Saturday, May 21, 2016

California, or Bust: Bernie Lands in Vallejo!

Bernie Comes to Vallejo

by Rick Sterling  - CounterPunch

May 20, 2016

Vallejo is geographically close but economically far from more affluent San Francisco Bay Area cities to the south. In 2008 the city of Vallejo filed for bankruptcy.

Yesterday, May 18, the Bernie Sanders campaign came to Vallejo.

The gathering was held in a huge grassy area alongside the water estuary. The area was enclosed with security fencing so that audience members all had to pass through metal detectors.

One and half hours before Sanders’ speech, the line to go through the security screening was half a mile long. Yet spirits were high with a buzz in the air.

The audience of 8 to 10 thousand was mostly young, students or working class and ethnically diverse. Many had only learned Bernie was coming via Facebook that day or the day before. I chatted with people patiently waiting as the line slowly advanced. I asked two young African American women why they supported Bernie. The answer: “He seems real; he seems consistent; and because the others will take us to hell!” I asked three Latino young adults why they support Bernie. The answer: “Bernie will help the working class. Because we need affordable education.” I noticed he said “working class” not “middle class”. A young Hispanic couple responded simply “Why support Bernie? The future.” Other answers were “climate change”, “criminal justice” , “education” and “he’s got vision”.

As the event began, an African American organizer from Oakland spoke, then the Filipina President of California Nurses Association, then San Francisco Supervisor Jane Kim followed by organizers from the Bernie team advising the audience about voting in June 7 California primary. Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks revved up the crowd then Bernie took the stage.

Toward the front, the crowd was packed together with shorter people unable to see beyond their neighbors let alone the stage. The sun was starting to set and a breeze came off the water. It had been an unusually hot day. Bernie spoke for nearly an hour. He recalled how the pundits had dismissed his campaign from the start, saying his ideas were “too bold and radical”. Bernie said he has won 46% of the pledged delegates to date, with six states remaining including the largest in the country.

Sanders delivered his speech saying:

* the campaign finance system is corrupt and undermining democracy

* the economy is “rigged” with the rich taking it all

* the infrastructure is collapsing with school children in Flint Michigan poisoned by tap water

* corporations have taken away good jobs by moving manufacturing outside the USA

* the criminal justice system is broken, with the government spending $80 billion locking up 2.2 million people

* police departments have been militarized

* graduating students are saddled with monstrous debts

* why does the government always have money for wars but not to rebuild inner cities?

* we are destroying the planet – what kind of legacy is that?

* healthcare should be a right not a privilege – we need medicare for all

* workers needs a living wage which is $15 per hour minimum

* we need immigration reform and end to deportations

Sanders spoke of the need to “Stand up and fight back…. With unity of black, brown, gay, straight, male, female …. There is nothing we cannot accomplish…. We are going to the convention to win the nomination.”

It did not sound like a conciliation or ‘let’s make up’ speech to the Democratic Party establishment. Bernie said his message to the Democratic Convention is “We are the campaign to defeat Donald Trump”.

Six months ago I was skeptical of Bernie Sanders campaign. Not any more. He has been tremendously successful in showing the world there are huge numbers of Americans, especially youth, who want major changes in society and government policy. He has raised the consciousness of millions, sharply contrasting Wall Street’s wealth at the expense of working people. He does not speak much on foreign policy, but what he does say indicates a significant improvement. In Vallejo, his only foreign policy comments were asking why we are rebuilding Afghanistan when we should be rebuilding inner cities at home. It’s a good point, which matches his overall position of stopping a foreign policy of aggression and ‘regime change’.

Will Bernie Sanders fold up his campaign, corral his supporters and cheer for the Democratic Establishment after they have made some token changes in their platform? It’s possible, but I doubt it. Why? Because I think what some of the young people said yesterday is likely true: He is consistent and he does have integrity. His campaign has been based around the needs of working people versus a corrupt Establishment which the Democratic Party is part of. Sanders has highlighted the class nature of our economic system and media. He has focused a bright light on Wall Street and Clinton’s complicity. These lessons are not going to be forgotten or easily retracted.

For those on the Left who disparage Sanders, I say take another look. Listen to his words and more importantly talk with his crowds of supporters. They are the future and we should be working with them. Not preaching dogmatically, but listening. The thousands in Vallejo shouting “Bernie! Bernie!” seem to be doing so because they want the ‘bold and radical change’ previously dismissed by pundits. That sounds good to me.
Rick Sterling is a co-founder of Syria Solidarity Movement. He can be contacted at

Friday, May 20, 2016

The Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed: New Recollections of an American Abroad

An American Abroad: Europe, the US and the Politics of Pissing and Being Pissed

by Dave Lindorff  - This Can't Be Happening

May 20, 2016  

Vienna - As an American visiting Krakow, Poland, where I was last week, it felt weird to read about the inane latest chapter of the so-called culture wars being fought back home over whether states and localities should have the right to bar transgender people from using a public lavatory appropriate to their psychological identity, forcing them instead to use the one that accords with how many X chromosomes they have by birth in their cell nuclei.

After all, in Poland, except for the tonier tourist restaurants and hotels catering to well-heeled American tourists, bathrooms tend to be unisex: men and women enter such a toaleta through a single door into an anteroom, where they find a number of stalls each containing a single commode. In some such facilities, there are also urinals along a wall in the anteroom, allowing men to relieve their bladders while not unnecessarily denying one of the limited number of stalls to any woman in urgent need of relief. Meanwhile, women and men, without a blush, wash their hands side by side in the available sinks in the common anteroom.

Poland is a very conservative Catholic country, quite fundamentalist in its own way, yet omehow this system works there, and without any reported incidents of the indecency or sexual abuse apparently so feared by some of America’s squeamishly fundamentalist Christian folk.

Now I’m not trying to suggest that Poles are necessarily better or saner than Americans. They do, after all, have a not terribly remote history of having largely supported the slaughter, by occupying Nazis, of the Jews who had lived in their midst for centuries. Indeed Krakow itself was the scene of one such particularly brutal and bloody extermination campaign (it was where the German conman Oskar Schindler set up his slave-labor factory, which allowed him to gain fame for eventually coming around to saving many Jews from a mass grave). And anti-semitism (along with other forms of xenophobia) is still alive and well in the country. But at least the Poles aren’t freaking out about transgendered people sneaking into the wrong loo.

While sanity regarding public restroom facility use in Europe comes as a welcome relief (the French too have a casual attitude towards sexual privacy in their public facilities, with women frequently stationed near the men’s pissoire where they collect tips for their janitorial services while men pee against a wall right beside them), other political storms in Europe can display a certain familiarity to a visiting American. In Poland a right-wing nationalist leader was recently elected and the country has distinguished itself from most of its European Union neighbors by simply closing its border to and refusing to admit refugees -- Middle Eastern or otherwise (even as its own surplus workers avail themselves of their visa-free right to move to the UK to find work).

In Austria, which I visited later on this trip, the refugee issue, among other things, contributed significantly to a stunning election surprise late last month as angry voters who since 1949 had obligingly installed alternating center-right Austrian People’s Party (OPP) and center-left Social Democratic Party of Austria (OSD) majorities in their parliament, instead this time around relegated those two main parties to an embarrassing fourth and fifth place, and handed the largest number of votes to what one Austrian acquaintance called the “crypto-fascist” Freedom Party and the “genuinely radical leftist Austrian Green Party. A runoff between those two more extreme parties of left and right is set for this Sunday.

