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[Markets] America And Europe: Growing Differences Over Iran

Authored by Ezra Friedman via GlobalRiskInsights.com,

The United States’ and Poland’s co-hosted conference in Europe was a controversial event. It has united some American allies around President Donald Trump’s aggressive anti-Iran posturing while alienating some others.

The Summit demonstrated divisions amongst European Union member states on the current American administration’s foreign and security policies. It also exhibited new budding relations between various states in the region. Furthermore, it showed the growing polarity between America and the EU on issues concerning the Middle East, especially the Iran nuclear deal.

Iran: Consensus achieved? Or division on display?

The Trump Administration’s publicised Warsaw Middle East Summit intended to unify American allies in pursuit of Middle Eastern peace and security. The two-day eventbrought together representatives from 60 countries where they publicly discussed geopolitical issues facing the region. This included promoting America’s current policy toward Iran. Nonetheless, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has denied claims that the conference was singularly aimed at Tehran despite the antagonistic rhetoric employed during the event.

Speeches by the US and high-level allied officials showed a united front through anti-Iran posturing. Both Secretary Pompeo and Vice President Pence railed against the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). They demanded Europe support the US and withdraw from negotiations. The landmark Obama era agreement placed limits on Iran’s nuclear program while guaranteeing relief from American, European, and UN sanctions. However, not all traditional US allies have supported President Trump’s actions of withdrawal and the subsequent return of sanctions. The makeup of states present at the Summit highlighted these differences. Other than the UK, no other major European ally sent high-level representation. Turkey, a major NATO member and regional force also chose not to attend.

The lack of support for the US’ Iran policy is emphasised as Russia and China, parties to the JCPOA did not engage with the conference agenda. This is a break from the Obama era trend, where they largely endorsed American intentions towards Iran. The unpopularity of President Trump’s policy can further be witnessed by the refusal of the EU delegate to join the summit. The underlying divisions of various states on whether to support or oppose the JCPOA as well as disagreement on how best to engage with the Islamic Republic seem to have led to a lack of tangible results at the end of the meetings.

Europe maintains unity – for now

The Trump Administration’s reinstituted extraterritorial sanctions against Iran have led to uncertainty for many European countries. These states have attempted to remain allied with the US and follow its Middle East policy while also supporting the EU’s united front on the JCPOA. Germany, France, the UK, amongst several others, withstood mounting pressure by the Americans to scrap the deal. Contrary to US’ expectations, the EU has rolled out INSTEX in an attempt to circumvent American sanctions and extend normalcy in relations with Tehran.

It is important to note that Eastern European states continue to diverge from the EU on several critical fronts. These states are increasingly finding affinity with the US in light of security issues vis-à-vis Russia. Poland is a strong example of a state that is trying to encourage an increased domestic presence of American troops while still supporting the EU’s stance on the JCPOA. Policy issues, including the erosion of democratic institutions, and differences on migration policy may create disunity within the EU. Member states may look increasingly to partisan interests over time.

Unknowns

Several factors may upend the status quo. This would allow for the Trump Administration to make some progress on its aggressive anti-Iran policies.

The United Kingdom: There is a possibility that Brexit may result in the UK leaving EU without a deal. In light of this, the UK is attempting to shore up its relationships with non-EU states, especially the US and Israel. If Brexit results in a no deal, the UK could seek to leverage withdrawing from the JCPOA to gain favour with the US. Though this outcome is unlikely as Brexit may be delayed, such a development could upend the current state of affairs.

Turkey-Iran- Russia: During the summit, Turkey, Iran and Russia held trilateral talks on developments in Syria. The three states are united on their opposition to US troops in Syria-albeit for different motivations. Turkey, a NATO member, is increasingly aligned with Russia and Iran on geopolitical issues, placing it at odds with the US, the Gulf States, and Israel. The US withdrawal from Syria is imminent and this will lead to an increased role for Turkey on the ground. Such a development could lead to direct clashes between Turkish and Syrian regime forces. If this were to happen, the current alignment of states risks facing changes. If Iran and Russia violently support of Assad could place Turkey squarely in support of the US anti-Iran policy in the region. However, the likelihood of this is negligible.

Iran’s considerations

The Islamic Republic is currently staying in the JCPOA. Tehran has weighed the stakes and believes it has much to gain under current conditions. The cost-benefit analysis shows that Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional activities are benefiting from the current disagreements between the world powers on the JCPOA. The European states, Russia and China’s continued support for the deal in opposition to the US and the return of sanctions will allow this situation to continue. This has furthered Iran’s standing within the international community. However, Iran is going through an intense economic crisis which is only intensifying with the return of US sanctions. If conditions continue to worsen, Tehran may have to reconsider its position on remaining in the agreement.

Winners and losers

The biggest winner is Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu. It is election season in Israel and Bibi is currently under an immense amount of pressure. Netanyahu has long touted warming ties with Arab Sunni states, especially in the Gulf. Clear agreement on policy issues, specifically on Iran’s role in the region, will likely win him much needed support within the Israeli public as he further brandishes the image of ‘Mr. Security’.

Another major winner is the EU which demonstrated yet again its resilience under American pressure. Under the leadership of Federica Mogherini, the EU continues to maintain its position on the agreement. This is while it continues to keep its member states in line with the official position on the nuclear deal process.  This is no small featgiven the diplomatic blitz of the Trump Administration. The JCPOA is also a winner when reflecting on these developments. An American withdrawal from the deal in May last year had significantly raised the risks of the agreement collapsing. However, its continuedsurvival places it in the winner’s category. The JCPOA survival continues to provide some measurement of hope that military conflict over Iran’s nuclear program is not imminent.

Two major losers are evident. Firstly, the Trump Administration’s Iran policy continues toremain largely unsupported by crucial players needed for its success. Following Warsaw, it is unlikely this is going to change in the short term. Secondly, Arab states who attended may suffer from a public relations crisis at being seen so friendly in public with Israel.

Predictions for the future

In the short to medium term, Iran will likely continue to adhere to the JCPOA. Its continued compliance has allowed Tehran to intensify its powerful ballistic missile program, support proxies and project its influence across the region. This includes the deployment of troops and economic projects. President Trump’s continued insistence on global compliance to US extraterritorial sanctions is causing serious friction between the US and countries around the world; thereby lending the regime in Tehran the legitimacy it covets.

A serious change likely in the status quo would be if the economic crisis in Iran worsens. Such a development would change the calculations of the Iranian government. It can lend domestic hardliners the upper hand in their argument for withdrawal from the agreement. Given the rampant corruption and stagnation in the Iranian economy, it is not an impossibility. When coupled with a severe water crisis and the return of US sanctions, such an outcome is plausible. Nonetheless, the government in Tehran may attempt to continue under current circumstances in an attempt to outlast President Trump who faces reelection in 2020.

Published:3/7/2019 1:08:32 AM
[Markets] Russiagate Grand Wizard Deceives Audience About Assange

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com,

When it was first revealed in November that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is under secret charges by the Trump administration, I spent the next few days being told by Russiagaters that this was proof that I have been wrong about their demented cold war cult all along, because #MuellerTime is fast approaching. At long last, they vehemently assured me, Assange was going to prison for working with Russia to deprive Queen Hillary of her rightful throne.

None of those people have come back to apologize or admit that they were wrong when subsequent evidence disproved their claims. None of them ever do.

As it turns out, whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury in a secret case investigating Assange for his 2010 role in the WikiLeaks publication of military war logs and diplomatic cables. Manning served seven years in prison for leaking those documents to the transparency advocacy outlet before her sentence was commuted by President Obama, meaning, obviously, that this sealed case has nothing to do with the 2016 leaks Russiagaters have been fiendishly obsessing over. Indeed, the Washington Post reported yesterday that “U.S. officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of grand jury secrecy, say the case is based on [Assange’s] pre-2016 conduct, not the election hacks that drew the attention of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.”

So there you have it. Democrats like Center for American Progress president Neera Tanden who have been cheering for Assange’s arrest have actually been cheering on the Trump administration’s prosecution of a journalist for publishing facts about Bush administration war crimes. They thought they were supporting the agenda to punish Assange for publishing leaks that hurt the Hillary campaign, but in reality they were defending two Republican administrations while helping to manufacture support for a prosecution that would set a devastating precedent for press freedoms throughout the entire world.

If you are unfamiliar with the work of Russiagate Grand Wizard Rachel Maddow, you might think she would report the revelation that an unfounded belief held by many of her acolytes has been completely and thoroughly disproven once and for all. If you are a bit more familiar with her, you might assume that she would completely ignore this revelation like she normally does when her conspiratorial ramblings are disproven by facts and evidence. But if you know Rachel really, really well, you might guess what she actually did on her show last night.

That’s right, she flat out lied about it.

On last night’s episode of MSNBC’s most popular show, Maddow blatantly deceived her audience by weaving this story about the Chelsea Manning subpoena into her conspiratorial Russiagate ramblings about Roger Stone, despite those stories having absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with one another.

Maddow began by gushing about investigations into Roger Stone’s alleged connections to WikiLeaks, of course not mentioning the fact that the only known interactions between Stone and WikiLeaks consist of WikiLeaks telling Stone to stop lying about having connections to them. Maddow smoothly weaved this into the news that the House Judiciary Committee has formally requested documents pertaining to WikiLeaks (among many other things) from dozens of Trump associates, with a gigantic grin on her face and a tone of immense significance in her voice. Then, without pausing, Maddow began talking about the sealed case against Assange and the Manning subpoena, falsely suggesting that these had something to do with the things she’d just been speaking about.

“And because of the criminal case against Roger Stone, you should also know that today, in federal court in Virginia, little bit of drama,” Maddow said.

“Today in federal court in Virginia, the US attorney himself, the top of that prosecutor’s office, the EDVA US attorney himself, personally turned up in court for a sealed hearing today that appears to be about some sort of legal case potentially involving WikiLeaks and/or Julian Assange.”

Maddow then went on to describe November’s revelation via court filing error about Assange’s sealed criminal complaint with her trademarked conspiratorial “you can’t tell me this is a coincidence” histrionics. She then cited a Daily Beast report that former WikiLeaks volunteer David House had accepted an immunity deal in exchange for his testimony before this grand jury, completely omitting the fact that the report explicitly states that this testimony pertained to the 2010 leak drop and not anything to do with 2016.

“Late Thursday, Manning revealed that she’s fighting a subpoena to testify before a grand jury that’s been investigating Julian Assange for nearly nine years,” the Daily Beast article reads in its second paragraph.

“But Manning isn’t the only one being dragged into the aging probe of WikiLeaks’ first big haul. A former WikiLeaks volunteer who was also personal friends with Manning was subpoenaed last May.”

Maddow knew this, and willfully distorted it to fit her narrative.

“So, all of this to say between that court filing error in November, the reporting around that error that suggested that it was weird that he was in that case and it was a mistake but the information was true, and then what we saw today in Virginia, something appears to be happening in federal court that pertains to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. And this is happening as the president’s longtime advisor Roger Stone goes to trial for lying to Congress and witness tampering, allegedly, about his supposed communications with WikiLeaks during the campaign. It happens potentially as he’s going to jail for violating the gag order in that case. It happens as tons of people associated with the president and his campaign are being asked detailed questions by the Judiciary Committee about their interactions with WikiLeaks, including during the campaign, and it happens within a week of Trump’s longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen testifying before Congress that the president, himself, was personally notified by phone in advance about WikiLeaks’ plans to dump stolen material that Russia hacked from the Democrats during the campaign.”

So she just plain lied. By suggesting that the Virginia grand jury has anything at all to do with Roger Stone’s walking clickbait shenanigans, the House Judiciary Committee’s investigations into possible Trump malfeasance, and Cohen’s testimony that Trump had advance knowledge of the (already publicly announced) upcoming WikiLeaks drops, Maddow knowingly deceived her tinfoil pussyhat-wearing audience into holding out hope that legal proceedings will soon be vindicating their cult.

Maddow then kicked it up into ultra-mega-Super-Saiyan-galaxy-brain Russiavaping by telling her audience not to Google any of the things she was telling them, because they’ll get computer viruses if they try.

“Now I will warn you,” Maddow said with a laugh, “if you are an interested news consumer who is interested in following this part of the story, I will warn you: just about everything that pertains to WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and Roger Stone is basically un-Googleable. All the online trash that relates to these characters, put your virus protection on. But something does appear to be happening there in federal court.”

Needless to say, this also is completely false. Google algorithms are slanted in favor of mainstream news media, not toward websites that will give you a “virus”, so the top results you get when you type in WikiLeaks or Assange’s name will always be news stories from conventional sites, many of which today refute Maddow’s claim that the Manning subpoena and grand jury have anything to do with the 2016 Trump campaign.

And of course, that’s the point. Narrative management is Rachel Maddow’s job, for which she is extremely well-compensated, and the more isolated she can keep her audience within a tight, narrow echo chamber, the better she can do that job. Rachel Maddow is nothing other than a cold war propagandist, rewarded like all her colleagues for promoting falsehoods to keep mainstream liberals supporting longstanding US government agendas against noncompliant nations while still letting them feel like rebels.

In today’s media landscape, powerful and opaque government agencies are scrutinized and criticized far, far less than a lone political prisoner in an embassy who revealed inconvenient facts about those agencies. The campaign to smear, silence and imprison Assange tells you all you need to know about the governments that WikiLeaks has exposed, and the mass media’s complicity in that campaign tells you all you need to know about them as well.

*  *  *

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Published:3/6/2019 5:37:53 PM
[Politics] DNC Chair bans Fox News from hosting Democratic debates! Here’s more ridiculousness from Democrats trying to make Fox News look like it’s somehow worse than every other MSM media company in the country that sucked up to Obama for eight years. . . . Published:3/6/2019 5:16:34 PM
[Politics] DNC Chair bans Fox News from hosting Democratic debates! Here’s more ridiculousness from Democrats trying to make Fox News look like it’s somehow worse than every other MSM media company in the country that sucked up to Obama for eight years. . . . Published:3/6/2019 5:16:34 PM
[Markets] American Civil War 2: US Media Will Have Only Itself To Blame If All Hell Breaks Loose

Authored by Robert Bridge,

For the first time in years, the drumbeat of civil war has become audible across the United States. The nation looks destined to repeat history thanks to a media that is no longer able to objectively perform its job.

The predominantly left-leaning US media has just entered its third consecutive year of open warfare against Donald Trump. This non-stop assault risks aggravating political passions to the point where ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’ snowballs into something completely beyond our ability to control. Like full-blown Civil War.

Over the weekend, the Washington Post, one of most prominent serial producers of partisan agitation, published an article entitled, ‘In America, talk turns to something unspoken for 150 years: Civil War’. The piece, which deftly places Democrats above the fray, opens with the following whiff of grapeshot:

“With the report by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III reportedly nearly complete, impeachment talk in the air and the 2020 presidential election ramping up... there’s talk of violence, mayhem and, increasingly, civil war,” the Bezos-owned paper forewarned.

With a level of audacity and self-righteousness that has become a trademark of the Left, not once did the article float the possibility that just maybe the mainstream media is complicit in the ongoing deterioration of political discourse, or that the Democrats are just as much to blame as the Republicans for the political fallout that now presents a grave risk to the Republic.

As many knowledgeable Americans will openly admit, battle lines have been drawn across the political and cultural frontier. This division is perhaps most conspicuous on social media, where friends and family who disagree with our political worldview get the ‘nuke option’ and are effortlessly vanquished (‘unfriended’) with the push of a button. This is a worrying development. The real danger will come when Americans from both sides of the political divide stop talking and start erecting electronic barriers around their political belief systems. Not even family members are spared from the tumult; just because people share the same bloodline does not automatically mean they share the same political views. America, though still green behind the ears, may understand that fact better than many other countries.

The United States has taken part in its fair share of military conflicts over the years, but its deadliest war to date has been the one that pitted Americans against each other. The so-called Civil War (1861-1865), waged between the North and South over the question of Southern secession from the Union, resulted in the death of some 620,000 soldiers from the Union and Confederate armies (and possibly as high as 850,000, according to other estimates).

Put another way, more Americans died in the Civil War than in all of the country’s other conflicts combined. For a country that has been at war for much of its existence that is a sobering fact.

With that historical footnote in mind, the mainstream media should better appreciate its responsibility for presenting an objective and balanced depiction of modern events. Yet nothing today would suggest that is the case. One need only look at the way it has blotched recent politically charged events – like the Covington High School and Jussie Smollett scandals, not to mention the ‘Russia collusion’ hoax – to say that something is seriously out of whack inside of the Fourth Estate. The muzzled mainstream media has simply lost its mind over Donald Trump and can no longer perform its duties with any discernible amount of objectivity.

Indeed, the US leader continues to serve as a piñata for the agenda-driven media, which takes daily swings at him and his administration – and despite the fact that his popularity remains very high among voters. Only on the fringes of the media world, in the far away land of Fox News and Breitbart, will the reader find level-headed reports on the American president. This is not to suggest, of course, that Trump is beyond criticism. Not at all. There is a lot not to like about the 45th president. At the same time, however, to assume that Trump and his administration is the root of all evil, as the media would lead us to believe, is not only ridiculous, it is outright dangerous.

With no loss of irony, a good example of the media bias against Trump can be found in the very Post article that frets over the outbreak of another Civil War. While everyone knows that it takes two to tango, you would never guess that by reading this piece. In the sheltered world of the Liberal-dominated media, ‘tango’ is a solo event where the political right is portrayed as engaged in a dance with itself, while the political left watches – innocuously, of course – from the sidelines.

Michael Cohen, for example, Trump’s turncoat personal lawyer who committed perjury by lying to Congress, was quoted high in the article as saying“Given my experience working for Mr. Trump, I fear that if he loses the election in 2020 that there will never be a peaceful transition of power.”

Now that is certainly rich. Ever since Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, Washington has been consumed by the Mueller investigation, and amid mindless chatter that Trump is an illegitimate president slated for impeachment. In other words, the last thing that can be said about the Democrats is that they facilitated a “peaceful transition of power.” In fact, they have hobbled Trump and his administration ever since he entered the Oval Office.

Another pro-Liberal voice dragged into the Civil War story was Robert Reich, who served on Barack Obama's economic transition advisory board. The Post linked to an article Reich wrote last year where he posited the fictional scenario where an impeachment resolution against the president is enacted, thus kicking off mass civil strife on the direct command of dear leader.

“Trump claims it's the work of the ‘deep state’”, according to Reich’s febrile imagination. “Sean Hannity of Fox News demands that every honest patriot take to the streets. Right-wing social media call for war. As insurrection spreads, Mr. Trump commands the armed forces to side with the ‘patriots.’”

“The way Mr. Trump and his defenders are behaving, it’s not absurd to imagine serious social unrest,Reich continued. “That’s how low he’s taken us.”

Now that is some world-class chutzpah. In fact, it is the same self-righteous, ingratiating tone that weaves itself throughout the Post article. In keeping with the mainstream media’s non-stop narrative, Trump and the Republicans are blamed for everything that has gone wrong in the country, while the Democrats come off as little angels trying to piece the fractured country back together.

As already mentioned, Donald Trump is certainly not above criticism. Far from it. But for the mainstream media to place all of the blame for the current political malaise at the Republican’s door is about as responsible as lighting up a cigarette inside of a Chinese fireworks factory. The US media has an unmistakable agenda, and that is to make damn sure Trump is not reelected to another term in 2020. To that end, it has shown a devious willingness to betray all journalistic ethics and standards, which has the effect of increasing the political temperature to boiling point. It then points the finger of blame at the political right for the accumulated pile of pent-up tensions, which are ready to ignite at the first spark.

If the mainstream media continues to slavishly serve just one political master over another, it will only have itself to blame for what comes next. Its prejudiced and agenda-based reporting is a disgrace and really nothing short of a bona fide national security threat.

Published:3/6/2019 3:35:53 PM
[Customs, Border and Immigration News] Another Judge Has Ruled Trump’s Crackdown On Sanctuary Cities To Be Illegal

By Jason Hopkins -

A California judge has ruled President Donald Trump cannot withhold federal funds from jurisdictions that harbor illegal aliens, the latest in a string of court defeats against the administration’s effort to crackdown on sanctuary cities. Judge William Orrick III — a Obama-appointed judge serving on the U.S. District Court for the ...

Another Judge Has Ruled Trump’s Crackdown On Sanctuary Cities To Be Illegal is original content from Conservative Daily News - Where Americans go for news, current events and commentary they can trust - Conservative News Website for U.S. News, Political Cartoons and more.

Published:3/6/2019 2:06:06 PM
[Markets] Goldman: This Was The Sharpest Rally Since The Financial Crisis... It's Now Over

One can't say they didn't warn you:

  • On December 23, with the S&P points away from a bear market, Steve Mnuchin called the Plunge Protection Team, i.e. President's Working Group on capital markets, with one clear message - stop the plunge.
  • On December 25, Trump pulled an Obama, and told Americans to buy stocks: "We have companies, the greatest in the world, and they’re doing really well," the president told reporters at the White House on Christmas Day. "They have record kinds of numbers. So I think it’s a tremendous opportunity to buy. Really a great opportunity to buy." (Pension funds heard him loud and clear, unleashing the biggest stock buying spree in history the very next day).
  • On January 4, just two weeks after Fed Chair Powell hiked rates by 25bps and said the Fed's balance sheet was on "autopilot", and tightening would continue, the former Carlyle lawyer, sitting between Bernanke and Yellen capitulated, and for the first time said that the Fed would be patient, effectively ending the Fed's rate hike posture.

What has transpired since then is nothing short of breathtaking, with the S&P rebounding from the mid-2,300 to 2,800 (and on same days rising above it), in what Goldman dubbed "one of the sharpest rallies in history." Indeed, as shown below, the rolling 67-day price return of the S&P is the 3rd fastest rally this century, perhaps ever. In other words, there are bear market rallies and then there are bear market rallies, and what we have just experienced was, according to Goldman, "the sharpest rally since the global financial crisis recovery, and sharp valuation re-rating alongside negative earnings revisions"...

... one which was accompanied by one of the largest declines in realized vol since 1928.

Alas, with the S&P now clearly unable to breach 2,800 and stay comfortably above this "quad resistance" level, the rally appears to be over, and as Goldman wrote over the weekend, "there is now a material disconnect between Fed pricing and the S&P 500... as not only are markets pricing no hikes in the next 12 months, but they are pricing a cut in the next 2 years."

Updating this gloomy take, overnight Goldman's Ian Wright doubles down on the bank's bearishness and notes that "the macro backdrop of growth moving down but inflation moving up is far from consistent with a sustained low vol regime, and vol of vol remains high, and so higher volatility will likely return before too long."

Therefore, Goldman thinks periodic corrections are more likely than a sustained bear market (as part of a “skinny and flat” range), and US skew has returned, and as a result the world's most influential FDIC-backed hedge fund think that it is time to start hedging for the coming mean reversion lower.

Published:3/6/2019 12:06:26 PM
[Markets] Regulators Consider Banker Pay Limits As Bonuses Hit Post-Crisis Highs

Jamie Dimon has officially been put on notice: A group of federal regulators staffed by Trump appointees is reportedly taking another look at tightening restrictions on Wall Street executive pay.

According to the Wall Street journal, three bank regulators are discussing whether now would be a good time to revive a crisis-era proposal that would require the biggest banks to delay some executive compensation, and even claw back some of their bonuses if losses start piling up. The three regulators involved, per WSJ, are the Fed, the FDIC and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. Surprisingly, some bank executives have warmed to the idea, believing it would be better for such restrictions to be enacted now under Trump than later should Democrats retake the White House.

Dimon

Jamie Dimon

Whether or not the rules are enacted this year or next, executives have probably accepted the fact that, more likely than not, they will take effect at some point: The Dodd-Frank financial oversight law passed in the wake of the crisis requires that curbs on executive pay be enacted. Discussions that took place during the Obama administration were eventually scrapped amid widespread industry opposition.

Spokesmen for the Fed and OCC said their agencies are committed to finishing the rule, while the FDIC didn't comment. The SEC and two other banking regulators would also have a vote on the proposal.

When it comes to executive compensation, much has changed since the crisis. Instead of receiving their bonuses in cash, most executives are paid in stock to keep their interests "aligned" with those of the bank's shareholders. And while their overall compensation hasn't quite returned to pre-crisis highs, as bank profits have climbed (bolstered by President Trump's tax reform law), compensation - particularly bonuses -  has also risen.

Chart

Last year, Jamie Dimon was paid more than $30 million, becoming the first Wall Street executive to earn more than $30 million in a single year since 2007.

The Dodd-Frank law, passed a year later, mandated new rules to limit payouts and more closely align them to firms’ long-term financial health. Pay fell sharply in the postcrisis years, in part because of this backlash and in part because bank profits sank.

As those profits have rebounded, pay is starting to tick back up, although pressure from shareholders has led banks to replace big cash bonuses with more stock awards and performance-based metrics.

When last proposed in 2016, the rules would have required the biggest financial firms to defer payment of at least half of executives’ bonuses for four years, a year longer than common industry practice. It also would have established a seven-year clawback period, in which executives would be required to return their bonuses if their actions hurt the institution or if a firm had to restate financial results.

And already, the regulators are behind the ball: As Bloomberg pointed out, the original Dodd-Frank deadline passed eight years ago. Fed Vice Chairman for Supervision Randal Quarles told lawmakers at a recent hearing that he had no schedule for finishing the required rule, but he called it "an important issue, and it’s something that we will be discussing."

Published:3/6/2019 5:34:03 AM
[Markets] Democrats Search For A Crime To Punish Trump And Americans Who Voted For Him

Authored by Sara Carter,

The House Judiciary Committee’s Democratic Chairman Rep. Jerrold Nadler is a man in search of a crime. Nadler and his colleague House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff have moved the conversation from Russian collusion and are now promising to investigate virtually everything connected to President Donald Trump.

Mind you, we the tax payers will be paying for these investigations and it will drag America and the administration into another two years of endless witch hunts.

Yes, a witch-hunt.

Can you imagine if someone despised you so much that all they did day in and day out was search for something, anything, that would get those around you to doubt your intentions. Imagine having to fight every single day of your life against never ending accusations. Even when those accusations are later proven false it won’t matter because the original lie has already been thoroughly disseminated far and wide among the population.

Why are Nadler, D-NY, and Schiff, D-CA, promising these investigations? Because they want to impeach Trump. It’s just that simple. They also want to send a message to the American people: your vote really didn’t matter because in the end it’s Congress that holds the power.

Think about that. There was never any evidence of crime that called for Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to establish a special counsel. Yet, he did. In fact, he wrote the letter authorizing Trump to fire former FBI Director James Comey. Comey would’ve been fired the first day had Hillary Clinton been president.

However, obstruction charges are at the top of the Nadler’s list of investigations. He also promises to investigate all of Trump’s financial dealings and past business associations.

Nadler and Schiff are creating their own special counsel.

Why? The pair realize that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report will not do the damage they were hoping it would. Both Democratic leaders, supported by their party, realize that Mueller has found no evidence of a conspiracy with the Russians.

It has left believers like Schiff, Nadler and many former Obama Administration officialswho’ve worked diligently over the past several years to destroy Trump, seething.

They do not want to go on the defensive.

Nadler and Schiff don’t want to explain that their narrative has been debunked. They do not want Americans to look too close because in the end what will be discovered is that the crimes they are accusing others of committing are the ones they themselves have committed.

So what do they do? They fish for a crime, use the media to propagate their lies and spread malicious rumors. Those crimes can be anything from obstruction of justice, process crimes or financial crimes. The lawmakers will use the power of America’s purse. They will investigate Trump’s children, those who support him and those who work closely with him at the White House.

However, remember this: It is the American people, liberty and the principals endowed in our Constitution that will pay the heaviest burden.

Nadler announced his probe on Monday into potential “obstruction of justice.” He will lob accusation, after accusation, against the Trump administration and his family. He will seek documents and communications from over 60 individuals connected with the White House. He will look for that needle in a haystack for as long as it takes.

Nadler and Schiff will conduct what they describe as thorough investigations. They will keep these lengthy investigations going to buy time on the clock until they get close to the Democratic National Convention.

Nadler will do so at the cost of our nation. Don’t be fooled. He doesn’t care about the American people or justice. In the end, this all about ‘getting back’ for the Democrats.

Not getting back at Trump but at the American people who voted for Trump. This isn’t about truth and justice – those who oppose Trump don’t care about those fundamental principals.

Nadler is already setting the stage.

“We are going to initiate investigations into abuses of power, into corruption … and into obstruction of justice,” said Nadler.

“It’s our job to protect the rule of law.”

This isn’t about the rule of law.

If the rule of law was important to the Democrats, they should be aghast at the abuse of power that has occurred within the Obama Administration.

The weaponization of the intelligence community, leaking of highly classified information to the press, gross negligence in the handling of classified information by Hillary Clinton, unmasking of Americans, malfeasance within the FBI, abuse of power within the Justice Department, plans by Rosenstein to wear a wire to record the president and the proposed plan to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove him from power.

Instead this is what Nadler is accusing the president of:

“It’s very clear that the president obstructed justice...

Before you impeach somebody, you have to persuade the American public that it ought to happen.”

GOP Rep. Kevin McCarthy said it himself on Monday, “they’re setting a whole new course because there’s no collusion so they want to build something else.”

They do want something else: they want to find a way to coup the president before the eyes of the American people.

Possibly only future historians will truly understand what is happening to our nation. But for now, we sit on a precipice of a divided nation. This division is being egged on by lawmakers who care more about destroying Trump than seeking truth and justice.

The issue that matters most is the rule of law and guiding principals that make our nation great must take precedence.

Without it, the America we know may disappear into the annals of history. If that happens, it’s “we the people” who will have only ourselves to blame.

Published:3/5/2019 11:32:10 PM
[Markets] The Slippage Continues - India Resists Trump On Everything

Authored by Tom Luongo,

With the U.S.’s attempt at regime change in Venezuela going nowhere fast it’s becoming increasingly obvious that major vassals allies aren’t scared of the consequences of defying us.

India, in particular, has been quite clear in its opposition to Trump’s edicts on who they can and cannot trade with. And with Prime Minister Narendra Modi reeling from a corruption scandal it’s clear he isn’t going to give Trump an inch on important trade issues, especially with Modi in full re-election mode.

Not only has India defied the U.S. over buying Iranian oil and Russian S-400 missile defense systems but now they continue to flaunt U.S. sanctions on Venezuela upping its purchases from 400,000 barrels per day to more than 600,000.

The quantity of exports to India has jumped 66 per cent to 620,000 barrels a day and the boost is being driven by refiners like Reliance Industries Ltd and Nayara Energy Ltd, backed by Rosneft, Russia.

Overall though, Venezuela’s crude exports have taken a dip as the US has intensified the sanctions against the Latin American nation’s oil company.

The response from the U.S. was the nearly inconsequential removing India from the Generalized System of Preferences which created tariff-free trade on a number of products between the U.S. and India.

Crying over Spilled Oil

It amounts to $190 million in net benefit to India a year.

The preferential treatment brought India an annual “actual benefit” of just $190 million, he told reporters.

Of the 3,700 products covered, India used the concession for just 1,784, Wadhawan added.

“The benefit to industry is low, U.S. tariffs are already low,” said another government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “GSP is more symbolic of the strategic relationship, not in value terms.”

It’s a 2% tariff reduction folks. It sounds big because it will hit $5.6 billion in trade but in the end it is less than 1% of the trade deficit between the U.S. and India.

Trump is also hitting wayward Turkey with the same stick.

I’m sure Erdogan didn’t even bother to notice.

Let’s put this in context shall we? Even at a heavy discount to current prices ($55 vs. $65 per bbl), India is paying Venezuela over a billion dollars a month.

And that’s part of the reason why India raised its purchases of Venezuelan oil, it’s available at a steep discount. Playing this out a little further, a $10 per barrel discount times 600,000 per month is a $72 million net benefit to India offsetting a large chunk of Trump’s temper tantrum.

Because that’s what this amounts to, a tantrum. John Bolton and Mike Pompeo began a regime change operation that they shouldn’t have to take control of Venezuela’s oil and stick it in the eye of China and Russia who support Maduro financially and politically. Everyone else then has to take sides because in Trump’s mind our allies aren’t supporting us.

Boo freaking hoo.

Allies No More

As has been pointed out numerous times, empires do not have allies, they have vassals. And when the vassals get uppity they need to be slapped down.

But, what happens when they refuse to sit down? What happens when they continue to defy the imperial edicts of the Orange Obama and his Mustachioed Mafiosi?

Exactly what we’re seeing now. Did anyone in the White House really think India and Modi would back down over $190 million in tariffs?

Look, I’m all for removing barriers to trade and for the government to get out of the way of commerce. All government does is pick winners and losers, and this GSP program is a classic example of this.

But, to think it was going to scare India into cutting its own throat economically is simply the height of hubris and, worse, paranoia.

India is a massive energy importer. And all the Trump administration has done is antagonize India over issue after issue.: S-400s, Iranian oil, now Venezuela, destabilizing its relationship with Pakistan and China.

And to make matters worse, Trump’s lack of a coherent foreign policy has alienated India on multiple occasions. Think back to the cancellation of the important 2+2 meeting last year because the North Korea Summit took precedence.

Do you really think that sat well with the very proud Indians? No it didn’t. This was a meeting postponed for over a year already and once the U.S. canceled it again, it told India all it needed to know about its future relationship with Trump.

Moreover, why would anyone spend one minute hoping that Trump will treat them with even a modicum of respect when it comes to trade? He already slapped major tariffs on steel (10%) and Aluminum (25%) and threatened the world with worse if they did any trade with Iran.

The better plan is to expect the worst and prepare accordingly. This is why India was nonplussed when Trump hit back at their refusal to stop buying Venezuelan oil with the only thing he can hurt them with…. essentially nothing.

The Asian Pivot

All this is doing is confirming that the emerging powers of Asia — North, Central, South and East — will coalesce over time around a shared platform of intertwined goals.

Pakistan’s Imran Khan is working hard to defuse the hostilities between it and India. The U.S. foreign policy establishment under John Bolton are freaking out at the idea of detente between India and Pakistan while they are trying to squeeze China and Russia ‘until the pips squeak.’

Trump knows the U.S.’s unipolar moment is behind us, but he can’t let go of it without a fight. That desire is admirable but he would be better served in the long run to bow off the center of the stage gracefully versus the embarrassing us to the point of vilification.

Because that’s the next stage of this. Trump has no real leverage over China in trade talks. If he can’t control emerging powers like India or effect regime change in a basket case like Venezuela, what does he really have to threaten China with?

* *  *

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Published:3/5/2019 8:01:27 PM
[Markets] One Man's Commute Through West Philadelphia: 30 Blocks Of Potholes, Shitholes, & Assholes

Authored by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog,

“If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else’s expense, then you have no right to complain when they take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves.” ? Thomas Sowell

“The fact that so many successful politicians are such shameless liars is not only a reflection on them, it is also a reflection on us. When the people want the impossible, only liars can satisfy.” ? Thomas Sowell

My original title for this article was going to be 30 Blocks of Potholes, Shitholes, and Assholes, but I didn’t want to offend the sensibilities of my highbrow readership. The trigger for that title was my morning commute on 34th Street in West Philly near the Philadelphia Zoo. This extremely well-traveled four lane highway resembles a moonscape of craters capable of blowing a tire (which I did a few years ago while turning onto Girard Avenue).

As I swerved through this obstacle course of government incompetence, I reflected upon how Philadelphia was a real shithole city run by Democrat asshole politicians (those not in prison yet). I’ve written dozens of articles about the 30 Blocks of Squalor over the last decade and one thing remains constant – West Philly is still a shithole, occupied by low income, low IQ, low morality, welfare state slaves who continue to vote for the same assholes who have enslaved them in squalor.

I’ve been making a daily trek through the pigsty of West Philly through three presidential administrations (Bush, Obama, Trump) and the mayoral stints of John Street (only 15 associates went to prison for corruption), Michael Nutter (left office with a city pension plan underfunded by $5.7 billion), and Jim “beak nose” Kenney (Mr. Soda tax and under FBI investigation).

Over the course of the last 12 years (and many years prior) the list of Philadelphia politicians shipped off to Federal prison has been endless, including congressman Chaka Fattah, DA Seth Williams, State senator Vince Fumo, councilman Rick Mariano, and now union boss Johnny Dougherty and councilman Bobby Henon. A slew of lesser lights has also been shipped off to the penitentiary. Corruption is the common theme tying all Philly Democrat politicians together. They effortlessly fulfill the roles of ass in this article about holes.

The narrative pushed by the Democrat politicians and the left-wing rag – Phila Inquirer is Philadelphia is rising, attracting new businesses, and is the place to be for nightlife and millennials. Of course, the narrative is bullshit. Facts are always inconvenient to welfare state Democrats, but the ignorance of their constituents is what keeps them in power. The narrative of Philadelphia getting safer is obliterated by the 351 murders in 2018, up 43% since 2013, and the highest level since 2007.

Assaults involving a gun totaled 2,327, up 13% since 2014. There were over 14,000 violent crimes and 63,000 robberies and thefts in 2018. The vast majority of these crimes occur in West and North Philadelphia, as local news stories lead with multiple murders and shootings every night (average of 4 shootings per day). Over 80% of murder victims are young black men, murdered by other young black over drugs.

The population of the US grew from 179 million in 1960 to 309 million in 2010, up 73%, while the population of Philly dropped from 2 million to 1.5 million, a 25% decline. The feckless politicians have been touting how the population has risen by a few thousand since 2010 (probably illegals flocking to a sanctuary city). There are a few “hot” areas in the downtown area for the rich and gentrification sections drawing millennials. A few of my nieces and nephews moved into these “cool” areas of Philly. After being robbed and experiencing the “best” of Philly, they’ve all moved back to the relative safety of Montgomery County.

When a few rich folks dressed in Armani, wearing Rolexes get gunned down while nonchalantly strolling to their favorite 5 star restaurant in the “nice” part of town, the exodus will resume with alacrity. It seems the clueless liberal rich folks don’t consider the fact the armed free shit army can march into their “safe zones” and take what they want. The have nots know where the haves live. And they have no qualms about forcefully acquiring what they feel is their due. Shockingly, tough gun laws are not adhered to by the feral black criminals shuffling in the shadows on the garbage strewn, pothole ridden, mean streets of Philly.

The liberal narrative of a city on the upswing must be flogged incessantly to keep their constituents (aka slaves) docile and ignorant of reality. But, even the liberal press in Philly lets their guard down and admits the truth by accident sometimes. Five years ago, to much fanfare, Obama declared the Mantua section of West Philly a Promise Zone. How uplifting and noble. This designation was going to lead to investment, new businesses, jobs, and unicorns farting rainbows in West Philly.

Reality has been far different than the press releases and I see the reality every day as I drive through this pathetic excuse for a community. The reporter interviews people who have lived in Mantua for decades and they had never even heard the term Promise Zone. But at least someone painted a mural (aka graffiti) on the wall of a dilapidated tenement to let everyone know they were in a promise zone and not a dangerous ghetto.

The reality is that after a ten-year bull market and growing economy, West Philly hasn’t revived or seen any advancement in the lives of its inhabitants. Obama used your tax dollars to build low income housing and zoo parking garages and then more of your tax dollars to repair all the shoddily built low income houses built by incompetent minority owned union construction companies. The $28 million Taj Mahal parking garage is occupied approximately 30% of the year.

You are far more likely to see yellow crime tape in Mantua than a kid carrying a school book or a woman wearing a wedding ring. The only people portraying Obama’s Promise Zone as a success are the “non-profit” grifters who hoover up the Federal handouts and pretend they are helping the community. Now the inconvenient facts never acknowledged by the politicians and liberal activists:

  • Philadelphia’s poverty rate of 25.7% allows it to retain its supreme status as the “poorest big city in America.”

  • The Mantua Promise Zone, a two-square-mile area home to about 30,000 black people, has a poverty rate almost twice the citywide rate, at 50.6%, up from 50.2% in 2014.

  • The neighborhood’s deep poverty rate, defined as 50% below the federal poverty line, also increased – to 32.3% from 31.0% since 2014.

  • The 2016 Mantua unemployment rate was little changed at 12.3% (actually closer to 20% as those classified as Not in the Labor Force rose), more than twice the recent city-wide rate of 5.8%.

  • Mantua median household income in 2016 was $17,969, up slightly from $17,170 when the Promise Zone was announced. Still 70% below the national median.

  • The proportion of local people aged 25-64 with a high school education or higher edged up to 80.1% in 2016 from 79.6% two years earlier. This has been achieved by lowering standards and graduating anyone who can fog a mirror.

“The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.” ? Thomas Sowell

Even the numbers quoted above about graduation rates are complete and utter bullshit. The brand spanking new West Philly High is where all the little Einsteins from Mantua and the rest of West Philly matriculate. This fine institution of learning has computer labs, the newest technology, a student teacher ratio of 12 to 1, 500 students (98% black), school uniforms and 100% receiving free breakfasts and lunches. The Philadelphia School District spends over $2.8 billion, or $14,000 per student per year.

Of course, a huge portion goes to administrators and gold-plated pension and healthcare benefits for the below average union teachers. The payoff for this investment is a 59% graduation rate at West Philly High, an average SAT score of 1057 among the cream of the crop who actually take the exam, and a ranking of 632 out of 677 high schools in PA. Despite these pitiful numbers, over 25% enroll in college. That tells you all you need to know about the state of higher education today.

“Most officially “poor” Americans today have things that middle-class Americans of an earlier time could only dream about—including color TV, videocassette recorders, microwave ovens, and their own cars. Moreover, half of all poor households have air-conditioning.” ? Thomas Sowell

Obama’s Promise Zone is a joke. They have used your tax dollars to knock down hovels, leaving vacant lots with wooden fences built around them. These vacant lots were supposed to be where all the re-development and businesses were supposed to magically appear. Instead they are strewn with garbage, drug paraphernalia, dog crap, and weeds. The Mantua Square low-income townhouse development, built in 2012 with 8 storefronts for all the businesses falling all over themselves for this awesome opportunity.

Seven years later and not one business occupies any of the storefronts. So much for black entrepreneurship. The neighborhood looks like downtown Baghdad after shock and awe. There are probably just as many weapons in West Philly as Baghdad. Despite the squalor, every saggy pants wearing teenager and 300 pound baby momma is yammering on an iGadget. Welfare teens are wearing $250 sneakers and $50,000 Cadillacs are parked in front of $25,000 rat infested fleapits. What a country – thank you Federal Reserve for all that easy money.

“One of the consequences of such notions as ‘entitlements’ is that people who have contributed nothing to society feel that society owes them something, apparently just for being nice enough to grace us with their presence.” ? Thomas Sowell

The entitlement mentality in West Philly is as strong as ever. Over 75% of black kids in West Philly are still born out of wedlock. Drug dealing is still the primary source of income. More than 50% of the population survive on tax payer funded food stamps, living in tax payer funded housing, using tax payer funded Obama phones, and watching taxpayer funded cable TV. They are more dependent today than they were a decade ago.

Obama’s Promise Zone essentially promised the people of Mantua more free shit and a continuation of their welfare mentality enslavement on the Democrat plantation. Keeping these people dumb and ignorant is essential for Democrat politicians retaining their stranglehold on power in Philly and all the urban ghettos across the land. If these people actually obtained a good education and learned to think for themselves, the chains of ignorance would be broken and the slaves freed.

The Democrat politicians who have controlled Philly since the 1950s are as incompetent as they are corrupt. They go hand in hand as the city falls further into debt and the basic infrastructure disintegrates. This has not been a harsh winter in the Philly area, but the roads, especially 34th Street from Girard Ave. to Haverford Ave., are a disgraceful example of government incompetence, apathy and fiscal irresponsibility. With a pension fund having only $4.9 billion in assets but $11.3 billion in liabilities, fiscal Armageddon awaits.

With a $6.2 billion shortfall (entire city budget is $4.7 billion), the scumbags running the city still allow the DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) program to reward politicians and union leaders with criminally large payoffs as the infrastructure crumbles. This outrage allows eligible politicians to “retire” for a day at the end of their terms, collect six-figure cash bonuses, and then, upon winning reelection (and making a quick trip to the bank), go right back to work the next day. Six City Council members took DROP money — president Anna Verna ($566,039), Jack Kelly ($384,828), Donna Miller ($185,572), Frank DiCicco ($421,123), Frank Rizzo Jr. ($195,052), and Marian Tasco ($478,057) and were then eligible for their regular gold-plated pensions. All of these corrupt politicians were Democrats.

“The welfare state is the oldest con game in the world. First you take people’s money away quietly and then you give some of it back to them flamboyantly.” ? Thomas Sowell

While these crooked politicians have been pillaging from the taxpayer coffers for decades, the neglect and negligence of these elected officials to run the city is evident on every street, and particularly along the 30 Blocks of Squalor. They spent millions of Obama porkulus funds on installing wheel chair ramps on every street corner, while ignoring the crumbling sidewalks between the ramps which would prevent a wheelchair from ever needing to use the ramps. There is no rhyme or reason for which streets receive a new coating of blacktop from the overpaid sloth-like union dregs.

It’s incomprehensible that some barely used side streets were paved in the last year, while they allow 34th street to disintegrate on a daily basis to the point where cars are swerving in and out of lanes to avoid destroying their suspension or blowing a tire. This morning, after a light snow, the right lane was completely blocked because no government drone could be bothered to unclog the sewer drain and get rid of the foot of water at the entrance to the zoo. Some of the potholes in West Philly are so deep, you could probably catch a world-famous tasty Philly carp in them.

The reality is that despite having outrageously high city wage taxes of 3.9%, a sales tax levy of 8%, high corporate taxes, ever increasing real estate taxes, and sin taxes on cigarettes and soda, the city somehow can’t keep its basic infrastructure from falling apart. With gold plated government pension plans, siphoning funds to friends and family, and payoffs to union bosses, the budget doesn’t have anything left for potholes and keeping stoplights functioning.

The newly paved streets are dug up or incur sinkholes days after completion. The politicians never address the looming disaster under the thin veneer of blacktop. Ancient sewer lines and decrepit water pipes burst on a regular basis flooding homes and businesses because asshole politicians don’t give a crap about the poor black folk in West Philly. They’ll get their vote no matter how poorly they are served.

“To believe in personal responsibility would be to destroy the whole special role of the anointed, whose vision casts them in the role of rescuers of people treated unfairly by “society”.” ? Thomas Sowell

The definition of shithole is an extremely dirty, shabby, or otherwise unpleasant place. If ever a word described West Philly to a tee, it’s shithole. Every day appears to be garbage day, as refuse and debris litter the sidewalks and streets. The black people who inhabit this paradise of squalor don’t give a fuck about their community, their neighbors, or their city.

They have no self-respect, desire to improve their lot in life, or initiative to understand how they have been screwed and who screwed them. They wallow in ignorance and poverty, while believing that Democrat politicians care about their plight and are going to rescue them with more welfare handouts. Personal responsibility is an unknown concept in West Philly. Enslavement in dependency will keep West Philly from ever reviving itself.

The intersection of 36th and Lancaster Ave. is a five-way intersection that includes trolley tracks. A few weeks ago, the stoplight malfunctioned and was on blink when I passed through at 7:30 in the morning. A malfunction such as this should be repaired by an efficient government within a couple hours. The lights at this intersection remained dark for the next seven days.

That is a disgraceful example of government ineptitude and apathy. Further down the block, the lights at the major intersection of 36th and Chestnut have consistently malfunctioned resulting in gridlock conditions and many near accidents. These are the basic functions needed to keep a city running and the assholes running this shithole haven’t got a clue or don’t give a fuck.

All of the feel-good socialist drivel being spewed by AOC and her oblivious acolytes has been put into action in Philly and other urban ghettos across the land. Tens of trillions have been poured into these shitholes since LBJ rolled out his Great Society plans to enslave blacks in welfare goodies and ensuring their votes for a hundred years. Liberals like Hillary and AOC mouth platitudes about a village raising a child, when West Philly proves how well a village does in raising the bastard children of those who take no responsibility for the children they have produced.

Only a village idiot would believe cretins like Hillary and AOC know how your children should be raised. They’re fascists who want to take your money in order to forcefully inflict their warped vision upon the entire country and taking no responsibility for their epic failures. These socialist tyrants will not be happy until the entire country looks like the 30 Blocks of Squalor.

Seven decades of one party rule in Philadelphia has wrought murder, squalor, poverty, corruption, debt, welfare enslavement and guaranteed Democrat voters. This is the Democrat plan for the entire nation and is why they desperately want to keep the borders open to more Democrat voters. If successful, they will turn the entire nation into one giant shithole. If the Democrats gain one party rule over the country, AOC’s end of world prediction may come true – after the civil war starts.

“Hillary Clinton said you know, it takes a village to raise a child and somebody said it takes a village idiot to believe that … it is part of the whole thing of third parties wanting to make decisions for which they pay no price for when they’re wrong.” ? Thomas Sowell

Published:3/5/2019 6:00:43 PM
[Markets] The US Tried To Isolate Venezuela. It Has Only Isolated Itself

Authored by Alan MacLeod via Venezuelanalysis.com,

It is no secret that the United States has long been plotting regime change in Venezuela. For over 18 months President Trump has been publicly floating a military invasion of the country. At a speech in Florida President Trump recently announced “the days of socialism and communism are numbered in Venezuela” ominously stating “one day soon we are going to see what the people will do in Caracas.” Vice President Mike Pence declared President Nicolas Maduro a “dictator” and reiterated that self-declared president Juan Guaidó had the “unwavering support” of the American people. In an attempt to destroy the economy and force Maduro out of power, the US has leveled multiple rounds of punishing (and illegal) sanctions on the country, and encouraged and intimidated others to do the same in an effort to isolate Venezuela politically and economically.

The US managed to convince a number of Western European and Latin American states to back their version of events. However, despite the best attempts from an extraordinarily compliant international media to present Venezuela as an isolated nation on the brink of collapse, the US plan is failing badly.

In reality, the international community has rejected the US and its candidate Juan Guaidó, with around 75 percent of countries expressing support for Maduro. Completely unreported in the media was the decision by the UN Human Rights Council to unequivocally condemn the US sanctions, noting that they are targeted at the poorest and most vulnerable Venezuelans. The UN called on all member states to break them and even discussed the reparations the US should pay to Venezuela. The American Special UN Rapporteur Alfred de Zayas described the sanctions as akin to a medieval siege and accused the US of possible crimes against humanity. This startling news has been widely reported internationally but has been virtually completely ignored by the mainstream Western press. The New York Times, CNN, Washington Post nor any other national American publication has reported it.

Trump’s regime change strategy has been nothing short of comically incompetent. Marco Rubio’s constant calls for the Venezuelan military to defect and overthrow Maduro have fallen completely flat as the military has remained steadfastly loyal. The UN and Red Cross refused to participate in the charade of American “humanitarian aid” to Venezuela, noting it did not meet the minimal requirements to be considered aid while Maduro’s government has been only too happy to work with those agencies to receive genuine assistance. The US attempt to force its “aid” through the border and provoke a bloodbath failed, as the supposedly pro-democracy aid workers appear to have set fire to their own aid trucks. Meanwhile, billionaire celebrity Richard Branson’s Venezuela Aid Live concert, headlined by massive stars like Luis Fonsi and Maluma garnered an attendance of barely a few thousand.

Part of the problem is that the group around Trump lacks the discipline and polish of Obama administration and continue to let the mask slip, making it crystal clear none of this is about democracy and human rights. The appointment of Elliot Abrams, a man infamous in Latin America for his role in regime change and genocide was a clear signal to all what was about to happen. Trump’s special advisor John Bolton said the quiet part loud, letting slip that he saw Venezuela a “big business opportunity” for American companies, noting that “it would make a big difference to the US” if American companies could take over Venezuela’s oil production. Bolton also revealed he was considering sending President Maduro to the Guantanamo Bay torture camp. Meanwhile, Marco Rubio shocked the world by tweeting out pictures of Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi’s mutilated corpse, taken on all sides to be a crude statement of intent for Venezuela.

Another embarrassing incident occurred just after Elliot Abrams, a man known for smuggling weapons to Nicaragua under the guise of aid, was appointed. The McClatchy DC Bureau revealed that an American plane from Miami was caught smuggling weapons and ammunition into Venezuela. The plane had made over 40 round trips that year alone. None of this did anything to convince the international community of the good intentions of the US government.

For his part, Washington’s handpicked president Guaidó has not been able to hide his more bloodthirsty, sociopathic side. The man who over 80 percentof Venezuelans had never heard of in January appalled the country by callously labeling the deaths from the clashes “not as a cost” but an “investment in the future”. The naked brazenness of the coup attempt is a primary reason Guaidó has failed to win over the public.recent pollshowed that over 80 percent of Venezuelans opposed the US sanctions, and even more were against a military intervention.

The international community is increasingly rounding on the US. At the recent UN Security Council hearing on Venezuela, the US was excoriated by South Africa for “trampling upon the law and constitutional rights of Venezuela” and for “taking away the basic right of the people [of Venezuela] to determine their own future”. Bolivia accused the US of breaking the most fundamental laws of non-intervention in other countries and violating Venezuela’s national sovereignty. Russia summed up the mood, describing Guaidó as an “imposter” and that the US was making a “mockery” of the constitutional rights of Venezuela, noting that the US’ humanitarian aid stunt would “in any other part of the world be classed as terrorism.”

Worse still for the US, even the resolve of the Lima Group – and organization of right-wing Latin American countries set up by the Trump administration with the express goal of bringing about regime change in Venezuela – is beginning to crumble. Brazil’s fascist president Jair Bolsonaro, who previously claimed he would do “everything” to get rid of Maduro, has backed away from the US; Brazil declared that under no circumstanceswould it be any part of an invasion. Other key partners Colombia, Chile and Peru made similar statements. Many of the strongest European critics of Maduro, such as Spain and Germany, have also categorically rejected the military option the US is now preparing for.

This is hardly the first time that the US has isolated itself while trying to isolate Venezuela. As I cataloged in my book Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting, the US was completely alone in the world casting aspersions on the 2013 election result and calling for a recount. What is remarkable about this time is how badly the hare-brained scheme is backfiring. The Bank of England’s extraordinary decision to freeze over a billion dollars in Venezuelan gold was a clear signal to the world that the UK could not be trusted as a neutral arbiter. Italy has reportedly begun discussions to repatriate their gold in Britain. If an allied state such as Italy has done so, the likes of China, India and Russia must be thinking the same. One of the few industries the UK has left is finance, and this decision could have huge ramifications for Britain’s economy. Furthermore, the government’s acceptance of the Trump regime change plan has sparked a massive uprising across Haiti that threatens to bring down a US-client government.

As a result of the hare-brained incompetence and the naked audacity of the Trump/Abrams/Bolton regime change gambit in Venezuela, the US now finds itself almost completely isolated in the world. This does not necessarily mean the end of the US attack. The US is the world’s only superpower and can act unilaterally whenever it pleases. But the battle for world opinion has been lost. The battle for Venezuela continues.

Published:3/4/2019 8:56:14 PM
[Markets] Media Serve The Governors, Not The Governed

Authored by Joe Lauria via ConsortiumNews.com,

Since 2006 WikiLeaks has been censuring governments with governments’ own words. It has been doing the job the U.S. constitution intended the press to do...

In his 1971 opinion in the Pentagon Papers case, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black wrote: “In the First Amendment the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.”

That’s what WikiLeaks and Julian Assange have been doing since 2006: censuring governments with governments’ own words pried from secrecy by WikiLeak’s sources—whistleblowers. In other words, WikiLeaks has been doing the job the U.S. constitution intended the press to do.

One can hardly imagine anyone sitting on today’s U.S. Supreme Court writing such an opinion. Even more troubling is the news media having turned its back on its mission. Today they almost always serve the governors—not the governed.

Lauria: Media serve governors–not the governed. (Cathy Vogan)

The question is why.

Consolidation of media ownership has increased obedience of desperate journalists; entertainment divisions have taken over news departments; and careerist reporters live vicariously through the power of those they cover, rejecting the press’ unique power to hold those officials to account.

It comes down ultimately to lifestyles. Men go to war to protect and further their lifestyles. The press cheers them on for residual material betterment and increase in status.

Millions of lives erased for lifestyles.

It used to be accepted in television that news departments would lose money and would be supported by the entertainment division. That’s because news was considered a public service. TV newsmen—they were almost all men in those days—were former wire service and newspaper reporters. But greed has put the presenters’ personalities before public service, as entertainment masquerades as news. Newspapers have sacrificed investigative units to maximize profit. Government is the winner.

The abdication of the mainstream media of their constitutional responsibility to serve the governed and not the governors has left a void filled for more than a decade by WikiLeaks.

No longer do today’s Daniel Ellsbergs need to take their chances with editors at The New York Timesor The Washington Post, or with their reporters spinning the damning information they risk their freedom to get to the public—no matter how disinterested and distracted the public may be.

Now the traditional media can be bypassed. WikiLeaks deals in the raw material—that when revealed—governments hang themselves with. That’s why they want Assange’s head. They lust for revenge and to stop further leaks that threaten their grip on power. That the corporate media has turned on Assange and WikiLeaks reveals their service to the state and how much they prioritize their style of life—disregarding the carnage they help bring about.

In that Pentagon Papers’ decision, the majority of the court ruled that the First Amendment prohibited the government from exercising prior restraint—or censorship—on the media before publication of classified information. But the majority of the court also said the government could prosecute journalists after publication.

Joe Lauria and John Pilger at Assange rally. (Tatiana Schild)

Indeed the U.S. Espionage Act, which has withstood First Amendment challenges, criminalizes a publisher’s or journalist’s mere possession, as well as dissemination, of classified material. A 1961 amendment to the Act extended U.S. jurisdiction across the world. Assange is threatened by it.

U.S. administrations have been reluctant to take the step of post-publication prosecution, however. Nixon did not prosecute Sen. Mike Gravel, who was constitutionally protected when he read the Papers, given to him by Ellsberg, into the Congressional record. But Gravel could have been prosecuted for publishing the Papers as a book. Barack Obama decided to back off Assange when it was plain The New York Times and other corporate media would be as liable as Assange and WikiLeaks for publishing classified information. The virulently anti-media Trump administration, however, may take that step if Assange is arrested.

From their point of view it’s easy to understand why the U.S. wants to crush Assange. But what is Australia’s excuse? Why is it fighting America’s battles? Why has the Australian mainstream media also turned against Assange after an election held in the U.S., not here? What has happened to Australia’s sovereignty? That’s a question that can be answered by Australians coming into the streets, like today—and staying there until their compatriot is at last free to leave that damned embassy. Free to continue to do the job the media refuses to do.

Joe Lauria gave this speech at a rally for Julian Assange organized by the Socialist Equality Party in Sydney on March 3 organized by the Socialist Equality Party. You can watch the video of the speech here:

Published:3/4/2019 6:55:27 PM
[Markets] Spooked? Christopher Steele Cancels Appearance After Cohen Testimony Destroys Dossier Allegation

Former MI6 spy Christopher Steele has suddenly backed out of a planned video appearance at a pro-democracy gathering in Baltimore next week for a group founded by Trump-hating chess champ Garry Kasparov, according to Politico

The author of the largely unverified Trump-Russia dossier had been scheduled to discuss disinformation on a panel moderated by Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum, which is set to include Atlantic Council fellow Evelyn Farkas - a former deputy assistant secretary of defense who notably slipped up on live TV and admitted in March 2017 that the Obama administration had been spying on the Trump campaign. 

Applebaum said that Steele had gotten "cold feet" last week and canceled on the advice of his legal counsel. As the Daily Caller's Chuck Ross notes, this would have been Steele's first public remarks in the nearly two years since BuzzFeed published his dossier. 

Perhaps Steele was 'spooked' by testimony last week from former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who debunked a key claim in the dossier that he traveled to Prague in August 2016 to meet with Kremlin officials in order to arrange clandestine payments to hackers who stole emails from the Clinton campaign and the DNC. 

Cohen only denied the Prague allegation during his open testimony, but GOP California Rep. Devin Nunes suggested on Monday that the former Trump fixer disputed all of the dossier’s allegations during a closed-door hearing before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence last Thursday. -Daily Caller

Steele's dossier was commissioned by Hillary Clinton's campaign through law firm Perkins Coie, which paid opposition research firm Fusion GPS, which in turn commissioned Steele to assemble the collection of reports which relied heavily on Kremlin officials. 

The dossier was used by the US intelligence community to obtain a FISA surveillance warrant on Trump campaign aide Carter Page - along with anyone he was in communication with. Steele's report claimed that there was a "well-developed conspiracy of co-operation" between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. 

The reports, which circulated among U.S. intelligence officials beginning in the summer of 2016 and were later published by BuzzFeed, helped set off a chain of events that led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller. In the years since Steele authored his reports, evidence has emerged of extensive contacts between Trump’s aides and various Russian state-aligned actors, while many of the most salacious allegations in Steele’s reports remain unconfirmed or at least partially debunked. -Politico

The conference Steele backed out of will continue without him - and "will examine and wrestle with the underlying threats to liberal democracy and propose strategies to reinvigorate it," according to promotional materials. 

Also in attendance will be Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), former Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), former Republican House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and former undersecretary of defense for George W. Bush Paul Wolfowitz, per Politico. It is being organized by the Renew Democracy Initiative chaired by chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov. 

Published:3/4/2019 5:26:46 PM
[Markets] Ben Bernanke - The Father Of Extreme US Socialism

Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk,

Looking for a reason for the upsurge in radical socialism, don't blame Trump, blame the Fed.

Writer David McWilliams penned an excellent article in the Financial Times:Quantitative Easing was the Father of Millennial Socialism.

McWilliams notes that Fed chairman Ben Bernanke's "cash for trash" QE scheme drove up asset prices and bailed out the baby boomers. The cost of course, was pricing millennials out of the housing market.

Unorthodox policy penalizes the asset poor.

What assets do millennials have? Hardly any. Instead they are saddled with mountains of student debt which, thanks to president George W. Bush, could no longer be discharged in bankruptcy.

