Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Today's quote: "People do not forget. They do not forget the death of their fellows, they do not forget torture and mutilation, they do not forget injustice, they do not forget oppression, they do not forget the terrorism of mighty powers. They not only don’t forget: they also strike back." Harold Pinter, 2002

1--Consumer spending settles at a lower trend (reset at a lower level of activity)

One of larger banks to have undergone a substantial downshift in its outlook on the market and the economy, is Bank of America, which continued the dour mood this morning when in note by its economist Ethan Harris it again pointed out that US consumer spending has "settled at a lower trend."
Here are the details:
Consumer spending has settled on a lower trend: Consider these three facts: (1) household wealth is nearly back to peaks during the housing bubble as a percentage of disposable income; (2) interest rates are at historical lows; and (3) initial jobless claims have touched the lowest level since 1973. That looks like a recipe for spectacular consumer spending. But, yet, real consumer spending has only averaged a 2.0% annual rate since the recovery started, which is nearly half the pace of the prior 10-year average. What happened? The recovery in wages has been slow and the savings rate has increased. The 4-quarter moving average of the personal savings rate (derived as disposable income less outlays) has reached 5.9% over the last two quarters. An alternative measure of the savings rate, which is measured from household net worth, has seen even more impressive gains. As we argue, the savings rate is likely to remain elevated, limiting the potential upside to consumer spending due to a variety of cyclical and structural reasons.

2--AT&T-Time Warner merger to expand corporate, state control of media

AT&T, the telecommunications and cable TV colossus, announced Saturday that it has struck a deal to acquire the pay TV and entertainment giant Time Warner. The merger, if approved by the Justice Department and US regulatory agencies under the next administration, will create a corporate entity with unprecedented control over both the distribution and content of news and entertainment. It will also mark an even more direct integration of the media and the telecomm industry with the state.

AT&T, the largest US telecom group by market value, already controls huge segments of the telephone, pay-TV and wireless markets. Its $48.5 billion purchase of the satellite provider DirecTV last year made it the biggest pay-TV provider in the country, ahead of Comcast. It is the second-largest wireless provider, behind Verizon.

3--Clinton vs Trump; Lesser evil??

the WikiLeaks documents demonstrate that Clinton and her closest aides actually oppose the modest social reforms listed in the letter from the 50 economists and sociologists. They only acceded to including them in the platform as the price of defeating Sanders and giving something to sell to his supporters. Now Sanders pathetically touts Clinton’s candidacy, even as documents pour out from WikiLeaks demonstrating her subservience to the “millionaires and billionaires” Sanders rhetorically condemned.

In its response to the WikiLeaks revelations, the Democratic Party has revealed the real political axis of an incoming Clinton administration. It has denounced WikiLeaks as an agent of Russia and claimed, without providing a shred of evidence, that Vladimir Putin is the source of the hacked documents. It has thus sought to appropriate McCarthyism, once a hallmark of Republican Party demagogy, as the property of the Democrats.

It requires no secret documents from WikiLeaks, however, to prove that Hillary Clinton is the stooge of the billionaires who dominate American politics and society. Press reports this weekend underscore the depth of support for Clinton in the financial aristocracy. The Wall Street Journal reported that of the $88 million that billionaires have donated to the presidential candidates of the two main capitalist parties, $70 million from 19 billionaires has gone to Clinton, while only $18 million from five billionaires has gone to Trump.

The New York Times reported Sunday that so-called super PACs, political action committees set up by the super-rich and legalized by the Supreme Court’s notorious 2010 decision in the Citizens United case, have favored Clinton over Trump by a 2-1 margin. A dozen such groups have raised $200 million and spent more than $110 million on pro-Clinton advertising since May, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission

4--Mosul offensive intensifies regional tensions as Turkish soldiers intervene in Iraq

As it has done since the 2003 invasion, US imperialism will not hesitate to ruthlessly exploit these sectarian divisions in pursuit of its goals of maintaining a permanent military presence in energy-rich Iraq and extending its unchallenged dominance over the entire region.

This is demonstrated by growing reports that ISIS fighters are fleeing Mosul for Syria because the city has not been fully encircled. French President François Hollande acknowledged that fighters were traveling to Raqqa in comments he made at a diplomatic conference in Paris Thursday.

