People like to throw the term “centrism” around, but it doesn’t actually exist as a political force in America today.
There’s donor-based politics and there’s populism.
It’ll stay that way until we deal with the rigged neofeudal economy.
NEED TO KNOW
By Sara A. Carter, saraacarter.com, July 26, 2018
For more than nine months, House Republicans have been battling the Department of Justice and FBI for a cache of documents they say are necessary to conduct oversight investigations into the FBI’s handling of alleged collusion between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia. The backroom battles between lawmakers and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein culminated in impeachment articles filed Wednesday against the deputy attorney general.
The lawmakers did so despite objections by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) who said to reporters Thursday, “Do I support impeachment of Rod Rosenstein? No, I do not.”
Mr. Rosenstein oversaw the potentially improper authorization of FISA searches and electronic surveillance of members of the Trump campaign
Nonetheless, Freedom Caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) went forward with the articles of impeachment. The lawmakers charged Rosenstein with “high crimes and misdemeanors” and noted that Rosenstein signed off on a search warrant that deliberately withheld vital information from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). The DOJ under Rosensten was “withholding embarrassing documents and information, knowingly hiding investigative information from Congress,” committing various abuses of the FISA process and refusing to comply with subpoenas, according to the lawmakers. The articles were filed just before the House goes on its five-week August recess and are not expected to come up for a vote until the members return to Washington, congressional officials said.
“Mr. Rosenstein oversaw the potentially improper authorization of FISA searches and electronic surveillance of members of the Trump campaign,” states Article 5 of the impeachment document. “As evidenced by the July 21, 2018 release of the Carter Page FISA application, under Mr. Rosenstein’s supervision, the ‘dossier’ compiled by Christopher Steele on behalf of the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign formed a material part of the FISA application. Under Mr. Rosenstein’s supervision, the Department of Justice and FBI intentionally obfuscated the fact the dossier was originally a political opposition research document before the FISC.”
Meadows made the decision to file the impeachment articles late Wednesday after a meeting with DOJ and FBI officials. According to Meadows the DOJ was not willing to comply with months of requests, instead, the officials argued they were in “compliance” with Congress.
“They still don’t know the total number of documents they need to produce to the committee after nine months of requests,” Meadow’s told SaraACarter.com.
“Currently, I have filed the impeachment articles as non-privileged, meaning the articles will go to the House Judiciary Committee,” added the lawmaker. “But I have the authority to file the impeachment articles as privileged at any time, and if that happens it goes to the House for a vote within two days.”
Meadows, Jordan and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, among others, have long stated their frustration with the DOJ’s failure to produce the documentation they have requested, saying they have been continuously “stonewalled.”
So far, the committees have uncovered disturbing evidence that exposes a pattern of behavior by FBI and DOJ officials to cover-up and withhold information from not only the congressional committees but from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approved the warrant to spy on Page. The investigations have uncovered that Steele’s dossier, which remains unverified, was used as the bulk of the evidence presented to the secret court to launch an investigation into President Trump’s campaign, according to congressional sources.
Rosenstein, who signed off on the fourth FISA application on Page, would have been well aware of the information contained in the dossier and also what may have been omitted by the FBI when it turned its application over to the FISC judges.
From the Impeachment Articles
- Rosenstein failed to produce documents requested by the Judiciary Committee.
- DOJ has failed to produce documents pertaining to the FISA application or relating to FISA applications on Page or individuals on the Trump campaign.
- Failed to produce documents or communications referring or relating to the FISC (secret court) and hearings, deliberations and transcripts related to FISC applications on Page or the Trump campaign and Trump Administration.
- All documents and communications referring or relating to defensive briefings by DOJ or FBI regarding the 2016 campaign.
- All documents and communications regarding any possible FISA discussions about the Clinton Foundation or persons associated or in communication with the Clinton Foundation.
Rosenstein’s Failure to comply and obstruct Congressional Investigations
- Rosenstein “attempted to conceal certain facts as documents provided to Congress were heavily and unnecessarily redacted.” According to the impeachment articles, “most of the redacted documents containing material investigative information did not contain law-enforcement-sensitive information, the Department’s stated basis for redactions.”
- Rosenstein’s DOJ redacted the price of (former) FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s $70,000 conference table because it was potentially embarrassing information for the FBI.
- The DOJ under Rosenstein redacted FBI Agent Peter Strzok’s personal relationship with FISC Judge Rudolph Contreras, remember this story.
- Also, under Rosenstein, the DOJ redacted the names of high-ranking Obama administration officials, such as former White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. The DOJ also redacted the names of high-ranking FBI officials, such as former Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.
Read the original article here
By Michael Krieger, Liberty Blitzkrieg, July 26, 2018
It’s a common refrain these days to hear people lament a decline of the so-called “center” in American politics. We’re supposed to look on in horror as “moderate” Republicans and Democrats become an engaged species of liberty-fighting patriots steamrolled by frothing, insane hordes of populist barbarians on their left and right flanks. They’re the voice of reason, lovers of apple pie and staunch defenders of our constitution and all that’s good and right in the US of A. We’re encouraged to run back into the blood soaked arms of establishment politicians like John McCain and Hillary Clinton — the only ones standing between us and the Donald Trumps and Bernie Sanders of the world. The center cannot hold, so we’re told.
It’s a nice story, the only problem is it’s complete and total nonsensical garbage. This mythical “center” is nothing more than a failed status quo attempting to rebrand itself in the wake of being outed as the corrupt charlatans they are. Russia, Trump and Bernie Sanders didn’t destroy healthcare, bailout criminal bankers and invade Iraq based on fake news. No, moderate Republicans and Democrats did that. The so-called celebrated center did that.
Nevertheless, it’s crucial not to accept their phony terms. What these professional con artists are now marketing as centrism is in reality just entrenched donor-based politics. If you want to call endless imperial wars and the transformation of the U.S. into a rigged neo-feudal hunger games economy centrism, be my guest. I’d call it the result of decades of political apathy during which rapacious donors purchased the political process while nobody was looking. Well we’re looking now, and we’re not too happy about what we see.
The honorable response for such remarkable failures is for the status quo to apologize profusely and walk off into the sunset of irrelevance with their tails between their legs. Not these creeps. Instead, they decided to rebrand themselves as the heroic center, protectors of the Republic they looted from the plague of populism and Russia. These are truly awful people, which makes sense when you consider the grotesque culture created in their image.
Populism isn’t a response to mythical centrism, it’s a response to robber baron looting. An American pastime aided, abetted and institutionalized by “moderate” Republicans and Democrats for decades. There’s nothing moderate about taking money from billionaires and doing whatever they want. That’s not centrism, that’s the status quo.
We’re currently in the early stages of a radical political transformation in this country. The status quo has failed completely and everyone knows it except for them. They aren’t “the center” they’re just donor lackeys who sold out the country. We don’t have a recognizable center in politics right now because everyone’s in flux. The only thing that’s clear is populism is ascendant on both the right and the left. As such, can a genuine center develop (within the context of populism), and will we be wise enough to recognize and embrace it?
If I’m right, the status quo will lose even more relevance going forward, a process that will accelerate after the economy tanks again. If things are miserable for young Americans now, how do you think they’re going to respond when things get worse and nobody’s done anything to deal with our predatory and rigged economy? I think you know. We’re still in the very early days of a very profound populist era in American history.
Given that, I think it’s a good time to revisit a Venn diagram I shared a few times several years ago when you could start to see the beginnings of our current era with the emergence of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.
When it comes to populism there’s a logical center, but I’m not optimistic we can get enthusiastic rabble rousers and activists from all sides to focus on points of agreement and work towards what a real center might want. Politics has become too gladiatorial, vicious and personal for that, at least for the foreseeable future. Plus, people who lead political movements tend to be power-hungry, ego maniac types. It seems there’s too much centralized power up for grabs in D.C. for a rational populist center to become ascendant. I really, really hope I’m wrong about this and will do my best to ensure I’m wrong.
