January 18, 2017

Obamas Leave White House Each as Multi-Millionaires

Obamas Leave White House Each as Multi-Millionaires

(SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
By Karl Nelson   |   Wednesday, 18 Jan 2017 09:28 AM

Barack and Michelle Obama each leave the White House as multi-millionaires, and reports suggest they could make up to $240 million more as they cash in on post-presidency opportunities.
President Obama’s current net worth is $12.2 million while the first lady is worth $11.8 million, according to 

That's a lot more than they entered the White House with in 2008.
The Obama’s reportedly made $2,656,902 the year he became America’s first African-American president, significantly more than when he was earning $80,000 in salary from the Illinois State Senate and $32,000 from the University of Chicago Law School, where he was a professor, according to GoBankingRates.com.

By 2007, Obama had earned more than $3 million in book royalties. He also added more millions to his name when he acquired a financial fund worth between $1 million and $5 million that same year.

During his presidency, Obama was getting an annual salary of $400,000, plus a $50,000 annual expense account, $100,000 for travel, which was not taxed, and an entertainment budget of $19,000.

According to a study by American University, the Obamas' combined net worth of $24 million as they leave the White House is miniscule compared to the riches they are likely to amass in the future, a number now pegged at $242 million, said the International Business Times.

January 17, 2017

African-Americans Didn't Do Well Under President Obama - By Antonio Moore Wednesday, 21 Dec 2016

African-Americans Didn't Do Well Under President Obama - By Antonio Moore
Wednesday, 21 Dec 2016 

Link: http://nws.mx/2jL13lB

In this handout from the White House, President Barack Obama pauses during a meeting, juxtaposed with the paintings of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington, busts of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Abraham Lincoln, and the Emancipation Proclamation on September, 23, 2012, in Washington, D.C. (Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)

Wednesday, 21 Dec 2016 

It is indisputable Barack Obama was the first non-white man to become President of the United States of America. But the question that still lingers for myself and many others, is whether we should be classifying him as the first African-American president?
From its inception, the term African-American was created as a culturalsafe haven for the progeny of American slaves. The classification is the marker of a connection that black Americans lost with Africa when their forefathers were brought to America in chains. It is my belief that whenJesse Jackson coined the term “African-American” in 1988, it was specifically tied to the multi-generational cultural cost of American chattel slavery. The category was not connected to those recently migrating from a specific African country, rather it was denoting having been entirely disconnected from the vast continent. That point begs an overdue question: was Barack Obama the first African-American president, the first Kenyan-American president, or just the first non-white president?

In my view, his policies say he was one of the latter, and as such the fanfare by African-American media in his final days is largely misplaced.
By nearly every economic indicator, blacks are worse off than when President Obama was sworn into office. During Obama’s terms, black Americans experienced record lows in small business loans, and saw their lowest home-ownership rates in 25 years. This is along with having record highs in unemployment, and experiencing large amounts of wealth loss under his administration. Since 
Obama took office, the racial wealth gap grew over 30 percent.
Some will say there was obstruction by the Republicans, and to be fair this may be partially true. Still, President Obama wielded great power, and used little of it to help the descendants of slavery, whose centuries of suffering propelled him to his lofty position. In a recent piece for The Atlantic, “My President was Black” writer Ta-Nehisi Coates states:

Obama had been on the record as opposing reparations. But now, late in his presidency, he seemed more open to the idea…“Theoretically, you can make obviously a powerful argument that centuries of slavery, Jim Crow, discrimination are the primary cause for all those gaps,” Obama said, referencing the gulf in education, wealth, and employment that separates black and white America. “That those were wrongs to the black community as a whole, and black families specifically, and that in order to close that gap, a society has a moral obligation to make a large, aggressive investment...”

To have the first black president realize on his way out the door that reparations possibly should have been part of policies on the table is more than a problem.

