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“Secrets R US”: America’s Spying Apparatus, Echelon, the NSA’s Eaves Dropping Program and the...

This essay is an excerpt from Big Lies: How Our Corporate Overlords, Politicians and Media Establishment Warp Reality and Undermine Democracy. Greg...

ECHELON Today: The Evolution of an NSA Black Program

People are shocked by the scope of secret state spying on their private communications, especially in light of documentary evidence leaked to media outlets...

Swamp for Trump: Third US President vows to win 16-year Afghan War

Clearly frustrated by the Pentagon’s ineffective strategies, Donald Trump has vowed to fire some of his...

DNA breakthrough means ‘superior’ designer babies could form new social elite, geneticist tells RT

‘Superior’ designer babies born into the upper class with genetically modified physical appearances and intelligence...

‘Appallingly bad’ F-35 fighter jets to cost Britain £150bn – aviation analyst

Published time: 17 Jul, 2017 09:21 Britain will press ahead with a £150 billion (US$196...

Robots set to divide British society, report warns

Published time: 10 Jul, 2017 15:30 The rise of robots taking over jobs threatens to...

Are There Private Emails and Cellphone Calls

I have decided to share with you something which I originally sent out to the key members of the Saker community: my recommendation on...

America’s Retarded Awareness

Alternative ideas don’t come easily to Americans. It seems that Americans imported colonial hierarchal practices from Europe to cultivate them to their own advantage....

American Dream in Freefall: It's This Bad

Whither the American Dream? It may not be totally dead, but a new study suggests that it is certainly on life support. Published in the American...

Ex-Tory candidate ‘lied’ about her SAS training, armed forces group tells RT

Azi Ahmed, an entrepreneur and former Tory parliamentary candidate, published a book in 2015 in...

US asked UK to keep failed nuke Trident test secret – report

The US government allegedly asked Britain to keep its failed Trident missile test in June 2016 a secret, the Sunday Times claims. The missile,...

Emancipation Rebellion Heirs: Don’t Grin and Bear Jamaica’s Oppression!

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and...

Malcolm Gladwell Likes Leaks When They Bolster Government Power

Malcolm Gladwell (New Yorker, 12/19/16): “Ellsberg was an insider—and that fact puts him in stark contrast with the man who has come to be...

False Advertising: The Democratic Party's Failure to Support Women of Color Candidates

Lucy Flores sought election to the US House of Representatives in 2016 and enjoyed front-runner status -- until she faced opposition from...

Love Him or Hate Him

The U.S. Elections: The Latest Crack in the System The 2016 U.S. presidential elections are unprecedented: I don’t believe we have ever witnessed before a...

Toxic Allegiances and Corporate Power: Open Letter to the Oxford Martin Commission

Colin Todhunter The Oxford Martin School is based at Oxford University in the UK. In what seems to be a laudable aim, the school has...

Hillary and the Clinton Foundation: Exemplars of America’s Political Rot

Hillary Clinton may be enjoying a comfortable lead in national polls, but she is far from enjoying a comfortable night’s sleep given the ever-widening...

Saatchi chairman on leave over gender comments

The New Zealand chairman of the global advertising giant Saatchi and Saatchi, Kevin Roberts, has been put on leave after saying that...

The Deep State

I’d like to address some aspects of the Greater Depression in this essay. I’m here to tell you that the inevitable became a reality in...

Collusion between Westminster, police & media sustained Hillsborough cover-up – Shadow Home Sec

Collusion between political elites, the media and police bolstered the Hillsborough cover-up, which was dutifully...

Shadowy Conference of Nationwide SWAT Teams to Feature Notorious Anti-Muslim Crusader

When members of SWAT teams and police agencies from across the country gather in Verona, New York at the end of this...

Why Hillary Clinton’s Paid Speeches Are Relevant

Eric Zuesse, originally posted at strategic-culture.org On the fake-‘progressive’ (actually conservative-Democratic-Party) website that’s run by a longtime CIA asset Markos Moulitsas, “Daily Kos,” there was...

University of California installs secret spyware system

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. Norisa Diaz Over the last few months, reports have revealed that the...

Satanic Pedophilia Network Exposed in Australia (Just like in the USA)

The Satanic Pedophilia Network which underlies the New World Order was again exposed in the last few months by another brave whistleblower. Australian woman Fiona Barrett...

Government pressurizing tech firms to join big brother state

The pressure on social media companies to limit or take down content in the name of national security has never been greater. Resolving any...

Military chiefs warned Cameron against using 70,000 ‘moderate’ rebels figure

Ministry of Defence (MoD) bosses warned Prime Minister David Cameron against claiming there are 70,000 moderate Syrian rebels ready to fight Islamic State (IS,...

They Profit, We Die: Toxic Agriculture and the Poisoning of Soils, Human Health and...

Our food system is in big trouble. It’s in big trouble because the global agritech/agribusiness sector is poisoning it, us and the environment with...

The political issues posed by Corbyn’s election as UK Labour Party leader

The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the British Labour Party is an indication of enormous social anger and disgust with the rotten...

UN report details Israeli war crimes in Gaza

Via WSWS. This piece was reprinted by RINF Alternative News with permission or license. By Jean Shaoul The report into Israel’s war on Gaza last summer by...

UK Election Aftermath: Cameron to Continue Waging War on Working People 

Today in the UK, people are waking up to their first week of a five-year rule under a Conservative majority government. It’s been the...

Reported Hamas/Israeli Talks: Hold the Cheers

Stephen Lendman (RINF) - Last Sunday, Hamas official Ahmad Yousef said "chats" were taking place with Israel under European mediation. No direct Hamas/Israeli talks occurred. None...

Episode 304 — Political Pedophilia

[audio mp3="https://www.corbettreport.com/mp3/episode304-lq.mp3"][/audio]As more and more information surfaces on both sides of the Atlantic about the pedophilia rings operating in the highest echelons of political, business and entertainment circles, ...

The 2015 British General Election: Capitalism’s One-Horse Race

RINF, Global Research, Countercurrents, Counterpunch

Britain is currently in the grip of a general election campaign. Voting takes place on 7 May and election fever in the media is building as various commentators and politicians engage in empty rhetoric about British values and democratic principles. Due to the nature of the 'first past the post' voting system, the only two parties with a realistic hope of achieving a majority of seats in parliament are Labour and the Conservatives. As in the outgoing parliament, the party most likely to achieve third place, the Liberal Democrats, might hold the balance of power in a hung parliament.

On TV last week there was a ‘leaders’ debate’. The issues debated revolved around the economy, the National Health Service and immigration. Leaders of the three main parties embraced a cosy consensus based on the need to continue with ‘austerity’ but quibbled over the nature or speed of cuts to the public sector and public services. The debate has set the tone for the unfolding campaign.

All three main parties are pro-big business and are aligned with the neoliberal economic agenda set by the financial cartel based in the City of London and on Wall Street and by the major transnational corporations. The likes of Chatham House, Centre for Policy Studies, Foreign Policy Centre, Reform, Institute of Economic Affairs and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (most of which the British public have never heard of) have already determined the pro-corporate and generally pro-Washington policies that the parties will sell to the public. Pressure tactics at the top level of politics, massively funded lobbying groups and the revolving door between private corporations and the machinery of state have also helped shape the policy agenda.

As if to underline this, in 2012 Labour MP Austin Mitchell described the UK’s big four accountancy firms as being "more powerful than government." He said the companies’ financial success allows them privileged access to government policy makers. Of course, similar sentiments concerning 'privileged access' could also be forwarded about many other sectors, not least the arms industry and global agritech companies which armed with their poisons, unsustainable model of industrial agriculture and bogus claims have been working hand in glove with government to force GMO's into the UK despite most people who hold a view on the matter not wanting them.

The impact and power of think tanks, lobbying and cronyism means that the major parties merely provide the illusion of choice and democracy to a public that is easily manipulated courtesy of a toothless and supine corporate media. The knockabout point-scoring of party politics serves as entertainment for a public that is increasingly disillusioned with politics.

The upshot is that the main parties have all accepted economic neoliberalism and the financialisation of the British economy and all that it has entailed: weak or non-existent trade unions, an ideological assault on the public sector, the offshoring of manufacturing, deregulation, privatisation and an economy dominated by financial services.

In Britain, long gone are the relatively well-paid manufacturing jobs that helped build and sustain the economy. In its place, the country has witnessed the imposition of a low taxation regime, low-paid and insecure ‘service sector’ jobs (no-contract work, macjobs, call centre jobs - much of which soon went abroad), a real estate bubble, credit card debt and student debt, which all helped to keep the economy afloat and maintain demand during the so-called boom years under Tony Blair. Levels of public debt spiraled, personal debt became unsustainable and the deregulated financial sector demanded the public must write down its own gambling debts.

The economy is now based on (held to ransom by) a banking and finance-sector cartel that specialises in rigging markets, debt creation, money laundering  and salting away profits in various City of London satellite tax havens and beyond. The banking industry applies huge pressure on governments and has significant influence over policies to ensure things remain this way.

If you follow the election campaign, you will see no talk from the main parties about bringing the railway and energy and water facilities back into public ownership. Instead, privatisation will continue and massive profits will be raked in as the public forks out for private-sector subsidies and the increasingly costly ‘services’ provided.

There will be no talk of nationalising the major banks or even properly regulating or taxing them (and other large multinationals) to gain access to funds that could build decent infrastructure for the public benefit.

Although the economy will be glibly discussed throughout the campaign, little will be mentioned about why or how the top one percent in the UK increased their wealth substantially in 2008 alone when the economic crisis hit. Little will be said about why levels of inequality have sky rocketed over the past three decades.

When manufacturing industry was decimated (along with the union movement) and offshored, people were told that finance was to be the backbone of the ‘new’ economy. And to be sure it has become the backbone. A spineless one based on bubbles, derivatives trading, speculation and all manner of dodgy transactions and practices. Margaret Thatcher in the eighties sold the economy to bankers and transnational corporations and they have never looked back. It was similar in the US.

Now Britain stands shoulder to shoulder with Washington’s militaristic agenda as the US desperately seeks to maintain global hegemony - not by rejecting the financialisation of its economy, rebuilding a manufacturing base with decent jobs and thus boosting consumer demand or ensuring the state takes responsibility for developing infrastructure to improve people's quality of life - but by attacking Russia and China which are doing some of those very things and as a result are rising to challenge the US as the dominant global economic power.

The election campaign instead of focusing on 'austerity', immigrants or welfare recipients, who are depicted by certain politicians and commentators as bleeding the country dry, should concern itself with the tax-evading corporate dole-scrounging super rich, the neoliberal agenda they have forced on people and their pushing for policies that would guarantee further plunder, most notably the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

However, with a rigged media and all major parties representing the interests of an unaccountable financial-corporate-state elite, we can expect Britain to continue to fall in line behind Washington’s militarism and a further hollowing out of what remains of the economy and civil society.

No matter who wins on 7 May, the public is destined for more of the same. The real outcome of the election has already been decided by the interlocking directorate of think tanks, big business and its lobby groups and the higher echelons of the civil service. The election will be akin to rearranging the deckchairs on a sinking ship.

The 2015 British General Election: Capitalism’s One-Horse Race 

Britain is currently in the grip of a general election campaign. Voting takes place on 7 May and election fever in the media is...

THE CIA AND AMERICA’S PRESIDENTS – JOHN CHUCKMAN

          THE CIA AND AMERICA’S PRESIDENTS Some rarely discussed truths shaping contemporary American democracy   John Chuckman Many people still think of the CIA as an agency designed...

The Forgotten Christmas Truce of 1914. Unlearned Lessons which could have Prevented a Century...

It was exactly 100 years ago this month when the Christmas Truce of 1914 occurred, when Christian soldiers on both sides of the infamous...

The Neoconservative Hit list: Iraq, Libya and now Syria? A Plan for Global U.S....

Steven MacMillan 1997 witnessed the birth of one of the most pivotal American think tanks in modern times, whose ideas and objectives would come to...

Supporting ‘terror tourism’ to Israel gets Canadian tax credits

When is a Canadian who leaves this country to join a foreign military force and participate in the killing of innocent civilians, including children, called a “terror tourist” and sent to jail? The answer is: Only when that person joins … Continue reading

What Happened to the Malaysian Airliner? – Paul Craig Roberts

What Happened to the Malaysian Airliner? Paul Craig Roberts Washington’s propaganda machine is in such high gear that we are in danger of losing the facts that we do have. One fact is that the separatists do not have the…

The post What Happened to the Malaysian Airliner? — Paul Craig Roberts appeared first on PaulCraigRoberts.org.

President Putin’s plane might have been the target for Ukrainian missile – sources

Malaysian Airlines MH17 plane was travelling almost the same route as Russia’s President Vladimir Putin’s jet shortly before the crash that killed 295, Interfax...

Israel’s Dissenting Voices Get Lost in the War Echo Chamber

Neve Gordon For several days now, some of my neighbours have suggested that the time has come to "destroy them"- meaning either Hamas or Palestinians...

Netanyahu’s War: What Is It Good For?

Robert Naiman The government of Benjamin Netanyahu has launched a new war on Palestinians in Gaza, a war whose purported justifications make George W. Bush's...

The Economic-Corporate Oligarchy of the World

Today’s world is ruled by a myriad of multinational corporations and financial institutions that belong to a network of private round table organisations that...

An Ignored Pre-9/11 Warning on Spying

Arjen Kamphuis In the first 21 months of the Twenty-first Century, the dot-com stock bubble burst and then the 9/11 attacks propelled the United States into...

Whistleblowers like Snowden deserve proper legal protection

Annie Machon A year ago I stumbled across a story about a troubling new surveillance program developed by the National Security Agency: Prism. While nobody was identified as the...

Unease in UK’s political elite after Prince Charles compares Putin to Hitler

Julie Hyland The row over Prince Charles’s comparison of Russian President Vladimir Putin with Adolf Hitler continues to rumble. The Prince of Wales and heir to...

Israel’s Crimes Against Humanity – A History of Corruption

Mick Meaney RINF Alternative News It's no secret that the nation of Israel has a long history of breaking international law, committing heinous war crimes and crimes...

Iraq: the Biggest Petroleum Heist in History?

“Prior to the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, US and other western oil companies were all but completely shut out of Iraq’s oil...

ICC & British war crimes: The trial of Tony Blair?

Several years ago, a British television channel ran a film entitled The Trial of Tony Blair. Not only was it pretty funny, with the former...

MPs Order ‘Dysfunctional’ Police Federation To End Top-Level Bullying

MPs launched a scathing attack on the Police Federation yesterday calling on the “dysfunctional” organisation to end its era of bullying.  The House of Commons...

The European Commission “A Disgrace To The Democratic Traditions In Europe”

Global Research and Countercurrents 14/5/2014

Corporate Europe Observatory has just released a critical report on the record of the European Commission over the last five years. The report sums up the record of the outgoing Barroso II Commission and how it has interacted with big business lobby groups during its term.


The critique of the Commission in the report is damning. The Commission has pursued a corporate agenda, with little regard for other interests in society. Moreover, the Commission has fought tooth and nail to avoid effective regulation of lobbyists, including by opposing a mandatory register and avoiding serious reform of its advisory structure, with its so-called expert groups dominated by big business representatives in many areas.

Kenneth Haar, co-author of the report, says:


“The Barroso II Commission is the European Commission at its worst…. It has used its new powers to impose policies that fit neatly with the interests of big business. This will be a term that Europeans won’t forget any time soon. It leaves the Commission with less legitimacy.”


Olivier Hoedeman, coordinator and co-author says:


“The outgoing Commission leaves a sad record of putting big business at the steering wheel of a large number of EU policies. This stresses the urgency for reform.”


Pascoe Sabido, co-author says:


“This report underlines just why the Commission’s dogged insistence on listening to big business rather than European citizens is driving people into the streets. On 15 May thousands of Europeans will be in Brussels to surround the European Business Summit and send a clear message to our political leaders – democracy is not for sale at any price.”


Various policy areas are looked at by the report, including trade, climate, finance and agriculture.


The authors state that the Commission’s Directorate General for Trade has served to open new markets for business, but all to often to the detriment of ordinary people and the environment in various regions of the globe. The trade negotiations between the EU and India have put big business in the driving seat, and the outcome could jeopardise the livelihoods of millions of people in India. While granting privileged access to big business, details about the negotiations have been withheld from the public. Furthermore, the report discusses how the officials and corporate lobbyists sit together to discuss how to remove regulations in key markets, such as India.


Similar criticisms are leveled at the EU-US negotiations over the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Here too, closed door meetings with corporate lobbyists highlight how big business is been granted privileged access to policy makers. The report highlights the danger that business lobbyists could eventually have the power to co-write legislation and bypass democratic processes.


The authors conclude that the Commission’s trade and investment policy reveals a bunch of unelected technocrats who care little about what ordinary people want and negotiate on behalf of big business.


As for agriculture, the authors conclude that the Commission has sided with agribusiness on GMOs and pesticides. Far from shifting Europe to a more sustainable food and agriculture system, the opposite has happened, as agribusiness and its lobbyists continue to dominate theBrussels scene.


Consumers in Europe reject GM food, but the Commission has made various attempts to meet the demands from the biotech sector to allow GMOs into Europe, aided by giant food companies, such as Unilever, and the lobby group FoodDrinkEurope. The authors note links between these concerns and the top echelons of the Commission.


Aggressive lobbying by BASF led to the authorisation for GM Amfora potato commercial cultivation. According to the report, conflicts of interest in favour of the biotech industry within the European Food and Safety Agency led to disputed and heavily criticised scientific advice being offered on the matter.


The danger is that further approvals for GMO cultivation could follow because proposals could see biotech companies having a role in decisions on whether to allow cultivation.


In the report, it is also noted that the industry is also exerting strong pressure to prevent action by the EU on endocrine disruptors and pesticides.


The report concludes that the Commission has eagerly pursued a corporate agenda in all the areas investigated and has pushed for policies in sync with the interests of big business. It had done this in the apparent belief that such interests are synonymous with the interests of society at large.


While the problems noted in the report have arguably always been present within the Commission, the last five years have seen a watershed in so far as there has been a concentration of power in the hands of the Commission and that it is pursuing a more vigorous corporate agenda with more success than ever before.


The report is a damning indictment of the conflicts of interest, secrecy, corporate lobbying, lack of accountability to the public (and the European Parliament) and the revolving door between decision makers and vested corporate interests. A deepening of democratic transparency within the Commission is called for along with a roll back of its powers.


The report’s ultimate conclusion is that the Commission is a disgrace to democratic traditions in Europe. It is effectively a captive but willing servant of a corporate agenda.


The full report, including all the policy areas investigated, can be read here: http://corporateeurope.org/sites/default/files/record_captive_commission.pdf



War Propaganda: Another New York Times ‘Sort of’ Retraction on Ukraine

Robert Parry The mainstream U.S. media likes to talk about Ukraine as an “information war,” meaning that the Russians are making stuff up. But the...

U.S. Media Propaganda: Russia Accused of Spreading “Conspiracy Theories” on Ukraine

Timothy Alexander Guzman, Silent Crow News – The New York Times reported that Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev wrote a Facebook post that said “Blood has been spilled in Ukraine again,” wrote Mr. Medvedev, once favored in the West for playing good cop to the hard-boiled president, Vladimir V. Putin. “The threat of civil war looms.” According to the New York Times article ‘Russia Is Quick to Bend Truth About Ukraine’, said that “He pleaded with Ukrainians to decide their own future “without usurpers, nationalists and bandits, without tanks or armored vehicles — and without secret visits by the C.I.A. director.” The New York Times followed with a statement regarding Medvedev’s post. It said the following:

And so began another day of bluster and hyperbole, of the misinformation, exaggerations, conspiracy theories, overheated rhetoric and, occasionally, outright lies about the political crisis in Ukraine that have emanated from the highest echelons of the Kremlin and reverberated on state-controlled Russian television, hour after hour, day after day, week after week

Now let’s look at the facts. First, blood has been spilled since the beginning of the crisis. Back in February, USA Today published a headline that declared many people were killed. The title read “As many as 100 killed in New Ukraine Clashes” proves Mr. Medvedev’s claims. The Ukraine’s unelected government is made up of Nationalists and bandits. They are the same people who don’t even agree with each other as they resorted to violence during sessions of the Ukrainian parliament. Here are some of the photos below:

                                              A common occurrence as Violence erupts in the Ukrainian Parliament

                                                                              Followed by more violence

                                                              A Ukrainian Official apparently lands on his face

Seems like banditry to me. The New York Times states that “Conspiracy Theories” are coming out of “State-Controlled Russian Television” constantly. Well, Reuters did confirm that the head of the Central Intelligence Agency did visit Ukrainian officials. “We don’t normally comment on the CIA director’s travel but given the extraordinary circumstances in this case and the false claims being leveled by the Russians at the CIA we can confirm that the director was in Kiev as part of a trip to Europe,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.” How about that other conspiracy theory concerning the US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria “F**K the EU” Nuland and US Ambassador to the Ukraine Geoffrey R. Pyatt and their conversation on how they can install a “Puppet” government in the Ukraine by nominating Bat’kyvshchina Party leader Arseniy Yatseniuk as Deputy Prime Minister and have Udar Party leader and former Boxer Vitaly Klitschko step aside. At the same time, Nuland and Pyatt agreed to discredit the Svoboda party, a Neo-Nazi political party they originally backed. These are not conspiracy theories, these are the facts. However, the New York Times did admit that “There is no question that the new Ukrainian government and its Western allies, including the United States, have engaged in their own misinformation efforts at times, with officials in Kiev making bold pronouncements in recent days of enforcement efforts that never materialized. On Tuesday, some American officials were spreading unverified photographs allegedly showing Russian rocket launchers carried by pro-Russian demonstrators in eastern Ukraine.”

The anti-Russian crusade carried out by the American mainstream media is more apparent as the crisis continues. The media reports are even sometimes laughable. The New York Times is at least truthful in one sense; they do report “All The News That’s Fit To Print.” Nobody in the alternative media would ever disagree with that statement.

Privatization Is A Ramp For Corruption and Insouciance Is a Ramp for War –...

Privatization Is A Ramp For Corruption and Insouciance Is a Ramp for War The New York Times has acquired a new Judith Miller Paul Craig Roberts Libertarian ideology favors privatization. However, in practice privatization is usually very different in result…

The post Privatization Is A Ramp For Corruption and Insouciance Is a Ramp for War — Paul Craig Roberts appeared first on PaulCraigRoberts.org.

Ukraine, Through the US Looking Glass

Robert Parry The acting president of the coup regime in Kiev announces that he is ordering an “anti-terrorist” operation against pro-Russian protesters in eastern Ukraine,...

Obama Ensnared in Bush’s Abuses

Coleen Rowley  RINF Alternative News It’s ironic, to put it lightly, that whistleblower Edward Snowden –  whose message of the need for CHANGE essentially repeats President...

End Result: “The Total Devastation of Everything That You Know”

by Mac Slavo Originally Published at SHTFplan If you are an observer of the goings-on in the world and how the political, administrative and business elite operate, you have likely come to the conclusion that the whole situation is mind-boggling. Millions of hard working Americans and our counterparts around theRead the Rest...

Israel Budgets Billions for Plan to Attack Iran

Israel believes agreement reached on Iran’s nuclear program presents an existential threat Kurt Nimmo Despite what is characterized as substantive progress in talks between Iran, the United States,...

The Fed transfers bank losses to taxpayers by inflation

Peter Palms  RINF Alternative News The bailout game as applied in real life to Penn Central, Lockheed, New York City, Chrysler, Commonwealth Bank of Detroit, First...

Final goal of the Surveillance State

Final goal of the Surveillance State by Jon Rappoport March 11, 2014 www.nomorefakenews.com Surveillance is coming at us from all angles. Chips, drones, TSA checkpoints, smart meters, back-doored electronic products, video cameras, spying home appliances; our phone calls and emails and keystrokes and product purchases are recorded. The government and its allied corporations will know […]

US Imperialism and the Ukraine Coup

Jeff Mackler  RINF Alternative News The recent Ukrainian Maidan (Independence Square) mobilizations are a grotesque caricature of the mass protests of workers and youth in Egypt...

SEIU 503 Rank and File Defeats Mega-Local Merger

This article also appeared on Labor Notes. Union democracy triumphed in Oregon February 1 when rank-and-file members of Service Employees Local 503 organized to reject a top-down merger with SEIU Local 49. The merger would have created a two-state, 65,000-member mega-local in the Pacific Northwest. Union leaders—the upper echelon of elected leaders taking their marching […]

New Book Confirms That U.S. Intelligence Employed Nazis

Regular readers of this blog are well aware of my assertions of U.S. intelligence malfeasance and atrocities after World War II, including granting asylum and new lives to the most despicable Nazi war criminals imaginable (the CIA's Operation Paperclip...

IRS robbers and thugs: A Cautionary Tale




Remember last year as evidence of IRS targeting certain groups for special 'review' came to public attention?  Uproar ensued, and rightfully so. On May 23, 2013, Obama went in front of the cameras to do damage control - to show he is in charge! - and declared that the "...IRS has to operate with absolute integrity. The government has to conduct itself  in a way that is true to the public trust.  That's especially true for the IRS"...????  Refresh your memory here if you have forgotten.


Really,  really? Apparently Lois Lerner didn't get that memo.  Lerner, then an IRS Director,  was allowed to assert her innocence of any wrong-doing before a Hearing.  Claiming the 5th Amendment, she said that she is "proud" of the work she has done with the IRS:  " [...]I have not done anything wrong. I have not broken any laws. I have not violated any IRS rules or regulations...[...]





 Elsewhere in that testimony here, she says she is invoking the right of innocent individuals to protect themselves.



Apparently, that right to innocence, due process under the law, and an American citizen's right to be treated with 'absolute integrity,' only applies if you work for the IRS, not for the tax-payers - who pay the IRS employees' salaries and bonuses.   'Bonuses'?  Why, certainly.  Take a look at this video from December 2013.This is about those who 'can't wait to intimidate you...and who Americans are more afraid of than al-Qaeda.' 

As we have seen in the last few months, when the IRS wields their sledge-hammer, they do so with apparent impunity.  


