Category Archives: Governance

The Empire Report: The corrupt Saudi state

In her latest edition of The Empire Files, Abby Martin takes on the corrupt Saudi royal house and their brutal campaigns of repression and class warefare, armed and supported by Barack Obama’s government.

Sexual repression, assassinations of labor leaders, and massacres of political protesters have been part of the House of Saud’s leadership style for generations, and Abby Martin lays it all out in context.

From Telesur English:

The Real House of Saud – Saudi Arabia’s Oil-For-Tyranny

Program notes:

Meet the new head of the United Nations panel on Human Rights: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Abby Martin takes us inside the brutal reality of this police-state monarchy, and tells the untold people’s history of resistance to it. With a major, catastrophic war in Yemen and looming high-profile executions of activists, The Empire Files exposes true nature of the U.S.-Saudi love affair.

Berkeley politics: Corrupt business as usual

In Berkeley, a town where developers are kings and poor people are being gentrified out of existence, genteel sleaze is the order of the day, as we noted recently.

The latest example to raise a stink in the normally complacent mainsteam media comes from the Oakland Tribune, under the headline “Berkeley council member profited from police chief’s public home loan.”

Here’s the gist from the story by reporter Thomas Peele:

In a move that ethicists call fraught with conflicts and cronyism, a city council member who voted to give Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan a $500,000 housing loan from public funds later worked as his real estate agent and took a commission on the chief’s purchase of a home, records show.

Councilmember Lawrence Capitelli said he split the nearly $30,000 commission on the $1.185 million sale with another agent in his office at Red Oak Realty, where he was a partner. The firm also took a cut of the commission. Capitelli’s questionable role in the 2010 home sale came to light this week after the Bay Area News Group published a story Sunday that showed how at least 33 local governments use taxpayer funds to help top public officials pay for housing.

A Berkeley city council member since 2004, Capitelli insists he did nothing wrong by representing Meehan after the council voted in November 2009 to loan the chief $500,000 because the two hadn’t discussed representation at the time of the vote.

But the Oakland Tribune story is a bit late, given that former mayoral candidate and Berkeley gadfly Zelda Bronstein had reported the same story three years ago for the Berkeley Daily Planet, a fact Peele failed to acknowledge in his story.

From her 31 October 2012 report:

On November 10, 2009, Laurie Capitelli joined the rest of the Berkeley City Council in approving the appointment of Michael Meehan as the City’s new police chief, effective December 13, 2009. The resolution of approval authorized “a housing assistance loan of up to $500,000 for the purchase of a residence within the City of Berkeley”.

In 2010 Chief Meehan moved into a home in the Thousand Oaks neighborhood in north Berkeley. I assume that he used his $500,000 loan from the City to purchase that property, which sold for $1,185,000. The seller used an agent from Northbrae Properties; the buyer used Red Oak real estate agent and Berkeley Councilmember Laurie Capitelli.

What makes the story more interesting is that Capitelli is the successor-apparent to Mayor Tom Bates, who is now in his final term of presiding over giveaways to his real estate developer pals.

Bates controls a city council majority elected in campaigns where the primary bankrollers are folks who are eager to gentrify every part of the city, and their gaze is now fixed on the city’s last remaining sanctuary for lower-income people of color.

As for the police chief, he’s the same fellow who gave his officers free rein to lay into peaceful as well as violent “Black Lives Matter” protests, and who has overseen an increasing militarization of the department, including military camouflage uniforms for his SWAT teams and landed one of those ugly Pentagon mine-resistance assault vehicles for his troops.

So forget any notion of Berkeley as a liberal bastion. The only part of Berkeley City Council politics with a liberal bent is the succession of meaningless resolutions — and even there the inevitable hot button issue is anything having to deal with Israel.

From the 15 September San Jose Mercury-News:

Cheryl Davila didn’t realize that she had waded into a minefield when she wrote a Human Welfare and Community Action Commission resolution calling for city divestment in Israel. Davila was removed from the commission by Councilman Darryl Moore just before the panel took up the issue on Sept. 16.

