Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Today's Links

Today's quote:  "Trump's election is the product of twenty-five years of unending war and fifteen years of the “war on terror,” accompanied by historic levels of social inequality and the erosion of basic democratic rights. It is also a verdict on eight years of the Obama administration, whose policies Clinton pledged to continue."  WSWS

1--Consumer confidence soars

2--In OPEC Poker Game, Iran and Iraq Call Saudi Arabia’s Bluff

Saudi Arabia is sticking to its same offer: cut production, but only if Iran freezes at current levels and Iraq also reduces output. Iran and Iraq are also holding to their own positions. The first wants to be able to recover to its pre-sanctions level of 4 million barrels per day and the second to freeze, rather than cut...

the kingdom showed its hand early in the process, signaling in the run up to the meeting in Algiers in late September that it was willing to switch from two years of produce-at-will and consider output cuts

3--SHORT AND SHARP: East Aleppo Rebel Stronghold Stormed by SAA and Allies  Strategic turning point in Aleppo

As readers will probably be aware by now, huge developments have taken place in rebel held Eastern Aleppo over the weekend. In a matter of 48 hours, the rebels have lost some 40 % of the urban territory that was under their control. Adding insult to injury, several thousand residents of those areas started moving over to government or Kurdish held areas in the West of the City....

What has just happened over the weekend is the classic example of a strategic breaking point being reaching in a case of attritional urban warfare.You can debate all you like about the specifics of the case, but there is no denying that the principles of war apply in the same way they do for any other theatre of operation. People just tend to forget that there are means and ways to "prevail" in urban warfare, which is not – and never has been – an "unwinnable" battlefield.

4--Mainstream Media Is in Outrage as Government Forces Liberating Northeastern Aleppo and Freeing Civilians Held there As Hostages

5--Government Forces Restore Water Supplies in Suleiman al-Halabi Neighborhood of Aleppo City

6--Syria Roundup: Jihadi Fronts Fall Apart - Egypt Enters The Fight

7--Turkey marks territory in Syria, gets rebuffed

Erdogan has been resorting to good old salami tactic by incrementally expanding the scope of the Euphrates Shield operations in northern Syria, which it had initially defined as a limited anti-ISIS counter-terrorist operation, but subsequently expanding the scope ostensibly to create a ‘safe haven’ of over 5000 square kilometres of territory inside Syria, and lately morphing into plans to establish a Turkish military base on Syrian territory. And, all this while ignoring the protests from Damascus that Turkey is violating Syria’s territorial integrity.

Erdogan is in an unseemly hurry to create new facts on the ground by taking advantage of the transition in Washington and the uncertainties in the US-Russia ties as well as the Russian-Iranian preoccupations in Aleppo. The November 24 attack is a warning against overreach. The point is, Turkish air force cannot operate in the Syrian air space without Russia’s approval, and without Turkish air cover Euphrates Shield operations in the hostile Syrian territory are not sustainable.

So far Moscow chose to look away, allowing Turkey to keep changing the scope of Euphrates Shield. But now, some ‘red line’ is being drawn. It is a delicate game because the game needs to be played by unwritten rules and as far as possible the façade of cordiality needs to be maintained too...

Trump has voiced admiration for both Putin and Erdogan. He has vowed to rebuild Turkish-American alliance, just as he hopes to have a ‘great relationship’ with Russia.  On their part, Turkey and Russia would each prefer to have an exclusive partnership with Trump in Syria. Of course, the new facts on the ground  – such as the air attack on Thursday– will significantly impact the future trajectory of the Syrian conflict. 

8--Since his election win, Trump has talked to Putin more than any other world leader

Russian news outlets reported Wednesday that Trump and Putin already are negotiating how Russia and the United States will act in the Middle East next year.
[RELATED: A new round of Russian hacks began just after the U.S. election]
Putin cultivates an image as a stern-faced tough guy with a black belt in judo who rides horses bare-chested and exiles political foes. But it appears he can hardly contain his joy at Trump’s ascension to the presidency.
Putin discussed his most recent talk with Trump at a briefing in Lima, Peru, on Sunday.
“The president-elect confirmed he is willing to normalize Russian-American relations,” Putin told reporters. “I told him the same.”