This Sunday, Austrians will choose between a 'crypto-fascist' and a 
radical left Green candidate for prime minister: Freedom Party leader 
Norbert Hofer and Green Party leader Alexander van der Bellen

Similar frustrations with the political status quo among voters have let to an upcoming and hotly contested referendum in a few weeks in the UK on whether Britain should leave or stay in the European Union Many angry white working-class (and some radical leftist) Brits are calling for “Brexit,” or a British exit from Europe. Meanwhile, equally angry French voters increasingly are turning to the nativist and ultra-right anti-European Union National Front Party of Marine Le Pen.

In a way, one can recognize in such right-wing politics an echo of the Donald Trump phenomenon in the US. But at the same time, there is another trend here that seems to echo the Bernie Sanders movement that this primary season has been calling for a “political revolution” in the US.

In both Europe and in the US, many white working-class people are feeling threatened by growing numbers of non-white immigrants (and of course, in the US case, by the native-born blacks and Latinos all around them). They see their former privileged positions threatened by newcomers who practice different religions, wear different clothes, and sometimes speak the home country’s language with an accent. And they want to turn back the clock to a mythical time of racial, ethnic and national “purity.”

But the anger is not all reactionary. As in the US, there are in Europe also millions of people on the left -- white and non-white -- who see the existing political system there as hopelessly corrupt, in thrall to the rich and powerful, and increasingly removed from any real democratic control. In Europe, such voters see the European Union as usurping their own countries’ sovereignty and citizens’ democratic rights, in favor or a remote and uncaring bureaucracy in Brussels. In the US, the driving force behind Sanders’ astoundingly successful campaign for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination has been a similar sense that the US government and the two dominant political parties, no longer really represent the interests of ordinary people, and are instead increasingly owned, literally, by the rich and by large banks and global corporations.

Could Sanders win a 3-way race running as a Green or independent?

The established two-party system in the US makes an outcome such as the April 24 results in Austria, which crushed to two mainstream political parties, pretty unlikely. There remains a small chance that Bernie Sanders and his millions of backers, increasingly angry and frustrated at the corrupt Clinton campaign and the biased leadership of the Democratic Party, could walk away should he, as anticipated, fail to win the party’s presidential nomination, and that he could instead try to run in the general election as an independent or better, as a candidate of the Green Party. Certainly the movement that has backed him increasingly wants him to do this. If it did, there’s a chance too, with both Clinton and Trump so loathed by large segments of the American public, that Sanders could win without either major party’s support.

That would be a radical moment in American politics! If it were to happen, maybe afterwards, we could chuck the his-and-her bathroom nonsense, open up public lavatories to everyone, and focus on more important stuff like seriously attacking climate change and ending America’s obsession with endless wars.

The Democracy to Expect from the Democratic Front-Runner: Clinton, Honduras, and Colombia

The Clinton-Colombia Connection

by Jonathan Marshall  - Consortium News

May 19, 2016

On June 29, 2009, one day after Honduran military leaders ousted their country’s democratically elected president, President Obama publicly branded the coup illegal and denounced it as “a terrible precedent.”

Yet even as he spoke, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was ensuring that U.S. aid continued and that major capitals would recognize the new regime.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Human rights activists have long decried her for abandoning democratic rights and values in Honduras. But many have overlooked her cozy embrace of the morally compromised Latin American leader who happened to be sharing the White House podium when Obama made his remarks: Colombian President Álvaro Uribe.

Obama was hosting Uribe to build political support for the U.S.-Colombia free trade agreement, which both he and Hillary Clinton had vigorously opposed during the 2008 election campaign. Obama praised Uribe’s “courage” and his “admirabl(e)” progress on human rights and fighting drug cartels since taking office in 2002 — a controversial claim that Clinton’s State Department would certify that September.

A year later, the love affair between the Obama administration and Uribe grew even hotter. After landing in Bogota for an official visit in April 2010, Defense Secretary Robert Gates lauded the “historic” progress that Uribe’s government had made in the war against “narco-traffickers and terrorists.”

“Uribe, in my view, is a great hero and has been an enormously successful president of Colombia,” Gates told reporters.

Human rights campaigners were aghast. In an email to Hillary Clinton’s chief of staff, a senior aide to Massachusetts Rep. Jim McGovern cited Gates as an example of what not to do during Clinton’s upcoming visit to Colombia that June: “The most important thing the Secretary can do is avoid effusive praise for President Álvaro Uribe, who leaves office in August.”

McGovern’s aide cited several damning facts:

–Contrary to claims from Bogota, reports by the General Accountability Office and the U.S. Agency for International Development showed that U.S. aid and Colombia’s anti-drug programs were failing to meet their goals and in some cases were actually stimulating coca production.

–Military killings of civilians were up — with as many as 1,486 civilians killed “during the first six years of Álvaro Uribe’s presidency,” she noted. (The actual number was likely more than double that.)

–There were also “mounting allegations that the President’s intelligence service, the DAS, was put at the service of paramilitary leaders and narco-traffickers; used to spy on and intimidate Supreme Court justices, opposition politicians, journalists and human rights defenders; and employed in a campaign of sabotage and smears against political opponents” of Uribe.

–Dozens of President Uribe’s political supporters were under investigation for corruption and ties to illegal paramilitary units, she reported. “Many are large landholders with ties to narco-trafficking, the same local leaders who created and fostered the brutal pro-government paramilitary groups that killed tens of thousands of non-combatants in the 1990s and early 2000s. . . Those embroiled . . . include the President’s cousin, Mario Uribe; the brother of his former foreign minister; and individuals whom the President had named to be Colombia’s ambassadors to Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Canada.”

In conclusion, she maintained, the real heroes were not Uribe but “Colombian prosecutors, investigators, witnesses and non-governmental organizations trying to uncover the truth about these abuses” under conditions of great personal risk.

Falling on Deaf Ears

Her advice fell on deaf ears. Just one week later, Secretary Clinton was in Bogota to affirm the administration’s strong support for a free trade agreement, and underline Washington’s commitment to helping Uribe “consolidate the security gains of recent years” against “the insurgents, the guerillas, the narco-traffickers, who would wish to turn the clock back.”

Ex-Colombian President Alvaro Uribe
(Photo credit: World Economic Forum)

Echoing her friend Bob Gates, she added, “because of your commitment to building strong democratic institutions here in Colombia and to nurturing the bonds of friendship between our two countries, you leave a legacy of great progress that will be viewed in historic terms.”

Clinton had nothing to say about the quarter million victims of right-wing paramilitary groups, many of them backed by the military, as reported in a November, 2009 cable from the U.S. embassy in Bogota. Nor did she have anything to say about the more than 2,700 union members murdered since 1986 (including hundreds under Uribe), making Colombia by far the world’s most dangerous place for organized labor.

Secretary Clinton may have been influenced by her husband’s warm relationship with Uribe. As President, he had signed and implemented a multi-year aid package called Plan Colombia, which contributed more than $8 billion to Colombia’s counterinsurgency wars, despite Washington’s full knowledge of the military’s “death-squad tactics” and cooperation with drug-running paramilitary groups.

