Monthly Archives: June 2015

Obama’s CIA Pedigree

By Wayne Madsen in OpinonMaker, published in Veterans Today, August 7, 2010

CIA-and-ObamaWMR [Wayne Madsen Report] previously reported on President Obama’s more than one year employment by a CIA front operation, Business International Corporation, Inc. (BIC) of New York after his graduation from Columbia University in 1983.

However, the State Department’s recent revelation in response to a Freedom of Information Act request that the pre-1965 passport files of Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham Soetoro, were destroyed in the 1980s, has re-ignited suspicions that Obama’s mother worked for the CIA under non-official cover (NOC) cover in Indonesia while married to Lolo Soetoro Mangunharjo, a retired colonel in General Suharto’s CIA-backed ranks. Soetoro and Dunham married in 1965 after meeting at the University of Hawaii. That same year, the CIA-backed Suharto launched an anti-Communist coup that saw leftist President Sukarno eventually ousted from power and up to one million suspected Communists, including many ethnic Chinese Indonesians, massacred by government troops. Obama recently lifted a ban on U.S. military support for the Indonesian Red Beret KOPASSUS special operations forces imposed after the unit committed human rights abuses in East Timor in the late 1990s. The 12-year ban, imposed by the Clinton administration, was maintained by the Bush administration.

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Barack Obama Inc.: The birth of a Washington machine

by Ken Silverstein, Harper’s Magazine, published November 2006

In July, on a typically oppressive summer day in Washington, D.C., roughly a thousand college students from across the country gathered at a Marriott hotel with plans to change the world. Despite being sponsored by the Center for American Progress, a moderate think tank founded by one of Bill Clinton’s former chiefs of staff, John Podesta, the student group—called Campus Progress—leans decidedly farther to the left. At booths outside the main auditorium, young activists handed out pamphlets opposing nuclear power, high pay for CEOs, excessive profits for oil companies, harsh prison sentences for drug users, and Israeli militarism in Gaza and the West Bank. At one session, Adrienne Maree Brown of The Ruckus Society—a protest group whose capacious mission is to promote “the voices and visions of youth, women, people of color, indigenous people and immigrants, poor and working class people, lesbian, gay, bisexual, gender queer, and transgendered people”—urged students to “break the fucking rules.” Even the consummate insider Podesta told attendees, with unintended ambiguity, “We need more of you hanging from trees.”

Around noon, conference participants began filing into the auditorium; activists staffing the literature booths abandoned their posts to take seats inside as well. The crowd, and the excitement, building in the hall was due entirely to the imminent arrival of the keynote speaker: Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Having ascended to political fame through a stirring and widely lauded speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, Obama, the U.S. Senate’s only African-American member, is now considered to be the party’s most promising young leader—especially among those who, like the student organizers present, are seeking to reinvigorate its progressive wing. In terms of sheer charisma, Obama is certainly the party’s most magnetic leader since Bill Clinton, and perhaps since Robert F. Kennedy.

The senator was running a bit late; but when he finally glided into the auditorium, escorted by an assortment of aides, he was greeted by a tremendous swell of applause as he took to the stage. Dressed in a brown jacket and red tie, Obama approached the podium, flanked by two giant screens enlarging his image, and began a softly spoken but compelling speech that recalled his own days, after his graduation in 1983 from Columbia University, as a community organizer in poor neighborhoods of Chicago. “You’ll have boundless opportunities when you graduate,” he told the students, “and it’s very easy to just take that diploma, forget about all this progressive-politics stuff, and go chasing after the big house and the large salary and the nice suits and all the other things that our money culture says you should buy. But I hope you don’t get off that easy. There’s nothing wrong with making money, but focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a poverty of ambition.”

Obama complained of an American culture that “discourages empathy,” in which those in power blame poverty on people who are “lazy or weak of spirit” and believe that “innocent people being slaughtered and expelled from their homes halfway around the world are somebody else’s problem.” He urged the assembled activists to ignore those voices, “not because you have an obligation to those who are less fortunate than you, although I think you do have that obligation . . . but primarily because you have that obligation to yourself. Because our individual salvation depends on collective salvation. It’s only when you hitch yourself up to something bigger than yourself that you realize your true potential.”

It was a rousing speech, and Obama is probably the only member of Congress who could have delivered it with any conviction or credibility. When he left the stage and headed toward the hotel exit, he was trailed by a pack of autograph seekers, picture takers, and glad-handers.

