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The Neocon Foreign Policy Walmart

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By Daniel McAdams | Ron Paul Institute | August 30, 2015

One of the most depressing things about watching — even from a distance — the quadrennial race for the White House is seeing what passes for debate on the one area where the president does have some Constitutional authority: foreign policy.

Candidates who have spent little or no time studying or traveling to the rest of the world, and, in the fashion of many Americans in the age of Empire, see the rest of the world as just a series of US colonial outposts, apparently consider foreign policy unworthy of serious consideration.

So little do Republican candidates care about foreign policy that most of them have “outsourced” their foreign policy to a single neocon-dominated foreign policy shop called the “John Hay Initiative.”  If you wonder why most Republican candidates sound exactly the same on foreign policy, it’s because they are nearly all getting their advice from the same people.

When nearly all candidates look to someone like Eliot Cohen, a founding member of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), to provide an off-the-shelf foreign policy, it should be no surprise that the “debate” in the Republican party is only over which country to attack first.

Any candidate who thinks so little about something so important as America’s place in the world should be automatically disqualified.

But the neocons love it! The “experts” who brought us the 2003 Iraq war and the Libya “liberation” are still in the driver’s seat when it comes to foreign policy.

“Jeb!” has John Hay Initiative members Michael Chertoff and Michael Hayden (remember those crooks?) on board as his advisors.

Marco Rubio reportedly draws from Hay Project member Roger Zakheim, the son of GW Bush administration “vulcan,” Dov Zakheim. Zakheim père, we remember, joined with his fellow neocons to lie the US into war with Iraq, enriching the military-industrial complex, before absconding to the “private sector” to make his millions from the same military-industrial complex. Zakheim quickly and quietly left his position as the Pentagon’s chief financial officer after a trillion dollars went missing and the Government Accountability Office was critical of his handling of matters.

Scott Walker, a soporific candidate who nevertheless still gives neocons like Bill Kristol the vapors, also shops the neocon Walmart of foreign policy, the John Hay Initiative. It should be no surprise, then, that at his big foreign policy coming out speech at the Citadel military college Friday, he unveiled an “aggressive” foreign policy — crying out “America will not be intimidated. And neither will I” — as he promised more war and vowed that “the retreat is over!”

Is this the retreat he is talking about?

Walker reportedly taps into the McCain Institute’s David Kramer, a John Hay member, for his foreign policy wisdom. Kramer is another PNAC alumni, also putting in time at the CIA-affiliated Freedom House and as director of the Bush State Department’s Office of Policy Planning. This must explain Walker’s obsession with taking out Iran. He vowed to “roll back the theocrats in Tehran,” but in fact unlike the US, Tehran has not invaded another country in hundreds of years. What’s to “roll back?”

If Walker actually paid any attention to the quality of advice he gets from his PNAC/John Hay gang he might call for his money back. Walker’s speech was peppered with macho language about “defeat[ing] the barbarians of ISIS,” while also vowing to destroy the two forces actually fighting ISIS — Syria and Iran! In fact, his vow to use the US military to overthrow the Syrian government would without question result in the greatest ISIS victory to date — control of Syria. One need not sympathize with Assad to recognize that he is literally the only thing keeping the whole of Syria out of the hands of ISIS.

John Hay Initiative “experts” also wrote the foreign policy speeches of candidates Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie. No doubt they were behind Fiorina’s astonishingly ignorant vow to make her first call as president to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to “to reassure him that we stand with the state of Israel” and to make her second call to Iran to “to tell him that whatever the deal is that he signed with Obama, there’s a new deal and the new deal is this: Until you submit every facility [where] you have nuclear uranium enrichment to a full set of inspections, we’re going to make it as hard as possible for you to move money around the global financial system.”

Pure PNAC.

These neocons should be in jail, not still deeply ensconced in the Beltway foreign policy halls of power, dining in sumptuous splendor while the rest of America is impoverished by the destructive wars they push. Their lies have cost millions of innocent lives overseas as well. They are a cancer on the country. Any candidate who cares so little about the issues as to accept a “virtual staff” of foreign policy “experts” from those who have gotten every single major foreign policy issue of our time totally and catastrophically wrong has no business holding any elected office.

John Hay? I’d rather shop for a foreign policy expert at Walmart.

September 4, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wisconsin Government to Garnish the Wages of Poor People to Fund New Sports Arena

By Justin Gardner | The Free Thought Project | June 29, 2015

Milwaukee, WI — Wisconsin governor Scott Walker may be the darling of mainstream Republicans for next year’s presidential election, but “less taxation, less government” is an illusion under his current tenure. Milwaukee residents will soon be forced to pay an extra 15% tax surcharge that will go toward public financing of a new sports arena, under a plan put together by this champion of limited government.

