By David Dayen, a lapsed blogger, now a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on Twitter @ddayen
I don’t know of any clear-eyed analyst who held out much hope that the handover of the Treasury Department from Tim Geithner to Jack Lew would herald a new era of stringent financial regulatory reform. Lew, outside of a stint at Citi, didn’t have much expertise with the matter; he’s more of a budget wonk. And when, at his confirmation hearing, he pronounced that Dodd-Frank solved the Too Big to Fail problem, he told you exactly who would have his ear at Treasury. This was further confirmed when Mary Miller, the undersecretary for domestic finance, denied the existence of TBTF in a speech to the Minsky conference in April.
But the most obvious reminder of the Geithner-Lew continuity was the recent upending of what would have been Gary Gensler’s final and most triumphant act at the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. Gensler was trying to finish off the cross-border derivatives rule from Dodd-Frank, which would have given CFTC oversight of any affiliates which execute more than $8 billion in trades, no matter where the location of the entity. This would have arrested a race to the bottom, where the mega-banks that control 95% of all trades fan out overseas to park their trading desks away from CFTC oversight.
Gensler was putting the screws to his commission and demanding a clean vote, intimating that he would allow a temporary exemptive order to expire July 12, putting the plain language from the Dodd-Frank statute (which clearly permitted cross-border regulation) into effect. This was some real hardball designed to get Mark Wetjen, a bank-friendly Democratic commissioner, to play ball.
Enter Jack Lew. We knew the hints of his intervention previously (I wrote about it in July), but Silla Brush and Robert Schmidt have done a deep dive into the matter for Bloomberg. The details on the July 3 meeting with Lew, Gensler and the SEC’s Mary Jo White are fascinating.
Banks and lawmakers, as well as financial regulators from around the world, had besieged Lew with complaints about Gensler’s campaign to impose U.S. rules overseas.
The July 3 meeting in Lew’s conference room with a view of the White House grew tense, according to three people briefed on it. Gensler argued his plan was vital if the U.S. hoped to seize meaningful authority over financial instruments that helped push the global economy to the brink in 2008, taking down American International Group Inc. (AIG) and Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and igniting the worst recession since the 1930s.
Lew insisted that Gensler coordinate better with the Securities and Exchange Commission, whose new chairman, Mary Jo White, was also present. Gensler, who was deep into negotiations with his European counterparts, was surprised by Lew’s demand. He’d been hearing the same request from lobbyists seeking to slow the process, and he told the Treasury chief it felt like his adversary bankers were in the room, the people said.
Gensler subsequently apologized to Lew for the outburst. He also softened his demands, cutting a deal with the European Union a week later. Gensler, chairman of a historically obscure agency called the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, had again pushed an idea to the brink until forced to settle.
What we got was the concept of “substitute compliance,” meaning that any overseas regulator deemed comparable to US rules would oversee derivatives trades made in their own countries. In actuality, that drives a stake through the heart of the regulation; the rule starts from the presumption that foreign rules are equivalent.
This was a pure power play. The CFTC budget is a scant $200 million. By contrast, the IT budget for a major global bank is about $1.3 billion. Giving this relative backwater agency control over the multi-trillion-dollar derivatives market is something of a designed failure. And that’s particularly true when a political actor like Jack Lew basically calls the chairman of the agency on the carpet for daring to want to regulate. This is Robert Rubin and Brooksley Born all over again.
Brush and Schmidt estimate that the final rule will cover less than 20% of the entire derivatives market, a far cry from the initial goal. If you remember, the long-departed Blanche Lincoln, then-chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, faced a challenge from the left in a primary, and subsequently surprised everyone by writing a fairly strong derivatives rule for Dodd-Frank. That got whittled down in the conference committee, cut back to a nub in what got signed into law (the article plays it with Gensler giddy about the law’s language, but it definitely changed from the Lincoln draft to the final version), and further dulled by the rule-writing process, including one of Geithner’s final acts, exempting foreign exchange swaps. Banks have also taken to calling their swaps “futures” to get around the regulations.
Gensler tried to make the best of a bad situation and he had some victories along the way, but the deck was so stacked against him (particularly with the bank shill in his midst, Mark Wetjen) that any rule he successfully navigated through the process could only be described as “the best he could do under the circumstances.” The cross-border rule mattered more than all of them, because if mega-banks could just pass off derivatives trading to one of their thousands of affiliates overseas to evade scrutiny, you can bet they’ll do it. Gensler said that a bad cross-border rule would mean “we will have repealed derivatives reform altogether.” Well, we got a bad one.
Some will blame “lobbyists,” in this case from Wall Street banks to multinationals that do a lot of hedging, for this outcome. The article does this in part. Bull-pucky. Lobbyists don’t win unless sympathetic regulators in a position of power allow it. Gensler, a Goldman alum who preferred deregulation during a previous stint at Treasury, but got religion after seeing derivatives play a starring role in the financial crisis, wouldn’t budge. Wetjen, and ultimately Jack Lew, would. And they held enough power to take whatever teeth remained out of the rules. Meanwhile, Gensler, for daring to try to do his job, ruined his career:
In the end, Gensler also sacrificed his ambition, creating so many political enemies in Congress and the industry that his chances for a second term as chairman are dim.
“He burned a lot of bridges getting it all done, within the commission and internationally,” said David Hirschmann, president of the Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
I’ve heard the Administration wouldn’t offer him anything above an ambassadorship.
The story is really good. It goes into detail about Wetjen’s betrayal of the swap execution facility rules (particularly on the number of bids sellers would have to solicit before making a trade, which got whittled down to two, the least possible improvement from a fully private system). It highlights the changes to the definition of a “swaps dealer,” allowing major traders like BP, Shell and Koch Industries to get out from under the CFTC’s watch. It calls out Chuck Schumer for flacking for the banks in a letter to the CFTC urging them to stop the cross-border regulations, essentially arguing in favor of outsourcing from New York City and moving derivatives desks overseas.
The big story here, however, is Lew. In the end, even Geithner, who at least paid lip service to the importance of cross-border regulation in 2011, comes out looking better. Lew asking that Gensler “better share information with his European counterparts and the SEC” is tantamount to telling him to back off. The Euro regulators didn’t want the CFTC overseeing European banks (who represent a large percentage of registered swap dealers). Sarah Bloom Raskin, the Fed Governor with a consumer protection profile, is headed over to Treasury to become Lew’s #2, and an important counsel on financial reform matters. The derivatives debacle shows the Raskin appointment to be window dressing, and probably more of a way to get a liberalish voice out of Larry Summers’ Fed while “proving” that the Administration can promote women. In reality, Lew will follow the bankers’ dictates.
Gensler puts a brave face on this in the article, claiming the system is safer. In reality, Treasury ensured that the banks will still get to gamble virtually at will, without any pesky regulator monitoring their risk. This quote says it all:
“The banks are going to be fine,” said Sunil Hirani, chief executive officer of trueEX Group LLC, who helped pioneer electronic trading of derivatives. “They are going to make a ton of money.”
By Delusional Economics, who is determined to cleanse the daily flow of vested interests propaganda to produce a balanced counterpoint. Cross posted from MacroBusiness
Another good week for Europe as the latest PMI data shows the tentative recovery is gaining pace.
Eurozone manufacturing recovery gathers pace in August
• Final Eurozone Manufacturing PMI at 26 – month high of 51.4 in August (July:50.3)
• Growth improves in Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Austria and Ireland.
• Input prices broadly unchanged since July
The recovery in the eurozone manufacturing sector entered its second month during August. At 51.4, up from a flash reading of 51.3, the seasonally adjusted Markit Eurozone Manufacturing PMI rose for the fourth successive month to reach its highest level since June 2011. National PMIs improved in all nations bar France, while France and Greece were the only countries to register readings below the 50.0 no-change mark.
