News Release Archive - 2016

Noted Activist Gets S.S. Checks Stopped Following Drone Protests

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ANN WRIGHT, [in Hawaii] annw1946[at]gmail.com, @AnnWright46
Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She also served 16 years as a U.S. diplomat in U.S. around the world, including Afghanistan. She resigned from the U.S. government in March 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.

She just wrote the piece “Attempting to Curtail Dissent of Seniors by Stopping Social Security Checks” which states: “First, in 2005 and 2006 it was the Bush administration putting some of us protesting Bush’s war on Iraq on the National Crime Information Database. Yes, we had been arrested for failure to comply with orders to move from the fence in front of the White House during protests against the war on Iraq, torture at Guantanamo and other U.S. prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan or refusing to end protests by sitting in ditches at Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch. But these were misdemeanors, not felonies, yet we were put on the FBI’s international crime list, a list for felony violations. …

“Now under the Obama administration, the latest effort to silence dissent, for those of you 62 or older, is someone in the government falsifying jail records to show that you were in jail/confinement for more than 30 days and sending the records to the Social Security Administration. SSA will then stop your monthly Social Security check and will send you a letter stating that you must repay back months of payments for the time you were allegedly in jail — in my case $4,273.60.

“On March 31, 2016, I, along with seven others, six Veterans for Peace and one Granny Peace Brigade members, was arrested at Creech drone base, Nevada as a part of the semi-annual protest against assassin drones. We spent five hours in the Clark County Jail as our arrests were processed and then were released. Our cases of being charged with ‘failure to disperse’ were eventually dropped by the Clark County court. …

“If I didn’t know better I might think this is part of the Israeli ‘lawfare’ program in which Israel attempts to derail protest against its policies by filing bogus lawsuits that end up having to be answered in court, tying up time and human and financial resources. Since I came back in October from Israeli prison from having been kidnapped on the Women’s Boat to Gaza, taken against my will to Israel, charged with entering Israel illegally and deported …again. This is the second time I have been deported from Israel for challenging the illegal Israeli naval blockade of Gaza. My deportations from Israel now total 20 years, which preclude me from visiting Israel or the West Bank.”

Wright has also been protesting outside President Obama’s Hawaii residence, calling for him to pardon whistleblower Chelsea Manning as he vacations there.

See Wright’ piece “A First-Hand Account of Women’s Boat to Gaza.”

Also see from CommonDreams: “Older Americans Pushed Into Poverty as Feds Garnish Social Security for Student Debt.”

 

What Kind of Resistance to Trump?

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KATHY KELLY, kathy [at] vcnv.org, @voiceinwild
Kelly is co-coordinator of the group Voices for Creative Nonviolence. She just wrote the piece “Steer Your Way Into Love and Resistance.”

Currently in Chicago, Kelly will be in Washington, D.C. in very early January, participating in the annual Witness Against Torture fast.

She said today: “Here at Voices we’ve tried to better understand the call for diversity in our current, post-election context. Consider, for instance, a reflection by Betsy Leondar-Wright which was recently published in the UK-based newspaper, Peace News. She encouraged people to build personal and political ties with people already targeted or potentially targeted by Trump’s campaign promises. ‘But,’ she added, ‘we also need to reach out and build personal and political ties with those Trump voters who aren’t committed haters, but whose economic woes and worries we can empathize with.’

“Describing such woes and worries, Arlie Russell Hochschild speaks of a puzzling paradox in the U.S.: ‘Across the country, red states are poorer and have more teen mothers, more divorce, worse health, more obesity, more trauma-related deaths, more low-birth-weight babies, and lower school enrollment. On average, people in red states die five years earlier than people in blue states.'”

