Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Today's Links

“They’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.” Donald Trump

Trump voter talks sense-“I’ll happily vote for someone else.  There’s a lot I hate about Trump.  But our lives are basically destroyed, and he was the first person to talk about fixing that.”

1--US Q4 2016 second reading GDP up 1.9% vs 2.1% growth expected

The economy grew 1.6 percent for all of 2016, its worst performance since 2011, after expanding 2.6 percent in 2015....

Business investment was revised lower to reflect a more modest pace of spending on equipment, which increased at a 1.9 percent rate instead of the previously estimated 3.1 percent pace. That was still the first increase in over a year and reflected a surge in gas and oil well drilling in line with rising crude oil prices.

2--The Dems "Death Wish"

...consider this from NBC News on whether the public views insiders of either party favorably,  "One sentiment that unites the fractured nation is fury at the establishment in Washington. Fully 86 percent of those surveyed said they believe that a small group in D.C. has "reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. That includes 88 percent of Republicans and 85 percent of Democrats." .....

They Must Be Trying to Fail

At this point, one has to conclude that the national Democratic Party has a death wish. ...

[I]t was incredibly important that the Democratic Party take some steps to indicate that it cared about progressives. Since the election, it hadn’t been doing a very good job of this. (Nancy Pelosi’s insistence that nothing needed to change, and her rebuke to a young leftist, demonstrated the prevailing attitude.) Appointing Keith Ellison to chair the DNC was the perfect opportunity. After all, chairing the DNC is a pretty minor role. It would mostly have been a gesture of friendship and unity, showing that even after the catastrophic mistake of ignoring leftist warnings not to run Clinton, the party was capable of valuing its leftmost members.

But no. Instead of granting the tiniest possible concession, the party has decided to affirm precisely what Nancy Pelosi has indicated: democratic socialists and social democrats don’t belong in the party. It’s not for them. What the party does depends on what billionaire donors want it to do.
This is politically suicidal.

3--Happy Days are here again: Consumer confidence hits 114.8 in February, versus 111 estimate

Consumers rated current business and labor market conditions more favorably this month than in January," Lynn Franco, director of economic indicators at The Conference Board, said in a statement.

"Expectations improved regarding the short-term outlook for business, and to a lesser degree jobs and income prospects. Overall, consumers expect the economy to continue expanding in the months ahead," she said....

The survey, a closely followed barometer of consumer attitudes, measures confidence toward business conditions, short-term outlook, personal finances and jobs.

4--WTF Chart Of The Day: American Consumer Confidence Soars To 16 Year Highs As Real Wages Plunge

5--The Dow Has Never Had A Longer Streak Of Record Closes... Ever

6--White Helmets propaganda blitz

7--Relations with US worse since cold war: Russia

8--Backstage at the Trump vs. Deep State Cage Match

The real story behind The Fall of Michael Flynn has been confirmed by a highly informed US insider, who has previously detailed how the Trump presidency's foreign policy will unfold.

According to the insider, which I named "X", "Flynn was removed because he was agitating for a strike against Iran which would have had disastrous consequences. That would have led to Iranian strikes against Western oil supplies in the Middle East, raising Russia's economic power as the oil price would have soared to over $200 a barrel, and the EU would have had to join the Russian-Chinese block, or not be able to obtain sufficient energy to survive. The United States would have been completely isolated."...

"X" maintains that the Obama administration opening towards Iran, which led to the nuclear deal, was essentially a tactic to undermine Russia's Gazprom – assuming an Iran-Iraq gas pipeline would be built all the way to Turkey and then connected to EU markets...Russia is a natural ally to the US. The US will shift to Russia and Flynn's departure is relatively meaningless except for its entertainment value."...

we could be right in the middle of a very sophisticated wayang shadowplay – performance, as the Masters, according to Kissinger's prescriptions, do ultimately plan to align with Russia to challenge and break up Eurasia integration, which is essentially carried out by the Russia-China-Iran strategic partnership....

X" is fundamentally correct when he stresses Trump was supported by the Masters to reorient/reorganize/reboost the whole Empire of Chaos project. The extra $54 billion bump on military spending was long planned. "T. Rex" Tillerson, quietly, has already decimated half of the Obama administration’s State Dept; that's swamp cleaning in a nutshell. Big Oil and a substantial sector of the industrial-military complex are firmly behind Trump. These interests already know demonizing Russia is bad for business.

The losing axis though will continue to wreak havoc as the current chaos develops as enhanced shadowplay. Machiavelli/Richelieu Steve Bannon may have given the game away – in code – when he hints this is a process of creative destruction leading to a completely new form of power structure in the US. Under these circumstances, Flynn was just a pawn. And make no mistake; dour neo-Machiavelli and his glittering Prince are firmly set in for the long game

9--Trump and the Left: a Case of Mass Hysteria?

10--Propaganda: CIA the main peddler

Famed Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein wrote in 1977:

More than 400 American journalists … in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters

The Pentagon has now designated “information operations” as its fifth “core competency” alongside land, sea, air and special forces. Since October 2006, every brigade, division and corps in the US military has had its own “psyop” element producing output for local media. This military activity is linked to the State Department’s campaign of “public diplomacy” which includes funding radio stations and news websites. In Britain, the Directorate of Targeting and Information Operations in the Ministry of Defence works with specialists from 15 UK psyops, based at the Defence Intelligence and Security School at Chicksands in Bedfordshire....

One of the most common uses of propaganda is to sell unnecessary and counter-productive wars. Given that the American media is always pro-war, mainstream publishers, producers, editors, and reporters are willing participants....

Brig. Gen. Baker goes on to equate descriptions of combat operations with the standard marketing strategy of repeating something until it is accepted:

For years, commercial advertisers have based their advertisement strategies on the premise that there is a positive correlation between the number of times a consumer is exposed to product advertisement and that consumer’s inclination to sample the new product. The very same principle applies to how we influence our target audiences when we conduct COIN.

And those “thousands of hours per week of government-funded radio and TV programs” appear to serve Baker’s strategy, which states: “Repetition is a key tenet of IO execution, and the failure to constantly drive home a consistent message dilutes the impact on the target audiences.” 

11--Trump's base: They are NOT all bigoted, misogynist, Islamophobes as the Dems would like you to believe 

“The left is more intolerant than the right.”  Note: This concept came up a lot, with real animosity in otherwise pleasant conversations.

“Stop calling us racists.  Stop calling us idiots.  We aren’t.  Listen to us when we try to tell you why we aren’t.  Oh, and stop making fun of us.” 

“I’d love to see one-tenth of the outrage about the state of our lives out here that you have for Muslims from another country.   You have no idea what our lives are like.”

“I’m so tired of hearing about white privilege.  I’m white, but way less privileged than a black person from your world.  I have no hope my life will ever get any better.”

“I am tired of feeling silenced and demonized.  We have mostly the same goals, and different opinions about how to get there.  Maybe I’m wrong, maybe you’re wrong.  But enough with calling all of us the devil for wanting to try Trump.  I hate Hillary and think she wants to destroy the country of us but I don’t demonize her supporters.” ...

“I'd like to also add that the demonization of Trump by calling him and his supporters: Nazis, KKK, white supremacists, fascists, etc. works very well in entrenching Trump supporters on his side.  These attacks are counter-factual and in my opinion very helpful to Trump...

“The amount of violent attacks and economic attacks perpetrated by the left are troublesome.  My wife and I recently moved to the Bay Area.  I was expecting a place which was a welcoming meritocracy of ideas.  Instead, I found a place where everyone constantly watches everyone else for any thoughtcrime.” ...

“I’ll happily vote for someone else.  There’s a lot I hate about Trump.  But our lives are basically destroyed, and he was the first person to talk about fixing that.”...

