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December 28, 2014 / 6 Tevet, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘US’

Jack Abramoff: Americans Believe The System Is Rigged Against Them

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

In 2005 and 2006, Jack Abramoff’s name was all over the news – for the wrong reasons. A high-powered Capitol Hill lobbyist – and an Orthodox Jew to boot – Abramoff found himself at the center of a federal corruption investigation that ultimately landed him in jail. Among other things, Abramoff was accused of conspiracy, bribery, tax evasion, and attempting to defraud his clients of tens of millions of dollars.

Today, Abramoff is a free man. Out of prison since 2010, Abramoff today is committed to reforming the lobbying industry that he helped tarnish. In 2011, he wrote Capitol Punishment: The Hard Truth About Corruption From America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist. The Jewish Press recently caught up with him.

The Jewish Press: What is Jack Abramoff doing today?

Abramoff: I have my own radio show Sundays evenings on XM radio, and I travel the country speaking about politics, what goes on in Washington, and my past.

I’m working on a book on gridlock in Washington. I’m also working on television programming on the lobbying business and am trying to move forward some motion picture projects – I used to be a movie producer. One film is sort of like “Lord of the Rings” and another one is an animated feature similar to “Shrek.” Both of them have biblical backgrounds and undertones.

Finally, I’m working on efforts to reform the political system and helping other good causes as well.

What’s wrong with the system as it’s currently constituted?

The system is basically set up in a way that people who come in with money can buy outcomes. I’m working with reform groups – groups I used to oppose – to come up with some solutions to solve this problem.

How do people “buy outcomes”?

By giving politicians campaign contributions, taking them out to dinner, taking them to a ballgame, etc. If I’m asking you to do something for me for money, that’s bribery – even if it’s [often] legal. Ninety-nine percent of what I did as a lobbyist was legal. It was only one percent, or even less, where I went over any legal line.

Your lobbying firm reportedly spent a million dollars a year buying congressmen tickets to various sporting events. Is this common practice in Washington?

No, I did things bigger than most people. But whether you’re giving away six tickets or 60 tickets, the essence is the same.

You have publicly stated that you were morally blind as a lobbyist. How do you account for that blindness?

I didn’t take the time to sit down and analyze the system. I just jumped in. I was into winning the fights I was in, and I felt the ends justified the means, so I went off track.

Incidentally, most people in the system today don’t consider it immoral. Most congressmen who take these contributions don’t feel they’re being bribed.

What goes through a congressman’s head when a lobbyist buys him a ticket to a sports game? Doesn’t he know the ticket comes with strings attached?

They think I’m their friend, and I thought I was their friend too. In other words, I was just taking my friend out. So, my friend happens to be a congressman and I happen to be asking my friend to help me out with something. Their attitude would be, “Well, if [the favor] is not something I would normally object to, what’s the problem?”

You think to yourself, “I’m his friend and I would do this anyway.” There are all sorts of excuses you come up with to convince yourself it’s not a bad thing. In fact, you [tell yourself], it’s a good thing because you’re going after worthy goals that would otherwise not happen if it weren’t for your relationship with this congressman.

What worthy goals are you referring to?

I thought the clients I represented had worthy causes. I only took clients if I agreed with their cause.

How many lobbyists are there on Capitol Hill?

It varies. You get a count anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000. The top tier is under 100.

In your book, you offer a number of proposals to reform the lobbying industry. Can you detail some of them?

Well, as I mentioned earlier, removing the ability of lobbyists and special interests to use money in the political system is one of them.

Rice’s Failure in Rwanda Precludes her from Becoming Secretary of State

Monday, December 10th, 2012

That Susan Rice either willfully misled the American people on the Benghazi attacks, or lazily absorbed intelligence briefings without the least bit of personal involvement, is obvious. That she was covering for the Obama Administration in denying a terror attack just weeks before the election is speculative but likely. That she does not, therefore, deserve to become Secretary of State is arguable.

