Obama Confident He Can Totally Destroy Remaining U.S. Democracy

In case you aren’t aware of it, Obama’s Transpacific Partnership trade deal contains a clause that eliminates American sovereignty by granting foreign corporations the right to sue US govt. agencies in an offshore tribunal if they don’t support the corporations’ profits.

The agreement certainly does have some good aspects but those don’t compensate for the many bad parts. The worst part is the destruction of democracy at every level by taking away the people’s right to government that creates regulations to serve their needs.  The TPP makes citizens of every signatory nation a servant of corporations.

The deal was written by large multinational criminal corporations, negotiated in secret and signed Feb. 4 in New Zealand. It can’t be changed and a country must either ratify it or not.

Obama was elected based on false promises. One of those promises was to not use the unconstitutional “Fast Track” process.  Candidate Obama said he would “replace Fast Track… I will ensure that Congress plays a strong and informed role in our international economic policy and in any future agreements we pursue…” Yet, Obama ensured that the democratic process would be subverted through a “Fast Track” approval of the TPP.

Fast Track grants the executive branch the ability to eliminate critical checks and balances in the Constitution by seizing the authority vested in congressional representatives:

  • Power to select trade partners,
  • Power to set terms and sign sweeping “trade” agreements before Congress votes on them,
  • Power to write legislation to change all U.S. laws needed to conform with the agreements, skirt congressional review and amendments and directly submit this legislation for a vote,
  • Power to force votes within 60-90 days of submitting the implementing legislation to Congress,
  • Power to override normal voting rules. All amendments on Fast-Tracked FTAs are banned and debate is limited, including in the Senate.

So, even if  the U.S. Congress wasn’t corrupt and somehow disobeyed its corporate masters, ratification is still assured.

While the agreement is written in highly cryptic language and is open to a wide range of interpretations, the intent of the agreement is clear enough.

You can read the agreement at https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements/trans-pacific-partnership/tpp-full-text and interpret the agreement as you like.

Perhaps the ratification of the TPP will finally be enough to get Americans off their butts and into the streets to implement a regime change where it is really needed.

Risking Nuclear War for Al Qaeda?

Exclusive: The risk that the multi-sided Syrian war could spark World War III continues as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and U.S. neocons seek an invasion that could kill Russian troops — and possibly escalate the Syrian crisis into a nuclear showdown, amazingly to protect Al Qaeda terrorists, reports Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

When President Barack Obama took questions from reporters on Tuesday, the one that needed to be asked – but wasn’t – was whether he had forbidden Turkey and Saudi Arabia to invade Syria, because on that question could hinge whether the ugly Syrian civil war could spin off into World War III and possibly a nuclear showdown.

If Turkey (with hundreds of thousands of troops massed near the Syrian border) and Saudi Arabia (with its sophisticated air force) follow through on threats and intervene militarily to save their rebel clients, who include Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, from a powerful Russian-backed Syrian government offensive, then Russia will have to decide what to do to protect its 20,000 or so military personnel inside Syria.

President Barack Obama meets with Vice President Joe Biden and other advisors in the Oval Office. [White House photo]

A source close to Russian President Vladimir Putin told me that the Russians have warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow is prepared to use tactical nuclear weapons if necessary to save their troops in the face of a Turkish-Saudi onslaught. Since Turkey is a member of NATO, any such conflict could quickly escalate into a full-scale nuclear confrontation.

Given Erdogan’s megalomania or mental instability and the aggressiveness and inexperience of Saudi Prince Mohammad bin Salman (defense minister and son of King Salman), the only person who probably can stop a Turkish-Saudi invasion is President Obama. But I’m told that he has been unwilling to flatly prohibit such an intervention, though he has sought to calm Erdogan down and made clear that the U.S. military would not join the invasion.

So far, Erdogan has limited Turkey’s direct military attacks on Syria to cross-border shelling against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces that have seized territory from the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) in northern Syria. Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters, known as YPG, to be terrorists but the U.S. government sees them as valuable allies in the fight against Islamic State terrorists, an Al Qaeda spinoff that controls large swaths of Syria and Iraq.

But Erdogan’s short fuse may have grown shorter on Wednesday when a powerful car bomb killed at least 28 people in Turkey’s capital of Ankara. The bomb apparently targeted a military convoy and Turkish officials cast suspicion on Kurdish militants who also have been under assault from Turkish forces inside Turkey.

Though showing no evidence, Turkish officials suggested the attack may have been sponsored by Iran or Russia, another sign of how complicated the geopolitical morass in Syria has become. “Those who think they can steer our country away from our goals by using terrorist organizations will see that they have failed,” declared Erdogan, according to The Wall Street Journal.

(On Wednesday night, Turkey retaliated for the Ankara bombing by launching airstrikes against Kurdish targets in northern Iraq.)