“Based on Trump's history before politics I don't believe he is racist, sexist, homophobic or bigoted.  If that were true it would supersede everything else since it would be even worse for individual liberty and freedom than any freedom of speech restrictions or increases in government size proposed by the Democratic Party.”

12--US House Speaker Paul Ryan said investigation found no links between Russia and Donald Trump's election team.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — US House of Representatives investigations have yet to find any indication of regular contacts between Russia and members of President Donald Trump’s election campaign, Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters on Tuesday.
"We have seen no evidence so far based upon the investigations that have been conducted," Ryan stated at a press conference

Ryan said House Republicans have been investigating Russia for "quite a while" and the House Intelligence Committee is currently conducting a bipartisan probe of reports that the Trump campaign held regular consultations with Russia prior to the November 8 election.
The Trump administration has strongly denied US media reports that campaign officials had regular contact with Russian intelligence officials.
Russian officials have called the US allegations absurd and maintained that Moscow had no role in the 2016 election and has no desire to interfere in the US political system

13--GOP intelligence chairman David Nunes: “There’s no evidence of anything” regarding Russia-Trump campaign contacts

14--Why the Dems haven't gained traction against Trump

The Democrats and their apologists are opposed to any movement against Trump that is associated with policies of social reform and economic redistribution, beyond a more agreeable distribution of wealth within the top 10 percent. As such, they are incapable of advancing a viable basis for opposing the reactionary chauvinism of the fascistic right....

The administration’s greatest asset is the spineless and reactionary character of his critics within the political establishment. The Democrats are doing everything they can to divert and disorient popular opposition. Along with their allies in the media, they are promoting a vile, neo-McCarthyite campaign focused on denunciations of the Trump administration for being too soft on Russia. Their strategy is two-pronged. They want to pressure Trump to adopt positions that conform to the demands of dominant sections of the military-intelligence apparatus, while at the same time diverting the anger of millions of workers and youth away from any challenge to the capitalist system.

Responsibility for the rise of Trump lies squarely with the Democratic Party and what is generally presented as “left” politics in the United States. The Democratic Party, no less than the Trump administration itself, is a political instrument of Wall Street and the intelligence agencies. The policies of the Obama administration for the eight years that followed the economic crash of 2008 were dedicated to rescuing and enriching Wall Street. Far from being held accountable for the swindling and criminality that produced the crisis, the financial aristocracy is richer than ever. The Obama administration continued and expanded the wars of the Bush administration, while escalating the attacks on democratic rights and increasing the power of the intelligence agencies.
During the 2016 election campaign, Hillary Clinton ran as the candidate of Wall Street and the status quo, refusing to even acknowledge mass social discontent.

15--            b said...   

The most important result of the SAA move is the cut of the supply line between Turkey and ISIS. This is now the first time that ISIS has no friendly route to the outside. Some smuggling will still go on through Jordan and Saudi Arabia but those are unreliable routes and do not allow for unobserved mass movement of ammunition and people.

The Pentagon's think tank RAND is (again) peddling an idea in which the Raqqa and Deir Ezzor get conquered by the Syrian Kurds but then ask for "international administration" and in consequence for a "legal" U.S. takeover of the area. (While this would formerly not include the Syrian Kurdish areas it would practically include those.)

It is a variant of the "Sunnistan" idea with all its bad attributes. A real "legality" of such an entity would be not exist. The UNSC would never agree to it.

The Kurds (and the U.S.) would be dumb to support this. Their area as well as Raqqa and Deir Ezzor are landlocked. All of the surrounding states, all potentially hostile, would be against such an idea. How would the U.S. have access to it and support them when Turkey, Syria, Iraq and (the easily destabilized) Jordan all say "No

16--Turkey to complete Syria border wall within 5 months, official says

17--From Comments

Conceivably, with an eye on the new US administration’s reported plan to create an anti-Iran alliance in the region, Turkey is repositioning itself. There are several developments pointing in this direction. The US and Turkey have been holding a series of top-level meetings through the past fortnight since President Donald Trump made his first phone call with Turkish President Recep Erdogan on February 7. The American visitors to Ankara since then included CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and US senator who heads the Armed Services Committee John McCain.

Meanwhile, Erdogan has undertaken the tour of the GCC states, which aimed at harmonising Turkish stance on Syria with Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s. (During Erdogan’s tour, Turkey and Saudi Arabia signed a defence agreement.) Ankara has noted that in the past fortnight there have been important visitors from the US to the Gulf region –CIA chief Pompeo, Senator John McCain and Defence Secretary James Mattis. Pompeo conferred on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz the CIA’s George Tenet Medal for his exceptional contributions in the fight against terrorism. It doesn’t need much ingenuity to figure out that the US is promoting a Saudi-Israeli alliance against Iran.

Equally, Ankara and Washington are edging toward a mutually satisfactory resolution of a discord that had set them apart in the recent past – fate of Islamist preacher Fetullah Gulen who lives in exile in Pennsylvania. Trump administration may act to curb Gulen’s activities, while Erdogan may no longer press for his outright extradition to Turkey.
Wheverever McCain goes, US imperialism kicks into high gear. It's understandable that the new administration is reaching out to it's allies in the ME and meetings are being held about the various geopolitical situations. They are going to want to "fix" whatever they perceive to have been wrong about Obama's team's approach so the US can be a "winner" again. Trump himself has said numerous times that he does not believe in sharing military or intelligence strategies with the press (though I expect exceptions will be made when it's to his advantage).
Since the goal of Pax Americana is influence and status, and not peace, it is likely that displays of "strength" will be forthcoming

18--At US behest Turkey reboots Syrian war

Turkey is repositioning itself. There are several developments pointing in this direction. The US and Turkey have been holding a series of top-level meetings through the past fortnight since President Donald Trump made his first phone call with Turkish President Recep Erdogan on February 7. The American visitors to Ankara since then included CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and US senator who heads the Armed Services Committee John McCain.

Meanwhile, Erdogan has undertaken the tour of the GCC states, which aimed at harmonising Turkish stance on Syria with Saudi Arabia and Qatar’s. (During Erdogan’s tour, Turkey and Saudi Arabia signed a defence agreement.) Ankara has noted that in the past fortnight there have been important visitors from the US to the Gulf region –CIA chief Pompeo, Senator John McCain and Defence Secretary James Mattis. Pompeo conferred on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz the CIA’s George Tenet Medal for his exceptional contributions in the fight against terrorism. It doesn’t need much ingenuity to figure out that the US is promoting a Saudi-Israeli alliance against Iran....

However, one other contentious issue still remains unresolved – US military support for Syrian Kurds. This is a non-negotiable issue for Turkey, which considers the Syrian Kurdish militia to be an affiliate of the separatist Kurdish group PKK. Turkey and the US are actively discussing at the moment the modalities of a Turkish military operation aimed at liberating Raqqa, the ‘capital’ of the Islamic State. The Turkish Prime Minister Binaldi Yildirim discussed the Raqqa operation with the US Vice-President Mike Pence in the weekend at the Munich Security Conference. It will be a major military operation with tanks, armoured vehicles and artillery. Turkey seeks US Special Forces’ participation, which will also serve the purpose of deterring Russian intervention, apart from weakening the Syrian Kurds’ drive to create an entity in northern Syria.

Without doubt, the capture of Raqqa will be much more than a symbolic event. Raqqa determines how much of Syria will be under control of Syrian regime. Clearly, Erdogan hopes to project Turkish power right into Damascus and have a big say in Syria’s future. Yildirim sounded upbeat after meeting Pence. See a report in the pro-government Turkish daily Yeni Safak – PM Yildirim: Turkey, US turning over a new leaf.

