Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Today's Links

1--     Dow Companies Report Worst Revenues since 2010, Dow Rises to 20,000

2--President Backstabber Returns

President Obama is heartened by the level of engagement taking place in communities around the country. In his final official speech as President, he spoke about the important role of citizen and how all Americans have a responsibility to be the guardians of our democracy--not just during an election but every day.

Citizens exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, organize and have their voices heard by their elected officials is exactly what we expect to see when American values are at stake.

With regard to comparisons to President Obama's foreign policy decisions, as we've heard before, the President fundamentally disagrees with the notion of discriminating against individuals because of their faith or religion.

3--Today's 'must read" Lessons for “The Resistance” from the Bush Resistance

So Obama got in power, he bailed out the banks, he fucked over ordinary home-owners, he increased deportations and ramped up drone assassinations. He was far harsher on whistleblowers than Bush had been and he re-signed all the bad bills when the time came, like the Patriot Act and the AUMF, which had given Bush massive executive power and carte-blanche to spy, and assassinate, and go to war.
Obama institutionalized Bush. Oh, he drew back on some things, but he advanced others, and he left the basic power structure in place and the legal structure. Then he went to war with Libya, which while it killed less people than the Iraq war, was the exact same type of war crime as Bush had committed: aggressive war on a non-threatening country. This is what the Nazis were hung for in Nuremburg....

Six years, later Trump won the election. The apparatus put in place by Bush to allow him to commit his crimes and over-reach was not just still there, it had been extended significantly in terms of whistleblower prosecution, drone assassination, spying on journalists, immigrant incarceration, and surveillance state powers and capabilities.

Trump inherited a more powerfully oppressive system than Obama did, even if Obama had not always used it as oppressively as Bush (though in some cases he had been worse).
There are a couple lessons to learn from this.

The first is that while partisan Democrats may be one’s allies when opposing a Republic president, their opposition is opportunistic and not principled. The second they are in charge, they will support or wave aside the same actions they condemned coming from a Republican...

Obama and Bill Clinton contributed massively to the ills which lead to Trump. That needs to stop. There needs to be a Democratic President who rolls back what has been done, and then moves strongly to the left. Who dismantles the legal, regulatory, and institutional framework for tyranny, and who actually reduces inequality and increases prosperity for all Americans in a clear way they can feel.
Failure to achieve that, and, in tandem, to achieve a Congress which would work with such a president and oppose the inevitable future Republican presidents, will equal failure for the Resistance, no matter how many small successes they have, or even if they are able to remove Trump through impeachment or loss in 2020.
Slowing the rate of the downward spiral the US is on is good. Stopping it from getting worse is better. Reversing it and making it better is best and is necessary for long-term success and long-term security against leaders like Trump.

4--Secret Docs Reveal: President Trump Has Inherited an FBI With Vast Hidden Powers

5--U.S. Economy Returns to Lackluster Growth-- President Trump has set goal of generating 4% annual growth by overhauling tax code and rolling back regulations, among other measures

The U.S. ended 2016 on a familiar trajectory of roughly 2% economic growth, the lackluster trend that has prevailed through most of the current expansion and which President Donald Trump is seeking to double in the face of stubborn long-term headwinds.
Gross domestic product, a broad measure of the goods and services produced across the economy, expanded at an inflation and seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.9% in the fourth quarter from the previous three months, the Commerce Department said Friday. That exceeded the pace of growth in a weak first half of 2016 but marked a slowdown from a fleeting third-quarter 3.5% growth spurt.

The economy similarly grew 1.9% in the fourth quarter compared with a year earlier, matching 2015’s annual growth and in line with the 2.1% average since the recession ended in mid-2009. That has made this the slowest expansion since World War II, though also one of the longest.

The final three months of 2016 saw solid consumer spending, a pickup in business investment, a rebound for home construction and stronger spending by state and local governments. A widening in the foreign-trade deficit weighed on growth, offset in part by a buildup in business inventories

The latest data underscored the obstacles to stronger growth facing Mr. Trump, who has said he will raise the pace of expansion to 4% a year. Friday’s report also provided fodder for Republicans arguing that stronger growth is needed and possible. “Americans spoke loudly and clearly in November telling the world that President [Barack] Obama’s ‘new normal’ was unacceptable,” said Rep. Pat Tiberi (R., Ohio), chairman of Congress’s Joint Economic Committee. “That’s why Republicans are ready to unleash America’s economic potential.”
Mr. Trump has argued the U.S. can achieve stronger growth by overhauling the tax code, boosting infrastructure spending, rolling back federal regulations and cutting new trade deals that narrow the foreign-trade deficit.
Economic forecasters are predicting slightly stronger growth in the next few years compared with pre-election estimates. But many remain skeptical of the potential for a significant shift in the long-term growth picture.

Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen last week pointed to “a variety of forces depressing both supply and demand,” including slow growth in the size of the labor force and sluggish worker productivity. She said she expected they would continue to restrain growth for years to come. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office this week reiterated that it thinks U.S. economic growth will remain modest over the coming decade due to long-term forces, namely the slower workforce growth produced by baby-boomer retirements.

6--About That Obama ‘Boom’-- The economy averaged 1.8% annual growth, 2.1% after the recession

So much for that economic “boom” that President Obama was supposed to have left his successor. That has been the spin among Democrats and progressive economists, but Friday’s GDP report for the fourth quarter provided another in eight years of reality checks on the Obama economic record.
The Commerce Department said growth clocked in at 1.9% for the last quarter of 2016, which was a major deceleration from 3.5% in the third quarter after three previous quarters of about 1.1%. The spin had been that a strong end of the year would leave President Trump with economic momentum, which after eight years of slow growth is like a runner who takes six hours to finish a marathon but sprints the last 25 yards.

Yet even this supposed last Obama sprint was oversold, as consumer spending slowed and net exports were a drag after two quarters of contributing to higher GDP. One good sign was a modest increase in business investment after several dreadful quarters and historically weak capital investment throughout the Obama expansion.

Speaking of weak, growth for all of 2016 clocked in at 1.6%, the slowest since 2011 and down from 2.6% in 2015. That marks the 11th consecutive year that GDP growth failed to reach 3%, the longest period since the Bureau of Economic Analysis began reporting the figure. The fourth quarter also rings out the Obama era with an average annual growth rate of 1.8%, which is right down there with George W. Bush for the lowest among modern Presidents.

Mr. Obama inherited a deep recession, but that makes the 2.1% growth average since the recession ended all the more dismaying. You have to work hard to suppress growth after a deep downturn, and Mr. Obama did that by putting income redistribution ahead of growth as a policy priority. He achieved the remarkable feat of slower growth and more inequality.
Mr. Trump now has the chance to improve on this record, and the key this long (seven and a half years) into an expansion is business investment. Consumers can’t do much more than they have and the labor market is tight in much of the country.

This means faster growth will have to come from liberating the trillions of dollars in capital that have been waiting for the political and regulatory climate to change. The promise of the GOP-Trump proposals on tax reform and deregulation have already stirred the stock market, and if they are implemented they could unlock a burst of capital spending and risk-taking.

A closing word to Trumpians who will point to the fourth-quarter decline in net exports that subtracted 1.7% from GDP. Part of the explanation is that a bumper crop of soybean exports boosted growth in the third quarter and then dropped off at the end of the year. This is not an argument for starting a trade war with China or Mexico, which could harm U.S. exports.

7--Trump Signs Agreement with Saudi Terror Masters

The pledge to work together to fight “the spread of radical Islamic terrorism” is particularly odd considering Saudi Arabia is responsible (along with other Wahhabi Gulf States) for the spread of Salafist terror.

During the campaign, Trump said he would fight against radical Islam, but now he has teamed up with the so-called Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and head of the House of Saud to fight terror.
The statement singles out Iran as the perpetrator of terror. This is in keeping with Trump’s promise to shut down the nuclear deal reached with Tehran, an agreement rejected by Republicans.
Folks who voted for Trump are under they impression he will stamp out radical Islam. If he doesn’t shut down the Wahhabi terror machine, however, nothing will change.

Indeed, we are living in Bizarro world. Either Trump is completely clueless about the source of terrorism—a distinct possibility—or he is simply following the script followed by Bush and Obama.
It should be remembered Trump is a real estate and business magnate. He owns a posh golf course in Dubai, a stake in Qatar airlines, and plans a line of luxury hotels in Abu Dhabi, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia.

8--The Markets Don’t Believe in Trump for the Long Term -- The yield curve tells a story of Trumpflation, a boost to both growth and inflation lasting a few years, with little long-term impact on the real economy

The hope of a cyclical boom is reflected across equity markets, although the details of the new administration’s policies create more noise at a stock level. Cyclical companies such as car makers and airlines have easily beaten the S&P 500 since the election, while defensive companies—those better able to ride out a recession—have lagged behind, and, in the case of utilities, lost money.
The yield curve may be one of the most important measures in finance, but even the question of what the market expects is open to interpretation....

If Mr. Trump’s stimulus plans are implemented by Congress—a big if—they might end up boosting inflation more than real growth. That is reflected in the rise in the bond market’s implied inflation expectations, known as break-even inflation. It is back above 2% for the next 10 years for the first time since 2014.
A proxy for expected real growth, the after-inflation yield on 10-year Treasury inflation-protected securities, rose fast after the election before giving back some of its gains following the Federal Reserve’s December rate increase. Yet even at its December peak of 0.74% plus inflation, it wasn’t quite back to where it stood a year earlier, and was nowhere near the pre-2008 norms....

One interpretation: Investors think the downward pressures on growth and inflation from the aging population are greater than any likely productivity gains from cutting red tape or improving infrastructure. The most Mr. Trump can do is make America a little bit greater than it otherwise would be, not the catchiest of campaign slogans.
Some critics argue that the 30-year Treasury is a flawed measure of hopes for growth. It isn’t very heavily traded, and government decisions on issuance, plus price-insensitive demand linked to pension obligations, can be as important as beliefs about long-run growth. This may be true, but it’s also obvious that if investors truly believed Mr. Trump would deliver a big and permanent boost to growth or inflation, few would want 30-year bonds at a yield of just over 3%. It may not be perfect, but it’s a good enough measure.
Knowing what the market as a whole is pricing in creates opportunities for investors who have a strong view of what Mr. Trump will achieve. More growth, more inflation or more policy chaos all have scope to move the market by a lot. The problem is for those who have little idea what the man in the White House represents; the usual diversification between shares and bonds offers little protection against the risk of a trade war, when both could suffer as inflation rises and profits fall

9--Syrian rebels claim Trump administration sending them armored vehicles

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Today's Links

In his most sweeping action since taking office on Jan. 20, Trump, a Republican, put a 120-day hold on allowing refugees into the country, an indefinite ban on refugees from Syria and a 90-day bar on citizens from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

In a Twitter message on Sunday, Trump said the country needed "strong borders and extreme vetting, NOW." Reuters

1---Judge Blocks Trump Order on Refugees Amid Chaos and Outcry Worldwide

2--White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Sunday defended President Trump’s order to temporarily ban immigration from seven mostly-Muslim nations -- and deflected criticism over countries like Saudi Arabia and Pakistan not being included in the ban. 

“These are countries that have a history of training, harboring, exporting terrorists,” Conway, counselor to the president, told “Fox News Sunday.” “We can’t keep pretending and looking the other way.”

Conway said the Obama administration and Congress essentially came up with the list of seven, citing the Terrorist Prevention Act of 2015.  

A federal judge on Saturday evening issued an emergency order temporarily barring the administration from deporting people from the seven countries.

Conway argued Sunday that the Brooklyn judge who issued the order is a President Obama appointee and that the judge’s order doesn't impact the thrust of Trump’s executive order -- preventing dangerous people from coming into the country, not detaining them.

“The upside (is) greater protection of our borders, our people. That’s a small price to pay,” said Conway, arguing the ban impacts just roughly 1 percent of such travelers.

