Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Zaid Jilani

Weapons Makers hold Lavish fests for Pentagon Official

Here’s what passes for funny in a room packed full of weapons-industry executives and lobbyists: When Vice Adm. Joseph Rixey — the man in charge of the Pentagon agency that administers foreign arms sales — said “I know you don’t go after human rights violators for potential customers.

and posted this Sep. 19 2016

The line produced chuckles in the room.

Rixey was the guest of honor at a reception Wednesday hosted by the Senate Aerospace Caucus, a group of more than a dozen senators who “work to ensure a strong, secure, and competitive American aerospace sector,” according to their mission statement online. The event in a sumptuous Senate reception room was cohosted by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the lobbying group for weapons contractors like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon.

Rixey is the director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the Pentagon agency charged with overseeing the Pentagon’s relations with the militaries of U.S. allies.

As such, DSCA plays a key role in many foreign military sales to other countries, often acting as an intermediary and looking for a producer in the United States.

In other words, when foreign countries want to buy U.S. weapons, the DSCA finds them — either in U.S. stockpiles, but more often by signing lucrative contracts with defense contractors.

According to Rixey, over the past year, the DSCA has approved upwards of $47 billion in such contracts, for weapons transfers to countries like Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia.

theintercept.com/2016/09/19/wea…

The AIA chair, Lockheed Martin CEO Marilyn Hewson, showered Rixey with praise. “As director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Adm. Rixey performs a crucial role in this effort. Thank you admiral for all that you do, to help, and thank you for being here tonight, but for all that you do in helping us to sell our products and to partner with countries around the world,” she said.

AIA President David Melcher also had warm words. “Joe Rixey’s done tabletops with industry and with his own team, he’s done the right things to try and move this thing along, and I couldn’t be more pleased to introduce somebody who really is trying to make a difference and make government work,” he said.

In his own remarks, Rixey lauded the relationship between the DSCA and industry. “We at DSCA are thankful that we have the support of our counterparts within the United States government and with defense industries as we look to find areas we can continue to collaborate, improve efficiencies, and overall effectiveness,” he said.

Rixey was joined by caucus co-chairs Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., who praised the industry for its role in overseas weapons sales on both foreign policy and economic grounds. As they spoke alongside representatives from the weapons industry, guests were treated to an open bar, and an assortment of food that included artisan cheeses, chocolate covered strawberries, and macarons.

The aerospace industry helps keep the world safe and stable by strengthening our relationships with our allies and building our partners’ capabilities,” Murray told the arrayed lobbyists. “I want to thank all of you again for being here tonight and your interest in what I consider to be one of — if not the most — important industries in my home state of Washington, and America.” Boeing is the largest private employer in Washington state.

Moran asked AIA for its help in passing appropriations bills.

“If you can help us advocate both here in the Senate and with our colleagues in the House, beg us, insist, hold the proverbial gun to our head to make certain that we do appropriations bills when we return in December,” he said.

Officials from the group thanked the senators for their support. Murray has long been an advocate for robust spending on aerospace industry priorities, as has Moran.

“On behalf of the entire industry we thank you very much for your support,” Hewson told Moran and Murray.

The 2007 Honest Leadership and Open Government Act was meant to stop lobbyists from treating lawmakers and government officials to fancy dinners, or lavish parties.

But the law had many loopholes — including a notorious “toothpick rule” allowing them to serve as much finger food as guests can eat.

Top photo: The CEO of Lockheed Martin and others mingle at a Capitol Hill event with the DSCA chief on Sept. 14.

Wolf Blitzer Is Worried Defense Contractors Will Lose Jobs if U.S. Stops Arming Saudi Arabia

Sen. Rand Paul’s expression of opposition to a $1.1 billion U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia — which has been brutally bombing civilian targets in Yemen using U.S.-made weapons for more than a year now — alarmed CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Thursday afternoon.

Blitzer’s concern: That stopping the sale could result in fewer jobs for arms manufacturers.

“So for you this is a moral issue,” he told Paul during the Kentucky Republican’s appearance on CNN. “Because you know, there’s a lot of jobs at stake. Certainly if a lot of these defense contractors stop selling war planes, other sophisticated equipment to Saudi Arabia, there’s going to be a significant loss of jobs, of revenue here in the United States. That’s secondary from your standpoint?”

