Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already pulling back the curtain on the inner workings of Congress | CNBC

By Carmen Chapell

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already pulling back the curtain on the inner workings of the Capitol.

The New York Democrat, along with other incoming freshman lawmakers, is trying to usher in a culture of openness that is enabled by a vast social media following. With nearly 3 million followers combined on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez has used the platforms to involve her supporters during the transition period before she takes office.

Her enthusiastic and often pugnacious transparency campaign has earned her praise from inside and outside the Beltway. Yet it has also drawn criticism from several corners, including from President Donald Trump’s eldest son. Ocasio-Cortez hasn’t given any indication that she will let up, however.

In a series of pictures and videos on Instagram dubbed “Congress Camp,” she gave an inside look into new-member orientation, from choosing an office to voting for House leadership, while also showcasing the unique quirks of life on Capitol Hill.

“Guys, there are secret underground tunnels between all of these government buildings!” she whispers in one video. In another post, she polls her followers on whether she should choose an office with more space or one “close to our friends.”

But Ocasio-Cortez isn’t just focusing on the novelty of her experience. Last week, she tweeted sharp criticism of an orientation for new members of Congress hosted by Harvard. The event featured corporate CEOs but no labor representatives.

“Our ‘bipartisan’ Congressional orientation is cohosted by a corporate lobbyist group. Other members have quietly expressed to me their concern that this wasn’t told to us in advance,” she tweeted. “Lobbyists are here. Goldman Sachs is here. Where’s labor? Activists? Frontline community leaders?”

Fellow freshman member Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., echoed her criticisms. Tlaib said that Gary Cohn, former chief economic advisor to President Donald Trump and former Goldman Sachs executive, told the new members at orientation that they don’t “know how the game is played.”

“No Gary, YOU don’t know what’s coming – a revolutionary Congress that puts people over profits,” Tlaib tweeted.

‘Those little things are very real’

Ocasio-Cortez rose to the spotlight after defeating longtime incumbent Joseph Crowley in the Democratic primary for New York’s 14th Congressional District, which encompasses parts of Queens and the Bronx. A self-identified Democratic socialist, she ran on a liberal platform and chose to emphasize her identity as a young woman of color. The 29-year-old’s victory in the general election anointed her as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

Ocasio-Cortez’s comments about her new role have also renewed longstanding debates on the financial challenges facing members of Congress and their staff. She has made it personal by revealing her own insecurities about her finances during the transition period.

“I have three months without a salary before I’m a member of Congress. So, how do I get an apartment? Those little things are very real,” she told The New York Times in an interview.

Many lawmakers struggle with the cost of living in Washington, D.C., even on the $174,000 congressional salary, going so far as to sleep in their offices to save on rent costs.

Ocasio-Cortez has also made it a point to talk about the economic conditions of congressional staff. Last week, she tweeted: “It is unjust for Congress to budget a living wage for ourselves, yet rely on unpaid interns & underpaid overworked staff just bc Republicans want to make a statement about ‘fiscal responsibility.'”

Low salaries as well as the prevalence of unpaid internships, which are often the first step to a full-time role, are seen as barriers to a more diverse congressional staff. Ocasio-Cortez pledged to pay her office’s interns $15 an hour, inspiring other lawmakers to make the same commitment.

She has also shared experiences that reveal the growing pains of an increasingly diverse Congress. “People keep giving me directions to the spouse and intern events instead of the ones for members of Congress,” she tweeted during orientation.

The changing face of Congress

Ocasio-Cortez is just one of the 42 women, 38 of them Democrats, part of Congress’ freshman class. They are being heralded as the faces of a new “Year of the Woman.” Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Michigan’s Tlaib are the first Muslim women elected to Congress, while Ayanna Pressley, a Democrat, is the first black woman elected to represent Massachusetts. Ocasio-Cortez posted a picture of the four women together on Instagram last month, captioning it “Squad.”

As a result of her high profile, Ocasio-Cortez’s unabashed takes on congressional life have frequently come under fire.

Eddie Scarry, a writer for the Washington Examiner, disputed Ocasio-Cortez’s account of her financial hardships based on her clothing choices.

“Hill staffer sent me this pic of Ocasio-Cortez they took just now,” Scarry tweeted. “I’ll tell you something: that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles.” The tweet has since been deleted after widespread backlash.

Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., condemned the media for what he viewed as preferential treatment in coverage of Ocasio-Cortez. As a freshman congressman in 2011, Duffy received negative reactions after telling a constituent that he struggles to pay his bills.

“Hmm which headlines and article does media give to GOP and which to a Dem?” Duffy tweeted alongside screenshots of articles referencing himself and Ocasio-Cortez.

Last week, Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, shared a doctored image on Instagram in which Ocasio-Cortez asks, “Why are you so afraid of a socialist economy?” In the post, President Trump responds, “Because Americans want to walk their dogs, not eat them.” Trump Jr. captioned the meme “It’s funny cuz it’s true!!!”

