Friday, September 30, 2016

Today's Links

Today's quote: "With its editorial denunciation of Russia as an “outlaw state,” the New York Times is effectively weighing in on the debate within America ruling circles over the US intervention in Syria. It wants a military escalation and it wants it now—against Russia." WSWS

1--I’m in Awe of How Fast Deutsche Bank is Falling Apart

The impending bailout

2--Economist magazine warns of revolutionary consequences of unprecedented corporate power

Today, ten percent of the world’s companies generate 80 percent of the world’s profits. Firms whose annual revenue exceeds $1 billion account for 60 percent of all global revenue and 65 percent of global market capitalization.

Fueling this has been a surge in mergers and acquisitions, particularly since the financial crash of 2008. In 1990, there were 11,500 mergers and acquisitions, valued at 2 percent of global GDP. Since 2008, there have been an average of 30,000 mergers and acquisitions per year. The total value of these relative to global GDP has increased by about 50 percent and now equals 3 percent of world economic output.

This new wave of corporate monopolization comes amidst stagnation in the global economy. It is only firms with huge pools of capital that are able to compete in times of stagnation and slump...

these companies are spending unprecedented amounts of money on lobbyists. There are 37,700 lobbying groups in Washington, D.C. and 70 percent of them are companies. The average spending per lobbyist nearly doubled between 1998 and 2012.
The report cites a finding from Brown University showing that the pharmaceutical industry spent $130 million, a record amount, in getting a 2003 revision of Medicare passed. The revision netted the pharmaceutical corporations $242 billion.

In the EU, lobbying has also ballooned. Brussels is estimated to be home to at least 30,000 lobbyist groups.
In this regard, the report mentions the infamous revolving door. It is no secret that those who staff government offices, particularly regulatory boards, routinely move to top positions in corporate law firms and businesses. The report, for example, mentions Jose Manuel Barroso, former president of the European Commission, now a banker at Goldman Sachs.

The report concludes with a boilerplate call to regulate the excess of these monopolies and reign in the worst parts of their practice. The author notes with worry that “over 70 percent of America’s population believes that the economy is rigged in favor of vested interests.”

The reality is that this phenomenon is intrinsic to capitalism. The profit system drives towards monopoly and financialization. As Lenin explained 100 years ago, the growing power of just a handful of capitalists creates an ever more intimate bond between bourgeois politicians and big business.

3--Trump is right about the Fed

Mr. Trump argued that an increasingly “political” Fed is holding interest rates low to help Democrats in November, driving up a “big, fat, ugly bubble” that will pop when the central bank raises rates. This riff has some truth to it.

Leave the conspiracy theory aside and look at the facts: Since the Fed began aggressive monetary easing in 2008, my calculations show that nearly 60% of stock market gains have come on those days, once every six weeks, that the Federal Open Market Committee announces its policy decisions.
Put another way, the S&P 500 index has gained 699 points since January 2008, and 422 of those points came on the 70 Fed announcement days. The average gain on announcement days was 0.49%, or roughly 50 times higher than the average gain of 0.01% on other days....

Whether this is a “big, fat, ugly bubble” depends on how one defines a bubble. But a composite index for stocks, bonds and homes shows that their combined valuations have never been higher in 50 years. Housing prices have been rising faster than incomes, putting a first home out of reach for many Americans.....

Mr. Trump was also right that despite the Fed’s efforts, the U.S. has experienced “the worst revival of an economy since the Great Depression.” The economy’s growth rate is well below its precrisis norm, and the benefits have been slow to reach the middle class and Main Street. Much of the Fed’s easy money has gone into financial engineering, as companies borrow billions of dollars to buy back their own stock. Corporate debt as a share of GDP has risen to match the highs hit before the 2008 crisis.
That kind of finance does more to increase asset prices than to help the middle class. Since the rich own more assets, they gain the most. In this way the Fed’s policies have fueled a sharp rise in wealth inequality world-wide—and a boom in the global population of billionaires.

4--"Moderates" merged with al Qaida in Syria

The two powers have been considering jointly targeting Islamic State and the Syria Conquest Front—formerly known as the al Qaeda-linked Nusra Front—a group that is deeply intermingled with armed opposition groups of all stripes across Syria’s battlefields. The U.S. has also threatened to attack any rebels providing front-line support to the group...

In a call with Mr. Kerry on Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Syrian rebels “refused to follow the U.S.-Russian agreement…but instead merged with [Nusra Front].”...