This explodes the “war on terror” fraud that has been employed by the US political and media establishment to justify one war after another over the past two decades. The reality is that Washington tolerated ISIS when it first emerged in Syria, seeing it as a useful force to fight for the overturn of the Assad regime. It was only when the group began making substantial gains in Iraq and threatened to destabilize the pro-US regime that Washington decided to intervene against it....

Erdogan, who spelt out in a speech last week Turkey’s regional ambitions throughout the Middle East and the Balkans, has made clear the Turkish troops have no intention of withdrawing. He insisted Turkey would be involved in Mosul, stating they “have a 350-km border and I am under threat from across that border. … Turkey will take part in the Mosul operation and hold a seat at the table. It is out of the question for us to remain outside. Because there is history in Mosul for us.”
The dispute between the Iraqi and Turkish governments is only one of a vast array of regional and sectarian divisions being inflamed by the US-backed offensive on the northern Iraqi city of 1.5 million people. Washington has forged alliances with mutually antagonistic state and non-state forces in the course of its joint interventions in Iraq and Syria, increasing the likelihood of the conflicts spiraling out of control and drawing in the major powers in a wider war...

5  -How the Syrian Conflict Could Turn Into a 'Hopeless War of Extermination'

In 1982, it was Rifaat al-Assad, the younger brother of the former President of Syria, Hafez Assad and the uncle of the incumbent President Bashar al-Assad who crushed the rebellion in Hama...

"The elderly Rifaat now resides in Europe, mainly in France and Spain and assiduously blemishes his nephew Bashar, considering him a deadly enemy," it adds.

It is Rifaat's sons that in fact control the major part of the Syrian opposition which the West calls "moderate." His eldest son Ribal has established and now leads the so-called "Organization for Democracy and Freedom in Syria." His youngest son Sumer is the head of a pan-Arab TV channel, the Arab News Network (ANN), which is based in London and which has turned into one of the major propaganda sources of the so-called Syrian "moderates" although initially it was a political mouthpiece of the estranged wing of the Assad clan

6--Wilson's attempts to reverse the Bolshevik revolution; Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920

Fogelsong details the complicated machinations whereby arms were transferred from US stockpiles in France to anti-Bolshevik forces. Since the Secretary of War could not, “by law, dispose of surplus munitions, except by sale . . . it was necessary to coordinate aid to Iudenich with the Kolchak regime, which had assumed responsibility for Russian debts to the United States.”

There was an attempt to have Russian war material retained by Germany turned over to “Russian armies recognized by the Allied and Associated governments.” However it was easier to ship supplies on credit. In July, Hoover and other officials agreed the “Provisional Government of Russia” [which no longer existed, except through its embassy in Washington] would issue special treasury notes for supplies from the U.S

By fall of 1919, there was policy consensus on “providing as much support to anti-Bolshevik armies as limited resources and domestic political conditions permitted.” Hoover believed that “Yudenitch could at an early date take Petrograd.”...

in mid-October when “premature reports reached Washington that the White forces have occupied Petrograd . . . State Department aides collaborated with the Russian ambassador to find a way to authorize new credits without a congressional appropriation. ...

The American attempts to manipulate and influence complicated situations with fatuous expectations things would work out successfully but without understanding the underlying social forces in many ways mirrors its activities in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and other countries today.

The history of early 20th century intervention is as little known to the American public as the current project to encircle the Russian state and deny it any neutral sphere of influence along its borders. The Russian people on the other hand, recall these earlier attempts at regime change. Having suffered millions of deaths in the First World War, Russia faced another three years of chaos, disease, and famine in a civil war unprecedented in human history–12 million people died during the three-year civil war, which buried the hopes of social visionaries and destroyed the possibility for any peaceful development and improvement—not to mention democratization–following a popular revolution the West wanted so desperately to crush. Today, as NATO troops, including many Germans, mass on their borders once again, Russians remember that the U.S. fed and armed the Whites–and even sent American troops to support forces led by former Tsarist officers.

7--The Vocabulary of Bombs, Harold Pinter, 2002; America has become "bloodthirsty wild animal."

America believes that the 3,000 deaths in New York are the only deaths that count, the only deaths that matter. They are American deaths. Other deaths are unreal, abstract, of no consequence.

The 3,000 deaths in Afghanistan are never referred to. The hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children dead through American and British sanctions which have deprived them of essential medicines are never referred to.

