Monthly Archives: May 2016

The shift in the conversation on Palestine-Israel in the Democratic Party

Philip Weiss writes

In the Washington Post, Abby Phillip and Anne Gearan report on the concessions that DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz is willing to make to Bernie Sanders to try and placate his hordes at the convention in Philadelphia at the end of July. DWS wants to give Sanders “seats on a key convention platform committee,” but that might not stop Sanders from picking a fight over the party’s policy positions, including our focus:

Even with the committee assignments, Sanders plans an aggressive effort to extract platform concessions on key policies that could prompt divisive battles at a moment when front-runner Hillary Clinton will be trying to unify the party. Among other issues, he plans to push for a $15 national minimum wage and argue that the party needs a more balanced position regarding Israel and Palestinians, according to a Sanders campaign aide who requested anonymity to speak candidly.

Go to the bottom of the story and you get the Israel Palestine news.

Clinton aides have said that on a slew of issues, Sanders is not far from the party. But the issue of U.S. policy toward Israel — which a Sanders adviser said “absolutely, legitimately will be a point of conversation” — has made some of Clinton’s backers nervous.

Sanders is seeking a more “even-handed” U.S. approach to Israeli occupation of land Palestinians claim for a future state. The current platform does not address the nearly five-decade occupation directly, but it endorses “a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian accord, producing two states for two peoples.”

Speaking last month during a contentious debate with Clinton, Sanders — who declared himself “100 percent pro-Israel” — said that Israel’s 2014 military assault on the Gaza Strip was “disproportionate” to the threat posed by Hamas rockets launched from the Palestinian territory into Israel.

Behind his words is a long debate among U.S. and international policymakers — one that divides the Democratic base and could pose a challenge for Clinton when she must bring her party together: how to weigh Palestinian interests when dealing with Israel, and whether resolute U.S. backing for Israel diminishes leverage to promote peace and fair treatment of Palestinians.

“On one hand there is not an enormous amount of difference between them. They are both pro-Israel, they are both pro-peace,” said one longtime Clinton supporter. “But in the context of the campaign terms like ‘even-handed’ can come to mean that the United States is signaling a shift” — and Clinton would oppose that.

Remember Hillary Clinton’s hard-right Israel positions stated again and again, including at AIPAC in March: She will invite Netanyahu to the White House in the first month; she will take Israel relationship to “the next level,” whatever that is; she will fight the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement hammer and tongs and working with Republicans to do so; and she said that Donald Trump has “no business being president,” because he has pledged neutrality on the Israel Palestine question, and an American president must never be neutral on Israel.

Then Bernie Sanders pulled the rug out from under her in that “contentious” April 14 debate in NY, saying that Netanyahu is not always right and that Israel used disproportionate force against Gaza in 2014, when it killed 500 children, and the audience cheered. They cheered because this is the Democratic base’s position, fairness toward Palestinians.

We’ve said again and again here that Israel can divide the Democrats, grassroots versus establishment, and it should divide the Democrats, it’s that important an issue. And the media will break up over this issue, as they should; and Dana Milbank and Jonathan Chait and Jodi Rudoren will go right with Jeffrey Goldberg and the Atlantic and New York Magazine, and Jake Tapper and David Corn will go left and bring scores with them. Looks like we’re going to meet our rendezvous with destiny before long.

Why is Clinton worried about divisive? Because of fundraising. Remember that when President Obama pushed through a platform position at the Democratic convention in 2012 saying Jerusalem was the forever capital of Israel, there was a floor demonstration by the grass roots (and this was before the 2014 Gaza slaughter) to try and defeat the plank, and the chair of the convention said that Obama was “absolutely livid” that the platform hadn’t included the language originally. Maintaining a rigid pro-Israel stance is essential to fundraising.

And Clinton’s position is surely based on what Haim Saban, her megadonor, wants.

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New Evidence About the Dangers of Monsanto’s Roundup

Sharon Lerner writes

John Sanders worked in the orange and grapefruit groves in Redlands, California, for more than 30 years. First as a ranch hand, then as a farm worker, he was responsible for keeping the weeds around the citrus trees in check. Roundup, the Monsanto weed killer, was his weapon of choice, and he sprayed it on the plants from a hand-held atomizer year-round.

Frank Tanner, who owned a landscaping business, is also a Californian and former Roundup user. Tanner relied on the herbicide starting in 1974, and between 2000 and 2006 sprayed between 50 and 70 gallons of it a year, sometimes from a backpack, other times from a 200-gallon drum that he rolled on a cart next to him.