Davila said she wrote the resolution after reading about the 2014 military operation in Gaza, during which more than 2,000 Palestinians and some 70 Israelis lost their lives. She had also recalled that Berkeley had been among the first entities to divest from the apartheid state of South Africa decades earlier.

In part, the resolution asks the city manager to “examine the feasibility of divesting all city of Berkeley direct holdings in companies complicit in ongoing violations of human rights and international law under Israel’s military occupation of Palestinian territories.”

Which brings us back to Capitell. Back in 2010, after Israel’s bloody Operation Cast Lead invasion of Gaza, the he was scheduled to co-sponsor a city council resolution condemning the attack. That was when the same crew of ZioNutsies who organized a campaign of intimidating Berkeley Daily Planet advertisers because the paper published letters to the editors and op-ed scribes critical of Israel sprung into action.

Three comments posted to an article at JWeekly, a San Francisco Bay Area publication, report what happened next:

BLOG CapitelliThe Capitelli “watchdog” website was pulled.

Spizter and Gertz, along with now bankrupt PR guru Jim Sinkinson, were the key players in the war on the newspaper.

The site smearing the Daily Planet remains, a celebration of what the Israeli think tank the Reut Institute [advisers to the Israeli government] hails [PDF] as a successful “price tag” attack.

Plastics alarm: Planetary poisoning for profit

Forget climate change and nuclear war.

What may ultimately wipe out the humans as well as much of the rest of the animal kingdom may be much closer to hand.

What is this menace, you ask?

In a word, plastics, a subject we’ve been following for the last six years.

Yep, those petroleum byproducts so beloved for their role in making our lives so much easier have a dark side.

The latest research shows plastics cause cancer, reduce male sperm counts, alter the development of male genitalia, cause prostate problems, trigger earlier menopause, lay the groundwork for developing diabetes and high blood pressure, cause some forms of hyperactivity, trigger the development of moobs [enlarged male breasts] at the onset of puberty, and trigger low birthweights among girls, and, later, childhood obesity.

And we suspect those problems are just the tip of the iceberg.

One key to the problems associated with plastics is that when consumed into the body, they can mimic the chemicals secreted by the endocrine system [think estrogen and testosterone for starter], which is turn play key roles in regulating everything from our sexual development to our psychological states. Plastics, in short, function as what biologists call endocrine disruptors.

Yep, and its not just humans who are impacted by our ever-increasing reliance of plastics in everything from baby bottles and toys to microwave food containers, clothing, cosmetics, and so much more. Indeed, our consumption of plastics doubles every eleven years, and many of the most commonly used forms can’t be recycled, at least economically — leaving the planet awash in plastic refuse.

If it were just Homo sapiens paying the price for our addiction, one might tkae the neoliberal argument and say, hey, we deserve what we get.

But what about the myriad other species inhabited this small sphere were call Earth?

By now everyone should know that our habit of treating the world’s oceans as giant toilets has resulted in massive agglomerations [gyres] of plastic floating on the waves. But those are just the smallest percentage of plastics in the Seven Seas.

And what are those plastics doing once immersed in the world’s oceans? Read the rest after the jump [and do read on for some stunning findings]: Continue reading

Chart of the day: Chinese rank their own woes

From a new report [PDF] from the Pew Research Center:

Microsoft Word - Pew Research Center China Report FINAL Septembe

Ted Rall, banned cartoonist, on Snowden, media

The population of American newspaper editorial cartoonist is dying off faster than the population of salaried journalists, in part because the best cartoonists are both irreverent and provocative.

Ted Rall was one of two op-ed cartoonists for the Los Angeles Times until earlier this year when he was fired because the Los Angeles Police Department challenged a column and cartoon he had penned earlier this year about an encounter he had with an aggressive cop [more later].

His pen remains busy, and he has just turned his skills to the book, producing a graphic biography of Edward Snowden titled, aptly, Snowden.

