May 182013
 
There is clear evidence that he has broken the law on multiple occasions. And not even Republicans seem to care.

The Atlantic
Conor Friedersdorf

obama full full full.jpg

Reuters

Prompted by Peggy Noonan’s claim in The Wall Street Journal that “we are in the midst of the worst Washington scandal since Watergate,” Andrew Sullivan steps forward to defend Pres. Obama’s honor. “Can she actually believe this?,” he asks incredulously. “Has this president broken the law, lied under oath, or authorized war crimes? Has he traded arms for hostages with Iran? Has he knowingly sent his cabinet out to tell lies about his sex life? Has he sat by idly as an American city was destroyed by a hurricane? Has he started a war with no planning for an occupation? Has he started a war based on a lie, and destroyed the US’ credibility and moral standing while he was at it, leaving nothing but a smoldering and now rekindled civil sectarian war?”

An Obama critic, having overplayed her hand, gave Sullivan an opening to respond with what amounts to, “It isn’t as bad as Watergate, nor as bad as George W. Bush.” Let’s concede those points. I don’t much care what Obama’s Republican critics say about him. The scandals they’re presently touting, bad as two of them are, aren’t even the worst of Team Obama’s transgressions.

I have a stronger critique. Sullivan hasn’t internalized the worst of what Obama’s done, because his notion of scandal is implicitly constrained by whatever a president’s partisan opponents tout as scandalous. If they criticize Obama wrongly, he defends Obama proportionately.

To see what he’s forgotten as a result, let’s run once more through the first questions in Sullivan’s latest Obama apologia.

Has this president broken the law, lied under oath, or authorized war crimes?

Yes, President Obama has broken the law on multiple occasions. Despite clearly stating, in a 2008 questionnaire, that  the commander-in-chief is not lawfully empowered to ignore treaties duly ratified by the Senate, Obama has willfully failed to enforce the torture treaty, signed by Ronald Reagan and duly ratified by the Senate, that compels him to investigate and prosecute torture. As Sullivan put it earlier this year, “what Obama and Holder have done (or rather not done) is illegal.”

Obama also violated the War Powers Resolution, a law he has specifically proclaimed to be Constitutionally valid, when committing U.S. troops to Libya without Congressional approval.  Or as Sullivan put it in 2011, “I’m with Conor. The war in Libya becomes illegal from now on. And the imperial presidency grows even more powerful.”

On the subject of war crimes, Sullivan wrote that “Obama and attorney-general Eric Holder have decided to remain in breach of the Geneva Conventions and be complicit themselves in covering up the war crimes of their predecessors – which means, of course, that those of us who fought for Obama’s election precisely because we wanted a return to the rule of law were conned.” In a separate entry, he went so far as to say that Obama is “a clear and knowing accessory to war crimes, and should at some point face prosecution as well, if the Geneva Conventions mean anything any more.” That seems rather farther than Noonan went in her column.

Obama has not, as Sullivan points out, traded arms for hostages with Iran, or started a war with no planning for the inevitable occupation that would follow. But there are different questions that could be asked about Obama that would perhaps be more relevant to his behavior.

Has he ordered the assassination of any American citizens in secret without due process? Did he kill any of their teenage kids without ever explaining how or why that happened?

Has he refused to reveal even the legal reasoning he used to conclude his targeted killing program is lawful?

Has he waged an unprecedented war on whistleblowers?

Has he spied on millions of innocent Americans without a warrant or probable cause?

Does he automatically count dead military-aged males killed by U.S. drones as “militants”?

Did he “sign a bill that enshrines in law the previously merely alleged executive power of indefinite detention without trial of terror suspects”?

There is more, as Sullivan knows, and it all amounts to a scandalous presidency, even if it happens that few Republicans care about the most scandalous behavior, and have instead spent almost a year* now obsessing about Benghazi. The IRS scandal and Department of Justice leak-investigation excesses are worrisome, but the biggest scandals definitely go all the way to the top, and are still largely ignored even by commentators who have acknowledged that they’re happening. Sullivan has noted the stories as they broke, and seemed, for fleeting moments, to confront their gravity, noting the violation of very serious laws, and even once stating that Obama deserves to be prosecuted! Yet in response to Noonan, he writes, “So far as I can tell, this president has done nothing illegal, unethical or even wrong.” How inexplicably they forget.