As Anthony Bourdain noted in an interview prior to his death:
Look, the minute everybody in the room agrees with you, you’re in a bad place, so I’m a big believer in change just for its own sake, just to show that you can change, to move forward incrementally, but ain’t nobody gonna make everything better. Whoever has the intestinal fortitude or the megalomaniac instincts, uh, sufficient to lead any kind of a revolution will inevitably disappoint horribly.
The best revolutionaries of course are martyrs who died before they could turn into disgusting, self-serving, corrupt pieces of shit. As they all do.
Although it’s absolutely necessary, getting rid of the status quo doesn’t automatically mean things will get better. That part is up to us.
Read the original article here
Jack Dorsey may have pushed his apparent anti-conservative agenda just a little too far after evidence mounts – even among the liberal media – that Twitter has been ‘shadow-banning’ various ‘right of socialist’ members on the social media site ( by limiting the number of people who are able to view content from the affected users).
Following CEO Jack Dorsey’s attempt to play down the actions, saying “It suffices to say we have a lot more work to do to earn people’s trust on how we work.”
We’ve heard questions from some of you relating to our work to drive healthy conversation on Twitter. People are asking us 1) about the breadth and precision of our work & 2) the impact of our work on the Search experience. We wanted to address these questions transparently here.
In May, we started using behavioral signals and machine learning to reduce people’s ability to detract from healthy public conversation on Twitter. This approach looks at account behavior & interactions with other accounts that violate our rules.
On 1) We’re always working to improve our behavior-based ranking models – their breadth and accuracy will improve over time. It’s important to note that these behavior signals are not binary, and they are one of many other signals that factor into ranking.
To be clear, our behavioral ranking doesn’t make judgements based on political views or the substance of tweets. We recently publicly testified to Congress on this topic https://judiciary.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Pickles-Testimony.pdf
On 2) Some accounts weren’t being auto-suggested even when people were searching for their specific name. Our usage of the behavior signals within search was causing this to happen & making search results seem inaccurate. We’re making a change today that will improve this.
We believe this work is really important to creating a healthier Twitter and we want to continue improving. Your feedback helps us do that so please keep it coming.
And after his son blasted Dorsey…
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) July 25, 2018
President Trump has decided to step into this debacle (presumably in an effort to avert Dorsey’s attempt to ‘meddle’ in the midterms), warning that ” We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! “
Twitter “SHADOW BANNING” prominent Republicans. Not good. We will look into this discriminatory and illegal practice at once! Many complaints.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2018
Trump’s tweet comes after his 2020 campaign manager, Brad Parscale, along with Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, wrote a letter in May calling for the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter to address concerns over conservative censorship ahead of the 2020 election, as well as a call for transparency.
“We recognize that Facebook and Twitter operate in liberal corporate cultures,” the letter reads. “However, rampant political bias is inappropriate for a widely used public forum.”
President Trump’s famous (or infamous) tweets have now fallen under the investigatory lens of special counsel Robert Mueller as part of the ever-ongoing probe of Trumpworld, reports the New York Times. Mueller will attempt to tie Trump’s tweets to the Russia investigation; public attacks; misleading White House statements; and possible offers to pardon potential witnesses.
In particular, Mueller is focusing on tweets concerning Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former FBI Director James Comey in order to stitch together a mosaic leading to the “obstruction” chapter of the saga, according to “three people briefed on the matter,” the gold standard in anonymous sources.
Several of the remarks came as Mr. Trump was also privately pressuring the men — both key witnesses in the inquiry — about the investigation, and Mr. Mueller is examining whether the actions add up to attempts to obstruct the investigation by both intimidating witnesses and pressuring senior law enforcement officials to tamp down the inquiry. –NYT
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017
Why didn’t A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
Trump’s lawyers argue that none of what Mueller is targeting constitutes obstruction, including the firing Comey – which falls under Trump’s authority as President.
As it has turned out, James Comey lied and leaked and totally protected Hillary Clinton. He was the best thing that ever happened to her!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 18, 2017
Also, Comey’s firing wouldn’t have affected the ongoing counterintelligence operation taken over by acting FBI director Andrew McCabe, which was subsequently handed over to Mueller after Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein authorized the special counsel.
But privately, some of the lawyers have expressed concern that Mr. Mueller will stitch together several episodes, encounters and pieces of evidence, like the tweets, to build a case that the president embarked on a broad effort to interfere with the investigation. Prosecutors who lack one slam-dunk piece of evidence in obstruction cases often search for a larger pattern of behavior, legal experts said. –NYT
Mueller’s team have told Trump’s lawyers that they are examining the tweets under obstruction laws beefed up after the Enron scandal, according to the three anonymous sources – who also noted that Mueller is scrutinizing Trump actions under a section of US code titled “Tampering With a Witness, Victim, or an Informant.”
President Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, dismissed the special counsel’s interest in Trump’s tweets, saying “If you’re going to obstruct justice, you do it quietly and secretly, not in public.”
One incident Mueller has also been looking at is a confrontation reported in May between Trump and Sessions, in which the President berated Sessions for stepping aside from the Russia investigation, before asking the Attorney General to un-recuse himself from the case – a request Sessions declined.
“The confrontation, which has not been previously reported, is being investigated by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, as are the president’s public and private attacks on Mr. Sessions and efforts to get him to resign. Mr. Trump dwelled on the recusal for months, according to confidants and current and former administration officials who described his behavior toward the attorney general,” reported the Times.
In fact, Mueller’s team has also learned that Trump has tried to persuade Sessions to resign at several points in May and July 2017 so that he could be replaced with a loyalist to oversee the Russia inquiry.
After Mr. Trump tried last July to get Mr. Sessions to resign, the president began a three-day public attack on a variety of fronts — tweets, a Rose Garden news conference and a Wall Street Journal interview — criticizing Mr. Sessions, raising the specter that he would fire him. –NYT
Trump has publicly stated that he would have chosen another Attorney General if he knew Sessions was going to recuse himself from the Russia investigation (although any AG who campaigned with Trump would have fallen under similar pressure to recuse).
That said, it may not be so easy to arrive at an obstruction charge…
If Mr. Mueller opts to tailor a narrative that the president tried to obstruct the Russia investigation, he would have to clear several hurdles to make a strong case. He would need credible witnesses (Mr. Comey and Mr. Sessions have been the target of concerted attacks by Mr. Trump and allies, undercutting their standing) and evidence that Mr. Trump had criminal intent (the special counsel has told the president’s lawyers he needs to question him to determine this). –NYT
“There’s rarely evidence that someone sits down and says, ‘I intend to commit a crime,’ so any type of investigation hangs on using additional evidence to build a narrative arc that hangs together,” said Samuel W. Buell, a professor of law at Duke University and former senior federal prosecutor. “That’s why a prosecutor wants more pieces of evidence. You need to lock down the argument.”
By John Kiriakou, Consortium News, July 26, 2018
Libertarian senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, said on Monday that in a personal meeting with President Donald Trump, he urged the president to revoke the security clearances of a half dozen former Obama-era intelligence officials, including former CIA director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice. I couldn’t agree more with Paul’s position, not specifically regarding these three people, but for any former intelligence official. No former intelligence official should keep a security clearance, especially if he or she transitions to the media or to a corporate board.
The controversy specifically over Brennan’s clearance has been bubbling along for more than a year. He has been one of Trump’s most vocal and harshest critics. Last week he went so far as to accuse Trump of having committed “treason” during his meeting in Helsinki, Finland with Russian president Vladimir Putin. Brennan said in a tweet, “Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’ It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican patriots: Where are you???” The outburst was in response to Trump’s unwillingness to accept the Intelligence Community position that Putin and the Russians interfered in the 2016 presidential election.