The following chain of events is from a friend - and it IS a true cautionary tale.  Read on: 


 A few months ago,   the ATM told "WK" the money they had in their bank account was "not available."  At first, WK thought it was just a slow processing of funds.  A few days later, with  money still 'unavailable' from an ATM, WK called the bank, only to be told that the IRS claimed they were owed $87,491.00 in taxes, so WK's bank account had been frozen, on IRS instruction.   When asked if  the IRS had sent notices of their intentions, WK said that if they had, those notices were not received. 



I had not filed for a refund in years.  I was scolded for that by agents of the IRS, and that was their excuse for making up numbers - that they knew were incorrect - and "filing on my behalf." An agent told me that they levied the account "to get my attention." [ Emphasis mine] I explained to them then,  again, that I did not owe them any money, and that pushing the issue would result in them owing me money.



They do.   $5,432.50,  but the onus was on me to prove my innocence. 


Now, I don't know about YOU, but from where I sit, a question immediately comes to mind:  Can the IRS really do this?   Short answer?  Yes,  they think they can, and of course, in this case they did.   This should be of concern to every tax-paying American.


In my extensive research on taxation and the Constitution, I found this:


 
 In 1909, Congress took steps to amend the Constitution by proposing the Sixteenth Amendment in the following form: 

 

 Sixteenth Amendment:

The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration. 


This Amendment was certified as ratified in 1913, and Congress passed an income tax act...



This excerpt is from Judicial Tyranny and your Income Tax written by attorney Jeffrey A. Dickstein. That link is to the pdf document, which is almost 400 pages long. I am working my way through it, and it is enlightening, to say the least.  You can also buy these insights in ebook form on Amazon where their synopsis of the contents and the author says: 



[...]an experienced tax lawyer, reviews the principle court decisions regarding the federal income tax, and explains how persons may be be subjected to improper tax claims if they do not know what is explained in this book. A must read for tax lawyers, accountants, and anyone who has dealings with the IRS.



'Dealings with the IRS'. You may think that WK's story shared above is a rare occurrence.  You would be wrong. Over the last few weeks, I have heard of other incidents of American citizens falling prey to the IRS heavy-booted (and seemingly sanctioned) tactics.  Fact is,  that every day of the week, employees of the IRS have access to every American's private financial information. Even sadder is that most Americans have no idea just WHO is making decisions/judgements about their private financial matters.  From what I am hearing,  the IRS employees consider it their duty to intimidate and browbeat American citizens, and the banks have no choice but to be accomplices - willing or not. 


I have long believed that in any organization, it is the leaders at the top who set the tone of all the lower echelon employees within that organization.  We saw during the hearings on the IRS the sneering contempt,  the belief that no bureaucrat is to be held accountable for the obvious mistreatment of targeted groups..  It seems the monolithic monster that is the IRS can act with impunity. Don't take my word for it.  Research the videos of other employees called before the Hearings:  "I don't know" or "I don't have that information" were the most commonly offered refrains as answers were sought to explain the inner working, the process, that is used to determine who gets targeted by the IRS.


Imagine this scenario:  a nameless, anonymous thug accosts you on a the street demanding you hand over your money and belongings, or else.  When that happens, usually there are consequences. Within the US Justice system of checks and balances, oftentimes criminal charges are laid.  Not so for the IRS.  As we saw just this past week, but little reported in the msm, after an almost non-existent 'investigation' of the IRS, the FBI Claims “No Evidence” of Wrongdoing in IRS Targeting Scandal 



 That should be reassuring to tax-paying Americans, including all those conservative group representatives who detailed harassment at the hands of IRS employees.  NOT!  Move along, nothing to see here.  Yet again, as with so many levels of bureaucracies within this administration, nobody takes responsibility, nobody knows anything,  and the POTUS  falls back on his "wasn't ME, but I'll get to the bottom of this!" nonsense.
 

The majority of the signers of the US Constitution were lawyers, and their names are enshrined publicly forever.  But anonymous IRS employees continue to do a disservice to the Americans who pay their salaries.  I suspect that the original framers of the freedoms America was based on are rolling in their graves at the tyranny that now runs rampant in America.
 

I tried to find someone within the IRS who could explain to me the process behind such arbitrary actions as freezing a citizen's bank account.  Simple logic demands that there must be a policy manual, procedures clearly laid out that employees must follow before some anonymous person - on the government payroll - seizes a fellow American's earnings.  Surely, in this most transparent government ever, Americans are entitled to know the guidelines within which IRS employees operate? Not so fast.  I spent many hours both on the internet, and then on the phone,  trying to find  the specific section of an IRS manual that gives carte blanche to government employees to commit such flagrant robbery.  I was unsuccessful in my efforts.
 

Even so, from WK's experiences, and others that I have heard,  it appears as if nameless employees (aka government agents/robbers) are allowed to cavalierly take citizens' money without due process. In all my reading on the history and genesis of taxation in America, nowhere, could I find any  suggestion that these actions are what the Founding Fathers intended for this country.


From WK:

         I am reminded of the old cliche:   You cannot fight the government.  They always win,        and  you will lose.

I do not believe my battle is over.  I am allowed by the government to use the money I have earned., for now.  For the next few years, I will live with the threat that the IRS will decide to take every single thing I own, and leave me with a debt that I will never be able to pay.  
Should they make that decision, I will use my last dollar to fight them. They will not get one more penny out of me.


 So far, they have admitted that they owe WK more than a  few pennies,  ($5,432.50) which they are refusing to pay.  In an apparent internal dispute,  two regional  IRS offices  can't seem to agree on who owes how much to who.  One  says WK owes the IRS $53,761.00,  while the other office has agreed with WK that it is the IRS who owes money, not this tax-payer.. 
 

This American has been a tax-paying,  law-abiding member of US society for decades.  WK has more than contributed to many years of tax revenues, including directly via payroll deduction/taxes.  No matter.  The IRS beast can arbitrarily rob any citizen as they decide.   
 

If you don't think this could happen to you, think again.  It can. You may believe that in America you are still innocent of anything until proven guilty.  Today, however, it seems IRS agents/robbers can treat you like a criminal, and the only one facing consequences is you. 
 

As Obama said in the link above:  "This is outrageous, and unacceptable..." Cut the fake outrage, please.  Evidence over the last few months shows that any action is perfectly acceptable when it comes to fleecing the citizens. 
 

For those who would insist that this is an isolated situation that could never happen to them, couldn't possibly affect them, may I remind you about ObamaCare?  As has been reported, apparently the Commissioner in charge of the tax exempt section within the IRS -  you know, the section that  oversaw the targeting of conservative groups? - was transferred to a new position.  Sarah Hall Ingram is now in charge of running the IRS office responsible for the ObamaCare legislation.   What could possibly go wrong?  Never mind all the other almost unbelievable snafus relating to ObamaCare since before the 'law' was passed by those who hadn't even read it.  That woman's new appointment, which hands her yet another powerful sledge hammer, should alert EVERY American that for Obama and the IRS it will be business as usual: No employee is ever answerable/accountable to their employer -YOU, the American tax-payer! From the municipal-level official, right on through to the POTUS, these people work for us. Just as we are expected to follow principles set out in the Constitution, so should they be also. 


The only weapon every American citizen has against such tyranny is to pay attention, know your rights as set out in the US Constitution, and fight for them. 
 

Arm yourself.  


 



***A related link from an earlier column here about Lois "I have done nothing wrong" Lerner.

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Looking Back: 50 Years after the JFK Assassination



They are derisively called “conspiracy theorists”. They carry the torch for the beliefs that sixty to eighty percent of their fellow citizens share since the assassination of President John Kennedy. From October 17 to October 19, several hundred gathered in Pittsburgh for the “Passing the Torch” symposium, a forum devoted to many of the leading investigators discussing alternate visions to the US government's official version of the murder of Kennedy.

For three days, a group of ordinary-looking, very well-spoken, collegial people discussed and debated the plausibility of conflicting explanations of the Kennedy assassination. Those who have been misled by the corporately-compromised media would be disappointed with the participants: there were no ominous references to the Holy Grail, Area 51, or Roswell, except in jest. Rather, the atmosphere of the gathering was more akin to a convention of neurosurgeons without the glamor of a glitzy destination. The few cranks-- anti-Federal Reserve exponents and religious zealots-- saw their comments politely dismissed.

Questions and Answers

Broadly speaking, there are two research methodologies that engage assassination investigators. One group of researchers develop, examine, analyze, and debate the physical evidence. The objects of their study are the familiar artifacts: the Zapruder film, the so-called “pristine bullet,” the rifle associated with Oswald, autopsy photos, etc. Of course not all physical evidence is either direct or clearly relevant. Photos, personal accounts, audio tapes, documents, etc. may be merely suggestive and open to broad interpretation. While physical evidence may count as “hard” data, it virtually never fills all of the narrative space between the premeditation to murder and the completion of the act. The judicial system recognizes this oft-occurring opening by placing the “hard” evidence before a jury with the hope that they will have the collective judgment to satisfactorily fill the gaps and arrive at a well-considered conclusion.

But it would be naive to press the idealized courtroom analogy too hard. The court of public opinion, like the real judicial system, allows of differential resources, bias, and clandestine influence. But where honest people recognize that the courts are “overly” fair to the rich, and that the poor suffer a surfeit of fairness, the court of public opinion dispenses entirely with the notion of fairness. With the Kennedy assassination, the government and its agencies have invested overwhelmingly in the Warren Commission/Oswald-did-it-alone version. The US government has resisted, at every step, revealing relevant evidence that might shed new light on the case; it has even denied access to evidence developed to support the conventional view; and it has actively interfered with independent investigations of the assassination. Now-public documents show that the security agencies spied on and interacted with the Garrison investigation in New Orleans. Recent revelations demonstrate that the CIA established their former (1963) chief of covert operations in Miami as their liaison with the 1976 House Select Committee on Assassinations... without revealing this relevant fact (the Joannides affair). This revelation has belatedly driven the formerly compliant final head of that investigation, G. Robert Blakey, into uncharacteristic fits of indignation:

I am no longer confident that the Central Intelligence Agency co-operated with the committee.... I was not told of Joannides' background with the DRE [Revolutionary Student Directorate], a focal point of the investigation. Had I known who he was, he would have been a witness who would have been interrogated under oath by the staff or by the committee. He would never have been acceptable as a point of contact with us to retrieve documents. In fact, I have now learned, as I note above, that Joannides was the point of contact between the Agency and DRE during the period Oswald was in contact with DRE. That the Agency would put a 'material witness' in as a 'filter' between the committee and its quests for documents was a flat out breach of the understanding the committee had with the Agency that it would co-operate with the investigation.

Given that researchers face a hostile government and its lap-dog media, it is truly amazing that researchers have advanced the study as far as they have. Of course hostile intelligence agencies and a media with blinders only reinforce the suspicions that the truth remains to be uncovered.

Blending into the physical evidence and further filling the evidentiary gaps are the circumstances and personal ties of the key players in the murder-- so-called “circumstantial evidence.” For example, the bizarre trajectory of Lee Harvey Oswald's brief adult life is breathtaking and complex. He crosses paths with a wide variety of diverse and contradictory characters while taking on equally contradictory personae.

Apologists for the Warren Commission want us to believe that these oddities reflect an isolated, but unstable personality. But the narrative fails the “credible-movie-script” test: No one would believe this tale if it were a movie.

Further, Oswald's Mexico trip the month before the assassination is a surreal saga fraught with confusion, misidentification, and mystery.

Beyond Circumstances

Is there anything that a Marxist could add to nearly fifty years of skepticism over the Warren Commission and the account of the assassination defended by the security agencies, US elites, and the corporate media?

Certainly a strong case could be made for the account offered by the former head of Cuban counterintelligence, Fabian Escalante. His book, JFK: The Cuba Files, based on his careful review of Cuban evidence, presents many new elements of the days, events, and personalities leading up to the assassination, though no citation of his work arose during the three-day symposium in Pittsburgh. In fact, I inquired of a lobby bookseller with a trove of assassination and associated books why he failed to offer Escalante's book in his extensive collection. He muttered something about how youthful Escalante looks in his pictures despite his retirement-- clear recognition of Escalante's work, but an evasion of its absence.

It is unfortunate that investigators ignore his book because he untangles much of the Mexico City puzzle. And his profiles of likely suspects add much to the existing biographies. But one senses a hesitance to accept a contribution from a Cuban official, a remnant of Cold War distrust. Moreover, the investigators, with only a few exceptions, own a rather conventional, naive politics. At the end of the symposium, a panelist posed what proved to be an embarrassing, but revealing question: How many here would welcome a Kennedy Presidency today?

The participants and audience demonstrated resounding approval with an enthusiasm betraying frenzied devotion to a fallen martyr rather than mere respect for a murdered President.

Perhaps it is here that a Marxist can make a modest contribution to our understanding of the Kennedy assassination by adding an element of political realism and historical context.

Regard Oswald's strange course from his adolescence in the mid 1950s through his death in November of 1963. Many point to the incredible twists and turns taken by him through this period. They argue that other forces must be at play: Oswald must have been a puppet. Opponents dismiss this as only indicative of his instability.

But these arguments miss the point.

The real conundrum is in reconciling that bizarre path with the known, demonstrable behavior of the US security services. It was in that period that their covert and overt surveillance reached unparalleled heights. And it was in that time frame that their suppression and prosecution of the left was at its pinnacle. It is simply impossible for Oswald, posturing as a Communist or Marxist militant, to have escaped their constant attention and, indeed, harassment, if anyone in the higher echelons of the many bureaus and agencies believed that posture. Consequently, it would be beyond comprehension that Oswald would have been where he was alleged to be at the moment of the assassination without those many security offices discounting his “leftist” credentials.

Reflect on the following:

Oswald was allegedly a self-proclaimed Communist in his adolescence before his Marine Corps enlistment and remained so during his 35 months in the Corps (Oct. 1956-September 1959), often sharing his politics with fellow Marines. Despite his openness, he was given at least a “confidential” security clearanceand assigned to a secret U-2 base in Japan. He was trained in sophisticated radar tracking and had access to much sensitive information.

At the same time, hundreds of Communists and thousands of liberals were under surveillance, lost their jobs, or were in jail. Communist leader Claude Lightfoot was sent to jail in 1956 when Oswald joined the Marines. A year earlier, copywriter Melvin Barnet was fired from his job at the New York Times for his political views. The infamous FBI COINTELPRO, a program of active measures against Communists and other leftists, began in 1956. Leaders of the ACLU were informing to the FBI in that period. A Professor at the University of Michigan, Chandler Davis, went to jail for his views in 1959, at a time Oswald was espousing Communism to his fellow Marines.

Is Oswald's story credible? Did he escape the net that captured liberals who were victimized by snitches and liars? What accounts for his immunity?

Upon discharge, Oswald set off within 10 days on his voyage to the Soviet Union and defection. Investigators quibble over the formalities of the defection, but no one questions that Oswald made the strongest political statement by surrendering his passport and taking residence in the USSR from late 1959 until June of 1962. After stating his misgivings about the USSR, he was smoothly integrated into a nest of anti-Bolshevik Russians living in arguably one of the most rabidly reactionary, anti-Communist cities in the US, Dallas, Texas (the other candidate being Miami, Florida). Oswald and his young wife quickly find friends who would, by inclination, stand off from his politics, social status, and manners. At no time does this produce a backlash commensurate with the tenor of the times.

It wasn't until late 1962 that Junius Scales, a district functionary of the Communist Party in North Carolina, was released from prison for merely being a Communist. The Smith Act, The Internal Security Act, the Immigration and Nationality Act, and the Communist Control Act remained in full force in this period, all aimed at suppressing and repressing Communists. Spanish Civil War vet and Communist Archie Brown was arrested in 1961 under the Communist Control Act. In 1962 and 1963, Jack O'Dell was forced out of his leading role in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference by the Kennedy administration for his alleged Communist affiliation. The US government pressed again to revoke Paul Robeson's passport in 1962. The Berlin Crisis, the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 and the October Cuban missile crisis of 1962 brought anti-Communism in the US to a boil.

It was in the midst of this atmosphere that Oswald brought his crackpot leftist ideas to Dallas and into the arms of anti-Communist fanatics. While working at an enterprise engaged in classified military work, Oswald contacted both the Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party-- he had maintained subscriptions to their respective newspapers since his return to the US. Unlike thousands of people who were denied employment, experienced harassment, or found their names on watch lists, Oswald enjoyed a charmed life within a cesspool of right-wing intrigue and anti-Red hysteria.

The spring of 1963 brought Oswald to New Orleans where he mounted a one-man campaign to establish left credentials while blatantly drawing attention to his activities, a bizarre goal for an authentic leftist in a hostile environment and with no allies. Warren Commission apologists like Gerald Posner answer that these actions only prove that Oswald was unbalanced and unpredictable.

But that evades the pertinent question.

Where were the security services that were systematically hunting, harassing, and persecuting everyone in the US with even a pinkish tint? How does Oswald escape their net? Did anyone in the US leave such a trail of provocative left-wing foot prints as did Oswald?

Before, during, and after Oswald's pro-Cuban adventure in the deep South, critics were threatened, beaten, and even killed for opposing segregation. And yet Oswald's television notoriety earned by defending revolutionary Cuba brought a violent reaction only when Oswald provoked one. Lee Harvey Oswald was perhaps the only self-proclaimed leftist in the US who traveled, lived, and acted with impunity during this repressive era.

Immediately before leaving for Mexico in September of 1963, Oswald telephoned the head of the Texas Socialist Labor Party to mention that he wanted to meet before he left for Mexico City, a conversation that was surely overheard by authorities. What would be the likelihood that the correspondence between two public Marxists would not be the subject of interest in these repressive times and in the paranoid South?

Border crossings were, as they are today, designed to filter those worthy of scrutiny or detention. Yet Oswald went on his merry way to Mexico City with his passport and visa intact. For years, Mexico had been a haven for political expatriates and fleeing victims of the blacklist. All were under constant attention from US and Mexican authorities. Like Portugal and Spain in World War II, Mexico was to the Cold War a hot bed of spying and intrigue where all the antagonists maintained robust stations. Enter Lee Harvey Oswald. Flashing his leftist credentials, Oswald visited and revisited the Cuban and Soviet embassies loudly touting his desires to travel to Cuba and the Soviet Union. Without doubt, these plans were exposed to US authorities, who, uncharacteristically, did virtually nothing. Should his plans have been actuated, he could have been the US's first double-defector! No one seemed too alarmed in the higher echelons of the CIA and FBI.

This tortured history could easily be dismissed as the expression of an unstable, twisted mind. But that dismissal would only strengthen the oddness of the lack of action on the part of the US security services that would have had to curiously dismiss Oswald's vocal leftism and uncommonly audacious expression of that postured leftism.

Viewed from the Marxist left, Oswald's showy exhibition with a gun in one hand and a copy of The Worker and The Militant in the other smells of a provocation. Even a newcomer to the culture of the left knows that Trotskyists and Communists are water and oil. Thus, for a “veteran” of the left like Oswald to go to some lengths to make such a display is only intelligible if he were seeding evidence for some unrevealed purpose. Was the carefully posed picture meant to impress the left? Of course not. Was it meant to make a different impression?

Oswald was likely the only “leftist” in the US to never make first-hand, direct contact with other leftists, to never attend a meeting, to never join an organized demonstration or vigil in 6-8 years of off-and-on “activism.” He was well known as a “leftist” to non-left acquaintances and co-workers as well as much of the general public. But the broad left only knew him through correspondences.

In the end, it is impossible to reconcile Oswald the “leftist” with the unlikely indifference of the US intelligence and police establishment. At the same time, it is impossible to accept the authenticity of that leftism.

But if Oswald was not genuine, if he was only posing as a leftist, what was he really?

Since the intelligence and police agencies ignored Oswald as though they knew he were not a leftist, since he slipped easily through the net that captured thousands of the faintly pink, who did they think he was? He certainly did plenty to deserve their attention, attention that they seemed determined not to give.

Until we know who Oswald really was, we will never solve Kennedy's assassination.

Zoltan Zigedy




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“We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?”—Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

A cascade of managerial and public relations blunders has prompted Florida Atlantic University administrators to introduce The Agora Project, a broad initiative intending to promote “the practice of civility and civil discourse in an environment of free speech, academic freedom and open dialogue.”

Faculty valuing free speech and academic freedom whose persistent efforts at cultivating such through their teaching and research will likely be intrigued in hearing of the Agora Project, an endeavor proffering “forums on the importance of academic freedom, academic responsibility, and freedom of expression;” the program even promises to “create workshops on how best to practice civil and respectful interaction with others; and provide opportunities to discuss, dialogue and debate matters relevant to FAU and to our world.”

One is to conclude that, left to their own devices, faculty members and students may never arrive at a rational approach toward civility. Moreover, they may even become suspicious in the event that they are force-fed such an agenda. Indeed, after the Delphi-style exercise was presented at a recent faculty meeting, a colleague quietly pulled me aside and remarked, “This isn’t about civility. It’s about control.”

Will this individual soon be vociferously questioning Agora? Likely no. Wouldn’t want to “rock the boat” and draw attention to her/himself. Could s/he perhaps be on to something? Likely yes.

Not coincidentally, Agora was unveiled by university administrators in August 2013, a few short weeks after a speech code issued by FAU’s Division of Student Affairs was condemned by the Philadelphia-based Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, and subsequently revised. “Here at FAU,” the original speech code reads,

we encourage our campus community to exercise this cherished freedom in lively debate. In fact, we protect and promote that right. What we do insist on, however, is that everyone in the FAU community behave and speak to and about one another in ways that are not racist, religiously intolerant or otherwise degrading to others. (Emphasis added.)

FIRE countered that such a policy could impinge on constitutionally-protected speech and expression, possibly quashing not only academic discussion and inquiry, but also protest and debate on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict under the guise of “religious intolerance.”

In addition, an injunction on “racist” speech might be used to discipline vibrant exchanges on immigration and affirmative action. “And the prohibition on ‘otherwise degrading’ speech could apply to speech on virtually any topic that offends another person,” FIRE contends.

 A cynic might conclude that The Agora Project is a backdoor effort to provide the basis for extending such criteria across each of the University’s constituencies—faculty, students, staff—with their implicit approval given the plan’s professed effort of consultation and engagement.

Along these lines, perhaps the endeavor is an effort to assuage certain communities who for some reason aren’t comfortable with or seek to discontinue open discussion, debate, and social protest—all of which are to be anticipated in a space devoted to the expansion of intellectual horizons.

Of course, those in the upper echelons of university oversight—the administrators and trustees—who are pushing for prospective speech protocols are exempt from such measures, as their actions and behavior are apparently beyond reproach.

For example, last spring then-president Mary Jane Saunders ran into a protesting student with her Lexus sedan, fled the scene down the wrong way of a one-way street, and was subsequently defended by FAU trustees while the police investigating the incident discounted Saunders’ clear commitment of one or more felonies.

In the wake of the “conspiracy theory professor” and “stomp on Jesus” controversies, and protests surrounding a deal that would name the university’s new football stadium after a transnational for-profit prison outfit, dental industry entrepreneur and Republican Party functionary Jeffrey Feingold remarked, “I don’t want hear any more people say they think the lunatics have taken over the asylum.”

Feingold went on to criticize continued use of a headhunting firm that identified administrative candidates including Saunders because it allegedly produces “losers.” He went on to suggest a remarkably bizarre and insulting conspiracy theory that nonviolent campus protests by FAU students—the very children of Florida taxpayers who’ve elected to attend FAU–may culminate in violent terrorist attacks comparable to the Boston Marathon bombings! Unsurprisingly, no media attention or faculty outrage is afforded Feingold’s truly wacko theory.

One might ask, how is anyone given license for such behavior and remarks? Well, in January the ever-modest Feingold gave FAU $250,000 to name the university’s Board of Trustees room after him. “From those to whom much is given, much is expected,” he dictated.

With the above in mind, one’s imagination needn’t work overtime to identify the likely proponents of The Agora Project and its velvet-gloved implementation of “free speech and civility.” When FAU’s head honchos recently sat down to discuss selection of a new president, FAU Foundation Board Vice Chair and former Virginia “super lawyer” Jay Weinberg observed,

Because we are a diverse university … that doesn’t mean that we tolerate bigotry or prejudice. You have to draw a keen distinction between free speech and hate speech. I think that [in light of] recent events at this university, we need a president that understands that and who will act decisively with respect to it.

In other words, a principal holders of the institution’s purse strings asserts that the ideal chief administrator should reprimand and perhaps even fire faculty and staff who articulate extraordinary perspectives—ones that may fulfill the arbitrary and Kafkaesque notion of “hate speech.” In Agora-speak, this would inevitably involve violation of proposed “respectful” and “civic” discourse with-a-twist etiquettes.

In the subtly forced conversation on “civility,” “academic freedom,” and “respectful interaction,” a more clear-cut definition of what exactly constitutes meaningful exchange has been wholly lost, or, perhaps more fittingly, supplanted. In reality, couldn’t such a discussion be targeting the ideals that provide the basis for better understanding “something important, something real” that “really bothers” certain individuals … thus challenging them to consider an issue, an event, or a problem at a far deeper level?

When a university ceases to be a place where a wide expanse of “controversial” ideas and dialogues can be spontaneously ruminated on, one can safely conclude that it has made the transition from sanctuary and laboratory of free thought and ideas to a mere appendage of the consciousness industry and workhouse of the mind.