And Sullivan is hardly alone. At the New York Times, Mother Jones, The New Yorker, and beyond, exceptional journalists take great care to document alarming abuses against the rule of law, the separation of powers, transparency, and human rights perpetrated by the Obama Administration. On a given subject, the coverage leaves me awed and proud to be part of the same profession. But when it comes time for synthesis, bad heuristics take over. Confronted with the opportunism and absurdity of the GOP, Obama’s sins are forgiven, as if he should be graded on a curve. His sins are forgotten, as if “this president has done nothing illegal, unethical or even wrong.”

Yes. He. Has. Continue reading »

Apr 102013
 

Breitbart
Wynton Hall

Those wondering why the Department of Justice has refused to go after Jon Corzine for the vaporization of $1.6 billion in MF Global client funds need look no further than the documents uncovered by the Government Accountability Institute that reveal that the now-defunct MF Global was a client of Attorney General Eric Holder and Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer’s former law firm, Covington & Burling.

There’s more.

Records also reveal that MF Global’s trustee for the Chapter 11 bankruptcy retained as its general bankruptcy counsel Morrison & Foerester–the very law firm from which Associate Attorney General Tony West came to DOJ.

And more.

As Government Accountability Institute President Peter Schweizer explains in the Washington Times Thursday, the trustee overseeing MF Global’s bankruptcy is former FBI Director Louis Freeh. At Holder’s Senate confirmation hearing Freeh served as a character witness for Holder and revealed that Holder had previously worked for Freeh. “As general counsel,” Freeh said, “I could have engaged any lawyer in America to represent our bank. I chose Eric.”

Until now, the conventional wisdom for why Holder wouldn’t throw the book at Corzine was that Corzine is an Obama campaign bundler. Indeed, as Breitbart News reported, four of the top officials at the Department of Justice–Eric Holder, Thomas Perrelli, Karol Mason, and Tony West–were also big money bundlers for Obama.

But the newly understood crony connections reveal conflicts of interest that extend well beyond mere political support for a common candidate–they go to a tangle of prior business dealings that further underscore the need for a special prosecutor in the Corzine case.

At least 65 members of Congress have already signed a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that he appoint a special prosecutor to investigate MF Global’s collapse and the loss of $1.6 billion in customer money. What’s more, even progressives have begun to wonder whether Holder’s Covington & Burling connection explains why the Department of Justice has not charged, prosecuted, or jailed a single Wall Street executive after the biggest financial collapse in American history.

As Richard Eskow of the Huffington Post recently wrote:

More and more Washington insiders are asking a question that was considered off-limits in the nation’s capital just a few months ago: Who, exactly, is Attorney General Eric Holder representing? As scandal after scandal erupts on Wall Street, involving everything from global lending manipulation to cocaine and prostitution, more and more people are worrying about Holder’s seeming inaction — or worse — in the face of mounting evidence.

This isn’t going away.

Both the left and the right are onto Holder’s Wall Street head fake. With the revelation of the new crony connections, the time for Eric Holder to appoint a special prosecutor in the Corzine/MF Global case is now. Continue reading »

Apr 062013
 

AZCentral
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama will release a budget next week that proposes significant cuts to Medicare and Social Security and fewer tax increases than in the past, a conciliatory approach that he hopes will persuade Republicans to sign on to a grand bargain that would curb government borrowing and replace deep spending cuts that took effect March 1.

Obama will break with the tradition of providing a sweeping vision of his ideal spending priorities, untethered from political realities. Instead, the document will incorporate the compromise offer Obama made to House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, last December in the discussions over the “fiscal cliff.” They included $1.8 trillion in deficit reduction through spending cuts and tax increases.

“It’s not our ideal policy. It’s a compromise that we’re willing to do to get a bigger deal,” a senior White House official said Friday. “We want to make clear that it’s something that we’re willing to do. To not put it in the budget would be a conversation disconnected with reality.”

The senior official added that including the offer was not a hard call. Failing to do so, the official said, would have provoked howls from Republicans that “you moved the goal posts.”

Boehner, in a statement on Friday, accused Obama of holding entitlement cuts “hostage” in an effort to win support for more tax hikes, despite warnings from congressional Republicans not to do so.

“That’s no way to lead and move the country forward,” Boehner said. He also criticized the budget proposal because it does not balance, although according to White House estimates it would significantly reduce the deficit as a percentage of the economy over the next decade.