Paul stayed on message. “Not only is it a moral question, its a constitutional question,” Paul said. “Our founding fathers very directly and specifically did not give the president the power to go to war. They gave it to Congress. So Congress needs to step up and this is what I’m doing.”

Watch the exchange:

Saudi Arabia began bombing Yemen in March 2015, and has since been responsible for the majority of the 10,000 deaths in the war so far.

The U.S.-backed bombing coalition has been accused of intentionally targeting civilians, hospitals, factories, markets, schools, and homes. The situation is so bad that the Red Cross has started donating morgue units to Yemeni hospitals.

The war’s incredible humanitarian toll has generated an increasing outcry in the United States.

Earlier this month, more than 60 members of Congress signed a letter asking the administration to delay the most recent arms shipment. 

Ordinarily, under the Arms Export Control Act, Congress has 30 days to block arms sales proposed by the administration — but by announcing the arms sale in August, most of those 30 days fell during Congress’s August recess.

That 30-day window expired Thursday night and the White House has not granted the request for extra time.

The Obama administration has sold more weapons to the Saudis than any other administration, pledging more than $115 billion worth of small arms, tanks, helicopters, missiles, and aircraft.

So yes, it’s a legitimate moral issue. What it’s not is a legitimate economic issue.

If you’re worried about jobs, military spending is not where you look.

It’s an inefficient way to create jobs, because it has a lower multiplier effect — meaning how much it ripples in the wider economy.

One study from 2011 found that $1 billion put into military spending would create approximately 11,200 jobs, but that same amount of money put into education creates 26,700 jobs.

Leaks Show Senate Aide Threatened Colombia Over Cheap Cancer Drug

Leaked diplomatic letters sent from Colombia’s Embassy in Washington describe how a staffer with the Senate Finance Committee, which is led by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, warned of repercussions if Colombia moves forward on approving the cheaper, generic form of a cancer drug.

Zaid Jilani posted. May 14 2016,

The drug is called imatinib.

Its manufacturer, Novartis, markets the drug in Colombia as Glivec.

The World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines last year suggested it as treatment not only for chronic myeloid leukemia, but also gastrointestinal tumors.

Currently, the cost of an annual supply is over $15,000, or about two times the average Colombian’s income.

On April 26, Colombian Minister of Health Alejandro Gaviria announced plans to take the first step in a multi-step process that could eventually result in allowing generic production of the drug.

A generic version of the drug that recently began production in India is expected to cost 30 percent less than the brand-name version.

Andrés Flórez, deputy chief of mission at the Colombian Embassy in Washington, D.C., wrote letters on April 27 and April 28 to Maria Angela Holguin of Colombia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, detailing concerns he had about possible congressional retaliation for such a move.

The letters were obtained by the nonprofit group Knowledge Ecology International, which works on drug patent issues. They were also leaked to Colombian media outlets El Espectador and NoticiasUno.

In the second letter, after a meeting with Senate Finance Committee International Trade Counsel Everett Eissenstat, Flórez wrote that Eissenstat said that authorizing the generic version would “violate the intellectual property rights” of Novartis.

Eissenstat also said that if “the Ministry of Health did not correct this situation, the pharmaceutical industry in the United States and related interest groups could become very vocal and interfere with other interests that Colombia could have in the United States,” according to the letter. (How about disclosing the funding of Novartis to this Senator Hatch?)

In particular, Flórez expressed a worry that “this case could jeopardize the approval of the financing of the new initiative ‘Peace Colombia.’” (Since when the USA has been interested in any genuine peace?)

The Obama administration has pledged $450 million for Peace Colombia, which seeks to bring together rebels and the government to end decades of fighting that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths and a shattered civil society. These funds will be used for, among other things, removing land mines.

The country has the second-highest number of land-mine fatalities in the world, behind only Afghanistan. (Russia is far more expert in removing mines: It did an excellent job in Palmira, Syria)

Hatch has close ties to the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical and health product manufacturers form the second-largest pool of donors to his campaigns. The industry’s main trade association, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, spent $750,000 funding an outside nonprofit that backed Hatch’s re-election in 2012.

The lobbying group also employed Scott Hatch, one of the senator’s sons, as a lobbyist, while donating to his family charity, the Utah Families Foundation.

