Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Today's Links

Today's Quote:

Before the election: "Lock her up!" After the election: Nope, "the Clinton's are good people". Before the election: "I'm going to build a big, beautiful wall". After the election: Nope, if anything does get built, it will look more like a "fence". But with Wilbur Ross (" It was with the assistance and assurance of Ross, then senior managing director of ROTHSCHILD,INC., that Trump was allowed to keep the casinos and rebuild his businesses.") as Secretary of Commerce, and Steven Mnuchin (GOLDMAN SACHS partner and Soros bagman) as Secretary of Commerce, the notorious Wall Street Banksters have run the table, maintained their iron grip on the U.S. economy, and will continue to extract all of what's left of America's middle class and working class wealth. ...
Now the question remains, will his Secretrary of State choice be a neocon, an Israel loyalist, -a Bain Capital, establishment figure, job destroyer, or all three in one? 

1--Will Iran be the target of the Trump regime?


2--Taliban Offers to Defend Afghan Mine, Gas Pipeline-- Leadership Orders Forces to Defend National Projects


While the Taliban’s 15 year insurgency doesn’t appear any closer to ending, the group has made a surprising move in announcing that they not only endorse efforts to exploit Afghanistan’s natural resources, but are ordering their fighters to defend such projects as “in the national interest.”

This includes some large government projects, including a copper mine and an international gas pipeline. The pledge also raises hope that further projects involving Afghanistan’s substantial natural resources, in particular rare earth elements.

A US study suggested Afghanistan has as much as $1 trillion in natural resources to be exploited, but the nation’s constant states of warfare have made projects trying to extract them virtually impossible. The Taliban’s move suggests that such development could happen independent of the war.

3--Trump Picks Goldman-Sachs Alumnus for Treasury

Donald Trump will nominate Steven Mnuchin as the next boss of the Treasury.
I wrote in September:

Trump said he will reform Wall Street, then he went out and hired Steve Mnuchin as his finance chairman. Mnuchin is a hedge fund manager. He worked for Goldman Sachs, the great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity.

Zero Hedge summed it up nicely:

Should Mnuchin get the nod, it will certainly elevate his former employer, Goldman Sachs, to its traditional level of being pari passu with the US executive and legislative branch when it comes to decisionmaking. It also would mean that the swamp may be about to get a whole lot deeper.

It will be interesting to see the response on the part of the “liberty movement” that fell for Trump’s schtick.
He’s going to pack his administration with CHR members, bankers, fat cat corporatists, and neocons.

4--Former Senior Rothschild Crony Selected as Commerce Secretary

5--All Aboard! Trump’s Express Train To The Future

In an open video-letter to Donald Trump, he proposes that the feds should identify 10,000 of America’s “most promising entrepreneurs.” They should all have good ideas for the future – biotech, nanotech, green tech, whatever – but it should have a “tech” at the end. Then the feds should invest in their businesses, forming public-private partnerships.  Allocation of scarce resources by government bureaucrats – what could possibly go wrong?...

But wait –  our imagination has finally rebooted. And what’s this?  No train to the future? What we see is a runaway locomotive. Incompetence at the throttle, flimflam stoking the engine, and impossible, pie-in-the-sky hocus-pocus putting on a show for the passengers.
A hellish train, in other words – loaded with trillions of dollars of looted resources – misallocated, stolen, and frittered away

6--Saudi terrorist rehab is ‘hidden radicalization program,’ Gitmo prisoner says --Saudis create permanent army for US to fight around the world

A senior Al-Qaeda operative told a parole board at Guantanamo Bay that Saudi Arabia’s lauded “rehabilitation” center, which uses art therapy other methods to de-radicalize convicted terrorists, in reality appears to be a “hidden radicalization program.” ...

Citing US intelligence sources, a WikiLeaks-released email from Hillary Clinton recently revealed that Saudi Arabia has provided “clandestine financial and logistic support to” Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and “other radical Sunni groups in the region.
Earlier this year, the Gitmo prisoner said he heard a phone conversation between a religious figure who talked about his qualifications for jihad, and a person the figure addressed as “your highness,” who the prisoner believes to be a Saudi royal.

In June, al-Sharbi reported the alleged conversation with a Saudi royal family member to the Periodic Review Board. The conversation Sharbi described happened in early 2001, shortly after he returned to Saudi Arabia from the US, where he had taken some flight school courses in Phoenix with two men who would become hijackers in the 9/11 attacks, AP reported. The religious figure was urging him to go to America again and take part in a plot against the US.

7--Off the record??  Russia to talk with Erdogan about his comments on removing Assad

8--Govt Forces Are Close to Full Liberation of Aleppo City

Over 800 members of militant groups have laid down arms and surrendered to the Syrian government over last 48 hours.


9--US meets defeat in Aleppo


IMO the Battle of East Aleppo will be over soon.  R+6 is carving up what is left of the pocket like a Christmas "Turkey" (Heh! Heh!).  The Sheikh Sa'eed neighborhood at the south end of the kessel fell today, and a massive drive westward is underway from the area of Aleppo International Airport toward the citadel of Aleppo.  At the same time the Tiger Forces and Palestinian militia are pressing south from the lines they held yesterday along the east-west highway at the "waist" of the former East Aleppo pocket.  IMO the pocket will be gone in a few days

10-- New York Times vents Washington’s rage over debacle in Syria

For the Times, this is indeed a blow. Ever since President Barack Obama declared in 2011 that “Assad must go,” and the CIA and Pentagon, working in league with the most reactionary monarchical dictatorships in the Middle East—Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE—began pouring in billions of dollars in arms and money to back jihadist mercenaries, America’s “newspaper of record” has functioned as the leading propagandist for Syrian regime-change.

