Terrorists: Why Do They Want to Blow Us Up?

First Published at OpEdNews March 26 (Headline Status)

By Arlen Grossman

Terrorist Attack

Pretty much missing from the commentaries and responses to the recent Belgium bombing was the basic question as to why Muslim extremists attack us. And its obvious corollary: if we know the reason for these atrocities, perhaps we can get a handle on how to stop or reduce them. 

But, as usual, the American media, politicians, talking heads, and other so-called experts in general remain as evasive and clueless as ever. But the answers as to the terrorists’ motives are not hard to find. 

Why Belgium? ISIS proclaimed it was targeted as “a country participating in the international coalition against the Islamic State.” And ISIS (as well as Syrian President Bashar al-Assad) said the Paris attacks last year were in retaliation for French airstrikes again them in Syria and Iraq. 

Then there’s Osama bin Laden, who told us the main reason for the 9/11 attacks was the deployment of U.S. forces in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, which he called “the greatest of” aggressions incurred by the Muslims since the death of the prophet.” 

Peter Bergen, an expert on bin Laden and Jihadism, in his 2006 book, The Osama bin Laden I Know, states that the al Qaeda leader “has been pretty consistent about why he’s attacking the United States. It’s because of America’s foreign policies. … It’s about what America has been doing in his backyard, as he sees it.” 

Even earlier, a Department of Defense study in 1997 (in response to the 1996 suicide bombing of Air Force housing at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia) concluded that: “Historical data show a strong correlation between US involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States.” 

So no, it’s not because of our freedom, our wealth, our values, or our religion that they attack us. It’s because of our foreign policy and actions around the world: the invasions, occupations, drone strikes, killing of civilians, torture, and similar atrocities. The more we involve ourselves militarily in places around the world where we are not wanted, the more terrorist attacks we will see here and in the West. 

The answer to reducing terrorist attacks should be obvious: draw down American and Western involvement in the Middle East and other places far from our shores, and use those resources toward fixing our own problems (which we can all agree need our attention), as well as helping rebuild (with their permission) some of the countries we helped devastate. That would go a long way toward making this a friendlier and safer world. And we could all use that. 

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NEVER-ENDING TERRORISM

by Arlen Grossman

(editor’s note: the following is a response to a March 23 Monterey Herald editorial)

It is fascinating to me that the Herald can write an editorial about the Belgium bombings without once mentioning the real reason for these terrorist acts. But I’m not surprised, as American media and so-called experts in general remain just as clueless.

Isis proclaimed Belgium was targeted as “a country participating in the international coalition against the Islamic State.” As Osama bin Laden told us, the reason for the 9/11 attacks was the deployment  of U.S. forces in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, which he called “the greatest of … aggressions incurred by the Muslims since the death of the prophet.” A Department of Defense study in 1997 concluded that: “Historical data show a strong correlation between US involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States.”

So no, it’s not because of our freedom, our values, or our religion. It’s because of our foreign policy and actions around the world: the invasions, occupations, drone strikes, killing of civilians, torture, etc. The more we involve ourselves militarily in places around the world where we are not wanted, the more terrorist attacks we will see here and in the West.

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DEMOCRACY IS DEAD

The Graveyard of the Elites

by Chris Hedges/ Truthdig/ February 28, 2016

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Truth or Lies?

Valuing the Truth

by Paul Craig Roberts/ paulcraigroberts.org/ March 9, 2016

Truth is the enemy of the state, and always has been. But today the Western populations live in a world of total lies. Try to think of anything that the government has told you the truth about. “Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction” … “Assad’s use of chemical weapons” … “Russian invasion of Ukraine” are not the only lies. Everything the government says is a lie. The unemployment rate. The GDP growth rate. The inflation rate. Payroll jobs. 9/11. Tonkin Gulf. Boston Marathon Bombing. Paris attacks.

Consider the taxation of Social Security benefits. Social Security existed for 49 years — from 1935 to 1984 — without the benefits being taxed. Wall Street, David Stockman, Alan Greenspan, and the Republican establishment are responsible for breaking the promise to the American people and subjecting Social Security benefits to income taxation. When the Supply-Side economic policy led to the collapse of inflation far quicker than Stockman’s budget prediction had taken into account, federal budget deficits appeared that Stockman and Wall Street blamed on Reagan’s economic program. In those days the only economics the Republican establishment knew was fear of budget deficits. The fools actually thought that a budget deficit caused by the unanticipated collapse in inflation was going to cause inflation.

To please Wall Street, Stockman and Greenspan went to work to turn Social Security into a cash cow for the government. Two things happened. Future increases in the payroll tax rate that had been legislated during the Carter administration were accelerated and brought into effect sooner than needed in order to collect a surplus of Social Security tax revenues with which to fund other government spending. The other “reform” was to subject Social Security benefits to income taxation. In 1984 50% of Social Security benefits were subject to income taxation for retirees with incomes above $25,000. In 1993 the Clinton regime made 85% of Social Security benefits subject to income taxation.

