The video below is an interview with Investigative reporter Greg Palast regarding his 2012 book Billionaires and Ballot Bandits: How to Steal an Election in 9 Easy Steps. Palast is best known for exposing the fake “ex-felon” scrub list that illegally disqualified tens of thousands of law abiding Florida African Americans from voting in the 2000 presidential election.

According to Palast, the real agenda behind the Citizens United decision was to keep the notorious Koch brothers** out of jail for illegal corporate donations they had made to Republican campaigns. In other words, the ruling decriminalized extensive lawbreaking by the Republican Party’s favorite billionaires. Apparently it’s was no accident that Ted Olsen, the Citizens United attorney, also happens to be legal counsel for Koch Industries.

The Koch Brothers’ Long History of Flouting the Law

As Palast reveals at the beginning of the interview, he was an FBI investigator prior to becoming an investigative journalist. During the late eighties, he was directly involved in investigating Charles Koch for illegally siphoning oil (beyond what Koch Industries had paid for) from Indian reservations. According to Palast, the FBI had videos of the whole operation, as well as numerous witness statements, including one from David and Charles’ younger brother Bill. The US attorney in Oklahoma went so far as to file an indictment against subject 67C (their code name for Charles Koch), when Koch leaned heavily on Oklahoma Senator Don Nickles (Rep 1988-2005) to have the federal prosecutor replaced and the indictment quashed.

With the possibility of criminal prosecution off the table, brother Bill Koch filed a civil lawsuit over the oil theft under the False Claims Act. The latter private plaintiffs to sue, on behalf of the government, companies and individuals which have defrauded it.

In December 1999, the jury found that Koch Industries had stolen oil it didn’t pay for from federal land, and the company paid a $25 million settlement to the federal government.

The FBI next turned its attention to 350 criminal violations of environmental law, mainly due to faulty pipelines dumping oil sludge into rivers. After George W. Bush became president in 2000, the US Justice Department dropped 88 of the charges. Two days before the trial, Attorney General John Ashcroft agreed to a plea bargain. The company pled guilty to falsifying documents. All major charges were dropped, and Koch and Ashcroft settled a civil lawsuit for a fraction of the criminal penalty.

The FBI – and Congress – Investigate Illegal Corporate Donations

Next on the FBI list of crimes was the smear campaign Koch Industries secretly funded, through the Campaign for Our Children’s Futures. This was in 1994 when corporate campaign donations were still illegal. The campaign, caused 25 incumbent Democrats to lose their seats, which meant Clinton lost Congress in the 1994 midterm election and again in 1996.

The illegal campaign donations were funded through an entity called Triad Management Services. Senator Fred Thompson, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee attempted to undertake an investigation into Triad. According to Palast, it was shut down the same day (ethically challenged) Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott made a deal with President Bill Clinton not to investigate his illegal campaign donations from the Indonesian billionaire James Riady.

*In Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruled that setting limits on campaign expenditures on corporations and labor unions violates their first amendment right to free speech.

**The Koch brothers are major funders of several conservative think tanks and lobbies, such as the Heritage Foundation, ALEC, the CATO Institute, and right wing Astroturf groups, such as the Campaign for America’s Future, the Campaign for a Fair Economy and the Tea Party). They’re also the major beneficiaries of the Keystone Pipeline

stuartbramhall:

 

 

The coalition of the unwilling begins to unravel as France defies US-imposed sanctions on Russia.

Originally posted on Counter Information:

53843

Despite hesitation, France has decided to deliver Mistral helicopter carriers to Russia. This was announced by senior representative of STX shipbuilding company.

“The transfer of the first Mistral helicopter carrier is a matter of several days or weeks,” RIA Novosti said with reference to the source.

Earlier, France threatened to suspend the delivery of helicopter carriers to Russia on account of the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. Afterwards, a spokesperson for Elysee Palace said that the delivery of the ship had not been suspended from a legal point of view. French President Francois Hollande outlined his political position, according to which he would not approve the delivery of the vessel in November, if the situation in Ukraine did not improve.

