Robert Scheer

'Forever wars' and debunking the great con of American patriotism

American soldiers born decades apart in the state of New York, Ron Kovic and Maj. Danny Sjursen are two crucial dissenting voices that have experienced firsthand the futility and brutality of America’s interventionist wars. Kovic, a Marine veteran who was paralyzed in the Vietnam War, has spent the rest of his life fighting against the U.S. war machine. The film “Born on the Fourth of July,” starring Tom Cruise, was based on his book, a work he hoped would combine with his activism to dissuade young people from buying into the toxic patriotism that leads Americans to fight destructive, ultimately pointless wars.

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The illegal CIA operation that brought us 9/11

Was it conspiracy or idiocy that led to the failure of U.S. intelligence agencies to detect and prevent the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon headquarters? That’s one of the questions at the heart of “The Watchdogs Didn’t Bark: The CIA, NSA, and the Crimes of the War on Terror,” by John Duffy and Ray Nowosielski. In their careful and thorough investigation of the events leading up to the attacks, the authors uncover a story about the Central Intelligence Agency’s neglect, possible criminal activities and a cover-up that may have allowed al-Qaida to carry out its plans uninhibited by government officials.

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This historian is debunking anti-Muslim myths in the age of Trump

In January of 2017, one week after he was sworn into office, President Donald Trump signed an executive order prohibiting foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the country. Approximately eighteen months later, the United States Supreme Court voted 5-4 to uphold a revised version of Trump’s Muslim ban—a decision that Omar Jadwat of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project has lambasted as one of the worst in our nation’s history, on par with the Korematsu v. United States during World War II.

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Made in America: How Big Pharma and our health care industry conspired to forge a national epidemic

Writer Chris McGreal and host Robert Scheer zero in on the book “American Overdose: The Opioid Tragedy in Three Acts” in this week’s episode of “Scheer Intelligence.”

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Wall Street's corruption runs deeper than you can fathom

Of the myriad policy decisions that have brought us to our current precipice, from the signing of the North Atlantic Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to the invasion of Iraq and the gerrymandering of House districts across the country, few have proven as consequential as the demise of Glass-Steagall. Signed into law as the U.S.A. Banking Act of 1933, the legislation had been crucial to safeguarding the financial industry in the wake of the Great Depression. But with its repeal in 1999, the barriers separating commercial and investment banking collapsed, creating the preconditions for an economic crisis from whose shadow we have yet to emerge.

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George H.W. Bush’s entitlement cool

THERE WAS NEVER ANY LOVE LOST BETWEEN GEORGE Herbert Walker Bush and me. How’s that for presumption? As if the Skull-and-Crossbones, blueblooded captain of the Yale baseball team, who went on to become the Director of the CIA, would give much thought to the individual reporters who covered him. Trust me, I didn’t welcome the attention, certainly not after he called his good friend and my boss, Otis Chandler, the publisher of the Los Angeles Times, to demand that I be fired.

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The center is not holding -- and Trump is our proof

As the world’s pre-eminent heads of state gather in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this weekend for the annual G-20 summit, the postwar order has never looked more fragile. War threatens to break out at any moment between Russia and Ukraine, Britain is staring into the abyss of a failed Brexit negotiation and the U.S. faces a rising tide of ethno-nationalism, reinforced in no small part by Donald Trump’s presidency. Compounding this larger crisis, new research indicates we have just 12 years to radically reduce carbon emissions or risk climate catastrophe.

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The biggest threat to free speech no one is talking about

If you clicked this story, or have any desire to listen to the interview embedded within, odds are you’re a consumer of independent media. Yet even as you’re reading these words, your ability to do so in a timely manner is in grave jeopardy.

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America Is on the Road to Becoming a Fascist State

In a compelling essay for The New York Review of Books this month, Christopher R. Browning, a leading historian of the Holocaust and Nazism, outlines the frightening parallels between the United States and the Weimar Republic. “No matter how and when the Trump presidency ends,” he writes, “the specter of illiberalism will continue to haunt American politics.”

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Generation Wealth: Will America Ever Cure Its Obsession With Bling, and Celebrity and Narcissism?

Photographer and filmmaker Lauren Greenfield is an expert in Americans’ yearning for material wealth. Since the early ’90s, her work has documented our hunger for it in photography books, multiple traveling exhibitions, short films and four documentary features, notably 2012’s “The Queen of Versailles,” the story of one Florida woman’s quest to build a replica of King Louis XIV’s home.

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The CIA's 60-Year History of Fake News: How the Deep State Corrupted Many American Writers

Joel Whitney’s new book, “Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World’s Best Writers,” explores how the CIA influenced acclaimed writers and publications during the Cold War to produce subtly anti-communist material. During the interview, Scheer and Whitney discuss these manipulations and how the CIA controlled major news agencies and respected literary publications (such as the Paris Review).

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Robert Scheer Talks About Disrupting America's War Machine and Building a Local Peace Economy With CODEPINK’s Jodie Evans

In this week’s edition of “Scheer Intelligence,” the Truthdig editor in chief sits down with Codepink activist Jodie Evans to discuss her organization’s efforts to move the United States away from military conflict, as well as the origins of her activism.

