Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

America’s big box stores sucked up corporate welfare and killed Main Street — now they’re ducking property tax

By Cory Doctorow | BoingBoing | November 17, 2018

For a generation, big box stores have swept across America, using predatory pricing and other dirty tricks to kill the independent retail sector; they used their corporate lobbying muscle to tempt cities and towns into handing out massive corporate welfare checks to lure them to town, and now, with the help of hustling contingency lawyers, they are promulgating a property-tax scam called “the dark store theory” that is cutting their taxes in half or more, with further reductions every year, and no end in sight.

The “dark store theory” holds that property taxes on thriving, super-profitable big box stores should not be based on how much the property sold for, plus the capital investment, minus depreciation — instead, these stores should be valued based on the selling price of nearby failed big-box stores that have been sold at knock-down prices.

Big box stores used their generous municipal subsidies to overbuild across American towns, creating a glut that resulted in widespread closures after the financial crisis. Because big box stores are so terribly built — shoddy construction, weird layouts, and not even enough freight docks to use as a warehouse — the shuttered stores sell for a tiny fraction of their book value.

But even though the big boxes are shuttering their stores like crazy, the remaining stores are still profitable — thanks to the over-investment in big box stores during the rampup phase, all the local retail that might have competed with the remaining stores has collapsed. That leaves locals with no choice but to drive longer distances to the remaining stores to shop, meaning that the predatory mega-retailers now get to spend less to do the same business.

Entrepreneurial corporate lawyer/consultants like Detroit’s Michael Shapiro (who is credited with inventing “dark store theory”) and Minnesota’s Robert Hill have made a fortune for themselves and for big box stores by filing costly court challenges to the stores’ tax assessments, arguing that their property taxes should be based on the price of the abandoned, unsuccessful nearby stores, not on the standard formula of sale price plus improvements minus depreciation.

These lawyers seek reductions of fifty percent or more on property tax bills, and return year after year to drive those bills even lower. The small towns they hit — who often can’t afford to litigate against multinational, private-equity-backed retail giants — roll over.

Towns that have granted these tax concessions are going broke. Ste St Marie, MI has slashed city pensions; Escanaba, MI has cut its library hours; and so on. Meanwhile, town residents and small businesses are facing rising tax bills as their cities seek to close the gap left by the sweetheart treatment the big boxes are getting.

Wisconsinites in 24 towns voted to end “dark store theory” tax treatments in ballot initiatives in this month’s elections. But that’s only a few towns in one states, and meanwhile the epidemic rages on.

Still, it’s going to be tough: Don Millis, a prominent tax attorney who represents retailers and a lobbyist for the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the top advocacy group for big business in these parts, sits on the legislative committee assigned to review the issue.

Other states have proposed legal fixes, too, but in Indiana, the one state that managed to pass anti-dark store theory legislation in 2015, lobbying pressure led to its weakening the year after it was passed. The state tax board has continued to sympathize with retailers, who keep launching appeals.

If Wisconsin managed to change its laws, Hill told me, lawyers like him would just redouble their efforts. “That’s when we’ll grab the pitchforks and get the Constitution involved,” he said.

After the Retail Apocalypse, Prepare for the Property Tax Meltdown [Laura Bliss/Citylab]

November 19, 2018 Posted by | Economics | | 1 Comment

UN Special Rapporteurs give Israel 60 days to respond to ‘deep concerns’ regarding Jewish Nation-State Law

Adalah – 15/11/2018

Four Special Rapporteurs express ‘deep concern’ that Nation-State Law is ‘discriminatory in nature and in practice against non-Jewish citizens and other minorities and does not apply the principle of equality between citizens, which is one of the key principles for democratic political systems.’

Following a special request for action issued by Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, four United Nations special rapporteurs have given Israel a 60-day deadline to respond to their grave concerns regarding the Jewish Nation-State Law, adopted by the Knesset on 19 July 2018.

The 60-day period began on 2 November 2018 when UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights Karima Bennoune, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967 Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on minority issues Fernand de Varennes, and Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance E. Tendayi Achiume sent a communique to Israeli authorities expressing their deep concerns regarding the impact of the new law.

In their letter, the special rapporteurs expressed “deep concern” that the Israeli Basic Law appears “to be discriminatory in nature and in practice against non-Jewish citizens and other minorities and does not apply the principle of equality between citizens, which is one of the key principles for democratic political systems.”

Adalah, representing all of the Arab political leadership in Israel – The High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens in Israel, the Joint List (Arab members of the Knesset), and the National Committee for Arab Mayors, filed a petition against the Jewish Nation-State Basic Law on 7 August 2018 to the Israeli Supreme Court. The petition demands that the Court cancel the law as it contradicts fundamental international human rights norms in place since the end of World War II; negates almost 20 years of Supreme Court caselaw concerning the right to equality and land rights; and constitutes an abuse of power by the majority in the Knesset.

The special rapporteurs emphasize that they fear that “the law as adopted offers a legal basis for the pre-eminence of Jewish people over non-Jewish citizens who are members of other ethno-religious and linguistic minority groups, and creates a legal order and an environment that could potentially lead to further discriminatory legislative and/or policy actions, which contravene the international human rights obligations of Israel.”

The special rapporteurs further expressed concern, in light of the Nation-State Law, regarding Israel’s commitments to the  International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which both stipulate the right of all peoples to self-determination.

Amongst a more extensive series of requests, the special rapporteurs call on Israel to:

  • “Indicate the impact of Article 5 of the Law on the current immigration procedures in Israel, on how Jewish and non-Jewish immigrants are dealt with under current procedures, and how such provision may affect the immigration status determination of non-Jews”;
  • “Provide further information on Article 7, and particularly whether it will or not contribute to potential segregation on the basis of ethnicity or religion, and whether it is an endorsement to develop Jewish settlements, including in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in direct violation of international law”;
  • “Clarify the consequences of the new status of the Arabic language, and the impact if any on its use for official purposes, including on public signs, in public institutions including social and health services and in the education system.”

The special rapporteurs note that the State of Israel failed to respond to an earlier query sent 21 June 2017 by the UN special rapporteurs concerning a draft bill of what was to eventually be adopted as the Jewish Nation-State Law.

Any response Israeli authorities may send to the special rapporteurs will be provided to the United Nations Human Rights Council for consideration.

CLICK HERE to read the UN Special Rapporteurs communique

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Jewish Nation-State Law

November 19, 2018 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

The WWI Conspiracy – Part Two: The American Front

corbettreport | November 19, 2018

Watch this video on BitChute / DTube / YouTube or Download the MP3 AUDIO or MP4 VIDEO

PART TWO – THE AMERICAN FRONT

May 7, 1915.