Its editorial pages are overseen by James Bennet, a figure with the closest ties to the state apparatus and the top echelons of the Democratic Party. (His father is a former head of USAID, a front for the CIA, and his brother is the senior senator from Colorado). The Times has churned out countless lying and hypocritical editorials and columns by such writers as Nicholas Kristof and Roger Cohen justifying the bloodbath instigated by US imperialism in Syria as a “human rights” crusade and promoting a more aggressive intervention, including a confrontation with Syria’s principal ally, Russia.

The latest front-page piece only underscores the fact that the line between editorial propaganda and news coverage in the newspaper has long since ceased to exist. The Times has shamelessly used its reporting to justify terrorist attacks and sectarian atrocities carried out by CIA-backed Islamists as legitimate actions by democratic revolutionaries, while demonizing Assad in the same manner employed in relation to Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi to prepare public opinion for the US wars of aggression in Iraq and Libya, both of which involved the murder of the targeted leaders....

The consolidation of government control over all of Aleppo, which is now almost universally recognized as inevitable, would deprive the US-backed forces of their last urban redoubt and place all of Syria’s main population centers under government control.

Among the most bitter responses to this development is a front-page article published Tuesday by the New York Times titled “Assad’s Prize If He Prevails: Syria in Tatters,” which grudgingly acknowledges that “President Bashar al-Assad is starting to look as if he may survive the uprising, even in the estimation of some of his staunchest opponents.”

11--Trump forms a Wall Street government to attack health care and workers’ rights

In selecting a Goldman Sachs alumnus to head the Treasury, Trump is following the example of George W. Bush, who appointed Henry Paulson, and Bill Clinton, who appointed Robert Rubin. Mnuchin’s father and brother had long careers at the firm, but Mnuchin left soon after becoming a partner, first working for billionaire George Soros (a prominent Clinton backer in 2016), then going west to make millions as a Hollywood financier, backing some highly profitable action films, including the X-Men franchise, as well as Avatar, Gravity and the execrable American Sniper .

One of his more controversial financial operations on the West Coast involved the takeover of the failed California mortgage lender IndyMac in 2009. He headed a group that bought IndyMac from government receivers, renamed it OneWest, pushed ruthlessly to foreclose on borrowers, and so improved the balance sheet that he sold the company to CIT in 2014 for more than twice the purchase price. Fair housing groups filed discrimination charges against OneWest for refusing to lend or refinance in certain minority areas...

Schumer added, “Senate Democrats have said that if President-elect Trump is serious about a major infrastructure bill, backed by real dollars and not just tax credits and without cutting other programs like health care and education, that we are ready to work with his administration.” Actually, the Democrats are ready to work with Trump under all circumstances, and if they cannot find anything “positive” to support, they will invent something

12--US president-elect says flag burners should be stripped of their citizenship

“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable,” according to the ruling. The next year, in United States v. Eichman, the Supreme Court held the “Flag Protection Act,” passed in response to Texas v. Johnson, unconstitutional as well

13--Corporate profits rise


14--Decade of negative rates; Who benefited?


Who Benefited?
  • Bailed out banks
  • Government bodies via property tax hikes, income tax hikes, sales tax hikes and collection
  • Asset holders – The wealthy
The median guy lost. Those at the bottom end got clobbered much harder. Only the top 10% or so fared well.

15--Trump's war on Medicare

Gutting Obamacare might be the least controversial part of Tom Price’s health care agenda.
By tapping the tea party Republican as his top health care official, President-elect Donald Trump sends a strong signal he may look beyond repealing and replacing Obamacare to try to scale back Medicare and Medicaid, popular entitlements that cover roughly 130 million people, many of whom are sick, poor and vulnerable. And that’s a turnabout from Trump’s campaign pledge — still on his campaign website — that he would leave Medicare untouched.

16--Frightened by Donald Trump? You don’t know the half of it

17--Trump Will End Bank Rules. No He Won’t. A Guide for the Puzzled


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.
https://www.rt.com/news/368425-kerry-syrian-rebels-trump/
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."
https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/global-opinions/kerrys-race-to-stop-the-siege-of-aleppo/2016/11/27/b894d4d0-b33f-11e6-8616-52b15787add0_story.html

Monday, November 28, 2016

Today's Links

1--NYT supports censorship

2--Why Donald Trump is going to need Janet Yellen

3--The trump stock moonshot

4--Trump aims to end Dodd Frank

Apparently, one aspect of American greatness that Donald Trump seeks to recreate is the Great Recession of 2008. He calls for a complete repeal of all the rules that were adopted to govern the financial industry in response to that crisis, restoring to it the freedom to create unlimited debt throughout the economy, with no requirement that serious attention be given to the ability of the indebted to meet their obligations

5--Trump says system is rigged (video)

6--Progressives’ reckoning: Donald Trump’s trade promises to Rust Belt voters might come back to haunt him

7--Aleppo turns in Syria's favor

In the past year, many countries have changed their position on the Syrian crisis in favor of Assad. For example, in December 2015, the Pakistani Foreign Minister said that his country opposed any attempt to topple Assad.

More recently, the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sissi indicated his support for the Syrian government. "Our priority is to support national armies, for example in Libya to exert control over Libya territory and deal with extremist elements. The same with Syria and Iraq," al-Sissi said. Syria and Egypt were part of a political union from 1958 until 1961, known as the United Arab Republic. Although the war is far from over, it seems highly probable that the Syrian government will emerge victorious.










                    


Sunday, November 27, 2016

Today's Links

1--Incoming Trump administration prepares assault on federal workers


2--Trump has a plan for government workers. They’re not going to like it


(Trump will use his blue collar revolt to attack working people and increase economic insecurity) 
Trump has promised that in his first 100 days in office he will freeze hiring by not replacing employees who leave. The military and employees in public health and safety roles would be exempt, according to the president-elect’s Contract with the American Voter.
He has pledged to eliminate two regulations for every new one passed and shut down the Education Department and parts of the Environmental Protection Agency.
But he also wants a military with more ships, planes and troops. He has said he wants to triple the number of immigration enforcement agents and beef up the Border Patrol by thousands....