The dilemma for Obama is that many traditional U.S. allies, such as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been the principal backers and funders of Sunni terror groups inside Syria, including Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and – to a lesser degree – the Islamic State. Now, the “allies” want the United States to risk a nuclear confrontation with Russia to, in effect, protect Al Qaeda.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Biden Blurts Out Truth

The twisted reality was acknowledged by no less an authority than Vice President Joe Biden during a talk at Harvard in 2014. Biden answered a student’s question by saying Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had “poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against [Syrian President Bashar al-] Assad.” The result, Biden said, was that “the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”

The risks from these tangled alliances were also highlighted by a Defense Intelligence Agency report in August 2012, warning the Obama administration that the growing strength of Al Qaeda and other Sunni jihadists in Syria could lead to the creation of “an Islamic state” whose militants could move back into Iraq where the threat originated after the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

The DIA said Al Qaeda’s growing strength in Syria “creates the ideal atmosphere for AQI [Al Qaeda in Iraq] to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi and will provide a renewed momentum under the presumption of unifying the jihad among Sunni Iraq and Syria and the rest of the Sunnis in the Arab world against what it considers one enemy, the dissenters [i.e. the Shiites].

“ISI [Islamic State of Iraq, forerunner of ISIS, also known as the Islamic State] could also declare an Islamic state through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria, which will create grave danger in regards to unifying Iraq and the protection of its territory.”

Despite the prescient DIA report and Biden’s blunt admission (for which he quickly apologized), President Obama failed to put a stop to the strategy of supporting Assad’s opponents. He let Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey continue funneling weapons to the most extreme elements of the rebellion. Meanwhile, the U.S. government insisted that it was only arming “moderate” rebels, but those groups were largely subsumed or controlled by Al Qaeda’s Nusra and/or ISIS, a hyper-violent spinoff from Al Qaeda.

In Syria, rather than cooperate with Russia and Iran in helping Assad’s military defeat the jihadists, the Obama administration has continued playing it cute, insisting – as Secretary of State John Kerry has said recently – that armed “legitimate opposition groups” exist separately from Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.

Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters in Geneva on Nov. 8, 2013, (Photo credit: State Department)

In reality, however, the so-called “moderate” rebels around Aleppo and Idlib are Al Qaeda’s junior partners whose value to the cause is that they qualify for CIA weaponry that can then be passed on to Nusra as well as Nusra’s key ally Ahrar al-Sham and other jihadist fighters.

Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, the chief elements of the Saudi-created “Army of Conquest,” deployed U.S. TOW missiles to devastating effect against the Syrian army in the jihadists’ victory last year in Idlib province, a success that finally prompted Putin to commit Russian air power to defend the Syrian government last September.

Helping the Islamic State

Meanwhile, Turkey has left about 100 kilometers of its border open for various jihadist groups to bring in reinforcements and weapons while letting the Islamic State smuggle out oil for sale on the black market. Last fall, after Russia (and a reluctant United States) began bombing ISIS oil-truck convoys, Turkey shot down a Russian bomber near Turkey’s border, leading to the deaths of the pilot and a rescuer.

Now, as the Russian-backed Syrian army makes major gains against the Nusra-dominated rebels around Aleppo and encroaches on Islamic State territory near Raqqa – and as U.S.-backed Kurdish forces also advance against ISIS – Turkey’s Erdogan has grown frantic over the prospects that his five-year project of aiding Syrian jihadists may be collapsing.

Amid this desperation, Turkey has been urging President Obama to support a limited invasion of Syria to create a “safe zone,” supposedly to protect Syrian rebels and civilians in northern Syria. But that humanitarian-sounding plan may well be a cover for a more ambitious plan to march to Damascus and forcibly remove President Assad from power.

That is a goal shared by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states along with Israel and America’s influential neoconservatives and their “liberal interventionist” sidekicks. For his part, Obama has called on Assad “to go” but has favored diplomatic negotiations to achieve that end. Russia has advocated a political settlement with free elections so the Syrian people can decide Assad’s future themselves.

The Russians also keenly remember the West’s subterfuge regarding Libya in 2011 when the U.S. and its NATO allies pushed a “humanitarian” resolution through the United Nations Security Council supposedly to protect Libyan civilians but then used it to achieve violent “regime change,” a classic case of the camel getting its nose into the tent.

On Syria, Russia watched for years as the United States, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Sunni states supported various Sunni rebel groups seeking to overthrow Assad, an Alawite, representing a branch of Shiite Islam. Though Assad has been widely criticized for the harsh response to the uprising, he maintains a secular government that has protected Christians, Alawites, Shiites and other minorities.

Besides being a target of Sunni regional powers, Assad has long been on the Israeli-neocon hit list because he’s seen as the centerpiece of the “Shiite crescent” stretching from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon. Since Israeli leaders (and thus the American neocons) see Iran as Israel’s greatest enemy, the goal of collapsing the “Shiite crescent” has concentrated on bringing down Assad — even if his ouster would create a political/military vacuum that Al Qaeda and/or Islamic State might fill.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Making Syria the site for this proxy war has inflicted particularly savage results on the Syrians. For five years the violence by both the rebels and the army has destroyed much of the country and killed more than 250,000 people while also sending waves of desperate refugees crashing into Europe, now destabilizing the European Union.

