| | DEAR OVERSEAS AMERICAN FRIENDS,
I thought you’d enjoy the following letter and the three attachments.
I’ve been trying for nearly a year, and without success so far, to get some very basic statistics from the State Department.
State claims that they don’t have these statistics even though every embassy and consulate has to submit them each year. I don’t believe they actually throw them away, but, then again, you never know!
Anyway, it is just another sad example of how indifferent State is, and has long been, to our concerns while we live abroad.
Enjoy, and hopefully you might want to join this Tea Party and send your own similar FOI request.
It would be very interesting to see how they would respond when they had hundreds of the same request in their mail box coming in from all over the world.
The first step is rather simple, and can be done right on the State Department website at http://www.state.gov/m/a/ips/
Take care, Andy
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ANDREW P. SUNDBERG
9 August 2012
Office of Information Programs and Services
Room 8100, SA-2,
U.S. Department of State,
Washington, D.C. 20522-8100.
Nearly a year ago, on August 17th, 2011, I filed a Freedom of Information Request via the State Department’s website asking for data, by year and by overseas U.S. Embassy and Consulate, on the number of U.S. citizens who had renounced their U.S. citizenship, going back to 1963.
To my great surprise, and dismay, nearly eight months later I received a letter from the State Department, dated April 9, 2012, indicating that the State Department has no such statistical data in its files.
On April 16th, 2012, I filed an appeal to the Chairman of the Department’s Appeals Review Panel, and this appeal was confirmed in a letter that you signed and sent to me on 4 May 2012. You also indicated that the Case Number for this FOI Case is No. 201107020. (See attachment 1).
Since then, now more than three months ago, I have not had any further contact from the State Department on this FOI request.
I have subsequently, however, come across a very rich and relevant Congressional document that hopefully will assist the State Department in finally and efficiently fulfilling this request.
This document is a report dated 1 June, 1995, prepared by the Staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation of the U.S. Congress, entitled “Issues Presented by Proposals to Modify the Tax Treatment of Expatriation”. (The title page of this report is attachment 2)
Page 7 of this report shows the number of renunciations of U.S. citizenship at U.S. Embassies and Consulates all over the world for each year from 1962 to 1994, as documented by the State Department. These apparently are the total numbers of “Certificates of Loss of Nationality” that were issued to renunciators each year during this period by the State Department. (See attachment 3).
Pages G-55 to G-60 of this report is a letter dated May 9, 1995, from Wendy R. Sherman, Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, addressed to Hon. Robert Packwood, Vice Chairman, Joint Committee on Taxation, United States Senate, which indicates the total numbers of renunciations of U.S. citizenship at U.S. Embassies and Consulates all over the world during the period 1980 to 1994. (See attachment 4).
As it is now perfectly clear and demonstrable that the State Department does indeed collect and retain this data, I would like to once again request that under the current provisions of the Freedom of Information Act you please make this information on the number of Certificates of Loss of Nationality during each year available to me as soon as possible.
Furthermore, as this information has to be aggregated from reports filed by each Embassy and Consulate, I am sure that you also have this information on a per Embassy/Consulate basis, and therefore I would like to once again request that the breakdown of this data by Embassy/Consulate each year from 1963 to 2011 be also made available as soon as possible. A recently retired Foreign Service Officer confirmed to me that each Embassy and Consulate does indeed file reports on the number of such renunciations that take place and the number of certifications of renunciation that are issued each year, so this basic data is obviously coming into the State Department.
Finally, by current law, the State Department is required to send the names of those who renounce U.S. citizenship to the IRS, and each Quarter the IRS publishes names of some renunciators. But the big unanswered question remains of whether these names published by the IRS are all of those who have renounced, or just some of them.
From conversations with some who have renounced during recent years, it is also obvious that the annual quarters of the year when these names are published are not directly related to the quarters during which these renunciations actually took place. And some also claim that their names never showed up on the IRS lists. These are yet more reasons why I am asking the State Department for assistance in the long overdue clarification of this matter.
Therefore, to clear up all of this data size and date of occurrence uncertainty, I am once again appealing, under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act, for data on all renunciations that have taken place by year, and by Embassy/Consular Post, since 1963.
I eagerly await you response. My kindest regards and thanks in advance for your assistance.
All the very best.
1: Copy of your letter of 4 May 2012. (not included).
2: Title page of Congressional JTC Report of 1 June 1995. (see attached).
3. Page 7 of this JTC Report. (see attached).
4. Pages G-55 to G-60 of this JTC Report. (see attached).
| | DEAR BUBBAS AND BUBBETTES, HERE IS SOME VERY WELCOME NEWS
On the 2nd of August, legislation was adopted by the House of Representatives that proposes to get rid of “Citizenship-Based Taxation”. Hooray.
Take a look at page 8, Section 5 (F) of the attached legislative language and you will see that this legislation proposes transitioning to a globally competitive “territorial tax system”
Alas, the prospects of this Bill being adopted in the Senate, under its current Democratic majority, are very dim.
The article below in yesterday’s Wealth Strategies Journal gives a bit more background information on this, and if you go to the Library of Congress website there is much more: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d112:h.r.6169
Given the current impasse in the Congress, what do you think we should try to do next?? What would you be willing to do to try to help move this along??
All the very best and take care, Andy
IS A COMPREHENSIVE TAX REFORM ON THE WAY?
House Votes to Pass Bill for an Expedited Consideration of a Comprehensive Tax bill
Posted by Neda Barkhordar, Senior Associate Editor, Wealth Strategies Journal, 7 August 2012.
The House voted 232 to 189 to pass a bill that would allow for the speedy consideration and deliberation of a comprehensive tax reform bill.
“The Pathway to Job Creation Through a Simpler, Fairer Tax Code Act of 2012” (H.R 6169) requires the tax reform bill to be presented to the House by the Means and Ways Chair by April 30, 2013. (See attached).
Further, it requires the Joint Committee on Taxation to find that it confirms to the five reform parameters, which include broadening the tax base, condensing the current six tax brackets into two tax brackets of 10% and not more than 25%, reducing the corporate tax rate to not greater than 25%, and imposing a territorial system of taxation.
With a Democrat-led Senate, the chances the bill will pass are negligible.
| | TIGTA CONFIRMS ALLEGATIONS THAT IRS EMPLOYEES WERE DISCOURAGED FROM IDENTIFYING POTENTIALLY FRAUDULENT ITIN APPLICATIONS
By David Barnes, TIGTA, 8 August 2012. David.firstname.lastname@example.org
WASHINGTON – Complaints from Internal Revenue Service (IRS) employees that their supervisors were urging them to ignore potential fraud in a program that reviews and verifies applications for Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) have been validated in a report publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
The ITIN program was created in 1996 so that individuals who are not eligible to obtain Social Security Numbers could obtain an identification number for tax purposes. In 2011, the IRS processed more than 2.9 million ITIN tax returns resulting in tax refunds of $6.8 billion.
Following referrals from Members of Congress, TIGTA reviewed complaints from IRS employees regarding the management of the ITIN Program. The objective of TIGTA’s review was to assess the efficiency and effectiveness of the IRS’s process to identify questionable ITIN applications.
TIGTA substantiated many of the allegations set forth in the IRS employees’ complaints. Those complaints alleged that IRS management is not concerned with addressing questionable applications and is interested only in the volume of applications that can be processed, regardless of whether they are potentially fraudulent. In particular, TIGTA found that IRS management:
“TIGTA’s audit found that IRS management has not established adequate internal controls to detect and prevent the assignment of an ITIN to individuals submitting questionable applications,”
- Created an environment which discourages tax examiners from identifying questionable ITIN applications;
- Eliminated successful processes used to identify questionable ITIN application fraud patterns and schemes; and
- Established processes and procedures that are inadequate to verify each applicant's identity and foriegn status.
said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “Even more troubling, TIGTA found an environment which discourages employees from detecting fraudulent applications,”
he continued, adding, “To their credit, the IRS recently announced a series of improvements that will take effect immediately on an interim basis, in response to our findings. It is to be hoped that significant, systematic change, rather than interim improvements, will take place.”
TIGTA made nine recommendations in its report. The IRS agreed with seven of the recommendations and has announced plans to implement interim changes based on TIGTA’s findings. IRS management is considering the other two recommendations while it conducts its own review. Read the report
by clicking here.
### Note: The difference between the date TIGTA issues an audit report to the Internal Revenue Service and the date TIGTA publicly releases the report is due to TIGTA's internal review process to ensure that public release is in compliance with Federal confidentiality laws.
DEAR BUBBAS AND BUBBETTES,
The more you read these stories, the easier it is to understand why the IRS, and the Congress, spend so much time vilifying Americans who live overseas. It is ever more obviously a distraction strategy to get people to look far away, rather than up close, at what is really going on. Perception management at its finest!
And, since we have not a single dedicated advocate anywhere in the U.S. Government today, either in the Executive Branch, Congress, or the Judiciary, to speak out and defend us, we who live abroad are the irresistibly tempting long hanging fruit, which can be an ever available Piñata whenever the next distraction option card needs to be played.