The Bankruptcy Reform Act of 2005 would have better been called the Debt Slave Act of 2005.

Then, when the Great Financial Crisis hit, the Fed came along bailed out the banks, bailed out the bondholders, bailed out Fannie Mae, and bailed out the asset holders in general, leaving millennials mired in debt unable to afford a house.

Simmering Stew of Anger

The irony in this simmering stew of anger is people blame Trump, not the Fed.

But socialism, even AOC's radical socialism is not about Trump, at least directly.

Peak Trump

I had a lengthy phone conversation with David Stockman after I finished reading his new book, "Peak Trump".

The first thing I said to him was "This really isn't about Trump, is it?"

He laughed, then responded along the lines of, "You are correct. Trump is a symptom of the problem. He wanted to drain the swamp but failed to do so. He never really had a good chance of doing that, but he failed to make the most of the chance he had. We are where we are because of decades of Congressional and monetary mismanagement."

I gave his book two thumbs up in "Peak Trump" by David Stockman: Book Review

Trump Won the Election Because

  1. Obama promised change and failed to deliver. Wars continued so did drone policy. Obamacare was a disaster. In his first term, Obama bailed out the banks.

  2. The millennials wanted Bernie Sanders and the Democrat leadership rigged the primary for Hillary. Many disillusioned millennials then sat the election out.

  3. Trump's message appealed to union workers in the rust belt states who believe China was stealing our jobs.

  4. Many believe Hillary is a bigger warmonger than Trump.

  5. People genuinely cannot stand Hillary, for many good reasons.

It took all of those things for Trump to win, and then just barely.

Rise of the Radicals

Now, instead of drifting towards the middle, the radical Left, epitomized by AOC and her Green New Deal, have an open battle to win the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

?For example, AOC's Green New Deal Pricetag of $51 to $93 Trillion vs. Cost of Doing Nothing.

But why should she care?

Also note that the socialist don't like tax breaks for Amazon. The result was Hooray! No Jobs for New York.

But why should socialists care when the Stunningly Absurd "New Green Deal"guarantees living wages no natter what you do or what your skills are?

And let's not forget Progressive Lies Like "Free College" and "Medicare For All".

Pompous Twit

Today ZeroHedge noted Greenpeace Co-Founder Rips "Pompous Little Twit" Ocasio-Cortez As "Garden-Variety Hypocrite" On Climate.

Yes, AOC is an economically illiterate pompous twit, obvious even to a the Greenpeace co-founder.

I have a socialist friend who knows full well how nonsensical her plan is.

But he is so irritated by bailouts, Trump, tax cuts on the rich that he doesn't give a damn. He is rooting for AOC to "balance things out".

So, here we are.

Yet the irony is that independents will not vote for extreme nut cases with $80 trillion plans, nor will they vote for the likes of Elizabeth Warren or Kamala Harris with their preposterous Slave Reparation Proposals.

You don't right wrongs by being stupid, no matter how irritated you might be at the current politics.

Published:3/4/2019 10:54:51 AM
[Politics] 38% Say U.S. Heading in Right Direction

Thirty-eight percent (38%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey for the week ending February 28. This week’s finding is down three points from last week.  Prior to this, that number had been on the decline week-over-week from 43% in early December to 31% by the end of January. It then rebounded following President Trump’s State of the Union address.  It ran in the mid- to upper 20s for much of 2016, President Obama's last full year in office.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The national telephone survey of 2,500 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports from February 17-21, 2019. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Published:3/4/2019 10:54:51 AM
[World] [David E. Bernstein] When the anti-Racists are the Racists: The case of British Left-wing Anti-Semitism

The far left acknowledges Jewish corporate existence only when Jews rely on memories of collective oppression to aid left-wing "liberation" movements.

With leftist anti-Semitism in the news in both Great Britain and the U.S., I thought I'd republish this blog post from two years ago:

Writing in the left-wing Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz yesterday, Joel Braunold, a former member of the executive council of the British National Union of Students (NUS), reaches essentially the same conclusion about left-wing anti-Semitism as I have, to wit: The far left refuses to recognize Jews as a legitimate ethnic group, and for Jews to think of themselves as such is "racist." I wrote, "Exactly why Jewish solidarity is racist, but not solidarity among other groups, is never clearly explained, but it seems to have something to do with the fact that Jews aren't a legitimate ethnic group to begin with," and that the far left believes that Jews have a duty to ultimately "assimilate or disappear." Braumold writes:

I would engage those who were part of the hard left – those who saw themselves as belonging to the same leftist faction as Ken Livingstone – on how they could possibly justify their anti-racist credentials when they were doing things that were so offensive to the Jewish community.

It all came down to their inability to understand why Jews were anything more than a religious group….

Jews did not have a place in the traditional liberation campaigns of the NUS. Being Jewish was not the same as being black, LGBTQ, female or disabled. Jews were hated by fascists; the hard left just wanted them to assimilate. According to the hard left in the NUS, being particularist about your Jewish ethnic background was to buy into a racism that was forced upon you.

Braunold, though very critical of his former left-wing comrades, is nevertheless too easy on them. The far leftist opposition to recognizing Jews as an ethnic minority, which Braunold suggests is based on a coherent if misguided version of anti-racism, disappears when it's politically convenient, which suggests a lack of principle. Britain, after all, has a large, vocal contingent of "As a Jews"–left-wing individuals of Jewish descent, typically atheists with no ties to the organized Jewish community, who preface their harsh criticisms of Israel with "As a Jew…" "As a Jews" were mercilessly satirized as "ASHamed Jews" by Howard Jacobson in "The Finkler Question."

The "As a Jews" are especially valuable to the anti-Israel left, for obvious reasons. [This has since come to be called |"Jew-washing" anti-Semitism.] I have yet to see any British "anti-Zionist" leftist respond to an "As a Jew" by stating something along the line of, "I appreciate your anti-Israel sentiment, but as a good anti-racist I don't recognize Jewish ethnicity. Therefore, being that you're an atheist and all who hasn't observed any Jewish ritual since at least your circumcision, you're not a Jew, and it's highly offensive to cynically use the fact that your ancestors were of the Jewish religion to try to score political points." Instead, the "As a Jews" are trotted out, front and center, to serve as "anti-Zionist" spokesmen.

This accentuates my point that the far left is, in fact, willing to acknowledge Jewish corporate existence beyond religious ties, but, as a I wrote, only "to the extent Jews rely on their residual memories of collective oppression to aid left-wing liberation movements," including and especially the Palestinian nationalist movement. As I've pointed out before, if you're only against racism when it serves your broader political goals, then you're not really against racism.

It's also worth noting that while the British far left relegates Jewish identity, which has always had an ethnic/peoplehood component, to oblivion except when it's political useful, it has racialized Muslims, so much so that the Malia Bouattia, who is of Algerian descent and not of especially dark complexion, is said to be the "first Black president" of the National Union of Students. There's no rhyme or reason to any of this except what's politically useful.

Published:3/3/2019 4:47:55 PM
[Markets] Gillespie: Trump Just Might Have Won The 2020 Election Yesterday

Authored by Nick Gillespie via Reason.com,

The president's speech at CPAC was a bedazzling mix of bravado, B.S., humor, and positive vision no Democrat will be able to top...

It's way too early to be thinking this, much less saying it, but what the hell: If Donald Trump is able to deliver the sort of performance he gave today at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the annual meeting of right-wingers held near Washington, D.C., his reelection is a foregone conclusion.

There is simply no potential candidate in the Democratic Party who wouldn't be absolutely blown off the stage by him. I say this as someone who is neither a Trump fanboy nor a Never Trumper. But he was not simply good, he was Prince-at-the-Super-Bowl great, deftly flinging juvenile taunts at everyone who has ever crossed him, tossing red meat to the Republican faithful, and going sotto voce serious to talk about justice being done for working-class Americans screwed over by global corporations.

In a heavily improvised speech that lasted over two hours, the 72-year-old former (future?) reality TV star hit every greatest hit in his repertoire ("Crooked Hillary," "build the wall," "America is winning again," and more all made appearances) while riffing on everything from the Green New Deal to his own advanced age and weird hair to the wisdom of soldiers over generals. At times, it was like listening to Robin Williams' genie in the Disney movie Aladdin, Howard Stern in his peak years as a radio shock jock, or Don Rickles as an insult comic. When he started making asides, Trump observed, "This is how I got elected, by going off script." Two years into his presidency and he's just getting warmed up.

First and foremost, Trump was frequently funny and outre in the casually mean way that New Yorkers exude like nobody else in America. "You put the wrong people in a couple of positions," he said, lamenting the appointment of Robert Mueller as a special prosecutor, "and all of a sudden they're trying to take you out with bullshit." He voiced Jeff Sessions in a mock-Southern accent, recusing "muhself" and asked the adoring crowd why the former attorney generally hadn't told him he was going to do that before he was appointed.

Democrats backing the Green New Deal (GND) "are talking about trains to Hawaii," he said. "They haven't figured out how to get to Europe yet." He begged the Democrats not to abandon the GND because he recognizes that the more its details and costs are discussed, the more absurd it will become. "When the wind stops blowing, that's the end of your energy," he said at one point. "Did the wind stop blowing, I'd like to watch television today, guys?" "We'll go back to boats," he said, drawing huge laughs when he added, "I don't want to talk [the Democrats] out of [the GND], I just want to be the Republican who runs against it."

He railed against Never-Trump Republicans: "They're on mouth-to-mouth resuscitation," he said, adding "they're basically dishonest people" that no one cares about. He joked about being in the White House all alone on New Year's because of the government shutdown. "I was in the White House and I was lonely, so I went to Iraq," he said, recounting that when his plane was approaching the U.S. airstrip in Iraq, all lights had to be extinguished for landing. "We spend trillions of dollars in the Middle East and we can't land planes [in Iraq] with the lights on," he said, shaking his head in disbelief. "We gotta get out." He then riffed on the generals he met there who, contrary to the Pentagon brass he dealt with, said they could vanquish ISIS in a week. He claimed to have talked with a general named "Raising Cane," which might be Brigadier Gen. J. Daniel Caine, but Trump is the farthest thing from a details guy, right? "Sometimes I learn more from soldiers than I do generals," he said, deftly moving from jokes to more-substantive discussions of policies or issues.

You can cover a huge amount of material in two-hours-plus, and Trump certainly did that. After speaking sympathetically of immigrants who want to come to the United States and saying that we need more people because the economy (well, his economy, as he takes credit for it) is doing so well, he immediately dismissed the Guatemalans, Salvadorans, and Hondurans traveling north in caravans across Mexico. In a bizarre display of simultaneous empathy and contempt, he talked at length about how female migrants are being systematically "raped" but also how the caravans were filled with criminals and drug dealers. It was "sad to see how stupid we've become" to think that the caravans are filled with good people. As he has been doing since his State of the Union address, he has been laying out a partial, inchoate case for a skills-based immigration program. He explained walking away from the table with North Korea even as he noted yet again that he has a great relationship with the dictator Kim Jong Un. In a long riff on trade policy, he invoked the "Great Tariff Debate of 1888" and how China "and everyone else" had been taking advantage of us until he started pushing back. He took time to talk about how no, really, the crowd at his inauguration was in fact historically large despite all publicly available evidence.

All in all, it was, in the words of Daniel Dale, the Washington correspondent for the Toronto Star, "one of the least-hinged speeches Trump has given in a long time." It was indeed all over the place but like the weirdly wide-ranging and digressive speech in which he declared a national emergency, it was also an absolute tour de force, laying out every major point of disagreement between Republicans and Democrats (abortion, the Second Amendment, and taxes, among other things) while tagging the latter aggressively as socialists who will not only end the private provision of health care but take over the energy sector too. Those charges take on new life in the wake of the announcement of the GND and comments, however short-lived, by Democrats such as Kamala Harris, who at one point recently called for an end to private health care. And over 100 House Democrats have signed on to a plan that would end private health insurance in two years. For all the biting criticism and dark humor in today's speech, Trump has mostly ditched the "American Carnage" rhetoric that marked his first Inaugural Address, pushing onto liberals and Democrats all the negativity and anger that used to surround him like the dust cloud surrounds Pigpen in the old Peanuts cartoons. "We have people in Congress right now who hate our country," he said. "We can name every one of them. Sad, very, very sad."

At moments, he seemed to be workshopping his themes and slogans for 2020. "We believe in the American Dream, not the socialist nightmare," he averred at one point. "Now you have a president who finally standing up for America." The future, he said "does not belong to those who believe in socialism. The future belongs to those who believe in freedom. I've said it before and will say it again: America will never be a socialist country." That's a line that may not work forever, but it will almost certainly get the job done in 2020.

None of this is to suggest that this speech wasn't as fact-challenged as almost every utterance Trump has given since announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination (go to Daniel Dale's Twitter thread for a running count of misstatements of fact). He hammered trade deficits in a way that will remind anyone with an undergrad economics course under their belt that he fundamentally doesn't know what he's talking about. He misrepresented both NAFTA and the new trade bill he crafted with Mexico and Canada, and at the exact moment that hundreds of wearied listeners started leaving the ballroom at The Gaylord Resort and Convention Center, he claimed that not a single person had left their seat.

But the 2020 presidential race is not going to be decided based on which candidate is more tightly moored to reality. It's going to be decided, like these things always are, by the relative health of the economy and the large vision of the future the different candidates put forward. As the economy continues to expand (however anemically compared to historical averages) and he continues to avoid credible charges of impeachable offenses, Trump is becoming sunnier and sunnier while the Democrats are painting contemporary America as a late-capitalist hellhole riven by growing racial, ethnic, and other tensions.

Trump isn't the creator of post-factual politics in America, he is merely currently its most-gifted practitioner (oddly, his ideological and demographic counterpart and fellow New Yorker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez may become a challenger to him on precisely this score). Trump may have next to no credibility in profoundly disturbing ways, but American politics has been drifting away from reality for the entire 21st century, when the 2000 election was essentially decided by a coin flip, the United States entered the Iraq War under false premises, and Barack Obama took home Politifact's 2013 "Lie of the Year" award and dissembled unconvincingly in the wake of Edward Snowden's revelations.

That Trump didn't invent the current situation doesn't mean we shouldn't be concerned about it, but if he can continue to perform the way he did today at CPAC, it remains to be seen what Democratic rival can rise to that challenge.

Published:3/3/2019 3:48:10 PM
[Markets] CNN Analyst And Former Obama Admin Official Compares Trump's CPAC Speech To Hitler

One CNN analyst and former Obama administration official was clearly triggered by President Trump's rambling, expletive-filled, two-hour-plus CPAC address.

During an appearance on CNN where she offered some "informed commentary" on Trump's speech, Sam Vinograd, a former member of Obama’s national security council, said Trump's "xenophobic" talking points about immigrants and white heritage reminded her of  "certain leader" who presided over a genocidal European regime during the first half of the 20th century.

Though she didn't use said leader's name, we think it's pretty clear to whom she's referring (spoiler alert: It's Hitler).

"Well, Ana, his statement makes me sick, on a personal level, preserving your heritage, reclaiming our heritage, that sounds a lot like a certain leader that killed members of my family and about six million other Jews in the 1940s," Vinograd began. "But our national security level, the president talks about preserving our heritage as a catch-all for implementing policies that misallocate resources."

"He pretends there are massive flows of illegal immigrants coming over our borders and is spending billions of dollars on a border wall emergency, instead of paying attention to real national security threats. He sounds a lot like despotic leaders that have talked about white heritage and white nationalism around the world and is putting resources in the wrong place, and pretending that there are foreign people trying to influence our country in a way that just isn’t accurate."

Of course, the fact that, by comparing Trump to Hitler, Vinograd contributed to the trivialization of the historical plight of the Jewish people was apparently lost on her.

She also slammed Trump for "denigrating our institutions" and suggested that Trump's talking points mirrored the of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"He denigrated our institution, the Department of Justice and U.S. Congress. He spread misinformation and conspiracy theories, he undermined the credibility of several of our institutions, he sewed divisions, he sewed confusion, he was speaking to his base, but he was also saying things that really looked like Vladimir Putin scripted his speech."

It's just the latest example of "Trump Derangement Syndrome" run amok on "the most trusted voice in news".

Trump

Tears

By the way, if you're confused about what Putin's to-do list looks like, allow Vinograd to fill you in.

Published:3/2/2019 7:12:39 PM
[Markets] Miners Eye The Moon For Trillion Dollar Payoff

Authored by Mining.com via OilPrice.com,

European scientists have announced plans to start mining the moon as early as 2025, though what they’ll be extracting is neither gold nor diamonds, but waste-free nuclear energy thought to be worth trillions of dollars.

The goal is to place a lander on the lunar surface to mine and process regolith for useful materials such as water, oxygen, metals and an isotope called helium-3, which may prove useful for fueling future fusion reactors.

Regolith, Universe Today reported, is a dust-like material that covers the lunar surface and is the result of billions of years of meteor and comet impacts. If anyone ever lives on the moon, they could use the regolith to build habitats for a base.

The mission will be in charge of the European Space Agency in partnership with ArianeGroup, Popular Mechanics reported. It will also count with the participation of Part-Time Scientists, a German group and former Google Lunar XPrize contestant.

Europe isn’t the only one getting on board of the lunar mining train. Both India and China have floated ideas about extracting Helium-3 from the Earth’s natural satellite. Beijing has already landed on the moon twice in the 21st century, with more missions to follow.

There are an estimated one million tonnes of helium-3 in the moon, though only 25 percent of that could be brought to Earth, Gerald Kulcinski, director of the Fusion Technology Institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a former member of the NASA Advisory Council told Bloomberg last year.

But that’s enough to meet the world’s current energy demands for at least two, and maybe as many as five, centuries, said the expert said, who estimates that helium-3 is worth almost $5 billion a tonne.

No longer science fiction

After being considered mostly a science-fiction tale, governments are now rushing to implement programs and legislations that allow them to join the race for mining in the space.

In 2015, former U.S. President Barack Obama signed a law that grants U.S. citizens rights to own resources mined in space. The ground-breaking rule was touted as a major boost to asteroid mining because it encourages the commercial exploration and utilization of resources from asteroids obtained by U.S. firms.

Geologists believe asteroids are packed with iron ore, nickel and precious metals at much higher concentrations than those found on Earth, making up a market valued in the trillions of dollars.

Shortly after, Luxembourg launched an official initiative to promote the mining of asteroids for minerals. The tiny European country, which has been studying possible involvement in the sector since 2013, aims to become Europe’s centre for space mining.

Canada is also eying the moon. Last year, Northern Ontario-based Deltion Innovations partnered with Moon Express, the first American private space exploration firm to have been granted government permission to travel beyond Earth's orbit, on future opportunities in outer space.

Some of the space ventures in the works include plans to mine asteroids, track space debris, build the first human settlement in Mars, and billionaire Elon Musk's own plan for an unmanned mission to the red planet.

Geologists as well as emerging companies, such as US-based Planetary Resources, a firm pioneering the space mining industry, believe asteroids are packed with iron ore, nickel and precious metals at much higher concentrations than those found on Earth, making up a market valued in the trillions of dollars.

Published:3/2/2019 4:14:02 PM
[US News] Obama bro Jon Favreau calls Trump’s Green New Deal claims at #CPAC the ‘craziest lies’ (OK, let’s go to the FAQ!)

No, "these are not crazy lies Republicans invented."

The post Obama bro Jon Favreau calls Trump’s Green New Deal claims at #CPAC the ‘craziest lies’ (OK, let’s go to the FAQ!) appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:3/2/2019 3:13:49 PM
[World] [Keith E. Whittington] Reconstructing American Politics

Trump, Failed Political Regimes, and the Illiberal Politics of the Future

On a recent episode of The Bulwark podcast with Charlie Sykes, Reason editor-at-large Nick Gillespie noted that Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan had more in common than we often think, pointing in particular to the deregulatory wave that began under Carter. Music to my ears.

The connection is worth thinking about. Stephen Skowronek, a political scientist at Yale, has provided some useful insights into the relationship between presidents and political parties over the course of American history. In what he called the "politics of political time," he noted that such surprising pairings as Carter and Reagan could help us see deeper patterns in the development of American politics. Individual presidencies exist within a matrix of ambition, opportunity and strategic constraints. I found it pretty useful for thinking about the relationship between presidents and judges and the contours of American constitutionalism as well.

Some presidents, which Skowronek called reconstructive, are able to significantly remake American politics, reorganizing ideological commitments, political interests and public policy in ways that leave a lasting impression on the political landscape. For a generation or more, politicians operate in their shadows. Historically great presidents like Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt and Reagan fit this mold.

The politics that characterize other presidencies are defined, in part, by their relationship to those reconstructive moments. Some presidents, such as James Polk and Lyndon Johnson, build on those legacies. Others, like Dwight Eisenhower and Bill Clinton, accommodate themselves to a political era defined by the priorities and values of their partisan opposition. Still others, like Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter, are trapped by their association with a failing political regime that cannot respond effectively to the needs of the moment. Skowronek gave this last group the somewhat awkward title of disjunctive presidencies.

Disjunctive presidencies have some interesting features in part because they tend to anticipate the reconstructive politics still to come. Hoover's bitter criticism of Franklin Roosevelt tends to obscure the extent to which his brand of Progressivism foreshadowed the New Deal. Ronald Reagan's effort to distance himself from the failed Carter presidency masks the extent to which Carter's efforts to remake the Democratic coalition and Democratic policies found echoes in what Reagan subsequently built.

Corey Robin, Julia Azari, and Jack Balkin have pointed out that the Donald Trump presidency looks much like the politics of disjunction. Trump claims the mantle of an old and established political party, but the coalition seems hollowed out and often a parody of itself. The competing demands of the old coalition are increasingly irreconcilable, and the old policy palliatives seem played out. Trump happily casts aside some of the intellectual, electoral and political constituents of the old Reagan coalition while trying to draw in his own set of Trump Democrats. He is willing defy conservative ideological orthodoxy, but has no meaningful ideology of his own.

All of which raises the question of what comes next. The future is hardly set in stone. Partisans always imagine that they are riding the wave of an electoral realignment that will wash away the political past and reveal a new political future. Donald Trump's partisans have embraced such fantasies themselves. They may well be right that the Republican Party that emerges from the present moment will bear the mark of Donald Trump rather than that of Ronald Reagan. Nevertheless, the prospects of such a party commanding an electoral majority do not seem promising. On the other hand, the Democrats might well overplay their hand and follow the path of William Jennings Bryan into an electoral dead end of their own.

What elements of the Trump presidency will be incorporated into the future political order? The norm-busting and institutional erosion? The race-baiting and identity politics? The economic nationalism and trade protectionism? The populist statism? For libertarians, the tenor of American politics in the long shadow of Ronald Reagan was hardly ideal but frequently reasonably good. The coming years look rather bleak. The future might not belong to Trump, but it might be pretty Trumpy.

Published:3/2/2019 2:47:13 PM
[Markets] WikiLeaks Veteran Flips On Assange For Immunity: "You Know... I'm Not In An Embassy" 

A WikiLeaks volunteer and friend of Chelsea Manning agreed to cooperate with the US Justice Department and appear in front of an Alexandria, VA grand jury in exchange for immunity, reports the Daily Beast

"I decided to cooperate in exchange for immunity," said David House - a computer science graduate and political activist who previously refused to testify against Julian Assange in 2011, only to be subpoenaed last May for an encore appearance in front of a grand jury that's been investigating the WikiLeaks founder for almost nine years.

"You know, I’m walking around on the street out here. I’m not in an embassy," he added. 

House spoke briefly with prosecutors and then testified for about 90 minutes in front of the grand jury, he said. “They wanted to know about my meetings with Assange, they wanted to know broadly about what we talked about,” he recalled. Prosecutors seemed particularly interested in the potential for collateral damage in some of Assange’s leaks. The identities of some American collaborators were exposed in Assange’s release of State Department cables and Army field reports from Afghanistan, which triggered internal debate and led to the departure of some of WikiLeaks’ key staffers early on. -Daily Beast

"They showed me chat logs in which I was arguing vehemently with him about releasing documents that would leave people vulnerable and put people’s lives at risk," said House. "That was the only thing they put in front of my face that made me think, ‘This may be what they’re going after him for.’" 

Chelsea Manning, meanwhile has refused to comply with a March 5 subpoena in the same case - making good on a vow to fight the subpoena in court. 

"I am not going to contribute to a process that I feel is dangerous and could potentially place me in a position where I am forced to backtrack on the truth," Manning told the New York Times

She made good on that vow Friday morning by filing a motion to quash the subpoena, according to her attorney, New York lawyer Moira Meltzer-Cohen. “At the insistence of the clerk, the motion was filed under seal,” said Meltzer-Cohen in an email to The Daily Beast. “Our position is that litigation regarding the enforceability of a subpoena does not implicate grand jury secrecy, and we will move to have it unsealed. Chelsea, as you might expect, wants to bring some transparency to this process and hopes to be able to share the filing soon.” -Daily Beast

The grand jury probe - case 10GJ3793, became public knowledge in early 2011 as prosecutors fired off records demands for records on key WikiLeaks activists to companies such as Google and Twitter. Twitter, with the consent of the DOJ, notified five users that the feds sought their records. Three of those five challenged the records request in court, backed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the ACLU. 

In 2013, an appeals court sided with the government against the three WikiLeaks activists; Jacob Appelbaum, Icelandic MP Birgitta Jonsdottir, and Dutch businessman Rop Gonggrijp.

Following the 2011 subpoena in which House initially pleaded the fifth, Icelandic WikiLeaks staffer Sigurdur Thordarson began spying on WikiLeaks volunteers for the FBI

He met with prosecutors in Virginia in February 2012 and later turned over eight hard drives of internal WikiLeaks chat logs and media. Around the same time the government obtained a search warrant for the Gmail inbox of another WikiLeaks volunteer in Reykjavik. -Daily Beast

Records revealed that the grand jury was investigating Assange for potential violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act as well as the Espionage Act in connection with the Manning leaks.

While the Obama administration declined to push forward with prosecution, the FBI revived their efforts after the 2016 US election - reaching out to a "diverse cast of characters from WikiLeaks' early days - most of whom had long ago parted company with Assange on acrimonious terms," notes the Beast

In November 2017, German police relayed an interview request from the FBI to Daniel Domscheit-Berg, Assange’s former second in command. “I don’t know much about the content, but according to what I was told, they wanted to question me about JA's relationship with Chelsea Manning,” Domscheit-Berg told The Daily Beast last year. “Which struck me as a bit odd and a little late in the game maybe. I quite naturally denied this request.” -Daily Beast

It is unknown whether the new sealed charges are related to the 2010 Manning leaks - however it is believed to be likely. 

"Technically speaking, if you get charged by complaint the grand jury investigation remains open," said a former federal prosecutor, speaking to the Daily Beast on condition of anonymity. "Maybe they think they’ll be able to get him out at some point. The investigation would probably be over already if he was in a jurisdiction that would extradite him." 

Published:3/2/2019 11:18:14 AM
[Markets] The Debt Accrued Through Dollar Hegemony Is Unpayable (Except In Hyperinflated Dollars)

Authored by Michael Doliner via Counterpunch.org,

The United States Entity lost the war in Iraq. That fact determines the Entity’s position in the Middle East today.

After having destroyed Saddam’s army and dispossessing the Sunnis in favor of the Shi’ites, after Abu Ghraib and it’s indelible pictures, after the total destruction of Fallujah, in short after a victory achieved with the utmost brutality, contempt and humiliation of Iraq and Iraqis, the Entity was in charge. Then the “insurgents” appeared. They put improvised explosive devices along the roads so, with a phone call, they could destroy patrols of the Entity. They made car bombs so that every vehicle approaching a check-point might spell doom. They donned suicide vests to blow themselves and any nearby Entity soldiers up. Entity soldiers couldn’t go into the streets. Every move they made could be their last. The enemy was everywhere and nowhere. These people would rather die then be ruled by these idiotic mechanized barbarians. Everything seemed peaceful, but at any moment, out of nowhere, they could be blown to pieces.

That kind of thing wears on you. Their patrols, pointless bouts of Russian roulette, ended up as parked “search and avoid” missions. Life went on without the clanking monsters. Entity bases were like Kaposi sarcoma in AIDS patients. The Entity’s attempts at reconstruction were comically inept – roads to nowhere and chicken processing plants for chickens no one wanted. In short the Entity’s occupation of Iraq after the victory, other than being a disaster of comical incompetence, was non-existent. Muqtada Al-Sadr, the Shi’ite cleric, had much more power than the Entity. Eventually Iraq rejected the Entity’s status of forces agreement (SOFA). In other words the Iraqi puppets the Entity had installed unceremoniously kicked the Entity out of the country.

Until that time the Entity had been running a protection racket in the Middle East. But after the loss of Iraq these threats seemed a lot less plausible. The game was: oil had to be sold in dollars. Know as Dollar Hegemony, this racket allowed the Entity to print money. Oil backed the dollar just as gold once had. Governments had to maintain large supplies of dollars to protect against “emergencies,” that is, dollar shortages during speculative attacks on their currencies. “To prevent speculative and manipulative attacks on their currencies, the world’s central banks must acquire and hold dollar reserves in corresponding amounts to their currencies in circulation.” The Entity enforced dollar hegemony with military threats. One of the most important reasons for the Entity’s attack on Iraq was Saddam’s abandoning of dollar hegemony. He had begun to sell oil in euros. The Entity had to stop that. It invaded, and as soon as it was victorious, reversed that policy. Dollar hegemony restored. But the loss in Iraq revealed The Entity’s protection racket as a bluff. It’s threats were suddenly unconvincing.

Pressed by Entity sanctions, Iran began to sell oil for other currencies after 2007. The Entity was not going to invade Iran! A look at the map reveals just what a catastrophe that would be. As soon as hostilities started, even before a shot was fired, no one would insure tankers going through the Straits of Hormuz, and the tanker owners would not send them through without insurance. Twenty percent of the world’s supply of oil would disappear with no more military action than the commencement of hostilities. The world economy would tank, and this time fall into chaos. There was no way the Entity could even think about occupying Iran after the debacle in Iraq. And there was no way to protect The Entity fleet in Bahrain. They would be sitting ducks anywhere in the Persian Gulf. If they were destroyed the Entity would lose unless it launched nuclear weapons. World War III would be on. Only madmen would even consider doing this.

The Entity had abused dollar hegemony over the years by simply printing dollars. The Entity ran huge trade deficits every year. China, Japan and all other countries had had to keep reserves of dollars if they were to purchase oil and protect their currencies. These were like never- having-to-be-repaid loans to the Entity. If other currencies could be used they would dump these reserves because the only thing preventing inflation of these dollars had been dollar hegemony, backing the dollar with oil. Iran doing business in non-dollar currencies is like a leak in a dike.

Russia, China, India and Japan are now unloading dollars carefully, so as not to cause a panic. But they are steadily unloading them. They see dollar hegemony disappearing. Naturally, Saudi Arabia sees what is happening, and is not that enamored of the dollar either. As long as they thought the Entity protected them from Iran and, of course, from the Entity itself, they went along with it. Now the Entity is impotent to enforce dollar hegemony. The dollars the Saudis take for their oil today will be worth a whole lot less tomorrow if dollar hegemony ends. They are wavering, especially after Trump scolded them for murdering Kashoggi. Naughty, naughty MBS. They know the Entity cannot protect them from Iran, and they are panicking.

The Entity’s hive mind, for it’s part, refuses to accept the Iraq failure as having revealed its weakness. It still wants to maintain dollar hegemony and its protection racket. The end of dollar hegemony is an existential threat to The Entity. Originally The Entity exchanged securities for these dollars, one piece of paper for another, or more likely bits of code, with the Federal Reserve. Then it spent them, mostly on the military. The Federal Reserve unloaded these dollar-denominated securities to whoever had faith in the dollars they could exchange them for. Nice work if you can get it, but securities are debt. The Entity is so far in debt that it pays almost a trillion dollars in debt service annually. To do so it needs more dollars and to sell more securities. Faith in this Ponzi scheme might waver. If everyone unloads dollar securities the entity will have to print more dollars, and sell more securities to buy them. Otherwise their price will crash. But what real something or other will these dollars buy given how many will be floating around? For there will be no other buyers unless the dollars can buy something real. The Securities will then be worthless. If Entity securities become worthless so will the dollar. Bye-bye Entity.

The hive-mind’s strategy is to simply deny what has happened, the ostrich maneuver. The Entity didn’t lose in Iraq, it hasn’t as a consequence lost all credibility in the Middle East, dollar hegemony is salvageable, and the Entity might still attack Iran after all. The continuation of dollar hegemony requires a world in which Humpty-Dumpty gets back together.

If only Iran could be put back in the box of dollar hegemony all would go back to what it was. In 2012 the Entity blocked Iran from the SWIFT messaging system for making international payments as punishment for straying from dollar hegemony, the first time that system had ever been used politically. It froze Iranian funds and the trust required for international banking was destroyed. However, Iran continued on its wayward path. Now the Entity withdraws from the JAPOCA, which was very beneficial to all other signers. Obedience to the Entity’s sanctions against Iran is bringing the interests of much of Europe into conflict with those of the Entity.

Without dollar hegemony the dollar will hyper-inflate and destroy the Entity. To restore dollar hegemony it was thought essential that Iran return to the dollar hegemony fold. Why then did Obama sign the treaty with Iran, the JAPOCA? Obama signed the Iran Treaty because of Hassan Rouhani and his party. Rouhani, as President of Iran, was a “moderate” and he had succeeded Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the notorious hardliner who refused to even negotiate with the Entity. Ahmadinejad had called directly for the end of dollar hegemony. Rouhani won by arguing that he could relieve Entity sanctions on Iran through negotiations. Obama must have hoped that Rouhani could restore Iran to the dollar-hegemony fold. Perhaps a little coup d’état. He was, Obama must have hoped, our man in Tehran. The JAPOCA, which would relieve Iran of some sanctions, would prove to Iran that going along with Entity wishes, in particular dollar hegemony, was good for them. Rouhani was the guy who promised good things for Iran from a rapprochement with the Entity. Without the successful negotiation of the JAPOCA, Rouhani would fail.

The actual contents of the Iran deal, with its various detailed restrictions on Iranian nuclear research and enrichment of Uranium, was a drawn-out shadow play. In the end, Obama demanded only what Rouhani could give. Neocons in the shadows complained that he gave too much, as has Trump. Ahmadinejad, on the Iranian side, said it wouldn’t work, and complained that Iran got too little. In any case it was all a shadow play. Iran had no program to develop nuclear weapons. American Intelligence Agencies all agreed that it had been abandoned in 2003. Actually, it had never existed. Nevertheless, the two sides hammered out various conditions, dragged out the negotiations interminably, and carefully crafted the agreement to be acceptable to both sides. All of this was to present an appearance that would strengthen Rouhani and protect Obama’s rear. Only the lifting of some Entity sanctions was real. That was Rouhani’s win, and in return Rouhani would, Obama hoped, return Iran to the fold or at least “pave the way.”

But Rouhani would not or could not do any such thing. Although he did want to open Iran to the West, he would not restore dollar hegemony. When Rouhani did not do what the Entity hoped, it abandoned him and with him the JAPOCA, which Obama signed only to prop him up. That was the end of any hope for a Ukraine style regime change in Iran. At that point the Entity had to reestablish itself as the bully of the Middle East, which meant it had to threaten to attack Iran. Otherwise even Saudi Arabia, mortally afraid of Iran, wavering on dollar hegemony, and no longer believing in Entity protection, might itself abandon dollar hegemony. That would be curtains.

Earlier this year, the Chinese Ambassador Li Huaxin was pictured with Saudi officials as he praised Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which calls for stronger economic cooperation between the two nations. This pact pressures Saudi Arabia to adopt the “petro-yuan,” which would effectively axe the petrodollar. Although Saudi Arabia relies heavily on U.S. military power, Saudi Arabia warming ties with China closeness are alarming. China’s growing economy and standing in the world could undermine the attitude towards the United States. Above anything else, a shift in alliances could threaten America’s standing in the Middle East and world.

The Entity, unable to face the truth, pretended its position in the Middle East had not changed. It had to punish misbehavior. Withdrawal from the JAPOCA was the first step, even though everyone admitted that Iran had not breached the agreement. Withdrawal from a signed agreement made the Entity no longer “agreement capable”, as Putin commented, for no one could trust its word. Trump’s blathering about a new agreement was nonsense. Diplomacy, for the Entity, is henceforth “off the table.” Europe’s slavish obedience to the Entity exposed its governments as puppets of the Entity to the benefit of the rising pan-European nationalist sentiment hostile to Entity hegemony. The Entity had to reignite its threats against Iran. But this just revived Obama’s dilemma, for the Entity cannot attack Iran without igniting WWIII.

With the credibility the Entity had had while it pretended to be the United States gone, and attacking Iran impossible for any sane entity, Trump is left with only one option if he is to maintain dollar hegemony: to go insane. The only alternative to going insane is to not attack Iran, allow dollar hegemony to dissipate (as is inevitable anyway), and so end The Entity– for the debt accrued through dollar hegemony is unpayable, except in hyperinflated dollars.

Published:3/1/2019 9:37:13 PM
[Markets] "I Love Otto" Tweets Trump Amid Furor Over "Misinterpreted" Remarks

President Trump on Friday went into full damage-control mode over his widely-panned claim that Kim Jong Un was unaware that US college student Otto Warmbier had been tortured, tweeting "I hold North Korea responsible" for Warmbier's "mistreatement and death." 

Photo credit: https://jimheath.tv

Trump also criticized the Obama administration, which "did nothing" when Otto was "taken on their watch." 

Warmbier died shortly after being released after 17 months of captivity in a North Korean prison after he was convicted of stealing a propaganda poster from his hotel. Shortly after his March 2016 sentencing, he suffered severe neurological injuries from a still-unknown cause. North Korean officials said he had fallen into a coma as a result of botulism and sleeping medication, however US physicians found no signs of botulism after evaluating him upon his return. 

Six days after his return to the United States, Warmbier died, never having regained consciousness. 

After meeting with Kim Jong Un at a Hanoi conference, President Trump stated that he believed Kim when he said he was unaware of Warmbier's treatment. 

"He knew the case very well. But he knew it later," said Trump. "And, you know, you’ve got a lot of people. Big country. Lot of people. And in those prisons and those camps, you have a lot of people. And some really bad things happened to Otto. Some really bad things." 

"He tells me that he didn't know about it, and I will take him at his word," said Trump - triggering a bipartisan outcry, including Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) who said Trump had a "naive" understanding about the "brutal nature" of the North Korean regime. 

On Friday, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, the Otto's parents, released a statement blaming Kim for their son's death while indirectly criticizing President Trump. 

"We have been respectful during this summit process. Now we must speak out," reads the Warmbiers' statement. "Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son Otto." 

"No excuses or lavish praise can change that."

Published:3/1/2019 4:37:01 PM
[Law] Van Jones Rejects ‘Sellout’ Label, Credits Trump for Helping Achieve Prison Reform

Van Jones, a former Obama administration official and leading commentator on the left, responded Friday to liberal critics who call him a “sellout” for agreeing... Read More

The post Van Jones Rejects ‘Sellout’ Label, Credits Trump for Helping Achieve Prison Reform appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:3/1/2019 3:37:05 PM
[Right Column] ENVIRONMENTALIST MICHAEL SHELLENBERGER TELLS TUCKER CARLSON: RENEWABLES CAN’T SAVE THE PLANET

Shellenberger: "Obama spent about $150 billion on renewables between 2009 and 2015, and we just kept encountering the same kind of problems.”

Why opposition to nuclear energy? Shellenberger: People have 'a really strong desire to use energy to harmonize with the natural world. That turns out to be a bad idea because the more natural resource we use, the worse it is for the natural environment."
Published:3/1/2019 10:06:12 AM
[Right Column] Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who once famously filmed a campaign ad in which he shot then-President Obama’s cap-and-trade climate proposal with a hunting rifle, said Wednesday he’s likely to vote “no.” “I got to work with reality. I got to make sure we have the benefit of affordable energy,” Manchin said. Asked about his colleague’s plan to vote present on the Green New Deal, Manchin responded, “They can do what they want to do. I’m not a present-type guy.” Other Democrats from coal-producing states, such as Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.) and Jon Tester (Mont.), said Wednesday they’re still reviewing the Green New Deal.

Published:2/28/2019 5:59:44 PM
[] Justin Trudeau About Six Inches Away From Being Tossed Out on His Ass as Scandal Consumes Canada Canada's own Obama! The short version is: Canada's state prosecutor had decided to bring charges against a large company, SNC-Lavalin, over business they'd done in Libya. But the company was protected by Canada's Liberal Party, and Trudeau himself personally, which... Published:2/28/2019 11:59:56 AM
[US News] THANK YOU: Rep. Ted Lieu calls out libs for promoting the #TrumpFail hashtag

John Kirby, former State Department spokesman under President Barack Obama, praised President Donald Trump for holding firm on sanctions and keeping up the pressure on North Korea despite having to walk away from the denuclearization negotiations this morning: Many people – including me -were worried Trump might give up too much in Hanoi. It’s disappointing […]

The post THANK YOU: Rep. Ted Lieu calls out libs for promoting the #TrumpFail hashtag appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:2/28/2019 7:57:24 AM
[Middle Column] Submitted Written Testimony of Marc Morano to Congressional Hearing on Green New Deal – Western Caucus – Capitol Hill

Morano to Congress: "'Global warming” is merely the latest environmental scare with the same solutions of wealth redistribution and central planning. “Global warming” is merely the latest environmental scare with the same big government solution. The “Green New Deal” has very little to do with the environment or climate.

The environmental Left has been using green scares to push for the same solutions we see today — wealth redistribution, central planning, sovereignty limiting treaties — since the overpopulation scars of the 1960s and 1970s.

2019 Green New Deal proposed “solution”: OCASIO-CORTEZ CAMPAIGN AIDE CALLS ‘GREEN NEW DEAL’ A PLAN TO ‘REDISTRIBUTE WEALTH AND POWER’ FROM RICH TO POOR

The Green New Deal borrows from previous proposed “solutions”: Flashback: UN IPCC official admits UN seeks to ‘redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy’–  UN: 'This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore.’

Flashback 1974 proposed “solution” to battle environmental degradation: Different Environmental Scare, Same Solution: Future Obama science czar John Holdren testified to the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee, “The neo-Malthusian view proposes conscious accommodation to the perceived limits to growth via population limitation and redistribution of wealth in order to prevent the ‘overshoot’ phenomenon. My own sympathies are no doubt rather clear by this point. I find myself firmly in the neo-Malthusian camp.” ...

In summary, the Green New Deal has to be opposed, exposed and defeated. We must challenge the economics, ideology and science claims of this deal. I thank the Western Caucus for this opportunity and look forward to them leading the battle."

Published:2/27/2019 12:22:03 PM
[North Korea] Trump’s North Korea policy earns praise from experts (Paul Mirengoff) The Washington Post tells us that experts at Stanford University chart the degree of risk of war with North Korea, as they perceive it, on a color-coded chart. Bright red indicates high risk. When Barack Obama left office, eight out of 11 boxes were bright red. When President Trump started calling North Korea’s dictator “Little Rocket Man,” the number of such boxes increased to nine. Now, with the diplomatic relations Published:2/27/2019 10:55:18 AM
[Markets] The Age Of Tyrannical Surveillance: We're Being Branded, Bought, & Sold For Our Data

Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

“We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about… Your digital identity will live forever... because there’s no delete button.

- Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt

Uncle Sam wants you.

Correction: Big Brother wants you.

To be technically accurate, Big Brother—aided and abetted by his corporate partners in crime—wants your data.

That’s what we have been reduced to in the eyes of the government and Corporate America: data bits and economic units to be bought, bartered and sold to the highest bidder.

Those highest bidders include America’s political class and the politicians aspiring to get elected or re-elected. As the Los Angeles Times reports, “If you have been to a political rally, a town hall, or just fit a demographic a campaign is after, chances are good your movements are being tracked with unnerving accuracy by data vendors on the payroll of campaigns.”

Your phones, televisions and digital devices are selling you out to politicians who want your vote.

Have you shopped at Whole Foods? Tested out target practice at a gun range? Sipped coffee at Starbucks while surfing the web? Visited an abortion clinic? Watched FOX News or MSNBC? Played Candy Crush on your phone? Walked through a mall? Walked past a government building?

That’s all it takes for your data to be hoovered up, sold and used to target you.

This is the age of surveillance capitalism.

Incredibly, once you’ve been identified and tracked, data brokers can travel back in time, digitally speaking, to discover where you’ve been, who you’ve been with, what you’ve been doing, and what you’ve been reading, viewing, buying, etc.

Once you’ve been identified in this way, you can be tracked endlessly.

“Welcome to the new frontier of campaign tech — a loosely regulated world in which simply downloading a weather app or game, connecting to Wi-Fi at a coffee shop or powering up a home router can allow a data broker to monitor your movements with ease, then compile the location information and sell it to a political candidate who can use it to surround you with messages,” writes journalist Evan Halper.

No one is spared.

In this regard, we are all equals: equally suffering the indignity of having every shred of privacy stripped away and the most intimate details of one’s life turned into fodder for marketers and data profiteers.

This creepy new era of government/corporate spying—in which we’re being listened to, watched, tracked, followed, mapped, bought, sold and targeted—makes the NSA’s surveillance appear almost antiquated in comparison.

What’s worse, this for-profit surveillance capitalism scheme is made possible with our cooperation.

All those disclaimers you scroll though without reading them, the ones written in minute font, only to quickly click on the “Agree” button at the end so you can get to the next step—downloading software, opening up a social media account, adding a new app to your phone or computer—those signify your written consent to having your activities monitored, recorded and shared.

Think about it.

Every move you make is being monitored, mined for data, crunched, and tabulated in order to form a picture of who you are, what makes you tick, and how best to influence and/or control you.

On any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways by both government and corporate eyes and ears. A byproduct of this new age in which we live, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency is listening in and tracking your behavior.

With every smartphone we buy, every GPS device we install, every Twitter, Facebook, and Google account we open, every frequent buyer card we use for purchases—whether at the grocer’s, the yogurt shop, the airlines or the department store—and every credit and debit card we use to pay for our transactions, we’re helping Corporate America build a dossier for its government counterparts on who we know, what we think, how we spend our money, and how we spend our time.

The technology has advanced so far that marketers (political campaigns are among the worst offenders) can actually build “digital fences” around your homes, workplaces, friends and family’s homes and other places you visit in order to bombard you with specially crafted messages aimed at achieving a particular outcome.

If anyone else stalked us in this way—tailing us wherever we go, tapping into our calls, reading our correspondence, ferreting out our secrets, profiling and targeting us based on our interests and activities—we’d call the cops.

Unfortunately, the cops (equipped with Stingray devices and other Peeping Tom technologies) are also in on this particular scam.

It’s not just the surveillance and the buying and selling of your data that is worrisome.

The ramifications of a government—any government—having this much unregulated, unaccountable power to target, track, round up and detain its citizens is beyond chilling.

Imagine what a totalitarian regime such as Nazi Germany could have done with this kind of unadulterated power.

Imagine what the next police state to follow in Germany’s footsteps will do with this kind of power. Society is definitely rapidly moving in that direction.

We’ve made it so easy for the government to watch us.

Government eyes see your every move: what you read, how much you spend, where you go, with whom you interact, when you wake up in the morning, what you’re watching on television and reading on the internet.

Every move you make is being monitored, mined for data, crunched, and tabulated in order to form a picture of who you are, what makes you tick, and how best to control you when and if it becomes necessary to bring you in line.

If you’re an activist and you simply like or share this article on Facebook or retweet it on Twitter, you’re most likely flagging yourself as a potential renegade, revolutionary or anti-government extremist—a.k.a. terrorist.

Yet whether or not you like or share this particular article, simply by reading it or any other articles related to government wrongdoing, surveillance, police misconduct or civil liberties is enough to get you categorized as a particular kind of person with particular kinds of interests that reflect a particular kind of mindset that might just lead you to engage in a particular kinds of activities. The corporate state must watch and keep tabs on you if it is to keep you in line.

Chances are, as the Washington Post has reported, you have already been assigned a color-coded threat assessment score—green, yellow or red—so police are forewarned about your potential inclination to be a troublemaker depending on whether you’ve had a career in the military, posted a comment perceived as threatening on Facebook, suffer from a particular medical condition, or know someone who knows someone who might have committed a crime.

In other words, you might already be flagged as potentially anti-government in a government database somewhere—Main Core, for example—that identifies and tracks individuals (so they can be rounded up and detained in times of distress) who aren’t inclined to march in lockstep to the police state’s dictates.

The government has the know-how.

As The Intercept reported, the FBI, CIA, NSA and other government agencies are increasingly investing in and relying on corporate surveillance technologies that can mine constitutionally protected speech on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to identify potential extremists and predict who might engage in future acts of anti-government behavior.

It’s happening already in China.

Millions of Chinese individuals and businesses, blacklisted as “unworthy” based on social media credit scores that grade them based on whether they are “good” citizens, have now been banned from accessing financial markets, buying real estate or travelling by air or train. Among the activities that can get you labeled unworthy are taking reserved seats on trains or causing trouble in hospitals.

Get ready, because all signs point to China serving as the role model for our dystopian future.

When the government sees all and knows all and has an abundance of laws to render even the most seemingly upstanding citizen a criminal and lawbreaker, then the old adage that you’ve got nothing to worry about if you’ve got nothing to hide no longer applies.

Apart from the overt dangers posed by a government that feels justified and empowered to spy on its people and use its ever-expanding arsenal of weapons and technology to monitor and control them, there’s also the covert dangers associated with a government empowered to use these same technologies to influence behaviors en masse and control the populace.

In fact, it was President Obama who issued an executive order directing federal agencies to use “behavioral science” methods to minimize bureaucracy and influence the way people respond to government programs.

It’s a short hop, skip and a jump from a behavioral program that tries to influence how people respond to paperwork to a government program that tries to shape the public’s views about other, more consequential matters.

Add pre-crime programs into the mix with government agencies and corporations working in tandem to determine who is a potential danger and spin a sticky spider-web of threat assessments, behavioral sensing warnings, flagged “words,” and “suspicious” activity reports using automated eyes and ears, social media, behavior sensing software, and citizen spies, and you having the makings for a perfect dystopian nightmare.

This is the kind of oppressive pre-crime and pre-thought crime package foreshadowed by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Phillip K. Dick.

Remember, even the most well-intentioned government law or program can be—and has been—perverted, corrupted and used to advance illegitimate purposes once profit and power are added to the equation.

The war on terror, the war on drugs, the war on illegal immigration, asset forfeiture schemes, road safety schemes, school safety schemes, eminent domain: all of these programs started out as legitimate responses to pressing concerns and have since become weapons of compliance and control in the police state’s hands.

In the right (or wrong) hands, benevolent plans can easily be put to malevolent purposes.

Surveillance, digital stalking and the data mining of the American people—weapons of compliance and control in the government’s hands, especially when the government can listen in on your phone calls, monitor your driving habits, track your movements, scrutinize your purchases and peer through the walls of your home—add up to a society in which there’s little room for indiscretions, imperfections, or acts of independence.

This is the creepy, calculating yet diabolical genius of the American police state: the very technology we hailed as revolutionary and liberating has become our prison, jailer, probation officer, Big Brother and Father Knows Best all rolled into one.

It turns out that we are Soylent Green.

The 1973 film of the same name, starring Charlton Heston and Edward G. Robinson, is set in 2022 in an overpopulated, polluted, starving New York City whose inhabitants depend on synthetic foods manufactured by the Soylent Corporation for survival.

Heston plays a policeman investigating a murder, who discovers the grisly truth about the primary ingredient in the wafer, soylent green, which is the principal source of nourishment for a starved population. “It’s people. Soylent Green is made out of people,” declares Heston’s character. “They’re making our food out of people. Next thing they’ll be breeding us like cattle for food.”

Oh, how right he was.

Soylent Green is indeed people or, in our case, Soylent Green is our own personal data, repossessed, repackaged and used by corporations and the government to entrap us.

We, too, are being bred like cattle but not for food.

Rather, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, we’re being bred, branded, bought and sold for our data.

As the insidious partnership between the U.S. government and Corporate America grows more invasive and more subtle with every passing day, there’s virtually no way to opt out of these assaults on your digital privacy short of being a modern-day Luddite, completely disconnected from all technology.

Indeed, George Orwell’s description of the world of 1984 is as apt a description of today’s world as I’ve ever seen: “You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.”

What we desperately lack and urgently need is an Electronic Bill of Rights that protects “we the people” from predatory surveillance and data-mining business practices.

Without constitutional protections in place to guard against encroachments on our rights in the electronic realm, it won’t be long before we find ourselves, much like Edward G. Robinson’s character in Soylent Green, looking back on the past with longing, back to an age where we could speak to whom we wanted, buy what we wanted, think what we wanted without those thoughts, words and activities being tracked, processed and stored by corporate giants such as Google, sold to government agencies such as the NSA and CIA, and used against us by militarized police with their army of futuristic technologies.

Published:2/26/2019 10:23:04 PM
[Markets] Who's Afraid Of Budget Deficits? I Am.

Authored by David Henderson via The Hoover Institution,

In a provocative article in Foreign Affairs titled “Who’s Afraid of Budget Deficits?” Jason Furman and Lawrence H. Summers argue that we should not worry much about the federal government’s large and growing budget deficits.  While they admit that politicians and policymakers “shouldn’t ignore fiscal constraints entirely,” they say that they “should focus on urgent social problems, not deficits.” And throughout the piece, they assume, for every single problem they address, that the solution is more spending. It’s not surprising that they don’t worry much about deficits.

Furman and Summers aren’t just rank and file economists. Furman, an economics professor at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, was the chairman of former President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers. Summers, who is president emeritus of Harvard, was the Treasury Secretary under former President Clinton and head of the National Economic Council under former President Obama. I know Summers from when we were both economists with President Reagan’s Council of Economic Advisers and I know Furman from his work. These are not, to put it mildly, dumb guys. And if you dismiss them as such, you make a big mistake. It’s important to look at their argument.

I’ve studied their argument, and I find it unpersuasive in two respects:

(1) their main case, which is that we shouldn’t worry much about deficits and

(2) their subsidiary point, which is that we need at least the amount of government spending we have now and should be ready and willing to increase government spending.

Why do Furman and Summers think we shouldn’t worry about the federal government deficit? Their main reason is that the interest rate the federal government pays on the debt is so low. They point out that the current real interest rate on ten-year government bonds is 0.8 percent. (The real interest rate is the stated interest rate earned on bonds minus the inflation rate.) As a result, even though the federal debt is a much larger percent of GDP than it was in recent decades, the federal government “pays around the same proportion of GDP in interest on its debt, adjusted for inflation, as it has on average since World War II.”  

That’s true. But what about the future? The good news on federal interest payments as a percent of GDP not rising depends on real interest rates not rising much. Real interest rates are unusually low right now, as they point out. They argue, and I agree, that these low rates are not a result of Federal Reserve policy. The Fed can affect mainly short-term interest rates. Instead, they write, lower interest rates are “rooted in a set of deeper forces, including lower investment demand, higher savings rates, and widening inequality.”

Furman and Summers don't explain why widening inequality would make interest rates low, but it’s clear why lower investment demand and higher savings rates would do so. Because capital markets are now global, interest rates are determined in a global market. So the investment and savings rate that matter for real interest rates are for the world, not the United States. On these two factors, they are right, as  Jeffrey Hummel and I pointed out in 2008.

But the fact that interest rates have been low for a long time is not strong enough evidence to conclude that they will remain low.

For two economists who have spent their careers looking at numbers, Furman and Summers are maddeningly vague about the numbers. So let’s fill in the blanks, using numbers from the federal government’s Congressional Budget Office.

In its January 2019 report on the budget and the economy for 2019 to 2029, the CBO projects small increases in the real interest rate on ten-year Treasury bills. The CBO also projects that the federal budget deficit will exceed $1 trillion every year from 2022 to 2029. Moreover, the CBO reaches that conclusion by assuming that the individual income tax cuts will expire in 2025, as is required in the 2017 tax law. If the tax cuts are extended, the deficits will be even higher.

With those projected deficits and interest rates, the CBO concludes, by 2029, net interest on the debt as a percentage of GDP will almost double to 3%, up from 1.6% in 2018. 

And remember that the CBO is assuming only modest increases in interest rates. What if the world’s savings rate falls or investment demand rises? Then real interest rates will rise and net interest on the debt will exceed 3% of GDP.

There is one other way that we can be bailed out of these dismal budget numbers. That is if GDP grows faster than the CBO predicts. The CBO’s estimates assume that real GDP will grow by an annual average of only 1.7% between 2020 and 2029. If GDP grows at an average of 3.2% annually, as it did in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, then the numbers look much better. Furman and Summers don’t mention that, presumably because they are pessimistic about growth.

But let’s say that you think that government spending on interest payments will increase substantially. What follows is that we should do something now to reduce future deficits. We could do so either by raising taxes or by reducing the growth of government spending.

Consider tax increases. If you, like me, believe in limiting the size of government, then the option of higher taxes is a non-starter. But even if you don’t share my philosophy, there’s a strong case against tax increases. As I noted in “The Case Against Higher Tax Rates,” every tax causes what economists call “deadweight loss,” a loss to some that is not a gain to anyone, even the government. The relationship between tax rates and deadweight loss is not linear. The higher the current tax rate, the higher is the deadweight loss from a given increase in the tax rate. That means that for a government spending project to be efficient, the benefits of the project must exceed not just the amount spent but the amount spent plus the deadweight loss. If the deadweight loss is 30 percent of the amount raised in taxes, then efficiency requires that a dollar spent on a government project produce benefits, not of $1 but of $1.30.

That brings us to the second way of cutting the deficit - by cutting government spending. Furman and Summers list a number of programs that they think are valuable and should be expanded. They list not a single program that should be cut. That’s somewhat shocking given that their somewhat-left counterparts of the previous generation of economists, such as the late James Tobin of Yale University, could always be counted on to criticize farm subsidies.

Moreover, they give as an example of something that should not be cut a program that is worth much less to its stated beneficiaries than the amount that the federal and state governments spend on the program. That program is Medicaid, the socialized health insurance benefit for low-income American residents.

Economic theory tells us that when the government gives someone a dollar, he values it at a dollar. But when the government gives someone a benefit other than cash, he typically values that benefit at an amount less than the cost of the benefit. Sure enough, in a June 2015 study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, titled “The Value of Medicaid: Interpreting Results from the Oregon Health Insurance Experiment,” health economists Amy Finkelstein of MIT, Nathaniel Hendren of Harvard, and Erzo F.P. Luttmer of Dartmouth found that beneficiaries of Medicaid value a dollar of spending at only 20 to 40 cents.

The study’s authors did find that the providers benefit by about 60 cents on the dollar. So the program is not quite as inefficient as you might think. But presumably Furman, Summers, and other supporters of Medicaid would not want to justify Medicaid spending on the grounds that most of the benefits go to doctors and hospitals. So Medicaid is a program for which the government could cut spending by 60 percent and just give cash to the current beneficiaries, leaving them at least as well off as they were under Medicaid.

The federal budget for 2019 is about $4.4 trillion. It would not be hard to find $2 trillion of spending programs in the current budget that are scheduled to grow at an annual rate of 4% or more over the next 10 years but instead could be scheduled to grow at 2% annually. Budget savings do not add up; they compound up. With this hypothetical $2 trillion in programs, cutting the growth rate from 4% to 2% would result, 10 years from now, in spending on these programs of $2.44 trillion, down from the $2.96 trillion that would result from the 4% annual growth. That’s a reduction of over $500 billion. Moreover the debt in 2029 would be lower by a few trillion dollars because of all the savings between 2019 and 2028.

We should worry about the deficit. But not all means of reducing the deficit are equal. Specifically, cutting spending is preferable to increasing taxes. Interestingly, while Furman and Summers, both long-time Democrats, seem to want to build a firewall around current government programs and the projected growth in those programs, even they worry about some of the leading Democratic proposals for spending. They write, “Progressives have proposed Medicare for all, free college, a federal jobs guarantee, and a massive green infrastructure program.” The closest they get to criticizing such ideas is their very next sentence: “The merits of each of these proposals are up for debate.”

Yet with progressives advocating such huge spending programs and Furman and Summers hesitating to criticize them head on, there’s an even stronger case for not raising taxes: the added tax revenue would be swooped up quickly if the progressives get their way on even a few of these programs and we would back to the same, and possibly even higher, deficits than the CBO projects. So we would have higher taxes, higher government spending, and high or even higher deficits. That would be a shame.

Published:2/26/2019 7:48:05 PM
[Donald Trump] President Trump Gets Another American Hostage Freed

More American hostages have been freed during President Trump's first two years than were released during weakling Obama's entire odious eight-year regime.

The post President Trump Gets Another American Hostage Freed appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:2/26/2019 2:17:19 PM
[Donald Trump] President Trump Gets Another American Hostage Freed

More American hostages have been freed during President Trump's first two years than were released during weakling Obama's entire odious eight-year regime.

The post President Trump Gets Another American Hostage Freed appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:2/26/2019 2:17:19 PM
[International events] ‘Good Lord, what a clown’! NBC News’ Mark Murray just sprained his brain to get Obama off the hook on Russia

"I can't believe this sh*t."

The post ‘Good Lord, what a clown’! NBC News’ Mark Murray just sprained his brain to get Obama off the hook on Russia appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:2/26/2019 11:47:15 AM
[Markets] All Aboard The USS Magic Socialist

Satirically authored by CJ Hopkins via The Unz Review,

So here it is, the announcement we’ve been waiting for.. all aboard for another cruise on the new and improved U.S.S. Magic Socialist with your captain Bernie Sanders at the helm! If you’re not familiar with this extraordinary vessel, it’s like the luxury liner in The Magic Christian, except catering to credulous American socialists instead of the British filthy rich. Tickets start at just $27 dollars … so hurry, because they’re going fast!

