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these are the realities beneath the personality adoration sessions

Hillary’s War Cabinet In Waiting
David Stockman, Contra Corner, Jul 27 2016

This fair summer camp for the (very) fortunate got double-whammy’d by the War Party during a weekend of “big think” last August. First there was a “debate” about whether ISIS should be “contained” or “defeated”. That was followed by a glowing progress report from General John Allen. He was President Obama’s Special Envoy for the Global Coalition of the Unwilling and Unable (to fight ISIS), and the gist of his speech was that 6,000 airstrikes since the previous August had been winning droves of hearts and minds in the Upper Euphrates valley. Well, that number is up to 11,000 now, and there is scant sign of hearts and minds being won. Still, General Allen’s speech was all for the edification of the pooh bahs of the foreign policy establishment who had been in town for the annual Aspen Strategy Group conclave. The latter bills itself as “a bipartisan foreign policy group that includes legislators, experts, journalists, policy practitioners, members of academia, and business leaders.” No it’s not. It’s an off-campus exercise in mendacity, vapid group-think and narcissistic self-glorification by the perpetrators of Washington’s endless foreign policy catastrophes. Once a year they come to admire each other and split hairs about pointless tactical differences. The debate about “containing” versus “defeating” ISIS proved that in spades. In fact, the “exterminate ISIS” team embodied an exact caricature of the bipartisan folly which has congealed in the Washington War Party.

Not surprisingly the #2 chair in the duo was occupied by an-out-and-out neocon warmonger, Professor Phillip Zelikow. He was an architect of the Bush wars on WMD and head of the 9/11 Whitewash Commission. His case boiled down to shouting vehemently that the Islamic hordes are heading for Times Square. So America needs to obliterate the 200,000 citizens of Raqqa, Syria before they get us. Never mind that there is not one iota of evidence that the self-appointed enforcers of Islamic purity who occupy a few dusty desert towns in the Upper Euphrates have any real capacity to mount a military attack on the fleshpots of Broadway and 42nd. But the neocons are taking no chances. To nearly every last armchair warrior, led by Robert Kagen, they are lining-up behind Hillary.Apparently, they fear Trump might make a deal with Putin to unleash President Assad and his Shiite crescent allies. In short order that would put the Islamic State out of business and close the Syrian theatre of neocon war games, too. But what was dispositive about last summer’s confab was that the #1 chair on the perpetual war team was occupied by Michele Flournoy. That’s right. She was Obama’s #2 at DOD and was ostensibly a legatee of what was once the Democratic Party’s left-leaning peace wing. No more. Ms Flournoy has climbed Washington’s slippery pole of power by growing a heavy plume of hawkish feathers. Accordingly, she presented not a single coherent argument about how ISIS is a military threat to the safety and security of the citizens of Lincoln NE or Springfield MA. Her case amounted to nothing more than a glib recitation of ISIS’ murderous brutalities, beheadings and benighted barbarisms. But as John Quincy Adams so profoundly observed, America’s security does not require that it search the world for monsters to destroy.

Apparently, Hillary Clinton does, however. For her Sec Def Designate is none other than Michelle Flournoy. Both share an obliviousness to Adams’ profound truth because they are credentialled member of the Washington War Party. And as a team, they are as good a reason as any to give Donald Trump a shot at the commander–in-chief job. After all, he has not spent a lifetime in the Imperial City looking for monsters to destroy abroad. He has even had the good sense to suggest that the vast network of US bases used for this purpose should be sharply curtailed. Defend America at home, first, he says. And why not. The Washington Imperium has failed virtually everywhere, and its bombs, drones and occupations have hatched far more terrorists than they have killed. Nor is Trump a paid-off supplicant of the military-industrial-congressional complex that Eisenhower warned about, and which since the demise of the Soviet Union has done exactly as he predicted. To wit, it has never stopped inventing enemies, provocations and threats designed to justify a massive, costly and obsolete cold war military machine. As we indicated in the precious chapter, the whole military industrial complex, NATO and international security apparatus should have been disbanded when the cold war ended for lack of a genuine industrial state enemy. Instead, searching for monsters to destroy has been the very raison d’ etre of American foreign policy. And it has surely been the source of the endless catastrophes that have ensued. To wit, in the great wash of history did it really matter to America which tyranny, that of the brutish Saddam Hussein or the repressive Sharia law-based regime of Sheikh al-Sabah, controlled the oilfields on the Kuwait/Iraq border?

After all, legitimate national sovereignty had nothing to do with it. Iraq was never a country, but only a spoils-of-war map drawn by British and French diplomats in 1916 and subsequently held together by the sword of dictators and generals; and Kuwait was a Bedouin settlement of no particular legitimacy, which had prospered only due to the deals its chieftains made with British Petroleum after the oil discoveries of the 1930s. Besides, the answer to oil shortages everywhere and always is high prices, not the Fifth Fleet. This truth has been demonstrated over and over in the last half-century—not the least in the current cycle. High oil prices at $150 per barrel lasted a few months in 2008 and tottered above $100 a few years thereafter, but have now been buried as far as the eye can see by an outpouring of shale, tar sands and other lower grade or costly-to-extract hydro-carbon supplies from provinces all over the planet. And that’s to say nothing of the vast upwelling of alternative energy and conservation responses to higher prices. In fact, OPEC is no more, and the opulent princes of the Persian Gulf will one-day be scrambling to fuel up their 747s for a final bon voyage. Stated differently, economics will out, and whatever sovereign controls the bounty of Mother Nature buried beneath the desert sands of the Persian Gulf and North Africa will produce all of it they can. Every dictator of the last half-century proved that, from Muammar Gaddafi, to Saddam Hussein to the mullahs of the Iranian Republic. Indeed, the politically induced shortages have all been the work of the Washington War Party’s perennial sanctions and embargoes; these slight “shortages” were cooked up by the denizens of the Aspen Strategy Group, not blood-thirsty men in black turbans.

Needless to say, as the Aspen Strategy Group carried on its simulacrum of debate and analysis, the original grey-haired perpetrators of the Persian Gulf oil security myth were all there to cheer them on, including Brent Scowcroft who advised Bush the Elder to draw a pointless line in the Kuwaiti sand. Yet, as we now know, what actually got implanted in the sand were the boots of the American army in Saudi Arabia. It was Washington’s spurious meddling in the $40b dispute between Saddam and the greedy princes of Riyadh over who owed what from their joint war on Iran during the 1980s that resurrected a Wahhabi fanatic named Osama bin Laden from obscurity and unemployment after his CIA-funded Mujahedeen work in Afghanistan ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. That senseless revival, in turn, ultimately enabled the flukish calamity of 9/11. As bin Laden ranted in his famous “Declaration Of War Against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places,

The latest and the greatest of these aggressions, incurred by the Muslims since the death of the Prophet (ALLAH’S BLESSING AND SALUTATIONS ON HIM) is the occupation of the land of the two Holy Places -the foundation of the house of Islam, the place of the revelation, the source of the message and the place of the noble Kaa’ba, the Qiblah of all Muslims- by the armies of the American Crusaders and their allies. (We bemoan this and can only say: “No power and power acquiring except through Allah”)…

But once bin Laden’s tiny cohort of fanatical jihadists was unleashed, never numbering more than a few thousands according to the CIA itself, the War Party proceeded to add insult to injury. It mistook the US military’s easy time of shooting Saddam’s ducks in a barrel on the Kuwaiti desert as evidence of Washington’s war-winning prowess; and the popularity of CNN’s first ever live action war games as an endorsement of the American peoples’ appetite for foreign adventurism.

So under the clueless authority of Bush the Younger, the denizens of the Aspen Strategy Group added lies and dissimulation to the sin of false pride. That is, they carried out an unprovoked Shock and Awe invasion of a country that had never, ever threatened America, had no capacity to harm the American people, and no connection whatsoever to the fanatical sect that pulled off 9/11 against all odds. Stated differently, 9/11 style terrorism was a domestic public safety and policing challenge back then and it remains so today. The remote threat of an ISIS terrorist attack or even an ISIS inspired copycat attack in any given American city or town has not been reduced by an iota owing to the random bombing and droning campaigns being carried out in the Upper Euphrates Valley by the Washington war party. So Imperial Washington had it wrong from the beginning. Fighting terrorism was never an appropriate mission for the Pentagon’s conventional war machine—a lethal armada of tanks, planes and ships that had been mistakenly built by Ronald Reagan to fight an industrialized enemy like the Soviet Union, which was no more. Yet once the American war machine was unleashed on the fragile polity that Saddam had stapled together with machine guns and canisters of deadly gases, the furies of historical grudges and sectarian grievances were inexorably unleashed.

The truth is, Washington midwifed ISIS by hanging Saddam and destroying a brutal but serviceable regime which had at least been based on the secularist tenants of Baathist nationalism. Saddam had a penchant for brandishing rifles and liquidating dissidents, but he had no cotton for beheading infidels. That was the modus operandi of the Shiite militias that got a free hand once Saddam was gone. And it was these vengeance seekers who ran riot over the land between the two rivers after the American people properly elected a peace candidate pledged to extricate Washington from its grizzly mayhem in Iraq. Likewise, the reason more than anything else that the Sunni lands of western Iraq fell to the butchers of ISIS during the summer of 2014 was that they offered a shield of protection against the vengeance of the Shiite vigilantes and the monumental corruption and theft of the Shiite government in Baghdad. Even then, however, their lighting conquest was made in Washington. That is, ISIS conquered not by the “sword” of Sunni fundamentalism at all, but owing to the massive arsenal of tanks, Humvee’s, field artillery, lethal weaponry and ammunition and advanced paraphernalia of 21st century warfare that had been deposited by the American military. Indeed, during the debate about “containment” versus “rollback” that Sunday afternoon there occurred a moment of clarity that explains why the War Party’s abominations go unchecked. David Petraeus, the disgraced general whose misbegotten “surge” campaigns caused the pointless deaths of more than 1,000 American servicemen in Iraq and Afghanistan and whose egomaniacal strutting led him to drop the CIA’s black book of secrets on Paula Broadwell’s pillow, had the cheek to stand up and explain that it was Obama who blew his victory in Anbar province. Yes, that’s exactly what the man said!

Did the audience give the ex-general the Bronx cheer he deserved or did the moderator call foul ball? No they did not. The moderator invited him to star in the next debate and the audience welcomed the blithering nonsense he offered in the guise of a question. Well, here’s the real question. Who’s infinitely dumb idea was it to spend $25b purportedly training and equipping an “Iraqi” army in what by 2007 was an utterly failed state, rent asunder by sectarian strife that was beyond recall? Yes, it was David Petraeus and his congressional sponsors like the rabid war-mongers, Senators McCain and Graham, who did exactly that. The only reason that there was even a debate about the proper anti-ISIS strategy during this Aspen confab was because the War Party in its wisdom left behind in Sunni lands 2,300 Humvees, 74,000 machine guns, 40 Abrams tanks, and countless more accoutrements of war with what was, in fact, a Shiite militia wearing Iraqi uniforms—–uniforms they instantly shed when it came to defending Sunni towns against the descending hordes of ISIS. Needless to say, the War Party learns nothing and never quits. Thus, its debate team of ISIS eradicators had yet another scheme. By their lights, “containment” of ISIS in its pitiful desert redoubts is not enough. Channeling Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign slogan, they claimed that America can settle for no less than “victory” over ISIS. Yes, and that is to be accomplished with no American boots on the ground. The eradication is to be carried on by the Sunnis themselves.

Say what? Would that be the Sunni nation of Turkey, equipped as it is with NATO’s best 1,000 planes, 5,000 tanks and a professional military of 500,000?  Well, that all depends on what Sultan Erdogan intends to do now that he has made himself dictator. Besides, there are complications due to the Kurdish issue and the obsession of the Sultan with liquidating the Syrian Kurdish allies of his own insurgent population of 15 million Kurds before getting around to vanquishing the Sunni caliphate. Indeed, most of the cross-border bombing campaigns carried out by Turkey in the past year have really been a thinly disguised cover to make war on the Kurdish enclaves of northern Syrian and Iraq. Why? The better to stir up anti-Kurdish venom among the Turkish populace. Nothing could better serve Erdogan’s evident plan to extend his current emergency powers to rule by decree or to eventually amend the nation’s constitution to make himself Presidential dictator for life. Next, of course, is the real irony. The only great Sunni tribe that has shown itself willing and able to fight ISIS is the Kurds. But Kurdistan, a nation of 30 million, doesn’t even have an army because it was the one large tribe that came back from Versailles empty-handed and without a nation of its own. So its people remained scattered among hostile Shiite governments in Iraq and Iran, and bombed and prosecuted by a newly installed dictatorship in Ankara. They only boots the Kurds will be leaving on the ground are the ones felled by the Turkish air force.

Likewise, to the south is the 88 million strong Sunni nation of Egypt.  But it goes without saying that General al-Sisi, its newly legitimized dictator by way of Washington’s renewed $1.5 billion flow of aid and weapons, will not be sending his army to the Upper Euphrates. He needs the entirety of his 469,000 man military to keep the population of Egypt subdued. In the case of the vast Sunni population of Saudi Arabia (about 25 million), the prospects of raising an anti-ISIS fighting force under the auspices of the government in Riyadh are between slim and none. The House of Saud knows full well that if it sends its army to Syria it will defect to the Sunni jihadists’ side in short order. So whence cometh the Sunni boots on the ground that will be needed to eradicate the purported 20,000 ISIS fighters?  After all, what happened last time Washington got itself busy identifying, recruiting, vetting, training and deploying the proverbial “moderate” Syrian rebels who want to take back their country from the jihadists? After years of jabbering and a half billion dollars spent, however, here is what the War Party and its Aspen Strategy Group thinkers have accomplished. Namely, after nearly two years of effort Washington was finally able to field a force of 60 soldiers. That’s right. There are no zeros missing. And even that rag-tag ensemble promptly met its doom. Its commander and deputy were captured by the Nusra Front, several members were killed and the balance defected or disappeared into the rubble of the former Syrian state.