However, as the U.S. and its Mideast allies – especially Saudi Arabia and Turkey – escalated the conflict last year by supplying the rebels, including Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, with American TOW missiles and other sophisticated weapons, Russian President Putin decided it was time to help Syria’s government stop the spread of Sunni terrorism, a threat that has also plagued Russia.

Mocking Russia

Initially, Official Washington mocked the Russian effort as incapable of accomplishing much, but the Syrian military’s recent victories have turned that derisive laughter into shocked fury. For one, the neoconservative flagship Washington Post has unleashed a stream of editorials and op-eds decrying the Syrian-Russian victories.

“Russia, Iran and the Syrian government are conducting a major offensive aimed at recapturing the city of Aleppo and the rebel-held territory that connects it to the border with Turkey,” the Post lamented. “They have cut one supply route to the city and are close to severing another, trapping rebel forces along with hundreds of thousands of civilians.”

Though one might think that driving Al Qaeda’s forces out of a major urban center like Aleppo would be a good thing, the Post’s neocon editors pretend that the rebels controlling that area are only noble “moderates” who must be protected by the United States. No mention is made of Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front, so as not to spoil the desired propaganda theme.

The Post then badgered Obama to do something: “In the face of this onslaught, which promises to destroy any chance of an acceptable end to the Syrian civil war, the Obama administration has been a study in passivity and moral confusion. President Obama is silent.”

In another hysterical editorial, the Post’s editors conjured up what they called “the real world” where “the best-case scenario after five years of U.S. inaction is a partial peace that leaves Syria partitioned into zones controlled by the [Assad] regime and the Islamic State, with a few opposition and Kurdish enclaves squeezed in. Even that would require the Obama administration to aggressively step up its military support for rebel groups, and confront Russia with more than rhetoric.”

However, in the actual “real world,” the Obama administration has been funneling military equipment to rebels seeking to overthrow an internationally recognized government for years. That assistance has included averting U.S. eyes from the fact that many of those rebel groups were collaborating with Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and/or the Islamic State.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (left) shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in the Kyrgyz capital of Bishkek on Sept. 13, 2013. (Photo credit: Press TV)

As Mideast expert Gareth Porter reported, “The Russian airstrikes in question are aimed at cutting off Aleppo city, which is now the primary center of Nusra’s power in Syria, from the Turkish border. To succeed in that aim, Russian, Syrian and Iranian forces are attacking rebel troops deployed in towns all along the routes from Aleppo to the border. Those rebels include units belonging to Nusra, their close ally Ahrar al-Sham, and other armed opposition groups – some of whom have gotten weapons from the CIA in the past. …

“Information from a wide range of sources, including some of those the United States has been explicitly supporting, makes it clear that every armed anti-Assad organization unit in those provinces is engaged in a military structure controlled by Nusra militants. All of these rebel groups fight alongside the Nusra Front and coordinate their military activities with it.”

But The Washington Post and its mainstream U.S. cohorts don’t want you to know the real “real world” reality that Syria’s sainted “moderate” rebels are fighting side by side with Al Qaeda, which was responsible for killing nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11 and for drawing the U.S. military into a series of Mideast conflicts that have claimed the lives of about 8,000 U.S. soldiers.

The bizarre goal of saving Al Qaeda’s skin presumably would not be a very good selling point to get Americans behind a new war that could pit nuclear-armed Russia against nuclear-armed America with all the horrors that such a conflict could entail.

Still, the inconvenient truth about Al Qaeda’s role occasionally slips into mainstream news accounts, albeit only in passing. For instance, New York Times correspondent Anne Barnard reported last Saturday about a proposed Syrian cease-fire, writing: “With the proviso that the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, can still be bombed, Russia puts the United States in a difficult position; the insurgent groups it supports cooperate in some places with the well-armed, well-financed Nusra in what they say is a tactical alliance of necessity against government forces.”

Obama’s Quandary

So, the quandary that Obama faces is whether the United States should join with Turkey and Saudi Arabia in a blatant invasion of Syria to salvage Al Qaeda’s cause. Of course, that’s not how it would be sold to the American people. The project would be couched in pretty words about “humanitarianism” and the need to maintain U.S. “credibility.”

But Obama seems to recognize enough of the actual reality that he has so far resisted the frantic cries of Official Washington’s neocons and liberal hawks. I’m told Obama also has discouraged Turkey and Saudi Arabia from taking matters into their own hands.

After all, a full-scale invasion by Turkey and Saudi Arabia in support of Al Qaeda and other Sunni rebels would pit the invading force against not only the Syrian army but its Iranian and Hezbollah (Shiite) allies – and most dangerously Russia, which lacks the manpower inside Syria to match up with the Turkish army but could deploy tactical nuclear weapons if necessary to save the lives of Russian soldiers.