So enjoy yet another ridiculous story and howl with laughter yet again. And prepare for the inevitable next attack pompously declaring how bad and immoral overseas Americans are, by definition, and will always so usefully remain. AMEN!
And if you have a few extra moments, take a look at the attached TIGTA report too, because this Florida address story seems to be small chicken feed compared to what has been coming out of addresses in Michigan and elsewhere.
My, oh my, oh my indeed!!!!
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741 TAX RETURNS FILED FROM SINGLE FLORIDA ADDRESS, IRS SENT BACK OVER $1 MILLION IN REFUNDS
By Alexander Eichler, HuffingtonPost, 7 August 2012.
More than 700 tax returns were filed in 2010 from a single residential address in Belle Glade, Fla. The IRS reportedly issued over a million dollars in refunds to the Belle Glade address that year.
Either one particular home in South Florida is really, really crowded, or there's something shady going on.
In 2010, 741 tax returns were filed to the federal government from a single address in Belle Glade, Fla., the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports. In response, the Internal Revenue Service issued over $1 million in combined tax refunds to that address, which is, y'know, embarrassing.
Most or all of those returns were probably filed by identity thieves, and the Belle Glade case isn't even the worst of it, according to a report issued last month by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (see attached). That report notes that in addition to the Belle Glade home, there was an address in Tampa that sent in 518 tax returns and got back almost $1.8 million in refunds, and an address in Lansing, Mich., sent in 2,137 tax returns and got more than $3.3 million back. The returns from these addresses all bore the hallmarks of identity theft, according to TIGTA.
Tax-refund scams don't seem to be going away any time soon. Identity theft and fraud are reportedly rampant in some parts of the country, especially Florida, which is home to three of the five U.S. addresses that filed the greatest number of tax returns in 2010, according to the TIGTA report.
Scams of this kind are growing more common, and they're making it harder for law-abiding taxpayers to get refunds that are rightfully theirs. Identity thieves reportedly have a number of ways to soak the IRS, from borrowing the names and information of dead people to hijacking the Social Security numbers of Puerto Rican citizens, who don't pay federal income tax. The TIGTA report estimates the IRS will send out $21 billion in refunds to criminals over the next five years.
That's a forecast the IRS itself has, not surprisingly, taken issue with, and the agency claims it's cracking down on identity thieves and fraudulent returns. The IRS has reportedly put controls in place to spot stolen identities and returns that use the Social Security numbers of dead people. Last week, CNNMoney reported the agency has already picked out almost twice as many suspicious returns this year as it had by this time last year.
Still, fooling the IRS doesn't seem like an impossible task, considering one guy reportedly did it from a jail cell with a typewriter, according to a recent story in The Kansas City Star.
INVESTIGATION FINDS 741 TAX RETURNS FILED FROM SINGLE BELLE GLADE HOME
By Donna Gehrke-White, Florida Sun Sentinel, 6 August 2012.
A small South Florida city has attracted the attention of federal investigators looking into tax refund fraud and identity theft, according to an independent watchdog agency that oversees the Internal Revenue Service.
In Belle Glade, nestled along Lake Okeechobee, 741 tax returns worth more than $1 million in refunds were filed from a single address last year, according to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
The Belle Glade address ranked third nationally for number of returns filed. Investigators would not release the address, citing confidentiality rules on tax returns. But House Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Charles Boustany Jr., R-La., referred to it as a home.
Three of the top five addresses used to file potentially fraudulent returns were in Florida, the Inspector General reported.
Tampa and Miami were mentioned as the top cities where potentially fraudulent 2010 tax returns were filed last year.
Nationally, thieves are suspected of using the identities of 2,274 children, 105,000 dead people and almost 1 million people who don't normally file returns to collect $5.2 billion in refunds.
The Inspector General's analysis found that incidents of identity theft jumped 155 percent last year.
"The report really underscores just how bad a problem ID tax fraud is in Florida and around the country," said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, who asked the Treasury Inspector General last year to investigate the extent of the problem. "It's become an epidemic that's costing law-abiding U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars. And it's one we've got to fix. That's why I've filed legislation aimed at putting a stop to these fraudsters."
The IRS disputed some of the watchdog's findings, including estimates of $21 billion in potentially fraudulent tax returns in the next five years.
Plantation IRS spokesman Mike Dobzinski said Monday that his agency "along with the Department of Justice, has significantly stepped up its activities to pursue those who attempt to steal identities to commit tax fraud." That will help cut down on future abuse, he said.
But Rep. Boustany was concerned that the IRS wasn't spotting suspicious multiple filings at one address.
In addition to the Belle Glade home, an Orlando post office box allegedly received $1,088,691 for 703 suspected fraudulent tax returns filed, he said. A home in Tampa netted even steeper refunds: It allegedly sent out 518 potentially fraudulent fake returns but collected nearly $1.8 million from Uncle Sam, Boustany said.
David Barnes, public affairs liaison of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, said his agency "did not analyze the fraud by geographic or metropolitan location." So he said he couldn't comment on why the state — and South Florida in particular — leads the nation in identity theft.
His agency's report showed, for example, that Miami thieves allegedly submitted nearly 75,000 bogus tax returns last year and received nearly $281 million in refunds.
It is "one of the biggest constituent problems we see in our office," said Alex Conant, a spokesman for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio. The tax fraud "often prevents law-abiding taxpayers from receiving the tax refunds they deserve."
"Over the past several years my office has seen a dramatic increase in the number of individuals needing assistance because of tax refund identity theft, a clear indication this crime is becoming a big problem in South Florida," added U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Weston. That's why she said she introduced a bill to help stop this problem and protect Americans.
Florida IRS spokesman Dobzinski said his agency is working hard to stop the fraud. This January, the IRS and Justice Department worked together to press 923 charges against 105 people in 23 states.
"To support our prevention efforts, we enhanced our return processing filters to improve our ability to identify false returns and stop fraudulent refunds from being issued," he added.
The IRS also established a specialized unit that analyzes and develops leads on identity theft, Dobzinski said.
But others are skeptical with several South Florida tax preparers saying tax-related identity theft is up even more this year than last.
"We need to know why the IRS is not catching this fraud," Rep. Boustany said.
IT'S AUGUST: PREPARE FOR CATACLYSM
Congress might be on recess and business slow, but this month
always has its disproportionate share of world-historical events.
By Andrew Roberts, WSJ, 7 August 2012. Mr. Roberts, a historian, is author most recently of "The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War" (Harper, 2011).
What is it about the month of August? Why should we still persist in regarding it as a quiet time—with Congress in recess, business slowed down, and people on holiday—when so many world-historical events take place in this month? You can ignore the Ides of March, but history shows that it's in the dog days of August that great events take place.
Ever since the Roman Senate proclaimed in A.D. 8 that the eighth month of every year be named after the Emperor Augustus (63 B.C.-A.D. 14), nephew and adopted heir of Julius Caesar, the month has seen a disproportionate share of cataclysmic events.
In the last century alone, World War I broke out on Aug. 4, 1914, and Adolf Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland on the night of Aug. 31, 1939. World War II was only won with the dropping of two atomic bombs in August 1945. Other 20th-century conflicts sparked in August: the Vietnam War, with the Gulf of Tonkin incident of August 1964; the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968; and the Gulf War, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in August 1990.
August was also the month when German President Paul von Hindenburg died in 1934, paving the way for Hitler to become fuhrer; when the U.S. passed the Social Security Act in 1935; when Germany mobilized during the Sudetenland crisis of 1938; when the Nazi-Soviet Pact was signed the next year; when British rule in India ended in 1947; when the USSR broke off diplomatic relations with the U.S. in 1948; when the Berlin Wall was built in 1961; when Nelson Mandela was arrested in 1962; and when China's Cultural Revolution began in 1966.
Across the 1970s, this supposedly quiet month saw Richard Nixon's resignation from the presidency (1974), the signing of the Helsinki Final Act by the Soviet Union and Western nations (1975), and the beginning of South Africa's Soweto Riots (1976). Over the next decade, August saw fascist terrorists kill 82 people at Bologna railways (1980), the founding of the Solidarity trade union in Poland (also 1980), the assassination of Filipino opposition leader Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino (1983), and the beginning of the Iran-Contra scandal (1985).
Might there be a reason why this month keeps cropping up when great men and great events collide? In Europe and America, August is usually the hottest month of the year.
The St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre of Aug. 24, 1572—a series of assassinations and mob attacks against French Protestants—will always stand as a terrible crime made much worse by the sultry heat that Paris had been sweltering under for three weeks. The city's heat frayed tempers and gave the city a fetid, sinister feel even before the order for the wholesale massacre was given. Yet it hardly explains the turmoil that still takes place in the period after the invention of air conditioning.