Yes, this is beyond pathetic. But here’s the thing. The opposing side in the Aspen Strategy Group debate was at least sober enough to advocate “containment” rather than indulging in the juvenile game of where’s the Sunni Waldo. But they never did say how long the US would have to “contain” ISIS by bombing the 81,000 square miles it controls, or whether this would constitute taking it back to the stone age or merely recognizing that it was already essentially there. Notwithstanding that Ramadi, Fallujah, Mosul and Raqqa were once respectable centers of civilization and commerce, the truth is there is next to nothing left there after years, even decades, of Pindosi-instigated warfare. So the so-called Islamic State is no state at all. It’s just a backwater dystopia that is utterly incapable of ever mounting a military threat to America’s security. Indeed, now that oil is down to $40 per barrel and most of the motley array of Syrian oil wells have been decimated, the Islamic State has apparently discovered a new method of revenue raising. To wit, they are reportedly harvesting and selling the body parts of their wounded.

Stated differently, the blood-thirsty fanatics who run the Islamic State are killing the commerce, the population and even the flocks and fields on which these quasi-subsistence villages once depended. For crying out loud, according to General John Allen himself, the whole joint was being run on revenue of less than $1 billion per year; and now that its oil revenues are going dry, its funds are down to a small fraction of even that. Don’t these Washington geniuses know that when it comes to recruiting even soldiers of Allah that the rule of “no ticky, no washy” applies, and in spades? And what kind of crackpots really think that as abhorrent as ISIS is—-that a real state with a modern military capability can finance itself on the slave trade of young women, body parts of the wounded,  hostage taking and punitive taxation of a nearly starving population in its shrunken areas of control? This is nuts! The War Party’s futile effort to “contain” ISIS by relentless droning and bombing of the unfortunate towns and villages caught up in it snare is accomplishing only one thing, and it amounts to a monumental self-inflicted setback. Namely, it provides horrific, living color video proof that the crusaders are still visiting mayhem on the innocent and Allah-fearing peoples of the putative caliphate. And it is the overpowering magnet that brings new recruits  to join the fight against the Great Satan in Washington.

The way to stop ISIS, therefore, is to ground the bombers and drones; send home the spotters, trainers and other infrastructure of intervention; forget about who controls the oil—it will be produced by someone; and recognize that American has no dog in the 1300 year old fight between Sunni and Shiite. Indeed, the elephant in the room during the Aspen debate was the Shiite Crescent. That is, the 100 million Shiite citizens of Iran; the rump of Iraq in Bagdad and the south; the Alawite/Shiite minority of the Assad regime in Syria and the Hezbollah/Shiite fighters who represent 45% of Lebanon and constitute its largest political party. All of them have been condemned to the sword as apostates by the ISIS caliphate, and at the end of the day they are the one force that can keep the latter bottled-up in its miserable territories until its bloody regime collapses of its own inhumanity. Alas, when it comes to the Shiite Crescent, a group of Islamic nations no better or worse than the brutal tyranny of Egypt or the glutinous obscenity of the Persian Gulf sheikdoms, the War Party cannot see straight. The Aspen Strategy Group, Hillary, Flournoy and the rest are utterly clueless as to why the Iranian regime has been so hostile to the American Imperium’s plans for a better world.

Let’s see. The CIA did overthrow Iran’s elected government in 1953 for the sin of nationalizing the nation’s oilfields. Washington did stand 100% behind the Shah’s 25-year reign of plunder and helped him organize and operate the Savak, an internal secret police so brutal and murderous as to make the East German Stasi seemed civilized by comparison. Yes, and the neocons of the Reagan White House did tilt toward Iraq after its unprovoked attack on Iran. Indeed, they went so far as to use the CIA’s spy satellites to act as spotters for Saddam’s chemical weapons attacks on Iran battle forces—-often just teenage boys armed with wooden rifles. And their successors in the administration of Bush the Elder did identify the Iranian Republic as the new enemy to replace the fallen Soviets, thereby keeping the military industrial complex and CIA surveillance state alive and funded at its accustomed levels. Likewise, they did induce Bush the Younger to identify Iran as part of the Axis of Evil in his 2002 State of the Union address. That is, they proclaimed Iran among the nations slated for the cleansing force of a Washington orchestrated “regime change” and that its leaders, like Saddam, would be disposed of at the end of a hangman’s rope. So they don’t like us, profoundly so. Yet the leaders in Tehran have had the good sense to bend over and accept Obama’s humiliating deal to exchange a non-existent nuclear weapons program and 15 years of an international nuclear inspection proctology for the right to re-enter world commerce and the community of nations. Even then, they will fight and contain ISIS because their survival depends upon it.

None of these realities penetrated last summer’s Aspen War Games, nor Hillary’s war cabinet in waiting. Indeed, as General Allen droned on during that occasion—–and, yes, the man was droning profusely——about the scores of godforsaken Syrian border towns that have been allegedly liberated from ISIS, the police forces that have been stood up, the fresh recruits that have joined the so-called Iraqi Army, the thousands of ISIS fighters who have been sent to a better world, the thousands of teachers and medics that have been put into the field, I closed my eyes. I then did hear the voice of General William C Westmoreland echoing over the decades. We are winning the hearts and minds of the Vietnamese people, he intoned; we are Vietnamizing the conflict; the strategic hamlet program has become a swell success; we are building schools and clinics in the rice paddies; the body count of dead Viet Cong is swelling by the day. It was all one giant tapestry of BS, of course, which temporarily camouflaged the catastrophe of LBJ’s war and the genocidal destruction that it inflicted on an innocent people. Still, General Allen’s completely bogus progress report reminded me why I was a Peacenik way back then; of how profoundly Hillary and her War Party have betrayed the cause; and why even an untutored and often uncouth showman like Donald Trump cannot possibly do worse than the pretentious armchair warriors of the Aspen Strategy Group.

watch bernie & co sell palestine down the river

Night of the Hollow Men: Notes From the Democrat Convention
Jeffrey St Clair, Counterpunch, Jul 28 2016

  • Since my co-editor Joshua Frank prefers to go surfing rather than do his reportorial duty and watch the DNC Convention from gavel-to-gavel, he’s telling me that I have to write another account of tonight’s proceedings. I’m not sure I’m up to it ‘frankly.’ What would Hunter Thompson do? Oh, yes, he would get his body and mind in fighting form by having breakfast. I guess I’ll follow the good Doctor’s example: “Four Bloody Marys, two grapefruits, a pot of coffee, Rangoon crêpes, a half-pound of either sausage, bacon, or corned-beef hash with diced chilies, a Spanish omelette or eggs Benedict, a quart of milk, a chopped lemon for random seasoning, and something like a slice of key lime pie, two margaritas and six lines of the best cocaine for dessert.” All to be consumed while naked. Snarf! Sniff! Belch! ALRIGHT! I’m primed. Bring on Biden!
  • Margie Kidder was one of Hunter Thompson’s best friends. I asked her if this menu remotely resembled his real appetites. Margie told me that she and Hunter were together during the 1984 Democrat Convention in San Francisco, where his main obsession was in scoring some cocaine to get him juiced for covering the tedium of the convention. Margie told me:

    Here’s what Hunter would do. He believed firmly in getting your cocaine first, which at that convention involved spending a lot of time with a gay friend of mine he referred to in his writing as “the bowl of fruit.” Then you got your drinks lined up, and we would sit and watch the TV in the press room. I kept insisting on going out onto the floor to interview what often turned out to be ex-lovers of mine, who I couldn’t really quote for obvious reasons. He was disgusted with me. At one point, back at the St Francis hotel, Hunter screamed down the hall at me: “You are a political neophyte! You are a dangerous woman!” Then he went off to a party at Ann Getty’s house or apartment and called her a fascist dyke and punched a hole in her living room wall and Pat Caddell (the Democrat pollster) and I had to race over with my trans driver Greta and our 1960s Cadillac convertible loaned to me by the gay community, and rescue Hunter from the well-dressed and horrified Democrats. Patrick Leahy thought he was funny. Few other Democrats did. But then Leahy often rode around with us in that Cadillac.

  • Terry McAuliffe, the Clinton’s former BFF (second now to Elizabeth Warren), mentor to Tim Kaine in the art of political grifting and current governor of Virginia, has an ego the size of Trump Tower. McAuliffe knows all of the Clintons secrets. He knows what they think and how they deal. McAuliffe gave an early morning interview to Politico, where he confided to the reporter that Hillary was only pretending to oppose the TPP to neuter one of Bernie Sanders’s main campaign themes. The governor assured the reporter that after the election Hillary would once again support the job-killing trade pact with a few cosmetic adjustments. The McAuliffe Leak exposed the worst kept secret in Washington.
  • Bill O’Reilly did his best last night to calm a perplexed nation, still reeling from Michelle Obama’s allegation that slaves had built the White House, which had not been vetted by the Texas School Book Commission. Yes, it’s true, O’Reilly told his anxious viewers, but relax; the slave construction workers were in fact “well-fed and had decent lodgings, provided by the government.” With these ameliorating words from a professional historian, Fox Nation slept soundly.
  • A few days ago, Michael Moore hauled himself like a stranded walrus onto the set of the Bill Maher Show, where he predicted that Trump was going to win in the fall. Those of us who know Michael Moore knew that this was a con, a scare tactic to drive potential Greens, Libertarians or stay-at-home anarchists to vote for HRC. Michael Moore does this every general election. Flirts with a Third Party candidate, then folds. He has previously confessed his obsession with Hillary, an obsession that borders on the sexual. In his book, Downsize This!, Moore confessed his “forbidden love” for Hillary, describing her as “one hot shitkickin’ feminist babe.” Now into my inbox lands a message from Moore under the subject heading: “Add Your Name?” How quaint, I thought, I didn’t think we’d been on speaking terms since his deplorable betrayal of Nader in 2004. I was crushed to discover that this was actually a fundraising letter for, imploring me to join with Moore and Lena “friggin‘” Dunham to “do everything we can to stop Trump.” Sicko, indeed.
  • Trump is a carnival barker of bullshit. This morning at his press conference in Scranton, he tweaked Clinton by calling on the Russian hackers to release her emails. The reaction was seismic. Trump is inviting a foreign nation to spy on Pindostan! Trump is calling for an enemy of Pindostan to interfere in the Pindosi election! Lions, tigers and bears, oh my!
  • The Democrats reacted with predictable hysterics, calling Trump’s remarks “treasonous,” which is ridiculous. What Trump actually said was that “if” Russia did in fact hack into Hillary’s email account, then they should release the emails, especially the 30,000 emails that her lawyers deleted AFTER they were subpoenaed.
  • Shortly after offending all of the foreign policy elites in both parties with his remarks on Russia, Trump broke with Republican orthodoxy again by announcing that he would support a $10 an hour minimum wage. Mike Pence, who opposing any minimum wage, must be having a hard time keeping up with the new talking points. The liberals, of course, reflexively denounced Trump’s plan as “incoherent.” But it is one more sign that Trump is trying to outflank Hilary on a range of issues. Fortunately for him, he doesn’t have to veer his Rolls that far to get to the left of Clinton.
  • Pindostan is shocked! Shocked, I tell you!! That any government might want to interfere in Pindosi elections! It is morally wrong! It violates international law! It’s the kind of action that violates every sacred principle of Democrat governments! (See Bill Blum, see Zoltan Grossman.)
  • In their quest to ensure a fully-informed Pindosi electorate, the Russian hackers should also release Trump’s tax returns and the text of Hillary’s Goldman Sachs speeches.
  • The neoliberal ticket is now consecrated. The nomination of the unapologetically pro-fast track, pro-TPP Tim Kaine approved without objection. Change (of positions) you can believe in. Jelle Versieren told me:

    At least he’s not Putin! ominating Putin would definitely be worse!

  • Hillary’s new BFF, Elizabeth Warren, refused to say whether Tim Kaine was the “right pick” for the Democrat Party. Instead Warren mumbled:

    He’s a good man, he has a good heart, and he has a lot of experiences. I think he is going to be a valuable member of the team for Sec Clinton, and a valuable member of the team when she is POTUS.

