Thursday, September 20, 2018

Today's Links

"Russia's purpose for being in Syria is quite simply to prevent Syria from being destroyed by FUKUS (France, UK, and US) and their head chopping mercenaries. Over the last three years they have been very successful and Syria has recaptured most of its lost territory. This would not have happened if Putin was selling out to Israel or to other FUKUS countries, and anyone claiming that Putin is selling out is an idiot. Moreover, Putin has remained focused on the task of restoring Syria and will not be goaded into giving FUKUS an excuse to start a war with Russia. The response to FUKUS attacks would be different if Russian territory was at risk, so ignoring these provocations gives Russia the time to complete its mission in Syria." comments line, MOA


Anger may in time change to gladness; vexation may be succeeded by content.
But a kingdom that has once been destroyed can never come again into being; nor can the dead ever be brought back to life. Hence the enlightened ruler is heedful, and the good general full of caution. This is the way to keep a country at peace and an army intact.    Sun Tzu


 1--Syrian-Russian Victory Only Way to Avenge Israeli-French Strikes


It is not to Russia’s advantage to sink French frigates or expose the full capabilities of its air defense systems to shoot down a handful of Israeli warplanes to satisfy public desires for immediate revenge or to protect nonexistent notions of Russian invincibility.

Instead, it is to Russia’s advantage to simply win the proxy war in Syria. Just as in 2015 when calls for immediate revenge were made regarding a Turkish-downed Russian warplane, Syria, Russia, and Iran will continue moving forward – slowly and methodically – to secure Syrian territory from foreign proxies seeking to divide and destroy the country, springboard into Iran, and eventually work their way into southern Russia.

Avenging serial provocations is infinitesimally less important than overall victory in Syria. The fate of Syria as a nation, Iran’s security and stability as a result, and even Russia’s own self-preservation is on the line. The awesome responsibility of those who have planned and executed Syria’s incremental victory over proxy forces backed by the largest, most powerful economies and military forces on Earth could greatly benefit from a public able to understand the difference between short-term gratification and long-term success and how the former almost certainly and recklessly endangers the latter.

The greatest possible “revenge” to exact upon those who inflicted this war upon the Syrian people, is their absolute and total defeat.


2--Fall of Abadi signals big changes in ME

The US favourite candidate for the [Iraqi] prime ministership, Haidar Abadi, lost his last chance to renew his mandate for a second term when riots caused arson around the southern city of Basra and burned down the walls of the Iranian consulate in the city....

The leader of this broad coalition of Shi’a and Sunni parties is likely to be Faleh al-Fayyadi, the head of Hashd al-Shaabi (the PMU). In political terms, therefore, Iraq now, is prone for inclusion in the Russian-Iranian-Syrian led, northern partnership (though divisions within the Iraqi Shi’a camp remain a source of potential conflict). And if, as is likely, Iraq is embargoed by the US for failing to abide by US sanctions on Iran, then Iraq will be pushed – by exigency of circumstance – into the evolving economic sphere that was the subject of major discussion at last Friday’s Tehran summit. That is to say, into an evolving series of economic frameworks for de-dollarising and US sanctions busting.

The import of this miscalculation (instigating the violent protests) in Basra (a Saudi hand is widely suspected) has wider implications for the US. Firstly, it is likely to lead to American forces being told to quit Iraq. Secondly, it will complicate the ability of the Pentagon to sustain its military presence in Syria. The logistics for American deployments in north-east Syria, which traverse through Iraq, may no longer be available – and the US forces there, in Syria, inevitably will become isolated, and hence, more vulnerable.

But a turnaround in Iraq also puts a spike into the balloon of President Trump’s aspiration to reassert US energy dominance over the Mideast. Iran – it was hoped – would ultimately capitulate and fall to economic and political pressures, and as the Iranian domino capsized, it would take with it, crashing down into political acquiescence, the Iraqi domino.

This scenario would leave the US with the main sources of ‘low production cost’ Middle East energy in its hands (i.e. Gulf, Iran and Iraqi oil and gas). On the face of this week’s events however, it looks more likely that these resources - or at least, the greater energy resources of Iran and Iraq - will end up in the Russian sphere (together with Syria’s unexplored Levant Basin prospects). And this Russian ‘heartland’, energy-producing sphere, may, in the end, prove to be a more than substantive rival to US (newly emerged as ‘the world’s top oil producer’) aspirations for restoring its Mideast energy dominance.

3--Iraqi Voters Undermine Trump’s Iran strategy---Iran rising in Iraq and Syria


Anti-American tilt

Worse still, two staunchly anti-American alliances – led by Muqtadar al-Sadr and Hadi al-Amiri – secured first and second places respectively.

Coalition making will be a long drawn out process, but what is clear is that the next government in Baghdad will have a pronouncedly anti-American tilt and the probability is high that it could evict US troops and contractors totaling 100,000 in Iraq.

While Amiri leads the powerful Iran-aligned militia groups known as the Popular Mobilization Force, Sadr’s surge is really bad news for the Americans. Sadr’s Mahdi Army has the blood of hundreds of Americans and Brits on its hands.

In the expert opinion of the Washington-based think tank Brookings Institution: “His (Sadr’s) victory has turned America’s Iraq policy upside down, and Washington now faces a severe political crisis in a country where it has invested substantial blood and treasure … His movement gave rise to many of the Shiite militia groups that committed atrocities against Americans and that today dominate Iraq – as well as the front lines of the war in Syria, where they have fought US forces. These groups have been pivotal to securing the Assad regime’s survival as well as enhancing Iran’s influence in the region....

It is entirely conceivable that Tehran might even choose to settle for another government led by Abadi as the figurehead of a staunchly pro-Iranian power structure. Ever since the regime change in Baghdad following the US invasion in 2003, Tehran has made sustained and intense efforts to cultivate wide-ranging political partnerships with Iraqi groups across the religious, ethnic and political spectrum.

It is preposterous to fantasize that Baghdad is about to move out of Iranian orbit.
The bottom line is that a new coalition government in Baghdad over which Iran enjoys political leverage may well set a timetable for the withdrawal of American troops. The Trump administration must prepare for such an eventuality since it has left Tehran in no doubt that continued US military presence in Iraq poses an existential threat of “regime change.” Trust Tehran to pull out all the stops – short of directly targeting US troops – to undermine the American influence in Iraq.

On the other hand, a well-grounded military footing in Iraq is an absolute pre-requisite for the Pentagon to conduct its operations at the present scale in northeastern Syria, given the imponderables in Turkey’s continued cooperation. In these circumstances, it is hard to see how Trump is going to realize his dream to get Iranians to vacate from Iraq or Syria

4--Fed tightening pushes up mortgage rates

it’s impacting mortgage rates – which move roughly in parallel with the 10-year Treasury yield. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) reported this morning that the average interest rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances ($453,100 or less) and a 20% down-payment rose to 4.88% for the week ending September 14, 2018, the highest since April 2011.

the market now sees an 81% chance that the Fed will announced a 4th rate hike for 2018 after the FOMC meeting in December  

in 2019, short-term yields will be heading for 3% or higher – the 3-month yield is already at 2.16% — that the 10-year yield will be going past 4%, and that the average 30-year fixed rate mortgage will be flirting with a 6% rate.