Suffice to say, Erdogan seems confident that the Trump administration is viewing Ankara once again as a “strategic partner and a NATO ally” (as Trump indeed told him). Just another 5 days remain in the timeline given by the Trump administration to the Pentagon to prepare a comprehensive plan to defeat the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. But Turkey is already acting as if it had a preview of the Pentagon plan.

A lengthy dispatch from Damascus by Xinhua underscores that Turkey’s journey back to its American ally also coincides with the “re-emergence of the Gulf states as the backers of the rebels” and with a growing probability of US putting boots on the ground in Syria — all in all a “remilitarization” of the Syrian conflict. Read the insightful report titled Spotlight: Gloomy outlook shadows Syrian talks in Geneva.

19--Russia, China block anti-Syria UNSC resolution

20--Syrian opposition to talk to Russia

As talks on a political resolution of the conflict in Syria continue in Geneva, the Syrian opposition seeks to meet with Russian officials in an attempt to affect Moscow’s pro-Damascus stance.
The UN-backed negotiations started out on Thursday between the Syrian government and the representatives of the armed and political opposition.
The head of the Saudi-based High Negotiations Committee (HNC), the main opposition group at the talks, said his team was likely to meet with Russian delegates on the sidelines of the talks on Tuesday.

He urged Russia to put pressure on Damascus and drive it towards the opposition’s prime demand of discussing political transition. This is while the government insists the talks should start with an agreement on the need to fight terrorism.
We hope that Russia “will not bet on one person,” he said, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and that it “will provide real and positive support to the political process so that we could reach an appropriate solution.”

21--Donald Trump’s election victory is indication enough the American people will continue to buy empty promises and ignore reality-- Disproving the 'Assad used chemical weapons' claim

Trump said while Syria is a “mess,” he “might have gone in” after the US and its propaganda media said al-Assad had launched a chemical attack. It was discovered months before Trump made this statement that Syria wasn’t responsible for the attack. Obama admitted responsibility for the chemical attack on Ghouta in August 2013 was not a “slam dunk.” In 2015 it was reported Turkey had transferred chemical weapons to al-Nusra, a terror group supported by Qatar. The following year, trucks carrying chemical weapons were spotted in the Aleppo, at the time controlled by al-Nusra. The media in Russia and Europe reported on this, but it was virtually ignored by the corporate propaganda media in America....

Thomas L. Knapp characterizes Trump’s foreign policy as Obama’s third term, Bush’s fifth. Knapp points out how Trump has routinely flip-flopped.
“One minute he talked like a non-interventionist. The next minute he railed about ‘rebuilding’ a US military that’s already the most powerful and expensive war machine on the face of the earth and has been since World War II,” he writes.

“One minute he was for good relations with other countries, the next he was threatening to reverse Obama’s two real foreign policy successes, the nuclear deal with Iran and the thawing of relations with Cuba.”

Knapp writes it is indeed “business as usual” on the foreign policy front. “The drone strikes continue. Navy SEALs have murdered dozens of civilians including an 8-year-old American girl in Yemen. Instead of withdrawing US troops from Syria, Trump touts escalation of American involvement with the establishment of ‘safe zones’ to corral war refugees. He’s even turned on his supposed friend Vladimir Putin, promising an extension of sanctions against Russia on behalf of Ukraine’s regime.

“Time to take off the rose-colored glasses. Donald Trump is the War Party’s dream president.”

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Today's Links

1--How ‘New Cold Warriors’ Cornered Trump, Gareth Porter (Today's "must read")

Opponents of the Trump administration have generally accepted as fact the common theme across mainstream media that aides to Donald Trump were involved in some kind of illicit communications with the Russian government that has compromised the independence of the administration from Russian influence....

But close analysis of the entire series of leaks reveals something else that is equally sinister in its implications: an unprecedented campaign by Obama administration intelligence officials, relying on innuendo rather than evidence, to exert pressure on Trump to abandon any idea of ending the New Cold War and to boost the campaign to impeach Trump.

A brazen and unprecedented intervention in domestic U.S. politics by the intelligence community established the basic premise of the cascade of leaks about alleged Trump aides’ shady dealing with Russia. Led by CIA Director John Brennan, the CIA, FBI and NSA issued a 25-page assessment on Jan. 6 asserting for the first time that Russia had sought to help Trump win the election.

A former U.S. intelligence official with decades of experience dealing with the CIA as well other intelligence agencies, who insisted on anonymity because he still has dealings with U.S. government agencies, told this writer that he had never heard of the intelligence agencies making public unverified information on a U.S. citizen.

“The CIA has never played such a open political role,” he said.....

The egregious triple abuse of the power in publishing a highly partisan opinion on Russia and Trump’s election, appending raw and unverified private allegations impugning Trump’s loyalty and then leaking that fact to the media begs the question of motive. Brennan, who initiated the whole effort, was clearly determined to warn Trump not to reverse the policy toward Russia to which the CIA and other national security organizations were firmly committed.

A few days after the leak of the two-page summary, Brennan publicly warned Trump about his policy toward Russia. In an interview on Fox News, he said, “I think Mr. Trump has to understand that absolving Russia of various actions that it’s taken in the past number of years is a road that he, I think, needs to be very, very careful about moving down.”

Graham Fuller, who was a CIA operations officer for 20 years and was also National Intelligence Officer for the Middle East for four years in the Reagan administration, observed in an e-mail, that Brennan, Clapper and Comey “might legitimately fear Trump as a loose cannon on the national scene,” but they are also “dismayed at any prospect that the official narrative against Russia could start falling apart under Trump, and want to maintain the image of constant and dangerous Russian intervention into affairs of state.”...

Any interception of a communication by the NSA or the FBI has always been considered one of the most highly classified secrets in the U.S. intelligence universe of secrets. And officers have long been under orders to protect the name of any American involved in any such intercepted communication at all costs. But the senior official who leaked the story of Flynn-Kislyak conversation to Ignatius – obviously for a domestic political purpose – did not feel bound by any such rule....

There was little subtlety in how mainstream media outlets made their point. CNN’s headline was, “Trump aides were in constant touch with senior Russian officials during campaign.” The Times headline was even more sensational: “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts with Russian Intelligence.”...

Even more important, however, the Times story made it clear that the intelligence community was seeking evidence that Trump’s aides or associates were colluding with the Russians on the alleged Russian effort to influence the election, but that it had found no evidence of any such collusion. CNN failed to report that crucial element of the story

Former CIA Director Brennan and other former Obama administration intelligence officials have used their power to lead a large part of the public to believe that Trump had conducted suspicious contacts with Russian officials without having the slightest evidence to support the contention that such contacts represent a serious threat to the integrity of the U.S. political process

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The American People; Smarter than you think

A new survey finds that a majority of the American people think Washington's foreign wars are making them "less safe".  Also a significant majority of people think their tax dollars should be spend on domestic issues. (like jobs, infrastructure and education, not wars.) Also, Americans believe that "national interests" should determine U.S. foreign policy... "not the interests of other nations".

And-- despite all the demonizing of Russia in the media-- only 12%  of the people surveyed thought Russia posed "the greatest security challenge currently facing the United States".

The Charles Koch Institute and the Center for the National Interest today released a poll of 1,000 Americans taken the last weekend of January demonstrating that Americans want Washington to show greater restraint when it comes to military spending and intervention in foreign matters. ..... This is the third foreign policy poll the Charles Koch Institute and the Center for the National Interest have conducted since October, and each survey has shown that Americans don’t think that U.S. foreign policy has served to make Americans and the world safer."

...“U.S. voters want their elected officials in Washington to prioritize American national interests. Moreover, respondents believe that any additional tax revenue should be focused on domestic priorities, especially reducing the debt and deficit. Americans simply don’t want more military spending. Congress should think twice about sending additional money to the Pentagon and focus on getting more bang for their taxpayers’ buck.”

