Saturday, June 18, 2016

Today's Links

Today's quote: "A US escalation of the Syrian bloodbath and the danger of a direct military confrontation between the world’s two major nuclear powers are likely to emerge as ever more direct threats after November." Bill Van Auken

1--Putin Thinks West Supported Coup in Kiev to Justify Existence of NATO

Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks that the West supported the coup in Ukraine to justify the existence of NATO.

"After the ‘Arab Spring’ they have already moved closer to our borders. Why did they need to support the coup in Ukraine? There is a complicated internal political situation there, and the opposition that is in power today would have most likely come to power by democratic means, through elections, as well. That’s it, we would have worked with them just like we worked with the authorities before (former Ukrainian) President (Viktor) Yanukovych," Putin said on Friday at a plenary session at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum.

"No, they had to take it to the coup with victims, to cause bloodshed, civil war, to intimidate the Russian-speaking population in Ukraine’s south-east and in Crimea. What for?" he asked adding that Moscow "just had to take measures to protect certain groups of population," he continued.

The president noted that the West continued to "spin this spiral, to escalate." The Russian leader thinks that such actions were dictated by the necessity "to justify the very existence of the North Atlantic Alliance. "They need an external enemy, an external opponent - or why else would this organization be needed?" Putin wondered. "There is no Warsaw Pact anymore, no Soviet Union, whom are they (NATO) against?" Putin wondered.

"If we continue to act in the framework of this logic - escalate and build up efforts to intimidate each other - we will soon come to the Cold War," he said. "We have an absolutely different logic, it is aimed at cooperation and search for compromises," he concluded.

2--God help us---"Hillary Clinton was the jihadists’ best friend and benefactor. It was she who led the charge to “liberate” Syria, to arm the “moderate” head-choppers and do to that war-torn wreck of a country what she had done to Libya. Obama knows it: and so does the media. But their lips are sealed."

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then CIA director David Petraeus arguing for a full-scale effort to overthrow beleaguered Ba’athist strongman Bashar al-Assad with massive aid to a loosely-defined “opposition.” Petraeus even openly argued for arming al-Nusra – the Syrian affiliate of al-Qaeda – and there were indications that, before Hillary left Foggy Bottom, an arms pipeline was opened up between the Libyan jihadists we aided in overthrowing Ghaddafi and their Syrian brothers.

Obama was reluctant to get more involved, but Hillary and Petraeus were gung-ho, along with the usual “humanitarian” interventionists in the administration and the media, who were accusing the President of standing by while “genocide” was being carried out by Assad. In reality, the jihadists were chopping off heads and wreaking just as much devastation as the Syrian army, but these facts didn’t make it into the media narrative.

an account of a 2012  intelligence report from the Defense Intelligence Agency predicting the rise of the Islamic State in Syria – and showing how US policy deliberately ignored and even succored it. Secured by Judicial Watch thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, the document says it’s very likely we’ll see the creation of “an Islamic State through its union with other terrorist organizations in Iraq and Syria.” And this won’t just be a grassroots effort, but the result of a centrally coordinated plan: it will happen because “Western countries, the Gulf states and Turkey are supporting these efforts” by Syrian “opposition forces” then engaged in a campaign to “control the eastern areas (Hasaka and Der Zor) adjacent to Western Iraqi provinces (Mosul and Anbar).” (The DIA KNEW our actions and support were helping to create ISIS)...

(Flynn's admission)  Gen. Michael Flynn, who headed up the DIA when the document was produced and who was forced out by the interventionists in the administration. Here is what Flynn told Al-Jazeera in an extensive interview:

Al-Jazeera: “You are basically saying that even in government at the time you knew these groups were around, you saw this analysis, and you were arguing against it, but who wasn’t listening?
Flynn: I think the administration.
Al-Jazeera: So the administration turned a blind eye to your analysis?
Flynn: I don’t know that they turned a blind eye, I think it was a decision. I think it was a willful decision.
Al-Jazeera: A willful decision to support an insurgency that had Salafists, Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood?
Flynn: It was a willful decision to do what they’re doing.”

why does is this administration and the Clinton campaign so reluctant to utter the words “radical Islamic terrorism”? ...
What they’re afraid of is alienating their allies in the Middle East – not just the jihadists they’ve funded and succored in an effort to overthrow Assad, but primarily the Saudis, the Turks, and the Gulf sheikhs who are all in on the game and are playing it for all it’s worth. And of course there’s the Clinton Foundation, which has received millions in “donations” from the Saudi royals and their satellites.

