Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Today's links

The most vocal Russiagate promoters are in too deep, & incapable of acknowledging that their conspiracy theory has failed. I don't expect the Mueller Report to change that. The good news is that they'll have a much harder time enrolling their audiences in their own self-delusion. aaron mate 




1--- Beyond Economics: Fears of Cultural Displacement Pushed the White Working Class to Trump | PRRI/The Atlantic Report


Must Read


2--YPG terrorists continue to dig ditches, tunnels in northern Syria

3--Joe's Comeback--Joseph Stalin’s approval rating hits historic high – poll  


4--The Dems are in worse shape than you thought 

Stan Greenberg, the Democratic pollster, writes in his Prospect essay:
The Democrats don’t have a “white working-class problem.” They have a “working-class problem,” which progressives have been reluctant to address honestly or boldly. The fact is that Democrats have lost support with all working-class voters across the electorate, including the Rising American Electorate of minorities, unmarried women, and millennials. This decline contributed mightily to the Democrats’ losses in the states and Congress and to the election of Donald Trump.
Greenberg voiced an exceptionally sharp critique of his own party and its candidates. First, he takes on Barack Obama:
Working-class Americans pulled back from Democrats in this last period of Democratic governance because of President Obama’s insistence on heralding economic progress and the bailout of the irresponsible elites, while ordinary people’s incomes crashed and they continued to struggle financially.
Hillary Clinton does not escape Greenberg’s wrath:
In what may border on campaign malpractice, the Clinton campaign chose in the closing battle to ignore the economic stress not just of the working-class women who were still in play, but also of those within the Democrats’ own base, particularly among the minorities, millennials, and unmarried women.
Greenberg does not stop there, shifting his focus from individual Democratic politicians to the Democratic Party itself:
Past supporters
pulled back because of the Democrats’ seeming embrace of multinational trade agreements that have cost American jobs. The Democrats have moved from seeking to manage and champion the nation’s growing immigrant diversity to seeming to champion immigrant rights over American citizens’. Instinctively and not surprisingly, the Democrats embraced the liberal values of America’s dynamic and best-educated metropolitan areas, seeming not to respect the values or economic stress of older voters in small-town and rural America. Finally, the Democrats also missed the economic stress and social problems in the cities themselves and in working-class suburbs.
Along parallel lines, three analysts at the pro-Democratic Center for American Progress, Robert Griffin, John Halpin and Ruy Teixeira, argue that:
Rather than debating whether Democrats should appeal to white working-class voters or voters of color — both necessary components of a successful electoral coalition, particularly at the state and local level — a more important question emerges: Why are Democrats losing support and seeing declining turnout from working-class voters of all races in many places?
Griffin, Halpin and Teixeira argue that
Democrats allowed themselves to become the party of the status quo — a status quo perceived to be elitist, exclusionary, and disconnected from the entire range of working-class concerns, but particularly from those voters in white working-class areas.
In the 2016 campaign, they continue,
rightly or wrongly, Hillary Clinton’s campaign exemplified a professional-class status quo that failed to rally enough working-class voters of color and failed to blunt the drift of white working-class voters to Republicans.

5--Double dealing US working with Turkey to create Syria safe zone, Jeffrey says


The U.S. is working with Turkey to establish a safe zone without the presence of the People's Protection Units (YPG), a top U.S. official said Monday.
U.S. Special Representative for Syria Engagement and the special envoy for the anti-Daesh coalition, James Jeffrey said that Washington acknowledges Turkey's concerns about the YPG, which is the Syrian offshoot of the PKK terrorist group.
Jeffrey highlighted that the two countries have been and continue to be geostrategic partners.


6--Kim tells Moon to stop following washington's orders


The authorities in South Korea must be an interested party that defends the [Korean] people’s interests rather than acting as meddling mediators or catalysts. They must agree and coordinate with our position and commitment, [showing] practical action rather than words. [. . .]”

This was the tough message sent by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in a policy speech before the Supreme People’s Assembly (SPA) on Apr. 12. It included a mixture of some things worth consideration and other things that were inappropriate.

 "meddling catalyst"  Kim brushes up the powerlessness of South to effect changes in NK-ROK relationship

The authorities in South Korea must be an interested party that defends the [Korean] people’s interests rather than acting as meddling mediators or catalysts,” Kim said at the time.

In an Apr. 11 summit with US President Donald Trump, Moon declared that “promoting inter-Korean relations will help the denuclearization talks” and said he planned to “pursue the staging of an inter-Korean summit in the near future.” In response, Trump asked him to share the North’s position as soon as possible based on what the South ascertained through the summit or inter-Korean discussions....

The authorities in South Korea must be an interested party that defends the [Korean] people’s interests rather than acting as meddling mediators or catalysts,” Kim said at the time.

Moon said that he “praises and very much welcomes Chairman Kim’s unchanging commitment with his repeated affirmations of his firm commitment to denuclearization and the establishment of peace on the Korean Peninsula and his statement of his intent to resume North Korea-US dialogue and hold a third North Korea-US summit.” “The South Korean government has a clear and firm commitment to systematically implementing the terms of inter-Korean joint statements, whatever difficulties may arise,” he added.

7--How the Rich Screwed the Poor: Mark Blyth


8--The National Security State - Gore Vidal 03-18-1998


9--Jimmy Carter calls US most warlike nation in history


Charging the US with being "the most warlike nation in the history of the world," Carter explained that his country had a habit of trying to force other countries around the globe to "adopt our American principles." According to Carter's estimate, the US has only had 16 years at peace in its 242 year history.

Carter pointed out that while China was building thousands of miles of high-speed rail, the US "wasted, I think, $3 trillion" on defence spending. "It's more than you can imagine. China has not wasted a single penny on war, and that's why they're ahead of us. In almost every conceivable way," the former president stressed.

"If you take $3 trillion and put it in American infrastructure, you'd probably have $2 trillion left over. We'd have high-speed railroad. We'd have bridges that aren't collapsing. We'd have roads that are maintained properly. Our education system would be as good as that of, say, South Korea or Hong Kong," Carter estimated.

10--US ‘most warlike nation in history’: Ex-US President Jimmy Carter


Some experts say China could overtake the US as the world’s largest economy by 2030 if current growth trends continue.
The former Democratic president said China was getting ahead of the US because Washington has been at war with other countries for most of its history.

Carter—who normalized diplomatic relations between Washington and Beijing in 1979—suggested that China’s rapid growth had been facilitated by government investment and helped by peace.
“Since 1979, do you know how many times China has been at war with anybody?” Carter asked. “None. And we have stayed at war.”

He said the US has only enjoyed 16 years of peace in its 242-year history, making the country “the most warlike nation in the history of the world,” Carter said. This is, he said, because of Washington’s tendency to force other nations to “adopt our American principles.”
Carter said that China, in contrast to the US, had made massive economic progress for maintaining peace. “How many miles of high-speed railroad do we have in this country?” he asked


Copious Notes on Obama's pathetic legacy of homicide, grand larceny and abject subservience to Wall Street.

Obama, the Nobel laureate, casts himself as a New Internationalist, a chief executive of the global empire, more eager to consult with European heads of state than members of Congress, even of his own party....  He has a majestic sense of his own certitude. The president often seems captivated by the nobility of his intentions, offering himself up as a kind of savior of the eroding American Imperium.

What was running through their minds when the mists finally parted to reveal that Obama was implementing cunning tracings of Bush-era policies on everything from the indefinite detention of uncharged prisoners in the war on terror to raids on medical marijuana distributors in states where medical pot has been legalized? What, indeed.