5--Israeli F-16s Scrambled to Cover Behind the Russian Il-20 Because They Had Been Painted by Syrian Air Defense Radars

I do have reasons to believe that under a huge pressure of the situation unfolding in what used to be a calm sector of approaches to Khmeimim Air Base, which was agreed between Israel and Russia, and where IAF's aircraft were not supposed to be, the Syrian crew simply went for the target which was clearly visible and shaded smaller RCS Israeli planes. 

Israel violated in this case not just an ethical norm by hiding behind IL-20, it violated much more—it flew it planes into the area which was specifically designated as "out of reach" for IAF. As former Israel's Service Nativ' Yakov Kedmi stated after the events, all this tragedy became a result of Israeli recklessness and unprofessionalism, he called this mistake by Israeli generals a doom-spelling one.

Reaction of Israel following the events is telling—she went into the full damage control mode with Netanyahu urgently calling Vladimir Putin. He offered the Commander of Israeli Air Force to be immediately on his way to Moscow, all diplomatic, informational, government channels between Israel and Russia got immediately engaged....

There will, however, be some form of no-fly zone and as Vladimir Putin stated Russia will take “the steps that everyone will notice.” Obviously this important statement by the head of Russian State got drowned in the ocean of rage and speculations, and confusion I may add, but this has become a familiar pattern by now.
3. Issue of ROE and interaction—the most important one. Specialists must review protocols and tactical procedures. Engagement caveats must be strictly enforced. ..

Training of Syrian personnel and, obvious now, necessity, once advanced S-300s (PMU) are additionally delivered to Syria, to have Russian advisers full time in any Syrian Air Defense crew dealing with much more advanced technology than old S-200s. 
In the end, this tragedy, should serve as a real serious lesson and, in a military sense a warning that one better stick to the agreements or things may spiral out of control very fast. Israel decided that it is allowed to break agreements. Israel should ask Turkey what happens when one does Russia wrong

6--Iran Sanctions Are Damaging the Dollar


7--Flatlining existing home sales


From the NAR: Existing-Home Sales Remain Flat Nationally, Mixed Results Regionally

Existing-home sales remained steady in August after four straight months of decline, according to the National Association of Realtors®. Sales gains in the Northeast and Midwest canceled out downturns in the South and West. Total existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, did not change from July and remained at a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.34 million in August. Sales are now down 1.5 percent from a year ago (5.42 million in August 2017).
Total housing inventory at the end of August also remained unchanged from July at 1.92 million existing homes available for sale, and is up from 1.87 million a year ago. Unsold inventory is at a 4.3-month supply at the current sales pace, consistent from last month and up from 4.1 months a year ago. Properties typically stayed on the market for 29 days in August, up from 27 days in July but down from 30 days a year ago. Fifty-two percent of homes sold in August were on the market for less than a month.

8--The president is the sole authority on declassification

the classification system in the US exists solely by Executive Order.  It does not exist by law.  All classifications of information are derivative from the sitting president's Executive Orders on the subject.  These are generally re-issued by each new president.  Classification is administrative in nature and not based in law although disclosures that are not authorized ultimately by POTUS' authority ARE subject to criminal penalties. No cabinet secretary, Congressional body or other official has any legal authority to block a declassification order from the president.

9--China has welcomed the outcome of the inter-Korean summit and will continue supporting both sides in further talks on reducing tensions. 


“Kim Jong Un has agreed to allow Nuclear inspections, subject to final negotiations, and to permanently dismantle a test site and launch pad in the presence of international experts. In the meantime there will be no Rocket or Nuclear testing,” Trump said in a pair of tweets. “Hero remains to continue being returned home to the United States. Also, North and South Korea will file a joint bid to host the 2032 Olympics. Very exciting!...


South Korean President Moon Jae-in says North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has agreed to permanently dismantle a missile engine test site and a launch pad in the presence of international experts in what he described as a specific step toward denuclearization.
Moon also said on Wednesday that the North agreed to take further steps such as permanently dismantling its main Nyongbyon nuclear complex if the United States takes corresponding measures

10--Korean Breakthrough!

Kim Jong-un agrees to inspections

11--The deep state, the bureaucrats and policy minions who staff the White House and the government agencies, are actively subverting the elected president. They publicly brag about it.

Why would anyone vote for Trump, or someone else, if an elected president is unable to enforce policies? Trump and his party pursue extreme right wing policies that I do not support at all. He might well have some dangerous impulses that could cause unforeseen damage.
But is it really better to let these unaccountable policy operators override his choices? Should we trust certified hawks like Bolton, Pompeo or Mattis any more that him? Is war with Russia or North Korea preferable to peaceful relations?

The op-ed names two specific issues on which the staff sabotages Trump's initiatives:
[We] are trying to do what’s right even when Donald Trump won’t. The result is a two-track presidency.

Take foreign policy: In public and in private, President Trump shows a preference for autocrats and dictators, such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, and displays little genuine appreciation for the ties that bind us to allied, like-minded nations.

Astute observers have noted, though, that the rest of the administration is operating on another track, one where countries like Russia are called out for meddling and punished accordingly, and where allies around the world are engaged as peers rather than ridiculed as rivals.

On Russia, for instance, the president was reluctant to expel so many of Mr. Putin’s spies as punishment for the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain. He complained for weeks about senior staff members letting him get boxed into further confrontation with Russia, and he expressed frustration that the United States continued to impose sanctions on the country for its malign behavior. But his national security team knew better — such actions had to be taken, to hold Moscow accountable.

This isn’t the work of the so-called deep state. It’s the work of the steady state.

 12--The Journalists Killed In Russia (Before & After Putin)

Violent death of journalists has fallen from about 6 per year to 2 per year. Novaya Gazeta editors do not blame V.V. Putin for their colleague. V.V. Putin was deeply angered by the murder when it was reported to him at a party. In the kleptocracy that the Harvard Group nourished through their proxies Boris Yelstin and Anatoli Chubais, business oligarchs became the rule. Men like Boris Berezhovsky, Vladimir Gusinski and Mikhail Khodorovksy had private armies. In particular, Berezhovsky did not hesitate to use lethal force to take care of both business and PR "problems".

Vladimir Putin has always stood for the rule of law and for stability of the state. He's the last man to want to use murder to quiet the press. Those who would use such methods in the Yeltsin period hesitate to use them now as they know there's a good chance of an honest investigation and substantial punishment. A strong disincentive to employ such methods. Hence the fall in violent deaths of journalists in Russia. V.V. Putin is more likely to use soft pressure - as in the West - to sweeten critics. Journalists die in the West as well. Usually their murders are "car accidents" or suicide.

13--FBI had 2 sets of books?