Ocasio-Cortez fired back, tweeting: “Please, keep it coming Jr – it’s definitely a ‘very, very large brain’ idea to troll a member of a body that will have subpoena power in a month.” Democrats have made clear that they plan to use their new subpoena power in the House to further investigate potential Russian interference in the 2016 elections.

The representative-elect has also received praise for revealing parts of the political system that are typically left in the shadows.

Actress Kerry Washington, who stars in the political drama “Scandal,” commended Ocasio-Cortez’s behind-the-scenes revelations, tweeting, “@Ocasio2018 speaking truth to power. Sharing the NEEDED #BTS of our democracy at work. So grateful.”

“I’m learning more details about how the House actually works over the past two weeks than I ever did in the past 20 years,” one follower tweeted in reply to Ocasio-Cortez.

“Thank you so much for giving us the window into the inside baseball of Congress,” another follower said.

Paul Musgrave, assistant professor of political science at University of Massachusetts Amherst, praised Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter for “treating voters as neither super-sophisticated DC insiders, nor as people who can’t be trusted to make up their own minds, but rather as people who are curious and intelligent but who aren’t experts in DC process.”

“Sometimes,” he added, “you don’t need a new theory of politics to make change, just a willingness to state the obvious.”

Source: CNBC

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Weekly Update: Mueller Hypocrisy Exposed By Podesta Docs Release | Judicial Watch

Top Hillary Aide John Podesta Records Released – Show Ties to Podesta Group

Those of us who have been watching the Mueller Circus avoid the real collusion with Russia are no longer surprised when we see even more hypocrisy oozing from the Swamp.

Consider:

We just uncovered new documents from the U.S. Department of State showing the Podesta Group working on behalf of the pro-Russia Ukrainian political group “Party of Regions.” The documents also show then-Obama White House Counsel John Podesta lobbying on behalf of his brother’s firm.

We obtained the documents in a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the State Department filed on November 20, 2017, (Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State (No. 1:17-cv-02489)). The lawsuit was filed after the State Department failed to respond to a September 13, 2017, FOIA request for:

  • All records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the Department of State and any principal, employee, or representative of Podesta Group, Inc.
  • All records produced related to any meetings or telephonic communications between any official, employee, or representative of the Department of State and any principal, employee, or representative of Podesta Group, Inc.
  • All records regarding the European Centre for a Modern Ukraine.
  • The FOIA request covers the timeframe of January 1, 2012 to the present.

A March 28, 2013, email from now-Deputy Executive Secretary in the Office of the Secretary of State Baxter Hunt shows the Podesta Group, led by Tony Podesta, a Clinton bundler and brother of Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta, represented the Party of Regions, a pro-Kremlin political party in Ukraine.

In the March 2013 email, to a number of officials including then-U.S. Foreign Service Officer John Tefft (who would go on to be U.S. Ambassador to Russia in 2014) and State Department Director for the Office of Eastern Europe Alexander Kasanof, Hunt writes:

See below, I also stressed to them the need for GOU to take concrete steps to get new SBA with IMF and avoid PFC/loss of GSP. Podesta Group is noted among host of Ukraine lobbyists in article I’ll forward in article on low side.

Ben Chang and Mark Tavlarides of the Podesta Group, which is representing the Party of Regions, told us they were working with Klyuyev on a visit he plans to make to Washington in early May. They are working to broaden the POR’s contacts on the Hill, including setting up a meeting for Klyuyev with Chris Smith, and have advised Kyiv to stop trying to justify their actions against Tymoshenko in Washington. They also noted that during his recent meeting with former EC President Prodi, HFAC Chairman Ed Royce said that Congress would not be enacting sanctions legislation against Ukraine.

The Party of Regions served as the pro-Kremlin political base for Ukraine’s former President Viktor Yanukovych, who fled to Russia in 2014.

Like Paul Manafort, who is currently under indictment in the errant special counsel Russia investigation, the Podesta Group had to retroactively file Foreign Agent Registration Act disclosures with the Justice Department for Ukrainian-related work. The filing states that the Podesta group provided for the nonprofit European Centre for a Modern Ukraine “government relations and public relations services within the United States and Europe to promote political and economic cooperation between Ukraine and the West. The [Podesta Group] conducted outreach to congressional and executive branch offices, members of the media, nongovernmental organizations and think tanks.” Unlike Manafort and his partner Rick Gates, the Mueller special counsel operation hasn’t indicted anyone from the Podesta Group.

Also, the new emails show then-Obama White House Counselor John Podesta lobbying on behalf of the Podesta Group’s efforts to secure a maintenance facility from Jet Blue and Lufthansa for Puerto Rico.

In a June 27, 2013, email former U.S. Ambassador to Germany and current New Jersey Gov. Philip D. Murphy writes to John Podesta, Minister-Counselor for Economic Affairs at the American Embassy in Berlin Seth Winnick, and others:

Jet Blue and Lufthansa are considering 2 locations for a maintenance center – Puerto Rico or Mexico. The Governor of PR wants this badly. The question is can we get to LH at the right levels to make the case. Either John or colleague OR John’s brother Tony or colleague will get to us with more details.

Winnick then writes to John Podesta: “Washington alerted us to this advocacy issue and we are on it. Phil will try to connect in the next few days and we will follow up.”