The two men have other things in common, too: After being regularly exposed to Roundup, both developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a blood cancer that starts in the lymph cells. And, as of April, both are plaintiffs in a suit filed against Monsanto that marks a turning point in the pitched battle over the most widely used agricultural chemical in history.

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The Donald vs. the Blob

Stephen Walt writes

Barring a bizarre and unforeseen turn of events, next November American voters will have to choose Hillary Rodham Clinton or Donald Trump to be the nation’s 45th president. The two candidates could not be more different: female versus male; longtime public servant versus self-absorbed private businessman; Democrat versus Republican; unapologetic liberal internationalist versus xenophobic nativist; uber-cautious, poll-driven politico versus vulgar and impulsive bomb-thrower. It’s quite a choice.

Their campaigns could not be more different either, especially when it comes to foreign policy. The Clinton campaign has already assembled a “massive brain trust” of policy wonks and former government officials, including Michèle Flournoy, Nicholas Burns, Madeleine Albright, Jake Sullivan, Derek Chollet, Tamara Wittes, Phil Gordon, Michael McFaul, and many, many more. As befits a former secretary of state, former senator, and former first lady, her foreign-policy machine is the living embodiment of the mainstream Foreign-Policy Establishment.

By contrast, Trump’s foreign-policy views seem to spring out of his own impulsive id, and the handful of foreign-policy advisors he’s revealed are hardly bold-faced names with glittering resumes. Indeed, such is Trump’s alienation from the foreign-policy establishment that some 120 Republican foreign-policy gurus recently released an open letter denouncing his candidacy and declaring him “utterly unfitted to the office.” Trump can’t even win the backing of conservative humorist P.J. O’Rourke, who might have been expected to support him for the comic value alone.

You’d think this disparity would give Clinton a big advantage in the general election, and that may in fact prove to be the case. But I’m not so sure.

For one thing, most Americans don’t care that much about foreign policy, and they rarely choose presidents on that basis. Economic conditions drive presidential elections more than international events do, so even if voters believe Clinton is the sounder choice on foreign-policy grounds, it may not matter that much.

Furthermore, the public seems to be in a pretty rebellious mood this year, and a lot of that resentment is directed toward the “establishment.” Both the Trump and Bernie Sanders campaigns have been sustained by populist anger at well-connected fat cats whom voters believe have sold the country down the river, and that discontent appears to include foreign policy. An April 2016 Pew Research Center poll found that 57 percent of Americans believe the United States “should deal with its own problems and let other countries deal with their problems as best they can,” with 41 percent saying the country did “too much” in world affairs and only 27 percent asserting it did “too little.” Needless to say, such sentiments sound a lot more like Trump than Clinton.

For this reason, having the bulk of the mainstream foreign-policy establishment in her corner may not be a great asset for Clinton, and that impression increases when one reflects on how that establishment has behaved in recent decades.

The United States began the 1990s on top of the world, with both liberals and conservatives hailing the “unipolar moment,” dreaming of the “end of history,” and embracing a strategy of American liberal hegemony. Whether in the form of Bill Clinton’s strategy of “engagement and enlargement” or George W. Bush’s “Freedom Agenda,” the United States was going use its power to spread democracy and human rights far and wide — peacefully if possible but by force if necessary. Markets would grow, freedom would spread, and peace would prevail, all under the watchful but benevolent eye of America’s foreign-policy mandarins.

It didn’t quite work out that way. Instead, U.S. policy in the Middle East eventually triggered the 9/11 attacks, which our vast national security apparatus failed to detect or prevent. The United States then fought two costly and unsuccessful wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there’s still no end in sight in either country. Washington repeatedly failed to achieve an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement despite abundant potential leverage and numerous attempts. It also failed to build a positive relationship with Russia, mostly because the United States kept expanding NATO into Russia’s traditional sphere of interest. The United States couldn’t stop North Korea, India, or Pakistan from acquiring nuclear weapons or expanding their existing arsenals, and it reached a nuclear deal with Iran only after the Islamic Republic had built thousands of centrifuges and become a latent nuclear weapons state. The United States also helped produce failed states in Libya, Yemen, and Syria, and its overall response to the turmoil now roiling the Arab world has been incoherent, inconsistent, and ineffective. And in the meantime, China has been increasing its power, staying out of costly conflicts, and gradually challenging the status quo in Asia.