So, here is a significant difference between Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She has publicly called for the U.S. military to establish a “safe zone” inside Syria along with a “no-fly zone.” While all that sounds very nice and peaceful, it would actually require the same invasion that Turkey is now seeking and it would require the U.S. air force to eliminate much of the Syrian air force and air defenses. It would be a major act of war.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. (Photo credit: Department of State)

On Tuesday, Obama was asked about the Syrian conflict at a news conference but it was within the typical mainstream frame of suggesting that Obama is too weak in dealing with Putin. For five years, the mainstream U.S. media can’t get beyond goading Obama to increase U.S. intervention in Syria and thus bring about another “regime change.”

Despite the contrary evidence, it has remained a beloved Washington delusion that some “moderate” oppositionists would replace Assad and bring a happy democracy to Syria. Similar delusions preceded the catastrophes of “regime change” in Iraq and Libya – and one could even go back to the Reagan administration’s “regime change” goal in Afghanistan that led to the emergence of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and modern jihadism in the first place.

But today the stakes include a potential nuclear showdown with Russia — with the United States being urged to take on that existential risk for all humankind on behalf of preserving Al Qaeda’s hopes for raising its black flag over Damascus. If there has ever been a crazier demand by major foreign policy players in Official Washington, it is hard to imagine what it might have been.

[For more on this topic, see Consortiumnews.com’s “Tangled Threads of US False Narratives,” “Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War,” and “Obamas Most Momentous Decision.”]

Feds Sued For Widespread Destruction of Endangered Bat’s Habitat

Four conservation groups today filed a formal notice of intent to sue the corrupt U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for authorizing logging and widespread destruction of habitat for northern long-eared bats, which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The lawsuit, launched by the Center for Biological Diversity, Sierra Club, Coal River Mountain Watch and Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition, will challenge the agency’s rule, issued last month, allowing the type of habitat harm that is normally prohibited under the Act. Although the deadly disease known as white-nose syndrome is the leading cause of the northern long-eared bat’s greater than 90 percent decline, habitat loss continues to be a serious threat to the survival of the bat, which requires large, continuous tracts of interior forest for foraging, migrating and roosting.

One of the suspected causes of the deadly fungal disease decimating bat populations is the widespread use of glyphosate herbicides (Roundup), which scrambles DNA and creates new more lethal types of fungus and other pathogens.  Clear-cutting forests often involves  the massive spraying of glyphosate which then radically alters the forest floor biology and impacts wide areas.

“The Obama administration can’t claim to be saving these bats while allowing vast tracts of their forests to be cut down,” said Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. “This is a clear case of logging and energy interests taking precedent over wildlife that desperately need the full protection of the Endangered Species Act.”

The rule allows destruction of the bats’ habitat by activities such as logging, coal mining, pesticide use, oil and gas projects, pipelines and conversion of forests for development — activities that are prohibited or restricted under the Act. The only habitat protections provided to the bats are “no-clearing zones” within a quarter-mile of known wintering areas called hibernacula, and restrictions in June and July on cutting down known occupied maternity roost trees, where females give birth, and logging within 150 feet of those roosts.

“The Endangered Species Act is designed to protect the habitat that endangered species need but the Department of Interior side-stepped its conservation mandate with the bat rule,” said Bill Price, an organizer for the Sierra Club based in West Virginia. “The new rule allows dirty fuel industries to continue destroying parts of our community with impunity.”

“The bat rule is like admitting someone into the emergency room then refusing to give them the medicine they need to survive,” said Vernon Haltom, director of Coal River Mountain Watch.

The northern long-eared bat rule, called a 4(d) rule for the provision in the Act from which it hails, is the eighth 4(d) rule adopted by the criminal Obama administration that prioritizes providing loopholes to authorize ongoing habitat destruction by industries, such as coal and other dirty fuels, instead of protections for threatened species. A new Center report documents that no single presidential administration has approved more of these damaging, industry loopholes than the Obama administration.

“Given the 90 percent to 100 percent population declines in areas hit by disease this bat clearly needs the full protection of the law right now,” said Dianne Bady, founder and project coordinator at the Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition.

The northern long-eared bat was first proposed for “endangered” status in 2013, but then downgraded to “threatened” last April, a change that allowed the Fish and Wildlife Service to provide the vast exemptions requested by industry in the final bat rule.

“The bat rule perverts a provision of the Endangered Species Act intended to help conserve threatened species so they never become endangered,” said Sanerib. “Instead, this rule, like so many others, has been contorted to allow business-as-usual to continue as if the northern long-eared bat was not worthy of the Endangered Species Act’s protections.”

Whitehouse Petition Calls for Obama to be Tried for His Many ‘War Crimes’ in The Hague

A petition on the Whitehouse Petition web site demands “conviction of war criminal Barack Obama and trial in the International Criminal Court in Hague.”

As of the 02/10/16 at 10:35 eastern time, the petition has not been removed. If the petition reaches 100,00 then the Whitehouse is supposed to respond. However, few controversial petitions are ever allowed to reach 100,000.  This way the Whitehouse can claim that the petition didn’t have any significant support, regardless of how many people attempt to sign it.