Later that day, in an email sent to his brother Tony Podesta and Winnick, John Podesta writes: “Thanks Seth. The Governor is a friend of mine. My brother Tony represents Puerto Rico and will follow up with details.”

Winnick replies to John and Tony Podesta: “Happy to help on this one. I think we have the details we need for now from SelectUSA at Commerce but will come back if any issues arise.”

Puerto Rico was selected by the airlines for the facility to service A320s in 2014.

Judicial Watch is waiting to hear on any additional documents the State Department may produce in response to our Podesta Group FOIA lawsuit.

By the standards of the Mueller special counsel operation, these emails alone would have been enough for the Podestas to have been hauled before a grand jury or worse. These emails are a stark reminder that the Mueller’s special counsel operation seems more interested in the alleged foreign ties of the Trump team, rather than Hillary Clinton’s (and Barack Obama’s) associates.

Do you think Robert Mueller’s partisan prosecutors have even thought of looking into this? I had a few choice things to say about his spurious quest in this interview with Lou Dobbs. If and when we get more Podesta documents I’ll be updating you here.

Arizona Border Ranchers Live in Fear as Illegal Immigration Crisis Worsens

Our southern border is an abstraction for most people, a topic for talking heads on TV. But for those who call it home, life on the border is a gritty and dangerous reality. And the reality is, despite dramatic change in approach to border issues the Trump administration, our Southern border remains largely open to illegal aliens.

Our Corruption Chronicles blog provides an unsettling and astonish first-hand look.

More than half a million illegal immigrants of several dozen nationalities have been apprehended on John Ladd’s sprawling cattle ranch in southeastern Arizona. Ladd has also found 14 dead bodies on his 16,500-acre farm, which has been in his family for well over a century and sits between the Mexican border and historic State Route 92. The property shares a 10 ½-mile border with Mexico, making it a popular route for human and drug smugglers evading a meager force of Border Patrol agents in the mountainous region. “As big as that number sounds, many more got away,” said National Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd of the hundreds of thousands arrested on Ladd’s parcel. Judd spent a chunk of his decades-long career with the agency patrolling the area and he knows it well. “It’s gotten more violent. It’s gotten worse.”

As part of an ongoing investigation into the critical security issues created by the famously porous southern border, Judicial Watch visited frustrated ranchers and residents in Sierra Vista, a Cochise County town located 75 miles southeast of Tucson with a population of around 44,000. The town sits in the picturesque Sonoran Desert and is surrounded by the scenic Huachuca Mountains. Illegal immigrants and drug smugglers are devastating the area and many longtime residents live in fear. Some are too scared to enjoy a simple pastime—horseback riding on their own land. “I can’t guarantee there’s not a dead body somewhere in my ranch right now,” said Ladd pointing to his property as he stood in front of the U.S. government’s border fence, an area known as the “shit ditch” because illegal immigrants use it as a toilet and trash. Sporting a thick, gray mustache and a dapper cowboy hat, Ladd said 200 to 300 illegal aliens are caught daily passing through his property. “We don’t have any control of the border,” he said. “I see it every day.”

A 60-foot wide dirt road, known as a federal easement, separates Ladd’s ranch from Mexico. Some portions have an 18-foot iron fence along the border that Ladd says illegal immigrants “easily climb with a pack of dope.” Other sections have a laughable wire fence that has been repeatedly penetrated with vehicles speeding through from Mexico. Some areas have been visibly patched where holes were carved out for passage. The fence is such a joke that the Border Patrol installed concrete barriers along a busy two-mile stretch across the 60-foot dirt road, right in front of the barbwire barrier on Ladd’s property line to stop smugglers. “Smugglers even put a hydraulic ramp, so a car or truck could blow through,” Ladd said. He estimates that around 70% of the traffic that comes through his ranch is human smuggling and 30% is drug smuggling. In the last three years most of the illegal border crossers have been Central American, Ladd said. The veteran rancher first became concerned with the unprotected border decades ago because sick Mexican cows threatened his herd. The problem became more serious over the years. “First it was Mexican cows, then people then dope,” Ladd said. “Now it’s really bad.” Ladd has traveled to the nation’s capital seven times to bring attention to the crisis in Sierra Vista, but Washington bureaucrats have failed to take any action.

Instead, the federal government has placed ineffective or faulty surveillance equipment in the region that smugglers easily evade. “The smugglers know the radio range and avoid it,” Judd said, adding that cameras are installed in the wrong spot and don’t have great resolution. On a hill adjacent to Ladd’s ranch stands an imposing camera tower that could never capture illegal border crossers because its view is completely blocked by a sea of lush trees below. The government spent $1.3 million on the useless equipment and never bothered to study the terrain’s impact on the technology. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) simply installed the equipment based on a predetermined formula that separates the cameras by a fixed number of miles without considering the landscape, according to Judd. “They didn’t do any research on the topography,” he said. These kinds of failures frustrate local ranchers, who feel increasingly threatened by the barrage of illegal crossers rampaging through their property. With both thumbs resting on his thick, bronze belt buckle, Ladd looked up at the pointless camera tower smiling and quipped: “Now that’s a big boondoggle right there, a total waste of taxpayer dollars.”