I could go on, but you get the idea. The United States can claim some minor successes in this period, but the overall record is unimpressive. America’s “unipolar moment” was surprisingly short, and the world we inhabit today is far bleaker than the one most experts anticipated back when the Cold War ended. Instead of an expanding sphere of stable and prosperous democracies, today’s world is one of sluggish economic growth, violent extremism, rising xenophobia, declining democracy, and resurgent great-power rivalry. U.S. foreign policy is not solely responsible for these trends, of course, but its various missteps helped cause many of them. In short, America’s vaunted foreign-policy establishment has some explaining to do.

And like Wall Street, it is also an establishment that rarely holds its members accountable. If you’re a respected member of the foreign-policy elite, you can plead guilty of lying to Congress, receive a pardon, get rehired by another president, screw up again, and then land a nice sinecure at a prominent think tank. You can lobby for an ill-planned intervention in Libya, help create a failed state there, and subsequently get promoted to the position of national security advisor or U.N. ambassador. You can help lead the nation into a disastrous war in Iraq, mismanage the postwar occupation, and fail upward to become president of the World Bank. You can get caught making false statements to the public and press and still retain the “full confidence” of the president. Or you can repeatedly fail to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East and then get rehired to try again and achieve exactly the same result.

When disasters cannot be swept under the rug, this same community is quick to blame the “system” and avoid naming names. The 9/11 Commission “shied away from holding anyone personally accountable,” and as one participant later admitted, “individuals, especially the two presidents and their intimate advisers, received even more indulgent treatment.” Similarly, the Schlesinger Report on the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison referred vaguely to “institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels” but declined to identify the individuals to whom this statement referred. Similarly, no one was ever held accountable for the Bush-era torture regime, and apparently no one lost their job after squandering billions of dollars trying to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan. And it is an establishment whose supporting institutions are increasingly dependent on donations from corporations with their own international interests, from wealthy individuals with explicit political agendas, and from foreign governments looking to buy some favorable spin inside the Beltway.

To be fair, most of the people who labor in government or in the penumbra of foreign-policy institutions are patriotic, well-meaning, intelligent, and dedicated and sincerely believe in what they are doing. They want the United States to be secure and prosperous, and they would like to make the rest of the world a better place. And sometimes they do just that. But many of these people are also ambitious, and they are imbedded in a system that rewards conformity, rarely if ever questions the value of U.S. “global leadership,” and is quick to marginalize anyone who thinks America’s self-indulgent approach to foreign policy might be doing more harm than good.

By virtue of her history, Hillary Clinton is intimately connected to this community and cannot help being linked to its recent performance. By signing up all those experienced foreign-policy insiders, she reinforces her association with some of the good things the United States has done in recent years. But it also means that she owns the past 25 years of foreign-policy missteps. Clinton was in the White House when her husband embraced “dual containment” in the Persian Gulf, when the United States led the charge for NATO expansion, and when it bungled the Oslo peace process. She was in the Senate when the United States went to war in Iraq, and she voted for that foolish war with apparent enthusiasm. She was running the State Department when the United States unwisely escalated in Afghanistan in 2009 (to no good purpose) and when it helped oust Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi in 2011 (ditto). She has little choice but to defend the strategy of liberal hegemony pursued by all three post-Cold War presidents: If anything, she is more enthusiastic about it than President Barack Obama has been. Her problem is that this record is not easy to defend.

Trump is under no such burden. Because his only responsibility over the past 25 years has been mismanaging the fortune he inherited, cultivating celebrity, courting a series of wives, and presiding over a reality TV show, he is free to criticize Clinton and her phalanx of advisors and appeal to the voters’ worst instincts with vague and wildly optimistic promises of his own. Knowledgeable foreign-policy experts have been quick to attack his various proposals, but these experts may not have much street cred this year.

To be clear: I’ve no desire to participate in a vast and risky social science experiment, and I won’t be voting for Trump next November. To the extent Americans care about foreign policy, they may prefer to stick with the familiar nostrums of liberal hegemony, and they may find the support Clinton gets from foreign-policy experts (including some prominent Republicans) reassuring. But if I were in her shoes, I wouldn’t write him off just yet.

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Chicago Election Official Admits “Numbers Didn’t Match”: Hillary Clinton vs. Bernie Sanders Election Fraud Allegations

Doug Johnson Hatlem writes

Jim Allen, Communications Director for the Chicago Board of Elections (BoE), acknowledges that “the numbers didn’t match” initially in the legally mandated 5% audit of voting and tabulating machines after the recent Illinois Democratic primary between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. Allen, however, insists that this is simply a “perception issue” and that absolutely no election fraud took place.