The Netherlands topped the PMI league table,followed by Austria and then Ireland. Growth rates for production, new orders and new export business all accelerated to the fastest since May 2011, with back-to-back increases also signalled for each of these variables. Meanwhile, the outlook for output remained on the upside as the new orders-to-inventory ratio hit a 28-month high and backlogs of work rose marginally.
The upturns in production at German, Italian, Dutch and Austrian manufacturers all strengthened on the back of improving inflows of new business. Output also rose further in Ireland and returned to growth in Spain as a result of an increase in new business. All of these nations also reported higher levels of new export business, with rates of increase hitting 28-month highs in Italy and the Netherlands, a 32-month record in Spain and a 29-month high in Austria. German exports rose following five months of decline, while the rate of growth in Ireland held broadly steady at July’s seven-month peak.
In contrast, output, new orders and new export orders fell at French manufacturers. Production also declined in Greece, despite stabilisations in both total new business and foreign demand following prolonged spells of contraction.
And, with improving PMI data, comes an improvement in confidence metrics.
Certainly not out of the woods, but definitely on the up-trend. Unemployment, although intolerably high in many nations, also appears to be stabilizing across the region.
The euro area (EA17) seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate was 12.1% in July 2013, stable compared with June. The EU28 unemployment rate was 11.0%, also stable compared with June. In both zones, rates have risen compared with July 2012, when they were 11.5% and 10.5% respectively.
These figures are published by Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. Eurostat estimates that 26.654 million men and women in the EU28, of whom 19.231 million were in the euro area, were unemployed in July 2013. Compared with June 2013, the number of persons unemployed decreased by 33 000 in the EU28 and by 15 000 in the euro area. Compared with July 2012, unemployment rose by 995 000 in the EU28 and by 1.008 million in the euro area.
Importantly we are seeing some improvements in South Europe. Portugal saw a 1% rise in QoQ GDP in Q2 with a 6.3% rise in exports. They have also seen a small up-turn in car sales and a small drop in unemployment.
Greece also had some good news this week.
Greece registered a primary budget surplus and a vast improvement in the deficit of its state budget as a whole in the January-July period, the Finance Ministry said on Tuesday. The primary surplus was 2,555 million euros, against a deficit of 3,083 million in the first seven months of last year, while the overall deficit came to 1,929 million euros, against a target of 7,528 million and 13,216 million euros in the same period of 2012.
While Spain is also slowly seeing some small improvements appear.
Spain said on Tuesday it had eked out a sixth straight month of shrinking jobless queues in August when the number of people registered as unemployed dipped by just 31 people.
The total number of registered unemployed — 4.70 million in raw figures — was basically unchanged, according to the Labour Ministry report.
But the decline of 31 people from the previous month was enough for the Spanish government to hail a sixth consecutive month of declines, and the first drop in the month of August since 2000.
That, however, has been offset by the latest poor lending data which continues to show a struggling private sector.
Outstanding credit extended by Spanish banks to companies in Spain in July declined 9.8 percent from the same month a year earlier to 677.431 billion euros, the lowest level since August 2006, according to figures released on Monday by the Bank of Spain.
The magnitude of the fall was the largest since the central bank began compiling the current historical series in 1995 and remains an obstacle to economic recovery. Compared with record levels reached in 2009 of some 950 billion euros, the amount of outstanding loans has fallen 29 percent.
So, overall, it’s more good news out of Europe as the national economies eke their way towards growth. Obviously there are still major issues, most notably the continued lack of demand for credit in many nations and the underlying issue of debt imbalances across the region. As I stated last week, the question now is whether the same adjustments in austerity policy that are supporting this recovery will continue after the German election, or whether we will see a return to old form and a renewed slow down. We’ll obviously have to wait until after September 22nd to find that out.
Russian Communist Party leader Gennady Zoganov met with Syrian diplomats in Moscow. The leader denounced the decision by imperialist states to increase funding for rebels fighting the government in Damascus., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Russian destroyer enters east Mediterranean to head task force – report
Published time: September 04, 2013 20:30
A large anti-submarine ship named “Admiral Panteleyev” reportedly arrived in the east Mediterranean Sea to join the Russian standing naval force as flagship. It comes shortly before the scheduled rotation of two Russian landing craft carriers in the area.
The Russian Navy destroyer left the Far-Eastern port city of Vladivostok on March 19 and arrived in the designated area of the eastern Mediterranean on Wednesday, according to sources cited by Interfax and RIA Novosti.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said that large landing craft carriers “Novocherkassk” and “Minsk” of Russia’s Black and Baltic Sea Fleets have been dispatched to the area, and will join the permanent Mediterranean naval force on September 5-6 in accordance with the earlier planned schedule.
A General Staff source told Itar-Tass that reconnaissance ship “Priazovye” also headed to the area to aid in monitoring the situation in the region.
A senior Russian Navy Main Staff source also told Interfax that guided missile cruiser “Moskva” will be the next vessel arriving in the Mediterranean to replace “Admiral Panteleyev” as flagship.
“Moskva” will arrive “in 10 days’ time,” the source claimed, adding that Russian Baltic Fleet destroyer “Nastoichivy” and escort ship of the Black Sea Fleet “Smetlivy” will also be joining the Russian naval unit “in the short run.” None of these claims have been officially confirmed.
The Defense Ministry has repeatedly stressed that the maneuvers are part of the “stage-by-stage rotation of warships and support ships of the standing naval force in the Mediterranean” and that the recent deployments are aimed at monitoring the situation in the region.
“This is a normal practice of any fleet in the event of rising tension in any given ocean or sea area,” Itar-Tass’s source said, adding that the Russian Navy will only be increasing its “complex monitoring” of the situation around Syria.
According to a ministry spokesman’s Tuesday statement, the key task of the Russian standing naval force in the Mediterranean is “comprehensive monitoring over the air, underwater, and surface situation in the zone of its deployment.”
Prior to the arrival of destroyer “Admiral Panteleyev,” the naval force consisted of landing craft carriers “Aleksandr Shabalin,” “Admiral Nevelskoy,” and “Peresvet,” RIA Novosti reports. It also included escort vessel “Neustrashimy” as well as a tanker and a tugboat.
As the Russian Navy’s moves sparked speculations in the media claiming that Russia is boosting its naval presence in the region ahead of a possible Western strike against Syria, defense officials said that one should not draw parallels between relocations of warships and the Syrian crisis.
“Our military presence in this region predates the Syrian conflict, and will continue after it, and so it would be wrong to draw any connection between the rotation of our ships in the Mediterranean region and events in Syria,” a senior Russian Navy source told RIA Novosti.
Russian warships in the Black Sea. Russia has opposed the US-inspired and coordinated effort to overthrow the Syrian government., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Russia warns of nuclear disaster if Syria is hit
Published time: September 05, 2013 00:19
A military strike on Syria could lead to a nuclear catastrophe if a missile were to hit a reactor containing radioactive uranium, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman warned. The remark comes as the US continues to push for a military strike on Syria.
"If a warhead, by design or by chance, were to hit the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor (MNSR) near Damascus, the consequences could be catastrophic," Aleksandr Lukashevich said in a Wednesday statement.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry urged the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to complete a risk evaluation as the US continues to seek support for military action. It asked the agency to “react swiftly” and carry out “an analysis of the risks linked to possible American strikes on the MNSR and other facilities in Syria.”
Lukashevich stated that the region could be at risk of “contamination by highly enriched uranium and it would no longer be possible to account for nuclear material, its safety and control.” He added that such material could fall into the wrong hands.
The IAEA said that it is aware of the statement, but it is waiting for a formal request asking the agency to complete a risk evaluation. “We will consider the questions raised if we receive such a request," Reuters quoted an IAEA spokesperson as saying.
The agency said in a report to member states last week that Syria had declared there was a “small amount of nuclear material” at the MNSR, a type of research reactor usually fuelled by highly enriched uranium.
Although this type of a reactor would not contain a lot of nuclear material, it would be enough to cause "a serious local radiation hazard" if the reactor was hit, nuclear expert Mark Hibbs from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told Reuters.
