• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

zaterdag 22 november 2014

Media Corruptie 35



A study by George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs examines the 600 hours of war coverage by the nation’s broadcast news organizations between the coverage of the first strikes (see March 19, 2003) and the fall of Baghdad (see April 9, 2003). The study shows that of the 1,710 stories broadcast, only 13.5 percent show any images of dead or wounded civilians or soldiers, either Iraqi or American. The study says that television news coverage 'did not differ discernibly' from the heavily sanitized, Pentagon-controlled coverage of the 1991 Gulf War (see August 11, 1990 and January 3, 1991). 'A war with hundreds of coalition and tens of thousands of Iraqi casualties' is transformed on US television screens 'into something closer to a defense contractor’s training video: a lot of action, but no consequences, as if shells simply disappeared into the air and an invisible enemy magically ceased to exist.' A similar study by Columbia University’s Project for Excellence in Journalism finds that 'none of the embedded stories (see February 2003 and March-April 2003) studied showed footage of people, either US soldiers or Iraqis, being struck, injured, or killed by weapons fired.' In fact, only 20 percent of the stories by embedded journalists show anyone else besides the journalist. 

Het is niet zo belangrijk dat in de verschillende organen van de media de verschillende politieke belangen tot uiting komen. Achter het uiterlijke verschil heerst een en dezelfde geest. Je hoeft de Amerikaanse en Europese opiniebladen maar door te kijken, van rechts zowel als links, van Time tot Der Spiegel: in al die bladen tref je dezelfde kijk op het leven aan, die zich in dezelfde volgorde waarin hun inhoudsopgave is opgebouwd weerspiegelt, in dezelfde rubrieken, dezelfde journalistieke aanpak, dezelfde woordkeus en stijl, in dezelfde artistieke voorkeuren en in dezelfde hiërarchie van wat ze belangrijk en onbeduidend achten. De gemeenschappelijke geestesgesteldheid van de massamedia, die schuilgaat achter hun politieke verscheidenheid is de geest van de tijd.
Milan Kundera. 

Why has U.S. security policy scarcely changed from the Bush to the Obama administrations? The theory of 'double government' posed by the 19th century English scholar Walter Bagehot suggests a disquieting answer that is extensively discussed in 

National Security and Double Government, het najaar 2014 verschenen boek van de Amerikaanse geleerde Michael J. Glennon, hoogleraar Internationaal Recht aan de particuliere Tufts University. Glennon was eerder de 'Legal Counsel' van de Senaatscommissie voor Buitenlandse Betrekkingen. Zijn artikelen verschijnen in ondermeer de New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, en de Frankfurt Allgemeine Zeitung. Vooral ook omdat Glennon de werkelijkheid van binnenuit beschrijft is het interessant te weten dat hij 

challenges the myth that U.S. security policy is still forged by America’s visible 'Madisonian institutions' — the President, Congress and the courts. Their roles, he argues, have become largely illusory. Presidential control is now nominal, congressional oversight is dysfunctional and judicial review is negligible.

Zijn studie 

details the dramatic shift in power that has occurred from the Madisonian institutions to a concealed 'Trumanite network' — the several hundred managers of the military, intelligence, diplomatic and law enforcement agencies who are responsible for protecting the nation and who have come to operate largely immune from constitutional and electoral restraints. Reform efforts face daunting obstacles.

Remedies within this new system of 'double government' require the hollowed-out Madisonian institutions to exercise the very power that they lack. Meanwhile, reform initiatives from without confront the same pervasive political ignorance within the polity that has given rise to this duality.

Glennon's boek 

sounds a powerful warning about the need to resolve this dilemma — and the mortal threat posed to accountability, democracy and personal freedom if double government persists.