That’s right, folks, Bernie is back, and this time it’s not just a sadistic prank where he gets you all fired up about his fake “revolution” for fifteen months, gets cheated out of the nomination, then backs whichever corporate-bought candidate the Democratic Party orders you to vote for.

No, this time the Bernster really means it! This time, when the DNC rigs the primaries to hand the nomination to Harris, or Biden, or some billionaire android like Michael Bloomberg, Bernie is not going to break your heart by refusing to run as an independent candidate, unbeholden to the corporations and oligarchs that own both political parties, or otherwise make you feel like a sucker for buying his “revolution” schtick. He’s not going to fold like a fifty dollar suit and start parroting whatever propaganda the corporate media will be prodigiously spewing to convince you the Russians and Nazis are coming unless you vote for the empire’s pre-annointed puppet!

Bernie would never dream of doing that … or at least he’d never dream of doing that twice.

There are limits, after all, to people’s gullibility. It’s not like you can just run the same con, with the same fake message and the same fake messiah, over and over, and expect folks to fall for it. If you could, well, that would be extremely depressing. That would mean you could get folks to believe almost anything, or that we were stuck in some eternally recurring multi-dimensional reality loop. The next year and a half in American politics would play out like one of those Groundhog Day knock offs meets The Magic Christian meets The Usual Suspects, directed by David Lynch, on acid. We’d be barraged by recycled Feel-the-Bern memes. Hacky sack shares would go through the roof. That creepy little bird would come fluttering back, land on Bernie’s podium again, and chirp out “L’Internationale.” People would start booking Tim Robbins for interviews. Ben & Jerry’s would roll out another revolutionary flavor of Bernie ice cream … and in the end it would all amount to nothing.

But that’s not going to happen this time. No, this time, the U.S.S. Magic Socialist is setting sail straight for Socialismland! This time, it’s really the Revolution! The end of global capitalism! And the best part of the whole deal is, you don’t even have to take up arms, stage a series of wildcat strikes, blockade major highways, occupy airports, or otherwise cripple the U.S. economy … all you have to do is vote for Bernie!

See, that’s the magic of electoral politics! The global capitalist ruling establishment, despite the fact that they own the banks and the corporations that own the government that owns the military and intelligence services, and despite the fact that they own the media, and all essential industries, and channels of trade, and are relentlessly restructuring the entire planet (which they rule with almost total impunity) to conform to their soulless neoliberal ideology, and are more than happy to unleash their militarized goons on anyone who gets in their way … despite all that, if we elect Bernie president, they will have no choice but to peacefully surrender, and transform America into a socialist wonderland!

Sure, they won’t be happy about it, but they will have no choice but to go along with whatever Bernie and his followers want, because that’s how American democracy works! We’ve seen it in action these last two years, since Donald Trump got elected president. The establishment wasn’t too thrilled about that, but they had to put aside their own selfish interests and respect the will of the American people … because imagine what might have happened if they hadn’t!

For example, they might have concocted a story about Trump being a Russian intelligence asset who was personally conspiring with Vladimir Putin to destroy the fabric of Western democracy so that Russia could take over the entire planet. They could have had respected newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post and television networks like CNN and MSNBC disseminate this story, and subtly reinforce it in endless variations, on a daily basis for over two years. They could have appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the facts of their made-up story, and indict a bunch of unextraditable Russians and a handful of inveterate D.C. slimebags to make the whole thing look legitimate. At the same time, they could have had the media warn everybody, over and over, that Trump, in addition to being a traitor, was also the second coming of Hitler, and was on the verge of torching the Capitol, declaring himself Führer, and rounding up the Jews. They could have generated so much mass hysteria and Putin-Nazi paranoia that liberals would literally be seeing Russians and Nazis coming out of the woodwork!

Fortunately, the global capitalist establishment, out of respect for democracy and the American people, decided not to go that route. If Americans chose to elect a jabbering imbecile president, that was their right, and far be it from the empire to interfere. Tempting as it must have been to use all their power to demonize Trump in order to teach the world what happens when you get elected president without their permission, they restrained themselves … and thank God for that! I don’t even want to contemplate the extent of the rage and cynicism they would have fomented among the public by doing those things I just outlined above. That might have left people with the false impression that their votes mean absolutely nothing, and that the entire American electoral system is just a simulation of democracy, and in reality they are living in a neo-feudalist, de facto global capitalist empire administrated by omnicidal money-worshipping human parasites that won’t be satisfied until they’ve remade the whole of creation in their nihilistic image.

Thankfully, the ruling classes spared us all that, so now we can hop aboard the Magic Socialist and take another cruise with Cap’n Bernie! Considering how magnanimous they’ve been with Trump, once Bernie wins the election fair and square, the empire clearly won’t have any problems with him nationalizing the American healthcare system, tripling taxes on the super-rich, subsidizing university education, and all that other cool socialism stuff (i.e., the stuff we mostly still have here in Europe, along with some semblance of cultural solidarity, although the global capitalists are working to fix that).

Oh, yeah, and in case you’re worried about Bernie backing the empire’s ongoing regime change op in Venezuela, don’t be. He’s just playing 4D chess, like Obama did throughout his presidency, by pretending to do the empire’s bidding while he actually went about the business of resurrecting hope and eradicating racism. Bernie’s just being sly like that! It might seem like he’s aligning himself with mass murdering thugs like Elliot Abrams and sadistic ass freaks like Marco Rubio, but he isn’t. Not really. It’s just an act. I mean, he has to get elected, doesn’t he?

How else are we going to get to Socialismland?

Published:2/25/2019 7:43:30 PM
[US News] Dan Pfeiffer says calling out Bernie Sanders’ private plane eco-hypocrisy is ‘unfair and petty’ (and people have thoughts)

Former Obama adviser defends Bernie from ex-Clinton staffers. Pass the popcorn!

The post Dan Pfeiffer says calling out Bernie Sanders’ private plane eco-hypocrisy is ‘unfair and petty’ (and people have thoughts) appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:2/25/2019 11:14:23 AM
[Politics] 41% Say U.S. Heading in Right Direction

Forty-one percent (41%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey for the week ending February 21.

This week’s finding is up one point from last week.  Prior to this, that number had been on the decline week-over-week from 43% in early December to 31% by the end of January. It then rebounded following President Trump’s State of the Union address.  It ran in the mid- to upper 20s for much of 2016, President Obama's last full year in office.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The national telephone survey of 2,500 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports from February 17-21, 2019. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Published:2/25/2019 11:14:23 AM
[Markets] How America's Dictatorship Works

Authored by Eric Zuesse via Off-Guardian.org,

Trump could not have become America’s President if he had not won the “vote” of his nation’s second-largest political donor in 2016, casinos-owner Sheldon Adelson.

In publicly recorded donations, as of 25 December 2018, Adelson and his wife donated$82,522,800 to Republican candidates in 2016, and this amount doesn’t include any of the secret money. Of that sum, it’s virtually impossible to find out how much went specifically to Trump’s campaign for President, but, as of 9 May 2017, the Adelsons were publicly recorded as having donated $20.4 million to Trump’s campaign.

Their impact on the Presidential contest was actually much bigger than that, however, because even the Adelsons’ non-Trump-campaign donations went to the Republican Party, and the rest went to Republican pro-Trump candidates, and the rest went to Republican PACS — and, so, a large percentage (if not all) of that approximately $60 million non-Trump-campaign political expenditure by the Adelsons was boosting Trump’s Presidential vote.

The second-largest Republican donor in 2016 was the hedge fund manager Paul Singer, at $26,114,653. It was less than a third, 31.6%, as large as the Adelsons’ contribution. Singer is the libertarian who proudly invests in weak entities that have been sucked dry by the aristocracy and who almost always extracts thereby, in the courts, far larger returns-on-investment than do other investors, who have simply settled to take a haircut on their failing high-interest-rate loans to that given weak entity.

Singer hires the rest of his family to run his asset-stripping firm, which is named after his own middle name, “Elliott Advisors,” and he despises any wealthy person who won’t (like he does) fight tooth-and-nail to extract, from any weak entity, everything that can possibly be stripped from it. His Elliott Advisors is called a “vulture fund,” but that’s an insult to vultures, who instead eat corpses. They don’t actually attack and rip apart vulnerable struggling animals, like Singer’s operation does.

So, that’s the top two, on the Republican Party side.

On the Democratic Party side, the largest 2016 donor was the largest of all political donors in 2016, the hedge fund manager Thomas Steyer, $91,069,795. The second-largest was hedge fund manager Donald S. Sussman, $41,841,000. Both of them supported Hillary Clinton against Bernie Sanders, and then against Donald Trump.

As of 23 January 2019, the record shows that Trump received $46,873,083 in donations larger than $200, and $86,749,927 in donations smaller than $200. Plus, he got $144,764 in PAC contributions. Hillary Clinton received $300,111,643 in over-$200 donations, and $105,552,584 in under-$200 donations. Plus, she got $1,785,190 in PAC donations. She received 6.4 times as much in $200+ donations as Trump did. She received 1.2 times as much in under-$200 donations as he did. Clearly, billionaires strongly preferred Hillary.

So, it’s understandable why not only America’s Democratic Party billionaires but also many of America’s Republican Party billionaires want President Trump to become replaced ASAP by his V.P., President Pence, who has a solid record of doing only whatever his big donors want him to do. For them, the wet dream would be a 2020 contest between Mike Pence or a clone, versus Hillary Clinton or a clone (such as Joe Biden or Beto O’Rourke). That would be their standard fixed game, America’s heads-I-win-tails-you-lose ‘democracy’.

On 18 January 2018 was reported that“Trump pulled in $107 million in individual contributions, nearly doubling President Barack Obama’s 2009 record of $53 million.”

However, in both of those cases, the figures which were being compared were actually donations to fund the inaugural festivities, not the actual campaigns. But Adelson led there, too: “Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson was [the] most generous [donor], giving $5 million to the inaugural committee.”

The second-biggest donor to that was Hushang Ansary of Stewart & Stevenson, at $2 million. He had previously been the CEO of the National Iranian Oil Company until the CIA-appointed dictator, the brutal and widely hated Shah, was overthrown in 1979 and replaced by Iran’s now theocratically overseen limited democracy. The US aristocracy, whose CIA had overthrown Iran’s popular and democratically elected Prime Minister in 1953, installed the Shah to replace that elected head-of-state, and they then denationalized and privatized Iran’s oil company, so as to cut America’s aristocrats in on Iran’s oil.

Basically, America’s aristocracy stole Iran in 1953, and Iranians grabbed their country back in 1979, and US billionaires have been trying to get it back ever since. Ansary’s net worth is estimated at “over $2 billion,” and, “By the 1970s, the CIA considered Ansary to be one of seventeen members of ‘the Shah’s Inner Circle’ and he was one of the Shah’s top two choices to succeed Amir Abbas Hoveyda as Prime Minister.”

But, that just happened to be the time when the Shah became replaced in an authentic revolution against America’s dictatorship. Iran’s revolution produced the country’s current partially democratic Government. So, this would-be US stooge Ansary fled to America, which had been Iran’s master during 1953-79, and he was welcomed with open arms by Amerca’s and allied aristocracies.

Other than the Adelsons, the chief proponents of regime-change in Iran since 1979 are the US-billionaires-controlled CIA, and ‘news’-media, and Government, and the Shah’s family, and the Saud family, and Israel’s apartheid regime headed by the Adelsons’ protégé in Israel, Netanyahu. America’s billionaires want Iran back, and the CIA represents them (the Deep State) — not the American public — precisely as it did in 1953, when the CIA seized Iran for America’s billionaires.

In the current election-cycle, 2018, the Adelsons have thus far invested $123,208,200, all in Republicans, and this tops the entire field. The second-largest political investor, for this cycle, is the former Republican Mayor of NYC, Michael Bloomberg, at $90,282,515, all to Democrats. Is he a Republican, or is he a Democrat? Does it actually make any difference? He is consistently a promoter of Wall Street. The third-largest donor now is Tom Steyer, at $70,743,864, all to Democrats. The fourth-largest is a Wisconsin libertarian-conservative billionaire, Richard Uihlein, at $39,756,996.

Back on 19 March 2018, Politico reported that “Uihlein and his wife, Elizabeth, are currently the biggest Republican donors of the 2018 midterm elections, having given $21 million to candidates for federal office and super PACs that will support them. And that doesn’t include their funding of state candidates.” On 1 October 2016, International Business Times had listed the top ten donors to each of the two Parties, and the Uihleins at that time were #4 on the Republican side, at $21.5 million.

Of course, all of the top donors are among the 585 US billionaires, and therefore they can afford to spend lots on the Republican and/or Democratic nominees. Open Secrets reported on 31 March 2017 that “Of the world’s 100 richest billionaires, 36 are US citizens and thus eligible to donate to candidates and other political committees here. OpenSecrets Blog found that 30 of those [36] [or five sixths of the total 36 wealthiest Americans] actually did so, contributing a total of $184.4 million — with 58 percent [of their money] going to Republican efforts.” Democratic Party nominees thus got 42%; and, though it’s not as much as Republican ones get, it’s usually enough so that if a Democrat becomes elected, that person too will be controlled by billionaires.

For example, in the West Virginia Democratic Presidential primary in 2016, Bernie Sanders won all 55 counties in the state but that state’s delegation to the Democratic National Convention handed 19 of the state’s 37 votes at the Convention to his opponent, Hillary Clinton, who got more money from billionaires than all other US Presidential candidates combined. The millions of Democrats who voted for Hillary Clinton were voting for the billionaires’ favorite, and she and her DNC stole the Party’s nomination from Sanders, who was the nation’s most-preferred Presidential candidate in 2016; and, yet, most of those voters still happily voted, yet again, for her, in the general election — as if she hadn’t practically destroyed the Party by prostituting it to its billionaires even more than Obama had already done.

Of course, she ran against Trump, and, for once, the billionaires were shocked to find that their enormous investment in a candidate had been for naught. That’s how incompetent she was. But they still kept control over both of the political Parties, and the Sanders choice to head the DNC (the Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Party itself) lost out to the Obama-Clinton choice, so that today’s Democratic Party is still the same: winning is less important to them than serving their top donors is.

This means that America’s winners of federal elections represent almost entirely America’s 585 billionaires, and not the 328,335,647 Americans (as of noon on 23 January 2019). Of course, there is a slight crossover of interests between those two economic classes, since 0.000002 of those 328,335,647, or 0.0002% of them, are billionaires. However, if 0.0002% of federal office-holders represent the public, and the remaining 99.9998% represent the billionaires, then is that actually a bipartisan Government? If instead 99.9998% represented 328,335,062 Americans, and 0.0002% represented the 585 billionaires; then, that, too, wouldn’t be bipartisan, but would it be a democratic (small “d”) government? So, America is not a democracy (regardless of whether it’s bipartisan); it is instead an aristocracy, just like ancient France was, and the British empire, etc. The rest of America’s population (the 328,335,062 other Americans) are mere subjects, though we are officially called ‘citizens’, of this actual aristocracy.

The same is true in Israel, the land that the Adelsons (the individuals who largely control America) are so especially devoted to. On 8 November 2016, Israel’s pro-Hillary-Clinton and anti-Netanyahu Ha’aretz newspaper headlined “The Collapsing Political Triangle Linking Adelson, Netanyahu and Trump”, and reported that Ha’aretz’s bane and top competitor was the freely distributed daily Israeli newspaper, Israel Hayom, and:

Israel Hayom was founded by Adelson nine years ago, in order to give Netanyahu – who has been rather harshly treated by the Israeli media throughout his political career – a friendly newspaper. Under Israeli law, the total sum an individual can donate to a politician or party is very limited, and corporate donations are not allowed.

Israel Hayom has been a convenient loophole, allowing Adelson to invest the sort of money he normally gives American politicians on Netanyahu’s behalf. It has no business model and carries far fewer ads than most daily newspapers. While the privately owned company does not publish financial reports, industry insiders estimate that Adelson must spend around $50 million annually on the large team of journalists and the printing and distribution operations.

Distributed for free, in hundreds of thousands of copies the length and breadth of the country, Israel Hayom … clings slavishly to the line from Netanyahu’s office – praising him and his family to the heavens while smearing his political rivals, both on the left and the right.

A billionaire can afford to use his or her ‘news’-media in lieu of political campaign donations. Lots of billionaires do that. They don’t need to make direct political donations. And ‘making money’ by owning a ‘news’-medium can even be irrelevant, for them. Instead, owning an important ’news’-medium can be, for them, just another way, or sometimes their only way, to buy control over the government. It certainly works. It’s very effective in Israel.

Adelson is #14 on the 2018 Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans, all having net worths of $2.1 billion or more, his being $38.4 billion, just one-third as large as that of Jeff Bezos. Bezos is the owner of around 15% of Amazon Corporation, whose profits are derived almost entirely from the Amazon Web Services that are supplied to the US Pentagon, NSA, and CIA. So, he’s basically a ‘defense’ contractor.

Bezos’s directly owned Washington Post is one of America’s leading neoconservative and neoliberal, or pro-invasion and pro-Democratic Party, media; and, so, his personal ownership of that newspaper is much like his owning a one-person national political PAC to promote whatever national policies will increase his fortune. The more that goes to the military and the less that goes to everything else, the wealthier he will become. His newspaper pumps the ‘national security threats’ to America.

Adelson controls Israel’s Government. Whereas he might be a major force in America’s Government, that’s actually much more controlled by the world’s wealthiest person, the only trillionaire, the King of Saudi Arabia. He has enough wealth so that he can buy almost anybody he wants — and he does, through his numerous agents. But, of course, both Israel’s Government and Saudi Arabia’s Government hate Iran’s Government at least as much as America’s Government does.

In fact, if Russia’s Government weren’t likely to defend Iran’s Government from an invasion, then probably Iran would already have been invaded. Supporters of America’s Government are supporters of a world government by America’s billionaires, because that’s what the US Government, in all of its international functions (military, diplomatic, etc.) actually represents: it’s America’s global dictatorship.

They throw crumbs to America’s poor so as to make it a ‘two-party’ and not merely a ‘one-party’ government and so that one of the Parties can call itself ‘the Democratic Party’, but America’s is actually a one-party government, and it represents only the very wealthiest, in both Parties. The aristocracy’s two separate party-organizations compete against each other. But their real audience is the aristocracy’s dollars, not the public’s voters. This “two-Party” dictatorship (by the aristocracy) is a different governing model than in China and some other countries.

The great investigative journalist Wayne Madsen headlined on January 24th “Trump Recognition of Rival Venezuelan Government Will Set Off a Diplomatic Avalanche” and he reported the possibility of a war developing between the US and Russia over America’s aggression against Venezuela. US media even have pretended that the US Government isn’t the one that customarily perpetrates coups in Latin America, and pretended that Russia’s and Cuba’s Governments are simply blocking ‘democracy’ from blossoming in Venezuela.

On January 24th, Middle East Eye reported that Morgan Stanley’s CEO James Gorman had just told the World Economic Forum, in Davos, that the torture-murder of Saudi Crown Prince Salman’s critic and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was “unacceptable,” “But what do you do? What part do you play in the process of economic and social change?” and the report continued: “Gorman said he did not judge any country’s attempts to root out corruption,” and Gorman and a French tycoon joined in throwing their “weight behind Riyadh’s economic and social direction, by saying, ‘it is quite difficult and brave what the kingdom is doing’,” by its ‘reforms’. It was all being done to ‘root out corruption, and to spread democracy’. Sure.

There’s “a sucker born every minute,” except now it’s every second. That seems to be the main way to win votes.

On January 26th, Trump appointed the fascist Elliott Abrams to lead this ‘democratization of Venezuela’, by overthrowing and replacing the elected President by the second-in-line-of succession (comparable in Venezuela to removing Trump and skipping over the Vice President and appointing Nancy Pelosi as America’s President, and also violating the Venezuelan Constitution’s requirement that the Supreme Judicial Trbunal must first approve before there can be ANY change of the President without an election by the voters).

It’s clearly another US coup that is being attempted here. Trump, by international dictat, says that this Venezuelan traitor whom the US claims to be installing is now officially recognized by the US Government to be the President of Venezuela. Bloomberg News reported that Abrams would join Trump’s neocon Secretary of State on January 26th at the UN to lobby there for the UN to authorize Trump’s intended Venezuelan coup. The EU seemed strongly inclined to follow America’s lead. On the decisive U.N. body, the Permanent Security Council, of China, France, Russia, UK, and US, the US position was backed by three: US, France, and UK. Russia and China were opposed.

In the EU, only France, Germany, Spain, and UK, came out immediately backing the US position. On January 25th, Russia’s Tass news agency was the first to report on the delicate strategic situation inside Venezuela. It sounded like the buildup to Obama’s successful coup in Ukraine in February 2014, but in Venezuela and under Trump. In fact, at least two commentaors other than I have noted the apparent similarities: Whitney Webb at “Washington Follows Ukraine, Syria Roadmap in Push for Venezuela Regime Change” and RT at “‘Venezuela gets its Maidan’: Ukrainian minister makes connection between regime change ops”.

Abrams’s career has been devoted to “regime-change,” and is as unapologetic about it as is John Bolton. Also like Bolton, he’s an impassioned supporter of Jewish apartheid. He wrote in his 1997 book Faith or Fear, that “Outside the land of Israel, there can be no doubt that Jews, faithful to the covenant between God and Abraham, are to stand apart from the nation in which they live. It is the very nature of being Jewish to be apart — except in Israel — from the rest of the population.”

Israel is, in this and the view of many billionaires, the whole world’s ghetto, and ‘real’ Jews don’t belong anywhere else than there. And, according to that, nobody else does belong there, except people who accept being ruled by Jewish Law - the Torah. So, on 25 June 2001, George W. Bush, as the main representative of America’s billionaires, made Abrams the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Democracy, Human Rights, and International Operations at the National Security Council.

Of course, Abrams was gung-ho for Americans to conquer Iraq, because Iraqis didn’t like Israel. And the current US President hires that same agent of Israel, Abrams, now to sell internationally America’s current coup to grab Venezuela for America’s billionaires. Abrams, for years, had been courting Trump’s favor by having declined to include himself among the many Republican neoconservatives, both Jewish and non-Jewish, who endorsed Hillary Clinton for President. He thereby has now won his new job, on the real-world sequel to The Apprentice, which is known as President Trump’s Administration. Another such winner, of course, is John Bolton, who likewise had declined to endorse Hillary.

Perhaps the US regime thinks that testing the resolve of Russia’s Government, regarding Venezuela, would be less dangerous than testing it over the issue of Iran. But Big Brother says that this imposition of America’s corruption is instead merely a part of rooting out corruption and spreading democracy and human rights, throughout the world.

The US has managed to get Venezuela in play, to control again. Some American billionaires think it’s a big prize, which must be retaken. The largest oil-and-gas producers — and with the highest reserves of oil-and-gas in the ground — right now, happen to be Saudi Arabia, Iran, Qatar, Russia, Venezuela, and US. So, for example, Venezuela is a much bigger prize than Brazil.

All of those countries have an interest in denying the existence of human-produced global warming, and in selling as much of their product as quickly as possible before the world turns away from fossil fuels altogether. High-tech doesn’t drive today’s big-power competition nearly so much as does the fossil-fuels competition — to sell as much of it as they can, as fast as they can. The result of this competition could turn out to be a nuclear winter that produces a lifeless planet and thus prevents the planet from becoming lifeless more slowly from global burnout — the alternative outcome, which would be produced by the burnt fossil fuels themselves. Either way, the future looks bleak, no matter what high-tech produces (unless high-tech produces quickly a total replacement of fossil fuels, and, in the process, bankrupts many of the billionaires who are so active in the current desperate and psychopathic global competition).

This is what happens when wealth worldwide is so unequally distributed that the “World’s Richest 0.7% Own 13.67 Times as Much as World’s Poorest 68.7%”. According to economic theory (which has always been written by agents for the aristocracy), the distribution of wealth is irrelevant. This belief was formalized by a key founder of today’s mathematized economic theory, Vilfredo Pareto, who, for example, in his main work, the 1912 Trattato di Sociologia Generale, wrote (# 2135), that, though “the lover of equality will assign a high coefficient to the utility of the lower classes and get a point of equilibrium very close to the equalitarian condition, there is no criterion save sentiment for choosing between the one [such equality of wealth] and the other [a single person — whom he called “superman” — owning everything].”

The article on Pareto in the CIA’s Wikipedia doesn’t even so much as mention this central feature of Pareto’s thinking, the feature that’s foundational in all of the theory of “welfare” in economics. Pareto was also the main theoretician of fascism, and the teacher of Mussolini. This belief is at the foundation of capitalism as we know it, and as it has been in economic theory ever since, actually, the 1760s. Pareto didn’t invent it; he merely mathematized it.

So, we’ve long been in 1984, or at least building toward it. But US-allied billionaires wrote this particular version of it; George Orwell didn’t. And it’s not a novel. It’s the real thing. And it is now becoming increasingly desperate.

If, in recognizing this, you feel like a hog on a factory-farm, then you’ve got the general idea of this reality. It’s the problem that the public faces. But the publics in the US and its allied regimes are far less miserable than the publics in the countries that the US and its allied regimes are trying to take over — the targeted countries (such as Syria). To describe any realistic solution to this systematic global exploitation would require an entire book, at the very least — no mere article, such as here. The aristocracy anywhere wouldn’t publish such a book. Nobody would likely derive any significant income from writing it. That’s part of the reality, which such a book would be describing.

However, a key part of this reality is that for the billionaires — the people who control international corporations or corporations that even are aspiring to grow beyond their national market — their nation’s international policies are even more important to them than its domestic affairs (such as the toxic water in Flint, Michigan; or single-payer health insurance — matters that are relatively unimportant to billionaires), and, therefore, the most-censored and least-honestly reported realities on the part of the aristocracy’s ‘news’-media are the international ones. And, so, this is the field where there is the most lying, such as about “Saddam’s WMD,” and about all foreign countries.

However, when a person is in an aristocracy’s military, deception of that person is even more essential, especially in the lower ranks, the troops, because killing and dying for one’s aristocracy is far less attractive than killing or dying in order honestly to serve and protect an authentic democracy. Propagandizing for the myth that the nation is a democracy is therefore extremely important in any aristocracy.

Perhaps this is the reason why, in the United States, the military is consistently the institution that leads above all others in the public’s respect. It’s especially necessary to do that, in the nation that President Barack Obama repeatedly said is “the one indispensable nation”. This, of course, means that every other nation is “dispensable.” Any imperial nation, at least since ancient Rome, claimed the same thing, and invaded more nations than any other in the world when it was the leading imperial nation, because this is what it means to be an empire, or even to aspire to being one: imposing that given nation’s will upon other nations — colonies, vassal states, or whatever they are called.

When soldiers know that they are the invaders, not the actual defenders, their motivation to kill and die is enormously reduced. This is the main reason why the ‘news’-media in an imperial nation need to lie constantly to their public. If a news-reporting organization doesn’t do that, no aristocrat will even buy it. And virtually none will advertise in it or otherwise donate to it. It will be doomed to remain very small and unprofitable in every way (because the “World’s Richest 0.7% Own 13.67 Times as Much as World’s Poorest 68.7%”). Billionaires donate to ‘news’-organizations that might report accurately about domestic US problems, but not to ones that report accurately about international affairs, especially about important international affairs. Even liberal ‘news’-media are neoconservative, or favorable toward American invasions and coups. In order to be a significant player in the ‘news’-business in the United States, one has to be.

So: this is how America’s dictatorship works. This is not America’s exceptionalism: it is America’s ordinariness. America’s Founders had wanted to produce something not just exceptional but unique in its time: a democratic republic. But what now exists here is instead a dictatorial global empire, and it constitutes the biggest threat to the very existence of the United Nations ever since that body’s founding in 1945. If that body accepts as constituting the leader of Venezuela the person that America’s President declares to be Venezuela’s leader, then the U.N. is effectively dead.

This would be an immense breakthrough for all of the US regime’s billionaires, both domestically and throughout its allied countries (such as in France, Germany, Spain, and UK). It would be historic, if they win. It would be extremely grim, and then the U.N. would immediately need to be replaced. The US and its allies would refuse to join the replacement organization. That organization would then authorize economic sanctions against the US and its allies. These will be reciprocated. The world would break clearly into two trading-blocs. In a sense, the UN’s capitulation to the US on this matter would create another world war, WW III. It would be even worse than when Neville Chamberlain accepted Hitler’s offer regarding the Sudetenland. We’d be back to the start of WW II, with no lessons learned since then. And with nuclear weapons.

Published:2/24/2019 11:08:04 PM
[Markets] Demographics, Debt, & Debasement: A Picture Of American Insolvency

Authored by Chris Hamilton via Econimica blog,

Census Bureau, Treasury, EIA Detail American Insolvency

Since 2007, US births and net immigration have consistently and unexpectedly fallen sharply.  Over the same span, US federal debt and unfunded liabilities have soared while federal tax receipts, as a percentage of the federal debt and unfunded liabilities, continue declining.  Total US energy consumption also peaked in '07 and continues declining in contradiction to those soaring asset valuations.

Simply put, this article details an American insolvency and the ongoing attempt to print and inflate away this reality.  America has shown it isn't afraid of (mis)using this digital printing press via collusion among the Federal Reserve, Treasury, and the Federal Government to disguise the simple truth that America is bankrupt and incapable of meeting its present and future obligations absent unlimited and unending monetization.

Demographic Development and Population Growth

According to the latest 2017 Census projection, the Census expects a near halving of population growth...or 50 million fewer Americans than it expected just 8 years earlier.  But critically, nearly all the projected declines are among the under 45 year old population while the 65+ year old population growth is still on track to swell.

Given the record low birth rates in 2017 and 2018, which came in 700 thousand annually below the '08 Census projections, plus diminishing immigration, netting at least a half million annually below '08 Census projections, the 2020 Census is likely to significantly further downgrade the potential for US population growth.  The impact for US economic growth, unfunded liabilities, and outgrowing personal, corporate, and federal debt is devastating.

What Happened?

From the mid 1990's to 2007, a surge in immigration (both legal and illegal) and a rise in births resulted in significantly larger child bearing population and broad assumptions that America could outgrow its unfunded liabilities and debt issues.  It was assumed, given the predominately Latin American and Catholic source of the population growth, that immigration and births would continue to surge and the American population (and demand with it) could extend the American success story indefinitely.  But then in '08, everything went off the tracks and has only continued to derail since, quashing hopes for avoiding an American crisis.

The Census details this story in their ongoing population projections.  The chart below shows the Census '00, '08, '14, and '17 US population projections.  In '00, the Census projected the total US population in 2050 would be 404 million persons.  However, by '08, the projection swelled to 439 million, an astounding increase of 35 million?!?  However, after the '08/'09 financial crisis and the subsequent 2010 Census, the projections were radically reduced.  By 2014, the projection was reduced a further 6 million and as of the most recent 2017 projection, the population by 2050 was reduced by a further 9 million...to 389 million or 50 million fewer than just 9 years ago?!?  And the green line in the chart is my best guestimate for the next Census projection...such has been the decline in births and immigration.  That is a projected reduction of at least 50 million and more likely in excess of 60 million in just over a decade.

The chart below is the '08 projection versus the '17 projection.  This reduction is a 43% decline in the anticipated US population growth over the next 30 years...that will undoubtedly only be further reduced.



But which age segments were reduced should send shivers down Americans spines when considering economic growth, unfunded liabilities, and debt service/repayment.  Growth among the 0-17 year old population has been slashed by 84%, the 15 to 44 year old child bearing population reduced by 60%, the post child bearing 45-64 year old population over a 20% reduction, but the 65+ year old elderly have only been reduced by 7%.

To begin, let's look at the engine to population growth, the 18 to 44 year old child bearing cadre, through five separate projections from '00 through '17.  In the 2000 projection, the child bearing population was expected to fall through 2015 following long term negative birth rates and the baby bust following the baby boom.  But by the 2008 projection, a massive infusion of immigrants and slightly higher births than were previously expected, resulted in a child bearing population 6 million in excess from the '00 projection...and by 2015, the child bearing population was 10 million greater than projected.

Perhaps it was reasonable for the Census to make two assumptions, that both turned out to be terribly wrong;

1- immigration rates would continue at the early '00's pace

2- total births would continue to rise and fertility rates would remain in positive territory

Looking at the annual births (chart below), it's very clear 2007 was an aberration with consistently declining births since.  Births are now lower by nearly a half million since '07 high water mark (-11%) but 700 thousand fewer annually than was projected in '00 and '08.  This trend of flat to lower births shows no signs of turning around.  The actual annual birth deficit compared to the projections only continues growing.

But it is also immigration that is well below projections, chart below.  It is easy enough to determine the quantity of legal immigrants but given the roughly 15 million illegals in the US, determining the net flow of illegals is more guesswork than simple accounting.  This is why the '10 Census was so critical in that it showed the net flow of illegals had turned negative following the '08/'09 financial crisis...and the net flow is likely to have continued this trend since.

The impact of all this on the headwaters (under 18yr/olds) of US population growth through 2050 is paramount.  And this is before the next projection even further reduces what little growth remains (or perhaps projects outright declines).

Energy Consumption

Changes in energy consumption have long been considered a good proxy for real economic activity.  From a total energy consumption standpoint, as of year end 2016, the US was using less energy than all the way back in 2000, according to the EIA (US Energy Information Administration).

And comparing the US primary energy consumption versus the Wilshire 5000 (representing the value of all publicly traded US equity), a funny thing shows up.  Flat to declining energy consumption vs. surging asset valuations...this is typically understood as a red flag for phony wealth creation via market manipulation, monetization, and banana republic central banking.

Federal Debt & Unfunded Liabilities

From a federal debt perspective, the surging annual issuance of Treasury debt since 2008 is in contradiction to the decelerating potential for population growth, demand growth, and potential tax revenues to repay or even service the debt.

Looking at federal debt since 1970 split between public and Intra-governmental holdings (trust fund surpluses)...and the accelerating issuance far outstripping the ability of Social Security and other trust fund "surpluses" to purchase the debt.

Treasury Demand?

But since QE ended in late 2014, the Federal Reserve has been a net seller and Foreigners have ceased adding to their holdings, leaving all that new and rollover low yielding Treasury debt to be purchased and held domestically.

And who bought it all?  According to the most recent Treasury Bulletin, since QE ended, the vast majority of buying has been among a buyer solely identified as "other investors"?!?

Since the end of QE, the quarterly changes in domestic Treasury holdings are detailed below.  Surging domestic demand that is not from banks, not savings bonds, not private purchasing, not insurers, slowingamong mutual funds, minimal among state/local pensions...leaving an unidentifiable "other investors" to buy and hold trillions in low yielding US Treasury debt?!?

Unfunded Liabilities

However, according to the Treasury's 2017 Financial Report of the US Government, the "total present value of future expenditures in excess of future revenues" is $49 trillion in addition to the federal debt!!!  The chart below details the sources of the unfunded liabilities and federal debt from '00 through '17 (the large dips in Medicare Part A & B from '09 to '10 were apparently to do with Obama-Care and how the Treasury calculated shifting a portion of the burden from the Feds to the States or individuals).

And the chart below shows known federal debt, GDP, and best guestimate for unfunded liabilities through 2018.  Even according to the Treasury #'s, this is getting pretty out of hand.

Social Security and Medicare require $49+ trillion, here and now, to allow that money to grow (a compounded annual rate double or triple that currently offered by the 10yr Treasury is needed) in conjunction with (over)estimated future tax revenues and diminishing working age population growth to meet the present and future payouts that have been promised to an elderly population that isn't shrinking.  However, the Census is making it clear the population growth is in all the wrong places and nowhere near enough in the right places to meet any of these goals.  The EIA making it plain real US economic activity has been slowing for a decade...and further deceleration is the most likely course.

Finally, if we review federal tax receipts plus federal tax receipts as a percentage of outstanding liabilities, the picture is bleak (below).  Since '00, federal liabilities have risen twice as fast as federal tax receipts despite a decade of ZIRP, Quantitative Easing, three asset bubbles, innumerable economic crutches, and stimuli.

Conclusion:

The US Treasury is telling you that between the federal debt and unfunded liabilities, the US is $75 trillion in the hole and despite rising tax receipts, record stock and real estate valuations...the US is bankrupt.  Of course, the US can never "technically" go bankrupt as it will issue new debt at an accelerating rate to pay the old debt...but this has been the "end times" for every empire.  Debasement (or Modern Monetary Theory, as it is currently being rebranded) is the functional equivalent of national bankruptcy, the only means to pay the bills is creation of new debt at an accelerating rate.  The US situation and reaction is not unlike most of the developed and developing nations of the world, as I detailed recentlyHERE.

Still, ideally, a mature and sophisticated nation would stop and reconsider its priorities about now, determine how to go about a functional bankruptcy, share the pain, and start over.  Unfortunately, we appear more interested in scapegoating, trade wars, walls, and countering with calls for socialism.  This may not go well.

Published:2/24/2019 5:35:43 PM
[Markets] Marco Rubio Tweets Thinly-Veiled Death Threat At Venezuela's Maduro

"Let's have another Libya" is perhaps not the best messaging. In October of 2011, US-backed rebels sodomized Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi with a bayonet, then killed him in a brutal summary execution after his convoy was hit by NATO airstrike when fleeing Sirte. He had been found by his killers hiding in a ditch after which a grainy cell phone video showed the blood-splattered and newly overthrown leader being mocked and tortured just before being shot at close range in the head. News of this had caused one of the key Libya regime change architects in the Obama administration, then Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, to laugh gleefully while saying "we came, we saw, he died". This left Libya a failed state. 

Apparently this is the fate Florida Senator Marco Rubio wishes for embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (who happens to be sitting atop the world's largest proven oil reserves), as on Sunday Rubio tweeted out a photo showing the contorted blood soaked face of Gaddafi while being dragged to the place of his field execution, side by side with one showing him previously enjoying his power and wealth. 

However, we don't imagine the people of Venezuela will find US/NATO "liberated" post-Gaddafi Libya very attractive, considering it has existed since Gaddafi's overthrow in a state of anarchy run by competing warlords, now with at least three governments vying for control.

We've previously detailed a number of times how Libya went from being a stable, modernizing secular state to a hellhole of roving jihadist militias, warring rival governments, and open-air slave auctions of captured migrants

Does Rubio think the masses of Venezuelan people really want this? Clearly, Rubio doesn't actually care about ordinary Venezuelans, but is merely thirsty for yet more blood-soaked regime change in another oil-rich country

Below are Libya "before and after" photos.

Much of Libya remains years after the US/UK/French-led NATO bombing campaign a crater and bullet-hole ridden wasteland that's very far from the "democracy" and "freedom" campaign preached by both neocons and liberal "humanitarian interventionists". 

To be expected Hillary Clinton herself weighed on Venezuela over the weekend, demanding that Maduro allow US aid trucks into the country. 

Journalist Glenn Greenwald translated Hillary's demand, saying Venezuela is actually allowing — contrary to most or all mainstream media reporting  humanitarian aid into the country, but "just not allowing the countries - such as US - vowing regime change to enter."

This is due in part because, wrote Greenwald, the Venezuelans "have undoubtedly looked at the effects of the regime change you brought about in Libya and tried to bring to Syria and concluded it's not very attractive."

Rubio's tweet, clearly a thinly-veiled death threat aimed at Maduro, comes after he told Axios last Wednesday that this past weekend, Saturday in particular, could ultimately decide the fate of Maduro as the standoff over aid would come to a head, given the opposition would stand ready to force the issue in as visible way as possible. 

But with Saturday come and gone, Maduro's fate appears far from being decided, even as the White House has declared "all options on the table" and as the hawks talk regime change.

It appears Rubio, disappointed that weekend events didn't escalate further beyond isolated border crossing clashes, must be venting his frustrations by reminiscing about the "good ole days" of Libya and Syria regime change wars. 

As As'ad AbuKhalil, a professor of Middle East history at California State University-Stanislaus points out, "The esteemed senator from Florida is calling for the anal rape and murder of Maduro."

Perhaps a minor question that remains is: will Twitter make Rubio delete a tweet threatening the extra judicial killing of a head of state?

* * *

Rubio wants to bring Libya-style regime change to Caracas...

Published:2/24/2019 4:06:52 PM
[US News] Listen up, Beto: Obama DHS secretary Jeh Johnson is not in favor of less fencing at the border

Some Dems have called for tearing it down.

The post Listen up, Beto: Obama DHS secretary Jeh Johnson is not in favor of less fencing at the border appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:2/24/2019 3:40:52 PM
[Markets] When The Winter Of Our Discontent Meets Fyre Festival

Authored by Jim Quinn via The Burning Platform blog,

“When a condition or a problem becomes too great, humans have the protection of not thinking about it. But it goes inward and minces up with a lot of other things already there and what comes out is discontent and uneasiness, guilt and a compulsion to get something–anything–before it is all gone.” ? John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

Sometimes I wonder about strange coincidences. In an email exchange with Marc (Hardscrabble Farmer) in the Fall, he mentioned he had begun reading Steinbeck’s Winter of Our Discontent and planned to write an article about it. Coincidentally, I had just bought a used copy of the same novel at Hooked on Books in Wildwood. I didn’t plan on buying it, but I’ve read most of Steinbeck’s brilliant novels and felt compelled by the title and our national state of discontent to select it from among the thousands of books in the store.

Marc had posted his Steinbeck-esque article in December, but I didn’t read it until I had finished the novel. Marc’s perspective on the value of money and his diametrically opposite path from Ethan Hawley, the discontented anti-hero of Steinbeck’s final novel, was enlightening and thought provoking. I’m sure it impacted my consciousness as I wrote this article.

Steinbeck’s title was taken from Shakespeare to reflect the unhappiness of Ethan Hawley at the outset of the novel. The quote, “Now is the winter of our discontent / Made glorious summer by this sun of York”, is the first line of Shakespeare’s Richard III, written in 1594. Shakespeare was using the summer/winter weather as a metaphor for the fortunes of the English House of York and its rivalry with the Plantagenets for the English throne. The ‘sun of York’ was a comment on the ‘son of York’ Edward IV, a harbinger of better times ahead. This theme of discontent was true in 1594, in 1961 when Steinbeck published his final novel, and is true today, as discontent blows across the land like a deadly polar vortex. At this point, it is difficult to see better times ahead.

The reason Steinbeck’s Nobel Prize winning novel still resonates today is because humans do not change. The human condition, our frailties, foibles, moral shortcomings, greed, avarice, narcissism, ability to forgive and seek redemption has remained constant through the ages. Steinbeck wrote the novel to address the moral degeneration of American culture during the 1950s and 1960s. The game show scandals, nativism and plagiarism of the 1950’s was representative of the decay.

Twenty-two years before, in 1939, Steinbeck addressed man’s inhumanity to man and the greed of evil men creating the suffering of the common man during the Great Depression in his classic novel Grapes of Wrath. Steinbeck’s characters have biblical aspects, as the battle between good and evil is always a subplot. If Steinbeck thought American culture had degenerated in 1961, I wonder what he would think today.

The definition of discontent is dissatisfaction with the prevailing social or political situation. If ever a word defined the current state of our world, it would be discontent. And it so happens, we are also in the depths of a bleak tumultuous winter season. The social and political discontent is reflected in the epic struggle between far-left treasonous Deep State operatives and the deplorables supporting Trump’s battle to retain the presidency.

An open coup has been in progress for two years as the Obama/Clinton surveillance state cronies, fully supported by the left-wing fake news propaganda outlets, attempt to remove a democratically elected president. This is truly a dark moment in our history and could mark a turning point in the demise of our Republic.

“It’s so much darker when a light goes out than it would have been if it had never shone.” ? John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

Steinbeck’s story about the moral decline of Ethan Hawley was a parable about the human condition set in the 1950s, but applicable throughout human history, and as relevant today as it was then. Ethan was a war hero whose integrity and honesty were the noble standards he lived by every day. His father recklessly lost the family fortune and he was left as a lowly grocery store clerk working for a foreigner.

It is a story of how easy it is for a good man to be corrupted through societal expectations, the opinions of prominent people, and the disapproval of family for their status in the community. The love of money is the root of all evil, as presented by Steinbeck. Ethan Hawley’s fall from grace was self-imposed as he allowed his darker nature to control his actions in order to regain his once prominent station in the community. The opinions of others considering him a failure led to his fall from grace.

“Men don’t get knocked out, or I mean they can fight back against big things. What kills them is erosion; they get nudged into failure.” ? John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

He sacrificed his self-respect, life long friendships, and the lives of two men, in order to climb the social ladder and regain the wealth and influence his father had squandered. Ethan’s ego and sense of self worth led him down a path paved with evil intentions. He had his boss deported, provided the means for his best friend to commit suicide, planned to rob a bank, and eventually came to the realization his own disregard for morality had been passed on to his son, who saw no problem with cheating to get what he wanted in life.

Ethan knew right from wrong. He was well read. He had killed Germans fighting for his country. He willfully chose to manipulate, lie and scheme in order to achieve his materialistic ambitions. The difference between Ethan and the materialistic, delusional, dishonest masses inhabiting our country today, is his sense of guilt impelled him to take his own life. But the unwavering love of his daughter convinced him to soldier on and redeem himself.

Our society is now infinitely more materialistic, narcissistic, and greedy than it was in the 1950s. Moral degeneration has reached new lows, unthinkable during the relatively innocent 1950s. But the common theme is human failings, foibles, and fallacies. Whatever a culture values you get more of. Our culture values achievement, wealth and power, at any cost.

Achieving success through hard work, intellectual accomplishment, or a superior product is antiquated and passé. Success is achieved through regulatory capture, bribing politicians, financial engineering schemes, monopolization of markets, and the power of propaganda. As Ethan cynically expounded, strength and success, even if achieved through criminal means, is all that matters in the end. The victors write the history books.

“To most of the world success is never bad. I remember how, when Hitler moved unchecked and triumphant, many honorable men sought and found virtues in him. And Mussolini made the trains run on time, and Vichy collaborated for the good of France, and whatever else Stalin was, he was strong. Strength and success—they are above morality, above criticism. It seems, then, that it is not what you do, but how you do it and what you call it. Is there a check in men, deep in them, that stops or punishes? There doesn’t seem to be. The only punishment is for failure. In effect no crime is committed unless a criminal is caught.” ? John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

A modern-day parable of moral degeneration presented itself to me shortly after finishing the Steinbeck novel. I happened to stumble across a documentary about the Fyre Festival fraud on Netflix. The protagonist of this illustration of discontent and delusion was Billy McFarland. He is representative of the modern-day Ethan Hawley, except with no redeeming qualities or conscience.

He conned investors, entertainers, super models, the media, employees, and gullible millennials. His ultimate purpose was no different than Ethan Hawley’s, to be wealthy and admired by his peers. His outrageously criminal exploits were detailed in the documentary as he lied, falsified, and conducted a ponzi scheme until it all blew up in a shocking display of hubristic folly. The story is a reflection of our shallow, narcissistic, gullible, low IQ society.

What leaps off the screen is how businesses are created out of thin air delivering no value to society. It’s all smoke, mirrors, and superficial virtue signaling designed to lure intellectual lightweights to pretend they are a mover and shaker in their social media driven world. The entire festival was designed to promote some ridiculous music booking app. These frivolous social media-based companies are built upon false narratives, self-absorbed millennials, easy money, and celebrity worship. They have zero value.

After watching how easily young people could be lured into handing over tens of thousands of dollars to this shyster because he paid some super models to do a bikini video and tweet falsehoods about the fake festival, you realize how they can believe socialism can work. Alexandrea Ocasio-Cortez is a perfect role model for these dullards and sycophants. Young people appear incapable of thinking for themselves, critically assessing situations, or going against the crowd. They want to be told what to believe and what to do.

Of course, this sickness is not confined to only young people. Our entire society is permeated with greed, narcissism and lemming-like behavior. Keeping up with the Kardashians has replaced keeping up with the Joneses. Ethan Hawley’s desire for status and respect among his peers in small town America during the 1950s is no different than the social climbing happening in our high-tech social media crazed world of today. Human nature does not change.

The Netflix documentary brought a term to my attention I had not heard before – “influencers”. The shallowness and trivial nature of our culture is captured perfectly by the essence of the importance of “influencers” to marketing products and events.  The Fyre Festival was promoted on Instagram by “social media influencers” including socialite and model Kendall Jenner, Bella Hadid, and model Emily Ratajkowski, who did not disclose they had been paid to do so.

“In business and in politics a man must carve and maul his way through men to get to be King of the Mountain. Once there, he can be great and kind–but he must get there first.” ? John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

Rather than make up our own minds about what we like, what we wear, where we eat, or what entertainment we enjoy, we need to be influenced into our decisions by famous people who are famous for being famous. These “influencers” generate their influential power through the number of social media followers they have accumulated by posting pictures of themselves in their underwear, leaked sex tapes, nude selfies, or generally being attractive.

Most of them are low IQ mouth breathers who can’t do basic math or write a comprehensible paragraph. But those 36DD breasts and pouty lips classify them as a grade A influencer. I can’t decide whether these narcissistic icons are more pathetic or the feeble-minded wretches who are actually influenced by these vacuous bimbos. Moral degeneration of society seems to have reached a new low.

Billy McFarland used any means necessary to maul his way to the top. He figured if he pulled off this spectacular social media extravaganza, his new music app demand would skyrocket and he would become a superstar music business mogul like Jay-Z. As his lies and debt continued to pile up, he double downed and used his dynamic personality to convince naïve rich women into “investing” millions into his doomed to failure venture.

Ultimately, thousands of suckers landed on a Caribbean island expecting luxurious accommodations and dozens of A list entertainers, but experienced mass confusion, flimsy tent accommodations with soaked mattresses, little to no food, and a canceled concert as unpaid bands pulled out. The disaster was reported in real time through the same social media that promoted this festival farce.

“In poverty she is envious. In riches she may be a snob. Money does not change the sickness, only the symptoms” ? John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

In the case of Billy McFarland we know the consequences of his actions. Lawsuits totaling $100 million were filed against him. He was charged with the Federal crime of wire fraud and convicted. He is currently serving six years in a Federal prison and was ordered to forfeit $26 million. Based on the warped personality I witnessed in the documentary, he will resume scamming people the second he walks out of that prison, and more suckers will eagerly hand him their money. You can’t cure stupid.

The future of fictional character Ethan Hawley is left to your imagination. He had been a moral upstanding citizen who faced a crisis of conscience and fell prey to the darker side of his nature. His boss had been deported and his best friend was dead. At the end of the novel he was left with ill-gotten wealth, a loving wife, a son who felt no guilt in cheating, and a daughter who saved his life.

I want to believe Ethan spent the rest of his life redeeming himself through his actions by doing good for the town, helping his friends achieve success, teaching his son right from wrong, using his wealth to benefit humanity, and proving to his daughter his life was worth saving. Ethan’s struggle is the existential crisis we all face as human beings. The love of money is the root of all evil. Whether we are poor, middle class or rich, when our priorities become warped by greed, narcissism, envy, or worldly desires, it only leads to discontent.

We see the discontent revealed by the billionaire crowd who rig markets to pillage more of the nation’s wealth. We see it among corrupt politicians being bought off by crooked corporate CEOs. We see it when media pundits broadcast fake news to push their agenda. We see it exhibited by the blatant coup attempt against a duly elected president by arrogant treasonous men who consider themselves above the law. We see it play out in office politics all over America. We see it with cheating on our taxes or lying to our spouses. We see our youth plagiarizing and cheating on tests. It seems we are a society of scammers, liars, and dishonest discontents.

Steinbeck was not one for happy endings. He pondered morality and the human condition and found it wanting. A battle between the good and evil is fought within the conscience of every human being. An inner dialogue takes place regarding every moral decision we make. The continuation of a civilized society is dependent upon more human beings choosing the path of good versus the path of evil.

We can be the most technologically advanced civilization in history, but if we allow moral degeneration to dominate our culture, our civilization will be doomed. It feels as if our society is leaning towards the dark side and this realization is leading to an epic showdown between good and evil. We are truly experiencing a winter of discontent. The winner of this battle will determine the future course of our country.

“We can shoot rockets into space but we can’t cure anger or discontent.” ? John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent

Published:2/24/2019 3:40:51 PM
[2020 Presidential Election] Political Emergencies, Past, Present, and Future (Steven Hayward) It has been interesting to watch liberals and Democrats respond to President Trump invoking the National Emergencies Act of 1976 to build his wall, now that he found out where President Obama hid his famous pen and phone. Instead of reflecting on—and then correcting—an overbroad and improvident congressional grant of power to the president, they are saying, “Just wait till we get back in power! Our gal [bet on a Published:2/24/2019 3:06:57 PM
[Politics] Pompeo Blasts Obama NKorea Strategy As 'Test, Pray and Cower' Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday ripped into the Obama administration's strategy toward North Korea's nuclear threat as "test, pray and cower" - and declared President ... Published:2/24/2019 9:35:50 AM
[Markets] Mapping the American War On Terror

Authored by Stephanie Savell via TomDispatch.com,

In September 2001, the Bush administration launched the “Global War on Terror.” Though “global” has long since been dropped from the name, as it turns out, they weren’t kidding...

When I first set out to map all the places in the world where the United States is still fighting terrorism so many years later, I didn’t think it would be that hard to do. This was before the 2017 incident in Niger in which four American soldiers were killed on a counterterror mission and Americans were given an inkling of how far-reaching the war on terrorism might really be. I imagined a map that would highlight Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and Syria - the places many Americans automatically think of in association with the war on terror - as well as perhaps a dozen less-noticed countries like the Philippines and Somalia. I had no idea that I was embarking on a research odyssey that would, in its second annual update, map U.S. counterterror missions in 80 countries in 2017 and 2018, or 40% of the nations on this planet (a map first featured in Smithsonian magazine).

As co-director of the Costs of War Project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, I’m all too aware of the costs that accompany such a sprawling overseas presence. Our project’s research shows that, since 2001, the U.S. war on terror has resulted in the loss -- conservatively estimated -- of almost half a million lives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan alone. By the end of 2019, we also estimate that Washington’s global war will cost American taxpayers no less than $5.9 trillion already spent and in commitments to caring for veterans of the war throughout their lifetimes.

In general, the American public has largely ignored these post-9/11 wars and their costs. But the vastness of Washington’s counterterror activities suggests, now more than ever, that it’s time to pay attention. Recently, the Trump administration has been talking of withdrawing from Syria and negotiating peace with the Taliban in Afghanistan. Yet, unbeknownst to many Americans, the war on terror reaches far beyond such lands and under Trump is actually ramping up in a number of places. That our counterterror missions are so extensive and their costs so staggeringly high should prompt Americans to demand answers to a few obvious and urgent questions: Is this global war truly making Americans safer? Is it reducing violence against civilians in the U.S. and other places? If, as I believe, the answer to both those questions is no, then isn’t there a more effective way to accomplish such goals?

Combat or “Training" and "Assisting”?

The major obstacle to creating our database, my research team would discover, was that the U.S. government is often so secretive about its war on terror. The Constitution gives Congress the right and responsibility to declare war, offering the citizens of this country, at least in theory, some means of input. And yet, in the name of operational security, the military classifies most information about its counterterror activities abroad.

This is particularly true of missions in which there are American boots on the ground engaging in direct action against militants, a reality, my team and I found, in 14 different countries in the last two years. The list includes Afghanistan and Syria, of course, but also some lesser known and unexpected places like Libya, Tunisia, Somalia, Mali, and Kenya. Officially, many of these are labeled “train, advise, and assist” missions, in which the U.S. military ostensibly works to support local militaries fighting groups that Washington labels terrorist organizations. Unofficially, the line between “assistance” and combat turns out to be, at best, blurry.

Some outstanding investigative journalists have documented the way this shadow war has been playing out, predominantly in Africa. In Niger in October 2017, as journalists subsequently revealed, what was officially a training mission proved to be a “kill or capture” operation directed at a suspected terrorist.

Such missions occur regularly. In Kenya, for instance, American service members are actively hunting the militants of al-Shabaab, a US-designated terrorist group. In Tunisia, there was at least one outright battle between joint U.S.-Tunisian forces and al-Qaeda militants. Indeed, two U.S. service members were later awarded medals of valor for their actions there, a clue that led journalists to discover that there had been a battle in the first place.

In yet other African countries, U.S. Special Operations forces have planned and controlled missions, operating in “cooperation with” -- but actually in charge of -- their African counterparts. In creating our database, we erred on the side of caution, only documenting combat in countries where we had at least two credible sources of proof, and checking in with experts and journalists who could provide us with additional information. In other words, American troops have undoubtedly been engaged in combat in even more places than we’ve been able to document.

Another striking finding in our research was just how many countries there were -- 65 in all -- in which the U.S. “trains” and/or “assists” local security forces in counterterrorism. While the military does much of this training, the State Department is also surprisingly heavily involved, funding and training police, military, and border patrol agents in many countries. It also donates equipment, including vehicle X-ray detection machines and contraband inspection kits. In addition, it develops programs it labels “Countering Violent Extremism,” which represent a soft-power approach, focusing on public education and other tools to “counter terrorist safe havens and recruitment.”

Such training and assistance occurs across the Middle East and Africa, as well as in some places in Asia and Latin America. American “law enforcement entities” trained security forces in Brazil to monitor terrorist threats in advance of the 2016 Summer Olympics, for example (and continued the partnership in 2017). Similarly, U.S. border patrol agents worked with their counterparts in Argentina to crack down on suspected money laundering by terrorist groups in the illicit marketplaces of the tri-border region that lies between Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.

To many Americans, all of this may sound relatively innocuous -- like little more than generous, neighborly help with policing or a sensibly self-interested fighting-them-over-there-before-they-get-here set of policies. But shouldn’t we know better after all these years of hearing such claims in places like Iraq and Afghanistan where the results were anything but harmless or effective?

Such training has often fed into, or been used for, the grimmest of purposes in the many countries involved. In Nigeria, for instance, the U.S. military continues to work closely with local security forces which have used torture and committed extrajudicial killings, as well as engaging in sexual exploitation and abuse. In the Philippines, it has conducted large-scale joint military exercises in cooperation with President Rodrigo Duterte's military, even as the police at his command continue to inflict horrific violence on that country’s citizenry.

The government of Djibouti, which for years has hosted the largest U.S. military base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier, also uses its anti-terrorism laws to prosecute internal dissidents. The State Department has not attempted to hide the way its own training programs have fed into a larger kind of repression in that country (and others). According to its 2017 Country Reports on Terrorism, a document that annually provides Congress with an overview of terrorism and anti-terror cooperation with the United States in a designated set of countries, in Djibouti, "the government continued to use counterterrorism legislation to suppress criticism by detaining and prosecuting opposition figures and other activists."

In that country and many other allied nations, Washington’s terror-training programs feed into or reinforce human-rights abuses by local forces as authoritarian governments adopt “anti-terrorism” as the latest excuse for repressive practices of all sorts.

A Vast Military Footprint

As we were trying to document those 65 training-and-assistance locations of the U.S. military, the State Department reports proved an important source of information, even if they were often ambiguous about what was really going on. They regularly relied on loose terms like “security forces,” while failing to directly address the role played by our military in each of those countries.

Sometimes, as I read them and tried to figure out what was happening in distant lands, I had a nagging feeling that what the American military was doing, rather than coming into focus, was eternally receding from view. In the end, we felt certain in identifying those 14 countries in which American military personnel have seen combat in the war on terror in 2017-2018. We also found it relatively easy to document the seven countries in which, in the last two years, the U.S. has launched drone or other air strikes against what the government labels terrorist targets (but which regularly kill civilians as well): Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen. These were the highest-intensity elements of that U.S. global war. However, this still represented a relatively small portion of the 80 countries we ended up including on our map.

In part, that was because I realized that the U.S. military tends to advertise -- or at least not hide -- many of the military exercises it directs or takes part in abroad. After all, these are intended to display the country’s global military might, deter enemies (in this case, terrorists), and bolster alliances with strategically chosen allies. Such exercises, which we documented as being explicitly focused on counterterrorism in 26 countries, along with lands which host American bases or smaller military outposts also involved in anti-terrorist activities, provide a sense of the armed forces’ behemoth footprint in the war on terror.

Although there are more than 800 American military bases around the world, we included in our map only those 40 countries in which such bases are directly involved in the counterterror war, including Germany and other European nations that are important staging areas for American operations in the Middle East and Africa.

To sum up: our completed map indicates that, in 2017 and 2018, seven countries were targeted by U.S. air strikes; double that number were sites where American military personnel engaged directly in ground combat; 26 countries were locations for joint military exercises; 40 hosted bases involved in the war on terror; and in 65, local military and security forces received counterterrorism-oriented “training and assistance.”

A Better Grand Plan

How often in the last 17 years has Congress or the American public debated the expansion of the war on terror to such a staggering range of places? The answer is: seldom indeed.

After so many years of silence and inactivity here at home, recent media and congressional attention to American wars in AfghanistanSyria, and Yemen represents a new trend. Members of Congress have finally begun calling for discussion of parts of the war on terror. Last Wednesday, for instance, the House of Representatives voted to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, and the Senate has passed legislation requiring Congress to vote on the same issue sometime in the coming months.

On February 6th, the House Armed Services Committee finally held a hearing on the Pentagon’s “counterterrorism approach” -- a subject Congress as a whole has not debated since, several days after the 9/11 attacks, it passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and now Donald Trump have all used to wage the ongoing global war. Congress has not debated or voted on the sprawling expansion of that effort in all the years since. And judging from the befuddledreactions of several members of Congress to the deaths of those four soldiers in Niger in 2017, most of them were (and many probably still are) largely ignorant of how far the global war they’ve seldom bothered to discuss now reaches.

With potential shifts afoot in Trump administration policy on Syria and Afghanistan, isn’t it finally time to assess in the broadest possible way the necessity and efficacy of extending the war on terror to so many different places? Research has shown that using war to address terror tactics is a fruitless approach. Quite the opposite of achieving this country’s goals, from Libya to Syria, Niger to Afghanistan, the U.S. military presence abroad has often only fueled intense resentment of America. It has helped to both spread terror movements and provide yet more recruits to extremist Islamist groups, which have multiplied substantially since 9/11.