Another explanation might be that principal political decision-makers often take vacations in August, leaving less competent lieutenants in control. The outbreak of World War I is the classic case: Despite the horrific horrors looming over Europe, Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany was cruising in the North Sea, British Foreign Secretary Edward Grey was fishing in Scotland, German Field Marshal Helmuth von Moltke was taking the waters in Carlsbad, German Chancellor Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg left Berlin for his country residence, German Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz was at a spa in Switzerland, and German Foreign Minister Gottlieb von Jagow was on honeymoon at Lucerne.
As European civilization careened toward an abyss that was to cost over 38 million lives, most top decision-makers were on holiday.
When Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev went on holiday in August 1991, he found that the people he left behind in Moscow were so incompetent that they failed to detect a full-scale coup brewing. Cut off in his Crimean dacha, he was far easier to imprison than if he had been at the helm in the Kremlin. At least his excursion had a positive outcome; by tragic contrast, Princess Diana's holiday in France culminated in her death in the early hours of Aug. 31, 1997.
Shakespeare writes in "The Tempest" of "You sunburn'd sicklemen, of August weary," but the Grim Reaper never seems to weary of this month. So let's show much more respect for these 31 days of regularly recurring cataclysms. Great world events very rarely, it seems, conform to Congress's timetable.
“DRUMMING UP MONEY, BY BEATING THE DRUMS FOR YET ANOTHER WAR ?”
And so it goes, another day, another appeal for campaign funds by saying and at least pretending a willingness to do something, anything, that might tickle the nerves and stroke the metaphysical and incarnational fantasies of potential major donors.
My, oh my, how our once noble liberal democratic republican experiment keeps evolving as it stumbles along such an amazingly convoluted path.
One can only wonder what will come next. What do you think may be about to happen??
And, at the end of the day, does it really matter. More wars, more money flowing into the pockets of the privileged insiders, more campaign donations into the right coffers. Aren’t we ever going to grow up and get tired of this? Or it this ultimately what the original intelligent design was really all about??
Anyway, have another beer and enjoy this circus while it lasts, or until you fall asleep again for another four years. Take care, Andy
OBAMA'S OCTOBER SURPRISE: BOMBING IRAN
By Jacob Heilbrunn, The National Interest, 2 August 2012.
A devastating strike would create an upsurge of patriotism in America and fully neutralize Mitt Romney's contention that Obama is a foreign-policy wimp. It could allow Obama to sweep to victory in November.
Will he do it?
One reason he might is that Mitt Romney is singlehandedly pushing the entire debate about Israel and Iran to the right. The parameters have changed markedly. As TNI editor Robert Merry and others have noted, Romney's efforts to ingratiate himself with Jewish donors and voters have prompted him to suspend any notion of an independent American foreign policy in the Middle East. Traditionally, the green or red light for military action has come from America, at least when it comes to actions that directly impinge upon American interests.
Ronald Reagan, for instance, successfully demanded that Israel halt its attacks on Lebanon in 1983. Romney, by contrast, has effectively promised to give Israel a veto power over military action, indicating that he will do whatever Benjamin Netanyahu wants. As Romney observed in December, he would never, ever criticize Israel. Instead, he would get on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu and ask, "What would you like me to do?" So it's fair to say that Romney would outsource his foreign policy to Netanyahu when it comes to Israel and its enemies.
What's more, anyone who thinks that Romney is bluffing should think again. It's no accident that his senior adviser on the Middle East is Dan Senor, a hard-line neoconservative. As the New York Times notes today, Romney relies upon him for advice and frequently cites his book “Start-Up Nation”. Senor wasn't dissembling when he said in Israel that Romney was prepared to endorse an attack on Iran—he simply got a little ahead of the program.
Obama has not been far behind in giving Netanyahu close to carte blanche. But he has not gone as far as Romney in endorsing the threat that Iran should be precluded from having the capability of building a nuclear weapon. But as Netanyahu champs, or tries to give the impression of champing, at the bit to bomb Iran, Obama must be weighing whether or not he should call Netanyahu out on his threats. So far, the Obama administration has been doing everything in its power to dissuade Israel from speedy action. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's visit to Israel was another sign that the administration is trying to reassure Israel of its commitment to its security. But his emphasis was on sanctions:
The most effective way to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is for the international community to be united, proving to Iran that it will only make itself less secure if it continues to try to pursue a nuclear weapon.
But as Romney calls for "any and all measures" to stop Iran, Obama surely could deflate his sails by launching a strike in October. If it worked, he would be hailed as a hero. The consequences of a strike wouldn't be felt for at least a few weeks—the nightmare scenario is that an oil shock would result in a quadrupling of oil prices, plunging the world into a new Great Depression. Enough time for Obama to sail back into office as a tough foreign-policy president.
Given Obama's congenital caution and sobriety, he seems unlikely to follow such a course. But it should not be ruled out. The neocons may be closer to helping bring about an assault on Iran than even they realize. They've already captured Romney. But they may also be on the verge of capturing Obama. Their sustained campaign of pressure, in other words, may be more effective than anyone has acknowledged. For the fact is that Obama already has amply demonstrated his ruthlessness when it comes to confronting America's adversaries. If he were able to carry out regime change in Tehran, he might even start referring to himself as the “new Decider”.
ADVISER DRAWS ATTENTION TO ROMNEY MIDEAST POLICY
By Michael D. Shear, NYT, 1 August 2012.
WASHINGTON — Moments after making remarks in Jerusalem about Middle East culture that enraged Palestinians and undermined the public relations value of his trip to Israel, Mitt Romney looked around the room for Dan Senor, one of his campaign’s top foreign policy advisers.
It was Mr. Senor’s book about entrepreneurs in Israel that informed his comments, Mr. Romney explained to the group of Jewish-American donors he had assembled at the King David hotel. The book, “Start-up Nation,” is among Mr. Senor’s writings that Mr. Romney frequently cites in public.
Mr. Senor (pronounced See-NOR) has become one of the key people shaping Mr. Romney’s increasingly hawkish views on the Middle East. A television-savvy former spokesman for the American government in Iraq, Mr. Senor blends a foreign policy background, high-volume punditry and ties to wealthy hedge fund investors in the United States to become a triple threat as an insider in Mr. Romney’s presidential campaign.
His presence in the tight orbit of advisers around the Republican candidate foreshadows a Romney foreign policy that could take a harder line against Iran, embrace Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and move away from being the honest broker in the conflict with Palestinians.
But his views and influence have drawn new scrutiny to Mr. Romney’s Mideast positions, particularly after Mr. Senor said last week that Mr. Romney respected Israel’s right to pre-emptively strike Iran’s nuclear facilities. Campaign aides conceded that Mr. Senor got “a little ahead” of Mr. Romney on Iran, but said it had not diminished his role at the campaign.
“Dan is a long-term friend and adviser of Mitt,” said Beth Myers, one of Mr. Romney’s top strategists. “He’s consistently been a part of his foreign policy advising world. Mitt appreciated his advice and counsel on that trip and he remains a close adviser.”
By tapping Mr. Senor, 40, as his principal adviser on the Israel leg of his foreign trip this week, Mr. Romney passed over more seasoned strategists, some of them veterans of the Middle East peace efforts that have bedeviled presidents and diplomats for decades.
In Mr. Senor, Mr. Romney turned to an advocate of neoconservative thinking that has sought to push presidents to the right for years on Middle East policy. (His sister, Wendy Senor Singer, runs the Jerusalem office of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential lobbying organization.)
“Mr. Senor is a pragmatic hawk who clearly has an acute sensitivity and sensibility toward Israeli security interests,” said Aaron David Miller, a former adviser to Democratic and Republican secretaries of state. “That’s clearly a filter through which he, and should he get to be president, Romney, sees the whole panoply of issues in the Middle East.”
The plan for Mr. Romney’s overseas trip called for him to mix delicate global diplomacy with high-dollar campaign fund-raising, all on foreign soil. It would take an adviser accustomed to maneuvering effortlessly through the worlds of politics, money and news media.
Enter Mr. Senor, who has become one of Mr. Romney’s closest foreign policy advisers, having traveled three times to Israel with him. Mr. Senor began visiting Boston in 2006 to brief Mr. Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, on foreign policy, and has had his ear since. In the acknowledgments of his book “No Apology,” Mr. Romney wrote that Mr. Senor sharpened his “appreciation of the dangers presented by the shift in our foreign policy.”
Mr. Senor declined to comment for this article.
But in Israel last week, the carefully laid plan was quickly consumed by negative attention. Gushing comments about Mr. Romney by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were initially overshadowed by Mr. Senor’s comments to reporters about Iran. When that died down, Mr. Romney’s assertion that cultural factors helped account for the wide Israeli economic edge over the Palestinians drew condemnation from Palestinian leaders.
For all the furor, Mr. Senor has proved to be a resilient public figure, often finding new success after public criticism.
At the start of the Iraq war, Mr. Senor served as the spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority, often delivering rosy accounts of the war’s progress to reporters whose on-the-ground view of the crisis there was anything but. Rajiv Chandrasekaran, a Washington Post reporter who wrote a critical book about the authority, once described Mr. Senor’s office as doing “a masterful job of spinning the media.”