Americans Still Believe Recent U.S. Foreign Policy Has Made Them Less Safe:
  • When asked if U.S. foreign policy over the last 15 years had made Americans more or less safe, a majority (51%) said less safe. Just 11% said more safe, while 27% said U.S. foreign policy had not affected their level of safety.
Americans Want Greater Foreign Policy Realism And For American Interests to Drive Foreign Policy Decision Making:
  • 69% of Americans believe that U.S. national interests should drive U.S. foreign policy; 30% strongly believe that U.S. national interests should always come first. Only 17% believe the interests of other nations should have greater weight than U.S. interests.
Americans Are Skeptical of More Military Spending:
  • When asked how the federal government should spend a hypothetical additional tax dollar, 79% expressed a desire to see it go toward a domestic priority. 42% percent said it should go toward debt and deficit reduction, and 37% said it should go toward domestic spending generally. Only 12% said it should go toward military spending, and 1% said foreign aid. An additional 8% did not know how that dollar should be spent.
Americans See Potential Even in Our Relationships With China, Russia:
  • When asked to identify the greatest security challenge currently facing the United States, 36% of respondents said ISIS, 12% said Russia, 12% said immigration, and 11% said the national debt. 7% said North Korea, 4% said China, 2% said Iran, and 1% said Syria. Another 15% said “other” or that they did not know.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Today's Links

1--We're About to See the US and UK’s Global Power Decline

It will be difficult for the US to remain a super-power under a leader who is an international figure of fun and is often visibly detached from reality. His battle cry of “Fake News” simply means an inability to cope with criticism or accept facts or views that contradict his own. World leaders who have met him say they are astonished by his ignorance of events at home and abroad.

This cannot go on very long without sizeably diminishing American global influence as its judgement and actions become so unpredictable. Over the last three quarters of a century, countries of all political hues – dictatorships and democracies, republics and monarchies – have wanted to be an ally of the US because it was the most powerful player in world affairs....

Despite its vastly expensive armed forces, the US has failed to win wars in Afghanistan and Iraq or to obtain regime change in Syria. In all three wars, it made serious mistakes and suffered important setbacks. ...

As presidential candidate Trump presented himself as an isolationist, claiming to have opposed the wars in Iraq and Libya. He had taken on board, as Hillary Clinton had not, that the American public does not want to fight another ground war in the Middle East. But Trump’s appointment of two senior generals – James Mattis as Defence Secretary and HR McMaster as National Security Adviser – tells a different and more belligerent story. Already, there are steps being taken to create a Sunni Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies and in cooperation with Israel, to confront Iran.

2--Surprise: Earnings Actually Drive Stocks --One of the reasons behind the market’s big rally is a surprisingly good earnings season

Fourth-quarter earnings are expected to log an increase of 4.6% from the same period a year ago, according to FactSet. That would mark the second consecutive quarter of year-over-year growth. And it would put the prior earnings recession of five consecutive quarterly contractions further in the rearview mirror. The last time the market had back-to-back quarters of earnings growth was in the fourth quarter of 2014 and the first quarter of 2015....

As for the overall market, corporate tax reform, infrastructure spending and fiscal stimulus have helped push the Dow Jones Industrial Average up about 13% since the election.

Rising valuations shouldn’t be dismissed. The S&P 500 has a forward price/earnings ratio of 17.6, the highest multiple since 2004 and above the averages of the past five, 10, 15 and 20 years.

Even with earnings growing again, that valuation can’t be justified without corporate tax reform and stimulus. The higher the market goes, the more dependent it is on success of Donald Trump’s policies.

3--Don't bet too heavily on buybacks--Investors bullish about a Trump capital expenditure boom must realize that buybacks, one of the bull market’s drivers, may suffer

Weak corporate investment has been one of the economy’s great flaws. An expected boost in capital spending—driven by rising confidence, stronger profits and tax reform—is one reason the stock market has soared.

But investors are confusing the benefits that rising spending would bring to the economy with its short-term impact on the stock market. A boom in corporate investment could be a drag on stocks.

As the economy struggled to grow, companies lacked the confidence to write big checks, except when they bought competitors. Instead they have been purchasing their own shares furiously. Companies in the S&P 500 have spent more than $2.5 trillion on share buybacks in the five years through 2016’s third quarter, according to FactSet. In the third quarter of 2016 alone buyback champs Apple Inc. and General Electric Co. repurchased $11.5 billion worth of their shares combined.

Yet the third quarter marked the second consecutive period of declining buybacks compared with a year earlier. In dollar terms, the drop was the largest since 2009, and it could get worse if more cash is diverted to new factories and equipment....

And then there is the market’s rich valuation, which teeters precariously on top of earnings growth driven by share buybacks. The stock market’s valuation is now in the 96th percentile of all observations in the past 135 years based on a cyclically adjusted measure used by Yale professor Robert Shiller. Even if buybacks stay strong, they produce less bang-for-the-buck. A company now has to spend about $1.34 of its earnings to repurchase as many shares as $1 did in February 2012. So, even as dollars spent have dropped, the number of shares repurchased has fallen even more.

That matters because the 5.3% in annualized, cyclically-adjusted earnings per share growth since 2009 would be less than half as much if not for gross buybacks. With so little earnings growth, it is no surprise that most of the S&P 500’s 17.1% annualized price gain since the bottom in 2009 has come as a result of valuation rather than real earnings growth or inflation. Justin Sibears of money manager Newfound Research calculated that a larger portion of the current bull market’s returns have come from valuation gains than any since the 1920s bubble. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Shiller price-to-earnings ratio is at the same level as observed in July 1929.

Is there a rosier scenario for buybacks? They could surge temporarily, much as they did back in 2005, if the Trump administration gives companies a tax holiday on the more than $2 trillion in unremitted corporate profits held overseas. As a share of market value, that is even higher than the Bush-era tax holiday.

The positive view of a boost in capital spending is that it will earn high future returns. That may be true, but earnings growth would be depressed a bit in the short-term as buybacks slow and earnings are hit by increased depreciation and amortization expenses, which are the result of higher capex.

Investors are forgetting that what’s good for the economy isn’t always good for stocks.

4--Eurozone Finally Finds Itself Free of Deflation-- January consumer prices were 1.8% higher than a year earlier

For the first time in almost four years, none of the eurozone’s 19 members was in deflation during January, an encouragement to the European Central Bank in its long struggle to lift inflation to its target and keep it there.

5--Veterans Say Organizers Concealed Saudi Sponsorship of Their Trip to DC to Lobby for Changes to 9/11 Lawsuit Legislation...

Lobbyists May Be Planning to Kill 9/11 Suits Against Kingdom by Restricting Lawyers’ Compensation

Senior Leader of Military Order of the Purple Heart Working for Saudi Lobbyists for $100,000 Fee

Today's Links

War-- “A violent struggle between hostile, independent, irreconcilable wills characterized by chaos, friction, and uncertainty." Clausewitz

1---This Rally in Stocks is Doomed: Goldman

Goldman shares have surged 58% since early October when it became clear to the markets that Trump had a chance. Some of its former executives are now dutifully holding down key positions in the Trump administration. Markets are expecting that all manner of goodies will rain down upon Goldman and the broader Wall Street community.

But Goldman’s analysts are worried about this market enthusiasm because those goodies may not show up, or show up late and in watered-down form once Congress gets through with them, if it gets through with them at all. And for any disappointment, there will be a price to pay...

But quick and substantive corporate tax reform is what the markets are counting on when they pushed the S&P index up 10% since the election. Now the efforts to deal with Obamacare may push corporate tax reform on the back burner

2--Trade growth slows to lowest level since global financial crisis; Relentless looting, fraud and manipulation lead to global slowdown

The World Bank report on trade followed the publication of its annual Global Economic Prospects report published last month.
That report painted a somewhat dismal picture of the world economy.