The effect of depleted uranium, used by America in the Gulf war, is never referred to. Radiation levels in Iraq are appallingly high. Babies are born with no brain, no eyes, no genitals. Where they do have ears, mouths or rectums, all that issues from these orifices is blood...

People do not forget. They do not forget the death of their fellows, they do not forget torture and mutilation, they do not forget injustice, they do not forget oppression, they do not forget the terrorism of mighty powers. They not only don’t forget: they also strike back....

America and Britain are pursuing a course that can lead only to an escalation of violence throughout the world and finally to catastrophe. It is obvious, however, that America is bursting at the seams to attack Iraq.

I believe that it will do this not only to take control of Iraqi oil, but also because the American administration is now a bloodthirsty wild animal. Bombs are its only vocabulary. Many Americans, we know, are horrified by the posture of their government, but seem to be helpless

8--Case-Shiller Home Prices Rise To 2006 Record Highs

9--Caterpillar Warns Of "Economic Weakness Throughout Much Of The World", Cuts Guidance

10--Fed threatens to raise rates if Congress tries to stimulate growth

(the elitist NWO threat)The resulting extra fiscal stimulus could total as much as around $100 billion a year, equivalent to about 0.5 percent of gross domestic product, according to economists David Mericle and Alec Phillips of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.

Such a boost could lead the Fed to hike rates one or two more times than otherwise, they wrote in a note to clients last month....

(calculating strangulation) He said increased government spending on the order of one percent of GDP would lift equilibrium interest rates by about 50 basis points, according to the Fed’s computer model of the economy. A tax cut of that magnitude would boost the so-called neutral rate by 40 basis points.

U.S. central bankers say they would welcome such a step as shifting some onus for supporting the economy away from the Fed. But they suggest they would offset the extra demand that a bigger budget deficit would spur by making monetary policy less stimulative.

The reason: With the economy already operating close to capacity, it’s not in need of an added boost right now.

“If we have more expansionary fiscal policy, we don’t need as expansionary a monetary policy,” Federal Reserve Bank of Boston President Eric Rosengren said in an Oct. 15 interview.

That sort of hand-off from monetary to fiscal policy could prove troublesome for financial markets that “have been both sedated and seduced by the prospect of low rates for longer,” said Joachim Fels, global economic adviser at Pacific Investment Management Co.

(more stimulus will be punished)

Recent polls show neither party will control both the House and Senate. If that’s the case, any big spending or tax measures pushed by a new president may get blocked by partisan gridlock.

Former Fed Vice Chairman Alan Blinder said he’s skeptical that fiscal policy will be loosened a great deal if Clinton wins the election, as seems likely based on recent voter surveys.

“She is promising not to make budget deficits bigger by her programs,” said Blinder, who is now a professor at Princeton University. “Whatever fiscal stimulus there is ought to be small enough for the Fed practically to ignore it

(any effort to choke off growth or more money going to working people will be rewarded with lower rates)

If the Fed does seek to offset easier fiscal policy with a tighter monetary stance, that would be a mirror image of what happened in the latter half of the 1990s, when Clinton’s husband, Bill, was president.

As the budget deficit shrank and eventually turned into a surplus back then, the Fed kept monetary policy looser than otherwise to support growth. And the financial markets prospered as a result

(investors anticipate the Fed will continue to control the economy and maintain huge bubbles in stocks and bonds. Any veering from present course could pop bubble)

“Markets are pricing in a lower for longer rate environment," said Pimco’s Fels. “Anything that challenges that could lead to a significant rise in bond yields, a steepening of the yield curve and could undo the eerie calm in the market for risk assets.”

11--The Oil-Gas War Over Syria (In 4 Maps)

12--Hmmm?  On the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution, regional and municipal committees of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation must step up their efforts in propaganda and education. They should also strongly resist any attempts to falsify history,” the document reads

13--Obama administration split on “Plan B” for Syria intervention 

According to a report published Monday in the Washington Post, the National Security Council met at the White House October 14 to hear the proposals, but “neither approved nor rejected” them, reflecting sharp divisions within the US government and its military and intelligence complex.

Identified as strong supporters of “Plan B” were both US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and CIA Director John Brennan. According to the Post, they and other advocates of escalation argued that the “rebels” had to be reinforced because they constitute “the only force in Syria capable of prolonging the war and possibly pushing Moscow to abandon Assad as part of a political solution.”