Mr. Senor’s departure from Iraq was followed by a stint running a private equity firm that made him wealthy. He married Campbell Brown, a former anchor for CNN, formed a conservative research organization and secured invitations to appear on Fox News and MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.
“He is intrigued by the game of politics,” said William Kristol, the editor of The Weekly Standard and a longtime friend. “But he is genuinely public spirited.”
Mr. Romney’s relationship with Mr. Senor began just after his honeymoon in 2006, when Ms. Myers asked if he would meet with Mr. Romney, then a likely presidential candidate.
Before long, Mr. Senor was regularly visiting Boston for briefings and setting up visits by other foreign policy hawks in Washington. He accompanied Mr. Romney to Israel in January 2007 and went with him on a trip to Afghanistan, Jordan, Israel and Dubai last year.
“I believe they are genuinely close and personal,” Mr. Kristol said.
Perhaps the best evidence of that is the frequency with which Mr. Romney talks about Mr. Senor’s book. Acquaintances of both men said Mr. Romney frequently mentions it. The slim book argues that Israel’s entrepreneurial spirit contributes to its success — a message that resonates with Mr. Romney’s background in business.
“He goes through some of the cultural elements that have led Israel to become a nation that has begun so many businesses and so many enterprises,” Mr. Romney said at his Jerusalem fund-raiser.
Looking around a room filled with wealthy Americans, including Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire casino magnate who has donated tens of millions of dollars to Republicans, Mr. Romney noted Mr. Senor’s absence and his success at hitting such people up for campaign cash.
“I saw him this morning. I don’t know where he is,” Mr. Romney said. “He’s probably out twisting someone’s arm.”
ROMNEY EDGES U.S. TOWARD WAR WITH IRAN
By Robert W. Merry, TNI, 1 August 2012.
Robert W. Merry is editor of The National Interest and the author of books on American history and foreign policy. His latest book is “Where They Stand: The American Presidents in the Eyes of Voters and Historians” (Simon & Schuster).
The major newspapers all understood that GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s expressions in Jerusalem last weekend were important, which is why they played the story on page one. But only the New York Times captured the subtle significance of what he said. The paper’s coverage, by Jodi Rudoren and Ashley Parker, reported that Romney sought to adhere to the code that says candidates shouldn’t criticize the president on foreign soil.
“But,” they added, “there were subtle differences between what he said—and how he said it—and the positions of his opponent.”
Most significantly, while Obama talks about stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, Israel insists Tehran should be prevented from having even the capacity to develop nuclear weapons. This means no nuclear development even for peaceful purposes. Romney embraced the Israeli language. In doing so, he nudged his nation closer to war with Iran.
Based on Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s oft-repeated expressions, he clearly seems bent on attacking Iran to destroy or delay its nuclear program and, if possible, undermine the Iranian regime. And he wants America at his side when he does it. Obama has been seeking to dissuade Israel from contemplating such an assault in order to give the president’s austere sanctions regimen a chance to work. But what does he mean by “a chance to work?”
If he means a complete capitulation by Iran, he’s dreaming, of course. History tells us that nations don’t respond to this kind of pressure by accepting humiliation. That’s the lesson of Pearl Harbor, as described in my commentary in these spaces. Many close observers of the Iran drama believe there may be an opportunity for a negotiated outcome that allows Iran to enrich uranium to a limited extent—say, 5 percent—for peaceful purposes. Iran insists, and most experts agree, that the Non-Proliferation Treaty allows such enrichment for energy production. In any event, numerous signatories to the NPT do in fact maintain limited enrichment programs for peaceful ends.
Obama seems torn between pursuing such an outcome and embracing the Israeli position, which demands that Iran foreswear all enrichment and any peaceful nuclear development. In last spring’s Istanbul meeting between Iran and the so-called P5+1 group (the United States, Britain, France, China, Russia and Germany), there seemed to be a genuine interest on the part of those six nations to explore an outcome that would allow for some enrichment by Iran. Five weeks later in Baghdad, the P5+1 group seemed to backtrack and insist upon zero enrichment. Talks are ongoing but only among low-level technical people; any serious negotiations are on hold pending the election. Thus Obama has managed to maintain his flexibility during the delicate campaign period.
But now we have Romney in Israel essentially telling the people there that they need fear no ambivalence on his part. If elected, he will embrace the Netanyahu position, which is designed to ensure the collapse of any negotiations attending anti-Iran sanctions, which Netanyahu already has labeled a failure.
“We have to be honest,” he said over the weekend, during Romney’s visit, “and say that the sanctions and diplomacy so far have not set back the Iranian program by one iota.”
That’s the view that Romney subtly embraced in Jerusalem.
True, it was all done with a wink and a nod. In actual language, Romney didn’t diverge too far from what the president had been saying. Certainly in declaring that Americans “recognize Israel’s right to defend itself,” he echoed similar expressions that Obama has uttered on many occasions. But when he added, “and it is right for America to stand with you,” he was offering just a touch more of a free pass for an Israeli attack on Iran than Obama has done.
But all this apparently was just a little too subtle for Dan Senor, Romney’s senior foreign-policy aide, who told reporters just prior to Romney’s Jerusalem speech,
“If Israel has to take action on its own, the governor would respect that decision.”
This led to much back-and-forth afterward, but the message was clear: unlike Obama, and unlike George W. Bush before him, Romney harbors no inclination to dampen Netanyahu’s determination to solve his perceived Iran problem through force of arms. And, since an Israeli strike on Iran inevitably would thrust America into the resulting conflict, the Romney-Senor expressions, taken together, moved America that much closer to another Mideast war.
Arguably, this is true even if Obama is reelected in November and Romney is tossed to the side of the campaign trail. That’s because the mere expression of such sentiments from a major-party presidential candidate confers an added legitimacy to the idea that the United States would accept or even welcome a unilateral Israeli preemptive attack on another nation, whatever its leaders say in public. Such an attack almost surely would unleash a powerful wave of instability throughout the Middle East, with incalculable consequences for global peace and prosperity. It’s inconceivable that, in such circumstances, America could avoid getting drawn into the maelstrom that would ensue. In the meantime, the economic consequences would be nearly catastrophic as oil prices soared, dealing a heavy blow to an already unsteady global economy.
Thus, Romney’s words may have been subtle, but this is foreign-policy mischief on a very large scale. If he becomes president, two of Mitt Romney’s primary responsibilities will be to ensure peace and prosperity in the nation he leads. Those imperatives certainly didn’t seem uppermost in his mind over the past weekend. He may have looked frivolous and unprepared for the office he seeks when he arrived in London last week and, responding to a routine question about the Olympics, promptly demonstrated a tin ear for the nuances of diplomatic expression. But that was child’s play in comparison to what he did in Jerusalem.
ROMNEY, NETANYAHU, AND GEORGE WASHINGTON'S WARNING
By David Bromwich, HuffPost, 1 August 2012.
Mitt Romney's campaign stop in Jerusalem has been criticized for the grossness of the subservience that the candidate exhibited toward Israel. This reaction was surely factored in by his handlers. Liberals, internationalists, human rights advocates might demur, but Romney's intended audience was none of these people. Nor was it the Arab world, nor was it American voters, with a possible exception for the state of Florida. Romney was aiming to reach two distinct but related target groups: first, a small set of extremely wealthy donors, and second, a group composed of one person, Benjamin Netanyahu. Both have long been potent players in American elections. Both were already helping Romney. It was necessary and useful at this time to cement the alliance in public.
Judged in the light of that purpose, Romney's visit must be counted a success. And it was a success in one other respect. The billionaires and the prime minister wanted Romney to bring the United States closer to supporting a war with Iran. Romney obliged, and we are now closer to war. He recognized, he said, the "right" of Israel to defend itself. Who ever denied that right? He meant: the righteousness of a preventive attack on Iran. This left open the question, Does Iran have the right to defend itself? A question that Americans and Israelis, as effectively propagandized as we have been, can be trusted not even to ask. So Romney's intervention in Jerusalem amounted to approval of war -- and a war before November if Netanyahu happens to find that desirable. As a candidate in an election season, Romney gave the green light to a power whose engagement in war would involve the United States.
Nothing like this has ever happened before in American politics. But then, there has never been anything in history remotely like the present relationship between the United States and Israel. President Obama, who is thought to be lukewarm by Romney's supporters, in March described our alliance with Israel as "sacrosanct." A month earlier, he had assured Israel and its warmest American partisans that his administration was marching in "lockstep" with Israel in our approach to Iran.
All this Obama said and did in deference to Benjamin Netanyahu and without regard to American interests. For he had been told by the CIA that Iran is not working at present on a nuclear weapon, and he was warned by the Pentagon that a war with Iran would be a regional disaster for the United States. Even so, he gave Netanyahu in effect a yellow light: proceed with caution. And to sweeten the transaction, he promised to issue no traffic ticket if Israel speeds up. It was the same at this year's AIPAC convention where Obama again assured Netanyahu: "I have Israel's back."
