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. 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

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