Other intelligence professionals weighed in negatively on Trump’s Helsinki performance, including Republicans like former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and former CIA director Mike Hayden.
Why are these people saying anything at all? And why do they have active Top Secret security clearances if they have no governmental positions? The first question is easier to answer than the second. Before answering, though, I want to say that I don’t think this issue is specific to Donald Trump. Former officials of every administration criticize those who have replaced them. That’s the way Washington works. It’s a way for those former officials to remain relevant. Donald Trump happens to be an easy target. His actions are so wildly unpredictable—and frequently so disingenuous on the surface of things—that he proves wrong the oft-quoted observation by the late Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser: “The genius of you Americans is that you never make clear-cut stupid moves. You only make complicated stupid moves, which make the rest of us wonder at the possibility that we might be missing something.”
I’ve known John Brennan for 30 years. He was my boss in the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence decades ago. John was hard to get along with. His superiors generally didn’t like him. He was once fired from a job at the CIA. He’s not particularly bright. And then he found a patron in former CIA director George Tenet, who saved his career. Brennan has had his run. He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. He’s been CIA Director, deputy National Security Advisor, director of the Transnational Terrorism Information Center, and deputy Executive Director of the CIA. That’s pretty heady stuff for a kid from Bergen, New Jersey.
He also has very low self-esteem from those early days at the CIA. Almost everybody else had more degrees, spoke more languages, and went to better schools. Until Tenet, Brennan never had a political rabbi and was stuck at the GS-15 (journeyman) level for years. Now, all these years later, he again doesn’t have anyone to help his career. Barack Obama isn’t president anymore. And Brennan desperately wants to be Secretary of Defense. He says it to anybody willing to listen. That is what’s supposed to be his legacy, at least in his mind.
Besides legacy, Brennan and the others have cashed in on their government service. They’ve all become rich by sitting on corporate boards. Brennan is on the board of directors of a company called SecureAuth + CORE Security. He also serves on the board of The Analysis Corporation, which he helped found before joining the Obama Administration. Finally, and most importantly, Brennan is now the official talking head and “Intelligence Consultant” for NBC News and MSNBC.
To me, this is the point that is the most obviously wrong. How is it that former officials who now have no role in government are able to keep their active security clearances? This has abuse written all over it. First, these officials run the risk of exposing classified information in a television interview, either inadvertently or not. Second, and more cynically, what is to keep them from propagandizing the American people by simply spouting the CIA line or allowing the CIA to use them to put out disinformation? What’s to keep them from propagandizing the American people by selectively leaking information known only to the intelligence agencies and Congress? Or to release information passed to them by the FBI?
No former intelligence officials should have a security clearance. There’s no purpose for it other than propaganda and personal enrichment. And if Brennan or Hayden or Clapper or any other former intelligence official becomes an employee of a media company, he or she should not have a security clearance. Period. Donald Trump ought to act right now.
John Kiriakou is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. John became the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration under the Espionage Act – a law designed to punish spies. He served 23 months in prison as a result of his attempts to oppose the Bush administration’s torture program.
The darling of the war party needs to answer some questions…
At the press conference following their summit meeting in Helsinki, Russian President Vladimir Putin and American President Donald Trump discussed the possibility of resolving potential criminal cases involving citizens of the two countries by permitting interrogators from Washington and Moscow to participate in joint questioning of the individuals named in indictments prepared by the respective judiciaries. The predictable response by the American nomenklatura was that it was a horrible idea as it would potentially require U.S. officials to answer questions from Russians about their activities.
Putin argued, not unreasonably, that if Washington wants to extradite and talk to any of the twelve recently indicted GRU officers the Justice Department has named then reciprocity is in order for Americans and other identified individuals who are wanted by the Russian authorities for illegal activity while in Russia. And if Russian officials are fair game, so are American officials.
A prime target for such an interrogation would be President Barack Obama’s Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul, who was widely criticized while in Moscow for being on an apparent mission to cultivate ties with the Russian political opposition and other “pro-democracy” groups. But McFaul was not specifically identified in the press conference, though Russian prosecutors have asked him to answer questions related to the ongoing investigation of another leading critic, Bill Browder, who was named by Putin during the question and answer session. Browder is a major hedge fund figure who, inter alia, is an American by birth. He renounced his U.S. citizenship in 1997 in exchange for British citizenship to avoid paying federal taxes on his worldwide income.
Bill Browder is what used to be referred to as an oligarch, having set up shop in 1999 as Hermitage Capital Management Fund, a hedge fund registered in tax havens Guernsey and the Cayman Islands. It focused on “investing” in Russia, taking advantage initially of the loans-for-shares scheme under Russia’s drunkard President Boris Yeltsin, and then continuing to profit greatly during the early years of Vladimir Putin. By 2005 Hermitage was the largest foreign investor in Russia.
Yeltsin had won a fraudulent election in 1996 supported by the oligarch-controlled media and by President Bill Clinton, who secured a $20.2 billion IMF loan that enabled him to buy support. Today we would refer to Clinton’s action as “interference in the 1996 election,” but at that time a helpless and bankrupt Russia was not well placed to object to what was being done to it. Yeltsin proved keen to follow oligarchical advice regarding how to strip the former Soviet Union of its vast state-owned assets. Browder’s Hermitage Investments profited hugely from the commodities deals that were struck at that time.
Browder and his apologists portray him as an honest and honorable Western businessman attempting to operate in a corrupt Russian business world. Nevertheless, the loans-for-shares scheme that made him his initial fortune has been correctly characterized as the epitome of corruption by all parties involved, an arrangement whereby foreign investors worked with local oligarchs to strip the former Soviet economy of its assets paying pennies on each dollar of value. Along the way, Browder was reportedly involved in money laundering, making false representations on official documents and bribery.
Browder was eventually charged by the Russian authorities for fraud and tax evasion. He was banned from re-entering Russia in 2005 and began to withdraw his assets from the country, but three companies controlled by Hermitage were eventually seized by the authorities. Browder himself was convicted of tax evasion in absentia in 2013 and sentenced to nine years in prison.
Browder, who refers to himself as Putin’s “public enemy #1,” has notably been able to sell his tale of innocence to leading American politicians like Senators John McCain, Lindsay Graham, Ben Cardin and ex-Senator Joe Lieberman, all of whom are always receptive when criticizing Russia, as well as to a number of European parliamentarians and media outlets. In the wake of the Helsinki press conference he has, for example, claimed that Putin named him personally because he is a threat to continue to expose the crimes of the mafia that he claims is currently running Russia, but there is, inevitably, another less discussed alternative view of his self-serving narrative.
Central to the tale of what Browder really represents is the Magnitsky Act, which the U.S. Congress passed into law to sanction individual Kremlin officials for their treatment of alleged whistleblower Sergei Magnitsky, arrested and imprisoned in Russia. Browder has sold a narrative which basically says that he and his “lawyer” Sergei Magnitsky uncovered massive tax fraud and, when they attempted to report it, were punished by a corrupt police force and magistracy, which had actually stolen the money. Magnitsky was arrested and died in prison, allegedly murdered by the police to silence him.
The Magnitsky case is of particular importance because both the European Union and the United States have initiated sanctions against the identified Russian officials who were allegedly involved. In the Magnitsky Act, sponsored by Russia-phobic Senator Ben Cardin and signed by President Barack Obama in 2012, the U.S. asserted its willingness to punish foreign governments for human rights abuses. The Act, initially limited to Russia, has now been expanded by virtue of 2016’s Global Magnitsky Act, which enabled U.S. sanctions worldwide.