9--Tulsi Gabbard as Sec. Of State? Sure Beats Giuliani or Romney

10--The Dangerous Deception Called The Trump Presidency

I state clearly my conviction, and please recall this as Trump Presidency policies unfold after January 20, 2017 to see if I am correct or not: Donald Trump was put into office to prepare America for war, a war the banks of Wall Street and the US military industrial complex are not presently in a position economically or industrially or otherwise, geopolitically, to win. His job will be to reposition the United States for them to reverse the trend to disintegration of American global hegemony, to, as the Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz Project for the New American Century put it in their September, 2000 report, “rebuild America’s defenses...

Flynn’s statements on Assad and ISIS and Iraq must be interpreted not in a vacuum but in light of a military intelligence specialist who sees that the decades-long CIA and Pentagon policy of training Muslim Brotherhood and other fanatic Muslim-origin terrorists to wage surrogate wars of empire have backfired badly. Not only the CIA’s July 15 failed coup using networks of Turkey’s Fethullah Gülen, but rather every CIA-backed Jihad war from Secretary of State Clinton’s war against Mubarak, against Gaddafi, against most of the Islamic world to try to impose US-backed Muslim Brotherhood terror regimes loyal to Washington, has failed. The gross effect has been to drive much of the world away from Washington and their constant proxy wars.
An intelligent military strategist would say it’s time for another plan. This is what Flynn is about. He will advance a shift in Washington policy away from using Muslim Brotherhood and allied terror organizations towards more intimate restoration of full cooperation with Israel’s right-wing Netanyahu Likud government...

Walid Phares, Donald Trump’s key adviser on terrorism and the Middle East, is also a Senior Fellow of a small very pro-Netanyahu think tank called the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Foundation for Defense of Democracies?
The Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, was created in the wake of September 11, 2001 by a former Republican National Committee communications director, Clifford May, in order to, as it declares on its website, “promote pluralism, defend democratic values, and fight the ideologies that drive terrorism.”

The notable point about the FDD, whose Senior Fellow, Walid Phares is guiding President-elect Trump on the Middle East and terrorism, is the money trail behind it. It was founded and financed by a group of US billionaires closely tied to Benjamin Netanyahu and his Israeli geopolitical agenda. The donors include the notorious Sheldon Adelson, Las Vegas and Macau gambling casino mogul who according to the Israeli press gave the Trump campaign $25 million in the closing critical days. Other FDD financial backers include Jewish American with a long history of funding pro-Israel organizations: Bernard Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot; whiskey heirs Samuel and Edgar Bronfman; Wall Street billionaire speculators Michael Steinhardt and Paul Singer, and Leonard Abramson, founder of US Healthcare.

No surprise then that the main Washington think tank called on to testify against the Obama agenda of coming to a nuclear deal with Iran and lifting sanctions was the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who testified 17 times against the Iran plan. FDD’s executive director, Mark Dubowitz, even helped design the sanctions regime on Iran and its oil sales that was put in place in 2010.
In addition, most other positions of the FDD echo those of the Netanyahu regime in Tel Aviv. Toby Dershowitz, who spent 14 years as AIPAC’s communications head, is the FDD vice president for government relations and strategy. AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, was described by John Mearsheimer, University of Chicago professor, as “an agent of the Israeli government with a stranglehold on the United States Congress with its power and influence.” Trump was a featured speaker at the March 2016 AIPAC annual meeting....

Mike Flynn and Mike Ledeen
Now we return to the anti-Muslim Brotherhood National Security Advisor, Mike Flynn. Flynn, along with CIA director-designate Mike Pompeo, agrees that the Obama Iran nuclear deal should be scrapped and calls Iran a state sponsor of terrorism, a position dear to Netanyahu’s heart.

Flynn also wrote a book together with Michael Ledeen. One doesn’t co-author a book with just anyone. I know. It has to be one whose thoughts are in full harmony with yours. Michael Ledeen is today a Freedom Scholar at, now isn’t this interesting: the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Worth noting, financial investor, Jim Rickards, also is on the Board of Advisors of the Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and former CIA Director James Woolsey, rumored being considered for a top post with the Trump project, is one of four members of the FDD Leadership Council.

