Archive for the ‘Obama administration’ Category
Unfortunately, Hillary Clinton has already stated that she will back Israel no matter what it does, not a good attitude in a US president IMO. The president of the US should have put US interests before the interests of other nations. Brad Parker reports in Salon:
Recently, 20 members of Congress sent a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to appoint a Special Envoy for Palestinian Youth to collect information necessary to actively promote Palestinian children’s human rights. By standing up for Palestinian children’s rights, these lawmakers are directly challenging the decades-long U.S.-led “peace process” that has consistently demanded peace without justice, enabling and perpetuating an unjust and oppressive military occupation.
The letter, initiated by Rep. Betty McCollum, (D-Minn.), expresses concern for Palestinian children under 18 years old living “under the constant fear of arrest, detention, and violence at the hands of the Israeli military,” and declares “The situation on the ground is rapidly deteriorating and we must act now.”
Just a few hours after the letter was delivered to President Obama, Israeli forces fired on a civilian car, killing fifteen-year-old Mahmoud Rafat Badran. Mahmoud and his cousins were driving home to the occupied West Bank village of Beit Ur al-Tahta around 1:30 a.m. after a night of family fun at a nearby swimming pool when Israeli forces opened fire, according to Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCIP).
Mahmoud’s death typifies the current situation for Palestinian children living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as systemic impunity has enabled Israeli forces increasingly to resort to the use of excessive force without consequence. Since 2014, Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have increasingly targeted Palestinians, including children, with live ammunition to quash protests. DCIP independently verified the deaths of 15 Palestinian children killed by Israeli forces during 2014, and this figure nearly doubled in 2015.
As intensified violence in Israel and the occupied West Bank grinds on, Rep. McCollum and her colleagues declared, “The root cause of [violence] must be examined and understood in which they are taking place.”
When examining root causes of violence, one finds that, as Palestinians enter their 50th year under Israeli military occupation, children now represent 46.2 percent of the 4.68 million Palestinians living in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. “This enormous youth cohort represents another generation of Palestinian children growing up under military occupation with very few opportunities to improve their lives,” writes Rep. McCollum.
In October, amid escalating violence, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahupromised a “harsh offensive” in response. The results are now disturbingly clear as Mahmoud became the 50th Palestinian child from the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip to be killed as a direct result of intensified violence, all except one at the hands of Israeli forces, according to documentation collected by DCIP. Of this number, 37 allegedly carried out stabbing, gun or car ramming attacks against Israeli civilians or soldiers.
While Israeli military authorities reportedly opened an investigation into Mahmoud’s killing, accountability for shootings by Israeli forces is extremely rare. Since 2014, only one incident, the fatal shooting of Nadeem Nawara, 17, in May 2014, has resulted in both an investigation and criminal indictment.
Shockingly, despite repeated allegations of unlawful and extrajudicial killings by Israeli forces, not one Israeli soldier has been charged or convicted of homicide for killing a Palestinian in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since at least 2000, according to data compiled by the Israeli human rights group Yesh Din.
The letter is significant because it asks what many policymakers in the United States avoid at all costs, “Does a life of utter hopelessness and the collective psychological trauma associated with the Palestinian people living for decades under Israeli military occupation directly contribute to violence?” . . .
Clinton’s unconditional and unquestioning support of Israel’s actions, whatever they are, is disturbing.
I do not agree with Tim Kaine, possibly our next VP, that banks should be even less regulated than they are now. Even with the current levels of regulation, we see much criminal activity on Wall Street. Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:
A mere three months after JPMorgan Chase and three of its competitors (Citicorp, Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland) pleaded guilty to a felony charge of conspiring to rig foreign currency trading and paid criminal fines totaling over $2.5 billion, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, began meeting in secret with his competitors in the asset management field.
On February 1 of this year, the Financial Times reported that “secret summits” had been held beginning in August 2015 between “asset management bosses” including Jamie Dimon, Abby Johnson of Fidelity, Larry Fink of BlackRock, and Tim Armour of Capital Group. The article went on to report that Dimon and Warren Buffett had convened the sessions at JPMorgan’s headquarters in New York to discuss “a statement of best practice on corporate governance.”
Secret meetings between competitors, regardless of what they are said to be discussing, is a serious no-no under U.S. antitrust law. A company like JPMorgan Chase, that was charged by the U.S. Justice Department in 2014 with two deferred prosecution felony counts for its egregious conduct in the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme and hit again the next year with the felony count in the foreign currency conspiracy is skating on very thin ice. (It should be noted that under Jamie Dimon’s leadership, JPMorgan Chase received its only felony counts in the bank’s century old history. That should tell the public something about how things have changed in American banking culture.)