Another troubled property owner, John Guerrero, took Judicial Watch on a nighttime tour of a nearby smuggling route that is inexplicably unprotected. The dirt road runs through the Coronado National Forest and Guerrero, a retired U.S. Army Ranger and intelligence officer who served in Iraq and Somalia, has felt the impact of the government’s failure to adequately guard it. Five strands of barbwire serve as the physical boundary between the U.S. and Mexico in a remote portion of the park, which is closed to the public at night and is heavily transited by drug and human smugglers. Illegal immigration has had such a devastating impact on the area that Guerrero wrote a book offering detailed anecdotes of what he and his family endure because they live near the Mexican border. This includes drugs and illegal immigrants piling into vehicles on the road adjacent to his four-acre property and ultralight aircraft flying near his rooftop, just above the trees, en route to make a drug drop. “Local residents are increasingly fearful,” Guerrero said.

The event that has most impacted Guerrero occurred when smugglers burned down a beloved chapel, Our Lady of the Sierras, situated on a hill across the road from his home. A 75-foot Celtic cross outside the chapel remains lit through the night and serves as a navigational tool for smugglers and the grounds are regularly used to transfer drugs. In 2011, illegal immigrant smugglers started the fire along the border to escape the Border Patrol during a pursuit. Besides the chapel, which has since been rebuilt, the fire destroyed nearly 30,000 acres and dozens of homes. Guerrero and his family were forced to evacuate. Widespread media coverage omitted that illegal immigrants were responsible for the fire, but a local news station finally reported that the Cochise County Sheriff confirmed the fire started 200 yards north of the Mexican border in an area known as Smuggler’s Gulch. “There was absolutely no mention by the federal government as to the true origin of the fire,” Guerrero said.

Judd, who heads the union that represents some 16,000 Border Patrol agents nationwide, says the border can be secured. “There has to be political will to secure the border,” he said. The frontline agency had tremendous faith that the Trump administration would finally get the job done, but the stats tell a different story. Shortly after Trump became president there was a dip in the number of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. through Mexico, Judd said. However, “by April 2018 we were back to the Obama high of illegal border crossers,” Judd confirmed. Sierra Vista residents like Ladd and Guerrero continue to suffer the consequences of anemic border control and worry about the crime that has infested their once-idyllic town. The problem is so rampant that Ladd often sees smuggling spotters from his property on the nearby mountains in the Mexican side. “They’re right there every day,” he said. “They live in camps and have solar generators. Their job is to look out.” Residents in Sierra Vista feel no one is looking out for them.

Thanks to our Judicial Watch team who traveled to the Southwest border to compile this report. We will follow up with more investigations and, I’m sure, lawsuits as part of JW’s efforts to secure our borders through the rule of law!

Source: Judicial Watch

Despite his lies, Donald Trump is a potent truth-teller | The Guardian

fools

By James S. Gordon

Donald Trump evokes a wily and resilient mythic figure: the joker, the trickster, the fool, the one the Lakota people call the Heyoka, the contrary. Had his opponents – such as Hillary Clinton – understood this quality in him, the electoral outcome might have been different. The sooner the rest of us understand this side of him, the better.

In the European tradition, the fool holds up the mirror to the monarch and to all of us, mocking our faults and pretensions. He (the fool is almost always a man) is not constrained by deference or allegiance to truth. The Heyoka, one of the purest forms of fool, pretends to shiver when everyone else is sweating and takes off his clothes in winter.

The fool is a potent truth-teller and commands attention. Shakespeare knew this. Lear’s Fool, a gentle version of the species, skewered the arrogance and pride that were his master’s downfall, even as he comforted him. The “scabrous” Thersites in Troilus and Cressida speaks with relentless, scene-stealing venom. He paints Achilles, the Greeks’ greatest hero, as a petulant adolescent; King Agamemnon is a blowhard, Helen of Troy a hooker.

The fool is always addressing us, his audience, as well as his high-ranking targets. He performs a vital social function, forcing us to examine our own preconceptions, especially our inflated ideas about our own virtue. Trump was telling all of us – women and minorities, progressives, pillars of the establishment, as well as his supporters – that we were just like him.

The appropriate, time-honored response to the fool’s sallies is to take instruction from them. Only after we’ve acknowledged and accepted our own shortcomings do we have the integrity that allows us to keep him in his place. Perhaps if Secretary Clinton had been a more skillful, poised and humble warrior, she could have done this.

Fools serve the collective order by challenging those whose ignorance and blindness threaten it. They are meant to be instruments of awareness, not rulers. Impossible to imagine Lear’s Fool succeeding him or Thersites commanding the Greek army. Trump will not address his own limitations, cannot tolerate criticism, and takes himself dangerously seriously. This makes him a seriously flawed fool. He believes his own hyperbole and threatens democratic order.

