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‘Make More War’: The Corporate Engine Behind US Foreign Policy

Sputnik – 14.05.2016

As the US Senate Armed Services Committee considers the 2017 Pentagon budget, political analyst Eric Draitser joins Radio Sputnik to discuss the ever-growing military-industrial complex.

“[President Dwight Eisenhower] was suggesting… that the danger for the United States was that these massive military contractors, these military-industrial firms, would eventually be able to control both sides of the government, both major parties, and be able to effectively create policy to their own liking,” Draitser told Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker, paraphrasing the former World War II five-star general and US President’s 1961 warning.

“And here we are in 2016 and that is, of course, exactly what’s happened…”

While President Barack Obama ran on a platform of reigning in US military endeavors, he has proven unable – or unwilling – to do so.

“Obama has raised spending on the military to historic levels. He has, obviously, waged countless wars; at least seven by the conservative count. Obama is, of course, upping aid to Israel… expanding [the] US military footprint in Asia with the Asia pivot strategy, expanding [the] US military in Africa…” Draitser says.

“If you look at it in its totality, Obama really works hand-in-glove with the military-industrial complex.”

The new draft bill of National Defense Authorization Act highlights this.

“[The bill shows] increased spending. I believe $1.5 billion for new aircraft. $1.5 billion for F-35s manufactured by Lockheed Martin. Army helicopters, Apache strike teams. We could go on and on down the list of all of these increases in spending.

“The consensus is ‘make more war.'”

Even presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders, one of the most progressive members of the US Congress, isn’t guilt-free.

“Bernie Sanders lobbied for F-35 production in Vermont,” Draitser says. “He has a vested interest in making sure that this military program…took place in Vermont. He lobbied for it, he was in favor of it, and he’s gone down, at least in Vermont history, as a major supporter of that program.

“So even when you go to the left-progressive end of the political spectrum, they have a vested interested in making sure that programs such as the F-35 continue.”

The problem also relates to the Obama Administration’s inability to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

“The story continues to be the same tired narrative that Obama desperately wants to close Guantanamo. It’s just this political gridlock, it’s the legislation, it’s the language that’s in place, it’s the Republicans, it’s the boogeyman, it’s Putin, it’s everybody preventing Obama from closing Guantanamo,” Draitser says.

“When in fact it is a consensus that Guantanamo stay open.”

The military-industrial complex is also the driving factor behind the military buildup in Eastern Europe, despite claims about defending against “Russian aggression.”

“The beneficiaries of these types of policies are Lockheed Martin and Raytheon and Boeing and all of these massive multinational military corporations that make hundreds of billions of dollars off of precisely these kinds of policies,” he says.

“When [NATO] talks about spending money in Eastern Europe to ‘reassure our partners,’ what they really mean is bolstering US military power along Russia’s western flank.

“There could not be a more dangerous policy.”

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | 1 Comment

Last chance to stop draft registration of women in US

Ed Hasbrouk’s Blog | May 13, 2106

Yesterday the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee joined its counterpart committee of the House of Representatives in adding a provision to the pending “National Defense Authorization Act” (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 that would extend the authority of the President to order women as well as men to register for the draft.

Because this is considered a “must-pass” bill, this provision will now become law along with the rest of the bill unless the proposal is amended on the floor of either the House or the Senate (or both) to remove it before the full bill is approved, or unless the President vetoes the entire bill (which is unlikely).

It’s time for lobbying against draft registration — and for organizing and resistance.

I presume, although I don’t know for sure, that the text of the provision added to the Senate committee version of the bill is the same as that which was added to the House version. The Senate committee decision was made during a closed “markup” session, and I don’t know if the record of how each committee member voted on this provision is or will be made public.

To understand what will happen next, you have to get down in the weeds of Congressional procedure, and understand the dynamic surrounding Congressional debate and voting on this question.

The versions of the FY 2017 NDAA bill approved by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees will go to the “floor” of the respective chambers, where proposed amendments can be voted on before the final votes on the bills.

Rep. Pete Sessions, a Republican from Dallas and one of the few members of Congress to have endorsed Donald Trump for President, has introduced an amendment to the House bill to strike out the provision expanding draft registration to women. It’s up to the House Rules Committee to decide which of the many proposed amendments to the bill on this and other subjects are allowed to be voted on by the full House. But since Rep. Sessions is the Chair of the House Rules Committee, it’s likely that he will be able to get the Rules Committee to agree to schedule a vote on his amendment on women and draft registration when the 2017 NDAA comes to the House floor.

Rep. Jared Polis, who is also a member of the Rules Committee, is one of the sponsors of H.R. 4523, the bill to end draft registration entirely and abolish the Selective Service System. But H.R. 4523 has yet to be scheduled for consideration in committee, and may never be. Most bills introduced in Congress are never debated or voted on, even in committee.

Floor debate and voting on the 2017 NDAA has not yet been scheduled, but could be as soon as next week in the House, and could be later this month in the Senate. It’s time to talk to your Representative today! Tell them to vote YES on “the Sessions’ amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act on women and draft registration,” and to support H.R. 4523 to end draft registration.

So far as I know, no Senator has introduced a similar amendment to strike the provision to register women for the draft out of the Senate version of the 2017 NDAA. Nor has any Senator introduced a bill like H.R. 4523. Last night after the Senate committee vote, one conservative commentator wrote that, “I am … told by Senate staff that it is unlikely an amendment to strike this provision will even succeed on the floor of the Senate, which means a majority of that body now supports drafting women. The only hope to stop this is on the House floor.”

But “lobbying” alone will not stop the proposal to expand draft registration to women, or end draft registration for men.

bodypartsMembers of Congress expect that any draft, for anyone, or any move toward a draft, will be unpopular. That won’t keep them from voting for it.

Members of Congress, the Pentagon, and the President all say — probably truthfully — that they don’t “want” a draft.

They will vote for draft registration, and they will expand draft registration to women if that’s what it takes to make it Constitiutional [sic], because they want to preserve the “option” of the draft as an “insurance policy”. Plan B, or perhaps Plan C or plan D, if they run out of “volunteers”, reserve forces, National Guard members, and mercenaries (“civilian contractors”) to fight their wars.

They will stop short of trying to make women register for the draft if, and only if, they are brought to the realization that draft registration of women will fail, just as draft registration of men has failed, because young women will resist just as young men have resisted.

Resistance, as the Selective Service System has finally admitted, has made draft registration unenforceable. Continued and expanded resistance can stop the attempt to make young women register too, and it can end draft registration.

The most important voices to be raised, listened to, and heard in Congress in the crucial days ahead are those of young women saying that they will not willingly submit or sign up, and those of older people and men like me and many others saying that we will support and stand with them in resistance.

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Washington Coup in Brazil? Was Incoming President US Embassy Informant?

By Daniel McAdams | Ron Paul Institute | May 13, 2016

Adding to suspicions of a US role in the ouster of independent-minded Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff is a revelation making the rounds today that Michel Temer, the opposition leader who will step in as interim president, had met with US embassy officials in Sau Paulo to provide his assessment and spin on the domestic political situation in Brazil. Thanks to Wikileaks, we have the US embassy cable that resulted from the incoming president’s visit to US political officers.