Journalist Sara Carter told Sean Hannity during his Wednesday radio show that the FBI has two sets of records in the Russia investigation, and that "certain people above Peter Strzok and above Lisa Page" were aware of it - implicating former FBI Director James Comey and his #2, Andrew McCabe.

Hannity: Sara, I’m hearing it gets worse than this–that there is potentially out there–if you will, two sets of record among the upper echelon of the FBI–one that was real one that was made for appearances. Is there any truth to this?

CarterAbsolutely, Sean. With the number of sources that I have been speaking with as well as some others that there is evidence indicating that the FBI had separate sets of books.

I will not name names until all of the evidence is out there, but there were certain people above Peter Strzok and above Lisa Page that were aware of this. I also believe that there are people within the FBI that have actually turned on their former employers and are possibly even testifying and reporting what happened inside the FBI to both the Inspector General and possibly even a Grand Jury

14--What everyone needs to know about the Russia investigation

James Comey’s FBI violated department guidelines in launching its investigation in July 2016.  There was never “an articulable factual basis for the investigation,” as regulations demand.  There was no probable cause, no credible evidence of crimes, and no plausible intelligence to justify a counterintelligence probe. Facts were invented or exaggerated based almost entirely on a fabricated “dossier.” 

Nine months later, the FBI still had no evidence of “collusion” between Trump and Russia, according to a transcript of FBI lawyer Lisa Page’s recent closed-door deposition before Congress.  This is corroborated by text messages she exchanged with her paramour, Peter Strzok, who served as the FBI’s lead investigator. Nevertheless, Robert Mueller was named special counsel despite a dearth of evidence. 

Under federal regulations governing his appointment, evidence of a suspected crime is a necessary predicate.  It never happened.  Instead, Mueller was granted broad authority to investigate matters that are not necessarily criminal at all.  A special counsel is not authorized to search for a crime; there must be evidence of a crime first. This did not exist, rendering Mueller’s appointment illegitimate and invalid.  The authorization order itself was defective inasmuch as it did not set forth the required “specific factual statement” of a defined crime.    

Despite their own admission that “collusion” was an unproven fiction, Strzok and Page traded text messages bragging about their “media leak strategy” with the DOJ designed to plant stories with reporters to damage Trump. 
They even congratulated themselves on their success:  “The article is out!  Well done, Page.”

Leaking classified information to the media is a crime. This is some of the most incriminating evidence yet that Obama’s Justice Department and Comey’s FBI were engaged in a deliberate scheme to use their government positions for illicit and illegal purposes to frame Trump....

Rosenstein has every reason to suppress the records. They may incriminate him. He affixed his signature to the final renewal of the FISA warrant application to continue spying on Carter Page.  He vouched for the authenticity and veracity of the information contained therein.  But if it was largely based on a “dossier” that was unverified and uncorroborated, Rosenstein may have been complicit in misusing his position of power in pursuit of a president who was wrongfully targeted by the FBI and DOJ.
Either way, the future does not bode well for Rod Rosenstein.  He appointed a special counsel without proper authority.
He then refused to recuse himself as a key witness in the very case he oversees.
All along the way, he has been obstructing Congress by withholding records they are entitled to have.
He surely knows what the declassified documents portend for himself

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Today's Links

1--North Korea Pledges To Dismantle Nuclear Reactor, Shutter Missile Launchers

Kim on Wednesday announced that he would allow international monitors to enter the country and observe the dismantling of the North's nuclear reactor in Yongbyon, its primary source of nuclear fuel, amid a raft of other bilateral promises including plans for the North and South to field a joint team at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020 while seeking a joint bid to host the 2032 Summer Olympics....

In addition to Yongbyon, the North promised observed shutdowns of its missile engine testing site and launch pad in the Northwestern town of Dongchang-ri..

Here's more from RT:
As part of the military agreement, the neighbors will halt border drills from November 1, Yonhap reports. South Korean Defense Minister Song Young-moo and North Korea’s No Kwang-chol also agreed to stop military flights in the vicinity of the demarcation line. In addition, the agreement envisions setting up a buffer zone in the Yellow Sea and suspending maritime drills.

As a clear sign of mutual trust, the Pyongyang military agreement also calls for the withdrawal of soldiers from the demilitarized zone and disarming the servicemen keeping watch at Panmunjom border village. The nations also agreed that each would close eleven border guard posts by the end of 2018.

The Koreas’ armed forces will establish and operate a "joint military committee" to discuss the implementation of the military agreement on a "permanent basis," Moon Jae-in noted....

The Koreas also agreed to begin reconnecting railways and roads linking the two countries within this year. They also plan to restart work at a joint factory park in the North border city of Kaesong and tours to North Korea's Mount Kumgang resort once certain conditions have been met to ensure that the North is working toward denuclearization

2--FBI, DOJ To Defy Trump Order; Redactions Planned As Top 'Deep State' Dems Demand Insubordination

Top Congressional Democrats Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Adam Schiff and Mark Warner penned a joint letter to ODNI Director Dan Coates, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein and FBI Director Christopher Wray demanding that the agencies defy President Trump...

The Justice Department, FBI and Office of the Director of National Intelligence are going through a methodical review and can’t offer a timeline for finishing, said the people, who weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the sensitive matter. -Bloomberg

Showdown? In letter, Pelosi/Schumer/Schiff/Warner order intel agencies to ignore presidential order on declassification until consulting with Congress.

3--Russia Blames Israel for the Shooting Down of Her EW Aircraft

The Russian MoD placed the full blame on the Israelis and declared that this attack was “dastardly”, the Israeli actions as “hostile” and said that Russia “reserves the right” to respond with “adequate counter-actions”.
This is one of these rare opportunities when there is, I believe, a viable and logical option to respond: tell the Israelis that from now on any of their aircraft approaching anywhere near the Russian forces will be shot down

4--Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

The statement reads in full:
"At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr"

“Very concerned about Comey’s firing, afraid they will be exposed,” said Bruce Ohr. DOJ’s Emails & Notes show Bruce Ohr’s connection to (phony & discredited) Trump Dossier. A creep thinking he would get caught in a dishonest act. Rigged Witch Hunt!

“The FBI received documents from Bruce Ohr (of the Justice Department & whose wife Nelly worked for Fusion GPS).” Disgraced and fired FBI Agent Peter Strzok. This is too crazy to be believed! The Rigged Witch Hunt has zero credibility...

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous "dossier" on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation "Crossfire Hurricane," the agency's counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”
"After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly," Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

5--Having Waged War on Russia's Oil Sector Washington Now Needs Russia's Help to Cap Soaring Oil Prices

at the end of the day Russian gas is far cheaper than imported U.S. LNG volumes going into Europe and will likely stay that way for decades.

Perry told the Russian officials that the Trump administration welcomes competition on energy from Russia, but “Moscow can no longer use energy as an economic weapon.”

Asked during a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart whether the U.S. might impose punitive measures against Nord Stream 2 and other projects, Perry said, "Yes.

6--Syria war report--Demilitarized zone? 