This year, 2016, Ledeen co-authored a book with NSC Director-designate Mike Flynn titled, Field of Fight: How to Win the War Against Radical Islam and its Allies. The ties between Ledeen and Trump NSC director are clearly not casual.
Years ago Ledeen–who was implicated in the illegal Iran-Contra arm for cocaine dealings of G.H.W. Bush and his CIA Old Boys network during the Reagan years — wrote a doctoral dissertation which I once saw, today almost impossible to find. It was titled “Universal Fascism,” and dealt with the applicability of Italian fascism of Mussolini to a global model, a fascist one world order if you will.
Michael Ledeen, who prefers to be in the background, is perhaps best characterized as a Godfather of the neoconservatives. He has shaped the policies of the likes of Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and others of the US war faction.

11--Strike on Syrian army was ‘regrettable error’, Pentagon says

12--Putin orders mobile hospitals to be sent to residents of Aleppo, Syria

13--Italy's Brexit moment

The outcome of next Sunday’s Italian referendum, in which Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is seeking to reduce the size and power of the Senate, has the potential to set off a crisis in the Italian banking system that possibly could spread to the euro zone as a whole.
Renzi has championed the referendum, even threatening at one stage to resign if it does not get passed. He is seeking to move to a more authoritarian government with greater capacity to push through pro-business, neo-liberal reforms. The financial fallout from a No vote could be immediate, calling into question a rescue plan for the troubled Monte dei Paschi di Siena bank that went into operation yesterday.

The banking crisis is not confined to Italy but extends throughout Europe. As the ECB noted in its Financial Stability Review published last week, the “euro banking sector remains vulnerable.” The main structural problems for bank profitability” related to the “large stock of non-performing loans in a number of countries” as well as “over-capacity in some euro-area banking sectors.”...

“Sunday’s referendum on constitutional reform is Italy’s Brexit moment and a No vote would send tremendous shockwaves through the markets and the banking system. It could also heap pressure on the euro,” Neil Wilson of ETC Capital told Reuters.
Defeat of the referendum would make the overhaul of Italy’s banking system “a lot tougher” as investors would be deterred from pumping in the fresh capital that is required. “The risk of contagion spreading through the rest of Italy’s banks and other European lenders is high,” Wilson said.
The alternative to the Renzi market-based plan is the “resolution” agenda of the European Union. This involves winding up banks by imposing losses on both equity and debt investors.

Implementation of this plan would create massive political opposition because many individual Italian bank retail customers have been lured into purchases of shares and debt as an attractive alternative to savings products.
A major report in the Financial Times published on Sunday warned that as many as eight of Italy’s troubled banks could go under if Renzi’s referendum is defeated. Apart from Monte dei Paschi, the list includes three medium-sized banks and four small banks that were rescued last year

14--US-backed “rebels” face rout in Aleppo

15--Obama extends global reach of US Special Operations death squads

“Obama has normalized the idea that presidents get to have secret large-scale killing programs at their disposal.”

According to the Washington Post, “The missions could occur well beyond the battlefields of places like Iraq, Syria and Libya, where Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) has carried out clandestine operations in the past. When finalized, it will elevate JSOC from being a highly-valued strike tool used by regional military commands to leading a new multi-agency intelligence and action force.”
The mandate of the new formation, to be called the “Counter-External Operations Task Force,” or Ex-Ops in Pentagon jargon, will embrace the entire planet. This means US military death squads could be sent to virtually any location, from European cities to South American jungles, including the United States itself...

The newspaper did not address the question of why now, a decade-and-a-half later, the Obama administration has decided to press forward with the new global counter-terrorism initiative. The decision is likely, at least in part, a response to the debacle of the US “war on terror” from the standpoint of the global aims of American imperialism.
The US wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria and repeated drone strikes in other countries, including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, have inflicted catastrophic levels of death and destruction, but they have not achieved the hoped-for hegemonic control of the region and its vast energy resources. Obama’s decision represents a determination to escalate US military violence in Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and beyond...

The 2001 AUMF has been interpreted by the Bush and Obama administrations as a blanket authorization for military action wherever the president claims to find a connection to Al Qaeda, no matter how tenuous. Al-Shabab was not founded until 2007, six years after the 9/11 attacks, in response to the US-backed invasion of Somalia by Ethiopian troops. It has never conducted operations outside of East Africa.