Acting president Temer will hold office for up to six months while impeached president Rousseff stands trial in the Brazilian senate. If her impeachment is finalized by a two-thirds vote, Temer will remain in office until elections in 2018.

Rousseff’s ouster has been curious all along. She claims it is a coup against the will of the Brazilian voter and indeed she has not been accused of corruption or serious crime. Instead, she has been impeached for accusations that she used some tricky bookkeeping maneuvers to hide the extent of Brazil’s budget deficit in advance of her successful 2014 re-election bid. Observers would note that if fiddling with economic statistics to make a country’s balance sheet look better were grounds for impeachment in the United States, there would have been successive impeachments for decades or perhaps longer.

There are more curiosities surrounding the US role in Brazil’s “regime change” this week. Just weeks ago, as Brazil’s lower house of parliament began the process by voting 367 to 137 for impeachment, one very powerful opposition senator made his way to Washington to make his case in the Beltway corridors of power.

The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald wrote at the time:

Today — the day after the impeachment vote — Sen. Aloysio Nunes of the (opposition) PSDB will be in Washington to undertake three days of meetings with various U.S. officials as well as with lobbyists and assorted influence-peddlers close to Clinton and other leading political figures.

Sen. Nunes is meeting with the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, R-Tenn., and Ben Cardin, D-Md.; Undersecretary of State and former Ambassador to Brazil Thomas Shannon; and attending a luncheon on Tuesday hosted by the Washington lobbying firm Albright Stonebridge Group, headed by former Clinton Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Bush 43 Commerce Secretary and Kellogg Company CEO Carlos Gutierrez.

The US has long been opposed to Rousseff, seeing her independent-mindedness and participation in the BRICS trade grouping as a threat to US influence in the region. Leftist governments in both Brazil and Venezuela have long been targets of US destabilization efforts. When Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had been tapping her phones, Rousseff delivered a blistering speech at the United Nations accusing the US of violating international law and violating “the principles that must guide the relations among…friendly nations.” Most foreign leaders when informed that the NSA had been spying on them sheepishly dropped the subject. Rousseff was almost alone in venting her rage over what she viewed as betrayal by a friendly government.

Is today’s news about Temer’s trips to the US embassy a smoking gun of a US role in this week’s dramatic events? It must be stated that a meeting between political opposition figures and US embassy officials is not uncommon, and some alternative press accusations that the meeting makes Temer a US “informant” or even a US intelligence agent are probably over-blown. Embassy personnel as a matter of course cultivate political leaders in countries where they are posted to help get an understanding of the broad political situation. But it is part of the US interventionist strategy, from Moscow to Budapest to Minsk to Damascus to Sau Paulo, for US embassy personnel to actively engage opposition figures in countries where the US would like to see regime change. While it is understandable — and can even be admirable — that US embassy political officers actually get out from behind the embassy walls, it is also no secret that these meetings can be highly selective and can serve as a way to reinforce existing US policy toward a particular country instead of gaining a better understanding of the broad political landscape.

How deeply are Washington’s fingers in the pie of Brazil’s political crisis? There is at least one precedent, Greenwald notes in the above article. After years of strident US denial, secret documents were finally released revealing the central role played by the US in Brazil’s 1964 military coup to remove a left-wing government. Plus ça change?

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Timeless or most popular | , , | Leave a comment

Syria: The hidden massacre

By Sharmine Narwani | RT | May 7, 2014

Several old Russian-made military trucks packed with Syrian security forces rolled onto a hard slope on a valley road between Daraa al-Mahata and Daraa al-Balad. Unbeknown to the passengers, the sloping road was slick with oil poured by gunmen waiting to ambush the troops.

Brakes were pumped as the trucks slid into each other, but the shooting started even before the vehicles managed to roll to a stop. According to several different opposition sources, up to 60 Syrian security forces were killed that day in a massacre that has been hidden by both the Syrian government and residents of Daraa.

One Daraa native explains: “At that time, the government did not want to show they are weak and the opposition did not want to show they are armed.”

Beyond that, the details are sketchy. Nizar Nayouf, a longtime Syria dissident and blogger who wrote about the killings, says the massacre took place in the final week of March 2011.

A source who was in Daraa at the time, places the attack before the second week of April.

Rami Abdul Rahman, an anti-government activist who heads up the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the most quoted Western media source on Syrian casualties, tells me: “It was on the first of April and about 18 or 19 security forces – or “mukhabarat” – were killed.”

Syria’s Deputy Foreign Minister Dr. Faisal Mekdad is a rare government official familiar with the incident. Mekdad studied in Daraa, is from a town 35 kilometers to the east called Ghasson, and made several official visits to Daraa during the early days of the crisis. The version he tells me is similar, down to the details of where the ambush took place – and how. Mekdad, however, believes that around 24 Syrian army soldiers were shot that day.

Why would the Syrian government hide this information, when it would bolster their narrative of events – namely that “armed groups” were targeting authorities from the start, and that the uprising was not all “peaceful”?

In Mekdad’s view, “this incident was hidden by the government and by the security for reasons I can interpret as an attempt not to antagonize or not to raise emotions and to calm things down – not to encourage any attempt to inflame emotions which may lead to escalation of the situation – which at that time was not the policy.”

April 2011: The killing of soldiers

What we do know for certain is that on April 25, 2011, nineteen Syrian soldiers were gunned down in Daraa by unknown assailants. The names, ages, dates of birth and death, place of birth and death and marital/parental status of these 19 soldiers are documented in a list of military casualties obtained from Syria’s Defense Ministry.

The list was corroborated by another document – given to me by a non-government acquaintance involved in peace efforts – that details 2011 security casualties. All 19 names were verified by this second list.

Were these the soldiers of the “Daraa massacre?” April 25 is later than the dates suggested by multiple sources – and these 19 deaths were not exactly “hidden.”

But even more startling than actually finding the 19 Daraa soldiers on a list, was the discovery that in April 2011, eighty-eight soldiers were killed by unknown shooters in different areas across Syria.

Keep in mind that the Syrian army was mostly not in the field that early on in the conflict. Other security forces like police and intelligence groups were on the front lines then – and they are not included in this death toll.

The first Syrian soldiers to be killed in the conflict, Sa’er Yahya Merhej and Habeel Anis Dayoub, were killed on March 23 in Daraa.

Two days after those first military casualties, Ala’a Nafez Salman was gunned down in Latakia.

On April 9, Ayham Mohammad Ghazali was shot dead in Douma, south of Damascus. The first soldier killing in Homs Province – in Teldo – was on April 10 when Eissa Shaaban Fayyad was shot.

April 10 was also the day when we learned of the first massacre of Syrian soldiers – in Banyas, Tartous – when nine troops were ambushed and gunned down on a passing bus. The BBC, Al Jazeera and the Guardian all initially quoted witnesses claiming the dead soldiers were “defectors” shot by the Syrian army for refusing to fire on civilians.

That narrative was debunked later, but the story that soldiers were being killed by their own commanders stuck hard throughout 2011 – and gave the media an excuse to ignore stories that security forces were being targeted by armed groups.

