Author Archive: mrdsk

Sanders vs. Clinton on Wall Street Reform: Interview with Bill Black and Mike Konczal

Paul Jay talks to former financial regulator Bill Black and Roosevelt Institute Fellow Mike Konczal. Both men give their take on the policies of the two contenders for the Democratic nomination. (The Real News)

Did Financial Giant Goldman Sachs Just Admit the System is Rigged? Interview with Bill Black

Jessica Desvarieux talks to former financial regulator Bill Black, who explains why one of world’s largest investment firms Goldman Sachs is questioning the “efficacy of capitalism” and why its CEO is terrified of a Sanders presidency. (The Real News)

Vladimir Putin meets ‘old friend’ Henry Kissinger for ‘friendly dialogue’

RT reports:

Russian President Vladimir Putin has continued his “long-standing, friendly relations” with former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger as the pair took the “opportunity to talk” at a meeting in his residence outside Moscow.
The meeting is a continuation of a “friendly dialogue between President Putin and Henry Kissinger, who are bound by a long-standing relationship,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

“They communicate all the time, use the opportunity to talk,” he added. Putin “values” this opportunity to discuss pressing international issues as well as exchange opinions on global perspectives, Peskov said.

Putin and Kissenger have had over 10 tete-a-tete meetings so far, according to media reports. When Kissinger visited Russia in 2013 Putin said that Moscow always pays attention to his opinion and called the former secretary of state “a world class politician.”

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Henry Kissinger, Hillary Clinton’s Tutor in War and Peace

Greg Grandin, author of Kissinger’s Shadow, writes for The Nation:

Hillary_Kissinger_AP_imgClinton just can’t quit him. Even as she is trying to outflank Bernie on his left, Hillary Clinton can’t help but stutter the name of Henry Kissinger. Last night in the New Hampshire debate, Clinton thought to close her argument that she is the true progressive with this: “I was very flattered when Henry Kissinger said I ran the State Department better than anybody had run it in a long time.”

Let’s consider some of Kissinger’s achievements during his tenure as Richard Nixon’s top foreign policy–maker. He (1) prolonged the Vietnam War for five pointless years; (2) illegally bombed Cambodia and Laos; (3) goaded Nixon to wiretap staffers and journalists; (4) bore responsibility for three genocides in Cambodia, East Timor, and Bangladesh; (5) urged Nixon to go after Daniel Ellsberg for having released the Pentagon Papers, which set off a chain of events that brought down the Nixon White House; (6) pumped up Pakistan’s ISI, and encouraged it to use political Islam to destabilize Afghanistan; (7) began the US’s arms-for-petrodollars dependency with Saudi Arabia and pre-revolutionary Iran; (8) accelerated needless civil wars in southern Africa that, in the name of supporting white supremacy, left millions dead; (9) supported coups and death squads throughout Latin America; and (10) ingratiated himself with the first-generation neocons, such as Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, who would take American militarism to its next calamitous level. Read all about it in Kissinger’s Shadow!

A full tally hasn’t been done, but a back-of-the-envelope count would attribute 3, maybe 4 million deaths to Kissinger’s actions, but that number probably undercounts his victims in southern Africa. Pull but one string from the current tangle of today’s multiple foreign policy crises, and odds are it will lead back to something Kissinger did between 1968 and 1977. Over-reliance on Saudi oil? That’s Kissinger. Blowback from the instrumental use of radical Islam to destabilize Soviet allies? Again, Kissinger. An unstable arms race in the Middle East? Check, Kissinger. Sunni-Shia rivalry? Yup, Kissinger. The impasse in Israel-Palestine? Kissinger. Radicalization of Iran?  “An act of folly” was how veteran diplomat George Ball described Kissinger’s relationship to the Shah. Militarization of the Persian Gulf?  Kissinger, Kissinger, Kissinger.

And yet Clinton continues to call his name, hoping his light bathes her in wisdom.

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Fanaticism and Fantasy Drive Purported TPP ‘Benefits’

Pete Dolack writes for CounterPunch:

shutterstock_306196799So-called “free trade” agreements are continually advertised as creators of jobs, yet jobs are lost and wages decline once they go into effect. As representatives of the 12 countries participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership gather this week in New Zealand to begin their final push for it, the usual unsubstantiated claims are being put forth.

Why is this so? I mean beyond the obvious answer that such claims are propaganda in the service of corporate elites and financiers. Corporate-funded “think tanks” that pump out a steady barrage of papers making grandiose claims for “free trade” deals that are relied on by the political leaders who push these deals require some data, no matter how massaged. One organization prominent in this process is the Peterson Institute for International Economics, which has issued rosy reports in expectation of deals like the North America Free Trade Agreement — for example, it predicted 170,000 new jobs would be created in the U.S. alone in 1995 and that the Mexican economy would grow by four to five percent annually under NAFTA.