The destruction of the independent nations of Iraq, Libya and Syria and the worsening of the chaos in the Middle East
President Obama has sided with Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries in their efforts to spread Wahhabi extremism around the world 
The Obama administration has extended the neocon-inspired politics of chaos to Ukraine and Russia, and it has rekindled a Cold War II with Russia 

Mr. Obama seemed satisfied to passively pursue the same nuclear “modernization” program that involved the development of a new set of American nuclear weapons, initiated under the previous George W. Bush administration.
nstead, he seemingly embarked on the same nuclear program, which had apparently not been stopped at all, to develop an array of new nuclear weapons that made contemplation of their use more acceptable (smaller, more accurate, less lethal), just as the Bush II administration had done before. In other words, Mr. Obama has prepared the United States to get engaged in “small nuclear wars” in the future. This is quite a “legacy”!

Domestically, income and wealth inequalities have continued to rise to high levels and poverty to increase under the Obama administration
On Jan. 20, 2014, a Gallup poll found that two-thirds of Americans were dissatisfied with the way income and wealth are distributed in the U.S. —People are therefore vaguely aware that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way the economic system works, and they are right to think that the economy is rigged against the interests of the majority and in favor of special interests.
According to a new Pew Research Center analysis of public data, the American middle class is shrinking, its proportion among U.S. households falling from 55 percent in 2000 to 51 percent in 2014. [N.B.: An American middle class family of two adults and two children, in 2014, is one earning a minimum of $48,083]. This shift has produced a wave of discontent throughout the United States.

Indeed, for the last fifteen years, from 1999 to 2014, the median income of American households globally has declined by 8 percent.
-The median incomes of lower-income families fell by 10 percent during the same period, from $26,373 to $23,811.
– The median income of middle-income households decreased by 6 percent, from $77,898 to $72,919.
– And, reflecting the large inequalities even among upper-income households, the median income in that group also fell by 7 percent, even though, as a group, the relative importance of this segment of American households went from 17 to 20 percent. The group’s median income fell from $186,424 in 1999 to $173,207 in 2014.
In fact, the only segment of the U.S. population that has benefited from the economic, financial and taxation policies of the last three administrations (Clinton-Bush-Obama), and from technological changes that have occurred during the period, is the top echelon of the upper-income class.

The super rich have raked in the most, while profiting the most from various tax loopholes, which have lowered their average tax rate from 27 percent in 1992 to less than 17 percent in 2012. In fact, America’s super rich get richer and they are laughing their way to tax havens!...

the Obama administration has initiated two mammoth international “trade deals”. Those trade “deals” were mostly kept secret because one of their main objectives is to guarantee legal protection to world corporations and megabanks against elected national governments and give them immunity from national prosecution.

The most recent examples of such “deals” are the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Europe and the Transpacific Trade Partnership (TTP) with countries in Asia.
It must be understood by all that these so called “free trade” agreements are really not genuine free trade agreements for the unhampered movement of goods between countries, based on comparative national advantages, but are really instead corporate and banking agreements to protect corporations and megabanks against national governments, their taxation and their regulations.

Such agreements, negotiated in near complete secrecy, pursue geopolitical objectives. They are an attempt to build a worldwide economic and financial order that supersedes national states and they represent also an effort to protect the corporate and banking elites—the establishment 1%—against national governments. In the case of the TTIP, its geopolitical objective is to prevent European countries from developing comprehensive trade agreements with Russia. In the case of TTP, the objective is to isolate China. In the eyes of Washington D.C. neocon planners, they are part of ongoing economic warfare.

he appointed belligerent and neocon-supported Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. The neoconservative Weekly Standard applauded her nomination, calling her a “Warrior Queen”! Even Bush’s Vice President Dick Cheney declared to be “impressed” with her nomination. As MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough branded her, Hillary Clinton is a “neocon’s neocon”, because “there’s hardly been a military engagement that Hillary hasn’t been for in the past twenty years.”
President Barack Obama went on to appoint a long list of other neocons to senior positions in his administration, not the least being the nomination of Ms. Victoria Nuland, a Dick Cheney adviser, as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, in May 2013. From then on, the die was cast as to what kind of administration President Obama would lead. Real change would have to wait.


The Obama administration, after beginning its time in office promoting an eventual nuclear weapons free world, is ending with a one trillion-dollar upgrade to America’s nuclear arsenal, including a kind of nuclear weapon more tempting to use because it can be scaled to battlefield size, a result which could quickly result in escalation. The Obama administration has, according to the New York Times, “reduced the nuclear stockpile less than any other post-Cold War presidency.”

Obama has also long stood behind the NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act), which, buried within it, has the infamous “indefinite detention” clause, capable of stripping American citizens of due process and holding them indefinitely for “substantial support” for terrorist groups or “associated forces,” both nebulous terms, and also asserts that Americans indefinitely detained will be held by the military.

Trump is racist, especially toward Mexicans, and has promised to build a wall on the southern border and round up millions in a mass deportation campaign. However, Senators Obama and Clinton both voted for the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which did result in the construction of a sort of wall on the southern border, and Obama’s deportation record has been mind-blowing (see the Department of Homeland Security’s graph in this article in The Post). Obama has deported more people than any president in American history.


The president campaigned with tremendous labor movement support on a pledge to make a reform of the hugely pro-management labor relations laws, beginning with a bill to make “card check” calls for a union, where a majority of workers simply have to sign cards saying they want one, sufficient to mandate that an employer recognize a union and bargain fairly for a contract. He never even submitted such a bill, saying once elected that he had bigger issues facing him. American workers have continued to have to battle to survive during the president’s two terms under a National Labor Relations Act that is stacked against them.
* Beginning in 2010, the president, instead of calling on the mass of supporters developed during his 2008 campaign, to get out and back progressive candidates for Congress, oversaw as head of the Democratic Party a campaign to undermine and run conservative Democratic candidates against most more radical and progressive candidates seeking office in Democratic Party primaries. The result of this backstabbling of progressive candidates was that support for Democratic Congressional nominees that year and in subsequent elections was lackluster at best, leading to Republican takeover of both House and Senate — a grim situation that will now be difficult to undo.

n the area of open and law-abiding government, candidate Obama promised a new era of open government. That was probably his biggest whopper. By all accounts, his has been the most secretive government in history, with the most prosecutions of whistleblowers, including the use of the hoary and clearly Constitution-undermining Espionage Act, his hounding of such courageous exposers of government wrongdoing as Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, NSA critic Edward Snowden, and war-crimes exposer Chelsea Manning, and his G W Bush-like fondness for executive orders. Open government died with President George Bush and his consigliere, Vice President Dick Cheney. It has been buried by President Obama. * Finally, Obama failed abysmally on the economy, in large part because just as with the criminals of the Bush/Cheney administration whom he declined to prosecute for their clearly illegal and unconstitutional crimes of torture, aggressive war-making and illegal surveillance on Americans, he decided to bar the Justice Department from prosecuting the criminal bankers at the head of the nation’s largest banks for causing, through their corrupt lending and fraudulent derivative-marketing programs, the real estate and stockmarket bubbles that ultimately collapsed the US and the global economy.


Obama, it turns out, was among the most militaristic White House occupants in American history, taking the imperial presidency to new heights.  It has been said that Obama was the only president whose administration was enmeshed in multiple wars from beginning to end.   His imperial ventures spanned many countries – Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia along with proxy interventions in Yemen and Pakistan.  He ordered nearly 100,000 bombs and missiles delivered against defenseless targets, a total greater than that of the more widely-recognized warmonger George W. Bush’s total of 70,000 against five countries.  Iraq alone – where U.S. forces were supposed to have been withdrawn – was recipient of 41,000 bombs and missiles along with untold amounts of smaller ordnance. Meanwhile, throughout his presidency Obama conducted hundreds of drone attacks in the Middle East, more than doubling Bush’s total, all run jointly (and covertly) by the CIA and Air Force.