Kelly was recently in Afghanistan. She added: “Many people in Kabul could readily empathize with U.S. people living in toxic environs, lacking access to potable water, frustrated by joblessness, shut out of decent education, and likely to die at relatively young ages. Many are shocked by the lavish resources available to the U.S. military in Afghanistan compared to the desperation of 1.8 million Afghans now living as internally displaced people, some in refugee camps located just across the road from U.S. military bases. …

“It’s important for people to energetically unite in refusal to compromise with President-elect Trump’s terrifying campaign promises. Yet we must also unite in refusal to compromise with wars and inequities that have already plagued our planet and species, under non-Trumpist Presidential administrations of both parties. An essential question becomes: How can people at last unite to tackle the very greatest terrors we face, the terrors of what, Trump or no Trump, we have been doing to our planet?

“The frightening truth that our society is a train hurtling toward an abyss must be faced. We surely can’t expect leaders that have already made compromises with militarists and greedy corporate elites to stop the train, help people disembark and then pull up the tracks. We must continually build alternative institutions and, as much as possible, stop paying for institutions that commit mayhem and murder. We need unions willing to strike and activists willing to refuse payment of war taxes as I’ve been perhaps specially privileged to be able to do since 1980. We need voters able to see the full bleak vision of where our species has arrived.”

Electoral College Can Reflect Popular Vote, no Constitutional Convention Needed

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PAT ROSENSTIEL, pat [at] ainsleyshea.com
Rosenstiel is with the group National Popular Vote. The group advocates the National Popular Vote bill, which “would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide (i.e., all 50 states and the District of Columbia).

“It has been enacted into law in 11 states with 165 electoral votes, and will take effect when enacted by states with 105 more electoral votes.” See the status of the National Popular Vote bill in each state.

The group argues that “State winner-take-all laws are the reason why the vast majority of voters and states are not in play in presidential campaigns.” See video from the group on the constitutionality of the National Popular vote. It notes that states did not originally allocate their electors in a winner-take-all manner. Rather, this practice began proliferating in 1800 because of the rivalry between Virginia and Massachusetts.

Rosenstiel states: “The vast majority of states and the vast majority of voters are ignored because candidates only campaign in a handful of closely divided ‘battleground’ states. Candidates write-off states where they are hopelessly behind. They take for granted states where they are safely ahead. In the 2016 general-election campaign:

“Over half of the campaign events (57 percent of the 399 events) were held in just four states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio).”

Virtually all of the campaign events (94 percent) were in just 12 states (containing only 30 percent of the country’s population).”

Motives of the “Cold-War Hysteria” in U.S. Establishment

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STEPHEN COHEN, sfc1 [at] nyu.edu
Available for a very limited number of interviews, Cohen is professor emeritus of Russian studies, history, and politics at New York University and Princeton University. A Nation contributing editor, his books include Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War.

He recently wrote the piece “Cold War Hysteria vs. U.S. National Security” (with associated interview), which states: “Thus far, no actual facts or other evidence have been made publicly to support allegations that the hacking was carried out on the orders of the Russian leadership, that Russian hackers then gave the damaging materials to WikiLeaks, or that the revelations affected the electoral outcome. Nor are Russian President Putin’s alleged motives credible. Why would a leader whose mission has been to rebuild Russia with economic and other partnerships with the West seek to undermine the political systems of those countries, not only in America but also in Europe, as is charged? Judging by the public debate among Russian policy intellectuals close to the Kremlin, nor is it clear that the Kremlin so favored the largely unknown and unpredictable Trump. But even if Putin was presented with such a possibility, he certainly would have understood that such Russian interference in the U.S. election would become known and thus work in favor of Clinton, not Trump. (Indeed, a major tactic of the Clinton campaign was to allege that Trump was a ‘Putin puppet,’ which seems not to have helped her campaign with voters.)

“Still worse, since the election these allegations have inspired a growing Cold War hysteria in the American bipartisan political-media establishment, still without any actual evidence to support them. … A kind of witch hunt may be unfolding, not only of the kind the Washington Post tried to instigate with its bogus ‘report’ of scores of American websites said to be fronts for Russian propaganda …

“Several motives seem to be behind this bipartisan American campaign against the President-elect, who is being equated with Russian misdeeds. One is to reverse the Electoral College vote. Another is to exonerate the Clinton campaign from its electoral defeat by blaming that instead on Putin and thereby maintaining the Clinton wing’s grip on the Democratic Party. Yet another is to delegitimate Trump even before he is inaugurated. And certainly no less important, to prevent the détente with Russia that Trump seems to seek.”