The SOHR’s Rami Abdul Rahman says of the “defector” storyline: “This game of saying the army is killing defectors for leaving – I never accepted this because it is propaganda.” It is likely that this narrative was used early on by opposition activists to encourage divisions and defections among the armed forces. If military commanders were shooting their own men, you can be certain the Syrian army would not have remained intact and united three years on.

After the Banyas slayings, soldier deaths in April continued to pop up in different parts of the country – Moadamiyah, Idlib, Harasta, al-Masmiyah (near Suweida), Talkalakh and the suburbs of Damascus.

But on April 23, seven soldiers were slaughtered in Nawa, a town near Daraa. Those killings did not make the headlines like the one in Banyas. Notably, the incident took place right after the Syrian government tried to defuse tensions by abolishing the state security courts, lifting the state of emergency, granting general amnesties and recognizing the right to peaceful protest.

Two days later, on April 25 – Easter Monday – Syrian troops finally moved into Daraa. In what became the scene of the second mass slaying of soldiers since the weekend, 19 soldiers were shot dead that day.

This information also never made it to the headlines.

Instead, all we ever heard was about the mass killing of civilians by security forces: “The dictator slaughtering his own people.” But three years into the Syrian crisis, can we say that things may have taken a different turn if we had access to more information? Or if media had simply provided equal air-time to the different, contesting testimonies that were available to us?

Facts versus fiction

A report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) relies entirely on 50 unnamed activists, witnesses and “defected soldiers” to set the scene for what was taking place in Daraa around that time.

HRW witnesses provided accounts of “security forces using lethal force against protesters during demonstrations” and “funeral processions.” In some cases, says HRW, “security forces first used teargas or fired in the air, but when the protesters refused to disperse, they fired live ammunition from automatic weapons into the crowds… From the end of March witnesses consistently reported the presence of snipers on government buildings near the protests who targeted and killed many of the protesters.”

The HRW report also states: “Syrian authorities repeatedly claimed that the violence in Daraa was perpetrated by armed terrorist gangs, incited and sponsored from abroad.”

Today we know that this statement is fairly representative of a large segment of Islamist militants inside Syria, but was it true in Daraa in early 2011 as well?

There are some things we know as fact. For instance, we have visual evidence of armed men crossing the Lebanese border into Syria during April and May 2011, according to video footage and testimony from former Al Jazeera reporter Ali Hashem, whose video was censored by his network.

There are other things we are still only now discovering. For instance, the HRW report also claims that Syrian security forces in Daraa “desecrated (mosques) by scrawling graffiti on the walls” such as “Your god is Bashar, there is no god but Bashar” – in reference to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Just recently a Tunisian jihadist who goes by the name Abu Qusay, told Tunisian television that his “task” in Syria was to destroy and desecrate mosques with Sunni names (Abu Bakr mosque, Othman mosque, etc) in false-flag sectarian attacks to encourage defection by Syrian soldiers, the majority of whom are Sunni. One of the things he did was scrawling pro-government and blasphemous slogans on mosque walls like “Only God, Syria and Bashar.” It was a “tactic” he says, to get the soldiers to “come on our side” so that the army “can become weak.”

Had the Syrian government been overthrown quickly – as in Tunisia and Egypt – perhaps we would not have learned about these acts of duplicity. But three years into this conflict, it is time to establish facts versus fiction.

A member of the large Hariri family in Daraa, who was there in March and April 2011, says people are confused and that many “loyalties have changed two or three times from March 2011 till now. They were originally all with the government. Then suddenly changed against the government – but now I think maybe 50% or more came back to the Syrian regime.”

The province was largely pro-government before things kicked off. According to the UAE paper The National, “Daraa had long had a reputation as being solidly pro-Assad, with many regime figures recruited from the area.”

But as Hariri explains it, “there were two opinions” in Daraa. “One was that the regime is shooting more people to stop them and warn them to finish their protests and stop gathering. The other opinion was that hidden militias want this to continue, because if there are no funerals, there is no reason for people to gather.”

“At the beginning 99.9 percent of them were saying all shooting is by the government. But slowly, slowly this idea began to change in their mind – there are some hidden parties, but they don’t know what,” says Hariri, whose parents remain in Daraa.

HRW admits “that protestors had killed members of security forces” but caveats it by saying they “only used violence against the security forces and destroyed government property in response to killings by the security forces or… to secure the release of wounded demonstrators captured by the security forces and believed to be at risk of further harm.”

We know that this is not true – the April 10 shootings of the nine soldiers on a bus in Banyas was an unprovoked ambush. So, for instance, was the killing of General Abdo Khodr al-Tallawi, killed alongside his two sons and a nephew in Homs on April 17. That same day in the pro-government al-Zahra neighborhood in Homs, off-duty Syrian army commander Iyad Kamel Harfoush was gunned down when he went outside his home to investigate gunshots. Two days later, Hama-born off-duty Colonel Mohammad Abdo Khadour was killed in his car. And all of this only in the first month of unrest.

In 2012, HRW’s Syria researcher Ole Solvag told me that he had documented violence “against captured soldiers and civilians” and that “there were sometimes weapons in the crowds and some demonstrators opened fire against government forces.”

But was it because the protestors were genuinely aggrieved with violence directed at them by security forces? Or were they “armed gangs” as the Syrian government claims? Or – were there provocateurs shooting at one or both sides?

Provocateurs in “Revolutions”

Syrian-based Father Frans van der Lugt was the Dutch priest murdered by a gunman in Homs just a few weeks ago. His involvement in reconciliation and peace activities never stopped him from lobbing criticisms at both sides in this conflict. But in the first year of the crisis, he penned some remarkable observations about the violence – this one in January 2012:

“From the start the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.”

In September 2011 he wrote: “From the start there has been the problem of the armed groups, which are also part of the opposition… The opposition of the street is much stronger than any other opposition. And this opposition is armed and frequently employs brutality and violence, only in order then to blame the government.”

Certainly, by June 5, there was no longer any ability for opposition groups to pretend otherwise. In a coordinated attack in Jisr Shughur in Idlib, armed groups killed 149 members of the security forces, according to the SOHR.

But in March and April, when violence and casualties were still new to the country, the question remains: Why would the Syrian government – against all logic – kill vulnerable civilian populations in “hot” areas, while simultaneously taking reform steps to quell tensions?

Who would gain from killing “women and children” in those circumstances? Not the government, surely?

Discussion about the role of provocateurs in stirring up conflict has made some headlines since Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet’s leaked phone conversation with the EU’s Catherine Ashton disclosed suspicions that pro-west snipers had killed both Ukrainian security forces and civilians during the Euromaidan protests.

Says Paet: “All the evidence shows that people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides… and it’s really disturbing that now the new (pro-western) coalition, they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened.”

A recent German TV investigation the sniper shootings confirms much about these allegations, and has opened the door to contesting versions of events in Ukraine that did not exist for most of the Syrian conflict – at least not in the media or in international forums.