For his part, Eissenstat has won the “Lighthouse Award” at the annual dinner of the Washington International Trade Association.

WITA’s board of directors is composed largely of government relations staff from major corporations who help shape trade and intellectual property policy in their favor: WalMart, Microsoft, and Gap all have representatives.

In bestowing the award on Eissenstat, WITA board member Bill Lane said the award is given to a “shining light of the trade community.”

The same year, his boss Hatch received the dinner’s Congressional Leadership Award.

Andrea Carolina Reyes, a pharmacist who works with the Colombia-based medical nonprofit Misión Salud, called the pressure to suppress the cheaper drug harmful.

“I would … ask [Hatch] to consider that we’re talking about people’s lives, and this needs to mean something to him,” she told The Intercept. “In Colombia, we really have health constraints. There’s people, they have no access to anything. They live hours from health institutions, and they don’t have even the cheapest medicines.”

Neither Eissenstat nor Hatch responded to multiple requests for comment. “We do not comment on internal correspondence,” Olga Acosta, press officer at the Colombian Embassy, told The Intercept.

Top photo: A January 2007 Indian protest against Novartis, the Swiss company that also manufactures imatinib. Novartis sued the Indian government for authorizing generic versions of HIV/AIDS drugs.

Microcosm of US democracy? The Rules for presidential Debates?

Secret collusion between the two parties, funded by corporations, run by lobbyists: all the ingredients are there…

I watched a couple of these presidential Debates, and I couldn’t get interested: Not a single nerve in me got excited. There must be good reasons why  I felt lethargic, even with all my good intention to feeling engaged.

From the hundreds of hot issues to be discussed and vented out to the millions of citizens, how to balance the Federal Budget and grow the economy was the main selected topics to be confronted with…

As if balancing State’s budget is the same as balancing Federal budget!

These balancing gimmicks in Federal budgets have been disposed of six decades ago: Once the federal government want more spending leeway, all it has to do is launch a preemptive war so that Congress and Senate sign to increase the level of budget deficit so that the government can abuse of additional disbursement of tax payers money, and basically, the money printing machines in the Federal Reserve start churning out worthless dollars 24 hours a day.

The only worthy statements in these debates are acknowledgment that the the US sovereign debt has reached $16,000 billion (a number no president in exercise would have admitted), and that no matter who is elected for the next term, the deficit will shoot to $20 trillion. An amount that represents a third of the total federal worth in State property, which will have to be sold in order to pay back the national debt…

Glenn Greenwald published in The Guardian on October 16, 2012 under “The lame rules for presidential debates: a perfect microcosm of US democracy

President Barack Obama walks past Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the first presidential debate. Photograph: AP

President Barack Obama walks past Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during the first presidential debate. Photograph: AP

“The way the two major parties control the presidential debates is a perfect microcosm of how political debates are restricted in general. Though typically shrouded in secrecy, several facts about this process have recently come to light and they are quite instructive.

I was on Democracy Now this morning along with George Farah discussing the ways these debates, designed to cast the appearance of fostering vibrant exchanges, are actually intended to constrict the range of debated views as much as possible.

My segment (and the transcript to it) can be seen here, but it was the commentary of Farah – who is a genuine expert in the history of presidential debates – that I found revealing.

He described how the two political parties in the 1990s joined forces to wrest control over the presidential debates, away from the independent League of Women Voters, which had long resisted the parties’ efforts to shield the presidential candidates from genuine surprise or challenge.

Now run by the party-controlled Commission on Presidential Debates, these rituals are designed to do little more than ” eliminate spontaneity” and “exclude all viable third-party voices”.

Citing a just-leaked 21-page “memorandum of understanding” secretly negotiated by the two campaigns to govern the rules of the debates, Farah recounted:

“We have a private corporation that was created by the Republican and Democratic parties called the Commission on Presidential Debates. It seized control of the presidential debates precisely because the League was independent, precisely because this women’s organization had the guts to stand up to the candidates that the major-party candidates had nominated. And instead of making public these contracts and resisting the major-party candidates’ manipulations, the commission allows the candidates to negotiate these 21-page contracts that dictate all the fundamental terms of the debates.”

Gawker’s John Cook has an excellent breakdown of the 21-page memo.