  • New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio is now on stage. Wonder if he’ll do a reprise of his “C P Time” routine as a way to win back some of those Trump voters in western Pennsylvania?
  • Bernie Sanders hasn’t left the building with the Sandernistas. He gave a speech this morning to the Texas delegation, where he called Trump the “worst candidate in modern history.” If that’s true, what are they scared of? The election should be a cakewalk.
  • Almost every speaker on stage today has repeated the phrase “scary Donald Trump.” They are working overtime to scrub away the image of Madeleine Albright from last night, which caused so many Democrat children to have a sleepless night.
  • Jesse Jackson is a hollow shell of his former self. Once one of the most electrifying speakers of our time, he now is thoroughly pacified and house trained. He can’t really believe what he is saying about the woman who called black teenagers “super-predators”? What does he really mean when he says that you can “trust” the woman who pushed for the destruction of welfare that further impoverished the lives of poor black mothers and their children? “Hillary Time? Hope Time?” Jackson couldn’t even look at the camera when he wrenched out those tortured phrases. If Jackson wasn’t embarrassed for that speech, I was on his behalf. Once he was a rebel against the System. Now he is a hired gun for the elites.
  • Who is up for a drinking game during Tim Kaine’s speech!? One shot of mezcal for every formerly long-held position that Kaine’s reverses himself on tonight. If you don’t pass out, then congratulations, you are probably one of Hunter Thompson’s illegitimate children…
  • The Clinton campaign is saturating the airwaves with a commercial featuring a montage of some of Trump’s most offensive remarks with shocked children looking on. In fact, most children probably watched few if any of Trump’s heresies before they saw all of them at once in Hillary’s commercial. Is it really about protecting the kids, Hillary?
  • Harry Reid and his wife just shuffled on stage wearing sunglasses they must have picked up at the House of Blues in Vegas. This is probably the last time we’ll see Harry Reid at one of these things. I like Harry Reid. I don’t know why. If I thought hard about it, I probably wouldn’t. But I do. He’s a former boxer and is still a fighter, even if he is so often punching the wrong targets. Alex and I interviewed him about 10 years ago. He was totally unpolished and unvarnished. We could have been talking to somebody in a bar. In fact, we were talking to somebody in a bar. Reid stood up to the nuclear lobby and won. He single-handedly kept nuclear waste out of Yucca mountain. You won’t see his kind in the future Democrat Party of pre-packaged Westworld-like clones.
  • The ambitious Lt-Gov of California Gavin Newsom just praised the “sunny optimism” of Ronald Reagan, specifically referencing the Gipper’s “tear down that Wall” speech, one of the most rabid rants of the Cold War era.
  • The Boho Gov of California Jerry Brown, proponent of fracking and oil drilling, is who the DNC picks to speak about climate change? Is Bill McKibben committing seppuku? One fracker endorsing the environmental bona fides of a ticket of two frackers. Give them points for consistency. Is Brown auditioning for Secretary of Interior or the board of Exxon. Is there a difference? Why did the Democrats feel as if they could send out Jerry Brown to talk about global warming? Because Gang Green is already “all in” for Hillary and the DNC thought they could stick it right in their face with impunity (they’d be right).
  • This gun violence sequence is unfolding like a flashback to Death Night at the Republican convention.
  • There’s Chief Charles Ramsey, the former police commission for Washington, talking about gun violence and the “war on cops.” You remember Ramsey don’t you? He’s the man who instituted traffic checkpoints in largely black sections of DC where information on detained motorists who were committing crimes was entered into a mass police database. Ramsey also ordered the illegal mass arrests of more than 700 protesters (perhaps even one of you) in Pershing Park during the World Bank and IMF protests in 2000. The city of DC was ordered to pay more than $8 million in fines as compensation for this trampling of civil rights. So much for the Constitution. Perhaps Hillary is auditioning Ramsey for the next Secretary of Homeland Security. Do you feel more secure?
  • Cpt Mark Kelly, Space Cowboy, just praised the “awesome extent of Pindosi power and capability” that engineered the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The Democrats are doubling down on the Iraq War.
  • Naturally, Commander Kelly’s homily to the Iraq War is followed by a group sing of ‘What the World Needs Now’ as a statement against gun violence! Maybe Yoko denied them the rights to ‘Give Peace a Chance?’ No matter which way you turn people are living in an Alt Reality.
  • In a strange cinematic interlude, the big screen behind the stage just aired a surreal film warning that Trump couldn’t be trusted with the “nuclear button”, which was partially narrated by … the nuclear bomber himself, Harry Truman!
  • Leon Panetta, the CIA’s master of drones, is being shouted down with “No war, No drone” chants, most of them coming from the Oregon and Washington state delegations. Play on, Sandernistas!
  • Leon Panetta snivelling about Russian hacking is the best laugh of the night. Didn’t his own hackers, working with their cohorts in Mossad, unleash the malicious Stuxnet worm on Iran?
  • The floor managers are in crisis mode. They have given all of the delegates on the floor “Stronger Pindostan” placards which they are waving with patriotic vigor and have them shouting “Pindostan! Pindostan!” to drown out the anti-war protesters. Did they import these people from the Trump rally in Scranton? They cut the lights to the anti-war protesters section, and they responded with their Flashlight apps on their cellphones. Be prepared, people!
  • Are they arresting and waterboarding the protesters in the Oregon and Washington delegations now before Biden and Obama speak? Please text home!
  • Right on cue, Rachel Maddow denounced what another MS-DNC hack called the Lunatic Left for heckling Leon Panetta, director of the CIA’s remote control killing program. “It made no sense,” she said. Which means it must have been impeccably timed.
  • And now an important message on decency, justice and morality by Joe Biden, the man who betrayed Anita Hill and wrote the Clinton Crime Bill.
  • Did they run the Biden speech through the plagiarism software? They should make sure to use the UK edition.
  • For the Democrats, the only man on Earth scarier than Donald Trump is Vladimir Putin, who Biden seems to believe is the Dr Moriarty of Moscow.
  • Introducing Michael Bloomberg to present the Billionaire Seal of Approval to Ms Hillary Clinton!
  • Bloomberg: “We don’t need a bomb thrower as president.” Apparently, we need another drone launcher, instead!
  • Leave it to Bloomberg to give the most coherent indictment of Trump. There’s no hate quite as pure as that between rival billionaires.
  • Re Lenny Kravatz: They seem to be alternating the Love Songs with the War Speeches.
  • Get the mezcal out, here comes Citizen Kaine. Will he embrace his inner neoliberal? Or make a false confession about his sudden epiphanies on trade, bank regulation, the death penalty, abortion, and collective bargaining rights?
  • Tim Kaine is off to a halting start. Perhaps they should have had Kaine on at 3 pm? He has a goofy quality that would be endearing in a TV weather personality.
  • If Hillary and Kaine are elected, will Toni Morrison dub Kaine the first Hispanic VP because he spoke some snatches of Spanish tonight?
  • Tim Kaine, the Jesuit Missionary, talked about witnessing the horrors of the Honduran dictatorship without mentioning that it and its death squads were entirely supported by the Pindosi government and that the same generals were put back into power in a coup supported by Hillary Clinton!
  • Tim Kaine looks like he honed his rhetorical chops by watching home videos of Mr Roger’s Neighborhood. Did the Clintons ever see him give a speech or did they just take Terry McAuliffe’s word for it? Nothing against the great Fred Rogers, of course.
  • Kaine, the Wall Street bag man, quoting John McCain’s economic advisor for the 2008 campaign as an expert witness is probably not the most compelling testimonial against Trump.
  • Obama enters to the banal mewling of Bono! How apt. At least he didn’t profane James Brown or Smokey Robinson.
  • Obama may have been impotent to stop the killing of the kids at Newtown or the church members in Charleston. But he had complete authority to stop the killing of children, doctors, nurses, and wedding parties in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan killed by his drone strikes.
  • Optimism is the word from the O Man, which means things must be much worse than we think.
  • With a smile on his face, Obama claims “gay marriage” as a victory on his resume, even though he opposed it.
  • Obama: “There are pockets of the country that never recovered from factory closings.” Pockets? Those pockets are big enough to shoplift the Great Lakes.
  • Now Obama is quoting Reagan. Truman and Reagan have been quoted more frequently than any other figures at this convention. In fact, Obama’s speech is played in the key of Reagan. He has said that he sees himself as a “transitional figure” like, yes, Reagan. He has exceeded beyond his expectations.
  • Obama just said Hillary has been caricatured by some on the Left. I assume he’s referring to the jacket cover of Doug Henwood’s deliciously vicious book, My Turn.
  • Obama could sell Trump Steaks to a vegan.
  • Obama swears that Hillary is the “most qualified person ever to run for president.” Perhaps. But she’s qualified in all the wrong directions.
  • Exit to Stevie Wonder. When Hillary surprised Obama on stage, she had the look of love in her eyes, as if she had just jilted Bill for Barack. But then wouldn’t you, after Bubba’s creepy stalker speech last night? This was a night dominated by the hollow men of the Democrat Party: Panetta, Kaine, Biden and Obama. Men who knew better, but did worse. The theme was liberal virility, strength and managerial efficiency. Missing was any empathy for the homeless and the hungry, the poor and the downtrodden. It was a frontal embrace of the neoliberal order, a demonstration that the Democrats have the competency and toughness to manage the imperial order in a time of severe internal and external stress. The last three hours weren’t a full-throated repudiation of Sandersism, so much as a casual dismissal, as if the core concerns Bernie’s movement gave voice to regarding the ravages of economic inequality didn’t even merit their attention. And Bernie sat passively in the imperial box seats with Jane squirming at his side, watching it all unfold. Barack Obama possesses so many scintillating skills, perhaps more skills than any other political figure of the modern era. Yet he put those magical gifts to such meagre, timid and often brutal uses. What a waste. His is the tragedy of a squandered presidency.

She Stoops to Conquer: Notes From the Democratic Convention
Jeffrey St Clair, Counterunch, Jul 29 2016

  • First things first. I want to apologize to the Sandernistas, to those of you who rose up after your leader abandoned you, after Bernie wiped out your votes and muted your voices, after he turned you over to the DNC’s thuggish floor managers and security guards, after he sat passively as your brave chants of “No More Drones” were drowned out by the fascist war-cry of “Pindostan! Pindostan!!” I want to apologize for doubting your resolve. I want to apologize without qualification. You didn’t cry when Bernie betrayed you. Not for long. You marched right back into the Wells Fargo Center intent on spoiling the party. You didn’t sour on your ideals. You refused to be domesticated. You pissed on their carpet. You shouted down their war criminals. You made this squalid affair fun for a few precious hours. And that ain’t bad. Somewhere Abbie Hoffman is cracking a smile (though perhaps not at the spectacle of Meryl Streep ripping off his wardrobe during her bewildering performance, an act so incoherent it made one long for the Absurdist theater of Clint Eastwood and his empty chair routine.)
  • I woke up this morning with a hangover that has defied the usual remedies. Too much mezcal from the Kaine Drinking Game (one shot for every reversal of a long-held position). Too many hours of tedium, dread and bombast. For relief, I turned to the Holy Text itself, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail: 72 and drank in HTS’s savage denunciation of lesser-evil voting:

    How many more of these goddam elections are we going to have to write off as lame but ‘regrettably necessary’ holding actions? And how many more of these stinking double-downer sideshows will we have to go through before we can get ourselves straight enough to put together some kind of national election that will give me at least the 20 million people I tend to agree with a chance to vote for something, instead of always being faced with that old familiar choice between the lesser of two evils? I understand, along with a lot of other people, that the big thing, this year, is Beating Nixon. But that was also the big thing, as I recall, twelve years ago in 1960—and as far as I can tell, we’ve gone from bad to worse to rotten since then, and the outlook is for more of the same.

    Ah, I feel better now. Will someone please fax that to Professor Chomsky?

  • Trump took to Twitter early this morning, as his hair was being replastered into place, and denounced the All Star lineup at the Democratic Convention last night as an orgy of “empty rhetoric.” He wasn’t wrong. The whole affair had the feel of one of those rock concerts featuring bands from the 1970s. The first few phrases were thrilling, then it all started to fade away into a nostalgic stream of familiar hooks and licks you’ve heard a thousand times before on Classic Rock AM radio. All played very well with magnificent staging and a dazzling light show, yet utterly antiseptic. The curious Tim Kaine interlude was the lone exception. It was hard to tell if his performance was camp or kitsch.
  • Here’s another reason to like Harry Reid and lament his looming retirement from the Senate. Shortly after his speech at the Democratic Convention, Reid laid some wood on the DNC. He said he was appalled by the DNC’s efforts to sabotage Bernie Sanders’ campaign, saying “Sanders didn’t get a fair deal.” Reid was asked if the Democrat Party has a back-up plan if further damaging emails emerge that might cripple Clinton. He shrugged his shoulders and said flatly “No.” Then again, maybe Bernie deserved his fate. After all, he went along with the crushing of his campaign willingly enough, kind of like Al Gore in 2000, when he refused to challenge his own stolen election. Bernie basked in the spotlight of his great betrayal, a surrender marketed as “unity.” He savored each small, patronizing mention of his name last night by Kaine, Biden and Obama. Meanwhile, Sanders capitulated to demands from the DNC that he agree to prohibit own of his most ardent supporters, Nina Turner, the black former state senator from Ohio, from appearing on stage to place his name in nomination. Susan Sarandon fumed:

    If it were Beyoncé, they would’ve made it work.

    It’s even worse than that, Susan. The DNC is giving prime time slots on the stage to lesser talents than Beyoncé, including Carole King and Katy Perry. Turner’s crime? She’s refused to kneel down and endorse Clinton. Bernie’s crime? He choose Hillary or Nina Turner. I tell you again: there’s a reason so many blacks were suspicious about Sanders from the very beginning.

