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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

pentagon9 6The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported this week that the Pentagon is likely to replace or augment current CIA support teams on the ground in Syria.  The goal is to have a more direct US military involvement in aiding the contingent of rebels who are pro-Western in a two-pronged battle against the Syrian army as well as the Islamic Fundamentalist rebels:

The Obama administration is considering putting the Pentagon in charge of arming and training moderate rebel forces in Syria, a move that could help expand the effort significantly beyond the limited scope of the current Central Intelligence Agency program, U.S. officials said.

These internal discussions come as Congress begins a debate over a resolution to authorize limited strikes against Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons last month.

The move would substantially revamp one of the administration's most secretive and controversial undertakings in the 2½-year-old civil war. President Barack Obama authorized the CIA program in June after Hezbollah's large-scale entry into the conflict on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's side and a U.S. determination that Syrian forces had used chemical arms in small amounts in earlier clashes.

As the US and world is being assured by President Obama that he is only seeking to prevent Syria from using chemical weapons, efforts appear to be underway to expand US involvement in the conflict in a more direct military fashion, according to the WSJ and other sources.  In short, as BuzzFlash at Truthout has been predicting, the chemical weapons incident is being used as a Casus belli (cause of war).

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

noblood9 5In a rare moment of diplomatic candor, US Secretary of State John Kerry told a congressional hearing Wednesday that oil sheiks have offered to pay the United States to unseat Bashar al-Assad as Syrian strong man.  The surprising admission came in response to congressional pressure on the administration to explain how yet another military operation would be paid for during a period of prolonged budgetary sequestration.

Apparently trying to assuage concerns about billions and billions of taxpayer dollars financing a "punishment strike" that most legislators know in their guts is the opening salvo in another Libyan style war of degrading the Syrian military (while untold numbers of civilians are also killed in the process), Kerry, according to The Washington Post, revealed more than he probably meant to:

Secretary of State John Kerry said at Wednesday’s hearing that Arab countries have offered to pay for the entirety of unseating President Bashar al-Assad if the United States took the lead militarily.

“With respect to Arab countries offering to bear costs and to assess, the answer is profoundly yes,” Kerry said. “They have. That offer is on the table.”

Asked by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) about how much those countries would contribute, Kerry said they have offered to pay for all of a full invasion.

“In fact, some of them have said that if the United States is prepared to go do the whole thing the way we’ve done it previously in other places, they’ll carry that cost,” Kerry said. “That’s how dedicated they are at this. That’s not in the cards, and nobody’s talking about it, but they’re talking in serious ways about getting this done."

The conundrum for Kerry is that you can't say "nobody's talking about it" when you've just said that an offer is on the table in case the Syrian conflict becomes a full-fledged Libyan style regime replacement operation.v

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR AT BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

tomahawk9 3                                                                  Weapon of Mass Destruction

After 12 years of US executive branch deceit, the US Congress is on the verge of backing another war in the Middle East -- this time with a vote.

Make no mistake about it.  Obama doesn't mean a word of limiting his actions as commander in chief to a limited strike to punish the Syrians for allegedly using Weapons of Mass Destruction. (As to who dispersed them in a rather primitive fashion it is still not clear, despite alleged definitive statements from White House representatives.)

The odds of the US launching a combined sea-based and airforce bombing attack on the Syrian military command and elite forces, but not provoking some sort of counter-action from Syria, Iran, Hezbollah or even the Al Qaeda rebels who are fighting the Assad regime are about zero.  Remember how long it took NATO and the US to degrade the Libyan armed forces before the fall of Gaddhafi? Does anyone anywhere truly believe that Obama intends to stop at one strike as compared to using the strike as the kindling wood.

So we can assume the White House and the pentagon are aware that the counterattack will result in Obama authorizing a full-scale military assault on Syria, although without infantry on the ground (but you can be sure special forces and paramilitary intelligence units are already in Syria as they were in Libya).   Needless to say, an attack on US interests or Israel will quickly see NATO nations, including the now sidelined UK, fall in line with a "coalition of the reluctant" to force regime change.

As we noted yesterday in "The White House Keeps Us in Fear to Preserve Military Dominance Over Oil," fear has, since 9/11, been the main emotional manipulator of Americans, allowing the executive branch to project military power without interference.  Put simply, the use of fear allows the White House to act militarily to manage regional interests in the Middle East to allow for continued and unimpeded access of the West to its vast oil reserves.