The United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted on Wednesday to approve President Obama's plan to strike Syria in retaliation against the alleged use of chemical weapons by President Bashar Assad’s regime.
Should Congress move to approve the president’s request, the US could soon initiate a limited strike on Syria.
On the other hand, Moscow needs convincing proof – not rumors - from UN experts that chemical weapons were used in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with AP and Channel 1 on Tuesday.
“We believe that at the very least we should wait for the results of the UN inspection commission in Syria,” Putin said. He added that so far there is no information regarding exactly which chemical agent was used in the attack in the Damascus suburb, or who was behind it.
Presidents Cristina Fernandez of Argentina and Dilma Rousseff of Brazil at a summit of Latin American leaders to discuss the political coup against Fernando Lugo in Paraguay. The gathering (Mercosur) suspended the country from the regional community., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
5 September, 2013
Brazilian officials cancel trip to US over NSA spying allegations - report
Brazilian officials have canceled a planned trip to Washington in preparation for President Dilma Rousseff’s official state visit in October in response to fresh allegations of NSA surveillance, this time pertaining to Brazil’s head of state herself. Over the weekend a report was run by Rede Globo’s “Fantástico" news program which alleged that the NSA had previously intercepted online communications between Rousseff and several government aides. That information, based on reports produced by American journalist Glenn Greenwald in coordination with fugitive whistleblower Edward Snowden, followed initial allegations that the NSA was operating surveillance programs on Brasilia made last month. A Brazilian government official who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity said President Rousseff is “furious.” Brazil has demanded a written explanation from the US on those reports by the end of the week. “It’s a warning shot,” David Fleischer, a Brasilia-based political scientist, told Reuters. “If the U.S. doesn’t provide adequate answers they may cancel the visit altogether.”
Pope Francis to host vigil in opposition to military strikes on Syria
The Vatican will host a day of fasting and a four-hour prayer vigil Saturday in St. Peter’s Square in opposition to US military strikes in Syria, the AP reported. The Vatican has invited bishops’ conferences the world over to host local version of the vigil. In recent speeches, tweets and remarks, Pope Francis has called for a negotiated settlement to the Syrian conflict while condemning use of chemical weapons. “War never again! Never again war!” he tweeted earlier this week.
TSA expanding program that eliminates some travel hassles
The Transportation Security Administration is expanding its PreCheck program that allows members to bypass regular airport pre-flight security checkpoints to 60 new airports by the end of the year, and is adding lanes for the program at the 40 airports that currently offer it. Later this year, the TSA will allow all travelers to join PreCheck – as long as they pay $85 for a five-year membership, provide identifying information, pass a background check, and undergo fingerprinting. The program will allow passengers to avoid removing their shoes, jackets and belts as well as leave laptop computers and liquids inside carry-on luggage.
Claim that Rupert Murdoch`s Ex-wife Wendi Deng is a Chinese Spy
News Corporation CEO Rupert Murdoch filed for divorce from his wife of 14 years Wendi Deng on June 13 -- a Chinese blog has now revealed that she may be a Chinese spy. (David Shankbone / Wikipedia) ...read more: MEMBERS | FREE version.
The Obama Administration is presenting the upcoming Congressional votes on its blank check Authorization to Use Military Force in Syria as justified, irrelevant (since Kerry has asserted that the Administration doesn’t need Congress’ approval can attack even in the face of a no vote), but a done deal nevertheless. None of those claims stand up to scrutiny.
Other writers have covered in gory detail how the US insistence that it has proof that Assad was behind the chemical attacks looks like a not-sufficiently-improved version of the Iraq WMD playbook. Nothing from the Administration in the last 48 hours has dented these critics’ case. Indeed, one has to wonder as to why the US is trying to pre-empt UN evidence-gathering and analysis. Might it be that it would finger the rebels, as in the folks the US has been funding? Are we prepared to go after them if they were the ones who crossed Obama’s red line?
But what is relevant right now is not what actually happened in Syria (why should we trouble ourselves with pesky details?) but that, as Lambert put it, the imperial reality-creating machine is starting to break down before our eyes. Since I am trying to minimize time on the Web this week (I am still in theory on vacation), it would have been easy to have been snookered by the news stories of the day: Boehner agrees to support Obama on Syria! Senate Foreign Relations Committee passes resolution authorizing an American strike on Syria! Both houses are falling into line, so resign yourself to more Middle Eastern misadventures.
Reports from inside the Beltway give a very different picture. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed the authorization resolution with weak support, a 10-7-1 vote. This sends a message to the Senate that even some hawks are loath to throw their weight behind it. By contrast, with the Amash amendment (the amendment attached to a Defense Department funding bill that would have curbed the NSA), the House leadership of both parties were resoundingly opposed, and current and former military and intelligence officials sounded dire warnings as to all the terrible things that would happen if the resolution passed.
If Obama’s success is looking a tad wobbly in the Senate, it’s not hard to extrapolate how bad things are in the House. Tellingly, a new Ezra Klein’s interview, “Rep. Brad Sherman explains how the White House could win the Syria vote,” shows pro-intervention Sherman to be as defensive as the headline indicates.
ThinkProgress’ House whip count as of the end of Wednesday broke down with 47 members of the House as firm or inclined to a yes vote, 187 firm or inclined to a no vote, and 220 unknown or undecided. Firedoglake comes up with a broadly similar picture: 55 firmly or inclined to a yes, 155 firmly or inclined to a negative vote. One of my Congressional sources says based on his conversations with Republicans he is pretty certain the Administration will be forced to withdraw the resolution or postpone a vote in the House. Note that the tentative schedule is for the Senate to start debating the resolution next Tuesday the 10th and vote that day or the 11th. The House is set to start debate either on the 12th or the week of the 16th.
One might argue that this reading isn’t earth-shaking. The Administration has a week or more to turn things around in the House.
The problem is that if anything, it seems to be having trouble getting traction. The key isn’t simply that various handicappers, such as Politico, peg the resolution as going down to defeat if the vote were held today. It’s that the Administration is utterly unable to make a case, so the idea that they will make much headway with the fence-sitters or those disposed to vote no looks remote. From Politico:
House Republican staffers tell us that several key members are unsatisfied so far by the classified briefings from the administration. A top aide said the administration has failed to make a compelling case “beyond spasmodic moral outrage.”
“Nobody has really heard how this is going to either improve the situation on the ground in Syria, improve the situation for pro-democracy groups, not play into al-Qaeda’s hands, not play into Russia’s hands, not play into China’s hands,” the aide said. “Members felt the administration hasn’t made a case about how this is going to stop it from happening again. They’re putting a lot of chips on: ‘We have to do this for Israel,’ or, ‘We have to do this because it’s unacceptable.’”
Another House GOP aide told us that President Obama will have to make a better personal case to the public, not just to Congress: If you’re going to sell the members, you also have to sell the constituents. Otherwise, the country could watch the amazing spectacle of Congress defeating a war resolution backed by the president and every top elected leader. And Wednesday evening, a top House Republican aide said the measure could actually lose.
This vote is turning out to be another TARP-type watershed, with the public virtually unified in its opposition (calls to Congresscrittters are reportedly running well over 90% against intervention). And remember, it took a market swan dive, a second TARP vote, and the additional of lots of pork to reverse the initial vote. But also bear in mind that the reason TARP was initially voted down was the barrage of voter phone calls and e-mails against it, reportedly 99% opposed until financial services firms started getting employees to call in favor of the bill, which shifted the tally to a mere 80% or so of callers opposed. So if you have not called or written your Congresscritters, be sure to do so pronto.
It’s revealing to see not just which politicians have taken firm positions on Syria, but which ones are keeping a pointedly low profile. Joe Biden, for instance, is missing in action. Olivier Knox at Yahoo might have found out why:
Six years ago, Biden vowed to impeach President George W. Bush if the Republican bombed Iran without first getting congressional approval.
“The president has no authority to unilaterally attack Iran, and if he does, as Foreign Relations Committee chairman, I will move to impeach,” Biden said at the time.