16--The political issues in the campaign for a recount in the US elections

The demand for a recount is a legitimate political response to a situation in which the votes in the states in question were particularly close (a Trump margin of 22,000 in Wisconsin, 10,000 in Michigan and 68,000 in Pennsylvania).
Much more is involved, however, than a technical procedure in these three states. The recount campaign has exposed political fissures within the ruling elite, complicated efforts to carry out a seamless transition to a Trump administration, and intensified the mood of popular discontent and crisis that has been building since Election Day...

The Green Party, rather than denouncing the undemocratic character of the election process, is justifying its recount initiative with the claim that Russian hacking may have affected the outcome of the vote. Instead of seeking to raise the democratic consciousness of the voters, the Greens—in a manner typical of capitalist political parties—employ reactionary arguments that are pitched toward the interests of the ruling class. In effect, the Greens are arguing that they are seeking a recount not to prevent Trump from stealing the election, but rather to stop Putin from interfering in American politics.

There is an unstated premise in the Green Party initiative—and Stein has said nothing to contradict this—that the election of Clinton would have spared the United States all the unhappiness that will follow from Trump’s victory. This is an exercise in political deception, which portrays Trump as some sort of dreadful and accidental departure from the familiar grooves of American democracy.
It does not seem to occur to the Greens that the result of the 2016 election is, in objective terms, the expression and outcome of a profound crisis of American society. Even if Trump fell short of Clinton in the popular vote, the fact that he received 62 million votes is a devastating condemnation of everything that the Democratic Party and the Obama administration represent. What level of social distress and dysfunction could lead so many millions of people, including many workers, to give their vote to this reactionary charlatan...

In what way would a Clinton presidency contribute to surmounting the economic, political and social crisis that provided the objective impulse for the rise of Trump? Trump's election is the product of twenty-five years of unending war and fifteen years of the “war on terror,” accompanied by historic levels of social inequality and the erosion of basic democratic rights. It is also a verdict on eight years of the Obama administration, whose policies Clinton pledged to continue.

17--Home prices rise above 2006 level

18--The repatriation fiction-- Repatriated cash only adds to executive compensation

if market professionals trade based on this pervasive misunderstanding, the dollar will appreciate. Or as Buffett frames it, in the short term, markets are a beauty contest and the myth of cash flowing out of Ireland into US dollars is a very pretty fable

Again, we have the misrepresentation about “cash” being overseas. But corporate claim that they would invest more in the US if they were allowed to book those offshore profits in the US is demonstrably false. Why? The US gave companies a repatriation holiday in 2004, after a bout of the very sort of whinging they are engaging in now. And what did they do? They increased dividends and executive pay. ...

But according to the Senate report, Apple doesn’t have to repatriate that moolah because it’s already in the US. The Irish mailbox subsidiaries, on whose books this money is for tax purposes, transferred it to Apple’s bank accounts in New York. The money is managed by an Apple subsidiary in Reno, Nevada, and is invested in all kinds of assets in the US. Apple’s accountants in Austin, Texas, keep the books,

19- - Guillotine Watch
The elite’s Marie Antoinette moment Wolfgang Munchau, Financial Times (Brian C). Money quote: “The correct course of action would be to stop insulting voters and, more importantly, to solve the problems of an out-of-control financial sector, uncontrolled flows of people and capital, and unequal income distribution.”

20-- Hackathon’ attempts to stem proliferation of fake news

Experts suggest several methods Facebook and others can use to detect bogus stories
The enemies of independent source of information are moving quickly with their plans to become the arbiters of what is and isn’t to be read.

21--NYTs on the liberation of Aleppo 

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article116798988.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/national/article116798988.html#storylink=cpy

Notes-- Why is Kerry running around like a blue-arsed fly trying to protect the jihadists in East Aleppo? I would have thought by now, he would have given them up as a lost cause.
The reason given by Josh Rogin ,The Washington Post/Fake News columnist, seems like fake news to me.
"He is motivated not just by the scale of the humanitarian crisis in the Syrian city but also by the prospect that the incoming president will strike a different kind of deal with Moscow, one that abandons the Syrian opposition and places the United States squarely on the side of dictator Bashar al-Assad."

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