Saturday, April 29, 2017

Australian Anti-War Activist Joan Coxsedge's April 25, 2017 Letter

The following letter from Australian anti-war and Latin American solidarity activist Joan Coxsedge--who is also a former member of the Victoria state parliament--originally appeared in an Australian-Cuban solidarity group's newsletter.
“April 25, 2017

“Dear Comrades,

“Hope you’re all OK, but it’s hard to be OK when the entire planet has gone bonkers and the most powerful man in the world is a dangerous blowhard who likes dictators and autocrats and whose finger hovers over the Red Button.

“Three presidential war criminals preceded Trump. Between them, Clinton, George W and Obama bombed Yugoslavia (twice), invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, attacked Pakistan and Yemen, destroyed Libya and sent in mercenaries to bugger up Syria. Not enough space to detail all Washington’s other coups and destabilizations but its lust for violence lies at its very core and as a vassal nation we are part and parcel of it. Having exported its manufacturing base and run down its industry (like us), the US has been left with little else but brute force, not only bombing and destabilizing much of the world, but messing up their own citizens, where police forces are out of control and commit more ‘gun violence’ than anyone else.

“But Trump isn’t the anti-establishment outsider he purported to be. His economic program looks like neo-liberalism on steroids where US corporations continue to behave like Kings over feudal serfs. They buy candidates, overwhelm governments with well-heeled lobbyists and spend a motser on PR and much else. The war lords and his silly daughter Ivanka persuaded Trump to unleash missiles on a Syrian airstrip and drop a $314 million massive air blast bomb on a few dozen ‘terrorists’ in some Afghanistan caves without the benefit of any valid intelligence. A display of machismo that got swift establishment approval. ‘I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night’, gushed a CNN journo with raves about ‘the beauty of our fearsome armaments’. The rest of the Global Empire joined in the cheer squad, especially Australia

“In 2011 alone, the US spent $US845+ billion dollars on ‘defense and security’, with massive funds to covert Special Ops forces in more than 100 countries, while ’we’ shelled out a $195 billion war arsenal, including splurging more than $15 billion for American F-35 fighters exposed as hi-tech turkeys. In July we’re taking part in one of the biggest US-led naval exercises through China’s sea lanes, already encircled by 400 US military bases. John Pilger warns that Australia is sleepwalking into confrontation with China.

“No joy from Labor. Its defense spokesman Richard Marles thrilled US admirals and generals at a recent conference in Hawaii by virtually demanding that Australian commanders be given the authority to provoke nuclear-armed China in the disputed South China Sea.

“Trump’s Secretary of State Tillerson has been sent to Russia. Why? He’s spent the last few weeks peddling lies that Assad with the help of Russia used sarin gas against civilians. The world’s media immediately ran with the story without checking the facts or asking who put them out, when all the information in the video came from two dodgy outfits - the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the White Helmets, both openly supporting al-Qaida - and was doctored and was a scam.

“The US had been fully briefed there was a target in Idlib that the Russians believed was a weapons/explosives depot for Islamist rebels. The Syrian Airforce hit the target with conventional weapons, expecting to see a secondary explosion. Instead, smoke billowed out indicating it was used to store organic phosphates and chlorine, not sarin, but was still deadly. A strong wind blew the cloud to a nearby village.

“The video showed workers at the site 30 hours after the attack wearing clothes bearing the logo ’Idlib Health Directorate’ putting dead birds from a birdcage into plastic bags. The same workers were shown inside the crater without any protection of any kind against either sarin vapors or sarin aerosol. Had it been sarin, they would have died. One of the treating doctors who appeared in the video had been arrested for kidnapping two western journalists as a ‘committed jihadist’ and was struck off the Medical Council in 2016. The male victims were clean-shaven despite living in al-Qaida land.

“I could go on but the whole episode makes no sense. Pro-government forces were winning on the ground using more effective conventional tactics. They’re also under intense scrutiny, thus using chemical weapons would be a strategic blunder serving no purpose whatsoever.

“But US war fever waits for nothing. Once the war frenzy was unleashed, reasoning went out the window. That Syria used chemical weapons to bomb civilians became absolute truth within less than 24 hours. As the old saying goes: ‘A lie has travelled half-way around the world while truth is still putting on its shoes’. “The truth is that the CIA has spent more than a billion dollars arming anti-Assad ‘rebels’ and makes no bones that its main target is the Syrian Government.

“The US is now turning its sights back to North Korea. A strange regime but more understandable when you read about its recent past. I thank Paul Atwood for the following material, but of course it’s only part of the story.