In the name of the war on terror in countries like Somalia, diplomatic activities, aid, and support for human rights have dwindled in favor of an ever more militarized American stance. Yet research shows that, in the long term, it is far more effective and sustainable to address the underlying grievances that fuel terrorist violence than to answer them on the battlefield.

All told, it should be clear that another kind of grand plan is needed to deal with the threat of terrorism both globally and to Americans -- one that relies on a far smaller U.S. military footprint and costs far less blood and treasure. It’s also high time to put this threat in context and acknowledge that other developments, like climate change, may pose a far greater danger to our country.

Published:2/23/2019 9:01:40 PM
[Media] New York Times gives ‘Alabama woman’ who left America to join ISIS her close-up

Is wasn't news when Obama revoked her passport, but now that Trump's blocking her return from Syria …

The post New York Times gives ‘Alabama woman’ who left America to join ISIS her close-up appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:2/23/2019 8:01:03 PM
[c4d7f9d5-f3ba-532e-8549-94f26b596d34] Has Obama become a conservative? President Obama sounded like a conservative Tuesday at the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance Summit in Oakland, Calif., when he addressed hundreds of young men of color alongside basketball superstar Steph Curry. Published:2/23/2019 3:29:48 PM
[Markets] Johnstone Fumes: "Anyone Buying This Venezuela Bull$*!t Is A Complete F***ing Moron"

Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com,

#VenezuelaAidLive is trending on Twitter in the USA as I write this, forced to the forefront of public consciousness and into everyone’s eyeballs by a concert staged by billionaire plutocrat Richard Branson. Branson’s Virgin Group controls hundreds of companies and brings in some $21 billion annually, with Branson himself valued at around five billion dollars.

The concert is pure narrative control operation, designed to advance the proven lie that the Venezuelan government is shutting out all humanitarian aid from its people, and the proven lie that it has blockaded a bridge to prevent the aid from getting through, both of which are also currently being promoted by American mainstream media despite being thoroughly disproven. In reality, the Venezuelan government has been taking in humanitarian aid from all around the world to help its people, just not from America’s regime change operation that is so blatant even NPR recognizes it, and the bridge Branson has been posing in front of for his “billionaire philanthropist” photo ops has never been open for travel.

They’re lying to us about Venezuela. Anyone with access to alternative media has access to the fact that they’re lying to us about Venezuela. We know this for a fact. We also know for a fact that Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves on planet Earth, and that in spite of all these appeals to the humanitarian impulses of the US empire the Trump administration is openly interested in controlling that oil. We also know for a fact that US interventionism in modern times is consistently disastrous, and consistently never truly about humanitarianism. We also know for a fact that PNAC neocon Elliott Abrams, who is spearheading this “humanitarian aid” initiative, has previously used humanitarian aid as a pretext for arming militia groups in Nicaragua.

If you have access to alternative media, all of these facts are easily available to you. If all of these facts are easily available to you, and yet you still support the US government’s interventionism in Venezuela, you are a complete fucking moron.

That’s really all I wanted to say here. I have less than zero respect for those who join with Donald Trump, John Bolton, Elliott Abrams, Benjamin Netanyahu, Jair Bolsonaro, Nancy Pelosi, Joe Biden, Fox News and MSNBC in manufacturing consent for this agenda, and I don’t care who gets their feelings hurt by my saying so. If you’ve been a longtime reader of mine and you still support Trump’s starvation sanctionsCIA opsgrooming and attempted installation of US vassal Juan Guaidó, and brazen propaganda war upon the minds of the unsuspecting US populace with the goal of toppling a sovereign nation’s government, then my writing hasn’t gotten through to you and you have gotten nothing out of it.

I’ve interacted with so many Trump supporters since I started this gig who claim to be anti-interventionist and anti-neocon, yet once their president started ramping up yet another neocon regime change intervention in yet another resource-rich country just like Bush and Obama before him, they fell right in line just like Bush and Obama’s supporters did. Ask them why and they’ll mumble something inarticulate about the absence of US boots on the ground (a point Obama’s defenders also made about Libya and Syria) or about hating socialism, but in reality the reason they support Trump’s regime change interventionism in yet another oil-rich country is because they are foam-brained human livestock who believe whatever the leader of their tribe tells them to.

Not all Trump voters have done this, but many of them have. For the most part those who continue to support this president are at best deadly silent on Venezuela, and are at worst actively cheering this bullshit on with everything they’ve got.

I actually have more respect for the people who have always been plugged into the CIA/CNN narrative than I have for those who saw through it during Obama’s interventions but not during Trump’s. Someone who has always been plugged into the mainstream narratives on US regime change interventionism is like a guy with his head up his ass. Someone who saw through Obama’s depravity in Libya and Syria but fails to do the same with Venezuela is like a guy who pulled his head out of his ass, then soaked his hair with lube and willfully re-inserted it.

There is no excuse for supporting this administration’s obvious lies and sociopathic interventionism in a sovereign nation. None.

Wise the fuck up, people.

*  *  *

Thanks for reading! My articles are entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, throwing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypalpurchasing some of my sweet merchandise, buying my new book Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone, or my previous book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for my website, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish.

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Published:2/23/2019 3:02:01 PM
[Markets] Europe Now Pays The Price Of The Anti-Assad Jihad: Where Will Foreign Fighters Go?

Authored by Elijah Magnier, Middle East based chief international war correspondent for Al Rai Media

On Twitter, apparently the US president’s preferred forum to reveal foreign policy and state decisions, Donald Trump asked “Britain, France, Germany and other European allies to take back over 800 ISIS captured in Syria” from 44 countries. Otherwise, Trump will “release them” without specifying where and in which country. The US President is no longer ready to spend time waiting “for others (EU countries) to do their job”.

This is what the US establishment’s foreign policy and relationship with allies are all about. The US asked European, Canadian, Australian and Middle Eastern countries to send troops to Syria to “fight ISIS”. But before that, some years ago, the US asked European countries to allow potential jihadists to travel to Syria and Iraq, and for Saudi Arabia and Jordan to open their prisons and pardon core jihadists in order to reach their favorite destination, the Levant, to destroy the Syrian state and create a “failed state” scenario

Iraqi Counter Terrorism Intelligence unit conducting an identity check in Mosul. Image source: Reuters

But their wishes did not come true and President Bashar al-Assad didn’t fall in 3 to 6 months as predicted in 2011. Today the world is facing a new puzzle: what should be done with those the West helped reach Syria in order to terrorize, rape, and murder the people of Syria, who now want to return to their countries of origin? It is obvious the US establishment is unwilling to help Europe deal with their human refuse who joined ISIS at America's request.

Up to now thousands of ISIS members have managed to return to Europe and much more to their Middle Eastern, Asian and African countries of origin. These are fighters, few formerly incarcerated in their countries of origin, who answered the call and reached Syria and Iraq with the help of western and allied intelligence services to wage jihad and join the Caliphate of an “Islamic State”.

They traveled to the Levant for various reasons: to join a family member, to join friends, love of adventure, the adrenaline of carrying weapons and killing, to find one or several wives, to belong to a friendlier and warmer society (in the Middle East, society and family gatherings are closer and warmer than in Europe). Very few knew much about Islam before reaching their destination and fewer still had detailed knowledge of Islamic teaching, Hadith and Islamic laws. But one thing many of these have in common: they have killed thousands of Iraqi and Syrians.

Europe and Middle Eastern countries facilitated “jihadi-corridors” to Syria, mainly via Turkey whose authorities welcomes Jihadi immigration. Ankara's airport had special corridors to accommodate newly arriving fighters and send them eastwards. The objective was to divide Syria and Iraq.

The world looked on impassively as ISIS gathered substantial financial resources. ISIS robbed hundreds of millions of dollars from banks in cash and gold. It was selling oil, infrastructure and handcrafts to Turkey and collecting huge sums monthly from local taxes on services, housing, electricity, agriculture, cars crossing, merchandise exchange and other sources which brought a huge income to the area under its control.

Flow of foreign fighters into Syria at the height of the Islamic State's power (2015), via The Daily Mail.

President Barack Obama had the "courage" to say he wanted to avoid polluting the air over Syria and Iraq by bombing ISIS oil tankers. From 2014-2015 the US allegedly fought ISIS in Syria while the territory under its command continuously expanded and flourished. It required Russian intervention beginning in September 2015 to destroy those tanker trucks, thereby reducing the flow of stolen oil to Turkey and diminishing ISIS oil-income.

It is very possible that ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi followed Saddam Hussein’s example in hiding away financial resources and weapons for dark days. Iraqi intelligence services believe ISIS has established many civilian businesses to keep cash flowing in order to finance insurgency and continue recruitment. According to Iraqi security sources, the Iraqi Intelligence Unit arrested tens of ISIS-linked cells running wealth of hundreds of million dollars to the benefit of the group.

ISIS is also present in many caves and locations in the desert linking Syria and Iraq. Tens of less spectacular but significant attacks and assassinations are conducted every month in the provinces of Salahuddin, Nineveh, Diyala, Kirkuk and Hamrin-Makhol mountains causing the death of tens of Iraqi. For example, ISIS kidnapped this month 19 Iraqis along the Saudi and the Iraqi borders (‘Ar’ar to Nekheyb) in al-Anbar desert. Six bodies have been discovered so far.

Indeed, ISIS now needs to carry out as many terrorist attacks as possible to show it is still alive and capable. It would not be surprising to witness many insurgent attacks in the Middle East even after ISIS loses all its territory.

But the ISIS insurgency is not far from Europe, where any attack can bring more publicity to the group and help boost its propaganda efforts. The Paris and Brussels attacks (to name a couple) gave a colossal sense of power to ISIS fanboys. These attacks were planned by ISIS command in Raqqa.

ISIS prisoners. Image via Quora

Thus, the return of hundreds of ISIS militants to Europe will create a real dilemma for the same European leaders who may have been behind sending these terrorist candidates to the Levant in the first place, most of whom became prolific killers in Syria and Iraq. Many were also killed in terrorist attacks but those who remain are those who have best learned how to conduct warfare and brutal killing.

ISIS has been defeated and the circumstances that allowed it to grow in 2014 are no longer present. Many are surrendering now in their last stronghold in Syria. Nevertheless, the disappearance of ISIS territory doesn’t mean the group will no longer be present in the Middle East, Europe and the rest of the world (mainly in West Africa, Libya, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Afghanistan and Philippines).

Trump is throwing a ball of fire at Europe when he asks European countries to take back their nationals, indicating he is not willing to deliver ISIS prisoners to the Syrian government. There are no adequate prisons in Europe capable of holding such recruits, no means of "deradicalizing" or altering the brain-washing these Europeans have been exposed to. There is no guarantee that ISIS arrested militants will refrain from spreading their ideology and skills to become sleeper cells reading to strike at the first opportunity.

There are ways to confront ISIS ideology by using the same tools ISIS has used. Its creed can be condemned intellectually and religiously by Islamic religious authorities. The group has been contested by the Sunni religious Ulema who criticized its rationalizations and its self-declared state. Al-Qaeda is also vulnerable to such ideological attack. But how effective such criticism will be is open to question.

Although the French Security Minister Christophe Castaner welcomes ISIS militants to return to France, most European countries would rather reject their human refuse.

They lack the resources and expertise to deal with ISIS militants willing to return home. Heiko Maas, the German Foreign Minister, commented on Trump’s tweet that “it is not as easy as they think in America”. The European authorities should learn from the Syrian and Iraqi governments how to fight ISIS; otherwise, they will find it difficult to stand up to and prevent the expansion of this cancer.

Published:2/23/2019 8:29:17 AM
[Alex Acosta] Andy Puzder and Alex Acosta (Paul Mirengoff) Andy Puzder was President Trump’s first choice to be Secretary of Labor. Puzder, an extraordinarily wealthy man, agreed to take the job because he had a mission: to reverse the left-wing policies and practices of the Obama-Tom Perez DOL. When Puzder’s nomination failed, Trump turned to Alex Acosta. Acosta too had a mission, but a very different one: to position himself for a better job, e.g., as a court of Published:2/22/2019 10:55:23 PM
[Politics] Pfizer Exec to Host Fundraiser for Gillibrand Pfizer senior executive Sally Susman, who was a major backer of President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign, will host a fundraiser for New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, who is running for president, CNBC reports. Published:2/22/2019 2:54:12 PM
[Markets] Schiffting To Phase 2: The Mueller Report 'Disappointment' Will Be Just The Beginning

James Howard Kunstler notes that the #Resistance has been losing bigly in recent days as each new “bombshell” it manufactures turns out only to reveal its modus operandi, which is that the end justifies the means - the end being to evict the wicked Mr. Trump from office and the means being dishonesty and bad faith in its use of the government’s prosecutorial machinery.

The New York Times has a Friday op-ed, The Mueller Report Is Coming. Here’s What to Expect, declaring, “A concise report will probably act a a ‘road map’ to investigation for the Democratic House — and to further criminal investigation by other prosecutors.”

Translation: prepare to be disappointed by Mr. Mueller’s report and microwave a giant tub of popcorn for an extravaganza of sequels and re-boots. Beware of what you wish for. If the baton is passed to House committee chairs Jerrold Nadler, Maxine Waters, and Elijah Cummings, then in Act Two of the show, the country will be treated to something like the Spanish Inquisition as performed by Moe, Larry, and Curly.

But, as The Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel notes, there’s been no more reliable regurgitator of fantastical Trump-Russia collusion theories than Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff. So when the House Intelligence Committee chairman sits down to describe a “new phase” of the Trump investigation, pay attention. These are the fever swamps into which we will descend after Robert Mueller’s probe.

The collusionists need a “new phase” as signs grow that the special counsel won’t help realize their reveries of a Donald Trump takedown. They had said Mr. Mueller would provide all the answers. Now that it seems they won’t like his answers, Democrats and media insist that any report will likely prove “anticlimactic” and “inconclusive.” “This is merely the end of Chapter 1,” said Renato Mariotti, a CNN legal “analyst.”

Mr. Schiff turned this week to a dependable scribe—the Washington Post’s David Ignatius—to lay out the next chapter of the penny dreadful. Mr. Ignatius was the original conduit for the leak about former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s conversations with a Russian ambassador, and the far-fetched claims that Mr. Flynn had violated the Logan Act of 1799. Mr. Schiff has now dictated to Mr. Ignatius a whole new collusion theory. Forget Carter Page, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos—whoever. The real Trump-Russia canoodling rests in “Trump’s finances.” The future president was “doing business with Russia” and “seeking Kremlin help.”

So, no apologies. No acknowledgment that Mr. Schiff & Co. for years have pushed fake stories that accused innocent men and women of being Russian agents. No relieved hope that the country might finally put this behind us. Just a smooth transition—using Russia as a hook—into Mr. Trump’s finances. Mueller who?

What’s mind-boggling is that reporters would continue to take Mr. Schiff seriously, given his extraordinary record of incorrect and misleading pronouncements. This is the man who, on March 22, 2017, helped launch full-blown hysteria when he said on “Meet the Press” that his committee already had the goods on Trump-Russia collusion.

“I can’t go into the particulars, but there is more than circumstantial evidence now,” Mr. Schiff declared then. Almost two years later, he’s provided no such evidence and stopped making the claim—undoubtedly because, as the Senate Intelligence Committee has said publicly, no such evidence has been found.

At an open House Intelligence Committee hearing on March 20, 2017, Mr. Schiff stated as fact numerous crazy accusations from the infamous Steele dossier—giving them early currency and credence. He claimed that former Trump campaign aide Carter Page secretly met with a Vladimir Putin crony and was offered the brokerage of a 19% share in a Russian company. That Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort tapped Mr. Page as a go-between. That the Russians offered the Trump campaign damaging documents on Hillary Clinton in return for a blind eye to Moscow’s Ukraine policy. Mr. Schiff has never acknowledged that all these allegations have been debunked or remain unproved.

There was Mr. Schiff’s role in plumping the discredited January BuzzFeed story claiming Mr. Mueller had evidence the president directed his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to Congress. The special counsel’s office issued a rare statement denying the report. There was Mr. Schiff’s theory that the mysterious phone calls Donald Trump Jr. placed before his 2016 meeting with Russians at Trump Tower were to Candidate Trump. Senate Intel shot that down. And don’t forget Mr. Schiff’s February 2018 memo claiming the Steele dossier “did not inform” the FBI probe, because the bureau didn’t obtain it until long after the probe’s start. Testimony from Justice Department officials shot that one down, too.

With a track record like this, who wouldn’t believe Mr. Schiff’s new claim, in the Ignatius interview, that the key to collusion rests in Trump finances—in particular something to do with Deutsche Bank ? But hold on. Where did we first hear that Deutsche Bank theory? That’s right. See pages 64 and 117 of the wild House testimony of Glenn Simpson—head of Fusion GPS, the organization behind the Steele dossier. It’s right there, stuffed in between Mr. Simpson’s musings that Ivanka Trump might be involved with a “Russian Central Asian organized crime nexus,” that there is something nefarious happening on the “island of St. Martin in the Caribbean,” and that Roger Stone is part of a “Turkey-Russia” plot.

Mr. Schiff is taking his cue for Phase 2 of his investigation from the same Democrat-hired opposition-research group that launched the failed Phase 1.

At the start of all the Russia craziness, Mr. Schiff had a choice: maintain the bipartisan integrity of his committee by working with Republicans to find honest answers, or take on the role of resident conspiracy theorist. He chose his path. The rest of us should know better than to follow him.

Meanwhile, as Jim Kunstler continues,  ths antics of Waters, Schiff et al., may be eclipsed by the now inevitable inquiry around the misdeeds carried out by public officials in Act I of the show: the Russia Collusion Ruse. Based just on the current Andy McCabe book tour, there will be an awful lot to get to, and it is liable to be far more compelling than the nonsense conjured up by the Three Stooges. Mr. McCabe, in his quest to hand off the hot potato of culpability to his former colleagues, and to sell enough books to pay his lawyers’ retainers, has neatly laid out the case for his orchestrating a coup d’etat within the FBI.

It’s an ugly story, and it’s all out there now, like so much spaghetti hurled against the wall, and it won’t be ignored. There are many other spaghetti wads already plastered on that wall ranging from Hillary Clinton’s Fusion GPS hijinks, to Loretta Lynn’s written assurances to the Clinton campaign that the email server matter would be dropped, to the rather complete failure of the FISA process, and much much more that needs to be ventilated in a court of law.

I suspect that Barack Obama and his White House confidantes will enter the picture, too, sooner later, and to the great dismay of his partisans who do not want to see his legacy tarnished. Whatever your view of all these dark events, it would be pretty awful for the country to have to see him in a witness chair, but it may be unavoidable. Ditto Hillary, who is liable to go all Captain Queeg-y when she finally has to answer for her campaign’s turpitudes.

Most of this cast of characters has seemingly gone-to-ground in recent months, laying low, staying out of the news, probably spending much of their time conferring with their attorneys - Brennan, Clapper, Comey, et al, all keeping their traps shut in recent days as Andy McCabe takes his hangdog road-show around the Cable Networks and the NPR fluff chamber, spelling out the “stress” that prompted the FBI’s desperate attempt to cover its ass following the unbelievable 2016 election results.

I don’t pretend to know what the new Attorney General William Barr might do. He must realize that if he lets all this slide, the institutional damage will be permanent and severe. He is reputed to be a good friend of Special Prosecutor Mueller. Mr. Mueller’s reputation as the straightest of straight arrows seems at odds with the actual exercise of his office: generating rinky-dink “process” crimes against bit-players in the story, often via malicious prosecutorial tactics. The likely truth is that he was brought into the scene to protect the very characters who misused the terrible powers of the FBI and the Department of Justice. His investigation has been hermetically sealed against leakage. For all I or anyone else knows, he has spent some time preparing a case against the very officers who cooked up the Russia story in the first place. Perhaps not a high-percentage bet, but there it is for consideration.

It’s going to be an interesting month. Have you forgotten that General Michael Flynn will be returning to Judge Emmet Sullivan’s courtroom after three months in the doghouse that the judge sent him to for the purpose of reconsidering his guilty plea? Perhaps Gen. Flynn rediscovered that he has a spine this winter and will venture into a trial of the Mickey Mouse charge against him: that, as incoming National Security Advisor to the President, he had preliminary discussions with the Russian ambassador — in all other transitions-of-power, a completely normal procedure — and supposedly lied about it to the FBI. To the very people orchestrating a coup against his boss, the chief executive.

Published:2/22/2019 1:24:01 PM
[Markets] NJ Bill Would Ban Trump From 2020 Ballot Unless He Releases Tax Returns

A bill introduced by New Jersey Democrats would keep President Trump's name off the state's 2020 ballot unless he releases his tax returns, according to NorthJersey.com.

The new legislation, approved Thursday by the state Senate, was passed once before in 2017 only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Chris Christie. It would keep any candidate from appearing on the state ballot unless they make their tax returns public. Of note, New Jersey's current governor, Phil Murphy, is a Democrat. 

Similar legislation has been introduced in at least 28 states but has never been enacted, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, meaning New Jersey would be the first to impose such a disclosure requirement if its measure is also approved by the Assembly and signed by Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat. -NorthJersey.com

New Jersey's bill comes in response to President Trump's longstanding refusal to release his tax returns - which he says he would gladly do if he weren't under an ongoing IRS audit. The president's decision not to disclose information about his personal finances has sparked a heated debate over whether such a bill is even constitutional. 

"It is so obvious with this president that had voters known some of what seem to be his business interests, he may not have been elected president," said state Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D), a sponsor of the bill. 

The measure would likely be struck down in the courts, according to NorthJersey, and could also lead to more disclosures from candidates in the future. 

"Today we require tax returns, but what would be next?" wrote former California Gov. Jerry Brown when he vetoed similar legislation in 2017. "Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?" 

"“It’s just political pandering," said attorney John Carbone, who specializes in election law at Carbone & Fasse. 

"They can impose no requirements for a candidate for federal office, let alone president," he said. "They’re thinking like Alabama Democrats during the Civil War: What can we do to get Lincoln?"

Although they are not required to do so by law, presidential candidates in the past have released their tax returns as a matter of transparency so voters could learn about their financial status, business dealings and potential conflicts of interest.

Democrats who now control the U.S. House of Representatives are reportedly studying a century-old provision in the federal tax code to gain access to Trump’s tax returns and make them public. Separately, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson, has introduced legislation to require presidents and presidential candidates to release their 10 most recent federal income tax returns.

The Democrats who control New Jersey’s Legislature are eyeing a different mechanism to force the disclosure, threatening to keep off the New Jersey ballot any candidate who does not share his or her five most recent tax returns at least 50 days before the 2020 general election. -NorthJersey.com

Of course, no Republican presidential candidate has won New Jersey since 1988, so the impact to President Trump, should this law pass, would likely be minimal. 

In March of 2017, MSNBC host Rachel Maddow embarrassed herself and her network when she published leaked partial copies of Trump's 2005 tax returns - revealing that Trump paid a higher tax rate than Mitt Romney in 2011 and Bernie Sanders in 2014, along with Barack Obama at 18.7% in 2015 and Warren Buffet at 17.4%

Maddow's "bombshell" drew widespread mockery. 

Published:2/22/2019 8:54:11 AM
[Markets] Egypt Government Executes 9 Muslim Brotherhood Members In Single Day

"We were electrocuted with enough electricity to last Egypt for 20 years," one man yelled during his final words before an Egyptian court. Mahmoud al-Ahmadi was among 9 suspected Muslim Brotherhood members sentenced to death for involvement in the assassination of Egypt's top prosecutor Hisham Barakat on June 29, 2015.

The men were executed by hanging in a Cairo prison on Wednesday, which drew condemnation from groups like Amnesty International, given widespread reports that their confessions were obtained through torture.

Human rights groups have complained of Egypt's mass trials. 

Barakat had been targeted and killed by car bomb when his convoy drove through the Egyptian capital in 2015, two years after General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi removed the Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi in a military junta following the chaotic Arab Spring protests.  

Only two weeks into November, this brings the total number of executions in Egypt thus far this year to 15. Maya Foa, director of an international body of lawyers who spotlight human rights abuses called Reprieve, told Al Jazeera, "As these latest executions show, President [Abdel Fattah] el-Sisi's use of the death penalty is now a full-blown human rights crisis."

The Sisi government has increasingly come under fire for its broad use of the death penalty following confessions obtained under duress, as well as mass trials. Reprieve says some nearly 1,500 individuals remain on death row, among them juveniles

Since taking power the Sisi government has gone on the offensive against the highly organized Muslim Brotherhood opposition. In December 2013, months after Morsi's removal, the group was branded a terrorist organization

Ahead of Wednesday's mass execution Amnesty International appealed to authorities to halt the hangings of the nine men. Amnesty's Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East, Najia Bounaim, accused Egyptian security forces of torture: "There is no doubt that those involved in deadly attacks must be prosecuted and held accountable for their actions, but executing prisoners or convicting people based on confessions extracted through torture is not justice," she said.

"At least six men have already been executed earlier this month after unfair trials. Instead of stepping up executions, the Egyptian authorities should take steps to abolish the death penalty once and for all," she added. 

Meanwhile, since Egypt's politically tumultuous "Arab Spring" period which ultimately resulted in Gen. Sisi gaining a firm hold on power, US administrations (from Obama to Trump) have kept largely mum on Egypt's human rights record, content to keep American weapons flowing to the Egyptian military and to ensure Cairo keeps the peace with Israel. 

Published:2/22/2019 1:51:21 AM
[The Blog] Obama speechwriter: How are Dems going to pass the Green New Deal if they won’t nuke the filibuster once and for all?

Strategy.

The post Obama speechwriter: How are Dems going to pass the Green New Deal if they won’t nuke the filibuster once and for all? appeared first on Hot Air.

Published:2/21/2019 8:20:59 PM
[Markets] How The Left Is Using Corporations To Shut Down Conservative Speech

Authored by Mark Hemmingway via RealClear Politics

On January 8, the restaurant chain Red Lobster became the 20th major advertiser to stop running ads on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program. It’s not because advertising on Carlson’s show won’t get you in front of millions of viewers -- Carlson has the highest ratings among cable news networks in his prime-time slot, and Fox News has been the highest rated basic cable network for over two years. Carlson has been the subject of a highly organized, and apparently effective, boycott campaign.

It’s true that he has made some controversial statements in the past year, but it’s also impossible to argue that he’s not one of the more interesting and essential pundits of the Trump era. The same week Red Lobster announced it was abandoning his show, Carlson delivered a monologue arguing that conservatives placed too much faith in their conception of the “free market” and needed to question whether the economy was rigged to benefit elites. The monologue touched off a fascinating conversation among intellectuals across the political spectrum.

Washington Post columnist Christine Emba found herself reassessing the caricature of Carlson and asking, “What happens when Tucker Carlson makes sense?” The left-wing publication Vox declared, “Tucker Carlson has sparked the most interesting debate in conservative politics.” The New York Times’ right-leaning columnist Ross Douthat declared the “Fox News host amplifies a debate the right needs to have.” Meanwhile, conservative pundits David French and Ben Shapiro offered sharp criticisms of Carlson’s monologue from the right.

There are numerous other instances of Carlson contributing positively to the public dialogue that should be weighed against a handful of controversial remarks. Further, there’s little reason to believe that anything Carlson has said is outside the bounds of acceptable discourse.

There is, however, pervasive evidence showing that left-wing activists are quite content using every tool at their disposal to silence influential voices on the right. The question is whether they’d thought through the disastrous consequences of normalizing politically motivated boycotts.

Even as thinkers and journalists were having an illuminating and productive debate over Carlson’s monologue on the role of the free market, others were busy stoking the boycott against him. “The Tucker Carlson advertiser boycott continues, and what's wrong with that?” asked Pulitzer-winning Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik in a column last month. “Those unhappy with Carlson’s brand of exclusionary white male power should keep the boycott threat alive -- and they should consider themselves to be operating in the American mainstream.”

Now if there’s a case to be made that Carlson’s charged comments about diversity, nationalism, and immigration are outside the American mainstream, the question also ought to be asked whether anyone on the opposite end of the spectrum that deploys racially loaded generalizations about “exclusionary white male power” at the drop of a hat is operating in the mainstream as well. Repeated suggestions that Carlson isn’t merely disagreeable, but that he’s racist, aren’t just unfair. They have dangerous consequences. Earlier this year, violent left-wing Antifa activists showed up outside his home, menacing his wife.

At the same time, there’s no real evidence that politically motivated boycotts, which are largely a tool of the left, are operating in the American mainstream. The skewed presentation of the debate by a left-leaning media; the fact that there are no organized boycotts on the right due in part to a principled commitment to free speech; and the vagaries of craven corporate branding strategies all suggest that support for boycotts might be an illusory phenomenon.

Sleeping Giants to the Fore

If you think a robust public debate involving many differing viewpoints is a precondition for healthy democratic debates—and let’s face it, increasing numbers of politically motivated people don’t—a cursory examination of the organization driving the Carlson boycott ought to be alarming. They go by the name Sleeping Giants. The organization is really just two people, Matt Rivitz and Nandini Jammi, who direct almost all of Sleeping Giants’ boycott activities around a Twitter account and Facebook page. The name “Sleeping Giants” might be a bit of a misnomer. Their Twitter account has only 218,000 followers and their Facebook page has just 56,000 followers, neither of which is much in relative terms. Tucker Carlson has 2.4 million Twitter followers, and Fox News has 18.6 million. (In the interest of disclosure, my wife, Mollie Hemingway, a Fox News contributor who has appeared on Carlson’s show, has 220,000 Twitter followers, which is also more than Sleeping Giants’ total.)

Nonetheless, Sleeping Giants first rose to prominence by forcing dozens of brands to stop running ads on Breitbart.com by simply having its followers tweet screen-shots of advertisements on the site at the Twitter accounts of the corporations behind them. Regarding Breitbart, in nearly all cases the ads are part of digital ad networks, such that the original advertisers have no idea where they appear, and they appear at a diverse array of sites. In other words, there was never any reason to believe that because an ad appeared on Breitbart’s site that the corporation behind it was in any way endorsing the message.

Breitbart is hardly the only place on the internet attracting controversy. Despite doing any number of provocative and harmful things, Gawker, for instance, never wanted for corporate advertising, right up until a jury effectively ended the publication by ruling it owed millions of dollars in damages for its egregious privacy violation—and releasing a video of Hulk Hogan having sex unaware of being filmed was just one of hundreds of very questionable editorial decisions the site made over years. Despite no shortage of bad actors, Breitbart is, however, the only website that’s been targeted for a very successful two-year boycott campaign.

Further, insensitive or incendiary sentiments regularly repeated by left-wing media outlets seem to escape the same kind of scrutiny for offense that have been applied to Breitbart. It’s not a stretch to see why headlines such as “There’s No Hiring Bias Against Women in Tech, They Just Suck at Interviews” might cause corporate advertisers to back away from Breitbart. But you don’t see advertisers backing off of “mainstream” outlets such as the Huffington Post or The Guardian because they’ve run flattering articles on the #ShoutYourAbortion movement, which is the kind of abortion activism that can easily be shown to be offensive and off-putting.

At the same time that voices from the right are being targeted, the kinds of left-wing sentiments that can be published on major outlets has shifted dramatically, with no corresponding pushback or attempt at self-correction. “Can you admire Louis Farrakhan and still advance the cause of women? Maybe so. Life is full of contradictions,” is a real headline that ran over a January op-ed in the Los Angeles Times. Barely an eyebrow was raised over the paper publishing excuses for a virulent anti-Semite who in just the past year has called Jews “termites” and “Satanic” and said “the Jews have control over those agencies of government.” Certainly, there was no Sleeping Giants boycott campaign, even though that L.A. Times piece is arguably more overtly bigoted than anything published at Breitbart.

Sleeping Giants has complained that Twitter still allows Farrakhan a platform, but in searching its site it has done nothing to address Democratic politicians and left-wing groups such as the Women’s March that have cozied up to the Nation of Islam leader. According to its Facebook page, Sleeping Giants has even worked with “our friends” at the Women’s March on their boycott efforts, despite the fact that Women’s March leaders such as Linda Sarsour and Tamika Mallory have also been vocally anti-Semitic and supportive of Farrakhan.

Rivitz told The New York Times he viewed what he is doing “as an apolitical crusade against hate speech. While he is a registered Democrat, he said he had never been politically active outside of attending ‘maybe two marches pre-election.’” He further defended the Sleeping Giants boycotts as apolitical in an interview with GQ saying, “When the focus is on bigotry and sexism and violence, those are unassailable points.” Rivitz further dismissed any idea that anything they are doing might amount to censorship in an interview with Ad Week. “A lot of people say voices on certain sides are being silenced, and ultimately, that’s a way to muddy the waters and make it about politics versus what it really is, which is xenophobia and racism,” he said.

Yes, in the abstract, bigotry, sexism, and violence are unassailably bad. In reality, determining whether something qualifies sexist, bigoted, or violent can be the subject of a heated political and cultural debate. (Even “violence” is no longer a cut-and-dried thing; if you’ve been near a college campus lately, the Orwellian idea that “speech is violence” has taken firm hold.)

These questions, contrary to Sleeping Giants’ smug certainty, are not easily settled. One of Sleeping Giants’ self-proclaimed rationales for instigating boycotts is being “anti-LGBT.” But what does that mean? Tens of millions of Americans still oppose gay marriage, meaning as a practical matter they adhere to the view Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and half the Democratic Party establishment professed until mid-2012. Are all these people so irredeemably bigoted that their views should be not allowed to be aired publicly? What about people who support religious liberty laws that would provide conscience protections for Christian florists and bakers who don’t want to be compelled to participate in same-sex weddings? Are people such as Andrew Sullivan and Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan to be boycotted for siding with “anti-LGBT” forces on this issue?

Sleeping Giants has made no attempt to define its criteria for what is and is not acceptable as a matter of public discourse. The fact that Sleeping Giants has no established criteria for justifying a boycott is also troubling, because organizations with ill-defined goals are subject to mission creep. The organizers told GQ that the reason they are pushing a boycott of NRATV is because “the NRA pushes racially-charged programming and anti-media propaganda using these streaming services.” Aside from the fact that the NRA has been making conspicuous attempts at minority outreach for a long time now, complaining about media bias—which is an easily demonstrable problem when it comes to coverage of gun issues—is a very low bar for justifying a boycott.

Sleeping Giants has also taken activism in this area a step further, having targeted Apple, Amazon, Roku and Google for allowing NRATV on their streaming platforms. Such “de-platforming” tactics suggest that Sleeping Giants isn’t merely pressuring the NRA so it will stop using rhetoric Sleeping Giants doesn’t like, which is a very tiny percentage of the content on NRATV. Instead, it wants to silence the outlet altogether.

The truth is that Sleeping Giants does have at least one definitive criteria for whether a publication or organization is boycott worthy. It’s just too lacking in self-awareness to realize it. “After the election, we just couldn't believe that the guy who pushed Breitbart's racism and bigotry was going to be in the White House,” Rivitz told GQ. “At the time, we were painfully unaware of everything that goes on at that site.”

To some extent, Sleeping Giants’ mission is explicitly about hamstringing a duly elected president of the United States. Now, it is perfectly fine to despise Donald Trump and campaign against him, but saying as much is a degree of basic transparency that Sleeping Giants hasn’t quite managed. If you’re are horrified by the fact 63 million Americans voted for a president you abhor and your first thought is to try and shut down a prominent media voice that supported him, then telling the New York Times you see your work as “apolitical” is either delusional or dishonest -- or some combination of the two. But Sleeping Giants presenting itself as a group of concerned citizens, rather than political activists, makes its efforts more effective.

It’s remarkable that Sleeping Giants has been able to get away with such duplicity for so long, but ultimately unsurprising. The group has garnered the attention of a lot of prominent media outlets, and the resulting profiles are so softball that you’d think they were written by someone drinking a beer in the outfield bleachers. Some of the coverage even reads as if it is specifically designed to help with Sleeping Giants’ pressure campaigns. See this headline from Fast Company: “Thousands of Advertisers Shun Breitbart, But Amazon Remains.” 

There are enormously harmful consequences to free speech that will arise in a culture where politically motivated boycotts are the norm. Yet, no one who’s interviewed the organization seems all that concerned about a potential backlash. GQ did ask if Sleeping Giants was concerned about giving rise to counter boycotts, but the unquestioned response was rife with hubris: “The First Amendment applies to everyone. If they want to do something like that, they can certainly try. But at least in our minds, the message wouldn't ring true.”

One reason the two organizers of Sleeping Giants weren’t too worried about pushback against their efforts is that they were quite content to lob accusations against others anonymously. The first New York Times profile on Sleeping Giants, another puffy piece headlined “How to Destroy the Business Model of Breitbart and Fake News,” mentioned a curious fact: Sleeping Giants’ co-founders “requested anonymity because some members of the group work in the digital-media industry.”

After more than 18 months of successful boycotts and glowing coverage, it wasn’t until last summer that we learned the identities of Rivitz and Jammi, who are both freelance copywriters in the advertising industry. While there’s no obvious reason to believe they have motives beyond expressing their obvious partisan politics, the fact they both work in advertising raises the possibility of so many conflicts of interest that it was professional negligence for the media to mostly ignore their background and honor requests for them to remain anonymous.

The only reason the world learned Rivitz and Jammi’s identities was due to reporting done by The Daily Caller News Foundation, the publication co-founded by, yes, Tucker Carlson. Rivitz was quite upset about being revealed and complained of threats being directed at him as a result. Yet, as of December, he was still encouraging people to send letters to advertisers smearing Carlson as a “white nationalist,” the kind of inflammatory characterization that has led to threats on Carlson’s own family. With the heated nature of current political debates, the desire to remain anonymous while still participating in the conversation is an impulse that should be respected. But given the nature of Sleeping Giants’ campaign against public figures, this was a stunning act of hypocrisy.  

The passively assumed reason for granting Rivitz and Jammi’s anonymity -- the idea that because they “work in the digital-media industry” their work with Sleeping Giants could negatively affect their careers -- also turns out to be a lousy excuse. Ad Week asked Rivitz point-blank if his involvement with Sleeping Giants being revealed had affected his day job. Quite the contrary, as it happened. “I’ve had love and support from people I know,” he replied, “and lots of people I don’t know hitting me up on LinkedIn.”

Advertisers’ Leftward Lean

For decades, one of the distinguishing features of the left was that it was suspicious of corporate power, and specifically the insidious influence of corporate advertising. Though less well known than “1984” or “Animal Farm,” George Orwell even wrote a novel, “Keep the Aspidistra Flying,” that railed against advertising as “the dirtiest ramp that capitalism has yet produced” and he later warned, quite correctly, that “advertisers exercise an indirect censorship over news.” More recently, Naomi Klein’s 1999 book, “No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies,” became hugely influential for crystalizing the left-wing, anti-corporate sentiment behind the violent anti-globalization protests of the time.

But like every other institution that has proven to be an impediment to liberal political goals, the strategy adopted by the left toward advertising seems to have been “if you can’t beat them, assimilate them.” The left-wing nature of corporate advertising has become remarkably prevalent in a comparatively short amount of time.

It wasn’t that long ago that corporations didn’t want to go near anything that appeared remotely political. In Samuel Huntington’s 1996 book, “Who Are We?,” he recounts how in 1996 Ralph Nader—no one’s idea of a right-wing xenophobe—wrote to the CEOs of 100 of America’s largest corporations and urged them to have their boards of directors open their shareholder meetings by reciting the Pledge of Allegiance as a way of showing corporate gratitude for receiving government subsidies. In other words, when it comes to declaring “you didn’t build that,” Nader was way ahead of the curve. Only one corporation, Federated Department Stores, responded positively. The rest rejected the suggestion, and some corporations such as Ford, Costco, and Aetna publicly disparaged Nader’s gambit.

Contrast that reaction with how last autumn, Nike swallowed a left-wing narrative whole and made a mediocre quarterback who hasn’t played in the NFL for years the face of a major national ad campaign. Far from avoiding unifying national sentiments, the only reason Nike is embracing Colin Kaepernick is his polarizing campaign to politicize the NFL by encouraging national anthem protests. Most recently was Gillette’s baffling and ham-handed attempt to cash in on the #MeToo phenomenon. The razor company aired ads questioning the virtues of masculinity, which made it seem, in the words of American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers, as if “Gillette has been hijacked by the Oberlin College Gender Studies Collective.”

To be clear, it’s not that the underlying issues involved in these ad campaigns -- racism and sexism -- aren’t serious and worth addressing. But there’s a real question as to whether profit-driven corporations -- especially ones such as Nike and Gillette’s parent company, Procter and Gamble, which have routinely faced ethical questions about the way their products are produced -- can wade into social and political issues without increasing cynicism. If you go to Gillette’s webpage, it declares that “it’s time we acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture. And as a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man.” This prompts a serious question: Where on earth did Gillette get the idea it has any obligation to consumers other than producing quality razors at a reasonable price? (Note that as of this writing Gillette’s ad has 1.4 million dislikes on YouTube compared to 700,000 likes, and the company is furiously deleting negative comments.)

At least one notable figure in the advertising world is sounding the alarm about how advertiser boycotts and politicized branding could be bad for business. “Nobody's going to these brands to ask, 'How should I live my life?'” says Dan Granger, the CEO of Oxford Road, an ad agency that launched Hulu, Lyft, Dollar Shave Club and lots of other notable brands. “We don't really want to be preached at by mainstream brands. And it really depends on how big a brand wants to be.”

Granger has a distinctive perspective on advertising, because his firm specializes “performance-based” metrics specifically tailored to encourage quick business growth. Unlike Sleeping Giants, Granger isn’t coy about his professional motives for speaking out. “I'm definitely incentivized to urge my clients to pursue advertising programs that are going to help them grow in measurable ways, and when they take one of the greatest sources of customer growth off the table and take that out of our toolkit it’s bad for us,” he says. “It's bad for them. So I've got some skin in the game, and it's an issue I've been dealing with on some level for probably the last 15 years, which is almost my entire professional career.”

However, if you’re familiar with late-stage corporate branding strategy, viewing advertising as a means to increase sales or to juice growth is a notion that’s almost quaint. Instead, advertising is often discussed in terms of how it defines a company’s “values” and other subjective measures that conveniently don’t involve metrics that would hold advertising agencies accountable for their work.

This values framework seems to be guiding the approach to advertiser boycotts. In 2017, an article in Ad Age addressed how corporations should handle boycott threats, and experts conceded that “there's little evidence that [consumers] actually follow through. Many weren't buying the given brand in the first place, for reasons that have nothing to do with politics or brand safety.” However, the article further cautioned: “An ad boycott is more about your long-term brand reputation. … These incidents likely have greater impact on sentiment from employees, government officials, suppliers and shareholders than consumers.” In other words, corporate decisions are disproportionately impacted by a small group of people who are overly sensitive to politics, regardless of what their larger customer base actually cares about.

Make no mistake, Sleeping Giants is just the latest iteration of overt and ongoing attempts to ideologically capture advertising. Other groups working with Sleeping Giants have driven this notion home. “You have to be inclusionary if you’re going to try to sell to a very large audience,” Nicholas Reville, a board member of the Participatory Culture Foundation, told the New York Times. The Times added that Reville “pointed out that businesses benefited from embracing diversity: And he pointed out that consumer activism might be especially effective because so many people feel they have no other way to express their opposition to Trump-ian values.”

There’s obviously truth in that last observation. But what’s motivating to some in the political realm is likely to alienate others. “They might be able to do a cheap move to get some PR for a while that ignites a base within their brand constituency,” says Granger, “but I probably wouldn't advise a client to make a move like that, because I think it's divisive. I think we've got enough divisions in this country and I think on the corporate side, we don't need to exploit that. We need to start pushing back on it and going, 'OK, how do we attract people to our value system rather than use our value system to point fingers and separate, whatever side of the equation you're on?’”

This is all rather ironic because among the many remarks by Tucker Carlson that have spurred controversy and marshalled the most boycott enthusiasm, this monologue from September, directed at progressives, stands out:

How, precisely, is diversity our strength? Since you’ve made this our new national motto, please be specific as you explain it. Can you think, for example, of other institutions such as, I don’t know, marriage or military units in which the less people have in common, the more cohesive they are? Do you get along better with your neighbors, your co-workers if you can’t understand each other or share no common values? Please be honest as you answer this question. And if diversity is our strength, why is it okay for the rest of us to surrender one of our central rights, freedom of speech, to just a handful of tech monopolies? And by the way, if your ideas are so obviously true, why does anyone who question them need to be shamed, silenced and fired?

Simply questioning what is obviously a very politicized definition of “diversity” got Carlson branded a racist by the Washington Post’s Erik Wemple. (Wemple and Carlson have a longstanding feud.) But the charitable and more accurate reading of what Carlson was saying is that “celebrating diversity” can be divisive if we don’t first and foremost share a common identity as Americans.

Something similar was at work with Carlson’s more recent attention-grabbing monologue about whether we show too much deference to our notions of the “free market.” Asking whether the system is rigged in the current era of populist discontent doesn’t just resonate with Trump voters, it has loud echoes of the sentiments expressed by Naomi Klein and Occupy Wall Street protesters. No one is going to agree with everything Carlson says or deny he can be controversial, even infuriating. But if you’re paying attention, there’s ample opportunity to look at what he says and find ideas that the left and right can agree on. This is the real reason Carlson is so interesting, and why he’s often portrayed as more polarizing than he actually is.

Meanwhile, it’s the folks at Sleeping Giants who are utterly credulous about the role corporations should be playing in our politics. “It’s scary to say it, but maybe companies will have to be the standard-bearers for morals right now,” Rivitz told The New York Times. “We’ve all seen employee handbooks where they have codes of behavior,” he said. “Maybe that’s all we have to fall back on now.”

So there it is. Rivitz unknowingly revealed the ultimate pitfall of advertiser-based boycotts. (After reading that comment, Granger said, “I just threw up a little bit.”) Yes, boycotts are bad for a culture of free speech, but the biggest problem might be that they establish a baseline where corporate policies define the terms of political debate.

What Rivitz is advocating is frightening. Actual fascism—not the lazy definition that Sleeping Giants’ Twitter followers use to tar everyone from Mitt Romney on down—is what happens when corporate and political powers are merged for common national goals. Why Sleeping Giants and other supporters of advertiser boycotts would want to blur the line between advertising and propaganda here is worth pondering. Even George Orwell managed to warn against both advertising and fascism, and if you want to imagine a future where advertising boycotts are the norm, just picture the risk-averse HR drones who run corporate diversity seminars stamping on the face of public discourse—forever.

If being forced to contemplate an America that remains permanently politically divided seems scary, it also presents a chance for brave advertisers to get beyond the left-right divide. “I'd love to do an ad where you have the Rush Limbaugh and Elton John duet or Rachel Maddow and Sean Hannity. How you get these guys to actually say, 'Hey, we stand behind this thing and not everything has to be a knifing of each other. We don't have to disagree on everything … maybe we can maybe even be civil about it,'” says Granger. “There was an episode of Bill Maher where he had Ben Shapiro on that was really cool, because as different as their perspectives were, they were very civil with each other. You could imagine that these guys could break bread together and have a good time. I think that a lot of us are longing for that, and I think there's an opportunity in it.”

America’s success over nearly 250 years is in some respects the result of branding campaigns and messaging that defined our values. The corporations in the 21st century that reject political division and sell us on “e pluribus unum” don’t just stand to benefit themselves—they’re going to help us all prosper. 

Mark Hemingway is a writer in Alexandria, Va. You can follow him on twitter @heminator.

Published:2/21/2019 8:20:59 PM
[Energy] Obama EPA Regulations Blamed for Closure of 100-Year-Old Coal Plant

A coal-fired power plan that’s operated for more than 100 years is shutting down, and its owners say Obama-era regulations are to blame. Alabama Power’s... Read More

The post Obama EPA Regulations Blamed for Closure of 100-Year-Old Coal Plant appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:2/21/2019 12:18:12 PM
[Politics] Obama, Holder Groups Merge for Redistricting Effort Former President Barack Obama’s political organization will merge with Eric Holder’s National Redistricting Action Fund, The Hill is reporting. Published:2/21/2019 11:47:35 AM
[Politics] Obama Presidential Center Won't Have Library Former President Barack Obama’s official presidential center will include a museum, an event space, a recording studio, and an athletic center, but no research library, The New York Times reports. Published:2/21/2019 10:46:43 AM
[Markets] Is Venezuela On The Verge Of Becoming Another Syria?

Submitted by Brandon Smith from AltMarket

Establishment elites have always had a predilection for regime change. Obviously, this strategy helps weed out nation states that might be uncooperative with their future plans for a fully centralized global economic and political order. We have also seen regime change occur when former puppet leaders go rogue and refuse to follow the script they have been given. Most of these men have acted as dictators and are not very empathetic public figures, so we rarely care when they get overthrown or murdered. That said, there are always wider implications to such events.

I believe the reasons for regime change and the destabilization of particular countries have evolved in recent years. In the past it was about bringing each countries under the new world order umbrella. Today, the goal seems to be an attempt to create points of global contention. That is to say, the elites want to draw much of the world into various forms of conflict, and they are using special regions of the globe as nexus points for these conflicts.

Syria was and still is one of those nexus points. The transmutation of Syria began as an extension of the Arab Spring. Western funded and organized coups in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt inspired even more extremism as well as a vast flow of black market military grade armaments. The CIA under the Obama Administration in particular took advantage of this chaos to fill training camps in Jordan with “moderate rebels”, the same rebels that would go on to launch ISIS and start a civil war in Syria.

While the billion dollar program to arm and supply Syrian rebel groups, many of which were closely tied to ISIS, was finally “officially ended” under the Trump administration in 2017, more covert US support continued for these groups as well support for Israeli incursions into sovereign Syrian air space.

Syria has had the potential to draw multiple nations into close and hostile proximity with each other, including the US, Russia, Israel and Iran. This was not a mistake, it was entirely deliberate.

I warned of the potential exploitation of Syria as a global point of contention for years before the actual insurgency took place because of the unique military alliances in the region. The only reason Syria has not yet been exploited to its full potential is because of the effective exposure of the conspiracy by the alternative media. The establishment push to use American troops to help ISIS extremists overthrow Bashar al-Assad presidency was thwarted. The mainstream media originally portrayed ISIS groups as courageous clean cut rebels fighting for freedom. This ended after the alternative media flooded the web with evidence of rebel led genocide and atrocities.

Had the American public and American troops been tricked into even deeper involvement in Syria as well as helping ISIS overthrow Assad, this could have potentially pushed us into direct confrontation with either Russia or Iran or both. We would be seen as the villains, supporting monsters as they commit war crimes in the name of an ideology many Americans despise.

Those unfamiliar with the concept of the False East/West Paradigm will probably be at a loss as to why the establishment would WANT to deliberately undermine America's geopolitical or economic position. Once they understand that both China and Russia maintain close ties to the globalist framework, and that they represent false opposition to the “new world order”, the reality of the situation becomes more clear.

I recommend my article 'In The New “Multipolar World” The Globalists Still Control All The Players' for facts and evidence on this dynamic. The engineered destabilization of the US and parts of Europe and the rise of the East is intended to cause the removal of the current economic model of sovereign nations and currencies led by the US dollar as the world reserve. This would leave quite a void in the global economic structure, a void which the elites plan to fill with a new centralized one world currency system.

This system, to be managed by the IMF, has been openly supported by both the Chinese and Russian governments. The delusion that the East is somehow opposed to the NWO melts away when we examine their long time alliances to the banking cabal, as well as the IMF programs the East now champions. But how do the elites plan to get the masses to go along with such a historic and painful shift in global economic architecture?

In my view, the confrontations in regions of confluence like Syria are intended to lead to World War; not in the form of a nuclear war, but in the form of a full spectrum economic war and smaller regional wars. There is another nation beyond Syria that I have also been warning about for many years as a potential nexus, or what the elites might call a “linchpin”. That region is Venezuela.

In my article 'How A Collapse In Venezuela Could Trigger Martial Law In the US', published in May of 2016, I outlined how the socialist structure of Venezuela in particular was so unstable that the slightest push could cause the entire country to topple. Venezuela did indeed crash economically to the point that martial law is the only mainstay holding the system together.

I have also warned that a collapse in Venezuela could spread into surrounding countries, already weakened by fiscal uncertainty and debt. Such a collapse in South America rather strangely matches the scenario described in Operation Garden Plot and Rex 84, a secret Pentagon plan exposed during the Iran/Contra affair which would use mass migrations from South or Central America as a rationale to enforce martial law measures within the United States.

In recent months, however, the Trump Administration has added a new dimension to the problem. Expanding sanctions against Venezuela are adding fire to the flames of economic collapse. With an even more aggressive stance against Nicolas Madruro including possible military action, the prospect of a direct US led coup is now on the table.

One would think that if the US government wanted a breakdown in Venezuela, all they would have to do is sit back and wait as the socialist nation imploded under it's own faulty economic policies. But apparently the country was not collapsing fast enough for the elites. My theory – the goal is to create another Syria, but this time much closer to US borders.

Venezuela has close ties to not only Russia, but also China. Venezuela's military ties to Russia are well known. Their military is supplied to this day by Russia, and Russia has been very vocal in their opposition to any US military involvement in the region.

Both China and Russia continue to support Nicolas Madruro as the president of Venezuela in the face of opposition from assembly leader Juan Guaido. The US and a number of European nations support Guaido. The question is, how far will a confrontation in Venezuela go?

US involvement in South and Central America does not paint a pretty picture. Reagan era coups in countries like El Salvador in the name of stopping communism created not only civil war, but also the installation of more violent dictators and regimes (look up the White Hand death squads in El Salvador for the ugly details). Not coincidentally, we also saw the use of death squads and extremists in the destabilization of Syria.

I find it interesting that extreme leftists like Ilhan Omar are suddenly interested in exposing the underhanded nature of such tactics. They remain decidedly quiet on the same kind of subversion in Syria, and aggressively push for a continued American presence there. My suspicion is that this might be an establishment attempt to gain conservative support for a US led coup in Venezuela. Whatever their leftist puppets attack, we are supposed to defend, right?

But in this case, the Trump Administration is just as insidious as the leftists in its activities, and support for such a coup would be an affront to true conservative principles.

It should be noted that the arming and training of insurgents in Syria started out undercover. At the time it was labeled “humanitarian aid”. In Venezuela, the US is once again offering “aid” to the people of Venezuela and the opposition party, backed by a US military aircraft. The establishment is not generally very creative in their tactics; they simply use the same methods over and over again because historically they succeed more than they fail.

If this dynamic happens again in Venezuela, I predict immediate and aggressive economic response from Russia and China, including yet another excuse for China to dump its US Treasury Bond holdings and dollar reserves, effectively killing the dollar's world reserve status. The US would be hit the hardest by this reset, and with the Trump Administration driven by globalist warmongers like John Bolton, there would be little sympathy from the rest of the world when the consequences land on our doorstep.

It should not be considered a coincidence that the situation with Venezuela is being accelerated at the same time as tensions between the US , China and Russia are hitting a crescendo. Add yet another regional conflict similar to Syria on top of the trade war, and the potential for a financial "World War III" is high. If allowed to play out uninterrupted, such an event provides even more cover for the “global reset” and the shift to a one world economic model.  Not only this, but a collapse epidemic in South America could lead to vast migrant caravans swarming to the southern US border far beyond what we have already seen.  As Operation Garden Plot outlines, this would inevitably be used as a rationale for martial law measures.

Published:2/21/2019 1:45:04 AM
[The Blog] Obama: If you’re confident about your sexuality, you don’t need eight women twerking around you

Wut.

The post Obama: If you’re confident about your sexuality, you don’t need eight women twerking around you appeared first on Hot Air.

Published:2/20/2019 9:44:49 PM
[Barack Obama] The local media’s sycophantic coverage of Obama is laughable

Even though Obama has been gone from the White House for more than two years, the media’s sycophantic love affair with him continues unabated. Barack Obama recently appeared in Oakland, California, to join with basketball star Steph Curry, at a My Brother’s Keeper event. For those who don’t know, My Brother’s Keeper is an organization […]

The post The local media’s sycophantic coverage of Obama is laughable appeared first on Bookworm Room.

Published:2/20/2019 6:44:15 PM
[7eb64458-1edb-58d7-8991-d50751616b6a] Barack Obama slams pop culture for foisting bad values on young men Former President Barack Obama slammed pop culture on Tuesday for foisting bad values on young men.  Published:2/20/2019 4:42:13 PM
[General] Barack Obama explains why he never needed eight women around him twerking

So Barack Obama is implying all those rappers surrounded by women in their videos are gay?

The post Barack Obama explains why he never needed eight women around him twerking appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:2/20/2019 3:45:30 PM
[2019 News] Under-performing: 9 San Francisco schools rank in bottom 5% statewide Under-performing: 9 San Francisco schools rank in bottom 5% statewide. Yeah, but they probably got straight A’s in reciting ‘Barack Hussein Obama, mmm, mmm, mmm. Published:2/20/2019 12:42:09 PM
[Entertainment] ‘You are #FakeNews’! Frank Luntz asks blue check writer to name a conservative ‘mad at Malia Obama’ (deflection ensues)

"No answer, eh?"

The post ‘You are #FakeNews’! Frank Luntz asks blue check writer to name a conservative ‘mad at Malia Obama’ (deflection ensues) appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:2/20/2019 12:10:43 PM
[Markets] "They Are Getting Overwhelmed": Leaked Photos Reveal Border Facility Overloaded With Migrants

Photos leaked to Breitbart's Brandon Darby and Ildefonso Ortiz reveal a massive overload at U.S. border facilities packed with migrants from Central America and other parts of the world. 

Breitbart exclusively obtained the photos that are reminiscent of the Obama-era border surge. The images depict a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing, detention, and transport facility at a U.S. port-of-entry in El Paso, Texas. According to the source of the images, the photos were taken on February 17, 2019. -Breitbart

The images came from an anonymous source "operating under the umbrella of CBP," who said "The medical staff at the facility can’t keep doing this. They are getting overwhelmed."

Another CBP source told Breitbart "This is no different than what we were dealing with during the Obama Administration. This is happening in the Rio Grande Valley Sector, the Del Rio Sector, the El Paso Sector, the Tucson Sector, the Yuma Sector, and the San Diego Sector. It’s almost across the entire Southwest border that we are being overwhelmed by migrant families."

"We are basically facilitating Mexican cartels’ migrant smuggling operations into the interior of America. We are babysitting and not securing our border. The flow shows no signs of abating and it keeps increasing."

Published:2/20/2019 12:10:41 PM
[Politics] Poll: Michelle Obama Ties Biden as Top Dem 2020 Choice Former first lady Michelle Obama is tied with former Vice President Joe Biden as the favorite among Democrats for the party's presidential nomination, a Hill-HarrisX poll reveals. Obama has said she will not run for president and Biden has not announced... Published:2/20/2019 7:10:42 AM
[Markets] Lawsuit To Halt $500 Million Obama Library May Proceed, Judge Rules

A federal judge in Chicago ruled on Tuesday that a lawsuit aimed at scuttling President Obama's $500 million library may proceed, according to the Associated Press

Dubbed an "ugly waste of taxpayer resources" by angry Chicagoans, the presidential center slated for construction in a park beside Lake Michigan may be in jeopardy after Judge John Robert Blakey denied the city's motion to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Protect Our Parks. 

Supporters of the project had hoped the court would grant a city motion to throw out the lawsuit by Protect Our Parks, some fearing any drawn out litigation might lead Obama to decide to build the Obama Presidential Center somewhere other than his hometown.

...

Blakey’s ruling doesn’t mean the group will necessarily prevail in the end, but confirms that the suit poses a formidable threat to the project. The judge indicated that he doesn’t want the litigation to drag out, and that he would strictly limit any fact gathering leading up to trial to 45 days. -Associated Press

While originally slated to open in 2021, ground has yet to be broken on the project due to the ongoing litigation in which Protect our Parks accused the city of illegally transferring park land to The Obama Foundation, a private entity. The group claims this was effectively "gifting" prized public land to a longstanding crony of Chicago politicians.  

"Defendants have chosen to deal with it in a classic Chicago political way ... to deceive and seemingly legitimize an illegal land grab," reads the lawsuit. 

The Chicago City Council approved the project in a 47-to-1 vote last May, with the Chicago Park District selling the land to the city for $1 before it was "gifted" to the Obama foundation. Moreover, Illinois legislators made an exception to the state's no-development rules by amending the Illinois Aquarium and Museum Act to include a "compelling public interest" provision. 

The Obama Foundation, a private nonprofit, would pay $10 to the city for use of the park land for 99 years, cover the costs of building the complex and be responsible for covering operating costs for 99 years. Once built, the Obama Presidential Center’s physical structures would be transferred to the city for free, meaning the city would formally own the center but not control what happens there. -Associated Press

"They are essentially giving (property) to Obama ... for 10 cents a year for 99 years," says Mark Roth a parks advocacy lawyer. 

Filing a "friend-of-the-court" brief, legal scholar Richard Epstein argued that authorities must meet an additional burden of proving an overwhelming public benefit in their decision to offer the use of public parks to "well-connected figures such as Obama," writes AP - noting that the city's Mayor Rahm Emanuel once served as Obama's White House chief of staff. 

That said, the Obama library scored a win, after Judge Blakey tossed out a complaint that taxpayers' First Amendment rights would be infringed because taxpayer money would be used for the reconfiguration of roads and traffic - and that public funds should not be used to subsidize any potential partisan political activity by Obama at the center. 

City lawyers conceded Thursday that Chicago would pay an estimated $175 million to reconfigure roads to manage traffic around the center.

The lawsuit also claims that the center would interfere with migrating butterflies and birds.

City lawyers said Protect Our Parks misread the law, misrepresented how the approval process played out and exaggerated potential environmental disruptions.