Even if the petition is allowed to reach 100,000, the Whitehouse can simply ignore it, or wait until Obama is out of the Whitehouse and then give some generic lame response.

The United States is one of the few countries that does not support the International Criminal Court. However, Obama could be tried there in theory. Efforts to prosecute Bush and Blair for their war crimes have not been successful.

Is Bernie Sanders Really a Socialist?

By William Blum

“Self-described socialist” … How many times have we all read that term in regard to Vermont senator Bernie Sanders? But is he really a socialist? Or is he a “social democrat”, which is what he’d be called in Europe? Or is he a “democratic socialist”, which is the American party he has been a member of (DSA – Democratic Socialists of America)? And does it really matter which one he is? They’re all socialists, are they not?

Why does a person raised in a capitalist society become a socialist? It could be because of a parent or parents who are committed socialists and raise their children that way. But it’s usually because the person has seen capitalism up close for many years, is turned off by it, and is thus receptive to an alternative. All of us know what the ugly side of capitalism looks like. Here are but a few of the countless examples taken from real life:

  • Following an earthquake or other natural disaster, businesses raise their prices for basic necessities such as batteries, generators, water pumps, tree-removal services, etc.
  • In the face of widespread medical needs, drug and health-care prices soar, while new surgical and medical procedures are patented.
  • The cost of rent increases inexorably regardless of tenants’ income.
  • Ten thousand types of deception to part the citizens from their hard-earned wages.

What do these examples have in common? It’s their driving force – the profit motive; the desire to maximize profit. Any improvement in the system has to begin with a strong commitment to radically restraining, if not completely eliminating, the profit motive. Otherwise nothing of any significance will change in society, and the capitalists who own the society – and their liberal apologists – can mouth one progressive-sounding platitude after another as their chauffeur drives them to the bank.

But social democrats and democratic socialists have no desire to get rid of the profit motive. Last November, Sanders gave a speech at Georgetown University in Washington about his positive view of democratic socialism, including its place in the policies of presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson. In defining what democratic socialism means to him, Sanders said: “I don’t believe government should take over the grocery store down the street or own the means of production.”

I personally could live with the neighborhood grocery store remaining in private hands, but larger institutions are always a threat; the larger and richer they are the more tempting and easier it is for them to put profit ahead of the public’s welfare, and to purchase politicians. The question of socialism is inseparable from the question of public ownership of the means of production.

The question thus facing “socialists” like Sanders is this: When all your idealistic visions for a more humane, more just, more equitable, and more rational society run head-first into the stone wall of the profit motive … which of the two gives way?

The most commonly proposed alternative to both government or private control is worker-owned cooperatives or publicly owned enterprises managed by workers and consumer representatives. Sanders has expressed his support for such systems and there is indeed much to be said about them. But the problem I find is that they will still operate within a capitalist society, which means competition, survival of the fittest; which means that if you can’t sell more than your competitors, if you can’t make a sufficient net profit on your sales, you will likely be forced to go out of business; and to prevent such a fate, at some point you may very well be forced to do illegal or immoral things against the public; which means back to the present.

Eliminating the profit motive in American society would run into a lot less opposition than one might expect. Consciously or unconsciously it’s already looked down upon to a great extent by numerous individuals and institutions of influence. For example, judges frequently impose lighter sentences upon lawbreakers if they haven’t actually profited monetarily from their acts. And they forbid others from making a profit from their crimes by selling book or film rights, or interviews. The California Senate enshrined this into law in 1994, one which directs that any such income of criminals convicted of serious crimes be placed into a trust fund for the benefit of the victims of their crimes. It must further be kept in mind that the great majority of Americans, like people everywhere, do not labor for profit, but for a salary.

The citizenry may have drifted even further away from the system than all this indicates, for American society seems to have more trust and respect for “non-profit” organizations than for the profit-seeking kind. Would the public be so generous with disaster relief if the Red Cross were a regular profit-making business? Would the Internal Revenue Service allow it to be tax-exempt? Why does the Post Office give cheaper rates to non-profits and lower rates for books and magazines which don’t contain advertising? For an AIDS test, do people feel more confident going to the Public Health Service or to a commercial laboratory? Why does “educational” or “public” television not have regular commercials? What would Americans think of peace-corps volunteers, elementary and high-school teachers, clergy, nurses, and social workers who demanded well in excess of $100 thousand per year? Would the public like to see churches competing with each other, complete with ad campaigns selling a New and Improved God?

Pervading all these attitudes, and frequently voiced, is a strong disapproval of greed and selfishness, in glaring contradiction to the reality that greed and selfishness form the official and ideological basis of our system. It’s almost as if no one remembers how the system is supposed to work any more, or they prefer not to dwell on it.

It would appear that, at least on a gut level, Americans have had it up to here with free enterprise. The great irony of it all is that the mass of the American people are not aware that their sundry attitudes constitute an anti-free-enterprise philosophy, and thus tend to go on believing the conventional wisdom that government is the problem, that big government is the biggest problem, and that their salvation cometh from the private sector, thereby feeding directly into pro-free-enterprise ideology.