In the weeks since his election, Trump has continued to act the fool. Now, however, the underdog’s challenges have become a bully’s beatdowns. His attack on the steelworkers’ union leader, Chuck Jones, exactly the kind of man whom he claimed to champion, was a vicious and painful lie. Unfunny, purely ugly. His more recent rants, including boasts about the crowds at his inaugural and the millions of imaginary illegal Clinton voters, illuminate his own troubled insecurity: the all-powerful winner acting the petulant, powerless loser.

Many of President Trump’s cabinet choices are like the punchlines of jokes, but punchlines with potentially devastating real-world consequences: an education secretary who disparages public education and badly botched her own effort at creating an alternative; men charged with responding to climate change who deny its existence; and a national security adviser who purveys paranoid fantasies.

There are glimmers of hope that the jester might mature to majesty. Gen James Mattis, the defense secretary, inspired a Trumpian epiphany that waterboarding might be counterproductive. Conversations with Al Gore or, more likely, ones with his daughter Ivanka could persuade him to open his eyes to the reality of climate change.

Or perhaps President Trump will implode, brought down by the damage done by perverse cabinet choices, or words and actions so intemperate and ill-advised that Congress and the courts call him to a terminal account. His challenged immigration order could be a harbinger.

Meanwhile, what are the rest of us to do? The fact that this question is even being asked is healthy, a residual benefit of his fool’s vocation. Trump’s grand and vulgar self-absorption is inviting all of us to examine our own selfishness. His ignorance calls us to attend to our own blind spots. The fears that he stokes and the isolation he promotes goad us to be braver, more generous.

Already, people all over the US – Republicans I know as well as Democrats – are beginning to link inner awareness to small and great political action.

The day after Trump’s inauguration, hundreds of thousands of women of all ages, ethnicities and political affiliations affirmed their rights, celebrated their community and slyly poked at the joker: “if I incorporated my uterus,” read one demonstrator’s sign, “would you stop trying to regulate it”.

The joker who is now our president has served an important function, waking us up to what we’ve not yet admitted in ourselves or accomplished in our country. He is, without realizing it, challenging us to grow in self-awareness, to act in ways that respect and fulfill what is best in ourselves and our democracy.

It’s time for us citizens, who’ve watched the performance, to take the stage.

Source: The Guardian

How Trump Could Shrink the Government (While Still Keeping the Good Stuff) | POLITICO Magazine

Editor’s Note: This is one of the soundest analysis of what’s possible under the Trump administration focusing on solutions instead of hysteria. Please read the entire article.

By Michael Grunwald

limitedgovernmentDonald Trump’s political brand is about fighting and winning, and he has promised to fight and win a war on big government. As a candidate, he often attacked the federal bureaucracy as a bloated monstrosity teeming with “waste, fraud and abuse all over the place,” and vowed to “cut so much your head will spin!” As president-elect, he continued his clamor on Twitter, pledging to save taxpayers billions on “out of control” programs like the F-35 fighter jet.

But Trump has also proclaimed his belief in an activist government, portraying himself as a kind of father-figure leader who will “take care of people.” He insisted during the Republican primary that, unlike his opponents, he would never cut a single dollar from Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, or let Americans “die on the streets.” His agenda to Make America Great Again is in many ways a big government agenda, with bleeding-heart goals like rebuilding infrastructure and reviving inner cities, as well as get-tough goals like beefing up the military and walling up the border

Trump’s critics cite this split-screen attitude toward government as evidence that he’s running a con. And his early moves, like stocking his administration with Goldman Sachs alumni, do suggest he won’t feel constrained by his drain-the-swamp campaign talk. But if Trump’s two-sided rhetoric about government sounds like a con, it should sound like a familiar con, because Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all fed us similar lines. They all argued that the federal government is too big, wastes too much money and tries to do too many things—but also that it should perform vital functions like defending the nation, supporting the elderly and providing a safety net for the vulnerable.

In fact, polls show that most Americans agree with both of those arguments, which might help explain why politicians who make them keep winning the White House. As Obama put it in The Audacity of Hope, voters “don’t expect government to solve all their problems,” but do “figure government should help.” And those dual beliefs happen to be sensible ones, not just popular ones. It’s hard to see how Americans can be assured of clean air and water, a basic level of subsistence and protection from foreign invaders without federal intervention; it’s just as hard to see why the federal government needs 200 science education programs spread across 13 separate agencies. It’s disturbing that we’re the only wealthy nation without universal health insurance, and also that our government delivers 81 billion annual pieces of junk mail. If you think about it, this amounts to a logical theory of governance that would be revolutionary in practice: Washington really should do some big stuff in a big way, while doing a lot less stuff overall. It ought to focus on policy wars of necessity rather than wars of choice—and then fight those wars with overwhelming force.