The contract worth 1.2 billion euros for the construction of two French helicopter carriers of Mistral type for the Russian Navy was signed in June 2011. The first vessel, the Vladivostok…

View original 383 more words

Washington_Constitutional_Convention_1787

 

Guest post by John de Herrera

Today, as happens once or twice a week, a blog post or news item appears on the Internet examining the Article V Convention. Below it are the same comments Americans have been making about a convention for over half a century: that it’s dangerous, that with the way politics are played today such an assembly would be nothing more than an exercise in special interests gutting protections originally put in place of, by, and for the people.

Many today understand the necessity for our society to build consensus about what’s wrong (in order to do something about it), but few understand the function and utility of a convention. Nothing stays perfect forever, politics are dynamic, things change, and a scan of political sites makes clear consensus is that governance is off track. The question is, how do we address it?

A quick read of Article V (a single sentence) shows that upon the application of 2/3 of the states Congress shall call “a convention for proposing amendments….”The leading national group Friends of the Article V Convention has done an audit of Congressional Records (themselves part of the Constitution, as the Constitution mandates that both houses keep records). They show that not only have 34 states cast the requisite number of applications to initiate the call, but indeed 49 have cast over 750 applications.

In other words the states have satisfied the clause. Congress simply ignores its obligation to count them, all the while two or three new ones arrive each new session.

The reason the 113th Congress is allowed to disobey the law is because the people are unaware and/or fear a convention. So long as this state of affairs exists, Congress can simply ignore the record while looking busy with a bunch of partisan and divisive nonsense, i.e. politics as usual.

90% Disapprove of Congress

What’s more powerful, the right to complain about government, or the right to reform it? Clearly one right is more powerful. Indeed it’s the right that makes an American citizen who and what they are – a member of a society with the power to alter or abolish what it dislikes about government. You’ll find very few Americans who want to abolish government, the three branches – legislative, executive, and judicial. No, the vast majority want to keep what we have, but address how it currently operates.

Opinion polls show that 90%+ of Americans disapprove of Congress, a statistic that’s been trending for over a decade. When the institution established to represent the will of the People is disapproved by 90%, it’s self-evident it’s time for them to exercise their right to alter what they dislike. History teaches that if not, forces of corruption will alter it against our wishes, and some argue that’s already occurring due to corporations acting as citizens. This status quo of politics has resulted in government drowned in private money, where laws/loopholes go to the highest bidders, written by lobbyists, signed off on by members of Congress, and disliked by the People.

The Provisions of Article V

In the event Congress becomes unresponsive to the needs of the people a convention of the states considers amendment proposals. Proposals voted up by 2/3 of state delegations are then sent back to the people at large for ratification by 3/4. In other words, the functions of proposal and ratification are two separate functions. The fear of a convention comes from the perception that proposal and ratification are both done at the convention, when the former is done by delegates, and the latter by the people.

Seventy-five percent of Americans today are not going to suggest we chuck the Constitution and try to start over. But they are highly like to support the reversal of Supreme Court doctrines regarding speech and personhood, even, perhaps, public financing of elections.

Forcing Congress to Act

There are a number of things about American history that politicians do not talk about, not because they don’t want to, but because they can’t, but because doing so would alter how we citizens see and think about our government. On the flip side, if enough of us become cognizant and desirous of reform, politicians will have no choice but to comply.

A paper put out by the Congressional Research Service (subsequently updated multiple times, most recently April 2014) says as much about the Article V Convention – that if enough Americans want it Congress will have to call one. That the paper has been updated since it was first delivered to Congress is significant: it means there is movement in the halls of power. Congress may not be talking about it, but they are clearly aware of growing interest in Article V. And the negative and false myths surrounding it.

American Citizen or Global Citizen

Even if you’re not American, it’s important to understand and educate yourself about this issue. Unless we start talking about a different Earth, a different global order, a different USA, and a different Constitution, there is no other way out for humanity. In this sense, an Article V Convention is unique. Once called, it sets off a natural progression of events that will deliver us from the inevitable catastrophe of corporate governance.

How’s that? Because a convention allows for humans to find common ground past the gridlock of corporate politicians. Believe it or not, the vast majority want to throw off this long train of abuse and ecological negligence. Everyone has an idea of what changes are necessary. Yet until we all come to the table, nobody is going anywhere.