Obama engineered two of the most brazen regime-change operations of the postwar era, in Libya (2011) and Ukraine (2014), leaving both nations reduced to a state of ongoing civil war and economic ruin.   For the past seven years Libya has been overrun by an assortment of militias, jihadic groups, and local strongmen – predictable result of the U.S./NATO bombing offensive to destroy the secular nationalist (and modernizing) Kadafi regime.   This was purportedly Secretary of State Clinton’s biggest moment of glory, her imperialist gloating on full display following Kadafi’s assassination.   As this is written conditions in Libya worsen by the day, reports surfacing of hundreds of people killed during violent clashes in the suburbs of Tripoli as rival militias fight for control of the capital.  Militias now exercise control over ports, airfields, and much of the oil infrastructure.  More tens of thousands of Libyans are being forced from their homes, a development greeted with silence at CNN and kindred media outlets.

...t is easy to forget that it was the Obama administration that planned and carried out the first phases of the Mosul operation (begun in October 2016) which produced hundreds of thousands of casualties (with at least 40,000 dead), left a city of two million in Dresden-like state of rubble, and drove nearly a million civilians into exile.  The same fate, on smaller scale, was brought to other Sunni-majority cities in Iraq, including Ramadi, Tikrit, and Fallujah (already destroyed by U.S. forces in 2004).    Whatever the official goal, and however many secondary collaborators were involved, these were monstrous war crimes by any reckoning....

Obama’s contributions to a more robust imperial presidency went further.  Collaborating with Israel and Saudi Arabia, he stoked the Syrian civil war by lending “rebel” fighters crucial material, logistical, and military aid for what Clinton – anticipating electoral victory – believed would bring yet another cheerful episode of regime change, this one leaving the U.S. face-to-face with the Russians.  During his tenure in office, moreover, Obama would deploy more special-ops troops around the globe (to more than 70 countries) than any predecessor.
Many liberals and more than a few progressives – not to mention large sectors of the media intelligentsia — will find it difficult to reconcile the picture of an aggressively imperialist Obama with the more familiar image of a thoughtful, articulate politician who laced his talks with references to peace, arms control, and human rights.  But this very dualism best corresponds to the historical reality.   In his book The Obama Syndrome, Tariq Ali writes: “From Palestine through Iraq, Obama has acted as just another steward of the American empire, pursuing the same aims as his predecessors, with the same means but with more emollient rhetoric.”

Whatever one’s view of the Trump phenomenon in its totality, the amount of death and destruction he has brought to the world does not (yet) come close to Obama’s record of warfare, drone strikes, regime changes, military provocations, and global deployments.   If neocon interests have come to shape U.S. foreign policy, those interests have so far been more fully embraced by Obama and the Clintonites than by Trump, despite the scary presence of Trump’s hawkish circle of lieutenants.  Unfortunately, Obama’s eight years of imperial aggression elicited strikingly few liberal or progressive voices of dissent across the political and media terrain. He enjoyed nearly complete immunity from protest at a time when even the smallest vestiges of a once-vigorous American antiwar movement had disappeared from the scene.


All the growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during Obama’s tenure went to them – the Donor Class that had gained control of the Democratic Party leadership. Real incomes have fallen for the remaining 95 percent, whose household budgets have been further eroded by soaring charges for health insurance. (The Democratic leadership in Congress fought tooth and nail to block Dennis Kucinich from introducing his Single Payer proposal.)

Hillary’s loss was not blamed on her neoliberal support for TPP or her pro-war neocon stance, but on the revelations of the e-mails by her operative Podesta discussing his dirty tricks against Bernie Sanders (claimed to be given to Wikileaks by Russian hackers, not a domestic DNC leaker as Wikileaks claimed) and the FBI investigation of her e-mail abuses at the State Departmen

Hillary’s election strategy was to make a right-wing run around Trump. While characterizing the working class as white racist “deplorables,” allegedly intolerant of LBGTQ or assertive women, she resurrected the ghost of Joe McCarthy and accused Trump of being “Putin’s poodle” for proposing peace with Russia.

Trump’s November victory showed that voters found him to be the Lesser Evil, but all that voters really could express was “throw out the bums”

Fifty years ago, socialists such as Michael Harrington asked why union members and progressives still imagined that they had to work through the Democratic Party. It has taken the rest of the country half a century to see that Democrats are not the party of the working class, unions, middle class, farmers or debtors. They are the party of Wall Street privatizers, bank deregulators, neocons and the military-industrial complex. Obama showed his hand – and that of his party – in his passionate attempt to ram through the corporatist TPP treaty that would have enabled corporations to sue governments for any costs imposed by public consumer protection, environmental protection or other protection of the population against financialized corporate monopolies.



Erdogan has three demands. He wants a buffer zone on the Syrian side of the border to protect Turkey from ISIS and Kurdish attacks.  He wants a no-fly zone over all or parts of Syria. And he wants Syrian President Bashar al-Assad removed from power.  That’s what he wants and that’s what Obama has agreed to (as part of the Incirlik deal ) although the media is refuting the claim.   To help explain what’s going on, take a look at this article in  Reuters that was written back in October, 2014. Here’s an excerpt:
“Turkey will fight against Islamic State and other “terrorist” groups in the region but will stick to its aim of seeing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad removed from power, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday…
“We will (also) continue to prioritise our aim to remove the Syrian regime, to help protect the territorial integrity of Syria and to encourage a constitutional, parliamentary government system which embraces all (of its) citizens.”…
But it (Turkey) fears that U.S.-led air strikes, if not accompanied by a broader political strategy, could strengthen Assad and bolster Kurdish militants allied to Kurds in Turkey who have fought for three decades for greater autonomy.
“Tons of air bombs will only delay the threat and danger,” Erdogan said…..
We are open and ready for any cooperation in the fight against terrorism. However, it should be understood by everybody that Turkey is not a country in pursuit of temporary solutions nor will Turkey allow others to take advantage of it.” (“Turkey will fight Islamic State, wants Assad gone: President Erdogan“, Reuters)
That’s pretty clear, isn’t it?  Either the US helps Turkey get rid of Assad or there’s no deal. The Turkish president’s right-hand man, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, said the same thing  in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in February, 2015. Here’s an excerpt from the article:
“Turkey would be willing to put its troops on the ground in Syria “if others do their part,” Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an interview that aired Monday.
“We are ready to do everything if there is a clear strategy that after ISIS, we can be sure that our border will be protected. We don’t want the regime anymore on our border pushing people against — towards Turkey. We don’t want other terrorist organizations to be active there.”…
He said that American airstrikes in Syria were necessary but not enough for a victory.
“If ISIS goes, another radical organization may come in,” he said. “So our approach should be comprehensive, inclusive, strategic and combined …  to eliminate all brutal crimes against humanity committed by the regime.”
“We want to have a no-fly zone. We want to have a safe haven on our border. Otherwise, all these burdens will continue to go on the shoulder of Turkey and other neighboring countries.”…
Turkey is trying to dispel the idea that the United States can become involved in Syria by going after ISIS but not al-Assad.” (“Turkey willing to put troops in Syria ‘if others do their part,’ Prime Minister says“, CNN)
Repeat: “Turkey would be willing to put its troops on the ground in Syria”, but Assad’s got to go. That’s the trade-off. Davutoglu has since backed off on this demand, but the basic deal hasn’t changed.  Leaders in the US and Turkey have just decided to be more discreet about what they tell the press. But the plan is moving forward.  For example, officials from the Obama administration have denied that they will provide a no-fly zone over Syria.  According to the New York Times, however, the US has agreed to create an “Islamic State-free zone” or “safe zone… controlled by relatively moderate Syrian insurgents.”   (“Turkey and U.S. Plan to Create Syria ‘Safe Zone’ Free of ISIS“, New York Times)
So the question is: Will the US provide air cover over this “Islamic State-free zone”?