7--Land of the free??  US can spy on journalists domestically using FISA warrants, declassified guidelines show


US government can spy on reporters inside the US using invasive FISA process - “a probable example would be surveillance of reporters who are working for somewhere like RT”

The FISA court cannot be counted on to curb government spying, Blumenthal added, noting that it is a “rubber-stamp” institution that approves something like 98 percent of applications.

The Obama administration has been accused of spying on reporters in the past, though not of using FISA warrants to do so.....

A March 19, 2015 memo by then-Attorney General Eric Holder specifies that the FBI needs to refer surveillance applications against “known media entities” and “known members of the media” to the AG himself, his deputy or, in certain cases, the assistant attorney general of the National Security Division of the DOJ, for review.

This means that Holder and his successor Loretta Lynch, former DAG Sally Yates, and former AAG John P. Carlin all had knowledge of any FISA warrants taken out against members of the media under the Obama administration. The individuals with that authority in the current administration are AG Jeff Sessions, Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein, and AAG John C. Demers

8--The Nunes Memo and more... 


9--‘I don’t have an attorney-general’: Trump slams Sessions in Oval Office interview 


 10--The president is the sole authority on declassification

the classification system in the US exists solely by Executive Order.  It does not exist by law.  All classifications of information are derivative from the sitting president's Executive Orders on the subject.  These are generally re-issued by each new president.  Classification is administrative in nature and not based in law although disclosures that are not authorized ultimately by POTUS' authority ARE subject to criminal penalties. No cabinet secretary, Congressional body or other official has any legal authority to block a declassification order from the president.

11--RUSSIAN MH17 BRIEFING by Patrick Armstrong


12--Brett Kavanaugh and the role—once again—of sexual misconduct allegations in American politics


That Kavanaugh is a dishonest, right-wing hatchet-man is no proof that he was a would-be rapist at 17....

 The real “bottom line” is this: Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, Dick Durbin, Charles Schumer and the rest of the Senate Democrats (along with the Times editors) haven’t the slightest desire to expose Kavanaugh as a defender of social inequality and the corporate oligarchy, with which defense they heartily concur—much less mobilize the population against such forces and policies. To do so would cut across their own class interests and lay bare their record of participating in every filthy, anti-working class measure undertaken by the various administrations, Republican and Democratic. So they turn to what has become in recent decades the tried and true, charges of sexual misconduct.

The character and trajectory of the Kavanaugh-Blasey controversy speaks, above all, to the rotten nature of bourgeois politics, especially in its current, almost indescribably degraded state.

13--Moscow blames downing of Russian plane near Syria on Israeli “provocation”

Putin took a telephone conversation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who reportedly expressed condolences over the deaths of the Russian plane crewmembers, while reiterating Tel Aviv’s determination to continue carrying out strikes against targets in Syria that it claims are linked to Iran and Hezbollah.

Israeli government officials had placed the entire blame for the downing of the plane on Iran and Hezbollah, while stating that its immediate cause was “extensive and inaccurate Syrian anti-aircraft (surface-to-air missile) fire.”

The Kremlin’s readout of the phone conversation had Putin adopting a somewhat tougher line, reportedly telling Netanyahu that Israeli operations like the one in Latakia “violated Syrian sovereignty” and “agreements around the prevention of dangerous incidents.” The Kremlin added, “The president of Russia urged the Israeli side not to allow such situations from now on.”

Israel earlier this month acknowledged that it has carried out at least 200 airstrikes against Syria over the past 18 months, dropping some 800 munitions on targets across the country. Each of these was also a violation of “Syrian sovereignty.” They have been carried out, however, with the tacit permission of Moscow, which has received advance notice of these operations on an Israeli-Russian “deconfliction” line set up three years ago, and has thus far refrained from using its advanced antiaircraft systems deployed in Syria against Israeli warplanes.
Whether Russia will now deny Israel a green light for airstrikes in Syria, and for how long, remains to be seen...

Putin’s government represents the interests of the Russian oligarchs who consolidated their power in the wake of the Moscow Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the Soviet Union. It has sought to promote Russian interests in the oil-rich Middle East, not only through backing the Assad government—alongside Iran—against the Western-backed Islamist militias employed as proxies in a war for regime change, but also by forging close ties with Israel, with which Russia has established military, trade and investment links....

The US has signaled that the more than 2,000 American troops presently deployed in Syria will remain indefinitely, not merely to complete their supposed mission of combating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but to roll back Iranian and Russian influence in both the country and the region and to deny Damascus control of the economically vital oil fields now under US control.
Washington has no interest in seeing the agreement between Moscow and Ankara over Idlib succeed.
 At a UN Security Council meeting Tuesday on Syria, where UN Special Envoy on Syria Staffan de Mistura called for a speedy implementation of the Russian-Turkish agreement, the US Special Representative for Syria Engagement, James Jeffrey, insisted that, “The only way forward is a genuine and inclusive political solution,” Washington’s euphemism for regime change. To this end, the US and its allies, Israel chief among them, are prepared to push the country and the region into a potentially world catastrophic war.

14--Ten years after the financial crash-- Wall Street pay up 13 percent while workers’ wages stagnate


The “recovery” from the 2008 crash and the Great Recession engineered by both Republican and Democratic administrations (Bush, Obama and Trump) has been a systematic effort to utilize the crisis triggered by the criminal actions of Wall Street bankers and speculators to restructure the economy for the benefit of the financial oligarchs and at the expense of the working class....


The growth of social inequality is the result of a bipartisan assault on the working class. The redistribution of wealth was greatly accelerated under the Obama administration, which responded to the financial crash of 2008 by instituting a series of policies whose net result was the greatest transfer of wealth from the bottom layers of society to the top in history.

These policies included the multi-trillion-dollar bank bailout, near-zero percent interest rates and the money-printing operation known as “quantitative easing.” These measures pumped trillions of dollars into the financial markets and provided the banks and hedge funds with virtually free credit, enabling them to mount new speculative operations similar to those that triggered the financial meltdown and Great Recession in 2008...

Obama shielded the bankers whose fraudulent activities led to the Great Recession. In 2011, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued a 650-page report on the Wall Street crash that documented the criminal practices of major banks and the collusion of rating agencies and government regulators. The chairman of the subcommittee, Michigan Senator Carl Levin, told a press conference that Senate investigators had found “a financial snake pit rife with greed, conflicts of interest, and wrongdoing.”

The report was a dead letter from the day it was released. Not a single top banker was criminally charged, let alone prosecuted and jailed. Instead, they were made even wealthier. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein have both become billionaires, despite playing key roles in creating the sub-prime mortgage Ponzi scheme and then profiting off of its collapse in 2008...

he response of the ruling class is two-fold. First is a turn to authoritarian forms of rule, seen both in Trump’s fascistic attacks on immigrants and encouragement of far-right political forces, and the Democrats’ promotion of the FBI, the CIA and the military as the supposed alternative to Trump. There is not a trace of democratic or progressive content in the ongoing political warfare in Washington. Both sides are pro-war, anti-democratic and anti-working class.

