News Releases

Beyond the GameStop Drama: Tax the Wall Street Casino

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The Chicago Tribune reports: “GameStop’s stock is back to the races Friday, and the overall U.S. market is down again, as the saga that’s captivated and confused Wall Street ramps up the drama.”

JAMES HENRY, jamesshelburnehenry@mac.com
Henry is Global Justice Fellow at Yale University and managing director at the Sag Harbor Group, an IT consulting firm.

He said that the GameStop story highlights the need for a Financial Transaction Tax, small tax on each financial transaction that traders make. He states that it would “dampen casino trading” as well as raise substantial revenue in a progressive manner.

He adds the “Senate filibuster and Chuck Schumer’s Wall Street ties make such a development a long shot” in Washington, D.C., but New York State, as a hub of financial activity, could impose such a tax and that unions in New York are making a fresh push for exactly this.

He said: “We don’t have to take sides in this week’s particular stock mania to observe that it is the perfect illustration of much more fundamental, disturbing institutional reality. We have allowed Wall Street’s leading securities exchanges — a crucial part of the global capitalist order — to become by far the world’s largest casino. Indeed, 2020 was an all-time high for trading on New York’s two largest exchanges, with more than $49 trillion of stock trades on the NASDQ and the NYSE — more than half of the world’s trading total. Indeed, 2020 alone saw 19 of the 20 heaviest trading days since the year 2000, with the trend continuing into 2021. And up to 85 percent of these trades consist of speculative plays by hedge funds and high-frequency traders like the ones involved here.

“Fortunately, we have the perfect remedy — one that can also yield an extraordinary amount of tax revenue and help to reduce inequality, at a time when ‘the rest of us’ badly need it to help pay the soaring costs of the pandemic and prevent state and local governments from going bankrupt.

“Eighty-five years ago, in the depths of the Great Depression (1936), the economist John Maynard Keynes had already taken note of the fact that, especially during times of economic crisis, stock markets had become casinos. He commented: ‘Casinos should always be remote and expensive to use,’ and went on to propose that we put a simple ‘progressive sales tax’ on stock trades.

“Just so happens that we already have a .05 percent stock transfer tax in New York which has been rebated to the financial institutions since 1982. $344 billion ($2020) rebated thru 2020, We’re on the verge of getting the legislature to restore it. Governor Cuomo will have to decide whether he’s going to go along with Wall Street or join the herd.

“Yesterday we had a two-hour Zoom conference in which the tax was endorsed by the TWU [Transport Workers Union of America], CWA [Communications Workers of America]” and other unions, with more expected shortly.

Why Are There Monuments to Nazi Collaborators?

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Wednesday was Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the Soviet army liberating Auschwitz.

LEV GOLINKIN, golinkin@gmail.com
Golinkin just wrote the piece “How many monuments honor fascists, Nazis and murderers of Jews? You’ll be shocked,” in the Forward, launching the The Nazi Monument Project.

He writes: “The most curious thing about last year’s protests that toppled statues of slavers and colonizers is that the monuments of Holocaust perpetrators didn’t even make headlines.”

Golinkin documents — with a map — “320 monuments and street names in 16 countries on three continents which represent men and organizations who’ve enabled — and often quite literally implemented — the Final Solution. …
“The Nazi collaborators honored with monuments on U.S. soil represent governments, death squads and paramilitaries that murdered a half million Jews, Poles and Bosnians. …

“Even more worrying than the sheer number is the overall trend. The vast majority of these statues were erected in the past 20 years. Wherever you see statues of Nazi collaborators, you’ll also find thousands of torch-carrying men, rallying, organizing, drawing inspiration for action by celebrating collaborators of the past.”

Golinkin provides a country-by-country breakdown. These include:

In the Ukraine, which is where a quarter of the Jews killed in the Holocaust came from: “In 2016, a major Kyiv boulevard was renamed after [Nazi collaborator Stepan] Bandera. The renaming is particularly obscene since the street leads to Babi Yar, the ravine where Nazis, aided by Ukrainian collaborators, exterminated 33,771 Jews in two days, in one of the largest single massacres of the Holocaust.”