In Massachusetts, among the five candidates running for Representative Edward Markey’s seat, only one, Carl Sciortino, has said he’s against giving Obama the go-ahead in Syria. By contrast, Elizabeth Warren, who is regularly touted as a progressive hope, is falling well short of her billing. Yes, she’s done far better in using her bully pulpit in Senate Banking Committee hearings, which has helped keep the issue of bank reform from fading completely from view. But her student loan bill, which was predictably defeated, was a narrow technocratic fix that set out to preserve the terrible American system of higher education indentured servitude. Warren has yet to demonstrate she’s willing to buck the Administration on a major issue. She voted for the confirmation of Rubinite Jack Lew as Treasury Secretary. She also voted to confirm James Comey as head of the FBI. Recall that Conway worked for Lockheed Martin after leaving the Bush Administration in 2005 through 2010 and voiced his support for NSA surveillance as a “valuable tool in counterterrorism.” So it should be no surprise that despite overwhelming public opposition to an attack on Syria, Warren is unwilling to buck the party, at least until she has plenty of air cover. From Huffington Post earlier in the week:
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said “it’s appropriate” for President Barack Obama to seek approval from Congress before taking military action in Syria.
“It’s appropriate that he ask for that,” Warren said at the annual Central Massachusetts AFL-CIO Labor Day breakfast, according to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
“What the Assad regime did is reprehensible, but we have to consider what’s in America’s best interest,” Warren said.
Readers will not doubt notice the endorsement of not-yet-substantiated Administration claims that it has the goods on Assad.
Warren isn’t the only cautious Congressman who needs a big voter push. But she’s been positioned as a progressive leader when she’s not willing to take up the mantle save in her areas of expertise, and even then only very selectively. Even though she may move into vocal opposition, she’d be doing so based on her reading of the tea leaves, not on a willingness to influence policy. Perhaps she’ll redeem herself by filibustering Obama’s nomination of Larry Summers for Fed chairman. But in the meantime, it’s incumbent on those of us who are opposed to Syrian adventurism to pressure Democrats who are peculiarly unwilling to repudiate Obama’s inept, dishonest, and destructive initiatives.
Lynn Parramore: Seven Reasons to Fight Obama on Picking Out-of-Touch Crony Capitalist Larry Summers as Fed Chair
By Lynn Parramore, a senior editor at Alternet. Cross posted from Alternet
The Fed chairman is the most powerful official Obama will pick— directly affecting each and every wallet in America. As much as anything, this appointment will shape our country’s future.
Obama appears to want Summers, and so do the most powerful people on Wall Street. But he is not the people’s choice. Democrats who care about ordinary Americans, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren, do not want to see him controlling of one of the two most significant economic levers in the country.
In leaning toward Summers, Obama, still a relatively young man with many years ahead, seems to be more interested in his own future than our future. The big banks will reward him for backing Summers. But the American people will not forget such a betrayal.
The legacy of the next Fed chair will last long after the President leaves office. Remember Alan Greenspan? He acted as Fed chief for nearly two decades. The next chair could potentially guide America’s economy for a generation.
We can look back on Greenspan’s tenure and see the origins of many of the ills we now face, from inequality to high unemployment. If, down the road, we turn into an unstable, third-rate nation where regular people have lost faith in financial and justice systems and the rich retreat behind barbed wire, we may well look back and see in Larry Summers the genesis of that picture.
With so much at stake, let’s take a look at why all signs say that Larry Summers would be a destructive Fed chair unable to serve the people — one whose image as a serial looter of the American public no amount of whitewashing can clean.
1. Summers Serves Wall Street over Main Street.
The Fed is responsible for the oversight and regulation of the US banking system. Larry Summers has a terrible record on both.
Alan Greenspan’s dangerous philosophy, vigorously supported by Summers during the Clinton administration, called for taking regulatory cops off the Wall Street beat and letting banks regulate themselves, which led to a culture of wild speculation and criminal activity that helped bring on the financial meltdown of 2007-08. As a result, millions of our friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens were left without jobs, homes, and pensions. In the wake of this devastation, Summers acted quickly to force American taxpayers to bail out the very banks which had triggered the devastation. Some deal!
Today, big banks are even more powerful and dangerous than before the crisis — they’re are more concentrated, they’ve made record-breaking profits, and the news is a constant stream of scams and harmful activity ranging from money laundering to billion-dollar gambling losses to rigging international interest rates. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder even admitted to the American people that the banks have become too big to be prosecuted without endangering the entire economy, a situation which not only makes a mockery of our justice system, but encourages banks to continue ripping off the public.
What has Larry Summers been doing since vacating his position as Obama’s top economic advisor? He’s been on what the New York Times called a “money-making spree” of consulting jobs, six-figure speaking gigs, and corporate board positions, collecting large sums from too-big-to-fail banks like Citigroup, giant hedge funds, and Silicon Valley financial firms. (He was already rich off Wall Street money before joining Team Obama: between his tenure at the Treasury Department in the 1990s and his 2009 return to Washington, the Times reports that his personal wealth rocketed from $400,000 to $31 million).
Obama’s support of Summers is a reflection of his own long history of support from Big Finance that goes back to his days as a senator, manifested in an inner circle stuffed with Wall Street veterans. As economists Laurence Kotlikoff and Jeffrey Sachs put it: “President Obama leans toward Summers not on the merits but because the Wall Street bankers want him.”
When you see a president acting to install the person favored by Wall Street’s most powerful players as Fed chair, you know that trouble on Main Street can’t be far off. We’ve seen this movie before; we know how it turns out.
2. He’s the poster boy for crony capitalism.
The Fed chair, like the head of the Supreme Court, should have a sharp sense of when real and potential conflicts of interest come into play. When people in powerful economic positions lack this trait, things get ugly fast.
Case in point: On July 21, 2008 then-Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson gave Wall Street executives a potentially profitable heads up when he warned them of the government’s intention to nationalize Fannie and Freddie. He made that disclosure despite contrary statements to the Senate and to news reporters just days earlier. In the midst of a crisis, he knew who his friends were, and ordinary Americans weren’t among them.
Would Summers act any differently? The record raises serious questions. While he was president of Harvard University, Summers could not restrain himself from working for a hedge fund to fatten his bank account. During that time he was also a member of the board of the Harvard Management Corporation, which oversees the investment of Harvard’s large endowment assets. Summers famously urged heavier investments into stocks, private equity, and hedge funds — a move which cost the university dearly when the economy crashed in 2008.
And that’s far from the worst of it.
As Harvard president he protected his colleague and bosom buddy Andrei Schleifer from charges of clear conflict of interest in Russia that were pressed by the U.S. government. Schleifer, an economist, had been rolled into Russia as a consultant and decided that instead of giving sound economic advice, he would take the opportunity to line his own pockets. Investigative journalist David McClintock describes in gory detail how, in a breathtakingly corrupt deal, Schleifer and his wife defrauded both Russia and the U.S. government. The U.S. government sued and won against Harvard and Shleifer.
At the time, Summers testified that in his Washington experience, conflict-of-interest “issues” were “left to the lawyers.” On the matter of “ethics rules,” he admitted that “in Washington I wasn’t ever smart enough to predict them…”
The country does not need a Fed chair who, by his own admission, isn’t smart enough to predict conflicts of interest.
3. Summers is not terribly interested in unemployment.
Supporters of Larry Summers like to talk about his brilliance, but in reality he is a highly conventional economist who advocates raising interest rates too fast and places too much emphasis on deficits over jobs. Part of the Fed’s mandate is to move the country toward full employment, so Summers’ history of lackluster interest in jobs is yet another red flag.
Janet Yellen, Summers’ main rival for Fed chair, has consistently advocated for expansionary Fed policy focused on reducing unemployment. While out of power, Larry Summers has given lip service to the importance of jobs, but we’ve seen him in power enough times to know that jobs have never really been a major concern for him. Summers, the political protégé of deficit hawk Robert E. Rubin, the Treasury secretary under Clinton, has repeatedly shown — most recently during his years as Director of the National Economic Council under Obama — that if it comes down to a choice between jobs and austerity, he’s usually on the side of austerity. The kind of austerity that kills jobs and undermines programs like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare.
