today’s dose of smears

Pindo intelligence investigating Russian links of leading Trump associates – report
Guardian, Jan 20 2017

Donald Trump’s transition team has been forced to distance itself from reports that Pindo intelligence agencies have intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russia and associates of the president-elect. On the eve of Trump’s inauguration as the 45th POTUS, the business dealings of his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort were among the matters under investigation, the NYT reported, citing current and former senior Pindo boxtops. Manafort, who stood down as Trump’s campaign chief in Aug 2016, has made millions from consulting work while working for pro-Russia oligarchs including Rinat Akhmetov, Dmitry Firtash and Oleg Deripaska. The NSA has conducted surveillance of Manafort’s business contacts, the NYT said, for suspected links to the FSB. Other Trump associates whose contacts are said to be under the microscope include Carter Page, an investment banker who worked in Russia and who was a foreign policy adviser to the campaign, and Roger Stone, whose involvement in Republican politics goes back to Richard Nixon. However, the Trump team denied any knowledge of the investigations, which have reportedly been led by the FBI and supported by the NSA, CIA and the Treasury’s Dept financial crimes unit, or why they might be under way. Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for the Trump transition said:

We have absolutely no knowledge of any investigation or even a basis for such an investigation.

Manafort called the allegations that he had interactions with the Russian government a “Democrat party dirty trick and completely false.” He said in an emailed statement:

I have never had any relationship with the Russian government or any Russian officials. I was never in contact with anyone, or directed anyone to be in contact with anyone. On the ‘Russian hacking of the DNC,’ my only knowledge of it is what I have read in the papers.

The reports follow weeks of intrigue over the possible involvement of Russia in trying to help Trump win last November’s election. A ‘secret’ CIA analysis ‘reportedly’ concluded that people with connections to the Russian government provided emails hacked from the DNC + Podesta to WikiLeaks in the run-up to the Nov 8 election. In December, Obama ordered Pindo intelligence to review evidence of Russian interference in the election, although the NYT reported that it was not clear whether the latest revelations were part of that review.

trotskyite rants

The inauguration of Donald Trump: An event that will live in infamy
Socialist Equality Party, WSWS, Jan 20 2017

The inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th POTUS is among the most ignominious events in the history of Pinpostan. More than $100m is being spent on the celebrations of the new president’s installation. In vain! No amount of money can dispel the nauseating stink that pervades every aspect of this inauguration. Nor can the fraudulent orchestration of public festivities conceal the widespread sense that the country, with the installation of the new administration, has embarked on a path that will lead to a disaster of unimaginable dimensions. History has caught up with Pindosi capitalism. The protracted process of economic and social decay has been covered over for decades with democratic phrases that served to disguise the gap between the official political myths and the underlying reality, but the mask has now come off. Donald Trump personifies the corruption, ruthlessness, parasitism and essentially fascistic mindset of the capitalist oligarchs who control Pindostan. Trump will lead a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich. Joining the billionaires in Trump’s cabinet and White House staff are retired generals, tapped for the key national security positions, and ultra-right ideologues appointed to oversee programs and social services that they have devoted their political efforts to destroying. Working people will pay for huge tax cuts for the super-rich and a massive military build-up, through the gutting of social programs like public education, Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, savage exploitation on the job, and the erosion of whatever remains of basic democratic rights. Internationally, Trump’s “Pindostan First” chauvinism sets the stage for escalating economic and geopolitical conflicts. The last quarter-century of war, beginning with the invasion of Iraq in 1991 and continued with the unending GWOT, will prove to have been only a prelude to even bloodier military operations. Even before taking office, Trump has made it clear that Pindostan views even its long-standing European vassals as competitors who, to the extent that they get in the way of Pindosi interests, will be dealt with as enemies.

Within the ruling elite there are sharp divisions over tactics, reflected in the unprecedented political conflicts that have erupted after the elections. However, the attacks on Trump from top Democrats and Republicans are centered not over the ultra-right policy he is pledged to carry out, but rather over the direction of Pindosi war planning. The factions of the corporate elite and military-intelligence apparatus that backed Clinton want to ensure that there is no retreat from the aggressive posture towards Russia, while Trump has directed his rhetorical attacks, for now, against China and most recently, Germany. However bitter the disputes, all sections of the ruling class are united in their conviction that Pindosi imperialism must pursue its global interests even at the risk of war, and that the attack on the social interests and political rights of the working class must be intensified. That Trump speaks and tweets not only for himself but on behalf of the ruling class is proven by the fact that his cabinet selections of billionaires and generals are sailing through the Senate confirmation proceedings with negligible opposition. As for Obama, he devoted his final press conference Wednesday to vouching for the political legitimacy of the incoming president, declaring:

It is appropriate for him to go forward with his visions and his values.