“Stalling global trade, weak investment and heightened political uncertainty have depressed world economic activity,” the report stated. Global growth was estimated to have fallen to 2.3 percent in 2016, the weakest performance since the global financial crisis and 0.1 percentage point below the forecast by the World Bank made in June 2016.

“Advanced economies continue to struggle with subdued growth and low inflation in a context of increasing uncertainty about policy direction, tepid investment, and sluggish productivity growth. Activity decelerated in the United States and, to a lesser degree in some other major economies.”
Advanced-economy growth was estimated to have slowed to 1.6 percent in 2016 with a small pick-up to a level of 1.8 percent expected in 2017.

The situation is no better in emerging market economies. While growth in these economies was expected to rise over 2017 and 2018, and could account for 60 percent of global growth in the coming year, the long-term outlook for these economies was “clouded by a number of factors.”

These include uncertainty about global trade prospects, advanced-economy economic policies, a weakening of potential output flowing from subdued investment and sluggish productivity growth.
The report noted that since 2010 investment growth in emerging market economies had slowed sharply. While the deceleration had been most pronounced in the largest of these markets and commodity-exporting countries, it had now spread to the rest with the result that investment growth was below its long-term average over the past quarter century, except during serious global downturns.

These economies, it pointed out, account for than more one third of global GDP and three-quarters of the world’s population and the world’s poor.

3--Robert Shiller: With stock valuations high, it’s time to reduce your holdings

4--Killer, kleptocrat, genius, spy: the many myths of Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin, you may have noticed, is everywhere. He has soldiers in Ukraine and Syria, troublemakers in the Baltics and Finland, and a hand in elections from the Czech Republic to France to the United States. And he is in the media. Not a day goes by without a big new article on “Putin’s Revenge”, “The Secret Source of Putin’s Evil”, or “10 Reasons Why Vladimir Putin Is a Terrible Human Being”....

Putin-as-evil-genius is, unquestionably, the primary theoretical view in the west of the Russian president, whether by his multitude of critics or his smattering of admirers. Those who take a more jaundiced view of Putin’s political, intellectual, and military capabilities – President Barack Obama, for one – are treated as naive, soft on Putin: the sort of people who play checkers, not chess. Meanwhile, most Russian observers of Putin tend to be surprised at the western awe of his overwhelming strategic prowess...

The first sight many Russians got of Vladimir Putin was on New Year’s Eve, 1999, when in a remarkable turn of events, a clearly ailing Boris Yeltsin, with six months left in his term, used his traditional televised end-of-year address to announce that he was resigning the presidency and handing the reins to his recently appointed, younger and more energetic prime minister

5--The absolute dominance of the U.S. economy, in one chart

6--The myth of Tal Afar  2007--  H.R. McMaster: The Warrior's-Eye View of Afghanistan--

The two-star general wrote the book on Vietnam and showed the way for the surge in Iraq. Now he's back from 20 months in Afghanistan—and says the war can be won (archive 2012--Afghanistan is still a mess)

See: http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article12440.htm
See also--2006  http://dissidentvoice.org/Mar06/Whitney24.htm

Gen. McMaster really earned his renown applying the tenets of counterinsurgency strategy, or COIN, during the war in Iraq. As a colonel in 2005, he took responsibility for a place called Tal Afar. In that city of 200,000 people, the insurgents' "savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young," wrote Tal Afar's mayor in 2006. "This was the situation of our city until God prepared and delivered unto them the courageous soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment."

Gen. McMaster's troops fought in Tal Afar with the understanding that victory would not be achieved by using maximum violence to hunt and kill insurgents. Instead, the key tasks were to secure and improve life for the local population, establish reliable local government, and project determination and staying power.

Before long, President George W. Bush was citing Tal Afar as a model. It helped inspire the strategy shift that turned around the Iraq War under David Petraeus, Gen. McMaster's mentor and a fellow West Point graduate with a Ph.D. and a penchant for quoting theorists like Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831), the Prussian officer who famously defined war as the continuation of politics by other means....

"What do the Taliban have to offer the Afghan people?" he asks. They are "a criminal organization, criminal because they engage in mass murder of innocent people, and criminal because they're also the largest narcotics-trafficking organization in the world. Are these virtuous religious people? No, these are murderous, nihilistic, irreligious people who we're fighting—we along with Afghans who are determined to not allow them to return."

Taliban groups, he adds, are increasingly seen by Afghans "as a tool of hostile foreign intelligence agencies. These are people who live in comfort in Pakistan and send their children to private schools while they destroy schools in Afghanistan." He notes, too, that indigenous Afghan fighters are wondering where their leadership is: "One of the maxims of military leadership is that you share the hardships of your troops, you lead from the front. Well they're leading from comfortable villas in Pakistan. So there's growing resentment, and this could be an opportunity to convince key communities inside of Afghanistan into joining the political process."

As a tool for this, Gen. McMaster praises the U.S. military's "village stability operations," which send small teams of Special Forces to live among Afghans in remote villages vulnerable to Taliban intimidation.

7--New Poll: Americans Crystal Clear: Foreign Policy Status Quo Not Working

Americans Still Believe Recent U.S. Foreign Policy Has Made Them Less Safe:
  • When asked if U.S. foreign policy over the last 15 years had made Americans more or less safe, a majority (51%) said less safe. Just 11% said more safe, while 27% said U.S. foreign policy had not affected their level of safety.

8--CIA-backed aid for Syrian rebels frozen after Islamist attack

9--Federal Reserves Eyes Aggressive Rate Increases-- Minutes suggest the Fed could consider raising its benchmark rate as soon as its next policy meeting in March

Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen suggested the bank might raise rates as soon as March when she told Congress last week that an increase might come “at our upcoming meetings...

For now, markets still see a March increase as unlikely. Investors pegged the probability of a move next month at around 22% Wednesday afternoon, up from about 18% on Tuesday, according to CME Group data.....

President Donald Trump’s plans for tax cuts, new spending and deregulation have buoyed market hopes of faster economic growth and higher corporate profits. But Fed officials at the meeting underscored their uncertainty about the details and effects of the potential policy changes, according to the minutes.

If the White House’s fiscal policies send inflation surging and unemployment falling too low, officials might have to raise rates more than expected to prevent the economy from overheating, central-bank officials noted. On the other hand, a strengthening dollar could push inflation down and lead officials to raise rates less than anticipated, the minutes said.
Fed policy makers in December raised their benchmark federal-funds rate to a range of between 0.5% and 0.75% and penciled in three quarter-percentage-point increases this year. At their recent meeting, they left rates unchanged and saw little reason to change their plans for the year ahead....

The Fed’s growing readiness to raise rates partly reflects a firming economy, particularly in the weeks since the February statement. The latest jobs report, released Feb. 3, showed employers added 227,000 jobs last month while the labor-force participation rate—the share of adults holding or seeking jobs—ticked up to 62.9%. A measure of annual inflation also moved up to 2.5% in January, the largest increase since March 2012. A separate inflation measure that is preferred by the Fed has also been moving up but remains at 1.6%, still below the 2% target.

The minutes also showed Fed officials expect to start talking “at upcoming meetings” about when and how to begin shrinking the central bank’s large asset portfolio—a process that would likely push long-term rates higher.
The Fed boosted its portfolio, or balance sheet, since the crisis through three rounds of asset purchases aimed at bolstering the economy by lowering long-term rates. The central bank maintains the portfolio’s size—now at $4.5 trillion—by reinvesting the proceeds of maturing securities. When it comes time to shrink the balance sheet, the Fed plans to scale back its reinvestments, letting the maturing assets run off.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Today's Links

Trump: “But I want to just tell you, the false reporting by the media, by you people, the false, horrible, fake reporting makes it much harder to make a deal with Russia. And probably Putin said ‘you know.’  He’s sitting behind his desk and he’s saying ‘you know, I see what’s going on in the United States, I follow it closely. It’s going to be impossible for President Trump to ever get along with Russia because of all the pressure he’s got with this fake story.’ OK?  And that’s a shame because if we could get along with Russia — and by the way, China and Japan and everyone. If we could get along, it would be a positive thing, not a negative thing.