In his piece, entitled “Leaked Debate Agreement Shows Both Obama and Romney are Sniveling Cowards”, Cook details how the rules imposed on these debates demonstrate that, above all else, “both campaigns are terrified at anything even remotely spontaneous happening.”

Under this elaborate regime, the candidates “aren’t permitted to ask each other questions, propose pledges to each other, or walk outside a ‘pre-designated area.'”

Worse, “the audience members posing questions aren’t allowed to ask follow-ups (their mics will be cut off as soon as they get their questions out). Nor will moderator Candy Crowley.”

The rules even “forbid television coverage from showing reaction shots of the candidates”.

All of this means, as Farah put it:

“The town hall debate we’re going to see tonight is the most constrained and regulated town hall debate in presidential debate history. The first town hall debate was introduced in 1992, and no one knew what anyone was going to ask, none of the audience members were going to ask. The moderator could ask any follow-up questions. It was exciting, and it was real.

“Well, President George H.W. Bush stumbled in response to an oddly worded question about the federal deficit, and the candidates – the campaigns have panicked and have attempted to avoid that kind of situation from happening again. In 1996, they abolished follow-up questions from the audience.

“In 2004, they began requiring that every single question asked by the audience be submitted in advance on an index card to the moderator, who can then throw out the ones he or she does not like. And that’s why the audience has essentially been reduced, in some ways, to props, because the moderator is still ultimately asking the questions.

“And this election cycle is the first time that the moderator herself is prohibited from asking follow-up questions, questions seeking clarification. She’s essentially reduced to keeping time and being a lady with a microphone.”

Making matters worse still, the Commission is run by lobbyists and funded by large corporations.

As Zaid Jilani writes today, the two Commission co-chairmen are former GOP Chairman Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr. and former Clinton spokesman Michael D. McCurry. Fahrenkopf is one of the nation’s leading lobbyists for the gaming industry, while McCurry advises a long list of corporate clients including the telecom industry.

The debates are paid for by large corporate sponsors, including Anheuser-Busch Companies.

As Jilani writes, “in the past, the tobacco industry, AT&T, and others have all been sponsors.” And as Farah describes, with all that sponsorship comes the standard benefits:

“FARAH: ‘First, the just nice advertising, of course. They get to – you know, Philip Morris sponsored one of the presidential debates, paid $250,000 and got to hang its banner in the post-debate spin room that was seen throughout the country. But more importantly, they get access, and they get to show support for both major parties.’

“AMY GOODMAN: ‘The major parties on their podiums have Bud Light on the podium?’

“FARAH: ‘Not yet. We’re getting there. We’re getting there, Amy. But they get to show support for both major parties. How often can corporations find a way to make a single donation that strengthens both the Republican and Democratic parties and get a tax deduction for that kind of donation? So it’s a rare contribution. And it also gives them access. They get to go to the actual debate themselves and rub shoulders at private receptions with the campaigns and their staff.'”

Meanwhile, the moderators were selected to ensure that nothing unexpected is asked and that only the most staid and establishment views are heard.

As journalism professor Jay Rosen put it when the names of the moderators were unveiled, using terms to describe those views that are acceptable in Washington media circles and those which are “fringe“:

“In order to be considered as a candidate for moderator you have to be soaked in the sphere of consensus, likely to stay within the predictable inner rings of the sphere of legitimate controversy, and unlikely in the extreme to select any questions from the sphere of deviance.”

Within this one process of structuring the presidential debates, we have every active ingredient that typically defines, and degrades, US democracy.

The two parties collude in secret: They have the same interests and goals. Everything is done to ensure that the political process is completely scripted and devoid of any spontaneity or reality.

All views that reside outside the narrow confines of the two parties are rigidly excluded. Anyone who might challenge or subvert the two-party duopoly is rendered invisible.

Lobbyists who enrich themselves by peddling their influence run everything behind the scenes. Corporations pay for the process, which they exploit and is then run to bolster rather than threaten their interests.

The media’s role is to keep the discourse as restrictive and nonthreatening as possible while peddling the delusion that it’s all vibrant and free and independent and unrestrained.

And it all ends up distorting political realities far more than illuminating them while wildly exaggerating the choices available to citizens and concealing the similarities between the two parties.

To understand the US political process, one can just look to how these sham debates are organized and how they function. This is the same process that repeats itself endlessly in virtually every other political realm.


adonis49

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