In this 29 September Seattle Town Hall conversation with Paul Constant, Rall talks about Snowden and the events leading to his ouster by the Times.

From TalkingStickTV:

Ted Rall (Author of “Snowden”) in Conversation with Paul Constant

Here’s Rall’s graphic account of his ouster from the Times, via aNewDomain:

On July 27, 2015, the Los Angeles Times fired me as its long-time editorial cartoonist. The reason given was their belief, based on a secret LAPD audiotape of my 2001 arrest for jaywalking, that I lied about my treatment by the police officer in a May 11, 2015 blog for the Times. However, when I had the tape enhanced and cleaned up, it proved I'd told the truth. So why won't the Times comment or admit they were wrong?

On July 27, 2015, the Los Angeles Times fired me as its long-time editorial cartoonist. The reason given was their belief, based on a secret LAPD audiotape of my 2001 arrest for jaywalking, that I lied about my treatment by the police officer in a May 11, 2015 blog for the Times. However, when I had the tape enhanced and cleaned up, it proved I’d told the truth. So why won’t the Times comment or admit they were wrong?

Note that in his video talk, Rall drops a bombshell: The largest owner of shares in the Times‘ parent corporation is the pension fund of the Los Angeles Police Department. Curious, no?

And continuing with the subject of the relationship of editorial cartoonists and the LAPD, consider this 1968 R. Cobb offering from the late Los Angeles Free Press:

BLOG RCobbCops

She’s back: Abby Martin lands a Telesur show

A hearty welcome back to the East San Francisco Bay Area’s own Abby Martin, a passionate video journalist and artist whose RT America series Breaking the Set provided incisive alternative takes on critical issues of the day from September, 2012 to February 2015.

We were saddened by her departure from RT, and welcome the arrival her new show every Friday on Telesur English.

In this edition of The Empire Files, she interviews former New York Times Mideast Bureau Chief Chris Hedges on the power of the media and its spinners in the furtherance of American imperial dreams and the internalization of imperial control in the United States itself:

Abby Martin & Chris Hedges: War, Propaganda & the Enemy Within

Program notes:

Abby Martin interviews Chris Hedges on American myths, war and revolt. Hedges explains the ‘folly of Empire,’ the dangers posed by right-wing extremism and the urgent need for a new system.

Chris Hedges is a former New York Times journalist and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. He is the author of several books including his most recent, “Wages of Rebellion: the Moral Imperative of Revolt.” He publishes a weekly column on and is the host of Days of Revolt, airing every Monday night on teleSUR english.

teleSUR’s The Empire Files airs every Friday night at 10:00 EST / 7:00 PST. Watch live here:

FOLLOW @EmpireFiles & @AbbyMartin

Quote of the day: The coercive deep state

From former Central Intelligence Agency officer Philip Giraldi, executive director of the Council for the National Interest, writing in the American Conservative:

America’s deep state is completely corrupt: it exists to sell out the public interest, and includes both major political parties as well as government officials. Politicians like the Clintons who leave the White House “broke” and accumulate $100 million in a few years exemplify how it rewards. A bloated Pentagon churns out hundreds of unneeded flag officers who receive munificent pensions and benefits for the rest of their lives. And no one is punished, ever. Disgraced former general and CIA Director David Petraeus is now a partner at the KKR private equity firm, even though he knows nothing about financial services. More recently, former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell has become a Senior Counselor at Beacon Global Strategies. Both are being rewarded for their loyalty to the system and for providing current access to their replacements in government.

What makes the deep state so successful? It wins no matter who is in power, by creating bipartisan-supported money pits within the system. Monetizing the completely unnecessary and hideously expensive global war on terror benefits the senior government officials, beltway industries, and financial services that feed off it. Because it is essential to keep the money flowing, the deep state persists in promoting policies that make no sense, to include the unwinnable wars currently enjoying marquee status in Iraq/Syria and Afghanistan. The deep state knows that a fearful public will buy its product and does not even have to make much of an effort to sell it.