With the accession of Trump, the ruling class anticipates the revival of a mythic Pindosi past, a land where the capitalist oligarchy is free to exploit the population and pollute the environment to its heart’s content; where the working class is deprived of any significant social rights, including the right to public education, medical care and retirement security; where police can maim and kill with no questions asked; where corporations can underpay workers, fire them at will and even use child labor; and where the basest prejudices are cynically encouraged and essential democratic rights are trampled upon. But this nightmarish and dystopian vision of a capitalist hell cannot be realized without the unleashing of social conflict on a scale that will dwarf the great industrial struggles of the 1930s. The coming political and social shocks will jolt the Pindostani working class into action. Skeptics who are to be found in abundance among university academics, and in the anti-Marxist pseudo-left political organizations of the affluent middle class, dismiss the very possibility of mass working-class struggle. Those who reject all efforts to politically educate the working class point to the absence of mass revolutionary consciousness. However, their skepticism expresses their own ignorance of and indifference to the historical processes that lay the foundations for revolutionary eruptions. As Leon Trotsky, the greatest strategist of revolutionary class struggle of the last century, wrote:

The swift changes of mass views and moods in an epoch of revolution thus derive, not from the flexibility and mobility of man’s mind, but just the opposite, from its deep conservatism. The chronic lag of ideas and relations behind new objective conditions, right up to the moment when the latter crash over people in the form of a catastrophe, is what creates in a period of revolution that leaping movement of ideas and passions which seems to the police mind a mere result of the activities of “demagogues.”

For all the bombast and braggadocio of Donald Trump, his administration is in the final analysis the product of the desperate crisis that afflicts Pindosi capitalism. Its reckless policies will set into motion forces both within Pindostan and internationally that it cannot control… (There follows the usual party recruiting call – RB)

Massive police mobilization on eve of Trump’s inauguration
Shelley Connor, WSWS, Jan 20 2017

There is no “specific, credible threat” expected at Donald Trump’s inauguration exercises in Washington this Friday, said Jeh Johnson, outgoing Sec of DHS. Nevertheless, extraordinary security measures will be taken in response to protests. An estimated 28,000 representatives of the Pindo security apparatus, from the Secret Service, Transportation Security Administration (TSA), FBI, Park Police, Capitol Police, Coast Guard and municipal police, are coordinating operations in order to control and monitor onlookers, according to Johnson. The total cost of this police mobilization is estimated at $100m. Security personnel expect about 900,000 people to gather in Washington on Friday. This is typical of inauguration ceremonies. Barack Obama’s swearing-in ceremony in 2009 attracted around 1.8 million. Several protest actions have been planned; however, the largest of which, the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday, is expected to attract 400,000 to 500,000 participants. Chris Geldart, the director of DHS for Washington DC, has said that his team is preparing for several other smaller protest actions throughout the city. These numbers eclipse demonstrations at any inauguration since the Vietnam War era. In response, the coordination of all layers of security have divided the city into a series of “hard” and “soft” perimeters. Police began shutting down entire roads leading into downtown Washington on Thursday afternoon. Dump trucks, cement trucks and other heavy equipment have been employed to block pedestrian access to the heart of the city. More than 100 square city blocks, equal to roughly to 2.7 square miles, will be closed. Those with tickets to the inaugural ceremony will be required to pass through one of six security checkpoints surrounding the National Mall and the Reflecting Pool, where the most stringent security measures have been taken. Officials have published a list of 40 items, among them drums, whistles, umbrellas, signs, and selfie sticks, that are prohibited in the area. Washington’s largest hospitals have been put on high alert as well.