Obama Could Pardon Immigrants

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AVIVA CHOMSKY, achomsky[at]salemstate.edu
Chomsky is professor of history and coordinator of Latin American Studies at Salem State University in Massachusetts. Her books include “They Take Our Jobs!” And 20 Other Myths about Immigration and Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal.

She just wrote the piece “A Radical Proposal for Radical Times,” which states: “Donald Trump’s election left many immigrant rights activists in a panicked thought loop. What did he actually say he would do? If he was saying he would deport ‘criminal aliens’ and ‘build a wall,’ is that really any different from what we’ve already seen under the Obama administration? Could he really deport 11 million people? Would he really eliminate President Obama’s signature successful pro-immigrant action, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which granted temporary legal status to hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth? If he did, what would happen to these young people? Finally, could there be any way to connect the struggle for immigrant rights to a larger campaign committed to challenging Trump’s extreme version of kleptocratic neoliberal capitalism?

“In the immediate wake of the election much of the attention with respect to the future of U.S. immigration policy has focused on the uncertain status of Dreamers and DACA recipients. On November 17, Representatives Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) and Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) composed a letter asking Obama to issue a presidential pardon for DACA recipients before he left office, thus making their immigration offenses irrelevant and possibly enabling them to seek permanent legal status. Although the administration quickly rejected the idea, it has not died. A few weeks later, Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced the Bridge Act, which would enhance and protect DACA. Meanwhile, at the grassroots, the activism of a growing coalition has made the proposal grow much bolder.

“In large part this is due to the work of groups like the Immigrant Worker Center Collaborative of Boston (IWCC). The IWCC has argued that focusing on ‘Dreamers,’ a group of ‘exceptional’ model immigrants, ignores the key structural, economic, and political issues that ultimately help link immigrants’ struggles to those of all working Americans — the so-called 99 percent.”

* Couldn’t NSA Determine Election Hack? * Why Would Russians Leave Traces?

WILLIAM BINNEY, williambinney0802 [at] comcast.net
RAY McGOVERN, rrmcgovern [at] gmail.com, @raymcgovern
Binney is former technical director at the National Security Agency. McGovern was a longtime CIA analyst and prepared the daily briefs for presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush and now serves on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity. They are two of the signers of the recently released memo “U.S. Intel Vets Dispute Russia Hacking Claims” published by Consortium News. They write: “NSA is able to identify both the sender and recipient when hacking is involved. Thanks largely to the material released by Edward Snowden, we can provide a full picture of NSA’s extensive domestic data-collection network including Upstream programs like Fairview, Stormbrew and Blarney. … As for the comments to the media as to what the CIA believes, the reality is that CIA is almost totally dependent on NSA for ground truth in the communications arena. …

“In sum, given what we know of NSA’s existing capabilities, it beggars belief that NSA would be unable to identify anyone — Russian or not — attempting to interfere in a U.S. election by hacking.”

ANDREW COCKBURN, amcockburn [at] gmail.com, @andrewmcockburn
Washington editor of Harper’s Magazine, Cockburn just wrote the piece “Questions for the Electors on Russian Hacking” for CounterPunch, which states: “It is being reported that John Podesta, Chairman of the defeated $1.2 billion Clinton presidential campaign, is supporting the call by various officials, including at least 40 Electors, that the members of the Electoral College be given a classified intelligence briefing on the alleged Russian hacking before the College votes on December 19.

“In the event such a briefing comes to pass, it might be helpful if the Electors had some informed questions to ask the CIA.

“1/ The DNC hackers inserted the name of the founder of Russian intelligence, in Russian, in the metadata of the hacked documents.  Why would the G.R.U., Russian military intelligence do that?