Obama calling the direct effects of hundreds of years of oppression the "theoretical" cause for black struggle points to why it is a problem to call him the first African-American president. Black oppression was not theoretically the reason for the racial wealth gap. It was the reason for the inequity, without question. Obama enacted policies that never succinctly focused on the issues of African-Americans, and at best gave us a few that could theoretically help blacks as it helped everybody else. President Obama largely forgot African-Americans, who were the cornerstone to his unique position. Stepping across the dust of slaves, and remnants of Civil Rights leaders, President Obama, half Kenyan-descended and half white, stood at the mountain top that Dr. King stated he may not be alive to see, and proclaimed nothing focusing on the needs of struggling black families.
The Atlantic's Ta-Nehesi Coates continued, "What Obama was able to offer white America is something very few African Americans could — trust. The vast majority of us are, necessarily, too crippled by our defenses … But Obama, through a mixture of ancestral connections and distance from the poisons of Jim Crow, can credibly and sincerely trust the majority population of this country."

This assessment was wrong. What President Barack Obama offered America was a way to appear post-racial, without providing the corrections for why America created racial differences in the first place. Media lovefests with Obama’s mixture of personal identity do not change the certainty of his political identity. A man born to a Kenyan parent was able to play Stevie Wonder "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," befriend Jay-Z, and evoke memories of Dr. King to make a nation feel its conscience had been cleaned of its greatest sin, American slavery.

This is not a time for stories about how the first black president made us feel good, it's time to be honest about what actually happened, in the hope that it's never repeated. What happened during the Obama years is not a change I can believe in, it was just more of the same.

Antonio Moore, an attorney based in Los Angeles, is one of the producers of the Emmy-nominated documentary "Freeway: Crack in the System." He has contributed pieces to the Grio, The Huffington Post, and Inequality.org on the topics of race, mass incarceration, and economics. Follow him on YouTube Channel Tonetalks.