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

3--More Than Half Of New Yorkers Are One Paycheck Away From Homelessness, Says Study


4--Election of Donald Trump foreshadows trade war in Asia


The TPP was never a “free trade” agreement. It was the means by which Washington sought to undermine Chinese economic influence and consolidate its own dominance in Asia and internationally. As Obama declared, the TPP was to ensure that the US, not China, wrote the rules for the 21st century global economy. It included the protection of US intellectual property, provisions for American corporations to sue governments if national regulations cut into their profits, and measures against state-owned enterprises.

The TPP has always been integral to the Obama administration’s diplomatic offensive and military preparations in the Asia Pacific for war with China. Obama’s defence secretary Ashton Carter underscored its strategic significance by declaring that the “TPP is as important to me as another aircraft carrier.” The US military build-up in Asia has included the strengthening of alliances throughout the region, new basing arrangements in Australia, the Philippines and Singapore, and plans to station 60 percent of naval and air assets in the Asia Pacific by 2020.

Far from pulling back, Trump is preparing a trade war against China that will greatly intensify tensions throughout Asia and heighten the danger of war. He has threatened to name China as a “currency manipulator,” enabling the imposition of penalty tariffs of up to 45 percent on Chinese exports to the US. An editorial in the hawkish Chinese state-owned Global Times has suggested in retaliation: “A batch of Boeing orders will be replaced by Airbus, US auto and iPhone sales in China will suffer a setback, and US soybean and maize imports will be halted...

5--Macroeconomics in Germany: The forgotten lesson of Hjalmar Schacht

(The banker who created Hitler)


6--Uniquely Talented: Only the Democrats Could Have Lost to Trump


7--The rise of Mussolini; Economy of Italy under fascism


First steps:  Economic policy in the first few years was largely classical liberal, with the Ministry of Finance controlled by the old liberal Alberto De Stefani. The government undertook a low-key laissez-faire program — the tax system was restructured (February 1925 law, 23 June 1927 decree-law, etc.), there were attempts to attract foreign investment and establish trade agreements, and efforts were made to balance the budget and cut subsidies. The 10% tax on capital invested in banking and industrial sectors was repealed, while the tax on directors and administrators of anonymous companies (SA) was cut down by half. All foreign capital was exonerated of taxes, while the luxury tax was also repealed.[8] Mussolini also opposed municipalization of enterprises....

In 1925, the Italian state abandoned its monopoly on telephones' infrastructure, while the state production of matches was handed over to a private "Consortium of matches' productors....

(bank bailouts without gov control)  Furthermore, various banking and industrial companies were financially supported by the state. One of Mussolini's first acts was to fund the metallurgical trust Ansaldo to the height of 400 millions Lire. Following the deflation crisis which started in 1926, banks such as the Banco di Roma, the Banco di Napoli or the Banco di Sicilia were also assisted by the state.[10] In 1924, the Unione Radiofonica Italiana (URI) was formed by private entrepreneurs and part of the Marconi group, and granted the same year a monopoly of radio broadcasts. URI became the RAI after the war....

On a wider scale the Fascist economic policy pushed the country towards the "corporative state", an effort which lasted well into the war. The idea was to create a national community where the interests of all parts of the economy were integrated into a class-transcending unity. Some see the move to corporatism in two phases. First the workers were brought to heel over 1925-27

The corporative phase---  1937, over two-thirds of cartels authorized by the state, many of which crossed sectors of the economy, had started after the founding of the Council, resulting in the noticeable increase in commercial-industrial cartelization. Cartels generally undermined the corporative agencies that were meant to ensure they operated according to Fascist principles and in the national interest, but the heads were able to show that cartel representatives had total control over the individual firms in the distribution of resources, prices, salaries and construction. Businessmen usually argued in favour of 'collective self-regulation' being within Fascist ideological lines when forming cartels, subtly undermining corporative principles...

Not long after the creation of the Institute of Industrial Reconstruction (IRI), Mussolini boasted in a 1934 speech to his Chamber of Deputies that “Three-fourths of Italian economy, industrial and agricultural, is in the hands of the state.".[17][18] As Italy continued to nationalization its economy, the IRI “became the owner not only of the three most important Italian banks, which were clearly too big to fail, but also of the lion’s share of the Italian industries.”[19]
During this period, Mussolini identified his economic policies with “state capitalism” and “state socialism,” which later was described as “economic dirigisme,” an economic system where the state has the power to direct economic production and allocation of resources.[20]
By 1939, Fascist Italy attained the highest rate of state–ownership of an economy in the world other than the Soviet Union.[21] where the Italian state “controlled over four-fifths of Italy’s shipping and shipbuilding, three-quarters of its pig iron production and almost half that of steel..

In 1929-39 the Italian economy grew by 16%, roughly half the growth rate of the earlier liberal period. ...


8--Trump-Mussolini parallels-- anticipating state-run capitalism after the next financial crisis


The state under Mussolini intervened not to abolish capitalism but to save it.....The state controlled most of the heavy industry. It also directly controlled the banking sector and gave it orders as to who they should grant loans to. Thus failing companies were kept alive and new ones were also built.

The banking crisis that erupted in 1931, starting with the collapse of the Austrian Creditanstalt, quickly spread across the whole of Europe, leading to a collapse of the pound. In Italy this meant the banks saw credit from abroad suddenly drying up, provoking a banking crisis in the country, which only the state could do anything about. Thus a massive bank bail-out was put in place.

