Two key national security nominations by President Obama are up for confirmation following Congress‘ recess this week: former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense, and John O. Brennan, the president’s key counterterrorism adviser, to be the director of the CIA. Both candidates have had to address issues based on their past and current activities and associations. Troublingly, a number of questions still remain unanswered.
One explosive issue is a report by John Guandolo that broke last week on Tom Trento’s “TrentoVision Show” and also was carried by Glenn Beck on Feb. 11. The report stated that Mr. Brennan was converted to Islam while CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia from 1996 to ‘99. Let’s be clear: In America, a man’s religion can never be a condition to his holding a government position. It is protected by both the First Amendment and Article 6 of the Constitution. Therefore, even if it is true that he converted, Mr. Brennan’s religion should not be an issue.
However, according to Mr. Guandolo — a former SWAT team leader at the FBI, counterterrorism and Muslim Brotherhood specialist and Marine platoon commander — what should be an issue was the Saudis’ targeted recruitment of Mr. Brennan to the ideology of Islam while he was serving as the CIA station chief in Riyadh. This was not just a conversion but a political act by a foreign intelligence service.
If verified, this would indicate Mr. Brennan’s susceptibility, whether witting or unwitting, to manipulation by a foreign intelligence entity. It’s interesting that no counterintelligence alarm was triggered at the time that this alleged conversion was occurring. Most likely, that’s because at that time the sophisticated Islamic objectives driving the global jihad movement by the Muslim Brotherhood were not understood by those who witnessed his “conversion.”
As Clare Lopez, from the Center for Security Policy, has pointed out, our counterintelligence defense system is broken. The Muslim Brotherhood’s core threat doctrine — the ideology of Islamic jihad and Shariah law — is seen as benign. Mr. Brennan’s activities as the president’s top counterterrorism adviser have been at the forefront in the Muslim Brotherhood effort in the United States. The Brotherhood has succeeded in convincing the U.S. government to remove from official documents and training curricula all references to Islamic doctrine, Shariah law and scriptures that relate them to terrorism. Further, scheduled lectures on the true threat from Islam have been canceled, and instructors have been barred from future presentations.
Mr. Brennan’s track record of empowering the Muslim Brotherhood both domestically and abroad allowed the jihadist enemy access to the highest level of government under the stealth guise of “nonviolent outreach partners.” For example, terrorists like Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations who has been linked to Hamas; and leaders from the Islamic Society of North America, unindicted co-conspirators from the Holy Land Foundation trial in 2008, work with national security staff providing input to U.S. counterterrorism strategies. That is hardly comforting.
It cannot be denied that U.S. policy on Islam, Shariah law and the Muslim Brotherhood in particular has undergone a sea change during the time Mr. Brennan has had influence on our national security. Certainly, Mr. Brennan cannot be confirmed until a full vetting has taken place.
With regard to Mr. Hagel’s confirmation as secretary of defense, clearly full disclosure about his past and current financial arrangements must be provided. His position on our defense budget and his appearance on Al-Jazeera where he characterized the United States as a bully in world affairs is more than troubling. As an aside, Al-Jazeera is owned by the government of Qatar, which has now been revealed as a major contributor to the Atlantic Council when Mr. Hagel was the chairman, according to Cliff Kincaid, the director of the Center for Investigative Journalism.
Mr. Hagel’s position on the defense budget, as well as his likely support for U.S. nuclear reductions beyond the latest level of 1,500 weapons, also should raise serious concern. This is particularly true in light of North Korea’s recent nuclear test explosion and Iran’s continued drive to achieve nuclear weapons capability. Moreover, Gen. Vicktor Esin, former chief of staff of Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces, stated in a Wall Street Journal interview on Feb. 11 that Russia estimates China has 1,600 to 1,800 warheads, not the 300 to 400 that our intelligence community attributes to them. Mr. Hagel’s stated position on direct negotiations with Iran with no preconditions is also of concern, as is his position on our only true ally in the Middle East — Israel.
These and other matters must be fully vetted before either nomination for these critical positions can be confirmed.
Wealth is not Created at the Top: It is Only Devoured There
The UK has left the EU and we can argue about the minutiae of Wealth until we’re blue in the face. But the overriding factors are apparent and in one of the richest countries in the world it is shocking that so many people can’t even be sure if they are going to be able to eat enough today or provide for their loved ones.