The center would comprise 20 acres (8 hectares) of the 500-acre (202-hectare) park. Its centerpiece would be a 225-foot (69-meter) museum tower, surrounded by a cluster of smaller buildings, including a 300-seat auditorium. -Associated Press

According to lawyers for the city, the center would create 5,000 jobs during construction and more than 2,500 permanent positions, with an estimated 760,000 people visiting each year. 

Published:2/19/2019 9:07:26 PM
[US News] Trump Will Officially End Negotiations With California On Fuel Economy Rollbacks

By Michael Bastasch -

The Trump administration will announce it’s ending fuel economy negotiations with California. EPA and DOT officials tried to hash out a compromise with California, but talks broke down. Federal officials will move ahead with plans to roll back Obama-era climate regulations on cars. The Trump administration will soon announce the ...

Trump Will Officially End Negotiations With California On Fuel Economy Rollbacks is original content from Conservative Daily News - Where Americans go for news, current events and commentary they can trust - Conservative News Website for U.S. News, Political Cartoons and more.

Published:2/19/2019 8:38:10 PM
[Media] Enemy of the people! Obama bro Tommy Vietor doubts CNN’s objectivity after ‘absolutely insane’ hire

Obama bro Tommy Vietor is really cranky that CNN hired one person who might not be liberally biased.

The post Enemy of the people! Obama bro Tommy Vietor doubts CNN’s objectivity after ‘absolutely insane’ hire appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:2/19/2019 5:07:19 PM
[The Blog] Were conservatives really ‘frothing at the mouth’ over that Malia Obama story? (a continuing series)

The Phantom Menace

The post Were conservatives really ‘frothing at the mouth’ over that Malia Obama story? (a continuing series) appeared first on Hot Air.

Published:2/19/2019 4:07:34 PM
[Media] ‘Name those hating on her’: Of course Ana Navarro weighs in on the Malia Obama ‘outrage’

Ana Navarro says shame on all her fellow conservatives who are hating on Malia Obama.

The post ‘Name those hating on her’: Of course Ana Navarro weighs in on the Malia Obama ‘outrage’ appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:2/19/2019 3:35:39 PM
[World] [Jonathan H. Adler] Let the WOTUS Wars Commence

The EPA and Supreme Court set the stage for important legal decisions on the scope of the Clean Water Act.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) published its proposed rule to redefine the meaning of "waters of the United States" (WOTUS) under the Clean Water Act in the Federal Register.

The WOTUS rule is important because it determines the scope of the federal government's regulatory jurisdiction over waters and wetlands under the CWA. The new definition was initially proposed in December, but was not published until now. There is always some delay between the release of a proposal and its publication, but this delay was longer than usual, likely due to a combination of factors, including the holidays and government shutdown.

With publication of the proposed rule, the 60-day comment period has begun. Expect there to be lots of comments, as many environmentalist organizations object to the proposed definition, while many industries and land rights groups support the effort. Both sides will be seeking to seed the comments with arguments for and against revising the WOTUS definition in anticipation of eventual litigation over the final rule. The comment period ends on April 15.

While the Trump Administration's WOTUS rewrite won't reach the courts for awhile, other WOTUS-related litigation continues, including legal challenges to the Obama Administation's WOTUS rule and the Trump Administration's attempt to suspend the Obama WOTUS rule pending the rewrite. Both the Obama definition and the Trump suspension have faced some trouble in court, and litigation is ongoing.

This morning, another front in the WOTUS wars opened as the Supreme Court accepted a petition for certiorari in County of Maui v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, which presents the question whether the CWA requires a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a nonpoint source, such as groundwater. The Maui case is one of several cases raising the broader issue of whether the CWA may reach pollution that travels through groundwater - effectively treating the groundwater as a "conduit" for covered point-source pollution. (Another, still pending at the Court, is Kinder Morgan Energy Partners v. Upstate Forever.)

Maui will have important implications for the scope of federal regulatory authority as well. Indeed, how the Supreme Court resolves the Maui case may preview how the justices will approach the eventual litigation over WOTUS. But we'll have to wait a little for that, as the Court will not hear arguments in this case until the fall.

Published:2/19/2019 12:05:42 PM
[Markets] Roger Stone Hauled Into Court To Explain 'Death Threat' Against Judge

Roger Stone has been ordered to appear in a D.C. courtroom on Thursday to explain an Instagram photo of the judge overseeing his case next to what appear to be crosshairs - in what many interpreted as a veiled threat.

The photo of Jackson is accompanied by a caption which reads: "Through legal trickery Deep State hitman Robert Mueller has guaranteed that my upcoming show trial is before Judge Amy Berman Jackson , an Obama appointed Judge who dismissed the Benghazi charges again [sic] Hillary Clinton and incarcerated Paul Manafort prior to his conviction for any crime." 

Jackson dismissed legal action against Clinton by the parents of two of the four Americans killed in the 2012 Benghazi attack, as well as a related claim that Clinton had defamed the parents by lying about them in the press. 

Stone, who was arrested in a January pre-dawn raid at his Florida home in connection with Robert Mueller's Russia probe, is at risk of losing his bail just days after U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued a gag order preventing Stone from saying anything that might bias potential jurors. He was charged with lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstructing the Russia investigation. 

The longtime Trump adviser issued an apology for the post, writing "Please inform the court that the photograph and comment today was improper and should not have been posted."

Stone also posted on Instagram: "A photo of Judge Jackson posted on my Instagram has been misinterpreted," adding "This was a random photo taken from the internet. Any inference that this was meant to somehow threaten the judge or disrespect court is categorically false."

He will have to explain on Thursday how his post did not violate his gag order. 

Published:2/19/2019 10:34:46 AM
[Media] The Media Ignored the 12 ‘National Emergencies’ Obama Declared

Despite what the media may be telling you, presidents have been declaring "national emergencies" to shift spending to a needed area for decades.

The post The Media Ignored the 12 ‘National Emergencies’ Obama Declared appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:2/19/2019 8:08:32 AM
[Media] The Media Ignored the 12 ‘National Emergencies’ Obama Declared

Despite what the media may be telling you, presidents have been declaring "national emergencies" to shift spending to a needed area for decades.

The post The Media Ignored the 12 ‘National Emergencies’ Obama Declared appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:2/19/2019 8:08:32 AM
[Markets] An Obituary For California's Bullet Train

California's ill-fated statewide bullet train project - which has been reduced to a "train to nowhere" between Merced and Bakersfield so the state doesn't have to return $3.5 billion in federal funds - took residents of the Golden State on a ride for over a decade.

While initially projected to cost $33.6 billion in 2008, former Gov. Jerry Brown's "special legacy project" ballooned in estimated size to nearly $100 billion in 2018, with service beginning from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 2033. 

Opining on the demise of the bullet train in an "I told ya so" Op-Ed, the WSJ editorial board provides a post-mortem on yet another failed attempt towards a progressive utopia using taxpayer dollars.

***

Via the Wall Street Journal Editorial Board

Death of a California Dream
Gavin Newsom gives up on Jerry Brown’s bullet-train fiasco.

Like Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War, California Gov. Gavin Newsom inherited a quagmire in the state’s bullet train with no good options. Rather than attempt a full-out retreat, the Governor announced Tuesday that he would cut taxpayer losses by completing a segment in the sparsely populated San Joaquin Valley. But please don’t call it a train to nowhere.

A decade ago California voters approved a $10 billion bond measure to build a 520-mile high-speed train that would supposedly take riders from San Francisco to Los Angeles in two hours and 40 minutes. The choo-choo’s supporters vowed that the federal government and private investors would foot most of the estimated $33 billion bill, and the referendum explicitly stated there would be no subsidy. President Trump’s promise to make Mexico pay for a border wall was more believable.

The Obama Administration chipped in $3.5 billion on the condition the first 160-mile segment be built in the San Joaquin Valley district of Democratic Rep. Jim Costa, a longtime bullet-train supporter who provided a critical vote for ObamaCare. Former Gov. Jerry Brown made the train his special legacy project, his contribution at taxpayer expense to the illusion of stopping climate change. His people sent letter after letter claiming that our editorials were mistaken.

Our criticisms have now been validated by none other than Mr. Newsom. Cost projections for the train have soared to around $80 billion amid litigation, engineering challenges and ordinary government morass. Private investors have run the other way. The state rail authority has spent more than $5 billion acquiring and destroying hundreds of properties but not yet laid tracks. Taxpayers have lost patience, and Mr. Newsom stated the obvious on Tuesday that “there simply isn’t a path to get from Sacramento to San Diego, let alone from San Francisco to LA.”

The new Governor is thus proposing to finish the initial planned route from Merced to Bakersfield, now with the stated goal of revitalizing rural areas that have been parched due to water rationing. Lo, high-speed rail is “about economic transformation and unlocking the enormous potential of the Valley,” which is “hungry for investment” and “good jobs.” Mr. Newsom in his speech also pared back a project championed by Mr. Brown to deliver more water to farmers.

Liberals envision that the bullet train will someday turn Fresno and Merced into Silicon Valley suburbs and ease the Bay Area’s housing shortage. But this too is a dream. As economic consultants William Grindley and Bill Warren document in a recent study, a worker who lives in Fresno would spend 10 hours and 20 minutes each day commuting to San Jose at a cost of $154 round trip—assuming no subsidies.

California’s bullet train provides a miniature model of the Green New Deal. Alas, the main reason liberals like Mr. Newsom are likely turning against it is they are eager to redirect taxpayer money to entitlements and other green largesse.

Published:2/19/2019 7:02:26 AM
[Markets] Warsaw And Munich: Whistling Past NATO's Graveyard

Authored by Tom Luongo,

If the Anti-Iran conference in Warsaw was the opening act, the annual Munich Security Conference was the main event. Both produced a lot of speeches, grandstanding and virtue-signaling, as well as a lot of shuffling of feet and looking at the ground.

The message from the U.S., Israel and Saudi Arabia was clear, “We are still committed to the destruction of Syria as a functional state to end the growing influence of Iran.”

Europe, for the most part, doesn’t buy that argument anymore. Germany certainly doesn’t. France is only interested in how they can curry favor with the U.S. to wrest control of the EU from Germany. The U.K. is a hopeless has-been, living on Deep State inertia and money laundered through City of London.

The Poles just want to stick it to the Russians.

Everyone else has a bad case of, “been there, done that, ain’t doin’ it again.”

They know supporting the fiction that the War in Syria was a war against the evil President Bashar al-Assad is counter-productive.

The geopolitical landscape is changing quickly. And these countries, like Hungary, Italy, and the Czech Republic, know that the current policy trajectory of the Trump administration vis a vis Russia, Iran and China is a suicide pact for them.

So they show up when called, receive our ‘diplomats’ and then pretty much ignore everything they said. This is what happened, ultimately, in Munich.

Even the EU leadership has no illusions about the goals of the U.S./Israeli/Saudi policy on Syria. And that’s why they refused to shut Russia and Iran out of the Munich Security Conference despite the hyperventilating of Pompeo’s amateur-hour State Dept.

The Syria Hangover

These countries are struggling with the after-effects of eight years of war displacing millions who Angela Merkel invited into Europe for her own political purposes.

The resultant chaos now threatens every major political power center in Europe, which could culminate in a Euroskeptic win at the European Parliamentary elections in May.

Continuing on this road will only lead to Russia, Iran, Turkey and China forming a bloc with India to challenge the economic and political might of the West over the next two decades.

So it was no surprise to see Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu glad-handing looking for support to beam back home for his re-election campaign.

It was also no surprise to see NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg grovel at the feet of the U.S. over the shared mission because he knows that’s where the gravy flows from.

But there was no statement of purpose coming out of Munich after two days of talks. Warsaw already set the stage for that. Vice-President Mike Pence fell completely flat as the substitute Trump. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo looked sad and confused as to why no one applauded him for his cheap and empty rhetoric about how evil Iran is.

The Syria operation was put together by the U.S., Israel, Saudi Arabia and Qatar with the expressed purpose of creating a failed state of ungoverned fiefdoms. Syria was to be carved up piecemeal with a great land grab for all major partners getting a piece.

Israel gets a buffer zone east of the Golan Heights, Turkey gets Idlib, Afrin and Aleppo. The Kurds get everything east of the Euphrates. And Europe gets pipelines from the Arabian peninsula.

Meanwhile Iran loses Syria and Lebanon, Russia gets pushed out of the European gas market (along with the putsch in Ukraine) and the center of the country is a hot mess of terrorism which can be exported all around the region and further directed against Russia and Iran.

It all looked so good on paper.

But, as I’ve described multiple times, it was an operation built on perception and the false premise that no one would stand up to it.

In came Russia in October 2015 and the rest, unfortunately for the neocons, is just a chase scene.

Sanctions Cut Both Ways

Because for Europe, once it became clear what the costs would be to continue this project, there was little to no incentive to do so. That’s why they sued for peace with Iran by negotiating the JCPOA.

For every MAGApede and Fox News neocon who excoriates Obama for giving Iran $150 billion dollars (of their own money back which we stole) I remind you that it was Obama in 2012 that signed the sanctions which froze that money in the first place.

The JCPOA was signed because in 2014 the Syria operation looked like it was on auto-pilot to success. Iran could have their money back because it wouldn’t matter. They would be vassals and the money wouldn’t buy them anything of substance.

It was Russia and China’s making the move into Syria that changed that calculus.

That’s why the only ones who keep pushing for this balkanization strategy are the ones who still stand to gain from it. The U.S., Saudi Arabia and Israel. It was clear in Munich that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was the man everyone wanted to talk to.

Everyone has cut bait. Even the Saudis are hedging their best cozying up to Vladimir Putin.

The U.S. still needs to project power globally to support the dollar and its obscene fiscal debauchery. Israel is staring at a future in which its myriad enemies have won and the Saudis need to rule the Sunni Arab world by leading them in a war against Iran.

The Warsaw Summit was a triumph only insofar as the U.S. can still call its allies to attention and they’ll do so. But that’s about it. But it was clear at Munich that Europe isn’t buying what the U.S. is selling about its relationship anymore.

It’s an not only an abusive one with Trump applying maximal economic pressure but also a wholly unrealistic one. Foreign policy midgets like Pompeo and Pence were literally pleading with everyone to not undermine their latest plan to make the world safe for Israel and Trump’s moronic Energy Dominance plan.

Whistling in Munich

In the end, the whole Munich affair looked like a bunch of people gathering to whistle past the graveyard of the fraying post-WWII institutional order. Trump wants Europe to pay for NATO so we don’t but Europe doesn’t want NATO on Trump’s terms which put them in the cross-hairs of his power play with Russia and China over the INF treaty.

Putin has built a version of fortress Russia that is for all practical purposes impregnable, short-of an all-out nuclear conflict which no one except maybe the most ideologically possessed in D.C. and Tel Aviv wants.

The naysayers have had their day but the weapons unveiled by Putin at last March’s State of the Union address changed the board state in a way that requires different tactics. I said so last March and it identified a shift narrative for all of us as to what Putin’s long-game was.

These new weapons represent a state change in weapons technology but, at the same time, are cheap deterrents to further escalation.  They fit within Russia’s budget, again limited by demographic and, as I pointed out in a recent article, domestic realities...

...[They highlight] we’re not winning in technology.  So, all we can do is employ meat-grinder policies and force Russia and her allies to spend money countering the money we spend.

It’s a game that hollows everyone out.  And it’s easier for Putin to sell the defensive nature of his position to Russians than it is to sell our backing Al-Qaeda and ISIS to defeat them.  Because that reality has broken through the barrier to it.

And that’s why Europe is so unwilling to go along with Trump on the INF Treaty, Iranian regime change and even his Arab NATO plan. They are the ones being asked to be on the front lines, pay for and fight a war against their best interests.

And that’s why no one was willing to join the latest ‘coalition of the willing’ in Munich to perpetuate the conflict in Asia. They’ll go along with Trump’s plans in Venezuela, it doesn’t cost them anything strategically.

But even Merkel knows that in light of the events of the past three and a half years, the right move for Europe is to cut a deal with Russia and Iran while keeping their head down as the U.S. loses its mind.

*  *  *

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Published:2/19/2019 1:05:04 AM
[Media] The Memos Went Out! Eerily Identical tweets cover the very hysterical and deeply nonexistent conservative Malia Obama wine freakouts

Now hey, that Jussie Smollett fiasco is starting to really look bad for a number of leftist politicians and numerous professional journalists. We need a good old fashioned manufacturedd freakout to distract everyone away from the culpability! There are times when some may suggest a Journo-list-type marching order gets sent out in the left-wing stratophere […]

The post The Memos Went Out! Eerily Identical tweets cover the very hysterical and deeply nonexistent conservative Malia Obama wine freakouts appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:2/18/2019 10:24:28 PM
[Markets] GE, Boeing, T-Mobile Among Latest Victims Of Chinese IP Theft

As US and Chinese negotiators prepare to begin their seventh round of trade talks this week, more reports are being leaked to the media about China's efforts to steal trade secrets from US companies via "Operation Cloudhopper", the Ministry of State Security-backed infiltration campaign that used service providers in the US and Europe to infiltrate the systems of their clients.

According to a report in the New York Times that detailed how China and Iran have ramped up their hacking efforts since 2015, when the now-abandoned Iran deal was initially struck, and China promised the Obama administration that it would pull back on its cyberespionage efforts. After an 18-month lull, China's 10-year-long commercially motivated campaign was revitalized in the midst of growing trade tensions between the US and China (tensions that predated Trump's trade war).

China

Among the latest targets of China's hacks, according to the NYT's military and private sources, were GE Aviation, Boeing and T-Mobile.

A summary of an intelligence briefing read to The New York Times said that Boeing, General Electric Aviation and T-Mobile were among the recent targets of Chinese industrial-espionage efforts. The companies all declined to discuss the threats, and it is not clear if any of the hacks were successful.

Offering some background on China's hacking strategy in recent years, sources described how China has managed to carry out more sophisticated attacks that have been increasingly difficult to detect.

But the 2015 agreement appears to have been unofficially canceled amid the continuing trade tension between the United States and China, the intelligence officials and private security researchers said. Chinese hacks have returned to earlier levels, although they are now stealthier and more sophisticated.

"Cyber is one of the ways adversaries can attack us and retaliate in effective and nasty ways that are well below the threshold of an armed attack or laws of war," said Joel Brenner, a former leader of United States counterintelligence under the director of national intelligence.

Federal agencies and private companies are back to where they were five years ago: battling increasingly sophisticated, government-affiliated hackers from China and Iran - in addition to fighting constant efforts out of Russia - who hope to steal trade and military secrets and sow mayhem. And it appears the hackers substantially improved their skills during the lull.

[...]

Mr. Segal and other Chinese security experts said attacks that once would have been conducted by hackers in China’s People’s Liberation Army are now being run by China’s Ministry of State Security.

These hackers are better at covering their tracks. Rather than going at targets directly, they have used a side door of sorts by breaking into the networks of the targets’ suppliers. They have also avoided using malware commonly attributed to China, relying instead on encrypting traffic, erasing server logs and other obfuscation tactics.

[...]

"The fingerprint of Chinese operations today is much different," said Priscilla Moriuchi, who once ran the National Security Agency’s East Asia and Pacific cyber threats division. Her duties there included determining whether Beijing was abiding by the 2015 agreement’s terms. "These groups care about attribution. They don’t want to get caught."

One of Beijing's primary motivations in carrying out these attacks has been to bolster its latest five-year economic plan to make China a leader in AI and other cutting edge technology.

But Chinese hackers have resumed carrying out commercially motivated attacks, security researchers and data-protection lawyers said. A priority for the hackers, researchers said, is supporting Beijing’s five-year economic plan, which is meant to make China a leader in artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies.

"Some of the recent intelligence collection has been for military purposes or preparing for some future cyber conflict, but a lot of the recent theft is driven by the demands of the five-year plan and other technology strategies," said Adam Segal, the director of the cyberspace program at the Council on Foreign Relations. "They always intended on coming back."

This is only the latest in a string of leaks about China's espionage efforts since 2015. But the constant stream of evidence being leaked to the press, all of which seems to corroborate Robert Lighthizer's claims that China's cyberespionage efforts have continued unabated since the trade war began, are happening at an interesting time. Which would seem to raise serious questions about the US's ability to strike a sweeping trade compromise without President Trump looking like he has caved to the Chinese.

Published:2/18/2019 9:31:32 PM
[Science, Technology, and Social Media] It’s Been More Than A Year Since Net Neutrality Was Killed, But Dems Are Still Working On Its Revival |

By Chris White -

Net neutrality was repealed slightly more than a year ago, yet Democrats are still teeing off on the Obama-era rule  More than a year after its repeal, net neutrality could come back again as House Democrats try to revive the long dead rule  Democrats stack first hearing on net neutrality ...

It’s Been More Than A Year Since Net Neutrality Was Killed, But Dems Are Still Working On Its Revival | is original content from Conservative Daily News - Where Americans go for news, current events and commentary they can trust - Conservative News Website for U.S. News, Political Cartoons and more.

Published:2/18/2019 8:32:01 PM
[Media] Here are some tweets for tomorrow when they claim ‘conservatives pounced’ on Malia Obama

Conservatives aren't pouncing on Malia Obama, despite what tomorrow's headlines will say.

The post Here are some tweets for tomorrow when they claim ‘conservatives pounced’ on Malia Obama appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:2/18/2019 7:32:07 PM
[Presidential Election of 2020] Obama Quietly Gives Advice to 2020 Democrats, but No Endorsement Former President Barack Obama has been counseling Democratic candidates on how to win the White House in 2020. But he has no plans to pick a favorite. Published:2/18/2019 11:34:14 AM
[Politics] 40% Say U.S. Heading in Right Direction

Forty percent (40%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey for the week ending February 14.

This week’s finding remains the same for the second week in a row.  Prior to this, that number had been on the decline week-over-week from 43% in early December.  It ran in the mid- to upper 20s for much of 2016, President Obama's last full year in office.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The national telephone survey of 2,500 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports from February 3-7, 2019. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Published:2/18/2019 11:00:47 AM
[Politics] Obama Aides Hold Secret Meeting, 2020 Auditions Former President Barack Obama’s financial backers earlier this month secretly interviewed numerous 2020 presidential candidates to determine which one or two of them they should support monetarily, The New York Times reported on Monday. Published:2/18/2019 8:37:07 AM
[Markets] Do You Believe In The Deep State Now?

Authored by Robert Merry via The American Conservative blog,

The revelation that top Justice officials considered unseating Trump should answer that question for good...

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

That’s a natural reaction to the revelation of Andrew G. McCabe, the former deputy FBI director, that top Justice Department officials, alarmed by Donald Trump’s firing of former Bureau director James Comey, explored a plan to invoke the 25th Amendment and kick the duly elected president out of office.

According to New York Times reporters Adam Goldman and Matthew Haag, McCabe made the statement in an NBC 60 Minutes interview to be aired on Sunday. He also reportedly said that McCabe wanted the so-called Russia collusion investigation to go after Trump for obstructing justice in firing Comey and for any instances they could turn up of his working in behalf of Russia.  

The idea of invoking the 25th Amendment was discussed, it seems, at two meetings on May 16, 2017. According to McCabe, top law enforcement officials pondered how they might recruit Vice President Pence and a majority of cabinet members to declare in writing, to the Senate’s president pro tempore and the House speaker, that the president was “unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.” That would be enough, under the 25th Amendment, to install the vice president as acting president, pushing aside Trump.

But to understand what kind of constitutional crisis this would unleash and the precedent it would set, it’s necessary to ponder the rest of this section of the 25th Amendment. The text prescribes that, if the president, after being removed, transmits to the same congressional figures that he is indeed capable of discharging his duties, he shall once again be president after four days. But if the vice president and the cabinet majority reiterate their declaration within those four days that the guy can’t govern, Congress is charged with deciding the issue. It then takes a two-thirds vote of both houses to keep the president removed, which would have to be done within 21 days, during which time the elected president would be sidelined and the vice president would govern. If Congress can’t muster the two-thirds majority within the prescribed time period, the president “shall resume the powers and duties of his office.”

It’s almost impossible to contemplate the political conflagration that would ensue under this plan. Citizens would watch those in Washington struggle with the monumental question of the fate of their elected leader under an initiative that had never before been invoked, or even considered, in such circumstances. Debates would flare up over whether this comported with the original intent of the amendment; whether it was crafted to deal with physical or mental “incapacitation,” as opposed to controversial actions or unsubstantiated allegations or even erratic decision making; whether such an action, if established as precedent, would destabilize the American republic for all time; and whether unelected bureaucrats should arrogate to themselves the power to set in motion the downfall of a president, circumventing the impeachment language of the Constitution.

For the past two years, the country has been struggling to understand the two competing narratives of the criminal investigation of the president.

One narrative—let’s call it Narrative A—has it that honorable and dedicated federal law enforcement officials developed concerns over a tainted election in which nefarious Russian agents had sought to tilt the balloting towards the candidate who wanted to improve U.S.-Russian relations and who seemed generally unseemly. Thus did the notion emerge, quite understandably, that Trump had “colluded” with Russian officials to cadge a victory that otherwise would have gone to his opponent. This narrative is supported and protected by Democratic figures and organizations, by adherents of the “Russia as Threat” preoccupation, and by anti-Trumpers everywhere, particularly news outlets such as CNN, The Washington Post, and The New York Times

The other view—Narrative B—posits that certain bureaucratic mandarins of the national security state and the outgoing Obama administration resolved early on to thwart Trump’s candidacy. After his election, they determined to undermine his political standing, and particularly his proposed policy toward Russia, through a relentless and expansive investigation characterized by initial misrepresentations, selective media leaks, brutal law enforcement tactics, and a barrage of innuendo. This is the narrative of most Trump supporters, conservative commentators, Fox News, and The Wall Street Journal editorial page, notably columnist Kimberley Strassel.  

The McCabe revelation won’t affect the battle of the two narratives. As ominous and outrageous as this “deep state” behavior may seem to those who embrace Narrative B, it will be seen by Narrative A adherents as evidence that those law enforcement officials were out there heroically on the front lines protecting the republic from Donald J. Trump.

And those Narrative A folks won’t have any difficulty tossing aside the fact that McCabe was fired as deputy FBI director for violating agency policy in leaking unauthorized information to the news media. He then allegedly violated the law in lying about it to federal investigators on four occasions, including three times while under oath.

Indeed, Narrative A people have no difficulty at all brushing aside serious questions posed by Narrative B people. McCabe is a likely liar and perjurer? Doesn’t matter. Peter Strzok, head of the FBI’s counterespionage section, demonstrated his anti-Trump animus in tweets and emails to Justice official Lisa Page? Irrelevant. Christopher Steele’s dossier of dirt on Trump, including an allegation that the Russians were seeking to blackmail and bribe him, was compiled by a man who had demonstrated to a Justice Department official that he was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and…passionate about him not being president”? Not important. The dossier was paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party? Immaterial. Nothing in the dossier was ever substantiated? So what?

Now we have a report from a participant of those meetings that top officials of the country’s premier law enforcement entity sat around and pondered how to bring down a sitting president they didn’t like. The Times even says that McCabe “confirmed” an earlier report that deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein suggested wearing a wire in meetings with Trump to incriminate him and make him more vulnerable to the plot.

There is no suggestion in McCabe’s interview pronouncements or in the words of Scott Pelley, who conducted the interview and spoke to CBS This Morning about it, that these federal officials ever took action to further the aim of unseating the president. There doesn’t seem to be any evidence that they approached cabinet members or the vice president about it. “They…were speculating, ‘This person would be with us, this person would not be,’ and they were counting noses in that effort,” said Pelley. He added, apparently in response to Rosenstein’s insistence that his comments about wearing a wire were meant as a joke, “This was not perceived to be a joke.”

What are we to make of this? Around the time of the meetings to discuss the 25th Amendment plot, senior FBI officials also discussed initiating a national security investigation of the president as a stooge of the Russians or perhaps even a Russian agent. These talks were revealed by The New York Times and CNN in January, based on closed-door congressional testimony by former FBI general counsel James Baker. You don’t have to read very carefully to see that the reporters on these stories brought to them a Narrative A sensibility. The Times headline: “F.B.I. Opened Inquiry into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia.” CNN’s: “Transcripts detail how FBI debated whether Trump was ‘following directions’ of Russia.” And of course, whoever leaked those hearing transcripts almost surely did so to bolster the Narrative A version of events.

The independent journalist Gareth Porter, writing at Consortium News, offers a penetrating exposition of the inconsistencies, fallacies, and fatuities of the Narrative A matrix, as reflected in how the Times and CNN handled the stories that resulted from what were clearly self-interested leaks.

Porter notes that a particularly sinister expression in May 2017 by former CIA director John O. Brennan, a leading Trump antagonist, has precipitated echoes in the news media ever since, particularly in the Times. Asked in a committee hearing if he had intelligence indicating that anyone in the Trump campaign was “colluding with Moscow,” Brennan dodged the question. He said his experience had taught him that “the Russians try to suborn individuals, and they try to get them to act on their behalf either wittingly or unwittingly.”

Of course you can’t collude with anybody unwittingly. But Brennan’s fancy expression has the effect of expanding what can be thrown at political adversaries, to include not just conscious and nefarious collaboration but also policy advocacy that could be viewed as wrongheaded or injurious to U.S. interests. As Porter puts it, “The real purpose…is to confer on national security officials and their media allies the power to cast suspicion on individuals on the basis of undesirable policy views of Russia rather than on any evidence of actual collaboration with the Russian government.”

That seems to be what’s going on here. There’s no doubt that McCabe and Rosenstein and Strzok and Brennan and Page and many others despised Trump and his resolve to thaw relations with Russia. They viewed him as a president “who needed to be reined in,” as a CNN report described the sentiment among top FBI officials after the Comey firing.

So they expanded the definition of collusion to include “unwitting” collaboration in order to justify their machinations. It’s difficult to believe that people in such positions would take such a cavalier attitude toward the kind of damage they could wreak on the body politic.

Now we learn that they actually sat around and plotted how to distort the Constitution, just as they distorted the rules of official behavior designed to hold them in check, in order to destroy a presidential administration placed in power by the American people. It’s getting more and more difficult to dismiss Narrative B.

Published:2/18/2019 5:29:25 AM
[Podcasts] Podcast: Obama’s Border Patrol Chief Explains Why Walls Work

On today’s podcast, we’re featuring an exclusive interview with Mark Morgan, who was chief of the U.S. Border Patrol under President Barack Obama. Now Morgan... Read More

The post Podcast: Obama’s Border Patrol Chief Explains Why Walls Work appeared first on The Daily Signal.

Published:2/18/2019 2:27:25 AM
[Immigration] Obama’s Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan Says Trump Isn’t Making Up Emergency

Former Border Patrol chief Mark Morgan: Democrats’ battle against the border wall is driven by identity politics. President Trump declares a national emergency to build the wall; here’s the reaction from former Border Patrol chief Mark Morgan. The more the Democrats fights securing the border, the larger the price they will pay in 2020. Daily Caller: ...

The post Obama’s Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan Says Trump Isn’t Making Up Emergency appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:2/16/2019 7:19:25 PM
[Immigration] Obama’s Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan Says Trump Isn’t Making Up Emergency

Former Border Patrol chief Mark Morgan: Democrats’ battle against the border wall is driven by identity politics. President Trump declares a national emergency to build the wall; here’s the reaction from former Border Patrol chief Mark Morgan. The more the Democrats fights securing the border, the larger the price they will pay in 2020. Daily Caller: ...

The post Obama’s Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan Says Trump Isn’t Making Up Emergency appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:2/16/2019 7:19:25 PM
[US News] Apology tour: Joe Biden admits to gathering of European policy leaders that America is ‘an embarrassment’

Joe Biden's picking up where Barack Obama's international apology tour left off.

The post Apology tour: Joe Biden admits to gathering of European policy leaders that America is ‘an embarrassment’ appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:2/16/2019 5:18:51 PM
[Corruption] Are Trump and Obama Eras Interchangeable?

By Joe Sixpack This will be the shortest commentary I ever made. I simply word-swapped every mention of ‘Trump’ with ‘Obama.’ Every other word is intact. Read for yourself to see if you think there might be a little bit of a double standard going on here and how a story like this one from ...

The post Are Trump and Obama Eras Interchangeable? appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:2/16/2019 3:22:55 PM
[Corruption] Are Trump and Obama Eras Interchangeable?

By Joe Sixpack This will be the shortest commentary I ever made. I simply word-swapped every mention of ‘Trump’ with ‘Obama.’ Every other word is intact. Read for yourself to see if you think there might be a little bit of a double standard going on here and how a story like this one from ...

The post Are Trump and Obama Eras Interchangeable? appeared first on Godfather Politics.

Published:2/16/2019 3:22:55 PM
[Markets] Lavrov Slams "NATO-Centric" Approach To Crises While Extending Hand To US On Nuclear Treaty

The annual Munich Security Conference, a Cold War era trans-Atlantic focused meeting to address severe military challenges, but which has over the years grown to include nations from around the world addressing pressing security issues, kicked off late this week on a pessimistic note. “The whole liberal world order appears to be falling apart,” Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, wrote in an essay introducing the conference. “We are experiencing an epochal shift; an era is ending, and the rough outlines of a new political age are only beginning to emerge.” And on Saturday German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned of a "disintegration of international political structures" while stressing the importance of NATO as "an anchor of stability on a stormy sea".

But concerning this "disintegration" the conference has already included a significant overture made by the Russian representative hoping to open the door to negotiations with the United States over the future of now shaky arms treaties between the two countries following the historic US withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) within the last month. In the tit-for-tat accusations and lashing out that followed at the beginning of February, Putin alarmingly accused Washington of also imperiling in the long term the landmark New START treaty, signed in 2010 and set to expire in 2021. It aims to reduce the total number of strategic nuclear missile launchers by half.

Munich Security Conference 2018, via MSC Media

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, according to TASS:

President Putin has repeatedly said that we are ready to launch the talks on extension of the New START. It only expires in 2021, though time flies fast, and we have suggested to the US that such discussions be launched, considering the necessity to clear up certain issues that we are worried about.

He explained that the Russian worries center on the US’ decision to denuclearize certain nuclear submarines and heavy bombardment aircraft. "The agreement stipulates that kind of denuclearization, though only using the means technically acknowledged as reliable by the other side of the agreement. However, no fairly meaningful consultations have been offered to us so far, though we continue our efforts," Lavrov added.

Set to expire in two years, it stipulates that Russian and US arsenals be restricted to no more than 1,550 deployed strategic warheads and less than 700 deployed strategic missiles and bombers. Russia has previously expressed desire to extend it to 2026, though at the start of Trump's taking the White House, he reportedly told Putin the New START was "one of several bad deals negotiated by the Obama administration" during their first official phone call. 

Indeed there's been no response from the American side to Lavrov's overture during his Saturday address to the Munich conference. Lavrov also lambasted the United States' attempts to modify the international Chemical Weapons Convention after it alongside Canada and the Netherlands put forward a proposal to include certain chemical substances connected with the Skripal affair in the Chemical Weapons Convention’s Annex, which Moscow sees as motivated by political humiliation. 

Lavrov said of the issue, "They are unwilling to let the international law remain as the Chemical Weapons Convention defines it. They want to use their own rules for interpreting that convention." Lavrov said the Trump administration has to yet agree to hold any “meaningful consultations” on New START or other weapons agreements, according to Bloomberg

US Vice President Mike Pence met with an icy reception during his speech to the conference on Saturday:

Other crucial comments of Lavrov included highlighting that Russia cannot be excluded from efforts to maintain stability in tense regions; simultaneously, he said there's a current global trend for initiatives to resolve security crisis that are merely "NATO-oriented" or "NATO-centric". He said, "We cannot strengthen one's security at the expense of others."

Meanwhile US President Mike Pence, fresh off the US-initiated Warsaw conference wherein he urged the world to "confront" top "terror sponsor" Iran, also addressed the Munich conference by continuing his message of demanding that the EU withdraw from the Iran deal, and that it cease attempts to financially circumvent US sanctions. 

Notably, Pence also addressed the Venezuela crisis, repeating Washington's call for the EU to fully recognize Guaido as Venezuela's rightful leader, though a number of individual countries and key US allies already have. 

Published:2/16/2019 2:48:51 PM
[US News] THUD: Joe Biden trips all over himself (AND Obama) in rush to slam Trump for Russia threat

Anybody in the MSM care to challenge him on this?

The post THUD: Joe Biden trips all over himself (AND Obama) in rush to slam Trump for Russia threat appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:2/16/2019 10:17:48 AM
[2016 Election] Coup’s next (Scott Johnson) Mark Penn puts the greatest scandal of Obama administration officials — the greatest political scandal in our history — this way: The most egregious anti-democratic actions ever taken by the what can now fairly be called the Deep State are confirmed with the publication of fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s new book detailing how the FBI and Justice Department plotted to remove President Trump from office for firing FBI Published:2/16/2019 10:17:48 AM
[Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez] Steven Rattner concurs (Scott Johnson) Let’s say that former Obama auto industry czar Steven Rattner concurs with John Hinderaker’s assessment of the state of Alexadria Ocasio-Cortez’s knowledge, if I may use that word in this context (tweet below). I thought Rattner’s concurrence added support of John’s analysis of AOC’s comments from an unlikely source. Amazon’s decision to take its 25,000 jobs and tell New York to shove it — ’twas a famous victory. On Rattner’s Published:2/16/2019 5:49:29 AM
[PAID] Presidents and Guardrails Obama’s abuses are no justification for Trump’s emergency order. Published:2/15/2019 11:44:33 PM
[Politics] Trump Says Japan's PM Nominated Him for Nobel Peace Prize President Donald Trump said Friday that Japan's prime minister had nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize for opening a dialogue with North Korea.Trump also complained about President Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize and doubted he would be similarly honored.Prime Minister... Published:2/15/2019 9:14:22 PM
[Markets] Deutsche Bank Renegs On Pledge To Help Distressed Homeowners

This ought to win Deutsche Bank some badly needed good will with global prosecutors investigating the bank for its involvement in various financial frauds - not to mention Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters.

According to a Bloomberg report on Friday, DB has decided - apparently with the blessing of a federally appointed monitor - that it won't pay out the $4 billion balance on its commitment to help distressed homeowners impacted by the housing collapse. The bank had agreed to spend billions of dollars on consumer relief during the waning days of the Obama administration as part of a massive settlement with the DOJ over its role in selling mortgages.

DB

Instead, the bank will use the money on providing new loans.

The bank's monitor said the decision might disappoint some homeowners who had reached out to the bank for relief over the past two years...but, to be fair, DB has already paid out $1.5 billion as part of the program.

The decision reverses pronouncements by the bank and the U.S. Justice Department that some of the funds - part of an overall $7.2 billion settlement over bad mortgage bonds sold before the 2008 crisis - would go to aiding people who were in imminent risk of defaulting on their mortgage payments, have especially high interest rates or owe more on their mortgage than in the value of their home.

The change in plans “may disappoint distressed homeowners and others, including the many individuals who have reached out to the monitor over the past two years, hoping to receive different types of consumer relief from the bank,” Bresnick wrote in the report, which was posted online.

Bresnick, a partner at the law firm Venable LLC and a former U.S. prosecutor, declined to comment for this article. The Justice Department didn’t have an immediate comment.

The bank rationalized its decision by saying the "most effective" form of consumer relief would be to provide loans to consumers so they can purchase homes (though, presumably, those distressed consumers wouldn't qualify under the more stringent lending standards of the modern era).

The decision reverses pronouncements by the bank and the U.S. Justice Department that some of the funds - part of an overall $7.2 billion settlement over bad mortgage bonds sold before the 2008 crisis - would go to aiding people who were in imminent risk of defaulting on their mortgage payments, have especially high interest rates or owe more on their mortgage than in the value of their home.

The change in plans “may disappoint distressed homeowners and others, including the many individuals who have reached out to the monitor over the past two years, hoping to receive different types of consumer relief from the bank,” Bresnick wrote in the report, which was posted online.

Bresnick, a partner at the law firm Venable LLC and a former U.S. prosecutor, declined to comment for this article. The Justice Department didn’t have an immediate comment.

Unlike other bank settlements from the Obama era, DB's settlement didn't require the bank to spend the money on consumer relief; instead, DOJ and DB had what amounted to a handshake agreement. The money earmarked for consumer relief wasn't specifically earmarked for loan modifications, which means the bank is free to use it for loans at its discretion. By comparison, similar settlements reached during the Trump era haven't required money be set aside to help consumers.

Earlier monitor reports said the bank was planning to offer loan relief and had entered into financing arrangements with two companies specializing in modifications.

"The bank now has declined to pursue these options for relief," the latest monitor report said. "It will not, after all, help any underwater homeowner by forgiving a portion of the principal owed on a mortgage, offer forbearance to any homeowner finding it difficult to make a monthly mortgage payment, or provide any of the other relief addressed in the monitor’s prior report."

The settlement - which initial reports suggested could be as high as $14 billion - instead required the bank to pay a roughly $3 billion fine and offer the $4 billion for consumer relief. But rest assured, the bank's new Democratic overlords on the House Financial Services Committee likely won't forget this.

Published:2/15/2019 8:45:05 PM
[Markets] FOIA Docs Reveal Obama FBI Covered Up "Chart" Of Potential Hillary Clinton Crimes

The top brass of the Obama FBI went to great lengths to justify their decision not to recommend charges against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information, according to Judicial Watch, which obtained evidence that the agency created a 'chart' of Clinton's offenses. 

The newly obtained emails came in response to a court ordered Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request that the DOJ had previously ignored. 

Via Judicial Watch (emphasis ours): 

  • Three days after then-FBI Director James Comey’s press conference announcing that he would not recommend a prosecution of Mrs. Clinton, a July 8, 2016 email chain shows that, the Special Counsel to the FBI’s executive assistant director in charge of the National Security Branch, whose name is redacted, wrote to Strzok and others that he was producing a “chart of the statutory violations considered during the investigation [of Clinton’s server], and the reasons for the recommendation not to prosecute…”

[Redacted] writes: I am still working on an additional page for these TPs that consist of a chart of the statutory violations considered during the investigation, and the reasons for the recommendation not to prosecute, hopefully in non-lawyer friendly terms …

Strzok forwards to Page, Jonathan Moffa and others: I have redlined some points. Broadly, I have some concerns about asking some our [sic] senior field folks to get into the business of briefing this case, particularly when we have the D’s [Comey’s] statement as a kind of stand alone document. In my opinion, there’s too much nuance, detail, and potential for missteps. But I get they may likely be asked for comment.

[Redacted] writes to Strzok, Page and others: The DD [Andrew McCabe] will need to approve these before they are pushed out to anyone. At the end of last week, he wasn’t inclined to send them to anyone. But, it’s great to have them on the shelf in case they’re needed.

[Redacted] writes to Strzok and Page: I’m really not sure why they continued working on these [talking points]. In the morning, I’ll make sure Andy [McCabe] tells Mike [Kortan] to keep these in his pocket. I guess Andy just didn’t ever have a moment to turn these off with Mike like he said he would.

Page replies: Yes, agree that this is not a good idea.

Neither these talking points nor the chart of potential violations committed by Clinton and her associates have been released.

  • On May 15, 2016, James Rybicki, former chief of staff to Comey, sends FBI General Counsel James Baker; Bill Priestap, former assistant director of the FBI’s counterintelligence division; McCabe; Page; and others an email with the subject line “Request from the Director.”

Rybicki writes: By NLT [no later than] next Monday, the Director would like to see a list of all cases charged in the last 20 years where the gravamen of the charge was mishandling classified information.

It should be in chart form with: (1) case name, (2) a short summary for content (3) charges brought, and (4) charge of conviction.

If need be, we can get it from NSD [National Security Division] and let them know that the Director asked for this personally.

Please let me know who can take the lead on this.

Thanks!

Jim

Page forwards to Strzok: FYSA [For your situational awareness]

Strzok replies to Page: I’ll take the lead, of course – sounds like an espionage section question… Or do you think OGC [Office of the General Counsel] should?

And the more reason for us to get feedback to Rybicki, as we all identified this as an issue/question over a week ago.

Page replies: I was going to reply to Jim [Rybicki] and tell him I can talked [sic] to you about this already. Do you want me to?

***

Recall that the FBI agents involved made extensive edits to former FBI Diretor James Comey's statement exonerating Hillary Clinton - changing the language to effectively downgrade the crime of mishandling classified information so that they could recommend no charges. 

According to a December, 2017 letter from Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) to FBI Director Christopher Wray, fired FBI agent Peter Strzok changed the language regarding Clinton's conduct from the criminal charge of "gross negligence" to "extremely careless."

"Gross negligence" is a legal term of art in criminal law often associated with recklessness. According to Black's Law Dictionary, gross negligence is “A severe degree of negligence taken as reckless disregard," and "Blatant indifference to one's legal duty, other's safety, or their rights.” "Extremely careless," on the other hand, is not a legal term of art.

According to an Attorney briefed on the matter, "extremely careless" is in fact a defense to "gross negligence": "What my client did was 'careless', maybe even 'extremely careless,' but it was not 'gross negligence' your honor." The FBI would have no option but to recommend prosecution if the phrase "gross negligence" had been left in.

18 U.S. Code § 793 "Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information" specifically uses the phrase "gross negligence." Had Comey used the phrase, he would have essentially declared that Hillary had broken the law. 

And now, thanks to the Judicial Watch FOIA, we know that the FBI also went to great lengths to justify letting Clinton off the hook with a "chart" of her offenses. 

Published:2/15/2019 4:43:03 PM
[Markets] As Russia Collusion Narrative Collapses, The 'Resistance' Reaches New Depths Of Delusion

Authored by James Howard Kunstler via Kunstler.com,

Worms Turning

And so now along comes Andy McCabe, former Number Two at the FBI, publicizing his new book, The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump, on this Sunday’s CBS 60-Minutes show, confirming what I said on this blog two years ago - that the Deep State would try to run over the Golden Golem of Greatness with the 25th Amendment.

The specter of Mr. Trump entrained by the nuclear “football” - the briefcase with launch codes for World War Three - gave US Intel communitarians such a case of the heebie-jeebies that they first sought desperately to impede his election by unlawful means and, failing in that, concocted a fog of Russian collusion conspiracy to cover up all that and much more nastiness emanating from the Hillary Clinton orbit.

It’s been the opinion here at CFN that Mr. McCabe and a long list of DOJ / FBI / and Intel employees would eventually be summoned to grand juries on charges ranging from lying to their Internal Affairs colleagues all the way to sedition. Those worms now seem to be turning. Both house and senate committees investigating the Russia narrative declared that they turned up no evidence for it.

And late this week, William Barr was confirmed as a new Attorney General, meaning the extreme case of bureaucratic constipation in that department may be resolving in a shitstorm of counter-revelations and prosecutions in what amounted to an attempted coup d’etat. A lot of the evidence for that is already public and overwhelming. It includes:

  • Using FBI counter-intelligence assets improperly and illegally.

  • Using fabricated “opposition research” provided by Mrs. Clinton to obtain warrants to spy on her election opponent, and failing to verify it as evidence (according to strict “Woods” procedures) submitted to FISA court judges.

  • Recruiting Britain’s MI6 to spy on US citizens as a work-around from US laws prohibiting US Intel from spying on Americans.

  • Setting up the notorious Trump Tower meeting to entrap Donald Trump Jr., using a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, in the employ of Fusion GPS, Mrs. Clintons oppo research contractor.

  • Orchestrating leaks of secret FBI proceedings to the news media to feed a Russia collusion hysteria.

  • Malicious prosecutions by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and egregious political conflicts-of-interest among Mr. Mueller’s team of prosecutors.

  • Coverup of the Uranium One scheme facilitated by Robert Mueller and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

  • A scheme to surreptitiously and illegally record conversations with Mr. Trump once he became president.

  • Conspiring to bury multiple inquires into illegal conduct of Mrs. Clinton, her employees and associates by failing to obtain evidence and allowing it to be destroyed.

  • Misconduct in office by former CIA chief John Brennan, former National Security Director James Clapper, former AG Loretta Lynch, and members of President Obama’s White House inner circle.

These matters and a lot more have deserved official attention that was bypassed during the peculiar DOJ regime of former AG Jeff Sessions - and now some light may be about to shine on them. The Trump “resistance” already seems demoralized by the collapse of the Russia collusion story, which had been the centerpiece of their impeachment hopes. Several reconstituted house committees under the new Democratic Party chairs, have pledged to keep mining that vein of fool’s gold to keep the hysteria alive long enough for the 2020 elections.

But what will happen in the meantime as their enablers are dragged into courts of law to answer for their roguery?

My guess is that it will drive the “resistance” to new depths of delusion and, eventually, derision, as its narrative cloak gets shredded in public testimony and their audacious mendacity is revealed. The heat from these future events may be so intense and disruptive that it will interfere with the 2020 election.

Published:2/15/2019 3:47:06 PM
[World] Sarah Sanders Says Big Difference Between Donald Trump National Emergency, Obama Daca Order

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders contrasted President Trump's national emergency executive action with President Obama's executive order implementing the DACA program for children of illegal immigrants.

Published:2/15/2019 3:13:46 PM
[Markets] "We'll End Up In The Supreme Court": Trump Emergency Declaration To Face Firestorm Of Litigation

After unveiling his intention to declare a national emergency that would allow him to redirect some $7 billion in additional funding for his border wall, President Trump said Friday that "we will be sued...and we will possibly get a bad ruling...and then we will get another bad ruling...and then we will end up in the Supreme Court" over the controversial plan, which even some Republican Senators (and former campaign-era rivals) have denounced as potentially unconstitutional. Of course, Trump is used to legal challenges to his policies. And he's also used to winning, as he ultimately prevailed during the battle over his travel ban (though the final measure approved by the Supreme Court was notably watered-down).

After Trump launched into a lengthy digression about the lengthy legal process upon which he was about to embark, several commentators noted, the challenges will offer Trump the opportunity to utter one of his favorite phrases: "See you in court."

But while the battle over Trump's travel ban only took a few months to resolve, Politico speculated on Friday that the battle over Trump's national emergency declaration could take months or even years, as the step of trying to block a presidential emergency declaration would represent something totally unprecedented in the history of American politics.

Trump

Rather than solely worrying about a challenge from Congressional Democrats, Politico warned that a number of interest groups could try to kill the national emergency declaration. These include - but are not limited to - immigrant rights advocates, property rights activists, environmentalists, Democratic lawmakers and state officials.

Already, Reuters reported on Friday that New York’s state attorney general has threatened legal action against over the emergency declaration.

"We will not stand for this abuse of power and will fight back with every legal tool at our disposal," New York’s Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement.

And California Gov. Gavin Newsom has already declared that the State of California "will see Trump in court." And the state's attorney general vowed before Trump's announcement that, if the president moves ahead with his plans, he "will be held accountable."

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has filed dozens of suits against Trump administration policy moves, added: "There is no national emergency. If Trump oversteps his authority and abandons negotiations with Congress by declaring a fabricated national emergency, we won’t only call his bluff, we will do what we must to hold him accountable. No one is above the law."

As Politico explains, while judges have sometimes tried to block Congressionally authorized spending, historically it has been almost unthinkable for judges to interfere with a national emergency declaration. However, given "Trump’s history of erratic and inflammatory statements, his frequent rhetorical disconnects with senior officials in his administration and his tendency to see crises that others view as completely contrived" legal experts believe the challenges could make some headway...and that the issue could ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court after a lengthy meandering through the lower courts. Because the chances that challengers can find a circuit court willing to hold up the emergency declaration are seen as very high.

"Normally, any other time, you’d say it’s a no-brainer that the president wins," at least with respect to the decision to declare an emergency, said Bobby Chesney, a University of Texas law professor. "But with this particular president, no bets are safe in assuming the courts will completely defer to him...Presidents traditionally get tremendous deference, but Trump is not going to get the same level of deference."

"That really strips away the core rationale...and creates much more chance than normal that even at that initial step there’s a non-negligible chance that [Trump’s plan] could be rejected," Chesney said.

But politics aside, legal experts who spoke with Politico said property owners along the planned rout of the wall might have the best standing for a successful legal challenge.

Legal experts said affected property owners would have the clearest legal standing, but just what property is in most jeopardy of seizure by eminent domain may be unclear at the outset if the administration is vague about its construction plans.

On the other hand, the House may be well positioned to file suit almost immediately on a theory that it is being unconstitutionally bypassed. Lawyers say the House’s legal authority to sue on that basis is shakier than that of a private landowner who has his or her land seized. However, in 2015 a federal judge ruled than the then-GOP-led House had legal standing to sue over purportedly unauthorized cost-sharing payments to insurance companies under Obamacare.

But as with all of Trump's previous legal challenges, Trump will likely be able to frame the resistance to his plans as grist for his reelection campaign.

Analysts also noted that even setbacks for Trump in the legal battle may amount to political victories for him, as he paints himself as fighting hard against a variety of legal and political forces trying to frustrate him at every turn.

"He’ll be able to campaign against the backdrop of what the courts are doing to stop him," predicted Chesney, the University of Texas law professor.

But while it's tempting to view conservative dominance on the Supreme Court as indicating that a political victory by Trump is virtually assured, Politico pointed out that an Obama appointee whom Trump had repeatedly attacked as biased over his Mexican heritage recently handed Trump a big legal win over his wall prototype and replacement projects, which Trump heralded as a "big win".

There's no guarantee that the Supreme Court might offer a similarly surprising ruling.

Published:2/15/2019 12:42:04 PM
[Alex Acosta] Acosta DOL doubles down on spurious suit against Oracle (Paul Mirengoff) Days before President Obama left office, the Labor Department sued Oracle for alleged pay discrimination against blacks, Asians, and women. The suit was grounded in the Obama-Tom Perez DOL’s misuse of statistics. I discussed that misuse here. When a center-right administration inherits lawsuits grounded in leftist dogma, it faces a dilemma. It can simply drop the case, but that would alienate staff and arguably make the agency look bad. It Published:2/15/2019 9:41:13 AM
[World] [David E. Bernstein] The Dangers of Government by Executive

The more a president governs unilaterally, the greater the stakes of every election, and that's a bad thing.

There are lots of things one could say about Trump's invocation of an emergency statute to "build the wall." Other commentators, including Ilya, have said most of them, so I'll refrain, but in short it's a terrible idea, and I hope the courts stop it.

I did want to add one additional consideration that goes beyond the issue of the wall and goes to the general issue of presidents acting unilaterally on significant, controversial issues, regardless of whether they have the technical legal authority under broad, vague, statutes.

During the Obama administration, defenders of presidential unilateralism argued vociferously that (a) the president was elected to get things accomplished; (b) Congress, via Republican majorities in the House, and later the House and Senate, was being obstructionist; and (c) therefore, the president was within his rights to use his full authority to govern unilaterally, even in the face of longstanding contrary norms. For example, Obama, like Trump, was stymied by Congress on his preferred immigration policy, so he used his broad statutory authority under the immigration laws to resolve the "Dreamer" issue indefinitely, using that authority far more broadly, more consequentially, and in more direct defiance of Congress than any president had previously.

As a constitutional matter, I think this argument and analogous arguments made (less coherently) by Trump administration defenders have things backwards. Congress and not the president is given the legislative power, so outside of certain military and foreign affairs matters it's Congress, not the president, that is elected to get things accomplished. So in any showdown between the president and Congress, if one party can be deemed obstructionist it's presumptively the president.

But my objections to presidential unilateralism go beyond the constitutional. In my view, historically one of the great advantages of living in the United States is that most people did not care about national politics nearly as much as in other countries. This had the advantages of not wasting people's time thinking about politics, allowing people of differing ideologies to get along, and just in general making life more pleasant by limiting the practical importance of elections.

Of course, a major reason people did not care about national politics that much, even if they had strong feelings about particular issues, is that the national government historically had relatively limited powers. But another reason, one that transcended the scope of federal power, was that it our Constitution makes radical change, or really any significant change, very difficult. You need to get a piece of legislation through each house of Congress (each of which has various internal rules that make it hard to do so) and then get the president to agree.

This obviously has its downsides, as it creates a huge status quo bias, and the status quo is often far from ideal. On the other hand, voters could be assured that whomever got elected, Republican or Democrat, major changes were unlikely. This was especially true because until recently, the parties were divided more on geography and the cultural background of their voters than on ideology.

Over the last forty years or so, however, the parties have become strongly divided ideologically, which by itself raises the stakes of national elections; electing a Republican will bring into government a very different group ideologically than electing a Democrat. Moreover, delegation of authority by Congress to agencies gives the president a fair amount of discretion to change policy through his appointments of executive officials.

Nevertheless, the stakes remain relatively limited so long as the president adheres to traditional norms and refrains from major policy innovations without going through Congress. Once the president instead chooses to in effect "legislate" on important matters unilaterally, the stakes get raised substantially, and the U.S. becomes more like parliamentary systems where every election seems like life or death to partisans, inevitably increasing societal tension over ideological and other differences.

So, constitutional structure aside, why is presidential unilateralism bad? Because our system was designed to make major shifts in government policy difficult, and that's a good thing because it lowers the stakes of politics. We had experience in 1861 with what happens when a significant part of the country believes that the national government has become arrayed against it, and it's not an experience we should want to repeat on any scale.

Published:2/15/2019 8:11:12 AM
[US News] OUCH: Former Obama economic adviser slams AOC for making ‘the most economically ignorant statement he’s ever read’ and LOL

If we needed another reminder that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not really a Democrat but a Socialist we need look no further than this tweet from Steven Rattner. Never heard of him? We hadn’t either so we did a little Google and whaddya know, Steven was on Obama’s auto task force and was an economic adviser […]

The post OUCH: Former Obama economic adviser slams AOC for making ‘the most economically ignorant statement he’s ever read’ and LOL appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:2/15/2019 7:45:57 AM
[PAID] Discriminating Against Oracle Why hasn’t Trump’s Labor secretary killed an Obama-era lawsuit? Published:2/14/2019 2:27:20 AM
[e35200b3-2299-54e9-a00e-d67e4b593475] Michelle Obama's mom sends endearing message after Grammys, asks if she met any 'real stars' Michelle Obama received an endearing message from her mom following the former first lady’s appearance on Sunday night’s Grammy Awards show. Published:2/14/2019 2:27:18 AM
[Markets] Is Michelle Obama Going To Run For President In 2020?

Authored by Michael Snyder via The End of The American Dream blog,

When she made a surprise appearance at the Grammy Awards on Sunday night, the entire auditorium went into a “spontaneous shrieking hysterical meltdown” when she began to speak.

She is the most admired woman in America by a very wide margin, and she is married to the most admired man in America. She released her critically-acclaimed memoir “Becoming” in November, and here we are in February and it is still the best selling book on Amazon. Her national book tour has been filling sports stadiums all over the nation, and Democrats all across America are buzzing about the possibility that Michelle Obama could run for president in 2020.

But she has always insisted that she will never do it. In fact, she has made statements like this one time after time…

“I’ve never had the passion for politics. I just happened to be married to somebody who has the passion for politics, and he drug me kicking and screaming into this arena.”

So that is the end of the matter, right?

Unfortunately, in politics you can never trust what people say, and it is much more important to watch what they do.

In recent months, Michelle Obama has been put center stage time after time while her husband has faded into the background. Suddenly, Michelle Obama seems like she is the biggest rock star in America, and there are only two reasons why this would be happening.

Either she wants to capitalize on her fame and make as much money as possible, or she is secretly plotting to run for president of the United States.

And it is entirely possible that she won’t run. Ultimately, all of the motivational pablum in her book and her national tour could be setting the stage for her to become the next Oprah. She definitely doesn’t seem content to drift quietly into retirement, and it is quite clear that she wants to do something.

Without a doubt, a career in television would be appealing, but my gut tells me that she has her eyes on an even bigger prize.

I have a feeling that events are being carefully orchestrated for her to become the “reluctant hero” that will step in to save the day for the Democrats in 2020. And judging by the reaction at the Grammy Awards last night, the left would get behind her in a heartbeat...

At last night’s Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, host Alicia Keys brought a quartet of very famous women onto the stage and introduced them one-by-one to the crowd.

Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Jada Pinkett Smith all got varying degrees of warm ovations.

But the fourth lady sent the whole place into spontaneous shrieking hysterical meltdown.

In fact, NBC News reported that she received a “hero’s welcome” and that she cut off the applause once it reached 25 seconds…

Many in the audience didn’t immediately seem to pick up on Obama’s appearance, but she was quickly interrupted when she began speaking, making it only as far as “From the Motown records I wore out on the South Side …” before the crowd stood and loudly cheered for 25 seconds.

“All right — we got a show to do,” she said as she tried to wave the audience to quiet down.

No other Democrat that is running for president or that is thinking of running for president can elicit that sort of passionate response.

And let us not forget that Michelle Obama’s book is outselling every other political book in modern history, including all of the books written by her husband. The following comes from CNN

The inspirational memoir by the former first lady has been on sale for more than two months, yet it is still No. 1 on Amazon’s constantly updated list of best-selling books.

Amazon said “Becoming” enjoyed the longest streak at No. 1 for any book since “Fifty Shades of Grey” came out in 2012.

No political tome or public figure’s memoir has ranked No. 1 for as long as “Becoming,” according to data the company provided to CNN Business.

I just checked, and “Becoming” is still number one right now.

That is an incredible achievement.

Even if Michelle Obama does not want to run for president, top Democrats may really start twisting her arm as we get deeper into this election season. Because even though more than 20 Democrats may ultimately jump into the race, all of them are losers.

The one guy who has a little bit of buzz around him is Beto O’Rourke, and he thought that it would be a good idea to hold a rally on the border on the same day when Trump was holding one. Well, only a few hundred people showed up for Beto, but tens of thousands showed up for Trump

“There has never been anything like this in the history of our country. We have to understand that. There has never been. If you would say as an example, that tonight 69,000 people signed up to be here. Now the arena holds 8,000. And thank you, fire department. They got in about 10,000. Thank you, fire department. Appreciate it. But if you want to really see something, go outside. Tens of thousands of people are watching screens outside.