Jeremy Scahill in The Intercept
January 17 2017,

Erik Prince, America’s most notorious mercenary, is lurking in the shadows of the incoming Trump administration. A former senior U.S. official who has advised the Trump transition told The Intercept that Prince has been advising the team on matters related to intelligence and defense, including weighing in on candidates for the defense and state departments. The official asked not to be identified because of a transition policy prohibiting discussion of confidential deliberations.
On election night, Prince’s latest wife, Stacy DeLuke, posted pictures from inside Trump’s campaign headquarters as Donald Trump and Mike Pence watched the returns come in, including a close shot of Pence and Trump with their families. “We know some people who worked closely with [Trump] on his campaign,” DeLuke wrote. “Waiting for the numbers to come in last night. It was well worth the wait!!!! #PresidentTrump2016.” Prince’s sister, billionaire Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s nominee for education secretary and Prince (and his mother) gave large sums of money to a Trump Super PAC.
In July, Prince told Trump’s senior advisor and white supremacist Steve Bannon, at the time head of Breitbart News, that the Trump administration should recreate a version of the Phoenix Program, the CIA assassination ring that operated during the Vietnam War, to fight ISIS. Such a program, Prince said, could kill or capture “the funders of Islamic terror and that would even be the wealthy radical Islamist billionaires funding it from the Middle East, and any of the other illicit activities they’re in.”
Prince also said that Trump would be the best force to confront “Islamic fascism.” “As for the world looking to the United States for leadership, unfortunately, I think they’re going to have to wait till January and hope Mr. Trump is elected because, clearly, our generals don’t have a stomach for a fight,” Prince said. “Our President doesn’t have a stomach for a fight and the terrorists, the fascists, are winning.”
Prince founded the notorious private security firm Blackwater, which rose to infamy in September 2007 after its operatives gunned down 17 Iraqi civilians,including a nine-year-old boy in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. Whistleblowers also alleged that Prince encouraged an environment in which Iraqis were killed for sport. At the height of the Blackwater scandals in 2007, another prominent Trump backer, Representative Dana Rohrabacher, praised Prince, who once worked in his congressional office. “Prince,’’ Rohrabacher said, “is on his way to being an American hero just like Ollie North was.’’
Ultimately, Prince sold Blackwater and now heads up a Hong Kong-based company known as Frontier Services Group. The Intercept has previously reported on Prince’s efforts to build a private air force for hire and his close ties to Chinese intelligence. One of his latest schemes is a proposal to deploy private contractors to work with Libyan security forces to stop the flow of refugees to Europe.
Prince has long fantasized that he is the rightful heir to the legacy of “Wild Bill” Donovan and his Office of Strategic Services, the precursor to the CIA. After 9/11, Prince worked with the CIA on a secret assassination program, in addition to offering former SEALs and other retired special operators to the State Department and other agencies for personal security.
Blaming leftists and some congressional Democrats for destroying his Blackwater empire, Prince clearly views Trump’s vow to bring back torture, CIA-sponsored kidnapping, and enhanced interrogations, as well as his commitment to fill Guantanamo with prisoners, as a golden opportunity to ascend to his rightful place as a covert private warrior for the U.S. national security state. As we reported last year, “Prince — who portrays himself as a mix between Indiana Jones, Rambo, Captain America, and Pope Benedict — is now working with the Chinese government through his latest ‘private security’ firm.” The Trump presidency could result in Prince working for both Beijing and the White House.
The Blackwater founder has also endorsed some of Trump’s overtures to Russia, saying: “Think about it: If FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, can deal with Stalin to defeat German fascism in World War II, certainly the United States of America could work with Putin to defeat Islamic fascism. We don’t have to agree with the Russians on everything, or even on a lot, but we can at least agree that crushing ISIS in the Middle East is a very good idea.” Prince described Democrats as “anti-Catholic, anti-Evangelical,” saying the DNC hacks and leaks revealed, “the disregard, the disdain they have for the average American voter and citizen.”
Prince has a close relationship with Breitbart News and Steve Bannon, Trump’s senior counselor and chief strategist. Prince has appeared frequently — and almost exclusively — on Breitbart Radio. In August, Prince offered praise for Trump’s candidacy, telling Breitbart’s Milo Yiannopoulos: “I even like some of his projects that have gone bankrupt, because people that do things, and build things, and try things, sometimes fail at doing it, and that’s the strength of the American capitalist system.” Prince added: “We have kind of turned our back on the fact that hard work, sacrifice, risk-taking, innovation, is what made America great. Washington did not make America great.”
In September, Prince backed Trump’s proposal to commandeer Iraq’s 2 million barrels of daily oil output. “For Mr. Trump to say, ‘We’re going to take their oil––certainly we’re not going to lift it out of there and take it somewhere else, but putting it into production, and putting a tolling arrangement into place, to repay the American taxpayers for their efforts to remove Saddam and to stabilize the area, is doable, and very plausible,” Prince said on Breitbart Radio.
Prince’s sister, Betsy DeVos, is Trump’s nominee for education secretary and she has all but vowed to embark on a crusade to push a privatization and religious agenda in education that mirrors her brother’s in military and CIA affairs. Prince has long been a contributor to the campaign of fellow Christian warrior Mike Pence, and he contributed $100,000 to the pro-Trump Super PAC Make America Number 1. Prince’s mother, Elsa, pitched in another $50,000. That organization, run by Rebekah Mercer, daughter of billionaire hedge funder Robert Mercer, was one of the strongest bankrollers of Trump’s campaign.
According to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, in December Prince attended the annual “Villains and Heroes” costume ball hosted by Mercer. Dowd wrote that Palantir founder Peter Thiel showed her “a picture on his phone of him posing with Erik Prince, who founded the private military company Blackwater, and Mr. Trump — who had no costume — but joke[d] that it was ’N.S.F.I.’ (Not Safe for the Internet).”

Not even Trump is brazen enough to give Prince a public post in his administration. But Prince is operating in the shadows, where he has always been most at home.

