Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Postman Commeth --or WAKE UP!!



Too Dangerous a Threat to National Security?

Postal Delivery

            Doug Hughes has given now meaning to "going postal".  He has become an overnight hero.  This has not happened in the corporate press, of course, as just about everything you here is owned by six corporations, but on social media where citizens and people in general speak out and get their news, he is well thought of.  A few buy into the whole corporate "danger" business, but they are promptly told what really is gong on.

            The entire thing is a protest against the Citizen's United vote in our pitiful Supreme Court, but only made possible by an even more pitiful congress and executive branch with the campaign funding rules as they stand.  The court, such as it is, decided that corporations should be considered individuals.  If so, every corporation in this country should be institutionalized because they are legally bound by their own articles of incorporation to be totally a-social, even anti-social, megalomaniacs.   Profit for their shareholders are they only thing they must do and every action must be weighed in connection with that. 

            It reminds one of the old story about a person with a several case of paranoia who was convinced that they were dead.  Now such people are perfectly capable of logic so long as everything is in accord with their first premise.  In this case, that he was dead.  The person treating him in complete frustration once decided to ask him "Ok, do dead people bleed?"

            The answer was "No, of course not."

            He then took out a blade and cut the man's wrist slightly and blood came out.  The paranoid look at it in astonishment and said "By God, dead people do bleed."

            With corporations, the premise is always that any action must be profitable for the shareholders.  If they spend billions on political campaigns, you can be certain that they have calculated that it will eventually result in a tremendous profit.  The contribution is no more than a business decision.

            Since corporations own the media, they do not want this fact to get out.  To keep people from deciding on reform, they keep them thinking on "terrorism," a behavior which is an Orwellian  form of terrorism itself. 

            The people know that he gave warning that he was coming.  They knew that a 60 year old man in a flying bicycle is not a terror threat.  All of his advance notice was simply ignored. 

            At any rate, his message was not lost, although so far NO member of congress has admitted to reading any of the letters, thanks to social media we know what really happened.  (This is one reason corporations are trying to get firmly in control of it.)  Amy Goodman was able to get a media equipped truck down to his house (he is under house arrest for dissemination information without a permit) and this is her interview with him:


"It Was Worth Risking My Life, My Freedom": Campaign Reform Activist on Flying Gyrocopter to Capitol