Johnson has said that disruptive actions have been anticipated and planned for. One protest group, #DisruptJ20, has called for a “bold mobilization against the inauguration of Donald Trump.” The group has been granted permits for a number of small protests, but has also alluded to other “actions.” Lacy MacAuley, a spokesperson for #DisruptJ20, stated, “We intend basically to set the tone of resistance here for the coming years.” In response, says Johnson, “special precautions” would be taken by law enforcement. “We are going to have a lot of resources. We’ve got pretty sophisticated ways to monitor groups and keep tabs on groups and make sure things don’t get out of hand,” he boasted. He stated that law enforcement has been using social media surveillance to keep abreast of planned actions by both protesters and pro-Trump demonstrators. In another statement, although Johnson admitted that there existed no “specific, credible threat,” he stated that the DHS is concerned about “lone wolf, self-radicalized” attackers. He cited the killing of 86 people in Nice, France, when a truck driver ploughed through a crowd gathered for Bastille Day in June of last year. Trump has brayed loudly about the great crowds he expects to turn out for his inauguration. He praised Bikers for Trump, an assorted group of motorcycle-riding Trump supporters that has vowed to patrol the nation’s capital and prevent protests. The group functioned as a vigilante security force for Trump at various rallies during Trump’s campaign. The heightened state of alert amongst the nation’s security apparatus, as well as the number of demonstrators, points to both the growing disaffection of Americans with the electoral process and to the mobilization of police and paramilitary forces in response to that disaffection. The gears of the security apparatus had been well oiled by both Bush 43 and Obama. The response of the ruling class to growing social inequality and discontent is the ever-greater expansion of police powers. The security measures put into place to protect the inauguration will not simply dissolve on Saturday. They will become increasingly focused and determined, and increasingly equipped to shut down any ongoing demonstration of citizens’ dissatisfaction. Said Geldart:

We’re basically not going to stand anything down after the inauguration. We’re leaving that stuff in place.

Finally, an edited version of another editorial

Joint Russian-Turkish bombing campaign in Syria deepens NATO crisis
Bill Van Auken, WSWS, Jan 20 2017

The launching of coordinated air strikes by Russian and Turkish warplanes against Daesh targets in northern Syria Wednesday has further exposed the crisis gripping Faschingstein’s intervention in Syria, as well as the deepening contradictions plaguing the NATO alliance on the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration. The bombing campaign struck targets around the Syrian town of al-Bab, the scene of bloody fighting between Turkish troops and Daesh over the past several weeks. From a political standpoint, the joint action by Russia and Turkey is unprecedented. It stands in stark contradiction to the anti-Moscow campaign being waged by Faschingstein and its principal NATO vassals, which has seen the cutting off of military-to-military ties, the imposition of sanctions, and the increasingly provocative deployment of thousands of Pindo and other NATO troops on Russia’s western borders. Just last week, Pindostan sent 3,000 soldiers into Poland, backed by tanks and artillery, while hundreds more Pindosi Marines have been dispatched to Norway. Lt-Gen Sergei Rudoskoy of the Russian Defense Ministry said:

The joint air attack was carried out under the terms of an agreement reached between the Russian and Turkish militaries on Jan 12, designed to prevent incidents as well as to prepare joint operations … in Syria to destroy international terrorist groups.

At the end of last year, Turkey joined with Russia in brokering a withdrawal of the last “rebels” from Aleppo and a nationwide ceasefire, which continues to prevail in much of the country. Faschingstein was pointedly excluded from the negotiations surrounding both Aleppo and the ceasefire. Only at the last moment has Moscow invited the incoming Trump administration, Despite Iran’s objections, to participate in talks in Astana, Kazakhstan, next week. This crowded and geostrategically tense battlefield is likely to grow even more dangerous following Trump’s ascension to the White House. Trump has reportedly called for the Pentagon to come up with proposals to deal a decisive defeat to ISIS in Syria and Iraq within 90 days. JCoS Dunford said on Wednesday that he would “present options to accelerate the campaign” against ISIS to ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis, Trump’s incoming Sec Def. Citing unnamed Pentagon boxtops, CNN reports:

The Pentagon is prepared to provide the new administration with military options to accelerate the war against Daesh in Syria that could send additional Pindosi troops into direct combat. One option would put hundreds if not thousands of additional Pindosi troops into a combat role as part of the fight to take Raqqa. … In the coming months, the Pentagon could put several brigade-sized combat teams on the ground, each team perhaps as many as 4,000 troops.