The Politics of Betrayal: Obama Backstabs Kurds to Appease Turkey





Monday, April 15, 2019

Today's links

"We aren't anywhere near grasping what a baseless, moronic, & politically catastrophic decision it was to try to challenge Trump -- of all the issues he could be challenged on -- on the notion that he conspired with Russia. I am hopeful the Mueller report will help that process." aaron mate





1--Kim Jong Un calls for south to act in Korea's interests, not America's

In their third summit last September, Moon and Kim agreed to reconnect the Koreas’ railways and roads, normalize operations at a jointly run factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong and restart South Korean tours to the North’s scenic Diamond Mountain resort, voicing optimism that international sanctions could end and allow such projects.

But Moon’s call for partial sanctions relief to create space for the inter-Korean projects and induce nuclear disarmament steps by North Korea has led to a disagreement with Washington, which sees economic pressure as its main leverage with Pyongyang.

On South Korea, Kim said Seoul “should not act as an ‘overstepping mediator’ or a ‘facilitator’ and should rather get its mind straight as a member of the (Korean) nation and boldly speak up for the interest of the nation.”

2--Why Isn’t Assange Charged with ‘Collusion with Russia’?

Why hasn’t Assange been indicted for criminal collusion with the Kremlin — the same hacking conspiracy for which Mueller indicted the Russian operatives with whom Mueller says Assange collaborated? The same conspiracy for which the president of the United States, though not guilty, was under the FBI’s microscope for nearly three years?

The Assange Indictment: Weak and Potentially Time-Barred

The most striking thing about the Assange indictment that the Justice Department did file is how thin it is, and how tenuous. Leaping years backwards, ignoring “collusion with Russia,” prosecutors allege a single cyber-theft count: a conspiracy between Assange and then–Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning to steal U.S. defense secrets. This lone charge is punishable by as little as no jail time and a maximum sentence of just five years’ imprisonment (considerably less than the seven years Assange spent holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy to avoid prosecution).

This is very peculiar. Manning, Assange’s co-conspirator, has already been convicted of multiple felony violations of the espionage act — serious crimes that the Assange indictment says WikiLeaks helped Manning commit . . . but which the Justice Department has not charged against Assange....

As I pointed out on Thursday, the 2010 Assange-Manning cyber-theft conspiracy charged by prosecutors is outside the standard five-year statute of limitations for federal crimes: The limitations period was already exhausted when the indictment was filed in 2018. To breathe life into the case, the Justice Department will have to convince both British and American judges that this comparatively minor conspiracy charge is actually a “federal crime of terrorism,” triggering a three-year statute-of-limitations extension...

Despite a dearth of evidence that he was complicit in Moscow’s hacking, President Trump was forced by the Justice Department and the FBI, urged on by congressional Democrats, to endure a two-year investigation and to govern under a cloud of suspicion that he was an agent of the Kremlin. Now we have Assange, as to whom there is indisputable evidence of complicity in the hacking conspiracy, but the Justice Department declines to charge him with it — instead, positing the dubious Manning conspiracy that may very well be time-barred.
What is going on here?

3--North Korea’s Kim could make first ever visit to Russia next week, report says


North Korean leader Kim Jong Un could make his first ever visit to Russia next week, Yonhap news agency said Monday.
Citing sources in Moscow, Yonhap said, "Chances that Kim Jong Un's trip to the Russian Federation will take place by the end of April are quite high."

The summit is likely to take place in the Pacific port city of Vladivostok, near the borders with China and North Korea.

On April 26-27, Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to participate in the "One Belt, One Road" forum in China. The agency's source believes that his meeting with the North Korean leader will take place a day or two before or immediately after the event.

4---The crisis of the European Union

The EU's failure in dealing with various crises on its doorstep successfully has a lot to do with its overdependence on the United States in the realm of security

The European Union is by far the most successful example of international polities transcending traditional interstate relations by putting the formation of collective identities and supranational institutions at the center of its integration process. What seems to set the EU apart from other polities is that the postmodern logic underpinning its integration process has facilitated both the formation of a security community among its members and the prioritization of normative power instruments in its relations with external actors.

The hope of its founding fathers was that the EU's values of cosmopolitanism, multiculturalism, secular universalism, multiple interdependencies and soft power would gradually help weaken modern practices of the balance of power politics, realpolitik security strategies, self versus other distinctions and hard power instruments in interstate relations first inside the EU and then beyond its borders.
However, lately, the European Union has been facing various modern challenges concerning the postmodern logic of its integration process and international identity....

recent years have increasingly witnessed the rise of anti-integrationist, anti-immigrant and anti-globalist populist parties across the European continent. The European Union now suffers from a legitimacy crisis in the eyes of its people. There is now a democracy deficit problem inside EU. Investing too much power in postmodern institutions based in Brussels appears to have caused a revolt on the part of ordinary Europeans against the bureaucratic and political elites in European capitals.

The existential crisis
The European Union is now on the verge of an existential crisis, the worst in its life span since its birth in the late 1950s. EU members do not now live in a postmodern heaven. The idea that the EU model represents the highest stage of human development and outside actors would gradually adopt this European mentality on their own no longer holds true.

5--Syria safe zone may be 'safe zone' for Turkey-US relations


Previously, the U.S. administration showed unwillingness to establish a working relationship with Turkey to form a no fly zone/safe zone in northern Syria, before the operations in Raqqa and supporting the opposition in multiple instances. President Trump's announcement after a phone call with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan about a safe zone idea made many in Turkey think that finally the two countries can work out a plan in Syria together....


Since then, first the timeline of withdrawal changed and following that the U.S. administration decided to leave some forces in Syria. And for the last three months, negotiations on the idea of a safe zone have been ongoing. For Turkey and Turkish foreign policy makers' perception of cooperation with the U.S. following problems implementing the Manbij road map agreement, whose negotiations between the militaries of the two countries were completed in Stuttgart 10 months ago on June 14, 2018, negotiations of the zone have become more critical....

 Now in the midst of resolutions from the U.S. Congress against Turkey and the S-400 disagreement, the fate of the safe zone negotiations gained further importance. The outcome of the negotiations will not only determine the implementation plan of the safe zone decision by the two leaders, it will also play an important role in determining the future of Turkish-American relations.