In addition to Republican opposition, the president also is likely to face immediate heat from some Democrats and liberal supporters over his proposed cuts to entitlement programs.

Obama proposes, for instance, to change the cost-of-living calculation for Social Security in a way that will reduce benefits for most beneficiaries, a key Republican request that he had earlier embraced only as part of a compromise.

Many Democrats say they are opposed to any Social Security cuts and are likely to be furious that such cuts are now being proposed as official administration policy.

“While this is not the president’s ideal deficit- reduction plan, and there are particular proposals in this plan like the cost-of-living change that were key Republican requests and not the president’s preferred approach,” a senior administration official said, “this is a compromise proposal built on common ground, and the president felt it was important to make it clear that the offer still stands.”

The full budget will be released Wednesday, but officials gave a top-line overview to reporters on Friday and have previously released details of the offer to Boehner.

Overall, the budget request reflects Obama’s stark shift in strategy over the past month as he has adopted a far more congenial posture toward the opposition. He has begun a charm offensive, reaching out to rank-and-file House and Senate Republicans, dining and speaking privately with them in hopes that they will take seriously his offer to overhaul entitlement programs in exchange for increasing tax revenue.

Obama is set to have dinner with a group of Republicans on Wednesday night, just hours after his budget is released.

Obama’s aides have not been overly optimistic about the prospects for a deal. But they now argue that a strategy of private outreach coupled with public events offers the best path forward for progress not only on the deficit but also on other issues, including immigration and gun control.

Although the White House is portraying the budget proposal as a compromise, many Republicans are likely to say that it is simply rehashing an offer previously made by the president and rejected because it raises taxes.

They are also likely to focus on the fact that, unlike the Republican budget that passed the House last month, Obama’s budget does not balance within 10years.

The GOP has made the failure to balance the budget a key talking point in recent weeks.

Obama’s budget for the fiscal year starting Oct.1 would fund several new priorities, including the creation of a new program offering preschool to all 4-year-olds from low- and moderate-income backgrounds and a significant new investment in brain research.

Officials propose an increase in tobacco taxes to pay for the early-childhood education initiative and would also seek to generate revenue by limiting how much wealthy individuals can accrue in their tax-retirement accounts.

Such accounts would be capped at $3million in 2013 dollars — which officials say is enough to finance a $205,000-a-year income.

He would also seek to scrap a loophole in the law that lets people collect both unemployment insurance and disability payments — so-called double-dipping.

The budget request comes on top of a deal struck at the start of the year to raise taxes on the wealthy by more than $600billion over a decade — mainly by returning to Clinton-era rates for households earning over $450,000 annually.

Through that pact and earlier agreements, Congress and Obama have agreed to reduce the annual budget deficit — how much more the government spends than it collects — by $2.5 trillion over the next decade. If left in place, the deep spending cuts that took effect March1, known as sequestration, would reduce the deficit by an additional $1.2 trillion over the same period. That would be just about enough to keep deficits from rising and to stabilize the debt, as measured as a percentage of the overall economy.

Obama’s budget proposal, however, would eliminate sequestration and replace it with a variety of other deficit-reduction measures, together worth $1.8 trillion, according to White House estimates. The deficit, which is projected this year to be equal to 5.5 percent of the size of the economy, would shrink to 1.7 percent of the economy by 2023.

By comparison, the House Republican budget — which would curtail spending on dozens of programs for the poor, repeal Obama’s health-care law and partially privatize Medicare for people now younger than 55 — aims to eliminate the deficit by 2023. A more liberal plan passed by Senate Democrats would make the deficit 2.2 percent of the size of the economy by that point.

The budget is more conservative than Obama’s earlier proposals, which called for $1.6 trillion in new taxes and fewer cuts to health and domestic spending programs. Obama is seeking to raise $580billion in tax revenue by limiting deductions for the wealthy and closing loopholes for certain industries like oil and gas.

Those changes are in addition to the increased tobacco taxes and more limited retirement accounts for the wealthy that are meant to pay for new spending.

The budget proposal slices $200billion from already tight defense and domestic budgets. It would cut $400billion from Medicare and other health programs by negotiating better prescription-drug prices and asking wealthy seniors to pay more, among other policies.

It would also generate $200billion in savings by scaling back farm subsidies and federal retiree programs, among other proposals.

The proposal to change the formula to calculate Social Security payments, also originally part of the offer to Boehner, would generate $130billion in savings and $100billion in revenue, a result of the impact of the formula change on other government programs.