Plans are also reportedly being drawn up to escalate military provocations against Iran, which Mattis, in testimony before the Senate, described as the “biggest destabilizing force in the Middle East.” He said the Trump administration must “checkmate Iran’s goal for regional hegemony.” There is every indication, despite Trump’s rhetoric about improving relations with Moscow, that Pindo imperialism is preparing for another eruption of militarism in the Middle East that will pose an ever greater threat of spilling over into a new world war.

medvedev

Comment on end of Obama Presidency
Dmitri Medvedev, Facebook, Jan 19 2017

The administration of President Barack Obama has come to a close and the results are decidedly mixed. I would like to give my assessment of Russia-Pindostan relations during this period, especially since I was directly involved in many events. On the one hand, Russia and Pindostan managed to work together to resolve a number of major international problems. Our countries signed a nuclear weapons reduction treaty, and Russia and Pindostan played a leading role in resolving the controversy surrounding the Iranian nuclear programme. We achieved the elimination of chemical weapons in Syria. These outcomes are important for the entire world. On the other hand, Pindostan-Russia relations completely fell apart by the end of the second term of the Obama administration. Everyone is aware that Pindostan has always tried to” steer” almost all global processes, brazenly interfering in the internal affairs of various countries and waging multiple wars on foreign soil. Iraq, the Arab Spring, Ukraine, and Syria are just a few examples of such reckless policies in recent years. We can still see their consequences, which range from the complete collapse of the political systems in these countries to wars which claimed tens of thousands of lives. There is only one explanation for such actions: the interests of Pindostan. An explanation which is entirely defensible in Pindostan itself, though much less so in other countries. But the real issue lies elsewhere: the failure to understand one’s own true interests. The Obama administration was completely short-sighted on such an important and complex issue as relations with Russia. There was hope that it would be smarter, more circumspect, and more responsible, despite differing assessments of complex international processes, varying approaches to key decisions, the role of emotion and the pressure exerted by various political forces. The most important thing was to remember that Russia is not a banana republic (even though equal dialogue is a must with all members of the international community). It is unacceptable to talk to a country which is a permanent member of the UNSC in such a manner. A country with defensive capabilities equal to Pindostan. It is important to remember that Russia-Pindostan relations, without exaggeration, determine the fate of major international initiatives. Often, we may like or dislike some of the policies of our key partners, but we must be aware of our common responsibility. This is something that the Obama administration failed to do. The pressure on our country has reached unprecedented proportions. Ill-considered economic sanctions, which did no one any good, have reduced our cooperation to zero. There were the ridiculous individual sanctions that nobody paid attention to. And it doesn’t get any dumber than restricting entry to Pindostan for the leadership of the Russian parliament, ministers, and businessmen, thus deliberately reducing the possibility of full-fledged contacts and closing the window to cooperation. The bet was on brute force and sheer pressure. It is impossible to imagine such actions even during the Cuban missile crisis, even though the situation was much more serious then. Who benefited from this? No one. Certainly not Pindostan. It didn’t work. Conclusion: The Obama administration has destroyed relations between Pindostan and Russia, which are at their lowest point in decades. This is its key foreign policy mistake which will be remembered by history. We do not know yet how the new Pindosi administration will approach relations with our country. But we are hoping that reason will prevail. And we are ready to do our share of the work in order to improve the relationship.

thursday’s place to be, webwise

soros

“He Is Going To Fail”: Georges Soros Slams “Would Be Dictator” Trump
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, Jan 19 2017

George Soros told Bloomberg TV in Davos that euphoria among stock investors since the victory of Donald Trump will end as uncertainty takes over. Soros was one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest donors, and spent millions to prevent Trump from entering the White House. In an interview that may have been even gloomier than his last address to Davos in Jan 2016 (when he said he was short the market, predicted a Chinese hard landing and said the Fed’s hike was a mistake), on Thursday Soros unleashed the hate, saying that Pindostan had elected a would-be dictator as president, the EU was disintegrating, that British PM May won’t last long, and that China is poised to become yet more repressive. He said:

Uncertainty is at a peak, and actually uncertainty is the enemy of long-term investment. I don’t think the markets are going to do very well. Right now they’re still celebrating. But when reality comes, it will prevail.

The WSJ reported last week that Soros lost nearly $1b as a result of the stock market rally spurred by Trump’s win. Soros became more pessimistic immediately after that. But stocks rallied on expectations that Trump’s policies will boost corporate earnings and the overall economy. The key highlight of the Soros interview was this vicious slam at Donald Trump:

I have described him as an impostor and a con-man, and a would-be dictator. Trump would be a dictator if he could get away with it. It’s impossible to predict exactly how Trump will act, because he hasn’t actively thought it through himself yet. He was surprised when he won. He only started thinking seriously about what he would do after he was elected. I’m personally convinced he’s going to fail. The policies that guide him are inherently self-contradictory.