-JFT

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RINFORMATION

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Secrets R US: The NSA and Outsourcing Defense

This essay is an excerpt from  Big Lies: How Our Corporate Overlords, Politicians and Media Establishment Warp Reality and Undermine Democracy. Guma's latest book, Dons of Time, is a sci-fi look at the control of history as power.
Despite 24-hour news and talk about transparency, there's a lot we don't know about our past, much less current events. What’s worse, some of what we think we know isn't true.
The point is that it’s no accident. 
    Consider, for example, the circumstances that led to open war in Vietnam. According to official history, two US destroyers patrolling in the Gulf of Tonkin off North Vietnam were victims of unprovoked attacks in August 1964, leading to a congressional resolution giving President Johnson the power "to take all necessary measures."
     In fact, the destroyers were spy ships, part of a National Security Agency (NSA) eavesdropping program operating near the coast as a way to provoke the North Vietnamese into turning on their radar and other communications channels. The more provocative the maneuvers, the more signals that could be captured. Meanwhile, US raiding parties were shelling mainland targets. Documents revealed later indicated that the August 4 attack on the USS Maddox – the pretext for passing the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution – may not even have taken place.
     But even if it did, the incident was still stage managed to build up congressional and public support for the war. Evidence suggests that the plan was based on Operation Northwoods, a scheme developed in 1962 to justify an invasion of Cuba. Among the tactics the Joint Chiefs of Staff considered then were blowing up a ship in Guantanamo Bay, a phony "communist Cuba terror campaign" in Florida and Washington, DC, and an elaborate plan to convince people that Cuba had shot down a civilian airliner filled with students. That operation wasn't implemented, but two years later, desperate for a war, the administration's military brass found a way to create the necessary conditions in Vietnam.
For more than half a century, the eyes and ears of US power to monitor and manipulate information (and with it, mass perceptions) has been the NSA, initially designed to assist the CIA. Its original task was to collect raw information about threats to US security, cracking codes and using the latest technology to provide accurate intelligence on the intentions and activities of enemies. Emerging after World War II, its early focus was the Soviet Union. But it never did crack a high-level Soviet cipher system. On the other hand, it used every available means to eavesdrop on not only enemies but also allies and, sometimes, US citizens.
     In Body of Secrets, James Bamford described a bureaucratic and secretive behemoth, based in an Orwellian Maryland complex known as Crypto City. From there, supercomputers linked it to spy satellites, subs, aircraft, and equally covert, strategically placed listening posts worldwide. As of 2000, it had a $7 billion annual budget and directly employed at least 38,000 people, more than the CIA and FBI. It was also the leader of an international intelligence club, UKUSA, which includes Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Together, they monitored and recorded billions of encrypted communications, telephone calls, radio messages, faxes, and e-mails around the world.
     Over the years, however, the line between enemies and friends blurred, and the intelligence gatherers often converted their control of information into unilateral power, influencing the course of history in ways that may never be known. No doubt the agency has had a hand in countless covert operations; yet, attempts to pull away the veil of secrecy have been largely unsuccessful.
     In the mid-1970s, for example, just as Congress was attempting to reign in the CIA, the NSA was quietly creating a virtual state, a massive international computer network named Platform. Doing away with formal borders, it developed a software package that turned worldwide Sigint (short for "signal intelligence": communication intelligence, eavesdropping, and electronic intelligence) into a unified whole. The software package was code named Echelon, a name that has since become a synonym for eavesdropping on commercial communication.
     Of course, the NSA and its British sister, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), refused to admit Echelon existed, even though declassified documents appeared on the Internet and Congress conducted an initial investigation. But a European Parliament report also confirmed Echelon's activities, and encouraged Internet users and governments to adopt stronger privacy measures in response.
     In March 2001, several ranking British politicians discussed Echelon's potential impacts on civil liberties, and a European Parliament committee considered its legal, human rights, and privacy implications. The Dutch held similar hearings, and a French National Assembly inquiry urged the European Union to embrace new privacy enhancing technologies to protect against Echelon's eavesdropping. France launched a formal investigation into possible abuses for industrial espionage.
A prime reason for Europe's discontent was the growing suspicion that the NSA had used intercepted conversations to help US companies win contracts heading for European firms. The alleged losers included Airbus, a consortium including interests in France, Germany, Spain, and Britain, and Thomson CSF, a French electronics company. The French claimed they had lost a $1.4 billion deal to supply Brazil with a radar system because the NSA shared details of the negotiations with Raytheon. Airbus may have lost a contract worth $2 billion to Boeing and McDonnell Douglas because of information intercepted and passed on by the agency.
     According to former NSA agent Wayne Madsen, the US used information gathered from its bases in Australia to win a half share in a significant Indonesian trade contract for AT&T. Communication intercepts showed the contract was initially going to a Japanese firm. A bit later a lawsuit against the US and Britain was launched in France, judicial and parliamentary investigations began in Italy, and German parliamentarians demanded an inquiry.
     The rationale for turning the NSA loose on commercial activities, even those involving allies, was provided in the mid-90s by Sen. Frank DeConcini, then chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. "I don't think we should have a policy where we're going to invade the Airbus inner sanctum and find out their secrets for the purpose of turning it over to Boeing or McDonnell Douglas," he opined. "But if we find something, not to share it with our people seems to me to be not smart."
      President Bill Clinton and other US officials buttressed this view by charging that European countries were unfairly subsidizing Airbus. In other words, competition with significant US interests can be a matter of national security, and private capitalism must be protected from state-run enterprises.
      The US-Europe row about Airbus subsidies was also used as a "test case" for scientists developing new intelligence tools. At US Defense Department conferences on "text retrieval," competitions were staged to find the best methods. A standard test featured extracting protected data about "Airbus subsidies."
In the end, influencing the outcome of commercial transactions is but the tip of this iceberg. The NSA's ability to intercept to virtually any transmitted communication has enhanced the power of unelected officials and private interests to set covert foreign policy in motion. In some cases, the objective is clear and arguably defensible: taking effective action against terrorism, for example. But in others, the grand plans of the intelligence community have led it to undermine democracies.
     The 1975 removal of Australian Prime Minister Edward Whitlam is an instructive case. At the time of Whitlam's election in 1972, Australian intelligence was working with the CIA against the Allende government in Chile. The new PM didn’t simply order a halt to Australia's involvement, explained William Blum in Killing Hope, a masterful study of US interventions since World War II. Whitlam seized intelligence information withheld from him by the Australian Security and Intelligence Organization (ASIO), and disclosed the existence of a joint CIA-ASIO directorate that monitored radio traffic in Asia. He also openly disapproved of US plans to build up the Indian Ocean Island of Diego Garcia as a military-intelligence-nuclear outpost.
     Both the CIA and NSA became concerned about the security and future of crucial intelligence facilities in and near Australia. The country was already key member of UKUSA. After launching its first space-based listening post-a microwave receiver with an antenna pointed at earth-NSA had picked an isolated desert area in central Australia as a ground station. Once completed, the base at Alice Springs was named Pine Gap, the first of many listening posts to be installed around the world. For the NSA and CIA, Whitlam posed a threat to the secrecy and security of such operations.
     An early step was covert funding for the political opposition, in hopes of defeating Whitlam's Labor Party in 1974. When that failed, meetings were held with the Governor-General, Sir John Kerr, a figurehead representing the Queen of England who had worked for CIA front organizations since the 50s. Defense officials warned that intelligence links would be cut off unless someone stopped Whitlam. On November 11, 1975, Kerr responded, dismissing the prime minister, dissolving both houses of Parliament, and appointing an interim government until new elections were held.
     According to Christopher Boyce (subject of The Falcon and the Snowman, a fictionalized account), who watched the process while working for TRW in a CIA-linked cryptographic communications center, the spooks also infiltrated Australian labor unions and contrived to suppress transportation strikes that were holding up deliveries to US intelligence installations. Not coincidentally, some unions were leading the opposition to development of those same facilities.
     How often, and to what effect, such covert ops have succeeded is another of the mysteries that comprise an unwritten history of the last half century. Beyond that, systems like Echelon violate the human right to individual privacy, and give those who control the information the ability to act with impunity, sometimes destroying lives and negating the popular will in the process.
Hiding the Agenda in Peru
In May 1960, when a U-2 spy plane was shot down over Soviet territory, President Dwight Eisenhower took great pains to deny direct knowledge or authorization of the provocative mission. In reality, he personally oversaw every U-2 mission, and had even riskier and more provocative bomber overflights in mind.
     It's a basic rule of thumb for covert ops: When exposed, keep denying and deflect the blame. More important, never, never let on that the mission itself may be a pretext, or a diversion from some other, larger agenda.
     Considering that, the April 20, 2001, shoot down of a plane carrying missionaries across the Brazilian border into Peru becomes highly suspicious. At first, the official story fed to the press was that Peruvian authorities ordered the attack on their own, over the pleas of the CIA "contract pilots" who initially spotted the plane. But Peruvian pilots involved in that program, supposedly designed to intercept drug flights, insist that nothing was shot down without US approval.
     Innocent planes were sometimes attacked, but most were small, low flying aircraft that didn't file flight plans and had no radios. This plane maintained regular contact and did file a plan. Still, even after it crash-landed, the Peruvians continued to strafe it, perhaps in an attempt to ignite the plane's fuel and eliminate the evidence.
     "I think it has to do with Plan Colombia and the coming war," said Celerino Castillo, who had previously worked in Peru for Drug Enforcement Agency. "The CIA was sending a clear message to all non-combatants to clear out of the area, and to get favorable press." The flight was heading to Iquitos, which "is at the heart of everything the CIA is doing right now," he added. "They don't want any witnesses."
     Timing also may have played a part. The shoot down occurred on the opening day of the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. Uruguay's President Jorge Ibanez, who had proposed the worldwide legalization of drugs just weeks before, was expected to make a high-profile speech on his proposal at the gathering. The downing of a drug smuggling plane at this moment, near territory held by Colombia's FARC rebels, would help to defuse Uruguay's message and reinforce the image of the insurgents as drug smugglers.
     If you doubt that the US would condone such an operation or cover it up, consider this: In 1967, Israel torpedoed the USS Liberty, a large floating listening post, as it was eavesdropping on the Arab-Israeli war off the Sinai Peninsula. Hundreds of US sailors were wounded and killed, probably because Israel feared that its massacre of Egyptian prisoners at El Arish might be overheard. How did the Pentagon respond? By imposing a total news ban, and covering up the facts for decades.
     Will we ever find out what really happened in Peru, specifically why a missionary and her daughter were killed? Not likely, since it involves a private military contractor that is basically beyond the reach of congressional accountability.
     In 2009, when the Peru shoot down became one of five cases of intelligence operation cover up being investigated by the US House Intelligence Committee, the CIA inspector general concluded that the CIA had improperly concealed information about the incident. Intelligence Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairwoman Jan Schakowsky, who led the investigation, didn’t rule out referrals to the Justice Department for criminal prosecutions if evidence surfaced that intelligence officials broke the law. But she couldn’t guarantee that the facts would ever come to light, since the Committee’s report of its investigation would be classified.
     The most crucial wrinkle in the Peruvian incident is the involvement of DynCorp, which was active in Colombia and Bolivia under large contracts with various US agencies. The day after the incident, ABC news reported that, according to “senior administration officials,” the crew of the surveillance plane that first identified the doomed aircraft "was hired by the CIA from DynCorp." Within two days, however, all references to DynCorp were scrubbed from ABC's Website. A week later, the New York Post claimed the crew actually worked for Aviation Development Corp., allegedly a CIA proprietary company.
     Whatever the truth, State Department officials refused to talk on the record about DynCorp's activities in South America. Yet, according to DynCorp's State Department contract, the firm had received at least $600 million over the previous few years for training, drug interdiction, search and rescue (which included combat), air transport of equipment and people, and reconnaissance in the region. And that was only what they put on paper. It also operated government aircraft and provided all manner of personnel, particularly for Plan Colombia.
DynCorp began in 1946 as the employee-owned air cargo business California Eastern Airways, flying in supplies for the Korean War. This and later government work led to charges that it was a CIA front company. Whatever the truth, it ultimately became a leading PMC, hiring former soldiers and police officers to implement US foreign policy without having to report to Congress.
     The push to privatize war gained traction during the first Bush administration. After the first Gulf War, the Pentagon, then headed by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, paid a Halliburton subsidiary nearly $9 million to study how PMCs could support US soldiers in combat zones, according to a Mother Jones investigation. Cheney subsequently became CEO of Halliburton, and Brown & Root, later known as Halliburton KBR, won billions to construct and run military bases, some in secret locations.
     One of DynCorp’s earliest “police” contracts involved the protection of Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, and, after he was ousted, providing the “technical advice” that brought military officers involved in that coup into Haiti’s National Police. Despite this dodgy record, in 2002 it won the contract to protect another new president, Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai. By then, it was a top IT federal contractor specializing in computer systems development, and also providing the government with aviation services, general military management, and security expertise.
     Like other private military outfits, the main danger it has faced is the risk of public exposure. Under one contract, for example, DynCorp sprayed vast quantities of herbicides over Colombia to kill the cocaine crop. In September 2001, Ecuadorian Indians filed a class action lawsuit, charging that DynCorp recklessly sprayed their homes and farms, causing illnesses and deaths and destroying crops. In Bosnia, private police provided by DynCorp for the UN were accused of buying and selling prostitutes, including a 12-year-old girl. Others were charged with videotaping a rape.
     In the first years of the 21st century, DynCorp's day-to-day operations in South America were overseen by State Department officials, including the Narcotic Affairs Section and the Air Wing, the latter a clique of unreformed cold warriors and leftovers from 80s operations in Central America. It was essentially the State Department's private air force in the Andes, with access to satellite-based recording and mapping systems.
     In the 1960s, a similar role was played by the Vinnell Corp., which the CIA called "our own private mercenary army in Vietnam." Vinnell later became a subsidiary of TRW, a major NSA contractor, and employed US Special Forces vets to train Saudi Arabia's National Guard. In the late 1990s, TRW hired former NSA director William Studeman to help with its intelligence program.
     DynCorp avoided the kind of public scandal that surrounded the activities of Blackwater. In Ecuador, where it developed military logistics centers and coordinated “anti-terror” police training, the exposure of a secret covenant signed with the Aeronautics Industries Directorate of the Ecuadorian Air Force briefly threatened to make waves. According to a November 2003 exposé in Quito’s El Comercio, the arrangement, hidden from the National Defense Council, made DynCorp’s people part of the US diplomatic mission.
     In Colombia, DynCorp’s coca eradication and search-and-rescue missions led to controversial pitched battles with rebels. US contract pilots flew Black Hawk helicopters carrying Colombian police officers who raked the countryside with machine gun fire to protect the missions against attacks. According to investigative reporter Jason Vest, DynCorp employees were also implicated in narcotics trafficking. But such stories didn’t get far, and, in any case, DynCorp’s “trainers” simply ignored congressional rules, including those that restrict the US from aiding military units linked to human rights abuses.
     In 2003, DynCorp won a multimillion-dollar contract to build a private police force in post-Saddam Iraq, with some of the funding diverted from an anti-drug program for Afghanistan. In 2004, the State Department further expanded DynCorp’s role as a global US surrogate with a $1.75 billion, five year contract to provide law enforcement personnel for civilian policing operations in “post-conflict areas” around the world. That March, the company also got an Army contract to support helicopters sold to foreign countries. The work, described as “turnkey” services, includes program management, logistics support, maintenance and aircrew training, aircraft maintenance and refurbishment, repair and overhaul of aircraft components and engines, airframe and engine upgrades, and the production of technical publications.
     In short, DynCorp was a trusted partner in the military-intelligence-industrial complex. "Are we outsourcing order to avoid public scrutiny, controversy or embarrassment?" asked Rep. Schakowsky upon submitting legislation to prohibit US funding for private military firms in the Andean region. "If there is a potential for a privatized Gulf of Tonkin incident, then the American people deserve to have a full and open debate before this policy goes any further."
     If and when that ever happens, the discussion will have to cover a lot of ground. Private firms, working in concert with various intelligence agencies, constitute a vast foreign policy apparatus that is largely invisible, rarely covered by the corporate press, and not currently subject to congressional oversight. The Freedom of Information Act simply doesn't apply. Any information on whom they arm or how they operate is private, proprietary information.
     The US government downplays its use of mercenaries, a state of affairs that could undermine any efforts to find out about CIA activities that are concealed from Congress. Yet private contractors perform almost every function essential to military operations, a situation that has been called the “creeping privatization of the business of war.” By 2004, the Pentagon was employing more than 700,000 private contractors.
     The companies are staffed by former generals, admirals, and highly trained officers. Name a hot spot and some PMC has people there. DynCorp has worked on the Defense Message System Transition Hub and done long-range planning for the Air Force. MPRI had a similar contract with the Army, and for a time coordinated the Pentagon's military and leadership training in at least seven African nations.
     How did this outsourcing of defense evolve? In 1969, the US Army had about 1.5 million active duty soldiers. By 1992, the figure had been cut by half. Since the mid-1990s, however, the US has mobilized militarily to intervene in several significant conflicts, and a corporate “foreign legion” has filled the gap between foreign policy imperatives and what a downsized, increasingly over-stretched military can provide.
     Use of high technology equipment feeds the process. Private companies have technical capabilities that the military needs, but doesn’t always possess. Contractors have maintained stealth bombers and Predator unmanned drones used in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some military equipment is specifically designed to be operated and maintained by private companies.
     In Britain, the debate over military privatization has been public, since the activities of the UK company Sandline in Sierra Leone and Papua New Guinea embarrassed the government in the late 1990s. But no country has clear policies to regulate PMCs, and the limited oversight that does exist rarely works. In the US, they have largely escaped notice, except when US contract workers in conflict zones are killed or go way over the line, as in the case of Blackwater.
     According to Guy Copeland, who began developing public-private IT policy in the Reagan years, “The private sector must play an integral role in improving our national cybersecurity.” After all, he has noted, private interests own and operate 85 percent of the nation’s critical IT infrastructure. He should know. After all, Copeland drafted much of the language in the Bush Administration’s 2002 National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace as co-chair of the Information Security Committee of the Information Technology Association of America.
     Nevertheless, when the federal government becomes dependent on unaccountable, private companies like DynCorp and Blackwater (later renamed Xe Services) for so many key security services, as well as for military logistics, management, strategy, expertise and “training,” fundamental elements of US defense have been outsourced. And the details of that relationship are matters that the intelligence community will fight long and hard to keep out of public view.
Corporate Connections and "Soft Landings"
Although the various departments and private contractors within the military-intelligence-industrial complex occasionally have turf battles and don't always share information or coordinate strategy as effectively as they might, close and ongoing contact has long been considered essential. And it has expanded as a result of the information revolution. The entire intelligence community has its own secret Intranet, which pulls together FBI reports, NSA intercepts, analysis from the DIA and CIA, and other deeply covert sources.
     Private firms are connected to this information web through staff, location, shared technology, and assorted contracts. Working primarily for the Pentagon, for example, L-3 Communications, a spinoff from major defense contractor Lockheed Martin, has manufactured hardware like control systems for satellites and flight recorders. MPRI, which was bought by L-3, provided services like its operations in Macedonia. L-3 also built the NSA's Secure Terminal Equipment, which instantly encrypts phone conversations.
     Another private contractor active in the Balkans was Science Applications, staffed by former NSA and CIA personnel, and specializing in police training. When Janice Stromsem, a Justice Department employee, complained that its program gave the CIA unfettered access to recruiting agents in foreign police forces, she was relieved of her duties. Her concern was that the sovereignty of nations receiving aid from the US was being compromised.
     In 1999, faced with personnel cuts, the NSA offered over 4000 employees "soft landing" buy outs to help them secure jobs with defense firms that have major NSA contracts. NSA offered to pay the first year's salary, in hopes the contractor would then pick up the tab. Sometimes the employee didn't even have to move away from Crypto City. Companies taking part in the program included TRW and MPRI's parent company, Lockheed Martin.
     Lockheed was also a winner in the long-term effort to privatize government services. In 2000, it won a $43.8 million contract to run the Defense Civilian Personnel Data System, one of the largest human resources systems in the world. As a result, a major defense contractor took charge of consolidating all Department of Defense personnel systems, covering hiring and firing for about 750,000 civilian employees. This put the contractor at the cutting edge of Defense Department planning, and made it a key gatekeeper at the revolving door between the US military and private interests.
Shortly after his appointment as NSA director in 1999, Michael Hayden went to see the film Enemy of the State, in which Will Smith is pursued by an all-seeing, all hearing NSA and former operative Gene Hackman decries the agency's dangerous power. In Body of Secrets, author Bamford says Hayden found the film entertaining, yet offensive and highly inaccurate. Still, the NSA chief was comforted by "a society that makes its bogeymen secrecy and power. That's really what the movie's about.''
     Unlike Hayden, most people don't know where the fiction ends and NSA reality begins. Supposedly, the agency rarely "spies" on US citizens at home. On the other hand, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows a secret federal court to waive that limitation. The rest of the world doesn't have that protection. Designating thousands of keywords, names, phrases, and phone numbers, NSA computers can pick them out of millions of messages, passing anything of interest on to analysts. One can only speculate about what happens next.
     After 9/11 the plan was to go further with a project code named Tempest. The goal was to capture computer signals such as keystrokes or monitor images through walls or from other buildings, even if the computers weren't linked to a network. One NSA document, "Compromising Emanations Laboratory Test Requirements, Electromagnetics," described procedures for capturing the radiation emitted from a computer-through radio waves and the telephone, serial, network, or power cables attached to it.
     Other NSA programs have included Oasis, designed to reduce audiovisual images into machine-readable text for easier filtering, and Fluent, which expanded Echelon's multilingual capabilities. And let's not forget the government's Carnivore Internet surveillance program, which can collect all communications over any segment of the network being watched.
     Put such elements together, combine them with business imperatives and covert foreign policy objectives, then throw PMCS into the mix, and you get a glimpse of the extent to which information can be translated into raw power and secretly used to shape events. Although most pieces of the puzzle remain obscure, enough is visible to justify suspicion, outrage, and a campaign to pull away the curtain on this Wizard of Oz. But fighting a force that is largely invisible and unaccountable – and able to eavesdrop on the most private exchanges, that is a daunting task, perhaps even more difficult than confronting the mechanisms of corporate globalization that it protects and promotes.

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Will Rouhani bring a tectonic shift to Iran’s political landscape?

Nile Bowie discusses the challenges and controversies of recent Iranian political developments with award-winning journalist Kourosh Ziabari:

NB: Hassan Rouhani, a reform-minded moderate cleric and former nuclear negotiator under President Khatami, will be Iran's new president. There is talk in Washington of direct US-Iran talks in light of Rouhani coming to power. Rouhani campaigned on a platform of trying to “normalize” relations with the West, and he even made statements like, “It is good to have centrifuges running, provided people's lives and livelihoods are also running." Given Rouhani’s stance, did the Iranian public treat these elections as a public referendum on the nuclear issue? And how did Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei interpret the results?
KZTo be honest with you, I should confess that the June 14 presidential elections in Iran was firstly an examination for the current of extremist rightists who believed that the country's affairs could be managed through maintaining hostility and animosity with the Western world, prolonging the nuclear controversy and relying on skimpy business and trade with Russia and China. The candidate of this stream, Mr. Saeed Jalili, simply attracted an insignificant minority of the votes, 11.37%. I'm not saying that succumbing to the irrational demands of the world powers is a solution to Iran's problems, but the political parties and streams supporting Mr. Jalili, who was supposedly Dr. Rouhani's main contender, but came third in the final vote, irresistibly believed that the nuclear standoff with the West was not something significant and crucial for the future of the country. This is while Dr. Rouhani and his massive supporters had astutely come to the conclusion that the nuclear issue was the country's main concern and the Achilles heel that was paralyzing the country's economy, political structure and international stature. 
 As a result, Dr. Rouhani based his campaign slogans on his foreign policy priorities which included the normalization of relations with the West in general, and the United States in particular, interaction with the outside world, improving Iran's ties with its neighboring countries and finally bringing the controversy surrounding Iran's nuclear program to an end. As you precisely mentioned, the recent elections in Iran have been a public referendum on the nuclear issue. Even the most ordinary Iranian citizen had recognized that the staggering inflation, unusual supply of money in the society, the skyrocketing increase in the price of consumer goods, housing and automobiles, the unprecedented devaluation of Iran's currency, Rial, and the annoying unemployment of the educated youth all stemmed from mismanagement in Iran's nuclear program. According to some critics of President Ahmadinejad's foreign policy, if nuclear energy is our inalienable right, which unquestionably is, then cheap and inexpensive foodstuff, medicine and medical services, safe and secure transportation, a renewed aviation fleet, high-speed internet connection, employment, housing, free education and proper income are our inalienable rights, as well. As for the Supreme Leader, he doesn't seem to be dissatisfied with the results, but of course his favorite president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is leaving the office, and after all, Dr. Hassan Rouhani is a reformist, and Ayatollah Khamenei has been traditionally unfriendly with the reform-minded politicians, unlike the late founder of Islamic Revolution Imam Khomeini.
NB: When Rouhani was Iran’s nuclear negotiator, he played a key role in reaching an agreement with France, Britain and Germany that resulted in Iran suspending its uranium enrichment program. Would Rouhani concede to freezing the country’s civilian nuclear program to ease Western pressure, despite Iran being an abiding signatory to the Nuclear non-Proliferation Treaty? What could the response be from the Supreme Leader if Rouhani accepts US measures that are deemed to be wholly unfavorable to Iran?
KZWell, as you may have noted, President Rouhani implied during his first press conference on June 17 that the age of suspending uranium enrichment has passed. He says this because Rouhani is not alone in making decisions about Iran's nuclear program. We have the parliament's (Majlis) influential Foreign Policy and National Security Committee which is consisted of a number of conservative lawmakers mostly opposed to the reformist movements in Iran who boldly and resolutely resist the decisions of the president if they wish, the state TV which is supervised by the representative of the Supreme Leader and has a great impact on the course of political developments in the country, and above all, the Supreme Leader himself, who has the final say on the most of foreign policy issues, particularly the nuclear issue and the possible direct negotiations with the United States. 
 So, suspending the enrichment of uranium which is seen as an unforgivable crime in Iran, cannot be put on agenda. However, everything depends on the craftsmanship of President Rouhani who has demonstrated that as a diplomat, he is able to handle the affairs in such a way that all the disputes can be settled in a short period of time. He may give certain concession to the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, UK and the U.S.) which neither the Supreme Leader nor the parliament hardliners can criticize or deny. For example, he may accept a temporary suspension of uranium enrichment in return for the freezing of the banking and gold sanctions. As the next step, he may put forward the offer that Iran can ship a certain amount of its low-enriched uranium (LED) to France or Russia and receive fuel rods for using in Tehran Research Reactor. 
This step can be reciprocated by the lifting of EU's oil embargo against Iran. Finally, Iran can promise to suspend its 20% enrichment of uranium, and continue enriching uranium to the extent of 3.5%, as it was doing before 2003. This can be a promising and serious sign that Iran is determined to resolve the nuclear standoff. And as a reward, the United States and European Union can lift all the sanctions and move toward the full normalization of relations with Iran and settle the remaining disputes on such cases as human rights, Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the U.S. support for the anti-Iran terrorist cult MKO. In this path, both parties should learn to forget about the past grievances and only contemplate on the future. Such an approach would guarantee Iran's rights under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to have a peaceful nuclear program, and will alleviate the concerns of the international community regarding the peaceful nature of Iran's nuclear activities.
NB: In the run up to the recent elections, Washington cast doubt over the legitimacy of the electoral process in Iran, while many mainstream analysts implied that these elections would somehow be controlled by the Supreme Leader, and that his candidate would surely be the winner. The opposite turned out to be true, with the only reformist being elected with a strong majority. Do you think these elections were portrayed fairly by Western media?
KZThe electoral process in Iran had not been frequently challenged and questioned by the Western powers prior to the 2009 presidential election which was marred with the allegations of vote-rigging. It was surely an irretrievable damage to Iran's public image in the world; however, we should scientifically investigate and figure out whether the reelection of President Ahmadinejad was fraudulent or not. At any rate, this was the only election in the Islamic Republic's history which was labeled with vote-rigging, and I cannot say for sure if the allegations leveled by the West are true. Of course we had several parliamentary and presidential elections in which the reformists came to power; so it's not the case that those who are elected are necessarily the hand-picked choices of the Supreme Leader. 
At least in the 2013 election, it was demonstrated that those who undermine Iran's electoral process have been thinking wrongfully. A reformist president was elected who certainly was not the favorite choice of the Supreme Leader. The portrayal of Iran's presidential elections by the Western mainstream media resembles their general depiction of the Iranian society, their attitude toward the cultural, social and political developments in Iran and their viewpoint toward the Iranian lifestyle. They cannot detach themselves from the cliches which they have been parroting about Iran. This lopsided, impartial and biased portrayal of Iran has caused millions of American and European citizens to think of Iran as a retarded, uncivilized, deserted and miserable country with people who are not familiar with the representations of the modern civilization. Of course they don't allow their audience to know that Iran is a country which had once stood atop the peaks of human civilization, science, literature and "decent" way of living...
NB: What does Rouhani’s victory say about the changing political sentiments in Iran after two terms of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? Where is Iran today after Ahmadinejad more generally – in terms of economic and social conditions? How do you think Iranians will remember Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?
KZ: Well, it's wrong to evaluate the performance of politicians in black and white. Like every other president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has had remarkable contributions to his society, and of course pitfalls and shortcomings which deteriorated the lives of the Iranians across the country. However, I think for the majority of Iranians, especially those who live in the urban areas, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's tenure will be remembered as a period of economic hardships, political tensions and social restrictions as manifested in the closure of newspapers, cultural associations like the House of Cinema and the Association of Iranian Journalists. 
Ahmadinejad, as the second non-cleric president of Iran's history, could have left a memorable legacy for the Iranian people, but by selecting incompetent managers, disallowing the journalists and experts to critique and evaluate his performance, taking up an aggressive and confrontational foreign policy and attending to the issues which were not relevant to him, tarnished his own reputation. But please don't forget that once he was in power, I always supported him and his administration against the spates of attacks being unleashed on him by the Western media, but now that he is leaving office, it's time to talk about the tough 8 years we had with him more transparently. Let's bear this in mind, that criticizing Ahmadinejad is not equivalent to being opposed to the Iranian government or the Islamic system. We all stand by our country and defend it against the ill-wished, ill-mannered enemies, but now, we want a peaceful and constructive interaction with the world instead of enmity and hostility.
NB: Iran’s model of religious democracy is basically unprecedented – it aims to blend modern participatory electoral politics together with a system of governance based upon Islamic ethics, administered by religious officials. Despite hardships and difficulties imposed by Western sanctions since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, it is a political system that continues to claim massive public support. What are Iran’s biggest achievements? Have attitudes both internationally and domestically changed towards Iran after the recent elections in contrast to what happened in 2009?
KZUnquestionably, the Islamic Revolution of 1979 was a turning point in the course of Iran's contemporary history. It brought to an end frequent years of Iranian government's subservience and obedient to the United States. The revolution emerged out of several years of civil protests against the tyrannical government of Mohammad Reza Shah. The Pahlavi dynasty had blatantly denied the Iranian citizens their basic political, social and economic rights. The whole country was kept in a constant state of underdevelopment and backwardness, the equal distribution of wealth was not on the government's agenda and the economic situation of the country was really deplorable. Although the foreign diplomacy of Iran was vivacious thanks to the strong relationships the court had with the White House, people were usually dissatisfied with their living conditions. The government was unable to meet the people's demands and provide them with the facilities they needed for a moderate life. 
Following the revolution, the number of universities, schools, hospitals, roads, sports stadiums, housing units, department stores, cinemas, theaters, public libraries, factories, power plants and other infrastructures needed for the development of the country increased significantly and a new movement began for the renovation of the country's infrastructures. You may not believe, but prior to the 1979 revolution, people in tens of major cities and thousands of villages in Iran didn't have access to electricity, drinking water, fossil fuels and safe roads. It was the revolution that swayed the government officials to think of new solutions for improving the people's livelihoods and enhancing the infrastructures. 
Imam Khomeini, the late founder of Islamic Revolution, was a reform-minded spiritual leader, and this is why certain extremist insiders at the top of the Iran's political echelon are afraid of his thoughts and his approach toward the way of managing the country's affairs. You see that two of the close allies of Imam Khomeini, namely Mirhossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi were unexpectedly put under house arrest after they protested the results of the 2009 presidential elections. Their only crime was that they run against the incumbent President Ahmadinejd, otherwise, I don't see any reason for their unwarranted imprisonment. Albeit it should be added that the United States and its European allies also irreparably betrayed the reform movement by explicitly supporting Mousavi and Karroubi in the 2009 election and calling them opposition leaders, and this gave the hardliners in Iran an excuse to stigmatize them and deprive them of their political rights and somehow exclude them from the political scene. 
So, back to business, I think Imam Khomeini founded a new political system which was supposed to respond to the people's material and worldly needs while helping them realize religious and moral sublimity and remaining committed to the principles of morality and ethics. This system of government revived the lost and forgotten human values which the secular world had consigned to oblivion and even sometimes opposed. This is the main reason for the Western powers' opposition to the Islamic Republic. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran began championing the cause of the oppressed Muslim nations, especially the people of Palestine who had been subject to Israeli occupation for decades. The Islamic Republic was predicated on resisting hypocrisy and double standards; something pervasive and ubiquitous in the Western powers' behavior. These standards cannot be tolerated and even condoned by the Western powers whose major policies are always blended with portions of hypocrisy and duplicity. This is why the Islamic Republic has so many adversaries in the world, even among the Islamic states of the Middle East. Of course the recent election has changed the international and domestic attitudes toward Iran. The new government will surely receive a more popular support from the Iranian people, and it will help the government in the nuclear negotiations to have the upper hand. The election has also signaled Iranian people's craving for moderation and rationality, instead of extremism and radicalism.
NB: Iran has previously extended its hand in efforts to cooperate with the US in specific areas, and Washington failed to honor these efforts. Is there good reason to doubt the sincerity of the US in talks with Iran? Would it give up the ‘regime change’ policy it has maintained from the start of the revolution? 
KZUndisputably, the Iranian government is right if it's dubious toward the United States and its presumed efforts to reach out to Iran. Iran has always expressed willingness to hold talks with the United States on equal footings and based on mutual respect. But the point is that whenever some rational elements in the power structure of the two countries decided to facilitate the talks, the United States killed the chances of a fruitful and beneficial negotiation by imposing sanctions. Look at the recent sanctions bill which the House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed, by a vote of 400 to 20. The new Iranian president, as I'm answering to your questions, has not sworn in yet. But the U.S. lawmakers have imposed a new round of sanctions on Iran. What's the logic and rationale behind this new round of sanctions? How do the U.S. Congressmen justify the new oil embargo while the new Iranian president hasn't ever had the chance to sit on his chair in the presidential palace and issue the first presidential decree, which is the appointment of his ministers? So you see that radicalism and fanaticism have always harmed Iran and the United States. Of course the new round of sanctions, if approved by the Senate and signed into law by the president, will deliver a lethal blow to President Rouhani's call for moderation and interaction with the West. 
It is for sure that certain U.S. administrations, especially the Reagan and Carter administrations, and the George W. Bush's administration, had intentions for implementing the policy of regime change in Iran. Supporting, financing and aiding the terrorist cult Mujahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) which has killed some 40,000 Iranians since the 1979 revolution is one of the signs indicating that the U.S. government, at certain junctures of time, pursued a policy of regime change in Iran. But there are indications that President Obama has changed this policy and that Washington has come to its senses and realized that the age of revolutions in Iran is over.
NB: Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu recently threatened Iran with military action over accusations that Tehran is building nuclear weapons, and called Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.” American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has heavily pushed a bill seeking to impose a de facto ban on Iran's oil exports, a cut off of any trade involving the euro, and moves to target Tehran's shipping and automobile sectors. It would also curtail Washington’s ability to waive sanctions on third countries and their companies that continue to do business with Iran. Would the US take a chance to thaw relations with Iran under Rouhani in spite of Zionist pressure and significant lobbying?
KZWell, if AIPAC successfully convinces the U.S. Congress and government to ratify this bill, I can say for sure that there will never ever be a single speck of chance for a peaceful solution to the controversy over Iran's nuclear program. The Zionists will extinguish all the possible ways of reconciliation between Iran and the United States to the detriment of Washington. It's the United States which will lose a probable ally, and it is  Europe which will be deprived of a lucrative market for free trade and business. By the way; let me clarify something. At this juncture, the Iranian people feel sympathetically toward the American people and their culture and civilization. But by pursuing the Zionist agenda, the Americans will even lose the minimal support they enjoy here in Iran.
NB: Aside from the nuclear and political issues, what are the biggest issues facing the Iranian nation today? What can Rouhani do to create meaningful solutions in line with popular reforms? If his moves are not well received by the Supreme Leader, is it possible that he might stymie any significant shifts toward reform?
KZThere are several challenges ahead of President Rouhani and his team. First of all, he should sweep away the legacy of extremism that has been left in Iran's public sphere. He should bring back morality to the Iranian society. In these 8 years, the conservative media have been relentlessly attacking the reformists and their supporters, calling them seditious, mobsters and criminal. This approach should change and the conservative media should learn that there's a limit to the toleration of their destructive approach. I have always criticized these media for repeatedly insulting the reformist leaders and millions of people supporting them, saying that such media talk of their political opponents as if they are criminal Zionists massacring the defenseless people of Palestine in the Occupied Territories and the Gaza Strip! 
Accordingly, we need to address the concerns of the cultural activists, authors, journalists, musicians, movie-makers and other artists who need greater freedoms, a better environment for creating rich and exalted artworks and participating in political activities without any restrictions. Secondly, the concern Rouhani and his cabinet should address is the nation's economic woes. The country is currently facing an astounding hyperinflation, unprecedented cut in the export of oil and petrochemical products, citizens' decreased purchasing power, etc. And finally, we have the foreign policy challenges. We need to settle our unnecessary disputes with not only the Western powers, but the Arab world, our neighbors and finally the United States. We need to find a viable solution for the nuclear controversy, which will surely solve many of the nations' problems.
NB: Media reports claim that Iran’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Mohammad Javad Zarif, is Rouhani's pick as foreign minister. Zarif is said to be highly respected by those in the United States, and even Vice President Joe Biden told the Washington Post in 2007 that Zarif could “play an important role in helping to resolve our significant differences with Iran peacefully." What kind of changes do you see coming in Iran’s foreign policy? Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to visit Tehran as the first foreign guest of Rouhani. How will Iran’s relationship with Russia, and also China, grow?
KZOf course the appointment of Dr. Zarif as Iran's new foreign minister marks a significant change in Iran's foreign policy. Zarif is a reform-minded, moderate diplomat, like Rouhani himself, and he can certainly make effective contributions to a negotiated solution for Iran's nuclear deadlock. But please note that the change in Iran's foreign policy has already started, even before President Rouhani takes office. Officials from more than 40 countries are slated to attend his inauguration ceremony. Isn't this a major breakthrough for him, while he hasn't yet sworn in as the president? So, it sounds like the world is embracing Dr. Rouhani as a new president who has come to power with a slogan of moderation and constructive interaction with the world. Of course the change which I expect is that we will not be hearing adventurous statements by the foreign ministry officials, we will not find our president being left with an empty hall while addressing the UN General Assembly, we will not find our president being booed in the Columbia University and we will not find our president being called a hawk by those who are the real hawks of our world today. Iran will be hosting dignitaries from all around the world, especially given that it has assumed the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement, but I'm sure that the whole world, including the European nations, will come to reconcile their differences with us.
Kourosh Ziabari is an award-winning Iranian journalist, writer and media correspondent writing for newspapers and journals across the world. For more on work, visit his website: http://kouroshziabari.com/

Nile Bowie is a Malaysia-based political analyst and a columnist with Russia Today. He also contributes to PressTV, Global Research, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at [email protected].

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On 15 August, India will celebrate Independence Day. There will be the usual celebratory flag waving and nationalist sentiments. The mainstream media will wallow in it, and key figures will indulge in the type of self congratulatory back-slapping that is common across the world when celebrating nationhood. But what will people be celebrating? The throwing off of British colonialism, the development of nationhood? Perhaps both of those things, but maybe neither, for what has ‘the nation’ and ‘independence’ come to mean in 2013?

Forget nations, flags or fly pasts. Freedom and self determination should be about ordinary people, ordinary people who farm and produce, who create genuine wealth, things of genuine worth.


Forget about sound bites referring to ‘the world’s biggest democracy’. Placing an X on a ballot paper every four years or so does not constitute democracy. If people are misinformed, misled and manipulated to think and act in a certain way, while backroom deals are carried out without their knowledge, they are but ignorant links in a chain (1,2).


Then there is no freedom, no self-determination. Someone else has appropriated the freedom and has enslaved. Someone else is determining the agenda.


Look no further to see this in action in that self-anointed bastion of ‘freedom and democracy’, the US.


Influence is bought and paid for by millionaire backers who fund politicians when running for office. And just in case that does not work to full effect, there is the infamous ‘revolving door’ that allows top corporate people to move in and out of the high echelons of government with ease in order to ensure the required policies are enacted. And don’t let the media get in the way of any of this. It won’t. Concentration of media ownership and the integration with armaments companies, banking interests and industry guarantees the public remain blissfully ignorant of issues, not least of how ‘democracy’ really works.


It all serves to ensure that the one percent maintain hegemony over the 99, maintain their unimaginable wealth and privileges and maintain the rest of the population in ignorance, in a state of powerlessness, in a state of poverty, relative poverty or vulnerability.


Yell moronically ‘USA!USA!’ when the authorities protect the people from imaginary or manufactured demons, or sign up and go to kill and die under the patriotic banner of ‘god and nation’. Mission accomplished, manipulation assured, control complete.


Class-based interests


Look at the top companies in the West. Never mind that a select number of companies predominate, dig further and you will find four institutions hold major stakes in most of these top companies and in doing so exert control over international finance and monetary policy via the IMF, World Trade Organisation, World Bank and Central European Bank (3). Ultimately, control and wealth is highly concentrated in the hands of certain individuals or families.


In India too, a relative handful of families control much of the economy and society and are all too willing to fall in line with Western elite interests (4,5), whose hegemonic strategy lies in depressing wages, exploiting markets and maximising profit. Their interests do not lie with those of the 800 million who live on less than two dollars a day, the bulk of the people residing in the eight states that contain more poor people than 26 sub-Saharan African countries combined or the almost one in two children who are malnourished or their families; nor do their interests lie with the tens of millions across India who are having their lands stolen, their rights trampled on, their villages destroyed, their homelands occupied by paramilitary forces just because the rich require their land, their acquiescence, their mineral rich mountains, their agriculture.


The system cannot remedy this situation. It thrives on it. It produces it. But, of course, in an attempt to justify imperialism and plunder, the lie is forwarded that globalisation or neo-liberalism exists to lift the poor out of poverty, to liberate the masses from their burden.


The reality is that, in the name of ‘economic development’, what is currently happening in India constitutes the biggest land grab since Columbus and the biggest forced removal of peoples from their lands in history (6,7). Elite interests and supporters of their agenda in the media imply that the victims are unfortunate ‘collateral damage’ on the road to the promised land.


Sure, certain people have prospered in India in recent years. Sure, many now have lifestyles that their parents could only have imagined. But even under slavery, the lives of slaves improved over time. Moreover, notwithstanding the massive human ‘collateral damage’, there is been a terrible price to pay in terms of the damage caused in pursuit of an unsustainable model of development that destroys traditional agriculture, destroys the ecology and strips bare natural resources. This type of ‘development’ is warped and wholly unsustainable, whether within India or on a global level.  


The poverty alleviation rate in India is more or less the same as it was back in 1991 when the US educated, World Bank/IMF trained Indian bureaucrat politicians began to assume power and shift the country towards the neo-liberalism required by their US backers (5).   


India 's education system, healthcare system, infrastructure and welfare system has already been sacrificed via illegal ‘capital outflows’ into foreign bank accounts, which has accelerated since the opening up of the economy in '91. A few have been enriched. At what cost to the rest?


In the West, it’s the same story. The secular theology of neo-liberalism has resulted in what many of us predicted. Tens of millions now bear the brunt of ‘austerity’, as companies rake in record profits and the extremely wealthy increase their wealth again by record amounts (8,9). Call it monopoly capitalism, a ‘new world order’ or some other name. The result is there for all to see: a rich and increasingly internationalised elite and the impoverishment of workers throughout the world.


On Independence Day, or during similar events in other places, we should urge people to think hard before bowing down to the flag, before swelling with pride and saying ‘god save the queen’, ‘the land of the brave’ or ‘mera pyara Bharat’.


Most nation states are run for the benefit of and to protect elite interests. And those interests have no respect for national boundaries or for the people they share the same land mass with. They have no hesitation in sacrificing national economies (10) or the lives of their compatriots en masse in barbaric wars (11) for ever greater power and profit.

Don’t be distracted with bogus notions of freedom, self-determination and patriotism.


The colonial oppressor is still thereand he has the compliance of India’s increasingly wealthy elite.    

Notes 




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College Education in America: “Learning to Be Stupid in the Culture of Cash”

academic

Incisive and provocative analysis first published by Global Research in August 2003.

You might think that reading about a Podunk University’s English teacher’s attempt to connect the dots between the poverty of American education and the gullibility of the American public may be a little trivial, considering we’ve embarked on the first, openly-confessed imperial adventure of senescent capitalism in the US, but bear with me. The question my experiences in the classroom raise is why have these young people been educated to such abysmal depths of ignorance.

“I don’t read,” says a junior without the slightest self-consciousness. She has not the smallest hint that professing a habitual preference for not reading at a university is like bragging in ordinary life that one chooses not to breathe. She is in my “World Literature” class. She has to read novels by African, Latin American, and Asian authors. She is not there by choice: it’s just a “distribution” requirement for graduation, and it’s easier than philosophy -she thinks.

The novel she has trouble reading is Isabel Allende’s “Of Love and Shadows,” set in the post-coup terror of Pinochet’s junta’s Nazi-style regime in Chile, 1973-1989. No one in the class, including the English majors, can write a focused essay of analysis, so I have to teach that. No one in the class knows where Chile is, so I make photocopies of general information from world guide surveys. No one knows what socialism or fascism is, so I spend time writing up digestible definitions. No one knows what Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave” is, and I supply it because it’s impossible to understand the theme of the novel without a basic knowledge of that work – which used to be required reading a few generations ago. And no one in the class has ever heard of 11 September 1973, the CIA-sponsored coup which terminated Chile’s mature democracy. There is complete shock when I supply US de-classified documents proving US collusion with the generals’ coup and the assassination of elected president, Salvador Allende.

Geography, history, philosophy, and political science – all missing from their preparation. I realize that my students are, in fact, the oppressed, as Paulo Freire’s “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed” pointed out, and that they are paying for their own oppression. So, I patiently explain: no, our government has not been the friend of democracy in Chile; yes, our government did fund both the coup and the junta torture-machine; yes, the same goes for most of Latin America. Then, one student asks, “Why?” Well, I say, the CIA and the corporations run roughshod over the world in part because of the ignorance of the people of the United States, which apparently is induced by formal education, reinforced by the media, and cheered by Hollywood. As the more people read, the less they know and the more indoctrinated they become, you get this national enabling stupidity to attain which they go into bottomless pools of debt. If it weren’t tragic, it would be funny.

Meanwhile, this expensive stupidity facilitates US funding of the bloody work of death squads, juntas, and terror regimes abroad. It permits the war we are waging – an unfair, illegal, unjust, illogical, and expensive war, which announces to the world the failure of our intelligence and, by the way, the creeping weakness of our economic system. Every man, woman, and child killed by a bomb, bullet, famine, or polluted water is a murder – and a war crime. And it signals the impotence of American education to produce brains equipped with the bare necessities for democratic survival: analyzing and asking questions.

Let me put it succinctly: I don’t think serious education is possible in America. Anything you touch in the annals of knowledge is a foe of this system of commerce and profit, run amok. The only education that can be permitted is if it acculturates to the status quo, as happens in the expensive schools, or if it produces people to police and enforce the status quo, as in the state school where I teach. Significantly, at my school, which is a third-tier university, servicing working-class, first-generation college graduates who enter lower-echelon jobs in the civil service, education, or middle management, the favored academic concentrations are communications, criminal justice, and social work–basically how to mystify, cage, and control the masses.

This education is a vast waste of the resources and potential of the young. It is boring beyond belief and useless–except to the powers and interests that depend on it. When A Ukranian student, a three-week arrival on these shores, writes the best-organized and most profound essay in English of the class, American education has something to answer for–especially to our youth.

But the detritus and debris that American education has become is both planned and instrumental. It’s why our media succeeds in telling lies. It’s why our secretary of state can quote from a graduate-student paper, claiming confidently that the stolen data came from the highest intelligence sources. It’s why Picasso’s “Guernica” can be covered up during his preposterous “report” to the UN without anyone guessing the political significance of this gesture and the fascist sensibility that it protects.

Cultural fascism manifests itself in an aversion to thought and cultural refinement. “When I hear the word ‘culture,’” Goebbels said, “I reach for my revolver.” One of the infamous and telling reforms the Pinochet regime implemented was educational reform. The basic goal was to end the university’s role as a source of social criticism and political opposition.

The order came to dismantle the departments of philosophy, social and political science, humanities and the arts–areas in which political discussions were likely to occur. The universities were ordered to issue degrees only in business management, computer programming, engineering, medicine and dentistry – vocational training schools, which in reality is what American education has come to resemble, at least at the level of mass education. Our students can graduate without ever touching a foreign language, philosophy, elements of any science, music or art, history, and political science, or economics.

In fact, our students learn to live in an electoral democracy devoid of politics – a feature the dwindling crowds at the voting booths well illustrate.

The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote that, in the rapacity that the industrial revolution created, people first surrendered their minds or the capacity to reason, then their hearts or the capacity to empathize, until all that was left of the original human equipment was the senses or their selfish demands for gratification. At that point, humans entered the stage of market commodities and market consumers–one more thing in the commercial landscape. Without minds or hearts, they are instrumentalized to buy whatever deadens their clamoring and frightened senses–official lies, immoral wars, Barbies, and bankrupt educations.

Meanwhile, in my state, the governor has ordered a 10% cut across the board for all departments in the state – including education.

Luciana Bohne teaches film and literature at Edinboro University in Pennsylvania. Please send your comments/feedback/discussion on this article to [email protected] .

Ecuador: Left-Center Political Regimes versus Radical Social Movements

latinamerica

Introduction

On February 17, 2013, national elections will take place in Ecuador in which incumbent left-center President, Rafael Correa, is likely to win with an absolute majority against opposition candidates covering the political spectrum from Right to Left.  Since he was first elected in 2006, Correa has won a string of elections, including presidential elections (2009), a constitutional referendum, a constituent assembly and a ballot on constitutional amendments.

Correa’s electoral successes occur despite the opposition from the main Indian organizations, CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador) and CONFENIAE, the principle public sector teachers unions, environmental NGOs and numerous radical intellectual, academics and trade union activists.  He also has routed the traditional pro-US right-wing and liberal parties, successfully defeated and prosecuted the subversive intent of the mass media moguls and survived an aborted police-military coup in 2010.  Unquestionably Correa has demonstrated his capacity to win repeated elections and even increase his margin of victory.

The electoral successes of Correa raise fundamental issues which transcend the immediate context of Ecuadorean politics and reflect a general pattern throughout Latin America .  These issues include:

(1) the relation between mass social movements and left of center electoral parties and politicians.

(2) The relation between pro-active extractive capitalist development strategies (mining, oil, agro-business), inclusionary social policies and anti-imperialist regional foreign policies.

(3) The inverse relation between the growth and consolidation of a left-center regime and the decline and weakening of radical social movements.

(4)  The problem of the initial convergence and divergence between radical social movements and left-center political leaders; as they move from ‘opposition’ to political power.

(5) The shifts in power between movements and electoral politicians, with the former exercising greater capacity to mobilize during the period of opposition to the Right and the latter dominating and dictating the political agenda subsequent to securing electoral office.

The Politics of Post Neo-Liberalism

Correa’s “citizen based” electoral movement, operates from positions in government and eschews any ‘class framework’.  In fact in its broadest terms, it appeals to and directs government programs to both the urban poor and the big foreign petroleum multi-nationals; the small and medium size business people and the Guayaquil business elite; workers in the informal sector and the public sector professionals and employees, the returning immigrants from Europe (especially Spain) and the construction, real estate and communication elite.

In foreign policy Correa has supported and has the backing of the Cuban and Venezuelan governments and is a member of ALBA; it has received large scale low interest loans from China (in exchange for oil investment and trade agreements) and retains commercial ties with the US and EU.  Correa has backed greater Latin American integration and signed off on major public-private petrol contracts with US and European oil companies.  He claims to be a socialist but condemns the Marxist FARC and praises the Colombian regimes’ ‘neo-liberalism’; questioned the illegal foreign debt (lowering it by 60%) and at the same time retains the dollar as Ecuador ’s currency and opens indigenous territories to foreign capital exploitation.

In a word Correa’s “post neo-liberal policies” combine ‘nationalist populist’ and neo-liberal policies more than a program for  the 21st century socialism that he proclaims.