Last week U.S. mailman Doug Hughes made national headlines when he flew a tiny personal aircraft known as a gyrocopter on to the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in an act of civil disobedience. Hughes was carrying letters to every member of Congress urging them to address corruption and to pass campaign finance reform. The letter began with a quote from John Kerry’s farewell speech to the Senate: "The unending chase for money I believe threatens to steal our democracy itself." After landing on the Capitol Mall, Doug Hughes was arrested and could now face up to four years in prison on charges of violating national defense airspace and operating an unregistered aircraft. Despite being under house arrest and forced to wear a GPS monitoring device, Doug Hughes has decided to keep speaking out about the need for campaign finance reform.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: We begin today’s show with Doug Hughes, the U.S. mailman who made national headlines last week when he flew a tiny personal aircraft known as the gyrocopter onto the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in an act of civil disobedience. Hughes was carrying letters to every member of Congress urging them to address corruption and to pass campaign finance reform. The letter began with a quote from John Kerry’s farewell speech to the Senate: "The unending chase for money I believe threatens to steal our democracy itself."
Doug Hughes flew about an hour from Maryland into restricted airspace and onto the Capitol’s West Lawn, stunning authorities and bystanders. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Hughes literally flew below the radar, going undetected, before landing on the Capitol lawn. Before taking off, Hughes had spoken about his plans to the Tampa Bay Times.
DOUG HUGHES: I’m going to violate the no-fly zone nonviolently. I intend for nobody to get hurt. And I’m going to land on the Capitol Mall in front of the Capitol building. I’m going to have 535 letters strapped to the landing gear in boxes, and those letters are going to be addressed to every member of Congress. I don’t believe that the authorities are going to shoot down a 60-year-old mailman in a flying bicycle.
AMY GOODMAN: After landing on the Capitol Mall, Doug Hughes was arrested and could now face up to four years in prison on charges of violating national defense airspace and operating an unregistered aircraft. Despite being under house arrest and forced to wear a GPS monitoring device, Doug Hughes has decided to keep speaking out about the need for campaign finance reform. He joins us now from his home in Ruskin, Florida, under house arrest.
Doug Hughes, welcome to Democracy Now!
DOUG HUGHES: Good morning. Thank you for inviting me.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s very good to have you with us. We’re just going to try to bring up the sound of your microphone, because we can hardly hear you. But can you describe what exactly you did?
DOUG HUGHES: Well, this [inaudible] for quite a while. A key part of my plan was—
AMY GOODMAN: It looks like we just lost Doug Hughes. Now we’re getting him back on. You have to understand, we have a truck at his house, because he is under house arrest inside, as he sits inside in front of his piano. Let’s go to the congressmember, Walter Jones of North Carolina, who took to the House floor and talked about the gyrocopter protest and the need for campaign finance reform.
REP. WALTER JONES JR.: ... onto the Capitol lawn to make a point about influence of money in politics. While I don’t condone violating restricted airspace and putting innocent people at risk by flying a gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn, Mr. Hughes does have a point about the pervasive influence of money in politics. I’ve seen it get worse and worse in my 20 years in Congress. The Citizens United decision by the United States Supreme Court in 2010 created super PACs and multimillionaires that buy candidates.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Republican Congressmember Walter Jones speaking on the floor of the House. One day after Doug Hughes landed his gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, we spoke with Congressmember Alan Grayson about money in politics. Grayson is a Democrat representing Florida’s 9th Congressional District.
REP. ALAN GRAYSON: I’m the only member of the House of Representatives who raised most of his campaign funds in the last election from small contributions of less than $200. Thousands of people came to our website,, and made contributions. I am one—one—out of 435. On the other side of the building, over at the U.S. Senate, there’s only one member of the U.S. Senate who raised most of his campaign from some small contributions. That’s Bernie Sanders, who you heard earlier in this broadcast. That tells you something. In fact, to a large degree, in both parties, because of the absence of campaign finance reform, the place is bought and paid for. And the only question is: Do the members stay bought? That’s what the corporate lobbyists stay up late at night wondering about: Is that member going to stay bought?
Now, I was actually in the courtroom when this disastrous Citizens United decision was decided five years ago. Mitch McConnell was two seats to my left. We were the only public officials who were in the courtroom. Mitch McConnell was the happiest I have ever seen him that day. He was literally chortling when the decision was rendered. And I said on MSNBC that night five years ago that if we do nothing, you can kiss this country goodbye. Well, pucker up, because right now the millionaires and the billionaires and the multinational corporations are calling the shots with whatever they want in TPP, whatever they want in fast track—more generally, whatever they want. They get the bailouts. They get the tax breaks. They get the so-called deregulation. They get what they want here because they get what they pay for.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: That was Congressman Alan Grayson talking about campaign finance reform. Doug Hughes is the mailman from Florida who landed a personal aircraft known as a gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol last week, and we have him back in the feed. I wanted to ask you, Doug, were you surprised that you were able to get as far as you did onto the Capitol Mall?
DOUG HUGHES: Well, my expectation was that my letter would get through, they’d find out who I was, and the decision would be made that it’s less dangerous to let me land, since I had already been vetted by the Secret Service and they knew I wasn’t carrying a bomb. That didn’t work. And it turned out I was able to land safely anyway.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now, you did everything possible to warn folks ahead of time that you were doing this protest?
DOUG HUGHES: Yeah. I sent an email, which some people have said was inadequate, but the email gave the reasons why they didn’t need to shoot me down. And I had a website, and on the website I asked people to call the White House to tell them to read the email, what address it went to and who it was from. And the Tampa Bay Times called in to the White House to tell them that I was coming in. So, every effort was made to give the Homeland Security advance warning of my arrival and who I was and that I wasn’t a threat.
AMY GOODMAN: So, you fly under the radar, Doug Hughes, in this kind of flying bicycle contraption, a gyrocopter, and you land on the West Lawn of the Capitol. You could have been blown out of the sky. Was [campaign] finance reform that important to you?