In the wide-ranging interview 10 days into the Trump administration, Conway also attempted to explain why such countries as Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were not included in the ban.

She said Trump is privy to intelligence reports that critics and others have not seen and suggested the list could change.

“They can’t have it both ways on Trump,” she said. “The president and Congress will always have information we do not."

3--With National Security Council Shakeup, Steve Bannon Gets A Seat At The Table  The politization of national security

President Trump has reorganized the National Security Council by elevating his chief strategist Steve Bannon and demoting the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Now, Bannon will join the NSC's principals committee, the top inter-agency group for discussing national security. The National Security Council is the staff inside the White House that coordinates decision making by the president on such matters, in coordination with outside departments including the State Department and the Pentagon.

It's an unusual decision, NPR's Mara Liasson reported. "David Axelrod, for instance, who had a similar job as Bannon in the Obama administration, never sat in on Principals meetings," she added. When such figures seen as part of the political wing of the White House have participated in broader National Security Council meetings, it's sparked sharp criticism from the national security establishment....

Bannon was extremely influential during the first week of the administration – he is said to be part of a small group inside the White House driving the flurry of executive actions this week, Mara Liasson has reported....

The NSC principals committee is defined as "the Cabinet-level senior interagency forum for considering policy issues that affect the national security interests of the United States." It's chaired either by national security advisor Michael Flynn or homeland security advisor Tom Bossert and now includes the secretaries of state, defense and the Treasury, plus the attorney general, White House chief of staff and the president's chief strategist, which is Bannon's position.

On the other hand, the Director of National Intelligence and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will now attend Principals Committees meetings only when "issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed," according to the presidential memorandum issued on Saturday....

Top security officials from the Obama administration are blasting the decision.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who served under Obama and George W. Bush, called the demotions a "big mistake" in an interview with ABC News. " I think that they both bring a perspective and judgment and experience to bear that every president, whether they like it or not, finds useful," Gates said.
Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice called the move "stone cold crazy." In a sarcastic tweet, she said: "Who needs military advice or intel to make policy on ISIL, Syria, Afghanistan, DPRK?"

White House press secretary Sean Spicer responded in an interview with ABC News. "That's clearly inappropriate language from a former ambassador," Spicer said. "We are instilling reforms to make sure that we streamline the process for the president to make decisions on key, important intelligence matters. You've got a leader in General Flynn who understands the intelligence process and the reforms that are needed probably better than anybody else."

Spicer also defended Bannon's qualifications. "Well, he is a former naval officer. He's got a tremendous understanding of the world and the geopolitical landscape that we have now," Spicer said

Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, told CBS News, "I am worried about the National Security Council. Who are the members of it and who are the permanent members? The appointment of Mr. Bannon is something which a radical departure from any National Security Council in history."
McCain added that, "One person who is indispensable would be the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in my view."

4--National Security Council flap continues

“Adding people to the National Security Council never really bothers me,” he said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.” “My biggest concern is there are actually, under the law, only two statutory advisers to the National Security Council and that’s the Director of Central Intelligence, or the DNI, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

“I think pushing them out of the National Security Council meetings, except when their specific issues are at stake, is a big mistake,” he added. “I think that they both bring a perspective and judgment and experience to bear that every president, whether they like it or not, finds useful

5--The 2016 presidential campaign was the first to be fought and won on the Internet.

Donald Trump mastered the art of dominating the news cycle simply by posting a Tweet that was so outrageously compelling that it went viral the moment it was posted. The journalists at Drudge, Alex Jones, Breitbart and WND plus radio talk-show hosts Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage with their enormously large and loyal national radio audiences, plus Sean Hannity almost alone on Fox News for his unwavering support of Trump, were the backbone of the alternative media support Trump received from the beginning of his campaign. Trump voters in Middle America in 2016 turned off MSNBC and CNN—some even turning off Fox News itself—as most established radio and television news personalities persisted in questioning Trump, if not outright ridiculing his candidacy....

What seemed clear in the summer of 2015 was that the bi-coastal mainstream media heavily favored Hillary to win, even to the point of suppressing bad news that might negatively impact Hillary’s candidacy, while promoting any news that might cause Trump trouble. But the point, which should have been obvious to all experienced political operatives, was that Trump had managed to dominate all news coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign. Whether the audience loved or hated Trump, the only thing the American public wanted to talk about during the summer of 2015 was Trump. The news dominance Trump was commanding was rivaled in modern times only by the sensation Barack Obama caused when he first came on the national scene

6--Who's telling the truth?? 325,000 people entered US yesterday and 109 were detained for further questioning

Among the more vocal defenders of Trump were top aide Kellyanne Conway, who on Sunday emphasized the importance of having safe borders, suggesting that the small number of people who were inconvenienced by the order was worth it to keep the country safe. She said 325,000 people "from overseas came into this country just yesterday through our airports."

"You're talking about 300 and some who have been detained or are prevented from gaining access to an aircraft in their home countries," Conway said on "Fox News Sunday." "Thats 1 percent. And I think in terms of the upside being greater protection of our borders, of our people, it's a small price to pay." She also echoed Trump and insisted the immigration order was not a Muslim ban, even as some Democratic lawmakers have argued the opposite. 

"These seven countries, what about the 46 majority-Muslim countries that are not included? Right there, it totally undercuts this nonsense that this is a Muslim ban," Conway said.   "This is a ban on prospective travel from countries, trying to prevent terrorists in this country, from countries that have a recent history of training and exporting and harboring terrorists."...

As noted earlier, Priebus also clarified the order, saying it doesn't affect green card holders. "We didn't overrule the Department of Homeland Security, as far as green card holders moving forward, it doesn't affect them," Priebus said on NBC's "Meet The Press." But Priebus noted if a person is traveling back and forth to one of the seven countries included in that order, that person is likely to be "subjected temporarily with more questioning until a better program is put in place."
"We don't want people that are traveling back and forth to one of these seven countries that harbor terrorists to be traveling freely back and forth between the United States and those countries," he said. He clarified that it is up to the "discretionary authority" of a Customs and Border Patrol agent whether people traveling back and forth to these seven countries receive extra questioning. Priebus then added that other countries may need to be added to the executive order in the future.

"But in order to do this in a way that was expeditious, in a way that would pass muster quickly," he said, "we used the 7 countries that have already been codified and identified." He said the order was "done for the protection of Americans, and waiting another three days, waiting another three weeks is something that we don't want to get wrong."

Priebus' bottom line: Trump won't apologize for keeping Americans safe: "President Trump is not willing to get this wrong," Priebus said, "which is why he wants to move forward quickly and protect Americans.... So we apologize for nothing here." 

7--Trump Backs Away From Syria Safe Zone Order

Signed Executive Order Omits References to Planning

8--Outrage About Trump Exposes "Librul" Hypocrisy

Trump order yesterday introduced a temporary ban on visa holders and visa issuing to citizens of seven Middle East countries. These countries are: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Outcries on social media and in various papers ensued. People went to airports to protest. TV was there to spread the news.

But it is nothing new that the citizens of these countries are targeted with U.S. visa restrictions. It was Obama who had introduced such in 2015 and 2016. The Trump order links directly to them. It does not name any country but refers to them as "countries designated in Division O, Title II, Section 203 of the 2016 consolidated appropriations act."

In 2011 Obama stopped processing Iraqi visa requests for six month. That move was quite similar to Trump's current one. Where was the outcry in 2001? In 2011, 2015 and 2016? Is it only bad when Trump restricts visits for certain people from certain countries?

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Today's links

"The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for awhile," He added, demanding that the NYT quote him, "the media here is the opposition party. They don't understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.  The elite media got it dead wrong, 100 percent dead wrong," Bannon said of the election, calling it "a humiliating defeat that they will never wash away, that will always be there." Steve Bannon, Trump advisor

  • “I have no relationship with [Putin] other than he called me a genius. He said Donald Trump is a genius and he is going to be the leader of the party and he’s going to be the leader of the world or something. He said some good stuff about me… I think I’d have a good relationship with Putin, who knows.” - February 2016

  • “Trump’s particular fascistic personality was forged not in the beer halls of Munich and the trenches of World War I, but in the real estate market of New York City. With his casinos, his fictional universities and his endless stream of failed businesses, this personification of corporate fraud could hardly be a more fitting symbol for the state of American capitalism.” WSWS

    1--Battle of Titans: Showdown looming between Donald Trump & US Central Bank

    Alan Greenspan, who served as Fed Chair for 19 years, was asked in an interview what he thought the relationship between the Federal Reserve Chief and the President of the United States should be. His reply was shockingly candid.
    “First of all, the Federal Reserve is an independent agency, and that means basically that there is no other agency of government which can overrule actions that we take. So long as that is in place... then what the relationships are don’t frankly matter.”...

    “Federal Reserve-generated increases in money supply cause economic inequality… because, when the Fed acts to increase the money supply, well-to-do investors and other crony capitalists are the first recipients of the new money,” Paul wrote.

    “By the time the increased money supply trickles down to middle- and working-class Americans, the economy is already beset by inflation. So most average Americans see their standard of living decline as a result of Fed-engendered money supply increases,” Paul added.

    In other words, 'socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor'. The ultra-wealthy never have to fret over bad investments because they are immune from risk - exactly the thing that makes Capitalism today largely redundant

    2--White House to issue executive order on “safe zones” in Syria, ban on Muslim immigrants and refugees

    In line with Trump’s remarks, the draft order outlines a process for the establishment of “safe zones,” justified by the indefinite suspension of the admission of immigrants and refugees from Syria into the US: “Pursuant to the cessation of refugee processing for Syrian nationals, the Secretary of State, in conjunction with the Secretary of Defense, is directed within 90 days of the date of this order to produce a plan to provide safe areas in Syria and in the surrounding region in which Syrian nationals displaced from their homeland can await firm settlement, such as repatriation or potential third-country resettlement.”

    Moscow, which has intervened in the Syrian civil war to prop up President Bashar al-Assad, responded to Trump’s announcement of his plan to implement “safe zones” by denying that it had any input on the decision and warned of potential consequences.

    “Our American partners did not consult with Russia [regarding the ‘safe zones’]. It is their sovereign decision,” Dimitry Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman, told reporters on Thursday. “It’s important to make sure that this does not further aggravate the situation with refugees. Evidently, all the possible consequences should be taken into account,” he warned...

    However, DEBKAfile, a website with ties to Israeli military intelligence, reported that an agreement has been worked out between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin to carve up Syria into three separate spheres of influence divided between the US, Russia and Turkey. The deal reportedly requires all Iranian military forces as well as associated forces belonging to Shiite militias and Hezbollah to leave the country.

    The plan outlined by DEBKAfile would involve the US taking military control over the area of the country east of the Euphrates River, as well as a portion of the south bordering the Golan Heights and northern Jordan. Approximately 7,500 US Special Forces currently based in Jordan would reportedly deploy to southeast Syria.
    The rest of the country would be divided between Russia and Turkey, with Moscow controlling all territory west of the Euphrates except for a narrow stretch in northern Syria administered by Ankara.

    While the alleged plan has not been confirmed by the Trump administration, it does line up with previous proposals made by Trump’s national security adviser, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, to deploy large numbers of US troops to Syria under the pretense of defeating ISIS and other Islamist militia groups.
    In a 2015 interview with Der Spiegel, Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, outlined his vision for an expanded US intervention in Syria and a Balkanization of the Middle East, carving the region into spheres of influence and military control.

    “We can learn some lessons from the Balkans. Strategically, I envision a breakup of the Middle East crisis area into sectors in the way we did back then, with certain nations taking responsibility for these sectors,” Flynn stated. “The United States could take one sector, Russia as well and the Europeans another one. The Arabs must be involved in that sort of military operation, as well, and must be part of every sector

    3--Trump orders military to prepare for world war

    Trump’s military plans hew closely to a Heritage Foundation proposal that calls for the revamping of the nuclear force, the expansion of the Navy to 350 ships, the Air Force to 1,200 fighter and attack jets, the Marine Corps from 24 to 36 divisions, and the Army to more than a half a million soldiers.
    Increases in military spending, coupled with Trump’s promises to drastically lower taxes on corporations and the rich, must inevitably be paid for by cuts to education, health care and infrastructure, and by plundering Social Security and Medicare....

