, has become the heart and soul of Washington’s way of life and of a way of war that only seems to spread conflict further.

You must be kidding!

The Well-Oiled Machinery of Privatized War: And speaking of drones, as the New York Times reported on September 5th, the U.S. drone program does have one problem: a lack of pilots.  It has ramped up quickly in these years and, in the process, the pressures on its pilots and other personnel have only grown, including post-traumatic stress over killing civilians thousands of miles away via computer screen.  As a result, the Air Force has been losing those pilots fast.  Fortunately, a solution is on the horizon.  That service has begun filling its pilot gap by going the route of the rest of the military in these years — turning to private contractors for help.  Such pilots and other personnel are, however, paid higher salaries and cost more money.  The contractors, in turn, have been hiring the only available personnel around, the ones trained by… yep, you guessed it, the Air Force.  The result may be an even greater drain on Air Force drone pilots eager for increased pay for grim work and… well, I think you can see just how the well-oiled machinery of privatized war is likely to work here and who’s going to pay for it.

You must be kidding!

Selling Arms As If There Were No Tomorrow: In a recent report for the Center for International Policy, arms expert William Hartung offered a stunning figure on U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia.   “Since taking office in January 2009,” he wrote, “the Obama administration has offered over $115 billion worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia in 42 separate deals, more than any U.S. administration in the history of the U.S.-Saudi relationship.  The majority of this equipment is still in the pipeline, and could tie the United States to the Saudi military for years to come.”  Think about that for a moment: $115 billion for everything from small arms to tanks, combat aircraft, cluster bombs, and air-to-ground missiles (weaponry now being used to slaughter civilians in neighboring Yemen).

Of course, how else can the U.S. keep its near monopoly on the global arms trade and ensure that two sets of products — Hollywood movies and U.S. weaponry — will dominate the world’s business in things that go boom in the night?  It’s a record to be proud of, especially since putting every advanced weapon imaginable in the hands of the Saudis will obviously help bring peace to a roiled region of the planet.  (And if you arm the Saudis, you better do no less for the Israelis, hence the mind-boggling $38 billion in military aid the Obama administration recently signed on to for the next decade, the most Washington has ever offered any country, ensuring that arms will be flying into the Middle East, literally and figuratively, for years to come.)

Blessed indeed are the peacemakers — and of course you know that by “peacemaker” I mean the classic revolver that “won the West.”

Put another way…

You must be kidding!

The Race for the Generals:  I mean, who’s got the biggest…

…list of retired generals and admirals?  Does it surprise you that there are at least 198 retired commanders floating around in their golden parachutes, many undoubtedly still embedded in the military-industrial complex on corporate boards and the like, eager to enroll in the Trump and Clinton campaigns?  Trump went first, releasing an “open letter” signed by 88 generals and admirals who were bravely standing up to reverse the “hollowing out of our military” and to “secure our borders, to defeat our Islamic supremacist adversaries, and restore law and order domestically.”  (Partial translation: pour yet more money into our military as The Donald has promised to do.)  They included such household names as Major General Joe Arbuckle, Rear Admiral James H. Flatley III, and Brigadier General Mark D. Scraba — or, hey!, one guy you might even remember: Lieutenant General William (“Jerry”) Boykin, the evangelical crusader who made the news in 2003 by claiming of a former Somali opponent,  “I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol.”

Somehow, those 88 Trumpian military types assumedly crawled out of “the rubble” under which, as The Donald informed us recently, the Obama administration has left the American high command.  His crew, however, is undoubtedly not the “embarrassment” he refers to when talking about American generalship in these years.

Meanwhile, the Clintonites struck back with a list of 95, “including a number of 4-star generals,” many directly from under that rubble, and within the week had added 15 more to hit 110.  Meanwhile, members of the intelligence community and the rest of the national security state, former presidential advisers and other officials, drum-beating neocons, and strategists of every sort from America’s disastrous wars of the last 15 years hustled to line up behind Hillary or The Donald.

If nothing else, all of it was a reminder of the bloated size and ever-increasing centrality of the post-9/11 national security state and the military-industrial complex that goes with it.  The question is: Does it inspire you with confidence in our candidates, or leave you saying…

You must be kidding!

Conflicts of Interest and Access to the Oval Office:  Let’s put aside a possible preemptive $25,000 bribe to Florida’s attorney general from the Donald J. Trump Foundation to prevent an investigation of a scam operation, Trump “University.”  If that “donation” to a political action committee does turn out to have been a bribe, no one should be surprised, given that The Donald has long been a walking Ponzi scheme.  Thanks to a recent superb investigative report by Kurt Eichenwald of Newsweek, consider instead what it might mean for him to enter the Oval Office when it comes to conflicts of interest and the “national security” of the country.  Eichenwald concludes that Trump would be “the most conflicted president in American history,” since the Trump Organization has “deep ties to global financiers, foreign politicians, and even criminals” in both allied and enemy countries.  Almost any foreign policy decision he might make could hurt or enrich his own businesses.  There would, in essence, be no way to divest himself and his family from the international Trump branding machine.  (Think Trump U. writ large.)  And you hardly need ask yourself whether The Donald would “act in the interests of the United States or his wallet,” given his prior single-minded pursuit of self-enrichment.

So much for conflicts of interest, what about access?  That, of course, brings up the Clintons, who, between 2001 and the moment Hillary announced her candidacy for president, managed to take in $153 million dollars (yes, that is not a misprint) for a combined 729 speeches at an average fee of  $210,795.  That includes Hillary’s 20-minute speech to eBay’s Women’s Initiative Network Summit in March 2015 for a reported $315,000 just a month before she made her announcement.  It’s obviously not Hillary’s (or Bill’s) golden words that corporate executives truly care about and are willing to pay the big bucks for, but the hope of accessibility to both a past and a possible future president.  After all, in the world of business, no one ever thinks they’re paying good money for nothing.

Do I need to say more than…

You must be kidding!

Of course, I could go on.  I could bring up a Congress seemingly incapable of passing a bill to fund a government effort to prevent the Zika virus from spreading wildly in parts of this country.  (You must be kidding!)  I could discuss how the media fell face first into an SUV — NBC Nightly News, which I watch, used the video of Hillary Clinton stumbling and almost falling into that van, by my rough count, 15 times over four nights — and what it tells us about news “coverage” these days.  (You must be kidding!)  I could start in on the constant polls that flood our lives by confessing that I’m an addict and plan on joining Pollers Anonymous on November 9th, and then consider what it means to have such polls, and polls of polls, inundate us daily, teaching us about favorable/unfavorable splits, and offering endlessly varying snapshots of how we might or might not vote and which of us might or might not do it day so long before we ever hit a voting booth.  (You must be kidding!)  Or I could bring up the way, after five years of assiduous “research,” Donald Trump grudgingly acknowledged that Barack Obama was born in the United States and then essentially blamed the birther movement on Hillary Clinton.  (You must be kidding!)

I could, in other words, continue welcoming you into an increasingly bizarre American landscape of war and peace (without a Tolstoy in sight).

Still, enough is enough, don’t you think?  So let me stop here and, just for the hell of it, join me one last time in chanting: You must be kidding!


























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