A corny line from the playbook of the younger Bush, suggesting a false analogy between a gunfight and a world war, but Obama at the start of an election year knew very well what the script called for.
It has been said by members of the Israel lobby that Obama's actions speak louder than his words, and that his actions have hurt Israel. Let us recall some of the actions. In response to the onslaught on Gaza in December-January 2008-2009, in which 1,300 Palestinians were killed and 13 Israelis, Obama observed a silence which he has never broken. When, in November 2010, Netanyahu balked at the proposal of a 90-day partial extension of the freeze on West Bank settlement expansion, Obama offered twenty F-35 fighter jets if he would change his mind; Netanyahu refused, and Obama gave him the jets anyway. Only a week ago, the president donated another $70 million, on top of U.S. assistance already given, to build up the Israeli "Iron Dome" defense against rockets. Yet it is felt that Obama's love of Israel has been insufficiently demonstrative. The reason is simple but it is seldom mentioned quite candidly.
Twice, in the last four years, this president lapsed from the post-1992 American protocol toward Israel of undiluted flattery and largesse. In June 2009 he called for a settlement freeze, and in May 2011 he spoke of the 1967 lines as the starting point for the creation of an independent Palestine. Now, the de facto policy of the Netanyahu government is annexation of the West Bank. These diplomatic hints and reminders from the president were therefore as unwelcome as they were unexpected.
As for Iran, Israelis themselves (except Netanyahu and those in his immediate circle) are a good deal more cautious than their American neoconservative supporters. At a public meeting in April, in the Israeli city of Kfar Saba, Yuval Diskin, who in 2011 retired as head of Shin Bet (the Israeli FBI), said that he had "no faith" in Netanyahu's policy or his instincts on Iran. Two days later the former chief of Mossad, Meir Dagan, emphatically concurred and praised Diskin for his honesty.
What does it mean for an American like Romney, unskilled in international politics and innocent of the complexities of the Middle East, to back the pressure now being exerted by Netanyahu against the advice of the American president and against the advice of high-ranking intelligence and military officers in Israel? It means that Romney is not a friend of Israel so much as he is a friend of Netanyahu. Or rather, for Romney, as for the billionaires he had in tow, the personal is political. For them, Netanyahu is Israel. A point to which we shall return.
Joe Biden and Leon Panetta in recent months have taken care to issue statements along the lines of Obama himself, implying American avoidance of any war short of necessity, but adding that Israel is a sovereign nation and America does not pretend to control it. And yet we give Israel fighter jets, Iron Dome technology, and more than three billion dollars a year in foreign aid. If there is ever again an American president capable of deciding to concern himself more with the soundness of policy than with his chances in the next election, that president will have considerable control over Israel. Obama, however, works slowly and he starts worrying about the next election a year ahead. That does not leave much margin for inventive policy or persuasion. On the Middle East, his boldness in theory and timidity in practice seems to have roused the adventurism of Romney's neoconservative advisers. But Obama does occasionally offer convincing signs of not wanting the war with Iran that the Pentagon says would be a disaster. Romney, by contrast, with his quarterback-audible in Jerusalem, signaled that a war would be fine with him.
What are the actual stakes for Israel? Netanyahu has called the possession of a nuclear weapon by Iran an "existential threat," but nobody known for sanity, including his own defense minister Ehud Barak, has agreed with him about this. An existential threat conjures an image of war-loving Iran poised on the brink of exterminating the Jews of Israel. The evidence for that intention is a statement by the anti-Semitic president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who did indeed say that history would wipe the "Zionist entity" off the map.
What only readers who follow politics are likely to know is that Ahmadinejad is not the most powerful figure in Iran and that after the next election he may be out of a job. The cost to the mullahs of bombing Israel, with a weapon they are not yet close to possessing, would be massive retaliation by Israel, whose nuclear arsenal is estimated between 200 and 300 weapons. That picture is so improbable that Netanyahu has been forced to adopt a different stratagem.
On the argument that he now presses, even low-enrichment uranium is a danger in the hands of Iran. Obama and the European capitals, in the October 2009 negotiations, had offered Iran an agreement allowing 5% enrichment, and at the time Netanyahu raised no public objection. He now says he will not settle for any enrichment at all by Iran. He is lowering the threshold to justify an attack. And Romney last week in Jerusalem, with the support of his war party advisers, fell into step in with the Netanyahu ultimatum. Nothing less than zero enrichment will satisfy Mitt Romney.
Still, if Iran is not an existential threat, why is the wish to attack Iran so strong in Netanyahu and his right-wing coalition? The reason is fear of Iran as a regional competitor. A powerful hostile nation induces any rival to hesitate before wielding power as often as it would like. An Iran with a serious armed force could not equal Israel, or thoroughly deter Israel, but it would doubtless inhibit Israeli military ventures in the Arab world. And that, for an advocate of Greater Israel, is intolerable. Israeli designs must go forward unhindered. So Netanyahu is asking for American support against Iran for much the same reason that his predecessor Yitzhak Shamir wanted America to go to war with Iraq in 1991. Iraq, like Iran, was pursuing nuclear research but had no nuclear weapon. In 1991, however, Iraq did have a formidable army, and Israel had an interest in seeing that army destroyed. Some side effects of the elimination of Iraq as a military power are now a familiar part of the regional landscape: the air, land, and sea blockade on Gaza, and the Israeli annexation of the West Bank, which proceeds with fresh evictions every day.
Romney was asked by a reporter at the Western Wall if he endorsed the annexation of the West Bank by Israel. The question was put to him three times, and three times Romney ignored it. The channeling to the settlers of West Bank aquifers, the uprooting of Palestinian olive groves, the expulsion of Bedouin shepherds from their grazing lands all are done under the ostensible explanation of military necessity by Israel. Anyone who recalls the Jim Crow society of the American South in the 1950s knows the real purpose of such actions: to assert and make visible by force the superiority of one caste of people over another, and to drive the inferior people from places of value.
At the King David Hotel, Romney addressed campaign donors from America who had traveled thousands of miles to another country to affirm their loyalty. But loyalty to what and whom? Are the United States and Israel the same country? This was one of the weirdest exhibitions of transnational financial muscle in recorded history. It probably has no precedent. Will it have a sequel? Let us try a thought experiment. Imagine the American reaction to an American presidential candidate who calls a meeting of wealthy Italian-Americans in Vatican City in order to declare their unconditional fidelity to the Pope. The United States was once the country of protestant nonconformity. What is happening to us?
The ad-lib comments that Romney spoke on this occasion have received plenty of notice, but they cannot be quoted too often. They display with a fine economy the good-natured insolence of Romney himself alongside the conventional racism of the Republican Party and its roots in Social Darwinism.
"As you come here," he said, “and you see the GDP per capita, for instance, in Israel which is about $21,000 dollars, and compare that with the GDP per capita just across the areas managed by the Palestinian Authority, which is more like $10,000 per capita, you notice such a dramatically stark difference in economic vitality.”
Such was his revelation for the self-made party donors, as well as the heir and heiress billionaires. But there was more:
"As I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things."
Among the other things of course was "the hand of providence," the non-denominational shorthand notation for Tetragrammaton or Jesus Yahweh Smith. But the key word here was culture. There is a good culture, we know, of self-respect and commercial success and technology. And that culture looks a lot like Israel. Then there is a culture of poverty and inertia and resentment, and it looks like the West Bank. The occupation has nothing to do with the difference. For the slow-of-wit, Romney clarified his idea by adding that a similar disparity exists between other neighboring countries like Mexico and the United States.
Note that this division between the deserving and less deserving peoples scarcely departs from the old anti-Semitism. It uses the same clichés: the despised people are crafty but sullen, lacking in Western energy, discipline, and refinement. The prejudice has now been turned against another Semitic tribe, the Palestinians. The Jews of Israel, by contrast, are praised for their adaptation to the ways of commerce, and are treated as honorary Christians.
Pass from Romney to his audience. These people, as reported by the New York Times, were high net worth individuals whose total holdings may well have approached half a trillion. We will never know, since they have multiple accounts in the Cayman Islands, where some of them also have alternate private residences. But it is worth following up a few details of the Times story by Jodi Rudoren and Ashley Parker.
"Sheldon Adelson...wore a pin that said 'Romney' in Hebrew letters," yet Adleson is troubled, these days, by an investigation of the links between his casino holdings in Las Vegas and Macau.
"Much of Mr. Adelson's casino profits that go to him come from his casino in Macau," John McCain pointed out in a recent interview. "Maybe," McCain speculated, "in a roundabout way, foreign money is coming into an American political campaign."
Also not so roundabout. The money coming from the crowd at the King David Hotel evidently came from Americans and was going back into an American campaign. What, then, was the symbolic importance of having it routed through an event in Israel timed to begin at the end of the religious day of mourning Tisha B'Av?