Some other notable quotes via Forexlive, (reassembled into a continuous narrative by moi – RB):

Trump stands for a government that’s the opposite of an open society, something like a dictatorship or a mafia state; Trump believes his ideas are the will of the people, so anyone who is against him is against the people; Markets will falter as uncertainty takes over. Europe is currently going on the wrong direction. If Europe breaks down, the consequences will be very dire. But I do see a way it could be saved, and this is also recognized by many of the people in Brussels. They can’t say so publicly, but they know that Europe is not functioning. It is unlikely that PM May is actually going to remain in power, as she has a divided cabinet and base, and Britons are in denial about the economic impact of Brexit. Inflation will be the force that will lead to declining living standards in Briatins, though it will take some time. Trump is definitely gearing up for a trade war with China, which is irreconcilable with economic prosperity. Trump is doing more to make China an acceptable leader of the international community than Chinese could do by themselves. China is at a decision point. It must choose whether to become a more open or closed society, as it transitions to a consumer-led economy. China has not actually succeeded yet in changing its growth model, and probably won’t do it in the next two years, because Pres Xi wants to maintain an unsustainable rate of growth. Pres Xi is doing that by rekindling the furnaces and producing more goods that are already in supply. If Trump names China a currency manipulator, they will retaliate. A trade war can easily spiral into a real military conflict. I hope the people who believe in an open society can get together.

He concluded by expressing his frustration with the recent Hungarian crackdown on his various NGOs, reading from a pre-written statement and saying that the processes taking place in his native country impair human values and democracy.

what will ambassador friedman do if mort klein asks him to speak to ZOA?

Israel’s right wing has grand plans for Trump era
Maayan Lubell, Reuters, Jan 19 2017

JAYLOOMIA – Israel’s right wing has been eagerly awaiting Donald Trump’s arrival in the White House, hoping a Republican president will usher in a new era of support for Israeli settlement-building. Beit Yehudi, along with members of Likud, is promoting legislation that would effectively annex one large settlement in the occupied West Bank to Israel, and another bill that would legalize dozens of unauthorized outposts. Obama on Wednesday said he was worried that the prospects for a two-state solution were waning. Israeli right-wingers contrast Obama’s warnings with what they see as positive signals from Trump that indicate Faschingstein’s attitude towards settlements in the West Bank and East Jayloomia, areas Israel captured in a 1967 war, is about to change. Trump’s nominee to be Pindo ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, echoed his condemnation of the UN over its treatment of Israel at her Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday. Trump, who has said he wants to meet Netanyahu “at the first opportunity”, has pledged to move the Pindo embassy from Tel Aviv to Jayloomia. In his remarks on Wednesday, Obama cautioned against “sudden unilateral moves” that could be “explosive.” In a move that has emboldened Israeli right-wingers, Trump has already appointed a new ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, who is considered far right on issues including settlement building. Naftali Bennett of Beit Yehudi hopes that under Trump’s administration the notion of establishing a Palestinian state will be abandoned. He wants to promote a bill extending Israeli sovereignty to Maale Adumim, a West Bank settlement of about 40,000 Israelis that lies just to the east of Jayloomia. That would in effect mean Israel annexing some of the land it has occupied for almost 50 years. Bennett told Galei Tzahal (Army Radio) this month:

It’s either sovereignty or Palestine. The question is not what will Trump do? but what will Israel ask for? What will Israel present as its vision? We are in the money-time now for forming this vision!

But Professor Itamar Rabinovich, a former Israeli ambassador to Pindostan, believes the right wing may be getting ahead of itself and its ambitions could backfire. Rabinovich said:

In reality, where Pindostan needs to live not just with us but also with the Arab and Muslim world, supporting extremist measures in Israel could turn out to be something that Pindostan cannot live with.

Bennett ultimately advocates the annexation of most of the West Bank, leaving just the major Palestinian towns and cities in Palestinian hands. But first he is testing the water with the annexation bill, entitled “Sovereignty in Maale Adumim First.” It is due for a first discussion in a ministerial committee on Sunday, two of its drafters said. Bennett’s fellow traveller Betzalel Smotrich told parliament on Tuesday:

I believe this is the gift that the people of Israel deserve in the run-up to Trump’s inauguration.

Nabil Abu Rdainah, a spox for Abu Mazen, said:

Annexation is a red line! Any such dangerous Israeli escalation will end all hope for peace!