Despite its audience and ostensible subject matter, however, Obama’s speech had contained just a single call for political action. This was when he had introduced Mark Pike, a law student who then came bounding across the stage in a green one-piece mechanic’s outfit. As part of a campaign called “Kick the Oil Habit,” Pike was to depart directly from the conference and drive from Washington to Los Angeles in a “flex-fuel” vehicle. “Give it up for Mark!” Obama had urged the crowd, noting that Pike would be refueling only at gas stations that offer E85—which Obama touts as “a clean, renewable, and domestically produced alternative fuel.”

Continue reading Barack Obama Inc.: The birth of a Washington machine

Congress Admits Jobs will be Lost in Trade Deals

by Bud Meyers, published June 24, 2015

Obama promised the TPP trade agreement would create 650,000 new jobs, not destroy jobs. Big lie. The Washington Post gives this claim “Four Pinocchios” and says it will create ZERO jobs.

Yesterday Congress just voted to pass “fast track” (TPA) to pass more trade deals (TPP, TTIP and TiSA) — but WITHOUT assistance for re-training displaced workers (TAA) who lose jobs because of these trade deals — but Congress did pass “fast track” WITH a promise to pass a TAA bill in another trade deal for Africa. But if it’s as Obama and corporate Democrats claim, and no jobs will be lost in these trade deals, then why would we need to pass a bill for TAA for displaced workers?

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Two Other Ways Racists Kill

by Paul Buchheit, published June 22, 2015, mirrored from Common Dreams

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A prison labor chain gang in this file photo. (Photo: via The American Prospect)

In 1931 the New Republic reported on a lynching in Mississippi: “Jim [Ivy] was staked with heavy chains and dry wood was piled knee-high around him. Gasoline tanks were tapped for fuel. Three men set the wood and Jim on fire. I saw the flames climb high on Jim. Jim screamed, prayed and cursed; he struggled so hard that he snapped one of the log chains that bound his ankles to the stake. I was looking into his eyes that second. They were popping with pain and terror…the flames reached up and burned his screaming voice into silence. The mob turned to go. It was about time for supper.”

In Birmingham, Alabama on September 15, 1963, four 11- to 14-year-old girls were in the basement restroom of the 16th Street Baptist Church when a bomb went off. The ground floor collapsed on them. As shocked and bloodied churchgoers wandered through the smoky aftermath, community members began to gather outside, and Governor Wallace sent the police in to disburse the crowd. Two young black men were killed that night, one by the police and one by white thugs.

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Manitoba Conservatives open the door to privatization

by Molly McCracken, published June 17, 2015 at rabble.ca

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Photo from Flickr

Social service schemes announced this week by the Manitoba Progressive Conservatives to encourage private child care and introduce Social Impact Bonds soften the ground towards privatization. The assumption is that the private sector knows best how to fund and deliver public services. This is false — publicly delivered services are more efficient, accountable and in the long-term public interest.

In “Tories say they would boost private daycare,” Conservative family services critic and MLA Ian Wishart says, “We’d like to leave the money with the parents and perhaps provide more opportunities for licensed privates” (Winnipeg Free Press, June 5, 2015). Manitoba has 12,000 children on the wait list for child-care spaces. In order to create enough spaces to meet the demand, capital grants are needed to build or expand centres and operating grants are needed to make them affordable to parents. New or expanded child-care centres need qualified staff trained at publicly funded institutions. Investments of this magnitude are not going to come from the private sector.

Furthermore, to turn the development of the child-care sector over to private market would result in higher parent fees to finance capital expansion and operations for those operators who would not be able to realize economies of scale. Operators pass these costs on to consumers. A focus on developing more spaces through the private market would create child care for those parents who are able to afford higher costs, leaving middle-class and moderate-income parents to scramble over remaining non-profit spaces with regulated fees.

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Walmart Hides $76 Billion in Luxembourg To Dodge U.S. Taxes

by Deidre Fulton, published June 17, 2015 at Common Dreams

Report is first-ever comprehensive documentation of the company’s tax avoidance schemes

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“Typically, the primary purpose for a corporation to set up subsidiaries in tax havens where it has little to no business operations and few, if any, employees is to pay little, if any, taxes and to maintain financial secrecy.” (Photo: Mike Mozart/flickr/cc)

Walmart has built a vast, undisclosed network of overseas tax havens—accounting for more than $76 billion of assets—that allows the multinational corporation to shirk public disclosure laws as well as its fair share of both foreign and U.S. taxes, according to a groundbreaking report published Wednesday by Americans for Tax Fairness.