Russia reacted angrily to the first iteration of the Act, noting that the actions taken by its government internally, notably the operation of its judiciary, were being subjected to outside interference, while other judicial authorities also questioned Washington’s claimed right to respond to criminal acts committed outside the United States. Moscow reciprocated with sanctions against U.S. officials as well as by increasing pressure on foreign non-governmental pro-democracy groups operating in Russia. Some have referred to the Magnitsky Act as the start of the new Cold War.
The contrary narrative to that provided by Browder concedes that there was indeed a huge fraud related to as much as $230 million in unpaid Russian taxes on an estimated $1.5 billion of income, but that it was not carried out by corrupt officials. Instead, it was deliberately ordered and engineered by Browder with Magnitsky, who was actually an accountant, personally developing and implementing the scheme, using multiple companies and tax avoidance schemes to carry out the deception. Magnitsky, who was on cardiac medication, was indeed arrested and convicted, but he, according to his own family, reportedly died due to his heart condition, possibly exacerbated by negligent authorities who failed to medicate him adequately when he became ill.
The two competing Browder narratives have been explored in some detail by a Russian documentary film maker Andrei Nekrasov, an outspoken anti-Putin activist, who was actually initially engaged by Browder to do the film. An affable Browder appears extensively in the beginning describing his career and the events surrounding Magnitsky.
As Nekrasov worked on the documentary, he discovered that the Browder supported narrative was full of contradictions, omissions and fabrication of evidence. By the time he finished, he realized that the more accurate account of what had occurred with Browder and Magnitsky had been that provided by the Russian authorities.
When Nekrasov prepared to air his work “The Magnitsky Act: Behind the Scenes,” he inevitably found himself confronted by billionaire Browder and a battery of lawyers, who together blocked the showing of the film in Europe and the United States. Anyone subsequently attempting to promote the documentary has been immediately confronted with 300 plus pages of supporting documents accompanying a letter threatening a lawsuit if the film were to be shown to the public.
A single viewing of “The Magnitsky Act” in Washington in June 2016 turned into a riot when Browder supporters used tickets given to Congressional staffers to disrupt the proceedings. At a subsequent hearing before Congress, where he was featured as an expert witness on Russian corruption before a fawning Senate Judiciary Committee, Bill Browder suggested that those who had challenged his narrative and arranged the film’s viewing in Washington should be prosecuted under the Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 (FARA), which includes penalties of up to five years in prison.
Because of the pressure from Browder, there has never been a second public showing of “The Magnitsky Act” but it is possible to see it online at this site.
Bill Browder, who benefited enormously from Russian corruption, has expertly repackaged himself as a paragon among businessmen, endearing himself to the Russia-haters in Washington and the media. Curiously, however, he has proven reluctant to testify in cases regarding his own business dealings. He has, for example, repeatedly run away, literally, from attempts to subpoena him so he would have to testify under oath.
When one gets past all of his bluster and posturing, by one significant metric Bill Browder might well be accounted the most dangerous man in the world. Driven by extreme hatred of Putin and of Russia, he personally and his Magnitsky Myth have together done more to launch and sustain a dangerous new Cold War between a nuclear armed United States and a nuclear armed Russia. Blind to what he has accomplished, he continues to pontificate about how Putin is out to get him when instead he is the crook who quite likely stole $230 million dollars and should be facing the consequences. That the U.S. media and Congress appear to be entranced by Browder and dismissive of Moscow’s charges against him is symptomatic of just how far the Russia-phobia in the West has robbed people of their ability to see what is right in front of them. To suggest that what is taking place driven by Browder and his friends in high places could well lead to tragedy for all of us would be an understatement.
“History repeats itself, first as tragedy, then as farce,” a saying attributed to Karl Marx, comes to mind in this time of Trump.
To those of us raised in the Truman era, when the Red Army was imposing its bloody Bolshevik rule on half of Europe, and NATO was needed to keep Stalin’s armies from the Channel, the threat seemed infinitely more serious. And so it was.
There were real traitors in that time.
Alger Hiss, a top State Department aide, at FDR’s side at Yalta, was exposed as a Stalinist spy by Congressman Richard Nixon. Harry Dexter White, No. 2 at Treasury, Laurence Duggan at State, and White House aide Lauchlin Currie were all exposed as spies. Then there was the Rosenberg spy ring that gave Stalin the secrets of the atom bomb.
Who do we have today to match Hiss and the Rosenbergs? A 29-year-old redheaded Russian Annie Oakley named Maria Butina, accused of infiltrating the National Rifle Association and the National Prayer Breakfast.
Is Putin’s Russia really a reincarnation of Stalin’s Soviet Union? Is Russia a threat of similar magnitude?
Russia is “our No. 1 geopolitical foe,” thundered Mitt Romney in 2012, now cited as a sage by liberals who used to castigate Republicans for any skepticism of detente during the Cold War.
Perhaps it is time to contrast the USSR of Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev with the Russia of Vladimir Putin.
By the beginning of Reagan’s tenure in 1981, 400,000 Red Army troops were in Central Europe, occupying the eastern bank of the Elbe.
West Berlin was surrounded by Russian troops. East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria were all ruled by Moscow’s puppets. All belonged to a Warsaw Pact created to fight NATO. Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Georgia, Ukraine were inside the USSR.
By the end of the Jimmy Carter era, Moscow had driven into Ethiopia, Mozambique and Angola in Africa, Cuba in the Caribbean, and Nicaragua in Central America, in the greatest challenge ever to the Monroe Doctrine.
The Soviets had invaded and occupied Afghanistan. The Soviet navy, built up over 25 years by Adm. Sergey Gorshkov, was a global rival of a U.S. Navy that had sunk to 300 ships.
And today? The Soviet Empire is history. The Soviet Union is history, having splintered into 15 nations. Russia is smaller than it was in the 19th century. Russia is gone from Cuba, Grenada, Central America, Ethiopia, Angola and Mozambique.
The Warsaw Pact is history. The Red Army is gone from Eastern Europe. The former Warsaw Pact nations of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria all belong to NATO, as do the former Soviet “republics” of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia.
When the flagship of Russia’s navy, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, sailed from Murmansk to Syria, it had to pass through the North Sea, the Channel, the east Atlantic, the Straits of Gibraltar, and then sail the length of the Med to anchor off Latakia.
Coming and going, the Kuznetsov was within range of anti-ship missiles, aircraft, submarines and surface ships of 20 NATO nations, among them Norway, Britain, Germany, France, Spain and Portugal, and many U.S. bases and warships.
Entering the Med, the Kuznetsov had to travel, without a naval base to refuel, within range of the missiles, planes and ships of Spain, France, Italy and Greece. Along the banks of the Adriatic and Aegean there are only NATO nations, except for Kosovo, which is home to the largest U.S. base in the Balkans, Camp Bondsteel.
To sail from St. Petersburg through the Baltic Sea to the Atlantic, Russian warships must pass within range of 11 NATO nations — the three Baltic republics, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Belgium, Britain and France.
The Black Sea’s western and southern shores are now controlled entirely by NATO: Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey. Russia’s lone land passage to its naval base in Crimea is a narrow bridge from the Kerch Peninsula.
With the breakup of the USSR, Russia has been reduced to two-thirds of the territory and half the population of the Soviet Union.
Its former republics and now neighbors Georgia and Ukraine are hostile. Its space launches are now done from a foreign land, Kazakhstan. Its economy has shrunk to the size of Italy’s.
It has one-tenth the population and one-fifth the economy of its looming neighbor, China, and, except for territory, is even more dwarfed by the United States with a GDP of $20 trillion, and troops, bases and allies all over the world.
Most critically, Russia’s regime is no longer Communist. The ideology that drove its imperialism is dead. There are parties, demonstrations and dissidents in Russia, and an Orthodox faith that is alive and promoted by Putin.
Where, today, is there a vital U.S. interest imperiled by Putin?
Better to jaw-jaw, than war-war, said Churchill. He was right, as is President Trump to keep talking to Putin — right through the Russophobia rampant in this city.