3--The State Department’s Collective Madness

the descent of the U.S. State Department into little more than well-dressed, well-spoken but thuggish enforcers of U.S. hegemony began with the Reagan administration. President Ronald Reagan and his team possessed a pathological hatred of Central American social movements seeking freedom from oppressive oligarchies and their brutal security forces.

During the 1980s, American diplomats with integrity were systematically marginalized, hounded or removed. (Human rights coordinator Derian left at the end of the Carter administration and was replaced by neocon Elliott Abrams; White was fired as U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, explaining: “I refused a demand by the secretary of state, Alexander M. Haig Jr., that I use official channels to cover up the Salvadoran military’s responsibility for the murders of four American churchwomen.”)...

Obama not only didn’t take control of the foreign-policy apparatus, he strengthened the power of the neocons and liberal hawks. He then let this powerful bloc of Clinton-Gates-Petraeus steer him into a foolhardy counterinsurgency “surge” in Afghanistan that did little more than get 1,000 more U.S. soldiers killed along with many more Afghans.
Obama also let Clinton sabotage his attempted outreach to Iran in 2010 seeking constraints on its nuclear program and he succumbed to her pressure in 2011 to invade Libya under the false pretense of establishing a “no-fly zone” to protect civilians, what became a “regime change” disaster that Obama has ranked as his biggest foreign policy mistake.

The Syrian Conflict

Obama did resist Secretary Clinton’s calls for another military intervention in Syria although he authorized some limited military support to the allegedly “moderate” rebels and allowed Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to do much more in supporting jihadists connected to Al Qaeda and even the Islamic State.

Under Secretary Clinton, the neocon/liberal-hawk bloc consolidated its control of the State Department diplomatic corps. Under neocon domination, the State Department moved from one “group think” to the next. Having learned nothing from the Iraq War, the conformity continued to apply toward Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Russia, China, Venezuela, etc.
Everywhere the goal was same: to impose U.S. hegemony, to force the locals to bow to American dictates, to steer them into neo-liberal “free market” solutions which were often equated with “democracy” even if most of the people of the affected countries disagreed...

Looking forward to a likely Hillary Clinton administration, these 51 “diplomats” have signed their name to a “dissent” that advocates bombing the Syrian military to protect Syria’s “moderate” rebels who – to the degree they even exist – fight mostly under the umbrella of Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and its close ally, Ahrar al Sham.

4--Stocks Have Already Crashed In 6 Of The World’s 8 Largest Economies

Take a look: China, Japan, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Brazil  all down big

5--Message from the Fed: 'This is as good as it's going to get'

a paper released by James Bullard, who runs the St. Louis Fed, was clear in asserting that present conditions are likely to persist for at least the next 2 ½ years, presenting little need for the central bank to raise rates more than a quarter point.
That means economic growth around 2 percent — though without a recession — limited productivity gains and the associated wage hikes, and muted inflation. On its own, that forecast wouldn't be terribly shocking, if it hadn't come from a leading member of a central bank that only a few weeks ago had been talking up rate hikes and economic growth with a strong sense of certainty...

Wednesday's FOMC decision not only not to raise rates in June but also to scale back its economic projections and the path of rates ahead, the timing is at least important.....

..."By doing this, we are backing off the idea that we have dogmatic certainty about where the U.S. economy is headed in the medium and longer run. We are trying to replace that certainty with a manageable expression of the uncertainty surrounding medium- and longer-run outcomes.
By doing so, we hope to provide a better description of the nature of the data dependence of monetary policy going forward. " (In other words, we have no idea what the data means since we have dramatically distorted usually-reliable price signals with our unconventional policies, our chronic meddling and our massive infusions of liquidity. Have a nice day!)