In de introductie van zijn studie maakt professor Glennon zonder omwegen duidelijk wat de hedendaagse realiteit is in Washington:

Few who follow world events can doubt that the Obama administration's approach to multiple national security issues has been essentially the same as that of the Bush administration. The Obama administration, like its predecessor, has sent terrorism suspects oversees for detention and interrogation; claimed the power to hold, without trial, American citizens who are accused of terrorism in military confinement; insisted that it is for the President to decide whether an accused terrorist will be tried by a civilian court or a military tribunal; kept the military prison at Guantánamo Bay open, argued that detainees cannot challenge the conditions of their confinement, and restricted detainees' access to legal counsel; resisted efforts to extend the right of habeas corpus (Habeas corpus is een rechtsbeginsel dat stelt dat de verdachte van een misdrijf binnen een bepaalde termijn van zijn aanklacht in kennis moet worden gesteld, dat deze in levenden lijve aan een rechter moet worden voorgeleid en dat gevangenneming slechts mag volgen op gerechtelijk bevel) to other offshore prisons; argued that detainees cannot invoke the Geneva Conventions in habeas proceedings; denied detainees access to the International Committee of the Red Cross for weeks at a time; engaged the United States in a military attack against Libya without congressional approval, in the face of no actual or imminent threat to the nations; and continued, and in some respects expanded, the Bush administration's ballistic missile defense program.


Desondanks verklaarde één van de bekendste opiniemakers uit de polder, de journalist Geert Mak in 2012 via de EO-Radio:

Het is beter voor Nederland en de internationale gemeenschap dat Obama de verkiezingen wint

Op zijn beurt voorspelde NRC-journalist Michel Krielaars dat het 'Westen met zijn ethische normen en waarden' de Russen kan beïnvloeden 'om ooit tegen hun heersers op te staan,' terwijl de nestor van de polderjournalistiek Henk Hofland verkondigt dat 'het Westen [vredestichtend]' is, en NRC'opiniemaker Hubert Smeets  op de radio, televisie en in de krant laat weten dat 'het poetinisme'het grootste gevaar voor de wereldvrede is, ondanks het feit dat Rusland 11 keer minder uitgeeft aan het militair-industrieel complex dan de NAVO. Al deze propaganda is mogelijk omdat hier, in tegenstelling tot grote cultuurlanden, geen publiek debat bestaat dat door de intelligentsia wordt aangezwengeld.  Daarom nogmaals een fragment uit National Security and Double Government:

The Obama administration, beyond ending torture, has changed 'virtually none' of the Bush administration's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) programs and operations, except that in continuing targeted killings, the Obama administration has increased the number of covert dronee strikes in Pakistan to six times the number launched during the Bush administration. The Obama administration has declined to prosecute those who committed torture (after the President himself concluded that waterboarding is torture); approved the targeted killing of American citizens without judicial warrant; rejected efforts by the press and Congress to release legal opinions justifying those killings or describing the breadth of the claimed power; and opposed legislative proposals to expand intelligence oversight notification requirements. His administration has increased the role of covert special operations, continuing each of the covert action programs that President Bush handed down. The Obama administration has continued the Bush administration's cyberwar against Iran (code-named 'Olympic Games') and sought to block lawsuits challenging the legality of other national security measures, often claiming the state secrets privilege. 


De hierboven beschreven werkelijkheid staat lijnrecht tegenover de verkiezingsbeloften van Obama en de verwachtingen die hij daarmee schiep onder een substantieel deel van het publiek en zeker ook onder de opiniemakers van de mainstream media. In 2008 werd zijn door propagandisten geschreven boek met gejuich ontvangen en als volgt aangekondigd:

Change We Can Believe In: Barack Obama's Plan to Renew America's Promise

The election of Barack Obama as President of the United States is a defining moment in American history. After years of failed policies and failed politics from Washington, this is our chance to reclaim the American dream. Barack Obama has proven to be a new kind of leader–one who can bring people together, be honest about the challenges we face, and move this nation forward. Change We Can Believe In outlines his vision for America. 