In Belgium, in 2018, a monument titled “Latvian Beehive for Freedom” was erected. The Latvian prisoners of war commemorated “were none other than the Latvian Legion, a unit in the Waffen-SS, which was the military wing of the Nazi party.”

Golinkin adds that “a disturbing number of Nazi collaborators documented in this database resettled in the West after the war.”

He is the author of A Backpack, a Bear, and Eight Crates of Vodka, a memoir of Soviet Ukraine, which he left as a child refugee.

Biden Playing “Trump Card” Against Iran

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GARETH PORTER, porter.gareth50@gmail.com@GarethPorter

Investigative reporter Porter just wrote the piece “Biden Admin’s Coercive Iran Policy Threatens Serious New Regional Crisis” for the Grayzone.

Porter writes:  “A close analysis of recent statements by members of President Joseph Biden’s foreign policy team indicates his administration has already signaled its intention to treat negotiations with Iran as an exercise in diplomatic coercion aimed at forcing major new concessions extending well beyond the 2015 nuclear agreement. The policy could trigger a renewed U.S.-Iran crisis as serious as any provocation engineered by the Trump administration.

“Although the Biden team is claiming that it is ready to bring the United States back into the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) if Iran comes into full compliance first, it is actually planning to demand that Iran give up its main source of political leverage. Thus, it will require Iran to cease its uranium enrichment to 20 percent and give up its accumulated stockpile of uranium already enriched to that level before the United States has withdrawn the economic sanctions that are now illegal under the JCPOA deal.

“Meanwhile, the Biden team is planning to hold on to what it apparently sees as its ‘Trump card’ — the Trump administration’s sanctions against Iran oil exports that have gutted the Iranian economy. …

“By piling up onerous demands while offering few concessions of its own, the new administration conveys the clear message that it is in no hurry to return to the JCPOA. Secretary of State of Tony Blinken stated in his confirmation testimony that the Biden administration was ‘a long way’ from returning to the deal and said nothing about reversing any of the sanctions that were introduced or reintroduced by the Trump administration after it quit the agreement.”

Porter’s books include: Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

Groups Organizing Against Tom “Mr. Monsanto” Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture

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WENONAH HAUTER, SETH GLADSTONE, sgladstone@fwwatch.org, @foodandwater
Hauter and Gladstone are with the group Food & Water Watch, which recently put out the statement “Tom Vilsack, a Friend of Big Ag, is the Wrong Choice for USDA.” They have joined with RootsAction and other groups to advocate against his nomination as secretary of agriculture.
See from the Guardian: “Tom Vilsack’s Cozy Relationship With Big Ag Makes Him a Non-Starter at USDA.”

“Tom Vilsack has made a career of catering to the whims of corporate agriculture giants — some of whom he has gone to work for — while failing to fight for struggling family farmers at every turn,” said Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “America needs an Agriculture Secretary that will finally prioritize sustainable family farming and national food security over corporate profits. Tom Vilsack has proven not to be the leader we need.”

See from The Counter: “How USDA Distorted Data to Conceal Decades of Discrimination against Black Farmers.”

      In These Times reports that while Vil­sack was secretary of agriculture during the Obama administration, he “resist­ed Repub­li­can attacks on food stamps and upped fed­er­al sup­port for organ­ic food – he angered pro­gres­sive groups by let­ting poul­try fac­to­ries self-reg­u­late, speed­ing up the approval process for GMO crops, shelv­ing new reg­u­la­tions on big agri­cul­ture at the industry’s behest, and step­ping in to craft an indus­try-friend­ly nation­al GMO-labelling bill intend­ed to replace a pio­neer­ing stricter stan­dard in Ver­mont. The move helped earn him the deri­sive moniker ‘Mr. Mon­san­to.'”

Calls for Biden to End the War on Yemen

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JEHAN HAKIM, yemenialliancecommittee@gmail.com@jehan_hakim
Hakim is chair of the Yemeni Alliance Committee, one of hundreds of organizations which are backing a push Monday against the war in Yemen. They state: “Since 2015, the Saudi-led bombing and blockade of Yemen have killed tens of thousands of people and devastated the country. The UN. calls this the largest humanitarian crisis on Earth. Half the country’s people are on the brink of famine, the country has the world’s worst cholera outbreak in modern history, and now Yemen has one of the very worst COVID death rates in the world. …

“And yet Saudi Arabia is escalating its war and tightening its blockade.

