Politics and Legislation
Lawmakers: Cantor’s $25k controversial donation may come up this week
By Molly K. Hooper
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) this week may face tough questions from disgruntled rank-and-file GOP lawmakers upset with his $25,000 donation to a group dedicated to ousting incumbents in Congress.
When the House convenes on Monday, it will be the first time that members of the GOP conference will gather since Cantor’s contribution to the anti-incumbent Campaign for Primary Accountability (CPA) became public.
More than a half dozen Republican lawmakers, stunned by the news of Cantor’s donation, agreed to speak with The Hill on the condition of anonymity to vent their frustration without fear of retribution. The lawmakers interviewed included both younger and senior members of the GOP conference.
U.S. May Be Winding Down 2 Wars Yet It is Expanding Overseas Military Bases
By Sherwood Ross
If the Iraq war is over and the Afghan war is winding down, what is prompting the remorseless expansion of the Pentagon’s vast network of overseas military bases?
Veteran foreign affairs journalist Eric Walberg says the bases are the modern version of colonies. The U.S. has a whopping 1,100 of them in 63 countries so they’re the preferred method by which the Pentagon seeks to dominate the planet.
That’s why President George W. Bush could tell an Abu Dahbi audience on Jan. 13, 2008, “The United States has no desire for territory.” It doesn’t need any more. The Pentagon’s real estate holdings include 52,000 buildings on gazillions of acres on bases around the world. It already is in a position to intimidate or attack virtually every country with overwhelming firepower, including nuclear weapons.
Since 9/11 alone, the Pentagon has put up new military bases in Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar and Bahrain. Many others, however, remain secret even though area residents are only too familiar with them and the hazards they bring, Walberg reports in his book “Postmodern Imperialism”(Clarity Press). The U.S. still operates 268 bases in Germany, 124 in Japan, and—60 years after the end of the Korean War—87 bases in South Korea.
“The U.S. military is keen on establishing military bases in every nation, and new NATO members in Eastern Europe top the list,” writes Lt. Col. Carlton Myer, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer who has made a study of the issue for his G2mil.com web site. He notes that the Czech Republic, recalling the unwanted Soviet presence, rejected a strong push during the Bush administration to build a base on their soil. “Attempts to establish a base in Poland are ongoing, using the bogus ‘missile defense’ sales strategy. That ruse was recently tried on the new NATO nation of Romania. It agreed to an American ‘missile defense’ base and the U.S. military has begun construction of a new permanent military base at Deveselu airbase, near Caracal, Romania.”
Coalition Works to Free New York Elections From Big Money Influence
By Suzanne Merkelson
People across the country are angry about the flood of money into politics made possible by the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision and other recent court rulings. This is true in New York, where a broad and influential group of individuals and organizations is working to pass a public financing system for state elections.
The New York Times reports that the group, called New York Leadership for Accountable Government, includes Barry Diller, Chris Hughes (a founder of Facebook), former Mayor Ed Koch, investment bankers, unions, MoveOn.org, restauranteur Danny Meyer, and David Rockefeller Sr. The coalition proposed a system modeled after the one adopted by New York City in 1988: “in return for abiding by limits on their spending, city candidates can receive $6 in public funds for each of the first $175 city residents donate,” the Times writes.
White House Opens Door to Big Donors, and Lobbyists Slip In
Invitations to state dinners and other exclusive White House events have long been a reward to big contributors.
By MIKE McINTIRE and MICHAEL LUO
Last May, as a battle was heating up between Internet companies and Hollywood over how to stop online piracy, a top entertainment industry lobbyist landed a meeting at the White House with one of President Obama’s technology advisers.
The lobbyist did not get there by himself.
He was accompanied by Antoinette C. Bush, a well-connected Washington lawyer who has represented companies like Viacom, Sony and News Corporation for 30 years. A friend of the president and a cousin of his close aide Valerie B. Jarrett, Ms. Bush has been to the White House at least nine times during his term, taking lobbyists along on a few occasions, joining an invitation-only forum about intellectual property, and making social visits with influential friends.