January 16, 2017

U.S. Defense Contractors Tell Investors Russian Threat Is Great for Business

Lee Fang in The Intercept
August 19 2016

THE ESCALATING ANTI-RUSSIAN rhetoric in the U.S. presidential campaign comes in the midst of a major push by military contractors to position Moscow as a potent enemy that must be countered with a drastic increase in military spending by NATO countries.
Weapon makers have told investors that they are relying on tensions with Russia to fuel new business in the wake of Russian’s annexation of Crimea and modest increases in its military budget.
In particular, the arms industry — both directly and through its arsenal of hired-gun, think-tank experts and lobbyists – is actively pressuring NATO member nations to hike defense spending in line with the NATO goal for member states to spend at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense.
Retired Army Gen. Richard Cody, a vice president at L-3 Communications, the seventh largest U.S. defense contractor, explained to shareholders in December that the industry was faced with a historic opportunity. Following the end of the Cold War, Cody said, peace had “pretty much broken out all over the world,” with Russia in decline and NATO nations celebrating. “The Wall came down,” he said, and “all defense budgets went south.”
Now, Cody argued, Russia “is resurgent” around the world, putting pressure on U.S. allies. “Nations that belong to NATO are supposed to spend 2 percent of their GDP on defense,” he said, according to a transcript of his remarks. “We know that uptick is coming and so we postured ourselves for it.”
Speaking to investors at a conference hosted by Credit Suisse in June, Stuart Bradie, the chief executive of KBR, a military contractor, discussed “opportunities in Europe,” highlighting the increase in defense spending by NATO countries in response to “what’s happening with Russia and the Ukraine.”
The National Defense Industrial Association, a lobby group for the industry, has called on Congress to make it easier for U.S. contractors to sell arms abroad to allies in response to the threat from Russia. Recent articles in National Defense, NDIA’s magazine, discuss the need for NATO allies to boost maritime military spending, spending on Arctic systems, and missile defense, to counter Russia.
Many experts are unconvinced that Russia poses a direct military threat. The Soviet Union’s military once stood at over 4 million soldiers, but today Russia has less than 1 million. NATO’s combined military budget vastly outranks Russia’s — with the U.S. alone outspending Russia on its military by $609 billion to less than $85 billion.
And yet, the Aerospace Industries Association, a lobby group for Lockheed Martin, Textron, Raytheon, and other defense contractors, argued in February that the Pentagon is not spending enough to counter “Russian aggression on NATO’s doorstep.”
Think tanks with major funding from defense contractors, including the Lexington Institute and the Atlantic Council, have similarly demanded higher defense spending to counter Russia.
Stephen Hadley, the former National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush now serving on the board of Raytheon, a firm competing for major NATO military contracts, has argued forcefully for hiking defense budgets and providing lethal aid to Ukraine. Hadley said in a speech last summer that the U.S. must “raise the cost for what Russia is doing in Ukraine,” adding that “even President Putin is sensitive to body bags.”
The business press has noticed the development. The Washington Business Journal noted that “if anyone is benefiting from the unease between Russia and the rest of the world, it would have to be Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp,” noting that the firm won a major contract from Poland, which is revamping its military in response to Russia. Roman Schweizer, an analyst for the defense industry with Guggenheim Securities, predicted last year that U.S. arms sales would continue to rise, particularly because “eastern NATO countries will increase procurements in the wake of continued Russian activity in Ukraine.”
At the Defence Security Exposition International, an arms dealer conference held in London last fall, contractors were quick to use Russia and rising defense budgets to hawk their products. “The tank threat is … much, much more closer to you today because Putin is doing something” in eastern Ukraine, a shoulder-fired-rocket touting representative from Saabtold Defense One.
“Companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing have pledged to increase the share of exports in their overall revenues, and they have been seeking major deals in East and Central Europe since the 1990s, when NATO expansion began,” said William Hartung, director of the Arms & Security Project at the Center for International Policy. Hartung noted that as some nations ramp up spending, U.S. firms will be “knocking at the door, looking to sell everything from fighter planes to missile defense systems.”

“Russian saber-rattling has additional benefits for weapons makers because it has become a standard part of the argument for higher Pentagon spending — even though the Pentagon already has more than enough money to address any actual threat to the United States,” he said.