One way to look at this is that the Peterson Institute is to “free trade” agreements as the Heartland Institute is to global warming. Heartland began as a Big Tobacco outfit issuing reports denying links between smoking and cancer. As late as 1998, Heartland President Joe Bast claimed that there were  “few, if any, adverse health effects” associated with smoking and boasted to a Phillip Morris executive that “Heartland does many things that benefit Philip Morris’s bottom line, things that no other organization does.”

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Signing of TPP Marks Only Beginning of the Fight, Trade Deal Could Still Be Stopped: Interview with Lori Wallach

Amy Goodman and Narmeen Sheikh talk to Lori Wallach of Public Citizen who argues: “We have to make sure every member of Congress says there’s no way, we’re not meant to do this.” The deal has also become a campaign issue, and Wallach notes, “There’s no presidential candidate in any state polling over 5 percent who supports the TPP.” (Democracy Now!)

After TPP Signing, Activists Seeking to Block Deal Look to Prevent U.S. Congressional Approval: Interview with Margaret Flowers

Jessica Desvarieux talks to Dr. Margaret Flowers, the co-director of Popular Resistance which has been one of several organisations leading the flight against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Flowers says the TPP will supercede international climate treaties and undermine environmental protection laws by enabling corporations to sue governments if those regulations interfere with expected profits. (The Real News)

Obama and the Pentagon Plan Massive Military Escalation and the Media Barely Seem to Care

Adam Johnson writes for AlterNet:

Almost five years after the United States and its NATO allies launched a campaign in Libya to overthrow Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, the United States is on the verge of massively escalating its military operations in the war-torn country. According to the New York Times, the new effort is “expected to include airstrikes and raids by elite American troops.” It is unclear how long this newest effort will last.

The announcement comes on the heels of U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announcing combat troops were going back to Iraq last week. While U.S special forces have been conducting “clandestine reconnaissance missions in Libya to identify militant leaders and map out their networks” over the past year, the New York Times report marks the first time overt combat troops will be deployed in the North African nation.

The 2011 campaign was itself something of a bait and switch. What was originally sold as simply a no-fly zone quickly became regime change. A few weeks after the UN-sanctioned bombing of Libya’s infrastructure and air capacity, the scope of the campaign pivoted when President Obama, along with Presidents Sarkozy and Cameron of France and the UK respectively, announced the entirely new objective: NATO airstrikes, in concert with ongoing CIA support of rebels, to overthrow the Qaddafi government.

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Pentagon Seeks Increased Budget, Citing Russia and China

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

While yesterday’s indications were that the new Pentagon budget request would center on the ever-escalating ISIS war, the new $582.7 billion budget request for 2017 also hits all the other key touchstones, talking up potential conflicts with Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran.

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter emphasized the possibility of wars in the “decades to come” against Russia and China in particular, terming them “stressing competitors” for the United States, and presenting the Cold War era as a “luxury” when the US could focus on just one potential war against one potential enemy.

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The U.S. Is Fortifying Europe’s East to Deter Putin

Mark Landler and Helene Cooper report for The New York Times:

President Obama plans to substantially increase the deployment of heavy weapons, armored vehicles and other equipment to NATO countries in Central and Eastern Europe, a move that administration officials said was aimed at deterring Russia from further aggression in the region.

The White House plans to pay for the additional weapons and equipment with a budget request of more than $3.4 billion for military spending in Europe in 2017, several officials said Monday, more than quadrupling the current budget of $789 million. The weapons and equipment will be used by American and NATO forces, ensuring that the alliance can maintain a full armored combat brigade in the region at all times.

Though Russia’s military activity has quieted in eastern Ukraine in recent months, Moscow continues to maintain a presence there, working with pro-Russian local forces. Administration officials said the additional NATO forces were calculated to send a signal to President Vladimir V. Putin that the West remained deeply suspicious of his motives in the region.

“This is not a response to something that happened last Tuesday,” a senior administration official said. “This is a longer-term response to a changed security environment in Europe. This reflects a new situation, where Russia has become a more difficult actor.”

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4409 Killed in Iraq During January

Margaret Griffis reports for Antiwar:

Culling numbers from media reports, Antiwar.com found that 931 people, mostly Iraqis, were killed, and 580 more were wounded. The Islamic State, Naqshbandi Army, and other militant groups lost 3,478 in fighting or by execution. Another 261 were reported wounded.