And later, Trump: “But you know what? I want to do the right thing for the American people. And to be honest, secondarily, I want to do the right thing for the world.
“If Russia and the United States actually got together and got along — and don’t forget, we’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. There’s no upside. We’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are they. I have been briefed. And I can tell you one thing about a briefing that we’re allowed to say because anybody that ever read the most basic book can say it, a nuclear holocaust would be like no other. (Emphasis, jw)……..  “They’re a very powerful nuclear country and so are we. If we have a good relationship with Russia, believe me, that’s a good thing, not a bad thing.”

"If we extrapolate the longstanding experience of the new US national security advisor and his views on the US' foreign policy, we could foretell high probability of new military conflicts in various parts of the planet in the nearest future. I also suggest that the new Pentagon's chief, James Mattis will be eager to support hybrid concepts and military solutions of his co-thinker."  RIA Novosti political analyst Alexander Khrolenko

1--Trump's new security advisor differs from him on Russia, other key issues

McMaster will not be alone, however. His prominent administration allies include Defense Secretary Jim Mattis; Marine General Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee; as well as many of the soldiers who have served with him....

The real potential for flashpoints is with some of the people that Steve Bannon has brought into the administration ... people who see things very ideologically," said Andrew Exum, a former Army officer and Defense Department Mideast policy official and McMaster friend for more than a decade.Trump's early missteps on immigration and other issues "have strengthened the leverage available to not only H.R. McMaster, but also Defense Secretary Mattis and Secretary (of State Rex) Tillerson potentially," Exum said....

Unlike his predecessor, Michael Flynn, and Trump himself, McMaster regards Moscow as an adversary rather than a potential partner. Last May, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank, McMaster cited Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for rebels in eastern Ukraine as evidence of a broader effort "to collapse the post-World War Two, certainly the post-Cold War, security, economic, and political order in Europe and replace that order with something that is more sympathetic to Russian interests." A third area where McMaster's thinking differs from the president's rhetoric is the size and shape of the U.S. military

2--CIA Freezes Aid To Free Syrian Army

The FSA will continue to receive aid, however, from nations that receive weapons from the US and who oppose the Assad administration. While US aid to the FSA has been severed, at least temporarily, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and NATO-member Turkey continue to pour weapons and money into groups aligned with the FSA. In 2015, Qatar, a nation of two million, spent more money on US weapons than any other country, while Saudi Arabia ranked third, behind Egypt, according to the US Congressional Research Service.

3--US may deploy more troops to Syria: Commander

The top US commander for the Middle East says more American troops may be needed in Syria to step up the so-called campaign against the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group in the war-torn country.

General Joseph L. Votel, the head of the US Central Command, made the announcement on Wednesday while speaking to reporters accompanying him on a trip to the Middle East region.
Asked by CBS News if further US troops would be dispatched to Syria, Votel said, “Perhaps,” stressing that he was "very concerned about maintaining momentum."

4--Russia says it was in touch with Trump's campaign during election

5--CIA Arms for Syrian Rebels Frozen Amid Infighting         

No Official Explanation Offered for Freeze

6--Appointment of "Warrior-Scholar" McMaster signals intensification of anti-Russia confrontation

The appointment Monday of Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, an active duty military commander, as national security advisor has been welcomed by both Democratic and Republican critics of the foreign policy being pursued by the Trump White House.

He has been hailed by virtually all sections of the corporate media as a “warrior-scholar” or “soldier-intellectual,” whose record supposedly stands in stark contrast to that of his recently ousted predecessor, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn (ret.), the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, a partisan Trump supporter whose worldview encompassed a global war against Islam....

Last year, McMaster headed up an initiative known as the “Russia New Generation Warfare Study,” designed to reorient the US military toward military confrontation with Russia. He is also the author of a 2015 report titled “Continuity and Change: The Army Operating Concept and Clear Thinking About Future War,” which calls for the Pentagon to prepare “to prevent the aggressor from doing what Russia has in Ukraine.”

In Moscow, the appointment was taken as an unmistakable signal. “McMaster is…a 100 percent threat to Russia from the US, and it’s not getting weaker or smaller. Defense and intelligence wing of Washington will carry out a Russophobic policy,” the first deputy chairman of Russia’s Federation Council Committee on Defense and Security Franz Klintsevich told Sputnik on Tuesday....

The Journal has ample grounds for trusting McMaster to pursue such a strategy. In addition to his anti-Russia credentials, the army general has voiced open opposition to the idea that the US can pursue its objectives by means of drone assassination strikes and special operations raids. He is a proponent of “going in big” and a critic of the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, who has close ties to US intelligence, was ecstatic. “McMaster is the real deal,” he said in a television interview Tuesday. “He is a warrior intellectual; he is someone who has made his name through his career speaking to power.”...

Both Democratic and Republican critics of the administration are now openly placing their hopes on a cabal of generals controlling the majority of security posts to counter what they see as the destabilizing influence of Trump’s fascistic chief White House strategist, former Breitbart news chief Stephen Bannon.
Neither of the two major parties and none of the extreme right-wing and militaristic factions contending for power within the Trump administration have anything to do with defending the democratic and social interests of the vast majority of the population, which are under unprecedented attack.
Rather, behind the scenes, elements within the state and its vast military and intelligence apparatus, unelected and unaccountable, are fighting out matters of US imperialist war strategy that have deadly implications for the population of the United States and the entire planet.

7--More US troops headed to ME

Trump ordered the Pentagon at the end of January to prepare plans for a new strategy he claimed would be aimed at defeating ISIS. Mattis is expected to present the proposals at the end of the month, but reports already indicate thousands more ground troops will be sent to Syria under the pretext of establishing so-called “safe zones” for refugees, and the current level of air strikes will be increased.
US-led air strikes have already killed civilians and struck infrastructure, most notably in December when hospitals in Mosul were bombed on two separate occasions.

On the ground in Iraq, the escalation has already begun. Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, commander of US forces in Iraq, noted in comments this week that US troops embedded with Iraqi forces began playing a more aggressive role when the Mosul offensive was first initiated last October. The Obama administration gave authorization for US soldiers to operate closer to the front line. “We adjusted our posture during the east Mosul fight and we embedded advisers a bit further down into the formation,” Townsend told a news conference, noting that the so-called “advisers” were now close enough to the front line to be able to direct air strikes.

Mattis went even further, noting that the new plan for operations in Syria and Iraq due February 27 could see a further loosening of the restrictions on where US military personnel can operate, as well as a recommendation to deploy more troops to Iraq, although he declined to be more specific. “We owe some degree of confidentiality so we don’t expose to the enemy what we have in mind as to the timing of operations,” he said.