DOUG HUGHES: Yes. I’m a father, I’m a grandfather, and I can see the change over the decades as we slide from a democracy to a plutocracy. Just like Alan Grayson said, the fat cats are calling the shots. They’re getting everything they want. And the voters know it. Across the political spectrum—center, left and right—they know that this Congress isn’t representing the people. And yes, it was worth risking my life, it was worth risking my freedom, to get reform so that Congress works for the people.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re a letter carrier. You’re a postal carrier, a mailman. How many letters were you carrying in your gyrocopter to deliver to Congress?
DOUG HUGHES: I believe the count was 535, but I never actually counted them. I handle a lot of them in the process of printing them, signing them, stamping them. There was a lot of hours that went into getting the letters done.
AMY GOODMAN: Were you planning to hand-deliver them individually to each member of Congress?
DOUG HUGHES: No, no. At no time did I expect that was going to happen. The plan was to get the letters there in such a way that—let me step back. Congress knows what’s going on. I wasn’t telling Congress anything that they’re not aware of. I was telling them something they don’t want the people to be aware of. And I was telling the people that there are solutions in place. They know there’s a problem. I’m telling people something they don’t know: There are solutions that have already been designed; they only have to be implemented. And it’s in our power to implement them.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And could you talk about some of those solutions and what your letter actually said?
DOUG HUGHES: What my letter actually said to the Congress critters was they’ve got to decide whether they’re going to deny that corruption exists, or they’re going to pretend that they’re doing something about it, or they’re going to really roll up their sleeves and be a part of reform. But I’m looking to the local media, particularly the print media, OK, at the local level, to hold the candidates’ feet to the fire and force them to take a stand on real reform and whether or not they’re going to vote for it or whether or not they’re going to try and take a halfway, mealy-mouthed stand on it, which means they’re going to try and preserve the status quo. The idea is, the voters can decide well if they’re informed. The national media can’t and won’t inform the voters about where the candidates stand. But the local media, which has been, you know, very weak and impotent in the political process, can really take the ball, and they can be the moving force in informing the voters.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your own evolution of your thinking. You were formerly in the U.S. Navy, served on the USSEnterprise. Talk about the evolution of your thinking on this issue.
DOUG HUGHES: Well, I wound up hanging out with a friend of mine, Mike Shanahan, and over a bunch of beers in his backyard, we came up with a written action plan, which we weren’t able to take anywhere. That was called The Civilist Papers. But Mike came up with the idea that what we needed to do is take our written plan and send certified copies of it to every member of Congress, and that was the nucleus of the idea. But we observed that it wouldn’t work, because Congress already knows; what we really need to do is get that letter to the public. They need to be aware. And during the time that we were working on this, we discovered the existence of other groups and other very sophisticated plans that had been written by people a lot smarter than me. But we also observed these groups weren’t getting any traction. They had managed to get through to the people who were sympathetic to the idea, but it wasn’t going a lot further than that, nor could they get any attention in the media about what they wanted to do.
AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this month, Hillary Rodham Clinton kicked off her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination with her first formal campaigning in Iowa, and she talked about this issue, as she has for a few days now, campaign finance reform.
HILLARY CLINTON: We need to fix our dysfunctional political system and get unaccountable money out of it once and for all, even if that takes a constitutional amendment.
AMY GOODMAN: Is that what you’re calling for, Doug Hughes? Does that hearten you?
DOUG HUGHES: Yes, I’m glad to hear the candidates are talking about this. Cenk Ungar [sic], who’s a liberal media figure—
AMY GOODMAN: Cenk Uygur.
DOUG HUGHES: —has been working on an Article V—say again?
AMY GOODMAN: Cenk Uygur.
DOUG HUGHES: He’s been working on an Article V convention, and this does an entire end-around on Congress, so that Congress doesn’t ever even vote on the amendment. It can be done completely through the states through an Article V convention that would be called. The amendment would be designed, then it goes back to the states, and three-quarters of the states have to ratify that constitutional amendment. At that point it becomes law, without the House or the Senate ever voting on it. So the states can put limits on the Congress, OK, and fix this problem so that there’s no backsliding that would ever happen. The constitutional amendment can protect legislation from it being struck down by the courts. So, this whole thing can happen, and it can stay.
JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Doug Hughes, are you encouraging other like-minded Americans who feel this way about campaign finance reform to come up with other creative ways to get the issue before the American public?
DOUG HUGHES: I’m absolutely sympathetic to other people getting involved with whatever their view on it is. I think we’re going to see a lot of Trojan horse legislation and groups come up that are intended to misdirect people into solutions that have no power. OK. I’ve pretty much signed on to the Anti-Corruption Act. And I will look at other ideas that are out there, but the Anti-Corruption Act, which stands no chance of getting out of committee, as we are right now, was written by a former head of the Federal Election [Commission], FEC. This guy is as far to the conservative end as Cenk [Uygur] is liberal, OK? That’s why I say this thing completely goes across the political spectrum. But what this guy wrote will work, if it’s passed without any amendments. That’s got to be a key part of this, is that they can’t take this act, that will work, cut out the key parts so that it has no teeth, and then say they passed reform.
AMY GOODMAN: Doug, one last question. Your son committed suicide last year. Did losing him—in 2012. Did losing him affect what you decided to do this year?
DOUG HUGHES: Yes. No, I wasn’t trying to commit suicide, but his death was pointless. It was a waste. And he had so much potential. I looked at what I had done and accomplished and contributed, and I looked at how we’re going to leave this country and this world if things go on the way they are. I’ve got kids. I’ve got two adult children, and I’ve got an 11-year-old daughter. I want to hand them a real democracy, so that they have the power to control their destiny and their children’s destiny. And right now they’re losing that. We’re losing that. And it’s in our power to restore democracy, and we can find the solutions to the problems that we have, if the people have control.
AMY GOODMAN: Doug, we want to thank you for being with us. Doug Hughes is a postal carrier from Florida who landed a tiny personal aircraft known as a gyrocopter on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol last week in a protest to demand campaign finance reform. He was carrying letters to every member of Congress, calling for them to address corruption. Hughes flew about an hour from Maryland into restricted airspace onto the Capitol’s West Lawn, stunning authorities and bystanders. He is under house arrest. We’re speaking to him at his home in Florida. He faces four years in prison. This is Democracy Now! Today is Earth Day.