The language is significant. It identifies a major strategic goal of US imperialism as that of “prolonging” a war that has already killed hundreds of thousands and displaced millions.

Carter is said to have advocated a “doubling down” of the CIA program in order “to inflict higher costs on Moscow for its intervention” in support of the Assad government....

The fact that the heads of both the Pentagon and the CIA are at odds with the White House on the proposed “Plan B” raises the serious question of whether the powerful US military and intelligence apparatus will not find means to circumvent the administration’s policy in order to further an intervention in which they are deeply invested. One means of doing this would be to use regional allies, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, which are already heavily involved in the war for regime change in Syria.

Moreover, it appears certain that an incoming administration led by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will introduce a change of course of Syria, opting for a more aggressive US military intervention..

It continues: “The second option is one the Russians believe the United States will never do: Escalate the conflict. The United States must challenge the status quo and end the regime’s war crimes, by force if necessary.”

Washington, the article argues, “must both accelerate and broaden the provision of lethal and nonlethal assistance” to the so-called rebels. It goes on to advocate the formation of a “coalition of the willing,” the term coined by the Bush administration in preparing the criminal US war in Iraq, “to credibly threaten military actions against Assad’s military infrastructure.”

14--Does it make any sense that the people who are totally invested in this program . . . are the same people who are writing analyses of the Syrian opposition on which decisions are based on the future of that program?”

Just to get things straight - the CIA is now by law the "National Clandestine Service." It pursues information using human agents (mostly by liaison) and it executes presidential policy in covert actions authorized by presidential "findings."  All of this is accomplished by the Directorate of Operations (DO)

Since the US IC re-structuring during the Bush Administration, the CIA no longer has a significant internal analytic body independent of the Directorate of Operations (the spies and covert operators).

The independent analysts in the IC are in DIA and State-INR and the work products reflect that.

The analysts they do have at CIA all essentially work for the DO, the people who run covert action and presumably favor the programs.

Therefore, it can be seen that as the person quoted underlined above asserted, the CIA is essentially a "Self Licking Ice Cream Cone."  (SLICC).  pl

15--The Turks want Mosul and Aleppo "back."

16--Bloodqueen takes over-- Washington’s foreign policy elite breaks with Obama over Syrian bloodshed

The Republicans and Democrats who make up the foreign policy elite are laying the groundwork for a more assertive American foreign policy, via a flurry of reports shaped by officials who are likely to play senior roles in a potential Clinton White House...

The American-led international order that has been prevalent since World War II is now under threat,” said Martin Indyk, who oversees a team of top former officials from the administrations of Obama, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton assembled by the Brookings Institution. “The question is how to restore and renovate it.” The Brookings report — a year in the making — is due out in December....

Taken together, the studies and reports call for more-aggressive American action to constrain Iran, rein in the chaos in the Middle East and check Russia in Europe.
The studies, which reflect Clinton’s stated views, break most forcefully with Obama on Syria. Virtually all these efforts, including a report released Wednesday by the liberal Center for American Progress, call for stepped-up military action to deter President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and Russian forces in ­Syria.
The proposed military measures include calls for safe zones
to protect moderate rebels from ­Syrian and Russian forces. Most of the studies propose limited American airstrikes with cruise missiles to punish Assad if he continues to attack civilians with barrel bombs, as is happening in besieged Aleppo. Obama has staunchly resisted any military action against the Assad regime....

Stephen Hadley, a former national security adviser to Bush and a partner with Albright on the Atlantic Council report, said that if Assad continues to bomb civilians, the United States should strongly consider “using standoff weapons, like cruise missiles, to neutralize his air force so that he cannot fly.”...

Even pinprick cruise-missile strikes designed to hobble the ­Syrian air force or punish Assad would risk a direct confrontation with Russian forces, which are scattered throughout the key ­Syrian military bases that would be targeted.
“You can’t pretend you can go to war against Assad and not go to war against the Russians,” said a senior administration official who is involved in Middle East policy and was granted anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations

17--Wa Post confirms everything we have been saying at counterpunch for more than a year--Plans to send heavier weapons to CIA-backed rebels in Syria stall amid White House skepticism

(regime change still the objective) The operation has served as the centerpiece of the U.S. strategy to press Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step aside...

But inaction has its own risks — increasing the likelihood that Aleppo will fall, that tens of thousands of CIA-backed fighters will search for more-reliable allies, and that the United States will lose leverage over regional partners that until now have refrained from delivering more-dangerous arms to Assad’s opponents.