Instead of writing these things off as “conspiracy theories,” the role of provocateurs against targeted governments suddenly appears to have emerged in the mainstream discourse. Whether it is the US’s leaked plan to create a “Cuban twitter” to stir unrest in the island nation – or – the emergence of “instructional” leaflets in protests from Egypt to Syria to Libya to Ukraine, the convergence of just one-too-many “lookalike” mass protest movements that turn violent has people asking questions and digging deeper today.

Since early 2011 alone, we have heard allegations of “unknown” snipers targeting crowds and security forces in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and Ukraine. What could be more effective at turning populations against authority than the unprovoked killing of unarmed innocents? By the same token, what could better ensure a reaction from the security forces of any nation than the gunning down of one or more of their own?

By early 2012, the UN claimed there were over 5,000 casualties in Syria – without specifying whether these were civilians, rebel fighters or government security forces. According to government lists presented to and published by the UN’s Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, in the first year of conflict, the death toll for Syrian police forces was 478, and 2,091 for military and security force casualties.

Those numbers suggest a remarkable parity in deaths between both sides in the conflict, right from the start. It also suggests that at least part of the Syrian “opposition” was from the earliest days, armed, organized, and targeting security forces as a matter of strategy – in all likelihood, to elicit a response that would ensure continued escalation.

Today, although Syrian military sources strongly refute these numbers, the SOHR claims there are more than 60,000 casualties from the country’s security forces and pro-government militias. These are men who come from all parts of the nation, from all religions and denominations and from all communities. Their deaths have left no family untouched and explain a great deal about the Syrian government’s actions and responses throughout this crisis.

Sharmine Narwani is a commentator and analyst of Middle East geopolitics. She is a former senior associate at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University and has a master’s degree in International Relations from Columbia University. You can follow her on Twitter at @snarwani

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Soft Coup in Brazil: A Blow to Brazilian Democracy

By Juan Sebastian Chavarro, Raiesa Frazer, Rachael Hilderbrand and Emma Tyrou | Council on Hemispheric Affairs | May 12, 2016

The impeachment this week of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff represents the most significant test for Brazil’s institutions since the end of its military dictatorship in 1985. After the Senate voted Thursday to begin an impeachment trial of the country’s first female president, less than halfway through her second term in office, one politician described the events as representing the “saddest day for Brazil’s young democracy.”[1] Since the post-dictatorship transition, impeachment requests have been filed against each and every one of Brazil’s presidents, but none were carried through.[2] Rousseff, however, will be only the second president to experience an actual trial. Portrayed as a crusade against corruption, the current process against a democratically elected president rests on unclear budgetary charges and bears the mark of a right wing retaliation after 13 years of left rule.  This process is further complicated by the fact that virtually all of Brazil’s leading political figures are implicated to some degree in the corruption schemes. In the eyes of many, Brazil’s institutions seem to be failing this test and are not holding all actors equally accountable. From the outside it appears that in the young Brazilian republic, the structures of democracy are being shaken down. While the right-wing claims that Rousseff’s impeachment request is a legitimate response to budgetary malfeasance, her supporters are characterizing the efforts to impeach her as unconstitutional, and therefore a coup.

In “Behind Dilma’s Destitution, a Neoliberal Coup,” Tatiana Roque, a professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) described the events surrounding Rousseff’s impeachment as a “neoliberal coup.” She states: “In the putting on hold of the democratic principles and the weakening of the voting power, we foresee the appearance of a dramatically anti-democratic process.”[3] In coverage of such a complex situation, the crisis has been portrayed by the privately owned media as a movement of the people against a corrupt government, which is ultimately an inaccurate and oversimplified explanation. In light of events this past week, it is even more necessary to analyze the legal ground on which the whole illegitimate process rests and to grasp its significance for the entire region.

Brazil’s Senate Vote to Continue the Impeachment Process

The push to oust Rousseff from office has been a protracted and chaotic process littered with soap opera-like developments and reversals. On Wednesday, May 11, Brazil’s Senate voted in favor 55 votes to 22, after 21 hours of tense debate, to suspend the office of President Dilma Rousseff and to begin the formal impeachment trial against her on charges of fiscal and budget responsibility crimes. The process now moved to the Senate after a series of complicated events. On April 17, the Chamber of Deputies voted to approve the continuation of the impeachment process, in a circus-like atmosphere where almost none of the Deputies directly addressed the charge backing her impeachment. The former President of the Chamber of Deputies, Eduardo Cunha, was removed earlier this week on the grounds of the obstruction of investigations in the Petrobras corruption scandal. He was replaced by Waldir Maranhão who immediately after taking office, decided to annul the April 17 decision only to then cancel the request, a mere 48 hours before the Senate was scheduled to commence and vote. In response to this wild back and forth, the highly respected former Supreme Court (STF) judge, Joaquim Barbosa, tweeted: “Do you know what the whole world must be thinking about us Brazilians? “A laughing stock’.” Amidst all this, Rousseff insists that she will continue to keep fighting until the very end. In Brasilia, while waiting for the announcement of the Senate’s decision the two sides of the makeshift wall that separated those supporting from those opposing the impeachment could not have been more contrasting. While on one side the pro-impeachment crowd dressed in yellow and green had a Carnival like celebration, those opposing the impeachment process were at certain times in the evening subjected to tear gas by the police.

Now the Senate has voted in favor of the commencement of the impeachment trial, which will be conducted in the Senate and led by the President of the Supreme Court Ricardo Lewandowski. Within 180 days and after consideration of evidence and testimonies by both the accusatory commission and Rousseff’s defense team, a verdict will be rendered: guilty or not guilty. Meanwhile, she will be suspended from office and her duties will be temporarily fulfilled by the universally unpopular Vice President Michel Temer, from the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB). Temer, however, is himself implicated in a number of scandals, leaving his political future uncertain. He stands accused of illegal financing during the 2014 elections and also has been cited in a plea bargain regarding his alleged involvement in the Petrobras corruption scandal.[4]

The Veneer of Legitimacy

Opponents of Rousseff’s administration claim that the current impeachment followed a legal procedure: it was voted on by Congress and is a political process acting on the people’s desire to remove an increasingly unpopular president. According to them, the charges behind Dilma’s impeachment request – the maneuvering of funds and tampering with budgets – are sufficient cause for her removal since such acts are illegal under the Constitution due to the Fiscal Responsibility Law. However, the case against Dilma is missing the most important component: proof that a crime of responsibility has been committed.

The right-wing of Brazilian politics, represented by different parties – the main being the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) – and principally supported by the traditional ruling class, economic elite, and a highly concentrated national mainstream media, have been out of power at the federal level for over a decade. However, in the current political crisis, recession, and corruption scandals, this coalition sees an opportunity to take back power from Rousseff’s Workers Party (PT) that has been ruling for the past 13 years. Since the right-wing has not been able to win at the ballot box, they have stirred up yet another anti-corruption campaign to gain support from the already angered population.[5] In the midst of an economic crisis there may be enough public discontent to push for Dilma’s impeachment due to fiscal irresponsibility, even if she has not committed a crime. Yet the already complicated situation becomes more complex when one considers that many of the very same politicians fighting for Dilma’s impeachment are also accused of personal embezzlement. All parties – those in power, the left; as well as those in the right-wing opposition trying to replace the current government – are involved in some measure of corruption. Ironically, Rousseff is one of the only political leaders not accused of personal enrichment. Nearly a third of the 594 members of Congress, including the leaders of the lower house and the Senate, are under scrutiny before the courts over claims of violating laws including Eduardo Cunha (PMDB), the former President of the Chamber of Deputies, Renan Calheiros (PMDB), the President of the Senate, and Aecio Neves, the opposition’s (PSDB) leader.[6] The motivation behind the impeachment process therefore appears not to be an anti-corruption campaign, but rather the desire to instigate a political war between the right and left in an opportunistic strategy for Brazil’s political elite to regain power without votes or democratic legitimacy.