U .S. officials say the collapse of the truce and the offensive that followed have renewed an internal debate in Washington over whether to give rebels more firepower to fend off a stepped-up Russian and Syrian assault on their Aleppo stronghold. The renewed debate on a so-called Plan B centers on whether to authorize the CIA and its partners in the region to deliver weapons systems that would enable vetted rebel units to strike Syrian and Russian artillery positions from longer distances....

Syria Conquest Front rebranded itself in July, when it renounced its al Qaeda ties and changed its name from Nusra Front. But U.S. officials and even some opposition members doubt it has cut its al Qaeda links. And many rebels, already exhausted battling the regime and Islamic State, are hesitant to open a third front. ...

The opposition is doubly skeptical as the U.S. has walked back on its demands that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad resign as a precondition to peace talks and a political deal to end the war, now in its sixth year

5--Russian FM spox: US talk of ‘attacks in Russia, body bags, downing jets’ sounds like ‘get ’em’ call

Russian FM Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova hit back at her US counterpart John Kirby, who warned that terrorist attacks may take place in Russia if the civil war continues in Syria. His remark sounds like a call to “get ’em,” she noted.
“Extremist groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there in Syria to expand their operations, which could include attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities. Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and will continue to lose resources, perhaps even aircraft,” US State Department spokesperson John Kirby told reporters at Wednesday’s press briefing, adding that if the war in Syria continues “more Russian lives will be lost, more Russian aircraft will be shot down.”

Kirby’s words didn’t go unnoticed by the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson.
“And those [acts of terrorism] will be perpetrated by ‘moderate’ [Syrian opposition groups]?” Zakharova asked in her Facebook post. “Just the ones that Washington has been unable to separate from Al-Nusra for as long as six months?”
“[What about] Terrorist attacks in France, America and other countries; the beheadings of people of all nationalities by Islamic State militants in Syria – is this all kind of a different paradigm? Perhaps another ‘parallel reality?

Don’t you think that such ventriloquism about ‘body bags,’ ‘terrorist attacks in Russian cities’ and ‘loss of aircraft,’ sounds more like a ‘get ’em’ command, rather than a diplomatic comment?” Zakharova concluded

Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Thursday that the US statements on the suspension of cooperation with Russia on Syria amount to blackmail.
“It’s a policy of threats and blackmail, aimed at imposing solutions favorable to US and its clients,” Ryabkov told RIA Novosti. “It’s impossible to reach a settlement and stabilization on such basis. But there’s no winning love by force. We have our own approach and principles,” he added

6-- An admission that Washington fuels global terror?  Russian MOD responds to US threatening its servicemembers in Syria

Russian Federation Ministry of Defense (MOD) could not leave without comment the shocking statement by US State Department spokesman John Kirby. During a briefing, he plainly predicted Russian cities would be attacked by terrorists. According to the US official, if the war in Syria continues, terrorists will start launching attacks on Russian cities, and Russia will send its troops home “in body bags”, and “continue to lose assets and, possibly, aircraft.”

The Russian MOD interpreted such statements as US admission that the “opposition” supposedly waging a “civil war” in Syria is in reality a US-controlled terrorist “internationale.” What is particularly shocking in Kirby’s admission, according to Russian MOD official representative, Major General Igor Konashenkov, that the US direct influence over terrorists is global in scope and extends to Russia, among others.
“Concerning Kirby’s threat concerning possible loss of Russian aircraft and sending Russian soldiers home ‘in body bags’, I will say that we are well informed on where in Syria, including in Aleppo Province, and exactly how many ‘unadvertised’ specialists are engaged in operational planning and commanding the militants.” Konashenkov added: “Naturally, one can continue to keep telling us they are stubbornly but ineffectually trying to separate Jabhat al-Nusra from the ‘opposition’. However, if there are attempts to make good on these threats, it is far from a foregone conclusion the militants will be able to help them save their skins.”

7-- Obama Administration Threatens to Suspend Talks With Russia on Syria, Considers Weaponry for Syrian Rebels

The renewed debate on what is referred to within the administration as Plan B, according to U.S. officials, centers on whether to authorize the Central Intelligence Agency and its partners in the region to deliver weapons systems that would enable CIA-vetted rebel units to strike Syrian and Russian artillery positions from longer distances

The Obama administration has ruled out providing so-called man-portable air-defense systems, known as Manpads, to the rebels, but officials said they are considering arming them with antiaircraft systems that are less mobile and would pose less of a proliferation risk.
State Department spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday that the Obama administration was discussing options to address the conflict “that are outside diplomacy,” but declined to provide specifics...