Thus it is that those activists for social change who believe that American society is faced with problems so daunting that no corporation or entrepreneur is ever going to solve them at a profit carry the burden of convincing the American people that they don’t really believe what they think they believe; and that the public’s complementary mindset – that the government is no match for the private sector in efficiently getting large and important things done – is equally fallacious, for the government has built up an incredible military machine (ignoring for the moment what it’s used for), landed men on the moon, created great dams, marvelous national parks, an interstate highway system, the peace corps, social security, insurance for bank deposits, protection of pension funds against corporate misuse, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, the Smithsonian, the G.I. Bill, and much, much more. In short, the government has been quite good at doing what it wanted to do, or what labor and other movements have made it do, like establishing worker health and safety standards and requiring food manufacturers to list detailed information about ingredients.

Activists have to remind the American people of what they’ve already learned but seem to have forgotten: that they don’t want more government, or less government; they don’t want big government, or small government; they want government on their side. Period.

Sanders has to clarify his views. What exactly does he mean by “socialism”? What exactly is the role the profit motive will play in his future society”?

Mark Brzezinski, son of Zbigniew, was a post-Cold War Fulbright Scholar in Warsaw: “I asked my students to define democracy. Expecting a discussion on individual liberties and authentically elected institutions, I was surprised to hear my students respond that to them, democracy means a government obligation to maintain a certain standard of living and to provide health care, education and housing for all. In other words, socialism.”

We should never forget

The modern, educated, advanced nation of Iraq was reduced to a virtual failed state … the United States, beginning in 1991, bombed for much of the following 12 years, with one dubious excuse after another; then, in 2003, invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, tortured without inhibition, killed wantonly … the people of that unhappy land lost everything – their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives … More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile … The air, soil, water, blood, and genes drenched with depleted uranium … the most awful birth defects … unexploded cluster bombs lying in wait for children to pick them up … a river of blood running alongside the Euphrates and Tigris … through a country that may never be put back together again … “It is a common refrain among war-weary Iraqis,” reported the Washington Post in 2007, that things were better before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.”

The United States has not paid any compensation to Iraq.

The United States has not made any apology to Iraq.

Foreign policy is even more sensitive a subject in the United States than slavery of the black people and genocide of the Native Americans. The US has apologized for these many times, but virtually never for the crimes of American foreign policy.

In 2014, George W. Bush, the man most responsible for this holocaust, was living a quiet life in Texas, with a focus on his paintings. “I’m trying to leave something behind”, he said.

Yes, he has certainly done that – mountains of rubble for one thing; rubble that once was cities and towns. His legacy also includes the charming Islamic State. Ah, but Georgie Boy is an artiste.

We need a trial to judge all those who bear significant responsibility for the past century – the most murderous and ecologically destructive in human history. We could call it the war, air and fiscal crimes tribunal and we could put politicians and CEOs and major media owners in the dock with earphones like Eichmann and make them listen to the evidence of how they killed millions of people and almost murdered the planet and made most of us far more miserable than we needed to be. Of course, we wouldn’t have time to go after them one by one. We’d have to lump Wall Street investment bankers in one trial, the Council on Foreign Relations in another, and any remaining Harvard Business School or Yale Law graduates in a third. We don’t need this for retribution, only for edification. So there would be no capital punishment, but rather banishment to an overseas Nike factory with a vow of perpetual silence. Sam Smith

On March 2, 2014 US Secretary of State John Kerry condemned Russia’s “incredible act of aggression” in Ukraine. “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.”

Iraq 2003 was in the 21st century. The pretext was completely trumped up. Senator John Kerry voted for it. Nice moral authority you have there, John.

On the same occasion, concerning Ukraine, President Obama spoke of “the principle that no country has the right to send in troops to another country unprovoked”. Do our leaders have no memory or do they think we’ve all lost ours?

Does Obama avoid prosecuting the Bush-Cheney gang because he wants to have the same rights to commit war crimes? The excuse he gives for his inaction is so lame that if George W. had used it people would not hesitate to laugh. On about five occasions, in reply to questions about why his administration has not prosecuted the like of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, et al. for mass murder, torture and other war crimes, former law professor Obama has stated: “I prefer to look forward rather than backwards.” Picture a defendant before a judge asking to be found innocent on such grounds. It simply makes laws, law enforcement, crime, justice, and facts irrelevant. Picture Chelsea Manning and other whistleblowers using this argument. Picture the reaction to this by Barack Obama, who has become the leading persecutor of whistleblowers in American history.

Noam Chomsky has observed: “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.”

It appears that the German and Japanese people only relinquished their imperial culture and mindset when they were bombed back to the stone age during World War II. Something similar may be the only cure for the same pathology that is embedded into the very social fabric of the United States. The US is now a full-blown pathological society. There is no other wonder drug to deal with American-exceptionalism-itis.