Rousseff and her government supporters argue that she has not committed any crime that justifies her removal. Under any circumstances, impeachment without proof of a crime should be considered a coup. The legal flaws in the case against Dilma make the continuation of the impeachment process an undemocratic attempt by the Brazilian elite to enter into power by overthrowing a democratically elected leader. President Rousseff was democratically elected by majority vote in 2010 and again in 2014. Given that she was thereby twice granted a democratic mandate to govern in free and fair elections, the entire process, especially now that the trial has opened, is setting a dangerous precedent in Brazilian politics. The Brazilian Constitution (enacted in 1988 after decades of rule by a military junta) defines the country as a “presidential regime” rather than a parliamentary one. In the former, impeachment is designed as an ultimate solution to remove from power a leader guilty of crime, and therefore deemed unfit to conduct the remainder of its mandate. It should by no means be confused with the more common vote of non-confidence, aiming at replacing a leader who has lost legislative support in a parliamentarian system. Simply put, these attempted impeachments are trivializing the impeachment clause process, and are eroding citizens’ faith in their own political system.

Such a situation raises concerns over the prevailing strength of Brazilian democracy. In an interview with Democracy Now! on May 10, journalist Glenn Greenwald stated,

“To sit here and witness the utter dismantling of a democracy, which is exactly what is taking place, by the richest and most powerful people in the society, using their media organs that masquerade as journalistic outlets, but which are in fact propaganda channels for a tiny number of extremely rich families, almost all of whom supported that coup and then the military dictatorship, is really disturbing and frightening to see.”[7]

No more than three years ago, Brazil’s economy was booming, its prospects improving, and in the long-term it looked as if Brazil’s goal to become a developed power in the world was close at hand. The current economic crisis has reversed this process and frustrated the Brazilian people. While approval ratings for Rousseff and her administration were once high, Brazilian voters have directed their frustration towards Dilma and the Worker’s Party due to the economic downturn. The right-wing political and economic elite have used this economic discontent on top of the nation’s largest corruption scandal to remove Dilma from office – even if there is no legitimate claim backing her removal.

Regional Implications

With clear parallels to the 1964 coup that ousted then-President João Goulart as well as to the political crisis that led to oustings of democratically elected presidents in Paraguay and Honduras, Brazil’s ongoing impeachment process is an assault on democracy. The ousting of the current Brazilian president based on political and judicial manipulations, as well as constitutional misinterpretations, undermines the democratic legitimacy of the government but moreover calls into question the viability of Brazil’s major institutions. In its success, the precedents set for future governments are devastating not only in Brazil but in all Latin America. Brazil represents the eighth largest economy in the world, and it is a leading power in the continent.

In the first hours of his new mandate, acting President Temer promised the new government will announce austerity measures.[8] Temer has previously set eyes on Paulo Leme, the chairman of Goldman Sachs in Brazil, to potentially serve as finance minister or central bank chief. Temer also is considering Luiz Fernando Figueiredo, a previous central bank official and founder of asset manager Mauá Capital, to be Treasury secretary for the central bank. They have been consulted for the drafting of “A bridge to the Future”, the PMDB economic plan.[9]

The right wing takeover of the government in Brazil will likely have momentous consequences for the integrity of UNASUR as a bastion of independence from U.S. hegemony in the region. Combined with the neoliberal stance of President Macri in Argentina, we can expect a concerted effort by this conservative wave to drive MERCOSUR in to the free trade camp, isolate Venezuela, and undermine the Bolivarian cause in Bolivia and throughout the region. But just as Macri appears to be overplaying his hand in provoking popular outrage, the right in Brazil may soon find itself faced with an eroding, ephemeral legitimacy.

[1] Watts, Jonathan. “Dilma Rousseff Suspended as Senate Votes to Impeach Brazilian President.” The Guardian. 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016.

[2]  Nolte Detlef, and Llanos Mariana. “The Many Faces of Latin American Presidentialism.” GIGA Focus Latin America, May 2016. Accessed May 11, 2016.

[3] Roque, Tatiana. “Sous la Destitution de Dilma Rousseff un Coup d’Etat Neoliberal.” Regards, May 12, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016.

[4] Esther Fuentes. “Who Is Who in Brazil’s Complicated Lava Jato Corruption Allegations?” COHA. March 17, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016.

[5]  Jen Glüsing. “Staatskrise in Brasilien: Kalter Putsch.” Der Spiegel, March 19, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016.  and  Laurent Delcourt. “Printemps Trompeur Au Brésil.” Le Monde Diplomatique, May 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016.

[6]  Esther Fuentes. “Who Is Who in Brazil’s Complicated Lava Jato Corruption Allegations?” COHA. March 17, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016.

[7] Amy Goodman. “Glenn Greenwald on Brazil: Goal of Rousseff Impeachment Is to Boost Neoliberals & Protect Corruption.” Democracy Now! May 10, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016.

[8]  “Brazil’s Rousseff Set to Bow out after Senate Votes to Put Her on Trial.” Reuters. May 12, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016.

[9]  “Exclusive: Temer Eyes Goldman Banker, Investor for Brazil Economic Team: Sources.” Reuters. April 15, 2016. Accessed May 12, 2016.–sector.html

To download a PDF version of this article, click here.

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption | , | Leave a comment

Trump Slams US Wars in the Middle East

By Yves Smith | naked capitalism | May 13, 2016

There are good reasons to harbor serious reservations about The Donald, given that he changes his position as frequently as most people change their clothes. But so far, he has been consistent in making an argument that is sorely underrepresented in the media and in policy circles: that our war-making in the Middle East has been a costly disaster with no upside to the US. Trump even cites, without naming him, Joe Stiglitz’s estimate that our wars have cost at least $4 trillion.

As Lambert put it, “I hate it when Trump is right.”

If you think Trump is overstating his case on Hillary’s trigger-happiness, read this New York Times story, How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk.

And on Clinton’s role in Libya, which Obama has since called the worst decision of his presidency:

Mrs. Clinton’s account of a unified European-Arab front powerfully influenced Mr. Obama. “Because the president would never have done this thing on our own,” said Benjamin J. Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser.

Mr. Gates, among others, thought Mrs. Clinton’s backing decisive. Mr. Obama later told him privately in the Oval Office, he said, that the Libya decision was “51-49.”