The Bewildered Fed:  Another factor that made the switch in method even more glaring was how quickly it came, and how it seems to have been precipitated by one data point in particular: The meager 38,000 gain in May payrolls. While Fed officials profess that they don't make judgments based on single reports, this one seemed to shape a belief that the economy was not merely in a cyclical slowdown but rather is experiencing something more along the lines of what economist Larry Summers has called "secular stagnation."

"It reinforced a notion that they're not more prescient than the average person looking at the economy, looking at jobs, and although they may use more erudite language than the rest of us, at the end of the day they still have to see what the data releases tell us," Krosby added.
("secular stagnation." is the excuse the Fed invokes to explain why it can not be held responsible for 7 years of policy failure)

, the Fed is now reaching what some term a credibility crisis for not following through on its multiple vows to normalize rate policy since the extreme accommodation precipitated by the financial crisis. The central bank raised rates a quarter point in December, its first hike in more than nine years, a move that was followed by substantial market turmoil.

Credibility crisis???
What credibility?

6--Santelli: Fed admits it prescribed the wrong medicine video (2:25 to 3:50 min)

"This is like going to the doctor and them treating you for something called Disease X for 6 years, and you say, "No, that's not what I think it is" and they say "Yes it is" and they keep treating you with the same medication. and then after 6 years they say, "Oh, you were right, it's not that, it's something else." The Fed missed its chance to raise rates, now the business cycle has run out and the opportunity is gone.

7--What Kerry's threat to Russia really means

This version could be possibly proven by the fact that in early May Kerry gave a de-facto ultimatum to the Syrian government and its allies, saying that they face an August deadline for starting a "political transition," that obviously meant Assad's stepping down.

"The target date for the transition is August 1. So we're now coming up to May. So either something happens in these next few months, or they are asking for a very different track," Kerry told journalists at the State Department, as quoted by the Associated Press.

"And it's unlikely that the Obama administration, so long opposed to an active American combat role in Syria, would significantly boost its presence beyond the 300 special forces it has authorized thus far in the heart of a US presidential election season. It may be more feasible for US allies like Saudi Arabia to give the rebels new weapons to fight Assad, such as portable surface-to-air missiles," Bradley Klapper of the Associated Press suggested.

It is no secret that Saudi Arabia and Turkey are sponsoring Islamist groups like Ahrar ash-Sham and Jaish al-Islam and are interested in Syria's partition.

Remarkably, following Kerry's Wednesday "warning," State Department spokesperson John Kirby rushed to clarify that this "wasn't a hollow threat. It wasn't even a threat."

8--French President Threatens to Outlaw Protests Against Labor Reforms

9--Why Did 51 American State Department Officials ‘Dissent’ Against Obama and Call for Bombing Syria?

The cable blames Obama for not striking Syria earlier and asks that he do so now. But Obama did not strike Syria in 2013 because he recognized, correctly, that the Russians, Chinese and most of the major countries of the Global South (including India) deeply opposed regime change. It was to finally stop any consideration of regime change that the Russians directly intervened in 2015. The deployment of Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles would put any U.S. bombing raid into direct confrontation with the Russians. This is a very dangerous situation. Older habits of U.S. uni-polarity, developed from Gulf War 1 in 1990, no longer apply to an increasingly multi-polar world. It is not Obama’s timidity that led to the failure of aerial bombardment in Syria, as the diplomats contend, but it has been the rising confidence of certain world powers to confront U.S. preponderance. That this is not evident to the diplomats suggests they have a poor understanding of the world.