All told, the retail behemoth has established at least 78 subsidiaries in 15 offshore tax havens, none of them publicly reported before. The stunning revelations are based on research conducted by the United Food & Commercial Workers International Union, using publicly available documents filed in various countries by Walmart and its subsidiaries.

“Most people know that Walmart is the world’s largest corporation,” the report begins.”Virtually no one knows that Walmart has an extensive and secretive web of subsidiaries located in countries widely known as tax havens.

The analysis, titled The Walmart Web: How the World’s Biggest Corporation Uses Tax Havens to Dodge Taxes (pdf), shows that Walmart has no fewer than 22 shell companies in Luxembourg—20 established since 2009 and five in 2015 alone. According to the study, Walmart has transferred ownership of more than $45 billion in assets to those subsidiaries since 2011, but reported paying less than 1 percent in tax to Luxembourg on $1.3 billion in profits from 2010 through 2013.

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BlackRock, Obama Campaign Donors Stand To Benefit From Cuts To Military Pensions

by Matthew Cunningham-Cook and David Sirota, published June 16, 2015, at the IBTimes

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U.S. President Barack Obama delivers remarks at the Catholic Health Association conference in Washington June 9, 2015. Executives at the financial firm BlackRock helped support both of his election campaigns. Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

American service members are confronting a potential haircut. Under a proposal the Pentagon outlined last week, new members of the armed forces would see their guaranteed retirement benefits cut by one-fifth if Congress approves the plan.

But if future veterans are being asked to make do with less, one key constituency stands to capture more: Wall Street.

Under the details of the Pentagon plan, the federal government would divert 3 percent of service members’ pay into a 401(k)-style plan that would be managed largely by BlackRock, a financial firm whose executives helped bankroll President Barack Obama’s election campaigns.

The change could wind up transferring as much as $50 billion from military paychecks to BlackRock, generating tens of millions of dollars in fees for the Wall Street giant. BlackRock employees have donated over $90,000 to Obama’s campaigns directly, and nearly $75,000 to the Democratic National Committee during the course of Obama’s two presidential campaigns, according to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics. BlackRock Chairman and CEO Larry Fink was also a prominent supporter of Obama’s election campaigns, and the company in 2013 named Hillary Clinton’s former State Department chief of staff to its board of directors.

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Disney’s IT troubles go beyond H-IBs

by Robert X. Cringely, published on June 12. 2015

DisneyLetter

Disney has been in the news recently for firing its Orlando-based IT staff, replacing them with H-1B workers primarily from India, and making severance payments to those displaced workers dependent on the outgoing workers training their foreign replacements. I regret not jumping on this story earlier because I heard about it back in March, but an IT friend in Orlando (not from Disney) said it was old news so I didn’t follow-up. Well now I am following with what will eventually be three columns not just about this particular event but what it says about the U.S. computer industry, which is not good.

First we need some context for this Disney event — context that has not been provided in any of the accounts I have read so far. What we’re observing is a multi-step process.

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The H-1B Visa Program Is A Scam

by Robert X. Cringely, published June 16, 2015

h1b-visas-by-companyThis is the second of three columns relating to the recent story of Disney replacing 250 IT workers with foreign workers holding H-1B visas. Over the years I have written many columns about outsourcing (here) and the H-1B visa program in particular (here). Not wanting to just cover again that old material, this column looks at an important misconception that underlies the whole H-1B problem, then gives the unique view of a longtime reader of this column who has H-1B program experience.

First the misconception as laid out in a blog post shared with me by a reader. This blogger maintains that we wouldn’t be so bound to H-1Bs if we had better technical training programs in our schools. This is a popular theme with every recent Presidential administration and, while not explicitly incorrect, it isn’t implicitly correct, either. Schools can always be better but better schools aren’t necessarily limiting U.S. technical employment.

His argument, like that of Google and many other companies often mentioned as H-1B supporters, presupposes that there is a domestic IT labor shortage, but there isn’t. The United States right now has plenty of qualified workers to fill every available position. If there are indeed exceptional jobs that can’t be filled by ANY domestic applicant, there’s still the EB-2 visa program, which somehow doesn’t max-out every year like H-1B. How can that be if there’s a talent shortage? In truth, H-1B has always been unnecessary.

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