8--James Steele, How the US pacified Iraq

9--Amid ongoing conflicts, Pence extends olive branch to EU

At the Munich Security Conference, Pence declared that “the United States of America strongly supports NATO and will be unwavering in our commitment to this trans-Atlantic alliance.” He said that the US government would “continue to hold Russia accountable.” He also echoed calls in the ruling class in Europe for stepped-up rearmament, particularly in Germany, demanding that Europe contribute a “fair share to our common defense.”
In Brussels, Pence reaffirmed the “strong commitment of the United States to continued cooperation and partnership with the European Union… Whatever our differences, our two continents share the same heritage, the same values and above all the same purpose: to promote peace and prosperity through freedom, democracy and the rule of law.”...

according to a detailed Reuters report denied by the White House, Trump’s neo-fascist chief political strategist, Steve Bannon, spoke to German diplomats before Pence’s trip to repeat that the EU was “flawed.” He reportedly made comments similar to 2014 remarks he delivered to a Vatican conference, that he does not “believe in this kind of pan-European Union” and that Western Europe was founded on “strong nationalist movements

10--Lavrov: Russia waiting for US to provide ‘details’ on proposed safe zones in Syria

11-- Trump’s “America First” policies and the global eruption of economic nationalism

Outlining the rationale for the proposed agreements in 2014, (eg--Trans-Pacific Partnership and its counterpart for Europe, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership)  Obama’s trade representative Michael Froman wrote in a major Foreign Affairs article that “trade policy is national security policy,” and that the aim of the agreements was to “place the US at the center of agreements that will provide unfettered access to two-thirds of the global economy.”

He went on to explain that the post-war system was no longer adequate and that the US no longer held “as dominant a position as it did at the end of World War II” and had to build new “trade coalitions working toward consensus positions.” In other words, the development of new mechanisms whereby the US could counter its economic decline vis-à-vis its rivals....(trade agreements are designed to maintain US dominance. Trump is meddling in a system he doesn't understand)

While the battle in Washington between the intelligence agencies, the media and the Trump administration over the question of Russia and Trump’s supposed ties to Putin is attracting most of the headlines, a conflict on the economic front is of no less significance.
Earlier this month, in response to Trump’s “America First” agenda and what it called his “divisive delusions on trade,” the Financial Times, the voice of British and to some extent European finance capital, warned that if the Trump administration continued on its present course, it would represent a “clear and present danger to the global trading and monetary system.”...

Last month, speaking to the New York Times on the sidelines of the Davos summit of the World Economic Forum, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the president of the euro group of finance ministers, pointed to possible major shifts in orientation. “We’ve always said that America is our best friend,” he said. “If that’s no longer the case, if that’s what we need to understand from Donald Trump, then, of course, Europe will be looking for new friends.
“China is a very strong candidate for that. The Chinese involvement in Europe in terms of investment is already very high and expanding. If you push away your friends, you mustn’t be surprised if the friends start looking for new friends.”

12--Anti Russia hysteria mounts:  Moscow’s Peace Efforts Are Sabotaged as Washington Aims to Make War With Russia Inevitable

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Today's Links

Arthur Rimbaud--"Il faut être absolument modern"

  trans--One must be absolutely contemporary

---"“There is a need to rethink the problem of limited nuclear war in which the United States is a direct participant, or between other parties where the United States has a major security interest,” Krepinevich writes. “As opposed to the global apocalypse envisioned in the wake of a superpower nuclear exchange during the Cold War, there will very likely be a functioning world after a war between minor nuclear powers, or even between the United States and a nuclear-armed Iran or North Korea. US forces must, therefore, be prepared to respond to a range of strategic warfare contingencies along the Eurasian periphery."  WSWS

1--Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution

Now I want to be clear about this “deep state” thing, as the mainstream media is already labeling anyone who uses the term a hopelessly paranoid conspiracy theorist. The deep state, of course, is not a conspiracy. It is simply the interdependent network of structures where actual power resides (i.e., the military-industrial complex, multinational corporations, Wall Street, the corporate media, and so on). Its purpose is to maintain the stability of the system regardless of which party controls the government. These are the folks, when a president takes office, who show up and brief him on what is and isn’t “possible” given economic and political “realities.” Despite what Alex Jones may tell you, it is not George Soros and roomful of Jews...

The system the deep state primarily serves is not the United States of America, i.e., the country most Americans believe they live in; the system it serves is globalized Capitalism. The United States, the nation state itself, while obviously a crucial element of the system, is not the deep state’s primary concern. If it were, Americans would all have healthcare, affordable education, and a right to basic housing, like more or less every other developed nation....

And this is the essence of the present conflict. The Trump regime (whether they’re sincere or not) has capitalized on people’s discontent with globalized neoliberal Capitalism, which is doing away with outmoded concepts like the nation state and national sovereignty and restructuring the world into one big marketplace ...

we’re in a state of crisis, aren’t we? This is not the time to sit around and analyze political and historical dynamics. No, this is a time for all loyal Americans to set aside their critical thinking and support democracy, the corporate media, and the NSA, and CIA, and the rest of the deep state  as they take whatever measures are necessary to defend us from Putin’s diabolical plot to Nazify the United States and reenact the Holocaust for no discernible reason. (sarcasm) The way things are going, it’s just a matter of time until they either impeach his puppet, Trump, or, you know, remove him by other means. .... After he’s convicted and dying in jail, triumphant Americans will pour out onto the lawn of Lafayette Square again, waving huge flags and hooting vuvuzelas, like they did when Obama killed Osama bin Laden. I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t attend

2--Is a Trump-Putin Detente Dead?

Among the reasons Donald Trump is president is that he read the nation and the world better than his rivals.
He saw the surging power of American nationalism at home, and of ethnonationalism in Europe. And he embraced Brexit.

While our bipartisan establishment worships diversity, Trump saw Middle America recoiling from the demographic change brought about by Third World invasions. And he promised to curb them.
While our corporatists burn incense at the shrine of the global economy, Trump went to visit the working-class casualties. And those forgotten Americans in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, responded.

And while Bush II and President Obama plunged us into Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Trump saw that his countrymen wanted to be rid of the endless wars, and start putting America first...

The anti-Putin paranoia here is astonishing.
That he is a killer, a KGB thug, a murderer, is part of the daily rant of John McCain. At the Munich Security Conference this last weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham promised, “2017 is going to be a year of kicking Russia in the ass in Congress.” How’s that for statesmanship...

they mean to beat him to death is this narrative:
Trump is the Siberian Candidate, the creature of Putin and the Kremlin. His ties to the Russians are old and deep. It was to help Trump that Russia hacked the DNC and the computer of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, and saw to it WikiLeaks got the emails out to the American people during the campaign. Trump’s people secretly collaborated with Russian agents.
Believing Putin robbed Hillary Clinton of the presidency, Democrats are bent on revenge — on Putin and Trump....

we see U.S. troops headed for Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, NATO troops being sent into the Baltic States, and new tough rhetoric from the White House about Russia having to restore Crimea to Ukraine. We read of Russian spy ships off the coast, Russian planes buzzing U.S. warships in the Black Sea, Russians deploying missiles outlawed by the arms control agreement of 1987.
An Ohio-class U.S. sub just test-fired four Trident missiles, which carry thermonuclear warheads, off the Pacific coast.
Any hope of cutting a deal for a truce in east Ukraine, a lifting of sanctions, and bringing Russia back into Europe seems to be fading.
Where Russians saw hope with Trump’s election, they are now apparently yielding to disillusionment and despair.
The question arises: If not toward better relations with Russia, where are we going with this bellicosity?

3--Priebus says US intel officials call campaign-Russia story 'garbage

(Did the NYTs lie?) “I can assure you, the top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that [the allegation] is not only grossly overstated, but also wrong,” Priebus told “Fox News Sunday.” “They have made it very clear that the story is complete garbage.”

4--The Deep State Targets Trump

the deep state is deeply committed to Cold War II.

Hence, suddenly, we read reports of a Russian spy ship off the Connecticut, Delaware and Virginia coasts, of Russian jets buzzing a U.S. warship in the Black Sea, and Russian violations of Reagan’s INF treaty outlawing intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

Purpose: Stampede the White House into abandoning any idea of a detente with Russia. And it appears to be working. At a White House briefing Tuesday, Sean Spicer said, “President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to … return Crimea.”

Is the White House serious?

Putin could no more survive returning Crimea to Ukraine than Bibi Netanyahu could survive giving East Jerusalem back to Jordan.