Two trial lawyers, Helen Davis Chaitman and Lance Gotthoffer, have written a book and set up a web site to call the public’s attention to JPMorgan’s mob-like activity. The lawyers write: “In the past four years alone, JPMorgan Chase has paid out $35,735,254,670 in fines and settlements for fraudulent and illegal practices.” In one chapter of the book, they compare JPMorgan Chase to the Gambino crime family and recommend that it be prosecuted under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).
If these meetings were genuinely about crafting “best practice on corporate governance” why did they commence in secret? Why were they not commenced at one of the official financial industry trade associations like the Financial Services Forum or the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), which says it is “the voice of the nation’s securities industry.”
According to guidelines published by various trade associations and law firms, the following rules must be followed when . . .
Guantánamo Diary author cleared for release after 14 years of imprisonment with no charges ever filed
Just a guy who had bad luck. The US government will not, of course, offer any compensation or apologies for torturing him and imprisoning him for 14 years. The US believes that it can do that sort of thing with impunity, though of course the US would mightily object if some country did that to US citizens—or maybe not. The US seems to care less and less about its citizens: look at how the US runs VA, at how many unarmed people are shot to death by police, at how citizens are no longer protected by the 4th Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures (e.g., civil asset forfeiture).
Cora Currier reports in The Intercept:
An interagency review board has determined that Guantánamo detainee Mohamedou Ould Slahi poses no threat to the United States and has recommended that he be released, setting the bestselling author on the path to be reunited with his family.
Slahi was arrested in his native Mauritania in 2001, and was held and tortured in secret prisons in Afghanistan and Jordan before being secreted to Guantánamo, an odyssey he recounted in a memoir, Guantánamo Diary, which became a bestseller last year. He has been imprisoned for over 14 years without being charged with a crime.
In early June, Slahi made his case to the Periodic Review Board as part of a sort of parole process instituted by the Obama administration to evaluate the cases of the remaining men at Guantánamo to determine if they might be safely transferred to another country.
At that hearing, Slahi’s advocates, including his lawyer and two representatives from the military, described his plans to continue writing and to start a small business, and noted the strong network of family and other supporters who could help him. They spoke to his unusual language skills and warm relationship with his lawyers and even the guards assigned to him. The military representatives described him as “an advocate for peace” and stated they were “certain that Mohamedou’s intentions after Guantánamo are genuine, and that he possesses sound judgment, and that he is good for his word.” One former guard submitted a letter attesting that he “would be pleased to welcome [Slahi] into my home.” (In keeping with the general secrecy of proceedings at Guantánamo, Slahi was not allowed speak during the open portion of the review, and he declined to have his own statement from the closed session made public.)
In a document dated July 14 but released today, the board members noted Slahi’s “highly compliant behavior in detention,” “candid responses to the Board’s questions,” and “clear indications of a change in the detainee’s mindset.” They had also taken into consideration his “robust and realistic plan for the future.”
Slahi has admitted to traveling to Afghanistan in the early 1990s to fight with the mujahideen against the Soviet-backed government, and the government claims he helped recruit and facilitate the travel of al Qaeda fighters. In 2010, a federal judge found that he was not a member of al Qaeda when the U.S. picked him up; the judge ordered his release, but that casestalled on appeal.
The board’s recommendation on a detainee is just a first step. The secretary of defense must arrange for a country to receive him and notify Congress of the transfer. In Slahi’s case, the government of Mauritania has already indicated that it would be willing to take him back.
One of Slahi’s lawyers, Hina Shamsi of the American Civil Liberties Union, said they were pressing the Pentagon to arrange for his actual release as soon as possible, but the exact timing is uncertain.
“We will now work toward his quick release and return to the waiting arms of his loving family,” said Nancy Hollander, another of his lawyers, in a statement. “This is long overdue.”
There are currently 76 men still held in Guantánamo. Including Slahi, 31 of them have been approved for release. . .
Presumably he’s being released because he paid his debt to society? But that’s not it: he never did anything wrong.
Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:
Richard Cordray and the Federal agency he heads, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), have been in the cross hairs of right wing Republicans and the corporations they front for since the agency opened its doors in 2011 to confront the abuses exposed in the financial crisis of 2008.
The agency’s work to level the playing field for all Americans and stop the vicious wealth transfer system that the deregulation era of the 90s has unleashed on the financially unsophisticated has fueled unprecedented backlash. During the Republican Presidential debate on November 10 of last year, a corporate-funded front group, the American Action Network, with ties to the Koch brothers, repeatedly ran an advertisement portraying the CFPB as a communist group. (See our detailed report here.)