“Colonel” Edward Mandell House is on his way to meet with King George V, who ascended to the throne after Edward VII’s death in 1910. Accompanying him is Edward Grey, British foreign secretary and acolyte of the Milner Group. The two speak “of the probability of an ocean liner being sunk” and House informs Grey that “if this were done, a flame of indignation would sweep across America, which would in itself probably carry us into the war.”

An hour later, at Buckingham Palace, King George V inquires about an even more specific event.

“We fell to talking, strangely enough, of the probability of Germany sinking a trans-Atlantic liner, . . . He said, ‘Suppose they should sink the Lusitania with American passengers on board. . . .’”

And, by a remarkable coincidence, at 2:00 that afternoon, just hours after these conversations took place, that is precisely what happened.

The Lusitania, one of the largest passenger liners in the world, is en route from New York to Liverpool when it is struck by a torpedo from a German U-boat. She sinks to the bottom in minutes, killing 1,198 passengers and crew, including 128 Americans. The disaster—portrayed as a brazen, unexpected attack on an innocent passenger liner—helps to shift public opinion about the war in the US. To the average American, the war suddenly doesn’t feel like a strictly European concern.

Every aspect of the story was, as we now know, a deception. The Lusitania was not an innocent passenger liner but an armed merchant cruiser officially listed by the British Admiralty as an auxiliary war ship. It was outfitted with extra armour, designed to carry twelve six-inch guns, and equipped with shell racks for holding ammunition. On its trans-Atlantic voyage the ship was carrying “war materiel”—specifically, more than 4 million .303 rifle bullets and tons of munitions, including shells, powder, fuses and gun cotton—“in unrefrigerated cargo holds that were dubiously marked cheese, butter and oysters.” This secret manifest was officially denied by the British government for generation after generation but in 2014—a full 99 years after the event—internal government documents were finally released in which the government admitted the deception.

And, most remarkably of all, by Edward Mandell House’s own account both Edward Grey and King George V himself were discussing the sinking of the Lusitania just hours before the event took place.

It’s a story that provides a window into the secret society’s years-long campaign to draw the United States into World War I. But in order to understand this story, we have to meet Edward Mandell House and the other Milner Group co-conspirators in America.

Strange as it might seem, there were no shortage of such co-conspirators in the US. Some, like the members of the influential Pilgrims Society, founded in 1902 for the “encouragement of Anglo-American good fellowship”—shared Rhodes’ vision of a united Anglo-American world empire; others were simply lured by the promise of money. But whatever their motivation, those sympathetic to the cause of the Round Table included some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the United States at the time.

Many of these figures were to be found at the heart of Wall Street, in the banking and financial institutions revolving around J.P. Morgan and Company. John Pierpont Morgan, or “Pierpont” as he preferred to be called, was the nucleus of turn-of-the-century America’s banking sector. Getting his start in London in 1857 at his father’s merchant banking firm, the young Pierpont returned to New York in 1858 and embarked on one of the most remarkable careers in the history of the world.

Making his money financing the American robber barons of the late 19th century—from Vanderbilt’s railroads to Adolph Simon Ochs’ purchase of The New York Times to the buyout of Carnegie Steel—Morgan amassed a financial empire that, by the 1890s, wielded more power than the United States Treasury itself. He teamed up with his close allies, the House of Rothschild, to bail out the US government during a gold shortage in 1895 and eased the Panic of 1907 (which he helped to precipitate) by locking 120 of the country’s most prestigious bankers in his library and forcing them to reach a deal on a $25 million loan to keep the banking system afloat.

As we saw in “Century of Enslavement: The History of the Federal Reserve,” Morgan and his associates were only too happy to use the banking crises they helped to create to galvanize public opinion toward the creation of a central bank. . . so long as that central bank was owned and directed by Wall Street, of course.

But their initial plan, the Aldrich Plan, was immediately recognized as a Wall Street ploy. Morgan and his fellow bankers were going to have to find a suitable cover to get their act through Congress, including, preferably, a President with sufficient progressive cover to give the new “Federal Reserve Act” an air of legitimacy. And they found their ideal candidate in the politically unknown President of Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson, a man who they were about to rocket straight into the White House with the help of their point man and Round Table co-conspirator, Edward Mandell House.

Richard Grove, TragedyandHope.com.

GROVE: Woodrow Wilson was an obscure professor at Princeton University who from reading all that I’ve read about him wasn’t the smartest guy but he was smart enough to pick up when other people had good ideas and then he bumps into this guy named Colonel House.

Colonel House, he grew up in Beaumont, Texas, and Colonel House’s dad was like a Rhett Butler type of smuggler privateer pirate during the Confederate war with the Union. So Colonel House: first of all, he’s not a colonel. It’s just like a title he gave himself to make him seem more than he was. But he did come from a politically connected family in the south that were doing business with the British during the Civil War. So Colonel house in the early 1900’s makes Woodrow Wilson his protege and Colonel house himself is being puppeted by a few people and the layers of the Anglo-American establishment above him and so we are left with the public persona of Woodrow Wilson. And here he is.

And he’s got this, you know, this whole new Federal Reserve System that’s going to come in during his administration which was also kind of a precursor to getting America into the war because it changed our financial dependency from being self-reliant and printing our own debt-free money to being indentured to international bankers who charged us as they print money out of thin air and charged future generations for it.

The election of Woodrow Wilson once again shows how power operates behind the scenes to subvert the popular vote and the will of the public. Knowing that the stuffy and politically unknown Wilson would have little chance of being elected over the more popular and affable William Howard Taft, Morgan and his banking allies bankrolled Teddy Roosevelt on a 3rd party ticket to split the Republican vote. The strategy worked and the banker’s real choice, Woodrow Wilson, came to power with just forty-two percent of the popular vote.

With Wilson in office and Colonel House directing his actions, Morgan and his conspirators get their wish. 1913 saw the passage of both the federal income tax and the Federal Reserve Act, thus consolidating Wall Street’s control over the economy. World War One, brewing in Europe just eight months after the creation of the Federal Reserve, was to be the first full test of that power.

But difficult as it had been for the Round Table to coax the British Empire out of its “splendid isolation” from the continent and into the web of alliances that precipitated the war, it would be that much harder for their American fellow travelers to coax the United States out of its own isolationist stance. Although the Spanish-American War had seen the advent of American imperialism, the thought of the US getting involved in “that European war” was still far from the minds of the average American.