Just remember this: the US military is the largest consumer of petroleum in the world. In one respect, the war machine acts to preserve its own supply of oil without which it could not function, whatever the reserves in the US and elsewhere.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

fear10-2The videos of the deadly gruesome impact of chemical weapons on humans is visceral, ghastly and horrifying. In the modern technological age, we see visuals from mobile cameras, smart phones, video cameras, and we share the horror of writhing bodies, babies and children lined up in coarse linen shrouds, half-buried corpses.

We are, as humans, appalled, feeling an emotion that dredges up a physiological, primeval disgust, an embarrassment at being a member of a species capable of this.

So when President Obama vows the vaguest of retaliatory attacks, he evokes a sense of humanity that we are at home with.

This part, the disgust, the desire for retribution, the empathy we can all share.

But remember this, sear it upon your brains so that your thoughts can put your emotions in balance: Like 9-11 the thirst for revenge turned into a cudgel of fear, like the excuse in Libya of Omar Ghadaffi slaugthering civilians allegedly supporting rebels, like starting a war that has killed tens and tens of thousands in civilians over unfound WMDs in Iraq.

Friday, 30 August 2013 07:13

Department of Justice Surrenders on Pot

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

amari8 30Speculate away on the timing of this Department of Justice (DOJ) Historic announcement (the White House wanted to divert attention from the surveillance state exposure fiasco, from the lack of prosecution of Wall Street millionaires and billionaires who committed fraud, from the festering Middle East Weapons of Mass Destruction may kill us if we don't bomb people scare...oh, just name your diversion of mass media news theory), but the White House finally ate the Alice B. Toklas Brownies. 

The Obama administration decided that it needed to show that it could actually change something after six years -- instead of business as usual for the ruling elite in DC and then some -- and decided not to interfere in the democratically-passed propositions and laws allowing marijuana use and medical marijuana dispensaries in a rapidly growing number of states.

Thursday was the day of the big announcement in a call that Attorney General Holder held with governors announcing written guidelines that, with some exceptions, will not challenge state or local marijuana legalization.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

tribune8 29It wasn't widely reported last week, but right wing Tucker Carlson's The Daily Caller (online) revealed on Friday that the Koch brothers decided not to purchase the Tribune Company newspapers after all.  The Tribune print empire includes The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and The Baltimore Sun among other papers.

According to The Hollywood Reporter:

"Koch Industries, after conducting its due diligence, has not been interested in buying the newspapers for 'a couple months,'" the Caller reported, citing multiple unnamed sources. "The company determined that purchasing the newspapers was 'not economically viable' and that both parties walked away from the negotiations."

A spokesperson for the Kochs later confirmed the Caller story, as the Chicago Tribune itself reported:

Melissa Cohlmia, a spokeswoman for the Wichita, Kan.-based company, confirmed a report Thursday from the Daily Caller saying that Koch Industries wouldn't be buying any of Chicago-based Tribune Co.'s eight daily newspapers after conducting a review.Tribune Co. owns the Chicago Tribune.

“Koch continues to have an interest in the media business and we're exploring a broad range of opportunities where we think we can add value,” she said. “In terms of the Tribune, the Daily Caller story is accurate.”

As USA Today noted of the unconsummated acquisition:

The Koch brothers' interest in the Tribune newspapers has been controversial from the start. Their critics, including union members, environmentalists and journalists, have voiced their concerns — that the papers will provide a prominent platform for the brothers' right-wing message — through protests and public meetings.

In May, pro-union activists gathered near the Beverly Hills home of Bruce Karsh, chairman of Tribune and president of Oaktree Capital Management, to protest the potential sale to the Kochs. Oaktree is Tribune's largest shareholder.

At another rally outside the headquarters of the Times in May — according to the newspaper's account — Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause, told the crowd of about 200 that the Koch brothers "have an agenda, and they are willing to spend their billions of dollars on it."

The Tribune Company, now out of bankruptcy after a tumultous period under the ownership of real estate mogul Sam Zell, plans to hold onto its lucrative television and radio stations.  It continues to seek a buyer for its ailing print empire.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

shoplift8 27A new Michigan law makes it a felony to shoplift if you resell any items, subject to possible jail time in excess of a year.