    Even before Trump’s order became public, figures in and around the military speculated that Mattis would propose a dramatic escalation in Syria....

    A high-ranking Army general, Lt. Gen. David Barno, told NPR’s Morning Edition that, in lieu of local proxies, far more US soldiers will be deployed into Syria. “I think President Trump might be looking for something with some quicker results and that could put some new options on the table,” Barno said. “He could elect to put American boots on the ground in larger numbers.”

    4--The Media Is Now The Political Opposition, PCR

    Bannon is correct that the US media—indeed, the entire Western print and TV media—is nothing but a propaganda machine for the ruling elite. The presstitutes are devoid of integrity, moral conscience, and respect for truth.

    https://www.rt.com/usa/375271-bannon-trump-media-cnn/ Read the comments in which morons define freedom of the press as the freedom to lie to the public.
    Who else but the despicable Western media justified the enormous war crimes committed against millions of peoples by the Clinton, Bush, and Obama regimes in nine countries—Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Palestine, and the Russian areas of Ukraine?

    Who else but the despicable Western media justified the domestic police states that have been erected in the Western world in the name of the “war on terror”?
    Along with the war criminals that comprised the Clinton, Bush, and Obama regimes, the Western media should be tried for their complicity in the massive crimes against humanity.

    The Western media’s effort to sustain the high level of tension between the West and Russia is a danger to all mankind, a direct threat to life on earth

    5--Straight Talk About Inflation and the Markets -- History tells us that as inflation accelerates, share price gains don’t keep pace

    If inflation does carry on up, history suggests that the price/earnings ratio will suffer, as the sweet spot for valuations has been with inflation in the range of 1% to 3%, and they have on average fallen sharply with inflation above 4%...

    The basic effects of inflation are well-established: Higher inflation means weaker real, or inflation-adjusted, returns from shares. Put another way, as inflation accelerates, share price gains don’t keep pace. The ideal for investors is steady, reasonably low inflation; just enough to keep deflation worries away, but not so rapidly that the central banks will have to jack up interest rates quickly.

    Richard Turnill, chief investment strategist at BlackRock Investment Institute, says higher inflation is supportive of corporate earnings despite higher wages, because those wages are spent. But he says it can push down the valuation of those earnings, and since share prices are the result of the earnings times the valuation multiple, that can offset the higher profits. “This tips from good reflation to bad reflation when the central banks really have to tighten and you start to worry about how far away the next recession is,” he said.

    Every cycle is different, but in the past there often has been a break in markets when inflation hits 4%.
    “If inflation gets to 4% the Fed’s really behind the curve,” says Jason Trennert, chief investment strategist at Strategas Research Partners. “The good news is that we probably have some time before we get to 4%.”
    It would be misleading to say 4% inflation is guaranteed to be the point where the market going gets rough.

    Yet, that level has often been a decent warning signal. In 1987, for example, inflation hit 4% in August and the market crashed in October. In 2000, the dot-com bubble burst with inflation at 3.75%, while stocks hit their precrisis peak in October 2007, the month before inflation broke through 4%.

    It is easy to forget inflation can be that high. Consumer-price inflation in the U.S. is just above 2% at the moment and hasn’t been above 4% since 2008, while the Federal Reserve’s preferred personal consumption expenditure (PCE) measure is a little below its 2% target. Friday will bring figures for the fourth-quarter PCE which aren’t expected to rise much, and investors are now pricing in U.S. inflation being broadly on target in the long run.

    6--Deep State vs. Donald Trump

    “Trump will run the country as he ran his businesses …. He will lever, and lever, and lever, and lever … and lever … and then restructure his way to success, or whatever success is defined as, by the broadest measure of popularity at any given time. Trumponomics, if it delivers, will be a supply-side free for all: massive tax cuts, deficit spending to create jobs, financial and energy deregulation, business creation, and trade protectionism – all driving inflation. More importantly, Trump sees bankruptcy as a tool and not an obligation and will have no problem pushing the US to the limits of debt expansion. ‘I do play with bankruptcy laws, they’re very good to me!’ he once said.”...

    The first is Trump’s emphasis that the U.S. “military dominance must be unquestioned” since this directly touches on Russia’s own national security. Moscow does not seek an absolute “balance,” but a balance of esteem, and “strategic stability” with the U.S. Two, Team Trump says the president will not “allow other nations to surpass our [U.S.] military capability”; and (in a White House policy outline), “We [the U.S.] will also develop a state-of-the-art missile defense system to protect against missile-based attacks from states like Iran and North Korea.”

    Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has already warned that nuclear weapons, strategic stability and nuclear and strategic parity, will be the key issue in Russian-U.S. relations. And the third “hot” issue will be whether Trump is intent on driving a wedge into the strategic security architecture linking China, Russia and Iran. Again, any attempt to split the coalition, or to collapse the keystone of the Eurasian economic “arch” (One Belt, One Road), could sour any entente between Trump and Putin.

    7--Trump's "safe zones" generate  chaos

    "I'll absolutely do safe zones in Syria for the people," Trump told ABC News Wednesday, "I think that Europe has made a tremendous mistake by allowing these millions of people to go into Germany and various other countries."...

    "I believe that in the current stage of the Syrian peace process, [the concept] of 'safe zones' Trump was talking about differs fundamentally from [the project] the Turkish President has been proposing from the beginning of the Syrian crisis," Solmazturk told Sputnik....

    It was earlier reported that the US has allegedly created a military base near the city of al-Hasakah in northeastern Syria. A source in the SDF, who asked to remain anonymous, told Sputnik Turkiye that a large US military base has been built in the village of Til Beder, located 35 km from the town of al-Hasakah.

    If Trump creates no-fly zones in the territories controlled by the Kurdish military it would significantly complicate Ankara's struggle against the PYD and YPG, whom the Turkish leadership considers affiliates of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), designated as a terrorist organization in Turkey.

    Solmazturk argues that the project of creating the so-called "safe" or "no-fly" zones in Syria is completely unrealizable under the present circumstances.
    "The situation in the Arab Republic has seriously changed. Under the present circumstances it is premature to talk about the creation of any 'safe' or 'no-fly' zones in Syria before a comprehensive political solution to the Syrian conflict is found," he said.

    Another fake news item currently circling is that Trump has given order to the military to create safe zones for Syria. The reality is still far from it:
    [H]is administration crafted a draft order that would direct the Pentagon and the State Department to submit plans for the safe zones within 90 days. The order hasn't yet been issued.
    The draft of the order, which will be endlessly revised, says that safe zones could be in Syria or in neighboring countries. The Pentagon has always argued against such zones in Syria and the plans it will submit, should such an order be issued at all, will reflect that. The safe zones in Syria ain't gonna happen.

    10-- The new subprime?  On Day One, Trump Suspends Obama's Mortgage Insurance Premium Cut  Patrick Foulis

    11-- Trump's social counter-revolution and the slide towards extremism

    For four decades, the ruling class in the United States has been engaged in a campaign of social counter-revolution, systematically eliminating all the gains won by workers through bitter struggles in previous decades. The Obama administration accelerated these processes. Obama’s White House continued and expanded the bank bailouts initiated under the Bush administration and helped funnel trillions of dollars to Wall Street through the Federal Reserve’s “quantitative easing” programs, while working, as in the 2009 auto restructuring, to slash wages for the working class.

    The results are expressed in the extraordinary growth of social inequality. According to a recent report by University of California Berkeley economists Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, between 1980 and 2014, the share of pre-tax national income going to the bottom 50 percent of the population fell from 20 percent to 12 percent, while the share going to the top 1 percent increased from 12 percent to 20 percent. The gains for the top .1 and .01 percent of the population are even more extreme....

    is giving naked expression to the long-term decay of democratic forms of rule. It was, after all, Obama who will go down in history as the president who proclaimed the power to assassinate US citizens without due process. Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, drone assassination, NSA spying—this is the toxic mix out of which Trump’s particular contempt for constitutional norms emerges.
    In July, as Trump was formally nominated as the candidate of the Republican Party at the Republican National Convention, the WSWS noted that “Trump’s particular fascistic personality was forged not in the beer halls of Munich and the trenches of World War I, but in the real estate market of New York City. With his casinos, his fictional universities and his endless stream of failed businesses, this personification of corporate fraud could hardly be a more fitting symbol for the state of American capitalism.”

    There are sharp and bitter divisions within the American ruling class, but these divisions are over tactics, not basic class policy. It will not take much for Trump to bring on board many of his present critics within the political establishment and media, or, for that matter, more privileged sections of the upper middle class.

    12--Who supplies the news?  P Cockburn

    Thursday, January 26, 2017

    Today's Links

    1--Trump & Yellen's Collision Course The Fed's plan to torpedo Trump's economic plan

    In the coming quarters, the Federal Reserve will march rates higher. But more importantly, the more Trump pushes on the fiscal accelerator, the harder the Fed will lean on the brake....

    It seems obvious the Federal Reserve is intent on withdrawing monetary accommodation until something breaks. There is no sense fighting it.....

    Although a few years ago Fed officials were begging for some help from fiscal policy, with employment now running at a “perceived” tight pace, FOMC participants have switched to viewing fiscal stimulus as a potential inflationary concern that needs to be offset with tighter monetary policy....

    Federal Reserve Governor Lael Brainard said the U.S. central bank may accelerate interest-rate increases and measures to shrink its balance sheet if Congress approves a sustained, material increase in fiscal stimulus that pressures inflation without lifting productivity.

    “Based on recent spending indicators, we might expect progress to continue to be gradual and steady,” Brainard said Tuesday in Washington. “However, if fiscal policy changes lead to a more rapid elimination of slack, policy adjustment would, all else being equal, likely be more rapid than otherwise.”
    Brainard is the most dovish member of the Federal Open Market Committee, yet she is openly warning about higher rates. Other FOMC members are even going so far as to signal upcoming balance sheet reductions and even higher rates than the market has currently priced in.
    Chair Yellen is also making some hawkish chirping noises. Have a look at the first paragraph from her recent Stanford speech:

    In my remarks today, I will review the considerable progress the economy has made toward the attainment of the two objectives that the Congress has assigned to the Federal Reserve–maximum employment and price stability. The upshot is that labor utilization is close to its estimated longer-run normal level, and we are closing in on our 2 percent inflation objective. I will then discuss the prospects for adjusting monetary policy in the manner needed to sustain a strong job market while maintaining low and stable inflation

    “Labour utilization is close to its estimated longer-run normal level, and we are closing in on our 2 percent inflation objective” is the key line...

    Make no mistake - rates are going higher. Probably a lot higher than the market realizes. Just look at this comment buried in Yellen’s speech:

    That said, I think that allowing the economy to run markedly and persistently “hot” would be risky and unwise. Waiting too long to remove accommodation could cause inflation expectations to begin ratcheting up, driving actual inflation higher and making it harder to control. The combination of persistently low interest rates and strong labor market conditions could lead to undesirable increases in leverage and other financial imbalances, although such risks would likely take time to emerge. Finally waiting too long to tighten policy could require the FOMC to eventually raise interest rates rapidly, which could risk disrupting financial markets and pushing the economy into recession. For these reasons, I consider it prudent to adjust the stance of monetary policy gradually over time–a strategy that should improve the prospects that the economy will achieve sustainable growth with the labor market operating at full employment and inflation running at about 2 percent.

    2--‘Trump didn’t consult Moscow on Syria safe zone plan, should consider all consequences’ – Kremlin

    “Setting up of safe zones is something Turkey has advocated from the start. The best example is in Jarablus,” Muftuoglu stated, mentioning a town near the Turkish border that was freed from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) by Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces in August last year.