“2/ If the hackers were indeed part of Russian intelligence, why did they use a free Russian email account, or, in the hack of the state election systems, a Russian-owned server?  Does Russian intelligence normally display such poor tradecraft? …”

Cockburn’s books include the recently released Kill Chain: The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins and, from 1983, The Threat: Inside the Soviet Military Machine.

Trump’s Energy Agenda

unnamed-1Donald Trump announced Wednesday he is nominating former Texas Governor Rick Perry to be Energy Secretary.

ROBERT ALVAREZ, kitbob [at] erols.com
Alvarez is a former senior policy adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Energy and is now a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies. He also writes a column at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

He said today: “After reading the questionnaire sent by the Trump transition team to the Energy Department, here’s what I surmise they want to do:

* Identify federal and contractor employees involved in climate change activities they want to marginalize or get rid of. To its credit, the DOE is refusing to provide these names. The Trump team has now disavowed that this is its intent.

* Freeze all new federal hires and set the stage for lay-offs;

* Seriously curtail energy renewable and conservation programs;

* Figure out the contracting maze (good luck on that one!);

* Figure out how they can reduce cleanup spending at profoundly contaminated nuclear weapons sites, now costing around $6 billion per year, with an estimated total liability approaching $400 billion;

* Find ways to restart the Yucca Mt. nuclear waste disposal site for spent power reactor fuel;

* Spend more on nuclear research and development, especially for Small Modular Reactors. Nuclear R&D already consumes and $2 billion in FY 2016 — the single largest fraction (40 percent) of all energy R&D funding;

* Stem the accelerating closure of aging, uneconomical nuclear power plants;

* Muzzle the Energy Information Administration to eliminate any analysis regarding carbon emissions.

“What’s interesting is what’s missing, especially the nuclear weapons program, which is responsible for maintaining some 7,000 nuclear warheads. This program makes up the single largest piece of the DOE budget and is experiencing out-of-control costs. Military nuclear spending makes up nearly 60 percent of the DOE’s budget.

“Then there’s also the disposition of the huge stockpiles of nuclear weapons materials and radioactive wastes; the Power Marketing Administration’s providing electricity to wide swaths of western states; the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, Naval Reactors, and nuclear non-proliferation.

“With a land-base greater than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined, the Energy Department is responsible for the largest government-owned research and industrial complex in the United States.

“However, other than adopting the Heritage Foundation’s regressive fossil fuel agenda, cutting back on the workforce, stamping out climate change policies, trying to stave off collapse of the nuclear power industry, and cutting funds for environmental cleanup, it appears that the Trump transition team has no clue of how all the elements of DOE fit together. Now Trump is nominating a person to run the agency who has vowed to get rid this agency but couldn’t remember its name.”

After Aleppo: Will Trump Shift Syria Policy?

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REESE ERLICH, ReeseErlich2[at]hotmail.com
Foreign correspondent and author of Inside Syria, Erlich said today: “The Assad forces have apparently taken control of opposition held areas of Aleppo after four years. It is clearly a major military victory, but does this significantly alter the political landscape? The war is likely to continue. The IS has retaken Palmyra and other rebels still control parts of the country. The Kurdish forces control a stretch of territory along the Turkish border as well as enclaves in Aleppo. Some of the defeated rebels may join the Kurdish-led coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces.”

“The key element to watch, is whether the Trump administration will shift policy to favor Russia and Assad and whether Turkey will continue its de facto alliance with Assad. If so the political balance will shift towards Assad.”

The paperback edition of Inside Syria: The Backstory of Their Civil War and What the World Can Expect (foreword by Noam Chomsky) has just come out. Erlich has reported from Syria six times and has visited all the surrounding countries. He is currently on a national book tour and is available for interviews after 8 a.m. Pacific Time.

“It’s a Leak, Not a Hack”

The Guardian reports in “CIA concludes Russia interfered to help Trump win election, say reports” that: “The Kremlin has rejected the hacking accusations, while the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has previously said the DNC leaks were not linked to Russia. A second senior official cited by the Washington Post conceded that intelligence agencies did not have specific proof that the Kremlin was ‘directing’ the hackers, who were said to be one step removed from the Russian government.