In addition to the CIA and its partners providing weapons, the U.S. is considering giving a green light to its regional allies, including Turkey and Saudi Arabia, to provide more-powerful weapons systems to the rebels....

The Wall Street Journal reported in February that President Barack Obama’s top military and intelligence advisers were pressing the White House to come up with an alternative plan to help the rebels better fend off the Russians and Syrians. The covert CIA program to arm the rebels began in 2013, entailing aid to groups of rebels examined and approved by U.S. officials.

The leading advocates within the Obama administration for providing more firepower to the rebels to counter Russia have been CIA Director John Brennan and Defense Secretary Ash Carter. The White House and Mr. Kerry backed negotiations with the Russians instead. The White House has been wary of deepening a proxy fight with Moscow that could suck Washington further into the conflict.
The U.S. ultimatum Wednesday was Washington’s strongest statement about the simmering dispute between the two powers related to the collapse of the cease-fir...

The secretary made clear that the United States and its partners hold Russia responsible for this situation, ...

Mr. Kirby said the U.S. hopes that the incentive of closer military cooperation with the U.S. as well as rising costs to the Russian military as the conflict in Syria drags on could alter Russia’s course.
“Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags and they will continue to lose resources, even perhaps more aircraft,” Mr. Kirby said.

8--The consequences are that the civil war will continue in Syria,

that extremists and extremists groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there in Syria to expand their operations, which will include, no question, attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities, and Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and they will continue to lose resources — even, perhaps, more aircraft," US State Department spokesperson underscored.

9--Yellen Says Fed Buying Stocks Is "A Good Thing To Think About" And Could Help In A Downturn

The idea of expanding into areas like equities might be “good thing to think about,” yet is not “something we need now,” Yellen said, noting that (for now) The Fed is more restricted in which assets it can purchase than other central banks.


"If we found, I think as other countries did, that they could reach the limits in terms of purchasing safe assets like longer-term government bonds, it could be useful to be able to intervene directly in assets where the prices have a more direct link to spending decisions."

10--U.S. Second-Quarter GDP Revised Up to 1.4% Gain--Latest data confirms expansion decelerated in first half of the year

The latest projections came after the government released its latest gauge of second-quarter gross domestic product on Thursday, showing growth at a 1.4% inflation-adjusted annual rate after the first quarter’s 0.8% pace.

Despite the better reading, the growth rate for the first half of the year is just above 1%. That is a sharp slowdown from the expansion’s 2.1% average annual rate, which itself is the weakest of any period of growth since 1949.

11-- Summers says Fed should buy stocks

12--US deploys troops near Aleppo

13--Russia warns US over recent threats

14--US warning to Russia ‘unprofessional, threatening, tactless & undiplomatic' - fmr. British diplomat

15--New York Times brands Russia an “outlaw state”

With its editorial denunciation of Russia as an “outlaw state,” the New York Times is effectively weighing in on the debate within America ruling circles over the US intervention in Syria. It wants a military escalation and it wants it now—against Russia...

The significance of this threat was further spelled out in a press briefing by State Department spokesman John Kirby, who told reporters that as a consequence of Russia failing to bow to US demands, “extremists and extremist groups will continue to…expand their operations, which will include, no question, attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities, and Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and they will continue to lose resources—even, perhaps, more aircraft.”

The provocative and utterly reckless character of Kirby’s remarks was no accident. That Washington intended to communicate a threat to unleash CIA-sponsored terrorism against Russia was underscored by a Washington Post column by Philip Gordon, who until last year was the White House coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf. The piece, which warned in its headline that “Russia will pay the price,” used almost identical language, stating that continued Russian action in Syria “could very well result in terrorist attacks against Russia.”...

The term “outlaw state” was first put into official use by Ronald Reagan. It was later rendered as “rogue state” under Bill Clinton and, then, under George W. Bush, became the “axis of evil.” Invariably, these terms were used to describe oppressed, semi-colonial countries targeted by US imperialism for war and conquest: Nicaragua, Grenada, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, North Korea, Iran, etc.
Now, in the pages of the New York Times, the term is used to describe Russia, a country of 146 million people armed with nuclear weapons. The implications could not be more ominous

16--NY Times editors lead the charge to war....again

President Vladimir Putin is fast turning Russia into an outlaw nation. As one of five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, his country shares a special responsibility to uphold international law. Yet, his behavior in Ukraine and Syria violates not only the rules intended to promote peace instead of conflict, but also common human decency.

17--The end of the Market economy? Santelli: Yellen thinking of fixing prices buy propping up stocks

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