Allen was responding by phone to my questions regarding allegations from citizen vote monitoring groups Who’s Counting? – Chicago and the Illinois Ballot Integrity Project (IBIP). Dr. Lora Chamberlain is a leader of Who’s Counting, which works with IBIP to credential election day monitors and joined them this year to audit the audit. IBIP was started in Illinois in the aftermath of the 2000 Al Gore versus George Bush Debacle. A total of six members of the two groups gave affidavit-based testimony at the April 5, 2016 Chicago Board of Elections meeting.

The testimony is, simply put, beyond stunning.

Read on about the testimony



The OPEC Epoch is Over – Where are oil prices headed now?

David Haggith writes

The fate of oil companies and nations hangs in the balance of oil prices. Russia could go broke. Some think that’s by US design. Saudi Arabia could experience its Arab Spring if oil prices remain too low too long. And OPEC is dead. That’s the biggest news for oil in this new century.

The House of Saud has stated clearly many times now and again this week in an even more emphatic manner that it intends to move the oil market from decades of OPEC price manipulation to a raw supply-and-demand equation.

Saudi Arabia’s move away from OPEC price manipulation is an oil battle fraught with peril for all.

read on at

The OPEC Epoch is Over – Where are oil prices headed now?


Saudi officials were ‘supporting’ 9/11 hijackers, commission member says

Philip Shenon writes

A former Republican member of the 9/11 commission, breaking dramatically with the commission’s leaders, said Wednesday he believes there was clear evidence that Saudi government employees were part of a support network for the 9/11 hijackers and that the Obama administration should move quickly to declassify a long-secret congressional report on Saudi ties to the 2001 terrorist attack.

The comments by John F Lehman, an investment banker in New York who was Navy secretary in the Reagan administration, signal the first serious public split among the 10 commissioners since they issued a 2004 final report that was largely read as an exoneration of Saudi Arabia, which was home to 15 of the 19 hijackers on 9/11.

read the full article here

also read Philip Shenon about newly declassified files that may show connections between low-level Saudi officials and a terrorist support network in southern California, which led to the 9/11 attacks

Aleppo Burning

Ibrahim Kalin writes

The Syrian war, now in its fifth year, keeps fading away from the headlines and the agenda of the world community. While the world turns to the next breaking story, the carnage in Syria continues, destroying lives, communities, history and, above all, any hope that this war will end and the people of Syria will see peace and prosperity again.

Over the last four years, Syria as a whole has carried the brunt of this bloody war. But Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city and its cultural and financial center, has been at the center of the most intense fighting in recent weeks. The fall of Aleppo will be a key gain for the regime and its backers. But it will deepen the already tragic humanitarian situation on the ground and force tens of thousands of new refugees to move toward Turkey. Above all, it will embolden the Assad regime in the face of the indifference of the world toward the most cruel and brutal war in recent times.

The U.N. Security Council Resolution 2254, adopted on Dec. 18 2015, was supposed to lay out a new framework and a certain timetable to end the war, bring humanitarian aid and begin the process of political transition to a legitimate, democratic and all-inclusive government in Syria. It was also supposed to help the fight against DAESH.

It did not achieve any of these goals as the regime continued to attack opposition targets and civilians in Idlib, Aleppo and the rest of the country with Russian support from air and Shiite militia groups on the ground. The Munich agreement for the “cessation of hostilities” accepted on Feb. 11 was supposed to prepare the ground for the U.N.-led talks in Geneva. While it has reduced the level of violence in late February and March, things are now getting worse again by the day. In addition, there has been little progress in the fight against DAESH in Syria and Iraq.

As U.N. officials confirm, the Assad regime has consistently violated the UNSC Resolution 2254 and the Munich Agreement to this day. It has continued to bomb civilian and opposition-held areas in Idlib, north of Latakia and Aleppo, killing hundreds of civilians and disallowing humanitarian aid to reach those in need.

Now, the regime is concentrating its attacks on Aleppo. It is targeting schools, bakeries, hospitals and roads with the aim of punishing civilians in opposition-held areas. This is a typical Russian tactic: Bomb not only the combatants but also their families, homes and towns so that they will give up fighting without actually firing a bullet. The opposition has stood up to this indiscriminate killing. But there are no more safe areas in and around the ancient city of Aleppo. Without any hope in sight, Aleppo is becoming another ghost city. Its near-total destruction is a tragic sign of the failure of the international community to save Syria and its people.

Since the beginning of the Syrian war, many have said that there is no military solution in Syria. But the Assad regime, Russia and the Shiite militia groups that support the regime in Damascus have proved the opposite to be true. They have used every form of military power including chemical weapons, cluster and barrel bombs and airstrikes, to change the course of events. The U.N. diplomatic initiative led by the U.S. and Russia is manipulated to prolong the life of the Assad regime and secure the political calculation of its backers.