From here onwards the state began to assume a huge role in the economy. At one point the state controlled 70% of the banks in Italy. All this culminated in the first few months of 1933 in the creation of the IRI (Institute for Industrial Reconstruction), a kind of State Enterprise Board, whereby the state took upon itself direct responsibility for production in several key areas...

Thus Mussolini was able to boast that he controlled three quarters of the Italian economy. These are the words of Mussolini on May 26, 1934: “Three-fourths of Italian economy, industrial and agricultural, is in the hands of the state.”
Of course this is not to be taken literally as the state actually owning directly three quarters of the economy. Trotsky actually refers to Mussolini’s statement in the Revolution Betrayed and explains that there was a difference between Mussolini’s policy and what existed in the Soviet Union. Mussolini’s policy was not aimed at expropriating the capitalist class but saving it in times of crisis....

The Italian economy in the period that goes from the post-1929 situation right through to the 1990s, shows that you can have a capitalist economy with a dominant state sector. A large public sector does not automatically determine the nature of the system. Today in Iran 80% of the economy is state-owned, but no-one in their right mind would define Iran as “socialist”.

The state under Mussolini intervened not to abolish capitalism but to save it. But if we look at many aspects of the Italian economy under Mussolini we see some striking similarities with the economy in China today. Small and medium scale industries were in private hands. The state controlled most of the heavy industry. It also directly controlled the banking sector and gave it orders as to who they should grant loans to. Thus failing companies were kept alive and new ones were also built.

9--U .S. Stocks Close at New Highs-- Dow Jones Industrial Average breached 19000 for the first time this week


(Wall Street celebrates Trump's promise of lifting rules, pumping money into economy and more stock buybacks--from repatriated funds $2 trillion)

U.S. stocks notched fresh records, capping a week when the Dow Jones Industrial Average breached 19000 for the first time.
It is the third consecutive week of gains for stocks as investors have bet on expectations for reduced corporate taxation and regulation and greater infrastructure spending. Thanks to these past three weeks, the Dow industrials are on track to end the year with 9.9% gains, which would mark their best annual finish since 2013...

Since the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 8, the Dow industrials are up 4.5%. It has reached eight new records in that period. Small-company index Russell 2000 has closed at a fresh record every trading session since Nov. 14...

Now, “there is a lot of enthusiasm out there” surrounding the election and what policies President-elect Donald Trump may push to implement, including spending on infrastructure, loosening regulation for big banks and cutting taxes, said Mr. Wren.

10--Trade War’s Biggest Loser—Stocks -- If Donald Trump acts tough on trade, corporate profits would be hit hardest, threatening heady stock market


Trade plays a massive role in the U.S. economy and for U.S. companies. Combined, exports and imports now amount to 27% of gross domestic product, versus 17% 30 years ago. S&P Dow Jones Indices calculates that companies in the S&P 500 generate about 44% of their sales abroad.
...

Mr. Trump will have significant latitude on trade, including the power to terminate trade agreements without congressional approval. He appears set to push for substantial changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement. Likewise, Mr. Trump wouldn’t need approval to significantly raise tariffs and impose quotas, though he could run into legal fights in the U.S. or at the World Trade Organization...

...Many U.S. companies are global players that rely on good economic relations with other countries. In 2014—the last year with available Commerce Department data—the majority-owned overseas affiliates of U.S. multinationals booked $4.1 trillion in sales. And at many multinationals, overseas operations count for the bulk of business. 3M, for example, booked 60% of its sales outside the U.S. in 2015. For McDonald’s, it was 66%. For Colgate-Palmolive, 74%.
Mr. Trump may be trying to win a few trade concessions and prompt manufacturers to add a bit more to their U.S. workforces. That appears to be what happened with Ford . But investors may want to think a little harder before putting too much stock in that rosy scenario.





Saturday, November 26, 2016

With what morality can the [US] leaders talk of human rights in a country where there are millionaires and beggars, where blacks face discrimination, women are prostituted, and great masses of Chicanos, Puerto Ricans and Latin Americans are deprecated, exploited and humiliated?” Fidel Castro, 1978, speech delivered to the World Communist Youth Conference


"Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God's service when it is violating all his laws." -John Adams


"The vast majority of working-class and middle-income seniors would be squeezed out of Medicare and left with narrow network Medicare Advantage plans, which are run by private corporations. Such a shift would have catastrophic consequences for the millions of seniors who rely on Medicare. They would see their access to specialist doctors and hospitals, life-saving treatments and procedures sharply curtailed, resulting in unnecessary suffering and death." Kate Randall, WSWS


"He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist." - Saint Francis of Assisi



1--Castro dies at 90


There are so many examples of Fidel’s unwavering stance in solidarity with the oppressed against their oppressors that it would take an entire book to list them all. Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, Nelson Mandela, Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos, Bobby Sands, Ben Bella – the roll call of legendary revolutionaries and freedom fighters who have come and gone in Fidel’s lifetime marks by itself a tribute to his legacy, and the tempestuous period he lived through.

Yet, perhaps the most important aspect of Fidel’s legacy is the way he transformed the lives of millions of Cubans in the realms of education, healthcare, and sustainable development, albeit truncated by a decades-long US trade embargo inflicted on the island and its people with the objective of bringing it to its knees. However, even through the ‘special period’ of the 1990s, when after the demise of the Soviet Union, Cuba stood alone as a socialist country and society in a sea of global capitalism, the revolution survived.

2--Global Financial Market Losses Reach $50 Trillion, Says Study


3--Russia is Manipulating US Public Opinion through Online Propaganda


Crude attempt to censor popular websites

4--Names of websites on list and Obama's support for censorship.