“I’ve always thought that Hillary’s support for the broader mission in Libya put the president on the 51 side of the line for a more aggressive approach,” Mr. Gates said. Had the secretaries of state and defense both opposed the war, he and others said, the president’s decision might have been politically impossible.

And yes, that’s this Ben Rhodes.

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Video, War Crimes | , , , | 2 Comments

The Clinton Economy Is The Wal-Mart Economy

By Brandon Turbeville | Activist Post | May 10, 2016

If any corporate donation can accurately predict the direction in which a Hillary Clinton presidency would take the American economy, it would be the sizeable donations made by Wal-Mart executives.

As early as 2013, Alice Walton, heiress to the Wal-Mart fortune, donated the maximum allowed amount ($25,000) to the Ready For Hillary PAC. [1]

The Clinton Foundation has also received a sizeable amount of direct donations from Wal-Mart. Indeed, the Wal-Mart Foundation has even donated anywhere from $1 to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation in 2013 alone. The Wal-Mart Foundation has also funded and hosted a number of “energy and climate change” awards for the Clinton Global Initiative. [2]

The assistance and promotion has been reciprocal, of course, with the Clinton Global Initiative posting a rave review of the Wal-Mart corporation, naming it a company that makes great “efforts to empower girls and women.” It was unclear as to whether it was the slave labor wages, the humiliating work environment, or the abusive labor policies of Wal-mart that were the “empowerment of girls and women.” Such questions generally do go unanswered.[3]

The Clinton’s have also assisted Wal-Mart in the past regarding its effort to appear as more environmentally-friendly. For this reason, Bill Clinton met with past Wal-Mart CEO Lee Scott in order to help boost the company’s relationship with environmentalists.[4]

Yet the Clinton connection to Wal-Mart goes much further back than 2013. As Kevin Young and Diana C. Sierra Becerra of Solidarity wrote in their article “Something That Might Be Called A Neo-Con: Hillary Clinton And Corporate Feminism,”

Hillary Clinton’s record on such issues is hardly encouraging. Her decades of service on corporate boards and in major policy roles as First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State give a clear indication of where she stands. One of Clinton’s first high-profile public positions was at Walmart, where she served on the board from 1986 to 1992. [5] She “remained silent” in board meetings as her company “waged a major campaign against labor unions seeking to represent store workers,” as an ABC review of video recordings later noted.[6]

Clinton recounted in her 2003 book that Walmart CEO Sam Walton “taught me a great deal about corporate integrity and success.” Though she later began trying to shed her public identification with the company in order to attract labor support for her Senate and presidential candidacies, Walmart executives have continued to look favorably on her, with Alice Walton donating the maximum amount to the “Ready for Hillary” Super PAC in 2013.[7] Walton’s $25,000 donation was considerably higher than the average annual salary for Walmart’s hourly employees, two-thirds of whom are women. [8] [9] [10]

In regards to her “remaining silent” on Wal-Mart’s war on labor and labor unions while she served on the Wal-Mart corporate board, it appears that Clinton did much more than merely remain silent. Patrick Caldwell of Mother Jones reports that she was actually involved in these decisions. Caldwell writes,

Clinton was the first woman to serve on the board of the company. As the Village Voice noted in a 2000 article denouncing Clinton Walmart past, Clinton’s spot on the board was designed just for her: she wasn’t filling any open vacancies, and the company didn’t replace her seat when she resigned in 1992.[11] Her ties to Walmart weren’t confined to her role on the board, either. Walmart was one of Rose’s clients and, according to a 1994 New York Times article, Hillary served as “director” for the firm’s representation of Walmart.[12] [13]

In 2007 the New York Times reported that during her time on the board, Clinton pushed for greater representation for women in the company’s management and led an advisory group that focused on ways Walmart could improve its environmental practices.[14] During a shareholder meeting the year after she joined the company, Walton said they’d added a “strong-willed young lady on the board now who has already told the board it should do more to ensure the advancement of women.”

But on unionization—the primary liberal complaint against Walmart—Clinton had little to say. A 2008 ABC review of videotapes from Walmart meetings found that “Clinton remained silent as the world’s largest retailer waged a major campaign against labor unions seeking to represent store workers.”[15]

“She was not a dissenter,” one of her fellow board members told the Los Angeles Times in 2007. “She was a part of those decisions.”[16]

Even while Bill Clinton served as Governor of Arkansas, the Clintons, due to Hillary’s position on the board, traveled for free on the Wal-Mart corporate jet 14 times in the time span between 1990 and 1991. Bill was a widespread defender of Wal-Mart during his tenure as Governor. This is, of course, not surprising, since Bill depended on Wal-Mart for funding his campaigns both on the State and Federal level.[17]

It is thus a true pity that union members – we can assume the big union bosses are not unaware of Clinton’s Wal-Mart, anti-union history – find themselves at Clinton rallies, with their hard-earned dues being donated to the Clinton campaign merely to hear empty slogans of how Clinton supports labor, unions, and the right to collectively bargain.[18] All the evidence shows that, when Clinton finally seizes the reins of power, she does her part in crushing union formation, worker’s rights, and reasonable working conditions. In the meantime, however, the empty slogans come flowing out like rushing water.

[1] Caldwell, Patrick. “Retail Politics: Hillary Clinton Heads To Costco, Skips Walmart On Latest Book Tour.” Mother Jones. June 14, 2014. Accessed on September 8, 2015.

[2] Caldwell, Patrick. “Retail Politics: Hillary Clinton Heads To Costco, Skips Walmart On Latest Book Tour.” Mother Jones. June 14, 2014. Accessed on September 8, 2015.

[3] Abeywardena, Penny. “How Walmart Is Reimagining Its Investments To Empower Girls And Women.” Clinton Foundation website. April 29, 2014. Accessed on September 8, 2015.

[4] Eidelson, Josh. “Wal-mart’s Big Green Con: Environmentalists Blast Megastore, As Worker’s Strike.” Salon. November 13, 2013. Accessed on September 8, 2015.

[5] Harkavy, Ward. “Wal-Mart’s First Lady.” Village Voice. May 23, 2000. Accessed on September 8, 2015.

[6] Ross, Brian; Schwartz, Rhonda. “Clinton Remained Silent As Walmart Fought Unions.” ABC News. January 31, 2008. Accessed on September 8, 2015.

[7] Caldwell, Patrick. “Retail Politics: Hillary Clinton Heads To Costco, Skips Walmart On Latest Book Tour.” Mother Jones. June 14, 2014. Accessed on September 8, 2015.

[8] “Fact Sheet – Wages.” Making A Change At Walmart website. Accessed on September 9, 2015.

[9] “Walmart’s Women Workers Take Case To Supreme Court.” Alternet. Accessed on September 9, 2015.

[10] Young, Kevin; Becerra, Diana C. Sierra. “’Something That Might Be Called A Neocon:’ Hillary Clinton And Corporate Feminism.” Solidarity. March 3, 2015. Accessed on September 8, 2015.

[11] Harkavy, Ward. “Wal-Mart’s First Lady.” Village Voice. May 23, 2000. Accessed on September 9, 2015.

[12] Labaton, Stephen. “Rose Law Firm, Arkansas Power, Slips As It Steps Onto A Bigger Stage.” New York Times. February 26, 1994.