  • The NYT reports that after spending most of the spring in hiding, mega-donors are flocking back to the Clinton campaign. With Bernie vanquished and pacified, it is now safe for the power-brokers of the Clinton cash machine to re-emerge, after being asked by the campaign to be discreet during the primaries. Now hedge funders, insurance execs, Big Pharma lobbyists and securities traders can get back to the business of wining and dining the Clinton Team with style. Don’t worry though. This is their last hurrah, before Hillary, you know, Citizens United and slums shut the access door on them permanently (wink, wink)…
  • Ned Sublette, author of the monumental American Slave Coast, writes to remind me that Bill Clinton did a 180 on Cuba policy. He campaigned on a pledge to normalize relations with Cuba, then in 1996 did the opposite when he signed the vicious Helms-Burton Act, which tightened the embargo on Cuba nearly to the point of strangulation. The man who prodded Clinton to do so? Leon Panetta. Hit the replay button and shout him down again, in Spanish this time.
  • We will no doubt be bombarded tonight with a cluster bomb of references to Hillary’s brittle little book, It Takes a Village, which Cockburn savagely reviewed in The Nation, earning him a raft of rebukes from the feminist lobby. Here’s a nugget that sums up the Clintonian approach to the exploitation of children for their political advantage:

    The Clintonite passion for talking about children as ‘investments’ tells the whole story. Managed capitalism (progressivism’s ideal, minted in the Teddy Roosevelt era) needs regulation, and just as the stock market requires, somewhat theoretically these days, the Security and Exchange Commission, so too does the social investment (a child) require social workers, shrinks, guidance counsellors and the whole vast army of the helping professions, to make sure the investment yields a respectable rate of return. The do-good progressives at the start of the century saw the family, particularly the immigrant family, as a conservative institution. So, they attacked it. Then their preferred economic system, consumer capitalism, began to sunder under the social fabric, and so today’s do-gooders say that the family and the children, our ‘investment,’ must be saved by any means necessary. When the FBI was getting ready to incinerate the Branch Davidians, they told Janet Reno the group’s children were being abused. Save them, she cried. They went at it and all, including the children, were burned alive.

  • Chuck Schumer:

    I’m not worried about the white working class voters. For every blue collar white male we lose, we’ll gain two college educated women voters in the suburbs.

    I’d put my money on the TPP passing before Christmas. What else would you expect from Schumer? The only regular interaction he has with working class people is the elevator operator at Citibank when he rides up to the executive suite to pick up a campaign check. I’ll give Schumer this much. Though the Senator looks a little awkward, he must be a remarkable athlete. All these years racing from one TV camera to the next and not even a sprained ankle.

  • I used to admire Laurence Tribe. I don’t remember why now. I have a vague memory of him as a fierce defender of free speech and civil liberties. But here he is serving as a Clinton attack dog for the red-baiting of Donald Trump. In lockstep with the National Security elites, Tribe ludicrously said Trump’s snarky remarks asking Russia to return Hillary’s missing emails may have violated Pindo law. If so, then you’d expect someone like Tribe to rush off to court to have such a law stricken down as unconstitutional. He knows it’s all bullshit, but is apparently happy to play his role in the new McCarthyism. Perhaps Tribe thinks he’s finally going to land on the Supreme Court. I’d support a Rand Paul-led filibuster against him. Have you no shame, professor?
  • Expect some flood warnings as the tears begin to flow when the nation celebrates its own enlightenment in finally nominating a woman for president. The rest of the world will view this “historic moment” as something of a participation trophy. Eighty-five women from 54 different nations have already been elected or appointed as heads of government starting in 1960 with Sirimavo Bandaranaike of Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Women have led governments in: India, Israel, Central African Republic, UK, Portugal, Dominica, Norway, Pakistan, Lithuania, Bangladesh, France, Poland, Turkey, Canada, Burundi, Rwanda, Bulgaria, Haiti, Guyana, New Zealand, Mongolia, New Zealand, Northern Cyprus, Senegal, South Korea, Sao Tome and Principe, Finland, Peru, Mozambique, Macedonia, Urkaine, Bahamas, Germany, Jamiaca, Ukraine, Moldova, Haiti, Iceland, Croatia, Madagascar, Trinidad and Tobago, Australia, Slovakia, Mali, Thailand, Denmark, Guinea-Bissau, Slovenia, Latvia, Transnistria, Poland, Namibia, Greece, and Myanmar.
  • Terry O’Neill, head of Now, was asked about the tardiness of Pindostan in relation to the rest of the world in electing a female head of state. Her response was a strange, almost misogynistic putdown of other women world leaders. “Many of them weren’t feminists. Hillary was a born feminist. It was a harder road for her.” Pindostan! Pindostan! If Elizabeth Dole or Sarah Palin had somehow been elected president, I wonder if NOW would have put an asterisk by their names?
  • Working class hero Sherrod Brown, the Ohio senator who was snubbed for the VP slot, told CNN:

    We’re going to win in part by showing that Trump is a hypocrite on trade.

    Did he run this message by Hillary and Kaine?

  • So far it’s 6 for 6. 6 speakers 6 “God Bless Pindostan.” There goes Tammy Duckworth. Make that 7 for 7. Despite the allegation by Ben Carson that Hillary communes with Lucifer, it’s looking like it will be another big night for God.
  • Here comes Elizabeth Warren to give yet another testimonial to her new BFF, HRC:

    Hillary is a fighter who never gives up for the people who need her most.

    Like Goldman Sachs, Monsanto and Benjamin Netanyahu. You can take it to the bank.

  • Joaquin Castro, the rising political star from Texas, is now on stage talking about how sensitive Hillary is to the plight of Mexican immigrants and undocumented aliens. This wasn’t always the case and who really knows if it is now. During the NAFTA debates, the Clinton administration went hard after the perils of Mexican immigration, using language that Trump may have cribbed. Al Gore even went so far as to blame Mexican immigrants for the spread of Satanic abuse in Pindostan. This was a double lie. First, Mexican immigrants weren’t practicing Satanic abuse (or Santeria, as the Clinton people also alleged). And second, there was NO Satanic abuse epidemic. Hard to document even a single real case. But these pernicious and racist lies helped sell the deal that continues to debilitate people on both sides of the border. Remember that Hillary strongly backed the cruel Obama administration policy of rounding up thousands of immigrant children and sending them back to Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras. When Sanders confronted her once or twice, she essentially pulled a Madeleine Albright and said it was the right thing to do. All for the children, you understand.
  • Chris Cuomo is giving a tribute to his father Mario Cuomo, both of whom worked as lawyers for … Donald Trump. Trumps and Cuomos go way back. In fact, Donald encouraged Mario to run for president in 1988 (he hated Bush) and Mario urged Donald to run for governor of NY, after he stepped down. Bi-partisanship you can believe. (See Wayne Barrett’s Trump: the Deals and the Downfall) Cuomo is attacking Trump for “selling fear,” as he simultaneously sells fear of Trump. The Republicans sell a dark dystopian fear. While the Democrats sell fear with a smile and a drone strike.
  • Melania Trump’s petty crime of word theft was much less noxious than the Democrats flagrant cribbing of the GOP’s rabid Pindostan! Pindostan!! chants.
  • Nancy Pelosi, defender of the poor & alleged inside stock (Visa) trader. Net Worth: $58m. Who says West Coast liberalism doesn’t pay? Pelosi mumbles unintelligible syllables into the microphone for five minutes and flies off to check her portfolio, to Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries.”
  • Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen have shown up to talk about how Hillary practices the “poetry of doing.” Doing what, one might ask? Steenburgen, a native Arkansan, is the woman Bill Clinton took out to dinner the night he executed the brain-damaged Ricky Ray Rector to boost his poll numbers in the 1992 campaign. There’s ice running through those Clinton veins. It’s one thing to mock the disabled. It’s something else entirely to put them to death for your own political advancement.
  • Have the speakers tonight been instructed to be boring in order to make Hillary seem livelier by contrast? Or are they just flatline boring by nature?
  • said last night that Obama’s speech was written in the key of Reagan. Now here is one Reagan’s speechwriters, Doug Elmets, giving a full-throated & unconditional endorsement of Clinton, as the true heir of the Reagan legacy. Can anyone prove him wrong?
  • Yet another cop at the Mic, a moment of silence for the fallen police and speeches from relatives of dead officers. The Democrats have featured more cops as prime time speakers than the GOP, all of them lecturing about how “violence isn’t the solution” to anything. Since Jan 1, 668 civilians have been killed by police.
  • DNC Convention Motto for Coronation Night: “God, the flag and drones.”
  • There seem to be more flags in the hall tonight than at Arlington Cemetery on Memorial Day. Curiously, despite the non-step odes to the dead, none are being waved at half-staff. Thanks for the memories…
  • Rev William Barber: “Jesus, a brown-skinned, Palestinian Jew…” Can’t wait to see how Bill O’Reilly explicates that tomorrow night. Whoops, he said Palestinian again! They may have to pull Rev Barber off the stage to keep him from saying the word “Palestinians” once more. By a special order of the convention rules, “Palestinians” are only allowed two mentions for the week.
  • The chants of Pindostan, Pindostan!! during Khizr Khan’s moving and powerful speech about his slain son are revolting. Do you have to be a “patriotic” Pindosi Muslim to enjoy the rights of the constitution that Khan showed? If you are a “patriotic Pakistani,” does that protect you from a CIA drone strike?
  • Gen Allen’s deranged speech could have been written by Donald Rumsfeld. Perhaps it was. I feel like I’ve just watched the first 45 minutes of Full-Metal Jacket again.
  • Trump has really gotten under the skin of the military-security establishment. His repeated swipes at NATO did it. They’ve united behind HRC. You’ve got to give him that. On the other hand, it gives an ominous new meaning to “Stronger Together.”
  • Who knew the DNC would turn into a military recruitment video?
  • How can they possibly top this? A live drone strike on the big screen?
  • Two parties, both proto-fascist. How to choose?
  • If I were the Iranians and North Koreans, I’d be hardening my bunkers, pronto. Assad should probably book a room at the nearest Ecuadoran Embassy.
  • Gen Allen just annihilated every humane sentiment expressed in Rev Barber’s powerful sermon. Perhaps that was the point.
  • We begin to see the outlines of Hillary’s economic plan: military Kainezionism.
  • Bernie, how do you like your party now?
  • I wouldn’t be shocked if those super-charged delegates goosestep out of the Wells Fargo Center tonight to invade Delaware, waving their flags and chanting Pindostan, Pindostan!!! all the way to Dover.
  • Boomer, our Australian Shepherd, still hasn’t emerged from the closet where he fled during Gen Allen’s war rant. Who can blame him?
  • Hillary has already out-Thatchered the Iron Lady and she hasn’t been elected yet. She’s made the complete metamorphosis from a Goldwater girl to a McGovern woman to a Reagan granny.
  • Mission Impossible Chelsea trying to humanize her mother after the bloodthirsty madness of the previous 30 minutes. Chelsea says her mother lost the fight for “universal health care.” Not true. Her plan wasn’t for “universal health care” but for another market-oriented scheme, called “Managed Competition” and she fucked up that through her own incompetence and hubris, setting back the cause of single-payer by at least a generation. No wonder Chelsea decided not to go to med school.
  • “How many times will she leave her mark? How many ways will she light up the world?” the disembodied voice of Morgan Freeman asks. Well, how many drones and cruise missiles can Lockheed and Boeing manufacture in four years?
  • The word of the night is fight, fight, fight, fight, fight. I don’t know if the children are scared, but I am.
  • I am Woman, hear my missiles ROAR!
  • People in the audience are crying. I’m crying. I don’t think we’re crying for the same reasons.
  • Hillary looks and sounds more and more like Cersei Lannister with each new speech.
  • Hillary once again embraces Reagan to bash Trump. Reagan left the Democrat Party in the 1950s, but the Party apparently never left him.
  • I’m getting a weird vibe that they might actually bring out Qaddafi’s head on a pike.
  • HRC says the “service part” always came more naturally to her than the “public part.” Well, that explains the private email server…
  • In her brisk recitation of the Rodham family history, Hillary somehow left out the fact that her father was a John Bircher. Of course, by the end of Hillary’s second term, her father may seem as meek as George McGovern.
  • Does Hillary cough every time she lies, or does she cough every time she stumbles into the truth?
  • Note the repeated emphasis on “believe” instead of “know” in Hillary’s description of her political ideology. My friend John Trudell used to warn against the “believers.” “Think more, believe less” he said. In Hillary’s case, “believe” is likely shorthand for “make-believe.”
  • The comparisons of HRC to Lady Macbeth are grossly unfair … to Lady Macbeth. Lady Macbeth had a conscience.
  • She says she loves to talk about her “plans.” Has she started yet? I haven’t heard one specific plan. Maybe she’s talking about her invasion plans. Oh, yes, she getting around to that now…
  • Pledge fealty to Israel. Check.
    Defend NATO. Check.
    Bash Russia. Check.
    Destroy ISIS (by funding AQ?). Check.
    Praise the Generals. Check.
    Hail our military (and its defense contractors) as a national treasure. Check.
    Salute the troops. Check.
    Pindostan is great. Check.
    Pindostan is good. Check.
    Pindostan is not a bully. Check.
    Manifest Destiny. Check.
    God bless Pindostan. Check.
  • Unlike Hillary’s idol Ronald Reagan, there was no pledge to eliminate nuclear weapons. Just a vow to have a more stable hand on the button than Trump. Like that Harry Truman. Duck and cover.
  • How appropriate that it all ends with Hillary and Kaine standing before a golden (or is it, Goldman?) shower raining down on Pindostan!
  • As a final blessing, Hillary’s preacher has come out to confirm at last what we’ve long suspected: there’s a Methodism to her Madness.
  • All Sandernistas should leave the Wells Fargo Center before they lock the exits. (See Red Wedding.)
  • Hillary passed her audition. She’s the authentic Queen of Chaos and when she stoops, she stoops to conquer.