“And we were all challenged by a young man who lost an election to Ted Cruz. And then they said you know what? Hey, you are supposed to win in order to run. By the way, we, I, we, I’m 1 for 1. Think of it. We had one election. We won. Now we’re gonna be 2 for all and everything’s gonna be perfect. But a young man who has got very little going for himself except he has a great first name. He challenged us. So we have let’s say 35,000 people tonight. And he has 200 people, 300 people. Not too good.”

“What I would do is, I would say, that may be the end of this presidential bid.”

If you are going to win a presidential election, it really helps to be a rock star, and Trump is a rock star.

The Democrats need their own rock star, and the only one that fits the bill is Michelle Obama.

At this point, many Democrats deeply dislike Hillary Clinton, but they remember the Obama years very fondly. When Barack Obama left office, he had a 59 percent approval rating, and that number is much higher than anything Trump has been able to achieve over the last year…

Obama left office with a 59 percent approval rating and a 37 percent disapproval rating, according to Gallup.

In late January, the Gallup poll ratings for President Trump were the exact inverse of Obama’s numbers — 59 percent disapproval and 37 percent approval.

If Michelle Obama decides to run, she will win the Democratic nomination.

And without a doubt, she would be Donald Trump’s toughest potential opponent in 2020 by a very wide margin.

But will she do it?

Only time will tell, but the calls for her to run are starting to become louder with each passing day.

Published:2/12/2019 5:28:27 PM
[Markets] US National Debt Tops $22 Trillion

For 8 years, we took every opportunity to point out that under Barack Obama's administration, US debt was rising at a alarmingly rapid rate, having nearly doubled, surging by $9.3 trillion  during his term.

And while the absolute pace is slower, the trajectory of US debt under the Trump administration looks set to be no different.

We note this because as of close of Monday, the US Treasury reported that total US debt has risen above $22 trillion for the first time; or $22,012,840,891,685.32 to be precise (11 months after topping $21 trillion).

“Reaching this unfortunate milestone so rapidly is the latest sign that our fiscal situation is not only unsustainable but accelerating,” said Michael A. Peterson, chief executive officer of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation, a nonpartisan organization working to address the country’s long-term fiscal challenges.

Putting this in context, total US debt has now risen by over $2 trillion since Trump took office... but notably slower than Obama's pace of borrowing...

 

We doubt today's milestone will be celebrated on Trump's twitter account.

And while some can argue - especially adherents of the socialist Magic Money Tree, or MMT, theory - that there is no reason why the exponential debt increase can't continue indefinitely... the CBO's long-term forecast of debt issuance is, basically, apocalyptic as the following chart confirms...

But it gets worse, as Double Line's Jeff Gundlach recently noted...

And worse still - The Fed ain't buying like it was during Obama's reign...

“Net borrowing needs will continue to increase due to the expected increase in the deficit combined with funding needs coming from the Fed’s debt run off,” said Margaret Kerins, global head of fixed-income strategy at BMO Capital Markets Corp.

“Given the global backdrop with Brexit and China’s economy slowing down, there is really a bid for safety, liquidity and quality -- which means Treasuries -- and that’s keeping yields in check to some degree.”

Of course, at some point the market will finally start focusing on America's long-term - and very much unsustainable - debt picture as the CBO has warned year after year. When it does, and when there is another major selloff in stocks, US Treasurys will no longer be the "safe haven." If and when that happens, that will be the signal that the time to get out of Dodge has finally arrived.

The debt eclipsing $22 trillion “is another sad reminder of the inexcusable tab our nation’s leaders continue to run up and will leave for the next generation,” said Judd Gregg and Edward Rendell, co-chairmen of the nonpartisan Campaign to Fix the Debt, a project of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

Especially if The Dems win in 2020 and GND is unleashed.

Published:2/12/2019 4:24:11 PM
[Markets] As His Regime Falters, Here Is Where Venezuela's Maduro May Seek Asylum

As US sanctions on Venezuelan oil restrict one of the last lifelines for the embattled regime of Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro, talk of all-out civil war has intensified (one US admiral even suggested that the US could dispatch ground forces to the ailing socialist republic if it feels its diplomatic personnel are being threatened). And with opposition leader Juan Guaido winning the support of a growing share of the international community, his government will soon benefit from more financial support in the form of escrow accounts that will be seeded with revenues from Venezuelan oil.

Maduro

Last month, John Bolton tweeted that he sincerely hopes Maduro will abandon his claim to power and flee to "a nice beach somewhere far from Venezuela."

Though he declined to name names, Elliott Abrams, the State Department's special envoy to Venezuela, said that countries other than Russia and Cuba “have come to us privately and said they’d be willing to take members of the current illegitimate regime if it would help the transition.”

And Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores, reportedly has been pressuring her husband to have a "Plan B" ready

With Maduro's fate looking ever more tenuous (though, to be sure, despite a wave of defections, he still commands the loyalty of the Venezuelan military), Bloomberg on Monday offered a comprehensive look at all of the countries where Maduro and the senior ranks of his government could end up seeking asylum.

To be sure, offering safe haven to Maduro could carry risks both for the Venezuelan dictator and the country involved. Still, the locations reportedly under discussion include both unsurprising candidates (Cuba) and surprising ones (...the Vatican?).

Here's a quick roundup, sourced from BBG:

Cuba:

The Cuban Communist regime led by Miguel Diaz-Canel has been both an ideological ally to Maduro's Bolivarian Republic and a source of financing during times of stress. But taking in Maduro could put Cuba "back on the US radar" after President Trump has done surprisingly little to roll back the detente ushered in by the Obama Administration.

Russia

Moscow has been one of the Maduro regime's most outspoken backers (its state-controlled oil company Rosneft has sunk billions of dollars in investments into Venezeula's state-run oil company). Still, Russian lawmakers insisted they would rather see Maduro remain in power in Venezuela. One Russian lawmaker said he believes Maduro and his allies would sooner take to the hills and become guerillas before leaving the country.

Moscow is not fond of Maduro, but has little choice in the matter, according to a person with knowledge of the internal discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Kremlin won’t encourage him to flee unless there is a clear alternative -- and for Moscow that is not Guaido, the person said.

"He is not planning to go anywhere," Russian lawmaker Andrey Klimov, deputy head of the upper house of parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said by phone. He dismissed talk of Maduro’s evacuation as "psychological warfare" aimed at "sowing panic and hysteria."

"I think Maduro and his people are more likely to become guerrillas and make a second Vietnam of Venezuela,” he said. Russia, he added, is “talking to Maduro in order to ease tensions inside the country and abroad. But we can’t command him."

Still, Russia said it doesn't "give up on its own", suggesting that if Maduro was truly desperate, he could turn to Moscow.

If Maduro turned to Russia, President Vladimir Putin would give him refuge, said Andrey Kortunov, head of the Russian International Affairs Council, a research organization set up by the Kremlin. "It’s not in our rules to give up our own - and he is still one of ours," he said.
Russia, however, thinks Maduro can survive the crisis, according to Kortunov. "I believe Maduro has boltholes closer than Russia," he said. "But this is still premature. So far, the regime has shown some resilience."

Mexico

Another likely contender is Mexico, which has a long tradition of taking in leftist exiles and also the Shah of Iran. After his falling out with Stalin, Leon Trotsky, the infamous Soviet revolutionary, fled to Mexico, where he was welcomed proudly by the country's leftist leader (though he was later murdered by agents of Stalin). Lazaro Cardenas, the leader who took in Trotsky, is a hero for AMLO, Mexico's current leader. Mexico has remained one of the few countries in Latin America to continue to recognize Maduro as Venezuela's legitimate ruler.

In another sign that Mexico could offer asylum to Maduro,  Jorge Rodriguez, Venezuela’s communications minister, traveled to Mexico last month while Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was also in the country. Talks between the various parties reportedly focused on Mexico's utility as a conduit for talks between Maduro and the opposition. 

Turkey

President Erdogan has praised Maduro, and officials in his government have suggested that Maduro could seek asylum there, though only as a last recourse.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Maduro last month to assure him of his support, addressing him as “my brother!” The destination for tons of Venezuelan gold, Turkey has offered to take in Maduro, although only as a last recourse, according to a person familiar with the discussions. Any decision would be taken by Erdogan directly, and right now the priority is on backing him at home, a senior Turkish official said.

The Vatican

Last month, Guaido appealed to Pope Francis for help in acting as a mediator between Guaido and Maduro, though the Vatican remains an unlikely source of respite for Maduro and members of his regime.

One factor that could complicate a Maduro exit is his vice president, Diosdado Cabello, who has been under investigation by US prosecutors since at least 2015 for his alleged involvement in cocaine trafficking.

* *  *

Still, anybody who believes the demise of the Maduro regime is imminent should take another look at what happened in Syria during the wake of the Arab Spring. Back in 2011, almost every analyst quoted in Western media predicted that Assad's downfall would take a matter of weeks, not months or years, according to BBG.

Nearly eight years later, not only is Assad still in power, but he is stronger than ever before. The same could very well hold true for Maduro, who also enjoys the backing of Russia and Iran.

Published:2/11/2019 7:19:13 PM
[Politics] 40% Say U.S. Heading in Right Direction

Forty percent (40%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey for the week ending February 7.

This week’s finding is up nine points from last week following Trump's State of the Union speech and parallels a similar rebound in his daily job approval ratings. Prior to this, that number had been on the decline week-over-week from 43% in early December. It ran in the mid- to upper 20s for much of 2016, President Obama's last full year in office.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The national telephone survey of 2,500 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports from February 3-7, 2019. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Published:2/11/2019 5:20:03 PM
[Markets] Solomon: Evidence Mounts Of Democrats' Collusion With Russia

After Congressional investigations in both the House and Senate have failed to produce evidence that Donald Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 US election from Hillary Clinton, The Hill's John Solomon points out the deafening silence over clear links between the Kremlin and the woman who would have been President had Donald Trump lost

Aside from the fact that the Clinton-funded Steele Dossier heavily relied on a Russian source. And the fact that John Podesta (who would have likely become Secretary of State) sat on the board of an energy company with a Kremlin official and a Russian oligarch - tangible evidence of Russian collusion exists, Solomon digs deeper into the upside-down to reveal Russian ties that would see Donald Trump jailed for treason by the left's standards. 

Congressional investigators have painstakingly pieced together evidence that shows the Clinton research project had extensive contact with Russians.

...

Steele’s main source of uncorroborated allegations against Trump came from an ex-Russian intelligence officer. “Much of the collection about the Trump campaign ties to Russia comes from a former Russian intelligence officer (? not entirely clear) who lives in the U.S.,” Ohr scribbled. -The Hill

In today's episode of the Twilight Zone, Solomon spotlights Hillary Clinton's close relationship with Russian leaders which raised concerns over a wholesale technology transfer to the Kremlin, right around the time of the Uranium One deal and Bill Clinton's now-infamous trip to Russia (where he hung out at Putin's house) and picked up a $500,000 check for one speech

As secretary of State, Hillary Clinton worked with Russian leaders, including Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and then-President Dmitri Medvedev, to create U.S. technology partnerships with Moscow’s version of Silicon Valley, a sprawling high-tech campus known as Skolkovo.

Clinton’s handprint was everywhere on the 2009-2010 project, the tip of a diplomatic spear to reboot U.S.-Russian relations after years of hostility prompted by Vladimir Putin’s military action against the former Soviet republic and now U.S. ally Georgia.

A donor to the Clinton FoundationRussian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, led the Russian side of the effort, and several American donors to the Clinton charity got involved. Clinton’s State Department facilitated U.S. companies working with the Russian project, and she personally invited Medvedev to visit Silicon Valley.

 

The collaboration occurred at the exact same time Bill Clinton made his now infamous trip to Russia to pick up a jaw-dropping $500,000 check for a single speech. -The Hill

The Clinton State Department ignored a 2013 warning from the US military's leading European intelligence think tank over the Skolkovo project - which suggested that it could be a front for economic and military espionage

"Skolkovo is an ambitious enterprise, aiming to promote technology transfer generally, by inbound direct investment, and occasionally, through selected acquisitions. As such, Skolkovo is arguably an overt alternative to clandestine industrial espionage — with the additional distinction that it can achieve such a transfer on a much larger scale and more efficiently," reads a 2013 EUCOM intelligence bulletin

"Implicit in Russia’s development of Skolkovo is a critical question — a question that Russia may be asking itself — why bother spying on foreign companies and government laboratories if they will voluntarily hand over all the expertise Russia seeks?"

The FBI followed EUCOM's warning the following year with letters outlining the dangers of US tech companies falling prey to Russian espionage through the Skolkovo project. A Boston FBI agent in particular wrote an "extraordinary op-ed to publicize the alarm," writes Solomon. 

The Skolkovo project "may be a means for the Russian government to access our nation’s sensitive or classified research development facilities and dual-use technologies with military and commercial application," wrote Assistant Special Agent Lucia Ziobro in the Boston Business Journal.

The FBI also sounded the alarm about the Uranium One deal - after an informant named William D. Campbell infiltrated the Russian state-owned energy giant Rosatom and gathered evidence of a racketeering scheme which included bribery, kickbacks and extortion. 

Campbell also obtained written evidence that Putin wanted to buy Uranium One as part of a strategy to obtain monopolistic domination of the global uranium markets, including leverage over the U.S.

Campbell also warned that a major in-kind donor to the Clinton Global Initiative was simultaneously working for Rosatom while the decision for U.S. approval was pending before Hillary Clinton’s department. Ultimately, her department and the Obama administration approved the transaction.

The evidence shows the Clintons financially benefited from Russia — personally and inside their charity — at the same time they were involved in U.S. government actions that rewarded Moscow and increased U.S. security risks. -The Hill

Beyond the Steele Dossier

While it is now publicly known (and below the investigatory double-standards of the DOJ to pursue) that the Steele dossier was a clear case of Russian collusion against then-candidate Donald Trump, there lies a lesser-known link between the Steele Dossier and a Belarus-born Russian businessman, Sergei Milian

What's more, "Steele and Simpson had Russian-tied business connections, too, while they formulated the dossier," writes Solomon. 

Steele worked for the lawyers for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska and tried to leverage those connections to help the FBI get evidence from the Russian aluminum magnate against Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The effort resulted in FBI agents visiting Deripaska in fall 2016. Deripaska told the agents that no collusion existed.

Likewise, Simpson worked in 2016 for the Russian company Prevezon — which was trying to escape U.S. government penalties — and one of its Russian lawyers, Natalia Veselnitskaya. In sworn testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Simpson admitted he dined with Veselnitskaya both the night before and the night after her infamous meeting with Donald Trump Jr. at Trump Tower in June 2016. -The Hill

And yet, nobody bats an eye.

Published:2/11/2019 5:20:02 PM
[Markets] President Starts A War - Congress Yawns? Threatens To End One - Condemnation!

Authored by Ron Paul via The Ron Paul Institute for Peace & Prosperity,

Last week’s bipartisan Senate vote to rebuke President Trump for his decision to remove troops from Syria and Afghanistan unfortunately tells us a lot about what is wrong with Washington, DC. While the two parties loudly bicker about minor issues, when it comes to matters like endless wars overseas they enthusiastically join together. With few exceptions, Republicans and Democrats lined up to admonish the president for even suggesting that it’s time for US troops to come home from Afghanistan and Syria.

The amendment, proposed by the Senate Majority Leader and passed overwhelmingly by both parties, warns that a “precipitous withdrawal of United States forces from the on-going fight…in Syria and Afghanistan, could allow terrorists to regroup.” As one opponent of the amendment correctly pointed out, a withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan is hardly “precipitous” since they’ve been there for nearly 18 years! And with al-Qaeda and ISIS largely defeated in Syria a withdrawal from that country would hardly be “precipitous” after almost five years of unauthorized US military action.

Senators supporting the rebuke claim that US troops cannot leave until every last ISIS fighter is killed or captured. This is obviously a false argument. Al-Qaeda and ISIS did not emerge in Iraq because US troops left the country – they emerged because the US was in the country in the first place. Where was al-Qaeda in Iraq before the 2003 US invasion the neocons lied us into? There weren't any.

US troops occupying Iraqi territory was, however, a huge incentive for Iraqis to join a resistance movement. Similarly, US intervention in Syria beginning under the Obama Administration contributed to the growth of terrorist groups in that country.

We know that US invasion and occupation provides the best recruiting tools for terrorists, including suicide terrorists. So how does it make sense that keeping troops in these countries in any way contributes to the elimination of terrorism? As to the “vacuum” created in Syria when US troops pull out, how about allowing the government of Syria to take care of the problem? After all, it’s their country and they’ve been fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda since the US helped launch the “regime change” in 2011. Despite what you might hear in the US mainstream media, it’s Syria along with its allies that has done most of the fighting against these groups and it makes no sense that they would allow them to return.

Congress has the Constitutional responsibility and obligation to declare war, but this has been ignored for decades. The president bombs far-off lands and even sends troops to fight in and occupy foreign territory and Congress doesn’t say a word. But if a president dares seek to end a war suddenly the sleeping Congressional giant awakens!

I’ve spent many years opposing Executive branch over-reach in matters where the president has no Constitutional authority, but when it comes to decisions on where to deploy or re-deploy troops once in battle it is clear that the Constitution grants that authority to the commander-in-chief. The real question we need to ask is why is Congress so quick to anger when the president finally seeks to end the longest war in US history? 

Published:2/11/2019 4:25:34 PM
[Politics] 40% Say U.S. Heading in Right Direction

Forty percent (40%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey for the week ending February 7.

This week’s finding is up nine points from last week following Trump's State of the Union speech and parallels a similar rebound in his daily job approval ratings. Prior to this, that number had been on the decline week-over-week from 43% in early December. It ran in the mid- to upper 20s for much of 2016, President Obama's last full year in office.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The national telephone survey of 2,500 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports from February 3-7, 2019. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Published:2/11/2019 11:21:35 AM
[Middle Column] Major labor union (which endorsed Hillary & Obama twice for Prez) unloads on ‘Green New Deal’ as ‘unrealistic manifesto’ that will ‘destroy workers’ livelihoods’ – & cause ‘economic and social devastation’

Labor leader Terry O’Sullivan, who's union twice endorsed President Obama for President and endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016, is have come out swinging against the "Green New Deal" from New York Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

Statement of Terry O’Sullivan, General President of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, On the “Green New Deal”: 

"It is exactly how not to win support for critical measures to curb climate change...It is difficult to take this unrealistic manifesto seriously, but the economic and social devastation it would cause if it moves forward is serious and real...threatens to destroy workers’ livelihoods, increase divisions and inequality, and undermine the very goals it seeks to reach. In short, it is a bad deal."

#

Climate Depot Note: Other's on the political left are bailing on the "Green New Deal" as well: see: Prominent environmentalist Shellenberger: ‘I am calling Bullsh*t’ on Ocasio-Cortez! Declares AOC is ‘a climate fraud’ – Rips ‘Green New Deal’ as ‘climate fakery’

 

Published:2/11/2019 10:48:28 AM
[Markets] "Get Over It!" Pepe Escobar Warns The 21st Century Will Be Asian

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Asia Times,

The greatest merit of Parag Khanna’s new book, The Future is Asian, is to accessibly tell the story of a historical inevitability – with the extra bonus of an Asian point of view. This is not only a very good public service, it also blows out of the water countless tomes by Western “experts” pontificating about Asia from an air-con cubicle in Washington.

Asia hands from the West tend to be extremely protective of their extra-territoriality. In my case, I moved to Asia in 1994, and Singapore was my first base. In time I found out – along with some of my colleagues at Asia Times – nothing would ever compare to following the ever-developing, larger than life Asian miracle on the spot.

Khanna has always been in the thick of the action. Born in India, he then moved to the UAE, the West, and is now a resident in Singapore. Years ago we spent a jolly good time in New York swapping Asia on-the-road stories; he’s a cool conversationalist. His Connectography is a must read.

Khanna found a very special niche to “sell” Asia to the Western establishment as a strategic adviser – and is very careful not to ruffle feathers. Barack Obama, for instance, is only guilty of “half-heartedness”. When you get praise from Graham Allison, who passes for a Thucydides authority in the US but would have major trouble understanding Italian master Luciano Canfora’s Tucidide: La Menzogna, La Colpa, L’Esilio, you know that Khanna has done his homework.

Of course, there are a few problems. It’s a bit problematic to coin Singapore “the unofficial capital of Asia”. There’s no better place to strategically follow China than Hong Kong. And as a melting pot, Bangkok, now truly cosmopolitan, is way more dynamic, creative and, let’s face it, funkier.

In 1997 I published a book in Brazil titled 21st: The Asian Century, based on three years of non-stop on-the-road reporting. It came out only a few days before the Hong Kong handover and the collapse of the baht that sparked the Asian financial crisis – so the book’s argument might have been seen as passé. Not really; once the crisis was over, the development push by the Asian tigers was overtaken by China. And 10 years later, slightly before the Western-made global financial crisis, the road to the Asian Century was more than self-evident.

Khanna hits all the right tones and multiple overtones stating the case that the Asian century “will…” begin when Asia crystallizes into a whole greater than "the sum of its many parts”. It’s already happening, and it’s a wise choice to set the point of no return towards an Asia-led new world order at the first Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) summit in May 2017 in Beijing.

Yet throughout the book Khanna feels the need to take immense pain showing frightened Anglo-American readers that China won’t lead the Asian future; there will be no “Chinese tianxia, or harmonious global system guided by Chinese Confucian principles”.

And that offers room for references to the push by the US and its allies to “deter China”, or the push by “Japan, India, Australia and Vietnam” to “counter China aggression”. Not to mention credit to the pathetic notion of “clash of civilizations”. But, on a whole, Khanna nails it.

“By joining BRI, other Asian countries have tacitly recognized China as a global power – but the bar for hegemony is very high.”

No East and West

Within the scope of an article, and not a book, it’s possible to show that this epic story is not about hegemony, but connectivity.

First of all, there’s no East and West; as Edward Said has shown, this is essentially inherited from Eurocentrism and colonialism, starting way back when the Ancient Greeks situated the western borders of Asia in the eastern Mediterranean.

Asia, the term, comes from the ancient Assyrian assu – which means rising sun. A clear distinction between East and West was stamped by the end of the 3rd century, at the time of Diocletian, when the Roman empire was cut in half following a meridian from Dalmatia to Cyrenaica, a partition confirmed at the death of Theodosius 1 in 395 AD.

The East then organized itself around Constantinople while the West was divided and regarded as Europe, a distinct unity under Charlemagne (800 AD). What’s interesting is that in contrast with China – self-defined as the center of the world – neither the Roman Empire nor Islam saw themselves as such, admitting the existence of other quite populated worlds: China and India.

The notion of a “continent” only came up in the 16th century, based on the tri-partition Europe-Asia-Africa made by the Greeks in the Eastern Mediterranean, adopted by Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and ratified by the “discovery” of the New World: the Americas. So once again, “continent” is a Western invention.

Eurasia is essentially a giant, elliptical, unified space. Crack geographers tend to see it to the north – from Central Asia up to the northwest of India – as the realm of caravan routes, Silk Roads, cosmopolitan oases, steppes and deserts crisscrossed by nomads.

To the south, it’s a sort of monsoon “shawl” draped over a unique ocean; maritime routes through straits; and cosmopolitan ports and warehouses.

Southeast Asia enjoys a unique status, squeezed in a historical and cultural pincer movement between two major forces, constituted in an independent manner from one another as two major civilizations; India to the west and China to the northeast.

The inner logic of all this immense space is mutation, trade exchanges, and migrations. So Eurasia is essentially unified as two major “on the move” spaces; continental and steppe (on horseback), plus maritime (via navigation). Historically, between these two corridors, we find the creative hubs of civilizations and more durable empires: China, the Indian world, Persia/Iran, the Arab world, the Byzantine-Ottoman empire.

Hard node of history

In one of his exceptional books, French geographer Christian Grataloup conclusively shows how Eurasia is a geo-historic entity – exhibiting a “system of inter-relations from one end to another”. Yes, it’s all about connectivity, as the Chinese are stressing with the New Silk Roads or BRI.

Already by the 15th century, every society in Eurasia exhibited the same presence of cities, writing, monetary exchange. So it’s possible to conceive a common history, from the Mediterranean to Japan, for over two millennia. Grataloup’s intuition is breathtaking. “This is the hard node of world history”.

Historically, it’s all about the confluence of eastern routes in the north, the Silk Roads at the center, and southern routes, mostly the Spice Route. In the central segment of the major axis, decisive innovations occurred; the first villages, the first forms of agriculture, writing, the birth of the State. As the great Mongol caravan empire, built around the Silk Roads in the 13th century, fractured, while societies in the extremities of Eurasia developed maritime power.

Khanna offers myriad details on the key fact; that the Eurasian space is finally being rearranged, rebuilt via economic development, along transversal axes configured as economic corridors; the result of a modernization process that started in Japan in the second half of the 19th century to expand to all of East and Southeast Asia, then China, and finally India. The genius of the BRI project is to make it happen.

The Chinese ambition to be the economic leader of the Eurasia ensemble – by land and by sea – is a unique development in the region’s history, combining the continental approach of the Mongol empire of the steppes, or the Russia empire, with the maritime approach of the West, especially via the British Empire.

But contrary to Western imperialism, it’s all based on economy and culture. So, China will have a lot of work mastering the art of soft power. Time though is on the BRI side; the horizon is 2049 – not profits in the next quarter. Maritime routes in the north like the Arctic Silk Road, and via the South China Sea and Indian Ocean to the south, will envelop Eurasia, which will articulate itself in the center over high-speed rail and highway corridors of the New Silk Roads and the upgraded Trans-Siberian links.

They call it Euro-Asia in Beijing, and they call it Greater Eurasia in Moscow. The whole process is historically inexorable, already forging the future – call it Asian or Eurasian.

Published:2/10/2019 10:47:11 PM
[US News] SURPRISE! The latest lib outrage over Trump’s medical report goes down in flames

If you’ve been on Twitter this weekend, you’ve probably seen this viral tweet from President Obama’s Ebola Czar Ronald Klain who criticized President Trump’s physician for saying the president “is in very good health and I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his Presidency, and beyond.” You see, Klain says it’s a […]

The post SURPRISE! The latest lib outrage over Trump’s medical report goes down in flames appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:2/10/2019 9:45:05 PM
[2020 Presidential Election] Don’t sleep on “Spartacus” (Paul Mirengoff) In every presidential election cycle, there’s a sleeper — a candidate not expected to get far who catches fire. Sometimes that candidate goes all the way. Barack Obama and Donald Trump did. Other times the candidate falls short, but only after exceeding expectations and, to one degree of another, giving more heralded candidates a scare. Examples are Howard Dean, Mike Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Bernie Sanders. Sen. Cory Booker might Published:2/10/2019 9:13:52 PM
[World] Michelle Obama stuns at the Grammys: 'Music has always helped me tell my story' Host Alicia Keys opened the Grammys with a group of powerful women by her side, including a surprise guest: former first lady Michelle Obama.
     
 
 
Published:2/10/2019 9:13:52 PM
[Politics] Flashback: When Obama told out-of-work miners to learn to code… In the political social media sphere, the phrase “learn to code” has become one of the worst dogwhistles and has actually been banned by Twitter because it is just so abusive. But . . . Published:2/10/2019 1:45:59 PM
[Politics] Flashback: When Obama told out-of-work miners to learn to code… In the political social media sphere, the phrase “learn to code” has become one of the worst dogwhistles and has actually been banned by Twitter because it is just so abusive. But . . . Published:2/10/2019 1:45:59 PM
[Markets] Escobar: Are The Neocons Ready For Their Tropical Vietnam?

Authored by Pepe Escobar via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

Cold War 2.0 has hit South America with a bang – pitting the US and expected minions against the four key pillars of in-progress Eurasia integration: Russia, China, Iran and Turkey.

It’s the oil, stupid. But there’s way more than meets the (oily) eye.

Caracas has committed the ultimate cardinal sin in the eyes of Exceptionalistan; oil trading bypassing the US dollar or US-controlled exchanges.

Remember Iraq. Remember Libya. Yet Iran is also doing it. Turkey is doing it. Russia is – partially – on the way. And China will eventually trade all its energy in petroyuan.

With Venezuela adopting the petro crypto-currency and the sovereign bolivar, already last year the Trump administration had sanctioned Caracas off the international financial system.

No wonder Caracas is supported by China, Russia and Iran. They are the real hardcore troika – not psycho-killer John Bolton’s cartoonish “troika of tyranny” – fighting against the Trump administration’s energy dominance strategy, which consists essentially in aiming at the total lock down of oil trading in petrodollars, forever.

Venezuela is a key cog in the machine. Psycho killer Bolton admitted it on the record; “It will make a big difference to the United States economically if we could have American oil companies invest in and produce the oil capabilities in Venezuela.” It’s not a matter of just letting ExxonMobil take over Venezuela’s massive oil reserves – the largest on the planet. The key is to monopolize their exploitation in US dollars, benefitting a few Big Oil billionaires.

Once again, the curse of natural resources is in play. Venezuela must not be allowed to profit from its wealth on its own terms; thus, Exceptionalistan has ruled that the Venezuelan state must be shattered.

In the end, this is all about economic war. Cue to the US Treasury Department imposing new sanctions on PDVSA that amount to a de facto oil embargo against Venezuela.

Economic war redux

By now it’s firmly established what happened in Caracas was not a color revolution but an old-school US-promoted regime change coup using local comprador elites, installing as “interim president” an unknown quantity, Juan Guaido, with his Obama choirboy looks masking extreme right-wing credentials.

Everyone remembers “Assad must go”. The first stage in the Syrian color revolution was the instigation of civil war, followed by a war by proxy via multinational jihadi mercenaries. As Thierry Meyssan has noted, the role of the Arab League then is performed by the OAS now. And the role of Friends of Syria – now lying in the dustbin of history – is now performed by the Lima group, the club of Washington’s vassals. Instead of al-Nusra “moderate rebels”, we may have Colombian – or assorted Emirati-trained – “moderate rebel” mercenaries.

Contrary to Western corporate media fake news, the latest elections in Venezuela were absolutely legitimate. There was no way to tamper with the made in Taiwan electronic voting machines. The ruling Socialist Party got 70 percent of the votes; the opposition, with many parties boycotting it, got 30 percent. A serious delegation of the Latin American Council of Electoral Experts (CEELA) was adamant; the election reflected “peacefully and without problems, the will of Venezuelan citizens”.

The American embargo may be vicious. In parallel, Maduro’s government may have been supremely incompetent in not diversifying the economy and investing in food self-sufficiency. Major food importers, speculating like there’s no tomorrow, are making a killing. Still, reliable sources in Caracas tell that the barrios – the popular neighborhoods – remain largely peaceful.

In a country where a full tank of gas still costs less than a can of Coke, there’s no question the chronic shortages of food and medicines in local clinics have forced at least two million people to leave Venezuela. But the key enforcing factor is the US embargo.

The UN rapporteur to Venezuela, expert on international law, and former secretary of the UN Human Rights Council, Alfred de Zayas, goes straight to the point; much more than engaging in the proverbial demonization of Maduro, Washington is waging “economic war” against a whole nation.

It’s enlightening to see how the “Venezuelan people” see the charade. In a poll conducted by Hinterlaces even before the Trump administration coup/regime change wet dream, 86% of Venezuelans said they were against any sort of US intervention, military or not, 

And 81% of Venezuelans said they were against US sanctions. So much for “benign” foreign interference on behalf of “democracy” and “human rights”.

The Russia-China factor

Analyses by informed observers such as Eva Golinger and most of all, the Mision Verdad collective are extremely helpful. What’s certain, in true Empire of Chaos mode, is that the American playbook, beyond the embargo and sabotage, is to foment civil war.

Dodgy “armed groups” have been active in the Caracas barrios, acting in the dead of night and amplifying “social unrest” on social media. Still, Guaido holds absolutely no power inside the country. His only chance of success is if he manages to install a parallel government – cashing in on the oil revenue and having Washington arrest government members on trumped-up charges.

Irrespective of neocon wet dreams, adults at the Pentagon should know that an invasion of Venezuela may indeed metastasize into a tropical Vietnam quagmire. The Brazilian strongman in waiting, vice-president and retired general Hamilton Mourao, already said there will be no military intervention.

Psycho killer Bolton’s by now infamous notepad stunt about “5,000 troops to Colombia”, is a joke; these would have no chance against the arguably 15,000 Cubans who are in charge of security for the Maduro government; Cubans have demonstrated historically they are not in the business of handing over power.

It all comes back to what China and Russia may do. China is Venezuela’s largest creditor. Maduro was received by Xi Jinping last year in Beijing, getting an extra $5 billion in loans and signing at least 20 bilateral agreements.

President Putin offered his full support to Maduro over the phone, diplomatically stressing that “destructive interference from abroad blatantly violates basic norms of international law.”

By January 2016, oil was as low as $35 a barrel; a disaster to Venezuela’s coffers. Maduro then decided to transfer 49.9% of the state ownership in PDVSA’s US subsidiary, Citgo, to Russian Rosneft for a mere $1.5 billion loan. This had to send a wave of red lights across the Beltway; those “evil” Russians were now part owners of Venezuela’s prime asset.

Late last year, still in need of more funds, Maduro opened gold mining in Venezuela to Russian mining companies. And there’s more; nickel, diamonds, iron ore, aluminum, bauxite, all coveted by Russia, China – and the US. As for $1.3 billion of Venezuela’s own gold, forget about repatriating it from the Bank of England.

And then, last December, came the straw that broke the Deep State’s back; the friendship flight of two Russian nuclear-capable Tu-160 bombers. How dare they? In our own backyard?

The Trump administration’s energy masterplan may be indeed to annex Venezuela to a parallel “North American-South American Petroleum Exporting Countries” (NASAPEC) cartel, capable of rivaling the OPEC+ love story between Russia and the House of Saud.

But even if that came to fruition, and adding a possible, joint US-Qatar LNG alliance, there’s no guarantee that would be enough to assure petrodollar – and petrogas – preeminence in the long run.

Eurasia energy integration will mostly bypass the petrodollar; this is at the very heart of both the BRICS and SCO strategy. From Nord Stream 2 to Turk Stream, Russia is locking down a long-term energy partnership with Europe. And petroyuan dominance is just a matter of time. Moscow knows it. Tehran knows it. Ankara knows it. Riyadh knows it.

So what about plan B, neocons? Ready for your tropical Vietnam?

Published:2/10/2019 7:13:42 AM
[Markets] Facebook: The Government’s Propaganda Arm?

Authored by Jeff Charles via Liberty Nation,

The social media giant has a disturbing number of former Obama officials in key positions of authority over content...

Imagine for a moment what it would look like if the federal government launched its own social media network. Every day, Americans could freely use the platform to express their views on everything from economic theory to the best tips for baking peanut butter cookies. They could even discuss their political views and debate the important issues of the day.

But what if the government were empowered to determine which political views are appropriate and which are too obscene for the American public? Well, it looks like this is already happening. Of course, the state has not created a social media network; they didn’t have to. It appears the government is using Facebook – the world’s largest social media company – to sway public opinion.

The Government’s Fingers In Facebook

The Free Thought Project recently published a report revealing that Facebook has some troubling ties to the federal government and that this connection could be enabling former state officials to influence the content displayed. The social media provider has partnered with various think tanks which receive state funding, while hiring an alarming number of individuals who have held prominent positions in the federal government.

Facebook recently announced their partnership with the Atlantic Council – which is partly funded by tax dollars – to ensure that users are presented with quality news stories. And by “quality,” it seems that they mean “progressive.” The council is well known for promoting far-left news sources, including the Xinhua News Agency, which was founded by the Communist Party of China. Well, that’s reassuring. What red-blooded American capitalist doesn’t want to get the news from a communist regime?

But there one aspect of this story is even more troubling: the government-to-Facebook pipeline. The company has employed a significant number of former officials in positions that grant them influence over what content is allowed on the platform.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s Head of Cybersecurity Policy, prosecuted cybercrimes at the Department of Justice under President Obama. Now, he is responsible for determining who gets banned or suspended from the network. But that’s not the worst of it. He also spearheaded the company’s initiative to scrub anti-war content and “protest” movements. In a blog post, Gleicher wrote: “Some of the Pages frequently posted about topics like anti-NATO sentiment, protest movements, and anti-corruption.” He continued, “We are constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people.”

The company has also hired others who served in key positions in the Obama administration. Some of these include:

  • Aneesh Raman: Former speechwriter

  • Joel Benenson: Top adviser

  • Meredith Carden: Office of the First Lady

To make things more interesting, Facebook has also hired neocons to help them determine the type of content that is being published. So if you happen to be a conservative that isn’t too crazy about interventionism, your views are not as welcome on the network as others. After all, how many times have you heard of people being banned for posting pro-war or socialist propaganda?

Are Private Companies Truly Private?

The notion that government officials could be using positions of power in the private industry to advance a statist agenda is disturbing, but the fact that most Americans are unaware of this is far worse. It would be inaccurate to argue that the government is controlling Facebook’s content, but the level of the state’s involvement in the world’s biggest social media company is a disturbing development.

This is not the only case of state officials becoming involved with certain industries. This trend is rampant in the certain industries in which individuals move back and forth between private organizations and the FDA. For example, Monsanto, an agricultural and agrochemical company, has been under scrutiny for its ties to the federal government.

It is not clear if there is anything that can be done to counteract inappropriate relations between the government and certain companies – especially organizations with the level of influence enjoyed by the likes of Facebook. But it essential that the public is made aware of these relations, otherwise the state will continue to exert influence over society – with Americans none the wiser.

Published:2/9/2019 8:39:08 PM
[Markets] Trump's Vow To Stay In Iraq "To Watch Iran" Has Unleashed A Political Storm In Baghdad

Authored by Elijah Magnier, Middle East based chief international war correspondent for Al Rai Media

US president Donald Trump’s stated intention to remain in Iraq in order to “be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem” has created a political storm in Mesopotamia among local politicians and groups now determined to put an end to the US presence in the country. Many are upset by Trump’s statement, saying that the “US forces are departing from their initial mission to fight terrorism, the reason for which they are allowed to stay in Iraq.” Iraqi President Barham Saleh commented that the US administration did not ask Iraq’s permission for US troops stationed in the country to “watch Iran”.

US forces have been deployed in Iraq in large numbers since 2014 when ISIS occupied a third of the country. The US establishment under president Obama refrained from rushing to support the Iraqi government, leaving room for Iran to act rapidly and send weapons and military advisers to Baghdad and Erbil. The intentionally slow US reaction pushed the Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Sistani to call for the mobilization of the population, a call that led to the creation of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), known as Hashd al-Shaabi, which managed to stop ISIS’ advance.

Image via ejmagnier.com

Moreover, in response to Iraq’s request, a joint military operational room was formed in Baghdad’s “Green Zone” where Russian, Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian high-ranking officers are still present, coordinating military attacks and sharing electronic and other intelligence information about ISIS whereabouts and the movements of its militants, sleeping cells and leaders.

The US also offered to conduct intelligence operations and air strikes against ISIS. Nevertheless, during the period that the ISIS threat diminished the number of the US forces has more than doubled, from 5,200 to 11,000, according to sources within the Iraqi government; some Iraqi sources claim the real numbers are much larger, with as many as 34,000 US servicemen spread over 31 bases and locations, along with Iraqi forces. There are no military bases for US forces only.

The Americans are officially based at Camp Victory within the perimeter of Baghdad airport, Camp Al-Taji situated 25 km north of Baghdad, Balad Airbase which is 64 km north of Baghdad, Al-Habbaniyah Camp between Ramadi and Fallujah, Qay’yara Airfield 300 km north of Baghdad, Kariz base in Zummar Nineveh, Ayn al-Assad Airbase close to Baghdadi in al-Anbar province, Kirkuk al-Hurriya Airbase, Bashur base in Erbil, Erbil International Airport command and control base, Harir Shaqlawa Kurdistan in Erbil and Atrush Field in Duhok.

US forces constructed a new Airbase close to al-Qaem on the Iraqi-Syrian borders and another close to al-Rutbah east of Ramadi and close to the Syrian borders. The US forces have a military presence within the Iraqi security forces in various locations and camps, mainly within the Counter-Terrorism units.

Trump visited one of these bases, Ayn al-Assad, during the Christmas and New Year holidays. The breach of protocol associated with his visit created domestic upheaval, leading many Iraqis to call on the Parliament to expel US forces from Iraq; the three leading Iraqi officials (Speaker, President and Prime Minister) refused to meet him at the US part of the base.  For security reasons the US President was forced to keep secret his visit to a country where he has thousands of forces on the ground. By contrast the Iranian Foreign Minister, Mohammad Jawad Zarif, visited Iraq for five days meeting local officials in Baghdad, Najaf and Karbala.

President Trump paid a surprise holiday visit to Iraq on Dec. 26, which was met with controversy for Iraqi politicians.

Iraqi organizations  who fought ISIS for years, and share Iran’s goal of rejecting US hegemony in the region  threatened to attack US forces if they didn’t leave the country immediately. However, sources close to decision makers report that “Iraqi groups are not expected to attack US forces immediately”.

“Iran has asked all their friends in Iraq to refrain from attacking the US forces and instead to arm themselves with patience for the day when US forces refuse to leave if and when the Parliament approves a bill asking them to return home. Should this happen, US forces would be considered an occupation force, giving legitimacy for the Iraqi resistance to attain their goal”, said the source.

These Iraqi organizations are keeping a close watch on the US forces’ movement in the country. They consider the US establishment a source of trouble to the country and the region. Last week, the Hashd al-Shaabi forced a US patrol to return from their mission, preventing them from entering the city of Mosul on foot. The Iraqi forces see the US as diverging from its mission to help Iraq fight terrorism when US forces patrol Iraqi cities for their own training purposes.

Hashd al-Shaabi has a grudge against the American forces for having bombarded Iraqi forces on the borders between Iraq and Syria, causing dozens of casualties. US officials offered repeated apologies, accusing Israel of the bombing and promising that such “mistakes” would not be repeated in the future. US officials feared the Hashd reaction and were concerned about their own troops on the ground.

According to Iraqi sources, the Parliament “needs several months to coordinate a large action and the preparation of a bill asking for the withdrawal of the US forces from the country. This campaign is expected to be guided by the Sadrist leader Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr”.

Iraqi President Barham Salih. Image source: AP photo

The Sadrist groups are feared by the US for their long history of attacks against American troops during the occupation of Iraq between 2003 and 2011. Those mainly responsible for attacking and killing US occupation forces were Sadrist leaders who today lead their own groups: Asaeb Ahl al-Haq, Kataeb al-Imam Ali and Harakat al-Nujaba’.

From 2003-2011, the US declared themselves an occupation force. Today, these forces are present following an official request from the central government in Baghdad. Thus, their departure should follow on a parliamentary initiative, according to article 61 of the constitution.

The Iraq government would like to avoid an aggressive stand against the US and is not looking to have Washington as an enemy. At the same time, Iraq doesn’t want to be considered submissive and under the wing of the US and its policies. The US aims to pull out its forces from Syria  if Trump’s warmonger advisers allow him to do so  to deploy them in Iraq, a move that should increase the number of US forces in Iraq. This would represent a further provocation to the Iraqis.

Simultaneously, Iraq is cooperating with Iran on all commercial levels, especially with regard to energy. Washington would like to prevent any selling of Iranian oil and would like to make sure Iraq is not helping Iran or becoming hostile to Israel.

However, it's too late: the three Iraqi leaders are closer to Iran than the US (namely, the president, the prime minister, and the speaker). Nevertheless, these leaders, unlike, for example, a figure such as Nuri al-Maliki, do not have a record of hostility to the US.

Nevertheless, Trump is mistaken if he believes Mesopotamia will bow to his wishes and become the platform for an attack on Iran.

Published:2/9/2019 10:06:03 AM
[Markets] Does Washington Rule The World?

Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

One of the most disturbing aspects of the past two years of Donald Trump foreign policy has been the assumption that decisions made by the United States are binding on the rest of the world. Apart from time of war, no other nation has ever sought to prevent other nations from trading with each other. And the United States has also uniquely sought to penalize other countries for alleged crimes that did not occur in the US and that did not involve American citizens, while also insisting that all nations must comply with whatever penalties are meted out by Washington.

The United States now sees itself as judge, jury and executioner in policing the international community, a conceit that began post World War 2 when American presidents began referring to themselves as “leader of the free world.” This pretense received legislative backing with passage of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1987 (ATA) as amended in 1992 plus subsequent related legislation, to include the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act of 2016 (JASTA). The body of legislation can be used by US citizens or residents to obtain civil judgments against alleged terrorists anywhere in the world and can be employed to punish governments, international organizations and even corporations that are perceived to be supportive of terrorists, even indirectly or unknowingly. Plaintiffs are able to sue for injuries to their “person, property, or business” and have ten years to bring a claim.

Sometimes the connections and level of proof required by a US court to take action are tenuous, and that is being polite. Suits currently can claim secondary liability for third parties, including banks and large corporations, under “material support” of terrorism statutes. This includes “aiding and abetting” liability as well as providing “services” to any group that the United States considers to be terrorist, even if the terrorist label is dubious and/or if that support is inadvertent.

There have been two recent lawsuits seeking civil damages under ATA and JASTA involved Iran and Syria.

Regarding Iran, in June 2017 a jury deliberated for one day before delivering a guilty verdict against two Iranian foundations for violation of US sanctions, allowing a federal court to authorize the US government seizure of a skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan. It was the largest terrorism-related civil forfeiture in United States history. The presiding judge decided to distribute proceeds from the building’s sale, which could amount to as much as $1 billion, to the families of victims of terrorism, including the September 11th attacks. The court ruled that Iran had some culpability for the 9/11 attacks as a state sponsor of terrorism, though it could not determine that Iran was directly involved in the attacks. 

The ruling against Iran has to be considered somewhat bizarre as it is clear that Iran had nothing to do with 9/11 but was considered guilty anyway because the State Department in Washington has declared it to be a state sponsor of terror. Being able to determine guilt based on an interpretation of a foreign government’s behavior puts incredible power in the hands of unelected bureaucrats who are making political decisions regarding who is “good” and who is “bad.”

A second, more recent, court case has involved Syria. Last week a federal court in the District of Columbia ruled that Syria was liable for the targeting and killing of an American journalist who was covering the shelling of a rebel held area of Homs in 2012.

The court awarded $302.5 million to the family of the journalist, Marie Colvin. In her ruling, Judge Amy Berman Jackson cited “Syria’s longstanding policy of violence” seeking “to intimidate journalists” and “suppress dissent.” As it is normally not possible even in American courts to sue a foreign government, a so-called human rights group funded by the US and other governments called the Center for Justice and Accountability made its case relying on the designation of Damascus as a state sponsor of terrorism. The judge believed that the evidence presented was “credible and convincing.”

The complexities of what is going on in Syria are such that it is difficult to imagine that a Washington based judge could possibly render judgment in any credible fashion. Colvin was in a war zone and the plaintiffs, whose agenda was to compile a dossier of war crimes against Syria, made their case using documents that they provided, which certainly presented a partisan viewpoint and might themselves have been fabricated. Based on her own comments, Judge Amy Berman Jackson certainly came into the game with her own particular view on Syria and what the conflict there was all about.

Another American gift to international jurisprudence has been the Magnitsky Act of 2012, a product of the feel-good enthusiasm of the Barack Obama Administration. It was based on a narrative regarding what went on in Russia under the clueless Boris Yeltsin and his nationalist successor Vladimir Putin that was peddled by one Bill Browder, who many believe to have been a major player in the looting of the former Soviet Union. It was claimed by Browder and his accomplices in the media that the Russian government had been complicit in the arrest, torture and killing of one Sergei Magnitsky, an accountant turned whistleblower working for Browder. Almost every aspect of the story has been challenged, but it was completely bought into by the Congress and White House and led to sanctions on the Russians who were allegedly involved despite Moscow’s complaints that the US had no legal right to interfere in its internal affairs relating to a Russian citizen.

Worse still, the Magnitsky Act has been broadened and is now the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2017. It is being used to sanction and otherwise punish alleged “human rights abusers” in other countries. It was most recently used in the Jamal Khashoggi case, in which the US sanctioned the alleged killers of the Saudi dissident journalist even though no one had actually been convicted of any crime.

Independent of Magnitsky and the various ATA acts is the ability of the US Treasury Department and its Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to sanction a country’s ability to move money through the US controlled dollar financial system. That is what is taking place currently regarding payments for Venezuela’s oil exports, which have been sanctioned and will not be able to use the dollar denominated system after April 28th. A similar US imposed sanctioning is currently in effect against Iran, with all potential purchasers of Iranian oil themselves being subject to secondary sanctions if they continue to make purchases after May 5th.

Most of the world oil business is transacted in dollars, so the Treasury Department has an effective weapon in hand to interfere in foreign countries without having to send in the Marines, but there is, of course, a danger that the rest of the world will eventually read the tea leaves and abandon the use of petrodollars altogether. If that occurs it will make it more difficult for the American government to continue to print dollars without regard for deficits as there will be little demand for the extra US currency in circulation.

The principle that Washington should respect the sovereignty of other states even when it disagrees with their internal policies has effectively been abandoned. And, as if things were not bad enough, some new legislation virtually guarantees that in the near future the United States will be doing still more to interfere in and destabilize much of the world. Congress has passed and President Trump has signed the Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act, which seeks to improve Washington’s response to mass killings. The prevention of genocide and mass murder is now a part of American national security agenda. There will be a Mass Atrocity Task Force and State Department officers will receive training to sensitize them to impending genocide, though presumably the new program will not apply to the Palestinians as the law’s namesake never was troubled by their suppression and killing by the state of Israel. 

Published:2/9/2019 6:08:18 AM
[Markets] American Suspension Of INF Treaty Is Aimed At China

Authored by Anatoly Karlin via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

So it’s done. The US has suspended its participation in the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and Russia soon followed suit. This almost certainly spells an end to this late Cold War relic, which banned the two superpowers from deploying ground-launched ballistic missiles and cruise missiles with ranges of 500-5,500km. There have been recriminations all round. But in the end, so far as two of the world’s three most greatest military Powers are concerned, upholding the INF Treaty could never have been done exactly to the letter.

The US has specified Russia’s Novator 9M729 (NATO designation: SSC-8) as the offending missile that finally prompted US action. Russian nuclear weapons analyst Pavel Podvig has noted that it is very similar to the Russian Navy’s Kalibr-NK cruise missile, which has a range well beyond 500 km and has been touted as a potential “carrier killer”. Podvig goes on to speculate that if the US had observed a test of the 9M729 from a land-based Iskander-M launcher – even if on just a single occasion – then all of them “would have to be eliminated” by the formal terms of the treaty. This is obviously not something that Russia could reasonably be expected to carry out.

Moreover, any number of US missile systems can be considered to be in breach of the INF Treaty. For instance, the Russians have argued that America’s AEGIS Ashore program – a ground-based cruise missile, for all intents and purposes – can also be considered to be in systemic breach of the INF Treaty. Incidentally, this system was itself enabled by America’s unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia in 2002, under the George W. Bush administration.

Trump has been taking heat for the INF withdrawal from the usual quarters. For instance, the top comment on this story at r/politics – a bastion of online Trump/Putin Derangement Syndrome – lambasts the US President for spoiling America’s image and letting down its allies instead of sanctioning Russia. (Naturally, no mention of where exactly it says that breaking the Treaty is grounds for such). In reality, dissatisfaction with the INF Treaty had been building up for years within the previous Obama administration, and NATO has released a statement of support for Trump’s decision. There is no significant division on this matter either within US political circles, or its transatlantic allies.

Because at the end of the day, rhetoric to the contrary, nobody really cares about the INF Treaty within Europe. Force levels on both sides of the border between the West and Russia – which has moved 1,000-1,500 km to the east, in large part thanks to NATO’s broken promises not to expand – are at a small fraction of Cold War levels. Few seriously believe that Russia has any territorial designs on the Baltics, and even on the off chance that it does, it’s not like the 9M729 is going to make any cardinal difference.

However, it is with respect to the balance of power in the West Pacific that the restrictions imposed by the INF on the US – but not on China – come into play. While consensus expert opinion holds that the US still retains dominance in the South China Sea vis-à-vis China, its margin of superiority is shrinking year by year. In a 2015 report, the RAND Corporation estimated that the number of US air wings required to defeat a surge of attacking Chinese aircraft over Taiwan increased from just a couple in 1996 to 30 by 2017. In a subsequent report released in the following year, we see the balance of power in potential China-US conflict scenarios shift from a terminal Chinese disadvantage in 1996, to parity over Taiwan by 2017 (though they believe that the US still holds a decisive advantage in a conflict over the Spratly Islands). Even so, it is especially notable that the only two categories in a conflict over Taiwan in which RAND now considers China to hold an advantage – “Chinese attacks on air bases” and “Chinese anti-surface warfare” – are both spheres in which intermediate-range ballistic missiles would play an important role.

This is not just my supposition. In another 2016 RAND report, tellingly titled “War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable”, this consideration is stated openly and forthrightly:

“US land-based missiles from 500 km to 5,500 km are prohibited by the INF treaty, whereas the Chinese missiles are not, giving China a significant advantage.”

It has long been obvious that the US (correctly) regards China as the real long-term threat to its global hegemony. Meanwhile, Russia is a mere nuisance, a “dying bear” that is ever approaching collapse, in the wake of which Moscow will have no choice but to sign up to America’s China containment project. (Sure, this sounds like a crazy ideological narrative, and it is – but the US policy of alienating Russia and drawing it into a quasi-alliance with China is even crazier – just ask Kissinger). But like it or not, this really is how the American elites think, and it can’t be denied that there is a certain logic to it.

In this context, withdrawal from the INF Treaty – with Russia’s alleged violations as pretext – is just the logical next step to the military component of Obama’s “pivot to Asia”, one that the US is entirely happy to continue and follow through with. It really is as banal as that.

Published:2/8/2019 11:06:32 PM
[Markets] Venezuela: America's 68th Regime-Change Disaster

Authored by by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies via AntiWar.com,

In his masterpiece, Killing Hope: US Military and C.I.A. Interventions Since World War II, William Blum, who died in December 2018, wrote chapter-length accounts of 55 US regime change operations against countries around the world, from China (1945-1960s) to Haiti (1986-1994). Noam Chomsky’s blurb on the back of the latest edition says simply, “Far and away the best book on the topic.” We agree. If you have not read it, please do. It will give you a clearer context for what is happening in Venezuela today, and a better understanding of the world you are living in.

Since Killing Hope was published in 1995, the US has conducted at least 13 more regime change operations, several of which are still active: Yugoslavia; Afghanistan; Iraq; the 3rd US invasion of Haiti since WWII; Somalia; Honduras; Libya; Syria; Ukraine; Yemen; Iran; Nicaragua; and now Venezuela.

William Blum noted that the US generally prefers what its planners call “low intensity conflict” over full-scale wars. Only in periods of supreme overconfidence has it launched its most devastating and disastrous wars, from Korea and Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq. After its war of mass destruction in Iraq, the US reverted to “low intensity conflict” under Obama’s doctrine of covert and proxy war.

Obama conducted even heavier bombing than Bush II, and deployed US special operations forces to 150 countries all over the world, but he made sure that nearly all the bleeding and dying was done by Afghans, Syrians, Iraqis, Somalis, Libyans, Ukrainians, Yemenis and others, not by Americans. What US planners mean by “low intensity conflict” is that it is less intense for Americans.

President Ghani of Afghanistan recently revealed that a staggering 45,000 Afghan security forces have been killed since he took office in 2014, compared with only 72 US and NATO troops. “It shows who has been doing the fighting,” Ghani caustically remarked. This disparity is common to every current US war.

This does not mean that the US is any less committed to trying to overthrowing governments that reject and resist US imperial sovereignty, especially if those countries contain vast oil reserves. It’s no coincidence that two of the main targets of current US regime change operations are Iran and Venezuela, two of the four countries with the largest liquid oil reserves in the world (the others being Saudi Arabia and Iraq).

In practice, “low intensity conflict” involves four tools of regime change: sanctions or economic warfare; propaganda or “information warfare”; covert and proxy war; and aerial bombardment. In Venezuela, the US has used the first and second, with the third and fourth now “on the table” since the first two have created chaos but so far not toppled the government.

The US government has been opposed to Venezuela’s socialist revolution since the time Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998. Unbeknownst to most Americans, Chavez was well loved by poor and working class Venezuelans for his extraordinary array of social programs that lifted millions out of poverty. Between 1996 and 2010, the level of extreme poverty plummeted from 40% to 7%. The government also substantially improved healthcare and education, cutting infant mortality by half, reducing the malnutrition rate from 21% to 5% of the population and eliminating illiteracy. These changes gave Venezuela the lowest level of inequality in the region, based on its Gini coefficient.

Since Chavez’ death in 2013, Venezuela has descended into an economic crisis stemming from a combination of government mismanagement, corruption, sabotage and the precipitous fall in the price of oil. The oil industry provides 95% of Venezuela’s exports, so the first thing Venezuela needed when prices crashed in 2014 was international financing to cover huge shortfalls in the budgets of both the government and the national oil company. The strategic objective of US sanctions is to exacerbate the economic crisis by denying Venezuela access to the US-dominated international financial system to roll over existing debt and obtain new financing.

The blocking of Citgo’s funds in the US also deprives Venezuela of a billion dollars per year in revenue that it previously received from the export, refining and retail sale of gasoline to American drivers. Canadian economist Joe Emersberger has calculated that the new sanctions Trump unleashed in 2017 cost Venezuela $6 billion in just their first year. In sum, US sanctions are designed to “make the economy scream” in Venezuela, exactly as President Nixon described the goal of US sanctions against Chile after its people elected Salvador Allende in 1970.

Alfred De Zayas visited Venezuela as a UN Rapporteur in 2017 and wrote an in-depth report for the UN. He criticized Venezuela’s dependence on oil, poor governance and corruption, but he found that “economic warfare” by the US and its allies were seriously exacerbating the crisis. “Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns,” De Zayas wrote. “Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees.” He recommended that the International Criminal Court should investigate US sanctions against Venezuela as crimes against humanity. In a recent interview with the Independent newspaper in the U.K., De Zayas reiterated that US sanctions are killing Venezuelans.

Venezuela’s economy has shrunk by about half since 2014, the greatest contraction of a modern economy in peacetime. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the average Venezuelan lost an incredible 24 lb. in body weight in 2017.

Mr. De Zayas’ successor as UN Rapporteur, Idriss Jazairy, issued a statement on January 31st, in which he condemned “coercion” by outside powers as a “violation of all norms of international law.” “Sanctions which can lead to starvation and medical shortages are not the answer to the crisis in Venezuela,” Mr. Jazairy said, “…precipitating an economic and humanitarian crisis…is not a foundation for the peaceful settlement of disputes.”

While Venezuelans face poverty, preventable diseases, malnutrition and open threats of war by US officials, those same US officials and their corporate sponsors are looking at an almost irresistible gold mine if they can bring Venezuela to its knees: a fire sale of its oil industry to foreign oil companies and the privatization of many other sectors of its economy, from hydroelectric power plants to iron, aluminum and, yes, actual gold mines. This is not speculation. It is what the US’s new puppet, Juan Guaido, has reportedly promised his American backers if they can overthrow Venezuela’s elected government and install him in the presidential palace.

Oil industry sources have reported that Guaido has “plans to introduce a new national hydrocarbons law that establishes flexible fiscal and contractual terms for projects adapted to oil prices and the oil investment cycle… A new hydrocarbons agency would be created to offer bidding rounds for projects in natural gas and conventional, heavy and extra-heavy crude.”

The US government claims to be acting in the best interests of the Venezuelan people, but over 80 percent of Venezuelans, including many who don’t support Maduro, are opposed to the crippling economic sanctions, while 86% oppose US or international military intervention.

This generation of Americans has already seen how our government’s endless sanctions, coups and wars have only left country after country mired in violence, poverty and chaos. As the results of these campaigns have become predictably catastrophic for the people of each country targeted, the American officials promoting and carrying them out have a higher and higher bar to meet as they try to answer the obvious question of an increasingly skeptical US and international public:

“How is Venezuela (or Iran or North Korea) different from Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and at least 63 other countries where US regime change operations have led only to long-lasting violence and chaos?”

Mexico, Uruguay, the Vatican and many other countries are committed to diplomacy to help the people of Venezuela resolve their political differences and find a peaceful way forward. The most valuable way that the US can help is to stop making the Venezuelan economy and people scream (on all sides), by lifting its sanctions and abandoning its failed and catastrophic regime change operation in Venezuela. But the only things that will force such a radical change in US policy are public outrage, education and organizing, and international solidarity with the people of Venezuela.

*  *  *

“The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous” – George Orwell

h/t Jim Quinn

Published:2/8/2019 7:36:42 PM
[Markets] "Death To America" Really Means "Death To Trump", Ayatollah Says

Iranian Supreme Ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is putting a new spin on an old slogan.

Americans who have been around since at least the days of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who famously antagonized George W Bush and Barack Obama, will remember Iranian chants of "Death to America" filling the airwaves. But in the age of Trump, with tensions between Iran and the US back at a breaking point after the president pulled out of the Iran deal, Khamenei has clarified that when Iranians chant "Death to America" they really mean "Death to Trump" (and his top national security and foreign policy officials like National Security Advisor John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo).

Aya

At least that's what Khamenei told a group of Iranian air force officers during a speech to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Iranian revolution.

"As long as America continues its wickedness, the Iranian nation will not abandon ‘Death to America’," Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told a gathering of Iranian Air Force officers marking the 40th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, according to his official website.

Trump pulled out of Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers last year and re-imposed sanctions on Tehran, dealing a blow to the country’s economy.

"'Death to America' means death to Trump, (National Security Adviser) John Bolton, and (Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo. It means death to American rulers," Ayatollah Khamenei said.

And though the European signatories to the Iran deal have been doing everything they can to keep the deal afloat, Khamenei warned against trusting them, too, particularly since they have been stepping up criticism of Iran's missile tests.