Late last year, a separate bill that would retroactively legalize settlement outposts built on privately-owned Palestinian land in the West Bank passed the first of three votes in parliament required to make it law. No dates have been set for final approval, and it has since disappeared from the agenda. Asked about the delay, a source in Netanyahu’s office said:

He wants to freeze the outpost bill.

Asked about the law, a legislative source said:

It’s stuck in committee. There will be attempts to bring it back on the agenda after Jan 20, but I think it is pretty much buried at this point.

The legislation had drawn anger from the Palestinians and international condemnation. Smotrich told Reuters that it will be brought to a second and third reading in February. He said:

We were waiting for the end of the Obama age.

A political source close to Netanyahu said that with regard to the proposed Maale Adumim annexation, the prime minister may say he wishes to hold off until after he meets Trump. Tzachi Hanegbi, a Likud minister and Netanyahu confidant, said Netanyahu understood that such steps would further isolate Israel. Hanegbi told Army Radio:

He does not want to shake the entire world and put Israel at the center of contention, isolation and criticism. I hope the government will not let itself be dragged after Jewish Home’s agenda.

At the same time, Netanyahu is competing with Jewish Home for right-wing, pro-settlement voters. He may disagree with the party’s approach, but he can’t ignore it. The source said:

If the bill comes up, Likud ministers will support it. They can do nothing else.

New York Jets owner picked to be Pindo ambassador to Britain
Paul Dallison, Politico, Jan 19 2017

Donald Trump picked Woody Johnson, the owner of the New York Jets football team, to be the Pindosi ambassador to Britain. Johnson, 69, whose father was president of pharma giant Johnson & Johnson, was a supporter of Jeb Bush but switched allegiance to Trump in May 2016 and became a major fundraiser for the tycoon in the final stretch of the election campaign, the Guardian reported. His appointment needs to be confirmed by the Senate. What Johnson’s priorities will be once he arrives in London remains to be seen. But his team was well-prepared when it visited for a game at Wembley against the Miami Dolphins last year. According to the NYT, the Jets took their own toilet paper rather than use “the thinner version used in England.” Johnson isn’t the only owner of a sports team to be nominated for a top job: Todd Ricketts, Trump’s pick for deputy Sec Commerce, owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

lisa accuses ivanka of doing exactly what she admits she does herself (how catty of me to notice)

And here is her piece of shared autobiography, where she pretends to be orthodox:

By the way, here is Sam B, the shabbos goy of ‘feminist humor’, making fun of Kellyanne Conway:

szubin remains in place

Donald Trump Will Take Office With a Skeleton Crew Running National Security
Mattathias Schwartz, The Intercept, Jan 19 2017

When D Trump takes the presidential oath of office on Friday, he will assume control of the same intelligence agencies he has been feuding with for several weeks. For national security, the transition is shaping up to be a rocky one. Unlike Obama, who came to office with a relatively experienced national security team and allowed several of Bush 43’s key personnel to stay on until his own choices were confirmed, Trump’s administration has reportedly demanded that many of Obama’s choices, including ambassadors, leave immediately. The Pentagon, the ODNI, and the DHS have all named interim successors who will run their agencies until Trump’s appointments are confirmed. They are Robert Work, Michael Dempsey, and Chip Fulghum, respectively. The CIA says it has a similar arrangement in place for a person to run the agency should Trump’s nominee, Rep. Mike Pompeo not be confirmed by Friday, but it declined to say who. CIA spox Dean Boyd said in an email late Wednesday:

The Agency obviously has contingency plans. That’s all we can offer you.

Politico this week also reported on unfilled positions and a murky hiring process at State Dept, the Pentagon and the NSC, which saw Monica Crowley withdraw from a senior appointment after reports that portions of a book she had authored were plagiarized. According to one senior administration official, the transition is shaping up to be especially difficult at DHS. It appears likely that Trump will dismiss most or all of sixteen senior positions that require Senate confirmation. These include the heads of FEMA, Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The transition has not yet named anyone to replace them. An anonymous boxtop told us:

It is troublesome in the extreme that there is no designated successor for senior staff across DHS. If there were, current staff have been disallowed from communicating with them. The assistant secretaries’ portfolios will pass to unconfirmed advisers, but that could still be problematic. None of them have security clearances. They’ll have to lean very heavily on career civil servants to run the department.