In retirement, former President Clinton deepened his ties to Uribe and Colombia. In 2005, he introduced Uribe to Canadian mining magnate Frank Guistra, who was a leading donor to the Clinton Global Initiative fund; Guistra was interested in acquiring mineral and oil rights in Colombia. In 2005, Clinton also picked up $800,000 from a Colombia-based group for a speaking tour of Latin America to tout the merits of a U.S-Colombia free trade agreement. (Guistra provided the private jet for Clinton’s tour.)

To further promote the trade pact, Bogota provided a $300,000 P.R. contract to Clinton’s pollster Mark Penn. As part of his publicity campaign, Penn arranged for Uribe to hold an award banquet in honor of Clinton in 2007. Clinton reciprocated by featuring Uribe as an honored guest at his Clinton Global Initiative annual meeting a few months later.

When news of Penn’s contract with Bogota got out in 2008, Hillary Clinton had to fire him as her campaign strategist, lest she lose endorsements from labor unions. She insisted that her husband’s relationship with Colombia would not influence her stand on the free trade deal, which she opposed because of “the history of violence against trade unionists in Colombia.”

Reversing Course

As we have seen, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton reversed course once in office. Clinton may simply have been following the President’s lead, but critics point to her family’s unsavory financial connections as another explanation for her change of heart. As International Business Times reported last year:

“When workers at the country’s largest independent oil company staged a strike in 2011, the Colombian military rounded them up at gunpoint and threatened violence if they failed to disband, according to human rights organizations. Similar intimidation tactics against the workers, say labor leaders, amounted to an everyday feature of life. . .

“Yet as union leaders and human rights activists conveyed these harrowing reports of violence to then-Secretary of State Clinton in late 2011, urging her to pressure the Colombian government to protect labor organizers, she responded first with silence, these organizers say. The State Department publicly praised Colombia’s progress on human rights, thereby permitting hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid to flow to the same Colombian military that labor activists say helped intimidate workers.

“At the same time that Clinton’s State Department was lauding Colombia’s human rights record, her family was forging a financial relationship with Pacific Rubiales, the sprawling Canadian petroleum company at the center of Colombia’s labor strife. The Clintons were also developing commercial ties with the oil giant’s founder, Canadian financier Frank Giustra, who now occupies a seat on the board of the Clinton Foundation, the family’s global philanthropic empire.

“The details of these financial dealings remain murky, but this much is clear: After millions of dollars were pledged by the oil company to the Clinton Foundation — supplemented by millions more from Giustra himself — Secretary Clinton abruptly changed her position on the controversial U.S.-Colombia trade pact.

“Having opposed the deal as a bad one for labor rights back when she was a presidential candidate in 2008, she now promoted it, calling it ‘strongly in the interests of both Colombia and the United States.’ The change of heart by Clinton and other Democratic leaders enabled congressional passage of a Colombia trade deal that experts say delivered big benefits to foreign investors like Giustra.”

According to a report this May by the AFL-CIO and four Colombian unions, 99 Colombian workers and union activists have been killed since the trade agreement took effect in 2011. Another six were kidnapped and 955 received death threats. Only a small fraction of those crimes were every solved.

Meanwhile, Uribe continues to be a major force in Colombian politics. In April, he mobilized a street protest against efforts by the current government to bring about a lasting peace with the Marxist guerrilla group FARC; a leading newspaper reported that Uribe’s protest was backed by Colombia’s largest paramilitary drug-trafficking organization, Los Urabeños, which managed to shut down much of the north of the country for 72 hours after assassinating a dozen policemen.

Ties to Drug Trade

A connection between Uribe, paramilitary groups, and drug traffickers is all too easy to imagine, despite his denials and Washington’s hero worship. Consider a few family connections, among the many that have been alleged:

–One of Uribe’s brothers was arrested this February for allegedly leading a death squad against suspected leftists that was run from the family cattle ranch. A Colombian legislator cited testimony that Álvaro himself may have “ordered massacres” from the ranch.

Another brother was arrested (but not convicted) for suspected ties to cocaine kingpin Pablo Escobar; his extramarital partner was later arrested on a U.S. warrant for allegedly working with the head of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. Their daughter was also listed by the U.S. Treasury Department as a major money launderer.

–Uribe’s two sons are under investigation for massive tax evasion and showed up in the recent “Panama papers” leak as shareholders in a British Virgin Islands tax shelter;

–Uribe’s campaign manager and former chief of staff was flagged by DEA in 2001 as Colombia’s largest importer of a key precursor chemical for the production of cocaine.

–Uribe received contributions to his 2002 presidential campaign from the country’s largest and most murderous paramilitary organization, the AUC, which was listed by Washington as an international terrorist organization. By the time of Uribe’s election, according to one expert, “the AUC had become the most powerful network of drug traffickers in the country’s history.”

Uribe arranged a sweetheart deal to allow AUC leaders to escape serious justice with most of their wealth intact, until the nation’s top courts intervened. Uribe’s chief of security from 2002 to 2005 pleaded guilty in 2012 to taking bribes to protect the AUC.

–And as far back as 1991, a confidential U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency report called Uribe a “close personal friend” of Pablo Escobar, and said he was “dedicated to collaboration with the Medellín cartel at high government levels.” It also noted that his father had been murdered “for his connection with the narcotic traffickers.”

On the plus side, President George W. Bush awarded Uribe the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service named him a Distinguished Scholar. And Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation named him to its Board of Directors in 2012.

Hillary Clinton clearly sides with the camp of Uribe’s admirers. It’s time to call her out and make her account for that choice — and for a record that calls into question her professed devotion to human freedom, democratic values, and the rights of organized labor.

Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012). Some of his previous articles for Consortiumnews were “Risky Blowback from Russian Sanctions”; “Neocons Want Regime Change in Iran”; “Saudi Cash Wins France’s Favor”; “The Saudis’ Hurt Feelings”; “Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Bluster”; “The US Hand in the Syrian Mess”; and “Hidden Origins of Syria’s Civil War.” ]

Thursday, May 19, 2016

National Energy Board Ignores Opponents, Approves Kinder Morgan's TransMountain Pipeline

Kinder Morgan approval is meaningless with BC opposed

by Wilderness Committee

May 19, 2016

VANCOUVERWilderness Committee is outraged but not surprised the National Energy Board (NEB) approved the Kinder Morgan pipeline today despite overwhelming opposition in British Columbia.

“I shouldn’t be surprised, but this is an outrageous decision. The NEB has ignored and wasted the time of countless communities, First Nations and individuals who have stood up to oppose this irresponsible pipeline proposal,” said Peter McCartney, Climate Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee.
“Kinder Morgan’s project has no social licence and this pipeline will not be built.”

Widespread criticism of flaws in the NEB process meant the decision was a foregone conclusion.
“Nobody had much hope the NEB would act in the public interest and reject this project,” said McCartney.
“Now the ball is in Trudeau’s court to do the right thing -- protect our coast and our climate.”

The NEB’s review of the pipeline proposal faced widespread criticism. During the hearings, they were denounced for ignoring the project’s opponents. Climate concerns were not part of the review despite the pipeline enabling growth of the tar sands. A key study from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences highly critical about the response to a diluted bitumen spill was dismissed because of procedural technicalities. No cross-examination of Kinder Morgan was allowed.