At the same time, she and her husband, Dwight, have donated heavily to the president’s re-election effort: Mr. Bush gave $35,800 on the day of his wife’s White House meeting last year, and Ms. Bush contributed the same amount a month later. In November, they hosted a $17,900-a-plate fund-raiser at their home, where Mr. Obama complained that the nation’s capital should be more “responsive to the needs of people, not the needs of special interests.”
“That is probably the biggest piece of business that remains unfinished,” the president said, as about 45 guests dined under a backyard tent.
by Staff Writers
Montreal (AFP) April 12, 2012
Canada is radically changing how it doles out foreign aid, funding partnerships with chosen mining giants and development groups while ignoring those most in need, critics say.
Ottawa hands out Can$5 billion (US$5.02 billion) in aid annually, benefiting mostly Haiti, Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Pakistan.
But in late March, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government slashed its development assistance to poorer countries by 7.5 percent or Can$377 million, as part of a bid to balance its budget within three years.
Several aid groups said the cuts to their programs were “excessive,” and the latest blow in an “extreme makeover” of Canada’s foreign aid program lauded by International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda.
Oda says the move aims to make its help “more effective.”
In one of the major changes, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) awarded Can$6.7 million to three groups that have partnered with mining firms IAMGOLD, Barrick and Rio Tinto Alcan to provide job training to youths in South America and Africa, where they have mines.
“The most effective way to reduce poverty is to stimulate a country’s economy, creating more opportunities and jobs for people in need,” said Oda’s spokesman Justin Broekema.
“By helping people acquire the needed skills more people will be able to enter the workforce and increase their household income.”
The aid community is split on the merits of partnering with for-profit firms. Some view the government funding as a subsidy to provide companies with cheap labor, while others say it creates wealth in poor communities with rampant unemployment.
Julia Sanchez, head of the Canadian Council for International Cooperation coalition of non-governmental organizations, conceded that aid groups have partnered with resource companies in the past. But “what’s new is (direct) support from CIDA,” she said.
The government has also demanded more accountability on how taxpayer funds are spent, an approach decried by critics as a heavy-handed and overly structured.
Broekema said “no NGO is entitled to support from Canadian taxpayers.”
Aid groups previously requested funding for their own projects. Now, they must bid on projects that correspond to the government’s priorities in 20 countries, ramping up competition between the groups.
Under the new arrangement, many aid groups saw their funding slashed. Development and Peace had its Can$45 million in funding over five years cut down to a third.
Development and Peace’s chief of international operations Giglio Brunelli said the new arrangement means Ottawa is also choosing which countries receive aid.
“In recent years, Canada’s foreign aid has become a way of asserting its presence in other countries instead of help for those most in need,” he said.
Advocacy groups that promote stances at odds with the Conservative government on such hot-button issues as the Israel-Palestinian conflict or global warming have been slashed.
Rights and Democracy, created by parliament in 1988 to promote human rights around the world, was shut down because it was pro-Palestinian, some alleged.
Meanwhile, a dozen new aid groups that emerged suddenly were funded by the government.
“There is clearly a break with secular NGOs and investment in denominational organizations,” said Francois Audet of the Canadian Research Institute on Humanitarian Crisis and Aid.
Sanchez, of the NGO coalition, pointed to “greater government ties” with socially conservative groups.
“Is it a coincidence that these groups are getting the bulk of aid funding?” she asked. “We’re trying to understand.”
Bank of America Forecloses On Homeowner With Disabled Daughter After Offering Her A Modification
A California woman is facing foreclosure from Bank of America after taking out a loan to make her home more accessible for her disabled daughter, shining light on yet another improper foreclosure practice perpetuated by America’s largest banks.
Dirma Rodriguez fell behind on her original loan after spending thousands of dollars installing tile floors and a wheelchair ramp to make it easier for Ingrid Ortiz, her daughter who has cerebral palsy, to move around the house. When Rodriguez fell behind on her original loan, Bank of America offered her a trial modification. Even though Rodriguez kept up with those payments for more than a year, the bank sold her home at auction, and the new owner is pursuing eviction, the Los Angeles Times reports:
The Latest SEC/Goldman Sachs Sweetheart Deal is the Worst One Yet
By Richard (RJ) Eskow
The sweetheart deals just keep coming. Lawbreakers at one bank after another are let off the hook as their shareholders write a check. And then they go out and repeat the illegal behavior they promised not to do in the last settlement.