“Why did this tiny nation of 24 million invest in nuclear? Because of its turbulent history, with its four decade long occupation by Japan, its forced division after WW2 and the later devastating war with the United States from 1950-53 that ended in an uneasy armistice.

“Korea is an ancient nation with its own unique language and traditions but its independence came to an end in 1910 after five years of war and occupation by Japan. A nationalist resistance movement emerged in the form of ‘people’s committees’ and it was from these deeply committed village and city groups that guerrilla forces took on the Japanese during WW2.

“August 1945 saw the end of Japanese rule when Russia occupied the northern peninsula. The Soviets agreed to the division between Soviet and American forces because they were allies back then. Dean Rusk (later to become Secretary of State) arbitrarily drew a line across the 38th parallel ensuring that the capital city Seoul remained in the American zone.

“The Soviets could easily have occupied all of Korea but chose not to do so. A pity, because the US immediately began favouring Koreans who had actively collaborated with the Japanese while directing the government to root out the people’s committees. The Soviets supported Kim Il-Sung who had led the guerrilla army against the Japanese.

“In 1947, the United Nations authorised elections but as the monitors were all US allies the Soviets and Communist Koreans declined to take part. By then the Cold War was in full swing and the US only supported candidates approved by Washington. Extremist anti-communist Syngman Rhee was appointed head of the Korean government in 1945 before later winning the country’s first presidential election. Many of his senior army officers had served in the Japanese occupation. Both Russian and American troops withdrew but left ‘advisers’ behind. Rhee’s forces attacked Kim’s supporters and in 1948 a guerrilla war broke out against the corrupt Rhee regime but was suppressed with the help of American agents who later became part of the CIA.

“In 1950, Washington released its National Security Paper-68 that outlined the agenda for its anti-communist crusade, requiring a tripling of its defense budget. And set the reactionary political tone that is still in force. Given Washington’s post WW2 plans for global access to resources, markets and cheap labour, any form of national liberation movements had to be opposed.Truman authorized the UN to instigate a full-scale military intervention, bypassing Congress. The war went badly at first, despite the US having more troops, but this was swiftly reversed and North Koreans were forced to retreat into the mountains.

“Right from the outset, China had made it clear that any foreign troops approaching their border would ‘result in dire consequences’, which was dismissed outright by General MacArthur. MacArthur then ordered airstrikes under the command of the notorious General Curtis Lemay that laid waste to thousands of square miles of North Korea, worse than anything seen in WW2, short of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. ‘We burned down every town and village’, said Lemay. And he wasn’t exaggerating.

“In November 1950, hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops crossed the border and overwhelmed US forces. There was panic in Washington with A-bombs on its agenda. MacArthur also wanted to use chemical weapons, including gas and radioactive cobalt.

“By June 1951, UN troops were forced back across the 38th parallel and the fighting became a war of attrition like the trench warfare in WW1. The US was accused of dropping bombs laden with cholera, anthrax, plague and encephalitis, all of which turned up among the north’s population. Some American POWs admitted to such war crimes but were never allowed to talk to the media. Napalm was also used extensively and completely destroyed Pyongyang. At that time, the US was engaged in top secret germ warfare research using captured Nazi and Japanese warfare experts. The US was also experimenting with sarin gas despite it being banned by the Geneva Convention. Interesting, in view of the current situation in Syria.

“In the spring of 1953, US warplanes hit five of North Korea’s largest dams inundating and destroying Pyongyang’s rice harvest. They were followed by flash floods that destroyed the soil and killed untold numbers of farmers.

“At Nuremberg after WW2, Nazi officers who carried out similar attacks on Holland’s dykes that created a massive famine were tried and some were executed. It’s had to imagine, even after all this time, that after such intense suffering and bloodshed North Korea would ever agree to submit to any ultimatum by the US of A.
“Last Tuesday we commemorated Anzac Day when we heard a great deal about fighting for freedom and democracy to justify the obscene death toll in that terrible war and seem to have learned nothing. Still far too much jingoism. Less than a week later many of us celebrated May Day to honour the struggles and victories of working class people.

“Australia led the world when on April 21, 1856 stonemasons at Melbourne University downed tools and marched to the Victorian Parliament and inaugurated a movement which won the Eight Hour Day for building workers in Victoria. The victory became an international landmark in the history of the labour movement throughout the world. But oh to be in Cuba for May Day, a fabulous celebration when millions march waving their red flags and singing and dancing. Viva!