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Friday, April 17, 2015

Thoughts and Invective -- Maudlin Edition



Bobby McGee

A while ago, Kris Kristopherson wrote the line "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose."  Nice.  That line, along with a Janis Joplin recording of the song, left him with enough money never to have to work again in his life.

Some have even written about it at great length, analyzing its meaning, and so on.  That's not our purpose here.

Thomas Mann's last masterpiece, Dr. Faustus, has a similar line, sort of.  Now I've only read translations of the book.  While I am comfortable reading Goethe, Schiller, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, (Heine and Hesse for sure), and so on in the German, Thomas Mann is a bit of a different case.  Now I can enjoy reading Milton's prose, even though some of his sentences run on for 50 or so words.  Somehow, he uses semi-colons and the like so that the meaning is clear. I can even agree with most of his points once I allow for his first premise that there is a god.  Dut I draw the line at a couple of pages, especially in German where they usually save the verb for the end.  No, I'll read a translation thank you.

But by a little tweaking, mainly elimination one adjective, Thomas Mann wrote "Freedom's just another word for subjectivity."  You can actually sing it to the same tune, and it makes more sense.  


The face of Nitwit Yahoo is quite ugly.  It also reminds one of the worst things Israel has done.  Unfortunately, it also leads to reinforcement of the anti-Jewish sentiments around the world.  No wonder the Hassidic sect carry signs saying ZIONISM IN NOT JUDAISM.  Perhaps in the days of Daniel Deronda there was something in it, back in the days of Queen Victoria, but today the movement is simply repugnant. 


After women use the bath room, is it too much to ask that they put the seat back up?  It seems like such a little thing to do.  In other words, the whole thing is getting too tiresome.


One thing I noticed most about that 73 year old fart that drew his gun instead of his taser is that he looks like Dick Cheney.   It is a haunting resemblance, especially with his glasses on.

I heard a black comedian say "You lost your right to discuss race during the O.J. trial."  I wondered about that as I was on the defense side all the time and I think I'm "white".  I guess several factors entered into this.  Marsha Clark revealed herself as a real bitch, worse than the Lilith of the old Frasier and Cheers series.   Barry Sheck was great fun to watch.  You had to be pulling for the guy when he tried to ask a simple question, objection, sustained, then tried again.  Five times and finally the answer was allowed.  Imagine the effect on a juror.  What horrible information was being suppressed?   And even with this team of Prima Donna attorneys, OJ maintained control of the defense as a football coach would his team.  That's why Scheck was elevated to second chair, despite being the lowest paid one there.   Clark objected to the term "hysterical" as "sexist" as Freud had used it as a "wandering uterus."  Sheck's team found that she was the first person to use the herm in the trial, months ago.