Other members of the Romney-Netanyahu billionaire entourage were touched on briefly in the Times account. Cheryl Halpern, a New Jersey Republican and big party donor, was named by George W. Bush the successor to Kenneth Tomlinson as chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and served in that office during the years 2005-07. She disciplined NPR for political bias and, along with Tomlinson, succeeded in bending the tone and content of NPR toward the platitudes and human interest by which it is mainly known today. John Miller, the chief executive of the National Beef Packing Company, helped Tagg Romney and Spencer Zwick to find the $244 million they needed for the startup of a private equity fund, Solamere Capital, which in its early days shared an address with the Romney campaign headquarters.
Paul Singer, founder of the $20 billion hedge fund Elliott Associates and its affiliate Elliott Management, operates a "vulture fund" that specializes in buying up third-world debt. Elliott trawls for assets that have drastically fallen in value, and then sues countries for full value, with a legal threat if they refuse. It goes after vulnerable nations like Panama, Peru, Argentina, and Congo, offering rigor-mortis prices to the panicked holders of collapsing bonds, before it compels the derelict governments to buy them back at a swollen price or suffer international disgrace and an utter loss of autonomy at the hands of financiers.
The ingenuity and detective work that goes into Elliott is perhaps another clue to what Romney means by culture. But where Romney's Bain bought, gutted, repackaged and sold factories and store chains, and held in thrall occasionally the happiness of a town or a pension plan, Elliott transfixes the life holdings of large tracts of the world, including tribes and peoples whose names its officers will not have known how to pronounce until they began to reduce them to finance fodder. Will the vulture funds take out a second mortgage on the Parthenon?
"Elliott hasn't [yet] built up a hold-out position in Greek debt, according to an individual close to the firm. Last year it profited instead by trading Greek credit default swaps."
These people, so important because of their money, are united in their belief that Israel stands in grave peril because of the neglect or hostility of Barack Obama. Yet Obama's actions toward Israel -- the gifts of weapons and security systems, the reflex vetoes on U.N. resolutions -- have been dangerous if anything by their one-sided solicitousness on behalf of Israel. Obama has conducted himself toward Israel, in fact, as he has acted toward establishments like the American military and the Wall Street banks and brokerage houses. He mentions his power of refusal chiefly in order to show that, in some technical sense, that power does exist. But his use of the power has been, in all of these contexts, nominal and decorative. Again and again he has said he could bring results and has not brought them: tougher bank regulations, faster withdrawal from Afghanistan, "hands-on" presidential engagement in negotiations to create a Palestinian state and achieve peace with Iran. In all of these settings, Obama's practice has been hands-off, no matter what he may have pledged. Still, it is true that Romney would be a distinct improvement from the point of view of Netanyahu. Rhetorically, as well as in fact, he would be hands-on in Israel's favor at all times.
Because the Tisha B'Av spectacle was so bizarre, almost grotesque, one cannot help asking again: why were those American donors going to Israel to cheer an American candidate in an American election? Is being an American no longer good enough?
In a speech in Israel in 2010, Sheldon Adelson regretted that "the uniform that I wore in the military unfortunately was not an Israeli uniform, it was an American uniform."
Such an attitude of abasement or self-subordination toward Israel, often accompanied by a peculiar vicarious nostalgia, is not confined to American Jews or billionaires. On arriving in Jerusalem in March 2010, Joe Biden said "It's good to be home." What was he thinking?
As Netanyahu looks at these postures of genuflection, it is no wonder that he feels himself entitled to criticize an American president in front of the American Congress, or to "vet" Republican vice-presidential hopefuls such as Chris Christie and Rob Portman. If Netanyahu is now the most effective bundler in the Republican Party, why should he not have a say in the party's choice of a vice-president?
George Washington thought that being Americans should be enough for us. In his great Farewell Address, he also gave some reasons why attachment to a foreign power, no matter how sentimental the affection, could only impair American liberty and independence and serve to draw the country into unnecessary wars.
"Nothing," said Washington, “is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. . . .Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. . . .The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.”
So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity.
Can there be any doubt what George Washington would have made of the scene of Mitt Romney and his high-rolling backers at the King David Hotel?
Washington summed up his criticism of such attachments in these climactic words of warning:
“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. . . .Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other.”
A contrary understanding has become so familiar in our politics that it is hard to recall when anyone last worried about excessive partiality for one nation.
We should expect no compunction, no reservation, no self-consciousness regarding the "passionate attachment" to a "favorite nation" by Romney and his foreign policy team. Part of the reason lies in the composition of the team itself. They are, to a man, alumni of the Cheney circle and the post-2001 Patriot Act security establishment, and close affiliates of the Israel lobby.
But another reason for the partiality goes far back in Romney's own life. He has been a friend of Netanyahu since their younger American corporate years together; the two have gone to each other for advice ever since, as Michael Barbaro disclosed in an April 8 story in the New York Times: they consult casually and with implicit trust, in every walk of political practice, from discussing the right strategy against Iran to canvassing the sharpest method for cutting state pensions. They share, said Barbaro (with less irony than he needed), "the same profoundly analytical view of the world."
To readers who know this personal history, it may seem that Romney went to Jerusalem to confirm one detail of Barbaro's story:
"Mr. Romney has suggested that he would not make any significant policy decisions about Israel without consulting Mr. Netanyahu -- a level of deference that could raise eyebrows given Mr. Netanyahu's polarizing reputation, even as it appeals to the neoconservatives and evangelical Christians who are fiercely protective of Israel."
Romney could not fail to consult his personal friend who happens to lead a foreign power, since he has pledged to do so without exception, in all decisions affecting that power. It is exactly the situation that George Washington described and warned against; but Romney seems unaware of any conflict of duties or even a possible tension. During a December primary debate, Barbaro notes,
Mr. Romney criticized Mr. Gingrich for making a disparaging remark about Palestinians, declaring: "Before I made a statement of that nature, I'd get on the phone to my friend Bibi Netanyahu and say: 'Would it help if I say this? What would you like me to do?'"
"What would you like me to do." Those are the words of our intendant decider, and he means to address them, with an implied vow of fidelity, to the leader of another country.
Can we read Washington's words of 1796 addressed "to the people of the United States," and compare Romney's words addressed to his donors in Jerusalem, and not feel a deep disturbance? What would you like me to do?
ANOTHER CHAPTER IN THE CURRENT SAGA OF THE METAPHYSICAL “BIG BROTHERS” VS RADICAL FEMINIST “LITTLE SISTERS”
This contest is a really interesting existential struggle to define what the Intelligent Designer really had in mind when the decision was taken to have two different kinds of sexual organs.
Did the Decider in the Sky really want to have organic superiors, and were they always supposed to dominate the organic inferiors, or was there perhaps some static in the transmission of this message that still hasn’t yet been sorted out? How are we to know if organs get in the way of trying to decrypt this hierarchical conundrum?
What do you think about this, and how do you think this will eventually be resolved?
Who finally gets to define what the big gal/guy way up there somewhere really wants to see happen?? Who ultimately is supposed to obey whom?? Ah, yes, yet more conundri on the metaphysics of inscrutability!!
Enjoy and take care. Andy
CATHOLIC NUNS WEIGH VATICAN ORDER
By Ben Kesling, WSJ, 6 August 2012.
Leaders of Catholic nuns and sisters in the U.S. are gathering this week for their first major meeting since the Vatican ordered the women to abandon controversial positions and closely hew to official teachings.
During the weeklong event in St. Louis, which starts Tuesday and is estimated to draw 900 participants, the Leadership Conference of Women Religious is expected to solidify its response to church authorities. Any policy changes will be announced Friday, a conference representative said.
The group represents 80% of American nuns and sisters. Nuns are cloistered, while sisters typically serve in the fields of education, health care and service to the needy.
In April, the Vatican issued its report on the group following a four-year doctrinal review by Catholic bishops. The scrutiny was prompted by concerns that the group, which comprises the senior leadership of some 56,000 nuns and sisters in the U.S., had widespread policies of dissent against church authorities, and espoused "radical feminism," according to the Vatican report.
The report cited a keynote address to the group in 2007 by Sister Laurie Brink, a New Testament professor at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, as a catalyst for the investigation. In it, she made a claim that a dynamic religious life "involves moving beyond the Church, even beyond Jesus." The report called such comments a "cry for help."
The Vatican's findings mandate the appointment of a "delegate" from the church, Archbishop Peter Sartain of Seattle, to review the nuns' and sisters' "conformity to the teachings and discipline of the Church," subjecting many of their decisions to his approval. The archbishop's representative wasn't available to comment.
Nuns and sisters, who have taken vows but are unable to become priests because of the church's position on ordination of women, have long been identified as a bridge between laypeople and clergy. Part of the nuns' and sisters' mission, according to the Conference's website, is to join "in solidarity with people who experience any form of violence or oppression."
The leadership conference was formed in 1956 at the behest of the Vatican in order to formally connect various orders of American nuns and sisters and to provide an official link to church leadership. Another group, the Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious, which is considered to be more conservative, represents the remaining 20% of American nuns and sisters.