Comment rebuttal: “Obama did not strike Syria in 2013 because he recognized, correctly, that the Russians, Chinese and most of the major countries of the Global South (including India) deeply opposed regime change”
This version of events gives undeserved credit to Obama. Seymour Hersh has reported that Obama was forced to call off the attack on Syria on 30 August 2013 because General Dempsey informed him that the British defence lab at Porton Down had analysed environmental samples from the Ghouta chemical attack and had established that the sarin was “kitchen sarin” that could not have come from Syrian military stocks. Hersh reports that Dempsey effectively threatened Obama by warning him that he would testify to Congress (and would prime them to ask the question) on what he had told Obama. Hersh names Sir Peter Wall, then the head of the British army, as the officer who had briefed Dempsey on Porton Down’s findings.

On 29 August 2013 the UK Joint Intelligence Committee had reported to the Prime Minister, in a summary that was made available before the House of Commons debate on war with Syria, that there was “no evidence for an opposition CW capability” and “no plausible alternative to a regime attack scenario”. It is clear from Hersh’s report (and other sources that corroborate it) that this was misleading, and that officials in UK Defence Intelligence were aware, as were the Russians, that the Ghouta attack was a false flag using sarin produced by the opposition. To mislead the House of Commons is “contempt of Parliament” a crime against the British constitution that the House has powers to investigate and punish. Unfortunately no MP and no journalist has been prepared to ask the relevant questions

10--The significance of the Brexit referendum for the European working class

A withdrawal of Britain from the EU would further destroy it and accelerate the disintegration of Europe into hostile and competing national states.
Britain has always played a major role in balancing out the rivalries between the two major continental powers, Germany and France....

They predict that the growing disintegration of the EU could also lead to the break-up of the Atlantic alliance.
The most remarkable sentence is the following. They write, “Following Brexit, Germany would lose an important ally and, as a large central power on the continent, it would be definitively condemned to take on the leadership role it never wanted” [Emphasis added].
Germany, which has tried twice to conquer the continent by military means, will, they say, be “condemned” to take a leadership role it “never wanted”! That is a threat. It reflects what the ruling elites are thinking and planning...

If Britain remains within the EU, the repercussions might be less immediate but no less dramatic. The referendum will not stop, but accelerate all the trends that have made the EU the most hated institution on the continent. The EU will continue and intensify its role as the champion of neo-liberalism, as the driving force of social attacks on the working class, of deregulation and of the transformation of Europe into a police state and a military fortress...

German history testifies that the working class has paid an enormous price for this type of tactical opportunism, adventurism and espousal of nationalism. As I have mentioned, Hitler did not come to power because the “German people” supported him. He was brought to power by the German elites—the military, the industrialists, the right-wing parties—mainly because they needed an instrument to smash the working class and to prepare the next war. He had a mass base among sections of the middle class and lumpen elements, but the main workers parties, the Social Democrats and the KPD, had a far bigger base....

In the last elections to the Reichstag in November 1932, just two months before Hitler was named chancellor, these two parties had two million more votes than the Nazis. In fact the National Socialists got slightly less than one-third of the votes cast. So to say that Hitler was brought to power by the German people is a lie. He was brought to power by the German elites and supported by a fraction of the German people.
The working class was ready to fight. It even had armed defence organisations, but it was paralysed and betrayed by its leadership. By the SPD who rejected any fight against the fascists and relied on the bourgeois state, on its police and judiciary which switched over to Hitler very easily and rapidly. And by the KPD, which—while still promoting social revolution—was disoriented and developed a disastrous political line under the influence of Stalin...

11--Is Hillary behind the mutiny at the State dept? State Department “dissent” memo backs escalation of regime-change war in Syria

The “five years of brutal war” were imposed upon Syria by a massive regime-change operation carried out by Washington and its regional allies in utter disregard for the lives and well-being of the Syrian people.

US imperialism sought to achieve its aims by acting together with Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to fund and arm Islamist militias, the most influential of them linked to Al Qaeda, as proxy forces, with tens of thousands of so-called foreign fighters funneled in to serve as troops in a war to topple Assad.
The failure of this operation, due in part to the intervention of the Russian military on the side of the Syrian government and, in no small measure, to the revulsion felt by broad masses of Syrians toward the reactionary Islamist gunmen backed by Washington, is what underlies the demand for a US military escalation.