Last Thursday, Eugene Robinson – MSNBC analyst and writer for the Washington Post – published a column criticizing President Trump for failing to side with the U.S. intelligence community over their conclusion on Russian meddling in the 2016 election during a diplomatic summit with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.
Remember when the “deep state” was written off as a conspiracy theory? How times have changed.
With a supine Congress unwilling to play the role it is assigned by the Constitution, the deep state stands between us and the abyss.
Throughout his article, Robinson defends the integrity and reputation of U.S. intelligence agencies – the same organizations that concluded Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and launched us into a decade-long quagmire in the Middle East.
That isn’t to say the entirety of the United States intelligence communities are dishonorable and lack integrity. However, if the top brass in the agencies is anything to go by – the intentions and aims of our intelligence organizations could certainly be called into question.
Look for no further evidence of that notion than…
Former CIA Director, John Brennan
Brennan is no stranger to the spotlight; from appearances on major cable news networks to his dismal outbursts on Twitter, the former CIA Director steadily attempts to control and shape the narrative.
Last week, Tucker Carlson blasted Brennan, labeling him as an “out of the closet extremist” and “cable news shouter” – deriding the fact Brennan still has a top secret security clearance. Tucker detailed that Brennan is “a passionate ideologue with a documented history of dishonesty” and “as CIA director… lied about spying on senate staffers and killing civilians with drone strikes… and about the Steele dossier…”
Furthermore, Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal penned a great exposéon Brennan’s role in the virtually ignored 2016 spying scandal of Trump and his transition team. Strassel calls Brennan out as “partisan” and notes his close history with Obama.
Former DNI Director, James Clapper
Clapper is cut from the same cloth as Brennan regarding former intelligence officials turned cable news commentators. In August of 2017, Clapper was hired at CNN as an analyst – after he allegedly leaked the Steele dossier to the network.
Even after giving a bogus dossier to CNN in a bid to undermine an incoming President, the ethics and principles of Clapper sadly remained unchallenged.
Of the infamous dossier, Clapper took the same route as Brennan in defending it:
But at the same time, some of the substantive content, not all of it, but some of the substantive content of the dossier, we were able to corroborate in our intelligence community assessment which from other sources in which we had very high confidence to it. I think with respect to the dossier itself, the key thing is doesn’t matter who paid for it.
To note, the dossier remains uncorroborated and unverified despite Clapper’s erroneous claim.
For all you need to know about Clapper, this short clip from 2013 speaks volumes on his character:
Wyden: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions… of Americans?”
Clapper: “No, sir.”
Of his comments under oath, Clapper said he responded in “what [he] thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner.” Clapper remained DNI director through Obama’s last term despite calls for criminal charges of perjury to be brought against him, suffering no consequences for lying to Congress.
James Comey, Robert Mueller, and Peter Strzok; Top FBI Brass
The FBI’s integrity and impartiality has been shredded to tatters and blown into the wind thanks to these three men.
The nature of these top officials at the agency has been well documented. For instance, FMShooter reported in September 2017 that then-FBI Director, James Comey wrote his public statement exonerating Hillary Clinton from her federal investigation months before she was even interviewed by the FBI.
Recently, it was revealed that none other than Peter Strzok changed the language in the FBI’s public statement, lessening Clinton’s charges of using a personal e-mail server from “grossly negligent” to “extremely careless”.
Let’s not forget the fact that the FBI – with Robert Mueller as Director – uncovered a Russian bribery plot in 2009 that benefited Barack Obama and the Clintons:
According to government documents and interviews, before approving the controversial Uranium One deal with Russia, the Obama administration participated in bribery, kickbacks, extortion, and money laundering with Russian officials – all with the aim to expand Vladimir Putin’s atomic energy business inside the U.S.
This, and more, comes from a bombshell report from The Hill that details the corruption via eyewitness accounts and internal documents. E-mails showed that Moscow compromised an American uranium trucking firm with bribes and kickbacks – which is in direct violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices act.
Mueller, the one investigating Trump’s supposed Russian ties, ignored and allowed bribery and a lucrative Uranium deal with Russia when it involved the Clintons and then-President Obama. Instead of admitting they were at fault, top Democrats pushed Russia as a scapegoat when they are the only ones guilty of any actual collusion.
Just a month before the 2016 election, Obama directly told Trump to “stop whining” about election rigging and that “there is no serious person out there that would suggest… you could even rig America’s elections”…
Yet after Trump’s win in November, the narrative shifted. Russia, without a doubt, hacked our democracy and installed an illegitimate President into the White House, according to U.S. intelligence agencies and the political Establishment.
However, pundits like WaPo’s Eugene Robinson are ignoring the elephant in the room. Though not every facet of U.S. intelligence agencies is hackless and partisan, the top officials across three of our main organizations certainly are.
With officials like Brennan, Clapper, Comey, and Mueller having run these agencies – is it any wonder Trump wasn’t quick to side with their findings? After all, he’s been the focus of an overdrawn, completely partisan investigation by Mueller for the better part of two years now, with no evidence of collusion with Russia found and the actual collusion ignored.
As usual, the Fake News mainstream media has spun and de-contextualized Trump’s actual comments to use them against him – another case of manufactured hysteria that far too many Americans have fallen victim to.
In today’s United States, the term “espionage” doesn’t get too much use outside of some specific contexts. There is still sporadic talk of industrial espionage, but with regard to Americans’ own efforts to understand the world beyond their borders, they prefer the term “intelligence.” This may be an intelligent choice, or not, depending on how you look at things.
First of all, US “intelligence” is only vaguely related to the game of espionage as it has been traditionally played, and as it is still being played by countries such as Russia and China. Espionage involves collecting and validating strategically vital information and conveying it to just the pertinent decision-makers on your side while keeping the fact that you are collecting and validating it hidden from everyone else.
In eras past, a spy, if discovered, would try to bite down on a cyanide capsule; these days torture is considered ungentlemanly, and spies that get caught patiently wait to be exchanged in a spy swap. An unwritten, commonsense rule about spy swaps is that they are done quietly and that those released are never interfered with again because doing so would complicate negotiating future spy swaps. In recent years, the US intelligence agencies have decided that torturing prisoners is a good idea, but they have mostly been torturing innocent bystanders, not professional spies, sometimes forcing them to invent things, such as “Al Qaeda.” There was no such thing before US intelligence popularized it as a brand among Islamic terrorists.
Most recently, British “special services,” which are a sort of Mini-Me to the to the Dr. Evil that is the US intelligence apparatus, saw it fit to interfere with one of their own spies, Sergei Skripal, a double agent whom they sprung from a Russian jail in a spy swap. They poisoned him using an exotic chemical and then tried to pin the blame on Russia based on no evidence. There are unlikely to be any more British spy swaps with Russia, and British spies working in Russia should probably be issued good old-fashioned cyanide capsules (since that supposedly super-powerful Novichok stuff the British keep at their “secret” lab in Porton Down doesn’t work right and is only fatal 20% of the time).
There is another unwritten, commonsense rule about spying in general: whatever happens, it needs to be kept out of the courts, because the discovery process of any trial would force the prosecution to divulge sources and methods, making them part of the public record. An alternative is to hold secret tribunals, but since these cannot be independently verified to be following due process and rules of evidence, they don’t add much value.
A different standard applies to traitors; here, sending them through the courts is acceptable and serves a high moral purpose, since here the source is the person on trial and the method—treason—can be divulged without harm. But this logic does not apply to proper, professional spies who are simply doing their jobs, even if they turn out to be double agents. In fact, when counterintelligence discovers a spy, the professional thing to do is to try to recruit him as a double agent or, failing that, to try to use the spy as a channel for injecting disinformation.