The Democrats, for their part, are opposing Trump on the basis of his supposed reluctance to confront Russia militarily and expand the US war in Syria. They are running dozens of former CIA agents and military officers in the midterm elections. Their heroes are the former CIA director and drone assassination mastermind John Brennan and the late war-monger John McCain. They are spearheading the censorship of left-wing and anti-war websites on the internet in the fraudulent name of combating Russian “meddling” and “fake news.”

The other prong of the ruling class response to the growth of working class militancy and anti-capitalist sentiment is the promotion of fake “progressives” and “socialists” such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, and organizations such as the Democratic Socialists of America, which are aligned with the Democratic Party and seek to channel working class opposition back behind that party of American imperialism.

15--On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?, Jack Rasmus (must read)




Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Today's links

“We consider these provocative actions by Israel as hostile. Fifteen Russian military service members have died because of the irresponsible actions of the Israeli military. This is absolutely contrary to the spirit of the Russian-Israeli partnership. “We reserve the right for an adequate response.” Statement from the Russian Ministry of Defense 

Trump orders declassification of FISA applications--the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page  (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications," WH Statement.POTUS is also demanding all Strzok and Page texts released

Carter Page  "What will be disclosed is that there was no basis for these FISA Warrants, that the important information was kept from the court, there’s going to be a disproportionate influence of the (Fake) Dossier. Basically you have a counter terrorism tool used to spy on a presidential...

1--Russia officially blames Israel for downing of IL-20 plane off Syrian coast

Russia has formally complained to Israel about its air raid on Monday, which led to the downing of a Russian Il-20 plane off the Syrian coast. Moscow has laid the blame for the crew’s deaths “squarely on the Israeli side.”

2--Putin, Erdogan Agree To Establish Demilitarized Zone In Syria’s Idlib

Russia and Turkey have agreed to establish a “demilitarized zone” between militants and government troops in the Syrian province of Idlib, President Vladimir Putin stated following a face-to-face meeting with Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan on September 17.
“We’ve focused on the situation in the province of Idlib, considering presence of large militant groups and their infrastructure there,” Putin stated following the talks. “We’ve agreed to create a demilitarized zone between the government troops and militants before October 15. The zone will be 15-20 km deep, with full withdrawal of hardline militants from there, including the Jabhat Al-Nusra [now known as Hayat Tahrir al-Sham].”
Putin said that all heavy weaponry, including battle tanks and artillery, will be withdrawn from the zone before October 10. He further added that the zone will be patrolled by Turkish and Russian military units. He also revealed that the agreement has a “general” support from the Syrian government

3--Israeli Military “Expresses Sorrow” For Death Of Russian IL-20 Aircrew Members, Says Syria, Iran, Hezbollah Are Guilty


4--Russian Military: IL-20 Was Shot Down By Syrian S-200 Because Of Israeli F-16s Used It As Cover


5--De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

6--Lisa Page reveals FBI had no evidence of collusion for ‘Russiagate’ probe 


ll of this would be cause for concern if Page were a mid-level clerk in the agency, but she was a lead attorney on the FBI’s investigation into Trump since 2016, and played a key role in helping transfer it to Mueller last year.

Page’s revelation is a bombshell in part because the FBI had run an extensive counterintelligence operation for months leading up to Trump’s election, codenamed ‘Crossfire Hurricane.’ Agents were dispatched to London to meet with contacts who allegedly knew about talk of collusion. FBI agents met with ex-British spy Christopher Steele, who promised them a now-infamous dossier of salacious and unverified allegations against Trump, which was eventually leaked to the media as well. Trump’s campaign aides were surveilled, one was wiretapped, and an informant was placed in the Trump camp. And after all of this - no collusion.

7--South Korean president in Pyongyang for summit on denuclearization

By Ben McGrath
18 September 2018
South Korean President Moon Jae-in arrived in Pyongyang Tuesday morning for a three-day trip and his third summit with North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-un. Moon becomes just the third sitting president to visit the North Korean capital after Kim Dae-jung in 2000 and Noh Moo-hyun in 2007. Talks will be held today and Wednesday.
According to Seoul, the summit includes three agenda items: improving inter-Korean relations, promoting US-North Korean talks for denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, and reducing military tensions....

Moon emphasized his role as mediator for Washington, saying, “Because [denuclearization] is not something we can address ourselves, I plan to hold candid talks with Chairman Kim Jong-un on where we can find an intersecting point between the United States’ call for denuclearization steps and the North's demand for corresponding steps to guarantee its security and end the hostile relationship [between the US and North Korea].”

A contingent of around 200 people joined Moon for the trip. This included Lee Hae-chan, Jeong Dong-yeong, and Lee Jeong-mi, the heads of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, the Peace and Democracy Party, and the Justice Party respectively. All three are from so-called “liberal” parties in the National Assembly while the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and the Bareun Mirae Party, both right wing, were invited but chose not to take part.

In addition, Moon is travelling with a contingent of corporate leaders including Samsung Group Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong, Hyundai Motors Group Vice Chairman Kim Yong-hwan, SK Chairman Chey Tae-won, and LG Group Chairman Koo Kwang-mo, among others.

That such a large number of business officials are included is indicative of the South Korean bourgeoisie’s agenda in North Korea. Whatever Seoul’s pretensions, “peace” on the Korean Peninsula means creating the conditions to open North Korea to economic exploitation, as an ultra-cheap labor platform. Genuine reunification, a legitimate desire among Korean workers that would include the ability to travel, work, and live where one chooses, is not on the table....

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last week in Vladivostok summed up more succinctly what is in store for North Korea’s working class, saying, “North Korea enjoys copper, gold, iron ore, and abundant mineral resources. Its population of 25 million will no doubt become one of the world’s leading hardworking labor forces.”
Also in attendance to support these economic plans are the leaders of South Korea’s two major trade union groups, the Federation of Korean Trade Unions (FKTU) and the so-called militant Korean Confederation of Trade Unions (KCTU).

KCTU leader Kim Myeong-hwan stated on Sunday, “The KCTU will independently participate during this North-South summit in order to realize self-reliant unification and the establishment of a permanent peace. We will emphasize the need for an end-of-war declaration within the year and the suspension of sanctions on North Korea.”
He continued: “We will also demand the removal of all weapons of war including [the US anti-missile] THAAD (Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense), a product of the war era. We will call for solving the polarization of society through peaceful disarmament for an era of peace and the sweeping expansion of people’s and workers’ welfare.

Washington is demanding North Korea denuclearize before offering any supposed relaxation of sanctions or security guarantees.
It is within this context that the inter-Korean summit takes place. Moon’s offers of economic development are in contrast to threats from Washington, which the South Korean president will no doubt emphasize to Kim Jong-un. The “olive branch” US President Donald Trump held out to Kim Jong-un at their June 12 summit in Singapore was in effect an ultimatum to Pyongyang: join the US war drive against China or be destroyed.

However, North Korea is not yet prepared to abandon its connections with China as it tries to gain some concessions from Washington. Kim expressed support recently for relations with Beijing, saying, “I will join hands with President Xi Jinping to work actively to further develop the relations and friendship and continue close cooperation.