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The Access Govt and Corporations Have to Our Thoughts Is Beyond Orwell's Wildest Dreams

The following is an excerpt from Robert Scheer's new book They Know Everything About You: How Data-Collection Corporations and Snooping Government Agencies Are Destroying Democracy. Reprinted with permission of Nation Books. Copyright © 2015.

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Hillary Clinton Flaunts Her Surveillance State Baggage

Who is the true patriot, Hillary Clinton or Edward Snowden? The question comes up because Clinton has gone all out in attacking Snowden as a means of burnishing her hawkish credentials, eliciting Glenn Greenwald’s comment that she is “like a neocon, practically.”

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What Took Dianne Feinstein So Long to Get Fed Up with CIA Spying?

It was a truly historic moment on Tuesday when Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein took to the Senate floor to warn that the CIA’s continuing cover-up of its torture program is threatening our Constitutional division of power. By blatantly concealing what Feinstein condemned as “the horrible details of a CIA program that never, never, never should have existed,” the spy agency now acts as a power unto itself, and the agency’s outrages have finally aroused the senator’s umbrage.

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We’re All Suspects in Barack Obama’s America

Barack Obama’s speech Friday on surveillance was his worst performance, not as a matter of theatrical skill, though he clearly did not embrace his lines, but in its stark betrayal of his oft proclaimed respect for constitutional safeguards and civil liberty. 

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Why the American Intelligence Community Is Strikingly "Dumb"

If we are so smart why are we so dumb? I am referring to the “intelligence” that our spy agencies have gathered at great cost in both massive secret black box budgets and, much more important, the surrender of our personal freedom to the snooping eyes of our modern surveillance state. 

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Meet The Saudi Prince Who Finances the Murderous Egyptian Military, and Crushes Democracy in the Middle East

Now that the Arab Spring has been turned into a totally owned subsidiary of the Saudi royal family, it is time to honor Prince Bandar bin Sultan as the most effective Machiavellian politician of the modern era. How slick for this head of the Saudi Intelligence Agency to finance the Egyptian military’s crushing of that nation’s first-ever democratic election while being the main source of arms for pro-al-Qaida insurgents in Syria.

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America's New Cold War: European Allies Outraged at Snowden Revelations

There is a depressing statistical comparison that should shame all of us who voted twice for Barack Obama’s ascent to the White House. Our man, a former constitutional law professor who pledged to reverse the Bush administration’s abuses of national security concerns, has charged seven government whistle-blowers, including Edward J. Snowden, with violating the Espionage Act. That’s more than double the combined three charged with leaking classified information by all previous presidents, George W. Bush included.

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The Terror Con: How Keeping Americans Terrified Is Making Corporations Big Bucks

For defense contractors, the government officials who write them mega checks, and the hawks in the media who cheer them on, the name of the game is threat inflation. And no one has been better at it than the folks at Booz Allen Hamilton, the inventors of the new boondoggle called cyber warfare.

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Elizabeth Warren Is Turning Out as Good as Promised

This story originally appeared at Truthdig

Elizabeth Warren does great email. One payoff of my pittance of a contribution to her grass-roots funded campaign—I regret not contributing more—is that I am regularly alerted by the new Massachusetts senator to the favoritism of our Congress toward Wall Street.

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Glaring Hypocrisy: U.S. Cluster Munitions Maim Hundreds of Thousands More Innocents Than Boston Bombs

The horror of Boston should be a reminder that the choice of weaponry can be in itself an act of evil. “Boston Bombs Were Loaded to Maim” is the way The New York Times defined the hideousness of the weapons used, and President Obama made clear that “anytime bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror.” But are we as a society prepared to be judged by that standard?

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If Corporations Dodge Taxes, Why Shouldn't You?

Go offshore young man and avoid paying taxes. Plunder at will in those foreign lands, and if you get in trouble, Uncle Sam will come rushing to your assistance, diplomatically, financially and militarily, even if you have managed to avoid paying for those government services. Just pretend you’re a multinational corporation.

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Meet Romney's Economic Hitman

Mark the name of R. Glenn Hubbard, the man who will make your life miserable if Mitt Romney is elected president. Unless, that is, you happen to be one of the swindlers who has profited mightily from the nation’s economic pain. 

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Why Goldman Sachs Is All in For Romney: The Enemy of My Enemy Is My President

Maybe I have been too harsh in judging Barack Obama’s economic performance. Instead of following George W. Bush’s lead in bailing out the bankers first, I wanted Obama to do more for beleaguered homeowners and less for the Wall Street swindlers who trafficked in toxic mortgages. But the president must have done something right, or the hucksters at Goldman Sachs wouldn’t hate him so. 

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Gulf Oil Spill Proves the Idiocy of Unfettered Deregulation

This story first appeared on Truthdig.