“The war is only possible because Western countries — and the United States and Britain in particular — continue to arm Saudi Arabia and provide military, political and logistical support for the war. The Western powers are active participants and have the power to stop the world’s most acute human crisis.

“The disaster in Yemen is man-made. It is caused by the war and blockade. It can be ended.”

Danny Glover (actor), Rep. Ro Khanna, Daniele Obono (French National Assembly member), Yanis Varoufakis (MeRA25 secretary general), Cornel West, and many others will participate in a global online rally: “World Says No to War on Yemen.”

Hakim also stated that Biden should end support for the war in Yemen and urged him to contemplate Trump’s signing of weapons deals with Gulf states. See resource page on Yemen, which included articles such as “Joe Biden Said He’s Against the Yemen War. He Needs To End It on Day One.”

ISACC EVANS-FRANTZ, isaacef@yahoo.com@actioncorpsnyc
Isaac Evans-Frantz is with Action Corps, which has focused on Yemen and has helped lead protests in New York City.

Nuclear Weapon Ban Treaty Now in Force: What Does it Mean?

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The Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons went into force today with over 50 nations having ratified it. It was backed by more than 120 countries in October 2016 at the UN despite the efforts — especially from the U.S. government — to stop it.

U.S. President Joe Biden has stated in the past that: “As a nation, I believe we must keep pursuing the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

But the U.S. government — through both the Trump-Pence and Obama-Biden administrations — has strongly opposed the Treaty, ensuring that virtually all NATO members voted against it, see below for analysis of NATO. Some other non-NATO nuclear weapons states, like Russia and Israel, have also opposed it. China, India and Pakistan abstained on the 2016 UN vote.

FELICE and JACK COHEN-JOPPA, nukeresister@igc.org
Felice and Jack Cohen-Joppa edit the Nuclear Resister. They write: “January 22, 2021 will be a historic day for nuclear weapons. … Neither the United States nor the other nuclear armed nations have joined the Treaty. ‘But just because they aren’t signed on to the Treaty doesn’t mean it won’t affect them,’ said Ralph Hutchison, coordinator of the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance.” See listing of events in over 70 U.S. cities and towns.

GREG MELLO, gmello@lasg.org
Mello is executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group. He said today: “Disarmament is an inherently political process, with milestones codified in law. Milestones, such as the birth of the Treaty we welcome today, are not the journey. Political processes, rooted in civil society, remain paramount. Without political will nothing will happen, with or without this or any treaty. Even this wonderful treaty is only a piece of paper, worth as much as the active political will behind it.

“It is not enough to sign and ratify this infant Treaty. States Parties must actively protect and feed it, so it can grow in stature and strength. States have to challenge nuclear deterrence, and the conventional threats that lead to it, to fulfill this parental role.

“Ways in which the political will to nuclear disarmament, as well as the Treaty itself, can be strengthened are prime topics for discussion in the important Article 8 meetings required by the new Treaty.

“This Treaty can affect the practice of states immediately, if rigorously applied. For example, as long as NATO remains a nuclear alliance, its posture of nuclear threat, its basing of U.S. nuclear weapons on member states’ territories, its war plans that involve transferring control over these weapons to member states’ pilots, are forbidden under this Treaty. NATO states and the Western Pacific states under the U.S. nuclear ‘umbrella,’ are all engaged in practices this Treaty outlaws. These nuclear-allied states now lie outside an actively-growing norm of international law.

“Will States Parties sanction these states, or deny them overflight privileges, or otherwise use this Treaty to further the disarmament agenda to which these parties — indeed all NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] member states — are committed? Time will tell.

“Meanwhile everyone can now see that more than ever, nuclear disarmament is a ‘thing.’ Young people can again confidently invest themselves in furthering this noble goal. Political leaders everywhere are now on notice that the moral force which produced this Treaty is far from asleep. The world’s peoples are crying for security, not the nuclear sword of Damocles — for real peace and not the silence of ashes, where cities and civilizations once stood.”