But what is not arguable is that she deserves to be denied the post for a different reason altogether: Rwanda. What emerges when taken together – Rice’s weak response in Benghazi, blaming the murder of four Americans on a stupid video, and her shameful lack of action in the Rwandan genocide – is a career diplomat of singular weakness, lacking the spine or muscularity to assert American moral influence in the world.

Rice was part of Bill Clinton’s National Security Team whom in 1994 refused any involvement whatsoever in the Rwanda genocide leaving more than 800,000 men, women, and children to be hacked to death by machete in the fastest genocide ever recorded. The Clinton Administration had just been spooked by the Black Hawk down incident in Somalia and wanted no further foreign entanglements. But the lengths to which they went to deny assistance to the Tutsis, with Rice being central to the decision-making process, will forever live in infamy.

But not content to insist on American non-involvement, the Clinton administration went a step further by obstructing the efforts of other nations to stop the slaughter. On April 21, 1994, the Canadian UN commandeer in Rwanda, General Romeo Dallaire, declared that he required only 5000 troops to bring the genocide to a rapid halt. In addition, a single bombing run against the RTLM Hutu Power radio transmitting antenna would have made it impossible for the Hutus to coordinate their genocide. But on the very same day, as Phillip Gourevitch explains in his definitive account of the Rwandan genocide, We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We will Be Killed with Our Families, the Security Council, with the Clinton Administration’s blessing, ordered the UN force under Dallaire reduced by ninety percent to a skeleton staff of 270 troops who would powerlessly witness the slaughter to come. This, in turn, was influenced by Presidential Decision Directive 25, which ‘amounted to a checklist of reasons to avoid American involvement in UN peacekeeping missions,’ even though Dallaire did not seek American troops and the mission was not peacekeeping but genocide prevention. Indeed, Madeleine Albright, the American Ambassador to the UN, opposed leaving even this tiny UN force. She also pressured other countries ‘to duck, as the death toll leapt from thousands to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands… the absolute low point in her career as a stateswoman.’

In a 2001 article published in The Atlantic, Samantha Power, author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning A Problem of Hell and arguably the world’s foremost voice against genocide and who currently serves on the National Security Council as an aide to  President Obama, referred to Ambassador Susan Rice and her colleagues in the Clinton Administration as Bystanders to Genocide. She quotes Rice in the 2002 book as saying, “If we use the word ‘genocide’ and are seen as doing nothing, what will be the effect on the November congressional election?” Rice’s subordination of a human tragedy of epic proportions to partisan politic interests mirrors the current allegations of why she denied a terror attack in Benghazi. Rice then joined Madeline Albright, Anthony Lake, and Warren Christopher as part of a coordinated effort not only to impede UN action to stop the Rwanda genocide, but to minimize public opposition to American inaction by removing words like “genocide” and “ethnic cleansing” from government communications on the subject.

In the end, eight African nations, fed-up with American inaction, agreed to send in an intervention force to stop the slaughter provided that the U.S. would lend them fifty armored personal carriers. The Clinton Administration decided it would lease rather than lend the armor for a price of $15 million. The carriers sat on a runway in Germany while the UN pleaded for a $5 million reduction as the genocidal inferno raged. The story only gets worse from there, with the Clinton State Department refusing to label the Rwanda horrors a genocide because of the 1948 Genocide Convention that would have obligated the United States to intervene, an effort that Susan Rice participated in.

BDS Tries to Keep Israel’s SodaStream Out of Super Bowl

Sunday, December 9th, 2012

As cheerleaders shake their pom poms, top-dollar players hone their victory dances, and marketers prepare to rake in the dough raised through advertising and sales, Super Bowl XLVII will not just showcase a rivalry between this year’s best winningest football teams, but stands to highlight a burgeoning campaign against Israeli life in the biblical heartland.

SodaStream, an Israeli maker of home soda machines, aims to place its first advertisements in the US during the upcoming Super Bowl, according to an article by the Associated Press.  Aiming to make it big in the United States, SodaStream – the world’s largest manufacturer and distributor of home beverage coronation systems – seems to be a natural choice for Americans who want easy convenience, lower costs, and an effortless way to take part in protecting the environment by reducing the number of plastic bottles produced to hold their drinks.  The company is willing to stake a lot of money on that possibility – $3.5 million, the amount it takes to purchase just 30 seconds of advertising time during the Super Bowl.

