Monday, December 5, 2016

Today's links

1--Trump Warns Another U.S. Company --President-elect blasts Rexnord’s plan to send Indiana bearings work to Mexico and cut jobs


“Rexnord of Indiana is moving to Mexico and rather viciously firing all of its 300 workers,” Mr. Trump wrote late Friday. “This is happening all over our country. No more!”...

Early Sunday morning, Mr. Trump sent out a series of tweets reaffirming his position that companies that move production abroad and fire workers in the U.S. will face consequences, such as a 35% import tariff. “Please be forewarned prior to making a very expensive mistake!” he wrote


2--Get used to it: Economists see 'new normal' of slow growth


Americans should get used to a "new normal" of slow economic growth, business economists say.

The median estimate from economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics calls for the American economy to grow 2.2 percent in 2017, up from a forecast 1.6 percent this year and unchanged from the previous survey in September.

The improved number is still lackluster by historical standards. U.S. economic growth averaged 3.1 percent a year from 1948 to 2015, according to the Congressional Research Service. But the business economists say Americans need to get used to slow growth: 80 percent of those surveyed believe the potential growth rate of the American economy will remain at 2.5 percent or lower over the next five years..

The economy has been hobbled by an aging work force and weak gains in productivity

3--Trump's anti-labor jihad


The worst case goes like this: Trump appoints an anti-union Labor Secretary to oversee the project; he appoints a hundred pro-business judges; he names three pro-business appointees to the 5-person NLRB; and with no hurdles in sight, Congress aggressively moves to water down or repeal as many features of the NLRA (National Labor Relations Act) as possible. And with labor as vulnerable and “friendless” as it is, the whole ball of string begins to unravel. That’s the worst case....

Nationwide union membership (public and private) hovers at about 11-percent. When we compare those pitiful figures to the glory days of the 1950s (when the middle-class was flourishing, and union membership was close to 35-percent), we are stunned.
And then, when we learn that, in 1921—in the wake of the 1917 Russian Revolution, the 1919 Boston police strike, Sacco and Vanzetti, and Socialist Eugene Debs receiving more than a million votes while in prison—there was genuine trepidation among the Establishment that the U.S. was on the verge of a great “proletarian revolution,” we are dumbfounded

4--G Sax foreclosure Champ takes over at Treasury


There was also the time he literally forced people out of their homes while he was running OneWest, the lender he sold last year for a personal gain of several millions of dollars. As Bloomberg previously reported, OneWest “carried out more than 36,000 foreclosures during Mnuchin’s reign,” earning the bank a reputation as a “foreclosure machine.” Here, some highlights of Mnuchin’s company’s work:
  • Changing the locks on Leslie Parks’s Minneapolis house, during a blizzard...
  • but sent a check for 3 cents.who owed the bank 30 cents, Ossie LoftonAnd the pièce de résistance: reportedly foreclosing on a 90-year-old woman

5--Erdogan wants Turkey's trade with Iran, Russia, China in local currencies


6--"Russia is the No. 1 threat to the United States." Air Force Secretary


"Russia is the No. 1 threat to the United States. We have a number of threats that we're dealing with, but Russia could be, because of the nuclear aspect, an existential threat to the United States," Air Force Secretary Deborah James told Reuters in an interview at the annual Reagan National Defense Forum....

Kendall said U.S. policy had been centered on threats in the Asia-Pacific region and Middle East, but was now focused more on Russia. "Their behavior has caused us ... to rethink the balance of capabilities that we're going to need," he said.....

Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, told the conference that Russia's goal was to counter NATO, undermine its credibility and limit the ability of the U.S. military to project power around the world.
"They are operating with a frequency and in places that we haven't seen for decades," he said, adding that the buildup should be viewed in the context of its actions in Ukraine, Crimea and Syria, where they have already stepped up air attacks on eastern Aleppo

7--Total defeat; Terms of surrender-- Russia, US to start talks on rebel withdrawal from Aleppo – Lavrov


Lavrov also told journalists Monday that Russia would not support a draft resolution imposing a new ceasefire in Aleppo.
Taking into consideration the outcome of the previous pauses [in the conflict], there is absolutely no doubt that the 10-day ceasefire which backers of the draft resolution generously want to provide the militants with would surely be used for regrouping and rearming the extremists and would slow down the liberation of eastern Aleppo from them,” he ....

On Monday, the militants holed up in Aleppo said that they have no plans to leave the city, despite the Syrian Army’s military advances and planned US-Russia talks on total rebel withdrawal.
Any proposals for “for the exit of rebel groups would be unacceptable,” Yasser al-Youssef of the Nureddine Al-Zinki group told AFP.
Abu Abdel Rahman Al-Hamawi from the Jaysh Al-Islam group also said that the militants “would fight... until the last drop of blood.”

8--Military takeover complete under Trump-- US transition to military rule

Mattis has a long and bloody career. He played leading operational roles in both the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003-2004. He later co-authored the Pentagon’s counterinsurgency warfare manual with General David Petraeus, and held a top position with NATO.

He ended his career as head of the US Central Command from 2010 to 2013, overseeing the US withdrawal from Iraq, the increasingly bloody stalemate in Afghanistan, and the US efforts to bolster the Egyptian military against the revolutionary upsurge in that country. He also supervised the drawing up of US plans for intervention in Syria, hailing the armed Islamic uprising against the Assad regime as a potentially devastating strategic blow to Assad’s ally Iran.

The four-star general was removed from his post at CENTCOM five months early, after he came into conflict with the Obama White House over its policy towards Iran, which he regarded as unduly conciliatory. Once retired, Mattis made his differences public, blasting the Obama administration for what he called its “policy of disengagement in the Middle East.”...