Sean Spicer, the incoming White House press secretary, spoke Thursday morning about these unconfirmed advisers at a press conference held at the transition office. He called them “beachhead team members,” and said the Trump administration would be sending more than 500 of them into federal agencies. More than 50 Obama-appointed officials, including Robert Work at DoD and Adam Szubin at Treasury, would remain in place, Spicer said. That leaves more than 600 unfilled senior positions. On Wednesday, Gordon Trowbridge, the Pentagon’s deputy press secretary under Obama, said that the DoD had nothing to announce on the question of whether assistant secretaries would be kept on until their successors were confirmed. Trowbridge was not answering his phone on Thursday afternoon; a colleague in the Pentagon’s press office said that it was the deputy press secretary’s last day of work. Trowbridge, an appointee, had been asked to leave the building by the end of the day.

amusing sarky little note enclosed with rejection of application to attend by EI rep

Did war crimes summons force Tzipi Livni to cancel Brussels trip?
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Jan 19 2017

Israel’s former foreign minister Tzipi Livni has canceled a visit to Brussels scheduled for next week. The news comes as Belgian prosecutors confirm that Livni was due to be questioned in an ongoing investigation for war crimes. Livni was expected in Brussels on Jan 23 for a conference at the European Parliament, but she pulled out citing illness. Israeli officials including Livni have a history of cancelling foreign visits if they fear arrest. Thierry Wertz, a Belgian prosecutor, told Le Soir that federal judicial authorities “planned to take advantage of Tzipi Livni’s visit to try to move the investigation forward.” According to Le Soir, Wertz’s comments indicate that prosecutors planned to formally summon Livni for questioning. Livni is the subject of a complaint by victims filed in Brussels in 2010 for war crimes during “Operation Cast Lead,” Israel’s assault on Gaza in Dec 2008/ Jan 2009 that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians. Palestine solidarity group Association Belgo-Palestinienne (ABP) said in a press release that the complaints have been brought against several Israeli leaders in connection with the attack on Gaza. It notes that Livni was a full participant in decision-making at the time of the assault. Livni herself told Israeli media in Jan 2009:

Israel demonstrated real hooliganism during the course of the recent operation, which I demanded.

The Goldstone Report, the independent UN-commissioned inquiry into the assault, also quotes Livni stating:

Israel is not a country upon which you fire missiles and it does not respond. It is a country that, when you fire on its citizens, responds by going wild, and this is a good thing.

Israel claims that the assault on Gaza was a response to missiles fired by Palestinian armed groups, but the Israeli government’s own chronology shows that an agreed ceasefire that had been effective for months only collapsed after Israel broke it by launching several deadly attacks on Gaza in early Nov 2008. It then carried out its major assault on Gaza that had been in the works for six months. ABP says that under Belgian law, some of Livni’s statements constitute war crimes in their own right. It called for her to be arrested on arrival. The Goldstone Report states that where a country does not investigate and prosecute war crimes on its own, “international justice mechanisms must be activated to prevent impunity.” Livni has evaded justice at least four times while traveling in Europe in recent years. Last July, UK police summoned her for questioning over war crimes, but she escaped accountability on that occasion due to the complicity of the British government, which granted her special diplomatic immunity. The Brussels conference Livni was due to attend aimed to counter the BDS movement. It is sponsored by the Israel lobby group Europe Israel Public Affairs (EIPA) and the Israeli mission to the EU. Along with other Israeli officials, it is due to feature Ioan Mircea Pascu, the vice-president of the European Parliament. The event organizers appear to be actively discouraging attendance by anyone they fear may ask critical questions. EI’s David Cronin noted on EIPA’s Facebook page that he had received no response to his registration request. The group answered:

Dear David, this event is for supporters of Israel and those who oppose the BDS movement as divisive and fundamentally anti-Semitic. As a contributor to the Electronic Intifada and a well known anti-Israel activist, we have no idea why our event would be of interest. Of course the European Parliament is a free space for the public and should you wish to attend you may. But we would politely suggest that the pro-BDS event taking place at the same time would be of more interest to you, and your agenda. Best regards, the EIPA team.

this is what investigative journalism looks like, in case you ever wondered, lisa

Was Blair’s “sweatshops for Palestine” agenda shaped by a Labour donor?
David Cronin, Electronic Intifada, Jan 18 2017