[13] Caldwell, Patrick. “Retail Politics: Hillary Clinton Heads To Costco, Skips Walmart On Her Latest Book Tour.” Mother Jones. June 14, 2014. Accessed on September 9, 2015.

[14] Barbaro, Michael. “As A Director, Clinton Moved Wal-Mart Board, but Only So Far.” New York Times. May 20, 2007. Accessed on September 9, 2015.

[15] Ross, Brian; Schwartz, Rhonda. “Clinton Remained Silent As Wal-Mart Fought Unions.” ABC News. January 31, 2008. Accessed on September 9, 2015.

[16] Braun, Stephen. “At Wal-Mart, Clinton Didn’t Upset Any Carts.” Los Angeles Times. May 19, 2007. Accessed on September 9, 2015.

[17] Harkavy, Ward. “Wal-Mart’s First Lady.” Village Voice. May 23, 2000. Accessed on September 9, 2015.

[18] Harkavy, Ward. “Wal-Mart’s First Lady.” Village Voice. May 23, 2000. Accessed on September 9, 2015.

Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is the author of seven books, including Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 and volume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria. Brandon Turbeville’s new book, The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President is available in three different formats: Hardcopy (available here), Amazon Kindle for only .99 (available here), and a Free PDF Format (accessible free from his website, Please contact activistpost (at)

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , | Leave a comment

The London Mayoral Election: a Victory for Whom?

By Thomas Barker | CounterPunch | May 13, 2016

The last couple of weeks have been tumultuous for the Labour Party, to say the least. Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-austerity message has made significant gains at the polls, despite the best efforts of Labour right wingers to smear the left of party with accusations of anti-Semitism.

One of the biggest wins for Labour was the election of Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London.

Khan’s campaign benefitted enormously from the surge of grassroots support for Corbyn, many of whom took to social media and the streets under the slogan “Jez We Khan” – an extension of “Jez We Can”, used to back Corbyn in last year’s leadership race.

Curiously, however, whilst accepting support from these activists, London’s first Muslim Mayor has constantly sought to distance himself from his party’s leader, claiming that he has his “own mandate” and is not beholden to Corbyn.

Although Khan is frequently described as “soft-left” or a “social democrat”, his political record reveals an active hostility toward the principles which saw Corbyn elected as Labour leader last year.

During his election campaign, Khan vowed to be “the most pro-business Mayor London has ever had”; stated his opposition to the “mansion tax”, the nationalisation of banks, and has pledged to work with the Tory government to defeat Corbyn’s push for a “Robin Hood Tax” – a fee on buying stocks, shares and derivatives publicly backed by the Labour leader last summer; and in recent weeks, Khan has described the fact that there are 140-plus billionaires and 400,000 millionaires in London as “a good thing” – echoing the haughty words of Labour’s true blue Tory Peter Mandelson,

Khan has also come out in opposition to Corbyn on the issue of defence, in particular the renewal of Britain’s nuclear “deterrent” Trident – estimated to cost the tax payer a cool £100billion. In an interview with the Telegraph, Khan states unequivocally: “I’m quite clear that I can’t foresee any circumstances in which I would vote to unilaterally end our nuclear capability.”

Since his election, Khan has now expressed support for Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel who, he states, “is doing interesting stuff with the infrastructure bank in Chicago.”

The Chicago Infrastructure Trust is a project, backed by former President Bill Clinton, to entice private investors to fund public projects – hardly a left wing solution.

Mayor Emanuel, a former investment banker, is himself a controversial figure, and has been implicated in a number of high profile corruption cases and is renowned for his hostility toward the public sector.

It has also been exposed that Khan, the man who has pledged to solve London’s housing crisis, accepted almost £30,000 in donations from parasite landlords during his election campaign. £10,000 came from a Mancunian firm which Magistrates fined £14,000 for breaching tenant safety rules. And £19,900 came from a south London developer which campaigns against landlord licensing.

But perhaps most revealing of all, is Khan’s eagerness to join in the witch-hunt against Labour members who criticise the brutal militarism of the Israeli government, which has been purposefully conflated with anti-Semitism.

Just last week, Khan was one of many Labour MPs calling for the suspension of Corbyn’s close political ally Ken Livingstone over alleged anti-Semitic (in reality anti-Israeli government) statements.

Such scurrilous attacks are intended to discredit the left wing leadership of the Labour Party.

The Labour right, with the full backing of the capitalist class, are cynically and sickeningly using this very real form of discrimination to undermine Corbyn, who has close links with pro-Palestine groups, with an eye, first of all, to isolate him, then eventually to remove him as the party leader.

His high profile mayoral campaign has meant that Khan has played a key role in this process.

But perhaps we should not be surprised. Khan’s association with the Labour right goes back to his election as Labour MP in 2005 – the same year that he became a patron to the Blairite faction of the Labour Party, Progress, the group responsible for organising attacks on Corbyn’s leadership.

Apparently, Sadiq Khan’t stop supporting the 1%

Detaining Suspects Without Trial

In February 2005, Tony Blair’s government voted in favour of the Prevention of Terrorism Bill which, amongst other things, legislated to create “control orders”: civil orders made by the Home Secretary against individuals who the intelligence services suspect of “involvement in terrorism-related activity” on a domestic or an international level.

Control orders allow for a range of restrictions from house arrest and electronic tagging to rules on whom the suspect may contact, where they can go and where they may work. The orders also significantly lowered the standard of proof necessary to detain terror suspects (no trial is necessary, for instance).

The legislation was roundly criticised by human rights organisations for providing the Home Secretary, then Charles Clarke, with powers equivalent to that of the judiciary.

Although Khan was not yet an elected MP when this vote was passed, in 2007 and 2010 he voted to renew these highly undemocratic measures… despite being a former human rights lawyer himself and despite being a persistent critic of the War in Iraq!

Corbyn consistently voted against control orders.


In 2006, Blair’s government voted on the Education and Inspections Bill. The bill served as an important step toward expanding the academisation (i.e. privatisation) project, the rotten fruits of which are being reaped today, by encouraging councils to pass schools from the hands of democratically elected Local Authorities into those of private sponsors.

One representative from the National Union of Teachers described Blair’s Education Bill as giving “even greater opportunities to business and religious sponsors to instil their ideas on young people.”

Khan voted in favour of this bill, but the Labour Party faced a major backbench rebellion, with over fifty MPs (including Corbyn) voting against the proposed legislation.

Revealingly, Blair could rely on the full support of the Tory opposition to push through this attack on comprehensive schools, the leader of whom, David Cameron, said that the reforms were in line with Conservative Party policy.


With the Prison Officer Association coordinating a series of strikes at the end of 2007 because of privatisation and cuts to pay, the government responded on January 9, 2008 by strengthening the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, section 138 of which prohibits prison workers from taking strike action.

Khan voted in favour of this act, Corbyn against.

Treaty of Lisbon

A few weeks later, the news media was dominated by the issue of the Treaty of Lisbon, which was widely understood as providing an EU-wide legislative basis for the privatisation of public services, as well as facilitating attacks on the wages, conditions, and rights of workers.