"I recommend that one should not trust the Europeans just as the Americans," Khamenei said. "We don’t say, don’t have contacts with them, but it’s an issue of trust."

Maybe if European nations like Italy had stepped up their purchases of Iranian oil, or if the EU had succeeded in creating the alternative payments vehicle to help importers of Iranian crude bypass US sanctions, the Ayatollah would feel differently

Published:2/8/2019 8:59:15 AM
[Markets] "GIANT AND ILLEGAL HOAX": Trump Reams 2018 Schiff - Simpson Meeting In Aspen

President Trump lashed out over Twitter Friday, first slamming Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) after The Hill's John Solomon reported that House Intelligence Committee chairman had a "Forrest Gump-like encounter" with Fusion GPS founder Glenn Simpson at last July's prestigious Aspen Security Conference. 

Fusion GPS produced the "hoax" Trump-Russia dossier commissioned by the Clinton Campaign, which relied on Kremlin sources for a series of salacious and largely unproven claims. The dossier was a foundational document used by the Obama administration to surveil the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. 

Solomon writes that photos from the Aspen security conference show Schiff and Simpson meeting, which both men insisted was only a brief encounter. 

When confronted with the Aspen conference photos of Schiff, in sport coat and open-neck dress shirt, and Simpson, wearing casual attire, representatives for both men tried to minimize their discussion, insisting nothing substantive about the Russia case was discussed. -The Hill

Shockingly, Simpson was an important witness in front of the House Intelligence Committee at the time - of which Schiff was the ranking Democrat. Simpson had "given sworn testimony about alleged, but still unproven, collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign," Solomon writes. 

What's more, Schiff had heard testimony from former DOJ #4 Bruce Ohr which suggested that Simpson may have lied to lawmakers

Specifically, Simpson claimed he had not begun meeting with Ohr until after Thanksgiving 2016, well after the FBI had begun investigating Trump-Russia collusion and after the presidential election in which Simpson's client, Clinton, lost to Trump.

But Ohr provided compelling evidence, including calendar notations, testimony and handwritten notes, showing that Simpson met with him in August 2016, well before the election and during a time when Steele was helping the FBI start an investigation into Trump. -The Hill

Fusion GPS tried to downplay the Aspen encounter, telling Solomon in a statement: "In the summer of 2018, Mr. Simpson attended a media-sponsored social event where he exchanged small talk with Rep. Schiff and many other people who were in attendance. The conversation between the two was brief and did not cover anything substantive. There has been no subsequent contact between Mr. Simpson and Rep. Schiff."

Schiff's comment was less specific. "The chairman did not have any pre-planned meeting with Glenn Simpson, and any conversation with him at the Aspen conference would have been brief and social in nature," said Schiff spokesman Patrick Boland. 

We're sure they discussed yoga and weddings. 

Or as Solomon writes: "Translation: This was just a Forrest Gump-like moment in which the Democrats’ chief defender of the dossier and the man whose firm produced it met serendipitously."

Trump then slammed the Russia investigation as a "GIANT AND ILLEGAL HOAX, developed long before the election itself, but used as an excuse by the Democrats as to why Crooked Hillary Clinton lost the Election!" 

Trump also noted that the mainstream media has "refused to cover the fact that the head of the VERY important Senate Intelligence Committee, after two years of intensive study and access to Intelligence that only they could get, just stated that they have found NO COLLUSION between “Trump” & Russia.""

On Thursday, the Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) announced that his committee's Russia investigation has yet to find evidence that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election, and will soon release a report on the Obama administration's response to Russian interference in the last US election, reports Politico

In an interview with CBS published Thursday, Burr (R-N.C.) gave glimpses into the dynamics and scope of his committee's probe, which was launched shortly before Trump's 2017 inauguration and has now stretched into its third year. Burr told CBS that the committee staff has interviewed more than 200 witnesses from multiple countries and reviewed over 300,000 pages.

"Based on the evidence to date," Burr said, the committee could not definitively say there was collusion between Trump and the Russians.

"If we write a report based upon the facts that we have, then we don't have anything that would suggest there was collusion by the Trump campaign and Russia," Burr told CBS. -Politico

Burr suggested that some of the questions raised during the course of the investigation could occupy the committee "for the next decade," and some portions of the final report would be so classified that they are never made available to the public. 

Their findings on the Obama administration's response to Russian interference could come within a "matter of weeks."  

Published:2/8/2019 8:28:40 AM
[9645840e-161d-5cbe-80b9-4351ea8ddf7d] Marc Thiessen: Yes, it feels like there are 'endless' wars for our military – But here's the hard truth "Great nations do not fight endless wars," President Trump declared in his State of the Union address. It was a line that could have been delivered by President Barack Obama, who in 2015 memorably said, "I do not support the idea of endless war." Published:2/8/2019 3:28:48 AM
[127c5dc6-bd07-5473-ab69-57f0a8e93f56] From Obama to Trump, media coverage of State of the Union differs greatly The drastic difference between mainstream media coverage of President Trump’s recent State of the Union address compared to how the press treated President Obama following his speeches is the latest example of the unbalanced coverage Trump receives compared to his predecessor. Published:2/7/2019 5:57:53 PM
[Markets] WSJ Warns The New Democratic Agenda Sure Looks Like Socialism

Now that President Trump has criticized the “new calls to adopt socialism in this country,” Democrats and the media are already protesting that the socialist label doesn’t apply to them.

But, as The Wall Street Journal asks (and answers), what are they afraid of - the label or their own ideas - because the new Democratic agenda sure looks like government control over the means of production.

Via The Wall Street Journal,

The biggest political story of 2019 is that Democrats are embracing policies that include government control of ever-larger chunks of the private American economy.

Merriam-Webster defines socialism as “any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods.”

The U.S. may not be Venezuela, but consider the Democratic agenda that is emerging from Congress and the party’s presidential contenders. You decide if the proposals meet the definition of socialism.

Medicare for All. Bernie Sanders’ plan, which has been endorsed by 16 other Senators, would replace all private health insurance in the U.S. with a federally administered single-payer health-care program. Government would decide what care to deliver, which drugs to pay for, and how much to pay doctors and hospitals. Private insurance would be banned.

As Senator Kamala Harris put it recently on CNN, “the idea is that everyone gets access to medical care, and you don’t have to go through the process of going through an insurance company, having them give you approval, going through the paperwork, all of the delay that may require. Who of us has not had that situation, where you’ve got to wait for approval, and the doctor says, well, I don’t know if your insurance company is going to cover this? Let’s eliminate all of that. Let’s move on.”

If replacing private insurance with government control isn’t socialism, what is?

The Green New Deal. This idea, endorsed by 40 House Democrats and several Democratic presidential candidates, would require that the U.S. be carbon neutral within 10 years. Non-carbon sources provide only 11% of U.S. energy today, so this would mean a complete remake of American electric power, transportation and manufacturing.

Oh, and as imagined by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, all of this would be planned by a Select Committee For a Green New Deal. Soviet five-year plans were more modest.

A guaranteed government job for all. To assist in this 10-year transformation of society, the Green New Deal’s authors would “provide all members of our society, across all regions and all communities, the opportunity, training and education to be a full and equal participant in the transition, including through a job guarantee program to assure a living wage job to every person who wants one.”

This is no longer a fringe idea. The Center for American Progress, Barack Obama’s think tank, supports a government job for everyone “to counter the effects of reduced bargaining power, technical change, globalization,” and presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand tweeted her support for it as an alternative to tax reform.

A new system for corporate control. Senator Elizabeth Warren wants a new federal charter for businesses with more than $1 billion in annual revenue that would make companies answer to more than shareholders. Employees would elect 40% of directors, who would be obliged to consider “benefits” beyond returns to the owners. This radical redesign of corporate governance would give politicians and their interest groups new influence over private business decisions and assets.

Vastly higher taxes. These ideas would require much more government revenue, and Democrats are eagerly proposing ways to raise it. Mr. Sanders wants to raise the top death tax rate to 77%. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez wants a new 70% tax rate on high incomes, which is supported by the Democratic intelligentsia. The House Ways and Means Committee is working on a plan to raise the payroll tax to 14.8% from 12.4% on incomes above $400,000.

Never to be outdone on the left, Ms. Warren wants a new 2% “wealth tax” on assets above $50 million and 3% above $1 billion, including assets held abroad. France recently junked its wealth tax because it was so counterproductive, and such a tax has never been levied in America. This is government confiscation merely because someone has earned or saved more money than someone else. Socialism?

These are merely the most prominent proposals. There are many others, such as Ms. Warren’s plan to set up a government-owned generic drug maker that would inevitably put private companies out of business because its cost of capital would be zero.

*  *  *

WSJ concludes with some even more ominous perspective, apparently fearful of the 'boiling frog' or 'just the tip' dissonance...

Some readers might think this is all so extreme it could never happen. But presidential candidates don’t propose ideas they think will hurt them politically. The leftward lurch of Democratic voters, especially the young, means the party could nominate the most left-wing presidential candidate in U.S. history. If other Democratic candidates oppose any or all of this, we’d like to hear them.

The American public deserves to have a debate about all this, lest it sleepwalk into a socialist future it doesn’t want. Credit to Mr. Trump for teeing it up.

Published:2/7/2019 11:54:33 AM
[Right Column] Climate Nuremberg: ‘It’s Time to Try Fossil-Fuel Executives for Crimes Against Humanity’ – ‘Already killed at least tens of thousands of people through climate-fueled disasters worldwide’

Jacobin Mag: "The fossil industry’s behavior constitutes a Crime Against Humanity in the classical sense: “a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack,” including murder and extermination. Unlike genocide, the UN clarifies, in the case of crimes against humanity, it is not necessary to prove that there is an overall specific intent. It suffices for there to be a simple intent to commit any of the acts listed…The perpetrator must also act with knowledge of the attack against the civilian population and that his/her action is part of that attack."

On climate, the precedent set in Nuremberg offers other lessons as well. It’s hard to think of a problem more widely attributed to “abstract entities” than global warming, allegedly the product of some unquenchable, ubiquitous human thirst for new stuff. That old Pogo cartoon still holds sway in the popular imagination: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

#

Climate Depot Response: Here we go again. See: Climate Depot’s Morano & other skeptics ‘sentenced to death’ for ‘Crimes against Humanity’

Flashback 2006: GRIST’S DAVID ROBERTS CALLED FOR NUREMBERG-STYLE TRIALS FOR GLOBAL WARMING SKEPTICS

Bill Nye, ‘The Jail-The-Skeptics Guy!’: Nye entertains idea of jailing climate skeptics for ‘affecting my quality of life’ (Exclusive Video)

Warmists declare: ‘Nuremberg-style trials must be held'

Read: Bonus chapter: Intimidating the ‘Deniers’ to Enforce the ‘Consensus’ – Climate ‘deniers’ threatened with being ‘thrown in jail’

& a whole chapter from my book on this stuff:

Published:2/7/2019 7:57:13 AM
[Markets] The 12-Step Method Of Regime Change

Authored by Vijay Prashad via Counterpunch.org,

On 15 September 1970, US President Richard Nixon and National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger authorised the US government to do everything possible to undermine the incoming government of the socialist president of Chile, Salvador Allende. Nixon and Kissinger, according to the notes kept by CIA Director Richard Helms, wanted to ‘make the economy scream’ in Chile; they were ‘not concerned [about the] risks involved’. War was acceptable to them as long as Allende’s government was removed from power. The CIA started Project FUBELT, with $10 million as a first installment to begin the covert destabilisation of the country.

CIA memorandum on Project FUBELT, 16 September 1970.

US business firms, such as the telecommunication giant ITT, the soft drink maker Pepsi Cola and copper monopolies such as Anaconda and Kennecott, put pressure on the US government once Allende nationalised the copper sector on 11 July 1971. Chileans celebrated this day as the Day of National Dignity (Dia de la Dignidad Nacional). The CIA began to make contact with sections of the military seen to be against Allende. Three years later, on 11 September 1973, these military men moved against Allende, who died in the regime change operation. The US ‘created the conditions’ as US National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger put it, to which US President Richard Nixon answered, ‘that is the way it is going to be played’. Such is the mood of international gangsterism.

Phone Call between Richard Nixon (P) and Henry Kissinger (K) on 16 September 1973.

Chile entered the dark night of a military dictatorship that turned over the country to US monopoly firms. US advisors rushed in to strengthen the nerve of General Augusto Pinochet’s cabinet.

What happened to Chile in 1973 is precisely what the United States has attempted to do in many other countries of the Global South. The most recent target for the US government – and Western big business – is Venezuela. But what is happening to Venezuela is nothing unique. It faces an onslaught from the United States and its allies that is familiar to countries as far afield as Indonesia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The formula is clichéd. It is commonplace, a twelve-step plan to produce a coup climate, to create a world under the heel of the West and of Western big business.

Step One: Colonialism’s Traps.

Most of the Global South remains trapped by the structures put in place by colonialism. Colonial boundaries encircled states that had the misfortune of being single commodity producers – either sugar for Cuba or oil for Venezuela. The inability to diversify their economies meant that these countries earned the bulk of their export revenues from their singular commodities (98% of Venezuela’s export revenues come from oil). As long as the prices of the commodities remained high, the export revenues were secure. When the prices fell, revenue suffered. This was a legacy of colonialism. Oil prices dropped from $160.72 per barrel (June 2008) to $51.99 per barrel (January 2019). Venezuela’s export revenues collapsed in this decade.

Step Two: The Defeat of the New International Economic Order.

In 1974, the countries of the Global South attempted to redo the architecture of the world economy. They called for the creation of a New International Economic Order (NIEO) that would allow them to pivot away from the colonial reliance upon one commodity and diversify their economies. Cartels of raw materials – such as oil and bauxite – were to be built so that the one-commodity country could have some control over prices of the products that they relied upon. The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), founded in 1960, was a pioneer of these commodity cartels. Others were not permitted to be formed. With the defeat of OPEC over the past three decades, its members – such as Venezuela (which has the world’s largest proven oil reserves) – have not been able to control oil prices. They are at the mercy of the powerful countries of the world.

Step Three: The Death of Southern Agriculture.

In November 2001, there were about three billion small farmers and landless peasants in the world. That month, the World Trade Organisation met in Doha (Qatar) to unleash the productivity of Northern agri-business against the billions of small farmers and landless peasants of the Global South. Mechanisation and large, industrial-scale farms in North America and Europe had raised productivity to about 1 to 2 million kilogrammes of cereals per farmer. The small farmers and landless peasants in the rest of the world struggled to grow 1,000 kilogrammes of cereals per farmer. They were nowhere near as productive. The Doha decision, as Samir Amin wrote, presages the annihilation of the small farmer and landless peasant. What are these men and women to do? The production per hectare is higher in the West, but the corporate take-over of agriculture (as Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research Senior Fellow P. Sainath shows) leads to increased hunger as it pushes peasants off their land and leaves them to starve.

Step Four: Culture of Plunder.

Emboldened by Western domination, monopoly firms act with disregard for the law. As Kambale Musavuli and I write of the Democratic Republic of Congo, its annual budget of $6 billion is routinely robbed of at least $500 by monopoly mining firms, mostly from Canada – the country now leading the charge against Venezuela. Mispricing and tax avoidance schemes allow these large firms (Canada’s Agrium, Barrick and Suncor) to routinely steal billions of dollars from impoverished states.

Step Five: Debt as a Way of Life.

Unable to raise money from commodity sales, hemmed in by a broken world agricultural system and victim of a culture of plunder, countries of the Global South have been forced to go hat in hand to commercial lenders for finance. Over the past decade, debt held by the Global South states has increased, while debt payments have ballooned by 60%. When commodity prices rose between 2000 and 2010, debt in the Global South decreased. As commodity prices began to fall from 2010, debts have risen. The IMF points out that of the 67 impoverished countries that they follow, 30 are in debt distress, a number that has doubled since 2013. More than 55.4% of Angola’s export revenue is paid to service its debt. And Angola, like Venezuela, is an oil exporter. Other oil exporters such as Ghana, Chad, Gabon and Venezuela suffer high debt to GDP ratios. Two out of five low-income countries are in deep financial distress.

Step Six: Public Finances Go to Hell.

With little incoming revenue and low tax collection rates, public finances in the Global South has gone into crisis. As the UN Conference on Trade and Development points out, ‘public finances have continued to be suffocated’. States simply cannot put together the funds needed to maintain basic state functions. Balanced budget rules make borrowing difficult, which is compounded by the fact that banks charge high rates for money, citing the risks of lending to indebted countries.

Step Seven: Deep Cuts in Social Spending.

Impossible to raise funds, trapped by the fickleness of international finance, governments are forced to make deep cuts in social spending. Education and health, food sovereignty and economic diversification – all this goes by the wayside. International agencies such as the IMF force countries to conduct ‘reforms’, a word that means extermination of independence. Those countries that hold out face immense international pressure to submit under pain of extinction, as the Communist Manifesto (1848) put it.

Step Eight: Social Distress Leads to Migration.

The total number of migrants in the world is now at least 68.5 million. That makes the country called Migration the 21st largest country in the world after Thailand and ahead of the United Kingdom. Migration has become a global reaction to the collapse of countries from one end of the planet to the other. The migration out of Venezuela is not unique to that country but is now merely the normal reaction to the global crisis. Migrants from Honduras who go northward to the United States or migrants from West Africa who go towards Europe through Libya are part of this global exodus.

Step Nine: Who Controls the Narrative?

The monopoly corporate media takes its orders from the elite. There is no sympathy for the structural crisis faced by governments from Afghanistan to Venezuela. Those leaders who cave to Western pressure are given a free pass by the media. As long as they conduct ‘reforms’, they are safe. Those countries that argue against the ‘reforms’ are vulnerable to being attacked. Their leaders become ‘dictators’, their people hostages. A contested election in Bangladesh or in the Democratic Republic of Congo or in the United States is not cause for regime change. That special treatment is left for Venezuela.

Step Ten: Who’s the Real President?

Regime change operations begin when the imperialists question the legitimacy of the government in power: by putting the weight of the United States behind an unelected person, calling him the new president and creating a situation where the elected leader’s authority is undermined. The coup takes place when a powerful country decides – without an election – to anoint its own proxy. That person – in Venezuela’s case Juan Guaidó – rapidly has to make it clear that he will bend to the authority of the United States. His kitchen cabinet – made up of former government officials with intimate ties to the US (such as Harvard University’s Ricardo Hausmann and Carnegie’s Moisés Naím) – will make it clear that they want to privatise everything and sell out the Venezuelan people in the name of the Venezuelan people.

Step Eleven: Make the Economy Scream.

Venezuela has faced harsh US sanctions since 2014, when the US Congress started down this road. The next year, US President Barack Obama declared Venezuela a ‘threat to national security’. The economy started to scream. In recent days, the United States and the United Kingdom brazenly stole billions of dollars of Venezuelan money, placed the shackles of sanctions on its only revenue generating sector (oil) and watched the pain flood through the country. This is what the US did to Iran and this is what they did to Cuba. The UN says that the US sanctions on Cuba have cost the small island $130 billion. Venezuela lost $6 billion for the first year of Trump’s sanctions, since they began in August 2017. More is to be lost as the days unfold. No wonder that the United Nations Special Rapporteur Idriss Jazairy says that ‘sanctions which can lead to starvation and medical shortages are not the answer to the crisis in Venezuela’. He said that sanctions are ‘not a foundation for the peaceful settlement of disputes’. Further, Jazairy said, ‘I am especially concerned to hear reports that these sanctions are aimed at changing the government of Venezuela’. He called for ‘compassion’ for the people of Venezuela.

Step Twelve: Go to War.

US National Security Advisor John Bolton held a yellow pad with the words 5,000 troops in Colombia written on it. These are US troops, already deployed in Venezuela’s neighbour. The US Southern Command is ready. They are egging on Colombia and Brazil to do their bit. As the coup climate is created, a nudge will be necessary. They will go to war.

None of this is inevitable. It was not inevitable to Titina Silá, a commander of the Partido Africano para a Independència da Guiné e Cabo Verde (PAIGC) who was murdered on 30 January 1973. She fought to free her country. It is not inevitable to the people of Venezuela, who continue to fight to defend their revolution. It is not inevitable to our friends at CodePink: Women for Peace, whose Medea Benjamin walked into a meeting of the Organisation of American States and said – No!

It is time to say No to regime change intervention. There is no middle ground.

Published:2/6/2019 10:50:10 PM
[Media] Slate writer shares quick reminder that Terry McAuliffe governed Virginia for four years without a scandal

Scandal-free in the sense that Barack Obama's administration was scandal-free.

The post Slate writer shares quick reminder that Terry McAuliffe governed Virginia for four years without a scandal appeared first on twitchy.com.

Published:2/6/2019 6:19:32 PM
[Markets] The Real Reason The U.S. Wants Regime Change In Venezuela

Via StormCloudsGathering.com,

The U.S. and its allies have decided to throw their weight behind yet another coup attempt in Venezuela. As usual, they claim that their objectives are democracy and freedom. Nothing could be farther from the truth...

On January 23rd, 2019 Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself acting president, and called on the armed forces to disobey the government. Very few had ever heard of this man — he had never actually run for president. Guaidó is the head of Venezuela’s national assembly; a position very similar to speaker of the house.

Within minutes of this declaration U.S. president Donald Trump took to twitter and recognized Guaidó as interim president of Venezuela; writing off the administration of Nicolas Maduro as “illegitimate”. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo followed by urging Venezuela’s military to “restore democracy”, affirming that the US would back Mr Guaidó in his attempts to establish a government. They also promised 20 million dollars in “humanitarian” aid. To put this into context, Trump is on record saying he was “Not Going to Rule Out a Military Option“ in Venezuela.

This is roughly the equivalent of Nancy Pelosi or Mitch Mcconnell declaring themselves president, calling on the military to overthrow Trump, and having China pledge to fund and assist the effort.

Now if you happen to be in the camp that wouldn’t actually mind seeing Donald Trump forcibly removed from office, I would encourage you to imagine replacing Trump’s name with Obama, Bush, Merkel or Macron.

You know there have been a lot of protests in France, and the Yellow Vests have demanded that Macron step down… Why don’t we restore democracy in Paris?

If Donald Trump can decide on a whim which leaders are legitimate, and which will be deposed-by-tweet, what kind of precedent does that set? And who’s next? The grand irony here, is that the exact same media outlets who blasted Trump as a “illegitimate president whose election is tainted by fraud”, are now calling his regime change ambitions in Venezuela “bold”. Not only have they refused to criticize the move, but in fact they’re hailing this as a “potential foreign policy victory” and “a political win at home”.

Let’s get this straight. Trump is an illegitimate president and should be removed from office (because of Russian interference), but you’re perfectly comfortable with that same illegitimate president toppling foreign governments via twitter?

Though support for Guaidó was quickly parroted by Washington’s most dependable allies, and lauded by virtually every western media outlet, the Venezuelan military responded by condemning the coup, and reconfirmed their loyalty to Maduro.

Russia, China and Turkey also issued statements condemning U.S. meddling, and warned against further interference. By January 25th, reports were flowing in that as many as 400 Russian military contractors were already on the ground. (Well that escalated quickly.)

That same day Pompeo announced that Elliott Abrams — the man who oversaw regime change wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador, was deeply involved in the Iran Contra scandal, and who was an architect of both the Iraq war and the 2002 coup attempt in Venezuela (which culminated in the kidnapping of Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez) — would be in charge of the effort to “restore democracy and prosperity to their country”.

So why do you suppose Washington really wants regime change in Venezuela? You’d have to be pretty naive to buy the “democracy and prosperity” drivel.

The Trump administration slams Maduro as authoritarianwhile cuddling up to Mohammad Bin Salman, a mass murdering dictator known to dismember reporters he doesn’t like.

They talk about how the Venezuelan economy is in shambles, but by their own admission (and according to the U.N.) U.S. sanctions have played a significant role in creating that situation.

Might the real motive have something to do with the fact that Venezuela is sitting on the world’s largest proven oil reserves, and that Western oil companies were kicked out of the country in 2007?

Let’s ask Donald Trump:

“With respect to Libya… I’m interested in Libya if we take the oil. If we don’t take the oil no interest. We have to have… Look, if we have wars, we have to win the war. What we do is take over the country and hand the keys to people who don’t like us. I’ll tell you what… Iraq, 100% Iran takes over Iraq after we leave, and what really happens with Iraq is they want the oil fields. And I have it on very good authority that Iran probably won’t even be shooting a bullet because they are getting along better with the Iraqi leaders better than we are. After all of those lives, and after all of the money we spent. And if that’s going to happen we take the oil.”

Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez nationalized the oil industry and used the proceeds to fund his socialist vision for the country. Now you could make the case that this vision was flawed, and horribly mismanaged, however he had strong public support for this mandate; so much support in fact, that when U.S. backed coup plotters kidnapped Hugo Chavez in 2002 crowds took to the streets en mass and he was quickly reinstated.

Which brings us back to Juan Guaidó. There’s not much information available on Mr. Guaidó, but if you look up the man who tapped him to lead the opposition party Voluntad Popular you’ll find Washington’s fingerprints all over the place. Leopoldo Lopez, the founder of Voluntad Popular, orchestrated the protests in 2002 that led up to the kidnapping of Hugo Chavez.

It’s no secret that the U.S. has been funding Voluntad Popular for years. In fact you can still find documents on state.gov which admit to routing at least 5 million dollars to “support political competition-building efforts”. Nor is it a secret that U.S. officials met with coup plotters in 2018. But if there were any doubt that Guaidó is Washington’s puppet, Mike Pence’s call the day before the coup assuring U.S. support should lay that to rest.

“But Maduro’s a bad leader!”

Compared to who? Which paragon of good governance will we refer to as the model? Trump? Theresa May? Angel Merkel? Macron? Take your time.

This isn’t democracy, it’s a neo-colonial power grab. Juan Guaidó never ran for the office he claimed, and the fact that he directly colluded with a foreign nation to overthrow the man who was elected president marks him as a traitor.

Juan Guaidó is a puppet. If installed, he will serve the interests who bought his ticket. Venezuela’s oil industry will be privatized, and the profits will be sucked out of the country by western corporations.

What’s happening in Venezuela right now is a replay of the 1973 U.S. backed coup in Chile, where the democratically elected president of Chile, Salvador Allende, was overthrown, and replaced with the military dictatorship of Pinochet. Pinochet murdered over 3000 political opponents during his rule, and tortured over 30,000, but he was friendly to American business interests so Washington looked the other way.

One could make the case that Maduro is incompetent. One could make the case that his economic theories are trash. (The same can be said for the haircuts in suits calling for his removal.) But the reality of the matter is that unless you happen to be a Venezuelan citizen, how Venezuela is governed is actually none of your business.

Given how things turned out in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine you’d think people would get the hint. When it comes to spreading democracy, you suck. U.S. regime change operations have left nothing but chaos, death and destruction in their wake. If you want to make the world a better place, maybe, just maybe, you should start at home.

Published:2/6/2019 11:17:33 AM
[Markets] Meotti: The Pope's Stubborn Silence On The Persecution Of Christians

Authored by Giulio Meotti via The Gatestone Institute,

  • Unfortunately, Pope Francis's stance on Islam seems to be coming from a fantasy world.

  • "Authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence", the Pope claimed, not quite accurately. It is as if all of the Pope's efforts have been directed to exonerating Islam from any of its responsibilities. He seems to have been doing this even more than observant Muslims -- such as Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, American author and physician M. Zuhdi Jasser, former Kuwaiti Information Minister Sami Abdullatif Al-Nesf, French-Algerian author Razika Adnani, Paris-based Tunisian philosopher Youssef Seddik, Jordanian journalist Yosef Alawnah, and Moroccan author Rachid Aylal, among many others -- have been doing.

  • "Pope Francis could in no way be ignorant of the heavy problems caused by the expansion... at the very heart of the Christian domain... Let us note this again... the last religion that arrived in Europe has an intrinsic impediment to integrating into the European framework that is fundamentally Judeo-Christian..." – Boualem Sansal, Algerian author, in his best-selling book "2084."

  • Pope Francis now faces the potential risk of a Christian world physically swallowed by the Muslim crescent -- as on the Vatican logo chosen for the Pope's upcoming trip to Morocco. It is time the appeasement is replaced.

The persecution of Christians is now an international crisis. Unfortunately, Pope Francis's stance on Islam seems to be coming from a fantasy world. (Photo by Giulio Origlia/Getty Images)

4,305 Christians were killed simply because their Christian faith in 2018. This is the dramatic number contained in the new "World Watch List 2019" just compiled by the non-governmental organization Open Doors. It reveals that in 2018, there were 1,000 more Christian victims -- 25% more -- than the year before, when there were 3,066.

These days, 245 million Christians in the world are apparently persecuted simply for their faith. Last November, The organization Aid to the Church in Need released its "Religious Freedom Report" for 2018 and reached the a similar conclusion: 300 million Christians were subjected to violence. Christianity, despite stiff competition, has been called "the most persecuted religion in the world".

In March 2019, Pope Francis will travel to Morocco, a country also listed in the Open Doors' watch list. Unfortunately, Pope Francis's stance on Islam seems to be coming from a fantasy world. The persecution of Christians is now an international crisis. Consider what happened to Christians in the Muslim world during just the last couple of months. A policeman was killed trying to defuse a bomb outside a Coptic church in Egypt. Before that, seven Christians were murdered by religious extremists during a pilgrimage. Then a mass grave was discovered in Libya containing the remains of 34 Ethiopian Christians killed by jihadists affiliated with the Islamic State. The Iranian regime, in severe new crackdowns, arrested more than 109 Christians. The Pakistani Christian Asia Bibi, three months after being exonerated for "blasphemy"and released from death row, still lives as a "prisoner": her former neighbors still want to put her to death. In Mosul, which was Iraq's center for Christians, there was a "Christmas without Christians", and in Iraq in general, 80% of the Christians have disappeared.

Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans and head of the Chaldean Catholic Church, recently provided some numbers for the persecution of Christians in Iraq: "61 churches have been bombed, 1,224 Christians were killed, 23.000 houses and real estate of the Christians have been seized". The patriarch reminded the world of the policy of the Islamic State, which gave "three options to Christians": conversion to Islam, payment of a special tax or the forced and immediate abandonment of their land. "Otherwise they would have been killed." In this way, 120,000 Christians were expelled.

"The stubborn silence of European leaders on the question of religions, Islam in particular, astonishes and disappoints", wrote the Algerian novelist Boualem Sansal recently.

"Their attitude is simply irresponsible, suicidal, and even criminal...in the current context marked by [a] dizzying expansion... It's like living at the foot of an angry volcano and not understanding that it is preparing to erupt".

Sansal, who has been threatened with death by Islamists in France, as in Algeria, wrote "2084", a best-seller. In it, he writes that Pope Francis's stance on the Muslim world is similar to that of the Western leaders:

"Pope Francis could in no way be ignorant of the heavy problems caused by the expansion of radical Islam in the world and at the very heart of the Christian domain... Let us note this again... the last religion that arrived in Europe, has an intrinsic impediment to integrating into the European fundamentally Judeo-Christian framework, even if this referent, over the past centuries, has eroded."

Pope Francis did manage to explain that the "idea of conquest" is integral to Islam as a religion, but quickly added that one might interpret Christianity the same way. "Authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence", the Pope claimed, not quite accurately. He also not quite accurately remarked that "Islam is a religion of peace, one which is compatible with respect for human rights and peaceful coexistence." It is as if all of the Pope's efforts have been directed to exonerating Islam from any of its responsibilities. He seems to have been doing this even more than observant Muslims -- such as Egypt's President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, American author and physician M. Zuhdi Jasser, former Kuwaiti Information Minister Sami Abdullatif Al-Nesf, French-Algerian author Razika Adnani, Paris-based Tunisian philosopher Youssef Seddik, Jordanian journalist Yosef Alawnah and Moroccan author Rachid Aylal, among many others -- have been doing.

The dramatic persecution of Christians in the Islamic world highlights a Western paradox: "Since their victory in the Second World War, Westerners have brought great benefits to all of humanity", wrote Renaud Girard in Le Figaro.

"Scientifically, they shared their great inventions, such as penicillin or the Internet. Human rights and democracy are far from being applied everywhere in the world, but they are the only reference for governance that exists internationally. It is undeniable that, under the impulse of Westerners, vast political, technical, health and social successes have been achieved in two generations. But there is one area where the planet has undeniably regressed since 1945 and where Western responsibility is obvious. It is the freedom of conscience and religion... By refraining from defending Christians in the East, the West made a twofold strategic error: it gave a signal of weakness by abandoning its ideological friends; it has renounced its creed".

"In the eyes of Western governments and the media", noted another report on persecution of Christians compiled by Aid to the Church in Need. "religious freedom is slipping down the human rights priority rankings, being eclipsed by issues of gender, sexuality and race".

"Political correctness does not want to know anything about the ongoing persecution and suppression of Christianity and so it is being ignored in an almost sinister way", Bishop Manfred Scheuer of Linz, in Upper Austria, recently said.

This eclipse is even more dramatic, as everybody knows that Christianity is at the risk of "extinction" in the Middle East, noted the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby:

"Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes. Many have been killed, enslaved and persecuted or forcibly converted. Even those who remain ask the question, 'Why stay?' The Christian population of Iraq, for instance, is less than half what it was in 2003 and their churches, houses and businesses have been damaged or destroyed. The Syrian Christian population has halved since 2010. As a result, across the region Christian communities that were the foundation of the universal Church now face the threat of imminent extinction."

The West has betrayed its Christians friends in the East (such as here and here). The West might well ask: What are the Vatican and the Pope doing to fight this new religious persecution?

Criticism has already come from the Catholic world. "Just as he has little anxiety about the wave of church closings, Francis seems to have little anxiety about the Islamization of Europe", wrote the US Catholic columnist William Kilpatrick.

"Indeed, as evidenced by his encouragement of mass migration, he seems to have no objection to Islamization. Either because he truly believes the false narrative that Islam is a religion of peace, or because he believes that the self-fulfilling prophecy strategy will create a more moderate Islam, Francis seems to be at peace with the fact that Islam is spreading rapidly. Whether Francis has been misinformed about Islam or whether he has adopted a strategy of misinformation, he is taking a huge gamble—not only with his own life, but with the lives of millions".

There are now entire areas in Syria cleansed of their historical Christians. Pope Francis recently received a letter from a Franciscan priest in Syria, Father Hanna Jallouf, the Patriarch of Knayeh, a village close to Idlib, the stronghold of anti-Assad Islamist rebels. "Christians in this land are like lambs among the wolves", Jallouf wrote.

"The fundamentalists have devastated our cemeteries, they have prevented us from celebrating liturgies outside the church, stripping us of the external signs of our faith: crosses, bells, statues as well as our religious habit."

If the Pope does not want to receive more letters like that, he will need show courage and tackle one of the most urgent persecutions of our time.

Pope Benedict XVI, in his address at Regensburg, said what no Pope had ever dared to say before -- that there is a specific link between violence and Islam. To illustrate his case, Benedict cited a 14th-century dialogue between a Byzantine Christian emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, and a Persian scholar, about the concept of violence in Islam: "Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things.. .such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached", Benedict quoted the emperor as saying to his Muslim interlocutor.

Another Pope, John Paul II, also expressed concerns. During a meeting in 1992, Mgr Mauro Longhi, who, while still a student, often accompanied the late Pope on hiking trips says, John Paul II told of an "Islamist invasion" of Europe.

"The Pope told me: 'Tell this to those whom you will meet in the Church of the third millennium. I see the Church afflicted by a mortal wound. More profound, more painful than those of this millennium,' referring to Communism and Nazi totalitarianism. 'It is called Islamism. They will invade Europe. I have seen the hordes come from the West to the East,' and then told to me each country one by one: from Morocco to Libya to Egypt, and so on till the East.

"The Holy Father added: 'They will invade Europe, Europe will be like a basement, old relics, shadows, cobwebs. Family heirlooms. You, the Church of the third millennium, must contain the invasion. Not with armies, armies will not be enough, but with your faith, lived with integrity."

John Paul II's vision resembles a continuation of Islam's historic campaign in the Christian lands: "In 637, the Islamic army seized Jerusalem, twice holy, then the heart of the entire Middle East, the historic center of Christianity", wrote the Algerian novelist Boualem Sansal. He went on to describe "the irresistible progression of Islam to the West: the Judeo-Christian North Africa, which immediately converted; Catholic Spain, which was annexed at the beginning of the VIII century; Byzantium, which they took in 1453; [then] to Vienna, which they besieged in 1529...".

Pope Francis now faces the potential risk of a Christian world physically swallowed by the Muslim crescent -- as on the Vatican logo chosen for the Pope's upcoming trip to Morocco. It is time the appeasement is replaced.

Published:2/6/2019 1:15:12 AM
[World] [Ilya Somin] Why the Demand for Fake News is a Far More Serious Problem than the Supply

Canadian columnist Andrew Coyne explains why efforts to combat fake news by cutting off supply are barking up the wrong tree.

Since the 2016 election, there has been widespread concern about "fake news" and many proposals to combat it by constraining the supply, particularly that from foreign sources, such as the hostile authoritarian regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Fake news is a genuine problem and Putin really is a ruthless enemy of western liberalism and democracy that western nations should do more to counter. But Canadian columnist Andrew Coyne has a valuable critique of claims that we can overcome the problem by regulating the supply of fake news:

I have an urgent warning for the people of Canada. Even now, certain agents are plotting to influence the result of the next election campaign by means of stealth and deception.

Posing as ordinary Canadians, they plan to use social media to spread falsehoods designed to inflame public opinion, using the latest micro-targeting technologies to tailor their messages to the reader's particular fears and prejudices.

These agents are better known as the political parties....

No one disputes that Russia, China and others have interfered or attempted to interfere in recent elections around the world, notably in the election that gave us Trump (okay, Trump still disputes it)... But the impact of "fake news".... is more debatable....

I don't want to say that "fake news" doesn't matter. But to the extent that it matters, it would appear the problem is less the supply than the demand: the willingness, indeed the desire of large numbers of people to believe transparent falsehoods. But then, without it what becomes of politics?

What is true of Canada is even more true for the United States: The fake news generated by Russian and other foreign plants is trivial compared to that produced by our own political parties and their homegrown partisan and activist allies. John Sides, Michael Tesler, Lynn Vavreck's new book Identity Crisis, the most thorough social science analysis of the 2016 election, concludes that the impact of Russian-generated fake news was virtually undetectable in the data, and certainly trivial compared to that of homegrown xenophobic attitudes and partisan polarization, which helped Trump eke out a narrow victory.

And, as Coyne points out, our own political parties routinely spread politically potent misinformation on a far larger and more effective scale than foreign-generated bots do. That was certainly true of Donald Trump's campaign, which relied extensively on bogus claims about immigration and trade. But while Trump is particularly brazen in his lies and deceptions, conventional politicians also routinely use such tactics, even if more subtly and less indiscriminately. It's hard to point to any one lie told by Trump that was as successful as Barack Obama's "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it," a deserving winner of Politifact's 2013 "Lie of the Year" award. I would be happy to see Trump removed from office. But we should not imagine that the problem of political disinformation is limited to him and his supporters, or that it is mainly caused by Russian plants infiltrating pir otherwise largely pure and wholesome political environment.

Indeed, Coyne's best insight is that the true root of the problem is not the supply of fake news, but the demand for it. In a relatively free society, there will always be people willing to spread lies and disinformation. The real danger is that so many people are willing to consume such material - and eagerly believe it when they do. If not for such avid consumers, political misinformation would cause little, if any, harm.

Part of the reason why is widespread public ignorance. Most voters know very little about government and public policy, in large part because itis actually rational for them to devote no more than a small fraction of their time to following political issues. Since an individual vote has only an infinitesimally small chance of influencing electoral outcomes, it makes little sense for most citizens to spend substantial time and effort learning about politics in order to become better voters. Unfortunately, such individually rational voter behavior can cause harmful collective outcomes. People who know very little about political issues are, by virtue of that ignorance, more susceptible to misinformation. Politicians and interest groups are well aware of this vulnerability, and routinely exploit it.

But the problem here goes beyond simple ignorance. As Coyne suggests, many people are actively eager to believe dubious claims, so long as doing so confirms their preexisting views. Particularly in our current environment of severe political polarization, partisans often act not as truth-seekers, but as "political fans" eager to endorse anything that supports their position or casts the opposing party and its supporters in a bad light. These biases affect not only ordinary voters, but also otherwise highly knowledgeable ones, and even policymakers and politicians. This helps explain why many people eagerly consume crude misinformation, without giving careful thought to the validity of the claims made.

There is no easy solution to these problems. Individual voters can do a lot to better inform themselves and curb their biases. But I am skeptical that many will do anytime soon. In my view, the better approach is systematic reform to limit and decentralize the power of government, so as to reduce the potential harm caused by voter ignorance and bias. There are a variety of other possible solutions, as well. Regardless, the beginning of wisdom on the issue of fake news is to recognize - as Andrew Coyne does - that the root of the problem is demand, not supply. And as long as the demand remains high, there will be plenty of willing suppliers.

Published:2/5/2019 5:42:12 PM
[Markets] Ginsburg To Skip SOTU After "First Public Apperance" 

Despite reportedly "walking a mile a day" and making her first appearance on Monday since undergoing lung cancer surgery in December, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will skip President Trump's State of the Union Address Tuesday night. 

According to the Supreme Court's Public Information Office, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Kagen, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh will be in attendance. 

That said, it's not uncommon for Supreme Court Justices to miss the State of the Union. Both Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas haven't attended in years, while the late Antonin Scalia was a frequent no-show. 

Ginsburg attended each of Obama's addresses - dozing off at times (and admitting later she was not "100 percent sober," however she also skipped Trump's 2018 address last year, and refused to attend all of President Bush's from 2001 - 2008. 

Out and about?

According to the Washington Post, Ginsburg, 85, attended a Monday night production of "Notorious RBG in Song" at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington. 

While pictures of Ginsburg's attendance have yet to emerge, the Post writes that she sat in the back, "did not speak, and many in the crowd did not know she was there." 

Ginsburg's daughter-in-law, soprano Patrice Michaels, did not announce her presence. 

While Ginsburg can point to last year's decision no to attend, many are now openly calling for "proof of life," as the oldest justice on the Supreme Court has failed to attend oral arguments since the beginning of January - and skipped an appearance scheduled for January 29

It seems odd that she would pull out of the event despite her son telling Monday night's audience she's allegedly walking a mile per day and meeting with a personal trainer twice a week. Until she makes some sort of an appearance and can - at minimum, prove she is of sound mind, questions will remain over the health of the "Notorious RBG." 

Published:2/5/2019 5:42:12 PM
[] NBC Sissy: My Fellow Brave Firefighters, You Must Do Your Brave Firefighter Duty and Snitch to Your Twitter Teacher If Any of Your Classmates Tell You to Learn to Code Say, didn't our own Mis.Hum. get immediately banned after tweeting "Learn to Code" to Jake Tapper? And didn't I ask on this blog if he had snitched? And didn't Jake Tapper harangue me for hours when, during Obama's Inauguration, one... Published:2/5/2019 2:41:35 PM
[Markets] Gabbard Reveals The Bankruptcy Of American Left

Authored by Tom Luongo,

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D – HI) is a perfect case study with what is wrong with American politics. She represents fairly standard Democratic party positions on issues like gay rights, gun control, health care and redistributive tax policy.

But on the crucial issue of foreign policy she’s a dissenter. And, from what I can figure out, this dissension comes from a principled position.

And that makes her persona non grata in the current political climate of partisanship.

If there has been one thing that Donald Trump has been useful for it is exposing who the real enemies of peace in the world are. He is useless to stop them, but at least he has been such a lightning rod that he’s outed what truly animates Washington, London, Berlin, Brussels and Paris. We have him to thank for that.

Gabbard is the next generation of US politician but I fear she is too little, too late. Much like Rand Paul in the GOP. She understands, as a veteran of our foreign adventurism, that the game of geopolitics is built on fundamentally flawed premises. And that the best way to win that game is not to play.

And for this she has been the target of the worst kind of smear campaign, one that was internally generated by a US funded, DNC-enabled, opposition firm. No longer is it enough to bomb or gas people overseas in false flag operations to keep the electorate braying for war.

Now it’s come to the land of mundane political campaigns.

That’s how desperate the Democrats are to regain the White House in 2020. They will eat themselves before allowing any variation of message. No dissension is allowed. No Bernie Sanders to split the base and confuse the simpletons in Flyover Country they need to win back the Rust Belt.

It’s why we’ve seen them go after Bernie himself and why Bernie is now one-upping Elizabeth Warren’s patently stupid 70% top tax bracket. Whatever Fauxcahontas wants, I want 10% more, because I’m 10% more leftie than she is.

It’s all so predictably pathetic it would be laughable if Donald Trump wasn’t such a hopeless mess on everything else.

Gabbard, for all of her faults from this libertarian’s perspective, is still a welcome breath of very fresh air on the main reason I voted for Donald Trump in 2016 – to end the foreign wars that are bankrupting us financially, culturally and spiritually.

Because she understands what many reasonable and principled liberals understand: The Swamp is filled with the runoff from the overseas Empire.

We can argue about taxes and health care after we stop spending $1 trillion a year subjugating the world for the profit of the weapons producers, military contractors, oil companies, lobbyists, spies, oppo research firms, generals at NATO and all the bureaucrats that money subsidizes.

So the demonization of Tulsi Gabbard started before she even had a chance to officially enter the race. Because if there is one thing that unites the vultures in D.C. it is the threat of peace breaking out in the public discourse.

Every day the case for staying overseas in places like Syria and Afghanistan frays a little bit more. Every election since 2008 in the US has been a referendum in some way on the Empire abroad. Obama in 2008 and again in 2012 as Romney and McCain positioned the Republicans to look like warmongers worse than Obama was.

And then Trump in 2016. It all started with Ron Paul and Gabbard is yet another in a long line of critics of that which is not to be criticized in D.C.

She has smartly positioned herself as the outsider on the one issue that unites the center of the US electorate – left and right – ending the Empire. Trump makes the point that it is too expensive. He’s a transactional kinda guy.

Gabbard is making the case on moral grounds, and good for her.

She defied her party to go to Syria and meet with President Bashar al-Assad to get a better look at what was happening there. She knows there are millions of votes to be mined from being anti-war.

But, the Democrats, so thoroughly suffused with the anti-Trump animus, have turned the mere suggestion of changing course in the Middle East as giving advantage to the evil Vladimir Putin. It’s beyond silly in the extreme and yet the constant barrage of anti-Russian propaganda has 72% of Americans viewing Russia unfavorably.

And 85% of Democrats.

These are worse than Cold War numbers, folks. And yet, what are the Democrats so scared of?

What’s sad about the attack on Gabbard is not just that it was obviously made up and then breathlessly amped up by NBC news. It is that 17 out of 20 Democrats would likely never vote for her in the primaries because of this irrational hatred of Russia created by the Clintons as payback for Hillary losing an election she had no business winning.

It reeks of weakness, fear and desperation. It reeks of moral bankruptcy.

Gabbard will have a better shot at an independent run. But she won’t do that. She will continue to snipe from the sidelines, like Rand Paul, and wait for the country to come to her, if ever.

War is and should always be the bellwether by which a candidate for President is measured. And the Democrats are using Russiagate hysteria to keep the most expensive part of the empire off the table while they talk about how they are going to pay for universal health care by taxing assets and Unicorn farts.

Gabbard is smart throwing her hat in the ring now. I don’t think she has much of a chance of affecting the race in 2020 because the intensity with which Trump Derangement Syndrome burns within the party faithful.

But if she is capable of connecting with people by separating ending the Empire from giving Russia an advantage she could be useful in keeping things from getting any worse, while her party sinks into a frothing, gibbering mess, especially if somehow Trump wins re-election.

Published:2/5/2019 1:42:57 PM
[Markets] Washington Plays 'Russian Roulette' With EU Lives By Trashing INF Treaty

Authored by Robert Bridge,

In a flash, the US has scrapped the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, which safeguarded Europe and the world from a deadly US-Russia arms race. This is particularly bad news for Europeans.

Russia must be feeling a lot like the Native Indians these days with regards to treaties signed with the duplicitous Americans. For the second time in as many decades, the US has gone back on its word, removing another pillar from the global arms reduction architecture.

The Trump administration, in its infinite wisdom, announced on the weekend it would freeze US participation in the INF “for 180 days,” which, from a military perspective, must be interpreted to mean forever. In the spirit of reciprocity, Vladimir Putin, expressing regret that Russia “could not save” the Cold War treaty, said he would be forced to follow suit.

The Russian leader emphasized, however, that Moscow would not deploy intermediate or smaller range weapons “until the same type of American weapons” were placed in Europe or elsewhere in the world.

This latest ratcheting up of tensions between Moscow and Washington was wholly avoidable – that is, if avoiding confrontation is a goal of the US. Clearly, it is not. The unpredictable hotheads now dictating foreign policy in the Trump administration, particularly National Security Advisor John Bolton, a veteran hawk who the Washington Post recently calleda “serial arms control killer,” have somehow concluded that playing a game of nuclear chicken on the European continent with Russia is the best way to resolve bilateral issues.

The White House appears to be incensed over Russia’s upgrade of a cruise missile, the ‘9M729’, which it claims exceeds the 500-km flight threshold set down by the treaty. The INF treaty specifically banned the development, deployment, and testing of ground-based missiles with a range between 500km and 5,500km (310-3,400 miles).

In fact, the development of this weapon has so irked the Trump administration that last year the US Ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, warned Russia that if it did not halt its development NATO would be forced to “take out” the missile. Although Hutchison later backtracked on the hyperbole, saying she did not mean to suggest a preemptive strike on Russia, the remark nevertheless underscored the gravity of the situation.

The obvious question is: does the US have legitimate grounds to be concerned over this cruise missile, one of the latest in a series of new weapon systems to be rolled out by the Russian military? Well, if they did have real cause for concern, they deliberately missed several opportunities to examine the weapon firsthand. In fact, Moscow invited US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to attend a public presentation where Russian military brass were on hand to field queries about the missile. Yet the Americans snubbed the event, which could have persuaded them to think twice before dumping a landmark arms control treaty.

On this point, it would have been refreshing to hear some impartial European voices weighing in on the matter. After all, in the event of another arms race between the US and Russia, the European continent will once again be forced to wear a large crosshairs on its back. Instead, EU leaders predictably approached the issue from the American stance, parroting the narrative that Russia, the perennial bogeyman, is in violation of the INF.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, without providing a shred of evidence, said,

“It is clear to us that Russia has violated this treaty… the important thing is to keep the window for dialogue open.”

Immediately assuming Russia’s guilt seems to be a non-starter for any sort of productive negotiations.

What’s behind America’s madness?

In order to get a clearer picture of what exactly is motivating Washington’s reckless behavior, it is essential to remember that the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the INF is just the latest in a long string of aggressive moves against Russia. Indeed, this is not the first time Washington has torn up an arms agreement with Moscow.

In 2002, the Bush administration terminated the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty), which maintained something of a suicide pact between the Cold War nuclear rivals known as ‘mutually assured destruction’. From there it has been all downhill for bilateral relations.

With the ABM Treaty swept away, the Bush and subsequent Obama administration proceeded to unilaterally build – despite repeated offers from Moscow to cooperate on the system – a US missile defense shield in Eastern Europe, just a stone’s throw from the Russian border. In May 2016, NATO announced its missile defense base in Romania was fully operational. Following the announcement, Mikhail Ulyanov, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s department for arms control issues, warned that not only did the US missile defense system threaten the strategic balance between nuclear powers, the launchers in Romania could easily be re-fitted with offensive cruise missiles, thereby turning a shield into a sword at a moment’s notice.

In other words, Washington is now accusing Moscow of violating an arms control treaty that it itself had most likely violated almost three years ago.

Pierre-Emmanuel Thomann, a geopolitics analyst from Paris 8 University, told RT this is the desired outcome Washington was looking for, which already decided “beforehand to get out of the treaty” irrespective of possible concessions from Moscow.

The US already destabilized the nuclear balance when they decided to get out of the ABM treaty in 2002, and when you look at a map the United States [is] putting missile defense bases all around Eurasia, creating a feeling of encirclement in Russia and China,” Thomann said.

This leads us to another possible reason why the Trump administration made the rash decision to kill the INF treaty, and that is due to the huge strides made by the Chinese military of late. Last year, as just one example, a Chinese firm reportedly completed the successful launch of a supersonic missile, which the Chinese government said could compete on international markets.

China, which is not bound by the conditions set down by the INF, has undergone breakneck militarization ever since. Yes, the United States became an existential threat to Beijing when the Obama administration announced the so-called ‘pivot to Asia’. This disastrous doctrine saw a large chunk of US naval forces enter the Pacific theater. Thus, Washington may be trying to bring the Chinese and Russians into some sort of new three-way arms control treaty, but if that were true, it seems to be going about it in the worst possible way.

Whatever the ultimate cause may be, the United States and its quest for global supremacy, in cooperation with the European Union, which behaves like a powerless vassal state inside of the ‘American empire’, must assume a heavy part of the blame for the increasingly perilous state of global relations today.

Konstantin Kosachev, head of the foreign affairs committee in the upper house of Russia’s parliament, adequately summed up the fate of the world following the latest US withdrawal from yet another arms reduction pact.

I ‘congratulate’ the whole world,” Kosachev told the Russian Senate.

The United States has taken another step toward its destruction today.

Published:2/5/2019 4:11:11 AM
[Markets] Why The War On Conspiracy Theories Is Bad Public Policy

Authored by Kevin Barrett via The Unz Review,

On January 25 2018 YouTube unleashed the latest salvo in the war on conspiracy theoriessaying “we’ll begin reducing recommendations of borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways—such as videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the earth is flat, or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11.”

At first glance that sounds reasonable. Nobody wants YouTube or anyone else to recommend bad information. And almost everyone agrees that phony miracle cures, flat earthism, and blatantly false claims about 9/11 and other historical events are undesirable.

But if we stop and seriously consider those words, we notice a couple of problems.

First, the word “recommend” is not just misleading but mendacious. YouTube obviously doesn’t really recommend anything. When it says it does, it is lying.

When you watch YouTube videos, the YouTube search engine algorithm displays links to other videos that you are likely to be interested in. These obviously do not constitute “recommendations” by YouTube itself, which exercises no editorial oversight over content posted by users. (Or at least it didn’t until it joined the war on conspiracy theories.)

The second and larger problem is that while there may be near-universal agreement among reasonable people that flat-earthism is wrong, there is only modest agreement regarding which health approaches constitute “phony miracle cures” and which do not.

Far less is there any agreement on “claims about 9/11 and other historical events.” (Thus far the only real attempt to forge an informed consensus about 9/11 is the 9/11 Consensus Panel’s study—but it seems unlikely that YouTube will be using the Consensus Panel to determine which videos to “recommend”!)

YouTube’s policy shift is the latest symptom of a larger movement by Western elites to - as Obama’s Information Czar Cass Sunstein put it - “disable the purveyors of conspiracy theories.” Sunstein and co-author Adrian Vermeule’s 2008 paper “Conspiracy Theories,” critiqued by David Ray Griffin in 2010 and developed into a 2016 book, represents a panicked reaction to the success of the 9/11 truth movement. (By 2006, 36% of Americans thought it likely that 9/11 was an inside job designed to launch wars in the Middle East, according to a Scripps poll.)

Sunstein and Vermuele begin their abstract:

Many millions of people hold (sic) conspiracy theories; they believe that powerful people have worked together in order to withhold the truth about some important practice or some terrible event. A recent example is the belief, widespread in some parts of the world, that the attacks of 9/11 were carried out not by Al Qaeda, but by Israel or the United States. Those who subscribe to conspiracy theories may create serious risks, including risks of violence, and the existence of such theories raises significant challenges for policy and law.

Sunstein argues that conspiracy theories (i.e. the 9/11 truth movement) are so dangerous that some day they may have to be banned by law. While awaiting that day, or perhaps in preparation for it, the government should “disable the purveyors of conspiracy theories” through various techniques including “cognitive infiltration” of 9/11 truth groups. Such “cognitive infiltration,” Sunstein writes, could have various aims including the promotion of “beneficial cognitive diversity” within the truth movement.

What sort of “cognitive diversity” would Cass Sunstein consider “beneficial”? Perhaps 9/11 truth groups that had been “cognitively infiltrated” by spooks posing as flat-earthers would harbor that sort of “beneficial” diversity? That would explain the plethora of expensive, high-production-values flat earth videos that have been blasted at the 9/11 truth community since 2008.

Why does Sunstein think “conspiracy theories” are so dangerous they need to be suppressed by government infiltrators, and perhaps eventually outlawed—which would necessitate revoking the First Amendment? Obviously conspiracism must present some extraordinary threat. So what might that threat be? Oddly, he never explains. Instead he briefly mentions, in vapidly nebulous terms, about “serious risks including the risk of violence.” But he presents no serious evidence that 9/11 truth causes violence. Nor does he explain what the other “serious risks” could possibly be.

Why did such highly accomplished academicians as Sunstein and Vermuele produce such an unhinged, incoherent, poorly-supported screed? How could Harvard and the University of Chicago publish such nonsense? Why would it be deemed worthy of development into a book? Why did the authors identify an alleged problem, present no evidence that it even is a problem, yet advocate outrageously illegal and unconstitutional government action to solve the non-problem?

The too-obvious answer, of course, is that they must realize that 9/11 was in fact a US-Israeli false flag operation. The 9/11 truth movement, in that case, would be a threat not because it is wrong, but because it is right. To the extent that Americans know or suspect the truth, the US government will undoubtedly find it harder to pursue various “national security” objectives. Ergo, 9/11 “conspiracy theories” are a threat to national security, and extreme measures are required to combat them. But since we can’t just burn the First Amendment overnight, we must instead take a gradual and covert “boil the frog” approach, featuring plenty of cointelpro-style infiltration and misdirection. “Cognitive infiltration” of internet platforms to stop the conspiracy contagion would also fit the bill.

It is quite possible, perhaps even likely, that Sunstein and Vermeule are indeed well-informed and Machievellian. But it is also conceivable that they are, at least when it comes to 9/11 and “conspiracy theories,” as muddle-headed as they appear. Their irrational panic could be an example of the bad thinking that emerges from groups that reflexively reject dissent. (Another, larger example of this kind of bad thinking comes to mind: America’s disastrous post-9/11 policies.)

The counterintuitive truth is that embracing and carefully listening to radical dissenters is in fact good policy, whether you are a government, a corporation, or any other kind of group. Ignoring or suppressing dissent produces muddled, superficial thinking and bad decisions. Surprisingly, this turns out to be the case even when the dissenters are wrong.

Scientific evidence for the value of dissent is beautifully summarized in Charlan Nemeth’s In Defense of Troublemakers: The Power of Dissent in Life and Business (Basic Books, 2018). Nemeth, a psychology professor at UC-Berkeley, summarizes decades of research on group dynamics showing that groups that feature passionate, radical dissent deliberate better, reach better conclusions, and take better actions than those that do not—even when the dissenter is wrong.

Nemeth begins with a case where dissent would likely have saved lives: the crash of United Airlines Flight 173 in December, 1978. As the plane neared its Portland destination, the possibility of a problem with the landing gear arose. The captain focused on trying to determine the condition of the landing gear as the plane circled the airport. Typical air crew group dynamics, in which the whole crew defers to the captain, led to a groupthink bubble in which nobody spoke up as the needle on the fuel gauge approached “E.” Had the crew included even one natural “troublemaker”—the kind of aviator who joins Pilots for 9/11 truth—there almost certainly would have been more divergent thinking. Someone would have spoken up about the fuel issue, and a tragic crash would have been averted.

Since 9/11, American decision-making elites have entered the same kind of bubble and engaged in the same kind of groupthink. For them, no serious dissent on such issues as what really happened on 9/11, and whether a “war on terror” makes sense, is permitted. The predictable result has been bad thinking and worse decisions. From the vantage point of Sunstein and Vermeule, deep inside the bubble, the potentially bubble-popping, consensus-shredding threat of 9/11 truth must appear radically destabilizing. To even consider the possibility that the 9/11 truthers are right might set off a stampede of critical reflection that would radically undermine the entire set of policies pursued for the past 17 years. This prospect may so terrify Sunstein and Vermeule that it paralyzes their ability to think. Talk about “crippled epistemology”!

Do Sunstein and Vermeule really think their program for suppressing “conspiracy theories” will be beneficial? Do YouTube’s decision-makers really believe that tweaking their algorithms to support the official story will protect us from bad information? If so, they are all doubly wrong.

First, they are wrong in their unexamined assumption that 9/11 truth and “conspiracy theories” in general are “blatantly false.” No honest person with critical thinking skills who weighs the merits of the best work on both sides of the question can possibly avoid the realization that the 9/11 truth movement is right. The same is true regarding the serial assassinations of America’s best leaders during the 1960s. Many other “conspiracy theories,” perhaps the majority of the best-known ones, are also likely true, as readers of Ron Unz’s American Pravda series are discovering.

Second, and less obviously, those who would suppress conspiracy theories are wrong even in their belief that suppressing false conspiracy theories is good public policy. As Nemeth shows, social science is unambiguous in its finding that any group featuring at least one passionate, radical dissenter will deliberate better, reach sounder conclusions, and act more effectively than it would have without the dissenter. This holds even if the dissenter is wrong—even wildly wrong.

The overabundance of slick, hypnotic flat earth videos, if they are indeed weaponized cointelpro strikes against the truth movement, may be unfortunate. But the existence of the occasional flat earther may be more beneficial than harmful. The findings summarized by Nemeth suggest that a science study group with one flat earther among the students would probably learn geography and astronomy better than they would have without the madly passionate dissenter.

We could at least partially solve the real problem—bad groupthink—through promoting genuinely beneficial cognitive diversity. YouTube algorithms should indeed be tweaked to puncture the groupthink bubbles that emerge based on user preferences. Someone who watches lots of 9/11 truther videos should indeed be exposed to dissent, in the form of the best arguments on the other side of the issue—not that there are any very good ones, as I have discovered after spending 15 years searching for them!