1963: When the JFK Administration interfered in a Canadian Federal Election

US Bomarc Missile - Canadian Political Crisis 1963

How John F. Kennedy helped Diefenbaker lose an election
The Globe and Mail
Monday, Apr. 08, 2013 

Fifty years ago today, the Progressive Conservative government of John George Diefenbaker was defeated by the Liberal Party, the “natural governing party” of the last century. The party was led by Lester B. Pearson and assisted by U.S. president John F. Kennedy of the United States. In no other election in Canadian history has the United States administration been so activist in its attempt to oust a Canadian government.

Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Diefenbaker had a difficult relationship, and much has been made of the difference in image and style of the two. The picture of a young and “modern” president contrasted with a frumpy prairie populist has been the go-to description of historians and journalists. Time has, however, severely discounted all things Camelot. The squalor of Mr. Kennedy’s personal life is well known, and his foreign policy fixations and insecurities have shown him to be not a particularly able president andpossibly a dangerous one. Thus, it is perhaps time to recast Mr. Diefenbaker’s personal dislike for president Kennedy as prescience rather than petty envy.

Private feelings aside, much of the friction between the leaders rested in policy. For example, Mr. Diefenbaker’s government took a different attitude toward Cuba and China, believing that trade was still an important avenue through which to engage these governments, rather than taking the Kennedy approach of isolation, embargo and assassination in the case of Cuba.

But the real schism in the relationship occurred during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when Mr. Diefenbaker refused to put the Canadian military on a war footing at the behest of the American government without first consulting his cabinet. The Department of Defence essentially mutinied and mobilized anyway. The opposition parties and media were outraged at the perception that Canada had not supported the United States at a moment’s notice, notwithstanding the fact that Canada was the only American ally to mobilize its NATO forces, a move that the other NATO members refused to do for fear of a “guns of August” scenario leading to total war.

Other allies had little interest in subordinating their foreign policy to the Americans. French President Charles de Gaulle warned that being allied with the United States during the crisis was tantamount to “annihilation without representation.” British prime minister Harold Macmillan shared these concerns and while offering political support of the United States, refused to put British forces on alert.

The final straw came when Mr. Diefenbaker was seen by the Americans to be equivocating on the policy of arming Bomarc missiles in Canada with nuclear warheads as well as similarly arming Canadian fighter squadrons in Europe. Hereafter, the Americans actively targeted Mr. Diefenbaker. In January of 1963, the retiring NATO supreme commander and American general gave a press conference in Ottawa where he made it know that Canada had not met its commitment to the alliance. Days later, the U.S. State Department responded to a speech Mr. Diefenbaker made in the House of Commons by issuing a press release essentially calling Mr. Diefenbaker a liar: “[the Canadian government] has not yet proposed any arrangement sufficiently practical to contribute effectively to North American defence.”

Within days of the American intervention, Lester Pearson, the Nobel Peace Prize winning leader of the Liberal opposition, switched from opposing nuclear warheads to supporting them, much to the discomfort of many in the Liberal Party. Mr. Diefenbaker, faced with caucus revolts and a media maelstrom, sought an election. Lester Pearson and the Liberals believed they were on the way to a majority. Mr. Pearson’s campaign received advice from Kennedy advertising gurus, and the U.S. Ambassador to Canada gave anti-Diefenbaker media briefings in the basement of the U.S. Embassy. Despite these efforts, Mr. Diefenbaker’s gifts as a campaigner held the Liberals to a minority government.

Nonetheless, the Americans were pleased. The U.S. Ambassador commented that “ …the outcome holds salutary lessons which will not be overlooked by future aspirants to [Canadian] political office.” The American intervention would not go unnoticed internationally. The German Chancellor Adenauer expressed alarm at the American “hatchet job” against Mr. Diefenbaker.

And what happened to the Bomarc nuclear missile? Once the Pearson Liberals were in power, the nuclear warheads were indeed delivered. However, within 10 years, Pierre Trudeau would remove them.
The 1963 election marked the end of the Diefenbaker experiment and the start of Mike Pearson’s government. It also represented the low point in post-world-war U.S.-Canada relations.

J.C. Bourque is a business strategy consultant in Toronto. He has worked on several campaigns for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario. Joe Martin is the Director of the Canadian Business History Program at the Rotman School of Management.