Al snel bleek het herwinnen van 'de Amerikaanse droom' door 'een nieuw type leider' die 'het volk bijeen kan brengen, eerlijk is over de uitdagingen die ons confronteren, en deze natie vooruit helpt,' slechts verkiezingspropaganda was en Obama's 'vision' niet meer was dan een 'droombeeld.' De Amerikaanse cabaretier George Carlin had eerder al opgemerkt dat 'it's called the American dream because you have to be asleep to believe it.' Carlin wees op 'the big wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions' En de  vooraanstaande, voormalige New York Times-journalist Chris Hedges maakte een soortgelijke opmerking in zijn in 2012 verschenen boek Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt:

The vaunted American dream, the idea that life will get better, that progress is inevitable if we obey the rules and work hard, that material prosperity is assured, has been replaced by a hard and bitter truth. The American dream, we now know, is a lie. We will all be sacrificed. The virus of corporate abuse - the perverted belief that only corporate profit matters - has spread to outsource our jobs, cut the budgets of our schools, close our libraries, and plague our communities with foreclosures and unemployment.

Het maakt daarbij niet uit of Democraten dan wel Republikeinen aan de macht zijn. Het was de immer vlijmscherpe Amerikaanse auteur, wijlen Gore Vidal, die tijdens een interview al in 2006 verklaarde:

I have been saying for the last thousand years that the United States has only one party—the property party. It’s the party of big corporations, the party of money. It has two right wings; one is Democrat and the other is Republican.

In tegenstelling tot wat de polderpers beweert, weten de Amerikaanse intellectuelen al lang dat hun land geen democratie is, waarbij het Congres en de president de wil van de bevolking in politieke daden omzet.  De vraag is daarom:

Why does national security policy remain constant even when one President is replaced by another, who as a candidate repeatedly, forcefully, and eloquently promised fundamental changes in that policy?

aldus professor Glennon.  Hij toont aan dat hoewel er verschillende verklaringen bestaan geen van de exegeses bevredigend is. Zich ondermeer baserend op zijn ervaring als voormalig 'Legal Counsel' van de Senaatscommissie voor Buitenlandse Betrekkingen komt Michael Glennon met 

what seems a better though disquieting explanation. It borrows from the approach suggested in 1867 by Walter Bagehot to explain the evolution of the English Constitution. Bagehot brought The Economist magazine to prominence; his own eminence became such that the middle years of nineteenth-century England were sometimes referred to as the 'Age Of Bagehot.' While not without critics, his theory has been widely acclaimed and has generated significant commentary. Indeed, it is something of a classic on the subject of institutional change, and it foreshadowed modern organizational theory.

Zo kort mogelijk samengevat toont Bagehot aan dat er in het Verenigd Koninkrijk een  aantal instituten bestaan die weliswaar 'Through theatrical show, pomp, and historical; symbolism' een 'emotionele greep op de publieke verbeeldingskracht' uitoefenen 'by evoking the grandeur of ages past,' maar dat die instituten geen echte macht bezitten. 

Yet it is a second, newer set of institutions — Britain's 'efficient' institutions — that do the real work of governing. These are the House of Commons, the Cabinet, and the Prime Minister. 

Met andere woorden: zij vormen de ware macht in Groot-Brittannië, oftewel 'Its essence is strong with the strength of modern simplicity' terwijl 'its exterior is august with the Gothic grandeur of a more imposing age.'   

Achter de façade van de ceremoniële macht gaat de ware macht schuil. Achter het koningschap staat een 

'disguised republic' that obscures the massive shift jun power that has occurred, which if widely understood would create a crisis of public confidence. This crisis had been averted because the efficient institutions have been careful to hide where they begin and where the dignified institutions end. They do this by ensuring that the dignified institutions (koningschap, Hogerhuis svh) continue to partake in at least some real governance and also by ensuring that the efficient institutions partake in at least some inspiring public ceremony and ritual. This promotes continued public deference to the efficient institutions' and continued belief that the dignified institutions retain real power. These dual institutions, one for the show and the other for real, afford Britain expertise and experience in the actual art of governing while at the same time providing a façade that generates public acceptance of the experts' decisions. Bagehot called this Britain's 'double government.' The structural duality, some have suggested, is a modern reification of the 'Noble Lie' that, two millennia before, Plato thought necessary to insulate a state from the fatal excesses of democracy and to ensure deference to the golden class of efficient guardians. 