    (note-- "safe zones" President Trump made a surprise move, ordering the State Department and Pentagon to prepare for the establishment of safe zones in Syria, giving them 90 days to provide a full blueprint for how they would go about it. This has all been discussed by top Pentagon Generals, they have indicated that these zones would need to be no fly zones, Gen Dunford... “Right now… for us to control all of the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia,” Dunford replied, drawing a rebuke from committee chairman John McCain (R-Arizona), who argued a no-fly zone was possible without war.)

    The same month, Turkey launched its Euphrates Shield operation, a military offensive into Syria that involved Turkish special forces, tanks and warplanes entering the country to drive IS terrorists out of the border territories. It drove the militants from the last 100km (62-mile) strip of border territory they still controlled and created what Turkish officials have already dubbed a “
    The territory is now controlled by Turkish-backed Syrian rebels, essentially meaning it’s largely governed by Turkey itself.

    Muftuoglu stressed that Ankara remains firm in its belief that Syrian President Bashar Assad has no place in the country's future.
    Meanwhile Qatar, which also supports Syrian rebels fighting Assad, welcomed Trump's pledge to order safe zones in Syria, with Foreign Ministry Director of Information Ahmed Rumaihi saying the initiative would help protect civilians suffering from the ongoing conflict.

    [Qatar] emphasized the need to provide safe havens in Syria and to impose no-fly zones to ensure the safety of civilians,” Rumaihi said in a statement to state news agency QNA.
    Both Qatar and Turkey are working alongside Saudi Arabia and Western nations to back Syrian rebels in a military aid program overseen by the United States. They provide so-called moderate groups with arms and training.

    3--Was the Berlin Christmas market attacker an undercover agent?

    4--Wall Street’s Trump euphoria propels Dow above 20,000

    Trump is the embodiment of the American financial aristocracy, in all its brutish and violent backwardness and criminality. What the markets are celebrating is a government that in an unprecedented manner openly functions as the instrument of this oligarchy.

    On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal if anything understated the greed-driven euphoria in corporate and financial circles in an article headlined “CEOs Savor New Washington Status.”
    “For CEOs,” the Journal wrote, “the moves have sent a message that their stock is rising in Washington, with some betting that they will have a bigger say in running the country…

    “Along with [former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex] Tillerson at State, billionaire investor Wilbur Ross [Commerce], former Windquest Group chairwoman Betsy DeVos [Education], Andy Puzder, chief executive of CKE Restaurant Holdings [Labor] and former World Wrestling Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon [Small Business Administration] have been tapped to play big roles in his administration.”

    The Journal could have added, among others, longtime Goldman Sachs lawyer Jay Clayton the head the main Wall Street regulation, the Securities and Exchange Commission.
    The presence of three former Goldman Sachs executives in top positions in the Trump administration, in addition to Clayton, helps explain the frenzied runup in the share prices of major banks. Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase together account for some 20 percent of the rise in the Dow since November 22.
    Trump’s plan to “make America great again” is a drive to wipe out every social gain won by the working class in the course of more than a century of struggle and return to a supposed “golden age” when the corporations could plunder and pollute the country to their heart's content

    Trump hailed the record-breaking close with a tweet: “Great!#Dow20K.” His senior economic adviser, the former hedge fund boss Anthony Scaramucci, congratulated Trump for the market surge, tweeting, “Stock market performance in 6 weeks following President Trump’s victory is best among all elections since 1900#ThankYouTrump.”...

    On Monday, Trump told a meeting of a dozen CEOs that his advisers thought “we can cut regulations 75 percent, maybe more.”
    Other actions Trump has taken in the five days since his inauguration include a freeze on all pending regulations and a hiring freeze for all federal agencies

    5--Financialization of Rents Gets Taxpayer Guarantees

    Government Buckles, Guarantees Buy-to-Rent Mortgage-Backed Securities for First Time Ever. Wall Street Wins Again....(gov guarantees privately owned rental units)

    The IPO filing lists $9.7 billion in single-family properties and $7.7 billion in debt.
    Some of this debt will be refinanced with the proceeds from the sale of the $1 billion of government-guaranteed rental-home mortgage backed securities.

    6--On Day One, Trump Suspends Obama's Mortgage Insurance Premium Cut

    7--Breitbart’s influence grows inside White House

    8--Game Change: Syria, Interrupted

    I don’t see how any leftist could continue to cling to the dominant Western narrative now that we have the American Secretary of State admitting that: 1) the US poured an “extraordinary amount of arms” into Syria to help the opposition; 2) the US wanted to “manage” ISIS, and watched approvingly as ISIS grew stronger and become threatening to Damascus itself; 3) Russia entered the war in order to prevent an ISIS victory, and did so; and 4) the Russian intervention, which “changed the equation,” is legal, because Russia is invited in by the “legitimate regime,” and the US has no legal basis for intervention, because the US hasn’t gotten the UN to swallow the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine as a substitute for international law....

    Without Russian military intervention, al-Nusra and allied jihadis would have been rampaging through the streets of Damascus. Saving Syria from that fate is a result I welcome as a leftist.
    Again, at the time of the Russian intervention (and still)—especially with the threat of imminent American military attacks on Syrian forces—military action was the only way to stop the jihadi regime-change train, and Russia was the only geopolitical actor capable of intervening with the necessary force. Russia was responding, decisively and legally, to an invitation to defend an independent sovereign state....

    It’s increasingly clear that the United States can achieve nothing but destruction, in Syria or anywhere else.

    9--Death of the Syrian ‘Moderate’ Fantasy

    Neocons and liberal hawks sold the fantasy that Syrian “moderate” rebels were a viable option when all they did was help arm Al Qaeda jihadists and worsen the bloodshed, as Jonathan Marshall explains....In her memoir Hard Choices, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recounted her hope that “if the United States could train and equip a reliable and effective moderate rebel force, it could help hold the country together during a transition . . . and prevent ethnic cleansing and score settling.”...

    An Arab intelligence source confirmed to Ignatius, “the FSA is a kind of mafia. Everyone wants to be head. People inside Syria are tired of this mafia. There is no structure. It’s nothing.” Based on this experience, Ignatius declared flatly, “The problem is that the ‘moderate opposition’ that the United States is backing is still largely a fantasy.”

    10--Why Ben Bernanke Thinks The Fed Shouldn't Shrink Its Balance Sheet

    11--Further observations on social inequality and the politics of the pseudo-left

    12--The Fragile Economic Foundation of Dow 20000-- Divergence between stocks and bonds shows optimism about Trump outweighs concern about protectionism and European populism

    Britain is leaving the European Union, a protectionist is in the White House, the front-runner in France’s presidential election wants out of the euro. Yet paradoxically, investors have concluded the world is getting less risky, not more. The result: a hunger for shares that carried the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the 20000 mark Wednesday for the first time.

    It is hard to explain this with economic fundamentals. They have improved since Donald Trump’s improbable election victory in November, but not by much. ​After the election, economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal added 0.3 percentage point to expected growth over the next two years. At their December meeting, Federal Reserve officials barely touched their growth forecast. Analysts’ profit estimates haven’t changed much either....

    Are investors getting carried away? Perhaps. Congress and Mr. Trump both want to cut taxes but haven’t agreed how and will be hemmed in by the deficit. Nor does Congress have much appetite for Mr. Trump’s infrastructure push. Much of Mr. Obama’s financial and health-care laws may survive....

    And while there is little sign yet the economy has broken out of the low-growth rut of the past seven years, that too could change. If companies’ animal spirits mirror those of the market, capital spending and risk-taking could revive, dragging productivity higher.

    Nonetheless, the market needs a reality check. The U.S. expansion is​ more than seven years old and retains little momentum from using up spare capacity from the recession. At 4.7%, the unemployment rate is at levels the Fed considers a fully employed workforce. Indeed, recessions usually happen with unemployment around or below 5%.

    Eight years of ultra-easy monetary policy have left a worrisome legacy of inflated asset prices and financial engineering. Gail Fosler, a New York-based economic consultant, says corporate profit growth has slowed, companies’ cash flow barely covers capital investment and dividends,​and the ​bond market is signaling that the Fed has to raise interest rates more quickly. Ms. Fosler says these are the ingredients of a financial squeeze that will trigger a recession in 2018.

    13--Gabbard statement:

    The U.S. must stop supporting terrorists who are destroying Syria and her people. The U.S. and other countries fueling this war must stop immediately. We must allow the Syrian people to try to recover from this terrible war....

    Their message to the American people was powerful and consistent: There is no difference between “moderate” rebels and al-Qaeda (al-Nusra) or ISIS — they are all the same. This is a war between terrorists under the command of groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda and the Syrian government. They cry out for the U.S. and other countries to stop supporting those who are destroying Syria and her people.
    I heard testimony about how peaceful protests against the government that began in 2011 were quickly overtaken by Wahhabi jihadist groups like al-Qaeda (al-Nusra) who were funded and supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, the United States, and others. They exploited the peaceful protesters, occupied their communities, and killed and tortured Syrians who would not cooperate with them in their fight to overthrow the government....

    if the Wahhabi jihadists, fueled by foreign governments, are successful in overthrowing the Syrian state, it would destroy Syria and its long history of a secular, pluralist society where people of all religions have lived peacefully side by side. Although this political opposition continues to seek reforms, they are adamant that as long as foreign governments wage a proxy regime change war against Syria using jihadist terrorist groups, they will stand with the Syrian state as they work peacefully toward a stronger Syria for all Syrians.
    Originally, I had no intention of meeting with Assad, but when given the opportunity, I felt it was important to take it. I think we should be ready to meet with anyone if there’s a chance it can help bring about an end to this war, which is causing the Syrian people so much suffering.

    14--Seymour Hersh Blasts Media for Uncritically Promoting Russian Hacking Story

    15--The super rich are preparing for the end of the world

    16--Fake economics exposed--Austerity economics has just been smashed. By the IMF

    17--Dennis Kucinich cheers President Donald Trump

    Wednesday, January 25, 2017

    Today's Links

    Nothing says "draining the swamp" like a cabinet member from Goldman Sachs.

    “Twenty-five hedge-fund managers make more money than all of the kindergarten teachers in America combined,” he told the New Yorker. “Being one of those twenty-five doesn’t feel good. I think they’ve developed a heightened sensitivity.”
    Inequality is widening, noting recent statistics from the National Bureau of Economic Research that showed that while incomes for the top 1 percent of Americans have nearly tripled, half of the population was earning at the same level they did in 1980, comparing America’s wealth gap to that seen in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    1--Dow tops 20,000 for first time

    2--America’s Putin Derangement Syndrome

    Russia is the dominant power in the Middle East at the moment ...

    Syria … had been an enemy since opposing the United States’ decision to support the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine. Thus, Washington supported several coup d’états in Syria beginning in 1949. When successive coup attempts in 1956 and 1957 failed, Damascus veered squarely into Moscow’s sphere of influence, never to come out of it. Syria’s military is entirely armed and trained by Russia. The U.S. has imposed sanctions on Syria since the 1970s. For its part, Syria has consistently supported America’s enemies: Hezbollah, Palestinian groups, and the Islamic Republic of Iran. To add insult to injury, Assad actively opposed America’s occupation of Iraq.”...

    Although the White House continued to cling to the myth of a “moderate” insurgency, it soon became obvious that the worst barbarians – bigoted Sunni fundamentalists, head-chopping “Takfiris,” even outright cannibals – were in control.

    Warning flares went up but were ignored. In August 2012, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency reported that the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda and assorted Salafists were “the major forces driving the insurgency” and that their aim was to foment an anti-Shi‘ite sectarian war and establish a “Salafist principality in Eastern Syria,” the same area where Islamic State would establish its caliphate two years later. Yet the administration refused to adjust its strategy...