The United Nations also released its casualty figures for January. They estimate that 849 Iraqis were killed and 1,450 were wounded. At least 490 of those killed and 1,157 of the injured were civilians. They do not count casualties in Anbar nor among the militants. However, the numbers from Anbar province’s health department are 56 killed and 248 injured.

Combining the two counts, at least 4,409 were killed, and another 1,959 were wounded. In light of the fighting in Anbar province and the recapture of Ramadi, it stands to reason that these numbers are low. They should be considered conservative estimates at best. The Iraqi government appears to be concealing the number of security casualties, while at the same time over-estimating militant deaths. The actual figures may never be known.

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IFJ: 2,297 journalists and media staff killed doing their jobs worldwide since 1990

William Turvill reports for Press Gazette:

The International Federation of Journalists has recorded the killings of 2,297 journalists and media staff since 1990 – including 112 in 2015.

The organisation today published its 25th report, revealing 2015 was the eighth worst year on record.

The report also named the most dangerous countries for journalists over the last 25 years, with Iraq (where 309 journalists or media staff have been killed), Philippines (146) and Mexico (120) the worst.

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Iowa’s nightmare revisited: Was correct winner called?

Jennifer Jacobs reports for The Des Moines Register:

It’s Iowa’s nightmare scenario revisited: An extraordinarily close count in the Iowa caucuses — and reports of chaos in precincts, website glitches and coin flips to decide county delegates — are raising questions about accuracy of the count and winner.

This time it’s the Democrats, not the Republicans.

Even as Hillary Clinton trumpeted her Iowa win in New Hampshire on Tuesday, aides for Bernie Sanders said the eyelash-thin margin raised questions and called for a review. The chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party rejected that notion, saying the results are final.

The situation echoes the events on the Republican side in the 2012 caucuses, when one winner (Mitt Romney, by eight votes) was named on caucus night, but a closer examination of the paperwork that reflected the head counts showed someone else pulled in more votes (Rick Santorum, by 34 votes). But some precincts were still missing entirely.

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After Dead Heat in Iowa, Will Clinton Move Further Left to Stop the Sanders Surge? Interview with Ellen Chesler and John Nichols

Amy Goodman speaks to Ellen Chesler, a longtime supporter of Hillary Clinton and senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, and John Nichols, political writer for The Nation, which has endorsed Bernie Sanders. (Democracy Now!)

The American Brand of Democracy Is Cold Hard Cash

Nomi Prins writes for TomDispatch:

Fox_News_GOP_Debate_ap_imgSpeaking of the need for citizen participation in our national politics in his final State of the Union address, President Obama said, “Our brand of democracy is hard.” A more accurate characterization might have been: “Our brand of democracy is cold hard cash.”

Cash, mountains of it, is increasingly the necessary tool for presidential candidates. Several Powerball jackpots could already be fueled from the billions of dollars in contributions in play in election 2016. When considering the present donation season, however, the devil lies in the details, which is why the details follow.

With three 2016 debates down and six more scheduled, the two fundraisers with the most surprising amount in common are Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. Neither has billionaire-infused Super PACs, but for vastly different reasons. Bernie has made it clear billionaires won’t ever hold sway in his court. While Trump… well, you know, he’s not only a billionaire but has the knack for getting the sort of attention that even billions can’t buy.

Regarding the rest of the field, each candidate is counting on the reliability of his or her own arsenal of billionaire sponsors and corporate nabobs when the you-know-what hits the fan. And at this point, believe it or not, thanks to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision of 2010 and the Super PACs that arose from it, all the billionaires aren’t even nailed down or faintly tapped out yet. In fact, some of them are already preparing to jump ship on their initial candidate of choice or reserving the really big bucks for closer to game time, when only two nominees will be duking it out for the White House.

Capturing this drama of the billionaires in new ways are TV networks eager to profit from the latest eyeball-gluing version of election politicking and the billions of dollars in ads that will flood onto screens nationwide between now and November 8. As Super PACs, billionaires, and behemoth companies press their influence on what used to be called “our democracy,” the modern debate system, now a sixteen-month food fight, has become the political equivalent of the NFL playoffs. In turn, soaring ratings numbers, scads of ads, and the party infighting that helps generate them now translate into billions of new dollars for media moguls.

For your amusement and mine, this being an all-fun-all-the-time election campaign, let’s examine the relationships between our twenty-first-century plutocrats and the contenders who have raised $5 million or more in individual contributions or through Super PACs and are at 5 percent or more in composite national polls. I’ll refrain from using the politically correct phrases that feed into the illusion of distance between Super PACs that allegedly support candidates’s causes and the candidates themselves, because in practice there is no distinction.