If an agreement is reached that will fully respond to the national security concerns of Turkey, such an agreement will show that there can still be a working relationship between the two countries on one of the most divisive issues in their foreign policies. It will show that despite all divergence of policies, accumulated lack of trust and broken promises of the U.S. administration, the two sides can form a plan to work in northern Syria that may remind everyone of the enduring presence of the potential to resolve disagreements through negotiations. In fact an agreement on a safe zone may create a "safe zone" in Turkey-U.S. relations in this critical juncture of relations




Sunday, April 14, 2019

Today's Links


“The Western liberal model of development, which particularly stipulates a partial loss of national sovereignty – this is what our Western colleagues aimed at when they invented what they called globalization – is losing its attractiveness and is no more viewed as a perfect model for all. Moreover, many people in the very western countries are skeptical about it." Sergei Lavrov, Russian FM


"The United Nations is unique in terms of legitimacy, representation and universality....We consider any attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the United Nations as extremely dangerous.  It may result in the collapse of the entire architecture of international relations, leaving no rules except the rule of force. The world will be dominated by selfishness rather than collective effort, by dictate rather than equality and liberty, and instead of truly sovereign nations we will have colonies controlled from outside." V Putin, Russian President


US home ownership—ie, “the American Dream”—is so low compared to other countries that we don’t even rate in the top 35 list. And ownership is still declining.  marc ames


"WikiLeaks’ publishing of the so-called 'Vault 7' trove of the CIA is what propelled the United States government to feel like it needed to take action against the organization. william arkin


"We aren't anywhere near grasping what a baseless, moronic, & politically catastrophic decision it was to try to challenge Trump -- of all the issues he could be challenged on -- on the notion that he conspired with Russia. I am hopeful the Mueller report will help that process." aaron mate


+ Public Citizen has kindly provided this field guide to the Trump administration…

An oil lobbyist runs the DOI

A coal lobbyist runs the EPA

A pharma exec runs HHS

A Boeing exec runs DOD

A billionaire Amway heiress runs DoED

A private equity kingpin runs Commerce

A Goldman Sachs exec runs Treasury


Fair enough--Maria Zakharova, director of information for the Russian Foreign Ministry, became more passionate as she complained about what she called US inconsistencies on every issue. "The US in the last 20 years had a chance to underline and to prove the possibility to be a leader," she said. "But they failed. They had so many chances, with their military power and their economic power, but they failed in Iraq, they failed in Afghanistan, they failed in the Middle East. They did not resolve any world crisis, anywhere."


"The greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history, Lenin Moreno, allowed the British police to enter our embassy in London to arrest Assange. Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget." Rafael Correa, former president of Ecuador 

1--Investigation Nation: Mueller, Russiagate, and Fake Politics

The obvious, which many people in the independent media and none in the mainstream media (because it is so obvious, and would have blown their game) have pointed out, is that any real investigation of Russiagate would have sought to talk with the principals who had direct knowledge of who is responsible for leaking the infamous DNC documents: Julian Assange and former British ambassador Craig Murray (“I know who leaked them. I’ve met the person who leaked them.”). They were essentially two undisputed eyewitnesses to the crime Mueller was supposed to be investigating, and he made no effort to talk to either of them. Ipso facto, it was not really an investigation, not a project whole purpose was to find the truth about whatever the thing called “Russiagate” is supposed to be. 


2--Nearly 80% of South Koreans Say They Trust Kim Jong Un

 One summit has changed the perceptions of a nation.

Friday’s meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un prompted 78 percent of respondents to a Korea Research Center poll published this week to say they trusted the North Korean leader. That’s a far cry from the 10 percent of South Koreans who said they approved of Kim in a Gallup Korea poll conducted just a month-and-a-half ago.

Support for Kim is now nearly as high as it is for Moon, who scored an 86 percent rating. The South Korean president has been enjoying the highest popularity among all South Korean presidents in history since his inauguration a year ago .

3--Turkey-US relations: Quo vadis?

New developments fuel tensions between Washington and Ankara. Despite U.S. President Donald Trump's promises to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the phone, no problem has yet gone away. Quite the contrary, the foreign policy establishment and Congress continue to try and undermine bilateral relations. Against the backdrop of strongly-worded statements on Turkey's plan to purchase the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, three anti-Turkish resolutions made their way to the Senate floor: A resolution calling for sanctions over U.S. citizens and consular officials in Turkish prisons, a resolution calling for the recognition of the 1915 events as 'genocide', and a resolution urging the United States to cooperate with Greece, Southern Cyprus and Israel in the Eastern Mediterranean (against Turkish interests).

The third resolution is quite remarkable. It not only calls for an end to Washington's decades-old arms embargo on Southern Cyprus but also urges the United States Government to strengthen its military cooperation with Greece and Southern Cyprus. It proceeds to warn Turkey not to interfere with the ongoing search for energy reserves in the area. By doing so, the resolution (as Keith Johnson stressed in his piece for Foreign Policy) presents Washington an alternative and interventionist Eastern Mediterranean policy. Instead of cooperating with Turkey to contain Russia's influence on the Eastern Mediterranean, it calls for a closer partnership with Greece, Israel, Egypt and Cyprus. At the same time, it seeks to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy and move the Saudi-Egyptian-Israeli-Gulf line against Iran to the Eastern Mediterranean.

The sponsors of that resolution seem to have forgotten that it was the United States that helped Moscow strengthen its influence over the Middle East by allowing the Russians to meddle in the Syrian civil war. Instead, they move to create a new, anti-Turkish order. To add insult to injury, the U.S. State Department issued a new travel advisory to warn Americans against the risk of kidnapping in Turkey......

Current tensions are unprecedented. Turkey's 70-year-old partnership with the United States has been continuously and severely losing blood since 2013. All of Turkey's diplomatic efforts have been met with anti-Turkish sentiment in Washington. That the relationship went south is not about the mismanagement of tensions. From the Turkish perspective, Washington's unwillingness to accept that Turkey, like America, must update its strategic priorities lies at the heart of the problem. The Americans seek to maintain the asymmetrical nature of the relationship by mounting constant pressure on Turkey. Moreover, Washington's short-term tactical interests are at odds with Turkey's long-term strategic interests, and the United States does not feel responsible for its ally's welfare. Instead, the Americans insist that they are right every time there is a disagreement between them and the Turks. This view gives rise to a discourteous policy that blames Turkey for all bilateral tensions. At the same time, false conclusions poison the bilateral relationship.

Here's some of the things that U.S. policymakers judged wrongly:

That arming YPG, the terrorist organization PKK's Syrian component, would not harm Turkish interests.
• That Turkey's fight against YPG would undermine America's fight against Daesh.
That there was insufficient proof of Fetullah Gülen's involvement in the 2016 coup attempt and, therefore, Gülen could not be extradited to Turkey.
• That U.S. employees, whom Turkey arrested over their alleged involvement in the coup attempt, were innocent and their treatment was not compatible with the Turkish-American alliance.
That imposing sanctions on Turkey in an attempt to destroy the Turkish economy was the right reaction.
• That bringing the perpetrators of the coup attempt to justice and adopting a new system of government were proof of Turkey's move away from democracy.
That strengthening relations between Turkey and Russia posed a threat to NATO.
• That Turkey's move to purchase the S-400 missile defense system undermined the alliance's collective security.
• That Turkey must be removed from the F-35 program and disciplined with CAATSA sanctions if it moves forward with the S-400 deal....

In the name of containing Russian and Iranian influences, the United States identifies new priorities and turns to new allies in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. In doing so, Washington throws its weight behind Turkey's adversaries and undermines the Turkish national interest.

Yet Russia's growing influence in the region, along with Turkey's rapproachement with Moscow, stemmed from U.S. foreign policy under the Obama and Trump administrations. Specifically, those administrations failed to treat Turkey like an ally. Instead, they resorted to measures otherwise reserved for adversaries, such as lending support to terrorist groups and imposing economic sanctions on the country.