Worst of all, thousands of British Columbians were shut out of the process because they were not deemed “directly affected.”
“Nobody had much hope the NEB would act in the public interest and reject this project,” said McCartney.
“Now the ball is in Trudeau’s court to do the right thing — protect our coast and our climate.”

On Tuesday, the federal government announced its additional consultation process, a panel that will travel the pipeline and tanker route to gauge local opposition to the project. On that day, the Wilderness Committee launched an interactive map with testimonies from communities and First Nations who raised their concerns at the NEB hearings in January.
“British Columbians have made it crystal clear this pipeline is not welcome in our communities,” said McCartney.
“No new process is going to change that.”


For Immediate Release
For more information, please contact:

Peter McCartney | Climate Campaigner, Wilderness Committee

Gray the Grifter Comes Nearer Into Focus: Seeing Through Bill Clinton

Twilight of the Grifter: Bill Clinton’s Fading Powers

by Chris Floyd - Empire Burlesque

May 19, 2016

In the warm twilight of a spring evening 15 years ago, in the quiet, green garden of Rhodes House at Oxford, I watched Bill Clinton give an impromptu talk to a group of graduate students who had gathered around him with their glasses of wine after an official function earlier in the day. (I was there in a service capacity.)

He was pushing the same line he espoused last week while campaigning for Hillary, when he declared that he had “killed himself” to get a state for the Palestinians at the high-stakes Camp David summit in 2000.

At one point in the twilight talk at Oxford, he quoted — or claimed to quote — Yasser Arafat as testimony to his altruistic efforts: “Arafat told me, ‘Mr President, you have done more for the Palestinian people than all the Arab leaders combined!’” Sadly, the pressures those short-sighted Arabs brought to bear on Bill’s friend Yasser thwarted Clinton’s painstaking and heroic labors on the Palestinians’ behalf, and the summit failed.

I admit, Clinton is (or was) good at this kind of thing. He held the group in the palm of his hand, speaking with an engaged — and engaging — passion, direct and personal, without soaring rhetoric or the practiced glibness of the professional politician. It was interesting to see this phenomenon up close. In the immediate spell of his performance, you hardly noticed the great hubris and arrogance in what he actually said: that he alone had almost brought peace to the Middle East, that he loved the Palestinians more than the Arabs themselves did, that no one could have done more than he did to resolve the situation — all the while reducing Arafat to the role of a servile coolie, who humbly attests to the Master’s greatness and nobility.

And even though I knew at the time there was hardly a word of truth in what he said (as this story, unearthed by Spencer Thayer, makes clear), I could still feel the tidal pull of his charisma, the temptation to let go and believe in the portrait, the fantasy, he was painting. Indeed, I think Clinton himself probably believed it, at least in the moment of its telling — which is course the hallmark, the supreme talent, of a master grifter.

Of course, that was long ago. Watching Clinton today on the campaign trail for Hillary, it seems clear that his charisma has severely decayed, perhaps rotted by the years of money-grubbing with oligarchs and despots. Or maybe it's just the natural fading that comes with age and disuse. (When I saw him, he was only a few weeks out of his presidency, still at the top of his game with the skills he’d honed during decades of continual politicking.)

Now he seems brittle, rattled and scattered; he can summon the spirits, in a wan attempt to paint over the truth — but they no longer come when he calls.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Glyphosate Rising: Corrupting Europe's Fields and Parliaments

Monsanto and the Poisoning of Europe

by Colin Todhunter - CounterPunch

May 18, 2016

This week, a Standing Committee of plant scientists from 28 member states in Europe is likely to endorse the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) findings so that the European Commission (under pressure from Monsanto, Glyphosate Task Force and others) can re-authorise glyphosate for another nine years.

This is despite the WHO classifying glyphosate as being “probably carcinogenic” to humans.
NeydtStock |

An open letter from campaigner Rosemary Mason to Dirk Detken, Chief Attorney to the EFSA, follows the brief background article you are about to read. In the letter, Mason highlights the regulatory delinquency concerning the oversight of glyphosate in the EU. The evidence provided by Mason might lead many to agree that processes surrounding glyphosate ‘regulation’ in Europe amount to little more than a “cesspool of corruption.”

There are around 500 million people in the EU. They want EU officials to uphold the public interest and to be independent from commercial influence. They do not want them to serve and profit from commercial interests at cost to the public’s health and safety. However, what they too often get are massive conflicts of interest: see here about the ‘revolving door’ problem within official EU bodies, here about ‘the European Food and Safety Authority’s independence problem’ and here about ‘chemical conflicts’ in the EC’s scientific committees for consumer issues.

And they get governing bodies that are beholden to massive corporate lobbying: see here about ‘the fire power of the financial lobby’ and here about ‘who lobbies most’ for TTIP, with agribusiness being the biggest lobby group behing this secretive and corrupt trade deal that is attempting drive a policy agenda above the heads of the European people and contrary to their wishes (see this on TTIP as well).

Regulators turn a blind eye to the deleterious effects of products that pose a serious systemic risk to the public: see here about ‘the glyphosate toxicity studies you’re not allowed to see’ and here ‘case closed by EFSA on Roundup, despite new evidence’.

And they also give the nod to products based not on independent research but on a company’s statements or secretive studies taken at face value and then deliberately keep the public in the dark: for example, see here about ‘Roundup and birth defects’.

What people get are public institutions that serve a corporate agenda: see here about ‘the black book on the corporate agenda of the EC’.

Last year, Arthur Nelson noted that as many as 31 pesticides with a value running into billions of pounds could have been banned in the EU because of potential health risks, if a blocked EU paper on hormone-mimicking chemicals had been acted upon.

A study by Sebastian Stehle and Ralph Schultz found that 44.7 % of the 1,566 cases of measured insecticide concentrations (MICs) in EU surface waters exceeded their respective regulatory acceptable concentrations. The meta-analysis challenges the efficacy of the regulatory environmental risk assessment conducted for pesticide authorisation in the EU.

Our food and agriculture system is in big trouble. It’s in big trouble because the global agritech/agribusiness sector is poisoning it, us and the environment with its pesticides, herbicides, GMOs and various other chemical inputs. This is made possible because of the agro-chemical industry’s lavish funds, massive lobbying, slick PR, compliant politicians and scientists and its undermining and capture of regulatory and policy decision-making bodies that supposedly serve the public interest.

The situation in the US is possibly even worse and with TTIP on the horizon, Europeans could be in line for exposure to even more chemicals. Some 34,000 pesticides are currently registered for use in the US. Drinking water is often contaminated by pesticides, and more babies are being born with preventable birth defects due to pesticide exposure. Chemicals show up in breast milk of mothers. Illnesses are on the rise too, including asthma, autism and learning disabilities, birth defects and reproductive dysfunction, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases and several types of cancer. The link with pesticide exposure is becoming increasingly evident.

Elected politicians and ‘public servants’ are allowing this to happen. In 2014, the authors of the report ‘The record of a Captive Commission’ concluded that the outgoing Barraso II EC’s trade and investment policy revealed a bunch of unelected technocrats who cared little about what ordinary people want and negotiate on behalf of big business.