But it is the change in Social Security payments to most recipients that is likely to generate the greatest outcry from the Obama administration’s traditional allies.

“Millions of working people, seniors, disabled veterans, those who have lost a loved one in combat, and women will be extremely disappointed if President Obama caves into the long-standing Republican effort to cut Social Security,” Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., who caucuses with Democrats, said earlier this week, after reports surfaced that Obama might include the change in his budget.

“In 2008, candidate Barack Obama told the American people that he would not cut Social Security. Having him go back on his word will only add to the rampant political cynicism that our country is experiencing today.”

Obama is submitting his budget two months late, after aides scrambled to deal with the end-of-year fiscal cliff and then the March1 deadline for sequestration.

Obama signed into law late last month a measure that funds the government through the end of the fiscal year in September — locking the sequester cuts into effect for the time being.

Two upcoming debates will provide opportunities for lawmakers and the White House to revisit those cuts and debate Obama’s budget offer. This summer, Congress will once again be forced to raise the federal debt ceiling or risk a default on the national debt. Republicans in February decided not to mount a fight over the debt ceiling, as they had in 2011, and it is not yet clear whether they will oppose an increase this time. In addition, Congress and the White House will have to agree to a new budget plan at the end of September.

Although it is conciliatory, the White House argued that Obama’s budget should not be seen as a list of options that Republicans can choose from.

“This isn’t about political horse-trading; it’s about reducing the deficit in a balanced way that economists say is best for the economy and job creation,” the senior administration official said. “That’s why the president’s offer — which will be reflected in his budget — isn’t a menu of options for them to choose from. It’s a cohesive package that reflects the kind of compromise we should be able to reach.” Continue reading »

Apr 062013
 

The Examiner
Joe Newby

 U.S. President Barack Obama addresses gun control issues during a speech at the Denver Police Academy on April 3, 2013 in Denver, Colorado.

While speaking in Denver on Wednesday, President Obama mocked concerns expressed by gun owners and said that he is “constrained” by a “government of and by and for the people,” CBS reported.

“You hear some of these quotes,” he said. “‘I need a gun to protect myself from the government.’ ‘We can’t do background checks because the government is going to come take my guns away,’” he added. “Well, the government is us. These officials are elected by you. They are elected by you. I am elected by you. I am constrained, as they are constrained, by a system that our Founders put in place. It’s a government of and by and for the people.”

Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro responded by saying that if Obama’s statement was true, Americans would “never have to worry about democracies turning tyrannical, or electing tyrannical rulers.”

“In this odd vision, Germany, Italy, and Spain remained liberal democracies throughout the twentieth century, World War II never happened, and Egypt, the Gaza Strip, and Turkey are all thriving centers of freedom,” he added.

Shapiro argued that Obama’s statement was “odd.”

“The natural inference seems to be that if it were not for the Constitution, Obama would indeed pursue a federal gun seizure,” he wrote.

But the concern is very real for a large number of Americans.

A Rasmussen poll released Thursday shows that 44 percent of likely voters believe the government will try to confiscate all privately owned guns “over the next generation or so,” while half say it isn’t likely.

A recent Quinnipiac poll showed that nearly half — 48 percent — said that government could use information obtained from background checks to confiscate legally-obtained firearms, The Hill reported Thursday.

On the same day as Obama’s speech urging action on gun control, the Heritage Foundation reported that “loose language” in a bill put forward by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., could signal the start of a national gun registry.

David S. Addington wrote that the language “could be construed to allow the Department of Justice itself (or another agency specified by the Attorney General) to keep centralized records of who received what guns and where, by sale or gift from one individual to another.”

In February, the NRA revealed an Obama Justice Department memo that said an assault weapon ban would not be effective without mandatory gun confiscation and that universal background checks would only work with federal gun registration.

Despite Obama’s statement, the concerns are quite real, and not without merit.

“Like the villain at the end of every Scooby Doo cartoon, Obama’s offhand protest suggests that if it weren’t for those darn kids, he would have gotten away with it. Except that the kids are the founders, and ‘it’ is massive gun control,” Shapiro said.

Continue reading »

Apr 052013
 

Global Research

BRICS Summit draws clear red lines on Syria, Iran

worldeconomy

The BRICS just became impossible to ignore.  At the close of the Fifth annual BRICS Summit in Durban, South Africa last week, there was little question that this group of five fast-growing economies was underwriting an overhaul of the global economic and political order.

