Thursday, December 15, 2016

Today's links

Today's quote:  "I have watched incredulous as the CIA’s blatant lie has grown and grown as a media story – blatant because the CIA has made no attempt whatsoever to substantiate it. There is no Russian involvement in the leaks of emails showing Clinton’s corruption.....As Julian Assange has made crystal clear, the leaks did not come from the Russians. As I have explained countless times, they are not hacks, they are insider leaks – there is a major difference between the two. ...
The worst thing about all this is that it is aimed at promoting further conflict with Russia. This puts everyone in danger for the sake of more profits for the arms and security industries – including of course bigger budgets for the CIA.
The CIA’s Absence of Conviction, Craig Murray

1--New York Times’ narrative of Russian hacking: War propaganda in the guise of news

On Wednesday, the New York Times published a banner article, covering five columns on its front page and four inside pages, purporting to be a definitive account of Russian government intervention in the US elections through the hacking of Democratic Party emails.

“Hacking the Democrats: How Russia Honed Its Cyberpower and Trained it on an American Election,” by Eric Lipton, David Sanger and Scott Shane, is pure propaganda. It is full of unsubstantiated assertions, innuendo and unfounded conclusions, all of which serve one essential purpose: to pollute public opinion and create conditions for military aggression against Russia....

The supposed facts the Times cites to justify the conclusion that Russia was behind all of this are highly circumstantial and clearly contradictory. Cited as evidence of Russian state involvement is the assertion that “The Russian hacking groups tended to be active during working hours in the Moscow time zone.”...

The exposure of the fact that the DNC, supposedly neutral throughout the Democratic Party primaries, was conspiring to benefit Clinton is certainly important information that the American people should know. Indeed, it exposes the DNC as doing precisely what the Times accuses Russia of doing: manipulating the elections....

The list of covert actions undertaken by the CIA to subvert democratic processes includes the overthrow of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953; the overthrow of Guatemalan President Jacobo Arbenz in 1954; the assassination of Congolese leader Patrice Lumumba in 1961; the military coup and mass slaughter in Indonesia in 1965; the overthrow and assassination of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973; the decades-long campaign to assassinate Fidel Castro in Cuba; and innumerable other actions throughout Latin America, the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
The charges of hacking in the elections are being used to mobilize support for aggression against a bigger target: Russia.

2--Federal Reserve hikes key rate, signals faster monetary tightening

3--After election debacle, Democrats debate identity politics

The relationship of the Democratic Party--and bourgeois politics as a whole--to identity politics is not accidental or secondary. The fixation on the politics of race and gender is inextricably bound up with the protracted shift of the Democratic Party to the right, in line with the drive by the ruling class to claw back all of the gains that workers won through bitter struggle, particularly in the 1930s and the decades following the Second World War.

For the past half century, as it abandoned any commitment to social reform, the Democratic Party adopted identity politics and programs such as Affirmative Action as its modus operandi, building up around it a privileged layer of the upper-middle class on this basis. This period has at the same time seen a historic growth in social inequality, including, and especially, within minority groups and among women.

Between 2005 and 2013, black households earning more than $75,000 were the fastest growing income group in the country, while the top one percent possessed more than 200 percent the wealth of the average black family. Despite the enrichment of this small but substantial and influential layer, the vast majority of African Americans remain deeply impoverished. Half of black households, nearly 7 million people, have little to no household worth.

At the same time, large parts of the country populated by supposedly privileged white workers, particularly in the so called Rust Belt states where Trump defeated Clinton, have been devastated economically by deindustrialization.

Identity politics found its consummate expression in the Clinton campaign, which was based on an alliance of Wall Street, the military-intelligence apparatus and the right-wing purveyors of racial and gender politics.
The proponents of identity politics such as Franke are opposed to economic and social equality. They regard any orientation to working people on a class basis as a threat to their own racial- or gender-based privileges. They are deeply hostile to the working class—black and Latino as well as white

4--Washington’s hypocrisy over the fall of Aleppo

the truth is that Washington’s hands are dripping in blood. The drama that has unfolded in Aleppo is ultimately the product of a massive regime-change operation mounted by US imperialism, with the CIA alone spending some $1 billion a year to arm, supply, train and even pay the salaries of anti-government Islamist militias. This has been accompanied by crippling sanctions aimed at crashing what remains of Syria’s economy, combined with US air strikes.