Mattis—who has differed with Trump on Russia—is seen as a counterweight to any tendency of the incoming administration to move away from the anti-Russia policy....

What is particularly noteworthy is that all three editorials discuss the principle of civilian control of the military, which would be effectively gutted by the appointment of Mattis, and dismiss it.
The Mattis nomination is not an isolated case. Retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is Trump’s choice as national security adviser, the top White House position coordinating military and foreign policy. Retired General David Petraeus, former US commander in Iraq and Afghanistan and former CIA director, is a leading contender for secretary of state. Retired General John F. Kelly is under discussion to head the Department of Homeland Security. And Admiral Michael Rogers, the current head of the National Security Agency, is likely to be named Director of National Intelligence, coordinating all 19 components of the vast US intelligence apparatus.
It is thus quite possible that military officers, active or retired, could end up holding every major national security position in the incoming Trump administration. This is not merely a demonstration of the militaristic character of Trump’s perspective. It must be understood, more fundamentally, as a consequence of the long-term militarization of American foreign policy and American society as a whole.

9--US Congress overwhelmingly backs $619 billion Pentagon budget


Vote to keep Gitmo active...
The House vote on the Pentagon budget came just one day after the US Senate voted unanimously to extend for another 10 years the Iran Sanctions Act, which authorizes the president to impose a blockade on Iran’s energy, banking and defense sectors. The White House indicated that Obama will sign the measure into law.

The passage of the legislation provoked heated protests from the Iranian government, which called it a blatant violation of the agreement reached last year between Tehran, the US and five other major powers. Under the terms of that agreement, Iran accepted the curtailment of its nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions imposed by the US and other countries.

“If this law is implemented it will be a blatant violation of the Iran deal and it will lead to our resolute answer,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told the Iranian parliament on Sunday.

Among the strongest proponents of the legislation was Democratic Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who made clear that the threat of sanctions was directed not at any nuclear threat from Iran, but rather at the obstacle the country has posed to US hegemony in the Middle East. “Since the nuclear agreement came into force, Iran has continued its efforts to destabilize the region,” he said.
The vote, with the unanimous support of the Democrats, places a weapon in the hands of the incoming Trump administration. The Republican president-elect repeatedly expressed his desire to abrogate the nuclear pact with Iran and has surrounded himself with right-wing militarists who are advocates of a confrontation with Tehran.

10--Syria Roundup: East-Aleppo Siege Nears Its End


11--Washington's real enemy; United Eurasian market


Everywhere we go today across Eurasia, from the Persian Gulf and Caspian Sea to Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and on to China, there is a process underway for the first time since the original Silk Road era of more than two thousand years ago, of building up an entire new economic space, the Eurasian Heartland. Were the Turkish government to join the OBOR [One Belt, One Road] project wholeheartedly, the potentials for a Eurasian transformation would become enormous. It remains to be seen what a USA with a Trump presidency will do or not do to try to destroy this beautiful Eurasian build up. If he is as wise as his sound bites make him sound, he will recognize that this kind of development is the only true future for his United States other than bankruptcy, economic depression and wars of destruction. If not, more and more much of the rest of the world seems determined to go it without the “Sole Superpower.”

Washington wants to dictate energy policy to EU vassals

Lessening dependence on natural gas from Russia has topped the agenda of a European Union energy ministers meeting on Monday.
The ministers are discussing amendments to European energy deal regulations to reduce the dependence of member states and increase cooperation during gas supply emergencies.
“Governments can be deeply entrenched in the commercial interests of their national champions and object to the EU messing with their strategic relations with external suppliers,” said Marco Giuli, an analyst at the European Policy Centre in Brussels, as quoted by Bloomberg.

The European Commission wants to have the right to check national supply agreements before they are signed.
The ministers also intend to approve nine geographical zones proposed for deeper cooperation during gas crises. The plan is opposed by Germany, France, and Italy.

he last provision will reportedly be applied to deals covering over 40 percent of annual gas consumption by a country and those with a contract term of more than a year.
This could have an impact on the Nord Stream-2 gas pipeline project that aims to deliver natural gas from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea. The project is currently being implemented by Russian gas exporter Gazprom in cooperation with Germany's E.ON, France's Engie and other European companies

13--U.S. Syria Policy at Crossroads as Rebels Falter-- Donald Trump has signaled a likely break from the Obama administration’s approach


(MSM no longer tries to hide the fact that Washington's real purpose was to topple Assad)

The recent gains by Mr. Assad’s forces have added impetus to calls among some of Mr. Trump’s closest advisers, as well as other top U.S. strategists, to cut back on support for the Syrian opposition. Some believe the war to oust Mr. Assad already has been lost and the U.S. should ally with Russia and possibly the Syrian government in an all-out assault on extremists. (So the war was not a fight against ISIS after all?)

“Show me a strategy right now that gets rid of Assad,” former House speaker Newt Gingrich, a close Trump adviser, said in an interview, suggesting no such strategy exists. “The Russians are for him and the Iranians are for him, and there’s no coalition of forces in the region that defeats him. So it starts with reality.”...

Just how Mr. Trump shifts the U.S. approach may come into clearer focus with his appointments. He has named retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his national security adviser and selected retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as his defense secretary.
Both have criticized Obama administration policy on Syria, saying it has held back on the U.S. assault on Islamic State. Gen. Mattis has called for a congressional resolution that authorizes the use of U.S. troops if necessary.
Gen. Mattis has long questioned the Obama administration approach of backing certain Syrian rebels against Mr. Assad.
Yet, Gen. Mattis also has denounced Russia for its 2014 incursion into Ukraine, calling for more arms for Kiev and a tougher posture by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Will US shift to military force instead of covert support for jihadists?)

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