The eThekwini Declaration issued at summit’s end was couched in non-confrontational language, but it was manifestly clear that western hegemony and unipolarity were being targeted at this meeting.

The BRICS hit some major western sore spots by announcing the formation of a $50 billion jointly-funded development bank to rival the IMF and World Bank. Deals were signed to increase inter-BRICS trade in their own currencies, further eroding the US dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency.

A series of unmistakable challenges were dealt to old world leaders: reform your institutions and economies – or we’ll do it ourselves.

Intent on filling a leadership void in global economic and financial affairs, the BRICS also began to draw some firm political lines in the sand.

For starters, the summit was focused on development in Africa – a resource-rich continent where competing economic interests have drawn increasingly polarized geopolitical battle lines in the past few years. The BRICS were invited to the African table via their newest member state, South Africa, and have used this opportunity to fully back the African Union (AU).

The AU has been Africa’s attempt to integrate and unify the continent economically - via the establishment of a single currency and development fund that could bypass the very punishing IMF – and militarily – via the establishment of security/defense organizations and joint military forces, among other things.

AU success would necessarily mean less old-style western imperialism in the region, reducing exploitative foreign economic activities and excluding foreign forces like the US military’s African Command (AFRICOM) from engaging in the African military theater.

At the heart of the Summit’s agenda lies the BRICS’ determination to anchor any emerging global order in “multilateralism” – whether by demanding permanent seats within the UN Security Council, forging alternative economic constructs that will shift the balance of power their way, or proactively influencing outcomes in global conflict zones.

Syria and Iran 

The Durban summit therefore was not going to ignore the two most prominent issues on UN Security Council’s docket – Syria and Iran.

Last week, the BRICS collectively rejected any further militarization of these problems, advocated political solutions negotiated through diplomatic initiatives, expressed concern over unilateral sanctions and warned against infringement on the “territorial integrity and sovereignty” of these nations.

The eThekwini Declaration says about Iran:

“We believe there is no alternative to a negotiated solution to the Iranian nuclear issue. We recognize Iran’s right to peaceful uses of nuclear energy consistent with its international obligations, and support resolution of the issues involved through political and diplomatic means and dialogue.”

And on Syria, the BRICS fully backed the Geneva principles as the framework for resolving the two-year conflict:

“We believe that the Joint Communiqué of the Geneva Action Group provides a basis for resolution of the Syrian crisis and reaffirm our opposition to any further militarization of the conflict. A Syrian-led political process leading to a transition can be achieved only through broad national dialogue that meets the legitimate aspirations of all sections of Syrian society and respect for Syrian independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty as expressed by the Geneva Joint Communiqué and appropriate UNSC resolutions.”

The BRICS positions on Iran and Syria cannot, however, be viewed solely within the parameters of the summit’s declaration. For starters, the statement is nothing new – the BRICS have been advocating these points in some form or another since they issued their first foreign policy communiqué in November 2011.

To understand the depth and breadth of commitment behind these Mideast stances, one needs to look beyond the sanitized, diplomat-speak of the summit environment. India, Brazil and South Africa, for instance, don’t offer up much commentary on Syria and Iran – they leave that to their UNSC permanent-member colleagues in Russia and China, who are the BRICS’ front-men on these issues.

Earlier in March, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Moscow on his first foreign trip as head of state, and told audiences there: “We must respect the right of each country in the world to independently choose its path of development and oppose interference in the internal affairs of other countries.”

A clear warning against aggressive western interventionism, Xi’s visit with Russia’s Vladimir Putin emphasized the importance of their “strategic partnership” in geopolitical affairs.

On Syria, in particular, Russia has taken the BRICS lead with the blessing of its fellow members – including China – so Moscow’s view of the situation is a critical one to analyze.

The Russians have recently released a concept paper on the importance of their participation in the BRICS – a view that is likely to reflect similar priorities at the highest levels of fellow member states.

BRICS drawing red lines

Putin and Xi say the one way to end the Syrian crisis is through dialogue [Xinhua]

Putin and Xi say the one way to end the Syrian crisis is through dialogue [Xinhua]

For all the BRICS, financial and economic considerations are the driving momentum behind the formalization of this strategic coalition. There is, say the Russians, “a common desire of BRICS partners to reform the obsolete international financial and economic architecture which does not take into account the increased economic power of emerging market economies and developing countries.”