    In October 2014, Vice President Joe Biden complained in a talk at Harvard that America’s Gulf allies “were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war” that “they poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens of thousands of tons of military weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad except the people who were being supplied were Al Nusra and Al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.” (Quote starts at 53:25.)

    Obama’s response was to order him to telephone various Gulf leaders and apologize for telling the truth.
    Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks to pro-rebel Syrian exiles last September were even more revealing. In the course of a 30-minute meeting at the United Nations, he volunteered that the U.S. goal was not to combat Islamic State as had been long claimed. Rather, it was to use ISIS (also known as ISIL and Daesh) to put pressure on Assad and force him to accede to a pro-U.S. government.  Referring to Putin’s decision to intervene in Syria in November 2015, Kerry said:

    “The reason Russia came in is because ISIL was getting stronger. Daesh was threatening the possibility of going to Damascus and so forth, and that’s why Russia came in, because they didn’t want a Daesh government and they supported Assad. And we know this was growing. We were watching. We saw that Daesh was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened. We thought, however, we could probably manage [and] that Assad might then negotiate. Instead of negotiating, he got … Putin in to support him. So it’s truly complicated.” (Quote starts at 26:10.)

    3--Obama Bequeaths a More Dangerous World

    Obama personally acknowledged authorizing military strikes in seven countries, mostly through his aggressive use of drones, an approach toward push-button warfare that has spread animosity against the United States to the seven corners of the earth.
    However, perhaps Obama’s most dangerous legacy is the New Cold War with Russia, which began in earnest when Washington’s neocons struck back against Moscow for its cooperation with Obama in getting Syria to surrender its chemical weapons (which short-circuited neocon hopes to bomb the Syrian military) and in persuading Iran to accept tight limits on its nuclear program (another obstacle to a neocon bombing plan...

    Smearing Trump
    The CIA also put in play salacious rumors about the Kremlin blackmailing Trump over a supposed video of him cavorting with prostitutes in a Moscow hotel. And, according to The Wall Street Journal, U.S. counterintelligence agents investigated communications between retired Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security advisor, and Russian officials. In the New McCarthyism that now surrounds the New Cold War, any conversation with Russians apparently puts an American under suspicion for treason...

    The anti-Russian frenzy also pulled in The New York Times, The Washington Post and virtually the entire mainstream media, which now treat any dissent from the official U.S. narratives condemning Moscow as prima facie evidence that you are part of a Russian propaganda apparatus. Even some “progressive” publications have joined this stampede because they so despise Trump that they will tout any accusation to damage his presidency.

    Besides raising serious concerns about civil liberties and freedom of association, Obama’s end-of-term anti-Russian hysteria may be leading the Democratic Party into supplanting the Republicans as America’s leading pro-war party allied with neocons, liberal hawks, the CIA and the Military-Industrial Complex – in opposition to President Trump’s less belligerent approach toward Russia.

    This “trading places” moment over which party is the bigger warmonger could be another profound part of Obama’s legacy, presenting a crisis for pro-peace Democrats as the Trump presidency unfolds....

    Obama’s subservience to the neocons and liberal hawks may have begun as a case of an inexperienced president getting outmaneuvered by rivals whom he had foolishly empowered. But Obama’s descent into a full-scale New Cold Warrior by the end of his second term suggests that he was no longer an overpowered naïf but someone who had become a committed convert.

    How Obama reached that point may be less significant than the fact that he did. Thus, the world that President Obama bequeaths to President Trump may not have all the same dangers that Bush left to Obama but the post-Obama world has hazards that Obama did more to create than to resolve — and some of the new risks may be even scarier.

    4--Taking the Long View

    Dismantling the empire won’t happen overnight

    by , January 25, 2017

    In short, the lesson of the past twenty-plus years is that we must take the long view. As a corollary to that, anti-interventionists must understand that ours is a battle of ideas. 

    That Trump is inconsistent, and an imperfect vessel, hardly needs to be said. That the danger of war still looms over us is also a fact that none can deny. Yet all this is irrelevant in the face of the conceptual victory his winning the White House represents.

    Yes, the Trump administration will take many actions that contradict the promise of their victory: that is already occurring. And we are covering that in these pages, without regard for partisan considerations: and yet it is necessary to step back and see the larger picture, looking past the journalistic details of the day-to-day news cycle. In short, it is necessary to take the long view and try to see what the ideological victory that was won this past November augurs for the future.

    If we look past Trump and his administration and scout out what the road ahead looks like, the view is encouraging

    Ideas rule the world: not politicians, not parties, not range-of-the-moment fluctuations in public opinion. This isn’t about Trump, the politician, or the journalistic trivia of the moment: we are engaged in a battle of ideas – and, slowly but surely, we are winning.

    No matter what one thinks of Trump, or his appointees, the election of 2016 is without doubt the biggest victory opponents of empire have enjoyed since the country turned its back on the interventionism of Woodrow Wilson and enjoyed a “return to normalcy” in 1920.


    From comments section:
    Gabbard carried a message from Trump even though she is a democrat. It is confirmed, President Trump is sending troops to destroy ISIS. They will deploy via Iraq and there will be an epic battle where USA and Russia act as allies.
    Where my sources are limited and now I must speculate is the role of Turkey and the Gulf states who oppose Syria and Iraq and whether or not their participation may also lead to their occupation of both countries but Syria in particular and the creation of safe zones with the mass return and arming of refugees and forced political concessions.

    It is also confirmed now that the Trump administration will apply pressure on several points with Iran to force them to renegotiate the nu clear deal without tearing it up per se. Those points will be made clear soon but using ISIS in Iraq and Syria are not one of them but their occupation may be.

    Also, under Sisi, Egypt’s role in the Middle East will be expanded under Trump and the Egyptian military is set to be dispatched to destroy ISIS in Libya and other fronts.

    6--Margaret Kimberley; Brilliant, as always. Democrats Attack Trump from the Right

    If the Democrats acknowledged that most Americans have a yearly income of less than $31,000 or that national student loan debt totals an astronomical $1 trillion they may have seen Hillary Clinton inaugurated instead of Trump. But they failed and won’t admit it. Now their members have chosen to let them off the hook by spinning tall tales of Russian espionage. They no longer even pretend to care about the issues their constituents do, and that is why Hillary Clinton isn’t the new president.

    The members of the CBC have now proven themselves to be the worst of the lot. Years of capitulation to corporate interests and to Barack Obama have killed black politics. The anti-Russia mutterings are proof of their irrelevance...

    The Democratic Party has devolved into complete irrationality and irrelevance, sucking its Black followers into the idiotic abyss. “Years of capitulation to corporate interests and to Barack Obama have killed black politics,” and turned the Congressional Black Caucus into mindless CIA groupies who “use the phrase ‘intelligence community’ as if they were hypnotized cult members. Democrats carry signs that threaten war, and call it “protest.”...

    The orders from the discredited Democratic leadership are clear. Everyone parrots the same foolish words. All repeat that “seventeen intelligence agencies” confirm Russian interference and use the phrase “intelligence community” as if they were hypnotized cult members. Such is the degree of irrelevance now afflicting Democrats from the leadership down to the rank and file.

    7--Say what?  The project of European integration under capitalism is coming to an end, unleashing all of the political demons it was meant to have contained.  Nothing is left of the promise that closer political union and the Single Market would bring prosperity and peace. Instead, right-wing reaction and the growth of fascistic parties are taking place in every country. ....The explosion of working class opposition that Trump’s government of oligarchs and warmongers must inevitably provoke will provide the most powerful accelerant for the struggles of the European working class.

    10--Davos Elite Seeks Fixes to Defend the System From Populists

    11--Fed Debate Over $4.5 Trillion Balance Sheet Looms in 2017

    On the other side, some can argue that Fed bond purchases distorted markets, increased financial stability risks and were, in the first place, an emergency measure, and so should be unwound sooner rather than later. That view is shared by some Republican lawmakers, making the balance sheet a lightning rod for critics who saw asset purchases as an overreach of authority that encouraged Democratic President Barack Obama’s Treasury Department to issue more debt...“If long U.S. rates were to increase significantly as a result of balance sheet shrinking, there would still be large inflows into U.S. assets, which would support the dollar,” said Perli, a partner at Washington consulting firm Cornerstone Macro LLC.

    12--Will Trump Deliver a Growth Miracle? Don’t Count on It

    We know that fiscal policy packs more punch when the economy has more slack and when the spending or tax cuts are well targeted to produce demand. Both conditions held, at least partly, in 2009. Neither will hold in 2017, with the economy approximately at full employment and Mr. Trump’s proposed tax cuts heavily skewed to the rich.

    Besides, the Federal Reserve will be making sure the economy doesn’t overheat. Fed officials must be shaking their heads in disbelief. For years they practically begged Congress to help lift the economy out of the muck by stimulating demand; but Congress did the opposite. Now, with stimulus no longer needed, Congress is poised to deliver it. The predictable result will be higher interest rates....

    A 2016 comprehensive review of the voluminous scholarly research on the supply-side effects of tax cuts by economists William Gale (a Democrat) and Andrew Samwick (a Republican), concluded that “U.S. historical data show huge shifts in taxes with virtually no observable shift in growth rates.” But cutting top bracket rates does redistribute income from the have-nots to the haves. And that, I suspect, is why stock traders cannot contain their glee.

    13--Central Banks Embrace Risk in Era of Low Rates-- Bankers invest bigger share of growing currency reserves in equities, corporate bonds in effort to wring out higher returns...

    Central banks from Switzerland to South Africa are investing a bigger share of their growing foreign-exchange reserves in equities, corporate bonds and other riskier assets...

    Investors, analysts and policy makers have long debated the impact on the $13 trillion U.S. Treasury market of purchases by central banks and reserve managers in China, Japan and some large oil exporters. Others are focusing on the potential impact of trading in smaller markets, such as Australian and New Zealand dollars, where investors say central banks have recently been expanding....

    In the third quarter of 2016, global foreign-exchange reserves totaled $11 trillion, according to the International Monetary Fund, up from $1.4 trillion at the end of 1995.
    Buying foreign currencies isn’t to be confused with quantitative easing programs, under which central banks like the Federal Reserve have bought trillions of dollars worth of assets to boost growth and inflation. Recently, QE by the European Central Bank, Bank of England and Bank of Japan has also involved buying riskier assets, but all of them in local currency.....

    Just under $11 trillion, or roughly one-quarter, of global fixed-income assets yielded below zero at the end of 2016, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

    14--Eurozone’s Four-Year Binge on Global Bonds Is Halted -- Trend could boost euro, hit U.S. fixed-income markets

    Europeans were big buyers of U.S. debt in particular. The region’s investors were big spenders abroad, buying €3.762 trillion more in international bonds than they sold during the recent 50-month buying streak.
    Although U.S. yields had also fallen sharply in recent years, they still offered higher returns than those in the eurozone. Even at its lowest point last year, 10-year U.S. Treasurys still yielded 1.36%....

    The eurozone is the third-largest holder of government debt, second only to Japan and China, according to U.S. Treasury department data.
    Those holdings shot up after the ECB introduced negative interest rates in 2014, according to the central bank’s data. Since 2014, eurozone investors have added more than €578 billion worth of U.S. bonds to their portfolios, taking their total holdings to over €1.5 trillion. Such buying has helped push borrowing costs lower in the U.S.

    A 2016 survey of primary dealers conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York cited international demand, a spillover from low yields abroad, as the biggest single factor in the decline in U.S. yields.