A 1914 editorial from the New York Sun captures the sentiment of most of America at the time of the outbreak of the war in Europe:

“There is nothing reasonable in such a war as that for which Europe has been making ready, and it would be folly for this country to sacrifice itself to the frenzy of dynastic policies and the clash of ancient hatreds which is urging the Old World to its destruction.”

The Sun was by no means unique in its assessment. A vote taken among 367 newspapers throughout the United States in November of 1914 found just 105 pro-Ally and 20 pro-German papers, with the vast majority—242 of them—remaining firmly neutral and recommending that Uncle Sam stay out of the conflict.

Once again, just as they did in Britain, the cabal was going to have to leverage its control of the press and key governmental positions to begin to shape public perception and instill pro-war sentiment. And once again, the full resources of these motivated co-conspirators were brought to bear on the task.

One of the first shells in this barrage of propaganda to penetrate the American consciousness was the “Rape of Belgium,” a catalogue of scarcely believable atrocities allegedly committed by the German forces in their invasion and occupation of Belgium at the start of the war. In a manner that was to become the norm in 20th century propaganda, the stories had a kernel of truth; there is no doubt that there were atrocities committed and civilians murdered by German forces in Belgium. But the propaganda that was spun from those kernels of truth was so over-the-top in its attempts to portray the Germans as inhuman brutes that it serves as a perfect example of war propaganda.

RICHARD GROVE: The American population at that time had a lot of German people in it. Thirty to fifty percent of the population had relations back to Germany, so there had to be this very clever propaganda campaign. It’s known today as “babies on bayonets.” So if you have no interest in World War I but you think it’s interesting to study propaganda so you don’t get fooled again, then type it into your favorite search engine: “babies on bayonets, World War I.” You’ll see hundreds of different posters where the Germans are bayonetting babies and it brings about emotions and it doesn’t give you the details of anything. And emotions drive wars, not facts. Facts are left out and deleted all the time in order to create wars, so I think that putting facts back in might help prevent wars. But I do know that they like to drive people on emotion. The babies on bayonets getting America into World War one, that’s a key part of it.

GERRY DOCHERTY: Children who had their arms chopped off. Nuns that were raped. Shocking things, genuinely shocking things. The Canadian officer who was nailed at Andrew’s cross on a church door and left there to bleed to death. These were the great myths peddled in order to defame and bring down the the whole image of any justification for German action and try and influence America into war.

Gerry Docherty, co-author of Hidden History: The Secret Origins of the First World War.

DOCHERTY: That’s not to say that there weren’t atrocities on both sides. War is an atrocious event and there are always victims. Absolutely. And I offer no justification for it. But the lies, the unnecessary abuse of propaganda.

Even when in Britain they decided that they would put together the definitive volume of evidence to present it to the world, the person they asked to do this just so happened to have been former British ambassador to the United States, a man called Bryce you who was very well-liked in the States. And his evidence was published and put forward and there were screeds of stories after stories. But then later it was discovered that in fact the people who took the evidence hadn’t been allowed to speak to any of the Belgians directly but in fact what they were doing is they were listening to a middleman or agents who who had supposedly taken these stories.

And when one of the official committee said “Hold on, can I speak to someone directly?” “No.” “No?” He resigned. He wouldn’t allow his name to be put forward with the [official report]. And that’s the extent to which this is false history. It’s not even even acceptable to call it fake news. It’s just disgusting.

The campaign had its intended effect. Horrified by the stories emerging from Belgium—stories picked up and amplified by the members of the roundtable in the British press, including the influential Times and the lurid Daily Mail, run by Milner ally Lord Northcliffe—American public opinion began to shift away from viewing the war as a European squabble about an assassinated archduke and toward viewing the war as a struggle against the evil Germans and their “sins against civilization.”

The culmination of this propaganda campaign was the release of the “Report of the Committee on Alleged German Outrages,” better known as “The Bryce Report,” compiled for “His Britannic Majesty’s Government” and presided over by Viscount James Bryce, who, not coincidentally, was the former British Ambassador to America and a personal friend of Woodrow Wilson. The report was a sham, based on 1,200 depositions collected by examiners who “had no authority to administer an oath.” The committee, which was not allowed to speak to a single witness itself, was tasked merely with sifting through this material and deciding what should be included in the final report. Unsurprisingly, the  very real atrocities that the Germans had committed in Belgium—the burning of Louvain, Andenne and Dinant, for example—were overshadowed by the sensationalist (and completely unverifiable) stories of babies on bayonets and other acts of villainy.

The report itself, concluding that the Germans had systematically and premeditatedly broken the “rules and usages of war” was published on May 12, 1915, just five days after the sinking of The Lusitania. Directly between these two events, on May 9, 1915, Colonel House—the man who Wilson called his “second personality” and his “independent self”—wrote a telegram, which the President dutifully read to his cabinet and was picked up by newspapers across the country.

“America has come to the parting of the ways, when she must determine whether she stands for civilized or uncivilized warfare. We can no longer remain neutral spectators. Our action in this crisis will determine the part we will play when peace is made, and how far we may influence a settlement for the lasting good of humanity. We are being weighed in the balance, and our position amongst nations is being assessed by mankind.”

But despite this all-out propaganda assault, the American public was still largely against entering the war. It was in this context that the same group of Wall Street financiers who had maneuvered Wilson into the White House presided over the 1916 presidential election, one that the country knew would decisively conclude America’s neutrality in the war or its decision to send forces to engage in European combat for the first time in history.

The bankers left nothing to chance. Wilson, who would predictably follow House’s lead on all matters including war, was still their preferred candidate, but his competitor, Charles Evan Hughes, was no less of a Wall Street man. Hughes’ roots were as a Wall Street lawyer; his firm represented the New York, Westchester, and Boston Railroad Company for J.P. Morgan and Company and the Baptist Bible class that he led boasted many wealthy and influential members, including John D. Rockefeller, Jr.

The affable Hughes was stiff competition for the wooden and charmless Wilson, but such was the importance of American neutrality that “He Kept Us Out of War” actually became the central slogan of the campaign that saw Wilson return to the White House.

DOCHERTY: And then, of course, came the famous election of 1916. Wilson wasn’t popular, but Wilson, simply—he had no kind of public persona which warmed people. On the contrary, he was a cold fish. He had dubious links with several of those who are powerful in Wall Street. But his propaganda for the election was “He Kept Us Out of War.” “He was a man, vote for Wilson, he kept us out of war.” And then having promised that he would continue to keep America out of war, and in fact of course within months America was was thrown into the war by its own government.

“He Kept Us Out of War.” But just as in the British election of 1906—which saw the British public overwhelmingly voting for Henry Campbell-Bannerman’s Liberal Party and their platform of peace only to get the Milnerites in the cabinet entering secret agreements to bring about war—so, too, was the American public duped at the ballot box in 1916.