Perspectives on President Correa’s Government

The national-populist extractive policies and development strategy of the Correa regime has polarized opinion across the hemisphere and within Ecuador .  On the extreme right Washington and its mass media acolytes view Ecuador as a radical ‘socialist regime’.  They take at face value Correa’s embrace of “21st century socialism”, in large part because of his ties to Venezuela, membership in ALBA, renegotiation of the foreign debt and Ecuador’s giving political asylum (in its British embassy) to Julian Assange, the Wilkileak’s leader.

Echoing Washington’s ‘radical leftist’ label are the traditional and newly minted rightist parties (Sociedad Patriotica)  who have been marginalized by Correa’s electoral successes.  Their critique of Correa’s early nationalist policies, renegotiating the debt and prevailing oil contracts, is now tempered by his recent large scale, long term investment agreement with several foreign multinational petroleum companies.  The Ecuadorean oligarchy while publically condemning Correa are privately busy negotiating public-private procurement agreements especially in communications, infrastructure and banking.

The Indian movement, CONAIE, peasants, the teachers union, the ecology-NGOs and some smaller leftist parties oppose Correa for his “sellout” to the big oil companies, his authoritarian centralized power, the expansion of exploitation in the Amazon region and territorial encroachment and threats to Indian lands, water and health.

In contrast to internal opposition from the social movements, the vast majority of leftist parties and center-leftist regimes in Latin America, led by Cuba and Venezuela, are staunch supporters and allies of the Correa regime based primarily on his anti-imperialist policies, support for regional integration and opposition to US interventionist and destabilization policies in the region.

Internationally Correa has widespread support among progressives in the US and Europe especially for his early policies questioning the legality of the foreign debt, his rhetorical proposal to conserve the Amazon in exchange for cash transfers from the EU/US, his renegotiations of the oil contracts and his anti-imperialist pronouncements.  Most important, Correa has secured long term large scale financial aid from China in exchange for exploitation of its oil resources.

Buttressed by allies in Latin America and Asia, Correa has effectively resisted pressures from the outside from the US .  Internally, Correa has built a formidable bloc of social and political forces which has effectively countered opposition from the oligarchical right as well as from the once powerful radical social movements.  The sustained popular majorities backing Correa from 2006 to the present 2013 are based essentially on several factors – substantial increases in social expenditures benefiting popular constituencies and nationalist policies increasing state revenues. The entire Correa paradigm, however, is based on one singular factor – the high price for oil and the boom in commodity prices which finances his strategy of extractive capital led growth and expenditures for social inclusion.

The Social Bases of Correa’s Popularity

Correa’s electoral victories are directly related to his populist social policies financed by the substantial oil revenues resulting from the high prices and huge increase from the renegotiation of the oil contracts with the multi-nationals – an increase from a 20% to an 85% tax.  Correa increased the health budget from $561 million in 2006 to $774 million in 2012, about 6.8% of the national budget.

Clinics have multiplied, the price of medications has been reduced as a result of a joint venture with the Cuban firm Enfarm, and access to medical care has vastly improved.  Educational spending has increased from 2.5% of GDP in 2006 to 6% in 2013, including a free lunch program for children.  The regime has increased state subsidies for social housing, especially for low income classes as well as returning immigrants. To lower unemployment, Correa has allocated $140 million in micro credits to finance self-employment, a measure especially popular among workers in the “informal sector”.  By effectively reducing the debt to foreign creditors by two-thirds (debt service runs to 2.24% of GDP), Correa has increased the minimum wage and pensions for low income retirees thus expanding the social security system.

Anti-poverty subsidies, payments of $35 monthly (increased to $50 two weeks before the Elections) to poor families and the disabled and low interest loans have allowed Correa to gain influence and divide the opposition movements in the countryside. Business elites especially in Guayaquil and the middle and upper echelon of the public sector especially in the petrol sector, have become important contributors and backers of Correa’s electoral machine.

As a result of State subsidies, contracts and the backing of business and banking sectors and the weakening of the opposition media elites, Correa has built a broad electoral base that transverses the class spectrum.  The entire ‘popular alliance’ is, however, highly dependent on Correa’s pact with extractive multi-nationals.  His electoral success is a result of a strategy based on the revenue from a narrowly based export sector.  And the export sector is highly dependent on the expansion of oil exploitation in the Amazon region which adversely affects the livelihood and health of the indigenous communities, who in turn are highly organized and in a permanent ‘resistance mode”.

The Contradictions of Extractive Capitalism and Populist Politics:  The Threats and Challenges to Social Movements

The oil sector accounts for over 50 percent of Ecuador ’s export earnings and over one-third of all tax revenues.  Production has oscillated around 500,000 barrels a day, with increasing shares sold to China and a decreasing percentage to the US . In February 2013 Ecuador signed contracts for $1.7 billion in investments to boost output in the Amazon fields with Canadian, US, Spanish and Argentine multi-nationals in association with the Ecuadorean state company Petroecuador.

The biggest oil investments in the history of Ecuador promise to increase the levels of oil spills, contamination of Indian communities and intensification of the conflicts between CONAIE and its ecological and movement allies and the Correa regime.  In other words as Correa sustains and consolidates his majoritarian electoral support outside of the Amazon and adjoining regions with increased social expenditures based on rising oil revenues, he will further dispossess and alienate the movements of the interior.

Social inclusion of the urban masses and promotion of an independent foreign policy are based on an alliance with foreign extractive multi-nationals which undermine the habitation and economy of small producers and Indian communities.

The history of petroleum exploitation contamination up to the present day provides little evidence to support President Correa’s claims of environmental safeguards.  Texaco/Chevron oil exploitation in the Amazon contaminated millions of acres, dispossessed scores of Indian communities and sickened thousands of inhabitants resulting in a judiciary award of $8 billion dollars in favor of the 30,000 indigenous people adversely affected.

Recently Correa’s proposed oil contracts with multi-nationals to exploit 13 blocks in the pristine Amazon region covering millions of acres and inhabited by seven Indian nationalities, without consulting the indigenous communities thus contravening his own newly written constitution.  Powerful mobilizations, led by CONAIE and CONFEIAE (the Ecuadorean Confederation of Amazonian Indian Nationalities) on the 28th of November 2012 in Quito and in the regions targeted for exploitation, has caused several oil majors to delay drilling.  In the face of determined Indian resistance, Correa has shown the authoritarian side of his regime:  threatening to dispatch the military to occupy and forcibly impose a kind of ‘martial law’, raising the prospects of prolonged political warfare.

While Correa can and does win national elections and routs his electoral opposition in the big cities, he faces a resolute organized majority in the Amazon and adjoining regions.  Correa’s dilemma is that unless he diversifies the economy and reaches a compromise via consultation with CONAIE, his dependence on new oil ventures drives him toward de facto alliance with the traditional export elites and greater dependence on the military and police.

The Latin American Context

Correa’s bet on an export strategy based on primary goods has created a potentially dynamic mega cycle of growth but it is increasingly dependent on high world prices for oil.  Any significant decline in price would immediately lead to a precipitous fall in social expenditures, erode his social coalition and strengthen the opposition from the right and the radical social movements.  Correa’s repeated electoral successes and his widespread support across the progressive and anti-imperialist political spectrum, has seriously weakened the radical social movements a pattern that has been repeated throughout Latin America .

In the previous decade, roughly the period of the 1990’s to the early years of the 21st century, the radical social movements took center stage in toppling rightwing, US backed neo-liberal regimes.  Ecuador was no exception:  CONAIE and its urban allies ousted the incumbent neo-liberal President Mahuad in January 21, 2000, and joined with Correa in driving the Lucio Gutierrez regime from power in April 2005.  Similar mass struggles and social mobilizations ousted neo-liberals in Argentina and Bolivia , while movement backed center left politicians took power in Uruguay , Brazil , Paraguay and Peru .

Once ensconced in power the center-left regimes adopted a commodity led export strategy, embraced partnerships with the MNC and built broad electoral conditions which marginalized the radical social movements; with the aid of increased revenues they substituted populist transfer payments for structural transformations.

Nationalist foreign policies were combined with alliances with big commodity based MNC.  To the extent that class struggles emerged, the populist leaders condemned them and even accused their leaders of “conspiring with the Right” – thus questioning the legitimacy of their demands and struggles.

The post neo-liberal center-left regimes in Latin America, with their populist politics of ‘inclusion’ have been far more effective in reducing the appeal and influence of the radical mass social movements than the previous US backed repressive neo-liberal regimes.

Those social movements which opted to support and join the center-left regimes (or were co-opted) became transmission belts for extractive policies. Confined to administrating the regime’s anti-poverty programs and defending the extractive capitalist model, the co-opted leaders argued for higher tax revenues and social expenditures, and, occasionally, called for greater environmental controls.  But ultimately the “insider strategy”, adopted by some social leaders, has led to bureaucratic subordination and the loss of any specific class loyalties.

Conclusion

National-populism is and will be challenged from within by its ‘allies’ among the MNC who will increasingly influence their ‘public sector partners’ and, from the ‘outside’, by the pressures from the world market.  In the meantime as long as commodity prices hold and the nationalist-populist leaders continue their ‘inclusive’ social programs, Latin American politics will remain relative stable and the economy will continue to grow, but it will continue to face resistance from the alliance of eco-social  and indigenous movements.

What lessons can be drawn from the past two decades of social movement – populist electoral party alliances?  The message is both clear and ambiguous.  Clearly movements which do not have an independent political perspective will lose out to their electoral allies.  However, there is no question that because of movement action, the populist electoral class has legislated significant social expenditures benefiting the popular classes and pursued a relative independent foreign policy – an ambiguous legacy or unfinished history?

I Was an Atheist Child, and the Girl Scouts Didn’t Want Me

The news this week from Scoutland brings controversy over a proposed end to the ban on gay Americans. But here’s another dirty little secret. The Boy Scouts also officially discriminate against atheists and agnostics. For much of their history, the Girl Scouts did, too, but in 1993, the national organization had the sense to stop this unfair and distinctly un-American practice.

That was too late for me. I was a Brownie in 1978, and wanted to become a Girl Scout. It was not to be.

I had a hard time fitting in as a kid. My Sunday school teacher’s eyes shot daggers at me when, after a lesson on the Virgin Mary, I asked, “Was Joseph a virgin, too?” I just didn’t take to the religion thing. Alongside my Bible, I read Bullfinch’s Mythology, and I much preferred the Greek gods. They fell in love and had adventures and didn’t seem to take themselves so seriously. There was laughter in heaven.  Jesus was sort of okay – I liked some of his sermons. But the Bible seemed filled with harsh desert people (mostly men) morbidly obsessed with death and suffering. What had they to do with me?

When I was eight, I became a Brownie and took much pleasure in my crisp little uniform and close association with mint chocolate cookies. I vaguely recall winding yarn around popsicle sticks and doing things like that to prove my craftiness. Like most Brownies, I yearned to join the green ranks of the Girl Scouts, so I dutifully earned Brownie points in preparation for the big event when I would be pinned by a troop leader and accepted into the upper echelon of girldom.

But something unexpected happened during the Induction Ceremony. The ritual of transition from Brownie to Girl Scout was very sacred and solemn and involved, among other things,  staring into a pool of water. It also required me to pledge an oath to God. (You can check out a video of some little tykes saying it here).

On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country,
To help people at all times,
And to live by the Girl Scout Law.

This pledge didn't sit right with me, for the simple reason that as far as I could tell, God didn’t exist. To pledge an oath to him would be lying. I stood frozen when it was time to swear fealty to a non-existent being. Probably I could have gotten away with just mouthing the words, but a feeling in the pit of my stomach told me that was wrong. I sheepishly mumbled my dilemma to the troop leader and she looked at me with the exasperation adults get when confronting a pint-sized pain in the ass. “Well, that’s what it takes to be a Girl Scout.” Confused, ashamed, and a little defiant, I took off my sash and handed it to her.

That was that. I would never have those illustrious Girl Scout badges for basket weaving and what not proudly streaming across my chest. The green uniform would not be mine. Part of me was a little relieved, because I wasn’t the sportiest of children and joining the Scouts meant proving my fitness for things like orienteering and riflery. I still like the cookies, though.

Compared to the Boy Scouts, today’s Girl Scouts are known as the more progressive example of youth programming. According to The Atlantic, the Boy Scouts of America still “expressly prohibits membership (even as Cub Scouts) of atheists and agnostics.”  The Girl Scouts, on the other hand, are now cool with atheism and have shown a fondness for New Agey tenets. They've even drawn the ire of Catholic bishops. I’ll give them points for that.

Detective Jailed Over Murdoch Tabloid Leak Offer

LONDON (Reuters) - A senior British counter-terrorism police officer was jailed on Friday after becoming the first person to be convicted following a massive police investigation into alleged phone-hacking centred on Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper...

Lack of Criminal Prosecutions Linked to Obama and Holder’s Wall St. Connections

Context: As yet there are no context links for this item.

Bio

Dimitri Lascaris is a partner with the Canadian law firm of Siskinds where he heads the firms securities class actions group. Before joining Siskinds, he practiced securities law in the New York and Paris offices of a major Wall Street law firm. Last year, he was named by Canadian Lawyer Magazine as one of the 25 most influential lawyers in Canada. He is currently prosecuting numerous securities class actions in Canada, including the Sino-Forest class action in which his clients just negotiated the largest auditor settlement in Canadian history – a $117 million settlement with the accounting firm, Ernst & Young.

Transcript

PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I'm Paul Jay in Baltimore. And this is the first edition of what will be regular reports from Dimitri Lascaris, who now joins us from London, Ontario.

Dimitri's a partner with the Canadian law firm Siskinds, where he heads up the firm's securities class action group. He was named by the Canadian Lawyer Magazine as one of the 25 most influential lawyers in Canada. He's currently prosecuting numerous securities class actions, and he's worked for a major Wall Street law firm. He now joins us from London, Ontario.Thanks for joining us again, Dimitri.DIMITRI LASCARIS, SECURITIES CLASS ACTIONS LAWYER, SISKINDS LLP: Good to be back, Paul.JAY: So what's caught your attention this week?LASCARIS: I think those who practice in my area were, I think, transfixed by the departure of Lenny Breuer, who headed the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice in the United States. And his departure followed what many of us regarded as a pretty riveting report by Frontline about the failure of the Department of Justice to prosecute high-ranking officials from Wall Street in connection with the financial crisis. And I think what he had to say in the interview (and he really was the focus of the documentary's attention), whether or not it precipitated his departure, it unquestionably was revealing about what has gone on or not gone on at the Department of Justice over the last four or five years.And essentially what he did, he didn't deny, you know, that there has been a paucity of prosecutions of high-ranking officials on Wall Street. He essentially acknowledged that. His explanation was one that wouldn't have enlightened a first-year law student. He simply kept repeating over and over again that in order to secure a conviction for white-collar crime, one has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the element of every offense.Well, you know, that was true when the Department of Justice successfully prosecuted Jeffrey Skilling, who was the CEO of Enron, in a complex financial fraud. That was true when the Department of Justice successfully prosecuted Bernard Ebbers, who was the CEO of WorldCom, again, in connection with a complex financial fraud. And Mr. Breuer failed—I think, miserably—to explain what has changed since the Department of Justice under, amazingly, George Bush secured convictions of, you know, major figures from the business community in complex financial frauds and has not done so following what is arguably the worst epidemic of financial fraud in the modern era, namely the few years leading up to the financial crisis in 2008, 2009.JAY: Well, the argument that he gave in the film was that, you know, when he did try to justify all this, was that if you prosecuted these people, the CEOs or whatever of some of these big banks, it might cause instability in the financial system, and that these banks are so big, essentially they're too big to prosecute. What do you make of that argument?LASCARIS: I have an even more dim view of that argument than The New York Times, which described it as "a dark day for the rule of law." This was, of course, a view that he defended in connection with the announcement that HSBC, the largest bank in the United Kingdom, had settled a series of very serious allegations for $1.9 billion. That may sound like a lot of money, but considering the severity of what it did or was alleged to have done, which is to facilitate money laundering by drug cartels, to knowingly do business with a bank that was supportive of al-Qaeda—and these are things which the establishment in the United States, you know, basically regards as impardonable offenses. And Mr. Breuer said, well, if we prosecute criminally an organization of this size and stature, it's going to constitute a threat to the financial system. What actually constitutes a threat to the financial system and to the global economy as a whole is the relative impunity with which these increasingly large banks are conducting business. And I think, and many in the practice area believe, that that was basically an invitation to persons who work for these organizations to engage in even more egregious conduct than they have up until now. They've effectively been told by the top-ranking official in the criminal division of the Justice Department that they will not be prosecuted because of the size of the institution. That is very dangerous, and we're all going to pay for it eventually if that approach is not altered dramatically in the near future.JAY: But in spite of the sort of outrage of The New York Times and such, isn't there some truth to what he says, that so much of this banking system is a quote-unquote confidence game (and I mean that in all meanings of the word), and that if you shake that confidence game, you don't know where that might unravel to?LASCARIS: Well, you know, I think you have to look at it as a question of putting up with the lesser of two evils. There's no question that if you shut down an institution like HSBC, which can be done, there are going to be significantly negative consequences in the short term. But one has to ask, if you allow it to act with impunity, and other institutions of that size and stature to act with impunity, will we actually end up worse off than if we simply shut it down? And I think that the financial crisis demonstrates that we would be worse off. Basically, the entire global financial system almost came to a halt. Major financial institutions across the globe were teetering on the brink of collapse—many did—precisely because there was a relative atmosphere of impunity on Wall Street. We're going to end up in the long term paying for this to a far greater extent than if we simply brought the activities of HSBC to an end altogether.JAY: And is not the other part of this problem is that these big financial institutions, one, they have this threat—we're too big; you come after us, your whole financial system's going to get paralyzed again. But isn't there another part to it as well, which is these financial institutions have so much political power, they have so much purchasing power of political representatives, thatthe clout they have makes them an—almost unregulatable (I'm not sure that's a word, but anyway) and unprosecutable, because they just have too much influence? And you can say they should be controlled, but I guess what I'm getting at: is there any reality, realistic possibility of that, unless—that's what I'm getting—within this system as we know it?LASCARIS: Not within the current system. I think that that's precisely the problem. I mean, it's very instructive to look at who Mr. Breuer is and who his boss, Eric Holder, is and how and when they came to occupy the positions that they occupy. Both of them were partners at one of the most prestigious Wall Street and Washington law firms, Covington & Burling, for a number of years. Mr. Breuer in particular was the cochairman of the firm's white-collar defense practice. And I think it's fair to assume that somebody who occupies that position and is paid very handsomely for it, as undoubtedly he was, is not going to be philosophically inclined to vigorously pursue financial fraud wherever he may find it. And he was appointed to the position, as was Eric Holder, at a moment when I think Wall Street was very concerned about potential criminal prosecutions. The public was with good reason completely irate about the bailout of these financial institutions who had engaged in this conduct. I think that the Obama administration having had its campaign largely financed by Wall Street quite deliberately—you know, and I'm speculating to a degree here, but I think this is a very logical inference, given the administration's dependence upon Wall Street for the financing of its own campaign, quite deliberately put in place in these two important positions—attorney general and the head of the Criminal Division—two individuals whose lives had been largely built, professional lives had been largely built by defending the very sorts of people who they were now being called upon to prosecute.And until you separate, you know, campaign finance from big business and from Wall Street, until you separate the regulatory community from the regulated and you shut down the revolving door, then the problem is not going to get solved. And, you know, one of the things that has to be done, in my view, is you simply have to prohibit people who work in the regulatory community from going off and accepting plum positions with the very companies that they were called upon to regulate. If you're going to do that, however, you have to understand that you're going to have to compensate these people better; otherwise, you're not going to attract top talent. And I think this is part of, you know, big business's agenda. They basically try to starve the government of revenue so that it's not able to pay, you know, important civil servants the types of salaries that you need to pay in order to attract the best people, and therefore the civil service ends up being both corrupt and outmatched by the private sector when it comes to law enforcement.So there are really some very fundamental changes that have to take place in terms of campaign finance, in terms of the revolving door between the regulatory community and the private sector before we're going to have any hope of solving these problems. And nobody, you know, in the political upper echelons of politics in the United States or Canada, or Western Europe, for that matter, seem determined to implement any of these reforms.JAY: Well, 'cause they're all getting their campaigns financed the same way the Obama administration has. The congressmen and the members of various parliaments around the world are all getting financed the same way.LASCARIS: Precisely. And the United States is simply an extreme example of a phenomenon that we're witnessing throughout the Western world to an increasing degree.JAY: Alright. Well, thanks very much for joining us, Dimitri.LASCARIS: Thank you, Paul.JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.

End

DISCLAIMER: Please note that transcripts for The Real News Network are typed from a recording of the program. TRNN cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.


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Former senior Ukraine policeman gets life for journalist’s murder

Former General Aleksei Pukach of the Interior Ministry, charged with Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze murder, seen listening to the reading of his sentence at the Pechersky district court, Kiev (RIA Novosti / Grigoriy Vasilenko)

Former General Aleksei Pukach of the Interior Ministry, charged with Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze murder, seen listening to the reading of his sentence at the Pechersky district court, Kiev (RIA Novosti / Grigoriy Vasilenko)

Aleksey Pukach pleaded guilty to killing reporter Georgiy Gongadze in 2000 on the orders of then Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko.

On Tuesday the Pechory district court in the Ukrainian capital Kiev ruled Pukach was guilty of Gongadze’s murder and sentenced the former police general to life in prison.

Gongadze’s case touches upon the highest echelons of power in Ukraine and triggered the events that led to the so called Orange Revolution in 2004.

Soon after the journalist’s beheaded body was found in a forest near Kiev in 2000 an agent of the Ukrainian President’s security service, Nikolay Melnichenko leaked a number of audio recordings claiming that Leonid Kuchma, who was president at that time, asked police commanders “to sort Gongadze out”. The recordings were one of the most powerful tools used by the opposition in the ousting of Kuchma in 2004, dubbed by the media as the Orange Revolution.

The authenticity of the tapes provided by the former presidential bodyguard has been questioned, but eventually the Ukrainian court recognized the recordings as genuine.

Soon after the regime changed former Interior Minister Yuri Kravchenko killed himself leaving a note in which he claimed to be a victim of Kuchma’s political intrigue. However, the investigation into the murder case continued and led to a group of former policemen who became the main suspects. In 2008 three of them were sentenced to lengthy prison terms for taking part in the killing, but the ring leader, former General Aleksey Pukach, remained at large till 2009.

After Pukach was detained he started cooperating with investigators and pleaded guilty to strangling Gongadze on Kravchenko’s orders. During the trial he said that he did not intend to kill the journalist, but did so after Gongadze refused to stop his relentless criticism of the authorities, and after the killing Pukach said he cut off the head to hide the traces of the crime. Pukach also told the court that after the murder he went to the Interior Minister to report the killing.

The ex-general also claimed that he believed that Gongadze was a CIA agent with a mission to prevent Kuchma’s re-election as President.

The ex-general also said he thought the original orders came from Leonid Kuchma and the former head of t Ukrainian parliament Vladimir Litvin, but could not produce any evidence to support these claims. Both Kuchma and Litvin strongly deny their complicity in the murder.

Here Come The Drones, Or The True Reason For The Mali Incursion

Given our recent discussion (here and here) of the rising importance of Africa in the world's power and money echelons, it is not entirely surprising that the NY Times reports that US military command in Africa is actively preparing to establish a drone base in northwest Africa to increase "unarmed surveillance missions on the local affiliate of Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups" that American and other Western officials say pose a growing menace to the region. It would appear Niger will be the most likely place for the base - from which officials envision flying only unarmed surveillance drones though, of course, they have not ruled out conducting missile strikes at some point if the threat worsens. “This is directly related to the Mali mission, but it could also give Africom a more enduring presence for I.S.R.,” one American military official said Sunday, referring to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. Perhaps, actually scratch the "perhaps", what is really happening is the US now has a drone base with which to supervise Chinese expansion in Northweast Africa, anda drone fleet to use defensively and offensively as it sees fit.

From -

And so it would appear we can draw a big red circle over northwest Africa in the map above which is where the US will literally have a bird's eye view of all the resources that China is sequestering, and all the infrastructure that the world's most populous nation is setting up.

Next we need a little dose of the perpetual "Al-Qaeda" bogeyman in Central, Eastern, and finally South Africa and the US will have military control over a continent that China is rapidly doing all it cen to colonize from the ground up.

Via NY Times,

The United States military command in Africa is preparing plans to establish a drone base in northwest Africa to increase unarmed surveillance missions on the local affiliate of Al Qaeda and other Islamist extremist groups that American and other Western officials say pose a growing menace to the region.

For now, officials say they envision flying only unarmed surveillance drones from the base, though they have not ruled out conducting missile strikes at some point if the threat worsens.

If the base is approved, the most likely location for it would be in Niger, a largely desert nation on the eastern border of Mali, where French and Malian troops are now battling Qaeda-backed fighters who control the northern part of that country...

The immediate impetus for a drone base in the region is to provide surveillance assistance to the French-led operation in Mali. “This is directly related to the Mali mission, but it could also give Africom a more enduring presence for I.S.R.,” one American military official said Sunday, referring to intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

A handful of unarmed Predator drones would carry out surveillance missions in the region and fill a desperate need for more detailed information on a range of regional threats, including militants in Mali and the unabated flow of fighters and weapons from Libya. American military commanders and intelligence analysts complain that such information has been sorely lacking.

The United States military has a very limited presence in Africa, with only one permanent base, in Djibouti, more than 3,000 miles from Mali. ...

If approved, the base could ultimately have as many as 300 United States military and contractor personnel, but it would probably begin with far fewer people than that, military officials said.

Some Africa specialists expressed concern that setting up a drone base in Niger or in a neighboring country, even if only to fly surveillance missions, could alienate local people who may associate the distinctive aircraft with deadly attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

Officials from Niger did not respond to e-mails over the weekend about the plan, but its president, Mahamadou Issoufou, has expressed a willingness to establish what he called in a recent interview “a long-term strategic relationship with the U.S.”

...

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who heads the Intelligence Committee, said on the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday that in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death and the turmoil of the Arab Spring, there was “an effort to establish a beachhead for terrorism, a joining together of terrorist organizations.”

...

General Ham said during an interview on his visit to Niger that it had been very difficult for American intelligence agencies to collect consistent, reliable intelligence about what was going on in northern Mali, as well as in other largely ungoverned parts of the sub-Saharan region.