Economist Dean Baker reveals that if you want to find the “smoking gun” in the Obama administration that led to a focus on deficit reduction instead of jobs, look no further than a memo drafted by Summers in December 2008, a month before Obama’s inauguration. The memo, which was wrong about the economy on several counts, set the stage for policies that drove an ongoing jobs crisis and led to Obama’s creation of a deficit commission led by former Senator Alan Simpson, a zealot for cutting Social Security and Medicare, and Morgan Stanley director Erskine Bowles. (The duo relied on famously discredited work by economists Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff to push austerity).
Since he left the National Economic Council in 2010, Summers has been talking down austerity and talking up the importance of jobs and the middle class. But how he acts when in power and how he talks when out of it are two vastly different things. His doubtful record on adequately stimulating the economy and his political baggage are so worrisome that many — even some business-minded folks — have warned that his leadership at the Fed would be harmful to the economy. The Economist magazine has cautioned that Summers would likely be a Greenspan style “maestro” at the Fed, less interested in transparency and consensus-building in his decision-making than Yellen. In the NYT, Binyamin Applebaum explained that many financial analysts fear a Summers nomination “could lead to slower economic growth, less job creation and higher interest rates…”
Americans are still suffering from the effects of the Great Recession and years of wrong-headed economic policy. We need a Fed chair focused on unemployment and investing in the economy.
4. He’s a blatant sexist.
Given the increasingly vital role that women play in the economy, clearly we need a Fed chair who respects them and understands that they are not second-class citizens.
The most famous case of Larry Summers’ sexism relates to his comments while president of Harvard suggesting that women do not have the natural faculties to do higher mathematics and science. Beyond this inappropriateness, there is also a smell of sexism in his dismissive response to Brooksley Born, who valiantly attempted to regulate derivatives trading while she was head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. At that time, a gang of male economists, Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers, worked overtime to silence her in a way that if not sexist, was at least egregiously mistaken and cost the American people horribly.
Obama claims to want diversity in his administration, but there’s a conspicuous absence of women in his inner circle. No woman has ever been chair of the Fed, but right now, a highly impressive woman, Janet Yellen, is on hand to do the job. As the first African American president, Obama has been a trailblazer. Does he really want his legacy marred by a tone-deafness to the need for qualified women in positions of authority?
There has been noticeable sexism in efforts to derail Yellen’s candidacy, despite her powerful resume. Her well-known cool head, dignified public persona, and demonstrated prescience on economic matters all serve to distinguish her from Larry Summers. It would be a slap in the face to both women and men to overlook an excellent female candidate in favor of a grossly unsuitable male one.
5. Summers had an ugly role in the Enron fiasco.
When Enron was manipulating California’s power market, creating stratospheric electricity prices and horrifying outages, Larry Summers was on the scene promoting the interests of the bad guys.
Kurt Eichenwald reveals in his 2005 book “Conspiracy of Fools” that in 2000, then-California Gov. Gray Davis suspected Enron’s involvement in the energy fiasco and pleaded for help to then-Treasury secretary Summers. Summers dismissed Davis’s concerns, and together with then-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, told Davis that the problem was really over-regulation and advised Davis to pipe down and not scare off Enron and other power suppliers.
Later, as the crisis raged on, Summers, Greenspan, and Enron CEO Kenneth Lay had a video call with Davis in which Summers praised Enron and suggested that what California really needed to do was loosen environmental regulations in order to quickly build more power plants.
Fortunately, Davis did not listen to Summers, and soon the world knew that his suspicions were correct: Enron had been running a gigantic fraud in California’s energy market while its traders exchanged jokes on how they were stealing from poor grandmothers in the state.
The crime spree and subsequent implosion of Enron was a dress rehearsal for the financial crisis. Larry Summers didn’t get it then that deregulation was a danger to the public, and there’s no indication that he gets it now.
6. His environmental record is frightening.
A look at Summers record on global economic issues reveals both his disturbing attitude towards the world’s have-nots and his deranged thinking on environmental issues. While chief economist at the World Bank, he oversaw programs that hurt people throughout poor countries, requiring them to focus on repaying foreign debt over vital concerns like health and education.
Back in December 12, 1991, Larry Summers was chief economist for the World Bank and signed a famous internal memo that was leaked to the environmental community. The memo explained why dumping toxic waste in third-world countries would actually benefit them economically, suggesting that life and health are worth less in poor countries than in rich ones.
After the outrageous memo became public, Brazil’s then-Secretary of the Environment Jose Lutzenburger expressed his shock: “Your reasoning is perfectly logical but totally insane… Your thoughts [provide] a concrete example of the unbelievable alienation, reductionist thinking, social ruthlessness and the arrogant ignorance of many conventional ‘economists’ concerning the nature of the world we live in…”
Later, during the Clinton administration, Summers set himself as an opponent to climate action and argued against the Kyoto Protocol to decrease carbon emissions. Under Obama, he continued to warn of potential economic risks of aggressive efforts to limit carbon emissions.
Understanding the threat of climate change and the impact of poisons and pollution on humanity ought to be givens for someone in a position as important as Fed chair. Summers’ position reveals a great deal about his cast of mind and who he worries about.
7. He’s an out-of-step Democrat.
On September 1, David Leonhardt of the New York Times reminded readers that a Democrat has not led the Fed in a quarter of a century. That is true, and this time the Fed chair will be a Democrat. But the question is, what kind of Democrat?
Larry Summers has been the kind of Democrat that helped move the party away from its core values and proud tradition of focusing on the needs of ordinary Americans. He is one of the key figures in the kind of Clintonian, “Third Way” economic model in which deregulation, regressive taxes, financialization and austerity hold sway. He is the sort of turn-coat Democrat who has jumped in bed with Wall Street and turned working class Americans away from the party they used to vote for (see: what’s happened in North Carolina). He is an elitist, completely out of touch with regular people, and obsessed with enhancing his personal wealth.
Notably, populist-minded Democrats don’t want him as Fed chair. Elizabeth Warren (Mass), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), and Sherrod Brown (Ohio) have all spoken out against him. The question is, how many other Democrats are willing to stand up and vote “no” on his nomination? How many will recognize that Larry Summers does not really represent the party? If enough Democratic Senators proclaim their willingness to filibuster Summers’ nomination, the costs to the White House of proceeding with it would rise exponentially. The President might even reconsider.
True progressives and liberals should let it be known what kind of a future they want for the country, and what kind of Fed chair they will get behind. If ever there were a time to fight, this would be it.
Syrian military forces conducting missile test in the Middle Eastern nation. The country and its government has been targeted for regime-change., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Russia releases key findings on chemical attack near Aleppo indicating similarity with rebel-made weapons
Published time: September 04, 2013 17:02
Probes from Khan al-Assal show chemicals used in the March 19 attack did not belong to standard Syrian army ammunition, and that the shell carrying the substance was similar to those made by a rebel fighter group, the Russian Foreign Ministry stated.
A statement released by the ministry on Wednesday particularly drew attention to the “massive stove-piping of various information aimed at placing the responsibility for the alleged chemical weapons use in Syria on Damascus, even though the results of the UN investigation have not yet been revealed.”
By such means “the way is being paved for military action” against Damascus, the ministry pointed out.
But the samples taken at the site of the March 19 attack and analyzed by Russian experts indicate that a projectile carrying the deadly nerve agent sarin was most likely fired at Khan al-Assal by the rebels, the ministry statement suggests, outlining the 100-page report handed over to the UN by Russia.