In fact, in the fall of 1915, over one year before the election even took place, Wilson’s string-puller, Edward Mandell House, was engaged in a secret negotiation with Edward Grey, the Milnerite heading Britain’s foreign office. That negotiation—long hidden from the public but finally revealed when House’s papers were published in 1928—shows the lengths to which Grey and House were willing to go to draw America into the war on the side of the Allies and against the Germans.

On October 17, 1915, House drafted a letter to Grey which he called “one of the most important letters I ever wrote.” Before sending it, he split it into two separate, coded messages, to ensure it would not be readable if it were intercepted. In it, he laid out a plan to steer the US into war with Germany under the false pretense of a “peace conference.”

Dear Sir Edward :

. . . In my opinion, it would be a world-wide calamity if the war should continue to a point where the Allies could not, with the aid of the United States, bring about a peace along the lines you and I have so often discussed.

It is in my mind that, after conferring with your Government, I should proceed to Berlin and tell them that it was the President’s purpose to intervene and stop this destructive war, provided the weight of the United States thrown on the side that accepted our proposal could do it.

I would not let Berlin know, of course, of any understanding had with the Allies, but would rather lead them to think our proposal would be rejected by the Allies. This might induce Berlin to accept the proposal, but, if they did not do so, it would nevertheless be the purpose to intervene. . . .

Perhaps realizing the gravity of what was being proposed, Woodrow Wilson, the man who would later be elected for his ability to keep America out of war, merely added the word “probably” to House’s assurance that America would join the war.

The negotiations for this plan continued throughout the fall of 1915 and winter of 1916. In the end, the British government balked at the proposal because the thought that the Germans might actually accept peace—even a peace of disarmament brokered by the US—was not enough. They wanted to crush Germany completely and nothing less than total defeat would be sufficient. Another pretense would have to be manufactured to embroil the US in the war.

When, on the morning of May 7, 1915, House assured Grey and King George that the sinking of the Lusitania would cause “a flame of indignation [to] sweep across America,” he was correct. When he said it would “probably carry us into war,” he was mistaken. But in the end it was the naval issue that eventually became the pretext for America’s entry into war.

The history books of the period, following the familiar pattern of downplaying Allied provocations and focusing only on the German reactions, highlight the German policy of unrestricted submarine warfare which led to the downing of the Lusitania. The practice, which called for German U-boats to attack merchant ships on sight, was in contravention of the international rules of the sea at the time, and was widely abhorred as barbaric. But the policy was not instituted out of any insane blood lust on the part of the Kaiser; it was in response to Britain’s own policy of breaking international rules of the sea.

At the outbreak of war in 1914 the British had used their position of naval superiority to begin a blockade of Germany. That campaign, described as “one of the largest and most complex undertakings attempted by either side during the First World War,” involved the declaration of the whole of the North Sea as a war zone. As a so-called “distant blockade,” involving the indiscriminate mining of an entire region of the high seas, the practice was in direct violation of the Declaration of Paris of 1856. The indiscriminate nature of the blockade—declaring the most basic of supplies, like cotton, and even food itself to be “contraband”—was a violation of the Declaration of London of 1909.

More to the point, as an attempt to starve an entire country into submission, it was a crime against humanity. Eventually reduced to a starvation diet of 1,000 calories a day, tuberculosis, rickets, edema and other maladies began to prey on those Germans who did not succumb to hunger. By the end of the war the National Health Office in Berlin calculated that 763,000 people had died as a direct result of the blockade. Perversely, the blockade did not end with the war. In fact, with Germany’s Baltic coast now effectively added to the blockade, the starvation actually continued and even intensified into 1919.

Faced with protestations from the Austrian ambassador about the illegality of the British blockade, Colonel House, now America’s de facto president, merely observed: “He forgets to add that England is not exercising her power in an objectionable way, for it is controlled by a democracy.”

This double standard was not the exception but the rule when it came to those in America’s East coast establishment who were hungry to see the US join the Allies on the battlefields of Europe. As historian and author Ralph Raico explained in a 1983 lecture, it was these double standards that led directly  to America’s entry into the war.

RALPH RAICO: The Wilson administration now takes the position which will ultimately lead to war. The German government is to be held strictly accountable for the death of any Americans on the high seas regardless of circumstances.

The Germans say, “Well let’s see if we can live with this. As long as you’re willing to put pressure on the British to have them modify their violations of international law—that is, they’re placing food on the list of contraband materials, which had never been done before. The British ,as you know, take your merchant ships off the high seas on the way to Rotterdam because they say anything that goes to Rotterdam is going to go to Germany, so they take American ships off the high seas. The British have put cotton—cotton!—on the list of contraband, confiscating these materials. They interfere with letters going to the continent because they think there’s military intelligence possibly involved. The British are imposing in many ways on Americans, so if you hold them responsible, we’ll behave ourselves as far as submarines go.”

This was not to be the case and the attitude of the Americans towards British violations of neutral rights were quite different. One reason is that the American ambassador to London, Walter Hines Page, was an extreme Anglophile. One time, for instance, he gets a message that the British have to stop interfering with American mail shipments to neutral ports, and the American ambassador goes to the British Foreign Minister Edward grey and says, “Look at the message I’ve just got from Washington. Let’s get together and try to answer this. This was his attitude. The British were never to help or were never held to the same standard as the Germans.

At home, Theodore Roosevelt, who in previous years had been a great friend of the kaiser’s and a great admirer of Germany, now says we have to get into this war right away. Besides that there’s a campaign for preparedness for building up the American army, the American Navy, drilling American citizens in combat techniques. There’s a kind of hysteria, really, that travels over the country considering that there’s—at this time certainly no chance—no chance of some kind of immediate threat to the United States.

And people like Roosevelt and Wilson begin talking in a very unfortunate way. Wilson says, for instance, “in America we have too many hyphenated Americans”—of course he meant German-Americans, Irish-Americans—”and these people are not totally loyal to our country.” Already scapegoats are being looked for and public opinion is being roused.

And this diplomatic negotiation, the exchange of memos goes on for the next few years. In January of 1917, the Americans are not having been able to budge the British in the least on any British violation of American rights; the British blockade intensifying; the Germans really feeling hunger in a very literal sense, especially the people on the on the home front; the Kaiser is persuaded by his Admirals and Generals to begin unrestricted submarine warfare around the British Isles.