Americans have been doing their best to break this rule. Recently, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted a dozen Russian operatives working in Russia for hacking into the DNC mail server and sending the emails to Wikileaks. Meanwhile, said server is nowhere to be found (it’s been misplaced) while the time stamps on the files that were published on Wikileaks show that they were obtained by copying to a thumb drive rather than sending them over the internet. Thus, this was a leak, not a hack, and couldn’t have been done by anyone working remotely from Russia.
Furthermore, it is an exercise in futility for a US official to indict Russian citizens in Russia. They will never stand trial in a US court because of the following clause in the Russian Constitution: “61.1 A citizen of the Russian Federation may not be deported out of Russia or extradited to another state.” Mueller may summon a panel of constitutional scholars to interpret this sentence, or he can just read it and weep. Yes, the Americans are doing their best to break the unwritten rule against dragging spies through the courts, but their best is nowhere near good enough.
That said, there is no reason to believe that the Russian spies couldn’t have hacked into the DNC mail server. It was probably running Microsoft Windows, and that operating system has more holes in it than a building in downtown Raqqa, Syria after the Americans got done bombing that city to rubble, lots of civilians included. When questioned about this alleged hacking by Fox News, Putin (who had worked as a spy in his previous career) had trouble keeping a straight face and clearly enjoyed the moment. He pointed out that the hacked/leaked emails showed a clear pattern of wrongdoing: DNC officials conspired to steal the electoral victory in the Democratic Primary from Bernie Sanders, and after this information had been leaked they were forced to resign. If the Russian hack did happen, then it was the Russians working to save American democracy from itself. So, where’s the gratitude? Where’s the love? Oh, and why are the DNC perps not in jail?
Since there exists an agreement between the US and Russia to cooperate on criminal investigations, Putin offered to question the spies indicted by Mueller. He even offered to have Mueller sit in on the proceedings. But in return he wanted to question US officials who may have aided and abetted a convicted felon by the name of William Browder, who is due to begin serving a nine-year sentence in Russia any time now and who, by the way, donated copious amounts of his ill-gotten money to the Hillary Clinton election campaign. In response, the US Senate passed a resolution to forbid Russians from questioning US officials. And instead of issuing a valid request to have the twelve Russian spies interviewed, at least one US official made the startlingly inane request to have them come to the US instead. Again, which part of 61.1 don’t they understand?
The logic of US officials may be hard to follow, but only if we adhere to the traditional definitions of espionage and counterespionage—“intelligence” in US parlance—which is to provide validated information for the purpose of making informed decisions on best ways of defending the country. But it all makes perfect sense if we disabuse ourselves of such quaint notions and accept the reality of what we can actually observe: the purpose of US “intelligence” is not to come up with or to work with facts but to simply “make shit up.”
The “intelligence” the US intelligence agencies provide can be anything but; in fact, the stupider it is the better, because its purpose is allow unintelligent people to make unintelligent decisions. In fact, they consider facts harmful—be they about Syrian chemical weapons, or conspiring to steal the primary from Bernie Sanders, or Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, or the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden—because facts require accuracy and rigor while they prefer to dwell in the realm of pure fantasy and whimsy. In this, their actual objective is easily discernible.
Their objective of US intelligence is to suck all remaining wealth out of the US and its allies and pocket as much of it as possible while pretending to defend it from phantom aggressors by squandering nonexistent (borrowed) financial resources on ineffective and overpriced military operations and weapons systems. Where the aggressors are not phantom, they are specially organized for the purpose of having someone to fight: “moderate” terrorists and so on. One major advancement in their state of the art has been in moving from real false flag operations, à la 9/11, to fake false flag operations, à la fake East Gouta chemical attack in Syria (since fully discredited). The Russian election meddling story is perhaps the final step in this evolution: no New York skyscrapers or Syrian children were harmed in the process of concocting this fake narrative, and it can be kept alive seemingly forever purely through the furious effort of numerous flapping lips. It is now a pure confidence scam. If you are less then impressed with their invented narratives, then you are a conspiracy theorist or, in the latest revision, a traitor.
Trump was recently questioned as to whether he trusted US intelligence. He waffled.
A light-hearted answer would have been:
“What sort of idiot are you to ask me such a stupid question? Of course they are lying! They were caught lying more than once, and therefore they can never be trusted again. In order to claim that they are not currently lying, you have to determine when it was that they stopped lying, and that they haven’t lied since. And that, based on the information that is available, is an impossible task.”
A more serious, matter-of-fact answer would have been:
“The US intelligence agencies made an outrageous claim: that I colluded with Russia to rig the outcome of the 2017 presidential election. The burden of proof is on them. They are yet to prove their case in a court of law, which is the only place where the matter can legitimately be settled, if it can be settled at all. Until that happens, we must treat their claim as conspiracy theory, not as fact.”
And a hardcore, deadpan answer would have been:
“The US intelligence services swore an oath to uphold the US Constitution, according to which I am their Commander in Chief. They report to me, not I to them. They must be loyal to me, not I to them. If they are disloyal to me, then that is sufficient reason for their dismissal.”
But no such reality-based, down-to-earth dialogue seems possible. All that we hear are fake answers to fake questions, and the outcome is a series of faulty decisions. Based on fake intelligence, the US has spent almost all of this century embroiled in very expensive and ultimately futile conflicts. Thanks to their efforts, Iran, Iraq and Syria have now formed a continuous crescent of religiously and geopolitically aligned states friendly toward Russia while in Afghanistan the Taliban is resurgent and battling ISIS—an organization that came together thanks to American efforts in Iraq and Syria.
The total cost of wars so far this century for the US is reported to be $4,575,610,429,593. Divided by the 138,313,155 Americans who file tax returns (whether they actually pay any tax is too subtle a question), it works out to just over $33,000 per taxpayer. If you pay taxes in the US, that’s your bill so far for the various US intelligence “oopsies.”
The 16 US intelligence agencies have a combined budget of $66.8 billion, and that seems like a lot until you realize how supremely efficient they are: their “mistakes” have cost the country close to 70 times their budget. At a staffing level of over 200,000 employees, each of them has cost the US taxpayer close to $23 million, on average. That number is totally out of the ballpark! The energy sector has the highest earnings per employee, at around $1.8 million per. Valero Energy stands out at $7.6 million per. At $23 million per, the US intelligence community has been doing three times better than Valero. Hats off! This makes the US intelligence community by far the best, most efficient collapse driver imaginable.
There are two possible hypotheses for why this is so.
First, we might venture to guess that these 200,000 people are grossly incompetent and that the fiascos they precipitate are accidental. But it is hard to imagine a situation where grossly incompetent people nevertheless manage to funnel $23 million apiece, on average, toward an assortment of futile undertakings of their choosing. It is even harder to imagine that such incompetents would be allowed to blunder along decade after decade without being called out for their mistakes.
Another hypothesis, and a far more plausible one, is that the US intelligence community has been doing a wonderful job of bankrupting the country and driving it toward financial, economic and political collapse by forcing it to engage in an endless series of expensive and futile conflicts—the largest single continuous act of grand larceny the world has ever known.
How that can possibly be an intelligent thing to do to your own country, for any conceivable definition of “intelligence,” I will leave for you to work out for yourself. While you are at it, you might also want to come up with an improved definition of “treason”: something better than “a skeptical attitude toward preposterous, unproven claims made by those known to be perpetual liars.”
As a journalist, I understand completely why so many people rightly loathe the media. It is because the media no longer understand – or just doesn’t give a damn – about the difference between conveying facts and attempting to force-feed its opinions to you – these opinions presented with the most insolent certainty, formed in such a way as to make it clear that anyone reading who harbors a secret doubt is not merely a doubter but a denier; i.e., a malicious and vile person who must be dealt with.
It’s the sort of thing which leads to fists and worse.
Well, here we go again.