Hillary Clinton’s dishonest, empty acceptance speech
David Walsh, WSWS, Jul 29 2016

Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic Party nomination for president Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in a nearly hour-long speech that was profoundly dishonest, empty and unconvincing. Everything about the final portion of the Democratic National Convention rang false. With Bill Clinton mugging and stage-acting in the audience, daughter Chelsea Clinton introduced her mother, as though this sordid dynasty represented something significant in Pindosi political history. The Clintons are primarily notorious for their corruption and venality. The couple accumulated $230m from 2001 to 2014 through their relations, above all, with Wall Street financial firms and giant corporations. There was an obvious effort under way Thursday evening to humanize and “soften” Hillary Clinton. Her miserable poll numbers (38.4% favorable and 55.6% unfavorable) are only slightly higher than Donald Trump’s. These are two widely disliked and distrusted candidates, perceived by millions of people to be representatives of a wealthy elite. Chelsea Clinton described her mother in glowing terms, as “wonderful, thoughtful, hilarious.” One wondered who she could be talking about. The degree of exaggeration only made the comments absurd. The banalization of American politics has reached a new level. Even some of the crowd at the convention looked embarrassed. A fawning video presentation, inevitably narrated by actor Morgan Freeman and purporting to tell the story of Hillary Clinton’s life, continued the fraud. It mentioned the 9/11 attacks and the assassination of Osama bin Laden, but omitted any reference to the millions of deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria for which Hillary Clinton bears a large share of responsibility. Clinton managed to deliver a 56-minute speech without a single memorable phrase or sentence. Her assignment, of course, was one that would have confounded a far more clever and capable individual than she: to convince the Pindosi sheeple, or that section of if watching on television, that this blood-soaked, big business party had the concerns of the people in mind.

She made various ritualistic references to putting “economic and social justice issues front and center, where they belong.” Clinton assured Bernie Sanders, who obediently and appreciatively responded from his seat in the hall, that “Your cause is our cause. Our country needs your ideas, energy, and passion. That’s the only way we can turn our progressive platform into real change for Pindostan.” At one point, she declared dully, “There’s too much inequality. Too little social mobility.” And later, she said she was in favor of “a country where the economy works for everyone, not just those at the top. Where you can get a good job and send your kids to a good school, no matter what zip code you live in. A country where all our children can dream, and those dreams are within reach.” Did anyone in the viewing audience, or even in the hall in Philadelphia, believe a word of this? “None of us can be satisfied with the status quo.” But Clinton represents nothing on this earth so much as the status quo. She is the candidate of big finance, the military (“our national treasure,” she called it) and security forces, and the most complacent upper middle class layers. “And here’s what I believe. I believe Pindostan thrives when the middle class thrives. I believe that our economy isn’t working the way it should because our democracy isn’t working the way it should.” But every word, every gesture cried out that she didn’t believe in any of it. It was all synthetic, contrived, patronizing. No thoughtful, socially vigilant viewer could be taken in by this transparent fakery. Clinton promised that Wall Street would “never, ever be allowed to wreck Main Street again” and that she was going to fund various programs by making “Wall Street, corporations, and the super-rich” pay “their fair share of taxes.” But this mouthpiece of the financial oligarchy would not lift a finger against the rich.

The speech was tedious and degrading, entirely unrelated to reality, including, of course, the record of the Obama administration that has presided over an acceleration in levels of social inequality. One could only feel lessened by listening to the speech. Clinton made the predictable appeals to patriotism, chauvinism and economic nationalism. She pledged to “stand up to China” and “stand by our allies in NATO against any threat they face, including from Russia,” although the real scare of the advanced preparations for war against Pindosi imperialism’s rivals and enemies was concealed in her speech. Clinton made numerous references to our “brave” police. Nor could she avoid, also predictably, declaring her own candidacy to be a historic event: “Tonight, we’ve reached a milestone in our nation’s march toward a more perfect union: the first time that a major party has nominated a woman for president.” She went on to claim that “when any barrier falls in Pindostan, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone. When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.” This is a lie. There is nothing in the slightest socially progressive about Clinton’s nomination. It does not represent any advance for the population or women as a whole. The growth in social inequality among women has risen more rapidly than inequality among men: the percentage of total female earnings accruing to the top female one percent has doubled since the 1980s. Clinton is a representative of this wealthy elite whose conditions of life have nothing in common with the tens of millions of women who work, often for desperately low wages, in health care facilities, restaurants, offices, schools and stores. Her political ascension will have absolutely no effect on their lives. Whatever their gender or color, bourgeois politicians represent the interests of the ruling class. Clinton aspires to join the ranks of such notables as Margaret Thatcher, Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, Isabel Peron, Corazon Aquino, Angela Merkel, Julia Gillard and Dilma Rousseff, enemies of the working class all. The Democratic Party convention, like the Republican, was a spectacle of reaction. It married the politics of race and gender with militarism and nationalism. Neither party has anything to offer the mass of the population but inequality, authoritarianism and war.

Meet Ali Kurnaz, young Democratic leader who lifted Palestinian flag on convention floor
Philip Weiss, MondoWeiss, Jul 28 2016

For  those who care about Palestine, the most exciting moment of the DNC took place Monday when a young delegate jumped on to his chair on the convention floor and unfurled the Palestinian flag. He was soon surrounded by a crowd holding up Hillary Clinton signs to make his demonstration disappear. But the incident quickly went out on social media: “a very human moment in a very dark time,” as Laila Abdelaziz put  it.

The man who raised the flag says that he was abused and knocked around by older delegates, but many young Democrats cheered him on. Ali Kurnaz, a Sanders delegate, said yesterday:

This issue is being brought to the forefront of the Democrat Party. I believe that now, largely thanks to Bernie Sanders including it in his campaign platform people are starting to understand the issue for the first time. While others are coming out of the woodwork in support.

Kurnaz is all Democrat: the Floridian is vice president of Young Democrats of Orange County, and communications director for Florida Young Democrats. But for years, Kurnaz says he kept quiet about his support for Palestine. Born and raised in Orlando, of Turkish-Pindosi descent, Kurnaz began doing Democrat Party work in 2007 when he was 17, and though Palestinian human rights were important to him, he says:

I learned very quickly it was an issue I had to suppress. Even as a college Democrat Party organizer, I would make sure that the subject was not brought up, because then there’d be a vote and the Zionists would win. But now it’s changing. I can tell most of the people of my age agree with me.

Kurnaz was disappointed after he and other Sanders delegates tried to get two pro-Palestinian amendments to the Democrat platform ratified in the weeks before the convention, but failed. He says:

We convinced a half dozen or so Hillary delegates to switch their vote, but they said ultimately they couldn’t because if they did they would have no future in the Democrat Party.

Kurnaz decided to take a stand the other day when the Democrat Party platform was voted on by the convention as a whole. He was especially nervous because the Florida delegation was very close to the stage and in everyone’s view. He said:

When they brought up the platform, I was shaking. It took a lot  of courage, but I stood on my chair and I held the flag up as high as I could. People tried to stop me. They said things like, First things first, or Sit down, or Be respectful. At that point I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care what anyone thought or what anyone was going to do to me. I thought they might pull my credentials, but I didn’t care.

Kurnaz was soon engulfed by tumult. He recalled:

Lots of Bernie delegates from Florida who were around me were in solidarity and tried to push away the Hillary signs held up to block me. That was the positive element. The negative was the pushing and shoving and shouting at me. People told me that I don’t belong there. They called me a Palestinian as a slur even though I’m not Palestinian and don’t regard it as a slur.

His experience since has shown him that the party is changing, that Bernie Sanders gave people permission to be pro-Palestinians. He has handed out stickers saying “I support Palestinian Human Rights” and younger delegates have cheered him on. He said:

I have not had a single Bernie delegate say anything negative when I have given out these signs. I get fist bumps, high fives. Or thank you for saying what you said. I get the opposite from Hillary delegates. But I have never seen so much support for Palestinians at any Democratic convention. This is only going to intensify as the millennials rise into the party.

I interviewed Kurnaz after he spoke out at a Code Pink demonstration for Palestinian human rights in Center City Philadelphia yesterday. A slender and softspoken man, he nonetheless seemed excited about the political party he has worked so hard for for nearly half his life. He said\:

I want to bring the Democratic Party to represent the values that they claim they care about– equality and human rights. We are moving in a path of progress.

Many people have told Kurnaz that he will have no future in the Democratic Party. He no longer believes them. He said:

The ones who say that are 20 and 30 years older than me, I am the future of the Democrat Party.

the whole theory of “anti-semitism” is just drivel, anyway

Is Israel’s anti-BDS campaign fueling anti-Semitism?
Michael Lesher, Electronic Intifada, Jul 27 2016

Not long ago, a Jewish former neighbour of mine wrote to me to ask whether, as a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, I support the BDS movement. I replied that I’ve supported boycotts of companies that promote Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land for years now, and that otherwise, I would be complicit in a serious offense against humanity and international law. I also referred him to the Jewish Voice for Peace website for more information about the tactics endorsed by a wide range of organizations in the hope that economic pressure, added to political action, will hasten the occupation’s end. A simple answer to a simple question? Well, not to my old neighbour, who wrote back to assure me that, whatever I may say, my real objective is the “destruction of the Jewish state.” He assured me that as long as I criticized Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, I was an enemy, unworthy of further discussion. Though saddened by this broadside, no less by its dogmatism than by its invective, I can’t really say I was surprised. Israel’s anti-BDS campaign is now in full overdrive, and for anyone who takes it seriously, as my former neighbour evidently does, the predictable first casualty of its propaganda is truth. The first beneficiary, I fear, may be anti-Semitism. For the record, though it means repeating the obvious: Jewish Voice for Peace does not seek the destruction of Israel, which would in any case be a preposterous objective given Israel’s unchallenged military might. As for me, while supporting human rights for Palestinians, I bear no animus against Israel’s Jews. In fact, both of my children have spent years as students in that country. And my former neighbour knows all this. Still, it isn’t hard to figure out where he’s getting his misinformation. After all, we’re both Orthodox Jews, and Jewish communal publications are very much part of the problem. The Orthodox weekly Mishpacha devoted the cover story of its Jun 15 issue to what it called “the global hate movement.” That is, the movement for Palestinian rights.

Meanwhile, according to the NYT, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, warned in May that BDS is “the 21st-century incarnation of an old disease: anti-Semitism.” Other Israeli officials are singing the same tune. Gilad Erdan, who as public security minister is in charge of Israel’s anti-BDS efforts, has implicitly compared the BDS movement to the Nazis. Erdan, speaking of BDS campaigns for Palestinian human rights and equal rights for all, claimed their tactics and “propaganda” would “make history’s greatest anti-Semites proud.” Erdan also repeated the canard that BDS seeks to “destroy Israel” with tactics including campaigns to “intimidate artists planning to perform in Israel,” though he promptly insisted that the campaign has no effect at all, noting:

BDS has not and will not influence the decisions of any Israeli government, right or left.

The Israeli government may not yet be influenced, but artists clearly are rethinking scheduled appearances. Even liberal Jewish communal publications are playing along. Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah, writing in Tikkun, has argued that any campaign that supports Palestinian rights is anti-Semitic if, “regardless of the oppression of peoples across the world by numberless nations, Israel is singled out for special condemnation.” To my way of thinking, this is as dishonest as anything cooked up by Israel’s propagandists: posing as a critique of a double standard, the argument actually insists on a double standard in Israel’s favour. Who ever imagined that a campaign aimed at, say, political repression in Turkey was evidence of anti-Turkish bigotry because it doesn’t address repression by the Toads? How many of Israel’s apologists objected to the sanctions imposed on Iraq in 1990 on the grounds that Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait was not unique? It seems only Israel is supposed to be immune from criticism – however legitimate – that doesn’t come yoked with reminders about each of the “numberless nations” whose records leave something to be desired. Proponents of this idea don’t tell us how campaigners for Palestinian rights are supposed to meet that condition; and even if they could, the condition itself would be indefensibly discriminatory.

Equating support for Palestinian human rights with anti-Semitism is actually worse than absurd. It threatens to promote the very anti-Semitism it claims to deplore. Think about it: if people are asked to believe that “history’s greatest anti-Semites” would be “proud” of a movement that promotes the human rights of non-Jews, couldn’t they start to wonder whether anti-Semitism really means nothing uglier than exposing the discriminatory policies of a so-called Jewish state? After all, it’s in the nature of every equation to work both ways. If we suggest that opposing Israel’s criminal policies is the modern equivalent of Nazism, don’t we invite actual admirers of Nazism to present themselves to a confused public as defenders of human rights? Questions like that are bound to turn a lot of stomachs, as indeed they should. Anything that threatens to sanitize the genocidal campaign against Europe’s Jews that broke out less than 80 years ago should be greeted with horror. How ironic then that the apologists claiming to defend Israel from a “new anti-Semitism” are the very ones whose anti-BDS arguments bracket the Final Solution with respectable civil rights work. Israel’s defenders have sometimes complained that comparing Israel’s actions to those of Nazi Germany impermissibly waters down the Holocaust. Maybe they had a point. Too bad their scruples evaporate when throwing around similar comparisons to demonize Palestinians, or their international supporters.