The American position by this time had solidified, had become a totally rigid one, and when all is said and done when you go through all of the back-and-forth memoranda and notes and principles established, the United States went to war against Germany in 1917 for the right of Americans to travel in armed belligerent merchant ships carrying munitions through war zones. Wilson’s position was that even in that case the Germans simply had no right to attack the ship as long as there are Americans on the ship. Shall I repeat that? Armed belligerent—that is to say, English—armed English merchant ships carrying munitions could not be fired upon by the Germans as long as there were American citizens on board. And it was for the right of Americans to go into the war zone on such vessels that we finally went to war.

SOURCE: The World at War (Ralph Raico)

After months of deliberations and with the situation on the home front becoming increasingly desperate, the German military commanders decided to resume their unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917. As expected, US merchant ships were sunk, including four ships in late March alone. On April 2, 1917, Woodrow Wilson made his historic speech calling for Congress to declare war on Germany and commit US troops to European battlefields for the first time.

The speech, made over one hundred years ago by and for a world that has long since passed away, still resonates with us today. Embedded within it is the rhetoric of warfare that has been employed by president after president, prime minister after prime minister, in country after country and war after war right down to the current day. From it comes many of the phrases that we still recognize today as the language of lofty ideals and noble causes that always accompany the most bloody and ignoble wars.

 With a profound sense of the solemn and even tragical character of the step I am taking and of the grave responsibilities which it involves, but in unhesitating obedience to what I deem my constitutional duty, I advise that the Congress declare the recent course of the Imperial German Government to be in fact nothing less than war against the government and people of the United States.

[…]

The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.

Four days later, on April 6, 1917, the US Congress issued a formal declaration of war against the Imperial German Government.

NARRATOR: Inside the White House, President Woodrow Wilson conferred with advisers and signed the proclamation of war against Germany. [. . .] everywhere there was cheering and waving of flags. Hindsight or cynicism might make us smile at the thought that this war was sometimes called That Great Adventure. Never again would we see our entry into a major conflict excite so many to such heights of elation. Naive? Probably. But here was a generation of young men not yet saturated by the paralyzing variety of self analysis and the mock sciences. They believed!

SOURCE: U.S. ENTERS WORLD WAR I, MILITARY DRAFT – 1917

All along the Western front, the Allies rejoiced. The Yanks were coming.

House, the Milner Group, the Pilgrims, the Wall Street financiers and all of those who had worked so diligently for so many years to bring Uncle Sam into war had got their wish. And before the war was over, millions more casualties would pile up. Carnage the likes of which the world had never seen before had been fully unleashed.

The trenches and the shelling. The no man’s land and the rivers of blood. The starvation and the destruction. The carving up of empires and the eradication of an entire generation of young men.

Why? What was it all for? What did it accomplish? What was the point?

To this day, over 100 years later, we still look back on the horrors of that “Great War” with confusion. For so long we have been told non-answers about incompetent generals and ignorant politicians. “It’s the senselessness of war,” the teachers of this fraudulent and partial history have told us with a shrug.

But, now that the players who worked to set the stage for this carnage have been unmasked, these questions can finally be answered.

TO BE CONTINUED . . .

November 19, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Video | , | Leave a comment

Russo-Japanese peace treaty is doable

A new template is forming in the geopolitics of the Asia-Pacific – Russo-Japanese concord. The two regional powers with a troubled history are moving in the direction of concluding a peace treaty that could formally end their World War 2 hostilities and open a new page in their relations.

The negotiations are being handled at the highest level of leadership and, therefore, every single meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is invested with high importance. Both statesmen are known to be ardent supporters of a robust partnership between their countries.

The conclusion of a peace treaty is a pre-requisite to put the relationship on a higher trajectory and to realize its full potential. But both nations are also riding a wave of nationalism and when territorial concessions are involved, feelings run high.

Abe also has tryst with destiny insofar as he hopes to garner the historical legacy of getting back from Russia, the territories, which the former Soviet Union had occupied in the final period of World War 2 when Japan was staring at defeat.

Putin understands that an obdurate Russian stance on Kuril islands is impossible for any Japanese leader to accept. On the other hand, he also cannot ignore the Russian public opinion against territorial concessions. Besides, what complicates matters is that Japan is the US’ number one ally in Northeast Asia and Russia is apprehensive that any formula to settle the territorial dispute – which will have to be based on the joint declaration issued by Japan and the Soviet Union in 1956 (which re-established diplomatic relations and stipulated the return of two of the Kuril islands Habomai and Shikotan after the conclusion of a peace treaty) may lead to an American military presence in a region where Russia has several highly sensitive bases.

Last September, Putin had made a novel offer of signing a peace treaty unconditionally by end-2018, but Abe found it unacceptable. Having said that, Abe acknowledged that Putin’s words showed a desire for peace treaty.

When they met last week in November 14, Abe reportedly came up with a proposal that Japan would not allow U.S. military bases on two islands off Hokkaido even if Russia returns them based on a 1956 joint declaration. (Ostensibly, Abe hopes to dispel Russian concern over the potential presence of US bases on Habomai and Shikotan islands.)

The Kremlin spokesman refused to comment but in a nuanced response made it a point to “confirm that Tokyo’s alliance obligations (with the US) are important as far as peace treaty talks go.”

It is hard to tell whether the ongoing Putin-Abe diplomacy is also a tango being staged by the two statesmen who have a shared interest in expediting a peace treaty, but who are also having to negotiate with each other and safeguard national interests as well as carry their respective domestic audiences along at the same time.

It is entirely conceivable that the two statesmen may even have set a timeline. In fact, Putin and Abe are meeting again in Argentina during the G20 in end-November. Tass reported today that Abe will also be visiting Russia in January. The accelerating diplomacy could well have something to do with Putin’s proposed visit to Japan in June to attend the G20 at Osaka. Don’t be surprised if Abe hopes to meet Putin on a full-fledged state visit in June.

Quite obviously, Russo-Japanese relations are deepening and what seemed an intractable territorial dispute may lend itself to resolution. One possibility could be that Japan regains sovereignty over the Habomai Islands and Shikotan, and the two islands might be turned into special economic zones.

Clearly, the US is the elephant in the room. Under the framework of the Japan-US Security Treaty, American troops in Japan can be stationed on Habomai and Shikotan if the two are handed over to Japan. Therefore, Abe’s proposal (that such a thing will not happen) also implies his willingness to maintain a diplomatic distance from the US.

Indeed, it could not have escaped Putin’s attention that there are incipient trends in Abe’s policies lately suggesting a degree of ‘detachment’ from the US – as apparent, for instance, from Abe’s moves to actively improve relations with China and sequestering it from the deterioration of Sino-American relations. The fact of the matter is that Japan is increasingly uncertain about the US intentions.