Hypocritically, US officials, the corporate media and pseudo-left groups like the International Socialist Organization have portrayed this imperialist operation, mounted to further US hegemony over the entire Middle East, as some kind of Syrian democratic “revolution.”
A typical response to the latest events in Aleppo was that of the Washington Post, which characterized the victory of Syrian government forces as “the final death of a dream of a more democratic Syria...”

The reality underlying this “dream” was the rule over eastern Aleppo by a collection of Islamist militias that combined vicious sectarianism with gangsterism. Before it was pummeled into rubble by air strikes, the city was looted by these militias, which stripped factories of their machinery and supplies, transporting them across the border to Turkey to sell for a profit.

5--Craig Murray: Russia is not the hacker

6--CIA wrong on Russia says Clapper

7--Trump's economic plan torpedoed; Yellen says fiscal stimulus "not needed"

... journalist from the Washington Post (nabbed from Zero Hedge): I'm curious, you and your predecessor had both at times called for more fiscal stimulus, to help with the outlook, the growth outlook. I'm wondering how much do you judge the economy has capacity for fiscal stimulus right now? It's a version of Steve's question but I think we are trying to get at, how much can happen before we run the risk of overheating?

Janet Yellen: Well, I believe my predecessor and I called for fiscal stimulus when the unemployment rate was substantially higher than it is now. So with a 4.6 percent unemployment, and a solid labor market, there may be some additional slack in labor markets, but I would judge that the degree of slack has diminished. So I would say at this point that fiscal policy is not obviously needed to provide stimulus to help us get back to full employment....
But nevertheless, let me be careful that I am not trying to provide advice to the new administration or to Congress as to what is the appropriate stance of policy." (Zero Hedge)

8--3 rate hikes in 2017??

In addition to approving the much-expected increase, the FOMC also indicated a higher rate than projected back in September when it last released the quarterly look ahead. The committee now expects three rate hikes in 2017, two or three in 2018 and three in 2019.
In effect, the Fed added one more hike during the entire period, with the longer-run target up to 3 percent from 2.9 percent.

9--Stocks were slammed Wednesday,

and even the financial sector, which is helped by higher interest rates, sold off. The Dow fell 118 points, to 19,792, and the S&P 500 dropped 18 to 2,253.
"Going into this, there were so many questions about what could the Fed say that could be a road block to Dow 20,000. I guess the Fed was more hawkish than the market had wanted even though Janet Yellen at the press conference basically said we're data dependent, and we don't know what the future holds in terms of stimulus and tax cuts," said Quincy Krosby, market strategist at Prudential Financial. "She said the economy was resilient and she was much more positive than she has been. She used the word gradual a couple of times. The market was hoping she'd use that word more. This was one where the market in a sense was already moving toward a pullback."

10-- Robert Fisk; US lets ISIS get away again

the Russians flew 64 bombing sorties against the Isis attackers outside Palmyra. But given the huge columns of dust thrown up by the Isis convoys, why didn’t the American air force join in the bombardment of their greatest enemy? But no: for some reason, the US satellites and drones and intelligence just didn’t spot them – any more than they did when Isis drove identical convoys of suicide trucks to seize Palmyra when they first took the city in May 2015.

11--Credit check, Mosler

12--New reports show social inequality is deepening in US

13-Establishment lackey McConnell wants to torpedo Trumps economic plan and send stocks into freefall

Those who control the levers of power in Washington and the global special interests they partner with, don’t have your good in mind. It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities. The only thing that can stop this corrupt machine is you.”
"The economy is rigged. The banking system is rigged. There's a lot of things that are rigged in the world of ours. and that's why a lot of you haven't had an effective wage increase in 20 years, folks. And, we're going to change that. We're going to change that."