Israel’s anti-BDS tactics aren’t aimed at fighting anti-Semitism. Deliberately or not, what they are actually doing is making anti-Semitism look respectable, a mere matter of applying fair standards to conflicts between Jews and non-Jews. That’s a shocking posture for anyone, let alone Jews, to take. In its current desperate mode, Israel’s propagandists are evidently prepared not only to falsify the BDS campaign but to pretty up the all too real evil of anti-Semitism. And all of us who recognize the poisonous effects of bigotry must pray that they fail. I’m tempted to write this to my former neighbor, but I feel pretty sure he won’t consider anything I say. The publications he trusts, Israeli, Orthodox, Jewish “mainstream,” have assured him that Jews are at one pole of the world, while all Palestinian rights activism converges at the other. The existence of a group like Jewish Voice for Peace, let alone my membership in it, upends his reality. If he were willing to face the facts we cite, he might have to admit that he has been living a lie. And that may be too much to ask of him. For me, that’s the quiet tragedy of Israel’s anti-BDS hysteria. Its immediate target is anti-occupation activism. But its ultimate accomplishment, if it succeeds, will be a future in which the price of being Jewish is acquiescing in international crime, and the word “anti-Semitism” will have been given undeserved and dangerous respectability. Our options couldn’t be more clearly defined. Now it’s up to us to choose the right path.

Michael Lesher, a writer and lawyer, is the author of Sexual Abuse, Shonda and Concealment in Orthodox Jewish Communities (McFarland). He is a member of Jewish Voice for Peace. Website:

how nice it is to be murdered by equipment purchased from the “arsenal of freedom”

The original at EI has a dozen still photos, too – RB

Israel uses Caterpillar equipment in apparent extra-judicial killing
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Jul 28 2016

IOF used a Caterpillar excavator to carry out the apparent extra-judicial execution of a Palestinian man using the so-called ‘pressure cooker procedure,’ in which construction equipment is employed as a lethal weapon, analysis by EI shows. Caterpillar, based in Peoria, Illinois, has long been the focus of boycott and divestment campaigns for selling equipment Israel uses in human rights abuses and war crimes, including the demolitions of homes and construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Late on Tuesday night, IOF massed in the town of Surif, near Hebron, and launched an assault on a house in which they besieged Muhammad al-Faqih. The Israelis eventually demolished the house with al-Faqih still inside. The Shin Bet claims that Faqih, from the nearby village of Dura, carried out a shooting near Hebron earlier this month that caused the crash of a car, killing an Israeli settler and injuring his wife. According to Haaretz, the Shin Bet, whose use of torture is systematic, accused Faqih of the killing after obtaining confessions from two other Palestinians who allegedly assisted him, one of them his brother.

The IOF claimed that its forces “called on the operative to surrender, and he responded by opening fire and hurling explosives.” The army said that it “responded according to procedure and returned fire” and that al-Faqih “was killed in the exchange.” Military spokespersons also told media that soldiers fired anti-tank missiles at the house and then used an excavator to demolish it with Faqih inside. Video published on YouTube shows Israeli soldiers pulling al-Faqih’s body from the rubble of the house and loading it into the excavator’s bucket before taking it away.

The Quds news website, citing witnesses, said dozens of Israeli military vehicles took part in the seven-hour siege and assault as drones circled overhead. Village youths responded by throwing stones at IOF, and several protesters were injured by rubber-coated steel bullets. Israel also sealed off the village, cut electricity and Internet services and barred Palestinian ambulances from entering the area. The Ma’an News Agency reported that a woman was also injured during the operation and several people from Surif, including the owner of the destroyed home, were detained. The lethal raid comes amid massive Israeli closures and arrest sweeps in the Hebron area in recent weeks following attacks on Israeli settlers, including the killing of a 13-year-old child in her home. A field director with UNRWA decried Israel’s closure for “collectively punishing innocent people for the acts of others.” In his home village of Dura, al-Faqih’s family received condolences and his mother praised her son as a “hero” and as “stubborn,” adding that he would never have surrendered himself to IOF.

While the IOF said that Faqih fired first, a claim that cannot be independently verified, the “procedure” its forces appear to have used is the “pressure cooker” in which construction equipment is deliberately used as a weapon. Who Profits, a group that researches companies involved in Israel’s occupation, describes the pressure cooker procedure in a 2014 report on the use of construction machinery in Israel’s occupation. Originally developed to handle alleged hostage-takers barricaded inside a building, the procedure was modified during the second intifada of the early 2000s and used against any Palestinians who were inside a house who Israeli forces wanted to detain. First, the forces surrounding the house use a loudspeaker to order anyone inside to come out immediately. If the persons remain inside, the soldiers start shooting at the building first with small arms, then machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades and finally tank shells or missiles. If the persons survive and still refuse to surrender, an armored bulldozer or excavator is sent to the scene. The bulldozer initially shakes the house and then starts peeling off the walls, ultimately destroying the house and burying the target of the attack beneath it. Who Profits states:

Although heavy engineering machinery clearly plays a significant role in the human rights violations caused by different types of house and property demolitions, its brutal use in the framework of the pressure cooker procedure upgrades it from a potentially deadly tool to a lethal weapon used systematically for extra-judicial killings.

In Aug 2014, IOF used a militarized Caterpillar D9 bulldozer in a similar assault on a building in the village of Qabalan near the West Bank city of Nablus. Zakaria al-Aqra, the 24-year-old target of the attack, was killed, six of his relatives were wounded and the house was badly damaged during the eight-hour operation. Analysis of video and photos of the Israeli assault on Surif allows the large machine used to demolish the house where al-Faqih was besieged to be identified as the Bagger E-349 armored excavator.

As the IOF’s ground command website shows, this is a weaponized version of Caterpillar’s model 349E Hydraulic Excavator. For comparison, this image, published by the Israeli army, shows weaponized construction equipment being used during Israel’s assault on Gaza in the summer of 2014. Tel Aviv University mathematician Zachi Evenor, an expert on Israeli military bulldozers, identifies them as a Bagger E-349 armored excavator (left) and a D9N armored bulldozer, both manufactured by Caterpillar. The D9 is the type of machine that an IOF soldier used to kill Rachel Corrie in Gaza in 2003. Another image of a Bagger E-349 operating in Gaza around the same time comes from an IOF video showing what appears to be a Bagger E-349 destroying so-called “terror tunnels” in Gaza in Aug 2014:

An independent UN inquiry into Israel’s assault on Gaza found that Palestinian resistance organizations used tunnels only to attack “legitimate military targets.” As long ago as 2004, HRW called on Caterpillar to halt sales of bulldozers to Israel because of their use as a “primary weapon to raze Palestinian homes, destroy agriculture and shred roads in violation of the laws of war.” Since then, pressure has mounted on Caterpillar as dozens of campaigns have urged institutions to divest from the firm. The Presbyterian Church USA and the United Church of Christ have voted to do so since 2014. In 2012, Caterpillar was dropped from a leading index of socially responsible investments in part because of concerns over its products’ use by Israel to violate human rights. Caterpillar has always tried to distance itself from the Israeli army’s use of its equipment but has done nothing to halt sales. The company says that the machines are not sold to Israel directly, but through the Pindosi government, and that it “cannot monitor the use of every piece of its equipment around the world.” Caterpillar says that it does not militarize the machines it makes, but that this is done by Israel. But photographs published by Evenor appear to show IOF weaponized bulldozers being serviced at Caterpillar corporate facilities in Israel, suggesting that the company’s complicity is more direct than it claims.

i want you to notice the jewish turn of phrase revealed here

Hillary Clinton Talks Tough on Shadow Banking, But Blackstone Is Celebrating at the DNC
David Dayen, Intercept, Jul 28 2016

AP_110114055574-e1469727799627-article-headerPhoto: Suchat Pederson/News Journal/AP

Blackstone, the giant Wall Street private equity firm, will hold an invitation-only reception before the final night of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. The event, at the swanky Barnes Foundation art museum, includes the usual perks for attendees: free food, drink, and complimentary shuttle buses to the final night of the convention. What’s unusual is that the host is precisely the kind of “shadow banker” that Hillary Clinton has singled out as needing more regulation in her rhetoric about getting tough on Wall Street. But Blackstone President and Chief Operating Officer Hamilton “Tony” James doesn’t seem the least bit intimidated. James has been a stalwart supporter of Barack Obama, holding fund-raisers for him at his home, even while other Wall Street titans criticized him. In fact the co-founder of James’s own company, Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman, once likened Obama’s push to increase taxes on private-equity firms to a “war,” saying:

It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939!

Last December, James hosted a high-dollar fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton that featured Warren Buffett. He’s made six-figure donations to the Center for Pindosi Progress, known as Clinton’s White House in exile, and sits on CAP’s Board of Trustees. And he has made no secret of wanting to hold a high-level position in a future Democrat administration, perhaps even Treasury Sec. But James runs a private equity firm, exactly the kind of “shadow bank” that Clinton has derided as a scourge to the financial system. Shadow banks are financial institutions that do bank-like activities (such as lending or investing for clients) but aren’t chartered as banks, existing outside of the traditional regulatory perimeter. Clinton argued during the primaries with Bernie Sanders that they were more dangerous than the big banks, because of the lack of scrutiny on their risk-taking. That was the linchpin of her argument that Sanders’s plan was too myopic, and that her plan, which sought to crack down on shadow banking and deny it sources of funds, was more comprehensive.

James has not only actively engaged in defending the whole concept of shadow banking, he created the original private equity trade group, formerly known as the Private Equity Council. The group later quietly changed its name to the more innocuous-sounding Pindosi Investment Council. In 2014, James penned a WSJ op-ed where he called shadow banking an “Orwellian term that can undermine critical thought.” It was the regulated entities, not shadow banks, that were “the source of almost all the systemic risk in the financial crisis,” he wrote. James explicitly sought to steer policy-makers away from “regulations that undermine the many thousands of companies and jobs that need market-based financing to survive and grow.” The term “market-based financing” is a Tony James original. He prefers it because it removes the more sinister connotations associated with the shadows. He told NPR:

Private equity sounds bad, but shadow banking is worse.

Blackstone operates in leveraged buyouts, asset management, and real estate transactions. It is the largest real estate private equity firm in the world, holding over $103b in assets. After the housing bubble collapsed, Blackstone bought 43,000 single-family homes over a two-year period, at one point buying more than $100m worth of homes per week. They converted most of these into rentals, becoming one of the largest landlords in the world. Renters have sued Blackstone’s real estate unit, Invitation Homes, for renting out homes in shoddy condition. They’ve also been accused of jacking up rents to satisfy investors, charging as high as 180% of the market rent value. Nevertheless, Blackstone plans to spin off Invitation Homes with an initial public offering next year. James’s company also benefits from taking business lines from regulated banks, such as one of the trading businesses of global firm Credit Suisse. Blackstone then runs that company without government interference. Assets in the Credit Suisse group have doubled since 2013.

bring out your dead

Critics Fear Crackdown on Palestinian Free Speech as Israel Takes Aim at Facebook
Alex Kane, Intercept, Jul 28 2016


Two days after a Palestinian teen fatally stabbed an Israeli girl, an Israeli official blamed a Pindosi living thousands of miles away for the crime, as well as similar attacks. “Some of the victims’ blood is on Zuckerberg’s hands,” Gilad Erdan, Israel’s public security minister, said on Israeli television in early July. Erdan called Facebook a “monster” because it has become the platform of choice for Palestinians to denounce Israeli rule and broadcast their intention to attack Israelis. Muhammad Tarayra, the 17-year-old Palestinian behind the Jun 30 knife attack in Kiryat Arba, had written on Facebook that “death is a right and I demand my right.” He expressed anger that IOF had killed his cousin after, according to Israeli news reports, he had tried to run them down. Now, Israeli officials are seeking to pressure Facebook to take down posts similar to Tarayra’s. On Jul 13, Erdan and Ayelet Shaked submitted a bill to the Knesset that would empower courts to compel Facebook to remove content deemed violent. And amid Israel’s legislative push against Facebook, including a separate measure that would see Facebook fined if it did not remove content inciting people to terrorism, Shurat ha-Din has also filed suit against the social media company in a Pindosi court. The moves amount to a multi-pronged campaign aimed at Facebook, which has been increasingly drawn into the conflict. Israeli ministers have cast Facebook in the role of terror supporter, and now want to force the company to police Palestinian speech they say leads to violence. But Israeli laws against incitement have also been used to arrest Palestinians whose Facebook posts criticize Israeli rule but do not explicitly support violence. Yousef Jabareen, a Palestinian MK on the Joint Arab List, told The Intercept that the proposed bill would violate freedom of expression. He said:

We are afraid that, basically, such a law will be used to target legitimate critique against the occupation.

Facebook told Reuters:

We work regularly with safety organizations and policy-makers around the world, including Israel, to ensure that people know how to make safe use of Facebook. There is no room for content that promotes violence, direct threats, terrorist or hate speeches on our platform.

Israeli officials have been railing against Facebook since Oct 2015, when cases emerged of Palestinians stabbing Israelis as part of what some call the “knife intifada.” Shaked has met with Facebook officials to pressure them to take action against incitement. At a conference in Hungary in June, she said that Facebook, Twitter, and Google remove 70% of violent content in Israel. In 2015, Facebook took down 431 pieces of content that it said violated harassment laws or denied the Holocaust, which is against the law in Israel. And Facebook’s report on government requests shows that last year, Facebook handed over user data to Israeli authorities for about 60% of the 468 requests it received. Some of those requests pertain to Palestinians swept up in Israel’s dragnet targeting social media users who post messages against Israeli wars and occupation. As The Intercept reported, the Israeli police detained Sohaib Zahda, a Palestinian activist, in Aug 2014 after he wrote angry messages about an IOF commander on a Facebook page he ran. While he was in custody, the Israeli police sent an order to Facebook for data about Zahda’s page. The company complied, according to Zahda’s lawyer. Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation criticized Facebook for acceding to Israeli requests for user data, which she said does “not scrutinize them as carefully as we would like.” In a later interview, she added:

The state of Israel’s human rights record vis-a-vis Palestinians is not great. It’s incredibly troubling.