One of the best things about it for me happened a year or so later when Clark came out with her account of the trial.  She called Sheck "easily the most obnoxious person at the trial."


[Fucked up beyond all repair=FUBAR]

A pretty mild-mannered 60+ year old post office employee has been crusading against money in government.  Anyone here know that corporations can give as much as they want to buy off congress and that they do.  So, this guy decides on an act of "civil disobedience," sends a video and makes several phone calls to a newspaper in advance, then flies to what amounts to a mo-ped with a rotor blade on top like a helicopter (called a gyrocopter), and land on the Capitol Lawn with a letter for each congressman and senator.  He thought it would bring attention to campaign reform.

The media turns it into a madhouse of the need for more counter-terrorism measures.  Now why would that be?  There is more money in it, that's why.  This is what our democratic system has come to. 

Lest any other country thing we are racist here in the U.S.A, remember we elected a Black President.  Things are so much better now.


They say they have killed al-Duhry.  He was the second in command to Saddam and there was a 10 million dollar bounty on him.  Of course, for over a decade, they have claimed he was dead.  Of this much you can be certain: he was not with Daesh.  Perhaps he advised them, but his goal was to re-establish the Ba'ath party.


Hundreds are fleeing to reach Italy.  In the past, these people found gainful, peaceful employment when Gaddafi, but we took care of that to make the world a better place.  Sort of how we improved life for Iraq, made things so much better for Palestinians, and are trying to do in Syria.  It didn't quite go our way in Syria, so we created a "model" in Yemen.


Perhaps competence is over-rated.


Teachers and administrators are being locked up for helping their students "cheat".  The problem is that G.W.'s plan to leave no child behind consists in nothing but standardized tests.

Now, I liked standardized tests.  I never scored lower that the 97% percentile on any of them and on one I got a perfect score once I explained why one of the questions in logic was incorrect.  They worked in my favor because they were completely anonymous and the machine scoring them did not know how misanthropic and anti-social I was.  In short, there was no room for teacher bias.

However, these tests do not measure the ability to think but rather the ability to memorize [unless, of course, you study them and the psychology of the test designers as I did].  School in this country is designed to indoctrinate, not to encourage critical thinking.  Why if you have people going around able to think for themselves, who would vote for the idiots and greedy bastards that are running?  Who would sign up and get slaughtered in our many, many wars of imperialistic aggression?  No, best to make them learn how to do long division and remember dates.


I am really a nice guy, loved by people all around the world.  All of the above may offend some people, but then they are simply morons, or idiots, or rich.  So, have a nice time!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Valentina Lisitsa


You have to hear this.

Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto #3, called "Rach 3", is at the pinnacle of classical music concertos.  Any pianist who can master it, if any ever really masters it, has achieved one of the greatest feats possible.  Daniel Barenboim never tried to record it as best I know, nor Vladimir Ashkenazy, and many others.  Many have tried it and failed, falling short either in places or all over in time and tempo.

The first able to play it well was the composer himself, Serge, and the recordings are available on CD.  He is to this concerto as Arthur Schnabel is to the Beethoven Sonatas.  Serge was well-known and acclaimed as a concert pianist even before this concerto and it made him the only living master of it.

One day, Vladimir Horowitz played it while Serge was in the audience.  Many analogies occur to me, but I'll pass them by.  Horowitz was apprehensive to say the least until Serge shook his hand and said "It is now yours." 

After that, a few came along.  Van Cliburn having won the Tchaikosky competition in Moscow during the cold war, was jingoistically promoted and sold a lot of records and, to his credit, helped many younger pianists.  Still, he was no giant, to say the least (although he was very tall).

I remember much later some pianist in Australia suffered from a form of schizophrenia and lost what could have been a great career.  Well, he recovered somewhat and recorded the Rach III.  I had no idea about the movie or Grammys and Oscars -- just not my interest), but I suspect his recording was a best seller for some time.  I heard it and laughed a bit, thinking it was a parody.  No harm intended, I assure you.

Most recently, a pianist named Lang Lang recorded the Rach III.  Even though he hit every note, exactly at the right time, and more quickly than anyone had a right to expect, somehow it seemed to miss the emotional impact the work once had for me.  I kept remembered a recording by Richter that was much better for me.

Well, now there is a new artist.  She is one of the best new artists to appear since Glenn Gould. 
Valentina Lisitsa plays the Rach III dynamically, driven, filled with passion and intent.  There seems to be nothing missing.  I played it several times and then went back and compared the Horowitz (yes, with Ormandy) and Rach himself (I don't remember the orchestra), and she is right there with them, at least for me.