And while simple consumerism might assure SodaStream a steady stream of sales, pro-Palestinian activists are working to ensure that SodaStream fizzles out.

Soda Stream is produced in Mishor Adumim, according to the AP, an industrial zone adjacent to Maale Adumim, a Jewish community in the Judean desert which has gained notoriety recently for its proximity to Israel’s latest building project, E-1.

“The new SodaStream publicity blitz has given the US boycott, divestment, sanctions movement a marvelous opportunity to bring our campaigns targeting settlement products to a new, unprecedented level of visibility and success,” said Anna Baltzer, an organizer of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation in the AP report.

Though Israeli products enjoy success in the US and Europe, the massive international campaign encouraging governments, companies, and private citizens to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel has enjoyed limited success, winning an EU case stopping products made in Judea and Samaria from enjoying the same duty free status as products made in other parts of Israel, and convincing the United Kingdom to ban a SodaStream TV ad on the pretense that it disparaged other soda manufacturers.

For his part, SodaStream CEO Daniel Birnbaum says he’s “got to laugh” thinking he’s a target of pro-Palestinian activists, telling the AP that his company provides jobs and economic benefits to many Palestinians workers.

US: Syrian Chem Weapons ‘Locked and Loaded’ on Rockets

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

According to several American television networks, U.S. officials have revealed that the Syrian military is just waiting for the “go” order from the embattled President Bashar Al-Assad.  When Assad’s order comes, aerial warheads which some say have already been locked and loaded with deadly sarin gas will be dropped on the Syrian opposition from dozens of fighter bombers.

Sarin, a colorless and odorless gas, is one of the most lethal chemical weapons.  It is capable of killing thousands of people across a wide swath of land. The gas paralyzes the central nervous system; victims suffocate because their lungs are paralyzed.  Just one drop of sarin can kill a person within minutes.

Speaking at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, December 5, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said,”Ultimately, what we should be thinking about is a political transition in Syria and one that should start as soon as possible.”  She added, “we believe their fall is inevitable. It is just a question of how many people have to die before that occurs.”

Nearly 40,000 have died in the civil war in the 18 month-long Syrian civil war, and 400,000 have fled as refugees.

Suicide Attack Outside US Base in Afghanistan (Updated)

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

Bodies in Afghan police and military uniforms littered the entrance of an airfield outside a major US base in Afghanistan Sunday, killed in an apparent suicide attack by the Taliban.

The attack occurred in the city of Jalalabad – two suicide bombers blew themselves up in a car, and another seven were killed in a gun fight with Afghan and coalition forces.  Several coalition troops were wounded, according to reports, and US helicopters circled above the fight.

Suicide attackers detonated bombs and fired rockets outside a major U.S. base in Afghanistan on Sunday, killing five people in a brazen operation that highlighted the country’s security challenges ahead of the 2014 NATO combat troop pullout.

“There were multiple suicide bombers involved,” said Major Martyn Crighton, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), adding that several coalition troops were wounded.

Afghanistan’s defense ministry spokesman said there were rocket attacks at the Jalalabad base before the suicide bombings.

In a text message, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said : “This morning at 6 a.m. a number of our devotees attacked the major U.S. Base in Jalalabad city and so far have brought heavy casualties to the enemy.”

The US and NATO are set to withdraw from Afghanistan at the end of 2014.  Afghan officials are concerned that the forces will not leave the country stable enough to prevent a civil war or Taliban overthrow.

Magic Wand Works

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

A joint US-Israel anti-missile system called Magic Wand successfully intercepted a missile in a test on Sunday. The anti-missile system is also called David’s Sling in Israel.

Magic Wand is being jointly developed by Rafael in Israel, and Raytheon in the US. It’s primary target are missiles with ranges of at least 70 kilometers, such as ballistic missiles and long range rockets.