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The Hurt Locker Oscar Win Is a Prize For American Hubris

What a shame that the one movie about the Iraq war that has a chance of being viewed by a large worldwide audience should be so disappointing. According to press reports, members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finally found a movie about the Iraq war they liked because it is "apolitical." Actually, The Hurt Locker is just the opposite; it's an endorsement of the politically chauvinistic view that the world is a stage upon which Americans get to deal with their demons, no matter the consequence for others.

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The Global War on Stealth Underwear

There is no "war" against terrorism. What George W. Bush launched and Barack Obama insists on perpetuating does not qualify. Not if by war one means doing the obvious and checking a highly suspicious air traveler's underwear to see if explosives have been sewn in. If Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had put the stuff in his shoes we would have had him because that was tried before, but our government was too preoccupied with fighting unnecessary conventional wars and developing anti-missile defense systems to anticipate such a primitive delivery system.

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What Obama Can Learn from Gorbachev

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” That biblical quotation certainly applies to Mikhail Gorbachev, a man not honored enough for the example he set and whose past practices and recent cautions about Afghanistan should be heeded by Barack Obama. Or, on a secular note, if the Sermon on the Mount doesn’t cut it for you, take German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s praise for the former Soviet leader at the ceremony marking the fall of the Berlin Wall, which he helped destroy: “You courageously allowed things to happen, and that was much more than we could have expected.” 

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Have Geithner and Summers Seen the Error of Their Ways and What Does it Mean For Our Future?

Now they tell us.

On Monday, two men with considerable responsibility for enabling the banking meltdown confronted the error of their ways. Not directly, of course, for accountability is hardly the mark of either Lawrence Summers, the top White House economic adviser, or Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.

Their careers have long been fueled by error. Summers was one of the leading prophets of radical financial deregulation in the Clinton administration. And Geithner, as head of the New York Fed, looked the other way during Wall Street's collapse and then responded by opening wide the spigot of taxpayer dollars to resuscitate Citigroup and AIG.

What they wrote this week in a joint Op-Ed article in The Washington Post is a condemnation of the Wall Street shenanigans they once abetted and celebrated. I hope their apparent sudden conversion to common sense indicates the seriousness of the banking regulation plan that President Obama presented to Congress yesterday.

"Over the past two years, we have faced the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression," they wrote, placing the blame squarely where it belongs, on the unregulated derivatives markets they once gushed over. "The current financial crisis had many causes ... in the widespread use of poorly understood financial instruments, in shortsightedness and excessive leverage at financial institutions. But it was also the product of basic failures in financial supervision and regulation."

What irony that Summers, who as Bill Clinton's treasury secretary pushed through legislation guaranteeing "legal certainty for Swap Agreements" and banning the regulation of securitized mortgage debt, should now admit that "securitization led to an erosion of lending standards, resulting in market failure that fed the housing boom and deepened the housing bust."

According to Summers and Geithner, the Obama plan to be revealed today promises that all derivatives dealers will be "subject to supervision, and regulators will be empowered to enforce rules against manipulation and abuse."

If such language is ever passed into law, I hope that Brooksley Born is in the gallery and gets the standing ovation she deserves. That's the woman who, when she headed the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, warned that the derivatives market needed to be regulated. Summers and his predecessor as treasury secretary, Robert Rubin, destroyed Born's career because she dared to accurately predict today's crisis.

But better late than never, although it's a shame that Obama's economic whiz kids are only now getting serious about cracking down on Wall Street hustlers after first guaranteeing their toxic paper with trillions of taxpayer dollars. Nor should we assume that the Obama plan will not be subverted by the financial industry lobbyists, whose enormous campaign treasure chest, now financed by taxpayers, allows them to slice and dice congressional voting blocs the way they did subprime mortgages.

Already there's a joker in the deck of the Obama proposal in that it relies heavily on the Federal Reserve, which on the regional level is fully controlled by the very financial industry firms that it is expected to monitor. Summers and Geithner write that "all large, interconnected firms whose failure could threaten the stability of the system will be subject to consolidated supervision by the Federal Reserve." Like we never heard that one before.

Because of bad deregulation laws, those large, interconnected firms were allowed to grow to the point where their failure indeed threatened "the stability of the system." What we need to do is return to the basic principle of the New Deal-era Glass-Steagall Act (which Clinton reversed) that broke up "too big to fail" financial conglomerates because, by definition, when such companies threaten to fail, we taxpayers are left picking up the tab.

It was depressing that the president told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday that he favors "a relatively light touch when it comes to the government ... in terms of financial regulation." And that "[w]e had a regulatory system that was outdated that did not encompass the non-bank sector."

Nonsense. We had a regulatory system inherited from Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal that for 60 years sustained a wall between the traditional heavily regulated banks and the non-bank hustlers on Wall Street who should have never been allowed to play their funny money games with people's savings and home mortgages. That wall was torn down by President Clinton at the behest of Wall Street lobbyists and now must be restored if there is to be true reform. The reforms presented by Obama are an important start, but I worry they do not face up to the reality that financial conglomerates too big to fail are too big to be allowed to exist.

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