Taxing Social Security benefits is a way of cutting the benefits, long a Republican goal. I remember Democratic Senator Russell Long, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, telling me that to tax benefits that working people had paid for over the course of their working life via the payroll tax was a tax on a tax and an unconscionable violation of the compact that the government had made with the American people. My office in the Treasury had prepared a different solution to the hyped “Social Security revenue shortfall.” We showed that the best solution was to adjust the formula that governed the growth of Social Security benefits, not to accelerate the payroll tax increases and subject benefits to taxation. But Wall Street and the banks wanted revenues to reduce the budget deficit, which they claimed would reduce interest rates, thus allowing the issuance of more loans with which to financialize the economy.

Now Wall Street’s plan is to get rid of Social Security altogether by privatizing it and turning it into another financial scam.

 
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I often document the economic crimes committed against the American people, indeed the peoples of the entire world, and could go on about this forever. But let’s shift gears and observe the murder of justice. Who gets punished, government officials who spy without warrants, torture, commit war crimes, and financial executives guilty of fraud, or whistleblowers who reveal their crimes? You know the answer. The justice system is focused on ruining heros and the innocent.

Recently the US Appeals Court for DC blocked newly issued FCC regulations that prevent phone companies from charging prisoners $14 per minute for conversations with family members. In other words, a five-minute conversation with a spouse or child currently costs $70, as if prisoners are among the One Percent. There are both humane and cost reasons for the FCC regulations. The high cost of communication with families breaks down family ties and results in more recidivism. The federal appeals court took the side of profits and sacrificed the public’s interest.

Where is the justice in what just happened to the most prominent sportswoman in the world, five-time grand slam tennis champion Maria Sharapova. For health reasons she has been given mildronate by her doctor for 10 years. Mildronate is used to treat diabetes, low magnesium, and poor blood flow. On January 1 of this year meldonium, another name for mildronate, was added to the prohibited drug list. Not being a pharmacist, Sharapova did not know the newly added drug was the same as her medical prescription, and a few days after her medical prescription of a decade was declared a prohibited drug, she failed the drug test for the January Australian Open.

I have spoken to drug testers and have been told that it takes more than a few days between the January 1 announcement of meldonium’s prohibition and the January Australian Open for drugs to clear the body. There was nothing Sharapova could have done even if she had known. So what was the response of the authorities? Right, the International Tennis Federation has suspended her, and Nike, Tag Heuer, and Porsche have suspended their contracts with her.

Isn’t this amazing. We have war criminals, torturers, and former bank executives guilty of massive frauds running Western economic and foreign policy free of any accountability for their offenses, but a tennis star’s prescription medicine runs afoul of a newly introduced drug policy, and she is suspended! Is this because she is Russian? Is this part of demonizing Russia and presenting the country in a bad light? Or is it just the senseless mindlessness of the Western world in which only the innocent are punished?

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We have to ask ourselves how it can be that the world’s worse criminals — people responsible for the death and displacement of millions of peoples — occupy high office while a tennis star is disciplined because her medical prescription, legal for a decade, suddenly runs afoul of a new prohibited drug regulation. What kind of a world does the West run?

We all know the answer. Western governments, a collection of criminals, run the world for the “One Percent.”

To tell the truth these days is extremely costly. That is why there are so few of us willing to tell you the truth. 

 

Also reprinted at OpEdNews

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President Trump? Ain’t Going to Happen

how-much-donald-trump-makes-in-speaking-fees-compared-to-everyone-else

 

By Arlen Grossman

It’s amazing the amount of worrying going on about the prospect of Donald Trump winning the presidency. Granted, it would be a disaster if he did win, unless you want a president who is a liar, a cheater, a narcissist, unqualified, stupid, and racist, with fascistic tendencies.

But Donald Trump will never be elected President of the United States.

Here’s why:

(1) If Trump won the Republican nomination, the party establishment and the conservative ideologues would be horrified. He is far too unpredictable and unreliable to fit their mold. There would undoubtably be a third-party  run with a candidate who would appeal to the conservative base. That would mean a three-way race between a Republican (Trump), a staunch conservative (Paul Ryan? Mitt Romney?), and the Democratic nominee. That would split the Republican/conservative vote, making it easy for the Democratic nominee to win a plurality, if not a majority, of the votes.

(2) If the Republican Party were to block Donald Trump from becoming their nominee, instead nominating a more reliable right-wing candidate, you can bet Donald Trump–with an ego bigger than Texas–would not sit out the presidential race. In this scenario, Trump would certainly run as a third-party independent, and as in #1 above, split the Republican/conservative vote and present the presidency on a platter to the Democratic nominee.

Nothing  has been as unpredictable as politics in this election cycle, and strange happenings will probably continue to occur until November 8. Still,  It’s hard to imagine one of these two scenarios above not occurring, and in neither one does Donald Trump become President. Take a deep breath, America, we will not see a President Trump, but more likely another President Clinton or a President Sanders.