Having said that, Japan is still dependent on the security treaty with the US. Trust the US to interfere with the conclusion of a Japan-Russia Peace Treaty, given the long-term implications it would have for the American military presence in Northeast Asia.

On the other hand, a peace treaty would completely transform Russo-Japanese relations, which would also impact the Russia-Japan-China triangle. To be sure, a full-bodied partnership with Russia will vastly expand the strategic space for Japan to recalibrate its relations with both the US and China.

All signs are that Abe is working on a grand design. For a start, he has to contend with domestic opinion.  Abe’s big re-election as head of the Liberal Democratic Party in September (with 82% support) has put him on track to become Japan’s longest serving prime minister and to pursue his vision of Japan over the next three years in power (in what will be his last term in office), as well as to focus on the kind of legacy he will leave behind. Read a fine piece here by Japanese scholar Tomohiko Satake at the National Institute of Defence Studies, Tokyo – Should Japan continue to support the US-led international order?

November 19, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Will Progressives Ever Think About How We Structure Markets, Instead of Accepting them as Given?

By Dean Baker | CounterPunch | November 19, 2018

The right would like us to believe that the inequality we see in the United States, and increasingly in other countries, is a natural outcome of market processes. Unfortunately, many on the left seem to largely share this view, with the proviso that they would like the government to alter market outcomes, either with tax and transfer policy, or with interventions like a higher minimum wage.

While redistributive tax and transfer policies are desirable, as is a decent minimum wage, it is an incredible mistake to not recognize that the upward redistribution of the last four decades was brought about by conscious policy, not any sort of natural process of globalization and technology. Not recognizing this fact is an enormous mistake from both the standpoint of policy and politics.

From the policy standpoint, we give up a huge amount by not examining the policies that have caused before-tax income to be redistributed upward. As a practical matter, it is much easier to prevent all the money from going to the top in the first place than trying to tax it back after the fact.

On the political side, we should never have our argument be that somehow the big problem is that the Bill Gates of the world were too successful. The big problem is that we have badly structured the rules of the market so that we gave Bill Gates too much money. With different rules, he would not be one of the world’s richest people even if he had worked just as hard.

Since we’re on the topic of Bill Gates, patent and copyright rules are a good place to start. For some reason, it is difficult to get people to accept an obvious truth: there is a huge amount of money at stake with these rules. By my calculations, patent and copyright monopolies could well direct more than $1 trillion a year, a sum that is more than 60 percent of after-tax corporate profits.

The most visible place where these government-granted monopolies have a large effect is with prescription drugs. We will spend close to $440 billion (2.2 percent of GDP) this year on prescription drugs. If these drugs were sold in a free market without patents or related protections they would likely sell for less than $80 billion. The difference of $360 billion is roughly five times annual spending on SNAP.

The basic story here is that drugs are almost invariably cheap to manufacture. Like aspirin, the vast majority of drugs would sell for $10 or $15 per prescription. It is only because the government gives drug companies patent monopolies that drugs are expensive. We now have an absurd debate where the people who want to bring down drug prices are accused of interfering in the market. That is 180 degrees at odds with reality. The people who want to keep prices high want to maximize the value of their government-granted monopolies.

In this case, the effect of changes in policy is easy to see. In 1980, Congress passed the Bayh–Dole Act which made it possible for companies to get patent rights to government-sponsored research. As a result, spending on prescription drugs, which had hovered near 0.4 percent of GDP for two decades, began to explode.

We can argue the merits of the Bayh–Dole Act. Surely it did increase private spending on research and led to the development of new drugs, but the fact that we give more money to drug companies because of this intervention in the market is not debatable. This is a huge amount of money, with enormous consequences for public health, as well as income distribution, but almost no economists ever raise the issue.

The same story applies to patent and copyrights more generally. How much profit would Microsoft make if anyone anywhere in the world could make tens of millions of computers with Windows software and not even send them a thank you note? How much money would Disney make if all its movies could be instantly transmitted over the web and shown everywhere without them getting a penny?

We could tell the same story about medical equipment. Imagine the latest medical scanning device selling for tens of thousands of dollars instead of millions. Companies that make fertilizers, pesticides, and genetically modified seeds, all depend in a very fundamental way on their government-granted patent monopolies.

Patent and copyright monopolies do serve the purpose of providing incentives to innovate and do creative work. But there are other possible mechanisms for funding, the $37 billion a year the government gives to the National Institutes of Health is one obvious example (see Rigged, Chapter 5 for a fuller discussion [it’s free]). Even if we do decide that patent and copyright monopolies are the best mechanism, we can always make them shorter and weaker, reversing the course of longer and stronger that we have pursued over the last four decades.

This simple and undeniable point (we can alter the rules on patents and copyrights) is almost completely absent from debates on inequality, with very few exceptions. (Joe Stiglitz raises this issue frequently, see also The Captured Economy, by Brink Lindsey and Steve Teles.) These rules are very much at the heart of the upward redistribution of the last four decades.

It is not only the Bill Gates and other tech billionaires who owe their enormous wealth to these government-granted monopolies, the whole idea of an economy that places a high demand on computer, math, and other technical skills depends on our rules on patents and copyrights. With weaker rules, the demand for computer scientists and bioengineers would be much less, as would their pay.

It is incredible that so many economists and policy-types who work on inequality could somehow manage to avoid discussing intellectual property rules. We can speculate on the reasons for this neglect.

In some cases, liberal funders owe their wealth to these government-granted monopolies and are not interested in calling them into question. We once had a program officer at the Gates Foundation tell us unambiguously that they don’t talk about patents because of the source of wealth of their funder.

Thinking about how policy led to upward redistribution can also be upsetting to many liberals’ worldview. Many view themselves as people who have done well in the market economy but feel that they should share some of what they have earned with the less fortunate. The argument that they didn’t just happen to do well, but had the benefit of government policy designed to give them money (and to take it from the less fortunate), very fundamentally changes the picture.

Apart from these motives, there is the obvious truth that inertia is an incredibly powerful force in policy debates. As the saying goes, intellectuals have a hard time dealing with new ideas.

In any case, progressives miss a huge part of the story of upward redistribution when they fail to discuss rules on intellectual property. The importance of these rules is virtually certain to increase in coming years. Economists and policy-types who ignore them are not doing their jobs. I know I keep beating on this point, but it’s important. I will have more pieces in future weeks on other ways the government structures the market to hand more money to the rich, but patent and copyright monopolies are so big and so obvious, that it is incredible that they are not the center of discussions of inequality.