Eén van de symptomen van de 'democratie,' waarachter het totalitair functionerende systeem van het neoliberale kapitalisme schuilgaat, is dat 'de grens tussen het openbare en het persoonlijke' in toenemende mate wordt afgeschaft, omdat 'de macht, die steeds ondoorzichtiger wordt, eist dat het leven van de staatsburger absoluut doorzichtig is,' zoals Milan Kundera in zijn essaybundel De kunst van de roman (1987) vaststelde. Deze ontwikkeling wordt vergoelijkt door bijvoorbeeld de Volkskrant, die de onthullingen over de illegale, massale afluisteroperaties van de Amerikaanse National Security Agency als volgt becommentarieert'De onrust over de afluisterpraktijken van de Amerikanen groeit nog altijd. Maar hoe verrassend is het nu helemaal dat de VS alles nalopen?' De grove schendingen van de Amerikaanse Grondwet en het internationaal recht worden gepresenteerd als niets anders dan even checken 'of alles is zoals het moet zijn,' terwijl opiniemaker Paul Brill in dezelfde krant meedeelde dat 'Nog steeds geldt: liever een spiedende Amerikaan dan een Chinees of Iraniër.' Het is een treffende illustratie van de opvattingen in de mainstream-media over de dienende taak van de 'vrije pers,' en het feit dat zij het totalitaire karakter accepteert en propageertOnafhankelijke Amerikaanse intellectuelen als professor Glennon staan daarentegen kritisch tegenover de groeiende macht van de staat. Hij schrijft:

Bagehot's enduring insight — that dual institutions of governance, one public and the other concealed, evolve side by side to maximize both legitimacy and efficiency — is worth pondering as one possible explanation of why the Obama and Bush national security policies have3 been essentially the same. There is no reason in principle why the institutions of Britain's juridical offspring, the United States, ought to be immune from the broader bifurcating forces that have driven British institutional evolution.

As it did in the early days of Britain's monarchy, power in the United States lay initially in one set of institutions — the presidency, Congress, and the courts. These are America's 'dignified' institutions. Later, however, a second institution emerged to safeguard the nation's security. This, America's 'efficient' institution (actually, as will be seen, more a network than an institution), consists of the several hundred executive officials who sit atop the military, intelligence, diplomatic, and law enforcement departments and agencies that have as their mission the protection of America's international and internal security. Large segments of the public continue to believe that America's constitutionally established, dignified institutions are the locus of governmental power. By promoting that impression, both sets of institutions maintain public support. But when it comes to defining and protecting national security, the public's impression is mistaken. America's efficient institution makes most of the key decisions concerning national security, removed from public view and from the constitutional restrictions that check America's dignified institutions. The United States has, in short, moved beyond a mere imperial presidency to a bifurcated system — a structure of double government — in which even the President now exercises little substantive control over het oversell direction of U.S. national security policy. Whereas Britain's dual institutions evolved toward a concealed republic, America's have evolved in the opposite direction, toward greater centralization, less accountability, and emergent autocracy.


Waaraan ik voor alle duidelijkheid aan toevoeg dat met de term 'U.S. national security' in de praktijk bedoeld wordt: de economische en daarmee geopolitieke belangen van de neoliberale elite. Dat 'Large segments of the public continue to believe that America's constitutionally established, dignified institutions are the locus of governmental power' betwijfel ik, aangezien al zeker een halve eeuw meer dan 40 procent van de stemgerechtigden niet opkomt tijdens Presidents- en Congresverkiezingen . 'Democratische' politici staan in dienst van de rijken, zo beseft ook een groeiend aantal  Amerikaanse burgers. Enige achtergrond informatie:

THE RICHEST AMERICANS' POLITICAL SPENDING HAS BEEN GROWING FASTER THAN THEIR SPENDING ON ANYTHING ELSE. SO, IF YOU'RE WONDERING WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR DEMOCRACY, JUST FOLLOW THE RICHEST .01 PERCENT…

this explosion of wealth at the top has been accompanied by an erosion of the wealth of the middle class and the poor. In the mid-1980s, the bottom 90 percent of Americans together held 36 percent of the nation’s wealth. Now, they hold less than 23 percent.