Washington tells the Turks to make a decision about the S-400 missile defense system, yet merely imposes its own choice on Turkey. Unless America reverses its unilateralist and crude policy, the bilateral relationship could get out of control. What we really need is a new approach that recalls our shared strategic interests

4--Countries With the Highest Home Ownership Rates

Although Romania does not rank as a high-income economy within the European Union, it registers the highest home ownership rates in EU and has the most crowded dwellings. Romania has 96.4% of the population owning homes and comes above Singapore (90.8%), Slovakia (90.3%), Cuba (90.0%), Croatia (89.7%), Lithuania (89.4%), India (86.6%), and Hungary (86.3%). Other countries where the homeownership rate stands above 81% includes Hungary, Poland, Russia, Norway, Bulgaria, and Estonia. Countries that had between 75% and 81% of their population owning homes includes countries like Latvia, Malta, Mexico, Thailand, Spain, Czech Republic, Iceland, Slovenia, and Trinidad and Tobago. The lowest rates among the countries mentioned in the list were observed in countries like Canada (67.6%), Netherlands (67.8%), Ireland (68.6%), China (70%), Sweden (70.6%), and Belgium (71.4%). Other countries are having their population of between 72% and 75% owning homes included countries such as Luxembourg, Finland, Italy, Cyprus, Greece, Brazil, and Portugal.

5--Buyback Mania

Goldman explained that "in the past buybacks were not illegal [ZH: they were illegal prior to 1982] but were typically avoided because US companies feared government charges of market manipulation." As a result, for decades US companies returned cash to shareholders almost exclusively via dividends...

Then, everything changed in 1982 with the passage of Rule 10b-18, which provided companies a safe harbor against charges of market manipulation when repurchasing their shares.
In short, buybacks were illegal until 1982 for a reason - market manipulation - and then they gradually became mainstream, with  stock buybacks and dividends rising to 90% of the cumulative payout ratio of S&P 500 earnings in the 2002-2018 period. The cherry on top: in 2019, Goldman forecasts companies will spend a record $940 billion on buybacks (with $1.1 trillion in buyback announcements) up 16% from the prior record hit in 2018....

Q: How large is the corporate bid in the stock market?

A: US corporates have been the largest net buyers of US equity for the last decade, repurchasing $5tn+ since the financial crisis. Last year, roughly $1.1 trillion of repurchases were authorized, with about $900 billion actually repurchased. As a share of the overall trading footprint, that’s around 6-7% of average composite volume,

Q: Do you see any evidence that the corporate bid is diminishing, especially given increased focus in Washington, DC?

A: Not currently. Share repurchase authorizations are up approximately 13% yoy, which is remarkable given the surge in buybacks last year. And more broadly, the US economy continues to do reasonably well, the Fed appears to be on pause, and US-China trade negotiations are moving in the right direction. So we have little reason to believe that US corporates will not continue to generate strong free cash flow, which, as I mentioned, has historically been the primary driver of stock repurchases.

6--Brzezinski--"The end of American supremacy  7 minute video 

Expand the west to include Russia and Turkey





Friday, April 12, 2019

Today's links

Images of Ecuador's ambassador inviting the UK's secret police into the embassy to drag a publisher of--like it or not--award-winning journalism out of the building are going to end up in the history books. Assange's critics may cheer, but this is a dark moment for press freedom." Edward Snowden

 The arrest of is meant to send a message to all Americans and journalists: be quiet, behave, toe the line. Or you will pay the price." Tulsi Gabbard

If a nation hostile to Trump - such as, say, Venezuela or Iran or Palestine - has its hackers break into Trump's accountant's files & get his financial documents showing massive corruption by Trump, with the intent of ensuring Trump loses in 2020, should US journalists report it? glenn greenwald

says the Julian Assange prosecution sets a precedent where the US government can designate a journalist or publisher as a hostile foreign intelligence operation “simply because they don’t like what they publish or the things they’re saying.” max blumenthal


 1-- Post-Mueller Report, Trump Approval Back at 45% High


- President Donald Trump's job approval rating increased relatively sharply over the past month to 45% in an April 1-9 Gallup poll, up from 39% in March. This marks the third time the 45th president has reached a 45% job approval rating in Gallup trends -- his highest in the series....


The president's improved rating is the result of small increases among independents and Democrats, whose ratings of the president have increased by six and four percentage points respectively. Republicans' approval of the president remains unchanged, with about nine in 10 Republicans approving of Trump's job performance.


2--Measuring the Fault Lines in Current U.S. Foreign Policy


Bottom Line

There is no longer a single, coherent, national strategic vision (if there ever was one) for how the U.S. should face the rest of the world. The traditional view that American leadership must see itself as the world leader for global stability is now challenged by some new isolationist tendencies, intense political party polarization and modifications of support for NATO and the United Nations, the two great pillars of institutional world order since World War II. The question of whether the U.S. should continue to maintain a physical military presence in countries like Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq could factor into the 2020 presidential election. All told, it's clear that reaching public consensus on how the U.S. should operate in the world is a tall order and one that will have to navigate at least five existing fault lines.

3--Americans' Perceptions of Declining U.S. Power

Toward the end of 2018, Gallup updated a relatively long trend asking Americans whether they thought the upcoming year (2019) would be "a year when America will increase its power in the world, or a year when American power will decline." Americans were divided, with 49% choosing each option....

Friedman believes the U.S. is in its fifth wave of decline due partly to the dysfunctionalism of long-term party polarization and political gridlock.

Bottom Line

Discussion of the eventual decline of the United States as a world superpower has become a recurrent impulse among political elites, and may explain the decline since the 1960s in Americans' optimism that the nation's power would increase in the coming year.
Since then, attitudes have varied in response to the prevailing economic winds and other factors, but always with no more than a slim majority feeling optimistic about the country's position. However, attitudes have also become increasingly partisan in the past two decades, so that perceptions of national strength mainly seem to reflect people's feelings about the party controlling the Oval Office, and not as much careful consideration of whether America is in fact caught up in historical cycles that result in inevitable decline.

4--No, Democrats Don’t Want ‘Open Borders’

President Trump has falsely claimed at least two dozen times since taking office that Democrats want to open American borders. But legislation shows that Democrats support border security measures, though not the border wall he wants to build....

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mr. Trump’s press secretary, repeated the assertion on Monday and argued that Democrats have “made it very clear that they don’t want to work with the president, that they don’t want to fix our immigration system” — referring to the political impasse over immigration reform.
The vast majority of Senate Democrats, and 14 Republicans, voted down a White House-backed Senate proposal that would enable the Department of Homeland Security to make more arrests and deportations, limit family-based immigration, and eliminate the diversity visa lottery. House Democrats have also suggested opposition to a new measure that will also limit legal immigration.

In 2013, every single Democrat in the Senate voted for the so-called Gang of Eight immigration overhaul bill that would have provided about $40 billion for border enforcement, including deploying thousands more agents and building 700 miles of fencing. (The House never voted on the bill.) 

And in 2006, 26 Senate Democrats voted to build 700 miles of walls and fences on the southwestern border. Mr. Schumer was among the Democrats who supported that proposal — a fact that even Mr. Trump has repeatedly acknowledged, as recently as last week.

5--Tulsi Gabbard defends assange

“This is a threat to journalists,” she told Matthews, “but it’s also something that threatens every American, because the message that we are getting, that the American people are getting is: Be quiet, toe the line, otherwise there will be consequences.”

6--Trey Gowdy: What was the factual predicate for surveilling the Trump campaign

 "We're going to look at the origins of this investigation and see if the law was followed" 

7--Tucker Carlson defends Assange


What do you call a man who publishes news for a living?

A journalist

assange humiliated Hillary and the Dems by exposing corruption win the democratic party 

Assange's crime: He helped prevent Hillary from becoming president

The enemies of speech are now the guardians of speech 

8--Defying US threats, Turkey vows to deploy Russian air-defence system

Matters came to a head during the Syria war. Erdogan eagerly supported the US drive to overthrow Bashar-al Assad’s Baathist regime and helped arm the Islamist militias Washington used as its shock troops in the first years of the war. But Ankara recoiled when the US, in response to the defeat and collapse of its Islamist allies, made the Kurdish YPG—an offshoot of the PKK against which Ankara has been fighting a bloody counter-insurgency war in south-east Turkey for the past 35 years—its main proxy army in its regime-change war in Syria.