It shouldn’t be surprising that this keeps happening over at the SEC – especially as long as Robert Khuzami continues to serve as Director of the Commission’s Division of Enforcement.
But while each of these deals has been shameful, destructive, and outrageous, the $22 million agreement with Goldman Sachs which the SEC announced today – another one in which the guilty party “neither confirms nor denies wrongdoing” – looks like the worst one yet.
The SEC has the power to shut Goldman Sachs down for what it did, and the offenses it describes are felonies. But they just gave out another slap on the wrist – no, make that a pat on the wrist – with today’s announcement.
The Worst Thing
It’s not just the fact that the SEC continues to ignore the public’s outrage by letting bankers off scott-free. And it’s not just that this kind of irresponsible behavior ensures that the law breaking will continue. Its not just that crooked bank executives are allowed to “neither admit nor deny wrongdoing.”
It’s not even the fact that this time around the SEC has worded its announcement in a clumsy attempt to obscure the criminal behavior of Goldman’s employees – although that’s one of this agreement’s worst features.
No, what makes this deal the worst we’ve seen in a long while is the timing. Most of the other recent sweetheart deals dealt with crimes that led up to – and created – the 2008 financial crisis. But this time Goldman Sachs is walking away from crimes its bankers committed as recently as last year.
That’s been the SEC’s pattern under both the last President and the current one. The number of repeat offenses compiled by the New York Times for these SEC deals is mind-blowing.
No wonder the SEC didn’t appear before reporters to announce this latest settlement, choosing instead to announce in an email. Cowardly – but then, would you want to show your face in public after signing a deal like this?
Wars and Rumors of War
US Attempting to Trigger Color Revolution in Pakistan
As Pakistan reasserts national-sovereignty, the US responds with arming & backing Baluchi terrorists.
by Tony Cartalucci
April 13, 2012 – Carving up Pakistan by fomenting separatist movements along Pakistan’s western border has been on the US geopolitical drawing board for years. As reported in December 2011′s, “The Coming War With Pakistan:”
“In a 2006 report by the corporate-financier funded think tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace titled, “Pakistan: The Resurgence of Baluch Nationalism,” violence starting as early as 2004-2005 is described. According to the report, 20% of Pakistan’s mineral and energy resources reside in the sparsely populated province. On page 4 of the report, the prospect of using the Baluchi rebels against both Islamabad and Tehran is proposed. In Seymour Hersh’s 2008 article, “Preparing the Battlefield,” US support of Baluchi groups operating against Tehran is reported as already a reality. As already mentioned, in Brookings Institution’s “Which Path to Persia?” the subject of arming and sending Baluchi insurgents against Tehran is also discussed at great depth.
The 2006 Carnegie Endowment for International Peace report makes special note of the fact that above all, the Baluchistan province serves as a transit zone for a potential Iranian-India-Turkmenistan natural gas pipeline as well as a port, Gwadar, that serves as a logistical hub for Afghanistan, Central Asia’s landlocked nations as well as a port for the Chinese. The report notes that the port was primarily constructed with Chinese capital and labor with the intention of it serving as a Chinese naval station “to protect Beijing’s oil supply from the Middle East and to counter the US presence in Central Asia.” This point in particular, regarding China, was described in extricating detail in the 2006 Strategic Studies Institute’s report “String of Pearls: Meeting the Challenge of China’s Rising Power across the Asian Littoral.” Throughout the report means to co-opt and contain China’s influence throughout the region are discussed.
Syria: Intervention or Mediation? – Center for the Study of Interventionism
Published on Apr 10, 2012 by csinterventionism
After more than a year of turbulence, Syria is still facing both a violent internal opposition uprising and the threat of external intervention. NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council have backed the opposition, the Syrian Transitional Council, both politically and militarily. Calls for humanitarian intervention in the name of the “responsibility to protect” have been made by the same NGOs as those who acted over Libya last year. Russia and China have vetoed interventionist resolutions in the Security Council, backed by the US, France and the France and a chance for reconciliation has been offered with Kofi Annan’s mediation mission. But can it succeed? Will sovereignty remain respected, as provided for by the UN Charter? What are the real aims of NATO and the Gulf Cooperation Council in Syria? Do they want peace and reconciliation or regime change and chaos? Our video provides some answers to these questions, with interviews with Rodolfo Reyes, the Permanent Representative of Cuba to the UN in Geneva; Jean Bricmont, the Belgian political scientist ; John Laughland, Director of Studies at IDC in Paris; and Bahar Kimyongür, the Belgian author of “Syriana, la conquête continue”.