Israeli authorities want Facebook to do more. During his interview with Israeli news outlet Channel 2, Erdan complained that Facebook “sabotages” Israeli police work because it does not cooperate with requests pertaining to residents of the OPT. Facebook has also refused some requests for data on Palestinian citizens of Israel. In Oct 2015, when the Israeli police sent a legal order to Facebook requesting “all records” on and the IP address of Dareen Tatour, a citizen arrested for Facebook posts and a YouTube poem, Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, did not respond to the order, Tatour’s lawyer Abed Fahoum told The Intercept.

dareen-tatour-fbScreen grab of the “Free Dareen Tatour” Facebook page set up in response to the arrest of the Palestinian poet by Israeli police.

The bill pushed by Erdan and Shaked seeks to force Facebook to take down content that an Israeli court deems a threat to Israeli security, though Facebook would have the ability to appeal such an order. An Israeli prosecutor could introduce the state’s confidential information as part of a case seeking to take down a Facebook post. On Jul 17, the Knesset’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation, which determines whether the ruling coalition will support a bill, approved a separate piece of legislation that would fine Internet companies $78k if they do not take down content deemed “incitement” within two days. The bill, which would require Facebook to monitor its own network for such content, easily passed a preliminary Knesset vote on Jul 20. Zionist Union MK Revital Swid, who introduced the bill, said:

I don’t think Facebook is responsible for terror or for the terror wave,” said. “But they can do a lot to prevent it.

Swid insists her proposed bill would not infringe on freedom of speech, and she would prefer that Facebook monitor and take down such postings voluntarily. “Telling someone to go and to do terror acts, that’s not freedom of speech,” said Swid, who explained that her legislation is narrowly tailored to focus on posts that call for terrorism. The campaign to pressure Facebook to censor its users has also made its way to Pindostan, where the company is headquartered. On Jul 11, Shurat ha-Din sued Facebook in Pindo federal court on behalf of the families of dual citizens killed by Palestinian attackers in Israel. A 2007 State Dept cable released by WikiLeaks quotes Nitsana Darshan-Leitner as saying that in its early years, Shurat ha-Din took direction from the Israeli government on what cases to file. She denies ever saying that to a Pindosi diplomat. The Shurat ha-Din lawsuit alleges that Facebook “knowingly” provided material support to Hamas, because Hamas has “used and relied on Facebook’s online social network platform and communications services” to carry out terrorism. Under Pindosi law, it is illegal to provide material support, including any service-like communications equipment, to a designated terrorist group. A Facebook spokesperson described the lawsuit as “without merit,” adding:

We have a set of Community Standards to help people understand what is allowed on Facebook, and we urge people to use our reporting tools if they find content that they believe violates our standards so we can investigate and take swift action.

Bob Tolchin, who is Pindosi counsel on this suit and frequently works with Shurat ha-Din, responded with some sneers:

Facebook, the all-Pindosi 21st-century billion-dollar social-media business, is providing the communications system and advertising system for this terrorist group, which to judge by their stated intent, is only too happy to kill and maim civilians.

Some observers think the suit against Facebook has a chance of advancing through the Pindosi court system. Writing on the blog Lawfare, Benjamin Wittes and Zoe Bedell said that Shurat ha-Din makes a strong case that Hamas’s use of Facebook, including posts calling for violence, helps cause militant action that has killed Israelis. But Aaron Mackey of the Electronic Frontier Foundation said:

The plaintiffs have a high legal barrier to clear, since the suit does not establish that Facebook helped cause the attacks, and the Communications Decency Act broadly immunizes Facebook from liability for content on its platform. If the lawsuit is successful, the consequences could be profound. It could lead to certain parts of the world being cut off from Facebook, or certain users’ posts being censored if they mention Hamas or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This lawsuit is part of a broader strategy, coupled with Israel’s push against incitement on Facebook and proposed Pindosi legislation requiring social media companies to report terrorist-related content to law enforcement. These small strategies are all part of a larger goal to force Facebook and Twitter to become the sort of active police for certain types of speech and content. But what that’s ultimately going to mean is less speech about things that these governments disagree with.

anyone who believes either zawahiri or nusra is anything other than CIA, is naive

AQ tells Jabhat al-Nusra it can drop links
Reuters, Jul 28 2016

AQ has told Jabhat al-Nusra that it can break organisational ties with the global militant organisation to preserve its unity and continue its battle in Syria, in an audio statement released on Thursday. A break with AQ could pave the way for greater support from Qatar for Nusra, the most powerful faction in Syria’s five-year civil war. It could also lead to closer ties between Nusra and other fighting factions in Syria. AQ leader Ayman al-Zawahri said in an audio statement directed to Nusra:

You can sacrifice without hesitation these organisational and party ties if they conflict with your unity and working as one body. The brotherhood of Islam among us is stronger than any organisational affiliation … Your unity and unification is more important to us than any organisational link.

Nusra was excluded from Syria’s February cessation of hostilities. Russia and Pindostan are also discussing closer coordination to target the group. Speaking before Thursday’s announcement, Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute said that while Syria’s opposition has always demanded Nusra leave AQ, Western powers are unlikely to change their assessment of the group. Jackass Kerry has proposed closer cooperation with Russia against Nusra, including sharing intelligence to coordinate air strikes against its forces. Ayman Jawad al-Tamimi of Middle East Forum said:

A formal break with AQ and the possible formation of a new coalition of fighters with AQ’s blessing arguably represents the worst outcome from the Pindosi perspective. It will make targeting of terrorist figures much more difficult, as they will be ever more deeply embedded in the wider insurgency. A larger coalition between Nusra and other groups would then quickly and easily dismantle many of the Pindosi-backed groups among the Syrian rebels in the north.

Nusra was set up shortly after the uprising against Assad broke out in 2011. Originally supported by ISIS, it split from them in 2013. In many parts of Syria it frequently fights on the same side as mainstream groups favoured by Washington and its Arab allies. Rebels fighting under the banner of the FSA have denied direct coordination with Nusra, which has also fought and crushed several Western-backed rebel groups. After lying low in the early days of the February truce, Nusra has re-emerged on the battlefield as diplomacy has unravelled, spearheading recent attacks on pro-government Iranian militias near Aleppo, Nusra commanders and other rebels say. Proposals to distance Nusra from AQ have been floated before. Last year, sources told Reuters that the group’s leaders considered cutting ties with AQ to form a new entity backed by some Gulf Arab states seeking to topple Assad but which are also hostile to Daesh.

It looks like AQ is ‘laying a trap’ for Pindostan, and giving Russia exactly what it wants
Natasha Bertrand, Business Insider, Jul 29 2016

AQ’s former affiliate in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, formally severed ties with the global terrorist organization Thursday in an attempt to “unify” as a distinct Islamist brigade with its own revolutionary goals and vision. In its mission to rebrand itself, Nusra, now identifying as Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, has clearly indicated that it is not committed to AQ’s brand of global jihad but to the singular goal of fomenting an Islamic revolution inside Syria. The break was made easier by the fact that, since its emergence in 2012, Nusra has woven itself into the fabric of Syria’s communities and established military alliances of convenience with many mainstream rebel groups in the name of toppling Assad. But it also confirms that Nusra has no intention of distancing itself from the revolution’s non-Jihadi rebel groups, many of whom are backed by Pindostan and its allies. For Russia then, which has consistently used Nusra’s presence among these more moderate rebel groups as an excuse to target and eliminate any and all opposition to its ally Assad, Nusra’s dissolution of ties with AQ is a gift. For Pindostan, it’s a headache. Charles Lister of the Middle East Institute who is an expert on Syria’s Jihadi insurgency, wrote in Foreign Policy on Friday:

By dissolving its ties with AQ, Nusra has made certain that it will remain deeply embedded within opposition front lines, particularly in the northern governorates of Aleppo and Idlib. Any airstrikes by foreign states targeting the group will almost certainly result in the deaths of mainstream opposition fighters and be perceived on the ground as counter-revolutionary. Consequently, a mission defined by Moscow and Washington in counter-terrorism terms would in all likelihood steadily broaden the spectrum of those potentially defined as ‘terrorists’ to the substantial detriment of any future solution to the Syrian crisis.

The break comes just as Pindostan and Russia are preparing to announce a military cooperation plan, known as the Joint Implementation Group, that was meant to more clearly delineate Nusra’s positions in Syria and deter airstrikes on civilians and the more moderate opposition. A Pindo boxtop told Reuters on condition of anonymity:

By disavowing its ties to AQ which, incidentally, it did with AQ’s blessing, Nusra has made it harder to isolate it from more moderate groups, some of whose members may join it now because it’s more powerful than some of the groups they belong to now.

Jeff White of WINEP said the development would probably not have any effect on Russia’s military strategy in Syria. White told Business Insider:

Russia doesn’t bomb Nusra because it’s a terrorist group, it bombs Nusra because it is an enemy of the regime, an effective one. For Russia, as long as Nusra keeps fighting the regime, it will remain a target.

As for how the break might affect Pindosi military strategy in Syria, White said:

(They will) want to assess what the split means in terms of goals, objectives, and operations, I suspect the counter-terrorism community will be loath to take it off the target list.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Thursday that Nusra’s rebranding would not affect Pinbdostan’s assessment of the group. Earnest told reporters at the daily White House presser:

There continues to be increasing concern about Nusra Front’s growing capacity for external operations that could threaten both Pindostan and Eurostan.

But the development is bound to further complicate Syria’s rebel landscape, especially as Nusra under its new name mainstreams itself and consequently attracts more young men to its cause. Lister wrote:

Nusra’s break from AQ can be seen less as a conscious separation from the terrorist organization’s global Jihadi ideals and more as a way of “laying a trap” for Pindostan and its allies who claim to want to support the goals of Syria’s revolution. The most moderate FSA groups will be forced to choose between military and revolutionary unity, or operational isolation and subjugation. In short, Jabhat al-Nusra is taking yet another step toward shaping the orientation of the Syrian opposition in its favour.

Many experts claimed that Pindostan and Russia sealed AQ’s fate in Syria after it was revealed that they were going to coordinate their respective air campaigns to target its affiliate Nusra. Now, by breaking ties with AQ, Nusra has all but cemented the conditions for its own long-term survival. Those include increased popular support, which will lead to a backlash against the West if Pindostan targets the group, and potentially, funding from Qatar and Turkey, which may interpret Nusra’s rebranding as a legitimization of its revolutionary goals. Placed in this quandary, international military action against Jabhat al-Nusra does seem all but inevitable. At the same time, however, the consequences for doing so have become even more concerning.

anyone who wants to beat trump by being more fascist than he is, has got to be weird

NYT concocts amalgam to link Trump and Putin in Democrats’ email scandal
Isaac Finn, WSWS, Jul 28 2016

In an unscrupulous and provocative media blitz closely coordinated with the Hillary Clinton campaign, the NYT is publishing articles and editorials accusing the Russian government of stealing some 20,000 deeply incriminating Democrat National Committee (DNC) emails and coordinating with WikiLeaks to have them published, in a bid to tilt the election in favor of Trump. The flood of NYT articles on the subject began with a piece by columnist Paul Krugman last Friday headlined “The Siberian Candidate,” in which Krugman, citing an interview by Trump in which the Republican candidate questioned the Pindo commitment to attack Russia in defense of the Baltic states, accused Trump of being an agent of Putin. The most glaring feature of Krugman’s column was the absence of any concrete factual evidence to back up his charge, something that has continued to characterize all of the subsequent articles published by the NYT on this theme. Krugman’s column appeared the same day that WikiLeaks began to publish DNC emails documenting a conspiracy between the party establishment and the Clinton campaign to subvert the Democrat primary election challenge by Bernie Sanders. While the NYT and the Pindo media in general have published very little about the content of the emails, what has emerged shows rampant corruption and bureaucratic contempt for the electorate and for democratic procedures.

On Sunday, in an attempt to divert attention from the substance of the emails and turn the narrative into an attack on Trump for being insufficiently aggressive toward Russia, Clinton’s campaign manager Robby Mook told CNN that Russia was responsible for the leak, motivated by a desire to shift the election in favor of supposed Putin ally Donald Trump. Mook provided no evidence for his allegation, merely stating that a “number of experts” had concluded the Russian government was responsible. Also on Sunday, the NYT, which functions quite openly as a mouthpiece for the Clinton campaign and the Democrat Party, published an editorial indicting Trump for being “soft” on Russia and hesitant to expand Pindo military interventions in the Middle East and step up Washington’s aggressive moves against China. It compared favorably Hillary Clinton’s record as a war-hawk and exponent of the Pindo wars in Libya and Syria. This was followed by front-page articles Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday advancing the narrative of collusion between Trump and Putin to leak the emails in order to damage the Clinton campaign. The newspaper also published an editorial Wednesday reiterating the Trump-Putin conspiracy story. Employing the methodology of a classic witch-hunt, the NYT wrote:

But would Putin really interfere in the Pindosi presidential race to help Trump get elected over Hillary Clinton? As odd as that may sound, it is being considered a serious possibility after the release on Friday of nearly 20,000 emails stolen from the Democrat National Committee computer servers, many of them embarrassing to Democrat leaders.