Biden Continuing Trump’s Targeting of Venezuela

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Reuters reports: “Biden will recognize Guaidó as Venezuela’s leader, top diplomat says.”

AP reports: “Carlos Vecchio, [Trump-backed opposition leader Juan] Guaidó’s envoy in Washington who the U.S. recognizes as Venezuela’s ambassador, tweeted photos of himself at Biden’s inauguration. The invitation to attend was touted by Venezuela’s opposition as evidence the Biden administration will continue its strong support and resist entreaties by Maduro for dialogue that the U.S. has strenuously rejected until now.”

STEVE ELLNER, sellner74@gmail.com
Ellner is an associate managing editor of Latin American Perspectives. He is the editor of the recently published book Latin American Extractivism: Dependency, Resource Nationalism and Resistance in Broad Perspectives

He said today: “In spite of claims to the contrary, the Biden foreign policy team is not breaking with the Trump administration in its policy toward Venezuela. … The Biden people claim that their plans to enlist the support of allies is an innovation in that it corrects Trump’s go-it-alone approach toward Venezuela. In fact, Trump did seek and attain the support of over 50 nations (hardly a majority in the UN’s General Assembly) by taking advantage of the fact that much of Europe and Latin America was in the hands of conservative and right-wing leaders.

“In addition,” said Ellner, Secretary of State nominee Antony Blinken has indicated that “the Biden administration will provide Venezuela with much-needed humanitarian assistance. The Trump administration, however, also extended Venezuela humanitarian aid. But it was channeled through the parallel government of Juan Guaidó resulting in multiple denunciations of misuse of funds — not to say blatant acts of corruption — by members of his team who resigned in protest.

“Blinken also claims Biden will embark on a new course in that it will ‘more effectively target’ sanctions. Exactly what this means is unclear, but decades of the use of sanctions throughout the world demonstrate that, regardless of intent, the real victims of sanctions are the entire population. Even the Trump administration announced that the supply of medicine and food would not be affected but in fact it was. Everyone in the global commercial chain feared reprisals if they had any interaction at all with Venezuelan companies, both private and state-owned.

“Far from regime change, the starting point of U.S. policy toward Venezuela has to be recognizing Nicolás Maduro as the nation’s legitimate president. There may have been some irregularities in the Venezuelan presidential elections of 2018, as there have been in U.S. electoral contests, but there was no credible evidence of the votes not getting counted correctly, that is, electoral fraud. The commercial media’s uncritical employment of the term ‘authoritarian’ and ‘dictator’ to refer to Maduro is nothing short of deceptive and it ignores context, namely the multiple violent attempts to remove him, even physically.

“Maduro has clearly indicated his interest in negotiations with the U.S. and of late has expressed willingness to make concessions specifically regarding the release of several jailed U.S. citizens. He has also recently indicated his openness to concessions on the economic front.”

Will Biden Continue Bombings?

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As thousands of troops were deployed to Washington, D.C. during Joe Biden’s inauguration, Rev. Silvester Beaman gave the benediction, saying: “We will make friends of our enemies. We will make friends of our enemies. People, your people, should no longer raise up weapons against each other. We will rather use our resources for the national good and become a beacon of life and goodwill to the world. And neither shall we learn hatred anymore. We will lie down in peace and not make our neighbors afraid.”

As of a few days ago, the U.S. government has now been bombing Iraq for 30 years.

Chris Wood of airwars.org just tweeted: “Amid discussions about what Biden’s foreign policy might look like, it’s worth noting that he’ll be inheriting U.S. military actions at a post-9/11 low. The U.S. declared around 1,000 strikes last year across four theatres — down from 13,000 under Obama in 2016. … Given this low level of U.S. military engagement there’s clearly an opportunity for the incoming Biden administration radically to rethink overseas actions.”

See Sen. Rand Paul’s questioning of Biden Secretary of State nominee Anthony Blinken about the U.S. government’s wars in Libya, Syria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Mali and numerous other countries.