“Joan Coxsedge”

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

`Come With Us" folk song lyrics

A protest folk song with early 1970's melody, chorus lyrics and first verse lyrics about dreams and frustrations of being a 1960's and 1970's U.S. anti-war New Left Movement organizer-activist, in which lyrics to second and third verse were written in 2017.

(verse 1) Oh, people sitting on the ground
Why can't you hear the sound?
We've been trying
But so many still are dying.
And I wish I could have you as a friend
But you seem to prefer another love
So I've been crying
While you've been flying.

Come with us
Flee with me
We'll be kind
In the breeze.

(verse 2)
The lies they bombard all from the screen
The masked musicians cover up their greed
And robots dancing
To advertising.
And I wish you'd awaken in the night
And discover what is wrong and what is right
Then I'd be laughing
And you'd be escaping. (chorus)

(verse 3)
The orphaned refugees from covert war
The missile and drone strikes that break the law
The rigged elections
Yet no Revolution.
And I wish I could tell you what is true
And you would agree it's overdue.
Then you'd feel freedom
And not more serfdom. (chorus)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Columbia University's Boies Schiller Flexner and U.S. Senator Gillibrand Connection

Should Boies Schiller Flexner managing partner and Gillibrand campaign contributor also chair the tax-exempt Columbia University board of trustees?

Boies Schiller and Flexner [BSF] announced today that partner Kirsten Gillibrand was elected…She raised some $3 million in campaign contributions, including substantial support from colleagues at BSF…The Firm issued the following statement: `We are extremely proud of our partner…’ Ms. Gillibrand…is on leave while she serves in Washington.’…”

--from a Nov. 8, 2006 Boies Schiller Flexner [BSF] press release 

“Jonathan is a co-founder and managing partner of Boies Schiller Flexner…He has served as lead counsel…for clients including Barclays, Goldman Sachs, the New York Yankees, and the fantasy sports website DraftKings….He has represented global corporations based in the United States, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Kuwait, and Singapore… Jonathan serves as Chair of Columbia University’s Board of Trustees...”

--from the Boies Schiller Flexner website

“…Endowment fund earnings are exempt from federal income tax….Changing the tax treatment of college and university endowments…could be modified to increase federal revenues...”

--from a Dec. 2015 Congressional Research Services Report

Columbia University’s Boies Schiller Flexner and U.S. Senator Gillibrand Connection

Most people in the United States don’t think private U.S. universities owning valuable real estate property and billions of dollars’ worth of corporate stocks and bonds in their endowment portfolio—like Columbia University, Harvard University and NYU—should be exempt from paying their fair share of federal, state and city corporate and property taxes.

Yet since being named by former Democratic New York Governor David Paterson in 2009 to replace Hillary Clinton as one of New York State’s representatives in the U.S. Senate, a former Boies Schiller Flexner [BSF] corporate law firm partner, Kirsten Gillibrand, has apparently not been eager to introduce much federal legislation to require private U.S. universities like Columbia University to pay their fair share of federal taxes.

One reason might be because the current chair of tax-exempt Columbia University’s board of trustees, Jonathan Schiller, is, coincidentally, a co-founder and  managing partner of the same BSF law firm in which U.S. Senator Gillibrand previously worked, prior to being first elected in 2006 to just represent New York’s 20thCongressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Also coincidentally, prior to former New York Governor Paterson naming former BSF partner Gillibrand to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, the election campaign fund of Paterson was given two campaign contributions, totaling $50,000, by two BSF law firm partners on Dec. 23, 2008. As Zack Lowe observed in an article, titled “Former Boies Schiller Partner Will Fill Clinton Senate Seat,” that appeared in the Jan. 23, 2009 issue of The American Lawyer:

“Kirsten Gillibrand, the upstate Democratic congresswoman and former Boies Schiller Flexner partner…will replace Hillary Rodham Clinton in the U.S. Senate…The Village Voice…posted a nice bio of Gillibrand, outlining her father’s ties to New York’s most powerful Republicans…Gillibrand is a favorite of the National Rifle Association…

“The most interesting tidbit in the Voice piece for our purposes is the fact that David Boies (name partner at Boies Schiller Flexner) contributed $25,000 to Paterson’s campaign fund on Dec. 23, 2008. Boies’s son, Christopher, also a partner at the firm, wrote a $25,000 check to the governor’s campaign the same day…”

The law firm of Columbia University Board of Trustees Chair Schiller, not surprisingly, has also been the number one source of campaign contributions to former BSF partner-turned U.S. Representative/U.S. Senator Gillibrand since she began her federal office-seeking career, according to the Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets website data. Over $668,000 in campaign contributions from individuals employed at Schiller’s BSF law firm have been accepted by Gillibrand’s election campaign committees during her political career.