            Not many realize this, but she also has a great brain or mind.  She started out wanting to be a professional chess player and is very outspoken about Ukraine.  If she had only one composer to play, ever, it would be Beethoven.  Many of her performances are available on You Tube and have attracted millions.  All of this came as a bit of a surprise to me as I only knew her for her incisive remarks on Twitter, and only became aware of her as a pianist when the (pardon the expression) Toronto Symphony Orchestra cancelled one of her performances because of bitching by Kiev supporters.  (I told you she could think).

            She was born and grew up in Ukraine, but now lives in the U.S.  Check her out on You Tube.  She also has recordings on DGG, Decca, and a few other labels. 


Wednesday, April 08, 2015






            It is not clear how far back we have to go to establish that there has never been a "just" war in the sense it was fought over some cause.  Wallerstein posits the 17th Century as the real start of Capitalistic Imperialism or Colonialism, and that is a good point to start, it would seem. 

            Surely the Vikings were nor really interested on some notion of liberty of serving Thor.  Eric the Red established Greenland, so called because he was a real-estate developer who thought it was a better sounding name than Iceland.  The Trojan war surely was not over Helen.  But let us look to more modern times.

            Wars came to develop because capitalism has to grow or die.  Exploitation of natural resources from other continents became profitable. 

            Perhaps more modern times are more easily documented.  We know that Nobel, of the Nobel Peace Prize, invented dynamite and eagerly sold it for enormous profits to any and all buyers.  Heartbreak House by Bernard Shaw is perhaps the best depiction, along with Major Barbara, of this idea.  The are much more fun to read and more accurate than most "history" books. 

            When WW1 was finished, which was over colonies (Germany didn't have any to speak of), they were forced to sign the Treaty of Versailles.  John Maynard Keynes at the time said that this would only eventually lead to another war.  It did.  It is no secret that Henry Ford made a fortune building tanks for Nazi Germany and, we the U.S. bombed one of his factories in Germany, he sued the U.S. for damages and won.  The war was immensely profitable for weapons manufacturers, provided zero unemployment in German and close to that in the U.S.  It was immensely profitable in dollars.  (Yeah, 30 million Russians were killed along with millions of other, but hey, if you're going to have a war, somebody's going to get hurt, right?) 

            The US makes a fortune in weapons manufacture.  Even when ISIS captured billions of dollars of weapons we sent to Iraq, so what?  Just sell more to Iraq again.  It's a win-win situation.

            Right now, the Saudis are claiming they are only bombing weapons depots so the evil Shia do not get them.  But they do have many of them and, hey, we can sell more to the Saudis, or anyone else who will buy them.  Israel used the Gaza slaughter to later hold a large "fair" where they demonstrated the "battle-proven" drones.  New the call is to sell weapons to Ukraine (only defensive weapons, of course, just as long as the profit is high enough).

            Below is a discussion of a new book that talks about weapons sales, but the author is very careful not to use the word "capitalism," which is why we have done him the courtesy of supplying it beforehand:


Are Obama’s Record Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt and Iraq Fueling Unrest in Middle East?

As Saudi Arabia continues U.S.-backed strikes in Yemen and Washington lifts its freeze on military to aid to Egypt, new figures show President Obama has overseen a major increase in weapons sales since taking office. The majority of weapons exports under Obama have gone to the Middle East and Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia tops the list at $46 billion in new agreements. We are joined by William Hartung, who says that even after adjusting for inflation, "the volume of major deals concluded by the Obama administration in its first five years exceeds the amount approved by the Bush administration in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion. That also means that the Obama administration has approved more arms sales than any U.S. administration since World War II." Hartung is the director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, and author of "Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex."