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The Road to the White House Begins in Iowa, But Is It Already Sold to Wealthy Donors? Interview with Lee Fang

Amy Goodman speaks to Lee Fang of The Intercept about spending by so-called “dark money” groups—political super PACs and other organizations who can hide their funders—is already far ahead of previous election cycles, with estimates it could reach up to half a billion dollars. Fang also recently questioned Hillary Clinton about her speeches for Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs, which paid her $675,000 for just three appearances. (Democracy Now!)

Why Ted Cruz Is Unfit to Be U.S. President

Ted Cruz has been endorsed by people who think Hitler was a gift from God, by people who think being gay deserves the death penaly, and by people who’ve called for the murder of abortion doctors. So why is the media still treating him like he’s a serious candidate for president? (The Big Picture)

Coin toss broke 6 Clinton-Sanders deadlocks in Iowa — and Hillary won each time

Karen Friar reports for Market Watch:

While it was hard to call a winner between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders last night, it’s easy to say who was luckier.

The race between the Democrat presidential hopefuls was so tight in the Iowa caucus Monday that in at least six precincts, the decision on awarding a county delegate came down to a coin toss. And Clinton won all six, media reports said.

The situation came about in precincts where Sanders and Clinton were running neck-and-neck, but there were an odd number of delegates, so they couldn’t be evenly split between the two. That was the case in precincts in Ames, Newton, West Branch, Davenport and two in Des Moines, the Des Moines Register reported.

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The CIA has been distributing false memos for years to deceive its own workforce

Greg Miller and Adam Goldman report for The Washington Post:

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) flag is displayed on stage during a conference on national security entitled Senior CIA officials have for years intentionally deceived parts of the agency workforce by transmitting internal memos that contain false information about operations and sources overseas, according to current and former U.S. officials who said the practice is known by the term “eyewash.”

Agency veterans described the tactic as an infrequent but important security measure, a means of protecting vital secrets by inserting fake communications into routine cable traffic while using separate channels to convey accurate information to cleared recipients.

But others cited a significant potential for abuse. Beyond the internal distrust implied by the practice, officials said there is no clear mechanism for labeling eyewash cables or distinguishing them from legitimate records being examined by the CIA’s inspector general, turned over to Congress or declassified for historians.

Senate investigators uncovered apparent cases of eyewashing as part of a multi-year probe of the CIA’s interrogation program, according to officials who said that the Senate Intelligence Committee found glaring inconsistencies in CIA communications about classified operations, including drone strikes.

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A high-powered network: How Google became embedded in British politics

Juliette Garside and Alice Ross report for The Guardian:

The furore over Google’s £130m deal with the UK taxman has triggered outrage among politicians, business figures and tax campaigners. It has also raised questions over the search engine group’s proximity to the corridors of power in Britain. An analysis of meetings between Google executives and senior politicians, as well as the regular appointments of political figures to major positions within the company’s PR machine, shows how the California-based tech company has become deeply entwined within the British political landscape.

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Hugh Wilford on America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East

John Batchelor talks to Hugh Wilford, a historian at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and the author of several books on the CIA and British intelligence during the Cold War. In this interview Wilford discusses information found in his 2013 book America’s Great Game: The CIA’s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East. (The John Batchelor Show)

Cecil Rhodes statue to remain at Oxford after ‘overwhelming support’

Kevin Rawlinson reports for The Guardian:

rhodes statue 425x265Oriel College has said it will not remove the controversial statue of Cecil Rhodes at Oxford University despite a campaign by students who believe the British imperialist’s legacy should not be celebrated.

The Rhodes Must Fall movement said the statue of the man who was an ardent imperialist and left a sizeable sum to the college in his will, was representative of Britain’s “imperial blind spot” and should be taken down.

But on Thursday the college, which owns the statue, said a consultation process had shown “overwhelming” support for keeping it.

“Following careful consideration, the college’s governing body has decided that the statue should remain in place and that the college will seek to provide a clear historical context to explain why it is there,” it said.

The college confirmed it had been warned of the possibility that it would lose about £100m in gifts should the statue be taken down but a spokesman insisted the financial implications were not the primary consideration.