Article 188c, for instance, helps to remove the ability of states to veto trade deals involving health and education, opening up the prospect that financial speculators, as a right, could intervene and cherry pick the most profitable aspects of health and education.

The Lisbon Treaty was opposed overwhelmingly by delegates at the Trade Union Congress (TUC). Irish workers rejected the Treaty outright in a referendum.

Whether or not one is in favour of remaining or leaving in the upcoming EU referendum, the decision as to whether or not the Lisbon Treaty should have approved should have been put to the public.

Khan voted in favour of the Treaty, and against a referendum on its imposition. Corbyn voted against the Treaty, and in favour of a referendum.

Khan’s Record on Welfare 1

Perhaps one of the most pernicious attacks on welfare that the Tory-Liberal coalition government (2010-2015) carried out was the introduction of the 2013 Jobseeker’s Bill. After the court of appeal quashed the regulations that underpinned the government’s hated Back to Work programme (introduced in 2011) for “lack of clarity”, the Tories responded by rushing through “emergency” Jobseeker’s legislation to set out the bill in more stark terms.

The Workfare program has been described by Dr Simon Duffy, the Director of the Centre for Welfare Reform, as a form of “modern slavery.”

So, what was Labour’s response?

After much debate, discussion, and disputation, the Labour leadership took the bold move of whipping its MPs into abstaining from the vote.

The reason given for this was that by abstaining, and allowing the coalition government to fast-track the workfare scheme through parliament, Labour were able to negotiate concessions, including a full review into the sanctions regime. And yet, just two months prior, the Labour Party described the Work programme as “a worse outcome than no programme at all.”

If this was the case, what would be the purpose of a review?

Khan was one of the many who abstained on the vote. Corbyn voted against it.

Khan’s Record on Welfare 2

Next up is the Welfare Cap which was introduced by the Tory-Liberal coalition in 2014 as a way of curtailing the amount in state benefits that an individual can claim per year, as well as the amount of overall welfare spending.

Diane Abbot gave a particularly impassioned speech against the bill:

This benefits cap is arbitrary and bears no relationship to need, as our benefits system should. It does not allow for changing circumstances—rents going up and population rising—and will make inequality harder to tackle. There are ways to cut welfare. We could put people back to work, introduce a national living wage, build affordable homes and have our compulsory jobs guarantee.

Others read the bill as an attempt to perpetuate a false divide between “strivers” and “scroungers”.

And yet, under the leadership of Ed Miliband, the Labour Party, including Khan, voted overwhelmingly in favour of the cap. Thirteen Labour backbenchers, including Corbyn, defied the party whip to vote against the cap.

Khan’s Record on Welfare 3

More recently we have the controversial Welfare Reform and Work Bill, voted on in the aftermath of the 2015 general elections. The Tories, having narrowly been elected with an outright majority – although with the smallest mandate since Universal Suffrage – took the opportunity to hammer home their cuts agenda against a weak, divided, and (apparently) confused Labour Party.

Amongst other things, the Bill was committed to reducing the household benefit cap from £26,000 to £20,000 (£23,000 in London); freezing the rate of many major benefits and tax credits for four years; limiting the child element of universal credit to a maximum of two children; and stopping those on certain benefits being able to claim additional help towards their mortgage payments.

Against a backdrop of huge anger, the interim Labour leader Harriet Harman whipped fellow MPs to abstain on the vote in order to show the electorate that Labour “was listening” to their concerns about welfare. According to Harman:

The temptation is always to oppose everything. That does not make sense. We have got to wake up and recognise this is not a blip and we have got to listen to why. No one is going to listen to us if they think we are not to listening to them.

Amongst those who absented themselves, many remain in the Labour shadow cabinet: Tom Watson, Angela Eagle, Seema Maholtra, Hilary Benn, Andy Burnham, Heidi Alexander, Rosie Winterton, Lucy Powell, Owen Smith, Jon Trickett, Lisa Nandy, Chris Bryant, Lilian Greenwood, Vernon Coaker, Ian Murray, Nia Griffith, Kerry McCarthy, Kate Green, Maria Eagle, Gloria de Piero, Luciana Berger, Karl Turner, John Ashworth, and John Healey.

That is an astonishing 89% of the current shadow cabinet who refused to oppose the Tories’ Welfare Bill (anyone looking for evidence of Corbyn’s isolation within the Parliamentary Labour Party need look no further than this fact). In fact, only three members of the current shadow cabinet opposed it: Corbyn, McDonnell, and Abbott.

Credit to Khan, however, who, unlike the majority of his right wing colleagues, defied the whip to oppose this bill, but given his background and his planned Mayoral bid it is tempting to speculate that there was no small amount of political opportunism in this vote.

In Summary

Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide election as Labour leader showed the potential for creating a mass anti-capitalist party. Unfortunately, however, the majority of Labour MPs and councillors remain pro-capitalist and pro-austerity. Khan is amongst this group

To defeat the right means starting to mobilise the currently fragmented anti-austerity mood into a mass, democratic movement. This will not succeed if it remains trapped within the current undemocratic structure of the Labour Party, vainly trying to compromise with “the 4.5%” – the Blairite representatives of big business in the Labour Party.

Instead it means building an open, democratic movement – organised on federal lines – that brings together all of those who have been inspired by Corbyn and want to see a determined anti-capitalist party.

Thomas Barker is an independent journalist and PhD student in Aesthetics and Politics. He can be reached at

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

US Financial System, Tax Authorities Refuse to Police Super-Rich

Sputnik – 12.05.2016

Only a handful of wealthy Americans and institutions bother to use overseas tax havens because they know the US government and financial regulators will let them get away with illegal behavior, US analysts told Sputnik.

Mossack Fonseca was the source of 11.5 million leaked documents, referred to as the Panama Papers, identifying more than 360,000 individuals and corporations around the world, among which only 36 American entities or persons were found.

“None of the big banks or ratings agencies that were engaged in criminal behavior and so were responsible for the [2008 Wall Street financial] crash was even indicted let alone prosecuted and jailed.” scientist and political commentator John V. Walsh said.

Only one very small investor was convicted but no serious action was taken against any of the major US banks or other financial institutions involved, Walsh recalled.

Walsh concluded that the major Wall Street financial institutions that survived the 2008-9 crisis were not only too big to be allowed to fail, they were also too big to be prosecuted.

Walsh dismissed an article published in the US journal Foreign Policy arguing that the United States benefitted from vigorously enforced financial laws and regulations as “gibberish.”

He said the problem was the opposite – that financial regulations already on the books had not been effectively implemented.

Executive Intelligence Review (EIR) senior editor Jeff Steinberg said there could have been many more Americans exposed in the Panama papers but the Mossack Fonseca law firm had stopped taking on US clients after it became aware of new federal government investigations into its activities.

“The law firm policy [was] to stop taking American clients after the FBI-DOJ [Department of Justice] started probes,” Steinberg explained.

On Monday the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) published a searchable database of nearly 214,000 offshore entities created in 21 jurisdictions, from Nevada to Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands.

May 13, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics | , | 1 Comment