From the outset, the US intervention in Syria was directed at advancing far broader strategic aims, principally preparing for confrontations with both Iran and Russia by depriving them of their principal ally in the Arab world. Thus, despite the protest that they are not “advocating for a slippery slope”—whoever has?—the signatories to the document are clearly prepared to provoke a military confrontation with Moscow.

The publication of reports on the leaked memo came just one day after US Secretary of State John Kerry, on a visit to Norway, stepped up threats to Moscow over Syria. “Russia needs to understand that our patience is not infinite, in fact it is very limited with whether or not Assad is going to be held accountable,” he said.

Significantly, while the New York Times acknowledged that it had been handed the internal memo by a State Department official, department spokesman John Kirby Friday insisted that there was no interest in uncovering who was responsible for the leak or holding them accountable. For his part, Kerry described the memo as “an important statement.”

The memo rekindles a simmering dispute within the administration that has divided the CIA, the Pentagon, the State Department and the White House since August 2013, when President Barack Obama backed off from a threat to launch air strikes against the Assad government over fabricated charges that it was responsible for a chemical weapons attack. Instead, the White House accepted a Russian-brokered deal for Damascus to destroy its chemical weapons stockpiles, angering those who saw this as a missed opportunity to escalate the US war for regime-change.

Kerry, like his predecessor as secretary of state, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, disagreed with Obama’s decision and reportedly continued to press for stepped-up US military action in Syria directed against the government....

This same essential point was candidly acknowledged by Anthony Cordesman, a long-time Pentagon adviser from the Center for International and Strategic Studies, in a report last week: “The United States still has yet to show that it can create any meaningful US-supported Arab rebel force,” he wrote. “So far, its support of such rebels has largely had the effect of helping to arm the Al Nusra Front (an al Qaeda affiliate)...”
While promoting its intervention in Iraq and Syria as a struggle against terrorism, the principal purpose of US threats against Russia is to prevent it from enabling Syrian government forces to deal a decisive defeat against the Syrian branch of Al Qaeda, which, together with ISIS, constitutes the main fighting forces in the war for regime-change...

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, traveling with the prince, told the media that “There should be a more robust intervention,” in Syria and reiterated Saudi support for what has been referred to in US ruling circles as “Plan B,” including the provision of surface-to-air missiles to the Islamist militias and the use of Western air power to create a no-fly zone....

12--Exclusive poll: EU support falls after Jo Cox murder

Completely unexpected

13--Credibility Fail: The Fed and other central banks have lost their magic powers

Markets do not believe that NIRP will create the borrowing-driven consumption and investment that generates economic activity. Existing high-debt levels, poor employment prospects, low rates of wage growth, and overcapacity have lowered potential growth rates, sometimes substantially. NIRP is unlikely to create inflation for the same reasons, despite the stubborn belief among economic clergy that increasing money supply can and will ultimately always create large changes in price levels...

There are toxic by-products to this policy. Low- and negative rates threaten the ability of insurance companies and pension funds to meet contracted retirement payments. Bank profitability also has been adversely affected. Potential erosion of deposits may reduce banks’ ability to lend and also reduce the stability of funding.
The capacity of NIRP to devalue currencies to secure export competitiveness is also questionable. The euro EURUSD, +0.4543%  , yen USDJPY, -0.09%  and Swiss franc have not weakened significantly so far, despite additional monetary accommodation. One reason is that these countries have large current account surpluses: the eurozone (3.0% of GDP), Japan (2.9% of GDP), and Switzerland (12.5% of GDP). The increasing ineffectiveness of NIRP in managing currency values reflects the fact that the underlying problem of global imbalances remains unresolved...

Each nation now targets fiscal and monetary policy on domestic objectives, while paying lip service to not seeking currency devaluation or beggar-thy-neighbor policies. International cooperation is eroding into conflict. There is growing recognition that available options have diminished. ‘Helicopter money’, effectively governments making payments to citizens, is merely a novel form of government spending funded by debt purchased by the central bank or by creating money. It is unclear why these policies — which have been tried repeatedly since 2009 — will be more successful this time.

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