The key points of the report have been given as follows:
• the shell used in the incident “does not belong to the standard ammunition of the Syrian army and was crudely according to type and parameters of the rocket-propelled unguided missiles manufactured in the north of Syria by the so-called Bashair al-Nasr brigade”;
• RDX, which is also known as hexogen or cyclonite, was used as the bursting charge for the shell, and it is “not used in standard chemical munitions”;
• soil and shell samples contain “the non-industrially synthesized nerve agent sarin and diisopropylfluorophosphate,” which was “used by Western states for producing chemical weapons during World War II.”
The findings of the report are “extremely specific,” as they mostly consist of scientific and technical data from probes’ analysis, the ministry stressed, adding that this data can “substantially aid” the UN investigation of the incident.
While focusing on the Khan al-Assal attack on March 19, in which at least 26 civilians and Syrian army soldiers were killed, and 86 more were injured, the Russian Foreign Ministry also criticized the “flawed selective approach” of certain states in reporting the recent incidents of alleged chemical weapons use in August.
The hype around the alleged attack on the eastern Damascus suburb of Ghouta showed “apparent attempts to cast a veil over the incidents of gas poisoning of Syrian army soldiers on August 22, 24 and 25,” the ministry said, adding that all the respective evidence was handed to the UN by Syria.
The condition of the soldiers who, according to Damascus, suffered poisoning after discovering tanks with traces of sarin, has been examined and documented by the UN inspectors, the ministry pointed out, adding that “any objective investigation of the August 21 incident in eastern Ghouta is impossible without the consideration of all these facts.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday said the UN investigators are set to return to Syria to investigate several other cases of alleged chemical weapons use, including the March 19 incident in Khan al-Assal.
Cuban President Raul Castro shakes hands with President Vladimir Putin of Russia during a visit by the Cuban leader to Moscow. Cuba and Russia are long time allies., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Putin warns against 'illegal' military action in Syria, bypassing UNSC
Published time: September 04, 2013 05:51
Russia needs convincing proof, not rumors, from UN experts that chemical weapons were used in Syria, said the Russian president in an interview with First Channel and AP. It is up to the UN Security Council to decide on the next course of action, he said.
Speaking to journalists from Russia’s state Channel 1 television and Associated Press, Russian President Vladimir Putin made a number of decisive statements regarding the supposed use of chemical weapons in the Syrian conflict, which evoked a threat of a US-led strike on Syria.
“We believe that at the very least we should wait for the results of the UN inspection commission in Syria,” Putin said, adding that so far there is no information about what chemical agent exactly was used in the attack in Damascus’ suburbs and who did it.
“I’ve already said I find it absolutely ridiculous that [Syrian] government’s armed forces, which today are actually on an offense mission and in some regions have already encircled the so-called rebels and are finishing them off, that the Syrian army has used prohibited chemical weapons,” Putin said.
“They know all too well that this could become a cause for sanctions and even for a military operation against them. That’s stupid and illogical.”
“We proceed from the assumption that if anyone has information that chemical weapons were used by the Syrian regular army, then such proof must be presented to the UN Security Council and the UN inspectors,” Putin said, stressing that the proof must be “convincing” and not based on “rumors” or any sort of “eavesdropped intelligence data,” conversations etc.
“Even in the US there are experts who question the reliability of the facts presented by the administration. These experts do not exclude the possibility that the Syrian opposition has conducted a pre-planned provocation in order to give their sponsors a reason for military intervention,” he acknowledged.
Putin later leveled criticism at US Secretary of State John Kerry as he spoke to human rights activists on Wednesday, saying Kerry “lied” by claiming there was no Al-Qaeda militants fighting in Syria and that the military strike against President Assad will not boost the terrorist network’s presence in the region.
“They lie, plainly. I watched the Congressional debate. A congressman asked Mr. Kerry: “Is there any Al-Qaeda [in Syria]? There are reports they have been growing stronger.” He [Kerry] replied: “No. I say with all responsibility: there is no [Al-Qaeda] there,” Putin explained.
The Russian President then said the Al-Nusra Front terrorist organization, which pledged allegiance to Al-Qaeda, has been at the forefront of the rebel groups fighting Assad’s forces, and that the US is well aware of that.
“Well, he [Kerry] lies. And he knows that he lies. This is sad,” Putin remarked.
Speaking of Kerry’s confidence in that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons, Putin recalled former US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s rhetoric on the eve of American invasion in Iraq.
Powell even brandished some test tube with a white powder as he attempted to persuade the international community that Iraq has chemical weapons, Putin said, stressing that it later turned out that “all these arguments did not hold water.”
Putin says he “does not exclude” that Russia may agree with a military operation if it is proved that the Syrian government is behind the attack, however he emphasized that in accordance with international law a decision of the UN Security Council is needed for that.
“All other reasons and means that excuse using military force against an independent sovereign state are unacceptable and cannot be classified otherwise but as an aggression,” Putin noted.
“We would be convinced by a detailed investigation and direct evidence of who exactly used chemical weapons and what substances were used. Then we’ll be ready to take decisive and serious action,” said the president.
Answering a question about video records of dead children that allegedly died in the chemical attack in Damascus, Vladimir Putin called the material with dead children “horrible”.
“The questions are what exactly was done and who is to blame. This video does not answer these questions,” Putin said, sharing an opinion that this video is a compilation made by the militants who – even the US acknowledges – have links with Al-Qaeda and are notorious for extreme atrocities.
Putin recommended to pay attention to the fact that in the video with dead children there are no parents, children’s relatives or even medical personnel, while people who do appear in the video remain unidentified. However terrible the picture could be, it cannot be proof of anybody’s guilt, Putin said, and called for investigation of the incident.
Russia is fulfilling arms contracts with Syria “because we believe that we are working with the legitimate government and we are violating neither international law, nor our obligations,” assured Putin, stressing that the UN had imposed no sanctions on the export of weapons to Syria.
He confirmed that Moscow has a signed contract with Damascus to deliver S-300 air defense missile complexes to Syria. The S-300 system is kind of outdated, said Putin, “though they might be a little better than Patriot missiles.”
Russia already has deployed S-400 and forthcoming S-500 systems, “[and] these are all certainly very efficient weapons,” Putin noted.
“We have a contract to supply S300 missiles, and we’ve already supplied some parts, but not all of it, because we decided to suspend the supplies for a while. But if we see international law being violated, we will reconsider our future actions, including supplies of such sensitive weapons to certain regions of the world,” he promised.
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Russian President Vladamir Putin interviewing with Russia Today worldwide satellite television news network. He discussed a myriad of issues during the segment., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
We have our plans if US launches war on Syria, Putin says
Thu Sep 5, 2013 1:48AM GMT
Russian President Vladimir Putin says Moscow has its own plans to deal with a possible US military offensive against Syria.
Putin made the remarks on Tuesday night at his country residence outside Moscow during an interview with The Associated Press and Russia's state Channel 1 television published on Wednesday.
"We have our own ideas about what we would do and how we would do it if the situation develops toward the use of force or otherwise," he said. "We have our plans, but it's too early to talk about them."
The war rhetoric against Syria intensified after foreign-backed opposition forces accused the government of President Bashar al-Assad of launching a chemical attack on militant strongholds in the suburbs of Damascus on August 21.
Damascus has vehemently denied the accusations, saying the chemical attack was carried out by the militants themselves as a false-flag operation.
On August 31, US President Barack Obama said he has decided that Washington must take military action against the Syrian government, which would mean a unilateral military strike without a UN mandate.
Obama said that despite having made up his mind, he will take the case to US Congress. But he added that he is prepared to order military action against the Syrian government at any time.
The US president once again held the Syrian government responsible for the chemical weapons attack near Damascus.
On August 29, a meeting of the Security Council's permanent members ended without reaching an agreement on Syria.
The Western members of the council have been pushing for a resolution on the use of force while Russia and China are strongly opposed to any attack on Syria.
Since March 2011, Russia and China have vetoed three UN Security Council resolutions proposed by European states threatening military action and sanctions against Damascus.
The two countries are also opposing the current push by the United States and France to launch a war on Syria, vowing to veto any resolution that paves the way for the military action.