The CFPB presents multiple threats to the financial looters. The CFPB has made it easy for consumers to file complaints; for whistleblowers to come forward; for the public toshare their experiences so that the agency can get an early warning on new financial frauds gathering momentum; and it provides financial education materials to the public covering a broad spectrum. It has also levied hefty fines against wrongdoers and exposed the sordid details of their schemes.
Despite the serial backlash Cordray has faced and the ongoing efforts to strip his agency of its independence, he isn’t backing down. Yesterday, Cordray became something of a whistleblower himself, delivering a speech to the NAACP’s annual convention in Cincinnati and exposing the myriad ways that African Americans are targeted by the institutionalized wealth stripping apparatus that has its entrenched tentacles spread across America. . .
At Mother Jones Kevin Drum has an excellent post with two illuminating charts:
The theme of the convention tonight was supposed to be “Make America Work Again.” But Donald Trump has a famously short attention span, and apparently that’s spilled over into the scheduling of the entire convention. As near as I can tell, not a single person talked about jobs and the economy except maybe soap opera star Kimberlin Brown, who grows avocadoes and spent several minutes railing against Obamacare.
However, I didn’t watch every minute of the convention, so maybe I missed one of the early C-list speakers talking about jobs. On the off chance that this happened, I have two charts for you. First, here’s a re-up of one of my favorites, showing that Republicans did everything they possibly could to keep America from recovering while Obama was president:
As you can see from the various red and orange lines, Republicans were eager to increase spending for Reagan, Bush Jr., and Bush Sr.—at least until he lost the election and Clinton took over. Then they cut back. For Obama, they depressed public spending from the start. That’s the blue line. Today, more than six years after the official end of the recession, public spending is more than 20 points lower than the trendline for Reagan and Bush.
Nonetheless, check out Obama’s record on job growth:
Even with two big tax cuts and a housing bubble, Bush Jr. managed to create only 10.9 million jobs. Obama, even with the headwind of Republican obstruction, has created 13.1 million jobs so far. . . .
What’s odd and disturbing is that these facts will have zero influence on the GOP. Neither officeholders nor voters in the GOP seem to have any interest in factual evidence. Indeed, look at how they are almost rabid with anger at Hillary Clinton because she lies. Haven’t they noticed that Donald Trump lies incessantly, and continues to tell the same lies even when it is clear that they are lies and the person he’s talking with knows that they are lies and even points out that they’re lies. That doesn’t even make Trump pause: he continues to tell old lies and make up new lies constantly. And the GOP doesn’t like Hillary because she lies?
I don’t get it.
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai has a very interesting post (with video) in Motherboard. The written part begins:
Thomas Drake was a 48-year-old decorated Air Force and Navy veteran, and a senior executive at the National Security Agency, the NSA, when he decided he had to speak up against what he considered the spy agency’s abuses.
That’s when he anonymously contacted a reporter at The Baltimore Sun, helping her expose wrongdoing at the agency in a series of articles. Two years later, the FBI raided his home, and the US government launched an investigation into Drake for leaking classified information and espionage.
All of a sudden, Drake faced the possibility of spending most, if not all, of the rest of his life in jail. Looking back now, after he escaped jail and only pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor, Drake says it was all worth it.
“History was at stake,” he said in a recent interview with VICE’s reporter Ben Makuch filmed for VICELAND’s series on hacking and surveillance, CYBERWAR.
In a deleted scene [which is the video at the article link – LG], Drake explains how the NSA got “unleashed” after 9/11 and expanded its spying powers, pushing it beyond the limits of what he believed was acceptable.
“The mantra was, just get the data,” Drake said. “Collect it all, so we can know it all.”
“All means necessary to confront the threat, who cares about the Constitution, who cares about law, who cares about the rights of US persons,” Drake added. . .
Very interesting question: Would Turkey Be Justified in Kidnapping or Drone-Killing the Turkish Cleric in Pennsylvania?
Certainly the view of the US government is that Turkey would be fully justified in kidnapping or assassinating the Pennsylvania man: that is exactly what the US does, and clearly believes that it is right and appropriate to do it. How can the same actions that are promoted by the US government for itself be wrong if done by another government? It would make no sense, but of course we’ve long since left the realm of sense.