Bloomberg – the organ of billionaire leftist Michael Bloomberg – is practically signing death warrants (and probably would, if it had the power) in its “coverage” of the Trump administration’s apparent intention to dial back an Obama-era increase (a near-doubling) of the federal fuel economy mandate, which is lately being conflated with the most despicable dishonesty as an “emissions” (of “greenhouse gasses”) mandate – which is an outright lie.
The mandates are Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) mandates and you’ll note there is nothing in that term even hinting at “emissions” – of any sort. CAFE dates back to the 1970s and the Energy Policy Conservation Act – italicized to emphasize the emphasis on energy and its conservation rather than emissions.
It decrees that every car company’s combined fleet of cars must achieve a “corporate average” of X miles-per-gallon, that number constantly going up, along with heavy fines for “non-compliance” (the writ-large version of the “shared responsibility” fines which the Obamacare recalcitrant – including this writer – are being hit with).
One of the Obama regime’s final acts of regulatory thuggery – after all, no one voted on this – was to unilaterally decree that the corporate average MPG mandate ascend to 50-something MPGs by the 2025 model year.
This was a vicious decree because, in the first place, who are these people to be dictating the mileage of our cars – the ones we pay for? This includes the gas which goes in their tanks.
What gives them – the bureaucrats nesting in DC – the moral right?
If buyers want ultra-efficient cars, won’t the car companies build them? In fact, they do build them. Some cars are very fuel efficient; those who want them are free to buy them. If you want a 50-MPG-capable Prius hybrid or even an electric car that gets infinite MPGs, they are available.
This obviousness is lost on the government bureaucrats – and the screechers at Bloomberg, et al.
Of course, the problem is that most buyers prefer larger or more powerful or more capable cars – and trucks and SUVs. Not hybrids and electric cars.
Obama’s regulatory ayatollahs sought to countermand buyer preferences, freely expressed, by decreeing an increase in CAFE to 50-something MPG and then styling it as an environmental mandate – in order to attempt to force everyone into a hybrid or an electric car, by stigmatizing any criticism of this putsch as the equivalent of pouring used motor oil down a storm sewer.
Bloomberg – and it’s not just Bloomberg – have joined this unctuous chorus:
“The proposal, expecte to be released this week, amounts to a frontal assault on one of President Obama’s signature regulatory programs to curb emissions that contribute to climate change.”
Second, CAFE – the “regulatory program” being discussed – was never written to nor amended to address “climate change,” a term which didn’t even exist when CAFE came into currency some 40 years ago.
CAFE is about gas mileage. It is not about “greenhouse gasses” or any other “emissions.” There are other regs which cover those.
But they – the media – either do not understand these distinctions, in which case they are incompetent. Or they do understand these distinctions and deliberately lie – in which case they are despicable.
I think they know – instinctively – that the only way to get a car-buying public that likes bigger, more powerful cars and trucks and SUVs more than it likes gas mileage is to shame the public.
To smear any opposition to a near doubling of the CAFE mandate to 50-something MPG – which no currently available cars except hybrid cars and electric cars are capable of achieving and which therefore would mean the extinction by regulation of almost every car other than a hybrid or electric car – as opposition to “clean air” and “denying” of “climate change.”
And the writers of this stuff wonder why the people being lectured to despise them so.
. . .
Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!
By As’ad AbuKhalil, Consortium News, July 25, 2018
Ben Rhodes’ interesting new book, The World as It is: A Memoir of the Obama White House (Random House), should be widely read not because of the wisdom or moral message it contains but because it is an unintended, damning account of liberal imperialism.
The book suffers from an acute case of self-congratulation, sanctimoniousness and hubris. The author situates himself (along with Samantha Power and the young Foreign Service officers who worked in the Obama White House) among the liberal advocates of foreign policy. He does not include Obama in this group, and the latter comes across—despite perfunctory praise—as he really is: an unprincipled politician who unfailingly subordinates moral arguments to political calculations. When, for example, Rhodes brings up the issue of a “democratic opening” in Myanmar, Obama quipped: “no one cares about Burma in Ohio” (p. 174).
This response reminds one of the famous retort Harry Truman gave to his disregard for the Arab perspective in his handling of the creation of the Jewish occupation state in 1948.
The rise of Rhodes to become a key national security advisor to Obama is rather surprising. He was educated in English literature and creative writing, and does not have any training in foreign policy or Middle East studies. But Rhodes worked for (former representative) Lee Hamilton at the Wilson Center, and that propelled him to the foreign policy-making world as he was a key writer of the Iraq Study Group’s report.
But as a speech writer for Obama, one strains to remember any memorable speech that he wrote, and Obama’s best—according to press accounts–speeches (like those timid speeches on racial issues, which always fell short of outright condemnation of white racism) were actually written by Obama himself. Rhodes is no Ted Sorensen or Bob Shrum, yet he enjoys listening to and reproducing his own words.
The liberal imperialist stance reminds one, paradoxically, of the stance of neo-conservatives: both use lofty ideals to marshal arguments for imperialist military intervention and hegemony in the affairs of other nations. Rhodes is so oblivious to the racism underpinning the liberal Western stance, that he assumes that human rights and morality is the thrust of his policy choices and those of his ilk. There is more than a tinge of racism in his treatment and references to Arabs, and his unabashed Zionism does not deviate from the traditional Zionist outright contempt for the Arab people.
Of all the reasons that Arabs had to revolt against cruel and oppressive regimes (the overwhelming majority of which are sponsored and armed by the U.S.—a small detail that is missing from this hefty book), Rhodes actually believes that it was Obama’s speech in Cairo, (as if it is even remembered by Arabs except to mock its promises and its condescending hectoring to Arab people about the Arab-Israeli question and the need for Arabs to accommodate themselves to Israeli occupation and aggression) which inspired Arabs to undertake the various Arab uprisings in what has become—offensively—known as “the Arab spring.”
And of course a native informant is always available to legitimize the contemptuous views by the White Man: he cites the authority of a “Palestinian-American woman whom I knew casually” (p. 60) to support his claim that Obama’s Cairo speech prompted Arabs to revolt, as if they had no reasons of their own. At least it was nice of Rhodes to admit that it was the U.S. government which handpicked the audience for the Cairo speech.(p. 59)
Like all American officials who work on the Middle East, Rhodes (by his own admission) is an ardent Zionist who owns up to his past membership in AIPAC (p. 146). He considers U.S. support for Israeli occupation and aggression as the byproduct of “natural affinity for Israel” felt by “most Americans” (p. 57). But this foreign policy expert—by chance—fails to explain why the majority of public opinion in countries of the world—including in Western Europe—feels a natural affinity for the Palestinian people.
The discussion of U.S. policies toward the Arab-Israeli conflict within any U.S. administration is really an intimate debate among hardcore Zionists to see who can outdo the others in advancing the interests of Israeli occupation. Rhodes reports how Rahm Emanuel would refer to him as “Hamas” (p. 56) when he did not think Rhodes was being sufficiently supportive of Israeli interests. This passes as an internal debate about the best options for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
The book reveals more about the domineering role of AIPAC on all decisions undertaken by the Obama administration about the Middle East. Obama had to brief Netanyahu about the Iran nuclear deal before he briefed Congress, for instance.
The falsehood of the author’s human rights position is revealed by his references to Arab regimes. His ostensibly passionate concern for the victims of repression seems to be confined to Syria and Libya—conveniently the only Arab regimes not aligned with the U.S. government, although Muammar Qadhdhafi was a dictator honored by all Western governments in his last years in power. Hillary Clinton met and praised the head of his secret police while she was Secretary of State (not mentioned by Rhodes, obviously).