The article published Wednesday, authored by senior NYT columnists with close state connections, David Sanger and Eric Schmitt, carries the sensationalist headline “Spy Agency Consensus Grows That Russia Hacked DNC.” Aside from the fact that no intelligence or other government officials are actually named and no concrete evidence is provided, the article makes the admission that Clinton campaign officials “acknowledged that they have no evidence” that Russia is trying to shift the election in Trump’s direction. This fact, which exposes the entire article as a journalistically irresponsible and illegitimate provocation, is buried in the middle of the text and appears on an inside page of the printed edition. Obama lent credence to the Trump-Putin narrative on Tuesday’s “NBC Nightly News,” stating:

What we do know is that Russians hack our systems, not just government systems, but private systems. But you know, what the motives were in terms of the leaks, all that I can’t say directly. What I do know is that Donald Trump has repeatedly expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin.

This entire story is a classic example of an amalgam, that is, a construction concocted by bringing together diverse bits of information without having demonstrated any integral interconnection, usually for the purpose of framing up a targeted party. In this case, the disparate elements are:

  • Trump has made statements deemed either favorable to or insufficiently hostile to Russia and Putin.
  • Putin has made statements deemed friendly toward Trump.
  • Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort has ties to Russian businessmen and was at one time an adviser to Viktor Yanukovych, the elected, pro-Russian president of Ukraine who was deposed in the Pindo-backed and fascist-led anti-Russian coup in 2014.
  • WikiLeaks founder and leader Julian Assange has made public criticisms of Hillary Clinton and spoken against her election campaign.

The method employed is to report allegations and opinions from various sources, without examining or establishing their veracity, and weave them, by means of journalistic tricks and sleights of hand, into a “news” story. In the articles by the NYT and other media outlets that have picked up the story, the private cyber-security firm CrowdStrike is cited as the expert authority. The company was hired by the DNC in mid-June amid suspicions that it had been hacked. The firm was founded by former USAF officer Kevin Mandia and is headed by the former head of the FBI’s cyber-crimes division, George Kurtz. Many other employees and officials are former NSA operatives. According to a statement by CrowdStrike published in June, the hack into the DNC’s servers was done by APT 28 and APT 29, also known as FANCY BEAR and COZY BEAR, both of which, according to the firm, are part of the Russian government. Their claims were based on various pieces of circumstantial evidence, such as the fact that the individual or individuals that attacked the DNC used commonly available open source tools also allegedly used by APT 28 and APT 29, and that the DNC hackers take Russian holidays off and work roughly on a Russian workday schedule. To the embarrassment of CrowdStrike, a hacker known as Guccifer 2.0, through a blog post, took responsibility for the hack of the DNC. He or she responded to CrowdStrike by stating:

I’m very pleased the company appreciated my skills so highly. But, in fact, it was easy, very easy.

The blog included documents from the DNC, which Guccifer 2.0 posted before the WikiLeaks release. The hacker has stated that s/he is from Romania and does not support either Russia or Trump. NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden has pointed out that the NSA would be able to tell if a Russian agent carried out the hack. He tweeted:

Even if the attackers try to obfuscate origin, #XKEYSCORE makes following exfiltrated data easy. I did this personally against Chinese ops.

He added that the NSA would have no reason to hide this information, since the XKEYSCORE program is now already known. It cannot be excluded that the Russian government is, in fact, involved in the release of the DNC emails. But there are many other possibilities. What is involved here is bourgeois imperialist politics at the highest levels, with implications for a host of governments and corporate interests all over the world. A list of potential suspects would have to include the Sanders campaign, other foreign governments, the Obama administration or elements within it, and other Pindosi state or intelligence factions. The list could be extended indefinitely. One thing is certain. This is anything but an innocent and legitimate journalistic exercise. It is motivated by an unstated political agenda. At the very top of this agenda is the preparation of a new administration committed to intensify the military operations of Pindostan in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, and escalate Pindo economic, diplomatic and military pressure against Russia and China, leading inexorably, and perhaps in the near future, to war with nuclear powers that could lead to the annihilation of countless millions of people. In the pursuit of this agenda, being prepared behind the backs of the Pindo sheeple, the Democrat Party and its main media mouthpiece the NYT are managing to attack the semi-fascist Trump from the right.

the question is, who did they attack? and the answer is always arms convoys destined for hezbollah

World power allows Israel to attack ally as its forces watch
Dr Aaron Lerner, IMRA (a hasbara entity – RB), Jul 27 2016

Earlier this week, Israeli fighter jets attacked Syria following mortar fire that struck on the Israeli side of the Golan Heights. And it was barely a news item. It reflects a significant achievement by Netanyahu that’s mostly ignored. But not by everyone. Earlier this month, IRGC Commander Brig-Gen Khosro Orouj openly complained:

The anti-aircraft systems that Russia has brought to Syria shouldn’t allow even one single aircraft to fly over the country, but this is not happening.

Netanyahu has apparently reached an understanding with Putin that allows us, under various circumstances, to attack both Syrian and Hezbullah military targets within Syria despite the deployment of a protective Russian anti-aircraft umbrella covering the entire country. I doubt we could have the same understanding if it was a Pindosi umbrella.

another bunch of lubavich-related swindlers hiding behind din moser

Another Madoff? This Time It’s Platinum
Eve Mykytyn, Gilad Atzmon, Jul 27 2016

With all the attention on the political conventions, random terror attacks and the upcoming Olympics (where the Pindosis may have finally defeated the Russians without the inconveniences of competing in sports), Wall Street’s latest billion-dollar fraud has gone little-noticed. Platinum Partners and its various funds claim a value of $1.25b and have stated average annual return rates of between 10% and 17% for at least ten years. The funds are primarily the creation of two men, Murray Huberfeld and Mark Nordlich. Platinum has run on a perpetual stream of unsavoury semi-legal and immoral investments that enriched the owners of Platinum, their families and their foundations. Huberfeld pleaded ‘not guilty’ last week to charges that he paid $60k to the head of the union of NYC Corrections Officers in return for a union pension fund investment of $20m in Platinum Partners. According to the NYT, the hedge fund also gave an $18k donation to a charity with ties to Jona Rechnitz, allegedly to thank him for making the connection. Rechnitz is one of the two Orthodox businessmen at the center of a widespread investigation into corruption in NYC. So why did Huberfeld risk such an obvious bribe? It seems Platinum Partners, despite its claims of extraordinary results, was having trouble repaying its investors. The SEC and the FBI have not released the results of their investigations, so the full extent of the scandal is not yet known, but here’s what’s we do know. Huberfeld is a former penny stock trader (the profession so beautifully amplified in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ the movie itself the subject of a financial scandal).

In 1992, charged with sending another man to take his brokerage exams, Huberfeld pled guilty and paid a fine. Question as to why that crime in itself did not bar Huberfeld from the brokerage industry. Nordlicht is a former commodities options trader. Between 1990 and 1998, various New York exchanges fined him small amounts for eight separate transgressions. Then in 1998, Nordlicht and his then partner David Bodner were ordered to pay $4.7m by the SEC for illegally selling restricted stock. In 2001 Nordlicht and Bodner opened a commodities brokerage firm, ‘Optionable.’ Optionable later collapsed after it helped one of its clients conceal a $524m loss. Nordlicht was not directly implicated but Bodner went to prison for 30 months. In 2002 Huberfeld was one of the initial investors in a hedge fund started by Nordlicht. The following year, Nordlicht returned the favor and invested in Huberfeld’s first fund, presently renamed ‘Credit Opportunities,’ a fund that specializes in making poor credit loans or, minus the euphemism, high-end loan-sharking. The fund has claimed an average annual rate of return of 13.2%. These two funds and various others have made up Platinum Partners since 2003. Bodner has also remained active in the funds. In 2005, the men began soliciting investments for their funds from the Jewish community. They joined a trip to the Vatican sponsored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center and met a number of potential investors. Huberfeld recently resigned from the Center’s board. According to The WSJ:

Another investment source was Touro College, a Jewish-oriented New York college whose board of overseers Huberfeld joined in 2003. It invested endowment funds with Huberfeld’s fund in 2008 and received its investment back in 2011. Touro’s chief financial officer, Melvin Ness, said there was no correlation between Mr. Huberfeld’s listing on the Board of Overseers and Touro’s investment in the fund.

Platinum specializes in ‘level 3’ investments. These are risky investments that the accounting profession will not value. Firms that own such investments are allowed to set the value as they see fit, and Platinum did so with a committee made up of its own employees. Here are a few of the investments Platinum has made. In 2007, one of Platinum’s funds (BDL) invested in insurance annuities that paid only after an investor died. A rabbi in Los Angeles working with the fund stole the personal information of hospice patients so that BDL could buy the annuities using the dying person’s name. Common law forbids one from buying insurance on the life of a person with whom you have no relationship because of the obvious temptation for malfeasance. Somehow, these annuities just skirted this rule. In Jan 2015 the SEC found that the fund had obtained and used confidential medical information. The fund and the rabbi were required to pay the SEC over $4m but not required to admit wrongdoing. In Aug 2015, prosecutors in Louisiana filed criminal charges against an oil company that had been Platinum’s biggest investment in connection with an explosion that killed three workers. And in Sep 2015, the former head of an energy company in which the fund had a significant stake was arrested for tax evasion. And yet, the business press continued to tout Platinum’s returns, marvelling at how they could make profits from Singapore’s penny stocks or mini-marts in China. Platinum invested with a number of payday lenders (high-interest short-term lenders) including one called ‘Cashcall’ that is the subject of a federal protection bureau suit. In February of this year, Reuters published a cautious but generally laudatory article on the Platinum funds, warning that they were risky but highly rewarding. Some were better able to read the tea-leaves:

Neither [Platinum Funds] has ever had a down year, and the credit fund has had only one losing month in its nearly 11 years. Even Bernie Madoff had a few down months sprinkled into his toxic cocktail.

In Nov 2015, Platinum Partners received a default notice over a put option (a contractual obligation to sell at a certain price) involving $30m of notes. Platinum stated that it was unable to pay for $7.5m of notes it was legally required to repurchase. That month, two prominent Jewish investors the Fruchthandler family, (real estate), and the foundation for one of the oldest Brooklyn yeshivas, Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin, reported Platinum to the SEC for non-payment of over $600k in redemptions dating back to 2014. Then in July, Platinum Partners saw its second-largest public holding, Echo Therapeutics (glucose monitoring) plunge by 17.3% after Nasdaq informed it at the end of market trading on Friday that it would be delisted because it did not meet the minimum $2.5m stockholders’ equity requirement. Despite all these hits, Nordlicht has claimed that all will be made right, ezrat Hashem. New York State Judge Salinann Scarpulla, who is handling Platinum’s default on $30m in debt, is a bit less sanguine than Nordlicht that God is on Platinum’s side. After failing to get satisfactory answers to her questions about the hedge fund’s financial status, an exacerbated Scarpulla said:

I haven’t seen evidence that the fund is worth a billion dollars. For all I know, the fund is worth five cents!

Judge Scarpulla ordered Platinum’s lawyer to call Platinum in the middle of a hearing to get someone on the phone to assure her that they have the money to repay their debt. Instead of assurance, Platinum’s in-house legal counsel requested 48 hours to make any kind of guarantee, which has of course, it has never done. As redemption requests began growing, probably beginning as early as 2012,  the funds raised money by selling assets to a related insurance company and borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars at rates as high as 16.7%. Judge Scarpulla may well be correct. Platinum Partners may not be worth a nickel. The firm has blocked redemptions and told investors they will not receive anything until at least 2017. Last week, Platinum hired Bart Schwartz, who distributed Madoff’s assets, to liquidate the funds. Madoff’s investors received about 63% recovery on assets and those who invested less than $1.1m were made whole. Investors in Platinum seem unlikely to do as well. The scam was not particularly well concealed. Both partners had a history of shady practices and they promised returns unavailable anywhere else. Why after its multiple run-ins with the partners, wasn’t the SEC warning investors? According to The Forward:

(Huberfeld alone gave) millions in grants a year to Jewish charities. In 2014 alone, (Huberfeld’s) foundation gave out $3.1m, much of it to synagogues linked to the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic group, and to ultra-Orthodox institutions in Boro Park.

The Forward praises Platinum’s charity while criticizing its methods. This is a bit like thanking a bank robber for the gift. The NY Observer provides some insight in discussing the reluctance of Jewish investors who complained to the SEC to make their complaints more public, writing:

The Jewish community to which Huberfeld and all the players in this drama belong reserves special contempt for Jews who turn in other Jews. A moser, a collaborator or informer, is the worst thing a Jew can be. The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion defines informing as “the most heinous crime in the Jewish community and the informer its most despicable character. Every step against him, even taking his life, was permitted in order to safeguard the interests of the community.” … For the Fruchthandler family to go to the SEC with its complaint against Huberfeld, knowing how that would be viewed by their peers, indicates an escalation to the point where they must have seen no other option to get their money back.

Then The Observer calmly states who among those wronged by Platinum matters the most. Referring to Platinum’s role in the New York City corruption scandal, the Observer notes:

Huberfeld … clearly has more to worry about than stuffing cash into a Salvatore Ferragamo bag on behalf of a Correction Officers Benevolent Association official with posh tastes.

Apparently, they believe that it is worse to harm your Jewish investors than investors who are New York City’s corrections officers.


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