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AARON MATÉ: We turn now to the major increase in U.S. arms exports under President Obama. As Saudi Arabia continues U.S.-backed strikes in Yemen and Washington lifts its freeze on military aid to Egypt, new figures show the majority of U.S. weapons exports under Obama have gone to the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia tops the list at $46 billion in new agreements. William Hartung writes that even after adjusting for inflation, "the volume of major deals concluded by the Obama administration in its first five years exceeds the amount approved by the Bush administration in its full eight years in office by nearly $30 billion." That also means the Obama administration has approved more arms sales than any other U.S. administration since World War II.
AMY GOODMAN: To talk more about these figures, we’re joined now by Bill Hartung, Director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. His latest book is, "Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex." He recently wrote an article headlined, "The Obama Arms Bazaar: Record Sales, Troubling Results." Welcome back to Democracy Now! , Bill. Talk about the numbers. Talk about the weapons. Where are they going?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, I was astonished in researching the article that Obama had sold this much. I mean, I knew there were record deals with the Saudis, but to outsell the eight years of Bush, to sell more than any president since World War II, was surprising even to me who follow these things quite closely. The majority, 60 percent, have gone to the Persian Gulf and Middle East and within that, the Saudis have been the largest recipient of things like U.S. fighter planes, Apache attack helicopters, bombs, guns, almost an entire arsenal they’ve purchased in just the last few years.
AARON MATÉ: What do you think the Iran nuclear deal, if anything, portends for U.S. sales to the Middle East? President Obama’s about to call a meeting at Camp David with the leaders of all the Gulf nations. Do you see them exploiting that to call for increased U.S. military purchases from the U.S.?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Unfortunately, yes. You would think a reduction of tensions should reduce the arms sales, but the Saudis have been screaming about the deal, saying you’re letting Iran off the hook — which is not the case. Therefore, you have to bulk up our armaments, which is kind of insane given the amounts that have already gone there.
AMY GOODMAN: So how does the Obama administration spending on military weapons — and is it the Obama administration spend money on military weapons or just allowing the weapons to be sold to these countries? And how does it compare to the two terms of the George W. Bush administration?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Primarily, these are sales because the Saudis and others in the Gulf can afford them, the exceptions being aid to Egypt and Israel which are the biggest recipients of U.S. military aid. Under Bush, they sold about $30 billion less than the $169 billion of the first five years of Obama. So already in five years, he’s outsold what Bush did in eight years.
AMY GOODMAN: And what does this mean for war in the world?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, I think we’re seeing the results now. As mentioned in the prior segment, Saudi Arabia is using U.S. weapons to bomb Yemen, civilians have been killed, Egypt is not exactly a democratic regime, as we know. Now they’ve opened sales against them. They’ve supported dictators for many years, prior to Obama, which helped in one hand spark the Arab Spring, but also has armed the counterattacks by places like Egypt and the Saudis going into crush democracy movement and Bahrain as well as the government there. So it has been force — a negative force for many years. But I think it is spinning out of control now.
AMY GOODMAN: And your piece also points out that it is not just U.S. arms going to regimes. When countries go haywire and into chaos like in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria, U.S. weapons in up in the hands of militants.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Exactly. We don’t know the full numbers but in Iraq, the security forces abandoned large amounts of the weaponry to Isis. U.S. armed rebels in Syria armed by the CIA, went over to join Isis. There’s $500 million missing of weapons in Yemen. Some think it’s gone to the Houthis some think it’s gone to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Of course there’s arms on both sides because the government and the forces have split in this war. So it’s quite possible every side of that war in Yemen may have some level of U.S. weaponry. So it’s really gone haywire. It’s sort of what I call the boomerang effect, when U.S. arms end up in the hands of U.S. adversaries.
AMY GOODMAN: I’d like to ask about a recent exchange between Deutsche Bank analyst Myles Walton and Lockheed Martin Chief Executive Marillyn Hewson during an earnings call in January. Financial industry analysts use earnings calls as an opportunity to ask publicly-traded corporations like Lockheed about issues that might harm profitability. Hewson said that Lockheed was hoping to increase sales and that both the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region were "growth markets."
MARILLYN HEWSON: Even if there may be some kind of deal that is done with Iran, there is volatility all around the region and each one of these countries believes they’ve got to protect their citizens and the things that we can bring to them help in that regard. So similarly, that’s the Middle East. And I know that’s what you asked about, but you can take that same argument to the Asia-Pacific region, which is another growth area for us. A lot of volatility, a lot of instability a lot of things that are happening both with North Korea as well as some of the tensions between China and Japan. So in both of those regions, which are growth areas for us, we expect that there is going to continue to be opportunities for us to bring our capabilities to them.