The report state that the European Commission had a one-sided relationship with agribusiness on GMOs and pesticides. Far from shifting Europe to a more sustainable food and agriculture system, the opposite had happened, as agribusiness and its lobbyists continued to dominate the Brussels scene. The report noted that the industry had been exerting strong pressure to prevent action by the EU on endocrine disruptors and pesticides.

Failure to expose and challenge the corruption, lobbying, back-room ‘free trade’ deals and revolving door that exists between agribusiness and decision-making/regulatory bodies will result in these corporations continuing to prosper at everyone else’s expense.

Open Letter from Rosemary Mason to Dirk Detken, Chief Attorney to the European Food Safety Authority

(For the sake of convenience, this is an edited version of the original letter and has been reformatted in places)

Dear Dirk Detken,

Humans and the environment are being poisoned by thousands of chemicals of that have never been tested by regulators in the combinations in which farmers use them today. Regulation of pesticides is controlled by the agrochemical industry. It has a financial interest in advising farmers to use as much and as many pesticides as possible. This week a Standing Committee of plant scientists from 28 member states in Europe is likely to endorse EFSA’s findings so that the European Commission (under pressure from Monsanto, Glyphosate Task Force and Crop Protection Organisations) can re-authorise glyphosate for another nine years.

1) Glyphosate is toxic to humans

Pesticide regulators and Monsanto maintain that glyphosate only affects plants, fungi and bacteria, not humans. Regulators claim it is non-toxic to humans because of the enzyme that glyphosate affects is only present in plants, fungi and bacteria and not in animals and humans. This is scientific nonsense. Pesticide scientists and plant scientists have based their assessment of herbicides on complete ignorance of human gut physiology. Humans and animals have exactly the same pathway as in plants; mammals can only absorb nutrients via the bacteria in their gut; the gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is the collective genome of organisms (i.e. bacteria) inhabiting our body (see this).

2) Environmentalists launch legal case against Monsanto and EU regulators over glyphosate assessment April 26 2016

Viennese lawyer Dr Josef Unterweger says:

“If there has been deliberate manipulation of the new licensing procedure for glyphosate with the intention of approving a carcinogenic substance, then this would be defrauding 508 million EU citizens.”

For this reason Dr Unterweger is pressing charges on behalf of Munich Environmental Institute and the six environmental organisations: Global 2000, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Europe, PAN Germany, PAN UK, Générations Futures (France), WeMove Europe, and Nature & Progrès Belgique.

A report will also be submitted to OLAF, the European anti-fraud office.

Have EFSA and the EU Commission received a copy of the lawsuit?

3) Ignoring evidence about glyphosate in South America

I probably don’t need to remind you of the email I wrote to you on 22/10/2012 about EFSA and the Seralini paper on rat tumours (see this)

I said:

“As Senior Attorney to EFSA, I presume that your CEO Ms Catherine Geslain-Lanuélle must, on occasions, take your advice. Perhaps you would like to point out to her the trail of disasters to human health and the environment that has followed the planting of GM maize and Roundup Ready® crops in both Latin America and the US since they were first grown in 1996. These statistics are real, not theoretical laboratory ones. Are these the disasters that she would want to see repeated in Europe?”

I [received] no reply.

I noted that the German Rapporteur Member State (BfR)/Glyphosate Task Force had excluded all papers from Argentina/Paraguay reporting cancers, birth defects, reproductive problems and DNA changes in their Renewal Assessment Report.

4) Conflicts of interest

The German RMS (BfR) has members of industry serving on it. Le Monde revealed that one third of the Members of the BFR Commission on Pesticides and their Residues are directly employed by the chemical industry; others came from the ‘dubious’ bee institutes. The satirical comment from Le Monde was, that in Germany: “people from the pesticide industry give expert safety advice on their own products.”

Walter Haefeker President of the European Professional Beekeepers’ Association (EPBA) confirmed this:

“Federal authority for Consumer Protection and Food Safety: BVL (Bundesamt für Verbraucherschutz und Lebensmittelsicherheit), during a presentation in 2015, in Berlin, at the world’ s largest agricultural products fair, ‘Die Grüne Woche’, the Director of the Department for the Admission of Plant Protection (Pesticide Regulation Authority), Dr. Karsten Hogardt, stated that the BVL sees itself as: ‘a service for its clients, the plant protection industry’. In this role it is ‘advised’ by an expert group of ‘risk managers’ including many from the pesticide industry. It is shocking and disgraceful, that no independent scientists are allowed in the regulation, or licensing, of pesticides in Germany.”

They were correct. The BfR Committee for Pesticides and its residues had two members from Bayer and two members from BASF. Bayer manufactures Super Strength Glyphosate and BASF supplies a chemical component of glyphosate.

The WHO/JMPR (WHO Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues held jointly with the FAO Panel of Experts on the Use of Pesticides in Agriculture) met to make the final decision about the registration of glyphosate in September 2015 based on IARC’s full report; at least three had conflicts of interest

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) wrote to the World Health Organization (WHO) with the list of eight members of this Committee. They complained that three members had conflicts of interest. Angelo Morettiresigned in 2011 from EFSA after he had failed to declare conflicts of interest because he had shares in a company that helped companies needing to comply with EU Regulations. Prof Alan Boobis is Vice-President of the Board of Directors of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) Europe, Vice Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of ILSI Europe and a Member of the Board of Trustees. He had served as a WHO expert on Pesticides Residues on the WHO/JMPR Committee when glyphosate was granted approval in 2002.

Dr Roland Solecki, Head of the BfR, was one of the eight experts on the WHO/JMPR even though BfR had said: “In BfR’s opinion, it would be inexpedient if BfR as the composer of the assessment report on glyphosate would comment on the IARC monograph.”

5) Members of the Office of the European Ombudsman appear to be protecting industry

On 06/03/2016, I sent a letter to the EU Ombudsman Janet O’Reilly: ‘Maladministration and criminal collusion with the agrochemical involved in the renewal of glyphosate registration’. I received a reply on 13/05/2016, five days before the vote on the re-registration of glyphosate:

Complaint 378/2016/JVH “After a careful examination of your complaint, it seems that this condition is not met, because you do not appear to have made any administrative approaches either to the European Food Safety Authority or to the European Commission, in relation to your complaint. I regret to have to inform you, therefore, that I am not entitled to deal with your complaint.”

On 12/10/2015, I wrote an Open Letter to the European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority.

On 07/12/2015, I sent the Health Commissioner an Open Letter to the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed asking for a copy be sent to the Committee.

On 16/02/2016, I sent letter to Bernhard Url: Glyphosate causes cancer and birth defects.

6) Glyphosate, which Monsanto claimed isn’t metabolized, was found in MEPs urine (see this)

The recent Green Party’s MEPs test was inspired by a German study ‘Urinale 2015’, which sampled glyposate concentrations in urine from more than 2,000 participants.

“The study found that the scale of the glyphosate problem is enormous, with detected concentrations in urine between five and 42 times over the maximum value of residues for drinking water in Europe,” the Green Party pointed out.
“No less than 99.6 percent of all citizens who took part in this survey had higher residue levels. This means that virtually all citizens are contaminated with glyphosate.”

A number of other studies have detected glyphosate—the “most widely applied pesticideworldwide”—in feminine hygiene products, everyday food items and, yes, human bodies.