This triage approach to governance could be called “limited-government liberalism,” although Trump certainly wouldn’t use that phrase. Or perhaps, to borrow a slogan that Bush never really defined, it could go by “compassionate conservatism.” Its motto could be Clinton’s only-half-remembered 1996 declaration that “the era of big government is over—but we cannot go back to the time when our citizens were left to fend for themselves.” It’s about as close as this polarized nation has to a bipartisan political philosophy, and it’s probably the rosiest scenario, if not the likeliest scenario, for the kind of radical change Trump could bring to Washington. It would involve near-constant battles with the special interests and other insiders Trump always talks about battling; it could appeal to Trump’s self-image as a heroic disrupter of an entrenched status quo; and it could be quite popular, a quality populists tend to like. Read more…

Source: POLITICO Magazine

Inside The Invisible Government: John Pilger On War, Propaganda, Clinton And Trump | New Matilda

overiraq

By John Pilger

A silent war continues, led by the west, ignored by the media, writes John Pilger.

The American journalist, Edward Bernays, is often described as the man who invented modern propaganda.

The nephew of Sigmund Freud, the pioneer of psycho-analysis, it was Bernays who coined the term “public relations” as a euphemism for spin and its deceptions.

In 1929, he persuaded feminists to promote cigarettes for women by smoking in the New York Easter Parade – behaviour then considered outlandish. One feminist, Ruth Booth, declared, “Women! Light another torch of freedom! Fight another sex taboo!”

Bernays’ influence extended far beyond advertising. His greatest success was his role in convincing the American public to join the slaughter of the First World War. The secret, he said, was “engineering the consent” of people in order to “control and regiment [them]according to our will without their knowing about it”.

He described this as “the true ruling power in our society” and called it an “invisible government”.

Today, the invisible government has never been more powerful and less understood. In my career as a journalist and film-maker, I have never known propaganda to insinuate our lives as it does now, and to go unchallenged.

Imagine two cities. Both are under siege by the forces of the government of that country. Both cities are occupied by fanatics, who commit terrible atrocities, such as beheading people.

But there is a vital difference. In one siege, the government soldiers are described as liberators by Western reporters embedded with them, who enthusiastically report their battles and air strikes. There are front page pictures of these heroic soldiers giving a V-sign for victory. There is scant mention of civilian casualties.

(IMAGE: The U.S. Army, Flickr)
(IMAGE: The U.S. Army, Flickr)

In the second city – in another country nearby – almost exactly the same thing is happening. Government forces are laying siege to a city controlled by the same breed of fanatics.

The difference is that these fanatics are supported, supplied and armed by “us” – by the United States and Britain. They even have a media centre that is funded by Britain and America.

Another difference is that the government soldiers laying siege to this city are the bad guys, condemned for assaulting and bombing the city – which is exactly what the good soldiers do in the first city.

Confusing? Not really. Such is the basic double standard that is the essence of propaganda. I am referring, of course, to the current siege of the city of Mosul by the government forces of Iraq, who are backed by the United States and Britain, and to the siege of Aleppo by the government forces of Syria, backed by Russia. One is good; the other is bad.

What is seldom reported is that both cities would not be occupied by fanatics and ravaged by war if Britain and the United States had not invaded Iraq in 2003. That criminal enterprise was launched on lies strikingly similar to the propaganda that now distorts our understanding of the civil war in Syria.

Without this drumbeat of propaganda dressed up as news, the monstrous ISIS and Al-Qaida and al-Nusra and the rest of the jihadist gang might not exist, and the people of Syria might not be fighting for their lives today.

Some may remember in 2003 a succession of BBC reporters turning to the camera and telling us that Blair was “vindicated” for what turned out to be the crime of the century. The US television networks produced the same validation for George W. Bush. Fox News brought on Henry Kissinger to effuse over Colin Powell’s fabrications.

Former US president George W Bush (IMAGE: Peter Stevens, Flickr).
Former US president George W Bush (IMAGE: Peter Stevens, Flickr).

The same year, soon after the invasion, I filmed an interview in Washington with Charles Lewis, the renowned American investigative journalist. I asked him, “What would have happened if the freest media in the world had seriously challenged what turned out to be crude propaganda?”

He replied that if journalists had done their job, “there is a very, very good chance we would not have gone to war in Iraq”.

It was a shocking statement, and one supported by other famous journalists to whom I put the same question – Dan Rather of CBS, David Rose of the Observer and journalists and producers in the BBC, who wished to remain anonymous.

In other words, had journalists done their job, had they challenged and investigated the propaganda instead of amplifying it, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children would be alive today, and there would be no ISIS and no siege of Aleppo or Mosul.

There would have been no atrocity on the London Underground on 7th July 2005. There would have been no flight of millions of refugees; there would be no miserable camps.

When the terrorist atrocity happened in Paris last November, President Francoise Hollande immediately sent planes to bomb Syria – and more terrorism followed, predictably, the product of Hollande’s bombast about France being “at war” and “showing no mercy”. That state violence and jihadist violence feed off each other is the truth that no national leader has the courage to speak.

“When the truth is replaced by silence,” said the Soviet dissident Yevtushenko, “the silence is a lie.”

The attack on Iraq, the attack on Libya, the attack on Syria happened because the leader in each of these countries was not a puppet of the West. The human rights record of a Saddam or a Gaddafi was irrelevant. They did not obey orders and surrender control of their country.