    Monday, January 23, 2017

    Today's Links

    Today's quote: "Trump won the old fashioned way. He went right to the heart of white American angst about immigration and white survival and the economic insecurity that they feel they should not suffer. But he is in over his head. Trump is not only a political novice but he is thin skinned and oafish." Margaret Kimberley

    If Hillary had won, the drone strikes would have continued. The wars would have continued. The spying would continue. Prohibition would continue. Whistleblowers would continue being prosecuted and hunted down. And minorities would continue bearing the brunt of these policies, both in the US and across the world. The difference is that in such a scenario, Democrats, if the last eight years are any indication, would remain silent -- as they did under Obama -- offering bare minimum concern and vilifying anyone attacking their beloved president as some sort of hater. Cities across the US would remain free of protests, and for another 4-8 years, Democrats would continue doing absolutely nothing to end the same horrifying policies now promoted by a Republican." Jon Reynolds

    The definition of a "legitimate" President is dependent on the lens of the inquirer. If one looks through the lens of the ruling class, a legitimate President manages the crisis of the imperialist system of exploitation under relative terms of social peace. The expectation is that working class and oppressed people will continue to validate this definition in the name of American Exceptionalism."  Danny Haiphong

    "Supporters of Barack Obama, and liberals in general, are disingenuous frauds. They had no issues protesting the likes of the amoral warmongering George W. Bush or the racist xenophobe, Donald J. Trump, however when it comes to Barack Obama they can find no reason to protest his mass murdering escapades. Obama supporters were recently nostalgic and teary eyed after he gave his last major speech as president of the United States, yet can find little reason to shed tears over the masses of civilians who were destroyed directly as a result of Obama’s policies. Where were the emotions and tears when men, women and children were getting blown to bits by USA drone attacks, indiscriminate air strikes and bombs?

    Those who protested the racist and xenophobic Trump, but not Obama or Clinton, are nothing more that disingenuous frauds and amoral cowards."   Solomon Comissiong

    "Donald Trump won enough votes to secure an Electoral College victory in large part because white America latched on to his promise to make their lives great again. He also garnered support because he tapped into the angst of the age. Decades of deindustrialization, trade deals and a poverty producing “gig economy” have created unemployment and financial insecurity for a majority of Americans. Unlike Hillary Clinton, Trump spoke to these concerns." ...

    “Decades of deindustrialization, trade deals and a poverty producing “gig economy” have created unemployment and financial insecurity for a majority of Americans.”Margaret Kimberley

    “The Obama-Clinton camp of the ruling class views the current Russian state as a threat to US global hegemony.”...“The ruling class loyal to the Democrats has used Trump as an excuse to blame Russia for Hillary Clinton's defeat and distract the public from the real enemy of humanity: US imperialism.”...

    Russia did not systematically rob the working class in the US, nor did it erect the largest police and prison state in the world. Russia is not waging endless warfare around the world at the expense of billions. All of this belongs on the shoulders of US imperialism and it is time we make this clear as the era of Trump nears." Some Guidance on the Russia Question

    Obama’s fascism -- of the same brand as the Clintons’ -- is global-obsessed, because it needs to feed on the whole planet to survive. It’s a cosmopolitan, world-stealing Dracula, that cannot imagine life on Earth without itself in charge. It no longer indulges heavily in ideological justifications for its predations; whatever detracts from its hegemony is the enemy. Increasingly, it is engaged in a War Against All.  Most recently, it simultaneously attacked both Russia and Donald Trump’s apartheid branch of fascists.
    One fascist is fond of race war. The other isn’t so picky." Locating Fascism on the Home Map

    Political hysteria has its ironies. President Obama has just signed into law a new office of government propaganda that is intended to prevent any warming of relations with Russia under a Trump administration. But, President Trump will appoint the head of the office. The Democrats apparently expect Trump to cooperate with their plan to undermine his foreign policy, “silence dissent and create a network of propaganda partners” to badmouth Russia. 

    All of the casualties, the sieges, the hunger and the frantic search for refuge can be placed at America’s feet.”
    Obama thought that Hillary Clinton would win and complete his regime change plans. Not only did she lose and deprive him of his third term but the hollowness of his legacy is clear. Obviously “hope and change” was a marketing tag line meant to hide his commitment to the world wide neoliberal project.. Margaret Kimberley                       

    1--The Trump effect has rallied US markets – but it's based on illusion Robert Shiller

    2--‘Astana peace talks: Syrian govt & armed opposition at same table breakthrough’

    “This will divide them; this will be a fractional point of division and a point of future bickering between them,” she added. “We might see them on the ground battling after such a meeting.”

    For the first time, the opposition delegation in Astana also includes field commanders from the militant groups, as opposed to political representatives. That – according to Osman – offers a much better prospect for the negotiations compared to previous Syria peace talks, including those in Geneva.
    She explains: “We saw political representatives who always ask the same question: “Do they have an actual say in what is going on the ground? Do they have an influence toward the people, the groups, the armed opposition that is functioning on the ground in the battlefield inside of Syria?” That was the main question, and the answer was always: “No.” It was only people wearing suits, having talks, saying whatever they want in front of the media, in front of their backers – whether they are Gulf backers or Western backers in the face of the Syrian government. And always nothing happens...”

    “Previously the political figures of the opposition had no influence on the ground in any way whatsoever. The commanders of the armed groups didn’t receive orders or refused to receive orders from those politicians living in exile, who say that they represent the opposition when indeed they don’t represent these armed groups – I don’t know who actually represents them. Some of them have close ties with Turkey,” Rizk said.

    Vladimir Putin realized that if you really want to reach a solution, you have to have Turkey involved. It was kind of a bargain: involve Turkey and make some concessions. For example, we saw one of the Turkish officials – Deputy Prime Minister [Mehmet Simsek] in Davos saying that we can no longer insist that President Bashar Assad steps down. At the same time Turkey got one benefit, which was that the YPG, the Kurdish units are not represented,” the expert said.

    3--The search for common ground?

    The negotiations came to fruition after the three nations - Russia, Turkey and Iran - brokered a partial ceasefire between the Syrian government and some opposition groups last month. The deal managed to significantly restrain the intensity of hostilities in Syria, but both the government and the rebels regularly complain of violations.
    The truce however, does not include such terrorist groups as Al Nusra Front or Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), with IS currently engaged in a massive offensive against government forces in the Deir ez-Zor province.

    4--Tulsi Gabbard goes to Syria

    A veteran of the Iraq War and major in the Hawaii National Guard, Gabbard “has long been committed to peace and ending counterproductive, interventionist wars,” her spokesperson Emily Latimer said in a statement Wednesday.
    Gabbard has been a vocal critic of outgoing President Barack Obama’s policy of demanding the ouster of Syrian President Bashar Assad and blaming his government for the bloody war with Islamist rebels.
    "As a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, and as an individual committed to doing all she can to promote and work for peace, she felt it was important to meet with a number of individuals and groups including religious leaders, humanitarian workers, refugees and government and community leaders," Latimer said in a statement.

    5--The Obama Legacy: A Temporary Deformity of Black Minds on War and Peace

    In June of 2011, more than half the Congressional Black Caucus, 24 members, gave President Obama their full assent to the continued NATO bombing of Libya, which had already destroyed the infrastructure of what had been Africa’s most prosperous nation. Thirty-one Black congresspersons voted to continue spending money on the regime change operation, with only six CBC members -- John Conyers, Jr. (MI); Jesse Jackson, Jr. (IL); Barbara Lee (CA); Laura Richardson (CA); Bobby Scott (VA); and Maxine Waters (CA) -- rejecting the aggression, outright. (See BAR, July 2, 2011, “Black Caucus on Libya War: The Good, the Confused, and the Hopeless.”) The “peace” faction in the CBC proved to be tiny, indeed -- only one-seventh of the caucus membership....

    Prior to Barack Obama’s two warmongering terms in the White House, it would have been impossible to imagine that virtually the whole of the Black political (misleadership) class, and an unknown portion of the African American rank and file, would be mimicking the CIA, ranting and raving about some bogus Russian threat to American “democracy.” But, this, too, shall pass. There is a deep objective, as well as historical, basis for broad Black opposition to U.S. imperial wars. We can expect the Obama era’s gross deformity in Black attitudes towards war and peace to be corrected once the artificial aura of “Blackness” is removed from the White House -- that is, when Black people no longer have strong emotional reasons to identify with U.S. State Power

    On the domestic front, Obama deported more immigrants than any previous president, supplied military hardware to the police, backed an unprecedented expansion of electronic surveillance, and oversaw the greatest transfer of wealth from the working class to the rich in American history.

    6--What constitutes "legitimate" president?

    Perhaps the best example of a "legitimate" US President under imperialism is leaving office on January 20th. Barack Obama has consistently met all the criteria for what makes a President legitimate in the hearts and minds of the ruling class. Obama managed the crisis under terms that handsomely rewarded his capitalist masters. The "first Black President" worked diligently for Wall Street, transferring the most wealth to the top 1 percent from the rest of the population in US history. Obama achieved a new record for the most transfers of military weaponry to racist police forces that occupy Black American cities. He deployed US Special Forces to 70 percent of the world's nations, with a staggering 1600 percent increase in Special Operations Forces in Africa from 2006 until the present. These forces helped Obama drop over 26,000 bombs in 2016.

    “Under Obama, imperialism's most egregious crimes found room to flourish.”

    Obama was a gift to the imperialist system, which before his first term began was stuck in both political and economic turmoil.  Under Obama, imperialism's most egregious crimes found room to flourish. Not one banker was punished for the economic collapse of 2007-08. In fact, trillions of dollars were sent to Wall Street's coffers while working class and oppressed people were left with an economy dominated by low-wage and contract jobs. The real unemployment rate sits at 23 percent as millions of people have gone uncounted by official unemployment statisticians. But imperialism had plenty of opportunity over this time to spend trillions militarizing the Russian borderfunding and arming jihadists, and renovating the US nuclear arsenal

    Under Obama, the ruling class won and the people lost big. Yet despite this development, popular protest was relatively small in size and duration. The Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements brought police terror, white supremacy, and inequality back into the political discourse, but were unable to develop a solid organizational and ideological basis from which to win material victories. The anti-war movement was completely suppressed, and the LGBTQ and women's movements were consumed under the Democratic Party umbrella. All of this can be traced back to the "legitimate" Presidency of Barack Obama. His rule ensured that radical and revolutionary political alternatives would have no breathing room under the weight of political symbolism and neo-liberal dogma.

    “It appears that no amount of information will stop the Democrats’ push for Trump to abandon his rhetorical gestures of peace with Russia and continue the dangerous war against Russia that began under Obama.”
    Obama popularized oppression and exploitation among a large section of the electorate for the majority of his Administration. Workers and oppressed people struggled in disorganized silence.  And even when popular protest ensued, few activists held Obama accountable for things like mass incarceration or the continued protection of the banks. The Obama period has been the highest expression of the Democratic Party's transformation into the War Party and the most legitimate party of imperialism. Trump's ascendancy has brought this reality out of the darkness and into the light.

    The definition of a "legitimate" President is dependent on the lens of the inquirer. If one looks through the lens of the ruling class, a legitimate President manages the crisis of the imperialist system of exploitation under relative terms of social peace. The expectation is that working class and oppressed people will continue to validate this definition in the name of American Exceptionalism. However, there has never been a US President that has genuinely governed in the interests of humanity. The imperialist state is an organ of class rule. It is organized to protect the interests of the capitalist class and suppress the interests of the working class and oppressed. The coming period holds much potential for the further development of radical insurgency. The effort by the Obama camp of the ruling class to legitimize the Presidential seat is nothing but an attempt to stifle the insurgency.

    7--As Obama Exits the White House, Never Forget His Destructive Imperialist Legacy

    During his eight-year tenure as Commander in Chief, Barack Obama has bombed seven different countries. He has also executed countless drone attacks that have taken countless civilian lives in places like Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. Barack Obama has ordered extrajudicial executions of American citizens throughout the globe, including one of a 15-year-old boy.  However as nefarious and destructive as his presidential legacy is, he continues to command the unconditional support of masses of mindless supporters....