But as BuzzFlash at Truthout has repeatedly noted, the US Department of Justice and other Obama administration regulatory agencies have given a slap on the wrist to likely broad illegal activity on the part of Wall Street -- especially in the predatory mortgage lending market. On August 23 we reiterated this condemnation of a double standard of justice in a column, "The DOJ Has Corrupted the Rule of Law by Not Prosecuting Wall Street Financial Looters."

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

detroit8 28In the rush to privatize America, nothing may symbolize the destruction of the notion of democracy and the public commons -- up until now -- as much as the takeover of Detroit by an "emergency manager," Kevyn Orr, appointed by Tea Party Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.

Detroit had long ago been abandoned by the auto companies that once made it among the most vibrant and economically energized cities in the United States.  It's been declining in population at the same time predatory lenders are foreclosing on what remains of the depleted housing stock, that which hasn't fallen into rubble.

So it's a bit shocking to read on Michigan Live (mlive.com):

The [Detroit] News reported this week Ernst & Young is the highest-paid consultant, pulling in $6.6 million to analyze the city's cash flow. Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr's former law firm, Jones Day, has been paid $1 million, though the firm is already writing off billable expenses it won't collect from the city.

How high could the bill go? An expert quoted by the News estimated the total bill for bankruptcy-related fees will be far higher. Expenses could “easily” top $250 million, Jim McTevia of McTevia & Associates, a turnaround firm in Bingham Farms, told the News.

Here's the kicker: the judge overseeing the bankruptcy appointed a $600 an hour attorney, Robert M. Fishman, to "monitor" the city's bankruptcy fees.

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

lobby26-8During a period of blaring "austerity" when a key goal of those with means is to cut pensions that have been fairly earned by public employees, it is astonishing to read that some lobbyists in 40% of US states get paid pensions from the public trough.

According to an August 25 Associated Press (AP) article:

Hundreds of lobbyists in at least 20 states ... get public pensions because they represent associations of counties, cities and school boards, an Associated Press review found. Legislatures granted them access decades ago on the premise that they serve governments and the public. In many cases, such access also includes state health care benefits....

"It's clear that there's a big problem with hypocrisy when these lobbyists have been pushing austerity and benefit cuts for other government workers while they themselves enjoy solid state pensions," said Michael Kink of the progressive group Strong Economy for All Coalition. "`Do as I say, not as I do' seems to be their approach on retirement cuts."

"Workers who have faced cuts in pay and pensioners have a right to be angry - as do voters," Kink said.

Who knows? Some of these private lobbyists who receive taxpayer funded pensions (and in some case healthcare benefits) may even work to advance legislation sponsored by the infamous ALEC.

Click here to support courageous reporting and commentary by making a tax-deductible contribution to Truthout and BuzzFlash at Truthout! 

MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

justiceblind8 23Journalist and scholarly muse Thomas Frank noted in a recent e-mail to colleagues,

September 15 will mark five years since the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the official beginning of the slump that never ends. It was a moment that smashed the faith of millions of people. And so it’s time for a look back: What did the nation learn from that moment of complete disillusionment?

Well, basically nothing. We came to the turning point and didn’t turn.

Frank was referring to his September dateline Harper's Magazine article (only available in the print edition and behind an online paywall), in which he concluded:

But a society that believes good government to be an impossibility is unlikely to do what is necessary to keep industry honest. Instead, its regulators will come to see the regulated, rather than the public, as their main clients. They will imagine that industry can police itself. They will party with their private-sector pals and spin happily through the revolving door. And the rest of us will resign ourselves to scandal after scandal, as a new generation of looters rises up to claim positions at the trough when the old looters retire. Indeed—to repurpose an immortal statement by a certain Bush Administration economist—given what we now think we know about the system, it would be irrational for them not to loot....

There is one way, however, in which the changes brought about by 2008 have been permanent—one way in which the center will probably never hold again. We are a society that watched as those who obeyed the rules got played by Wall Street and Washington. And it has not only hardened us, made us more blasé about corruption; it has corrupted us. We be held our powerlessness at the hands of the mighty, and we decided that the thing to do was to make Wall Street even stronger. We accepted our powerlessness and then magnified it. Today we all know that another bubble will soon inflate and burst, but we have chosen to live with that— five years from the last, five years to the next! Just grab your cash and hang on.

Frank reflects upon what Elizabeth Warren was, in essence, admonishing Attorney General Holder in a letter to him discussed in yesterday's BuzzFlash at Truthout commentary, "Elizabeth Warren Reads Riot Act to Holder for Not Prosecuting Big Bank Mortgage Fraud."

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