KATHY KELLY, kathy.vcnv@gmail.com, @voiceinwild
Kelly is a peace activist and author working to end U.S. military and economic wars. She just wrote the piece “About Suffering: A Massacre of the Innocents in Yemen” which states: ” Yemeni children are not ‘starving children;’ they are being starved by warring parties whose blockades and bomb attacks have decimated the country. The United States is supplying devastating weaponry and diplomatic support to the Saudi-led coalition, while additionally launching its own ‘selective’ aerial attacks against suspected terrorists and all the civilians in those suspects’ vicinity.” AFP reports that Blinken stated yesterday, regarding support for Saudi Arabia’s attacks: “our support should end.”

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson@gmail.com@davidcnswanson
Swanson is executive director of World Beyond War and campaign coordinator of RootsAction.org. He was just on an accuracy.org news release on Blinken.

Leading Big Tech Lawyer May Head Biden Antitrust

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The Intercept and The American Prospect are reporting “Renata Hesse, who has worked for Google and Amazon, is the leading candidate to run the Justice Department’s antitrust division.”

MAX MORAN, moran@cepr.net@revolvingdoorDC

Moran is a researcher at the Revolving Door Project and said today: “In 2010, Renata Hesse worked alongside Ted Cruz to persuade the Texas Attorney General not to sue to break up Google’s monopoly over the online search market. As recently as 2018, Hesse publicly stated that she thinks people mostly use Google Search ‘because they like it better’ (not because of its fiercely-defended priority status in most internet browsers) and that it would be wrong to punish Google ‘because they did a great job.’

   “And yet if appointed assistant attorney general for antitrust, Hesse would inherit a DOJ case joined by almost every attorney general nationwide to break up her former client. Moreover, Hesse’s deputies might find themselves arguing against their boss’ spouse: her husband, Joshua Soven, is a fellow antitrust lawyer representing Google and employed by its go-to law firm Wilson Sonsini.

   “Just as concerning is that in 2017, Hesse assisted Amazon in its acquisition of Whole Foods. While the federal government has not yet announced plans to sue to break up Amazon, activist coalitions have called for antitrust action against the firm. Under Amazon, moreover, Whole Foods has engaged in unprecedented mass surveillance of employees to deter unionization.

“Notably, when Hesse served at the DOJ in 2005, she protected TurboTax-creator Intuit from the threat of a competitor offering free tax filing to all taxpayers, by deploying a tortured reading of antitrust law. If not for Hesse, Americans might not need to pay to file their taxes this year.

   “Hesse’s past work defending Google and enabling Amazon’s acquisitions create irresolvable conflicts of interest that must disqualify her from serving in a Biden administration’s DOJ antitrust division or Federal Trade Commission.”

See past accuracy.org news releases on Biden’s cabinet.

Questions for Blinken Today

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President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, Anthony Blinken, is scheduled to have his confirmation hearing today at 2:00 p.m. ET.

DAVID SWANSON, davidcnswanson@gmail.com@davidcnswanson
Swanson is executive director of World Beyond War and campaign coordinator of RootsAction.org, which just sent out an email to their membership urging Senators to ask Binken serious questions: “Blinken should be asked about his role in helping start wars in Iraq, Syria, and Libya. Which of those wars does he now regret? What would he do to prevent similar catastrophes going forward?

“The trend of the past dozen years is away from ground wars in favor of air wars. This often means more killing, more injuring, and more making people homeless, but with an even higher percentage of all that suffering concentrated on the non-U.S. side. We need to know whether Blinken favors continuing this trend and how he claims to defend it morally and legally.

“Much of the U.S. public has been wanting an end to endless wars, and President-elect Biden has promised it. Blinken has suggested that endless wars shouldn’t really be ended. We need to know which of these wars, if any, he supports actually ending every U.S. role in: Yemen? Afghanistan? Syria? Iraq? Somalia?

   “Blinken co-founded WestExec Advisors, a company that helps war profiteers get contracts, and serves as a revolving door for unscrupulous individuals who get rich from private money for what they do and whom they get to know in their public jobs. WestExec has paid Blinken nearly $1.2 million for advising corporations, including seven that have recently lobbied the State Department, including Facebook, Boeing, and Blackstone.” See the full backgrounder.

See past accuracy.org news releases regarding Blinken.

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