Despite larger pensions and homes, the debts of the bottom 90 percent – mortgage, consumer credit, and student loan – have grown even faster.
Some might think the bottom 90 percent should pull in their belts and stop living beyond their means. After all, capitalism is a tough sport. If those at the top are winning big while the bottom 90 percent is losing, too bad. That’s the way the game is played.

But the top .01 percent have also been investing their money in politics. And these investments have been changing the game.
In the 2012 election cycle (the last for which we have good data) donations from the top .01 accounted for over 40 percent of all campaign contributions, according to a study by Professors Adam Bonica, Nolan McCarty, Keith Poole, and Howard Rosenthal.

This is a huge increase from 1980, when the top .01 accounted for ten percent of total campaign contributions.

In 2012, as you may recall, two largest donors were Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, who gave $56.8 million and $46.6 million, respectively.

But the Adelsons were only the tip of an iceberg of contributions from the uber wealthy. Of the other members of the Forbes list of 400 richest Americans, fully 388 made political contributions. They accounted for forty of the 155 contributions of $1 million or more.

Of the 4,493 board members and CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations, more than four out of five contributed (many of the non-contributors were foreign nationals who were prohibited from giving).

All this money has flowed to Democrats as well as Republicans.

In fact, Democrats have increasingly relied on it. In the 2012 election cycle, the top .01 percent’s donations to Democrats were more than four times larger than all labor union donations to Democrats put together.

The richest .01 percent haven’t been donating out of the goodness of their hearts. They’ve donated out of goodness to their wallets.

Their political investments have paid off in the form of lower taxes on themselves and their businesses, subsidies for their corporations, government bailouts, federal prosecutions that end in settlements where companies don’t affirm or deny the facts and where executives don’t go to jail, watered-down regulations, and non-enforcement of antitrust laws.

Since the top .01 began investing big time in politics, corporate profits and the stock market have risen to record levels. That’s enlarged the wealth of the richest .01 percent by an average of 7.8 percent a year since the mid-1980s.

But the bottom 90 percent don’t own many shares of stock. They rely on wages, which have been trending downward. And for some reason, politicians don’t seem particularly intent on reversing this trend.

If you want to know what’s happened to the American economy, follow the money. That will lead you to the richest .01 percent.

And if you want to know what’s happened to our democracy, follow the richest .01 percent. They’ll lead you to the politicians who have been selling our democracy.

Al deze feiten, de uitholling van de democratie door een onverzadigbare elite die met haar militair-industrieel complex de neoliberale ideologie desnoods met geweld wereldwijd afdwingt, wordt door de corrupte westerse mainstream-pers permanent verzwegen en zeker niet in een bredere context geplaatst.  Het is de taak van een opiniemaker als Hubert Smeets om de aandacht te verleggen. Niet de eigen parasitaire elite is de vijand, maar de Russen, of welk volk dan ook dat op een bepaald moment de directieven van Washington en Wall Street weigert op te volgen. En dus beweert Smeets, onweersproken door de 'politiek-literaire elite' in de polder dat 'Het typisch Russisch [is], om altijd alles om te draaien.'  Uit mijn eigen jarenlange contacten met de polder 'elite' weet ik hoe erg de Nederlandse 'intelligentsia' naar binnen gericht is, en vanwege haar provinciale mentaliteit nauwelijks of geen buitenlandse boeken leest van deskundigen die uit ervaring spreken, intellectuelen als Michael J. Glennon. Volgende keer meer. 


12 Facts About Money And Congress That Are So Outrageous That It Is Hard To Believe That They Are Actually True

Do you want to get rich?  Just get elected to Congress.  The U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives are absolutely packed with wealthy people that are very rapidly becoming even wealthier.  The collective net worth of the members of Congress is now measured in the billions of dollars.  The people that we have elected to the House and Senate are absolutely swimming in money.  Unfortunately, it is not easy to get elected to Congress.  In this day and age you generally have to be heavily connected to those that are very wealthy to get into Congress because it takes gigantic amounts of cash to win campaigns.  But if you can get in to the club, you pretty much have it made.  The numbers that you are about to read are very difficult to believe and they should deeply sadden you.  They show that Congress has become all about money.  Congressional races are mostly financed by wealthy people, most of the people that we elect to Congress are very wealthy, and they rapidly get wealthier after they are elected.  All of this money has turned our republic into something far different than our founding fathers intended.