8--Russian aircraft shot down during Israeli missile attack on main Syrian government port


Putin isolates US, befreinds Turkey


9-- The implications of US-China trade war

The key US demand is that the Chinese government completely abandon its program of economic development and remain subservient to the US in high-tech economic sectors.

As the position paper issued by Washington in May put it: “China will cease providing market-distorting subsidies and other types of government support that can contribute to the creation or maintenance of excess capacity in industries targeted by the Made in China 2025 industrial plan.”

In other words, China must completely scrap the foundational structures of its economy so that it presents no threat to the economic dominance of US capitalism, a dominance which the US intends to maintain, if it considers necessary, by military means. This was made clear earlier this year when Washington designated China as a “strategic competitor,” that is, a potential military enemy. This is the inherent, objective, logic of the latest trade war measures.


Monday, September 17, 2018

Today's links

1--Serial numbers of missile that downed MH17 show it was produced in 1986, owned by Ukraine - Russia 


2--Papadopoulos speaks as Maltese Professor Mifsud goes missing


On 1 November, La Repubblica located Mr Mifsud in Rome. The academic told the newspaper he met Papadopoulos “three of four times”, but that the claims over election interference were “nonsense”.

“Papadopoulos doesn’t tell the truth,” he said. “The only thing I did was to facilitate contacts between official and unofficial sources to resolve a crisis. It is usual business everywhere. I put think tanks in contact, groups of experts with other groups of experts.

He continued: “I strongly deny any discussion of mine about secrets concerning Hillary Clinton. I swear it on my daughter. I don’t know anyone belonging to the Russian government.”

Mr Mifsud appears not to have been seen since he made those comments, even by Italian prosecutors attempting to track him down over an unrelated court summons in Italy.
His Ukrainian fiancée, who reportedly gave birth to his daughter earlier this year, has also said she has not seen him in months.

As well as offering emails, Mr Mifsud also introduced 31-year-old Papadopoulos to a woman named Olga, who claimed to be a niece of Russian president Vladimir Putin, and a man named Ivan Timofeev, who claimed to have a connection to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (entrapment??)

Prosecutors said Papadopoulos’s false statements to the FBI contributed to their inability to secure an interview with the professor.

“The defendant’s lies undermined investigators’ ability to challenge the professor or potentially detain or arrest him while he was still in the United States,” they wrote in court papers, noting Mr Mifsud left the US in February 2017 and has not returned.

3--Israel bombs target near Damascus as Syrian war threatens to escalate

The aggressive US military build-up, which was aimed at reinforcing a base on the Syrian-Iraqi border that has served as a training ground for anti-Assad Islamist militias, was cynically justified by Trump administration officials and the corporate media with references to the threat posed to “human rights” in Idlib. In an interview with Fox News last Wednesday, UN Ambassador Niki Haley claimed that she was concerned for Idlib’s civilian population, while the New York Times and Washington Post have issued warnings about the war’s greatest “humanitarian” disaster.

The hypocrisy of such advocates for US imperialist violence knows no bounds. As well as being chiefly responsible for the Syrian bloodbath through its support for Islamist rebels with the aim of bringing about regime change in Damascus, the US has been involved in some of the most horrific crimes against the civilian population in Syria and neighbouring Iraq in the current conflict. The brutal US-led offensives to reclaim the cities of Mosul and Raqqa cost the lives of tens of thousands, while leaving much of these areas in ruins.

Washington has adopted this reckless agenda because it is determined to consolidate its unchallenged control over the energy-rich and strategically-important Middle East. The American ruling elite wants at all costs to prevent Assad from regaining control over all of Syria with Russian and Iranian support, since this would lead to Washington’s virtual exclusion from influencing post-war Syria and a would be a serious setback in its wider drive to contain Iran in preparation for war....

All indications suggest that US-led military action would be of a much larger attack than the missile strikes in April 2017 and April 2018. Washington has not only encouraged France and Britain to join military action but is also publicly urging Germany to join a new “coalition of the willing.” As James Jeffrey, the Trump administration’s new adviser for Syria, stated on Thursday during a trip to Berlin, “The best way to show political support is not in a speech, but with military solidarity.”

4--Silicon Valley’s corrupt nexus: War, censorship and inequality

Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, is among America’s most powerful oligarchs. His speech to the Air Force Association embodies the corrupt nexus between the military, the financial oligarchy, the media and the high-tech companies, all of which are working to create a regime of censorship targeting left-wing, anti-war and socialist viewpoints.

This partnership expresses, in practice, the vision laid out in the Pentagon’s latest National Security Strategy, which calls for “the seamless integration of multiple elements of national power—diplomacy, information, economics, finance, intelligence, law enforcement and military.”

This is a formula for a society in which all of the mechanisms of social control are jointly harnessed to defend and expand the wealth and power of America’s financial oligarchy. Toward this authoritarian end, Bezos and company are mobilizing one of the critical mechanisms—the media.

Bezos’ Washington Post has prepared its owner’s appearance at the Air Force event with a series of op-eds and editorials calling for a closer partnership between the Pentagon and Silicon Valley. More than any other major US newspaper, the Post has argued for the fusion of America’s high-tech sector with its military, in line with the Pentagon’s so-called “third offset” strategy, which aims to regain America’s “military edge” by “harnessing a range of technologies, including robotics, autonomous systems and big data,” in the words of the Economist....

each year, more and more technology workers have found themselves involved in developing the means to carry out mass murder, censorship and political repression, prompting protests by workers at Google, Amazon and Microsoft.

In June, Amazon workers issued an open letter opposing the company’s provision of facial recognition technology to police forces as well as its cloud computing contracts with the agencies carrying out Trump’s Gestapo-style attacks on immigrants.

That same month, Google announced that it would end its involvement in a Pentagon program to build artificial intelligence capabilities for military drones after more than a thousand Google employees signed a letter demanding that Google swear off building “weapons of war.”

The Washington Post has opposed these protests. In an August 8 op-ed, two executives from Anduril Industries, a military defense contractor seeking to sell virtual reality systems to the Pentagon, condemned the protesting workers. “We understand that tech workers want to build things used to help, not harm,” the executives wrote. “We feel the same way,” they continued. “But ostracizing the US military could have the opposite effect of what these protesters intend: If tech companies want to promote peace, they should stand with, not against, the United States’ defense community.”

5--Manafort guilty plea, cooperation deal rock Trump White House

Manafort worked for the Trump campaign from March through August, first enlisted to assist in insuring that Trump’s delegates to the Republican National Convention were not poached by any of his rivals for the nomination, and then chairing the campaign overall for nearly three months. He left the campaign after press reports emerged detailing his financial relations with ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, in large part because these ties were viewed as an obstacle to US efforts to consolidate a right-wing pro-US regime in Kyiv.

Despite breathless round-the-clock attention by those sections of the corporate media that have been promoting the bogus claims of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, it is not clear that Manafort has anything to add in the way of evidence. He was present at the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 in which Trump aides met with a Russian delegation allegedly peddling dirt on Hillary Clinton, but others who attended the meeting have already given testimony to Mueller, without anything explosive emerging.