The nuns have won some support from other semiautonomous Catholic groups.
In June, the Franciscans in the U.S., a well-known and respected male religious order, issued a public statement in support of the nuns, calling the Vatican's actions "excessive." The Franciscan order cites a long-standing Catholic tradition of "appropriate disagreement regarding specific application" of Catholic teaching. Such disagreements are "not equivalent to questioning the authority of the Church's magisterium," they contend.
DEAR BUBBAS AND BUBBETTES,
Here is another interesting update on the nasty hegemonic FATCA fiasco. Enjoy.
|File Size: ||183 kb|
|File Type: || pdf| UNITED STATES – ANALYSIS OF MODEL AGREEMENT AS FATCA ALTERNATIVE
KPMG LLP, July 30, 2012.
The U.S. Treasury Department on July 26, 2012, released two versions of the Model I Intergovernmental Agreement (Model IGA) to implement the information reporting and withholding tax provisions of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA), together with a joint message with France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom endorsing the agreement.
KPMG’s analysis of the distinctions between the Model IGAs and the requirements under the proposed regulations examines the following areas:
- Modification of definition of financial institution
- Significant reliance on self-certifications
- Modification to account identification timeline
- Elimination of certain reporting requirements
- Elimination of withholding requirement for gross proceeds
- Modification to the limited foreign financial institution (FFI) rule
- Additional carve outs for retirement plans
- Reciprocity—potential for future requirements for U.S. withholding agents
KPMG LLP: Model I Intergovernmental Agreement released as alternative to FATCA regime (See attached).
MY, OH MY, OH MY.
Where is this going now, and is there even an iota of adult supervision anymore in that ever more aberrantly behaving and bizarre City Upon a Hill?
What do you think about this? Is there a cure? Your comments and suggestions would be most welcome.
| | CHILDREN OF SWISS ASSET MANAGER DETAINED FOR SIX HOURS FOR QUESTIONING BY US OFFICIALS
, IsaacBrockSociety, 6 August 2012.
Swiss newspapers are reporting that two children of a Swiss asset manager were interrogated by US customs as to the whereabouts of their father, what their father did, whether their father made trips to the US, etc. They were entering the US to visit their grandparents. Sorry, interrogation of children looks like something from the Gestapo playbook.
The original article below is in French. Here is a translation of the first couple paragraphs by Innocente: “What a holiday! On a beautiful Sunday in May, two teenagers from Geneva and children of an asset manager took off from Geneva Airport. They left for the U.S. to visit their grandparents, who live in that country, while their parents remained in Switzerland. Upon arriving at the airport of a large city *, these two minors were given special attention of police. “Where is your dad? What does your dad do for a living? Has your dad ever worked in the United States? “Both young men were subject to these questions and others for six hours at the offices of the police. They weree not allowed to contact people outside. Throughout the questioning their parents and grandparents received no information. These facts, reported by a Swiss lawyer, suggest what a large part of the Swiss financial center have been fearing: the U.S. authorities have already begun to exploit the (employment) data delivered in April by five banks….”
Here is a partial translation thanks to Jefferson Tomas:
The banks recommend that their current and former employees whose names were transmitted to the other side of the Atlantic avoid going to the US. But such a precaution seems to be quite insufficient, considering the number of extradition treaties that exist. “I encourage my clients not to leave Switzerland”
said Douglas Hornung, Attorney at Law in Geneva, who represents approximately 40 employees of banks involved in this matter.
The disagreements go much further than a limited choice of vacation destinations, or family visits that must be postponed. Few banks in Switzerland or elsewhere, perhaps none at all, are interested in employing a “listed”
bank employee from one of the 5 banks who gave data to the Department of Justice in order to avoid criminal prosecution. Careers risk being derailed because of this. “Banks are not afraid to expose their employees to potentially devastating consequences”
wrote another newspaper “Le Temps” last month.
A double unknown makes the situation worse: nobody knows how the Yankee justice will use the information that they have harvested. Thousands of people are unaware that they are involved. [Sounds like many USPs] “If one had to inform everybody, one would be talking about thousands of persons…”,
said the CEO of Credit Suisse, Brady Dougan [He is American I believe], “…If an employee is concerned, they can ask for information.”
Ex-employees are only rarely informed. Doubts about legality
This matter has caused accusations of treason in the Swiss financial world. Opinions of [legal] experts have only reinforced this. The Swiss Federal Commissioner on Data Privacy, Hanspeter Thür, has continually repeated his doubts about the legality of delivering employee data to the American administration. “The employer does not have the right to reveal the names of its employees. If it is compelled to do so, it must inform the employees, and cover any damages and legal fees”,
warns Thomas Geiser, Professor of Law at the University of Saint-Gallen. Huge Inconsistency
The five banks implicated in the matter can certainly defend themselves. The Federal Council formally authorized the transfer to the DOJ of identity data concerning the 10’000 employees. This is inconsistent: in 1997, in exactly the same sort of circumstances, two banks asked for a similar authorization to respond to DOJ requests. The Federal Council refused it at that time considering that Swiss banking laws prevented such. COMBAT ANTI-FRAUDE FISCALE – LES DEUX ADOS D’UN GESTIONNAIRE DE FORTUNE GENEVOIS INTERPELLES AUX ETATS-UNIS
Par Philippe Rodrik, Tribune de Genève, 6 Aout 2012.
Les autorités américaines commencent à exploiter des données sur plus de 10 000 employés de banques suisses. Dans les aéroports américains, les fonctionnaires sont particulièrement vigilants
Quelles vacances! Un beau dimanche de mai, deux adolescents genevois, enfants d’un gestionnaire de fortune, décollent de Genève Aéroport. Ils partent aux Etats-Unis pour rendre visite à leurs grands-parents, domiciliés dans ce pays, tandis que leurs père et mère restent en Suisse. A leur arrivée à l’aéroport d’une grande ville*, ces deux mineurs retiennent tout particulièrement l’attention des fonctionnaires de police.
«Où est votre papa? Que fait votre papa? Votre papa vient-il parfois travailler aux Etats-Unis?» Les deux jeunes gens subissent ces questions, et quelques autres, pendant six heures dans les bureaux de la maréchaussée. Ils ne sont pas autorisés à contacter des personnes à l’extérieur. Tout au long de leur audition, parents et grands-parents ne reçoivent aucune information.
Ces faits, rapportés par un avocat suisse, tendent à démontrer ce qu’une large part de la place financière helvétique redoutait: les autorités américaines ont déjà commencé à exploiter les données livrées en avril par cinq banques: Credit Suisse, Julius Baer Co AG, HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) SA, la Banque Cantonale de Zurich et la Banque Cantonale de Bâle-Campagne. La masse de renseignements fournis comprend les noms de plus de 10 000 collaborateurs (estimation de l’association Swiss Respect) ayant eu des contacts électroniques, téléphoniques, voire des relations d’affaires avec des clients contribuables chez l’Oncle Sam. L’effroi et la haine
Du coup, le cœur de milliers d’employés de banque vacille entre l’effroi et la haine. D’autant plus qu’environ 90% d’entre eux ne seraient pas des gestionnaires de fortune et n’auraient jamais démarché de clients aux Etats-Unis. Une immense majorité des personnes concernées se seraient en effet contentées d’exécuter des ordres. Dans un cadre purement administratif ou comme secrétaires de hauts responsables.
Les banques recommandent bien sûr aux collaborateurs et aux anciens dont les noms ont été transmis outre-Atlantique de ne plus se rendre aux Etats-Unis. Mais cette précaution semble vite insuffisante, vu les nombreux accords d’extradition existants. «J’encourage pour ma part mes clients à ne plus quitter la Suisse», indique Douglas Hornung, avocat genevois conseillant une quarantaine d’employés de banque empêtrés dans cette panade.
Les désagréments ne se limitent d’ailleurs pas à un choix restreint de destinations de vacances. Ou à des rencontres de familles reportées. En fait, peu de banques, de Suisse ou d’ailleurs, voire aucune, trouvent désormais un quelconque intérêt à intégrer dans leurs effectifs un collaborateur «listé». Son nom figure parmi les données fournies au Département de la justice états-unien par cinq établissements menacés de sanctions pénales et coopérant afin d’y échapper. Des carrières risquent donc fort d’être entravées. «Des banques n’ont pas craint d’exposer leurs employés à des conséquences potentiellement dévastatrices», affirmait notre confrère Le Temps le mois dernier.