The general risk of setting the priority in the west is a festering of a U.S. occupation of Syria's east. The U.S. just deployed an additional 200 special forces there to bring the total up to acknowledged 500. There are also some French and other special forces in the area. They are building several small military airfields and hire anyone they can find in that area to, allegedly, fight ISIS. This looks much like the construction of a "Salafist principality" in east-Syria and west-Iraq without the ISIS label. Gulf countries' and Zionists' lobbyists have called for such an occupation strategy of Upper Mesopotamia. A U.S./Saudi controlled proxy entity that interrupts the "Shia crescent" from Iran over Iraq and Syria to Lebanon and holds the ground for a planned natural gas pipeline from Qatar to Turkey and onto Europe

“The truth is the most of terrorists moved to Palmyra from Raqqa and Deir Ezzor with a direct US support or at least the US allowed Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia to assist and supply ISIS terrorists to finish this mission. What is really going on in Palmyra,” Assad said in an interview to the Russian state-run “Russia 24″ TV-channel.

And last week, Obama ordered a waiver of the US Arms Export Control Act with relation to “foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals engaged in supporting or facilitating ongoing US military operations to counter terrorism in Syria.” The presidential directive sets the stage for a major escalation of the US arms flow into Syria.

A graph showing that real wage growth is the slowest since the 19th Century
Carney highlighted the way that capitalism has condemned a whole generation of young people to unemployment, low wages and precarious jobs: “For both income and wealth, some of the most significant shifts have happened across generations. A typical millennial earned £8,000 less during their twenties than their predecessors.”
Recessions “disproportionately affect the young. Graduating in a recession is generally bad news for someone’s earnings trajectory. The most advantaged graduates tend, over time, to recover, but the least advantaged can be permanently affected,” Carney said.
The challenge, he said, was “how to manage and moderate the forces of innovation and integration [i.e., globalisation]” which “foster isolation and detachment for substantial proportions of the population.
“The combination of open markets and technology means that returns in a globalised world amplifies the rewards of the superstar and the lucky [i.e., the top 10 percent for whom Carney speaks]. Now may be the time of the famous or fortunate, but what of the frustrated and frightened?”
“For free trade to benefit all requires some redistribution,” he declared. “We need to move towards more inclusive growth where everyone has a stake in globalisation,” because people across the advanced world are “losing trust” in a system that did not “raise all boats.”...

Accompanying the development of monopolies was “the division of the world ... the transition from a colonial policy which has extended without hindrance to territories unseized by any capitalist power, to a colonial policy of monopolist possession of the territory of the world, which has been completely divided up

A cabinet of generals: Trump appoints John Kelly to lead Department of Homeland Security

Kelly is a 40-year veteran of the Marine Corps whose career and personality embody the brutal and deeply reactionary American political culture in a period of permanent war. In a speech delivered in 2014 on the ongoing wars, Kelly said: “If you think this war against our way of life is over because some of the self-appointed opinion-makers and chattering class grow ‘war weary,’ because they want to be out of Iraq or Afghanistan, you are mistaken. This enemy is dedicated to our destruction. He will fight us for generations, and the conflict will move through various phases as it has since 9/11.”
The Department of Homeland Security is a massive bureaucracy of state violence and repression. Its new director will command 240,000 employees comprising an army of border guards, police, detectives, investigators, deportation administrators, trial attorneys and judges who catch, process and deport hundreds of thousands of undocumented workers each year.
Created in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, DHS has served as a Petri dish for a police state. It was founded one year before the Northern Command (NORTHCOM), and the two semi-parallel institutions are aimed at preparing the Armed Forces and police for military activities within the United States.

Speaking at the New York Economic Club in September, Donald Trump promised that in his administration, “Every policy decision we make must pass a simple test: Does it create more jobs and better wages for Americans?”