“Craig Murray, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, who is a close associate of Assange, called the CIA claims ‘bullshit,’ adding: ‘They are absolutely making it up.’

“‘I know who leaked them,’ Murray said. ‘I’ve met the person who leaked them, and they are certainly not Russian and it’s an insider. It’s a leak, not a hack; the two are different things.

“‘If what the CIA are saying is true, and the CIA’s statement refers to people who are known to be linked to the Russian state, they would have arrested someone if it was someone inside the United States.

“‘America has not been shy about arresting whistleblowers and it’s not been shy about extraditing hackers. They plainly have no knowledge whatsoever.'”

CRAIG MURRAY, craigmurray1710 [at] btinternet.com@CraigMurrayOrg
Murray is an author, broadcaster and human rights activist. He was British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004 and Rector of the University of Dundee from 2007 to 2010.

CommonDreams just published his piece “The CIA’s Absence of Conviction.”

Murray blogs at craigmurray.org.uk and just wrote the piece “Facebook Suppresses Truth.”

Trump State Dept: A Cross Between Exxon and NeoCons?

AP reports: “President-elect Donald Trump moved closer to nominating Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson as his secretary of State on Saturday. … Trump’s team has discussed bringing [John] Bolton [former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush] on as a No. 2 to Tillerson.”

STEVE HORN,  steve [at] desmogblog.com, @SteveAHorn
Horn is an investigative journalist and writer for DeSmogBlog.com. He said today: “Trump has made it clear via his cabinet appointments that energy, and specifically the promotion of climate change-worsening fracked oil and natural gas, will be central to the ethos and mission of his administration. In this way, it’s a continuation of the Obama Administration’s ‘All of the Above’ energy policy, but with a twist: people who actually work directly for the industry may have a seat at the Cabinet table meetings.

“Rex Tillerson, the CEO of ExxonMobil and former chairman of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Petroleum Council, is a case in point as the probable President-Elect Trump choice of U.S. Secretary of State. So too is Rick Perry, the former Governor of Texas and chairman of the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission (IOGCC), who is Trump’s current top choice as U.S. Energy Secretary. Perry sits on the board of directors of Energy Transfer Partners, the owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Both of them are also climate change deniers and in the case of Exxon, funded the climate change denial machine to the tune of $33 million between 1998-2014. As the old adage goes, ‘personnel is policy.'”

JIM LOBE, jlobe [at] starpower.net, @lobelog
Lobe is an investigative journalist specializing in foreign policy, is regarded as a leading expert on the “neo-conservative” movement and is founder of LobeLog.com, which recently tweeted: “Bolton has urged attacking Iran so often for so many years that he can’t retreat now. Confirmation will likely be a referendum on war.”

On Friday, in response to charges allegedly made by the CIA of Russian intervention in the U.S. election, Trump released a statement: “These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.” But in 2002, Bolton was quoted by the BBC: “We are confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq … there is no doubt that Saddam is a threat to the region and needs to be disarmed.”

See Bolton’s profile on RightWeb: “Bolton is a notorious foreign policy hawk whose track record includes “pushing regime” change in Iran and bombing its nuclear facilities (in effect, going to war), supporting the invasion of Iraq, and opposing major arms control agreements. He has long dismissed the legitimacy of the United Nations and other international institutions. In one famous speech, Bolton declared, ‘If the UN secretary building in New York lost ten stories, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.’ He dismisses international treaties as nonbinding ‘political obligations.'”

Also see RightWeb profiles of Michael Flynn: “Trump’s National Security Adviser is facing intense scrutiny for promoting conspiracy theories and fake news items, as well as for his consistent attacks on Islam, which he calls a ‘quote-unquote religion’ and a ‘vicious cancer.'” Also, Flynn’s co-author Michael Ledeen (“known for making outlandish claims about Middle East affairs”, and James Mattis: “Trump’s nominee for Pentagon chief has a well-known penchant for talking about why he likes shooting people but he also has some important differences with the president-elect, like frowning on torture and seeing Russia as a threat.”