Une double inconnue aggrave en plus la situation: nul ne sait en effet comment la justice yankee utilisera les informations recueillies, et des milliers de personnes ignorent complètement qu’elles sont concernées. «S’il fallait prévenir tout le monde, il s’agirait de milliers de personnes, relève le président du directoire de Credit Suisse, Brady Dougan. Si certains employés se posent des questions, ils peuvent se renseigner.» Les «ex» ne seront donc que très rarement avertis. Doutes sur la légalité
Cette affaire a suscité des sentiments de trahison sur la place financière helvétique. Des avis d’experts n’ont pas manqué de les renforcer. Le préposé fédéral à la protection des données, Hanspeter Thür, n’a cessé de répéter ses doutes quant à la légalité de la livraison de données personnelles à l’administration américaine. «L’employeur n’a pas le droit de transmettre les noms de ses salariés. S’il y est contraint pour des raisons impérieuses, il doit alors les informer, couvrir financièrement les dommages et les frais d’avocat», prévient Thomas Geiser, professeur de droit à l’Université de Saint-Gall. Grosse contradiction
Les cinq banques impliquées dans cette affaire peuvent certes se défendre: le Conseil fédéral leur a formellement donné l’autorisation, le 4 avril dernier, de fournir au Département américain de la justice (DOJ) des renseignements comprenant l’identité de plus de 10 000 employés. En ce sens, le Conseil fédéral n’hésite pas à se contredire. En 1997, dans des circonstances parfaitement comparables, deux banques avaient sollicité une autorisation similaire du gouvernement pour répondre à des exigences du DOJ. Le Conseil fédéral ne l’avait alors pas accordée, estimant que la Loi sur les banques l’en empêchait.
Le 14 avril 2012, le porte-parole du Secrétariat d’Etat aux questions financières internationales, Mario Tuor, a jugé bon de rassurer tout le monde: «Légalement, tout est en ordre». Trois des sept Sages se seraient pourtant opposés à l’autorisation accordée dix jours plus tôt: Ueli Maurer, Simonetta Sommaruga et Alain Berset.
A ce jour, un ex-chef juridique de HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) SA, Eric Delissy, a dénoncé son ancien patron au Ministère public de la Confédération. Quatre autres employés de banque ont intenté des actions civiles auprès des justices genevoise et zurichoise: trois contre Credit Suisse et une contre HSBC Private Bank (Suisse) SA.
*Les lieux exacts sont connus de la rédaction (TDG)
KILL OR CAPTURE
By Steve Coll, The New Yorker, 2 August 2012.
On September 30, 2011, in a northern province of Yemen, Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen and a senior figure in Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, finished his breakfast and walked with several companions to vehicles parked nearby. Before he could drive away, a missile fired from a drone operated by the Central Intelligence Agency struck the group and killed Awlaki, as well as a second American citizen, of Pakistani origin, whom the drone operators did not realize was present.
President Barack Obama had personally authorized the killing. “I want Awlaki,” he is said to have told his advisers at one point. “Don’t let up on him.”
The President’s bracing words about a fellow American are reported in “Kill or Capture,” a recent and important book on the Obama Administration’s detention and targeted-killing programs, by Daniel Klaidman, a former deputy editor of Newsweek.
With those words attributed to Obama, Klaidman has reported what would appear to be the first instance in American history of a sitting President speaking of his intent to kill a particular U.S. citizen without that citizen having been charged formally with a crime or convicted at trial.
The due-process clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits “any person” from being deprived of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Obama authorized the termination of Awlaki’s life after he concluded that the boastful, mass-murder-plotting cleric had, in effect, forfeited constitutional protection by waging war against the United States and actively planning to kill Americans. Obama also believed that the Administration’s secret process establishing Awlaki’s guilt provided adequate safeguards against mistake or abuse—all in all, enough “due process of law” to take his life.
Awlaki was certainly a murderous character; his YouTube videos alone would likely convict him at a jury trial. Yet the case of Awlaki’s killing by drone strike is to the due-process clause what the proposed march of neo-Nazis through a community that included many Holocaust survivors in Skokie, Illinois, was to the First Amendment when that case arose, in 1977. It is an instance where the most onerous facts imaginable should lead to the durable affirmation of constitutional principle, as Skokie did. Instead, President Obama and his advisers have opened the door to violent action against American citizens by future Presidents when the facts may be much less compelling.
Last March, Eric Holder, the Attorney General, delivered an address at Northwestern University in which he sought to explain and justify the Awlaki killing, without ever naming the victim, apparently because such honesty would violate the Administration’s classification rules. Holder’s arguments are worth absorbing at length. He explained,
Now, it is an unfortunate but undeniable fact that some of the threats we face come from a small number of United States citizens who have decided to commit violent attacks against their own country from abroad. Based on generations-old legal principles and Supreme Court decisions handed down during World War II, as well as during this current conflict, it’s clear that United States citizenship alone does not make such individuals immune from being targeted. But it does mean that the government must take into account all relevant constitutional considerations with respect to United States citizens—even those who are leading efforts to kill innocent Americans….
An individual’s interest in making sure that the government does not target him erroneously could not be more significant. Yet it is imperative for the government to counter threats posed by senior operational leaders of al Qaeda, and to protect the innocent people whose lives could be lost in their attacks….
Let me be clear: an operation using lethal force in a foreign country, targeted against a U.S. citizen who is a senior operational leader of al Qaeda or associated forces, and who is actively engaged in planning to kill Americans, would be lawful at least in the following circumstances: First, the U.S. government has determined, after a thorough and careful review, that the individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; second, capture is not feasible; and third, the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.
It would be difficult to list all of the ways in which Holder’s arguments are disturbing. Overall, the large-scale targeted killing of non-Americans affiliated with Al Qaeda during the Obama Administration’s first term raises many questions about legality and transparency. The more recent addition of Klaidman’s reporting, however, calls attention to one area, infrequently discussed, where it seems clear that the Obama Administration has driven right through a constitutional stop sign. This involves the second of Holder’s three conditions for killing a U.S. citizen who has joined Al Qaeda and is actively planning to kill Americans—that is, “capture is not feasible.”
Klaidman’s reporting suggests the title of his own book may be misplaced. “Kill or Capture” conjures an image of Obama and his counterterrorism advisers holding one anguished debate after another about whether to immolate terrorism suspects with Predator drones, as they did Awlaki, or send in Special Forces or local militias to capture the accused for trial. In fact, the book makes clear that the Obama Administration has judged again and again—almost routinely—that capturing terrorist suspects outside of Afghanistan (where there is a friendly host government and an extensive prison system) is not feasible.
According to Klaidman, Obama’s advisers have concluded, for example, that the risk of creating political turmoil in Yemen is reason enough to avoid attempting an arrest there by, for example, landing Special Forces on the ground—as if Yemen were not already in a state of perpetual turmoil.
Protecting American soldiers from potential death or injury during a risky capture operation is a second reason it was judged better to kill Awlaki by remote control. Of course, soldiers should not be placed at unreasonable risk if there is no way to deploy a force that can protect itself during a capture attempt. Surely, however, Special Forces commanders would regard the defense of American constitutional rightness as reason to shoulder at least some physical risks, just as American police officers routinely place themselves at risk by patiently surrounding an armed, defiant murder suspect’s house. They attempt to talk the suspect into surrender, even when it would be safer for the police themselves just to blow the house up.
Even more disturbing is the evidence in Klaidman’s narrative suggesting that the Obama Administration leans toward killing terrorism suspects because it does not believe it has a politically attractive way to put them on trial. Federal criminal trials of terrorist suspects draw howls of protest from many Republicans, even though the George W. Bush Administration successfully prosecuted a number of high-profile terrorists in federal court. Military commissions, the Obama Administration’s reluctantly endorsed best-of-the-bad alternative to federal trials, are unpopular with civil-rights activists and European allies, for good reason, because of their relatively weak protections for defendants. But is political discomfort about this choice of trial venues a reason to override the Fifth Amendment, in the case of a targeted American citizen like Awlaki? Doesn’t the case-by-case application of the due-process clause require some extraordinary finding by the president that capture is not possible? Shouldn’t there be a bias in operations, when an American citizen is involved, toward making an arrest?
“Come out with your hands up” may have been Hollywood’s whitewashed reimagining of how sheriffs warned suspected killers to surrender and face trial in the Wild West, or how G-men warned barricaded bank robbers to give up before they met death. Yet the words became cliché for a reason: they had the ring of justice even in the midst of tense scenes ridden with risk and the possibility of sudden violence.
“To me, the weakness in the drone activity is that if there’s no one on the ground, and the person puts his hands out, he can’t surrender,” the retired vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General James Cartwright, told the journalist Tara McKelvey earlier this year. “What makes it worse with a Predator is you’re actually watching it. You know when he puts his hands up.”
Holder and other Obama Administration legal hands have told Congress that they are convinced, after repeated reviews of classified evidence about targeted terrorism suspects, that the Obama Administration’s secret process for placing Al Qaeda leaders and operatives on death lists is careful, legal, and sound—even though a number of cases of mistaken targeting have been documented publicly.
None of Obama’s legal advisers has testified similarly about what secret system and classified legal memos may exist for judging, in the case of an American citizen targeted overseas, whether and why a capture attempt may be feasible. Congress has the power to force such statements onto the public record. It must try; it is obvious by now that the Obama Administration will not volunteer them. Is “kill or capture” a policy, or are the words just a screen for politically convenient targeted killings?