Notes

  1. Senator Bernie Sanders on Democratic Socialism in the United States, November 19, 2015
  2. Los Angeles Times, September 2, 1994
  3. Washington Post, May 5, 2007
  4. William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, chapter 25
  5. New York Times, September 16, 2014
  6. Sam Smith of Maine, formerly of Washington, DC
  7. Reuters, March 3, 2014

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

February 2016 Newsletter

I like background noises when I write, so more often than not, I have on the radio or TV. This time it was TV and the station the TV was on was showing re-runs of Star Trek, the Next Generation. I never watched the Next Generation but recognized several characters from Deep Space 9. The sounds on the show, the beeping and electronic sounds were so familiar to me…. remember I have a large family and each one of them is in constant touch with one of their devices. It took a bit before my subconscious realized it was Star Trek I heard and not the present. Or was it? I watched 5 episodes of the Marathon which unfolded in front of my eyes and was in awe how totally up to date it was. I recognized all the devises, their functions and the way of life of the people going where no man had gone before. It sounded like NOW! Could Mr Roddenberry have seen the future? Did we just manage to slip into the future without knowing it?

January was a hard month for many across the Northern hemisphere. Floods and tornadoes plagued 3 continents. Eventually, an out of season Hurricane appeared in the Atlantic, they named him Alex.

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At one point the North Pole’s temperature was warmer than for some of us on the main land. Chicago registered minus 26 Degrees windchill.

Climate Change
Climate Change

A friend was on a train from Virginia to Washington State and reported on the terrible weather she encountered across the American continent. A Snow storm covered 14 States, killed 24 people and parked 1400 planes.

My grandson Malcolm ( His story was featured in the January newsletter) drove for hours in feet of snow to take his daughter to the northern part of Michigan. Thanks to SKYPE I was able to go along like a back seat driver. I played with my 2-year old great granddaughter Skylar and occasionally helped watch the road. Malcolm is in the process of relocating to be closer to family.

Speaking of Michigan…. Finally Flint is going to get some help with the lead-poisoned water. Malcolm explained the mechanics of that disaster to me; Rachel Maddow and Michael Moore and now President Obama picked up the torch and hopefully something will get done. How can a city in our country poison the people….. guess?!…. MONEY!

http://theweek.com/articles/597755/how-michigan-literally-poisoned-entire-city-save-few-bucks

There were many Earthquakes around the Ring of Fire and we, here in the Great North West were plagued with 1,000’s of tremors in a couple of weeks.

Earthquakes
Earthquakes

While everyone was busy recovering from the holidays and different festivities around the globe, Poland passed a law which, when implemented, has ALL Media reports passing through government screening. Everything will be censored and in many places countries are falling into old habits.

My grandson (I have 5 grandsons) Sirius came to assist me with some errands. While in town we decided to stop for a burger. The place is a little on the edge of town but icy or not we stopped in to eat. I have been in Olympia for 50 years and enjoy teaching the young ones the history of the town as much as I have experienced and witnessed it. I was unable to remember how old the Cafe was and asked the waitress. She did not know but was able to inform me new owners had acquired the place a couple of years back. In the 70’s I was very involved with Race Relations in the area. Do to my skin color I was free to move about and reported on places which had racial bias towards minority patrons.

When the waitress notified me who the new owners were I regretted having stopped there, especially since because of my report their previous restaurant was put on an OFF LIMITS for Military personnel. By now all Caucasian guests had left and I stopped at the lady’s room on my way to the cash register. In plain site was a $20. I picked it up and confronted the waitress about the possibility of her having deliberately placed it there. She blushed and put it in her pocket rather than the cash register. I explained to my grandson how I thought the country was going backwards in reference to race-relations.

Sweden is in the process of eliminating ALL cash.

I also showed him some of my new posts which came in on my Social Network while we were out. There were several versions of this painting. Several different ethnic groups had curtailed it to their own circumstances. It is sad to see the world reversing into the old racism I encountered when first arriving 50 years ago.

FEb newsletter pic 4

In order to relax I make it a point to watch a “HAPPY” movie before turning in to sleep.

I started to watch what I thought was a movie from the 40’s. It turned out to be a Film/Documentary about Hermann Wilhelm Göring …. the right hand of Hitler… and his baby Brother, who was a great humanitarian and saved many lives during the Nazi Era. I wanted to turn it off; I do not like anything connected to that era and just as I was about to push stop was a scene which caught my interest. The brothers were arguing about all the things Hermann wanted to implement. Before his brother could raise any objection Hermann said: “ Don;t worry, no-one is STUPID enough to elect me!” He WAS elected. After the death of millions he was sentenced to death. He committed suicide before his execution was able to take place…….

I watched all current debates in order to be able to make a fair judgment if asked what I think about our Elections. In MR Trump’s own words: “I am tired of being politically correct”. When there is a possibility for a future President to be 86’d from certain civilized countries, including England….we are in a bit of trouble with the world. I watched Mr Trump…watched several months.. I go from Comedian to Bully to Hitler. He talks and talks….. everything is HATEFUL and Racist…. what are the policies… free tickets to free talks. Many of us may be in trouble for speaking so freely, at one point.

