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.
NC

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.


5--WHY DID TULSI GABBARD TRAVEL TO SYRIA AFTER MEETING TRUMP?


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.



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