November 19, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

The Reason for Killing Iranians

By Jacob G. Hornberger | FFF | November 19, 2018

While U.S. sanctions technically permit Iran to import medicines, it is actually just a ruse to make it look like U.S. officials are kind, compassionate, and benevolent. In actuality, the way the sanctions work will mean that the Iranian people will inevitably be deprived of much-needed medicines. That’s because the U.S. extends its sanctions system to banks that process payments to Iran, which is likely to inhibit the importation of medicines into Iran.

But that’s the point behind the sanctions: to kill as many Iranians as possible in the hope that they will rise up in a violent revolution, oust Iran’s anti-U.S. regime from power, and install another pro-U.S. regime, like that of the Shah of Iran, who the CIA installed into power in its 1953 coup that destroyed Iran’s experiment with democracy.

Never mind that the Iranians, who live in a country that has strict gun control, lack the means to violently overthrow their government. And never mind that hundreds of thousands of Iranians would likely die in such a revolution, just like what has happened in the U.S.-supported revolution in Syria.

Those deaths wouldn’t matter to U.S. officials. They would be considered “worth it,” especially if they brought a pro-U.S. regime into power in Iran.

Recall that those were the words that U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations used back in 1996, when the U.S. government was enforcing sanctions against Iraq.

The Iraq sanctions had already killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children. The idea was that if Iraqi parents became sufficiently upset with their children dying, they would oust their dictator, Saddam Hussein, from power and replace him with a pro-U.S. dictator.

After some six years of deaths of Iraqi children, however, the sanctions had still not produced the desired result. Saddam was still in power. The CBS news program “Sixty Minutes” asked Albright if the sanctions were worth it. She replied that the sanctions were, in fact, worth it. She was expressing the official position of the Clinton administration. That’s because killing those Iraqi children was viewed in the same way as killing Iranians today: as a means by which a pro-U.S. regime could be installed into power.

One of the ironies of the Iraq sanctions is that in the previous decade, U.S. officials had partnered with Saddam, even furnishing him those infamous WMDs that would later serve as the bogus excuse for invading Iraq in 2001. (See here and here.)

Why was the U.S. government partnering in the 1980s with Saddam, the man they would try to oust from power in the 1990s by killing Iraqi children? They were helping him kill Iranians in the war that he had started against Iran. U.S. officials were so angry that the Iranian people had ousted the CIA-installed Shah in their 1979 revolution that they decided to use Saddam in the 1980s to exact their revenge by helping him to kill Iranians.

What U.S. officials did to an American man named Bert Sacks serves as a valuable lesson for anyone, including banks who process payments, who tries to help the Iranian people. Sachs believed that the sanctions were a moral abomination. He wasn’t the only one. Three high officials in the United Nations resigned their positions in a crisis of conscience against what was considered by some to be a U.S. genocide against Iraqi children.

Sacks decided to take medicines into Iraq, and U.S. officials went after him with a vengeance. They fined him $10,000 and then spent about a decade trying to collect the fine, which Sachs, to his everlasting credit, refused to pay.

It’s no different, of course, with the U.S. sanctions on North Korea and the decades-old, Cold War-era U.S. embargo on Cuba. The idea is to kill as many North Koreans and Cubans as possible in the hopes that they will finally rise up in a violent revolution and oust their dictatorial regimes from power. No number of deaths is considered too high. They are all considered worth it.

Meanwhile, many sanctions supporters continue to go to church on Sundays and pat themselves on the back for living in a country whose government is kind, compassionate, and benevolent.

November 19, 2018 Posted by | Economics, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 2 Comments

The Only Regime Change that Is Needed Is in Washington

By Philip Giraldi | American Herald Tribune | November 19, 2018

One of the things to look forward to in the upcoming holiday season is the special treats that one is allowed to sample. Fruitcake and nuts are Thanksgiving and Christmas favorites. They usually come in tins or special packages but it seems that this season some of the nuts have escaped and have fled to obtain sanctuary from the Trump Administration.

Currently, there is certainly a wide range of nuts available on display in the West Wing. There is the delicate but hairy Bolton, which has recently received the coveted “Defender of Israel” award, and also the robust Pompeo, courageously bucking the trend to overeat during the holidays by telling the Iranian people that they should either surrender or starve to death. And then there is the always popular Haley, voting audaciously to give part of Syria to Israel as a holiday treat.

But my vote for the most magnificent nut in an Administration that is overflowing with such talent would be the esteemed United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey. The accolade is in part due to the fact that Jeffrey started out relatively sane as a career diplomat with the State Department, holding ambassadorships in Iraq, Turkey, and Albania. He had to work hard to become as demented as he now is but was helped along the way by signing on as a visiting fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), which is a spin-off of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Jeffrey set the tone for his term of office shortly after being appointed back in August when he argued that the Syrian terrorists were “. . . not terrorists, but people fighting a civil war against a brutal dictator.” Jeffrey, who must have somehow missed a lot of the head chopping and rape going on, subsequently traveled to the Middle East and stopped off in Israel to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It has been suggested that Jeffrey received his marching orders during the visit.

James Jeffrey has been particularly active during this past month.  On November 7th he declared that he would like to see Russia maintain a “permissive approach” to allowing the Israelis to attack Iranian targets inside Syria. Regarding Iran’s possible future role in Syria, he observed that “Iranians are part of the problem not part of the solution.”

What Jeffrey meant was that because Israel had been “allowed” to carry out hundreds of air attacks in Syria ostensibly directed against Iran-linked targets, the practice should be permitted to continue. Israel had suspended nearly all of its airstrikes in the wake of the shoot-down of a Russian aircraft in September, an incident which Moscow has blamed on Israel even though the missile that brought down the plane was fired by Syria. Fifteen Russian servicemen were killed. Israel reportedly was deliberately using the Russian plane to mask the presence of its own aircraft.

Russia responded to the incident by deploying advanced S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Syria, which can cover most of the more heavily developed areas of the country. Jeffrey was unhappy with that decision, saying “We are concerned very much about the S-300 system being deployed to Syria. The issue is at the detail level. Who will control it? what role will it play?” And he defended his own patently absurd urging that Russia, Syria’s ally, permit Israel to continue its air attacks by saying “We understand the existential interest and we support Israel” because the Israeli government has an “existential interest in blocking Iran from deploying long-range power projection systems such as surface-to-surface missiles.”

On November 15th James Jeffrey was at it again, declaring that U.S. troops will not leave Syria before guaranteeing the “enduring defeated” of ISIS, but he perversely put the onus on Syria and Iran, saying that “We also think that you cannot have an enduring defeat of ISIS until you have fundamental change in the Syrian regime and fundamental change in Iran’s role in Syria, which contributed greatly to the rise of ISIS in the first place in 2013, 2014.”