Meanwhile, the U.S. Government is America’s top creator of low-wage jobs. The federal government pays for more than 2 million private sector poverty jobs through its contracts, loans, and grants – more than the number of low-wage workers at Walmart and McDonald’s combined. And already-low-paid federal contract workers lose up to $2.5 billion in pay each year to wage theft....
The Hill reports that “GOP plans new assault on unions“:
Republicans in crucial states across the country are planning a renewed assault on the political power of labor unions after GOP victories in November’s elections handed the party control of states where Democrats have long defended union rights

President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress are drawing up plans to take on the government bureaucracy they have long railed against, by eroding job protections and grinding down benefits that federal workers have received for a generation.
Hiring freezes, an end to automatic raises, a green light to fire poor performers, a ban on union business on the government’s dime and less generous pensions — these are the contours of the blueprint emerging under Republican control of Washington in January.
These changes were once unthinkable to federal employees, their unions and their supporters in Congress. But Trump’s election as an outsider promising to shake up a system he told voters is awash in “waste, fraud and abuse” has conservatives optimistic that they could do now what Republicans have been unable to do in the 133 years since the modern civil service was created."...

“The most immediate worry is: How are we going to shrink government?” Dougan said. “Are we going to lay people off? Eliminate whole agencies or do it through attrition?”
Trump has promised that in his first 100 days in office he will freeze hiring by not replacing employees who leave

if the United States does decide to impose tariffs on China, Chen said, American companies operating in China, which account for more than 60 percent of China's exports to the United States, would surely be hurt the most.
"In the end," Chen said, "America is the one that needs to adjust."
While some analysts have predicted that China would soon start to let the yuan appreciate, Chen's interview illustrated the fact that there is a strong lobby in China opposing revaluation. One reason why a revaluation would be dangerous for China, Chen said, is that profit margins for Chinese exporters are tiny -- ranging from 1.7 to two percentage points
whitney china

$2 tril in buybacks?
In this paper, I have advocated a more robust response which looks through the smokescreen of Potemkin

big American companies in china

"We can't continue to allow China to rape our country, and that's what they're doing," Trump told excited crowds at an Indiana rally in June, referring to the trade deficit with China. Such language was the norm for then-candidate Trump, who has said repeatedly that Beijing's heavy state influence on its economy is "killing" the

“Weak income growth has focused growing attention on its distribution,” Carney said in the speech. “Inequalities which might have been tolerated during generalized prosperity are felt more acutely when economies stagnate.”

Mark Carney Speaks: Brexit and Globalization
Describing the world as facing the “first lost decade since the 1860s,” the BOE governor said public support for open markets is under threat and rejecting them would be a “tragedy, but is a possibility

It would also mean grave damage to federal budget projections. The envisioned Trump tax cut is about the same size relative to the economy as the 1981 Reagan tax cut. It is worth remembering that Reagan, hardly a fan of reversing course or raising taxes, found it necessary to propose significant tax increases in 1982 and 1984 (the equivalent in today’s economy of $3.5tn over a decade) due to concerns about federal debt....

I can find no basis in either economic history or logic for Mr Mnuchin’s claim that the proposed reforms would increase the economy’s growth rate from its current 2 per cent rate to the historical 3 to 4 per cent norm. Adult population growth has slowed by nearly a percentage point, the gains generated by more women entering the workforce have been exhausted, and it is far from clear why tax reform will hugely spur productivity growth.
Indeed, because the Trump proposal would redistribute after-tax income towards those most likely to save it, push up long-term interest rates because of debt pressures, increase uncertainty and the advantages of overseas production, it is as likely to retard growth as to accelerate it.
Summers’ second paragraph has some important truth.  As with the second President Bush’s tax cuts, Trump’s proposed cuts go so heavily to the plutocrats that they will have less stimulus effect because so much of the cuts will be saved rather than spent.  The reduces the stimulus of the proposed tax cuts, it does not eliminate it.

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