“It’s tough to penetrate,” he said. “It’s tough to get access for platforms that can collect. It’s an extraordinarily tough environment for human intelligence, not just ours but the neighboring countries as well.”

The State Department has been extraordinarily wary of allowing drones to operate in the region, fearful of criticism that the United States is trying to militarize parts of Africa...

American drones regularly conduct surveillance flights over Somalia and occasionally launch airstrikes against people suspected of being members of the Shabab, a militant group linked to Al Qaeda.

...

“Without operating locations on the continent, I.S.R. capabilities would be curtailed, potentially endangering U.S. security,” General Ham said in a statement submitted to the House Armed Services Committee last March. “Given the vast geographic space and diversity in threats, the command requires increased ISR assets to adequately address the security challenges on the continent.”

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The CIA’s Secret Prisons in Poland

A Polish investigation into secret CIA jails is being suppressed because it will embarrass the top echelon of the country’s government, lawyers of two men held illegally in one of the CIA’s ‘black sites’ in Poland tell media.

Reportedly, the results of this investigation could link some of Poland’s most senior politicians with illegal detention and torture, as well as impact negatively on the relationship between Poland and its key ally, the US, according to Reuters.

The news agency’s sources, including lawyers and human rights activists, reveal that the investigation was halted after the original investigators were taken off the case early last year.

The probe began in 2008 with prosecutors from the capital Warsaw, but in early 2012 the prosecutor-general transferred the investigation to the southern city of Krakow.

“The image is of a complete lack of action,” Mikolaj Pietrzak, lawyer for Saudi national Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri who says he was detained in a CIA jail on Polish soil, told Reuters. “The case is obviously, in my opinion, under political control … The most convenient thing politically is for the case to drag on,” Pietrzak added.

Bartlomiej Jankowski, a lawyer for the second alleged ex-detainee, Abu Zubaydah, has confirmed this.

“I am not receiving any information [from prosecutors] about new documents, nor am I informed about any new hearings. This is something that worries me,” Jankowski said.

CIA-run prison was discovered in a small remote village Stare Kiejkuty and was operational from December 2002 to the fall of 2003. It was used to transport suspected Al-Qaeda members outside the US territory to interrogate without having to adhere to US law.

Polish officials say the investigators are still in the midst of collecting evidence and the investigation is taking so long because US officials have not been responding to information requests.

In 2006, then-President George W. Bush revealed the US had CIA detention facilities overseas, but no details came out as to their exact locations.However, human rights groups named Afghanistan, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Thailand as the most likely hosts.

The CIA’s black sites in Europe are rumored to have detained and tortured suspected terrorists, and to hold them in custody before being transported to the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The sites and the prisoners existed in legal limbo, with no oversight from citizens of the host countries. The CIA is believed to have operated with the knowledge and cooperation of the governments of those countries.

Poland is the second country to have opened a criminal investigation into the matter, after Lithuania (though that case has been closed).

Polish investigation is entering its fifth year, scheduled to end this month, but there are reports that the prosecutors may apply for an extension.

‘Investigation implicated senior levels of Polish government’

One of the main problems with the investigation is the fact that it affects top levels of Polish government, argues Polish Senator Jozef Pinior, who has pushed for a full investigation.

” [The government] are in a sandwich between opening this issue up and the pressure from the hard core of the Polish state, the secret service, the prosecutor’s office, who say: ‘Let’s keep this secret’,” Pinior told Reuters.

In response, Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s office stated that the investigators are independent from external influence. “No executive body can influence the prosecutor’s actions,” it said in a statement.

Rumors about Poland hosting a CIA-run prison had circulated for years, though the country’s authorities dismissed them as absurd.However, the UN and the Council of Europe had long claimed they had evidence of the site’s existence.

Also aware of the CIA program was Marek Dukaczewski, who was head of military intelligence when the alleged jail was in operation. He was the only one to acknowledge the CIA prison publicly in 2010.

Two prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah, claimed they were prisoners at this black site. Polish prosecutors have already given the two ‘victim status’.

Among other possible detainees are self-proclaimed 9/11 terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, perpetrator of the 2000 USS Cole bombing Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and Palestinian terror suspect Abu Zubaydah.

Israeli Spy was Central Cog in Nuclear Weapons Proliferation Alliance

israelflag

It is clear that during the middle of December of last year that the Obama White House had settled on former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to be the Secretary of Defense. The U.S. Intelligence Community and defense establishment was told to come up with a strategy to combat the expected strong opposition to the nomination of the critical of Israel Hagel by that nation’s lobby in the United States.

The pro-Hagel circles needed a secret weapon to counteract the Israel supporters who would stress that Hagel was not supportive of the «special relationship» between the United States and Israel. There was no better way to demonstrate that Israel was no special ally of the United States but a longtime hostile intelligence threat to America by declassifying a large part of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Damage Report arising from the intense espionage carried out by one-time U.S. Naval Intelligence spy Jonathan Jay Pollard on behalf of Israel…

The declassification of the long-classified Pollard report was made on December 16, 2012. However, the first substantial media reports on the report began around December 26. The Jewish media, including Yeshiva World, Tablet Magazine, and Jewish Week, contended the report only showed that Pollard disclosed classified information on Arab and Soviet military capabilities, ignoring the fact that Pollard’s disclosures revealed the nature of U.S. intelligence sources and methods in obtaining such information, thereby putting U.S. civilian and military assets in extreme jeopardy.

The one major explosive revelation in the declassified report is Pollard’s involvement in a highly-classified Israeli-South African program to test a nuclear weapon in the South Atlantic/South Indian Ocean region in September 1979.

The Pollard Damage Assessment was prepared by the Director of Central Intelligence’s Foreign Denial and Deception Analysis Committee and issued on October 30, 1987. The report reveals for the first time that Pollard began working as a U.S. naval intelligence watch officer the same month that Israel and South Africa, possibly with the financial support of Taiwan, detonated a nuclear device in the South Atlantic/South Indian Ocean near South Africa’s Prince Edward Islands. The un-redacted damage assessment report also provides details of Pollard’s espionage work for South Africa before or at the same time he was spying for Israel.

Pollard’s espionage for Israel and South Africa provide evidence of his a key role in providing faulty intelligence to higher U.S. intelligence echelons concerning the nuclear test. Pollard’s mission was clear: his Israeli handlers wanted the details of the nuclear test kept secret. If it were proven that Israel was violating South African sanctions, the Symington Amendment would have required the United States to cut off all military and economic assistance to Israel. Even the powerful Jewish Lobby could not get around what was U.S. law.

The report describes Pollard’s work in September 1979 in the Navy Field Operational Intelligence Office (NFOIO) in Suitland, Maryland, outside of Washington, DC. The report states: “He began work as an Intelligence Research Specialist assigned to the Naval Ocean Surveillance Information Center (NOSIC} of the Navy Field Operational Intelligence Office in September 1979.” The report also states that during the same month of the South African-Israeli nuclear test Pollard “admitted that he had attended a clandestine meeting with the South African Defense Attaché.”

In July 1980 Pollard admitted to his superiors that he lied about his contacts with South African intelligence. However, this «admission» was to cover up what Pollard knew about the successful nuclear test the previous year and after Pollard and, presumably other Israeli moles, tainted U.S. intelligence into believing that the double flash normally associated with a nuclear detonation spotted on September 22, 1979 by the bhangmeter photo sensors on U.S. VELA 6911 nuclear detection satellite, orbiting over the South Atlantic at one-third the distance to the moon, was nothing more than a meteor entering the atmosphere or some other natural event.

Pollard failed to highlight several key indicators from his ocean surveillance duties that would have prompted U.S. intelligence assets to turn their attention toward South African extended waters on September 22, 1979. The entire South African Navy was placed on alert for the entire week surrounding September 22 and the Simonstown and Saldanha naval bases were placed under tight security that same week, But Pollard sat on the information and likely deep sixed analysis reports from co-workers on South Atlantic/South Indian Ocean operations during the fateful week.

It is clear that certain intelligence quarters in the U.S. Navy began feeding false intelligence on the double nuclear flash to the CIA. The CIA decided to hire the contractor firm MITRE to analyze recorded acoustic data gathered by the Navy’s Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) and the Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) less than one-hertz acoustic monitoring systems that piggybacked off the Navy’s SOSUS acoustic hydrophone arrays extending from Bermuda, Wales, and Iceland. The tests revealed that there was a 2-4 kiloton nuclear bomb test in the South Atlantic with acoustic intelligence confirming concussive blast low-level harmonics from Navy and Air Force sonar arrays.

An auroral flash normally associated with nuclear blasts was detected by meteorological stations on Norway’s Bouvet Island, France’s île de la Possession in the nearby Crozet Islands, and at the Japanese Showa station in Antarctica. Further intelligence supporting the nuclear blast event was compiled by the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Naval Research Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory including increased radiation found in sheep downwind of the blast site in Western Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria and in ionospheric disturbances detected by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico.

Someone within the ranks of Navy intelligence was preparing incorrect intelligence reports and covering for Israel’s and South Africa’s involvement in a nuclear test. One of those suspected is Pollard, whose job was to monitor naval operations around the world the day the nuclear test was conducted in the South Atlantic.

The report’s description of Pollard’s early association with South Africa, which some authors of the damage report attempted to debunk, at the same time Israel and the apartheid regime were cooperating on nuclear weapons development is as follows:

“The following factors that have come to light about his employment with the Navy indicate that Pollard was unsuited for access to sensitive national security information:

- False claims concerning professional qualifications. Pollard falsely stated on his naval employment application that he had a ‘provisional’ M.A. degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Moreover, in February 1980 during an interview with Task Force 168, the intelligence element charged with HUMINT collection, Pollard falsely claimed to have an M.A. degree, to be proficient in Afrikaans, and to have applied for a commission in the naval reserve. Pollard made another, more farfetched statement to his immediate supervisor in NOSIC: he said he had key South African contacts who could provide him with valuable information, and that he had known South African citizens for many years because his father bad been the CIA Station Chief in South Africa.”

The report also states: “Pollard claimed in a post-arrest debriefing that he had come very close to volunteering to commit espionage while holding a conversation in Hebrew with the Israeli Naval Attaché during a U.S.-Israeli intelligence exchange in 1983. Although it is not clear exactly when Pollard first began to consider espionage, we believe it was at least as early as 1980-81.”

The damage report’s Executive Summary is surprisingly soft on Israel’s use of Pollard as a spy. The summary states that Pollard’s “short but intensive espionage career on behalf of Israel lasted from June 1984 until his arrest on 21 November 1985.” However, other sections of the report state that Pollard considered spying for Israel at least as early as 1980-81. Other parts of the report indicate that Pollard’s espionage for both Israel and South Africa began much earlier and that even as a teen Pollard was a committed Zionist who placed loyalty to Israel above the United States.

Of course, it is this sort of hard intelligence that can be used to show that Israel has long been an adversary of the United States and a dangerous espionage center for anti-U.S. operations. At the time of the South African-Israeli nuclear test, the administration of President Jimmy Carter was actively enforcing military sanctions against South Africa imposed by UN Security Council resolution 418 of 1977.

Two years before Pollard was arrested by the FBI after trying to seek political asylum in the Israeli embassy in Washington, the FBI arrested in New York South African Navy Commodore Dieter Gerhardt and his East German spy wife, Ruth, based on a tip from a Soviet defector code named «Farewell.» Gerhardt was the commander of the South African Navy’s Simonstown naval base and had access to signals intelligence intercepts from South Africa’s secret Silvermine listening post near Cape Town. South Africa and the U.S.U.K. signals intelligence alliance shared some intelligence at a low level during this time frame.

Gerhardt’s role as a possible liaison to Pollard and Israeli intelligence in the United States becomes apparent when Gerhardt’s own admission: that he was an important liaison in South African – Israeli military cooperation. Gerhardt later revealed that he was aware of the South African-Israeli nuclear test in the South Atlantic, which he said was code named Operation Phoenix. Gerhardt’s later admission also revealed that the nuclear test was a «clean» blast, an indication that South Africa and Israel had tested a neutron bomb. Israel’s possession of neutron bombs is one of the Jewish state’s most closely-guarded secrets. The Israeli Lobby’s unofficial conspiracy debunking journal, Popular Mechanics, which ruled out any official U.S. or Israeli government involvement in the 9/11 attack, stated that there was no nuclear explosion and that Gerhardt lacked credibility. The Pollard Damage Report and other revelations have substantiated Gerhardt’s claims. Pollard also was dealing with both the South Africans and Soviets. Moreover, it was later determined that Israel later swapped some of Pollard’s classified information with the Soviets in return for an increase in exit visas for Soviet Jews to Israel.

After Gerhardt was sentenced to life imprisonment in South Africa, and Gerhardt’s wife received a ten year sentence, South African President P. W. Botha offered amnesty to some prisoners in 1988, including Nelson Mandela. Ruth Gerhardt applied for the amnesty. The request was turned down by none other than Justice Richard Goldstone, the self-proclaimed Zionist who has run hot and cold on Israeli atrocities in Gaza. Goldstone in 1988 was obviously acting under orders from Israel to keep Ruth Gerhardt under lock and key. In 1985, Israeli nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu began passing secrets on Israel’s nuclear weapons program to the media, including the fact that South African uclear scientists were frequent guests at the top secret Israeli nuclear facility at Dimona in the Negev Desert.

In 1986, Vanunu was forcibly kidnapped by Israeli agents in Rome after he was lured into a Mossad «honey trap» and imprisoned in Israel. Efforts by some in U.S. intelligence to trade Vanunu for Pollard were met with stony silence from Israeli officials. In 1988, Israel was trying to get Pollard released from the life prison sentence handed down in 1987 and Goldstone was under pressure to ensure that the Gerhardts remained silent, especially after Vanunu’s embarrassing disclosures about Israeli nuclear weapons and South Africa. Ruth was released in 1990 and her husband was released in 1992. In 1999, Gerhardt received amnesty and his rank of Rear Admiral was restored. Vanunu was eventually released but his «freedom» has largely consisted of virtual house arrest in Israel.

Later, Deputy South African Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad and former CIA Pretoria station officer Tyler Drumheller confirmed that Israel and South Africa jointly tested the South Atlantic nuclear weapon.

The Pollard deception continues to haunt the world today. One of the key players in the Israel-South African nuclear weapons research was Israeli arms smuggler Shaul Eisenberg, the head of the Israel Corporation and a provider of military hardware to China, North Korea, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Eisenberg, whose Wikipedia entry has been re-written by Israeli propagandists, controlled Israel Aircraft Industries and Zim Israel Navigation Shipping Company. Eisenberg was able to provide needed nuclear weapons components from Operation Phoenix to China and two of its major allies, North Korea and Pakistan.

It is with this knowledge of Israel’s destructive actions against America that Hagel and his supporters prepare to do battle with the nefarious Israel Lobby during the expected heated Senate confirmation hearings.

CIA’s secret prison: ‘Poland dragging out investigation’

AFP Photo/Anne-Christine Poujoulat

AFP Photo/Anne-Christine Poujoulat

A Polish investigation into secret CIA jails is being suppressed because it will embarrass the top echelon of the country’s government, lawyers of two men held illegally in one of the CIA’s ‘black sites’ in Poland tell media.

Reportedly, the results of this investigation could link some of Poland’s most senior politicians with illegal detention and torture, as well as impact negatively on the relationship between Poland and its key ally, the US, according to Reuters.

The news agency’s sources, including lawyers and human rights activists, reveal that the investigation was halted after the original investigators were taken off the case early last year.

The probe began in 2008 with prosecutors from the capital Warsaw, but in early 2012 the prosecutor-general transferred the investigation to the southern city of Krakow.

"The image is of a complete lack of action," Mikolaj Pietrzak, lawyer for Saudi national Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri who says he was detained in a CIA jail on Polish soil, told Reuters. "The case is obviously, in my opinion, under political control … The most convenient thing politically is for the case to drag on," Pietrzak added.

Bartlomiej Jankowski, a lawyer for the second alleged ex-detainee, Abu Zubaydah, has confirmed this.

"I am not receiving any information [from prosecutors] about new documents, nor am I informed about any new hearings. This is something that worries me," Jankowski said.

CIA-run prison was discovered in a small remote village Stare Kiejkuty and was operational from December 2002 to the fall of 2003. It was used to transport suspected Al-Qaeda members outside the US territory to interrogate without having to adhere to US law.

Polish officials say the investigators are still in the midst of collecting evidence and the investigation is taking so long because US officials have not been responding to information requests.

In 2006, then-President George W. Bush revealed the US had CIA detention facilities overseas, but no details came out as to their exact locations.However, human rights groups named Afghanistan, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Thailand as the most likely hosts.

The CIA’s black sites in Europe are rumored to have detained and tortured suspected terrorists, and to hold them in custody before being transported to the prison at Guantanamo Bay. The sites and the prisoners existed in legal limbo, with no oversight from citizens of the host countries. The CIA is believed to have operated with the knowledge and cooperation of the governments of those countries.

Poland is the second country to have opened a criminal investigation into the matter, after Lithuania (though that case has been closed).

Polish investigation is entering its fifth year, scheduled to end this month, but there are reports that the prosecutors may apply for an extension.

‘Investigation implicated senior levels of Polish government’

One of the main problems with the investigation is the fact that it affects top levels of Polish government, argues Polish Senator Jozef Pinior, who has pushed for a full investigation.

" [The government] are in a sandwich between opening this issue up and the pressure from the hard core of the Polish state, the secret service, the prosecutor's office, who say: 'Let's keep this secret'," Pinior told Reuters.

In response, Prime Minister Donald Tusk's office stated that the investigators are independent from external influence. "No executive body can influence the prosecutor's actions," it said in a statement.

Rumors about Poland hosting a CIA-run prison had circulated for years, though the country's authorities dismissed them as absurd.However, the UN and the Council of Europe had long claimed they had evidence of the site’s existence.

Also aware of the CIA program was Marek Dukaczewski, who was head of military intelligence when the alleged jail was in operation. He was the only one to acknowledge the CIA prison publicly in 2010.

Two prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah, claimed they were prisoners at this black site. Polish prosecutors have already given the two ‘victim status’.

Among other possible detainees are self-proclaimed 9/11 terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, perpetrator of the 2000 USS Cole bombing Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, and Palestinian terror suspect Abu Zubaydah.

Kim Dotcom wants to encrypt half of the Internet to end government surveillance (FULL...

In an in-depth interview, Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom discusses the investigation against his now-defunct file-storage site, his possible extradition to the US, the future of Internet freedoms and his latest project Mega with RT’s Andrew Blake.

Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (C) launches his new file sharing site "Mega", surrounded by dancers, in Auckland January 20, 2013. (Reuters/Nigel Marple)
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (C) launches his new file sharing site "Mega", surrounded by dancers, in Auckland January 20, 2013. (Reuters/Nigel Marple)

The United States government says that Dotcom, a German millionaire formerly known as Kim Schmitz, masterminded a vast criminal conspiracy by operating the file-storage site Megaupload. Dotcom, on the other hand, begs to differ. One year after the high-profile raid of his home and the shut-down and seizure of one of the most popular sites on the Web, Dotcom hosted a launch party for his latest endeavor, simply called Mega. On the anniversary of the end of Megaupload, Dotcom discusses the year since his arrest and what the future holds in regards to both his court case and the Internet alike. Speaking with RT’s Andrew Blake from his Coatesville, New Zealand mansion, Dotcom weighs in on the US justice system, the death of Aaron Swartz, the growing surveillance state, his own cooperation with the feds and much more.

Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (2nd R) poseswith actors dessed as police after the launch of his new website at a press conference held inside his home in Auckland on January 20, 2013. (AFP Photo/Michael Bradley)
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (2nd R) poseswith actors dessed as police after the launch of his new website at a press conference held inside his home in Auckland on January 20, 2013. (AFP Photo/Michael Bradley)

'­Hollywood is a very important contributor to Obama'

RT: You’ve blamed President Obama and the Obama administration for colluding with movie companies in order to orchestrate this giant arrest here in New Zealand. Is this kind of give-and-take relationship between Washington and Hollywood all that you say it is? Or are you just the exception? Does this really exist?

Kim Dotcom: You have to look at the players behind this case, okay? The driving force, of course, is Chris Dodd, the chairman of the MPAA [Motion Picture Association of America]. And he was senator for a long time and he is — according to [US Vice President] Joe Biden — Joe Biden’s best friend. And the state attorney that is in charge of this case has been Joe Biden’s personal counsel, Neil MacBride, and [he] also worked as an anti-piracy manager for the BSA, the Business Software Association, which is basically like the MPAA but for software companies.

And also, the timing is very interesting, you know? Election time. The fundraisers in Hollywood set for February, March [and] April. There had to have some sort of Plan B, an alternative for SOPA [the Stop Online Piracy Act], because the president certainly was aware — and his team at the White House was aware — that if they don’t have anything to give at those fundraisers, to those guys in Hollywood who are eager to have more control over the Internet, they wouldn’t have probably raised too much. And Hollywood is a very important contributor to Obama’s campaign. Not just with money, but also with media support. They control a lot of media: celebrity endorsements and all that.

So I’m sure the election plays an important role. The relationships of the people that are in charge of this case play an important role and, of course, we have facts that we want to present at our extradition hearing that will show some more detail about this and that this is not just some conspiracy theory but that this actually happened.

Local Maori arrive as Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (unseen) launches his new file sharing site "Mega" in Auckland January 20, 2013. (Reuters/Nigel Marple)
Local Maori arrive as Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (unseen) launches his new file sharing site "Mega" in Auckland January 20, 2013. (Reuters/Nigel Marple)

'Operation Takedown'

RT: The US Justice Department wants to extradite you, a German citizen living in New Zealand operating a business in Hong Kong. They want to extradite you to the US. Is that even possible?

KD: That is a very interesting question because the extradition law, the extradition treaty in New Zealand, doesn’t really allow extradition for copyright. So what they did, they threw some extra charges on top and one of them is racketeering, where they basically say we are a mafia organization and we set up our Internet business to basically be an organized crime network that was set up and structured the way it was just to do criminal copyright infringement. And anyone who has every used Megaupload and has any idea about how that website worked knows immediately that it was total nonsense. But they needed to chop that on in order to have even a chance for extradition. But in our opinion, you see, all of that was secondary. The primary goal was to take down Megaupload and destroy it completely. That was their mission and that’s why the whole thing in Hong Kong, for example, they called it Operation Takedown. And I think everything that’s happening now, they are trying on the fly to doctor it around, and found a way to find a case. They probably came here and thought, “We will find something; that these guys have done something wrong.” In the indictment, if you actually read that, it’s more like a press release. There’s nothing in there that has any merits.

Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom speaks during the launch of his new website at a press conference at his mansion in Auckland on January 20, 2013. (AFP Photo/Michael Bradley)
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom speaks during the launch of his new website at a press conference at his mansion in Auckland on January 20, 2013. (AFP Photo/Michael Bradley)

RT: When the raid happened one year ago today, it got a lot of people talking both about the Internet and about this character, Kim Dotcom. But it was a lot of talking and not so much action, because here it is one year later and this case is still happening. Back up earlier this month, and we saw Aaron Swartz — an online information activist — pass away, and only in his mid-20s. And it got a lot of people talking, so much so that members of Congress have actually asked for changes to federal computer laws so that this doesn’t happen again. What is it actually going to take to get people to stop just talking and to actually start acting?

KD: Our case is going to be the one that will have much more attention down the road because it is a crucial case for Internet freedom. And I think more and more people realize that and the government is quite exposed here because they really went in with completely prosecutorial abuse and overreach and ignoring due process, ignoring our rights, spying on us, illegal search warrants, illegal restraining orders, illegal spying. The whole picture, when you look at it, shows that this was an urgent mission, done on a rush. “Take them down, I want them to go.” And it was a political decision to do that. And the execution was extremely poor, and the case is extremely poor, because that is something they thought that they could worry about later. It was all about the takedown. “Let’s send a strong message to Hollywood that we are on their side.”

RT:And now it’s been a year and nothing has progressed. At least for them. It seems like the case is falling apart day by day.

KD: Let me give you one example of how crazy this is. We have a judge here who said, “Please show us your evidence about your racketeering allegations. Show us that these guys were setting up some sort of organized crime network,” because that’s what the extradition will focus on primarily. They are using the organized crime treaty to get us extradited. So the US appealed that and said, “We don’t want to show you what we have.” And then they appealed to the high court and the high court then said, “We want to see it.” And they just keep appealing it, all the way to the court of appeals and to the Supreme Court. And what does that tell you? If you don’t even want to show us your cards — show us what you have! If you have such a strong case and are seriously interested about getting someone extradited, why waste all this time? Just show your hand. And they don’t have anything because we haven’t done anything wrong. We were law abiding. We were a good corporate citizen. And they knew that the time they came here to do this. They just wanted to take us down.

Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (C) launches his new file sharing site "Mega", with dancers, in Auckland January 20, 2013. (Reuters/Nigel Marple)
Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (C) launches his new file sharing site "Mega", with dancers, in Auckland January 20, 2013. (Reuters/Nigel Marple)

'I want to reestablish a balance between a person and the state'

RT :The new program, Mega, is fully encrypted, and you’re touting it as an encrypted program so that people will want to use it. Do you think this is even necessary, right now, that people need encryption on the Internet?

KD: I think it’s important for the Internet that there is more encryption. Because what I have learned since I got dragged into this case is a lot about privacy abuses, about the government spying on people. You know, the US government invests a lot of money in spy clouds: massive data centers with hundreds of thousands of hard drives storing data. And what they are storing is basically any communication that traverses through US networks. And what that means they are not spying on individuals based on a warrant anymore. They just spy on everybody, permanently, all the time. And what that means for you and for anybody is that if you are ever a target of any kind of investigation, or someone has a political agenda against you, or a prosecutor doesn’t like you, or the police wants to interpret something in a way to get you in trouble — they can use all that data, go through it with a comb and find things even though we think we have nothing to hide and have done nothing wrong. They will find something that they can nail you with and that’s why it’s wrong to have these kinds of privacy abuses, and I decided to create a solution that overtime will encrypt more and more of the internet. So we start with files, we will then move to emails, and then move to Voice-Over-IP communication. And our API [Application Programming Interface] is available to any third-party developer to also create their own tools. And my goal is, within the next five years, I want to encrypt half of the Internet. Just reestablish a balance between a person — an individual — and the state. Because right now, we are living very close to this vision of George Orwell and I think it’s not the right way. It’s the wrong path that the government is on, thinking that they can spy on everybody.