As virtually no one but Jeffrey and the Israeli government actually believes that Damascus and Tehran were responsible for creating ISIS, the ambassador elaborated, blaming President Bashar al-Assad for the cycle of violence in Syria that, he claimed, allowed the development of the terrorist group in both Syria and neighboring Iraq.

He said “The Syrian regime produced ISIS. The elements of ISIS in the hundreds, probably, saw an opportunity in the total breakdown of civil society and of the upsurge of violence as the population rose up against the Assad regime, and the Assad regime, rather than try to negotiate or try to find any kind of solution, unleashed massive violence against its own population.”

Jeffrey’s formula is just another recycling of the myth that the Syrian opposition consisted of good folks who wanted to establish democracy in the country. In reality, it incorporated terrorist elements right from the beginning and groups like ISIS and the al-Qaeda affiliates rapidly assumed control of the violence. That Jeffrey should be so ignorant or blinded by his own presumptions to be unaware of that is astonishing. It is also interesting to note that he makes no mention of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, knee-jerk support for Israel and the unrelenting pressure on Syria starting with the Syrian Accountability Act of 2003 and continuing with the embrace of the so-called Arab Spring. Most observers believe that those actions were major contributors to the rise of ISIS.

Jeffrey’s unflinching embrace of the Israeli and hardline Washington assessment of the Syrian crisis comes as no surprise given his pedigree, but in the same interview where he pounded Iran and Syria, he asserted oddly that “We’re not about regime change. We’re about a change in the behavior of a government and of a state.”

Actually, the only regime change that is needed is in Washington and it would include Jeffrey, Bolton, Haley, Pompeo, and Miller. And while we’re at it, get rid of son-in-law Jared Kushner and his claque of Orthodox Jews, Jason Greenblatt the “peace negotiator” and David Friedman the U.S. Ambassador in Israel. None of them are capable of acting to advance any American national interest, which they wouldn’t recognize even if it hit them in the butt. Once they are gone the U.S. can bid the Middle East goodbye and leave its constituent nations to sort out their own problems. Jeffrey’s ridiculous prescriptions for the Syrians and Russians are symptomatic of what one gets from a team of yes-men who have latched onto some dystopic ideas and pursued them relentlessly, blinded by what they believe to be American power. Someone should tell them that their antics have made that power a commodity that is dramatically depreciating in value, but it is clear that they are not listening.

November 19, 2018 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , | 3 Comments

‘Highly likely’ that Magnitsky was poisoned by toxic chemicals on Bill Browder’s orders – Moscow

RT | November 19, 2018

Russian accountant Sergey Magnitsky may have been poisoned and his former employer, financier Bill Browder, is possibly behind the murder, prosecutors revealed. Now, Moscow will place Browder on the international wanted list.

UK businessman Browder had much interest in the death of Sergey Magnitsky after receiving what he wanted from the accountant, an adviser to the Russian Prosecutor General, Nikolay Atmonyev, told the briefing.

“Based on the documents that were shown, an obvious conclusion can be made that, having received a false statement from Magnitsky that was used for provocation, Browder was interested in Sergey Magnitsky’s death more than anyone else in order to avoid exposure,” Atmonyev said.

Journalist Oleg Lurie, who shared a prison cell with Magnitsky in 2009, testified both at a New York court and in Moscow that lawyers working for Browder had tried to make Magnitsky sign false documents regarding theft from the Russian budget. Russian prosecutors believe that the testimony is further proof that Magnitsky’s death was in the interest of the US-born investor.

Moscow also suspects Browder of being involved in the murder of three men allegedly linked to his business – Octay Gasanov, Valery Kurochkin and Sergey Korobeinikov. Gasanov and Kurochkin were initially thought to have died naturally of health problems, while Korobeinikov died in an accident.

Now Moscow wants to reinvestigate the cases as they claim the three men may have been poisoned by “diverse chemical substances with aluminium compounds” that eventually led to heart and liver failure.

“It is highly likely that they were killed to get rid of accomplices who could give an incriminating testimony against Browder,” an official with the office of the Russian prosecutor general said.

Moscow is to put Browder on the international wanted list for creating an international crime group under a UN convention. This implies extradition of a criminal even if Russia does not have a bilateral treaty on the matter with a country he is arrested in.

Browder is a US-born British financier, whose change of citizenship had the benefit of allowing him to avoid paying tax on foreign earnings. However, he claimed the switch was prompted by his family being persecuted in the US during the McCarthyism witch hunt, while the UK seemed like the land of law and order.

He made a fortune in Russia during the country’s chaotic transition to a market economy, having invested before there was a stock exchange in Moscow. His Hermitage Capital Management fund was a leading foreign investment entity in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Described by critics as a ‘vulture capitalist,’ Browder seemed quite comfortable earning millions of dollars in the financial wild west. In 2005, as fallen oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky was standing trial for tax evasion, Browder scolded him on the BBC for using personal wealth to grasp at political power, and for leaving “in his wake aggrieved investors too numerous to count.” He was also a staunch public supporter of the policies of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The transformation of his public image from a financial shark into a human rights crusader started when Browder himself entered the spotlight of Russian law enforcement. In 2007, the foundation he ran was targeted by a probe into possible large-scale embezzlement of Russian taxpayers’ money. Magnitsky, who worked for Browder and had knowledge of his firms’ finances, was arrested and held in pre-trial detention until his death in November 2009. The British businessman insisted that the entire case was fabricated and that Magnitsky had been assassinated for exposing a criminal scheme involving several Russian tax officials.

The investor then reinvented himself as an anti-Putin figure, using the death of Magnitsky to lobby various countries to impose sanctions on the Russian officials he blamed for his employee’s death. The US Magnitsky Act was passed in 2012, allowing people accused by Washington of human rights violations to be targeted. However, it is perceived by the Kremlin as just a tool to restrain Russia for the sake of global political and economic competition.

Browder’s new-found status as a rights advocate and self-proclaimed worst enemy of Putin helps him deflect Russia’s attempts to prosecute him. On several occasions, Russia filed international arrest warrants against him with Interpol, which even led to his brief detention in Spain last May. But being a Kremlin critic is a good excuse not to be extradited to Russia.

Among Browder’s latest exploits is playing a role in the ‘Russiagate’ story. A key part of the elusive search for collusion between US President Donald Trump and the Russian government is a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer. The meeting was apparently organized with a view to lobbying for the repeal of the Magnitsky Act. Its architect, Browder, has therefore been eager to lend his expertise on ‘Russian machinations’ to US lawmakers and media outlets.

November 19, 2018 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , | Leave a comment