    During the last couple of years alone his administration dropped at least 26,171 bombs. These bombs killed a great many innocent civilians.  Barack Obama even joked about the use of predator drones at a White House Correspondents Dinner.  This is beyond sadistic and twisted, yet in the backwards society of the US, people laugh along with the jokes, not once thinking about those whose lives were destroyed by way of those drone strikes. Many Americans are well trained, like programmable robots, not to feel any kind of emotion for those who have perished due to US military escapades.
    Like many previous US presidents, Barack Obama has committed heinous human rights violations and war crimes. However, his actions are ignored or considered excusable. The media and his cultish supporters are responsible for this....

    Those who protested the racist and xenophobic Trump, but not Obama or Clinton, are nothing more that disingenuous frauds and amoral cowards

    8--Freedom Rider: Contradiction in the Time of Trump

    That is why many progressives have shamed themselves into idolizing the CIA and NSA. Liberals now follow anyone who can help to fill the Democrats empty suits. The Democrats pile disgrace on top of disgrace and now attack Trump from the right with their Russian hacking hoax.
    The truth is that Donald Trump won’t be able to keep the ship from sinking either. The system is in an active state of collapse. Perhaps Trump can rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic for a time but ultimately he will fail too. In that process the levels of confusion will increase and the contradictions will be more evident.

    This is not the moment to prop up failure. It is the moment to name and abandon it once and for all. Progressives ought to kick the Democrats while they are down. There should be no more elections in which neo-liberalism and empire get support from the left. They must be rejected out of hand and progressives must demand what they claim to want. One side must step away from confusion and contradiction and work for true change

    9--Obama’s Last Presidential Lies

    “On his watch, no federal charges were brought against any killer cops.”
    The First Black President acknowledged that many Americans are “convinced that their government only serves the interests of the powerful.” But, he didn’t take any of the blame, even though it was under his administration that Wall Street bankers were deemed “too big to jail,” or even to indict. In the same dishonest fashion, Obama declared on Tuesday that “We need to uphold laws against discrimination...and in our criminal justice system” -- when, on his watch, no federal charges were brought against any killer cops, except one who had already been indicted by local authorities.

    Obama got downright cocky in defense of Obamacare, the rightwing Republican health program that Obama adopted as his own. The president said: “If anybody can put together a plan that is demonstrably better, I will support it.” But don’t bet any money on the letter and spirit of Obama’s promises on health care. Back in 2003, when Bruce Dixon and I asked him if he favored a single payer health care system, Obama answered that he favored “universal health care for all Americans” and intended to introduce or sponsor legislation toward that end.” He kept saying that for the next five years, until he was elected president, and then proceeded to isolate and crush supporters of single payer, to the delight of the insurance and drug industries, which no longer had to fear single payer. Obama is sneaky, that way..

    Finally, Obama bragged that the U.S. has “taken out thousands of terrorists, including bin Laden.” What he didn’t say was that his administration presided over the jihadist takeovers of Libya and much of Syria and Iraq. The truth is that tens of thousands of jihadists have been trained, armed, financed and protected by the United States and its allies – not under Bush, but under Obama, making him fully responsible for the deaths of half a million people in those three countries, alone. Not to mention Obama’s other wars. But, I’ve run out of time. The good thing is, so has Obama.

    10--Some Guidance on the Russia Question

    “The conflict between Obama and Trump is really a conflict between competing factions of the capitalist class.”
    Every action on the part of Washington during Obama's second term has indicated that the Ukraine-model is the Administration’s desired outcome for Russia. The Obama-Clinton camp of the ruling class views the current Russian state as a threat to US global hegemony. This explains why, even in the last days of its tenure, the Obama Administration has amplified the war narrative against Russia. The conflict between Obama and Trump is really a conflict between competing factions of the capitalist class. Trump believes that a peaceful relationship with Russia will benefit the profits of his capitalist partners, while Obama and his camp see a destabilized Russia as a boon for the banks and military contractors which have supported him so handsomely.

    Vladimir Putin and the United Russia Party's rise to power in the 21st century ultimately broke US domination over Russia.”

    11--Locating Fascism on the Home Map                         

    The merciless downsizing of the American worker is a central element of Obama’s legacy.”

    Barack Obama was a savior – of a drowning ruling class. Under his administration, Wall Street rose from near-death to new heights of speculative frenzy, awash in capital brutally extracted from the vanishing assets and past and future earnings of the vast majority of the population, or gifted in the form of trillions in free money at corporate-only Federal Reserve windows. The Big Casino, reduced to a rubble of its own contradictions in 2008, ushered in the New Year just shy of the once-fantastical 20,000 mark. Analysts credited Donald Trump’s victory for the bankers’ bacchanal, but it was Obama who made the party possible by overseeing the restructuring of the U.S. economy to accommodate and encourage the hyper-consolidation of capital -- another way to describe the deliberate deepening of economic (and political) inequality.

    The merciless downsizing of the American worker is a central element of Obama’s legacy. Real wages had been frozen or declining for decades. However, economic restructuring in the Age of Obama demanded that millions of workers be crushed all the way through the floor to a lower level of hell: temporary, contract, not-really-a-job, part-time “gig” employment. If the 1930s squatter shanty-towns called “Hoovervilles” were testaments to President Herbert Hoover’s economic policies, then the maddeningly precarious, no guaranteed hours, no benefits, zero job security, fraction of a shift, arbitrarily scheduled employment of today should be called ObamaJobs. A new study by economists at Princeton and Harvard universities shows that an astounding 94 percent of the 10 million jobs created during the First Black President’s two terms in office were ObamaJobs. This sub-sector of employment increased by almost half under Obama, from 10.7% of the working population to 15.8%.

    The structural lowering of the employment floor to a precariat sub-basement makes all workers more insecure and less able to bargain with the bosses.”

    According to the study, one million fewer people are working under any kind of formal employment than before the Great Recession. The researchers also calculate that Obama’s claim of creating 15 million new jobs is off by 5 million.

    Low income workers, especially females, were hurt worst under the ObamaJobs regime. But, the structural lowering of the employment floor to a precariat sub-basement makes all workers more insecure and less able to bargain with the bosses -- which is precisely what the new employment order is designed to do, and what Barack Obama intended. The President’s apologists claim Republican obstructionists prevented Obama from acting on his alleged progressive instincts. However, as frequent BAR contributor Pascal Robert points out, Obama “expended no political capital to push a jobs agenda at any time in his presidency.”...

    Obama declared war on social spending before even taking the oath of office. In early January, 2009, he informed the editorial boards of the New York Times and the Washington Post that all “entitlements” would be “on the table” for cutting under his presidency, including Medicare and Social Security. Obama’s assault on FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s War on Poverty seemed to come from out of the blue; the battered Republicans were in no position to pressure anybody, and remembered how badly George Bush had been burned when he attempted to privatize Social Security, in his first term....

    Barack Obama dared to push through Congress a bill authorizing the indefinite detention of U.S. citizens by the military, without trial or charge.”

    When Donald Trump moves into the White House on January 20, he will be empowered to imprison whomever he chooses, without recourse to law as we know it, thanks to Barack Obama. Who, then, is the “fascist”?
    President Obama’s greatest foreign policy challenge was to put the United States back on the global military offensive, following George Bush’s humiliation in Iraq. This required a new doctrine, to replace Bush’s discredited crusade to “spread democracy.” On March 17, 2011, Obama loosed his “humanitarian” military intervention doctrine on Libya, effectively negating centuries of international law and custom. As interpreted by Obama, national sovereignty and the inviolability of borders means nothing if the superpower, standing in for the planet, deems a government to be a threat to its own people -- even if crimes against humanity have not yet occurred. Absent the principle of sovereignty, international law ceases to exist.

    Obama’s methodical nullification of international law is, itself, the gravest aggression and crime against peace. The U.S. and its NATO and Gulf Arab allies deployed massive air power and foreign and Libyan jihadists to destroy the Libyan state and its leader, Muammar Gaddafi, butchered thousands of his supporters, and ethnically cleansed Black Africans from much of the country.
    “Obama’s methodical nullification of international law is, itself, the gravest aggression and crime against peace.”...

    On a roll, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton moved thousands of jihadists to Syria, whose largest city, Aleppo, was captured by sectarian terrorists in 2012. From the moment Obama became the protector-in-chief of jihadists in Libya and Syria, virtually all the “news” about the wars in the region has been fake, false, lies. The now indisputable fact that the U.S. has, variously, armed, financed, shielded, transported, trained, directed and otherwise nurtured Islamic jihadists, including al-Qaida, is the truth that cannot be spoken on corporate media. If widely understood and internalized by the public, such a truth would shatter U.S. ruling structures. Therefore, it must be suppressed at all costs.

    The sick superpower fends off the smell of death with a daily diet of lies: mainly about Russia and China and other states that refuse to buckle under to U.S. imperialism. The U.S. rulers’ biggest secret -- the one that requires many layers of lies to conceal -- is that the Lords of Capital see their demise as imminent and inevitable unless they somehow alter the general scope and direction of global economic development. The U.S. share of the world economy is inexorably shrinking -- which means, the only way the U.S. can sustain its superpower status is through lawless force of arms abroad, and a crackdown on dissent (truth-telling, or just being Black) at home.
    If you are searching for the real meaning of fascism in the superpower under late stage capitalism, you will find it in the nexus between the presidencies of Obama and Trump

    Obama’s fascism -- of the same brand as the Clintons’ -- is global-obsessed, because it needs to feed on the whole planet to survive. It’s a cosmopolitan, world-stealing Dracula, that cannot imagine life on Earth without itself in charge. It no longer indulges heavily in ideological justifications for its predations; whatever detracts from its hegemony is the enemy. Increasingly, it is engaged in a War Against All.  Most recently, it simultaneously attacked both Russia and Donald Trump’s apartheid branch of fascists.
    One fascist is fond of race war. The other isn’t so picky.

    12--Freedom Rider: Obama’s Propaganda Gift to Trump

    Barack Obama’s establishment of a de facto Propaganda Department is a terrible blow to democracy.
    On December 23, 2016 Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), a federal law that is passed every year. NDAA authorizes defense appropriations but it is also used as a Trojan horse to hide attacks on civil liberties. In 2011 the NDAA authorized indefinite detention of anyone deemed a terrorism suspect. Tucked inside this year’s NDAA was the passage of the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act which establishes the little known or discussed Global Engagement Center.
    The title seems benign enough until one reads its mission. “The purpose of the Center shall be to lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.”
    “Obama’s establishment of a de facto Propaganda Department is a terrible blow to democracy.”
    In plain English, this act establishes an official propaganda arm of the United States government.

    13--Delusions Shattered: How Democrats Lost Claims to a Moral High Ground by Ignoring Obama's Transformation Into Bush-- Where was the outrage during the Obama years?”

    Eight years of warmongering by the Nobel Peace Prize winner has been met with eight years of silence by members of his party.”

    When President Obama was sworn into office back in January 2009, and just a few months later agreed to " look forward" and disregard gross human rights violations committed by Bush officials (such as waterboarding, insect pits, solitary confinement, and more), they were quiet.
    When President Obama oversaw the brutal force-feeding of untried prisoners at a detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, they said nothing.

    When President Obama's mass-deportations of undocumented immigrants in the US outpaced deportations under his predecessor, they stayed silent. As the Nation reported, "To pay for the ballooning enforcement-first approach, the budget for immigration enforcement grew 300 percent from the resources given at the time of its founding under Bush to $18 billion annually, more than all other federal law-enforcement agencies' budget combined."...