But the same goes for those who watch videos that explicitly or implicitly accept the official story. Anyone who watches more than a few pro-official-story videos (and this would include almost all mainstream coverage of anything related to 9/11 and the “war on terror”) should get YouTube “suggestions” for such videos as September 11: The New Pearl Harbor9/11 Mysteries, and the work of Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth. Exposure to even those “truthers” who are more passionate than critical or well-informed would benefit people who believe the official story, according to Nemeth’s research, by stimulating them to deliberate more thoughtfully and to question facile assumptions.

The same goes for other issues and perspectives. Fox News viewers should get “suggestions” for good material, especially passionate dissent, from the left side of the political spectrum. MSNBC viewers should get “suggestions” for good material from the right. Both groups should get “suggestions” to look at genuinely independent, alternative media brimming with passionate dissidents—outlets like the Unz Review!

Unfortunately things are moving in the opposite direction. YouTube’s effort to make “conspiracy videos” invisible is being pushed by powerful lobbies, especially the Zionist lobby, which seems dedicated to singlehandedly destroying the Western tradition of freedom of expression.

Nemeth and colleagues’ findings that “conspiracy theories” and other forms of passionate dissent are not just beneficial, but in fact an invaluable resource, are apparently unknown to the anti-conspiracy-theory cottage industry that has metastasized in the bowels of the Western academy. The brand-new bible of the academic anti-conspiracy-theory industry is Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them (Oxford University Press, 2019).

Editor Joseph Uscinski’s introduction begins by listing alleged dangers of conspiracism:

“In democracies, conspiracy theories can drive majorities to make horrible decisions backed by the use of legitimate force. Conspiracy beliefs can conversely encourage abstention. Those who believe the system is rigged will be less willing to take part in it. Conspiracy theories form the basis for some people’s medical decisions; this can be dangerous not only for them but for others as well. For a select few believers, conspiracy theories are instructions to use violence.”

Uscinski is certainly right that conspiracy theories can incite “horrible decisions” to use “legitimate force” and “violence.” Every major American foreign war since 1846 has been sold to the public by an official theory, backed by a frenetic media campaign, of a foreign conspiracy to attack the United States. And all of these Official Conspiracy Theories (OCTs)—including the theory that Mexico conspired to invade the United States in 1846, that Spain conspired to sink the USS Maine in 1898, that Germany conspired with Mexico to invade the United States in 1917, that Japan conspired unbeknownst to peace-seeking US leaders to attack Pearl Harbor in 1941, that North Vietnam conspired to attack the US Navy in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, and that 19 Arabs backed by Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and everybody else Israel doesn’t like conspired to attack the US in 2001—were false or deceptive.

Well over 100 million people have been killed in the violence unleashed by these and other Official Conspiracy Theories. Had the passionate dissenters been heeded, and the truths they told about who really conspires to create war-trigger public relations stunts been understood, none of those hundred-million-plus murders need have happened.

Though Conspiracy Theories and the People Who Believe Them generally pathologizes the conspiracy theories of dissidents while ignoring the vastly more harmful theories of official propagandists, its 31 essays include several that question that outlook. In “What We Mean When We Say ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Jesse Walker, books editor of Reason Magazine, exposes the bias that permeates the field, pointing out that many official conspiracy theories, including several about Osama Bin Laden and 9/11-anthrax, were at least as ludicrously false and delusional as anything believed by marginalized dissidents.

In “Media Marginalization of Racial Minorities: ‘Conspiracy Theorists’ in U.S. Ghettos and on the ‘Arab Street’” Martin Orr and Gina Husting go one step further: “The epithet ‘conspiracy theorist’ is used to tarnish those who challenge authority and power. Often, it is tinged with racial undertones: it is used to demean whole groups of people in the news and to silence, stigmatize, or belittle foreign and minority voices.” (p.82) Unfortunately, though Orr and Husting devote a whole section of their article to “Conspiracy Theories in the Muslim World” and defend Muslim conspiracists against the likes of Thomas Friedman, they never squarely face the fact that the reason roughly 80% of Muslims believe 9/11 was an inside job is because the preponderance of evidence supports that interpretation.

Another relatively sensible essay is M R.X. Dentith’s “Conspiracy Theories and Philosophy,” which ably deconstructs the most basic fallacy permeating the whole field of conspiracy theory research: the a priori assumption that a “conspiracy theory” must be false or at least dubious: “If certain scholars (i.e. the majority represented in this book! –KB) want to make a special case for conspiracy theories, then it is reasonable for the rest of us to ask whether we are playing fair with our terminology, or whether we have baked into our definitions the answers to our research programs.” (p.104). Unfortunately, a few pages later editor Joseph Uscinski sticks his fingers in his ears and plays deaf and dumb, claiming that “the establishment is right far more often than conspiracy theories, largely because their methods are reliable. When conspiracy theorists are right, it is by chance.” He adds that conspiracy theories will inevitably “occasionally lead to disaster” (whatever that means). (p.110).

I hope Uscinski finds the time to read Nemeth’s In Defense of Troublemakers and consider the evidence that passionate dissent is helpful, not harmful. And I hope he will look into the issues Ron Unz addresses in his American Pravda series.

Then again, if he does, he may find himself among those of us exiled from the academy and publishing in The Unz Review.

Published:2/4/2019 10:40:15 PM
[Markets] Trump Kneels Again Before AIPAC

Authored by Tom Luongo,

We know the pull of the Israeli lobby is strong in D.C. We also know that Donald Trump’s foreign policy has centered around Israel’s security.

But what we didn’t know for certain was just how far Trump is led around by the whatever AIPAC wants. Until Sunday morning...

However Trump’s invoking Iranian influence as a rationale for staying further contradicts his prior December statement that the defeat of ISIS was “the only reason” he was in Syria in the first place

MARGARET BRENNAN:How many troops are still in Syria? When are they coming home?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: 2,000 troops.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When are they coming home?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They’re starting to, as we gain the remainder, the final remainder of the caliphate of the area, they’ll be going to our base in Iraq, and ultimately some will be coming home. But we’re going to be there and we’re going to be staying

MARGARET BRENNAN: So that’s a matter of months?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have to protect Israel. We have to protect other things that we have. But we’re- yeah, they’ll be coming back in a matter of time. Look, we’re protecting the world. We’re spending more money than anybody’s ever spent in history, by a lot. We spent, over the last five years, close to 50 billion dollars a year in Afghanistan. That’s more than most countries spend for everything including education, medical, and everything else, other than a few countries. 

- CBS “Face the Nation” Feb.3 interview transcript

It seems that the panic in D.C. over Trump’s desire to pull out of Syria got everyone activated. Nothing unites the Beltway cocktail circuit and lobbying myrmidons like the threat of peace in the Middle East.

With $4 billion in aid every year and a few hundred nukes the idea that we have to occupy a border crossing between Iraq, Jordan and Syria to protect Israel against Iranian weapons is frankly, ludicrous.

Iran is a bigger threat to Israel now because after seven years of war in Syria, begun by a blatantly aggressive move by a U.S. coalition to oust President Assad, is simply blowback by another name.

Clinton and Obama put together the dream team coalition to destroy Syria — U.K., France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE, Turkey — by backing various head-chopping animals to wreak havoc and overthrow the government.

It failed when it caused the counter-move by Russia, China, Iran and Hezbollah. After the British parliament heroically stopped David Cameron from joining Obama’s coalition to invade in 2013 the plan was doomed to fail.

Putin stepped in, brokered a ceasefire and the removal of Assad’s chemical weapons. But we didn’t stop. To believe the U.S. media ISIS is one of the few known examples of parthenogenesis, springing up out of nowhere to take over vast stretches of the Levant.

But that was the Achilles’ heel of the entire operation. Because Putin’s military intervention made it easy to expose the whole rotten mess, including Israel’s giving aid and comfort in the Golan Heights to ISIS, while we dropped bombs in the desert because we couldn’t find them.

We can read license plates from space but we can’t find the Toyota Hilux its mounted on?

Trump inherited this mess but he’s done nothing substantial to improve it. All he’s done is empower Israel to be even more brazen in attacking Syria, killing and displacing Syrian civilians while claiming attacks on Iranian weapons depots.

It’s all nonsense and Trump looked like he’d had enough of it.

Trump’s Chaotic Mess

On the other hand, it is refreshing to see some honesty in our public officials. We’re overthrowing Maduro in Venezuela for oil and we’re staying in Syria for Israel.

Full Stop.

Maybe this is what Trump meant when he talked briefly about not lying to the American people. Or maybe that was just another ‘big ask’ from someone that has become little more than Barack Obama in bronzer.

Trump went for broke in December on two major planks of his campaign — The Wall and the Middle East. I voted for him on the basis of criticizing our foreign policy and wanted the troops out of central Asia.

The Swamp is filled by the runoff from the overseas Empire.

He shutdown the government for more than a month while simultaneously going to the mat with his cabinet over Syria. And since then he’s done nothing but backtrack and step down expectations.

In doing this he was always vulnerable to a counter-attack on both fronts. He made Syria vulnerable because he has to get a deal done on the wall in the next two weeks or he’s back to square one.

It seems Thursday’s Senate rebuke of Trump’s plans in Syria was followed up by some weekend arm-twisting of the president. Trump made another one of his ‘big asks’ Art-of-the-deal style, only to be ground down to an ineffectual reorganizing of deck chairs on the foreign policy Titanic.

Don’t think that Senate rebuke wasn’t part of the Wall negotiations, because it was.

McConnell and Rubio were saying loud and clear, “If you want our support on the Wall you have to give up pulling out of Syria.”

This is why I wasn’t convinced by Trump’s tweets (here and here) after that vote on Friday, saying “Certain people must get smart!” It looks like Trump is the one who has to smarten up and realize that he cannot attack on every front all the time and think the chaos is his friend.

Israeli Overreach

I never thought for a second that Trump was pulling the troops out of Iraq or that most of the force we have in Syria wouldn’t be repositioned there. I knew that Trump was looking for a way to keep a campaign promise with his Syria announcement while not truly changing anything.

He’s been AIPAC’s best friend since he entered office. But, I also thought that the dangerous game played by Israel, France and the U.K. which led to the shooting down of the Russian IL-20 reconnaissance plane woke him up to the reality that Bibi Netanyahu will do just about anything to provoke a wider war.

I know that Putin has had enough. That’s why he sent S-300’s to Syria and won’t take Bibi’s phone calls.

What happened was obvious. France that shot down the plane, the U.K. were the coordinators and Israel the air cover needed to sell a lie about Syria antiquated air defense shooting down the Russian plane.

Putin smartly went along with this narrative because it stopped a wider conflict and led to the current relative peace we have now.


Russia, and Putin, did the one thing that makes this whole thing look like a frame job, it accepted the narrative of Israeli malfeasance in the interest of stopping a wider conflict by accusing and/or attacking a NATO member, France.

Flores (at Fort-Russ.com) makes the salient point that the S-200 friendly fire scenario is highly unlikely.  That, in fact, France shot down the plane, was prepared to accept blame (which it did by preemptively denying it was involved) and destroy what was left of Russian/French relations.

Now Russia can use the excuse of Israeli betrayal as justification for upgrading Syria’s air defenses. Citing the very thing that caused the tragic death of their soldiers, antiquated air defense systems which didn’t properly identify friend from foe.

This is why I think Trump fired Nikki Haley from her post as U.N. Ambassador. She was involved in some way.

And it’s also why he pushed so hard to pull our troops out of Syria three months later, after the Russians had delivered and were spinning up S-300’s stabilizing the situation near Israel.

The board state is pretty clear near Damascus. Israel has lost its safe zone of flying F-16’s over Lebanon to attack Damascus.

This gave Trump room to end the balkanization efforts of Bolton et.al. east of the Euphrates river. The Kurds will make a deal with Damascus. While Trump tacitly admits President Erdogan in Turkey isn’t going to lift one finger to help the U.S. provoke regime change in Iran.

Security After Withdrawal

Trump’s analysis of this is correct. It is his spirit that is weak. The realities in D.C. are that it can’t happen since Israel is now calling in all of its markers to prevent this from occurring.

Netanyahu needs this from Trump to assist his re-election in a few weeks. But this is incredibly short-sighted for all involved. Israel is not made safer in the long run by constantly running behind the U.S.’s skirts and crying “Get ‘im Don!”

One of the undercurrents of Trump’s election was Israel First fatigue that is more pervasive in the American electorate than anyone wants to admit. We’re tired of fighting all across central Asia for undefined goals. Israel is part of that fatigue. And no amount of screaming “Anti-Semite!” will quell it.

Without the threat of ISIS, transitioning then to “Iran, Iran the Bogeyman for Israel” isn’t going to play well in 2020.

It’s the best Alt-Right recruiting tool there is, sadly. And it does no one any good to keep the conflict locked along these lines when there is the real threat of a wider conflict occurring.

Iran will leave Syria when the U.S. does. Since Trump has made it clear that we aren’t leaving because Israel doesn’t want us to, nothing will change. But, every day our position grows weaker while opposition to it grows stronger.

Trump is right to talk about the money. $50 billion in Afghanistan a year. For what? Neocon dreams of overthrowing Putin. Playing outdated games of Risk with opponents who are rapidly changing the rules of the game and raising the costs even higher.

The war of attrition playing out in Syria continues and weakens everyone who keeps playing it out to the bitter end. Whether Trump is the architect of this or not is irrelevant. It’s obvious he’s powerless to stop it.

*  *  *

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Published:2/4/2019 8:37:19 PM
[Markets] Trump Inaugural Committee Subpoenaed By New York Prosecutors

President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee was subpoenaed by federal prosecutors in New York Southern District, ABC News and Bloomberg reported, indicating that even as the special counsel probe appears to be nearing an end, "another investigation that could hamstring the president and his lawyers is widening."

“We have just received a subpoena for documents,” Kristin Celauro, a spokeswoman with Owen Blicksilver PR, said in an email. “While we are still reviewing the subpoena, it is our intention to cooperate with the inquiry.”

It was not immediately clear if the subpoena was related to the criminal probe that had been launched in December, which according to the WSJ, was investigating whether the committee had misspent some of the record $107 million it raised from donations.

According to ABC, the contact which came from the public corruption section in the Southern District, is the latest activity focusing on Trump’s political fundraising both before and immediately after his 2016 election. Lawyers for the inauguration committee were contacted midday Monday and asked if they could accept a subpoena for documents from federal prosecutors, according to sources familiar

The Trump family business has also been in contact with prosecutors, but sources familiar with those discussions would not spell out the specific topics covered.

ABC News reported previously about interest by federal investigators in the foreign guests at the inaugural event, and possible contributions by foreign nationals, which would be prohibited. Among those who attended were Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg, who is now on the Treasury Department list of sanctioned oligarchs.

Last year, special counsel Robert Mueller’s team had questioned several witnesses about millions of dollars in donations from donors with connections to Russia, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, sources with direct knowledge previously told ABC News. One Mueller target, a political consultant named Sam Patten, acknowledged as part of a plea deal that he accepted $50,000 to buy tickets on behalf of a Ukrainian businessman who wanted to attend inaugural events.

Still, despite the amount of money raised, the festivities surrounding Trump’s swearing-in were far more modest in scale than past inaugural events. The non-profit group established to oversee the celebration hosted only three major events with some small intimate private affairs. The record breaking fundraising was double of President Barack Obama’s first inaugural. The committee was chaired by President Trump’s longtime friend, Thomas Barrack. It has been previously reported Barrack sat for an interview with Mueller’s office in late 2017.

As ABC News further details, it had obtained documents which showed the committee spent more than $1.5 million at the Trump International Hotel in Washington ahead of the president’s 2017 swearing-in. It is part of an array of expenditures there and elsewhere that included more than $130,000 for customized seat cushions at two gala dinners for the president-elect, $10,000 to provide makeup to the servers at another formal dinner, and $2.7 million to a company that produced a Broadway-style rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” using Las Vegas showgirls flown in by Trump pal Steve Wynn for a private event.

Questions about the inaugural spending were first raised last year when tax filings disclosed the five largest vendors included payments of nearly $26 million to an event planning firm run by a one-time adviser and close friend of Melania Trump. The adviser, Stephanie Winston-Wolkoff, created a company called WIS Media Partners based in California that handled some of the festivities. That firm paid out contracts to other sub-contractors that were hired and used some of the funds to hire sub-contractors.

It was also unclear if the probe had been bolstered by input from two of Trump's formerly closest aides. Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen has been extensively interviewed by prosecutors in the Southern District office. Longtime family accountant and Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg has agreed to cooperate, though the extent of his help is unknown.

The Trump Inauguration also donated $5 million to various charities including the American Red Cross, Salvation Army and the Smithsonian Institute among others.

Published:2/4/2019 7:37:56 PM
[] Barack Obama, Gay Sex-Toy Hobbyist? This is so great. Seriously, 2019 is the Best Year. If you haven't seen this yet: This is a short vid of a guy purporting to show that Barack Obama follows a Gay Sex Toy account on Twitter. Barack Obama... Published:2/4/2019 6:37:29 PM
[World] Obama Border Patrol Chief Says Pelosi Calling Wall Immoral Ineffective Not Accurate

Mark Morgan, the head of the U.S. Border Patrol under President Obama, said on "Maria Bartiromo's Insiders" on Fox Nation that Speaker Nancy Pelosi was not relying on facts when she claimed a border wall is "immoral" and ineffective.

Published:2/4/2019 4:37:38 PM
[Markets] What If Trump Said This At Tomorrow's SOTU?

What a difference a decade makes...

President Obama talks about immigration at an Orange County Town Hall event in April 2009...

What would happen if President Trump said those exact same words tomorrow night?

Published:2/4/2019 4:08:17 PM
[Markets] Key Words: Democrat Stacey Abrams has her work cut out for her Tuesday, says Kathleen Sebelius Hopes are often elevated — and, nearly as often, dashed — that the opposition party’s State of the Union response will break with precedent and be dynamic, interesting, effective. There’s a reason that’s rarely achieved, says Kathleen Sebelius, the former Kansas governor and Obama administration secretary of health and human services, tapped for the task 11 years ago.
Published:2/4/2019 2:36:17 PM
[Markets] OPEC's Oil Princes Are Fighting For Survival

Authored by Cyril Widdershoven via Oilprice.com,

The already strained relationship between U.S. lawmakers and two of President Trump’s staunchest supporters, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, seems to be worsening. In recent days, reports have indicated that a growing number of U.S. congressmen and women is expected to pass a resolution which will end U.S. involvement in Yemen’s civil war. This resolution would represent a direct challenge to President Trump, who would then have to consider using a presidential veto. While Trump’s Middle East strategy may lack clarity, it is undeniable that both MBS and MBZ are pivotal to his influence in the region.

The hostility between Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress has been particularly intense under the current president. The ongoing support by the Trump Administration of the Saudi-led military coalition fighting against the Houthi rebels in Yemen has become the latest focal point of this tension. U.S. media sources have indicated that a group within congress is considering reproducing a version of the resolution that passed the Senate 56-41 last month to rebuke the White House and Saudi Arabia following the Khashoggi murder. The U.S. public appears to be largely against the U.S. military cooperation in Yemen, mainly blaming Saudi Arabia, and in particular MBS, for the crisis. The U.S. Congress appears to now be reflecting public opinion. This resolution would put limits on the amount and type of U.S. support in Yemen. Senators, such as Mike Lee, R-Utah, state that the decision to support the coalition, which was taken by President Obama and Trump, has never been voted on and approved by Congress. The support for a new U.S. strategy is wide, as newly elected Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer announced he would co-sponsor the legislation. Several Republicans also now seem to be behind the new approach.

In the Middle East more broadly, Trump’s strategy is failing to instill confidence in the two Arab leaders at the center of this struggle. The ongoing threat of a full withdrawal of U.S. troops and the abandonment of Kurdish forces in Syria has sent shivers down the spines of both MBS and MBZ. The two young leaders, currently heavily engaged in transforming their own societies and economies, are aware that Washington’s support for these two key U.S. allies could be changed by one tweet. Trump’s support appears, from the outside at least, to be based on an emotional rather than rational approach. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi are increasingly worried that U.S. support is wavering, with even Secretary of State Mike Pompeo being unable to quell growing fears. The continuation of anti-OPEC or anti-Saudi oil strategy tweets by Trump are failing to address the fears of these two key OPEC figures.

The most visible sign that MBS and MBZ are considering changing sides, and decreasing their full support of Washington in the U.S., is the fact that neither have flown to the U.S. for a notable period of time. For Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, it is clear that a trip to the USA is both a legal and political risk. He would face the threat of legal cases regarding the Khashoggi murder and political pressure regarding the Yemen War. Both MBS and Mohammed bin Zayed also have to worry about the possible findings of the Mueller investigation. Mueller is currently still focusing on possible interference in U.S. elections, with both Saudi Arabia and the UAE being potential targets. Ties between Trump’s entourage and Saudi-UAE thinktanks and financial groups are being assessed. Qatar, the outcast in the GCC at present, is also under scrutiny. That there are links between the Arab rulers and confidants of Trump, such as Jared Kushner, is already clear. Meetings between MBZ, Kushner and George Nader, a UAE emissary, are already being probed. These meetings have even been linked to a Russian connection, via Erik Prince and Russian sovereign wealth fund RDIF’s CEO Kirill Dmitriev.

If the two Arab crown princes face increased pressure from either the U.S. Congress or the Muller investigation, a major break in US-GCC relations is to be expected. This will not only impact the geopolitical and military operations of the U.S. and its European allies, but also will have a direct negative result for OPEC’s position towards the U.S. At present, the oil cartel is facing anti-cartel legislation and Trump tweets for lower oil prices and increased production. Until now, OPEC’s strategy appears to be to ignoring Trump’s outbursts. If, however, the two main power brokers in OPEC are being directly threatened by Washington then a full-scale position change is to be expected. Saudi-UAE geopolitical policy already has an Eastern bias. A political storm in Washington will only push the two Gulf powers even closer to Moscow and Beijing. By not taking a pro-Russia or China approach, MBS and MBZ are risking their own power and future. By not taking sides, the Arab princes may be leaving themselves vulnerable if a storm were to break out in the U.S. It looks like fundamentals are going to take a back seat to geopolitics in oil markets as this conflict plays out. The political survival of the two princes will surely become the leading factor in OPEC’s oil strategies.

Published:2/4/2019 1:36:14 PM
[Politics] 31% Say U.S. Heading in Right Direction

Thirty-one percent (31%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey for the week ending January 31.

This week’s finding is down three points from last week and is the lowest since October 2017. This number had been on the decline week-over-week from 43% in early December. It ran in the mid- to upper 20s for much of 2016, President Obama's last full year in office.

(Want a free daily e-mail update? If it's in the news, it's in our polls). Rasmussen Reports updates are also available on Twitter or Facebook.

The national telephone survey of 2,500 Likely Voters was conducted by Rasmussen Reports from January 27-31, 2019. The margin of sampling error for the survey is +/- 2 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC. See methodology.

Published:2/4/2019 12:06:05 PM
[Politics] Trump Admin to Reverse DOJ Discrimination Policies The Trump Administration will reverse Justice Department policy from the Obama Administration regarding laws protecting against racial discrimination, CNN reports. Published:2/4/2019 11:05:52 AM
[Markets] Washington Resurrected The Arms Race: PCR

Authored by Paul Craig Roberts,

The meetings in Beijing during January 30-31 between Washington, Russia, China, France and the UK apparently failed to preserve the commitment to prohibit intermediate range nuclear weapons. Washington stuck to its determination to withdraw from the historic agreement of Reagan and Gorbachev to destroy all land-based intermediate range nuclear missiles. This US withdrawal from a nuclear weapons reduction agreement follows the George W. Bush/Cheney regime’s withdrawal from the anti-ballistic missile treaty. Indeed, since the Clinton regime, every US president has produced worsening trust between the two major nuclear powers.

No good can come of this as Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said at the Beijing meeting.

The intermediate range nuclear missile treaty (INF) does not involve US security. It protects Europe from Russian missiles and Russia from US missiles stationed in Europe. Trump’s announcement that he is breaking free of the treaty tells the Russians that they are going to have missiles on their borders that allow them no response time. The Europeans are crazy to go along with this as they will be targeted by Russia in turn, but the Europeans are Washington’s vassals.

Ever since Clinton broke Washington’s promise not to move NATO eastward, Russia has known that Washington seeks military advantage over Russia. By leaving the ABM treaty, the George W. Bush regime told Russia that Washington intended to gain superiority by constructing an anti-ballistic missile shield that would negate Russia’s retaliatory capability, thus subjecting Russia to nuclear blackmail.

Russia responded with new hypersonic ICBMs that cannot be intercepted and now holds nuclear superiority over the US, but does not exploit it. The US response is to tear up the INF treaty and put its missiles back on Russia’s borders.

Another way to look at the INF treaty’s demise is that the Obama regime committed one trillion dollars of taxpayers’ money (in addition to the annual one trillion dollar budget of the military/security complex) to build more nuclear weapons, none of which are needed as the US alone has enough to blow up the world several times. Breaking the INF treaty is a sure-fire way to initiate a new arms race which would provide justification for the trillion dollars of taxpayers’ money that Washington is handing over to the military/security complex for more nuclear weapons.

Yet another way to look at the demise of the treaty is that Washington wants out of the treaty so that it can deploy intermediate range missiles against China. Washington has actually drawn up plans for war against Russia and China and has conducted simulations of what the outcome would be. America wins, of course.

The dangerous idea that a nuclear war can be won has been pushed for some years by the neoconservatives who are committed to US hegemony over the world. This idea definitely serves the material interest of the military/security complex and is very popular among the power brokers in Washington.

Washington’s excuse for breaking the INF treaty is that Russia is cheating and has violated the treaty. But Russia has no interest in violating a treaty that protects Russia. Russia’s intermediate range missiles cannot reach the US, and the only reason Russia would target Europe would be to retaliate for Europe hosting US missiles on Russia’s borders.

The beneficiaries of a renewed nuclear arms race are the stockholders of the military/security complex. Washington is feeding their profits by placing humanity at greater risk of nuclear Armageddon. Weapons are piling up, the use of which would destroy all life on the planet. This makes the weapons the very opposite of security. Trump whose goal was to normalize relations with Russia is now under the thumb of the military/security complex and has announced US intentions to withdraw from the last remaining arms control agreement—the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

The situation is serious. Very little is reported in US media of the resurrection of the nuclear arms race, and what is reported is blamed on Russia and China. Americans hear that it is China, not the US, that is militarizing the South China Sea and Russia that intends to restore the Soviet empire and that these intentions are threats to American national security. The evidence consists of assertion. The Russians have offered proof that they have not violated the INF treaty, but Washington doesn’t care because Washington is not leaving the treaty because of Russian violations.

Washington is leaving the treaty because Washington wants military hegemony over Russia and China and a good excuse to hand over another trillion dollars to the military/security complex. In the end capitalism does more than exploit labor. It ends life on earth

Traditionally, an aggressor paves the way to war with constant propaganda against the country to be attacked. The propaganda creates public support and justifies the attack. The constant stream of provocative accusations out of Washington against Russia and China (and Iran) in order to justify treaty breaking and higher armaments spending sounds to Russia and China like they are being set up for attack. It is reckless and irresponsible to convince nuclear powers that they are going to be attacked. There is no more certain way of producing war. Russia and China are hearing what Saddam Hussein heard, what Gaddafi heard, what Assad heard, what Iran hears. Unlike these victims of Washington, Russia and China have substantial offensive capability. When a country is convinced it is targeted for attack, does the country just sit there and await the attack?

Washington might be setting up America for a first strike with the extraordinary stream of accusations and provocations issuing from people too stupid to be in possession of nuclear weapons. In the nuclear era, it is reckless for a government to replace diplomacy with threats and coercion. Washington’s recklessness is the most dangerous threat that the world faces.

Published:2/3/2019 10:02:29 PM
[Markets] NBC News Exposed 'Reporting' Pure Propaganda On Gabbard's Russia Links From Disinfo-Democrat

Collusion, right under your nose...

In December, a Democratic operative who hatched a Russian "false flag" scheme against Republican Roy Moore in last year's Alabama special election promoted his own propaganda on the dubious "Hamilton 68" website - which purports to track Russian "bot" activity, yet refuses to disclose how they do it. 

In January, an online disinformation campaign conducted by a former Obama administration official leading up to the 2018 midterm elections was bankrolled by left-wing tech billionaire Reid Hoffman, according to the Daily Caller's Peter Hasson. Hoffman, who co-founded LinkedIn, admitted in December to funding American Engagement Technologies (AET) - which is currently embroiled in a "false flag" scandal stemming from the 2017 Alabama special election. Now, AET and its founder Mickey Dickerson have come under fire for meddling in the 2018 midterm elections. 

And now, as the Democratic establishment faces an onslaught of potential presidential candidates that are not toeing-the-line of radicalism, The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald exposes  the pure propaganda that the liberal media will resort to, in order to please their Democratic, deep state overlords and keep to "The Plan."

NBC News published a predictably viral story Friday, claiming that “experts who track websites and social media linked to Russia have seen stirrings of a possible campaign of support for Hawaii Democrat Tulsi Gabbard.”

But the whole story was a sham: the only “experts” cited by NBC in support of its key claim was the firm, New Knowledge, that just got caught by the New York Times fabricating Russian troll accounts on behalf of the Democratic Party in the Alabama Senate race to manufacture false accusations that the Kremlin was interfering in that election.

To justify its claim that Tulsi Gabbard is the Kremlin’s candidate, NBC stated:

“analysts at New Knowledge, the company the Senate Intelligence Committee used to track Russian activities in the 2016 election, told NBC News they’ve spotted ‘chatter’ related to Gabbard in anonymous online message boards, including those known for fomenting right-wing troll campaigns.”

What NBC – amazingly – concealed is a fact that reveals its article to be a journalistic fraud: that same firm, New Knowledge, was caught just six weeks ago engaging in a massive scam to create fictitious Russian troll accounts on Facebook and Twitter in order to claim that the Kremlin was working to defeat Democratic Senate nominee Doug Jones in Alabama. The New York Times, when exposing the scam, quoted a New Knowledge report that boasted of its fabrications: “We orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the [Roy] Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet.'”

At the same time that New Research’s CEO, Jonathan Morgan, was fabricating Russian troll accounts and using them to create a fraudulent appearance that Putin was trying to defeat the Democratic Senate candidate, he was exploiting his social media “expertise” to claim that Russians were interfering in the Alabama Senate election. In other words, Morgan used his own fake Russian accounts to lie to the public and deceive the national media into believing that Kremlin-linked accounts were trying to defeat the Democratic Senate candidate when, in fact, the accounts he was citing were ones he himself had fabricated and controlled.

Even worse, Morgan’s firm is behind one of the recent Senate reports on Russian social media election interference as well as the creation of “Hamilton 68,” the pseudo-data-driven dashboard constantly used by U.S. media outlets to claim that its enemies are supported by the Kremlin (that tool has so been abused that even some of its designers urged the media to stop exaggerating its meaning). During the Alabama race, Morgan – in a tweet he deleted once his fraud was exposed – cited the #Hamilton68 data that he himself manipulated with his fake Russian accounts to claim that Russia was interfering in the Alabama Senate race:

In response to this scam being revealed, Facebook closed the accounts of five Americans who were responsible for this fraud, including Morgan himself, the “prominent social media researcher” who is the CEO of New Knowledge. He also touts himself as a “State Dept. advisor, computational propaganda researcher for DARPA, Brookings Institution.”

Beyond Morgan’s Facebook suspension, the billionaire funder and LinkedIn founder who provided the money for the New Knowledge project, Reid Hoffman, apologized and claimed he had no knowledge of the fraud. The victorious Democratic Senate candidate who won the Alabama Senate race and who repeatedly cited New Knowledge’s fake Russian accounts during the election to claim he was being attacked by Russian bots, Doug Jones, insisted he had no knowledge of the scheme and has now called for a federal investigation into New Knowledge.

This is the group of “experts” on which NBC News principally relied to spread its inflammatory, sensationalistic, McCarthyite storyline that Gabbard’s candidacy is supported by the Kremlin.

While NBC cited a slew of former FBI and other security state agents to speculate about why the Kremlin would like Gabbard, its claim that “experts” have detected the “stirrings” of such support came from this discredited, disgraced firm, one that just proved it specializes in issuing fictitious accusations against enemies of the Democratic Party that they are linked to Russia. Just marvel at how heavily NBC News relies on the disgraced New Knowledge to smear Gabbard as a favorite of Moscow:

Experts who track inauthentic social media accounts, however, have already found some extolling Gabbard’s positions since she declared.

Within a few days of Gabbard announcing her presidential bid, DisInfo 2018, part of the cybersecurity firm New Knowledge, found that three of the top 15 URLs shared by the 800 social media accounts affiliated with known and suspected Russian propaganda operations directed at U.S. citizens were about Gabbard.

Analysts at New Knowledge, the company the Senate Intelligence Committee used to track Russian activities in the 2016 election, told NBC News they’ve spotted “chatter” related to Gabbard in anonymous online message boards, including those known for fomenting right-wing troll campaigns. The chatter discussed Gabbard’s usefulness.

“A few of our analysts saw some chatter on 8chan saying she was a good ‘divider’ candidate to amplify,” said New Knowledge’s director of research Renee DiResta, director of research at New Knowledge.

What’s particularly unethical about the NBC report is that it tries to bolster the credentials of this group by touting it as “the company the Senate Intelligence Committee used to track Russian activities in the 2016 election,” while concealing from its audience the fraud that this firm’s CEO just got caught perpetrating on the public on behalf of the Democratic Party.

The only other so-called “expert” cited by NBC in support of its claim that Russian accounts are supporting Gabbard is someone named “Josh Russell,” who NBC identified as “Josh Russel.” Russell, or Russel, is touted by NBC as “a researcher and ‘troll hunter’ known for identifying fake accounts.” In reality, “Russel” is someone CNN last year touted as an “Indiana dad” and “amateur troll hunter” with a full-time job unrelated to Russia (he works as programmer at a college) and whose “hobby” is tracing online Russian accounts.

So beyond the firm that just got caught in a major fraudulent scam fabricating Russian support to help the Democratic Party, that’s NBC’s only other vaunted expert for its claim that the Kremlin is promoting Gabbard: someone CNN just last year called an “amateur” who traces Russian accounts as a “hobby.” And even there, NBC could only cite Russel (sic) as saying that “he recently spotted a few clusters of suspicious accounts that retweeted the same exact text about Gabbard, mostly neutral or slightly positive headlines.”

NBC also purported to rely on its own highly sophisticated analysis by counting the number of times Gabbard was mentioned by RT, Sputnik and Russia Insider, and then noting what it seems to regard as the highly incriminating fact that “Gabbard was mentioned on the three sites about twice as often as two of the best known Democratic possibilities for 2020, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, each with 10 stories.”

But in contrast to Gabbard, who announced her intent to run for President almost a month ago, neither Biden nor Sanders has done so. Perhaps that fact, rather than – as one of the NBC reporters adolescently gushed: “The Kremlin already has a crush on Tulsi Gabbard” – is what explains the greater amount of coverage?

In any event, NBC News, to smear Gabbard as a Kremlin favorite, relied on a group that it heralded as “experts” without telling its audience about the major fraud which this firm just got caught perpetrating in order – on behalf of the Democratic Party – to fabricate claims of Kremlin interference in the Alabama Senate race.

That’s because the playbook used by the axis of the Democratic Party, NBC/MSNBC, neocons and the intelligence community has been, is and will continue to be a very simple one: to smear any adversary of the establishment wing of the Democratic Party – whether on the left or the right – as a stooge or asset of the Kremlin (a key target will undoubtedly be, indeed already is, Bernie Sanders).

To accomplish this McCarthyite goal, this Democratic Party coalition of neocons, intelligence operatives and NBC stars will deceive, smear and even engage in outright journalistic deception, as NBC (once again) just proved with this report.

*  *  *
So which is it Democrats? Saul Alinsky or Cloward-Piven?

Published:2/3/2019 4:01:34 PM
[US Headlines] President Trump Upset That People Still Address Barack Obama As "Mr. President" In what's been called 'a fit of pique', President Donald Trump has spoken of his anger at the way many people, in the media, in the political forum, and beyond, still refer to former leader, Barack Obama, as 'Mr. President'. Mr. Obama, for most of... Published:2/3/2019 3:32:01 PM
[Politics] Sen. Sherrod Brown: Trump Is a 'Racist' Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, on Sunday accused President Donald Trump of being "a racist" who "built his political career" questioning the legitimacy of President Barack Obama.In an interview on NBC News' "Meet The Press," Brown, who's mulling a presidential run in 2020,... Published:2/3/2019 12:34:55 PM
[Markets] In Super Bowl Interview, Trump Warns: Pelosi Is "Very Bad For Our Country"

In keeping with a tradition that stretches back to the administration of George W Bush, President Trump sat down with CBS News for a sweeping hour-plus interview that is expected to air before the Super Bowl. And with so much happening on both the domestic and foreign front  - the tumult in Venezuela being only the latest addition to Trump's foreign policy plate - Trump and his interviewer, Face the Nation correspondent Margaret Brennan had quite a bit to discuss.

Some of the highlights from the interview included Trump's criticisms of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom he derided as "very bad for our country", his revelation that he intends to move US troops from Syria to a US base in Iraq, where they can help "keep an eye on" Iran (while he would like to withdraw from the Middle East, Trump suggested that it might be better for at least some troops to remain at a US-built base in Iraq for an indefinite period). As Venezuelan Dictator Nicolas Maduro scrambles to tamp down military defections and the rising tide of international opposition to his brutal regime, Trump reiterated that a military intervention in Venezuela "remains an option". Meanwhile, trade talks with China were "doing very well" and another government shutdown remains a possibility because "I don't take anything off the table."

Trump

Here's a summary of some of the biggest issues discussed during the interview:

Nancy Pelosi

With allegations that he "caved" to the octogenarian Democratic leader still fresh, Trump blasted his chief political antagonist as "very rigid" during negotiations, and accused her of hypocrisy because of her unwillingness to make building the wall a priority (allowing drugs, guns and human traffickers to continue flowing unabated into the US).

MARGARET BRENNAN: You had quite the showdown with Speaker Pelosi. What did you learn about negotiating with her?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, I think that she was very rigid - which I would expect - but I think she is very bad for our country. She knows that you need a barrier. She knows that we need border security. She wanted to win a political point. I happen to think it's very bad politics because basically she wants open borders. She doesn't mind human trafficking or she wouldn't do this because you know--

MARGARET BRENNAN: She offered you over a billion dollars for border security.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Excuse me?

MARGARET BRENNAN: She offered over a billion dollars for border security. She doesn't want the wall.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: She's- she's costing the country hundreds of billions of dollars because what's happening is when you have a porous border, and when you have drugs pouring in, and when you have people dying all over the country because of people like Nancy Pelosi who don't want to give proper border security for political reasons, she's doing a terrible disservice to our country. And on the 15th we have now set the table beautifully because everybody knows what's going on because of the shutdown. People that didn't have any idea- they didn't have a clue as to what was happening, they now know exactly what's happening. They see human trafficking. They see drugs and gangs and criminals pouring in. Now, we catch them because we're doing a great job. But if we had proper border security we wouldn't have to work so hard and we could do an even better job, and I think Nancy Pelosi is doing a terrible disservice to the people of our country. But she can--

MARGARET BRENNAN: You're still going to have to deal with her now.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, she can keep playing her games, but we will win. Because we have a much better issue. On a political basis, what she's doing is- I actually think it's bad politics, but much more importantly it's very bad for our country.

The NFL

Of course, it wouldn't be a proper pre-Super Bowl interview without a few questions about President Trump's battle with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (a battle that was won decisively by the president when the league decided to crack down on players who opted to kneel during the national anthem). How does Trump feel about players like Colin Kaepernick and their complaints about his administration? Well, Trump said, many players have actually been calling and thanking him because he passed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill, something that President Obama tried and failed to accomplish.

According to Trump, the president did Goodell a "big favor" by scrapping Nafta and negotiating USMCA, which Trump said treats the NFL more favorably (though he neglected to elaborate about how).

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to ask you about your relationship with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. Have- have you put your differences aside?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I think so. I mean I- I was just one that felt very important, you can't be kneeling for the national anthem. You have to respect our flag and our country. I want that as president and I'd want that as a citizen. And I have a very good relationship. I did them a big favor in negotiating the USMCA, which is basically the replacement to NAFTA, which is one of the worst trade deals ever made. And I said to Canada, look we have a great American company known as the NFL, and they were being hurt and treated unfairly, the NFL, by Canada for a long time. And I said to Prime Minister Trudeau, who was very nice about it and really understood it, I hope you can settle the difference immediately and fast. And they did. So I did the NFL a big favor, as a great American company and they appreciated it. And Roger Goodell, this is a dispute that has gone on for years. Roger Goodell called me and he thanked me. And I appreciated that. But they haven't been kneeling and they have been respecting the flag and their ratings have been terrific ever since. And a lot of good things happened.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Talking about the- the kneeling position you've taken and the controversy around it. Do you think that the players who did kneel had a point? I mean did you- are you sensitive at all to players like Colin Kaepernick, who- who point out that the majority of victims of police violence are black?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, you know, I'm the one that had passed judicial reform. And if you look at what I did, criminal judicial reform, and what I've done- President Obama tried. They all tried. Everybody wanted to do it. And I got it done and I've been, you know, really- a lot of people in the NFL have been calling and thanking me for it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Really?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They have been calling and thanking, you know, that people have been trying to get that taken care of and it's now signed into law and affects tremendous numbers of people, and very good people. I think that when you want to protest I think that's great. But I don't think you do it at the sake of our flag, at the sake of our national anthem. Absolutely.

China

With his trade deal in limbo ahead of talks in Beijing later this month, Trump reiterated that the US has the upper hand in trade talks because China's economy is doing "very badly". He added that he won't accept anything that's not a "fair trade" deal, but hinted that he was optimistic because China has already been "very helpful" on the issue of pressuring North Korea.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I want to quickly get to China. The last time you spoke with FACE THE NATION you were one hundred days into office and you said you would accept a less than perfect trade deal with China, if it meant they'd be helpful with North Korea. Do you stand by that?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well, yes but I think we're in a different position now.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What do you mean?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We've put very massive tariffs on China. China is paying a big price and it's hurt China's economy very badly. I want them to make a fair deal.They have been very helpful, especially at the beginning when I first came in with North Korea. They have stopped goods from going in. They have stopped a lot of things from going in through the border. Because as you know they have a border just like we have a border with Mexico, where crime is way up by the way, way up, and you have to remember that. But we have a border with- they have a border with North Korea.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They have been very vigilant. Are they the same now? Probably a little bit less so. But North Korea is absolutely talking. And I think North Korea wants to make a deal. We are making a deal. It looks like we're doing very well with making a deal with China. I can tell you this, no two leaders of this country and China have ever been closer than I am with President Xi. We have a good chance to make a deal. I don't know that we're going to make one, but we have a good chance. And if it is a deal it's going to be a real deal. It's not going to be a stopgap.

Iran

For the first time, Trump suggested that, after spending "a fortune" on a military base in Iraq, the US should keep troops there to maintain pressure on nearby Iran.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But you want to keep troops there now?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: --but when it was chosen-- well, we spent a fortune on building this incredible base. We might as well keep it. And one of the reasons I want to keep it is because I want to be looking a little bit at Iran because Iran is a real problem.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Whoa, that's news. You're keeping troops in Iraq because you want to be able to strike in Iran?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: No, because I want to be able to watch Iran. All I want to do is be able to watch. We have an unbelievable and expensive military base built in Iraq. It's perfectly situated for looking at all over different parts of the troubled Middle East rather than pulling up. And this is what a lot of people don't understand. We're going to keep watching and we're going to keep seeing and if there's trouble, if somebody is looking to do nuclear weapons or other things, we're going to know it before they do.

Venezuela

Trump revealed that Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro had requested to negotiate, but that the president had turned him down.

MARGARET BRENNAN: What would make you use the U.S. military in Venezuela? What's the national security interest?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well I don't want to say that. But certainly it's something that's on the- it's an option.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you personally negotiate with Nicolás Maduro to convince him to exit?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well he is requested a meeting and I've turned it down because we're very far along in the process. You have a young and energetic gentleman but you have other people within that same group that have been very very - if you talk about democracy - it's really democracy in action.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When did he request a meeting?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We're going to see what happened. A number of months ago he wanted to meet.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But now because you're at that crisis point--

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Well now we'd have to see.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Would you negotiate that?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I would say this. I decided at the time, "no" because so many really horrible things have been happening in Venezuela when you look at that country. That was the wealthiest country of all in that part of the world which is a very important part of the world. And now you look at the poverty and you look at the anguish and you look at the crime and you look at all of the things happening. So, I think the process is playing out - very very big tremendous protests.

CBS News has already released a full transcript of the interview (read it here), which is expected to air at 3:30 pm ET.

Published:2/3/2019 10:31:21 AM
[Markets] A Truthful State Of The Union (That Will Keep You Awake At Night)

Authored by Skip Kaltenhauser via DownWithTyranny.com,

Tick Tock. The good folks at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientistshave returned to wind their Doomsday Clock. Last Thursday at the National Press Club a group of well-credentialed speakers, including former California Governor Jerry Brown and former Secretary of Defense William Perry, underscored the organization’s warning that we have established residence in “the new abnormal.” Watch the press conference and supportive videos here.

The Doomsday Clock was set last year at a two-minutes until midnight, (midnight being the endgame), and there it now remains. There’s little comfort to be had in standing on what University of Chicago astrophysicist Robert Rosner characterized as a precipice we’d best quickly leap back from. Bulletin president and CEO Rachel Bronson stressed that the clock remaining where it is, the closest it has been to world catastrophe, is not stability, but “a stark warning to leaders and citizens around the world.”

William Perry said the organization views our current situation as precarious as it was in 1953, in the gloom of the Cold War while the Korean War still raged. Jerry Brown said, “The blindness and stupidity of the politicians and their consultants is truly shocking in the face of nuclear catastrophe and danger... the business of everyday politics blinds people to the risk, we’re playing Russian Roulette with humanity,” with the danger of an incident that will kill millions if not igniting a conflict that will kill billions.

Brown told journalists while they may love the Trump tweets and news of the day, “the leads that get the clicks,” the final click could be a nuclear accident, a mistake. “It’s hard to even feel or sense the peril and danger we are in, but these scientists know what they’re talking about, and I can say, based on my understanding of the political process, the politicians, for the most part, do not.” Referring to Congress’s inaction on related matters, Brown called it “massive sleep walking all over the place.” He committed to spending the next few years doing everything he can to “sound the alarm and get us back on the track to dialogue, collaboration and arms control.”

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and the Doomsday Clock are creations of a group of scientists who participated in the Manhattan Project. The clock’s current position was determined by a group of scholars and scientists that includes fifteen Nobel Laureates. These are serious people. It is heartening to see their avoidance of political talking points or partisan tilt in favor of Joe Friday’s focus on “just the facts, ma’am.” Just the chilling facts that let the chips fall where they may. About thirty-three minutes into the conference Jerry Brown gave a Dutch uncle talk to Democrats who maintain the attack mode on Putin on all matters without holding open the option for nuclear dialogue. It brought to mind the discussions of Washington’s bipartisan War Party prompted by William Atkin’s recent critique of NBC and MSNBC.

The Bulletin has been criticized for going beyond the original nuclear realm to include a number of other perils. But it seems if there is one thing we’re learning now from climate and polar ice studies and being slapped around by extreme weather events, it’s that seemingly unrelated factors cascade and overlap, interacting and accelerating in ways we hadn’t understood. No doubt more surprises will come. Certainly the impacts of climate change on food and water supplies, on ocean health and on migration will bear on political systems and on future tensions and conflicts. Perhaps it is too far afield, but a case could be made to include prospects of financial meltdowns from bankers behaving badly. Economic calamities have lit a lot of fuses throughout history.

Stanford cyber expert Herb Lin focused on the ongoing debasement of institutions that hold leaders accountable. While nuclear risks and climate change lead the concerns, that witches brew is now put into the blender by the misinformation on steroids enabled by the Internet. Says Lin, "Events in 2018 have helped us to better understand an ongoing and intentional corruption of the information environment. Our leaders complain about fake news and invoke alternative facts when reality is inconvenient. They are shamelessly inconsistent.”

So we have Information warfare combining with information overload to compromise the public’s ability to absorb and analyze critical issues. Among other things, information warfare delegitimizes the values and truths embodied by science, causing a cheapening and distrust of all information, opening a Pandora’s Box of distortions that allow the public and politicians to avoid grappling with the serious issues before them.

Fine by me if the experiences of the past few years inoculate the public with a healthy cynicism, offering some protection from the gatling guns spewing talking points. But if the public discards the legitimacy of scientific thought and proof, not so good.

Here’s a few excerpts from The Bulletin statement on the Doomsday Clock

Humanity now faces two simultaneous existential threats, either of which would be cause for extreme concern and immediate attention. These major threats-- nuclear weapons and climate change-- were exacerbated this past year by the increased use of information warfare to undermine democracy around the world, amplifying risk from these and other threats and putting the future of civilization in extraordinary danger.

In the nuclear realm, the United States abandoned the Iran nuclear deal and announced it would withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), grave steps towards a complete dismantlement of the global arms control process. Although the United States and North Korea moved away from the bellicose rhetoric of 2017, the urgent North Korean nuclear dilemma remains unresolved. Meanwhile, the world’s nuclear nations proceeded with programs of “nuclear modernization” that are all but indistinguishable from a worldwide arms race, and the military doctrines of Russia and the United States have increasingly eroded the long-held taboo against the use of nuclear weapons.

On the climate change front, global carbon dioxide emissions-- which seemed to plateau earlier this decade-- resumed an upward climb in 2017 and 2018. To halt the worst effects of climate change, the countries of the world must cut net worldwide carbon dioxide emissions to zero by well before the end of the century. By such a measure, the world community failed dismally last year. At the same time, the main global accord on addressing climate change-- the 2015 Paris agreement-- has become increasingly beleaguered.The United States announced it will withdraw from that pact, and at the December climate summit in Poland, the United States allied itself with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait (all major petroleum-producing countries) to undercut an expert report on climate change impacts that the Paris climate conference had itself commissioned.

Amid these unfortunate nuclear and climate developments, there was a rise during the last year in the intentional corruption of the information ecosystem on which modern civilization depends. In many forums, including particularly social media, nationalist leaders and their surrogates lied shamelessly, insisting that their lies were truth, and the truth “fake news.” These intentional attempts to distort reality exaggerate social divisions, undermine trust in science, and diminish confidence in elections and democratic institutions. Because these distortions attack the rational discourse required for solving the complex problems facing humanity, cyber-enabled information warfare aggravates other major global dangers-- including those posed by nuclear weapons and climate change-- as it undermines civilization generally.

First clock, 1947

Worrisome nuclear trends continue. 

The global nuclear order has been deteriorating for many years, and 2018 was no exception to this trend. Relations between the United States and both Russia and China have grown more fraught. The architecture of nuclear arms control built up over half a century continues to decay, while the process of negotiating reductions in nuclear weapons and fissile material stockpiles is moribund. The nuclear-armed states remain committed to their arsenals, are determined to modernize their capabilities, and have increasingly espoused doctrines that envision nuclear use. Brash leaders, intense diplomatic disputes, and regional instabilities combine to create an international context in which nuclear dangers are all too real.

A number of negative developments colored the nuclear story in 2018.

First, the United States abandoned the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the multilateral agreement that imposed unprecedented constraints on Iran’s nuclear program and allowed unprecedented verification of Iran’s nuclear facilities and activities. On May 8, President Trump announced that the United States would cease to observe the agreement and would instead launch a campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran. So far, Iran and the other parties have continued to comply with the agreement, despite the absence of US participation. It is unclear whether they will keep the agreement alive, but one thing is certain: The Trump administration has launched an assault on one of the major nuclear nonproliferation successes of recent years and done so in a way that increases the likelihood of conflict with Iran and further heightens tensions with long-term allies.

Second, in October the Trump administration announced that it intends to withdraw from the INF Treaty, which bans missiles of intermediate range. Though bedeviled by reciprocal complaints about compliance, the INF agreement has been in force for more than 30 years and has contributed to stability in Europe. Its potential death foreshadows a new competition to deploy weapons long banned. Unfortunately, while treaties are being eliminated, there is no process in place that will create a new regime of negotiated constraints on nuclear behavior. For the first time since the 1980s, it appears the world is headed into an unregulated nuclear environment-- an outcome that could reproduce the intense arms racing that was the hallmark of the early, unregulated decades of the nuclear age.

...even as arms control efforts wane, modernization of nuclear forces around the world continues apace. In his Presidential Address to the Federal Assembly on March 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin described an extensive nuclear modernization program, justified as a response to US missile defense efforts. The Trump administration has added to the enormously expensive comprehensive nuclear modernization program it inherited from the Obama administration.

Andrew Wheeler by Nancy Ohanian

Ominous climate change trends.

The existential threat from human-caused global warming is ominous and getting worse. Every year that human activities continue to add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere irreversibly ratchets up the future level of human suffering and ecosystem destruction that will be wrought by global climate disruption. The key measure of improvement on the climate front is the extent of progress toward bringing global net carbon dioxide emissions to zero. On this measure, the countries of the world have failed dismally.

Global carbon dioxide emissions rates had been rising exponentially until 2012 but ceased growing from 2013 to 2016. Even if this emissions plateau had continued, it would not have halted the growth of warming. Net emissions need to ultimately be brought to zero to do so, given the persistence of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere for up to thousands of years. The ominous news from 2017 and 2018 is that world emissions appear to have resumed their upward climb.

Even nations that have strongly supported the need to decarbonize are not doing enough. Preliminary estimates show that almost all countries contributed to the rise in emissions. Some countries, including the United States and some members of the EU, increased their emissions after years of making progress in reducing them.

The United States has also abandoned its responsibilities to lead the world decarbonization effort. The United States has more resources than poorer nations have; its failure to ambitiously reduce emissions represents an act of gross negligence. The United States stood alone while the other G20 countries signed on to a portion of a joint statement reaffirming their commitment to tackle climate change. Then in 2018, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Poland, the United States joined with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait-- all major oil producers-- to undercut a report on the impacts of climate change.

Freedom of the Press, Money and the Media by Nancy Ohanian

The threat of information warfare and other disruptive technologies. 

Nuclear war and climate change threaten the physical infrastructure that provides the food, energy, and other necessities required for human life. But to thrive, prosper, and advance, people also need reliable information about their world-- factual information, in abundance.

Today, however, chaos reigns in much of the information ecosystem on which modern civilization depends. In many forums for political and societal discourse, we now see national leaders shouting about fake news, by which they mean information they do not like. These same leaders lie shamelessly, calling their lies truth. Acting across national boundaries, these leaders and their surrogates exacerbate existing divisions, creating rage and increasing distrust in public and private institutions. Using unsupported anecdotes and sketchy rhetoric, denialists raise fear and doubt regarding well-established science about climate change and other urgent issues. Established institutions of the government, journalism, and education-- institutions that have traditionally provided stability-- are under attack precisely because they have provided stability.

In this environment, communication inflames passions rather than informing reason.

Many countries have long employed propaganda and lies-- otherwise known as information warfare-- to advance their interests. But a quantitative change of sufficient magnitude qualifies as a qualitative change. In the Internet age, the volume and velocity of information has increased by orders of magnitude. Modern information technology and social media allow users easy connectivity and high degrees of anonymity across national borders. This widespread, inexpensive access to worldwide audiences has allowed practitioners of information warfare to broadcast false and manipulative messages to large populations at low cost, and at the same time to tailor political messages to narrow interest groups.

By manipulating the natural cognitive predispositions of human beings, information warriors can exacerbate prejudices, biases, and ideological differences. They can invoke “alternative facts” to advance political positions based on outright falsehoods. Rather than a cyber Armageddon that causes financial meltdown or nationwide electrical blackouts, this is the more insidious use of cyber tools to target and exploit human insecurities and vulnerabilities, eroding the trust and cohesion on which civilized societies rely.

The Enlightenment sought to establish reason as the foundational pillar of civilized discourse. In this conception, logical argument matters, and the truth of a statement is tested by examination of values, assumptions, and facts, not by how many people believe it. Cyber-enabled information warfare threatens to replace these pillars of logic and truth with fantasy and rage. If unchecked, such distortion will undermine the world’s ability to acknowledge and address the urgent threats posed by nuclear weapons and climate change and will increase the potential for an end to civilization as we know it. The international community should begin multilateral discussions that aim to discourage cyber-enabled information warfare and to buttress institutions dedicated to rational, fact- based discourse and governance.

Particularly regarding the 2016 election, Russia and fake news have become inseparable to many. 

My lingering view remains that any impact from Internet mischief the Russians did during elections was a blip next to all the rot that’s been flying about for years, much of it funded by homegrown dark money and most of it owing to good old-fashioned American lack of integrity. On the other hand, I don’t have a cell phone, am not on cable and have never been on Facebook, so maybe I’m just clueless about how easily people are significantly swayed by a select few of the gazillion bits of information firehosing them, even those bits that people happily cobble into personal echo-chambers. But it seems that folks who are birthers and such don’t have to depend on the far flung for nonsense readily available and riding down a hotel escalator. The American realm of carefully calculated election misinformation from incognito sources is wonderfully underscored by the POV film Dark Money. It shows how dark money, ramped up by Citizens United, distorted elections in Montana, targeting both Democrats and Republicans who didn’t do a sufficient kowtow to the big money. Not to Putin’s druthers, but to the big money, to polluters, Koch brothers allies, ALEC objectives and such. But I digress, because that’s the beauty of a blog post.

Back to bombs.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, nine nations together have about 15,000 nuclear bombs, most far more powerful than those used on Japan, 1,800 of those possessed by the US and Russia are kept on high-alert status. Ride along with Major Kong here, and sing along with Vera Lynn here on “We’ll Meet Again,” as humanity exits stage left. Here’s a version picking some of the 331 atmospheric tests the US conducted from 1945 to 1962. Try the comfort of the largest bomb exploded, the Tsar Bomba, aka Ivan, aka Vanya, here. If you’d like to explore the impacts of a single one megaton bomb, (eighty times larger than the Hiroshima bomb but tiny compared to some modern bombs), as well as the global impacts of an exchange of 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs, perhaps a conflict between Pakistan and India,here you go. Perhaps pass these along to George W. Bush so he has a better idea of how to look for a WMD, maybe at a correspondents dinner.

By the way, do you think kids in the Fifties might have had a few issues to work out later?

Actions and statements by Trump figure significantly in the clock’s advancement in 2017 to two and a half minutes before midnight. A then-incoming President Trump made alarming statements regarding nuclear proliferation, the prospect of using nuclear weapons and his opposition to US commitments on climate change. And in 2018 he helped move the clock ahead thirty seconds with actions like pulling out of the Iran agreement. By the way, that idiocy is greased by nuclear power Israel, Sheldon Adelson and their American neocon minions like John Bolton. Invading Iraq wasn’t enough horror.

Trump also announced his intent to scrap the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) that for decades was a lynchpin for global arms control.

I do wish Trump luck for a good follow-through with North Korea that might relax the minute hand a bit. The world needs a win.

Trump recently reincarnated the illusion of a global defense system. A worthy critique by Joe Cirincione, president of the Ploughshares Fund, is his essay Donald Trump’s Mission Impossible: Making His Unrealistic Missile Plan Work, is here.

That man behind the curtain has nothing on Trump. Now we have the news of Trump’s latest misdirection, Venezuela. In 1975 I traveled overland to South America. Two impressions of Venezuela linger, the startling transition over a few hours going from snow in the Andes to the streamy tropics below, and the surreal feel while waterskiing between the oil derricks in Lake Maracaibo. Like slicks on the water, oil money was everywhere, a pleasant-looking lifestyle for many of the privileged youths darting about in convertibles filled with cheap gas. I can’t grasp the changes since then. Whatever way out of the miseries of a failed state might be found, it’s hard to imagine lighting the fuse for a civil war would prove beneficial. Perhaps Venezuelans will come knocking seeking asylum, quoting Trump’s description of their plight, never mind contributing US pressures. In any case, Venezuela should give us pause at how fast things can change.

Tick Tock.

Published:2/2/2019 10:26:39 PM
[Markets] Paul Craig Roberts Exposes "The Lawless Government"

Authored by Paul Craig Roberts,

I remember when a suspect was regarded as innocent until proven guilty in a fair trial. Today prosecutors convict their victims in the media in order to make an unbiased jury impossible and thereby coerce a plea bargain that saves the prosecutor from having to prove his case. In the United States, law is no longer a shield of the people. Law is a weapon in the hands of prosecutors. (See Roberts & Stratton, The Tyranny of Good Intentions.)

Formerly, if a prosecutor staged an arrest for publicity purposes, as Mueller did by placing a CNN presstitute on the scene and sending a couple of dozen heavily armed men in a pre-dawn raid to arrest a well known political consultant for allegedly “lying to Congress” when the appropriate procedure is for Mueller to inform Stone’s lawyer to present his client for indictment, the judge would throw out the case on the grounds that the prosecutor’s unethical action had biased the juror pool and made a fair trial impossible. The judge might also have thrown out the case on the grounds of selective prosecution. James Clapper while serving as Director of National Intelligence lied to Congress under oath and suffered no consequences, and Hillary Clinton has clearly broken the law and lied about it.

Today judges permit unethical behavior by prosecutors that deprives defendants of a fair trial, because judges don’t want the bother of trials any more than prosecutors do. Consequently, according to official statistics 97% of federal criminal cases are settled by a defendent pleaing guilty to a charge negotiated by his attorney and a prosecutor. As the charge is a negotiated or made-up one, most people in prison are there for confessing to crimes that never occurred.<