Actors in police costume mock-arrest Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (C), as he launches his new file sharing site "Mega" in Auckland January 20, 2013. (Reuters/Nigel Marple)
Actors in police costume mock-arrest Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (C), as he launches his new file sharing site "Mega" in Auckland January 20, 2013. (Reuters/Nigel Marple)

RT: Long before Megaupload was ever taken down, the Justice Department was looking into Ninja Video and you actually cooperated with them. People want to know: how is Kim Dotcom, this guy who is incredibly against Washington and hates everything that they’ve done to him, how is this same guy also helping out the Justice Department?

KD: Let me explain to you how this worked, okay? I was a good corporate citizen. My company was abiding to the laws. If we get a search warrant or we get a request by the government to assist in an investigation, we will comply and we have always complied. And that is the right thing to do, because if someone uploads child pornography or someone uploads terrorist stuff or anything that is a serious crime, of course we are there to help. This is our obligation. And I am not for copyright infringement. People need to understand that. I’m against copyright infringement. But I’m also against copyright extremism. And I’m against a business model: the one from Hollywood that encourages piracy. Megaupload is not responsible for the piracy problem, you see? It’s the Hollywood studios that release a movie in the US, and then six months later in other parts of the world. And everyone knows that the movie is out there and fans of a particular actress want to have it right now, but they are not giving them any opportunity to get access to that content even though they are willing to pay. And they are looking for alternatives on the Internet, and then they find them. They are trying to make me responsible for their lack of ability to adapt to a new reality, which is the Internet, where everything happens now. It doesn’t happen three months later. Imagine you go to Wikipedia. You want to find something, research an article, and they tell you to come back in three months, ‘We’ll give it to you then.’ If you find another site where you can get it right now, that’s where you go, right? So it’s really their business model that is responsible for this issue. And if they don’t adopt, they will be left behind on this side of the road of history like many others who haven’t adopted in the past.

Photo by Andrew Blake
Photo by Andrew Blake

'I’m not Aaron Swartz. Aaron Swartz is my hero. He was selfless'

RT: What about your skeptics who point out this big playboy lifestyle and this giant, elaborate house and say ‘He’s not worried about Internet freedoms, he’s just worried about protecting his profits’?

KD: Let me be clear: I am a businessman, okay? I started Megaupload as a business to make money. I wanted to list the company. I am an entrepreneur, alright? I’m not Aaron Swartz. Aaron Swartz is my hero. He was selfless. He is completely the opposite of me, but I’m a businessman. I’m driven by the success of achieving something in the business world. That’s not a crime. There is nothing wrong with that. And if you create something that is popular and that people want to use, you automatically make money. And I’ve always been an innovator. I’ve always created products that people like. And that’s why I’m successful. I’m not successful because people have used Megaupload for copyright infringement. And what everyone needs to understand [is] there have been massive amounts of legitimate users on Megaupload. We don’t believe that 50 million users a day are all just transferring piracy. That’s wrong. A lot of people have used it to back up their data, to send a file quickly to a friend. Young artists have used it to get traction, to get downloads, to get known. There was a lot of legitimate use on Megaupload. It’s a dual-use technology, just like the Internet. You can go to any ISP right now, anyone who connects customers to the Internet. And if they are honest to you and you ask them the question ‘How much of your traffic is peer-to-peer piracy?’ anyone who will tell you less than 50 percent is lying to your face. This is a problem of the Internet and not Megaupload.

RT: If you weren’t doing Mega, or Megaupload, what would you be doing? Here’s this businessman who strives to accomplish success. What would you be doing?

KD: I would probably build spaceships and we would probably already be on Mars.

Photo by Andrew Blake
Photo by Andrew Blake

RT: What happens next, though? What are the chances of Mega being shut down. We already saw that radio stations were pulling ads.

KD: The content industry is still very emotional about us.We bought radio ads with one of the major networks here for eight radio stations. Very funny, very cool ads, promoting our service as a privacy service. And the labels called up the radio station, and one advertiser who is in the movie business called up the radio station, and demanded those adds to be taken down or else they will not buy ads from them anymore. And they were forced because they rely, of course, on that advertisement. My campaign was comparably small to the amount that they are sending. So they used their power to interfere in our right to have a media campaign, an ad campaign. And that just shows you that attitude. It’s against the law. They can’t do that. That’s interfering in our business and they have done that many times in the past. Calling payment processors, calling advertisers, telling them, ‘I don’t want you to work with these guys.’ That’s just wrong. If you have an issue with us, go hire a lawyer, sue us, take us to court and then see if you have anything that will give you a judgment against us. But instead, they use that power and their money to get new laws made for them, to lobby politicians, to get the White House to come here and destroy our lives. Destroy 220 jobs. Hardworking innocent people and they don’t give a damn about that. They had an agenda that is about more control over the Internet. And they made a strategic decision to say ‘Who are we going to take out to send a strong message?’ And I was the one.

Photo by Andrew Blake
Photo by Andrew Blake

"If they come to attack us, it’s just going to backfire"

RT: But what happens if Mega is shut down? You are only on day one right now. How long is it going to take before the government steps up again and what are you going to do if that happens? Are you prepared to just start all over again? It’s been one year and here you are, doing this over again, what happens when Uncle Sam puts his foot down and grinds you into the dirt again? Do you get back up?

KD: Here is the thing. This startup is probably the most scrutinized when it comes to legal advice. Every single aspect of it has been under the looking glass by our legal team. So we are confident that it’s fully compliant with the law, and if they come to attack us it’s just going to backfire. Exactly like the Megaupload case did. The shutdown of our site backfired already, massively. And it’s just going to get worse for them. If they think they can pursue this and get away with this, they are dead wrong. Because the society is not on their side. Everyone who uses the Internet knows what’s going on here. They don’t like what’s going on here. They saw it with SOPA and you will see it with our case. People will come together and fight this kind of aggression against innovation and Internet freedom.

Photo by Andrew Blake
Photo by Andrew Blake

"We are all the little puppets that they think they can kick around"

RT: After Megaupload was shut down by the FBI last year, hacktivist with the movement Anonymous retaliated, so to speak. In response, they went and took down the websites for the FBI, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Department of Justice, the Recording Industry Association of America. All of these organizations were shut down by Anonymous in response to what they did to you. These were people who you never met but were so moved by what happened that they had to stand up and do something. Did you ever thank them, and how did you take it? How did you respond to their reaction?

KD: It’s a kind of virtual protest, you know? I think it’s not a good idea to shut down websites. I’ve been a hacker myself. I understand why they are doing it and how they are doing it, but I think there are better ways to protest. Where you organize yourself in a group and do petitions and actually email congressmen, email your local politicians, let them know about what you don’t like. Organize your movement rather than attacking. I had a sense of understanding for them because everyone had stored so much data on Megaupload, and then all of a sudden a site like that disappears and billions of files are taken offline, the majority of them perfectly legitimate. You need to understand one thing: 50 percent of all files that were ever uploaded to Megaupload have not even been downloaded once. That clearly shows the non-infringing use. People just wanted to store their stuff on our site. And of course they were outraged when that disappeared and the government said, ‘We don’t give a care and we don’t give a damn about you people. We don’t care that you have your personal documents there because we have our agenda and we are going to take over the Internet.’ And you know the White House was supporting SOPA, and only when the masses came together — and Aaron Swartz: he stopped SOPA. With his efforts, he stopped SOPA. And he became a target. A political target, okay? And that’s why all these things happened to him. There is no reasonable cause behind going after a young genius like that in the fashion they did. It’s political. Because the White House wanted SOPA. They promised it to Hollywood and they failed and they couldn’t go ahead because the White House was afraid if they keep pushing hard and they keep pushing it forward, that the people who oppose it are not going to vote for Obama in the reelection campaign. So it’s all a game to them really and we are all the little puppets that they think they can kick around. So we need to organize. There needs to be a movement that identifies these things and fights that. Not with shutting down websites but with real protests. Going out on the streets, writing to politicians and especially, most importantly, don’t vote for the guys that are against Internet freedom. Anyone who voted for SOPA, you should have a close look at that guy. Do I want to give him my vote next time around? Because that’s the only language politicians understand is your vote. And if you can bring all these votes together, somehow pooled for Internet freedom, you will see all these efforts disappear. Because at the end of the day, they represent the public. Politicians represent the public. And when they have enough pressure they can’t move forward. And SOPA was the best example for that.

Government Linked To Satanic Paedophile Rings?

Since the revelations of Jimmy Savile’s prolific sex offending came to light last year there has been a palpable effort on the part of the government and much of the media (most notably the BBC, where Savile worked – and abused children – for decades) to brush the issue under the carpet.

Saudi king appoints Nayef governor

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah has appointed the head of the Crown Prince Court, Saud bin Nayef, the governor of the oil-producing Eastern Province.

“Prince Mohamad bin Fahad bin Abdulaziz is relieved of his duties as the governor of Eastern Province, upon his request, and Prince Saud bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz… is appointed governor of the province,” a statement by the Saudi Royal court said on Monday.

Since February 2011, protesters have held demonstrations on an almost regular basis in Saudi Arabia, mainly in the Qatif region and the town of Awamiyah in Eastern Province, primarily calling for the release of all political prisoners, freedom of expression and assembly, as well as an end to widespread discrimination.

However, the demonstrations turned into protests against the repressive Al Saud regime, especially after November 2011, when Saudi security forces killed five protesters and injured many others in the province.

Reports say nearly a dozen people were killed in the province in 2012.

Prince Mohamad bin Fahad was relieved of his post following demands by protesters for his removal.

The newly appointed Prince Saud is the elder brother of Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. After serving as the Saudi ambassador to Spain, Prince Saud was recalled to Riyadh to serve at the court of his late father, Crown Prince Nayef, who was also interior minister.


Activists say they believe the new appointment will not have a serious impact on the policies in Eastern Province.

“It is a significant change. But to my knowledge in the upper echelons of the state, the view of Qatif is very much influenced by security issues,” said Tawfiq Al Seif, a community leader in Saudi Arabia.

PG/HSN

Why the Housing Recovery is Nearly Homeowner-Less

An Inequitable Housing Recovery

Darwin Bond-Graham

 The financial crisis of 2008 was terrible for homeowners saddled with heavy mortgage payments, especially the millions of low-income, first-time buyers who were tempted to buy in with deceptive loans during the height of the housing bubble. About 4 million foreclosures have been completed since the financial crisis of 2008, according to CoreLogic, a data provider to the real estate industry. Since 2006, when subprime loans first began to default in large numbers, there have been 9.4 million foreclosures initiated, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (US Fed). To a select group of hedge fund and investment bankers the financial crisis that pivoted on these foreclosures was the opportunity of a lifetime. They made billions from the crash by wagering against the stability of the US housing market.

Now some of the same elite investors are tacking backward and betting on a recovery of the housing market. It's a strange recovery though, propelled not so much by families seeking their own piece of the American dream, but instead by the US Fed's monetary policies. Low-interest rates fostered by the Fed are causing big-money investors to purchase foreclosed single-family homes in blocks of hundreds, even thousands. Expected gains in home prices are also leading hedge funds and investment bank traders to gamble on housing derivatives.

Like the so-called jobless recovery, characterized by rising business earnings in the midst of high unemployment, the nascent housing recovery is not propelled by a rise in homeownership rates, employment and incomes. Instead, foreclosure rates remain high, as does do unemployment figures, and there's a big backlog of bank-owned properties that have yet to hit the market. Meanwhile, many former homeowners have been relegated to the status of renters. If home prices are truly embarked on a sustained rise, the big gains in any new equity created will likely accrue to a smaller number of owners, many of them corporate investor-landlords, and to a few elite financial speculators positioned to make complex derivatives bets on housing bonds. That's how it's playing out so far.

2007's "Big Short"

To understand the current dynamics in the housing market, it helps to go back in time just before the crash. The collapse of the US housing market was the catalyst of the global financial crisis of 2008, and the root source of the last five years of economic stagnation. It was skyrocketing real estate prices that facilitated the inflation of the largest debt bubble in history, allowing Americans to take out unsustainable consumer loans so long as the equity in their homes grew. The bubble burst because real wages continued to decline, total consumer debts continued to grow, and many of Wall Street's derivative innovations turned out to be cynical products designed merely to package up unsustainable obligations and offload them onto some other sucker's books. The rest is history. Millions were foreclosed on, and the economy hemorrhaged jobs.

[Insert graph of delinquent debt balances by loan type]

A few prescient investors saw it coming and wagered that the US housing market would collapse. They made billions on that bet, literally sucking money from the accounts their counterparties - banks and insurance companies who believed that a decline in home prices across all US regions was impossible.

The mechanics of the bet were conceptually simple, if technically complex: Bearish speculators identified mortgage bonds they thought were toxic, comprised of thousands of individual home loans that were sure to default if interest rates rose or if the unprecedented rise in home prices even just slowed a little. These few contrarian investors then purchased credit default swap (CDS) contracts, synthetic derivative products created to insure an investor against the possibility of defaulting mortgage bonds.

CDSs had two sides, the buyer and seller, and involved a zero sum wager. If homeowners continued to make payments on subprime mortgages, then the buyer of CDS insurance merely paid out a small premium each year. However, if the market stumbled and mortgages within the bonds that comprised larger mortgage-backed securities began to default in large numbers, then the seller of the CDS would owe huge sums of money to the buyer.

Author Michael Lewis called this the "Big Short" in his book of the same title because it involved a monumental short-selling strategy. Derivatives made short-selling a strategic possibility with the new multi-trillion-dollar global market of US mortgage credit. Investors had no need to actually own subprime mortgaged bonds, or to borrow these assets, as is traditionally required in the short-selling strategies of the pre-derivatives revolution. Instead, an investor could “synthetically gain exposure" to subprime risk, as they say in Wall Street parlance, simply by entering into a free-standing swap contract with a willing counterparty.

Another popular means of shorting housing was to make directional bets on the price of subprime mortgage-backed securities through the ABX.HE Index. "ABX" stands for asset-backed security, and "HE" stands for home equity, denoting to an investor that the index tracks the value of credit default swaps tied to subprime mortgage bond securities. The biggest investment banks involved in creating subprime mortgage-backed securities like collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) created the ABX.HE Index in 2006, just in time for short-sellers to game it to their advantage.

A managing director at Goldman Sachs, one of the firms instrumental in launching the ABX.HE Index, explained that it was designed to provide investors with "a simple and efficient way to gain or hedge exposure to home equity asset-backed

Like other derivatives, however, the ABX.HE would actually become a tool for highly leveraged speculation by hedge funds, many of which had no real holdings of the housing assets from which the indices' value and cash flows derived. One could simply enter into a trade requiring the exchange of cash flows that changed depending on the value of referenced securities, in this case, the value of credit default swaps tied to subprime debt that was only financially viable if home prices continued to rise and create homeowner equity.

After news began to spread within Wall Street's upper echelons that subprime mortgage bonds were beginning to turn sour, more and more traders sought ways to bet against the entire market. Goldman Sachs quickly used the ABX.HE to establish short positions for the bank's proprietary funds, and for several favored clients.

According to Richard Stanton and Nancy Wallace, scholars at the UC Berkeley Haas Business School who have studied pricing and trade patterns of credit derivatives, "trading in the ABX.HE index CDS delivered two of the largest pay-outs in the history of financial markets: The Paulson & Co. series of funds secured $12 billion in profits from a single trade in 2007; and Goldman Sachs generated nearly $6 billion of profits (erasing $1.5 to $2.0 billion of losses on their $10 billion subprime holdings) in 2007."

[Insert graph of the ABX.HE Index collapse] 

NOTE: "Markit" appears to be misspelled in graph. Should be "Market"; also should be comma after "January 9, 2006"/ pmf

Goldman Sachs' and  Paulson & Co.'s earnings became the source of an investigation by the SEC. The bank created subprime mortgage-backed securities and sold them to several German banks, but then, along with the Paulson & Co. hedge fund, bet against these very same securities. The SEC fined Goldman Sachs $550 million (a mere fraction of the profits). Paulson & Co. paid no such fine and admitted no wrongdoing.

Other beneficiaries of the foreclosure crisis included Kyle Bass, the Dallas hedge fund manager who also shorted subprime mortgage-backed assets using credit default swaps. Bass's Hayman Capital reportedly reaped half a billion dollars.

Greg Lippman, a trader with Deutsche Bank in 2006, pestered dozens of hedge funds and other wealthy investors in a sales blitz to convince clients on his similarly designed bet to short US home prices. According to Michael Lewis, who interviewed dozens of people who put on the "Big Short" trade, Lippmann had distilled his strategy into a data-rich presentation titled "Shorting Home Equity Mezzanine Tranches."

All of the derivative tools used by speculators to short the market before the financial crisis still exist. Few regulatory changes were made to reign in this kind of high-stakes gambling using the synthetic exposure of derivatives, indices and short-selling techniques.

Fed Creates Opportunities to "Go Long"

Like the jobless recovery in corporate profits that began in 2010, the housing market's current recovery is characterized by rebounds in securities prices that do not necessarily reflect any widely shared economic improvements for most Americans. Instead, the recovery seems to be propelled by federal monetary policy.

The US Federal Reserve's purchase of billions of mortgage-backed securities is most responsible for the nascent housing recovery, say many analysts. The Fed has committed to buying upwards of $40 billion a month into 2015 (totaling anywhere from $480 to $960 billion) in mortgage-backed securities. The effect of the Fed's purchases is to drive up the price of mortgage bonds, which inversely reduces the yields on the bonds, and eases credit, theoretically making home loans cheaper and inducing more prospective home buyers to dive into the market. That's the logic the Fed's board is ostensibly using at least.

Home prices have decidedly responded. The Case-Shiller Index, which tracks changes in home values in major cities, showed definite increases in year-over-year values from 2011 to 2012. CoreLogic's Home Price Index showed a similar rise, with home values up more than 6 percent in October 2012, compared with the prior year.

Skepticism abounds, however. "The reality is that quantitative easing has made it cheaper for the government to borrow, has artificially propped up the housing market (making it take longer to recover), and has dramatically manipulated the distribution of capital in financial markets," said Anthony Randazzo, director of economic research at the Reason Foundation. "And the economy has not been in recovery." Randazzo said the Fed's mortgage-backed securities purchases are mostly benefitting the top 10 percent of Americans who own the bonds and stocks that are rising in price as a result of the Fed's purchases.

Even economists within the Federal Reserve are noting that while the government's mortgage securities purchases are lifting home prices, they are not necessarily helping the average American buy a house. Michael Bauer of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco noted in a May 2012 report, "the link between rates on mortgage-backed securities and actual mortgage rates has weakened in the wake of the financial crisis." In other words, the Fed's ability to stimulate lending and get houses into the hands of individual home buyers isn't working as planned, but still home prices are rising.

Foreclosure to Rental Mills

There are buyers ready and able to take advantage of the Fed's macro-economic influence on home prices: large investors seeking to buy up what they've identified as a "new-asset class," single-family residential homes in select suburban housing markets.

Some of these companies have already amassed portfolios of thousands of foreclosed and short-sale homes at historically low prices and are busy converting them into rentals. The eventual increase in the value of these homes is an added enticement. Projected yields are high enough to justify purchases of single-family homes as an asset that will inflate greatly in value. If prices continue to increase, private equity buyers could hold the properties for a few years and then make an "exit," as they say in the industry, and book a big profit.

Some companies like WayPoint of Oakland, California, already own portfolios of thousands of homes purchased at dramatically low prices, most of them obtained after heavily indebted owners were forced to abandon them. WayPoint's holdings are concentrated in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Chicago and Atlanta, according to the company's web site. Menlo Park private equity firm GI Partners has committed over $1 billion to fund Waypoint's expansion.

Others have copied WayPoint's foreclosure-to-rental model and are buying up tens of thousands of distressed properties across the US to convert vast stocks of residential homes into rental housing. The Blackstone Group private equity fund has already spent $1 billion to buy up over 6,500 single family homes in multiple markets, assembling these into what the firm is calling its "single-family rental home platform." In a public relations video Blackstone created for its real estate management company, Invitation Homes, the firm's head of global real estate, Jon Gray, says, "I think at its heart we're making a bet on America with this investment strategy. We're betting that housing prices are going to begin to recover."

McKinley Capital, another Oakland private equity real estate investor, is buying foreclosed single family homes at prices discounted up to 80 percent of their 2006 high in California's hard-hit Central Valley. "McKinley plans to resell the houses in about five years for double what it paid and is targeting 20 percent annualized returns for its investors, which include wealthy individuals," according to a report in the Wall Street Journal on the foreclosure-to-rental business.

Another foreclosure-to-rental mill, Silver Bay Realty Trust, described its business strategy in a December 2012 prospectus issued to investors: "As the housing market recovers and the cost of residential real estate increases, so should the underlying value of our assets. We believe that rental rates will also increase in such a recovery due to the strong correlation between home prices and rents. This trend also leads us to believe that the single-family residential asset class will serve as a natural hedge to inflation. As a result, we believe we are well positioned for the current economic environment and for a housing market recovery."

Silver Bay owns more than 2,450 houses and plans to invest a quarter-billion dollars to obtain another 3,100 homes in Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, North Carolina and Texas, according to the company's SEC filings.

Mike Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at Arizona State University's Carey School of Business, reported investors are buying up as much as a third of the homes selling in the greater Phoenix market today. "I know of a normal home that recently received 95 written offers, 51 from investors and 44 from owner occupiers," said Orr. "You can take away the 51 investors and you still have 44 owner occupiers trying to buy one home. However, investors are buying with cash, so they usually win these competitive situations, leaving owner occupier buyers frustrated." Orr believes that the presence of investors is causing prices to rise in Phoenix because of their buying power.

Atlanta Realtor Bruce Ailion also believes investors are not just responding to the Fed's stimulus, but that the presence of large investors is further increasing home prices. "In my market, private equity and hedge funds are driving up prices," Ailion recently told reporters with CBS News.

The end result is that many housing markets have already consolidated around fewer landlord-owners and an increased number of renters whose economic situations still prevent them from buying a home.

Derivatives Bets on the Recovery

Some of these same speculators who shorted subprime housing debt in 2006 and 2007 have already tacked a complete opposite bet, expecting home prices to rise due to the Fed's mortgage bond purchases. Investors like former Goldman Sachs trader Josh Birnbaum, who now runs the Tilden Park hedge fund, are telling clients to put their money behind subprime mortgage bonds, many of which are rising in value. According to a recent Bloomberg News report, Birnbaum's firm is posting a 30 percent gain in 2012, mostly from bets favoring price increases in subprime mortgage bonds that lost upwards of 80 percent of their value during the financial crisis.

Birnbaum was one of the architects of Goldman Sachs' big short bet against subprime housing in 2006 through the ABX.HE Index. According to William Cohan, author of Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World, Birnbaum quit the investment bank after a $10 million bonus check left him feeling shorted himself for putting on the firm's big short bet. Birnbaum's hedge fund is reportedly using the same index this time around to gain the opposite kind of exposure to housing debt.

Joining Birnbaum's hedge fund in this strategy is John Paulson's firm, Paulson & Co., which posted the biggest gains of all thanks to the housing meltdown five years ago. Paulson's fund reportedly began buying housing mortgage securities back in 2008 and 2009, just after they'd collapsed in price.

In a letter to his investors earlier this year, Kyle Bass of Hayman Capital wrote that, with respect to subprime housing debt, "the stars are aligned for a continued recovery of this asset class today."  Bass told reporters recently that more than half of Hayman Capital's funds are currently invested in subprime mortgage bets.

Greg Lippmann, the architect of Deutsche Bank's $1.5 billion big short bet, is now running a hedge fund that is going long on US subprime debt. Libremax Capital, which is said to manage about half a billion dollars, mostly sourced from wealthy investors, is said to be investing in subprime mortgage bonds of early 2005 "vintages," which have already purged many of the delinquent debts from their rolls. "We believe securitized [home mortgage] products are fundamentally cheap to broader markets," Lippman told reporters last year when asked about his fund's strategy. (http://www.efinancialnews.com/story/2011-02-18/greg-lippmann-goes-long-on-sub-prime-bonds)

The biggest hedge fund winner in 2012 is the New York-based Metacapital. Its “Mortgage Opportunities Fund” has squeezed a 520 percent profit on the year by betting on housing price increases owing to the Fed’s purchase of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgage bonds.

A Home Owner-less Housing Recovery?

According to data from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, homeownership rates have plummeted by 3 percent nationally since 2004, falling to a low not seen since the mid-1990s. The backlog of delinquent mortgage loans and in-process foreclosures means that millions more will lose their homes and become renters, couch-surfers or homeless in the next few years.

[Insert USFRB St. Louis FRED data on homeownership rate decline here]

While the foreclosure rate may be dropping nationally, it remains extremely high compared to historical averages. Approximately 186,000 homes, or one in every 706 units of housing, were foreclosed on in October, 2012. There have been about 5 million bank repossessions of housing between 2006 and 2012, according to RealtyTrac.

According to economists with the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, only 10 percent of homeowners who lose their houses because of default on mortgage payments will regain access to mortgage markets in the next 10 years. This means that there are now millions of Americans who will be closed out of the housing market during not only this peculiar recovery phase, characterized by a rise in prices and private equity buyers acquiring much of the inventory, but also likely locked out of the housing market down the road, long after homes have regained much of their value.

The Suprising Unknown History of the NRA

For most of its history, the NRA supported gun control laws and did not see government as the enemy.

January 13, 2013  |  

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For nearly a century after, its founding in 1871, the National Rifle Association was America’s foremost pro-gun control organization. It was not until 1977 when the NRA that Americans know today emerged, after paranoid libertarians who equated owning a gun with the epitome of freedom and fomented widespread distrust against government—if not armed insurrection—emerged after staging a hostile leadership coup.

In the years since, an NRA that once encouraged better markmanship and reasonable gun control laws gave way to an advocacy organization and political force that saw more guns as the answer to society’s worst violence, whether arming commercial airline pilots after 9/11 or teachers after the Newtown, while opposing new restrictions on gun usage.

It is hard to believe that the NRA was committed to gun-control laws for most of the 20th century—helping to write most of the federal laws restricting gun use until the 1980s.