Patients being treated for chemical weapons exposure initiated by the western-backed rebels fighting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. Israel has recently carried out renewed airstrike outside of Damascus., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
‘US war on Syria not to be limited’
Thu Sep 5, 2013 2:6AM GMT
An American anti-war activist says US President Barack Obama’s claim of having a limited and surgical plan for military action against Syria is anything but a lie.
“The claims by the Obama administration and its supporters in Congress that what they are contemplating is a limited, surgical and symbolic military strike is simply but a lie” said Rick Rozoff, the manager of “Stop NATO” Network in an interview with Press TV.
The US and some of its allies accuse the Syrian government of carrying out a chemical attack against its own people on the outskirts of Damascus last month and are paving the ground for what President Obama calls a “tailored and limited” military action against the Arab nation. Damascus has rejected the allegations as baseless and accused the foreign-backed militants of being behind the attack.
“The language being used suggests it’s almost a medical intervention that is something humane and something that is beneficial to the health of a nation. It is just anything but that,” Rozoff went on to explain.
The anti-war activist added that the US along with its military allies has accumulated in the eastern Mediterranea “a veritable armada of warships and submarines equipped with several hundred missiles.”
“The US has deployed over 600 Tomahawk missiles in the region which could have a devastating impact on a comparatively small country like Syria with a population of perhaps 25 million people.”
Rozoff added that this talk about destroying the air defense or deterring the ability of the Syrian government to defend itself against an attack and ultimately the enforcement of a no fly zone is hardly a limited surgical operation.
“In fact we have precedent we know what it looks like. Similar claims were made before the air war against Yugoslavia in 1999 and lasted for 74 days.”
He added that the US and its allies intend “to wage an active military aggression against a sovereign nation."
“Once the monsters are let out of the Pandora’s box it’s impossible to put it back again,” he concluded.
U.S. patriot missiles being transported through the NATO country of Turkey. Demonstrations have taken place in various parts of the country against the threat of war against Syria., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Chemical weapons sent from Turkey to Syria: Former Turkish provincial official
Thu Sep 5, 2013 1:54AM GMT
A former member of a city council in the Turkish province of Hatay says that the chemical weapons used in last month’s attack in Syria were transported from Turkey, Press TV reports.
“Four months ago, Turkish security forces found a two-kilogram cylinder with sarin gas after searching the homes of Syrian militants from the al-Qaeda and al-Nusra. They are using our borders to take the gas into Syria,” Mohamad Gunes said.
“The Syrian president has no reason to kill his own people,” he added.
People in the southern province, which borders Syria, said that the weapons were used by the al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front militants and not the Syrian government.
“America and Israel had al-Qaeda use chemical weapons in order to push us into war; none of us wants war here. In the history of Hatay, we all lived peacefully side by side, now there is Mossad, CIA and al-Qaeda all over the place. We are worried that they might use chemical weapons against us,” said Farid Mainy, a Hatay resident and an activist.
The residents believe the Turkish government is allowing the transfer of weapons because Ankara is trying to create a pretext in order to wage war on its neighbor.
US President Barack Obama is trying to convince the Congress to approve a military strike against Syria over the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government.
Washington says it has obtained evidence proving that the Syrian army was behind the chemical attack near Damascus on August 21, which killed hundreds of Syrians.
The Syrian government has repeatedly said that the deadly attack was carried out by militants operating inside the country in a bid to draw in a foreign military intervention.
Obama has delayed military action pending Congressional approval at a vote scheduled for September 9.
On Monday, Russia dismissed as “absolutely unconvincing” the evidence presented by the US accusing the Syrian government of the gas attack.
“When you ask for more detailed proof, they say all of this is classified so we cannot show this to you,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated.
Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011. According to reports, the Western powers and their regional allies -- especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey -- are supporting the militants operating inside Syria.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that the number of Syrian refugees, who have fled the country’s 29-month-long conflict, reached two million.
“Syria is hemorrhaging women, children and men who cross borders often with little more than the clothes on their backs,” the UNHCR said.
The UN refugee agency also said that some 4.2 million people have also been displaced inside Syria since the beginning of the conflict in the Arab country.
Syrian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Mission Dr. Bashara al-Jaafari listening to the attacks being made on his country by the special envoy Kofi Annan and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Syria is under threat of imperialist regime-change., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
Syria will not give in to attack threats 'even if there is WW III: Syria official
Wed Sep 4, 2013 2:1PM GMT
Syrian deputy foreign minister has said that Damascus will not give in to threats of a US-led military strike against his country, even if World War III breaks out.
Faisal al-Miqdad said in an exclusive interview with AFP on Wednesday that the Syrian government has taken "every measure" to counter a potential foreign aggression.
"Syria has taken every measure to retaliate against ... an aggression," Miqdad said without elaborating, adding, "The Syrian government will not change position even if there is World War III. No Syrian can sacrifice the independence of his country."
He also stated that Syria is mobilizing its allies ahead of a possible foreign military intervention.
Miqdad's remarks come as US President Barack Obama is trying to convince the Congress to approve a strike against Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons. The French parliament is also debating the issue.
Washington says it has obtained evidence proving that the Syrian army was behind a chemical attack near Damascus on August 21, which killed hundreds of Syrians.
Russia, however, has dismissed as unconvincing the evidence presented by the US about chemical weapons use by the Syrian government.
The Syrian government has repeatedly said that the deadly attack was carried out by the militants in a bid to draw in foreign military intervention.
US President Barack Obama delayed an imminent military strike against Syria on August 31 to seek approval for the move from the Congress, which will debate the issue when lawmakers return from recess on September 9. The Obama administration has, however, said it “has the right” to attack Syria even if the Congress does not approve the measure.
Scene in Damascus, Syria where a bombing took place near the intelligence headquarters on March 17, 2012. For the past year Syria has been under attack by western-backed rebels who are supported by special forces from the imperialist countries., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
The Disastrous Consequences of a U.S. Military Attack on Syria
September 2, 2013
By Ann Wright
Its 4am and I can’t sleep, just like 10 years ago when President Bush was telling the world that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and the United States must invade and occupy Iraq to rid humanity of these weapons. I didn’t believe President Bush ten years ago and I resigned as a U.S. diplomat.
Now a decade later, President Obama is telling the world that the use of chemical weapons in Syria by the Assad government must be answered by other weapons, even though the results of the UN inspection team have not been compiled—just as the Bush administration refused to wait for the UN report by the inspectors who had been looking for WMD in Iraq.
Secretary of State John Kerry pronounced that the UN inspectors “can’t tell us anything that we don’t already know.” President Obama says that any U.S. attack on the Assad government will be as punishment, not regime change. The strike will be “limited”—but tell that to the civilians who inevitably die when military attacks take place.
President Bush and his advisors either didn’t know or didn’t care about the probable consequences of their decision to invade and occupy Iraq:
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and over 4,000 Americans dead;
Millions of Iraqis and Americans wounded physically and psychologically;
Legions of young men of the region now experienced in warfare and for hire moving from Iraq to Libya to Syria;
And the Iraqi “democratic” government unable to control the whirlwind of sectarian violence that now is killing hundreds each week.
(Although the U.S. invaded and occupied Afghanistan under a different rationale, I also want to acknowledge the Afghan citizens who have been killed or wounded in the U.S. war in Afghanistan.)
President Obama has not spelled out the possible consequences of a military attack on Syria, but U.S. military leaders are warning about the risks. In a letter to the Senate Armed Services committee, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey wrote last month  said, “As we weigh our options, we should be able to conclude with some confidence that use of force will move us toward the intended outcome.” “Once we take action, we should be prepared for what comes next. Deeper involvement is hard to avoid.”
General James Mattis, who retired recently as head of the U.S. Central Command, said  last month at a security conference that the United States has “no moral obligation to do the impossible” in Syria. “If Americans take ownership of this, this is going to be a full-throated, very, very serious war.”