The goal is for Magic Wand to be operational by 2014.

It’s estimated that each missile costs 1 million dollars.

There’s a New Pharaoh in Town

Sunday, November 25th, 2012

Eyes on the ball, folks.  In strategic terms, the most important thing that has happened in the last 10 days is that Mohammed Morsi has assumed dictatorial powers in Egypt.  Courageous Egyptians are protesting that move, but Morsi has less compunction than Mubarak did, and we can expect the protests to be dealt with effectively.

So, those of us who said Morsi was an Islamist extremist who would quickly reestablish authoritarianism in Egypt – with a sharia flavor – were right.  Those who said Morsi was a moderate were wrong.

And his Napoleonic self-crowning event changes the calculus for Gaza and Hamas, among other things.  The universal interpretation of the ceasefire brokered by Egypt this week puts the responsibility for preventing attacks by Hamas against Israel squarely on the Morsi government.  (Not all analyses refer to “frantic” diplomacy on the part of the United States.)  Far from making Egypt anyone’s partner in repressing Hamas, this move effectively hands Hamas over to Morsi – and with Hamas, the Gaza Strip.

Hamas is a terrorist group whose independence of him is an inconvenience for Morsi.  Hamas is the finger of Iran in the Levantine “pie” situated on Morsi’s northeastern border.  Hamas lies between Morsi and Jerusalem.  Morsi is not going to “work with” Hamas; he is going to give Hamas the choice to work with him, or be rendered insignificant.

Hamas can be useful to Morsi, if that’s what its leaders choose to do.  There may or may not be a “break” with Iran; it would probably be better from Morsi’s perspective to keep Iran on a string with Hamas, and prevent a divergence of objectives – i.e., between Egypt and Iran – for as long as possible.

But do not be deceived.

Iran has just taken a big strategic hit from the terms of the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.  Iran may still have Qods Force operatives in the area, but Morsi has established a veto over Iran’s activities there.  There may be a few more attempts by Hamas at independence from Morsi – although frankly, I doubt it – but the die is cast: what happens from now on will happen on Morsi’s timeline and his say-so.

That, at least, is what he intends.  He has been rather transparent in the last few days.  Immediately upon getting the ceasefire on terms advantageous for his intentions, he declared himself all-powerful in Egypt.  This was not a coincidence.  His pursuit of the ceasefire was part and parcel of his overall planning.  He was happy to accept the vaguest of commitments on Israel’s side, as long as the understanding was that Egypt would guarantee Hamas’s behavior.

That was the prize Morsi sought.

Now he has started clearing the way to make good use of that prize.  Morsi is on the move.  He is moving very quickly to consolidate power, and position Egypt as a force to be reckoned with in the “race to Jerusalem.”  No longer a sleepy, despotic backwater, Egypt is now ready to play on the same field as Iran and Turkey.  We can expect Morsi to play off Turkey and Iran, remaining on good terms with both as he will seek to do with the US and Europe.  It won’t be time for a “break” with anyone until Morsi has acquired an advantageous position for inducing the fall of Jerusalem – the denouement sought eagerly by the Muslim Brotherhood, and hollered about often by Morsi himself.

In the near future, Morsi may well be able to keep Hamas in check in Gaza, a condition that might make some Israelis and Americans complacent about the turn of events.  I think we’ll know in the next month whether Hamas and Iran will try to restore the status quo ante, by recovering strategic independence from Egypt.  If they wait longer than that, their opportunity will have passed them by.  My guess is that they won’t make the attempt, however, and that Morsi has established himself as a new fact of the geopolitical landscape.

This will not have the effect of making him more moderate or conventional.  It can be said, meanwhile, that his ascent could not have happened, and certainly not so quickly, without the assistance of the United States.  At each step along the way, the US could have shown the kinds of useful leadership that we simply have not shown since the beginning of the Arab Spring.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/j-e-dyer/theres-a-new-pharaoh-in-town/2012/11/25/

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