Russia scapegoating for the ineffectiveness of westrn media to control the narrative that is shaping public perceptions

5--The biggest peddler of fake news. The Government


6--Obama's Departure is One Reason to Feel Optimism for Trump's Arrival

Obama's failed legacy


Obama moved forward to protect the banks, escalate war, and erect the largest national security state ever assembled. He instantly became the austerity President, waging a war of privatization on public education with the expressed plans to do the same to Social Security. Only gridlock saved Social Security and Medicare from being privatized during his Presidency....


years later, Black America is in a worse condition than before, working class people as a whole have lost ground to a low-wage economy, and the world is closer to a World War III scenario than at any point prior.  


6--Washington Post Promotes Shadowy Website That Accuses 200 Publications of Being Russian Propaganda Plants Max Blumenthal (Today's "must read")


Called PropOrNot, the blacklisting organization was described by the Washington Post’s Craig Timberg as “a nonpartisan collection of researchers with foreign policy, military and technology backgrounds.”  (How does the WP know who these guys are if they can't identify them?)...


Despite the Washington Post’s charitable description of PropOrNot as a group of independent-minded researchers dedicated to protecting the integrity of American democracy, the shadowy group bears many of the qualities of the red enemies it claims to be battling. In addition to its blacklist of Russian dupes, it lists a collection of outlets funded by the U.S. State Department, NATO and assorted tech and weapons companies as “allies.” PropOrNot’s methodology is so shabby it is able to peg widely read outlets like Naked Capitalism, a leading left-wing financial news blog, as Russian propaganda operations....


The group also seeks to brand major progressive politics sites (and a number of prominent right-wing opinion outlets) as “‘gray’ fake-media propaganda outlets” influenced or directly operated by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). It can then compel Facebook and Google to ban them, denying them the ad revenue they rely on to survive.Though PropOrNot’s hidden authors claim, “we do not reach our conclusions lightly,” the group’s methodology leaves more than enough room to smear an outlet on political grounds. Among the criteria PropOrNot identifies as clear signs of Russian propaganda are, “Support for policies like Brexit, and the breakup of the EU and Eurozone” and, “Opposition to Ukrainian resistance to Russia and Syrian resistance to Assad.”...

Among the most ironic characteristics of PropOrNot is its claim to be defending journalistic integrity, a rigorous adherence to the facts, and most of all, a sense of political levity. In fact, the group’s own literature reflects a deeply paranoid view of Russia and the outside world. According to PropOrNot’s website, Russia is staging a hostile takeover of America’s alternative online media environment “in order to Make Russia Great Again (as a new ‘Eurasian’ empire stretching from Dublin to Vladisvostok), on the other. That means preserving Russian allies like Bashar al-Assad in Syria, breaking up the ‘globalist’ EU, NATO, and US-aligned trade and defense organizations, and getting countries to join ‘Eurasianist’ Russian equivalents… Or else.”
The message is clear: Stamp out the websites blacklisted by PropOrNot,or submit to the malevolent influence of Putin’s “new global empire."...

As scrutiny of PropOrNot increases, its credibility is rapidly unraveling. But that has not stopped Beltway media wiseguys and Democratic political operatives from hyping its claims. Fake news and Russian propaganda have become the great post-election moral panic, a creeping Sharia-style conspiracy theory for shell-shocked liberals. Hoping to punish the dark foreign forces they blame for rigging the election, many of these insiders have latched onto a McCarthyite campaign that calls for government investigations of a wide array of alternative media outlets. In this case, the medicine might be worse than the disease.    

7--Republican Congress, Trump plan assault on Medicare

During his election campaign, Donald Trump declared that he had no plans to make “substantial” changes to Medicare, the government-run health insurance plan for the elderly and disabled that covers 55 million Americans. The president-elect’s web site now says his administration will work to “modernize Medicare” and allow more “flexibility” for Medicaid, the health care program for the poor jointly administered by the federal government and the states.

These are code words signaling the readiness of the incoming administration to work with the Republican-controlled Congress to shift Medicare from a guaranteed government program to a plan with fixed government contributions—or vouchers—and to pave the way for the program’s privatization and dismantlement. Medicaid is to suffer a similar fate...

Seniors would eventually pay a larger share of costs, while government costs would shrink.
In an earlier version proposed by Ryan, cost-sharing—where the government currently pays roughly 70 percent of Medicare costs and beneficiaries pay 30 percent—would flip, leaving seniors responsible for 70 percent of costs and the government only 30 percent.   ...

The vast majority of working-class and middle-income seniors would be squeezed out of Medicare and left with narrow network Medicare Advantage plans, which are run by private corporations. Such a shift would have catastrophic consequences for the millions of seniors who rely on Medicare. They would see their access to specialist doctors and hospitals, life-saving treatments and procedures sharply curtailed, resulting in unnecessary suffering and death.

The attack on Medicare is part of a frontal assault to be carried out by the Trump administration against all that remains of the social reforms wrested by the working class from the ruling elite over the last century. None of the social programs enacted in the 1930s and 1960s, including Social Security, the government retirement program, will be outside the scope of the social counterrevolution that is being prepared ...

Since Obama’s signature domestic program became law in 2010, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has worked at breakneck speed to transform Medicare’s fee-for-service payments into a system that rewards doctors and hospitals for cutting costs.
HHS projects that nearly every fee-for-service payment to Medicare will be tied in some way to “value” by 2018. A recent estimate by the Congressional Budget Office anticipates a reduction in Medicare spending under Obamacare of $716 billion from 2013 to 2022.
The ferocity of the coming attacks on the basic social needs of the working class—health care, education, decent-paying jobs, pensions—is prefigured in the gang of billionaire parasites being assembled by Trump to staff his cabinet, virtually all of whom have made their fortunes by savaging workers’ living standards and attacking social programs.