Possible Consequences of A U.S. Military Attack on Syria
As U.S. warships gather off the shores of Lebanon to launch Tomahawk Cruise missiles at targets in Syria, we can make some educated guesses of what the “unintended consequences” could be:
Syrian anti-aircraft batteries will fire their rockets at incoming U.S. missiles.
Many Syrians on the ground will die and both the U.S. and Syrian governments will say the deaths are the fault of the other.
The U.S. Embassy in Damascus will be attacked and burned, as may other U.S. Embassies and businesses in the Middle East.
Syria might also launch rockets toward the U.S. ally in the region—Israel.
Israel would launch bombing missions on Syria as it has three times in the past two years and perhaps take the opportunity to launch an attack on Syria’s strongest ally in the region Iran.
Iran, a country with a population of 80 million and has the largest military in the region untouched by war in the past 25 years, might retaliate with missiles aimed toward Israel and toward nearby U.S. military bases in Afghanistan, Turkey, Bahrain and Qatar.
Iran could block the Straits of Hormuz and impede the transport of oil out of the Persian Gulf.
30 Years Ago, U.S. Warships Bombed Lebanon and the U.S. Marine Barracks in Beirut Was Blown Up in Retaliation
At this time of crisis, it is worth remembering another time, 30 years ago in October, 1983 when U.S. warships bombarded Lebanon, the country located next to Syria. Within weeks, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut was blown up by a massive truck bomb that killed 241 American servicemen: 220 Marines, 18 sailors and three soldiers. The truck driver- suicide bomber was an Iranian national named Ismail Ascari whose truck contained explosives that were the equivalent of 21,000 pounds of TNT. Two minutes later a second suicide bomber drove a truck filled with explosives into the French military compound in Beirut killing 58 French paratroopers. France is the only country standing with the Obama administration on a military strike on Syria.
Earlier in the year, on April 18, 1983, the U.S. Embassy in Beirut had been blown up by another suicide driver with 900 pounds of explosives that killed 63 people, 17 Americans, mostly embassy and CIA staff members, several soldiers and one Marine, 34 Lebanese employees of the US Embassy and 12 Embassy visitors. It was the deadliest attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission up to that time, and marked the beginning of anti-U.S. attacks by Islamist groups.
The U.S. and French military were in Lebanon as a part of a Multi-National force after the PLO left Lebanon following the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. ostensibly to create a 40 km buffer zone between the PLO and Syrian forces in Lebanon and Israel. The Israeli invasion was tacitly approved by the U.S., and the U.S. provided overt military support to Israel in the form of arms and material.
Colonel Timothy J. Geraghty, the commander of the U.S. 24th Marine Amphibious Unit (MAU) deployed as peacekeepers in Beirut, said  that the American and the French headquarters were targeted primarily because of "who we were and what we represented…It is noteworthy that the United States provided direct naval gunfire support [which fired a total of 360 5-inch rounds between 10:04 A.M. and 3:00 PM.] -- which I strongly opposed for a week -- to the Lebanese Army at a mountain village called Suq-al-Garb on September 19 and that the French conducted an air strike on September 23 in the Bekaa Valley. American support removed any lingering doubts of our neutrality, and I stated to my staff at the time that we were going to pay in blood for this decision.”
Some of the circumstances around the incidents in Lebanon in 1983 and now thirty years later in Syria are familiar. U.S. intelligence agencies were aware of potential trouble but did not report the problems in sufficient time for actions to be taken. President Obama said that the U.S. had intercepted signals indicating the Syrian government was moving equipment into place for an attack, but the U.S. did not warn the Syrian government that the U.S. knew what was happening and did not warn civilians that a chemical attack was imminent.
Thirty years before, on September 26, 1983, "the National Security Agency (NSA) intercepted an Iranian diplomatic communications message from the Iranian intelligence agency, the Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS)," to its ambassador, Ali Akbar Mohtashemi, in Damascus. The message  directed the ambassador to "take spectacular action against the American Marines.” The intercepted message, dated September 26, was not passed to the Marines until a month later on October 26: three days after the bombing.
Geraghty wrote 20 years later, “ The coordinated dual suicide attacks, supported, planned, organized, and financed by Iran and Syria using Shiite proxies, achieved their strategic goal: the withdrawal of the multinational force from Lebanon and a dramatic change in U.S. national policy. The synchronized attacks that morning killed 299 U.S. and French peacekeepers and wounded scores more. The cost to the Iranian/Syrian-supported operation was two suicide bombers dead.”
“What is the political end state we’re trying to achieve?” said a retired senior officer involved in Middle East operational planning who said his concerns are widely shared by active-duty military leaders. “I don’t know what it is. We say it’s not regime change. If it’s punishment, there are other ways to punish.” The former senior officer said that those who are expressing alarm at the risks inherent in the plan “are not being heard other than in a pro-forma manner.”
Letter from former U.S. government officials appealing to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Dempsey not to obey an illegal order to attack Syria
As Obama administration lawyers in the Justice and State Departments frantically write classified legal opinions to provide legal protection for whatever action the President decides on, others are calling for military officers to look to their constitutional responsibilities.
On August 31, 2013, 13 former officials of the U.S. government, including Pentagon Papers whistleblower Dan Ellsberg, retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern and retired US Army Colonel Larry Wilkerson, former Chief of Staff for Secretary of State Colin Powell, wrote an open letter  to General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, asking him to resign rather than follow an illegal order to attack Syria.
“We refer to your acknowledgment, in your letter of July 19 to Sen. Carl Levin on Syria, that a “decision to use force is not one that any of us takes lightly. It is no less than an act of war.” It appears that the President may order such an act of war without proper Congressional authorization.
As seasoned intelligence and military professionals solemnly sworn to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, we have long been aware that – from private to general – it is one’s duty not to obey an illegal order. If such were given, the honorable thing would be to resign, rather than be complicit.”
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Source URL: http://www.alternet.org/world/exploring-disastrous-consequences-us-military-attack-syria
Anger at US government's data trawling creates unlikely alliance in court between NRA and American Civil Liberties Union
The National Rifle Association has formed an unlikely alliance with the liberal American Civil Liberties Union in support of a court action over the NSA's collection of phone data of millions of Americans.
The ACLU is challenging the constitutionality of the intelligence agency's action, which was revealed in a top-secret document obtained by the whistleblower Ed Snowden and published in the Guardian in June.
The NRA, in an amicus brief in support of the ACLU, argues that the mass surveillance programme provides "the government not only with the means of identifying members and others who communicate with the NRA and other advocacy groups, but also with the means of identifying gun owners without their knowledge or consent".
The NRA hinted at its opposition to the phone data collection soon after the Guardian report and has now formalised it. The organisation is regularly criticised by the left as rightwing and berated for its unswerving opposition to reform of gun laws. But it carries a lot of weight with Congress, claiming five million members and being extremely well funded.
The ACLU case is scheduled to be heard in a New York court but is likely to move up to higher courts, perhaps even the supreme court.
Also filing an amicus brief in support for the ACLU on Wednesday was the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. It argues the collection of data will seriously undermine the ability of journalists to protect sources. "The integrity of a confidential reporter-source relationship is critical to producing good journalism, and mass telephone call tracking compromises that relationship to the detriment of the public interest," it says.
"Wholesale government monitoring of telephone users leaves them uncertain of the privacy of their communications and thus unwilling to exchange information or participate in meaningful conversations. Amici are concerned that, if left unchecked, the mass call tracking at issue here will infringe on the newsgathering rights of journalists and harm the public interest in journalism of all types."
The ACLU, welcoming the support of the NRA and others, said: "The range of voices joining the protest against mass government surveillance – not to mention the bipartisan storm since the recent NSA disclosures – is a real testament to the fact that the government's dragnet surveillance practices are offensive to Americans from across the political spectrum."
The ACLU case challenges the government's ongoing collection under section 215 of the Patriot Act.
- The NSA files
- US national security
- United States
- US politics
- US constitution and civil liberties
- Civil liberties - international
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