The 15% surcharge will apply to Milwaukee County residents who are behind on their property taxes or court fines. Walker’s sports arena plan calls for the state to take over the collection of Milwaukee County’s old debt and use it to help pay for half the cost of a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks.

This blatant example of extortion and public-private cronyism is troubling to Milwaukee County Supervisor John Weishan Jr.:

“To think we would put the squeeze on someone because they didn’t pay a parking ticket and their only crime is being poor and unable to pay it, and then taking that money and giving it to people who are extremely wealthy, doesn’t sit well with me.”

Wisconsin state, unlike county government, has the power to garnish wages and intercept other income such as tax refunds. Citizens will be powerless to stop the state from taking their money so their government can go into partnership with sports moguls on a fancy new spectacle. The cost to Wisconsin taxpayers—whether or not they care about the arena—will be $400 million after accounting for interest.

Government’s interest in using major televised sports as a public distraction is no secret, hearkening to the Roman days of bread and circus. In May, we reported how NFL teams are paid millions of dollars by the U.S. Department of Defense for nationalistic propaganda. The appeals to emotion in furtherance of patriotism serve two purposes—entrenching corporatism and stifling dissent of military hegemony.

Back in Wisconsin, Walker and his team are salivating at the prospect of taking over debt collection in Milwaukee. Nearly $77 million is owed to the county courts, most of it older than five years. The surcharge would mean an extra burden of $11.5 million on citizens, and would cover 4.6% of the public’s obligation toward Walker’s sports arena.

While Governor Walker and his team withhold details of the plan under the guise of “finalizing legislative language,” they are drumming up support among lawmakers and telling Republican senators to avoid making critical comments.

They’re working hard to suppress public dialog while PR experts couch the plan in Orwellian terms.

“There is a cost to collecting debt. The cost is now borne by the county. The benefit of this program is that the burden falls on the people who can afford to pay this debt,” said bureaucrat Teig Whaley-Smith.

Another spokesperson, Laurel Patrick, said the 15% surcharge is standard procedure, so why should anyone care? “Unpaid debts impact others who do pay their bills, fines, etc. on time, and are now paying more than they otherwise would need to for those government services and programs.”

The likelihood that this tax increase will be mentioned as Walker and other presidential hopefuls parade about next year, wrapped in the flag and false concern for the people, is little to none. We can expect the usual bread and the usual circus.

June 29, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics | , , | 1 Comment

Sheldon Adelson: Wild card

By KENNETH P. VOGEL | POLITICO | April 31, 2015

LAS VEGAS — Luxury buses pulled up to the front entrance of the private hangar here where Sheldon Adelson keeps his corporate jets, dropping off Republican donors to hear Jeb Bush speak.

But Adelson arrived late — and in more extravagant style, pulling right into the massive structure in his Maybach limousine with dark tinted windows trailed by a second Maybach carrying glaring bodyguards.

The grand entrance was vintage Adelson. And it kicked off a Republican Jewish Conference four-day retreat this past weekend in which the 80-year-old casino mogul wowed his guests with a distinct blend of megawatt GOP politics and Vegas opulence, keeping them — and the political class, as a whole — waiting and wondering about what would come next.

The guessing game is creating anxiety among Republican Party elites eager to avoid a repeat of 2012, when Adelson and his family dumped more than $20 million into a super PAC supporting Newt Gingrich’s long-shot GOP presidential campaign. The Adelsons went on to give even more money to help Mitt Romney, but by the time he was the party’s nominee, the damage was done. The infusion to boost Gingrich roiled and prolonged the primary and hurt the party’s chances of winning the White House.

When Adelson summoned Bush and Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey, John Kasich of Ohio and Scott Walker of Wisconsin to Las Vegas for the annual spring RJC meeting, GOP stalwarts hoped it might mean the megadonor was committing to get behind one of the establishment favorites for 2016, and not going rogue again.

But interviews with Adelson intimates, an analysis of his political alliances and reporting from the Las Vegas retreat suggest that the headstrong billionaire isn’t a new man, but the same gambler he has always been: a true wild card.

“If anybody tells you what Sheldon is going to do, or how or why he is going to do it, they don’t know Sheldon. Sheldon makes up his own mind,” said Ari Fleischer, a longtime Adelson confidant. Fleischer, an RJC board member, was scheduled to lead a board discussion about what Republicans are doing to improve on their 2012 effort.