The following are 12 statistics about money and Congress that are so outrageous that it is hard to believe that they are actually true….
#1 The collective net worth of all of the members of Congress increased by 25 percent between 2008 and 2010.
#2 The collective net worth of all of the members of Congress is now slightly over 2 billion dollars.  That is “billion” with a “b”.
#3 This happened during a time when the net worth of most American households was declining rapidly.  According to the Federal Reserve, the collective net worth of all American households decreased by 23 percent between 2007 and 2009.
#4 The average net worth for a member of Congress is now approximately 3.8 million dollars.
#5 The net worth of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi increased by 62 percent from 2009 to 2010.  In 2009 it was reported that she had a net worth of 21.7 million dollars, and in 2010 it was reported that she had a net worth of 35.2 million dollars.
#6 The top Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, saw his wealth grow by 29 percent from 2009 to 2010.  He is now worth approximately 9.8 million dollars.
#7 More than 50 percent of the members of the U.S. Congress are millionaires.
#8 In 2008, the average cost of winning a seat in the House of Representatives was $1.1 million and the average cost of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate was $6.5 million.  Spending on political campaigns has gotten way out of control.
#9 Insider trading is perfectly legal for members of the U.S. Congress – and they refuse to pass a law that would change that.
#10 The percentage of millionaires in Congress is more than 50 times higher than the percentage of millionaires in the general population.
#11 U.S. Representative Darrell Issa is worth approximately 220 million dollars.  His wealth grew by approximately 37 percent from 2009 to 2010.
#12 The wealthiest member of Congress, U.S. Representative Michael McCaul, is worth approximately 294 million dollars.
So how are members of Congress becoming so wealthy?
Well, there are lots of ways they are raking in the cash, but one especially alarming thing that goes on is that members of Congress often make investments in companies that will go up significantly if legislation that is being considered by Congress “goes the right way”.
This is called a “conflict of interest”, but it happens constantly in Congress and nobody seems to get into any trouble for it.
The following is video of Steve Kroft of 60 Minutes ambushing Nancy Pelosi about one particular conflict of interest involving credit card legislation.  As you can see, she does not want to talk about it….
As noted above, insider trading is perfectly legal for members of Congress.
A law that would ban insider trading by members of Congress has been stalled for years on Capitol Hill.
So has this been a significant benefit to members of Congress?
Well, there has been at least one study that appears to indicate that members of Congress have been much more successful in the stock market than members of the general public have….
A 2004 study of the results of stock trading by United States Senators during the 1990s found that that senators on average beat the market by 12% a year. In sharp contrast, U.S. households on average underperformed the market by 1.4% a year and even corporate insiders on average beat the market by only about 6% a year during that period. A reasonable inference is that some Senators had access to – and were using – material nonpublic information about the companies in whose stock they trade.
Of course all of this could just be a coincidence, right?
Meanwhile, members of Congress keep telling the rest of us that we are just going to have to cut back because times are tough.
For example, during an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News, Nancy Pelosi actually claimed that we should try to encourage poor people to have less children because it costs the government so much money to take care of them….
PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children’s health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those – one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So no apologies for that?
PELOSI: No apologies. No. we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.
This elitist attitude extends all the way into the White House as well.  Earlier this year, Barack Obama made the following statement….
“If you’re a family trying to cut back, you might skip going out to dinner, or you might put off a vacation.” 
Meanwhile, the Obamas are living the high life at taxpayer expense.  In a previous article I mentioned one outrageously expensive vacationtaken by the Obamas that was paid for by our taxes….
“Back in August, Michelle Obama took her daughter Sasha and 40 of her friends for a vacation in Spain.
So what was the bill to the taxpayers for that little jaunt across the pond?
It is estimated that vacation alone cost U.S. taxpayers $375,000.”
There is a massive disconnect between what our politicians say and what our politicians do.
The high life is good enough for them, but the rest of us have got to “cut back” and suffer becomes times are hard.
But when it comes to money and Congress, the most corrupting influence of all is probably all of the campaign money that gets thrown around.
In America today, it takes gigantic mountains of money to run a successful campaign.
Sadly, the candidate that raises the most money almost always wins.  In federal elections the candidate that raises the most money wins about 90 percent of the time.
More than 5 billion dollars were spent on political campaigns back in 2008.
That represents a huge number of favors that need to be paid back.
In 2012, it is being projected that 8 billion dollars could be spent on political campaigns.
When big corporations and wealthy individuals shovel huge piles of money into political campaigns, it is generally because they expect something in return.
Most of those that get sent to Congress realize that they never would have won if wealthy donors had not showered cash on them.  Most of them understand that they should not bite the hands that feed them if they want the cash to keep rolling in.
Politics in America has become a game that is played by the elite for the benefit of the elite.
Average Americans have the perception that they are involved in the process and that their opinions really matter, but mostly it is just an illusion.
It is so sad.
Meanwhile, members of Congress rapidly get wealthier and average American families continue to suffer.  In fact, the standard of living in the United States has fallen farther over the past three years than at any other time that has ever been recorded in U.S. history.
But for members of Congress the good times just keep on rolling.
Just as it has been for most of human history, the rich rule over the poor.
Does anyone out there believe that we have any hope of changing this?