Glenn Greenwald writes in The Intercept:
Tukey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan places the blame for this weekend’s failed coup attempt on an Islamic preacher and one-time ally, Fethullah Gulen (above), who now resides in Pennsylvania with a green card. Erdogan is demanding the U.S. extradite Gulen, citing prior extraditions by the Turkish government of terror suspects demanded by the U.S.: “Now we’re saying deliver this guy who’s on our terrorist list to us.” Erdogan has been requesting Gulen’s extradition from the U.S. for at least two years, on the ground that he has been subverting the Turkish government while harbored by the U.S. Thus far, the U.S. is refusing, with Secretary of State John Kerry demanding of Turkey: “Give us the evidence, show us the evidence. We need a solid legal foundation that meets the standard of extradition.”
In light of the presence on U.S. soil of someone the Turkish government regards as a “terrorist” and a direct threat to its national security, would Turkey be justified in dispatching a weaponized drone over Pennsylvania to find and kill Gulen if the U.S. continues to refuse to turn him over, or sending covert operatives to kidnap him? That was the question posed yesterday by Col. Morris Davis, former chief prosecutor of Guantánamo’s military commissions who resigned in protest over the use of torture-obtained evidence:
If Fethullah Gulen is considered a threat to Erdogan & Turkey’s gov’t doesn’t Turkey have a right to drone strike him in Pennsylvania? @CNN
— Col. Morris Davis (@ColMorrisDavis) July 16, 2016
That question, of course, is raised by the fact that the U.S. has spent many years now doing exactly this: employing various means — including but not limited to drones — to abduct and kill people in multiple countries whom it has unilaterally decided (with no legal process) are “terrorists” or who otherwise are alleged to pose a threat to its national security. Since it cannot possibly be the case that the U.S. possesses legal rights that no other country can claim — right? — the question naturally arises whether Turkey would be entitled to abduct or kill someone it regards as a terrorist when the U.S. is harboring him and refuses to turn him over.
The only viable objection to Turkey’s assertion of this authority would be to claim that the U.S. limits its operations to places where lawlessness prevails, something that is not true of Pennsylvania. But this is an inaccurate description of the U.S.’s asserted entitlement. In fact, after 9/11, the U.S. threatened Afghanistan with bombing and invasion unless the Taliban government immediately turned over Osama bin Laden, and the Taliban’s answer was strikingly similar to what the U.S. just told Turkey about Gulen:
The ruling Taliban of Afghanistan today further complicated the status of Osama bin Laden and rejected the ultimatum of the United States that he and his lieutenants be handed over to answer for their suspected role in last week’s terrorist attacks in the United States.
The Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, said at a news conference in Islamabad, “Our position in this regard is that if the Americans have evidence, they should produce it.” If they can prove their allegations, he said, “we are ready for a trial of Osama bin Laden.”
Asked again whether Mr. bin Laden would be surrendered, the ambassador replied, “Without evidence, no.”
The U.S. refused to provide any such evidence — “These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion,” said President George W. Bush at the time — and the U.S. bombing and invasion of Afghanistan began two weeks thereafter, and continues to this day, 15 years later. The justification there was not that the Taliban were incapable of arresting and extraditing bin Laden, but rather that they refused to do so without evidence of his guilt being provided and some legal/judicial action invoked.
Nor are such U.S. actions against individual terror suspects confined to countries where lawlessness prevails. In 2003, the CIA kidnapped a clericfrom the streets of Milan, Italy, and shipped him to Egypt to be tortured (CIA agents involved have been prosecuted in Italy, though the U.S. government has vehemently defended them). In 2004, the U.S. abducted a German citizen in Macedonia, flew him to Afghanistan, tortured and drugged him, then unceremoniously dumped him back on the street when it realized he was innocent; but the U.S. has refused ever since to compensate him or even apologize, leaving his life in complete shambles. The U.S. has repeatedly killed people in Pakistan with drones and other attacks, including strikes when it had no idea who it was killing, and also stormed a compound in Abbottabad — where the Pakistani government has full reign — in order to kill Osama bin Laden in 2010.
U.S. drone kills of terror suspects (including its own citizens) are extremely popular among Americans, including (in the age of Obama) those who self-identify as liberal Democrats. Yet it’s virtually certain that Americans across the ideological spectrum would explode in nationalistic outrage if Turkey actually did the same thing in Pennsylvania; indeed, the consequences for Turkey if it dared to do so are hard to overstate. . .
I would guess that Turkey, heeding the US example, is seriously considering assassination by some means of the Pennsylvania cleric, or at least forced rendition (i.e., kidnapping, as the US did in Macedonia, Italy, and elsewhere) to Turkey for imprisonment and torture (again following the US example).