But for fundamental economic shifts to take place, a simultaneous rebalancing of political power worldwide must also occur.

Moscow believes that the BRICS “can potentially become a key element of a new system of global governance primarily in the financial and economic areas. At the same time, the Russian Federation stands in favor of positioning BRICS in the world system as a new model of global relations, overarching the old dividing lines between East and West, and North and South.”

It’s a bold new world, but there’s real value in some of the old ways. For one, the BRICS are big proponents of the Rule of Law in global affairs, concepts the West often tosses around, but rarely adheres to in pursuit of its own strategic interests, i.e. interventionism, regime-change, militarization of conflict.

For the Russians, an absolute BRICS priority is “building on the commitment by the participating states to the rule of law in international relations, to progressively expand the foreign policy cooperation with BRICS partners in the interests of peace and security with due respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of other states and non-interference in their internal affairs.”

The BRICS are backing the UN model to help achieve these basic principles. For them, the vehicle is not what is broken – the problem lies with its drivers. And in particular, the notion that regime change, sanctions and military intervention are acceptable tools in international affairs.

The BRICS, according to Moscow, can “enhance in every possible way interaction within the UN as well as to preserve and strengthen the UN Security Council’s role as a body bearing the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security; to prevent the use of the UN, first of all the Security Council, to cover up the course towards removing undesirable regimes and imposing unilateral solutions to conflict situations, including those based on the use of force.”

As an aside, it’s hardly a coincidence that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad sent a widely-reported letter to the BRICS during the Summit. Here, after all, was the head of state of a sovereign nation requesting the help of the newly-ascendant BRICS in protecting the territorial integrity of Syria by rebuffing ”blatant foreign interference” in contradiction of the ”UN Charter.”

That letter hit all the BRICS soft spots: Rule of Law in international relations, preservation of global peace and security, peaceful resolution of conflict, de-militarization … and recognition of the importance of the BRICS in the new world order.

Assad’s letter came one day after the Arab League gave Syria’s seat away to an external-based opposition coalition backed by Syrian foes – a move the Russians called “unlawful and invalid” and a hindrance to the peaceful resolution of the conflict.

It may be that BRICS intended to set an example here. Receiving this letter at the summit clearly bestows legitimacy on Assad and his claims – and it is hard to imagine that this was not an event coordinated in advance.

Moscow’s positions on the Syria issue cannot be seen out of the context of these shared BRICS principles. The Russians may have more at stake in what is going on in Syria – as others do in Iran – but these are consistent red lines in what the BRICS hope to achieve globally.

And they are willing to bet on it too. Part of the wager is that faltering western economies are so far gone on their current trajectories, that only “time” is required for these global shifts to materialize.

In any regard, shortly after the Summit concluded Russia vowed to prevent any measure in the UN Security Council to give Syria’s seat to the opposition.

The potential for chaos looms large though as a new political order emerges, and as a collective the BRICS will not be shy about pushing their agendas hard – a task made easier by the considerable clout they now share.

On his flight back from Durban to Moscow last Thursday, Putin ordered surprise large-scale military maneuvers in the Black Sea, which borders Syrian-foe Turkey – a move most observers took as a warning for foreign interventionists in Syria.

It is unlikely that BRICS nations would go to such lengths to draw red lines and not defend those positions. How this would transpire in the cases of Syria or Iran is uncertain – it is unlikely we are going to see a BRICS army fighting battles anytime soon. On the other hand, these strategic relationships are likely to give way to coordinated military positions and some special forces planning for exactly these kinds of scenarios.

This is not hard to fathom. BRIC was just an acronym created by Goldman Sachs to describe some fast-growing emerging economies a few years ago. Today, they are engaged in bilateral military exercises, funding banks, building institutions, and remapping global priorities for the 21st century Continue reading »

Jan 252013
 

Russia Today

 

Street battles flare in Egypt after thousands gathered in Tahrir Square, Cairo to protest against President Mohamed Morsi and his party. Molotov cocktails, rocks, teargas and gunfire marked the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution.

At least 99 people have been injured since the start of violent clashes in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez according to Egyptian Ambulance Authority as cited by Al-Arabiya.

Street battles continue between security forces and protesters in Tahrir Square, RT’s Bel Trew reports from Cairo.