Schiller, for example, contributed over $9,500 to Gillibrand’s campaign committee between Jan. 30, 2009 and March 3, 2011; and, on May 12, 2014, Schiller made a $5,000 campaign contribution to Gillibrand’s Off The Sidelines PAC. The Open Secrets website data also indicates that during the 2015-2016 campaign cycle Gillibrand’s Off The Sidelines PAC was given $27,800 by individuals employed at Schiller’s law firm, making BSF the 5th-largest source of money for Gillibrand’s Off The Sidelines PAC during the 2015-2016 period.

In addition to contributing funds to Gillibrand’s campaign committee and Off The Sidelines PAC, Columbia University’s board of trustees chair also contributed over $67,000 to the politically partisan campaign committees of other Democratic Party politicians’ campaigns (including over $7,300 to Hillary Clinton’s campaign committees and over $11,00 to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer’s campaign committees) and over $152,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee between Apr. 30, 2001 and June 1, 2016 (including a $33,400 campaign contribution on March 23, 2015). Schiller also made a $10,000 campaign contribution to Minnesota’s Democratic Farmer Labor Party state organization on Oct. 2, 2014.

BSF Chairman David Boies, who co-founded the BSF law firm with Schiller, has, however, contributed much more money than Schiller to fund the election campaigns of Democratic Party politicians on both the federal and state level between 1999 and 2017, according to the Open Secrets website’s data. Between Oct. 28, 2004 and Oct. 25, 2016, the BSF chairman and co-founder made 49 campaign contributions, totalling over $388,000, to help bankroll the Democratic State Party organizations in 34 different states.

On Sept. 13, 2016, for example, Boies gave a separate $10,000 campaign contribution to the state Democratic Party organization in each of the following states: Maine, Missouri, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Texas, New Mexico, Virginia, Colorado, Florida, Mississippi, Wisconsin, Oregon, West Virginia, Wyoming, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Georgia, Nevada, Montana, South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Delaware, Tennessee and Alaska; and on that same day, the state Democratic Party organization in Kentucky was given two campaign contributions, totaling $20,000, by Schiller’s law firm business partner.

The following month, Boies also gave a $10,000  campaign contribution to Iowa’s state Democratic Party organization on Oct. 11, 2016 and his second 2016 campaign contribution of $10,000 to Nevada’s state Democratic Party organization on Oct. 26, 2016. In addition, on June 30, 2016 the Democratic Committee of New York State was also given a $10,000 campaign contribution by the chairman and co-founder of the Columbia University-linked BSF.

On the national level, Boies gave five campaign contributions, totaling $278,000, to the Democratic National Committee [DNC] Services Corporation between June 22, 2011 and Sept. 26, 2016; and, between Dec. 31, 2007 and March 23, 2015, over $183,000 was contributed by Schiller’s BSF co-founder to the Democratic Party’s Senatorial Campaign Committee. In addition, Boies gave a $500,000 campaign contribution to the House Majority PAC Super-PAC on Oct. 24, 2013 and two campaign contributions, totalling another $500,000 to the Senate Majority Super PAC, between Oct. 28, 2013 and Oct. 25, 2016.

Over $232,000 in direct money contributions to the individual campaign committees of at least 44 Democratic Party politicians other than former BSF law firm partner Gillibrand have also been made by Schiller’s BSF business partner between 1999 and 2017 (including over $13,000 to Rep. Charles Rangel’s campaign committee, over $13,000 to Rep. Nita Lowey’s campaign committee, over $11,000 to U.S. Senator Al Franken and over $6,000 to U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer).

According to David A. Kaplan’s Oct. 20, 2010Fortune magazine article, Schiller and Boies’s BSF firm of 240 lawyers “revolutionized the economics of corporate law practice” and, coincidentally, had “the nation’s third-highest profits per equity partner-$2.9 million” among large corporate law firms. The same article also noted that “Boies Schiller…has regular corporate clients to maintain a stream of revenue,” but Schiller and Boies’ firm also “imitates investment banks by charging flat fees,” so that a firm client’s “signing bonus, for example, can be $10 million -- regardless of how much lawyer time actually gets put in.” The Fortune magazine article also indicated that in 2010, about half of BSF’s revenue “came from flat fees and contingency arrangements,” while BSF’s regular corporate clients were apparently being billed for a BSF lawyer’s time at a $960 per hour rate in 2010.