It’s time to raise consciousness. It’s time for non-Americans call on Americans to exercise their right to a convention; it’s time Americans call on Congress to count the applications on record. Until the count is made nothing can happen. We don’t have all the time in the world to make it so.

Congressional Research Service: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42592.pdf

Friends of the Article V Convention: http://www.foavc.org

John De Herrera is a writer/artist/activist who lives and works in Santa Barbara, California. He is a former founding member of Friends of the Article Five Convention. You can email him at john@alipes.org.

Photo credit Wikimedia Commons

Below is a fascinating excerpt from Part 8 of Louis Farrakhan’s lecture series The Time and What Must Be Done. Farrahkan is the present leader of the Nation of Islam (NOI), best known for its most famous member Malcolm X.

It’s been more than ten years since I heard Farrakhan speak. He has made remarkable progress from his overt antisemitism and talk of white people as blue-eyed devils. I still have a slight problem with the “666” symbolism of the year 2013, which he links with the “beasts” (America, England, Germany and France).

Otherwise his analysis is remarkably similar to that of white economist, journalist and former Reagan official Paul Craig Roberts. The NOI leader is highly critical of Obama’s murderous policies in Libya and Syria and his use of drones for targeted assassinations, as well as his apparent willingness to support an Israeli-inspired war with Iran. He also condemns the President’s destruction of American democracy. He describes the US as an oligarchy leading the American people into fascism.

The video is nearly two years old. Amazing how little US foreign policy has changed.

stuartbramhall:

 

 

Excellent article by Pepe Escobar about the inspiring experiment in direct democracy in Kobani and the rest of Rojava (the 3 Kurdish provinces in Syria). Decision making via multicultural and multi-religious popular assemblies and workers’ cooperatives – allowed to flourish in return for their neutrality towards the Assad government. The Kurds call it “libertarian muncipalism.” The corporate elite and their puppets don’t like it one bit – which is why you won’t read about it in the corporate media. Is this why Kobani is under siege from ISIS/ISIL and their US, Saudi and Turkish backers? According to John Kerry, Kobani has no strategic military value for ISIS/ISIL.

Originally posted on Counter Information:

By Pepe Escobar

October 24, 2014 “ICH” – “Asia Times” – The brave women of Kobani – where Syrian Kurds are desperately fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh – are about to be betrayed by the “international community”. These women warriors, apart from Caliph Ibrahim’s goons, are also fighting treacherous agendas by the US, Turkey and the administration of Iraqi Kurdistan. So what’s the real deal in Kobani?

Let’s start by talking about Rojava. The full meaning of Rojava – the three mostly Kurdish provinces of northern Syria – is conveyed in this editorial (in Turkish) published by jailed activist Kenan Kirkaya. He argues that Rojava is the home of a “revolutionary model” that no less than challenges “the hegemony of the capitalist, nation-state system” – way beyond its regional “meaning for Kurds, or for Syrians or Kurdistan.”

Kobani – an agricultural region – happens to be at the epicenter…

View original 1,465 more words

 

 diablocanyon

Bye Bye California

Whistleblower Michael Peck, a senior member of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), is calling for the Diablo Canyon nuclear reactor to be shut down — pending an assessment of its ability to withstand a major earthquake. Peck, who was Diablo Canyon’s lead inspector for five years, asserts the NRC isn’t applying its own safety rules for the plant’s operation. Unlike other federal whistleblowers, who Obama and the FBI are busy locking up, Peck is participating in an NRC review process that permits employees to appeal a superior’s ruling.

Located on the Pacific Coast halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, Diablo Canyon is California’s last nuclear power plant. It’s located adjacent to four seismic faults, the Shoreline, Hosgri, Los Oso and San Luis Bay. The Shoreline fault was only recently discovered; the Hosgri, located three miles from the plant, is the largest and most dangerous. It was discovered in the 1970s, after construction on Diablo Canyon was nearly complete. According to Peck, a 2011 Pacific Gas and Electric (PG& E) seismic study indicates all four faults are capable of producing significantly more “peak ground acceleration” (75% more in the case of San Luis Bay) than previously believed.