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January Playlist

Examining the Syria War Chessboard: Interview with Dr. Vijay Prashad

The war in Syria is an unparalleled crisis. Having gone far beyond an internal political struggle, the war is marked by a complex array of forces that the U.S. Empire hopes to command: Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kurdistan, Iran, Lebanon, Iraq and more. To simplify this web of enemies and friends in the regional war, Abby Martin interviews Dr. Vijay Prashad, professor of International Studies at Trinity College and author of several books including The Poorer Nations, A People’s History of the Third World and Arab Spring, Libyan Winter. (The Empire Files)

Brutal Repression in Egypt Exceeds Conditions Under Mubarak: Interview with Noha Radwan

Sharmini Peries talks to Noha Radwan, an associate professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at UC Davis. Radwan discusses the conditions facing political prisoners, where as many as seventy people are crammed into 15×15 spaces, while calling on the international community for assistance. (The Real News)

Egypt, five years later: A human-rights catastrophe of America’s making

Ganzeer writes for Creative Time Reports:

Egypt, five years later: A human-rights catastrophe of America's makingFive years ago this month, thousands of Egyptians filled Tahrir Square and ignited a mass uprising that lasted 18 days and drove strongman president Hosni Mubarak from office. It seemed to augur a bright future for freedom and democracy in Egyptbut five years, multiple referendums, two parliaments, two presidents, and scores of dead bodies later, Egypts present looks just like its past. Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisis crackdown on dissidents spreads: at the end of last year the Interior Ministry raided cultural institutions, including a publishing house and art gallery. Sisi, as well as his minister of religious endowment, have both warned citizens against taking to the streets on the January 25 anniversary. Yet nobodyat least not in the White Houseseems to care.

Even before assuming office, Sisi was already responsible for an estimated death toll of at least 817 during the brutal clearing of a peaceful sit-in in Rabaa Square on August 14, 2013. And under his administration the Egyptian Armed Forcesoperations in Sinai have reportedly killed more than 2,000 people so far, including an unknown number of civilians (the Egyptian government acknowledges virtually no civilian deaths). The Egyptian people are so disillusioned that hardly anyone showed up to vote in the most recent parliamentary elections. Not even fatwas could get people to the pollsand why should they vote, when Sisis actions have made it clear that their votes do not matter? But none of that is stopping the United States from supporting him.

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Is America about to sleepwalk into a war in Libya? We need a debate now

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

You wouldn’t know it from the presidential campaign, but the US is preparing to start military action in Libya … again. And given that Hillary Clinton was the leading proponent inside the Obama administration for bombing Libya and regime change the first time around, this should have a direct bearing on the presidential debate. Should, but hasn’t.

Libya has devolved into chaos since the US decided to launch airstrikes and overthrow dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 and has increasingly become a base for Isis operations in recent months thanks to infighting among the new government and its inability to control its own territory – a result that the advocates of the first Libyan intervention who hailed the move four years ago are conspicuously silent on now.

And instead of discussing the havoc military campaigns can wreak and the blowback they often engender, Republicans and Hillary Clinton have all been arguing about who is going to increase military action in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere.

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The West’s return to Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya proves the warmongers wrong

Nafeez Ahmed writes for Middle East Eye:

Despite an almost total lack of public debate, Western military escalation in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya is on the rise.

Renewed military interventionism has been largely justified as a response to the meteoric rise of Islamic State networks, spreading across parts of the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia.

Missing from government pronouncements, though, is any acknowledgement that the proliferation of Islamist terrorism is a direct consequence of the knee-jerk response of military escalation.

Discarded to the memory hole is the fact that before each of the major interventions in these three countries, our political leaders promised they would bring security, freedom and prosperity.

Instead, they have done precisely the opposite.

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New Film Reveals History and Consequences of Israeli Settlements on Palestinian Land: Interview with Shimon Dotan

Amy Goodman talks to Shimon Dotan, an award winning filmmaker and director of a new film, The Settlers, which has just had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival. (Democracy Now!)

With Donald Trump Absent, GOP Presidential Candidates Face Off: Interview with Rocky Anderson

Seven Republican presidential candidates faced off Thursday in their final debate before the Iowa caucuses. The front-runner, at least according to the polls, was missing. Donald Trump hosted his own event three miles away, saying he was boycotting the debate after Fox News refused to remove anchor Megyn Kelly as one of its moderators. We feature excerpts from the debate about Planned Parenthood, proposals to “carpet bomb” areas of Syria in the effort to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State, and hate crimes against Muslims; and get reaction from a man who ran for president as a third-party candidate. Amy Goodman speaks to Rocky Anderson, the former mayor of Salt Lake City, is a former Democrat who once endorsed Mitt Romney for governor of Massachusetts. In 2012, he ran for president on the Justice Party ticket. He’s also an attorney and the founder of High Road for Human Rights. (Democracy Now!)