A Rare Admission From Israel
By Teymoor Nabili Information Clearing House Was it a momentary lapse of concentration or an honest admission?Last week, in an interview with Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor in Jerusalem, I heard something I have not heard before.Let’s start with the background. With the P5+1 (the US, UK, France, Russia, China and Germany) talks on Iran’s nuclear program about to kick off, and the air thick with talk of a military attack on Iran, it seemed appropriate to try to gain some perspective from the Israeli establishment.As Minister of Intelligence and Atomic Energy with a background in Iran issues, Meridor was the perfect man to talk to to.An able and experienced politician, Meridor was mostly happy to skirt the direct questions and recite approved talking points.It’s when I challenged him on the biggest talking point of all, Iran’s supposed determination to “wipe Israel off the face of the map,” that Meridor seemed to stumble outside the lines of the agreed narrative.
Meridor:[Iran's leaders] all come basically ideologically, religiously with the statement that Israel is an unnatural creature, it will not survive. They didn’t say we’ll wipe it out , you are right, but [that] it will not survive, it is a cancerous tumor, it should be removed;
Nabili: Well, I am glad you acknowledged they didn’t say they will wipe it out, because certainly Israeli politicians…
The minister spent much of the ensuing conversation arguing that for Iran to simply question Israel’s long term future amounts to an existential threat; there are many who agree with him.
But it’s his acknowledgement that there’s nuance in Iran’s position that’s so significant, and so rare.Politicians from Binyamin Netanyahu through Britain’s William Hague and most of the US congress won’t do it; they have invested a great deal of political capital in arguing just the opposite, claiming incessantly that Iran will launch a nuclear weapon on Israel because, in their minds, Iran’s president has more or less said so.
Articles of Interest
Guidebook to False Confessions
In this explosive interview, Scott Horton of Anti War Radio
discusses with journalist Jason Leopold, the release of the
“Pre-Academic Laboratory (PREAL) OPERATING INSTRUCTIONS.”
This once secret document is a 37-page instruction manual detailing
torture techniques “designed” to extract false confessions thereby
lending credibility to bogus terror threats.
The interview starts with the fact that another news agency
received the document some time ago, but did NOTHING with the
story. With the document now released by the DoD, the story comes
Bush- Era war crimes revealed in “Guidebook to False Confessions…”
Behind Closed Doors, Broadcasters Battle Online Disclosure of Political Ad Buys
By Justin Elliott
The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote April 27 on whether to require TV stations to post online public information about political ad buys. Some form of the rule seems likely to pass, but the industry and others are lobbying the FCC to alter the nature of the final rule.
(With the help of readers around the country, ProPublica is collecting stations’ public paper files containing data on political ads and posting them online because the information is generally unavailable elsewhere. See “Free the Files.”)
Right now we only know the broad thrust the proposed FCC rule: That broadcasters would have to electronically send the commission updates to its political file — in other words, information about what political ads are being purchased, by whom, and for how much money — instead of merely maintaining paper files at the stations, the current practice. The information would be made public on an FCC website.
The rule would apply initially to affiliates of the four major networks — ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX — in the top 50 markets. All other stations would have another two years before they’d have to begin filing electronically.
But the FCC won’t release the exact text of the rule until after the panel votes to finalize it later this month. Meanwhile, the wording is subject to change based on input from interested parties.
Former U.S. Officials Investigated for Receiving Payments to Promote a Designated Terror Group
Published on Apr 12, 2012 by TheRealNews
Jeremiah Goulka, former RAND expert on the Mujahedin-e Khalq, says war hawks from Bush admin. and some Democrats were paid by the group to advance its interests in DC
[In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit, for research and/or educational purposes. This constitutes 'FAIR USE' of any such copyrighted material.]