Billionaire Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for secretary of education, is a leading proponent of charter schools and vouchers and vehement enemy of teachers and public education. Investor and former banker Wilbur Ross, Trump’s likely pick for secretary of commerce, made his fortune through leveraged buyouts of distressed steel and coal companies. He made billions by downsizing firms, slashing wages and pensions, and selling off what remained for a hefty profit.
The incoming administration has singled out the 2.7 million US federal employees for attacks on jobs, employment security and pensions 

8--Unimaginable Savagery; Trump names opponent of public schools to head Department of Education

      

President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet of billionaires, religious fundamentalists and militarists is emerging as the most right-wing in US history. His nominee for secretary of education, long-time Republican fundraiser Betsy DeVos, is no exception.
Politically and personally, DeVos personifies the oligarchic and rapacious American ruling class.

For 10 years, DeVos led an organization that calls for the reinstatement of child labor. From 1995 to 2005, she sat on the Board of Directors for the Acton Institute and has given $1.28 million to support the organization since 2000.

A November 3, 2016 blog post by the Acton Institute is titled: “Work is a gift our kids can handle.” The blog argues that turn of the 20th century photographs of young children with their faces covered in coal dust from mining “represent the faces of those who are actively building enterprises and cities, using their gifts to serve their communities, and setting the foundation of a flourishing nation, in turn.”
The article quotes another recent pro-child labor article noting that being a child coal miner is “an exciting life” and that “if kids were allowed to work and compulsory school attendance was abolished, the jobs of choice would be at Chick-Fil-A and Walmart. And they would be fantastic jobs too …”  

Devos’s political orientation reflects the anti-social interests of the aristocratic milieu on whose behalf she speaks.
She is the heiress of her billionaire industrialist father Edgar Prince’s fortune. Her brother, Erik Prince, is the founder of Blackwater USA (since renamed as Academi), the mercenary firm that murdered 17 Iraqi civilians at Nisour Square, Baghdad in 2007. Her husband, Richard DeVos, is the billionaire heir of the Amway corporation fortune who spent tens of millions of dollars of personal wealth running a failed campaign for Governor of Michigan in 2006.
Both Betsy and Richard DeVos’s parents belong to a class of religious zealots who have donated vast sums of money to oppose same-sex marriage and abortion rights.

In the book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right, author Jane Mayer described the role of the DeVos family: “Starting in 1970, they began to direct at least $200 million into virtually every branch of the New Right’s infrastructure, from think tanks like the Heritage Foundation to academic organizations such as the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, which funded conservative publications on college campuses.”
In 1997, Betsy DeVos penned a column in the Washington DC publication Roll Call which defended the aristocratic privilege of the wealthy to dominate government:    

9--     The peak oil election?

It was the Peak Oil Election because peak oil defeated both of them. Without increasing energy consumption, there can be no economic growth and, without increasing supplies, there can be no increase in energy consumption. The so-called renewables are hopelessly dependent upon fossil fuels for manufacture, installation and maintenance and are much less energy-intensive than fossil fuels.

The fact is that because oil production cannot be increased, economic growth is now over. Donald Trump’s promise to bring back coal production, increase all fossil fuel extraction and rebuild manufacturing are simply not going to happen, not because of Trump but because policy is no longer in charge. From now on, geology and physics call the shots. The remaining oil is too expensive to get to and extract. Oil companies can’t make a profit at a price that customers in a contracting economy can afford to pay. The growth game is finished as will be soon the multitude of financial frauds that, starting with the peak of United States oil production in 1970, have come to comprise much of our economy.

We need a new sort of politics and economy: local, cooperative, community-based, low-energy, conservationist, non-polluting, an economy that sustainably supports biological needs and health, rather than pursuing riches. I don’t think any politicians are going to do that for us; we need to do it for ourselves


Thursday, November 24, 2016

Today's Links

1--Ex-Fed governor Richard Fischer: "low interest rates for too long hurt financial infrastructure" (video)


2--Trump paves the way for massive stock bubble


The profits that US corporations earned overseas, and that have remained untaxed in the US, have ballooned to $2.6 trillion, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, cited by Bloomberg. This “overseas cash” made it onto Trump’s agenda. Wall Street and our Corporate Titans are licking their chops. They can smell a tax holiday or a new loophole to encourage them to “repatriate” this “overseas cash.”
Goldman Sachs now told its clients what these corporations are going to use this “cash” for. You guessed it: financial engineering.
The exact amount of this “cash overseas” remains a mystery. The numbers thrown around – including the $2.6 trillion above – are guesses. There is no official data. Companies are not required to disclose the details of their assets, in what currencies they’re denominated, or where they’re domiciled.
But in 2004, the last time there was a tax holiday for “overseas cash,” our Corporate Titans “repatriated” $300 billion at a tax-holiday rate of 5.25% and used 92% of if for share-buybacks.

The number of jobs that were promised to be created as a result of this repatriation? Forget it. But the number of share-buybacks soared by 84%....

And investment “for growth” (capital expenditures and research & development) will drop to 52% of total cash used in 2017, lower even the 55% in 2016, matching the record low of the great financial-engineering year 2007. Goldman expects CapEx to drop to 28% of total cash used, matching the low of 2007. And R & D will drop to 11% of total cash used, matching the lowest ratios going back to 2000.
If Goldman is right, this “repatriation” of “cash” will lead to no economic benefits, but plenty of benefits for Wall Street. There are, however, a few wrinkles to it.

3--Trump’s Infrastructure ‘Plan’ Is Really Just A Privatization Scam


...Trump’s plan is not really an infrastructure plan. It’s a tax-cut plan for utility-industry and construction-sector investors, and a massive corporate welfare plan for contractors. The Trump plan doesn’t directly fund new roads, bridges, water systems or airports, as did Hillary Clinton’s 2016 infrastructure proposal. Instead, Trump’s plan provides tax breaks to private-sector investors who back profitable construction projects. These projects (such as electrical grid modernization or energy pipeline expansion) might already be planned or even underway. There’s no requirement that the tax breaks be used for incremental or otherwise expanded construction efforts; they could all go just to fatten the pockets of investors in previously planned projects.