...Manafort admitted to engineering a scheme in which a front company was set up in Brussels to conceal Ukrainian government payments to his own lobbying firm and several others, including the Mercury Group, a bipartisan operation, the Podesta Group, run by Tony Podesta, brother of Clinton’s campaign chairman...

Manafort is the fifth individual associated with the Trump campaign or his personal business operations to plead guilty to felony charges, ranging from bank and tax fraud to lying to federal agents. Besides Manafort, these include retired General Michael Flynn, Trump’s first national security adviser, who is still cooperating with Mueller and has not yet been sentenced; Manafort’s top aide, in both his business operations and the Trump campaign, Rick Gates, who testified against him in the Alexandria trial; George Papadopoulos, a former campaign adviser on national security issues; and Michael Cohen, Trump’s long-time personal lawyer and “fixer.”

The trajectory of the Mueller investigation strongly suggests that an imminent target is Roger Stone, a longtime Trump crony and informal adviser to the campaign, who has been depicted in press accounts as the contact person between the Trump campaign and WikiLeaks, during the period when WikiLeaks was publishing emails taken from the Democratic National Committee and John Podesta, Clinton’s chairman, revealing Democratic Party skullduggery directed against the campaign of Bernie Sanders, as well as the transcripts of Clinton’s groveling speeches to Wall Street audiences.

6--Assad prepared to "go it alone" in Idlib?

Elijah J. Magnier confirms our take that the Syrian-Russian operation to liberate Idleb is on hold but not canceled:
What is clear so far is the certainty that President Assad is not ready to give up Idlib to President Erdogan. Assad is said to be ready to start the attack in a few weeks even alone, at the cost of dragging everybody behind him onto the battlefield....

US sanctions against the Iranian oil industry starting in November are one reason why tensions between Turkey and the United States could worsen soon. Turkey buys about half its crude oil imports from Iran and has said it will not abide by the new sanctions.

7--The Bluffer's Guide to Bombing Syria By Peter Ford

  1. The reports [of the imminent chemical weapons 'attack'] must be truebecause Asad has done it before.False. Since 2013 when Asad gave up chemical weapons under supervision of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) the OPCW have not visited the sites of alleged attacks in jihadi-controlled areas but have accepted at face value 'reports' from pro-jihadi organisations like the White Helmets and the Syrian American Medical Society, along with 'evidence' from hostile intelligence agencies. In the case of the one site the OPCW did visit, Douma, their report said they found no evidence of sarin, no untoward traces in any of the blood samples taken from 'alleged victims' (their term), no bodies and only ambiguous evidence of use of chlorine.
3.The OPCW report on Douma was flawed because the Russians and Syrians caused delay. False. As documented in the OPCW report delay was caused by UN bureaucracy and jihadi snipers. The inspectors do not say their findings were to any significant degree invalidated by the delay.
  1. Assad uses chemical weapons because they frighten large numbers of people into fleeing. False. They don't. This desperate argument is trotted out to counter the fact that Asad would have to be stupid to use chemical weapons knowing what the result would be and that he would derive minimal military benefit. To date not one of the alleged chemical attacks has precipitated an exodus any greater than flight caused by the legendary 'barrel bombs'. The inhabitants of Douma by their own testimonies given to Western journalists were even unaware there might have been an attack until they heard about it in the media. 
  3. The OPCW won't be able to investigate because it won't be safe. A feeble excuse to preempt calls for establishing facts before bombing. The Turks escort Western journalists into Idlib. They have hundreds of troops there and the jihadis kowtow to them because they control all logistics. The Turks could escort OPCW. And wouldn't the jihadis be keener than anybody for the inspectors to visit if their claims were true?
  5. The upcoming strikes are not aimed at regime change.  False. The plan is to decapitate the Syrian state with attacks on the presidency. Failing that the aim is to make Idlib a quagmire for the Russians. Anything to deprive Asad and Putin of victory, regardless of whether it prolongs the war. 
  6. It's all Russian disinformation. Yeah, like the arms inspectors before the Iraq war who said no WMD in Iraq. Reality: the Russians have got great intelligence on what Western powers with their jihadi clients are up to and are calling out the phoney moves....
  1. There are going to be massacres/a bloodbath/genocide.False. We heard all this hysteria before Aleppo, before Eastern Ghouta and before the campaign in the South. All vastly exaggerated. The Syrian Arab Army has not been responsible for a single massacre, while the jihadis have been responsible for many (source: quarterly reports of the UN Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria).
  3. People have nowhere to go. False. The Russians have opened safe corridors but the jihadis are not allowing people to leave. They can still leave for the northern border strip which Turkey controls, where there are camps, and many (including jihadi fighters) will be able to cross temporarily into Turkey.  
  5. We can't tell you which armed groups we support because it would make them targets for Asad. Really? You think he doesn't know? Isn't it because you are terrified it will come out that we have been supporting some real head-choppers?


Russia presents audio recording proving Ukraine’s complicity in MH17 tragedy


Sunday, September 16, 2018

Today's links

1---The experts are selling

Bloomberg’s Smart Money Flow Index tells us that the pros have been getting out for the last six months. And this week, Roubini, Tepper, Dalio, and Gundlach – a whole gaggle of gurus – announced that they were turning bearish; the end of this credit boom is coming, they say....

Last month, the feds borrowed $214 billion. They spent $433 billion, of which $32 billion was on interest on the national debt.
In other words, half of what they spent was borrowed. And as interest rates rise to the Fed’s target, that $32 billion will turn into $50 billion a month. Annualized, that’s $600 billion a year – or approximately two months’ worth of tax receipts.

And when the next recession comes… watch out.
Deficits will widen from $1 trillion to $2 trillion. The government debt will soar to $30 trillion. And the interest – at 4% – will take up tax receipts from January through April

2---Lehman Brothers is long gone, but the economic rot lingers


3--Partitioning Syria while destabilizing China


RAND Corporation drew up a Syria partition plan wherein the US would occupy the northeast, Turkey the northwest, Russia and Iran the coastal area and large parts of the Syrian desert, and Israel and Jordan the southwest.

The US zone would contain oil fields where 90% of Syria’s pre-war oil production took place, while Israel would control the newly discovered oil reserves in the Golan Heights. Turkey’s control of Idlib as a safe haven for militants would put continued pressure on the Syrian government, and a balkanized Syria would be weak and less likely to provide a viable base for Iran and Hezbollah to attack Israel.

However, the partition of Idlib as a jihadi sanctuary has important implications for another actor – China. Back in August, there were reports that Beijing would participate in the Battle for Idlib due to the presence of Chinese Uyghur jihadi colonies. If Turkey controls Idlib, China fears Ankara and the West would exploit Uyghur militants as proxies to destabilize Xinjiang....