The book talks at length about the so-called “Arab Spring”, but there is not a word about Bahrain or Yemen (or Jordan or Morocco). The pro-U.S. dictatorships (which are the bulk of Arab regimes) are not mentioned at all in this book which leaves the reader with the impression that the entire Arab world was living in democratic bliss with the exception of Syria and Libya. Rhodes, even as a key staffer on the National Security Council, has yet to learn about the uprising in Bahrain. But noticing it would expose his hypocrisy and the moralistic inconsistency of the Obama’s White House.
Rhodes only mentions the suffering of the Egyptian people after it became clear that Hosni Mubarak could no longer cling to power. He says that key Obama administration officials, including Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, argued in favor of bolstering Mubarak. Obama—as Rhodes recounts—was not as enthusiastic because Obama was not friends with Mubarak as he was the Jordanian despot, King Abdullah.
According to Rhodes, Former CIA director John Brennan was explicit in his belief that Arabs were “not ready for democracy” (p. 106). Rhodes’ bias in only expressing opposition to despots (and even elected leaders such as Yasser Arafat) who are not aligned with the U.S. becomes transparent when he describes a tour he made of a Saddam Hussein palace.
“There was still on display gifts that Saddam had received from admirers like Yasser Arafat and Muammar Gaddafi,” Rhodes writes. As is widely known by people who know the region—the author excluded—Arafat never gave expensive or precious gifts to world leaders. He was known in fact to only give small replicas of Jerusalem or the Aqsa Mosque. Gaddafi’s relationship with Saddam was often frosty. Surely, the author should have noted that those who were far more generous in showering Saddam with precious and valuable items were pro-U.S. despots, such Gulf monarchs and Jordan’s King Husayn, whose friendship with Saddam was legendary, and whose son, the current King of Jordan, was one of Saddam’s son `Udayy Husayn’s closest friends.
That Rhodes didn’t know this indicates political bias. But then again, maybe U.S. occupation soldiers (or local Iraqi cronies) looted the expensive gifts in the wake of the U.S. invasion and left behind the cheaper gifts from Arafat and Qadhdhafi.
Investment in Dictatorship
Rhodes even makes an argument in favor of U.S. support for dictatorship (although he dares not name the dictators). He euphemistically calls such U.S. support “investment.” And he believes that the “return” on such investment is “worth it, even if we occasionally suffer losses, embarrassments, and moral compromises”. (p. 45). His boss came to office with an unapologetic, imperialist view of the world and with distrust of the liberation capacities of people in developing countries lacking “mature institutions” (p. 47). It is the same, old argument of past colonial powers.
One learns from this book that the U.S. military, since at least Sep. 11, now makes key political decisions that are constitutionally part of the powers of the civilian commander-in-chief. Presidents, especially Democratic presidents who are always perceived to be soft on war and defense, feel compelled to follow the wishes of the generals when it comes to troop deployment or redeployment. (p. 74) The military often leaks to the press its displeasure about presidential decisions or inclinations to force the hand of the president, as they did in the case of Obama and the increase in the number of troops in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the intelligence agencies offer opinions and revisions to Obama’s draft speeches. (p. 50)
Rhodes’ and Obama’s ignorance of Arab affairs is on display throughout the book. Here is their theory of the underlying causes of tensions between the U.S. and world Muslims: that Muslims have been quite unhappy with “a McDonald’s down the street and American pop culture on their television.” (p. 53). Both men would be quite surprised that Muslims do enjoy meals—available even with Halal meat for those who are sticklers about religious rules—at McDonalds.
Rhodes’ ardent Zionism permeates the pages. He even admits that during the preparation for a major campaign speech for Obama he recommended “going easy on Israeli settlements” (p. 55). Worse, Rhodes (the humane liberal) urged Obama to avoid even using the word “occupation” in reference to…Israeli occupation. (p. 58). In other words, Rhodes holds the same position held by Trump’s current ambassador in occupied Jerusalem.
The author seems to cover up at least part of Israel’s role in making U.S. Middle East policy. He talks about the Saudi king urging Obama to support Mubarak (he reveals that the king compared Egyptian protesters against Mubarak to Al-Qa`idah, Hizbullah, and Hamas (p. 102)), but Rhodes does not mention Netanyahu in the same vein (his role on Egypt was reported at the time by The New York Times and other U.S. media). In fact, there is more than a tinge of ethnic disparagement in his references to Palestine and Palestinians.
While noting that Netanyahu sat in the Oval Office and lectured Obama on the Israeli position on the “peace process”, Rhodes says he “was familiar with the emotions” of the Israeli leader. He reports matter-of-factly about the “heroic Israel of the 1960s and 1970s”—presumably referring to Israeli wars of aggression, attacks on Palestinian refugee camps, and the bombing of schools and civilians in Egypt during the War of Attrition.
Rhodes reproduces verbatim the Zionist and racist myths about Israel: “Jews building a nation in the dessert, fighting off Arab armies, led by towering figures like Golda Meir, who seemed both indefatigable and profoundly just.”(p. 145) Rhodes is still ignorant of the industriousness and farming energies of the Palestinian people throughout history, and he still operates under the discarded—and since academically discredited—clichés of classical Zionism. He does not know that his “just” Golda Meir ordered bombing of refugee camps and presided over an occupation state.
Furthermore, in describing the Palestinian territories, Rhodes makes that racist distinction (which has been regurgitated since the days of Herzl) between Europeanized Jews (as if Sephardim Jews don’t count) and the inferior Arabs. Rhodes writes: “Israel from the air resembles southern Europe; the settlements looked like subdivisions in the Nevada desert; the Palestinian towns looked shabby and choked off.” (p. 201). Rhodes also accepts Israel’s “security concerns” (p. 201) (which have historically served as justifications for wars and massacres), and attribute them to “a history of anti-Semitism that continues to the current day”–and not to the resistance against occupation. Does that mean that successive Israeli invasions of Lebanon and the various massacres in Palestinian towns and refugee camps was an attempt by Israel to eradicate anti-Semitism?
Hypocrisy on Syria
But the true nature of the hypocrisy of liberal interventionists of the Obama administration appears in Rhodes’ treatment of the Syrian war. Here, he pats himself on the back, repeatedly, because he consistently urged a U.S. war in Syria with a more muscular support for Syrian rebel groups—without much regard to their ideologies.
Shockingly, Rhodes appears as an advocate for al-Nusrah (the official branch of Al-Qa`idah in Syria), as David Petraeus was, and admits he was “against those who wanted to designate part of the Syrian opposition—al-Nusrah—as a terrorist organization. Al Nusrah was probably the strongest fighting force within the opposition, and while there are extremist elements in the group, it was also clear that the more moderate opposition was fighting side by side with al Nusrah. I argued that labeling al Nusrah as terrorists would alienate the same people we wanted to help, while giving al Nusrah less incentive to avoid extremist affiliations,” he writes on p. 197.
One would be curious to see the reactions of families and friends of Sep. 11 survivors to this callous passage by a senior official of the Obama administration (who was recently hired by Obama in his retirement). This foreign policy expert is making an argument that there are moderates and extremists within an organization which sprang from Bin Laden’s movement and which continues to pledge allegiance to Bin Laden and his ideology. Rhodes even harbors hopes that this Syrian branch of Al-Qa`idah can be steered in a moderate direction.
This book serves as an indictment of the liberal interventionists in the Obama administration. Those were people whose thirst and zealousness for wars on Middle East countries (provided their despots are not clients of the U.S.) match the thirst and zealousness of the neo-conservatives of the George W. Bush administration. Rhodes never explains to his readers why his fake, humanitarian concern for the welfare of the people of the region never extends to people suffering under Israeli occupation and the repression of pro-U.S. despots.
As’ad AbuKhalil is a Lebanese-American professor of political science at California State University, Stanislaus. He is the author of the Historical Dictionary of Lebanon (1998), Bin Laden, Islam & America’s New ‘War on Terrorism’ (2002), and The Battle for Saudi Arabia (2004). He also runs the popular blog The Angry Arab News Service.