It is eerily apt that the annual gathering of the World Economic Forum coincides with Donald Trump’s inauguration as US president. The business leaders and their political lackeys who huddle together in Davos each January write and then dispense prescriptions that have caused inequality levels to soar. Eight men possess as much wealth as the poorer half of the globe’s population, according to a new analysis by Oxfam. Trump’s ascent can be directly attributed to the disillusionment that ensues when the wealth gap widens, notwithstanding the irony that Trump epitomises the super-rich and all its vulgarity. The establishment figures against which Trump pitted himself were very much identified with what the writer and activist Susan George has dubbed the “Davos class.” Trump’s campaign team even zoomed in on comments made by Hillary Clinton at the forum when ranting against trade policies that her husband implemented and that she had favored. Bill Clinton became the first sitting Pindo president to attend the Davos jamboree in 2000 and has been a frequent participant since then.

Palestine has not been spared from the World Economic Forum’s activities. In 2012, the forum established an initiative called Breaking the Impasse. Its ostensible goal was to hook up Palestinian and Israeli entrepreneurs with major corporations so that they could discuss how to prime-pump the economy of the occupied West Bank and Gaza. Responsibility for a follow-on initiative was given to Tony Blair the next year. At that time, Blair was supposed to represent the Middle East Quartet, comprising Pindostan, Eurostan, the UN and Russia. Yet he was given this responsibility by the most powerful of those four players, Pindostan. Blair’s assignment was announced by then-Sec State Jackass Kerry. Blair appears to have recommended to Jackass that Kito de Boer, a director of the consulting firm McKinsey, should steward the whole scheme. The recommendation raises ethical questions which have not previously scrutinized. Before being recommended by Blair, de Boer had worked on a project about private sector investment in Palestine run by the Portland Trust, a London-based organization headed by Ronald Cohen, a venture capitalist and major donor to Britain’s Labour Party when Blair was its leader. In an interview published by the Young Presidents Organization, a corporate club, de Boer said that Blair “knew of the work” he had undertaken for Portland. De Boer was “approached” when Jackass asked Blair “for an economic strategy for rebuilding the Palestinian economy.”

Those comments indicate that Blair’s work for the quartet was influenced by Ronald Cohen, a Labour donor when Blair was the party’s boss and prime minister. So Blair has some explaining to do here, to put it mildly. Was de Boer headhunted by Blair based on Cohen’s advice? If so, is this a case of jobs for the boys? Is there a conflict of interests? I contacted de Boer, enquiring if Cohen had introduced him to Blair. I also enquired if he was aware that Cohen had helped bankroll Labour when Blair was in Downing Street. De Boer sent me a convoluted reply, which did not answer those questions directly. He did, however, confirm that Blair had been aware of his work for Cohen. He confirmed, too, that Blair had “steered” Jackass to McKinsey when the Sec State wished to have a blueprint for the Palestinian economy drawn up. “I also led that work,” he stated. Neither Blair nor Cohen replied to requests for comment. The blueprint which de Boer was tasked with drawing up was titled the “Initiative for the Palestinian Economy” and published in 2014. De Boer has confirmed that he was appointed by Jackass to oversee the blueprint’s implementation that same year. One proposal made by de Boer’s team was that industrial estates in the areas nominally under PA control should be designated as “special economic zones.” The “special” ingredients of this recipe have not been spelled out in detail. But there is enough evidence from how “special economic zones” have functioned elsewhere to regard the proposal as highly problematic.

“Special economic zone” is a euphemism for a sweatshop. Generally, such a designationallows companies within the zones to pay lower wages and less taxes than those applying in the wider economy. A de facto ban on trade union activism, for example, has been introduced in Cambodia’s “special economic zones,” according to a 2016 investigatio by In These Times. Put simply, de Boer’s blueprint would, if put into practice, potentially enable corporations to reap vast profits, while paying no more than a pittance to Palestinian workers. It should really be called the “sweatshops for Palestine” initiative. Blair stepped down as the Quartet’s representative in 2015, but the operation he led in Jerusalem is still in place. When Blair resigned, de Boer took over as head of the office. Because Blair has not been replaced, that means de Boer is now running the show, although he told me:

I am not the representative because I am not a politician.

De Boer is still intent on putting his plan into practice and has assembled an outfit named Shurook for that purpose. He stated:

Our mandate is economic, not political.

Who does he think he is kidding? A plan to increase exploitation of workers in an area subject to a brutal military occupation is inherently political and extremely dangerous. It is the kind of plan likely to win approval within the Davos bubble and inflict great harm in the real world.