These days, politicians from the left to the right assume that most wealth is created at the top. By the visionaries, by the job creators, and by the people who have “made it”. By the go-getters oozing talent and entrepreneurial-ism that are helping to advance the whole world – Opinion by Rutger Bregman
… across the spectrum virtually all agree that wealth is created primarily at the top and so entrenched is this assumption that it’s even embedded in our language. When economists talk about “productivity”, what they really mean is the size of your paycheck. And when we use terms like “welfare state”, “redistribution” and “solidarity”, we’re implicitly subscribing to the view that there are two strata: the makers and the takers, the producers and the couch potatoes, the hardworking citizens – and everybody else.
Bankers, pharmaceutical giants, Google, Facebook … a new breed of rentiers are at the very top of the pyramid and they’re sucking the rest of us dry
In reality, it is precisely the other way around. In reality, it is the waste collectors, the nurses, and the cleaners whose shoulders are supporting the apex of the pyramid. They are the true mechanism of social solidarity. Meanwhile, a growing share of those we hail as “successful” and “innovative” are earning their wealth at the expense of others. The people getting the biggest handouts are not down around the bottom, but at the very top. Yet their perilous dependence on others goes unseen. Almost no one talks about it. Even for politicians on the left, it’s a non-issue.
To understand why, we need to recognise that there are two ways of making money. The first is what most of us do: work. That means tapping into our knowledge and know-how (our “human capital” in economic terms) to create something new, whether that’s a takeout app, a wedding cake, a stylish updo, or a perfectly poured pint. To work is to create. Ergo, to work is to create new wealth.
But there is also a second way to make money. That’s the rentier way: by leveraging control over something that already exists, such as land, knowledge, or money, to increase your wealth. You produce nothing, yet profit nonetheless. By definition, the rentier makes his living at others’ expense, using his power to claim economic benefit.
But here comes the rub. Most rentiers are not as easily identified as the greedy banker or manager. Many are disguised. On the face of it, they look like industrious folks, because for part of the time they really are doing something worthwhile. Precisely that makes us overlook their massive rent-seeking…
The problems we face are that the politicians are firmly in the hands (pockets) of the uber wealthy. We live in a corporate plutocracy and those holding all the wealth and therefore power have no intention of changing the status quo, even if it isn’t sustainable. They remind me of bacteria (or cancer) devouring the host body more and more even though eventually it will kill them too.
Donald Trump Forgets Important Lesson From Grandad:
Harper’s Magazine reprints an interesting letter from US President Donald J. Trump’s own grandfather that may get you thinking. Here is it then:
The Emigrants – By Friedrich Trump – From a letter written in 1905 by Friedrich Trump, Donald Trump’s grandfather, to Luitpold, prince regent of Bavaria. Trump had been ordered to leave Bavaria for failing to complete mandatory military service and to register his initial emigration to the United States twenty years earlier.
Prince Luitpold rejected Trump’s request for repatriation; the family later settled in New York. Translated from the German by Austen Hinkley.
Most Serene, Most Powerful Prince Regent! Most Gracious Regent and Lord!
I was born in Kallstadt on March 14, 1869. My parents were honest, plain, pious vineyard workers. They strictly held me to everything good — to diligence and piety, to regular attendance in school and church, to absolute obedience toward the high authority.
After my confirmation, in 1882, I apprenticed to become a barber. I emigrated in 1885, in my sixteenth year. In America I carried on my business with diligence, discretion, and prudence. God’s blessing was with me, and I became rich. I obtained American citizenship in 1892. In 1902 I met my current wife. Sadly, she could not tolerate the climate in New York, and I went with my dear family back to Kallstadt.
The town was glad to have received a capable and productive citizen. My old mother was happy to see her son, her dear daughter-in-law, and her granddaughter around her; she knows now that I will take care of her in her old age.
But we were confronted all at once, as if by a lightning strike from fair skies, with the news that the High Royal State Ministry had decided that we must leave our residence in the Kingdom of Bavaria. We were paralyzed with fright; our happy family life was tarnished. My wife has been overcome by anxiety, and my lovely child has become sick.
Why should we be deported? This is very, very hard for a family. What will our fellow citizens think if honest subjects are faced with such a decree — not to mention the great material losses it would incur. I would like to become a Bavarian citizen again.
In this urgent situation I have no other recourse than to turn to our adored, noble, wise, and just sovereign lord, our exalted ruler His Royal Highness, highest of all, who has already dried so many tears, who has ruled so beneficially and justly and wisely and softly and is warmly and deeply loved, with the most humble request that the highest of all will himself in mercy deign to allow the applicant to stay in the most gracious Kingdom of Bavaria.
Your most humble and obedient,
… Well then. Long ago, yes.. Still applies? You tell me.
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