The same fate awaited Slobodan Milosevic once he had refused to sign an “agreement” that demanded the occupation of Serbia and its conversion to a market economy. His people were bombed, and he was prosecuted in The Hague. Independence of this kind is intolerable.

Syria-Assad

As WikiLeaks has revealed, it was only when the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in 2009 rejected an oil pipeline, running through his country from Qatar to Europe, that he was attacked.

From that moment, the CIA planned to destroy the government of Syria with jihadist fanatics – the same fanatics currently holding the people of Mosul and eastern Aleppo hostage.

Why is this not news? The former British Foreign Office official Carne Ross, who was responsible for operating sanctions against Iraq, told me: “We would feed journalists factoids of sanitised intelligence, or we would freeze them out. That is how it worked.”

The West’s medieval client, Saudi Arabia – to which the US and Britain sell billions of dollars’ worth of arms – is at present destroying Yemen, a country so poor that in the best of times, half the children are malnourished.

Look on YouTube and you will see the kind of massive bombs – “our” bombs – that the Saudis use against dirt-poor villages, and against weddings, and funerals.

The explosions look like small atomic bombs. The bomb aimers in Saudi Arabia work side-by-side with British officers. This fact is not on the evening news.

Propaganda is most effective when our consent is engineered by those with a fine education – Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Columbia – and with careers on the BBC, theGuardian, the New York Times, the Washington Post.

These organisations are known as the liberal media. They present themselves as enlightened, progressive tribunes of the moral zeitgeist. They are anti-racist, pro-feminist and pro-LGBT.

And they love war.

While they speak up for feminism, they support rapacious wars that deny the rights of countless women, including the right to life.

In 2011, Libya, then a modern state, was destroyed on the pretext that Muammar Gaddafi was about to commit genocide on his own people. That was the incessant news; and there was no evidence. It was a lie.

An anti-Gaddafi rally, Libya 2011. (IMAGE: mojomogwai, Flickr)
An anti-Gaddafi rally, Libya 2011. (IMAGE: mojomogwai, Flickr)

In fact, Britain, Europe and the United States wanted what they like to call “regime change” in Libya, the biggest oil producer in Africa. Gaddafi’s influence in the continent and, above all, his independence were intolerable.

So he was murdered with a knife in his rear by fanatics, backed by America, Britain and France. Hillary Clinton cheered his gruesome death for the camera, declaring,

“We came, we saw, he died!”

The destruction of Libya was a media triumph. As the war drums were beaten, Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian: “Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong.”

Intervention – what a polite, benign, Guardian word, whose real meaning, for Libya, was death and destruction.

According to its own records, Nato launched 9,700 “strike sorties” against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. They included missiles with uranium warheads. Look at the photographs of the rubble of Misurata and Sirte, and the mass graves identified by the Red Cross. The Unicef report on the children killed says, “most [of them]under the age of 10”.

As a direct consequence, Sirte became the capital of ISIS.

Ukraine is another media triumph. Respectable liberal newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian, and mainstream broadcasters such as the BBC, NBC, CBS, CNN have played a critical role in conditioning their viewers to accept a new and dangerous cold war.

All have misrepresented events in Ukraine as a malign act by Russia when, in fact, the coup in Ukraine in 2014 was the work of the United States, aided by Germany and Nato.

This inversion of reality is so pervasive that Washington’s military intimidation of Russia is not news; it is suppressed behind a smear and scare campaign of the kind I grew up with during the first cold war. Once again, the Ruskies are coming to get us, led by another Stalin, whom The Economist depicts as the devil.

The suppression of the truth about Ukraine is one of the most complete news blackouts I can remember. The fascists who engineered the coup in Kiev are the same breed that backed the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Of all the scares about the rise of fascist anti-Semitism in Europe, no leader ever mentions the fascists in Ukraine – except Vladimir Putin, but he does not count.

Russian president Vladimir Putin. (IMAGE: IoSonoUnaFotoCamera, Flickr).
Russian president Vladimir Putin. (IMAGE: IoSonoUnaFotoCamera, Flickr).

Many in the Western media have worked hard to present the ethnic Russian-speaking population of Ukraine as outsiders in their own country, as agents of Moscow, almost never as Ukrainians seeking a federation within Ukraine and as Ukrainian citizens resisting a foreign-orchestrated coup against their elected government.

There is almost the joie d’esprit of a class reunion of warmongers. The drum-beaters of the Washington Post inciting war with Russia are the very same editorial writers who published the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

To most of us, the American presidential campaign is a media freak show, in which Donald Trump is the arch villain.

But Trump is loathed by those with power in the United States for reasons that have little to do with his obnoxious behaviour and opinions. To the invisible government in Washington, the unpredictable Trump is an obstacle to America’s design for the 21stcentury.

This is to maintain the dominance of the United States and to subjugate Russia, and, if possible, China.

To the militarists in Washington, the real problem with Trump is that, in his lucid moments, he seems not to want a war with Russia; he wants to talk with the Russian president, not fight him; he says he wants to talk with the president of China.

In the first debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump promised not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict. He said, “I would certainly not do first strike. Once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over.” That was not news.