In the meantime, DAESH continues to hold on to the areas under its control. The politics of diversion and delay in the U.N.-led Geneva talks is helping this terrorist group recruit new members and expand its spheres of influence. The coalition airstrikes are certainly limiting its operational capabilities in certain parts of Syria and Iraq. But the main body of DAESH appears to remain strong enough to launch new terrorist attacks.

A case in point is the Turkish city of Kilis near the Syrian border where DAESH rocket attacks have killed 21 people. Turkish armed forces have bombed DAESH targets across Kilis, eliminating dozens of DAESH terrorists. They have been helped by coalition air forces. Turkey will continue to do whatever is necessary to stop these rocket attacks.

But the simple fact is that as long as the Assad regime remains in power and continues its war of attrition under the guise of peace talks, DAESH will remain an effective force on the ground. The two monsters of the Syrian war, i.e., the criminal Assad regime and the terrorist DAESH, feed off each other and share the crime of destroying Syria and its people.

What the Assad regime is doing to Aleppo and its historical heritage is no less barbaric than what DAESH did to Palmyra last year. Its indiscriminate killing of women and children, doctors, nurses and aid workers is nothing short of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

This is a replay of what happened in Bosnia in the 1990s only in a more destructive and inhumane way. The inaction of the world to stop the Bosnian genocide then remains a dark spot in modern history. The indifference shown to the suffering of the Syrian people will go in history as a deeper shame for humanity.

The fall of Aleppo will be more than a matter of losing a city. It will be the crushing of the last hope of the Syrian people for peace, freedom and dignity. It will be handing the bloody Assad regime another cowardly victory. But more tragically, it will send a painful message to the people of Syria that they are left on their own.

If the U.N., U.S. and Russia are really serious about stopping this monstrosity, they have to first stop the Assad regime from undermining whatever is left of the hope to bring peace, security and prosperity to Syria. Talks in Geneva are of no meaning when barrel bombs and airstrikes burn and destroy everything in Aleppo

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Trump closes in on Clinton in the White House race

Is the common man in America getting wise to his interests, or is it the first time a real choice has been made available between a machine politician and an independent?

See Quinnipiac University poll

Is Bernie Sanders holding off endorsing Clinton adding to her woes? Will a lot of Sanders followers go to Trump anyway? If Hispanics are backing Trump maybe everybody else should? Shouldn’t Muslims wise up to the fact that Trump isn’t – at the end of the day – actually going to ban them?

It’s worth re-reading the predictions of Prof Helmut Norpath, and Musa al-Gharbi

Labour candidate Sadiq Khan becomes London’s first elected Muslim mayor

London mayoral candidate Labour Party's Sadiq Khan arrives with his wife Saadiya to cast their votes at a polling station in Streatham, south west London, Thursday May 5, 2016. Britons are voting in local and regional elections expected to deal a blow to Britain's main opposition Labour Party. (Philip Gareth Fulller/PA via AP) UNITED KINGDOM OUT  NO SALES NO ARCHIVE  *** Local Caption *** INGILTERE'NIN BASKENTI LONDRA'DA DUN YAPILAN SECIMDE SADIK KHAN'IN AVRUPA'NIN ILK MUSLUMAN BELEDIYE BASKANI OLMASINA KESIN GOZUYLE BAKILIYOR


After a vicious campaign waged by Conservative mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith, son of deceased billionaire asset stripper ‘Jimmy’ Goldsmith, Khan, who grew up in public housing in inner city London, nevertheless won the position of Mayor of London by a wide margin.

Khan held his lead in the opinion polls, despite destabilising attacks by Goldsmith that he was an IS/Daesh sympathiser. The eventually result was 44% to Goldsmith’s 35% of first preference votes. Faisal Islam, Sky News Political Editor, is currently suggesting that Khan may have got more votes than Boris Johnson when he was first elected in 2008. A quick glance at the numbers shows that could be true: some 1.1 million have voted for Khan while the largest number of votes Johnson ever received was 1.04 million.

The Labour Party accused Goldsmith and the ruling Conservative Party of smearing Khan. But the Conservative party was also leading a simultaneous attack on Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, accusing him of being anti-Semitic and forcing Khan to distance himself from Corbyn during the campaign. The anti-Semitic accusations had forced some forced resignations from the Labour Party, including ex-London Mayor Ken Livingstone, and was most probably also aimed at destabilising Khan’s campaign.