One reason Boies has apparently been able to contribute so much money in recent years to bankroll the election campaigns of Democratic Party politicians like former BSF law firm partner Gillibrand is that BSF apparently was paid a $150 million fee “on top of an annual $5 million fee” in 2008 for representing American Express in a legal case; and “a law firm source” told Fortunemagazine that Boies was personally taking “north of $10 million” annually from his legal work, thus “probably making him the highest-paid lawyer in the country” in 2010.

Besides providing legal services for American Express, Columbia Board of Trustees Chair Schiller and BSF Chairman Boies’ law firm has also provided legal services for tobacco companies like Philip Morris/Altria, R.J. Reynolds and Ligget’s and for other corporate clients like Goldman Sachs, DuPont, Apple, Barclays, CBS, Oracle and Sony.

After Wikileaks, in April 2015, published on its site the emails that a hacker had previously obtained from Sony’s server, BSF Chairman and Co-Founder Boies, for example, spent the following week “sending out a hyperbolic letter to various news organizations pressuring them to avert their eyes from the hacked email trove that WikiLeaks published” and “misleadingly claiming that journalists could be breaking US law by even looking at the emails,” according to Trevor Timm’s April 22, 2015 London Guardian column.

In the same column, Trevor Timm also noted that “New York Times reporter Eric Lipton” had previously “won a prize for his…investigative series on how private companies and their lobbyists are colluding with state attorneys general to pursue corporate agendas in secret, which prominently featured emails from the hacked Sony trove in one story;” and BSF lawyers for “Sony should not be able to tell journalists what to print,” since “news organizations have a First Amendment right to publish newsworthy information that they know was stolen, as long as they did not participate in the underlying crime.”

Coincidentally, Boies and Schiller’s BSF corporate law firm also includes the following ex-U.S. government officials: former Federal Communications Commission [FCC] Enforcement Chief Travis LeBlanc; former Clinton and Bush II White House National Security Council Director for Transnational Threats Leo Wolosky; and the Obama Administration’s former U.S. Ambassador to the UN for Special Political Affairs and Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security David Pressman.

According to a March 4, 2017 BSF press release, BSF law partner LeBlanc was “the chief law enforcement officer at the FCC” who “spearheaded hundreds of enforcement actions.” Yet now LeBlanc “will help clients manage their litigation, regulatory risk and direct strategic responses to government enforcement efforts,” despite an FCC rule that apparently only prohibits him for one year from working on the same issues he was working on at the FCC.

As the former chief FCC law enforcement officer told Big Law Business reporter Stephanie Russell Kraft in a March 9, 2017 interview:

“I’m going to be working on privacy and cybersecurity issues. It’s an area where, in the last few years in government, I’ve been very active, both on the state level in California and on the national level at the FCC. I’m going to spend a lot of time working on the issues that tech companies face when dealing with government regulatory bodies, the kinds of issues that say, an Uber faces when trying to enter a new city, or what Airbnb faces when trying to figure out how laws about public accommodation apply to them. As someone who’s had state experience and federal experience..., I believe I have a skill set that will be extremely valuable to a lot of tech companies, and being backed by the litigation powerhouse at Boies Schiller, should we need to go down that road, will be a huge asset.

“…I expect to be working on specific matters, like companies embroiled in investigations. Sometimes a federal enforcement action or a state action spawns a private class action or another private action. I expect to be advising companies on the front end to help avoid becoming ensnared in a federal or state legal issue, then advising them when there is an incident, then helping them should it turn into an actual enforcement action or litigation, so legal services for the full cycle of an issue….

“…The innovators that are trying to break in, that’s who I hope to continue to support in private practice. A lot of innovators, the companies that are disrupting the way we think about business, are in Silicon Valley. As they disrupt the marketplace they’re also in the position of disrupting the regulatory and legal structure that we’ve set up. Helping them deal with the problems that come from being disruptive is a space where I can offer them particular value….”

Given tax-exempt Columbia and Senator Gillibrand’s current and historic connection to BSF, it’s not likely that Columbia’s Journalism School or Gillibrand will examine very much whether or not it’s ethical for a former FCC enforcement officer to apparently walk through “the revolving door,” to “switch sides” and begin working as a “hired gun”-lawyer for corporate clients the FCC is purportedly regulating.

Nor is it likely that U.S. Senator Gillibrand will be eager to push for more federal legislation that would, for example, compel Columbia to pay a fair share of federal taxes or limit the amount of money that the co-founders, chairman and managing partner at Columbia Board of Trustees’ Chair Schiller’s BSF law firm are allowed to contribute each year to politically partisan Democratic Party or Republican Party campaign committees and organizations in the United States.

Yet is this “what democracy” is supposed to “look like” at Columbia “BSF” University in 2017?