AMY GOODMAN: During the call, Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson, who you were just listening to, also noted that 20 percent of Lockheed’s sales in 2014 were international, that is, to non-American customers. She added, Lockheed has set a goal to get to 25 percent over the next few years. Can you talk about the significance of this, Bill Hartung?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, there’s been a slight blip in Pentagon procurement. Still quite high, but the companyies need to grow constantly. And so they’re looking to up foreign sales to make up for any reductions at the Pentagon. As we heard in the clip, they’re looking to areas of conflict. And it’s not surprising, but I’m surprised that she said it so explicitly. She was asked about the Iran question, would that depress the market. She basically said, oh, there’s plenty of turbulence there, don’t worry about it, as there is in East Asia, these will be our growth markets. So she is more or less acknowledging they thrive on war and the threat of war, which is not surprising to a lot of people, but nonetheless, to say it like that, I think is a bit shocking. To just put it right out there.
AARON MATÉ: I want to ask you about drones. Earlier this year, the White House announced it will allow foreign allies to purchase U.S. made armed drones for the first time. Under a new policy American firms can sell their drones abroad, but will be subjected to a case-by-case review. Talk about this policy. Your were very critical of it.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Yes. I mean, it’s got some rhetoric that makes sense. You can’t use these drones to repress your own population, for illegal surveillance, to attack you neighbors. But as we’ve seen in other cases, once they’re sold, very little control over how they are used. And given the regimes in the Persian Gulf, they’ve already sold unarmed predators, or about to, the UAE, so it’s quite possible we’ll see in the context of the war in Yemen, perhaps armed drones sold to these countries. And it’s fine to say we’re going to control their use, but the record in Iraq and Yemen and elsewhere makes that quite dubious.
AMY GOODMAN: As we see the Obama administration’s dramatic acceleration of U.S. weapons sales abroad, can you talk about the U.S. requirements on the licensing of weapons and weapons-related exports?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well, the industry has wanted relaxation for years. The Obama administration finally delivered that. They took things from the State Department, which does a somewhat better job of vetting human rights and so forth, and took thousands of items and put them in the Commerce Department which historically has been involved in promoting arms sales, not vetting them. So it’s going to be easier for some countries to get arms without a license and those countries will become hubs of smuggling, no doubt. So it’s going to be counter to even the narrowest security interests of the United States, but it’s something industry has wanted for quite a while.
AARON MATÉ: On the positive side, the world’s first treaty regulating the arms trade took effect last year. The Arms Trade Treaty. The U.S. has signed it, the Senate hasn’t ratified it. But you write that that is still a positive thing.
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Yes, I think, compared to Bush, which was joined at the hip with the NRA and wouldn’t go near the Arms Trade Treaty, at least the U.S. administration signed it; although a somewhat weaker version that some of us would have liked. It commits them on paper not to sell to human rights abusers, not to let arms that may be involved in corruption. Obviously, that has been violated, in my opinion, in some of the current sales to the Middle East, but it’s a standard that they should be held to because they did sign that treaty.
AMY GOODMAN: So they sign the treaty and they accelerate weapons sales abroad. Would you say the — financing the weapons industry is actually a motivation for being involved in wars abroad?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: I think it’s one element. I think there is an ideological element, I think there’s an element of just U.S. global reach and global control. But, certainly, a reinforcing point is to sell arms and to help these companies. And it sometimes it is made quite explicit. When they sell to the Saudis, for example, the Pentagon points out it will create x number of jobs in the United States. So they’re not shy about talking about the jobs aspect.
AMY GOODMAN: So weapons industry does better under the Democrats than the Republicans?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: I would say, at the moment, they’re doing better on the arms sales front. Slightly —
AMY GOODMAN: And where do their contributions go?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well they tip usually depending whoever is in power. So they’re about two-thirds Republican in the Senate and the house, which is controlled by Republicans. They’re quite supportive of Obama. There’s such a flood of money from everywhere, sometimes it’s hard to follow one stream within that huge flow of money.
AMY GOODMAN: Well we want to thank you, Bill Hartung, for being with us. Final question, what are you recommending?
WILLIAM HARTUNG: Well I think the Obama administration should live up to its principles on the Arms Trade Treaty. I think Congress should take a closer look at some of these sales, speak out against them. I think civil society groups which oppose this, should make their voices louder because in many cases, most Americans don’t even know this is happening.
AMY GOODMAN: Bill Hartung is Director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy. His latest book, "Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military-Industrial Complex." We’ll link to his piece, "The Obama Arms Bazaar: Record Sales, Troubling Results." .
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