My grandson in Law Carlos became an American, Congratulations!

FEb newsletter pic 5
Getting American citizenship

While all this HOOPLA with the election is taking place we had some good news! The agreement with IRAN was implemented. President Obama, along with several other Nations accomplished what was put in place several months ago AND there was a added bonus. 5 Americans were released from an Iranian prison and are on their way home as we speak.

I have often wondered how we manage to get our citizens out of foreign prisons when we have so many people of foreign Nationality in our prisons. The world is watching as we mismanage our own prison system.

While on the subject of prisons….. some of us are hoping for this President to pardon Leonard Peltier this time so he can spend just a little time with his family before going home to his ancestors. He is so ill and so many people have fought for his freedom for so many years to no avail.

Florida’s criminal justice system has fallen into a mess of our own making.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision last week finding serious flaws in Florida’s death penalty sentencing procedures. Suddenly, there’s considerable uncertainty about the sentences imposed on the 368 condemned prisoners on Death Row. Except for the absolute certainty that their lawyers are about to flood Florida courts with petitions demanding reconsideration of their cases. And that even more time and money and paper and patience will be devoured by Florida’s death penalty process.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/fred-grimm/article55317590.html#storylink=cpy

Karen has been a Long Distance friend of mine long before Facebook and MySpace. 20 years maybe? She lives in Sydney, Australia. I’d like to share a letter I got from her with you:

Hi Lilian, thanks for sharing it….xx

January 18, 2016.

Dear Governor Scott,

I am an Australian citizen who has visited your lovely state of Florida many times with my family. We have spent a lot of tourist dollars enjoying the theme parks, seaside resorts and the cosmopolitan vibe of Miami.

However, it really bothers me that Florida has the highest rate of death row exonerations in the USA. This indicates that there are imperfections in the legal system. It also suggests that there are likely to be many more innocent or wrongfully convicted people remaining on death row in Florida.

Governor Scott- you are in the unique position to grant clemency to condemned capital prisoners, which places an enormous legal and moral responsibility upon your shoulders.   The possibility of executing an innocent man must weigh heavily upon anyone granted the awful authority to decide whether a fellow human being lives or dies.

My interest in the process of capital punishment in Florida is very personal because I have been a friend of Michael Lambrix for nearly 16 years. I have studied his case and am appalled that his clemency appeal, which exposed all kinds of irregularities in his case, was dismissed. Because of procedural bars, many of these irregularities have never been presented in a court.

Michael Lambrix was offered a lesser sentence on two occasions, but refused, trusting that the legal system would eventually recognize his innocence. However, now he sits in a cell on death watch, awaiting his execution which you sanctioned.

There is something  very wrong with a legal system which allowed a man to be condemned to death by a jury majority rather than a unanimous jury. There is something wrong with a system which refused to let a capital defendant testify during his trial. And there is something terribly wrong with a system that doesn’t allow errors to be rectified because of procedural bars which to the layman, are technicalities preventing mitigating evidence from being presented because of time constraints.

The Lambrix case has been marred by many procedural bars which have prevented him from pursuing his claims of innocence. No doubt you are aware of these claims, as are many people around the world who have been following his case.

Michael Lambrix has been in prison for almost 33 years, 32 of them in solitary confinement on death row. This makes him one of the longest serving death row prisoners in the country. If executing a man who has already served 32 years in solitary confinement is not ‘heinous, atrocious and cruel’,  I don’t know what is. Had he accepted the proffered plea bargains he would have been a free man, enjoying his grandchildren and golden years.

Sir, the Lambrix case is very complex and deserves full review. The power of life or death is in your hands and you have the responsibility of making sure that an innocent man is not executed. The recent Hurst decision also creates doubts about the future of the death penalty itself, and it would be morally repugnant to execute Mr Lambrix during this period of uncertainty. Not only is it morally repugnant, but the governor who signs the death warrants risks being judged by history as a mass murderer himself.

Please don’t let this proceed to execution. Please do not allow Florida to be eternally tainted by the execution of an innocent man especially now that the death penalty could be rescinded.

That man’s name is Michael Lambrix, a son, a brother, a father of 3,  a grandfather of 6 and a friend of many people around the world.

Yours respectfully,

Karen Mutton
Suppose we did slip into the future without knowing it, it would be so advisable to pay attention who and what we associate our-selves with. It would appear we are about to repeat what this planet has experienced before. I can only imagine what the Captain of a passing spaceship comes up with as to how to fix our amnesia and decides to save this planet, because that is what it will take. Intervention! Aliens! HURRY!

FEb newsletter pic 6

Rainbow over Seattle taken from Bainbridge Island and posted by KOMO.

Love and Light

Lilian

Here is a segment of the Rachel Maddow Show, which may prove my point

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow/watch/uk-debates-trump-fool-or-dangerous-fool-604077635512