    When President Obama extended the US military occupation of Afghanistan until 2024, anti-war Democrats under George W. Bush were nowhere to be found.
    When President Obama fabricated a reason to bomb oil-rich Libya in 2011, and then just a year later, reauthorized the US invasion of Iraq, they were voiceless, with the exception of a few scattered protests in the US, none of which came anywhere close to the size of those against the 2003 invasion of Iraq carried out by a Republican president.
    "He's gone from first to worst."
    When it was revealed that President Obama met weekly with his advisers for what was dubbed  “Terror Tuesday" to decide who was worthy of being picked off by US predator drones around the world -- and when it came to light that President Obama had a "kill list" and US citizens were on it, and were being killed, all without due process -- again, barely a peep....

    the University of Michigan, who released the results of an analysis of antiwar activity and found that after Obama's election, "Democratic participation in antiwar activities plunged, falling from 37 percent in January 2009 to a low of 19 percent in November 2009." Unsurprisingly, they also discovered that "anti-Republican attitudes had a significant, positive effect on the likelihood that Democrats attended antiwar rallies." Moreover, polling data from early 2012 showed Democrats supporting the same policies they heavily opposed during the Bush years, like keeping Guantanamo Bay open and drone warfare.

    Under a Democratic president, the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan was continued, US boots hit the ground in Syria and Iraq, US bombs fell in Libya, US drones terrorized the skies over Pakistan and Yemen, America's nuclear arsenal was upgraded, and highly provocative military drills were conducted along the borders ofRussia and China. Eight years of warmongering by the Nobel Peace Prize winner has been met with eight years of silence by the very same members of his party who protested such activities under a president whose main difference was the political party he was affiliated with.
    “Polling data from early 2012 showed Democrats supporting the same policies they heavily opposed during the Bush years.”...

    As Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian wrote back in 2013, "Does anyone doubt that if Obama's bombs were killing nice white British teenagers or smiling blond Swiss infants -- rather than unnamed Yemenis, Pakistanis, Afghans and Somalis -- that the reaction to this sustained killing would be drastically different? Does anyone doubt that if his overhead buzzing drones were terrorizing Western European nations rather than predominantly Muslim ones, the horror of them would be much easier to grasp? Does it really take any debate to know that if the 16-year-old American suspiciously killed by the US government two weeks after killing his father had been Jimmy Martin in Sweden rather than Abdulrahman al-Awlaki in Yemen, the media interest and public outcry would be far more substantial?"

    And let's not forget that Obama, like Bush before him, and certainly like Hillary Clinton after him had she won, offered support to regimes like Saudi Arabia , which are notorious for oppressing homosexuals and women

    The idea that the Democratic Party is in any way, shape, or form entitled to the moral high ground over the equally horrific opposing party is a beyond ridiculous assertion without any basis in reality. To see crowds of people motivated to action by the loss of their party, protesting an archaic electoral college system that they would have likely accepted the results from had their candidate won, tests the limits of ones ability to empathize with their plight. Kill lists, defense of torture, mass surveillance, US citizens being picked off by drone missiles, the continued buildup of a vast empire -- none of it prompted thousands upon thousands of American Democrats to fill cities across the US in a fit of anger because at the time, their chosen political racehorse was in Washington.

    If Hillary had won, the drone strikes would have continued. The wars would have continued. The spying would continue. Prohibition would continue. Whistleblowers would continue being prosecuted and hunted down. And minorities would continue bearing the brunt of these policies, both in the US and across the world. The difference is that in such a scenario, Democrats, if the last eight years are any indication, would remain silent -- as they did under Obama -- offering bare minimum concern and vilifying anyone attacking their beloved president as some sort of hater. Cities across the US would remain free of protests, and for another 4-8 years, Democrats would continue doing absolutely nothing to end the same horrifying policies now promoted by a Republican.

    Trump's victory, if there is anything good to say about it, will at least breathe much needed life into an antiwar sentiment that has been largely dormant since Bush left office. Issues like drone strikes, torture, military occupations, mass surveillance, and other hot button subjects once protested by Democratic partisans during the Bush era will again -- hopefully -- be criticized and fought against. Yet the shame about it all is that this time, those unaffiliated with either of the two major parties -- those who have been focused on these issues while Democrats have offered pathetic excuses and baseless justifications in defense of them -- won't make the mistake of thinking Democrats will stick around for the fight if they win office again in the next election

    14--Dems shift to the "dark side"

    The bill to fund intelligence agencies that passed the House on November 30 established “an executive branch interagency committee to counter active measures by the Russian Federation to exert covert influence over peoples and governments...through front groups, covert broadcasting, media manipulation, disinformation or forgeries, funding agents of influence, incitement, offensive counterintelligence, assassinations, or terrorist acts.” Every category listed, except assassinations and terror, is actually a code word for political speech that can, and will, be used to target those engaged in “undermining faith in American democracy” -- such as Black Agenda Report and other left publications defamed as “fake news” outlets by the Washington Post. The bill passed overwhelmingly, with only six Republicans and 24 Democrats voting “nay.” Of these dissenting lawmakers, only five are Black: Barbara Lee (CA), Karen Bass (CA), John Conyers (MI), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ), and Yvette Clarke (NY).
    Yes, the Democratic Party has been a wondrous vehicle for integration of Black America into the mainstream – of fascism.
    When Wall Street’s “core values” are threatened, civil liberties go out the window.”

    15--Freedom Rider: Syria, Russia and American Desperation

    “Blaming Russia continues the propaganda war against a country that will not knuckle under and accept American hegemony.”
    It is no coincidence that anti-Russian propaganda is being ramped up at the same moment the Syrian government is poised to retake its country from terrorists. Barack Obama and the rest of the war party are left to sputter nonsensical statements because their grand plan to realize the neocon Project for a New American Century is in very big trouble.

    The Syrian government is determined to take back its country and the Americans and their allies are equally determined to thwart it. The recent successes of the Syrian army explain part of the desperation coming from Obama, the Democratic Party and corporate media. Blaming Russia kills several birds with one stone. It continues the propaganda war against a country that will not knuckle under and accept American hegemony. The hyper Russophobia was also an attempt to make the unpalatable and incompetent Hillary Clinton more appealing. And its continuation is being used by Democrats and Republicans to stop the incoming president from having any chance to improve relations with that country or curtail the regime change doctrine. The war party never sleeps.

    16--“Russia possesses little interest in undermining a political process that is already thoroughly corrupt.”

    Danny Haiphong is an Asian activist and political analyst in the Boston area. He can be reached at wakeupriseup1990@gmail.com
    BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

    Clinton's loss revealed a deep crisis of legitimacy for the Democratic Party, as millions of voters decided not to huddle alongside the corporate sponsors of her big tent.
    This fact has been covered under a blanket of lies about Russia's involvement in rigging the US elections and peddling "fake news" to undermine the so-called democratic process in the US. The reality is that Russia possesses little interest in undermining a political process that is already thoroughly corrupt. ...

    For over three decades, global capitalism has sought expansion through its usual means of intensifying the rate of exploitation. This has led to a mad race to develop high-tech means of production, which have replaced a significant portion of necessary labor in the United States. The resultant rise in the cost of production (or the organic composition of capital) and the significant drop in wages over this period has precipitated a slowdown in economic growth.
    Technological growth has both increased productivity and engulfed the system into a permanent crisis of joblessness and overproduction. The system is dragging along because workers are so poor and overworked that only financial instruments of debt can temporarily ease the burden of survival. However, these debt instruments have exacerbated the crisis of overproduction...

    Traditional means of alleviating economic crisis have been exhausted...

    “The system is dragging along because workers are so poor and overworked that only financial instruments of debt can temporarily ease the burden of survival.”
    Imperialist war historically served two purposes: to expand capitalism's market share and to preserve the political dominance of the capitalist state around the world. However, the combination of internal economic crisis and external popular resistance has given way to further stagnation. Imperialist have offered nothing but destruction since the stagnation of capitalism began over three decades ago. Their primary purpose remains to clear the way for capitalist expansion. However, the conditions of war can no longer fulfill this purpose. Iraq, Libya, and Ukraine are but a few examples of how US-led warfare transforms prosperous nations into landfills of chaos...

    There will be some who mourn the decline and death of US imperialism, but not revolutionaries. Revolutionaries will seize the time. The Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter movements have only been a taste of the resistance to come. Another economic collapse looms on the horizon. There is a stirring among the masses, a growing despair that must develop into a revolutionary rage. US imperialism's dead-end has already created the conditions for such a rage to materialize. It is the task of revolutionaries to build a movement capable of turning this rage into revolutionary organization

    17-- Black Fear in the Age of Trump

    Black Americans were lost and politically helpless before Election Day in 2016. Having a black Democrat in the presidency hid a multitude of sins. As a group we have lost jobs, the little wealth we had, and literally our lives and freedom from the police state. Donald Trump’s election just made what was already true crystal clear.
    The victory of a Republican is always cause for some degree of panic among black people. They are, after all, the white people’s party and their ascension creates anxiety among us.

    Donald Trump’s appeal to white nationalism has certainly upped the ante. The people who hold onto the feckless Democrats with a vice-like death grip now believe they have nowhere to turn. The Democrats’ allegiance to neo-liberal deal making instead of meeting the needs of the rank and file resulted in a presidential defeat and Republican control of both houses of Congress. They long ago conceded fighting for control of state legislatures. The result is that the Republicans hold all the electoral cards....

    It is interesting that there has been no revolt against the Democratic Party and their coterie of black misleaders after this political debacle. Black people came to believe that not only were we supposed to give the Democrats carte blanche but, like domestic violence victims, we had to keep quiet about our humiliation too. Now we are alternately afraid, angry and confused because we still think we must censor ourselves about our bad political decision making.

    18--“Corporate media gatekeepers determine which stories are labeled fake news dependent upon which stories serve US foreign and domestic interests and which stories expose US corruption.”

    There is a growing public recognition that a conflict of interest exists between corporate media investigating government since these two groups are inextricably linked by class and economic interests.”

    19--Shoot the messenger? The Russians are willing to broadcast the factual news the USA’s intelligence agency co-opted media mouth-pieces will not.

    A bill before Congress could be used to target “any website, or blog, that does not share the mainstream media’s proclivity to serve as the Public Relations arm of a given administration.“ All they have to do is claim it is being “manipulated” by the Russians. But, Moscow doesn’t have to lie to counter a lawless U.S. foreign policy. “The Russians only need to stick to the facts (omitting the pipeline) to ultimately win the propaganda war.”

    The Russian method? It could not be more simple; report the actual facts in the geopolitical contest and when this is inconvenient, practice lies by omission. Here is an example: Both NATO (an extension of the USA) and Russia are contesting Syria over competing energy pipelines, primarily. One from Iran transiting Syria, favored by Russia; the other from Qatar transiting Syria, favored by NATO......

    there are so many NATO lies (and lies to cover lies) in the co-opted western media, the Russians only need to stick to the facts (omitting the pipeline) to ultimately win the propaganda war. What’s more is, Russia further only need stand back and allow western dissident journalists to dig up the real facts on the ground:
    1. NATO’s “moderate” rebels are aligned with al-Qaida…………….. ✓
    2. NATO policy created the conditions for the rise of IS…………… ✓
    3. Western ally Saudi Arabia bankrolls the Salafist extremists……. ✓
    4. NATO member Turkey has protected & supplied IS……………..

    Western press propagandizing Americans
    How much of the USA’s propaganda budget is actually aimed at Americans?
    The newest version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) includes an amendment that would legalize the use of propaganda on the American public, reports Michael Hastings of BuzzFeed.
    The amendment — proposed by Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and passed in the House last Friday afternoon — would effectively nullify the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948, which explicitly forbids information and psychological operations aimed at influencing U.S. public opinion
    Huh. And yeah, that was made into law


    U.S. is Lying Aggressor in Syria...

    The United States has no right to interfere in the affairs of other countries, period, said BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley, speaking to a gathering of the Hands Off Syria Coalition, last week. The U.S. carries out regime change under the guise of “humanitarian” intervention to “protect” people from their own government, but “the claim is always a lie, a ruse to make real the Project for a New American Century,” said Kimberley, who is also active with UNAC, the United National Anti-War Coalition. “The United States never has a humanitarian purpose in mind, in Syria or anyplace else -- any more so than it does here at home.”