Teargas was used after protesters tried to breach the barrier surrounding Egypt’s Interior Ministry.

In Cairo groups of people have been engaging in fights, firing birdshot and hurling Molotov cocktails at each other during the day, Ahram Online reports. There also has been the sound of heavy gunfire.

Some of the thousands protesters marching for Tahrir were reportedly attacked by men throwing rocks and glass near the bureau of the Muslim Brotherhood’s official website Ikhwan Online.

While protesters blame the attacks on Brotherhood men, the Islamist group claims numerous attempts to “raid” their offices, Ahram Online says.

In Alexandria hundreds of demonstrators took part in a march, while the city court building remained the center of protest activity.

Сrowds of protesters approached the governorate headquarters and engaged in violent clashes with the police.

Protesters broke up the pavements and threw rocks. Ahram online reported sounds of gunfire and what appeared to be snipers on the rooftops of nearby buildings. Police have been ordered to deal with protesters “firmly” after a number of attempts to storm the court building were reported, Ahram Online added citing a police source.

Clashes also erupted in Suez, with hundreds of protesters forced back from the government building by the police firing teargas.

Early Friday morning has seen heavy clashes between youths and police in Cairo. The protesters were throwing petrol bombs and firecrackers. Police retaliated with plumes of teargas.

Reports say police set several tents on Tahrir square ablaze using incendiary bombs thrown by protesters.

According to the Health Ministry, 25 people have been wounded in the clashes overnight.

Protesters accuse Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood of failing to comply with the purposes of the revolution. They demand greater democracy, claiming that Morsi’s party has usurped power.

Addressing the nation on Thursday ahead of the anniversary, Morsi urged Egyptians to mark it “in a civilized, peaceful way that safeguards our nation, our institutions, our lives.”

His call was ignored as violence has become common in the streets of Egypt. On Monday three people were killed and a dozen more injured in clashes that erupted after a bystander was hit by a bullet fired by police chasing a suspected drug dealer in the north of Cairo.

On the same day activists in another Egyptian city, Alexandria, were sprayed with teargas as police tried to disperse the crowds waiting outside the court where several police officers are standing trial for the killing of civilians during the 2011 uprising.

Early December saw 10 protesters killed outside the presidential palace as Morsi supporters attacked the sit-in demonstration against the new constitution.

The document was passed by a national referendum gaining 64 per cent in favor. President Morsi signed the constitution into law on December 26.

Egyptian protesters dismantle the security wall erected by security in Tahrir Square on January 25, 2013 (AFP Photo / Mohammed Abed)
Egyptian protesters dismantle the security wall erected by security in Tahrir Square on January 25, 2013 (AFP Photo / Mohammed Abed)
Egyptians carry a wounded protestor during clashes with riot police in Tahrir Square on January 25, 2013  (AFP Photo / Mohammed Abed)
Egyptians carry a wounded protestor during clashes with riot police in Tahrir Square on January 25, 2013 (AFP Photo / Mohammed Abed)
Thousands of Egyptian protestors gather is Cairo′s Tahrir Square, on January 25, 2013 (AFP Photo / Khaled Desouki)
Thousands of Egyptian protestors gather is Cairo’s Tahrir Square, on January 25, 2013 (AFP Photo / Khaled Desouki)
Egyptians demonstrators scatter during clashes with riot police in Tahrir Square on January 25, 2013 (AFP Photo / Mohammed Abed)
Egyptians demonstrators scatter during clashes with riot police in Tahrir Square on January 25, 2013 (AFP Photo / Mohammed Abed)
Egyptians carry a wounded protestor during clashes with riot police in Tahrir Square on January 25, 2013 (AFP Photo / Mohammed Abed)
Egyptians carry a wounded protestor during clashes with riot police in Tahrir Square on January 25, 2013 (AFP Photo / Mohammed Abed)
Anti-Mursi demonstrators try to extinguish a burning tent set on fire by riot police at Tahrir Square in Cairo January 25, 2013 (Reuters / Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
Anti-Mursi demonstrators try to extinguish a burning tent set on fire by riot police at Tahrir Square in Cairo January 25, 2013 (Reuters / Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
Riot police set fire to tents pitched by anti-Mursi demonstrators at Tahrir Square in Cairo January 25, 2013 (Reuters / Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
Riot police set fire to tents pitched by anti-Mursi demonstrators at Tahrir Square in Cairo January 25, 2013 (Reuters / Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
Jan 252013
 

Webster Tarpley

From CNN interview with Cyndi Lauper on January 20, 2013 — view video

Print / Share Continue reading »
Nov 202012
 

Testosterone Pit

The Eurozone debt crisis is exacting its toll. Convoluted undemocratic taxpayer-funded bailouts of bondholders and banks designed to keep the Eurozone together can’t kick the can down the road far enough. But the price has been huge, and people have expressed their anger in massive protests. Now, these efforts are also tearing up the fabric of the 27-member European Union: the first one out may be the UK.