As veteran reporter Carey Gillam says in the article: What Killed Jack McCall? A Farmer Dies; A Case Against Monsanto Takes Root:

“Monsanto has deliberately concealed or suppressed information about the dangers of its product,” said environmental and chemical pollution attorney Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is assisting in litigating glyphosate cases.
“This is big. It’s on every farm in the world.”

There are now hundreds of court cases against glyphosate (and PCBs) for causing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and since Anthony Samsel obtained the secret sealed files from the US EPA under Freedom of Information about Monsanto’s knowledge in the 1970s that glyphosate caused cancer and cataracts in animals, he is in great demand as a witness.

[In her letter, Mason then goes on to outline the track record of Monsanto in relation to PCBs and its own internal memos that proved it knew about the toxicity of PCBs as far back as 1970 but continued production. She also notes US EPA’s close links with Monsanto and the failure to protect the public interest.]

I look forward to hearing that the Standing Committee for Plants, Animals, Food and Feed has rejected EFSA’s Report on glyphosate and that the European Commission heeds the Appeal by the International Society of Doctors for the Environment to immediately and permanently ban, with no exceptions, the production, trade and use in all the EU territories of glyphosate-based herbicides and the four insecticides as assessed by IARC (see here).

Yours sincerely,

Rosemary Mason

Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India.
More articles by:Colin Todhunter

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Glen MacPherson, Peter McCartney, Janine Bandcroft May 18, 2016

This Week on GR 

by C. L. Cook -

May 18, 2016

Some can hear it, or say they can, while others can't, and think those that say hear the ultra-low frequency hum are just "hearing things." Which is to say, they are not hearing anything, but are in fact nuts!

For nearly a decade, across the country, and across continents, persistent reports of an insistent "hum" have spawned theories and speculations befitting programs like the 'The X-Files' and Jesse Ventura's 'Conspiracy Theory,' who have actually done programs inspired by the mystery; but a serious and scientific study of the noisome phenomenon is underway, and it's base is close to home.

Dr. Glen MacPherson is founder and lead investigator for the World Hum Map and Database Project. He's a high school teacher on the Sunshine Coast of BC, and lectured at UBC for 16 years training mathematics teachers. And yes, he's a hum "hearer" too.

Glen MacPherson in the first half.

And; yesterday, the Federal government appointed a panel to explore Kinder Morgan's pipeline proposal in BC. They might have saved the money, if a real social license is what they're after; as Wilderness Committee reports, "In January, representatives from over 50 communities and First Nations told the National Energy Board (NEB) about local risks from the pipeline." Now, to illustrate the point, they've created an interactive map to relay testimony to that fact from communities and First Nations living along the route to the fed's NEB panel.

Peter McCartney is the Climate Campaigner for the Wilderness Committee. He's working on advocating for a safe and clean climate economy, while mobilizing and demonstrating opposition to the burgeoning fossil fuel export projects on our coast.

Peter McCartney and drawing pictures for Kinder Morgan in the second half.

And; Victoria Street Newz publisher emeritus and CFUV Broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with some of the good things going on on our streets, and beyond there too, in the coming week. But first, hearing the hum with Glen MacPherson.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at:  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, Check out the GR blog at:
G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Do We Have to Draw You a Picture? - Mapping Opposition to Kinder Morgan Pipeline

Tough road ahead for pipeline panel as community opposition widespread 

by Wilderness Committee

May 17, 2016

New map shows major concerns from 12 municipalities and 38 First Nations along the proposed pipeline and tanker route. 

VANCOUVER - The Kinder Morgan pipeline panel appointed this morning by the federal government is faced with the impossible task of gaining social licence from BC communities.

While Burnaby, Vancouver and Tsleil-Waututh Nation have been vocal in their opposition, a new map released today shows numerous other municipalities and First Nations along the proposed pipeline and tanker route have widespread concerns.

“The NEB is likely to approve the Kinder Morgan pipeline this week although dozens of communities and First Nations across the province are against it and will only fight harder now,” said Peter McCartney, Climate Campaigner at the Wilderness Committee.

In January, representatives from over 50 communities and First Nations told the National Energy Board (NEB) about local risks from the pipeline. Wilderness Committee created an interactive map that displays testimony from communities and First Nations living along the route. It shows how widely held fears are about Kinder Morgan.

“During the 2015 federal election, Prime Minister Trudeau said ‘governments grant permits, but only communities grant permission,’ ” said McCartney.
“However, no amount of pressure from the Alberta or Federal governments will allay the significant risk of spills, the lack of First Nations consent, the shoddy economics or the climate impacts associated with the project.”

Concerns were related to the risk of spills of diluted bitumen into the Fraser River or the Salish Sea, with impacts to water, health, food, culture, protected areas and local economies. Some highlighted experiences with past oil spills from the existing Trans Mountain pipeline.

Many Indigenous communities stressed their lack of consent for the project and the need to respect Aboriginal title and rights. Municipalities shared concerns about an inadequate spill response plan and lack of capacity to respond. Together they highlight the environmental, social and economic threat posed by this pipeline.

“Throughout this flawed review process, the National Energy Board has allowed Kinder Morgan to ignore the significant, documented safety concerns of communities and individuals all along the proposed pipeline route,” said Burnaby Mayor Derek Corrigan.

The map and information about risks with the project can be found at a new website launched today by a growing network of 15 organizations working to engage the public in stopping Kinder Morgan. also highlights alternatives that will create more jobs and shared community benefits while also helping BC be a world leader in climate solutions.


For Immediate Release - May 17, 2016

For more information, please contact:

Peter McCartney | Climate Campaigner, Wilderness Committee

Monday, May 16, 2016

Crack-Up: The Democrats' Collision Course

The Coming Democratic Crackup

by Robert Parry  - Consortium News

May 16, 2016

If the Democratic Party presses ahead and nominates hawkish Hillary Clinton for President, it could recreate the conditions that caused the party to splinter in the late 1960s and early 1970s when anti-war and pro-war Democrats turned on one another and opened a path for decades of Republican dominance of the White House.


Defense Secretary Leon Panetta with Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton at NATO conference in Munich,
Germany, Feb. 4 (Official Defense Department photo)

This new Democratic crackup could come as early as this fall if anti-war progressives refuse to rally behind Clinton because of her neoconservative foreign policy – thus infuriating Clinton’s backers – or it could happen in four years if Clinton wins the White House and implements her militaristic agenda, including expanding the U.S. war in Syria while continuing other wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya – and challenging Russia on its borders.

Clinton’s neocon policies in a prospective first term could generate a “peace” challenge similar to the youth-driven uprising against President Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam War in 1968.

Indeed, in 2020, anti-war elements of the Democratic Party might see little choice but to seek a candidate willing to challenge an incumbent President Clinton much as Sen. Eugene McCarthy took on President Johnson, leading eventually to the chaotic and bloody Chicago convention, which in turn contributed to Richard Nixon’s narrow victory that fall.

A difference between Johnson and Clinton, however, is that in 1964, LBJ ran as the “peace candidate” against the hawkish Republican Barry Goldwater (who incidentally was supported by a young Hillary Clinton), whereas in 2016, Clinton has made clear her warlike plans (albeit framing them in “humanitarian” terms).