4--Trump promised the rich would pay their fair share – but his tax plan would make them much wealthier


"I am proposing an across-the-board income-tax reduction, especially for middle-income Americans," Trump, a billionaire businessman and reality TV star, said in a speech at the Detroit Economic Club. And at the New York Economic Club, Trump claimed "the tax relief will be concentrated on the working and middle-class taxpayer. They will receive the biggest benefit – it won't even be close."

His proposal would cut taxes at all income levels, although the largest benefits, in dollar and percentage terms, would go to the highest-income households," claims a comprehensive analysis of the impact of Trump's ambitious tax plan by the Tax Policy Center, a thinktank backed by the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution.

"Federal revenues would fall by $6.2tn (£5bn, €5.8bn) over the first decade before accounting for added interest costs and macroeconomic effects. Including those factors, the federal debt would rise by at least $7tn over the first decade and by at least $20.7tn by 2036."

The Center's distributional analysis of Trump's tax plan – how it would affect the different income groups – is revealing. The plan would cut the average American's tax bill in 2017 by $2,940, increasing after-tax income by 4.1%. But the highest-income taxpayers – the top 0.1% of the population whose income is over $3.7m a year – would enjoy an average tax cut of almost $1.1m. That is equivalent to 14.2% of their after-tax income, vastly higher than the average American.

5--Trump’s big infrastructure plan? It’s a trap.


6--Guess who really runs this country?  Federal Reserve Chair Throws Cold Water On Trump's Economic Plan

(After giving $4 trillion to Wall Street banks, Yellen lectures Trump on economic revival plan)
President-elect Donald Trump has pledged a $1 trillion infrastructure spending program to help jump-start an economy that he said during the campaign was in terrible shape.
Speaking on Capitol Hill Thursday, Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen warned lawmakers that as they consider such spending, they should keep an eye on the national debt. Yellen also said that while the economy needed a big boost with fiscal stimulus after the financial crisis, that's not the case now.
"The economy is operating relatively close to full employment at this point," she said, "so in contrast to where the economy was after the financial crisis when a large demand boost was needed to lower unemployment, we're no longer in that state."

7--Hitler vs Bernanke (archive)


Here’s a little background from C.K.Liu’s Asia Times article “Nazism and the German Economic Miracle”:
“The Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, at a time when its economy was in total collapse, with ruinous war-reparation obligations and zero prospects for foreign investment or credit. Yet through an independent monetary policy of sovereign credit and a full-employment public-works program, the Third Reich was able to turn a bankrupt Germany, stripped of overseas colonies it could exploit, into the strongest economy in Europe within four years, even before armament spending began.” (“Nazism and the German Economic Miracle,” Henry C. K. Liu, Asia Times)


8--Obama's commitment to austerity ruined his presidency


Krugman used to make this point forcefully.
[T]he American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, aka the Obama stimulus … surely helped end the economy’s free fall. But the stimulus was too small and too short-lived given the depth of the slump: stimulus spending peaked at 1.6 percent of GDP in early 2010 and dropped rapidly thereafter, giving way to a regime of destructive fiscal austerity. And the administration’s efforts to help homeowners were so ineffectual as to be risible...

But Romer, Summers, and Bernstein experienced the same frustration as 2009 proceeded. The problem was not simply the Rubinites’ fervor for the self-inflicted wound of austerity – the fundamental problem was President Obama. Obama’s administration was littered with Rubinites because Obama was a New Democrat who believed that Rubin’s love of austerity and trade deals was an excellent policy. Of course, he had campaigned on the opposite policy positions, but that was simply political and Obama promptly abandoned those campaign promises. Fiscal stimulus ceased to be an administration priority as soon as the stimulus bill was enacted. Romer and Summers recognized the obvious and soon made clear that they were leaving. Bernstein retained Biden’s support, but he was frozen out of influence on administration fiscal policies by the Rubinites....

Obama began pushing for the fiscal “grand bargain” in 2010. The “grand bargain” would have pushed towards austerity and begun unraveling the safety net. As such, it was actually the grand betrayal. Obama’s administration began telling the press that Obama viewed achieving such a deal with the Republicans critical to his “legacy.” There were two major ironies involving the grand bargain. Had it been adopted it would have thrown the U.S. back into recession, made Obama a one-term president, and led to even more severe losses for the Democratic Party in Congress and at the state level. The other irony was that it was the Tea Party that saved Obama from Obama’s grand betrayal by continually demanding that Obama agree to inflict more severe assaults on the safety net....

Trump will create an exceptionally criminogenic environment that will produce epidemics of control fraud. The challenge for progressive Democrats and independents is to break with the New Democrats’ dogmas. Neither America nor the Democratic Party can continue to bear the terrible cost of this unforced error of economics, politics, and basic humanity. I fear that the professional Democrats assigned the task of re-winning the support of the white working class do not even have ending the New Democrats’ addiction to austerity on their radar

9--1 percent continue to do well


In 2000, the top 1 percent owned 49.6 percent of all household wealth, dropping to 45.4 percent in 2009. This figure has since clambered back up to reach 50.8 percent in 2016. Trends for the wealthiest top 5 percent and 10 percent of people show a similar trajectory with the wealthiest decile now owning 89.1 percent of all global assets.

At the other end of the scale, the poorest 20 percent of people – numbering around one billion – are mostly found in developing markets, with Africa, India and Asia-Pacific accounting for 72 percent of these, as well as 70 percent of the bottom half of the world's population.