“Historically, the leadership of the NRA was more open-minded about gun control than someone familiar with the modern NRA might imagine,” wrote Adam Winkler, a Second Amendment scholar at U.C.L.A. Law School, in his 2011 book, Gunfight: The Battle Over The Right To Bear Arms In America. “The Second Amendment was not nearly as central to the NRA’s identity for most of the organization’s history.”

Once Upon A Time…

The NRA was founded in 1871 by two Yankee Civil War veterans, including an ex-New York Times reporter, who felt that war dragged on because more urban northerners could not shoot as well as rural southerners. It’s motto and focus until 1977 was not fighting for constitutional rights to own and use guns, but “Firearms Safety Education, Marksmanship Training, Shhoting for Recreation,” which was displayed in its national headquarters.

The NRA’s first president was a northern Army General, Ambrose Burnside. He was chosen to reflect this civilian-militia mission, as envisioned in the Second Amendment, which reads, “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” The understanding of the Amendment at the time concerned having a prepared citizenry to assist in domestic military matters, such as repelling raids on federal arsenals like 1786’s Shays Rebellion in Massachusetts or John Brown’s 1859 attack in Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Its focus was not asserting individual gun rights as it is today, but a ready citizenry prepared by target shooting. The NRA happily accepted $25,000 from New York State to buy property for a firing range ($500,000 today). For decades, the U.S. military gave surplus guns to the NRA and sponsored shooting competitions.

In the 1920s and 1930s, the NRA’s leaders helped write and lobby for the first federal gun control laws—the very kinds of laws that the modern NRA labels as the height of tryanny. The 17th Amendment outlawing alchohol became law in 1920 and was soon followed by the emergence of big city gangsters who outgunned the police by killing rivals with sawed-off shotguns and machine guns—today called automatic weapons.

In the early 1920s, the National Revolver Association—the NRA’s handgun training counterpart—proposed model legislation for states that included requiring a permit to carry a concealed weapon, adding five years to a prison sentence if a gun was used in a crime, and banning non-citizens from buying a handgun. They also proposed that gun dealers turn over sales records to police and created a one-day waiting period between buying a gun and getting it—two provisions that the NRA opposes today. Nine states adopted these laws: West Virginia, New Jersey, Michigan, Indiana, Oregon, California, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Connecticut. Meanwhile, the American Bar Association had been working to create uniform state laws, and built upon the proposal but made the waiting period two days. Nine more states adopted it: Alabama, Arkansas, Maryland, Montana, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin.

State gun control laws were not controversial—they were the norm. Within a generation of the country’s founding, many states passed laws banning any citizen from carrying a concealed gun. The cowboy towns that Hollywood lionized as the ‘Wild West’ actually required all guns be turned in to sheriffs while people were within local city limits. In 1911, New York state required handgun owners to get a permit, following an attempted assassination on New York City’s mayor. (Between 1865 and 1901, three presidents had been killed by handguns: Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley.) But these laws were not seen as effective against the Depression’s most violent gangsters.

In 1929, Al Capone’s St. Valentine’s Day massacre saw men disguised as Chicago police kill 7 rivals with machine guns. Bonnie and Clyde’s crime-and-gun spree from 1932-34 was a national sensation. John Dellinger robbed 10 banks in 1933 and fired a machine gun as he sped away. A new president in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt, made fighting crime and gun control part of his ‘New Deal.’ The NRA helped him draft the first federal gun controls: 1934’s National Firearms Act and 1938’s Gun Control Act.

The NRA President at the time, Karl T. Frederick, a 1920 Olympic gold-medal winner for marksmanship who became a lawyer, praised the new state gun controls in Congress. “I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons,” he testified before the 1938 law was passed. “I do not believe in the general promiscuous toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”       

These federal firearms laws imposed high taxes and registration requirements on certain classes of weapons—those used in gang violence like machine guns, sawed-off shotguns and silencers—making it all-but impossible for average people to own them. Gun makers and sellers had to register with the federal government, and certain classes of people—notably convicted felons—were barred from gun ownership. The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously upheld these laws in 1939.

The legal doctrine of gun rights balanced by gun controls held for nearly a half-century.

In November 1963, Lee Harvey Oswald shot and killed President John F. Kennedy with an Italian military surplus rifle that Owsald bought from a mail-order ad in the NRA’s American Rifleman magazine. In congressional hearings that soon followed, NRA Executive Vice-President Frankin Orth supported a ban in mail-order sales, saying, “We do think that any sane American, who calls himself an American, can object to placing into this bill the instrument which killed the president of the United States.”

But no new federal gun control laws came until 1968. The assassinations of civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Sen. Robert F. Kennedy were the tipping point, coming after several summers of race-related riots in American cities. The nation’s white political elite feared that violence was too prevalent and there were too many people—especially urban Black nationalists—with access to guns. In May 1967, two dozen Black Panther Party members walked into the California Statehouse carrying rifles to protest a gun-control bill, prompting then-Gov. Ronald Reagan to comment, “There’s no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.”

The Gun Control Act of 1968 reauthorized and deepened the FDR-era gun control laws. It added a minimum age for gun buyers, required guns have serial numbers and expanded people barred from owning guns from felons to include the mentally ill and drug addicts. Only federally licensed dealers and collectors could ship guns over state lines. People buying certain kinds of bullets had to show I.D. But the most stringent proposals—a national registry of all guns (which some states had in colonial times) and mandatory licenses for all gun carriers—were not in it. The NRA blocked these measures. Orth told America Riflemen magazine that while part of the law, “appears unduly restyrictive, the measure as a whole appears to be one that the sportsmen of America can live with.”  

The Paranoid Libertarians’ Hostile Takeover
Perhaps the sportsmen of America could abide by the new law, but within the NRA’s broad membership were key factions that resented the new federal law. Thoughout the 1960s, there were a few articles in American Rifleman saying the NRA was waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to declare the Second Amendment included the right to own a gun, Joan Burbick recounts in her 2006 book, Gun Show Nation: Gun Culture and American Democracy.

But in the mid-1960s, the Black Panthers were better-known for expressing that view of the Second Amendment. By 1968, however, Burbick notes that the NRA’s magazine’s most assertive editorials began saying the problem was fighting crime and not guns—which we hear today. The 1968 law ordered the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to enforce the new gun laws. In 1971, ATF raided a lifetime NRA member’s house who was suspected of having a large illegal arms cache and shot and killed him. That prompted “the ardent reactionary William Leob,” then editor of New Hampshire’s  influential Manchester Union Leader newspaper, to call the federal agents, “Treasury Gestapo,” even though later evidence confirmed the weapons cache. Loeb and other white libertarians with podiums then started to assert that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to guns—like the Black Panthers. But, of course, they were seeking to keep America’s white gun owners fully armed.

A split started to widen inside the NRA, Burbick notes. Gun dealers thought they were being harassed. Rural states felt they were being unduly punished for urban America’s problems. In 1975, the NRA created a new lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, under Harlon B. Carter, a tough-minded former chief of the U.S. Border Patrol who shared the libertarian goal of expanding gun owners’ rights. Burdick writes that “by 1976, the political rhetoric had gained momentum and the bicentennial year brought out a new NRA campaign, ‘designed to enroll defenders of the right to keep and bear arms’ in numbers equal to ‘the ranks of the patriots who fought in the American Revolution.’” Looking back, the seeds of a hostile takeover were everywhere.

Harlon Carter wasn’t just another hard-headed Texan who grew up in a small town that was once home to frontiersman Davy Crockett. He was an earlier era’s version of George Zimmerman, the Floridian young man who claims to have shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense in February 2012—even though police records and 911 recordings seem to show Zimmerman was looking for a fight. According to Carol Vinzant’s 2005 book, Lawyers, Guns, and Money: One Man’s Battle With The Gun Industry, a 17-year-old Carter found and confronted a Mexican teenager who he believed helped steal his family’s car. When the 15-year-old pulled a knife, Carter shot and killed him. His conviction was overturned when an appeals court said the jury should have considered a self-defense argument.

In November 1976, the NRA’s old guard Board of Directors fired Carter and 80 other employees associated with the more expansive view of the Second Amendment and implicit distrusting any government firearm regulation. For months, the Carter cadre secretly plotted their revenge and hijacked the NRA’s annual meeting in Cincinatti in May 1977. The meeting had been moved from Washington to protest its new gun control law. Winkler writes that Carter’s top deputy Neal Knox was even more extreme than him—wanting to roll back all existing gun laws, including bans on machine guns and saying the federal government had killed Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy as “part of a plot to advance gun control.”

Using the NRA’s parliamentary rules, the rebels interrupted the agenda from the floor and revised how the Board of Directors was chosen, recommited the NRA to fighting gun control and restored the lobbying ILA. Harlon Carter became the NRA’s new executive director. He cancelled a planned move of its national headquarters from Washington to Colorado Springs. And he changed the organization’s motto on its DC headquarters, selectively editing the Second Amendment to reflect a non-compromising militancy, “The Right Of The People To Keep And Bear Arms Shall Not Be Infringed.”

After Carter was re-elected to lead the NRA in 1981, The New York Times reported on Carter’s teenage vigilante killing—and how he changed his first name’s spelling to hide it. At first, he claimed the shooting was by someone else—and then recanted but refused to discuss it. Winkler writes, “the hard-liners in the NRA loved it. Who better to lead them than a man who really understood the value of a gun for self-protection?”

After the coup, the NRA ramped up donations to congressional campaigns. “And in 1977, new articles on the Second Amendment appeared” in American Rifleman, Burbick noted, “rewriting American history to legitimize the armed citizen unregulated except by his own ability to buy a gun at whatever price he could afford.” That revisionist perspective was endorsed by a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee chaired by Utah Republican Orrin Hatch in 1982, when staffers wrote a report concluding it had discovered “long lost proof” of an individual’s constitutional right to bear arms.   

The NRA’s fabricated but escalating view of the Second Amendment was ridiculed by former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger—a conservative appointed by President Richard Nixon—in a PBS Newshour interview in 1991, where he called it “one of the greatest pieces of fraud—I repeat the word ‘fraud’—on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

Burger would not have imagined that the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008—13 years after he died—led by libertarian activist Justice Antonin Scalia—would enshrine that “fraud” into the highest echelon of American law by decreeing that the Second Amendment included the right to own a gun for self-protection in one’s home.

Bankers, Bradburys, Carnage And Slaughter On The Western Front

As I start to write this article, today is Remembrance Sunday and I’m listening live to the sombre but magnificent strains of Elgar’s Nimrod as the parade at The Cenotaph assembles for the nation’s annual act of remembrance to the fallen. Like almost everyone else, I’m always humbled and moved by the veterans’ march-pass to pay their respects to fallen friends and comrades – but this year I will find it particularly poignant in the light of my recent research concerning a little known fact about the outbreak of the First World War. Let me explain.

Yesterday, I watched by sheer chance the spectacle of the Lord Mayor’s Show on television. This year’s parade for the inauguration of the 685th Lord Mayor of London, Alderman Roger Gifford, was no different from any other. As ever it was a combination of centuries old, corporate traditions, with floats and vintage vehicles representing the various Worshipful Companies, combined with local units from the armed forces along with enthusiastic and diverse community groups of children and young people. It was pageantry and modern day life parading together side by side to show off all that is best about our capital city.

Alderman Roger Gifford, the new Lord Mayor of London, enjoying his big day.

All very innocent and benign you would think. There was Roger Gifford, a banker by trade, smiling and clearly enjoying himself hugely as he doffed his large black tricorne hat to the passing parade. All around him on the VIP stand were his family, friends, business acquaintances and representatives from the City of London - people who just seemed relaxed, normal and happy.

Looking at this joyous and colourful scene on the streets of London, I was reminded of the fictional character Richard Hannay in John Buchan’s pre-First World War famous spy novel The Thirty-nine Steps. The final scene sees the hero Hannay confronting The Black Stone, the network of ingenious German spies who had morphed into the higher echelons of British society and had discovered, by the use of magnificent disguise and deception, the war-time dispositions of the Royal Navy. Having tracked them down to their secret lair on the Kentish coastline, Hannay is confronted by a scene of complete domestic normality. There is nothing about the Germans or the villa that could suggest anything other than a typical British upper middle class household at ease with itself enjoying a seaside holiday. But just one sudden flicker of recognition restored Hannay’s confidence that he had discovered The Black Stone.

Well, such a flicker of recognition also restored my confidence. As soon as I saw the giant wicker effigies of Gog and Magog on the parade, the mythical ‘protectors’ of the City of London, my confusion disappeared. The façade of decency and respectability was gone in an instant - the truth of what we were really looking at had once again been restored.

Gog and Magog

For those of us who, after many years of careful and detailed research, now understand the hidden machinations of global finance and who are aware of the secretive network of criminals and traitors who seek world government on their terms, this annual spectacle of corporate celebration and respectability by people who are not household names clearly masks an evil that must now be exposed quickly and effectively.

With the exception of a few thousand very powerful people, the entire world’s population, all seven billion of us, are trapped ... trapped into a criminal debt creating banking ‘system’ that has taken hundreds of years to perfect and to come to fruition. This ‘system’ results in enslavement and servitude. It creates dreadful unhappiness amongst ordinary decent people and causes wars, debt, starvation, pollution and environmental destruction. It feeds on greed, fear and division. It forces people onto the corporate treadmills of mass mindless production and mass mindless consumption. It uses lies, deception, intimidation and entrapment at all times. It is a system that is so clever and so cunning that most of the world is completely oblivious to its existence. It is a system that allows a few winners at the expense of a huge number of losers. It is a system that considers itself to be unbeatable and indestructible and is now so arrogant that it believes it can control everything and everyone on its terms. It is a system where psychopaths and sociopaths can flourish. And without question the centre of this system, the heart of this global corporate beast is the innocent sounding Square Mile known as the City of London.

Put very simply, the banking dynasties, such as the House of Rothschild, control the political processes around the world to such an extent that their network of private central banks have the right to create money completely out of thin air and then charge interest on that ‘nothingness’. The polite term is ‘Fractional Reserve Lending’ but in reality it is just simple fraud. The result is that the whole world is currently drowning in a sea of fraudulent debt.

The USA now has a National Debt of over 16 trillion dollars, whilst the UK owes its creditors over one trillion pounds. The planned contagion of spiralling and unlawful debt is now sweeping over Europe with a renewed vigour. Greece and Spain are being torn apart by appalling austerity measures to the point that civil war or military intervention are now being openly talked about on the streets. Italy is giving all the signs that its economy is now entering into very stormy waters indeed. Ireland, Portugal, France and Belgium are already in a mess and are unlikely to see their debts become more manageable. Tens of millions of people have experienced a major downturn in their quality of life, along with their prospects for a more secure and better future, as unlawful austerity measures brought in by corrupt politicians begin to bite. Even the stronger economies of Germany, The Netherlands and Luxembourg have now been downgraded by Moody’s, the Rothschild controlled credit rating agency.

A Simple Solution To End This Madness – The Greenback:

What is happening to all of us is criminal. However, there is a very simple solution that the banking dynasties do not want you to know about.

At the height of the American Civil War, the US Treasury warned President Lincoln that further funding would be needed if the Federal North was to have the resources needed to defeat the Confederate South. The President initially went to the Rothschilds and the private banks who wanted between 24 and 36 per cent interest. Lincoln knew that if he agreed to take loans from the bankers that he would be putting his country into a debt noose that would strangle the economic prosperity out of his country and which would be almost impossible to pay off.

On the advice of a businessman with proven integrity, Colonel Dick Taylor from Illinois, Abraham Lincoln made the decision to print debt-free and interest-free paper money based on nothing more than the honour of the American Government. Called ‘Greenbacks’ because they were coloured green on one side only, the US Treasury issued 450 million dollars worth of these notes and they were immediately accepted as legal tender by a willing and grateful nation. The war was eventually won and this very popular new paper currency seemed set to continue. In the words of Lincoln himself:

The government should create issue and circulate all the currency and credit needed to satisfy the spending power of the government and the buying power of consumers..... The privilege of creating and issuing money is not only the supreme prerogative of Government, but it is the Government's greatest creative opportunity. By the adoption of these principles, the long-felt want for a uniform medium will be satisfied. The taxpayers will be saved immense sums of interest, discounts and exchanges. The financing of all public enterprises, the maintenance of stable government and ordered progress, and the conduct of the Treasury will become matters of practical administration. The people can and will be furnished with a currency as safe as their own government. Money will cease to be the master and become the servant of humanity. Democracy will rise superior to the money power.

Senate document 23, Page 91. 1865

$5 Greenback

However, the response by the private bankers to this sudden threat to their banking empire was swift and brutal as this extract from The Times of London in 1865 shows:  

If that mischievous financial policy, which had its origin in the North American Republic, should become indurated down to a fixture, then that Government will furnish its own money without cost. It will pay off debts and be without a debt. It will have all the money necessary to carry on its commerce. It will become prosperous beyond precedence in the history of the civilised governments of the world. The brains and the wealth of all countries will go to North America. That government must be destroyed, or it will destroy every monarchy on the globe.

On Good Friday, April 14th 1865, a lone gunman ended the presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Sadly, his Greenback legacy died with him as the private bankers managed to ‘persuade’ Congress to revoke this successful initiative in favour of the debt creating National Banking Act which eventually led to the formation of the privately run Federal Reserve in 1913. Since then, America’s unlawful debt has risen to over 16 trillion dollars.

"I have two enemies; the Southern army in front of me and the financial institutions in the rear. Of the two, the one in the rear is my greatest foe."  Abraham Lincoln

The solution for dealing with private debt-creating bankers is simple. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, to stop any sovereign government from issuing through its treasury its own interest-free money based on nothing more than the wealth and integrity of the nation. This is the big secret that the City of London would rather keep to itself. If this simple fact were to become mainstream then people everywhere would simply walk away and the entire banking system would completely collapse.

And now we come to a very little known historical episode that I alluded to at the beginning that takes this concept of the debt-free ‘Greenback’ from America to Britain ... and in so doing exposes the truly appalling values that are prevalent even today within the City of London.

The Great War And The Debt-free Bradbury Treasury Note:

Three weeks ago, as part of my ongoing research into the banking elite, I came across a fascinating book entitled The Financiers and the Nation by the Rt. Hon. Thomas Johnston, P.C., ex-Lord Privy Seal. It was written in 1934 and republished in 1994 by Ossian Publishers Ltd.

The text of this quite remarkable and rare book is available here.

In Chapter 6, entitled ‘Usury on the Great War’, I’ve selected the following paragraphs which I believe are both shocking and self-explanatory:

WHEN the whistle blew for the start of the Great War in August 1914 the Bank of England possessed only nine millions sterling of a gold reserve, and, as the Bank of England was the Bankers' Bank, this sum constituted the effective reserve of all the other Banking Institutions in Great Britain.

The bank managers at the outbreak of War were seriously afraid that the depositing public, in a panic, would demand the return of their money. And, inasmuch as the deposits and savings left in the hands of the bankers by the depositing public had very largely been sunk by the bankers in enterprises which, at the best, could not repay the borrowed capital quickly, and which in several and large-scale instances were likely to be submerged altogether in the stress of war and in the collapse of great areas of international trade, it followed that if there were a widespread panicky run upon the banks, the banks would be unable to pay and the whole credit system would collapse, to the ruin of millions of people.

Private enterprise banking thus being on the verge of collapse, the Government (Mr. Lloyd George at the time was Chancellor of the Exchequer) hurriedly declared a moratorium, i.e. it authorized the banks not to pay out (which in any event the banks could not do), and it extended the August Bank Holiday for another three days. During these three or four days when the banks and stock exchanges were closed, the bankers held anxious negotiation with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. And one of them has placed upon record the fact that 'he (Mr. George) did everything that we asked him to do.' When the banks reopened, the public discovered that, instead of getting their money back in gold, they were paid in a new legal tender of Treasury notes (the £1 notes in black and the 10s. notes in red colours). This new currency had been issued by the State, was backed by the credit of the State, and was issued to the banks to prevent the banks from utter collapse. The public cheerfully accepted the new notes; and nobody talked about inflation.

To return, however, to the early war period, no sooner had Mr. Lloyd George got the bankers out of their difficulties in the autumn of 1914 by the issue of the Treasury money, than they were round again at the Treasury door explaining forcibly that the State must, upon no account, issue any more money on this interest free basis; if the war was to be run, it must be run with borrowed money, money upon which interest must be paid, and they were the gentlemen who would see to the proper financing of a good, juicy War Loan at 31/2 per cent, interest, and to that last proposition the Treasury yielded. The War was not to be fought with interest-free money, and/or/with conscription of wealth; though it was to be fought with conscription of life. Many small businesses were to be closed and their proprietors sent overseas as redundant, and without any compensation for their losses, while Finance, as we shall see, was to be heavily and progressively remunerated.

Emergency Bradbury Treasury Notes (printed only on one side)

The real values of the private bankers and the City of London have been exposed for all to see. Whilst hundreds of thousands of British soldiers were dying on the killing fields of Flanders and elsewhere doing what they saw as their patriotic duty, British bankers, safely out of danger and not sharing the appalling conditions on the Western Front, were only interested in one thing – how to make obscene profits from Britain’s desperate efforts to win the war. To say that the private bankers and the City of London have the morals of sewer rats is to be extremely unkind to our little rodent friends. But this is the clincher. As a direct result of the greed and treason of the British private bankers in preventing the continuance of the Bradbury Treasury Notes, Britain’s National Debt went up from £650 million in 1914 to a staggering £7,500 million in 1919.

And this is where it all gets particularly interesting. The following is an extract from the official and current HM Treasury’s Debt Management Office website ... and it appears to be completely at odds with the account given by the Rt. Hon. Thomas Johnston.

The threat of World War One pushed British banks into crisis; exacerbated further as half the world's trade was financed by British banks and as a consequence international payments dried up. In response to this crisis, John Maynard Keynes (the renowned economist), persuaded the Chancellor Lloyd George to use the Bank of England's gold reserves to support the banks, which ended the immediate crisis. Keynes stayed with the Treasury until 1919. The war years of 1914-18 had seen an increase in the National Debt from £650 million at the start of the war to £7,500 million by 1919. This ensured that the Treasury developed new expertise in foreign exchange, currency, credit and price control skills and were put to use in the management of the post-war economy. The slump of the 1930s necessitated the restructuring of the economy following World War II (the national debt stood at £21 billion by its end) and the emphasis was placed on economic planning and financial relations.

Why is there is no mention whatsoever of the £300 million of Bradbury debt-free paper Treasury Notes issued in 1914? Instead, it says Lloyd George, on the advice of John Maynard Keynes, used the Bank of England’s gold reserves which, according to Johnston, only amounted to £9 million. What is going on here? Who is telling the truth? Could it be that HM Government, the puppets of the City of London, don’t want you to know about the simple but effective concept of debt-free and interest-free Treasury Notes?

What Do The System-serving Politicians And "Economists" Say About The issuance Of Treasury Notes?

As soon as the concept of the debt-free and interest-free Greenback Dollar (and now the Bradbury Pound) is raised in polite conversation with either a politician or an economist, two immediate knee jerk verbal reactions occur from these system-servers.

The first is to say that if a government suddenly starts printing its own money through its treasury based on the credit and wealth of the country, instead of going through its central bank, we would be heading towards what happened in the Weimar Republic in Germany in the early 1920s where hyperinflation spiralled out of control and a loaf of bread was bought with a barrow load of almost worthless paper money.

To this I just say look again at what actually happened in Germany at that time. It was not the Weimar’s treasury but it was the privately controlled central bank, the Reichsbank, who was printing the money, coupled with the extreme actions of currency speculators and foreign investors that caused all of the problems.

Hyperinflation could not happen as a result of the Bradbury Pound, because the democratically elected government would actually ‘govern’ ... now that is novel! Speculation would be prevented, and most importantly, the newly created money would be spent on a productive economy, rather than bankers bonuses.

The second reaction from system-servers is that the country is already printing its own money – it is called Quantative Easing, that mysterious cash injection into the economy which only seems to get as far as the banks and not to where it is actually needed. Only trouble is, it is the Bank of England doing the printing and not HM Treasury. Based around government issued Bonds (promissory notes based on the wealth of the nation), this complex process only increases the National Debt and it certainly doesn’t solve anything.

The simple truth is that people who serve the system and who have been ‘educated’ by such organisations as the Fabian inspired London School of Economics (LSE), are not suddenly going to bite the hand that gives them a very good living.

So what does all of this mean for us, the people?

Before looking at this, let’s just consider for a moment what ‘money’ actually is. It is simply a convenient unit of exchange for goods and services that people have COMPLETE CONFIDENCE in. Now if HM Government were to issue debt-free and interest-free treasury notes through HM Treasury rather than the Bank of England in order to meet the needs and happiness of all the people whilst getting them out of unlawful debt, my guess is that people might have a lot of confidence in such a benign and benevolent financial system.

There is absolutely no defence for the present system whereby private bankers create money completely out of thin air for themselves to lend and then charge interest on that ‘nothingness’. The Bank of England, with its hidden controller the Bank for International Settlements based in Basel, Switzerland (often described as the Central Bank of Central Banks), dictate behind the scenes the fiscal policies and direction that our supposed sovereign and independent government must take. We are all prisoners of this utterly corrupt system and it’s time to confront it head on to collapse it.

If our government were to go down the path of a new Bradbury Treasury Note (as well as pursuing the banksters with Common Law for their crimes against humanity) then our debt burden would be removed overnight – there would be no deficit and no national debt. Under Common Law, all debts involving the use of fractional reserve lending by the central and private banks will be written off as they were arrived at by the use of fraud. Money would be immediately made available by HM Treasury to meet the essential needs of the country. The nation’s happiness, well-being and security would be taken care of without the need for an invasive and complex tax system. We would have Gross Domestic Happiness instead of Gross Domestic Product dictating humanity’s future.

None of this is rocket science – if the Spanish and Greek governments genuinely wanted to put right overnight the economic woes of their countries, they would immediately start printing and supplying interest-free and debt-free treasury notes based on the wealth and integrity of their respective countries. They would also tell the IMF, the EU and the Bank for International Settlements to go and whistle for their ‘money’! Why? Because it was created out of thin air, it didn’t exist in the first place, and the whole banking system is fraudulent ... in other words, see you in a common law court in front of a jury!!!!

Banks, money and finance must exist to serve humanity, not the other way round. Our enslavement by unlawful debt can be ended overnight with one signature by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It really is that simple!

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