Did he really mean it? Who knows? He often contradicts himself. But what is clear is that Trump is considered a serious threat to the status quo maintained by the vast national security machine that runs the United States, regardless of who is in the White House.

The CIA wants him beaten. The Pentagon wants him beaten. The media wants him beaten. Even his own party wants him beaten. He is a threat to the rulers of the world – unlike Clinton who has left no doubt she is prepared to go to war with nuclear-armed Russia and China.

US Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump. (IMAGE: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)
US Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump. (IMAGE: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)

Clinton has the form, as she often boasts. Indeed, her record is proven. As a senator, she backed the bloodbath in Iraq. When she ran against Obama in 2008, she threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran. As Secretary of State, she colluded in the destruction of governments in Libya and Honduras and set in train the baiting of China.

She has now pledged to support a No Fly Zone in Syria — a direct provocation for war with Russia. Clinton may well become the most dangerous president of the United States in my lifetime –a distinction for which the competition is fierce.

Without a shred of evidence, she has accused Russia of supporting Trump and hacking her emails. Released by WikiLeaks, these emails tell us that what Clinton says in private, in speeches to the rich and powerful, is the opposite of what she says in public.

That is why silencing and threatening Julian Assange is so important. As the editor of WikiLeaks, Assange knows the truth. And let me assure those who are concerned, he is well, and WikiLeaks is operating on all cylinders.

Today, the greatest build-up of American-led forces since World War Two is under way – in the Caucasus and eastern Europe, on the border with Russia, and in Asia and the Pacific, where China is the target.

Keep that in mind when the presidential election circus reaches its finale on November 8th, If the winner is Clinton, a Greek chorus of witless commentators will celebrate her coronation as a great step forward for women. None will mention Clinton’s victims: the women of Syria, the women of Iraq, the women of Libya. None will mention the civil defence drills being conducted in Russia. None will recall Edward Bernays’ “torches of freedom”.

Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. (IMAGE: iprimages, Flickr)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. (IMAGE: iprimages, Flickr)

George Bush’s press spokesman once called the media “complicit enablers”.

Coming from a senior official in an administration whose lies, enabled by the media, caused such suffering, that description is a warning from history.

In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal prosecutor said of the German media: “Before every major aggression, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically for the attack. In the propaganda system, it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons.”

Source: New Matilda

Re-Declaration of Independence by Johnny Liberty

Editors Note: This “Re-declaration of Independence” was first published in the North American News Service (Summer 1995) to restore the sovereignty of the American people. Then it was included as Chapter 15 in the 2nd Edition of the Global Sovereign’s Handbook (1998). Every year since then it’s been republished on July 4th as a sobering reminder of how far from the original design the American Republic has strayed.

Preamble

All thirteen free and independent, sovereign states of America, excepting the sovereign Indian nations, were in agreement in making the original Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The people then, as the people now, have gathered the courage to liberate themselves from the bondage of foreign “rule.”

When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for a nation, a group of people, or an individual to declare themselves free from the “rule” of another, then it is common decency, with respect to the opinions of all other people, to explain the reasons or grounds for the declaration.

Statement of Unalienable Rights and Natural Law

We the People believe these truths to be self-evident, to be so obvious that they need no proof, that all people, both men and women, regardless of race, sex, creed, or color are created equal under the natural law. We believe the Creator gives all of us certain unalienable rights that cannot be taken away. These unalienable rights are above and beyond the civil rights any government may enumerate. That among these rights are life, liberty, property, family, community, and the freedom to enjoy happiness.

To assure that these unalienable rights are protected and preserved for all the people, governments are created to enforce and defend the public trust. The source of authority from which all governments are created shall remain with the people for all time. We the People are the sovereign power from which all laws and governments arise.

If a government abuses its power or usurps the public trust, then the people have the unalienable right and a duty to change, alter or reform their government, or to abolish it completely and start a new one that will abide by the principles of natural law.

UnCOMMON SENSE dictates that an established government should not be overthrown for petty reasons. However, it is the nature of human beings to tolerate mistreatment, to grow accustomed to tyranny and chains rather than risk getting rid of a repressive and uncompassionate master.

Government maybe a necessary and often unpredictable evil, but at certain times during its history, a government will go too far in abusing the rights of its people. Today, more and more of the American people are realizing that the federal United States government has consistently lied, cheated, stolen, abused and killed its own people for many generations, that the American people have more to fear from their own government than enemies abroad or criminals within.

That the natural expression of our freedoms, the right to own property, and the unalienable rights secured by the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights are perceived as a threat by our own government is a symptom of the inevitable conclusion that the federal government must be stopped! Illegal, immoral and unconscionable activities of a government out of control have now reached into the lives of all Americans.

When this happens, it is the peoples’ right and duty to abolish the current government and set up a new one that will better protect our rights, preserve our liberties, and uphold the public trust. Through this “Re-Declaration of Independence,”

We the People must once again become a free, sovereign people. We the People can reclaim our sovereign Citizenship of one of the several states of the constitutional Republic. Read more (pdf)…

Resources:
Freedom Catalog (Books, Audio Courses & Film)