The possibility that Adelson might use his checkbook to upend the 2016 primary “is worrisome,” Fleischer conceded, though he stressed the same could be said of other very wealthy Republicans.

The new big-money political landscape — in which a handful of donors can dramatically alter a campaign with just a check or two — explains both the eagerness of busy governors to make pilgrimages to Las Vegas, and the obsession with divining Adelson’s 2016 leanings.

All manner of national media flocked to Adelson’s Venetian casino and resort hotel, which hosted the RJC meeting. But reporters were kept away from Adelson by coalition staff, as well as casino and personal security, and his team turned down interview requests, including for an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

As Adelson whizzed around his Venetian kingdom on a motorized scooter during the retreat, he was often trailed by GOP operatives, politicians and fellow donors eager to assess his state of mind, advise him on what he should do or just lavish him with praise and gratitude.

The son of poor Jewish immigrants, Adelson was raised in a working-class Massachusetts town. He amassed a fortune estimated at $40 billion today by following his gut and bucking conventional wisdom, forging a business- and family-travel industry in Las Vegas and rushing into the uncertain middle-class gambling market in the Macao region of China.

He donates huge sums to Israeli causes and has ramped up his domestic political giving in recent years, culminating in an unprecedented $100 million spending spree in 2012. Despite his paltry success rate, he has said he intends to spend even more in future campaigns.

At a closed-press Saturday night gala, Adelson quipped that he couldn’t oblige a request from the RJC for a $50 million contribution because the group’s executive director, Matt Brooks, didn’t have change for $1 billion.

Neither Adelson’s speech nor his private conversations over the weekend provided those closest to him with any clearer sense of which way his gut was leading him in the 2016 presidential race, leaving all grasping at clues.

“His priority is Israel. So, if you look at his vetting process, I haven’t sat in any of the meetings, but I assure you that the first question is ‘tell me where you are on the safety and security of the state of Israel,’” said GOP bundler Fred Zeidman, a Houston private equity investor who is friendly with Adelson.

All the prospective candidates who turned up in Vegas stressed their support for Israel in speeches and private meetings with Adelson. There were several veiled swipes at GOP politicians and prospective presidential candidates with more noninterventionist foreign policy perspectives, like Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas, who are considered unlikely candidates for Adelson’s support. Yet most of the governors who were invited to Vegas have fairly limited foreign policy chops.

Walker conceded as much in a Saturday speech, explaining foreign affairs is “not an area that governors typically look at,” though he mentioned that he is commander in chief of the Wisconsin National Guard. He also sought to forge cultural common ground with RJCers by explaining that he lights a menorah at the governor’s mansion during Hannukah and named one of his two sons Matthew — which means “gift from God” in Hebrew.

Christie’s efforts at playing the Israel card backfired when he inadvertently used a term [occupied territories] for disputed Middle East territory during a Saturday speech that offended Adelson and some of his guests. The New Jersey governor apologized in a private meeting in the casino mogul’s Venetian office shortly afterward.

The foreign policy deficit may, in fact, be a side effect of another factor Adelson has identified as important, according to sources close to him — “executive experience.” That could potentially rule out prospective candidates with more hawkish foreign policy attitudes, like Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida.

Kasich of Ohio played straight to Adelson.

“Hey, listen, Sheldon, thanks for inviting me,” Kasich told Adelson during a Saturday luncheon speech.

“Sheldon and I were kind of talking about his background. I come from a little town outside of Pittsburgh called McKees Rocks — it was very blue collar,” Kasich said, in one of several Adelson-related non sequiturs.

Even when he discussed his effort to clamp down on prescription drug dissemination, he said Adelson — who took as many as 25 medications in a day in 2001 to manage pain from a neurological condition, and whose wife, Miriam Adelson, is a physician who specializes in treating drug addiction — “is someone who knows about this.”

Some possible candidates who seem to meet Adelson’s criteria either weren’t invited or didn’t come to Las Vegas, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. He has both executive experience and a track record of supporting Israel, but seems to face electability hurdles similar to those that hamstrung Gingrich.

Yet late last year, when Adelson at a Zionist Organization of America dinner presented the Adelson Defender of Israel award to Huckabee, he called the ordained Southern Baptist minister “a great politician,” as well as “a great person, a great American and a great Zionist.” Since then, the two have met privately twice — once with their spouses — and are “very good friends [who] share a deep commitment to Israel,” according to a source close to Huckabee.