Citing these findings, Peck concludes that Diablo Canyon, based on the NRC’s own safety standards, lacks justification to continue operating. He’s asking the NRC to shut it down until PG&E can demonstrate that its piping, cooling and other systems can withstand higher stress levels than called for in its original design.

In 2012 when the NRC ruled Diablo Canyon could continue operating without reassessing its seismic safety, Peck filed a formal objection. In it he called for PG&E to be cited for violating safety standards. When his supervisors overruled him, he filed a second objection, triggering the current review.

Dave Lockbaum, from Union of Concerned Scientists, supports Peck’s position. He has researched four decades of records when the NRC, and its predecessor the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), faced similar situations. In all prior cases, the NRC/AEC disallowed nuclear facilities to operate with similar unresolved earthquake protection issues. For example, in March 1979—two weeks prior to the Three Mile Island accident—the NRC ordered a handful of nuclear power reactors to shut down and remain shut down until earthquake analysis and protection concerns were corrected.

Diablo Canyon Up for Re-licensing

Diablo Canyon is currently licensed to operate until 2025. In 2009, PG&E applied for a 20 year license extension. The re-licensing process was suspended immediately following the 2011 Fukushima disaster. Japan’s magnitude 8.9 earthquake, which was far larger than believed possible, knocked out Fukushima’s power and cooling systems, causing three core meltdowns. This led the NRC to require US nuclear power plants to re-evaluate seismic risks. These reports are due by March 2015.

Friends of the Earth has petitioned the NRC  to intervene in the Diablo Canyon’s re-licensing proceedings.

According to FOE senior adviser Damon Moglen of Friends of the Earth: “It’s now clear that Diablo Canyon could never get a license to be built at its current Central Coast site. The NRC must consider this seismic data as part of public licensing hearings.”

A Question of Magnitude

Predictably PGE, via their spokesperson Blair Jones, disagrees. Jones maintains the NRC has “exhaustively analyzed” earthquake threats for Diablo Canyon and demonstrated it’s seismically safe. According to Jones, the core issue involving earthquake ground motions was resolved forty years ago with seismic retrofitting (Diablo Canyon was originally designed to withstand a 6.75 earthquake – with the upgrade it can supposedly withstand a 7.5 earthquake). The obvious assumption being that none of the four faults surround Diablo Canyon could cause a 7.6 magnitude or higher earthquake.

PG&E’s position is understandable, as nuclear power plants aren’t cost effective to begin with. They only become profitable with massive taxpayer subsidies. If the NRC requires quire them to retrofit Diablo Canyon to current earthquake standards, a permanent shutdown is highly likely. In 1976, the Humbolt Bay nuclear power plant in northern California, which was within 3,000 yards of three faults, was shut down to reinforce its ability to withstand possible earthquakes. Retrofitting it became more difficult and costly than projected and it never re-opened.

Our Non-regulating Regulatory Agencies

A Fukushima-style earthquake and meltdown at Diablo Canyon could wipe out agriculture in California and parts of the Midwest for centuries. Yet like many federal regulatory agencies, the NRC is more concerned about protecting PG&E’s bottom line than the health, safety and food security of the American public.

Michael Peck, who holds a doctorate in nuclear engineering is presently a senior instructor at NRC’s Technical Training Center in Tennessee.

photo credit: NRCgov via photopin cc

stuartbramhall:

 

 

The next thing we’ll hear they have bought them Greyhound bus tickets to leave. The poor are just so damned inconvenient.

Originally posted on Dogma and Geopolitics:

by BAR executive editor Glen Ford


“The water department is determined to solve its financial problems – and change the city’s demographics – by ejecting the poor from the grid.”

The two United Nations Special Rapporteurs have seen human rights violations around the world, but Detroit’s massive water shut-offs are uniquely upsetting. “We were deeply disturbed to observe the indignity people have faced and continue to live with in one of the wealthiest countries in the world and in a city that was a symbol of America’s prosperity,” said Catarina de Albuquerque and Leilani Farha, in a joint statement. An “unprecedented” 27,000 households have been disconnected from the pipes that sustain life and dignity – most of them Black and poor, according to the rapporteurs’ observations, although the city doesn’t bother to maintain records on the race and income of those it casts into purgatory. The water department is deliberately…

View original 693 more words