10--Yellen statements--Not good


11--‘EU betrays own principles’: RT’s editor-in-chief slams ‘free speech doublethink’


12--Trump campaign add


“Our movement is about replacing a failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you, the American people. The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election. Those who control the levers of power in Washington and the global special interests they partner with, don’t have your good in mind. The political establishment that is trying to stop us is the same group responsible for our disastrous trade deals, massive illegal immigration and economic and foreign policies that have bled our country dry.

“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 only force strong enough to save our country is us. The only people brave enough to vote out this corrupt establishment is you, the American people.”

13--The 19,000 Dow: Markets soar on prospects for profiteering under Trump


US stock indexes reached record highs again on Wednesday on expectations that the policies of the incoming Trump administration, based on “America first” economic nationalism, the removal of all regulations restricting corporate profit-making, and huge business tax cuts, will provide a major boost to the bottom lines of banks and corporations.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average continued its rise after closing above 19,000 for the first time ever on Tuesday. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index and the Russell 2000 were also in record territory. Only the tech-based Nasdaq index was slightly down after hitting a record high on Tuesday.
All four major indexes reached record highs on Tuesday, something that had not occurred since New Year’s Eve in 1999, at the height of the dot.com bubble.

The market rise is being led by two groups of stocks, banks and those involved in construction and infrastructure.
Bank stocks are being propelled by the prospect of interest rate increases, which will boost their profits, and indications that the Trump administration will wind back regulations, including some of the limited restrictions imposed under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. The rise in bank stocks is the main reason for the jump in the S&P 500....

The tax measures include a reduction in corporate taxes from 35 to 15 percent, as well as a reduction in the top tax levels for the ultra-wealthy. Companies repatriating profits from overseas may have to pay as little as 10 percent.
But it is the infrastructure program, which has been put at $1 trillion, that has sent the markets soaring on the ever-stronger smell of money. It is not a plan for the government to borrow money and use it to finance much-needed improvements on roads, bridges and other basic facilities.

Rather, it is based on a privatisation scheme, in which firms will receive massive tax cuts for undertaking such projects. By means of tax breaks, they will receive back as much as 82 percent of the money they invest. As the owners of the projects they initiate, they will then be able to collect tolls or user fees in perpetuity. In many cases, the projects will involve profitable ventures to which companies would have been attracted anyway...

Trump is planning to cut non-defense discretionary spending by 1 percent a year, which will mean further reductions in food stamps, home heating assistance, unemployment benefits, health programs and the enforcement of job safety and environmental standards.
He is targeting federal workers for immediate attack, calling for mass layoffs, the gutting of job protection provisions, the elimination of automatic raises and the imposition of 401(k) plans instead of pensions for new-hires.
During the election campaign, Trump sought to attract voters suffering cuts in their wages and living standards with the promise that Medicare, Social Security and other entitlements would not be touched by his administration. But the budget process is in the hands of the Republican-controlled Congress, where House Speaker Paul Ryan has reiterated his plan to privatize Medicare. Since the election, Trump has said he is “open” to such a plan..

14--Dow Closes Above 19000 for First Time


15--European Companies Happily Take ECB’s Cheap Cash, but Don’t Spend It -- The very reason the ECB started buying corporate bonds—a weak economy—is crimping the program’s success


(Corporate bond scam begins to fizzle) 
The European Central Bank began buying billions of euros worth of corporate bonds earlier this year in a high-profile experiment aimed at spurring private investment. So far, the spending hasn’t materialized.
Since June, the ECB has bought €44.3 billion (around $46.9 billion) in corporate debt. Borrowing costs have tumbled, and debt issuance is up.
But the very reason the ECB started buying the bonds—a weak economy—is crimping the program’s success. The ECB buys bonds to stimulate tame growth with corporate spending. However, companies aren’t spending, executives say and data suggest, because they see few opportunities amid feeble growth and because credit was already cheap...

The average yield on eurozone senior debt of nonfinancial companies is 1.1%, down from around 1.4% before the ECB announced its buying plans in March, according to IHS Markit’s iBoxx index. Yields fall as prices rise.
That move is small compared with the decline in funding costs over the past several years. The yield was 7.1% in late 2008 at the height of the global financial crisis.
Juha Kervinen, group treasurer at Finnish telecom company Elisa, said the company hadn’t had any difficulty raising funds, so the ECB buying two of its bonds “really hasn’t changed our thinking.”
For us to increase [investment] we’d need to see an improved return, not just building networks without any reason,” he added...

The ECB’s program was supposed to trickle beyond those companies whose debt is bought on public markets. If large corporations and banks find it easier to finance themselves, they may be willing to extend more credit to smaller businesses.
Bank credit to nonfinancial corporations increased from April to July, but it fell in August and was broadly flat in September, according to the ECB.
Some companies want to avoid loading up on debt to avoid problems down the road, when the debt may need refinancing

16---The markets love Donald Trump


. Bullish sentiment in the American Association of Individual Investors’ poll last week had its biggest surge since July 2010. And more than 80% of 650 institutional investors polled by Strategas Research Partners said the election outcome made them more bullish on stocks.

17--Dollar is the new fear index


The world’s most-traded currency is becoming a fear gauge.
That’s the opinion of Hyun Song Shin, head of research at the Bank for International Settlements. A stronger dollar can depress demand for credit while reflecting reduced investor appetite for the riskiest assets, Shin wrote in a report released Tuesday by the BIS.

The research signals that the dollar’s surge after Donald Trump’s U.S. electoral victory shouldn’t be interpreted as a clear sign of confidence across markets. In fact the dollar has become a new fear gauge, replacing the Chicago Board Options Exchange VIX volatility index, Shin wrote.
“The mantle of the barometer of risk appetite and leverage has slipped from the VIX and has passed to the dollar,” he said. “Given the dollar’s role as barometer of global appetite for leverage, there may be no winners from a stronger dollar.”