Mel Sembler — a Florida mall developer, former U.S. ambassador to Italy and major GOP rainmaker — in 2012 urged Adelson to halt his Gingrich super PAC funding stream for the good of the party, as did fellow RJC board member Zeidman. As Sembler boarded a bus taking donors from Adelson’s Palazzo hotel to the Bush speech at the private hangar Thursday night, he suggested that Adelson may have recalibrated his approach based on the 2012 failure. “Sheldon has his own mind, but he’s learned. He’s learned a lot. He’s matured.”

Plus, Zeidman suggested that Adelson’s personal feelings on the various 2016 possibilities won’t factor into his decision as they did in 2012. “None of them have a 20-year history like Newt Gingrich did,” Zeidman said of the former House speaker’s relationship with Adelson.

The goal of hearing from the candidates was to start a vetting process that will produce a consensus — one that includes Adelson — of the best candidate, according to Sembler.

“We’re going to talk about that one,” he said. “We’re going to support the best candidate we can possibly get. That’s who we’re going to support.”

Adelson may have done that in his closed-door meetings with the candidates (he also met privately with House Speaker John Boehner, who was in town for other business). But when it came to the official RJC sessions, the mogul was often late and frequently seemed more interested in kibitzing than in official business. “He mingles pretty good,” remarked Rep. Billy Long of Missouri, as he left a Friday evening Shabbat dinner at which the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. spoke.

Adelson — who is not known as a morning person and also was nursing a cold — skipped Saturday morning speeches from Walker and former Ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton. He entered the hall midway through Christie’s address, walking with the help of a bodyguard to a reserved seat in the front row as Christie talked about his governing style.

He showed up 20 minutes late to a Friday morning RJC board meeting, zipping up to the entrance on his scooter flanked by two Hebrew-speaking bodyguards, one of whom helped him to his feet to walk into the meeting. As other board members queued up to greet him, Adelson perused the breakfast buffet of bagels, lox, pastries and eggs, using his fingers to sample a pinch of shredded cheddar cheese in a serving bowl. The spread was certified kosher by Rabbi Tzvi Braunstein and the Chabad of Southern Nevada, according to an agenda.

“Who let you in here?” he demanded when POLITICO approached. “You can’t come in. This is a private meeting,” he said, rejecting a question about whether he’d try to avoid a costly and protracted primary this time around. “You can ask anything you want, but you’ll have to talk to the wall, because I’m not talking to you,” he said, as one of his bodyguards stepped in, ushered POLITICO from the room, and later called hotel security to bar the reporter from the adjacent hallways.

At the meeting, board members got a briefing on Senate races and were informed of efforts by the group to assist hawkish allies including Sens. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and GOP Senate nominee Bill Cassidy of Louisiana in their 2014 Senate primaries. The weekend’s private events drew appearances by Reps. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Cory Gardner of Colorado, both running for Senate, as well as Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin.

Other closed-press sessions included a scotch tasting, a poker tournament and a panel on “the lessons of 2012 and the current path forward for the GOP.” Then there were VIP discussions and photo ops with former Vice President Dick Cheney, Walker and Kasich, four Jewish prayer services for the more devout, and a Saturday night gala featuring a speech by Cheney. He warned against “what I sense to be an increasing strain of isolationism, if I could put it in those terms, in our own party. It’s not taking over, by any means, but there is without question a body of thought now that’s supported by many Republicans and some candidates that the United States can afford to turn its back on that part of the world.”

Cheney said “it’s crucial” to have candidates with muscular foreign policies and for Republicans to “take back the Senate and take back the White House so we can deal with what has been developing” around the world.

Regardless of any shared ideology on foreign policy or other issues, an adviser to former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum suggested it’s distasteful for the party’s prospective candidates to be flocking to court Adelson.

“It sets a bad precedent for a billionaire to say ‘come hither’ this early on, and some people actually do,” said John Brabender, who was a leading strategist on Santorum’s 2012 presidential campaign and is helping him build a political foundation that could serve as a springboard to a 2016 campaign. Santorum, who is an ardent defender of Israel, didn’t attend the RJC meeting, and Brabender questioned the optics for the possible 2016 rivals who did. “I don’t know why any prospective candidate wants to be seen as the mainstream Republican, because that’s got negative connotations among most Republican primary voters.”

The narrative that holds Adelson went rogue in 2012 and now is realigning himself with the GOP mainstream is flawed, asserted RJC president Matt Brooks, who works closely with Adelson. “The notion that somehow he was a rube and got duped and made awful investments in 2012, and has all these lessons to learn, is misreading what happened,” said Brooks. “The fact is, Republicans got wiped out all across the board. So it’s not like everybody else won and he was the outlier who put his money into losing causes.”