While maintaining its support for Assad’s Sunni Arab opponents, Ankara struck a shaky alliance with Assad’s chief allies, Moscow and Tehran, on the basis of their common interest in limiting and rolling back US power in Syria.

As Turkey’s S-400 purchase attests, the subsequent attempts of the US to bully and coerce Turkey into pulling back from closer ties with Russia and Iran have only served to antagonize Ankara and strengthen its determination to lessen its dependence on Washington....

Washington, as the senators’ New York Times op-ed highlighted, is confident that it can seriously damage the Turkish economy. In August, Trump’s decision to double US tariffs on Turkish aluminum and steel imports precipitated a collapse in the value of the Turkish lira, and helped tip Turkey into its first recession since 2009.
Eight months later, with its economy being battered by both high-inflation and recession, Turkey is even more vulnerable.

9--Discredited Democrats call AG Barr’s ‘spying’ claim conspiracy theory

The very same congressional Democrats who maintain ‘Russiagate’ was real are denouncing Attorney General William Barr’s claim there was improper surveillance of the Trump campaign as a conspiracy theory.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) demanded of Barr to retract his statement, made earlier on Wednesday, that “spying did occur” during the 2016 presidential campaign. Barr “must retract his statement immediately or produce specific evidence to back it up. Perpetuating conspiracy theories is beneath the office of the Attorney General,” Schumer tweeted.

“I don't trust Barr, I trust Mueller,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-California) told AP.
“He is acting as an employee of the president,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland). “I believe the Attorney General believes he needs to protect the president of the United States.”

10--Shadow banking is now a $52 trillion industry, posing a big risk to the financial system


11--What The Latest Immigration Polls Do (And Don't) Say


Americans support letting DACA recipients stay.

That latest poll from the Washington Post found that 87 percent of Americans support "a program that allows undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States if they arrived here as a child, completed high school or military service and have not been convicted of a serious crime." An NBC News/Survey Monkey poll released Tuesday likewise found that 66 percent of Americans support "the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) policy, which protects those who were brought into the United States as undocumented children from being deported."

Americans aren't that wild about a "wall." (A different kind of fence, however ...)
January polls from Quinnipiac, Pew, ABC News/Washington Post, CNN and CBS all find that around 6 in 10 Americans oppose building or expanding a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico.

That said, all of those polls asked about building a "wall" specifically. But the definition of "wall" is fluid. While Trump has long advocated for a border wall, he has also said that in some places on the border, "natural barriers" would take the place of that kind of barrier. And Republican senators recently said that the "wall" would be more of a "fence."

But that Harvard Harris poll didn't find such strong opposition to a border barrier. It found that 54 percent of Americans support "building a combination of physical and electronic barriers across the U.S.-Mexico border."
It could be that some Americans oppose a "wall" but believe in using a mix of resources as border barriers. It could also simply be that the word "wall" is at this point so politicized that some Americans instinctively oppose it while still wanting more of a barrier at the border.

Americans are divided on legal immigration levels, but are more in favor of decreasing than increasing them.

Once again, there's no majority here, but more people wanted to cut legal immigration than grow it.
The Harvard Harris poll tried the question yet another way: "In your opinion, about how many legal immigrants should be admitted to the U.S. each year?" It then provided a series of choices: zero to fewer than 250,000, 250,000 to 499,999 and so on up to 2.5 million or more.

    It's hard to know how to interpret the results of that question without the context of current immigration levels. As of 2016, the U.S. accepted nearly 1.2 million new legal permanent residents, according to the Department of Homeland Security. Of those, just over half were new arrivals. The rest of people received changes in status — for example, some might have been refugees who became legal permanent residents.
    The poll found that 72 percent of people chose some number under 1 million, which might suggest that those people want to reduce legal immigration. But then, the question didn't provide them with current immigration levels. There was no way for many of them to know what direction they were arguing for immigration to move in. As a result, this is one way that this poll's results may have been misleading.

12--Spygate: Did American intelligence agencies spy on Donald Trump? Barr says we'll find out


What’s in a word? When the word is spying, it could mean defending American democracy, or trying to undermine it.

On Wednesday Attorney General Bill Barr startled Senators when he said during a budget hearing that he believed that “spying did occur” during the 2016 presidential race, and that “spying on a political campaign is a big deal." He tempered his statement by adding “the question is whether it was adequately predicated” and was not ready to say that “improper surveillance occurred;” but he is “concerned about it and looking into it.”

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, took issue with Barr’s word choice, saying “the word ‘spying’ could cause everybody in the cable news ecosystem to freak out.” And of course they did. NBC News’ Chuck Todd said this was a “conspiracy theory” for which there was “zero factual basis.” Furious Democrats denounced Barr for even raising the issue. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., tweeted that Barr should “retract his statement immediately or produce specific evidence to back it up.” 

Did partisan agencies spy on Trump?

We’ve been down this rhetorical road before. In May 2018 when reports surfaced about the FBI using an informant to target Papadopoulos and Page, President Trump made repeated references to a “spy” being planted in his campaign. The New York Times countered that this was not so much spying as an “investigation.” James Clapper referred to it as “observing.” Former FBI agent Asha Rangappa called it using an “intelligence source.” And in this context none of those terms are materially different from what most people understand as spying.

Spygate is more than a semantic debate. The issue is whether high ranking officials in various government agencies abused their power to conduct intelligence gathering on a major party presidential campaign for a political purpose. The attorney general calls that spying. President Trump calls it treason. And when all the evidence is laid bare the American people can call it as they see it.

13--The U.S. Government’s Indictment of Julian Assange Poses Grave Threats to Press Freedoms


14--S. Korean president heads home after summit with Trump (intractable US position makes negotiation impossible)

 15--Comey Defends Trump Campaign Surveillance: ‘I Have Never Thought of That as Spying’


Mr. Trump said again on Thursday that he believed “there was absolutely spying into my campaign.”
“I’ll go a step further: In my opinion, it was illegal spying, unprecedented spying, and something that should never be allowed to happen in our country again,” Mr. Trump said. “And I think his answer was actually a very accurate one.”

“If the attorney general has come to the belief that that should be called spying, wow,” Mr. Comey said at a cybersecurity conference outside San Francisco. “That’s going to require a whole lot of conversations inside the Department of Justice. But I don’t know what he meant.”
Mr. Comey said that regardless of what the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, found during his investigation into Mr. Trump and his campaign, Mr. Barr already revealed, in his letter to Congress last month, that the investigation had uncovered important facts about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
“It tells us even without even reading the Mueller report that the Russia thing was not a hoax,” Mr. Comey said. “That it was real and that it is backed — that assessment is backed by hard evidence. It is true that the Russians came after us. They are going to come again because they exceeded their wildest hopes.”

Despite Mr. Barr’s claims about spying, Mr. Comey said he would give Mr. Barr the benefit of the doubt that he would put following the facts and law above protecting the president.
“Maybe the only thing I can say generally is I think his career has earned him a presumption that he will be one of the rare Trump cabinet members who will stand up for things like truth and facts and institutional values. So I still think he’s entitled to that presumption,” Mr. Comey said. “Language like this makes it harder, but I still think he’s entitled to that presumption and because I don’t understand what the heck he’s talking about, that’s all I can say.”