After winning a landslide victory against Goldwater, Johnson reversed himself and plunged into the Vietnam War, fearing he otherwise might be blamed for “losing” Indochina. With Clinton, there’s no reason to expect a reversal since she’s made no secret about her plans for invading Syria under the guise of creating a “safe zone” and for confronting nuclear-armed Russia along its western borders, from Ukraine through the Baltic States. In her belligerent rhetoric, she has compared Russian President Vladimir Putin to Hitler.

Courting Bibi

Clinton also has vowed to take the U.S.-Israeli relationship to “the next level” by embracing right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who expects to convince President Hillary Clinton to end any détente with Iran and put the prospect of bombing Iran back on the table. Clinton would seem to be an easy sell.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking to a joint session of the U.S. Congress on March 3, 2015. (Screen shot from CNN broadcast) 

Another feature of the LBJ-Hillary comparison is that the Democratic Party’s turn against the Vietnam War in the 1968 and 1972 campaigns prompted a collection of pro-war intellectuals to bolt the Democratic Party and align themselves with the Republicans, especially around Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Those Democratic hawks became known as the neoconservatives and remained attached to the Republican Party for the next 35 years, eventually emerging as Official Washington’s foreign policy establishment. However, in some prominent cases (such as Robert Kagan), neocons are now switching over to Clinton because of the rise of Donald Trump, who rejects the neocon passion for interventionism.

In other words, just as Johnson’s Vietnam War escalation — and the resulting fierce opposition from anti-war Democrats — set in motion the neocons’ defection from the Democrats to the Republicans, Clinton’s enthusiasm for the Iraq War, her support for escalation of the Afghan War, and her scheming for “regime change” wars in Libya and Syria are bringing some neocon hawks back to their first nesting place in the Democratic Party.

But a President Clinton’s transformation of the Democratic Party into “an aggressive war party,” whereas under President Barack Obama it has been “a reluctant war party,” would force principled anti-war Democrats to stop making excuses and to start trying to expel Clinton’s neocon pro-war attitudes from the party.

Such an internecine battle over the party’s soul could deeply divide the Democrats between those supporting Clinton – as “the first woman president” and because of her liberal attitudes on gay rights and other social issues – and those opposing Clinton because of her desire to continue and expand America’s “perpetual wars.”

The Sanders Resistance

Some of that hostility is already playing out as Clinton backers express their anger at progressives who balk at lining up for Clinton’s long-delayed coronation parade. The stubborn support for Sen. Bernie Sanders, even after Clinton has seemingly locked up the Democratic nomination, is a forewarning of the nasty fight ahead.


Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is seeking the 
Democratic presidential nomination.

The prospects are that the animosities will get worse if Clinton loses in November – with many anti-war Democrats defecting or staying home thus infuriating the Hillary Democrats – or if Clinton were to win and begin implementing her neocon foreign policy agenda which will involve further demonizing “enemies” to justify “regime changes.”

If anti-war Democrats begin to resist, they can expect the Clinton-45 administration to stigmatize them as (fill-in-the-blank) “apologists” and “stooges” of “enemy” powers, much as happened to protesters against the Vietnam War and, more recently, to Americans who objected to such U.S. interventions as the Iraq War in 2003 and the Ukraine coup in 2014.

Yet, few Democratic strategists seem to be aware of this looming chasm between anti-war and pro-war Democrats. Many of these insiders seem to believe that the anti-war Democrats will simply fall in line behind Hillary Clinton out of fear and loathing for Donald Trump. That may be the case for many, but my conversations with anti-war activists suggest that a significant number will vote for a third party or might even go for Trump.

Meanwhile, most mainstream media commentators are focused on the divisions between the pro-Trump and anti-Trump Republicans, giving extensive TV coverage to various stop-Trump scenarios, even as many establishment Republicans begin to accommodate to Trump’s populist conquest of the party.

But it’s clear that some prominent Republicans, especially from the neocon camp, are unalterably opposed to Trump’s election in November, fearing that he will turn the GOP away from them and toward an “America First” perspective that would repudiate “regime change” interventions favored by Israel.

Thus, for many neocon Republicans, a Trump defeat is preferable to a Trump victory because his defeat would let them reclaim command of the party’s foreign policy infrastructure. They also could encourage President Clinton to pursue their neocon agenda – and watch as pro- and anti-war stresses rip apart the Democratic Party.

So, the establishment Democrats – with their grim determination to resuscitate Hillary Clinton’s nearly lifeless campaign – may be engaging in the political equivalent of whistling past the graveyard, as the ghosts of the party’s Vietnam War crackup hover over Election 2016.

[For more on this topic, see’s “Neocons and Neolibs: How ‘Dead’ Ideas Kill”; “Yes, Hillary Clinton Is a Neocon”; and “Would a Clinton Win Mean More Wars?”]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and

North Korea: Portrait of a Nuclear Weapons White Hat?

North Korea, Following China and India, Pledges No-First-Use of Nuclear Weapons–So Could Obama

by John Laforge - CounterPunch

May 16, 2016

North Korea’s May 7 declaration that it would not be first to use nuclear weapons was met with official derision instead of relief and applause.

Not one report of the announcement I could find noted that the United States has never made such a no-first-use pledge.

None of three dozen news accounts even mentioned that North Korea hasn’t got one usable nuclear warhead.

The New York Times did admit,

“US and South Korean officials doubted that North Korea has developed a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile that would deliver a nuclear payload to the continental United States.”

Nuclear “first use” means either a nuclear sneak attack or the escalation from conventional mass destruction to the use of nuclear warheads, and presidents have threatened it as many as 15 times. In the build-up to the 1991 Persian Gulf bombing, US officials including then Def. Sec. Dick Cheney and Sec. of State James Baker publicly and repeatedly hinted that the US might use nuclear weapons.

In the midst of the bombardment, Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind., and syndicated columnist Cal Thomas both explicitly promoted nuclear war on Iraq.

In April 1996, President Bill Clinton’s deputy Defense Secretary Herald Smith publicly threatened to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear Libya — which was a party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty — for allegedly building a secret weapons plant. When Clinton’s Defense Secretary William J. Perry was questioned about this threat he repeated it, saying, “[W]e would not forswear that possibility.” (The Nonproliferation Treaty forbids a nuclear attack on other state parties.)

In “Presidential Policy Directive 60” (PD 60) of Nov. 1997, Clinton made public the nuclear first use intentions of his war planners. US H-bombs were now being aimed at nations identified by the State Department to be “rogues.” PD 60 alarmingly lowered the threshold against nuclear attack possibilities. The Clinton doctrine “would allow the US to launch nuclear weapons in response to the use of chemical or biological weapons,” the Los Angeles and New York Times reported. (Arguing that we need H-bombs to deter chemical attacks is like saying we need nuclear reactors to boil water.) Throwing deterrence policy under the bus, Clinton then “ordered that the military … reserve the right to use nuclear arms first, even before the detonation of an enemy warhead.”

Clinton’s order was an imperious rebuke to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) — the nation’s highest scientific advisory group — which recommended six months earlier, on June 18, 1997, that the US, “declare that it will not be the first to use nuclear weapons in war or crisis.” In April 1998, Clinton’s US Embassy reps in Moscow coldly refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against Iraq, saying, “…we do not rule out in advance any capability available to us.”

Again, in January and February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell and White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer declined to explicitly exclude nuclear weapons as an option in a war on Iraq, saying US policy was not to rule anything out, Wade Boese of the Arms Control Association reported. Additionally, Def. Sec. Donald Rumsfeld said at a Feb. 13 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that official policy dictated that the US, “…not foreclose the possible use of nuclear weapons if attacked.”