Except that Adelson is distinct from other conservative megadonors in his willingness to choose sides in primaries, then go it alone, seemingly immune from peer pressure. The only conservative donors who rival his spending power, Charles and David Koch, mostly avoid major involvement in primary fights and focus instead on building consensus among a wide network of donors. Plus, they try — increasingly unsuccessfully — to keep a lower profile.

Still, there is growing overlap between Koch world and the Adelson-RJC crew, with Adelson attending a 2012 Koch donor seminar and Tim Phillips, president of the Kochs’ Americans for Prosperity group, attending his first RJC meeting last weekend.

Democrats have mostly kept their deepest pockets in line, thanks to a smaller universe of super PACs and megadonors, and greater ideological unity — not to mention the rallying of deep pockets behind early presumed front-runner Hillary Clinton.

“The parties have to some degree switched procedures,” said Fleischer. “Republicans used to be the hierarchical, organized party.” Now, though, “Democrats, because they have the White House, and because so many of them are lined up behind Hillary, if she runs, are the hierarchical party, at least for the moment.”

Still, he said, all it takes is one headstrong billionaire to throw everything into chaos, and nobody can stop it.

“If you think that people like Sheldon or George Soros or Tom Steyer are going to be influenced by the thinking of others, you don’t know the mindset of highly successful, entrepreneurial individuals who have made it their own way their whole lives,” said Fleischer. “At the end of the day, these individuals are going to do what they think is the best right thing to do, and it may not necessarily be reflective of the good of the greater party.”

Also on POLITICO:

2016ers woo Vegas donor crowd

Christie apologizes for ‘occupied territories’

Kasich bonds with Adelson in Vegas

May 5, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Court Holds Wisconsin Officials In Contempt For Enforcing Scott Walker’s Anti-Union Law

By Ian Millhiser | Think Progress | October 22, 2013

A Wisconsin judge who declared Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) union-busting law unconstitutional more than a year ago held the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission in contempt of court on Monday for continuing to enforce that law against school and municipal workers.

Walker’s law includes a one-two punch that dramatically weakens the ability of unions to improve workers’ wages while simultaneously encouraging those workers to drop the union. First, the law only permits public workers to collectively bargain for raises limited to the rate of inflation, thus curtailing one of the primary benefits of unionization — increased wages. It then requires unionized public workers to vote every year on whether they want to still be represented by a union.

Judge Juan Colas’ 2012 order blocks these restrictions from going into effect against city, county and school district workers, although state workers remain largely subject to Walker’s law. His order on Monday clarifies that the order applies statewide, and not just to the narrow group of plaintiffs before his court.

Yet, while Colas’ most recent decision is a victory for public workers in Wisconsin, this victory is likely to be temporary. His original 2012 ruling is pending before the very conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court. And the conservatives on that court already reinstated Walker’s law once after it was blocked (on a different legal grounds) by a lower court.

October 23, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Solidarity and Activism | , , | Leave a comment

US judge annuls anti-union state law in Wisconsin

Press TV – September 15, 2012

A US judge in the State of Wisconsin has struck down an anti-union law signed by the state’s Republican governor in 2011, reigniting a controversial issue that prompted recall elections just weeks before Election Day.

Wisconsin’s Dane County Circuit Court Judge Juan Colas ruled on Friday that the law, curbing collective bargaining for most public employees, violates both the state and the US Constitution and infringes on free speech and association rights.

The judge’s ruling represents at least a temporary defeat for Governor Scott Walker, who promptly censured the decision on Friday but further expressed confidence that his state would launch an appeal against it.

“The people of Wisconsin clearly spoke on June 5,” said Walker. “Now, they are ready to move on. Sadly a liberal activist judge in Dane County wants to go backwards and take away the lawmaking responsibilities of the legislature and the governor. We are confident that the state will ultimately prevail in the appeals process.”

The state law struck down by the Wisconsin judge was at the core of Walker’s legislative agenda following his 2010 election victory and its passage triggered a chaotic political situation in the state throughout most of 2011 and 2012.

The bill included a provision curbing collective bargaining for most public employees. It was passed, and Walker subsequently signed it into law over angry protest rallies by labor activists who stormed the state capital in early 2011.

The Wisconsin chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees celebrated the ruling and tried to portray it as an obvious reprimand to the Republican governor.

“Today, Governor Scott Walker was rejected by the courts again,” said AFSCME Council 48 Executive Director Rich Abelson. “Today’s ruling shows that his attempt to steal the rights away from working men and women in Wisconsin was unconstitutional. We have always believed that Governor Walker and the state legislature overstepped their authority by taking away the rights of public employees to collectively bargain.”

September 15, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Comments Off on US judge annuls anti-union state law in Wisconsin