16--The Tale of a ‘Deep State Target’


Turkish observers have commented that the geopolitics of the Middle East are now being reshaped as the emergence of a “Greater Kurdistan” is no longer a remote possibility, posing enormous challenges for all the states hosting large Kurdish populations: Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran.4 Kurdistan is a potential land bridge for many of the conflicts erupting in this part of the region. It provides a ground route for Iraqi Kurdistan to supply the Syrian Kurds as they seek greater autonomy from Damascus. But its use will depend on which power dominates the tri-border area between Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. This area could equally provide Iran with a corridor for moving supplies to its Syrian surrogates and even to Hizbullah in Lebanon. Perhaps this is why some commentators see Kurdistan as the new regional flashpoint in the Middle East.

The establishment of a viable, independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq could be a geopolitically positive development for Israel. Historical justice would dictate that, with 22 Arab states in the Middle East, the 35 million Kurds deserve at least one sovereign state of their own. Beyond Iraq, the emergence of more Kurdish independent areas is unlikely. The state system in the Middle East has been surprisingly robust since the advent of the Arab Spring; Syria might become a federated state, but is not expected to completely disintegrate.


Israelis 'using Kurds to build power base


"Israel has always supported the Kurds in a Machiavellian way - a balance against Saddam," a former Israeli intelligence officer told Hersh. "It's Realpolitik. By aligning with the Kurds, Israel gains eyes and ears in Iran, Iraq and Syria. The critical question is 'What will the behaviour of Iran be if there is an independent Kurdistan with close ties to Israel? Iran does not want an Israeli land-based aircraft carrier on its border."
By supporting Kurdish separatists, Israel also risks alienating its Turkish ally and undermining attempts to create a stable Iraq. "If you end up with a divided Iraq, it will bring more blood, tears and pain to the Middle East and you will be blamed," a senior Turkish official told Hersh.
Intel Brief, an intelligence newsletter produced by former CIA chiefs, noted early this month that the Israeli actions are placing increasing stress on their relationship with Turkey, which was already strained over the war. "The Turks are increasingly concerned by the expanding Israeli presence in Kurdistan and alleged encouragement of Kurdish ambitions to create an independent state."

the U.S. has yet to reduce its military presence in Syria.
On the contrary, 300 trucks were sent to areas occupied by YPG militants in Syria from the Iraqi side at the beginning and the end of February.
On Feb. 4, the U.S. delivered nearly 150 truckloads of armored vehicles and equipment to depots belonging to the YPG in Harab Isk and Sarrin.
The Pentagon announced March 12 that $300 million would be allocated to the YPG from its fiscal year 2020 budget.
Turkey has long criticized the U.S. working with and supplying arms and ammunition to the YPG to defeat ISIL.
Turkey deems the YPG as a terrorist group due to its links to the PKK, which is listed as a terror group by Ankara, the U.S., and the EU.

The U.S.-led coalition against ISIL has delivered vehicles to depots belonging to the YPG in Deir-Ez Zor province in Syria, according to local sources who spoke anonymously because of safety concerns.
The engineering vehicles will be used to construct positions, fronts and tunnels in areas occupied by YPG in Syria, according to the sources.
A convoy of 100 U.S. trucks were also seen carrying closed chests, tankers and SUVs from Iraq to a YPG occupied area in Syria on April 2.
Washington maintains nearly 2,000 troops in Syria following its announcement that only a few hundred would remain after withdrawal efforts.

n June 2017, the Kabul Process regional initiative called on armed groups to cease violence and start peace talks with the government by saying, among other things, "We strongly support the Afghan Government's commitment to forging a practical plan for reconciliation" and recognizing as its prime goal the respect for equal rights of all Afghans, including women.
Further on, in 2018, an extension of the Kabul Process, the Tashkent Peace Summit on Afghanistan called for a "guaranteed integration of the armed opposition into the political life of Afghanistan and the recognition of it as a legitimate political force" of society. This became a new and practical element added to the peace settlement scenario to have received further detailed elaboration by the U.S. and Russia.
Today, both the U.S. and Russia recognize that an integration of the Taliban into Afghanistan's political system is the only way for conflict resolution. The U.S. stance toward Moscow has experienced a twist, while its reaction to Russia's policy in the region had been openly negative until now.
This February in Moscow, when attending a conference on Afghanistan, U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad made a surprising statement to welcome a "positive role of Russia contributing to reconciliation, peaceful resolution of conflict and the inter-Afghan dialogue." The Moscow conference came two weeks after the Taliban-U.S. meeting in Doha, Qatar where significant progress had been announced.

At the Doha meeting, the sides claimed to have agreed, in principle, on the two most fundamental issues, that the Taliban would not allow terror groups such as al-Qaida to use Afghan soil for attacks, and that the U.S. would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. The U.S. drive to leave Afghanistan fosters its effort to approximate positions with Russia, which generates the latter's positive reaction.

The Taliban declared last month that the Afghan armed forces, built at enormous cost and more than 300,000 strong today, would have to be disbanded if a peace deal is reached.

Rather than helping Turkey deal with security threats emanating from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere, the U.S. further threatened Turkey by continuing to arm, equip and politically support terrorist organizations that threaten Turkey's fundamental national security. The U.S. continues to support the Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria, despite Washington's pledge to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. American officials also try to prevent any efforts from the Turkish side to reduce unilateral dependency on the U.S. in the military and economic fields. 

Washington has offered nothing to Ankara other than sanctions and threats in the last couple of years. For Turkey, nothing is worse than being dependent on an actor that consistently threatens its fundamental national security interests. The right approach for the U.S. is to build some trust and credibility rather than threaten its key NATO ally. American offers for economic, military and political issues would be more attractive if trust is re-established between the two crucial NATO allies.

Since the coup up until this point, the U.S. regularly and orderly provided military training and provided equipment to the terror organization that attacked Turkey. From travel bans to economic sanctions and through threats as well as pressure from the U.S. Congress all options were pursued on their part. They tried all methods and means to indirectly. And this only worsened the situation. This only pushed Turkey closer to Russia. What is even worse is the fact that there is a U.S. administration that does not know how to communicate with the Turks. I am sure this trend in relations will ultimately backfire since the U.S. has not been able to appoint an ambassador to Turkey in over two years

Barr's comments underscore that we're in a new phase of Russiagate. With Mueller rejecting it, the conspiracy theory aka "collusion" phase is done. Now we're in the phase where Trump & allies seize on the conspiracy theory's failure to target those who used it to target him.aaron mate

Spying occurred. The fact that Page was no longer on campaign is irrelevant given FBI's FISA request said -- citing Steele! -- that it "believes that the Russian government’s efforts are being coordinated with Page & perhaps other individuals associated with [Trump’s] campaign.

The F.B.I. also used a confidential informant to collect information on Trump campaign associates, which prompted more accusations of spying by the president.
Mr. Trump or people close to him have leveled charges that have not borne out, including that President Barack Obama had ordered wiretaps on Trump Tower in Manhattan. NYT
After the F.B.I. opened the Russia investigation in late July 2016, agents asked Mr. Halper to gather information on Mr. Page and George Papadopoulos, another former Trump campaign adviser NYT

Senator Brian Schatz, Democrat of Hawaii, asked Mr. Barr if he had intended to use the term spying — a term the senator said might “cause everybody in the cable news ecosystem to freak out” — Mr. Barr rephrased his statement.
“I’m not sure of all of the connotations of that word that you’re referring to,” the attorney general said, then he added, “I want to make sure there was no unauthorized surveillance.”
Mr. Barr, who began his career at the C.I.A., did not intend to imply that spying was inherently wrong, according to a person who has discussed the matter with him but was not authorized to share their conversation. Mr. Barr sees no technical difference between that term and surveillance. He indicated that at issue was not the act of surveilling but whether officials followed proper procedures when they decided to gather intelligence on Trump’s associates in 2016.