The proposed expansion of the agency program — dubbed “Plan B” because it was seen as a fallback for failed diplomatic efforts — still has supporters, including CIA Director John Brennan and Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter. But even former ardent proponents, including Secretary of State John F. Kerry, have voiced skepticism about any escalation at this point. He and others fear that the new weaponry could end up killing Russian military personnel, triggering a confrontation with Moscow....

One senior U.S. official said that it is time for a “ruthless” look at whether agency-supported fighters can still be considered moderate, and whether the program can accomplish anything beyond adding to the carnage in Syria.
The CIA units are “not doing any better on the battlefield, they’re up against a more formidable adversary, and they’re increasingly dominated by extremists,” said the U.S. official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive operation. “What has this program become, and how will history record this effort?”
Backers of the program said that the CIA effort had succeeded in important aspects of its mission — building a politically moderate force that by last year posed a serious threat to Assad. A U.S. official said that the CIA-backed opposition — widely known as the Free Syrian Army — remains largely intact after a year of Russian pounding, and is the only force in Syria capable of prolonging the war and possibly pushing Moscow to abandon Assad as part of a political solution....

In their final debate, Clinton struck a more hawkish tone, reiterating her support for carving out an area in northern Syria for civilians and moderate opposition elements where Syrian and Russian planes would not be allowed to fly. “A no-fly zone can save lives and hasten the end of the conflict,” Clinton said, adding that doing so would “take a lot of negotiation. It would also take making it clear to the Russians and the Syrians that our purpose here was to provide safe zones on the ground.”...

Clinton was a backer of CIA intervention in Syria when the plan was first proposed in 2012 by then-CIA Director David H. Petraeus and she was serving as secretary of state. ...

It’s a fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into,” said a former senior administration official who was directly involved in the early White House deliberations over the CIA program. “There’s a huge risk here since the Russians entered.  . . . The lesson out of this is that if you don’t take action early on, you should almost expect the options to get worse and worse and worse.”...

Obama was always lukewarm in his enthusiasm for CIA intervention. In 2012, he commissioned a classified study of other cases of the agency backing rebel forces. In an interview with the New Yorker magazine, Obama said that he wanted examples of when “that actually worked out well. And they couldn’t come up with much.”
When the deteriorating situation in Syria prompted Obama to authorize the CIA to begin vetting, training and arming moderate factions in 2013, he imposed constraints that frustrated agency operatives. Their goal in Syria would not be to enable rebels to win and seize power, according to officials’ accounts, but to push the conflict toward a stalemate and force various factions to negotiate Syria’s future after Assad.
The CIA set up jointly run compounds in Jordan and Turkey, where officials said more than 10,000 rebels have gotten training and equipment over the past three years. Those vetted units are part of a constellation of opposition groups with 50,000 or more fighters that have gotten money and weapons from the CIA and regional partners including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey.....

Rebels chafed at the restriction, complaining that it left them vulnerable to air attack by Assad and, more recently, Russia. The Plan B proposal envisioned a compromise in which the CIA and its partners would deliver truck-mounted antiaircraft weapons that could help rebel units but would be difficult for a terrorist group to conceal and use against civilian aircraft....

As the Russian pounding of Aleppo intensified, horrific images of injured children and destroyed hospitals put new pressure on Obama to authorize expanded weapons shipments to besieged opposition groups. Plan B was raised during a series of weekly White House meetings and was finally put to Obama during an Oct. 14 session with the National Security Council.
Carter has for months favored a “doubling down” of the CIA program, officials said, to inflict higher costs on Moscow for its intervention, while opposing using U.S. military force out of worry that it would divert resources from the campaign against the Islamic State.
But he and Brennan have been outnumbered by skeptics...

The Russians have seized the initiative,” said a second senior administration official involved in Syria discussions. “You can’t pretend you can go to war against Assad and not go to war against Russia.”
The CIA’s own assessments of the program have been viewed with suspicion by some at the White House, officials said. “Does it make any sense that the people who are totally invested in this program . . . are the same people who are writing analyses of the Syrian opposition on which decisions are based on the future of that program?” the first U.S. official said.

18--Billionaires’ Spending on 2016 Election Reaches $88 Million

19--Social inequality and the fight against capitalism

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