Putting an end to these ultimate bomb scares would bring US action in line with Presidential speechifying which has regularly denounced “nuclear terrorism.” An international agreement on “non-nuclear immunity,” adopted by five nuclear-armed states May 11, 1995, has not quelled charges of hypocrisy made against them. The pact is full of exceptions – e.g., PD 60 — and is nonbinding. Only China has made this unequivocal pledge: “At no time and under no circumstances will China be the first to use nuclear weapons and [China] undertakes unconditionally not to use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear countries and nuclear-free zones.” India has made a similar no-first-use promise.

A formal US renunciation of first use would let cooler heads prevail by ending the debate over so-called “threshold” use of the Bomb. It would also end the blatant public duplicity of proclaiming that nuclear weapons are only for deterrence while preparing for attacks “before the detonation of an enemy warhead.”

Pledging “no first use” would save billions of dollars in research, development and production, as well as the cost of maintaining first-strike systems: B61 H-bombs, Trident submarine warheads, Cruise and land-based missile warheads.

Significantly, nuclear war planners who have used their first-strike “master card” believe they were successful — the way a robber can get a bag of cash using a loaded gun but without pulling the trigger. They want to keep their ghastly “ace” up their sleeve, and they have manufactured a heavy stigma against formally renouncing nuclear first use, since to do so might further call into question the official “winning” reasons for having tested radiation bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

The US should embrace China’s unambiguous language and promise never to use nuclear weapons first or against non-nuclear states. If President Obama wants to ease world tensions without apologizing for Hiroshima when he visits the iconic city, he could replace Clinton’s presidential directive with his own, declaring that the US will never again be the first to go nuclear.
John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.
More articles by:John Laforge

Grilling the Messenger: Trust Corporate Media on Panama Papers?

Panama Papers: Should the Corporate Media Have Been Trusted?

by Joe Emersberger - teleSur

May 14, 2016

 “John Doe” made a bad call when he leaked the Panama papers to the corporate media.

Can a corporate media system be expected to tell the truth about a world dominated by corporations?” the Media Lens editors once asked rhetorically.

Assuming the best of intentions on the part of whoever leaked the Panama Papers, trusting hundreds of corporate journalists to wage war on income inequality was a bad mistake. However, the corporate media can be trusted to wage war on the enemies of income inequality, in particular progressive governments in Latin America, and use the Panama Papers to do so even if the ammunition they have is pitiful.

Consider an article in the Miami Herald that ran with the mocking headline, “Ecuador’s leader demands release of Panama Papers, and learns he’s in them.” A very similar article with an almost identical headline ran in the UK Independent, and in many other outlets. The article in the Herald began:

“…Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa called out his country’s journalists and boasted that, unlike other countries, he and his government weren’t found in the leak.

However, the secret documents show that he and his estranged brother, Fabricio, caught the attention of anti-corruption authorities in Panama in 2012.”

Anyone who follows Ecuadorian politics will find this very underwhelming. Fabricio Correa is a long-time bitter foe of his brother’s government. Fabricio is also a businessman who has long been accused of being less than ethical by his brother and many other people. That’s old news and it is hardly surprising that it would have “caught the attention” of investigators years ago. How could it not have? A book was written in 2010 – “El Gran Hermano” – alleging that Rafael Correa was complicit with his brother’s corruption and in 2012 Correa won a defamation suit against the authors.

The article in the Herald is convoluted and often unclear, but that actually serves its purpose. It is padded with details that ultimately fail to land a blow against Fabricio Correa, never mind President Correa, but readers unfamiliar with Ecuador, even if left confused by the article, will probably still come away thinking that something damning has been uncovered.

The use of meaningless statistics is another way the article is padded. It says “searching the word ‘Ecuador’ yields more than 160,000 secret documents. Guayaquil, the wealthy coastal city, shows up in 109,000 documents,” as if that refutes Correa’s observation that hostile Ecuadorean journalists who have had access to the documents for a year have not found anything to discredit his government. Correa would be the last person to deny that corruption, in particular tax avoidance by his elite opponents, is still a big problem in Ecuador. That’s one reason why Correa demanded that all the information be released rather than cherry-picked by corporate journalists. Ecuador’s private media led a very dishonest propaganda campaign last year against tax reforms that would have almost entirely impacted Ecuador’s wealthiest 2 percent. Moreover, Guayaquil’s mayor for the past 16 years has been Jaime Nebot, a right-winger who is arguably Correa’s most prominent opponent. Applying the shoddy logic suggested by the article, Nebot and his right wing allies – including his many allies in Ecuador’s private media - are discredited by how often the word “Guayaquil” appears in the Panama Papers.

Reporters are not always so sloppy. When a journalist I recently corresponded with found a Venezuelan opposition member mentioned in the Panama Papers he explained to me that “he was simply mentioned in newspaper articles passed around by IMF staff.”

The article in the Herald also cited an NGO as follows:

“Last year, Transparency International ranked 168 countries and territories on its government corruption index. It found that 106 nations were less corrupt than Ecuador.”

It neglected to mention that the head of the groups’ Chile branch just resigned after being linked to offshore firms. Much more importantly, it has been obvious for many years that a little transparency does not flatter Transparency International (TI). In 2008, Calvin Tucker wrote a hard hitting piece about a shockingly dishonest report that TI published about Venezuela’s state oil company. He reported “TI says that they ‘stand by their report’ and stand by the person who compiled the data, an anti-Chávez activist who backed the 2002 military coup against democracy.”

The Miami Herald also used the Panama Papers as an excuse to rehash the farcical “suitcase scandal” of 2008. It was a comical example of the US government using its prosecutors and a more than cooperative media to smear governments it didn’t like – in this case the left governments of Venezuela and (at the time) Argentina. How could the United States possibly claim jurisdiction over a case based on far-fetched allegations that the Venezuelan government had tried to smuggle a suitcase full of cash into Argentina to influence an election? The U.S. government weaseled in by alleging that an “unregistered agent” of Venezuela’s government had come to the United States to convince one of the people involved to keep quiet. There had never been an indictment under this law unless there was an espionage or national security accusation to go along with it. Mind you, several years later the Obama Administration would officially declare Venezuela an “extraordinary threat to the national security” of the United States – and then defend the insane declaration by saying it didn’t mean it. The U.S. media responded with some timid criticism. That should be unsurprising. Media outlets owned by the rich and powerful, whose most influential customers, advertisers, are rich and powerful are not going to lead movements for serious reform, never mind revolution.

None of this is to say that the Panama Papers will not be of any help in the fight against income inequality. Time will tell. There must be a very small number of journalists working in the private media who are genuinely interested in fighting inequality, but one can easily imagine how much more positive impact these leaks may have had. Recall how wisely Edward Snowden singled out Glenn Greenwald as a journalist he could trust. Remember where Julian Assange, a real thorn in the side of the most powerful and violent people in the world, ended up seeking refuge; and never forget how viciously the corporate media turned on him.

The battle against inequality, which is a crucial part of the battle for meaningful democracy, requires a struggle against the corporate media, a real movement to democratize the means of communication, not (a few exceptional corporate journalists aside) collaboration with it.