If offered a referendum, 56% of the British would vote for a UK exit from the EU (with 34% definitely and 22% probably). Only 30% would vote to keep the UK in the EU. It wouldn’t even be close! It would be a landslide. Thus, if it came to a referendum today, the UK, a cornerstone of the EU, would bail out.

The EU has little patience with the will of the people. In most member states, decisions such as ratification of EU treaties, scrapping one’s own currency, or bailing out holders of sovereign bonds are made by parliamentary vote. But in instances, when people were finally given a vote, they had a nasty tendency to surprise the elite—the politicians, bankers, and unelected bureaucrats that run the show.

The Lisbon Treaty, the chef d’œuvre of the EU’s political elite, was supposed to repeal existing treaties and replace them with a European Constitution that would transfer significant national sovereignty to unelected EU bureaucrats and their institutions. Negotiations started in 2001, and by 2005, a majority of member states had ratified it by parliamentary vote.

But in France, the people got an opportunity to ratify it by referendum—after parliament had passed it with 93% of the votes. What should have been a cakewalk turned into an epic battle that split the Socialist Party in two. And the people, who loved their sovereignty and wanted to hang on to it, “unexpectedly” killed the thing by a margin of 55% to 45%. In the Netherlands, a similar scenario played out. 2005 was the year that referendum became a dreadful word in the European political lexicon.

The lesson was unforgettable: don’t let the riffraff decide. Such matters should be handled by politicians, bankers, and unelected bureaucrats. And so they did damage control. Many of the measures in the failed constitution were revived as reforms in a watered-down treaty. That was in 2008. As a precaution, the uppity people in France and the Netherlands weren’t allowed to vote on it. Irish voters were, however. And they killed it. They too wanted to hang on to their sovereignty.

But then the financial crisis hit. The Irish got scared. Their banks were in trouble. The economy was going south. So the referendum was re-run after the Irish government had negotiated some concessions, and the people changed their mind (the treaty became effective December 1, 2009).



European politicians dread a referendum more than anything. It threatens their power. Early November last year, at the margin of the G-20 meeting in Cannes, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou tried to use that fear to extort more bailout money from taxpayers elsewhere. So he lobbed a single sentence with the most powerful threat he could think of: a referendum in Greece. He wanted to let the people vote on the austerity measures that would strangle them.

The threat knocked financial markets around the globe into a tailspin. The Euro plummeted. Italian and French yields spiked. It gave birth to a new word: papandemonium.

But it was dealt with swiftly. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy summoned Papandreou to a French dinner. Afterwards, a dour-faced Merkel and a grimacing Sarkozy set out to squash the referendum. They’d cut off bailout payments, they said. And for the first time, they verbalized Greece’s exit from the Eurozone. It was a tour de force.

Parliamentary chaos broke out in Greece. Politicians in Papandreou’s own party rebelled against him. He got kicked out of office. And by the time the caretaker government took over, the referendum had been buried. Politicians just hate the idea of giving people an opportunity to muck up their delicate plans that had been hashed out with such finesse behind closed doors and had been laced with beautiful side deals.

That hasn’t changed. Not even in the UK. In one of the innumerable EU ironies, Prime Minister David Cameron, like all reigning EU politicians, would do everything in his power to stymie the efforts to hold a referendum. And if unable to stop it, he’d campaign with all his might to keep the UK inside the EU, though it would alienate a big part of his own voter base and much of the public.

The British have their reasons for being leery of EU governance that is encroaching more and more on their turf. Yet the EU has united 27 countries whose people had been waging war on one another long before the concept of nation state had even been invented. In that respect, and in many other respects, the EU has been a phenomenal success. Then the debt crisis erupted. And now that family of nations is threatening to tear itself apart over the euro that has become a religious dictum, and no price is too high to save it. Read….  The Curse Of The “Irreversible” Euro.

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