Also Published at OpEd News  March 5

 

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What He Said

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The TPP: The Latest Free-Trade Ripoff

My February 19 letter in the Monterey Herald:

Every few years. like clockwork, we are presented with a new free trade agreement that promises to do all kinds of wonderful things. This time it’s the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Like NAFTA and others before it, these deals are profitable for big corporations and global investors, but a disaster for the American worker, as jobs are outsourced to low-wage countries. The TPP, negotiated in secret, also threatens internet freedoms and civil liberties, collective bargaining rights, public and environmental health, food safety, financial stability–and American democracy. In order to pass, it must get through Congress. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and even Hillary Clinton oppose this boondoggle. Sadly, our own representative, Sam Farr supports the TPP (as he did NAFTA). His constituents should pressure him to change his position.

–Arlen Grossman

WikiLeaks-TPP-Investment-Cartoonwikileaks.org
Posted in Economics, economy, government, politics, trade, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Kristof: Why Trump and Sanders Resonate

America the Unfair?

By Nicholas Kristof/ New York Times/ January 21, 2016

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders don’t agree on much. Nor do the Black Lives Matter movement, the Occupy Wall Street protests and the armed ranchers who seized public lands in Oregon. But in the insurgent presidential campaigns and in social activism across the spectrum, a common thread is people angry at the way this country is no longer working for many ordinary citizens.

And they’re right: The system is often fundamentally unfair, and ordinary voices are often unheard.

It’s easy (and appropriate!) to roll one’s eyes at Trump, for a demagogic tycoon is not the natural leader of a revolution of the disenfranchised. But the populist frustration is understandable. One of the most remarkable political science studies in recent years upended everything rosy we learned in civics classes.

Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University found that in policymaking, views of ordinary citizens essentially don’t matter. They examined 1,779 policy issues and found that attitudes of wealthy people and of business groups mattered a great deal to the final outcome — but that preferences of average citizens were almost irrelevant.

“In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule,” they concluded. “Majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.”

One reason is that our political system is increasingly driven by money: Tycoons can’t quite buy politicians, but they can lease them. Elected officials are hamsters on a wheel, always desperately raising money for the next election. And the donors who matter most are a small group; just 158 families and the companies they control donated almost half the money for the early stages of the presidential campaign.

That in turn is why the tax code is full of loopholes that benefit the wealthy. This is why you get accelerated depreciation for buying a private plane. It’s why the wealthiest 400 U.S. taxpayers (all with income of more than $100 million) ended up paying an average federal tax rate of less than 23 percent for 2013, and less than 17 percent the year before.

Conversely, it’s why the mostly black children in Flint, Michigan, have been poisoned by lead coming out of the tap: As Hillary Clinton noted Sunday in the Democratic debate, this wouldn’t have happened in an affluent white suburb. Lead poisoning permanently impairs brain development, but it’s not confined to Flint. Some 535,000 children across the country suffer lead poisoning, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Those kids never have a chance — not just because of the lead, but also because they don’t matter to the U.S. political system. U.S. politicians are too busy chasing campaign donors to help them.

There are solutions — more about that in a moment — but a starting point is to recognize that this public mood of impotence and unfairness is rooted in something real. Median wages have stalled or dropped. Mortality rates for young white adults are rising, partly because so many self-medicate with painkillers or heroin. Blacks have been protected from this phenomenon by another unfairness: Studies indicate that doctors discriminate against black patients and are less likely to prescribe them painkillers.

America’s political and economic inequalities feed each other. The richest 1 percent in the U.S. now own substantially more wealth than the bottom 90 percent.

Solutions are complex, imperfect and uncertain, but the biggest problem is not a lack of tools but a lack of will. A basic step to equalize opportunity would be to invest in education for disadvantaged children as the civil rights issue of the 21st century.

“I think any candidate seriously aiming to reduce inequality would have a mild increase in tax on the rich to fund higher school spending,” says Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford expert on inequality. I would add that investments in education should begin early, with high-quality prekindergarten for at-risk children.

We also need political solutions to repair our democracy so that ordinary citizens count along with the affluent. “There is no magic bullet that will set things right, but meaningful campaign finance reform must be at the center of a reform agenda,” Gilens says. “States and cities are leading the way. Arizona, Maine and Connecticut have had statewide, publicly funded ‘clean election’ systems for some time with varying degrees of success.”

One step toward transparency: President Barack Obama could require federal contractors to disclose political contributions.

Right now, the bitterness at America’s grass-roots is often channeled in ways that are divisive and destructive: at immigrants, say, or at Muslims. The challenge will be to leverage the populist frustration into constructive post-election policy. But it has been done before.

“Reforms were adopted in the first Gilded Age, an era similarly plagued by government dysfunction, political corruption and enormous economic inequality,” Gilens notes. “Perhaps they will be again.” For the sake of our country, let’s work for an encore.

 

 

 
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SANDERS AND KING AGREE: DEMOCRATIC SOCIALISM FOR AMERICA

BPR Quote of the Day:

“There must be better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward  a democratic socialism. Call it what you may, call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all of God’s children.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. 

May 1965 speech to the Negro American Labor Council

Unknownbiography.com
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Vote Bernie!

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