Obama's Wars

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WASHINGTON —  President Obama decided in recent weeks to authorize a more expansive mission for the military in Afghanistan in 2015 than originally planned, a move that ensures American troops will have a direct role in fighting in the war-ravaged country for at least another year.
Mr. Obama’s order allows American forces to carry out missions against the Taliban and other militant groups threatening American troops or the Afghan government, a broader mission than the president described to the public earlier this year, according to several administration, military and congressional officials with knowledge of the decision. The new authorization also allows American jets, bombers and drones to support Afghan troops on combat missions.
In an announcement in the White House Rose Garden in May, Mr. Obama said that the American military would have no combat role in Afghanistan next year, and that the missions for the 9,800 troops remaining in the country would be limited to training Afghan forces and to hunting the “remnants of Al Qaeda.”
The decision to change that mission was the result of a lengthy and heated debate that laid bare the tension inside the Obama administration between two often-competing imperatives: the promise Mr. Obama made to end the war in Afghanistan, versus the demands of the Pentagon that American troops be able to successfully fulfill their remaining missions in the country.
The internal discussion took place against the backdrop of this year’s collapse of Iraqi security forces in the face of the advance of the Islamic State as well as the mistrust between the Pentagon and the White House that still lingers since Mr. Obama’s 2009 decision to “surge” 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan. Some of the president’s civilian advisers say that decision was made only because of excessive Pentagon pressure, and some military officials say it was half-baked and made with an eye to domestic politics.
Mr. Obama’s decision, made during a White House meeting in recent weeks with his senior national security advisers, came over the objection of some of his top civilian aides, who argued that American lives should not be put at risk next year in any operations against the Taliban — and that they should have only a narrow counterterrorism mission against Al Qaeda.
But the military pushed back, and generals both at the Pentagon and in Afghanistan urged Mr. Obama to define the mission more broadly to allow American troops to attack the Taliban, the Haqqani network and other militants if intelligence revealed that the extremists were threatening American forces in the country.
The president’s order under certain circumstances would also authorize American airstrikes to support Afghan military operations in the country and ground troops to occasionally accompany Afghan troops on operations against the Taliban.
“There was a school of thought that wanted the mission to be very limited, focused solely on Al Qaeda,” one American official said.
But, the official said, “the military pretty much got what it wanted.”
On Friday evening, a senior administration official insisted that American forces would not carry out regular patrols or conduct offensive missions against the Taliban next year. 
“We will no longer target belligerents solely because they are members of the Taliban,” the official said. “To the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to Al Qaeda, however, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe.” 
In effect, Mr. Obama’s decision largely extends much of the current American military role for another year. Mr. Obama and his aides were forced to make a decision because the 13-year old mission, Operation Enduring Freedom, is set to end on Dec. 31.
The matter of the military’s role in Afghanistan in 2015 has “been a really, really contentious issue for a long time, even more contentious than troop numbers,” said Vikram Singh, who worked on Afghanistan policy both at the State Department and the Pentagon during the Obama administration and is now at the Center for American Progress in Washington.