Given resource-rich Xinjiang is at the heart of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), destabilizing the province would not only spoil the plan for Eurasian integration and development, but also weaken China’s economy by cutting off its overland energy supply from Central Asia and the Middle East, hamper its market access, and keep Beijing bogged down in an ethnoreligious conflict

4--Idlib Militants Deliver Chlorine Canisters To Bsanqul Village, Prepare To Stage Chemical Attack: Russian Military


5--Virginia state senator Richard Black turned up on Arab TV last week making an extraordinary claim about one of the US’ closest allies.


Mr Black said Britain’s MI6 intelligence service was planning a chemical weapons attack on the Syrian people, which it would then blame on Mr Assad.
“Around four weeks ago, we knew that British intelligence was working towards a chemical attack in order to blame the Syrian government, to hold Syria responsible,” Mr Black said on Al Mayadeen, an Arab news channel based in Beirut....

“I’m just an individual who is deeply concerned about achieving peace and stopping the slaughter in the Middle East,” Mr Black said. “Americans go all over the place all the time and the only reason that they focus on me is because I tell the truth about what I’m seeing and what’s going on.”
Jake Rubenstein, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia, called Mr Black’s comments “a disturbing new low”.
“He is clearly more interested in being Bashar Al-Assad’s propaganda minister than a Virginia state senator,” he said in an email.

6--In the Russia Probe, It’s ‘Qui S’excuse S’accuse, andrew McCarthy

The Justice Department and the FBI know they are not permitted to use FISA as a pretext.(for a criminal investigation)  ...If the public becomes convinced that national-security powers, such as those in FISA, are being employed to monitor Americans when there is insufficient evidence to justify a criminal investigation, there will be demands to strip these powers.

The FBI and the Obama Justice Department launched an investigation of the Democrats’ political adversaries, and they used Clinton-campaign-generated, foreign-provided innuendo to do it. They strained to make a case on Donald Trump even as they were burying a daunting criminal case on Mrs. Clinton. As I have previously explained, moreover, the president was misled about his status: not only was he a suspect in the investigation, he was the main suspect

...most of the FISA redactions have nothing to do with what really matters: the evidence on which the FBI relied to claim that there was probable cause that Carter Page was an agent of Russia.

The main suspect (Trump) in an investigation with no crime......The FISA warrants show that this practice of launching a criminal investigation in the absence of a crime long predated Rosenstein and Mueller. It was the modus operandi of the Trump-Russia investigation from Day One, when Obama’s Justice Department and the FBI first targeted the Trump campaign....

FISA authorities are not criminal-law authorities. It is not just that FISA is not designed to ferret out evidence of crime; it is not permitted to be used for that purpose. FISA’s objective is the collection of foreign intelligence, the gathering of information about the actions and intentions of foreign powers that may threaten American interests.

The Page warrant application implies that it is a standard part of the process that “prosecutive authorities” — i.e., prosecutors, criminal investigators, grand juries — peruse FISA evidence to determine whether crimes have been committed. Not true. Prosecutors normally have nothing to do with FISA. Counterintelligence is not “prosecutive”; it aims to gather information about other countries and their operatives, not make criminal cases....

If the premises contain incriminating materials other than that which the court has authorized seizure of, the FBI may seize those materials”; if they wrote this, it would be suggestive of an unconstitutional “general warrant” — it would intimate that the government’s real agenda was to find evidence beyond what they had probable cause to search for. Similarly, it is not necessary in a FISA warrant application to spell out the exception for good-faith, unintended discovery of criminal evidence. Doing so strongly suggests the FBI and DOJ realize that they are conducting a de facto criminal investigation. It suggests that they are pretextually using FISA, because they either lack grounds to justify a criminal wiretap application (which requires probable cause of a crime), or desire to conceal their criminal probe under the cover of classified intelligence. It suggests that the overarching objective is to make a criminal case, not to collect foreign intelligence....

he purpose of FISA is not supposed to be to build a criminal case. That’s why very few criminal cases include FISA evidence.....For Mueller, the Russia counterintelligence probe was cover to conduct a criminal investigation of Trump in the absence of grounds to believe a crime had occurred.

(FISA used to circumvent 4th amendment and probable cause)
The then–deputy attorney general and other Clinton DOJ officials were worried about FISA. What if you had a rogue agent who was predisposed to believe a suspect was guilty, but couldn’t prove it? The rogue agent did not have enough evidence to seek a regular wiretap or search warrant. Mightn’t the rogue be tempted to use FISA? He’d just need to claim that there was some vague national-security aspect to the case; to pretend that his investigation was connected to a broader counterintelligence investigation of a foreign power. The rogue agent could then seek a FISA warrant to surveil the suspect. He would call it “counterintelligence,” but in reality he’d be conducting a criminal investigation — eavesdropping and searching suspects — even though he did not have probable cause to believe a crime had been committed...

Yet, that is what happened in the Trump probe. The FBI has been investigating for well over two years, and for nine months of that time it expressly told the FISA court it believed the Trump campaign was engaged in a corrupt conspiracy with Russia. No one, though, has ever been charged with such a heinous offense. Meanwhile, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein persists in his refusal to identify any crime for which there was such a strong basis to believe Trump could be guilty that a special counsel had to be appointed. 

7--The official statistics say that the financial crisis is behind us. It's not.

That’s why the net worth of the median household is still about 20 percent lower than it was in early 2007. When television commentators drone on about the Dow, they’re not talking about a good measure of most people’s wealth.
The unemployment rate has also become less meaningful than it once was. In recent decades, the number of idle working-age adults has surged. They are not working, not looking for work, not going to school and not taking care of children. Many of them would like to work, but they can’t find a decent-paying job and have given up looking. They are not counted in the official unemployment rate.

8-- Our Broken Economy, in One Simple Chart

Gross expansion of inequality can all be traced back to Central Bank policy. 


9--Lehman Brothers is long gone, but the economic rot lingers

Deepening income inequality today should give pause in pondering where things may go tomorrow. Because while the U.S. economy has rebounded since the housing crash, in one way it remains deeply vulnerable -- the gap between the rich and everyone else in the U.S. today is roughly where it was in 1928. Just a few of the warning signs:

  • The share of national income captured by the richest 10 percent of Americans rose from 34 percent in 1980 to 47 percent in 2016. 
  • Between 1980 and 2016, the share of America's income going to the top 1 percent nearly doubled, while that going to the bottom 50 percent plunged.
  • After declining following the Depression, the top 1 percent's share of wealth in the U.S. has shot back up roughly to where it was in the 1930s.
  • Between 1970 and 2016, the gap between the richest and poorest Americans jumped 27 percentage points.
  • As of 2017, by some measures, CEOs at large companies on average earned more than 300 times what the typical worker made, up from 58 times in 1989 and 20 times in 1965.
Rampant financial deregulation at the end of that decade, coupled with a Federal Reserve constitutionally hooked on cheap money, unleashed a tide of reckless and predatory lending. Borrowers loaded up on debt they could never repay, while homeowners turned their homes into ATMs in the delusion they would dispense cash forever. The illusion lasted until the real estate bubble popped -- $8 trillion in housing wealth was vaporized. We've been trying to emerge from the crater ever since