American officials said that while the debate over the nature of the American military’s role beginning in 2015 has lasted for years, two issues in particular have shifted the debate in recent months.
The first is the advance of Islamic State forces across northern Iraq and the collapse of the Iraqi Army, which has led to criticism of Mr. Obama for a military pullout of Iraq that left Iraqi troops ill-prepared to protect their soil.
This has intensified criticism of Mr. Obama’s Afghanistan strategy, which Republican and even some Democratic lawmakers have said adheres to an overly compressed timeline that would hamper efforts to train and advise Afghan security forces — potentially leaving them vulnerable to attack from Taliban fighters and other extremists in the meantime.
This new arrangement could blunt some of that criticism, although it is also likely to be criticized by some Democratic lawmakers who will say that Mr. Obama allowed the military to dictate the terms of the endgame in Afghanistan.
The second factor is the transfer of power in Afghanistan to President Ashraf Ghani, who has been far more accepting of an expansive American military mission in his country than his predecessor, Hamid Karzai.
According to a senior Afghan official and a former Afghan official who maintains close ties to his former colleagues, in recent weeks both Mr. Ghani and his new national security adviser, Hanif Atmar, have requested that the United States continue to fight Taliban forces in 2015 — as opposed to being strictly limited to operations against Al Qaeda. Mr. Ghani also recently lifted the limits on American airstrikes and joint raids that Mr. Karzai had put in place, the Afghan officials said.
The new Afghan president has already developed a close working relationship with Gen. John F. Campbell, the allied commander in Afghanistan.
“The difference is night and day,” General Campbell said in an email about the distinction between dealing with Mr. Ghani and Mr. Karzai. “President Ghani has reached out and embraced the international community. We have a strategic opportunity we haven’t had previously with President Karzai.”
American military officials saw the easing of the limits on airstrikes imposed by Mr. Karzai as especially significant, even if the restrictions were not always honored. During the summer, Afghan generals occasionally ignored Mr. Karzai’s directive and requested American air support when their forces encountered trouble.
Now it appears such requests will no longer have to be kept secret.
One senior American military officer said that in light of Mr. Obama’s decision, the Air Force expects to use F-16 fighters, B-1B bombers and Predator and Reaper drones to go after the Taliban in 2015.
“Our plans are to maintain an offensive capability in Afghanistan,” he said.
The officer said he expected the Pentagon to issue an order in the next several weeks detailing the military’s role in Afghanistan in 2015 under Operation Resolute Support, which will become the new name for the Afghanistan war.
The Pentagon plans to take the lead role in advising and training Afghan forces in southern and eastern Afghanistan, with Italy also operating in the east, Germany in the north and Turkey in Kabul.
But by the end of next year, half of the 9,800 American troops would leave Afghanistan. The rest would be consolidated in Kabul and Bagram, and then leave by the end of 2016, allowing Mr. Obama to say he ended the Afghan war before leaving office.
America’s NATO allies are expected to keep about 4,000 troops of their own in Afghanistan in 2015. The allies are expected to follow the American lead in consolidating and withdrawing their troops.
The United States could still have military advisers in Kabul after 2016 who would work out of an office of security cooperation at the United States Embassy. But the administration has not said how large that contingent might be and what its exact mission would be.
And it remains unclear how the continuing chaos in Iraq — and Mr. Obama’s decision to send troops back there — will affect the administration’s plans for an Afghanistan exit.
As the president said in the Rose Garden in May, “I think Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them.”