How does the deep state go about its work? We have seen a classic example with Flynn. The intelligence and investigative arms of the regime dig up dirt, and then move it to their Fourth Estate collaborators, who enjoy First Amendment immunity to get it out.

For violating their oaths and breaking the law, bureaucratic saboteurs are hailed as “whistleblowers” while the journalists who receive the fruits of their felonies put in for Pulitzers....

Those in the FBI, Justice Department and intelligence agencies who were complicit in a conspiracy to leak the contents of Flynn’s private conversations in order to bring down the national security adviser should be exposed and prosecuted.

5--Has the Deep State already neutered Trump’s foreign policy?

“In the end, it was Trump’s decision to cut Flynn loose. In doing this he caved in to his political and bureaucratic opposition. [Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin] Nunes told me Monday night, that this will not end well. ‘First it’s Flynn, next it will be Kellyanne Conway, then it will be Steve Bannon, then it will be Reince Priebus,’ he said. Put another way, Flynn is only the appetizer. Trump is the entrée.”...

It is precisely this back-to-front neocon world view that has so corrupted American foreign policy: America, for decades now, has aligned itself with Saudi Arabia and Gulf States who finance, arm and support terrorist movements (such as Al Qaeda), while labeling Iran, which actually fights and defeats these “jihadists,” as the chief sponsor of terror in the Middle East. One really cannot get it more back-to-front. This is now more widely understood by the American public, yet the neocons never pull back; they never desist in trying to tie America to the Saudi Arabia-Israeli axis and to promote phobia towards Iran...

“[On Feb. 14] the White House spokesperson said: President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to deescalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea.

“[On Feb. 15] Trump tweeted: Donald J. Trump Verified account @realDonaldTrump
Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?

6--Trump’s Foreign Policy: Retreat or Rout?

what was perhaps even more remarkable about this ambush of Flynn...was the collusion between U.S. intelligence agencies and a mainstream media intent on bringing down President Trump — or at least preventing him from redirecting U.S. foreign policy away from “regime change” wars in the Middle East and toward a détente with Russia.

When Trump hastily demanded Flynn’s resignation – at least in part to appease Vice President Mike Pence who complained that Flynn hadn’t been fully forthcoming with him – a media feeding frenzy followed....

Then we heard Defense Secretary James Mattis in Brussels (NATO headquarters), Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Bonn (G20 Foreign Ministers meeting) and Vice President Pence in Munich (Security Conference) collectively pledge unswerving loyalty to the NATO alliance, insist that any new talks with Russia must be conducted from “a position of strength,” and vow to hold Russia accountable for the full implementation of the Minsk Accords, meaning all sanctions stay in place pending that achievement which the Ukrainian government has consistently blocked while blaming Moscow.

Amid these signals of surrender from the Trump Administration – suggesting continuation of the disastrous foreign policy of the last 25 years – the newly revived enemies of détente on Capitol Hill added more anti-Russian sanctions and threats. In response to alleged violations by the Kremlin of the Treaty on Intermediate and Short-range Missiles (INF) dating back to 1987, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, introduced a bill enabling the re-installation of American nuclear-tipped cruise missiles in Europe. If enacted, this would undo the main achievements of disarmament from the Reagan years and bring us back to a full-blown Cold War....

On a related front, The New York Times has reported that Trump plans to appoint businessman Stephen Feinberg to evaluate and recommend reorganization of the intelligence agencies, viewed as a shake-up to restore order and loyalty to the Chief Executive....

Only via détente – meaning an end to the permanent wars abroad with their heavy operational costs and the dismantling of the vast global network of U.S. military bases – can Trump free up budgetary resources to finance his plans for massive U.S. infrastructure investments, modernizing the military, and addressing the needs of veterans. The sums involved are on the order of $600 billion annually which presently go to maintain some 800 military bases in 70 countries, bases which generate much anti-Americanism and entangle the U.S. in regional conflicts.

7--Trump’s ISIS Plan: Another US Invasion?

In language reminiscent of his plans to build a wall on the Mexican border, the president told a political rally in Florida over the weekend that he was going to set up “safe zones” in Syria and would make the Gulf States pay for them. There are several problems with this plan.

First, any “safe zone” set up inside Syria, especially if protected by US troops, would amount to a massive US invasion of the country unless the Assad government approves them. Does President Trump want to begin his presidency with an illegal invasion of a sovereign country?

Second, there is the little problem of the Russians, who are partners with the Assad government in its efforts to rid the country of ISIS and al-Qaeda. ISIS is already losing territory on a daily basis. Is President Trump willing to risk a military escalation with Russia to protect armed regime-change forces in Syria?
Third, the Gulf States are the major backers of al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria – as the president’s own recently-resigned National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, revealed in a 2015 interview. Unless these safe zones are being set up to keep al-Qaeda and ISIS safe, it doesn’t make any sense to involve the Gulf States.

Many will say we should not be surprised at these latest moves. As a candidate, Trump vowed to defeat ISIS once and for all. However, does anyone really believe that continuing the same strategy we have followed for the past 16 years will produce different results this time?

8--The CIA vs. The Presidency: This is Not the First Time

President Trump is in his own war against the CIA and other parts of the intelligence community (IC).

In his case, he has overtly criticized the IC and called them disseminators of fake news and lies. He claims he’s putting an end to foreign wars of conquest. He’s already canceled a major Globalist trade treaty, the TPP.

But the IC believes it owns the Presidency and sets his agenda.

This is not a recent assumption. It goes all the way back to the early days of the CIA; Eisenhower, Kennedy.

In 2016, the IC leadership decided Trump would be a threat to their power, so they leaked/invented information about the Russians influencing the election on behalf of Trump. This effort was aimed at corroding his right to claim that he was the legitimate president.

The war continues.

The IC doesn’t want presidents with independent ideas.

They’re the bosses, and they intend to keep it that way....

“The CIA had already planned the April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion before Kennedy took office in January, and when the invasion failed, Kennedy felt that the CIA had set him up. He let it be known he intended to dismantle the CIA and assign its functions to the other intelligence units within the government. He reportedly vowed ‘to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds’… Kennedy, a Democrat, forced the Republican Allen Dulles to resign, along with other senior CIA officers. But the CIA was too deeply involved just then in operations around the world to be disassembled. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, in a way that implicated the CIA…critics of the Warren Commission Report, maybe even J. Edgar Hoover—believed the CIA had some hand in Kennedy’s assassination and the coverup. If it had, the CIA was again demonstrating that the presidency was subordinate to the CIA

9--Global Stocks and Bond Yields Rise -- U.S. stocks approach fresh records, equity gains in Europe checked by bank shares

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, and Nasdaq Composite all closed at record highs on Friday. Investors have been betting that a growing economy and friendly fiscal policies in the U.S. will boost corporate profits and keep stock markets supported, even as interest rates move higher.
“We are in the early stages of long-term interest rates returning to conventional levels,” said Ian Williams, strategist at brokerage Peel Hunt. “With growth and inflation picking up slightly, it makes equities more favorable as a place to put your cash.”

The Dow has risen over 4% since Inauguration Day, marking the best first 30 days in office since President Roosevelt in 1945, while the Nasdaq has closed at a record levels 18 times this year, the most since 1999.
The 12-month forward price-to-earnings ratio for the S&P 500, a common measure of the market’s valuation, recently rose to 17.6, according to FactSet, —its highest since 2004.

The ascent we’ve seen since election day is just incredible,” said Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA Research. “It makes us a little nervous…we think a lot of the move is based on euphoria and hope surrounding [Mr. Trump’s] policies, especially tax reform,” she said.
Meanwhile, guidance from companies for the end of the year has been more negative, but analysts’ earnings estimates have yet to come down, posing a risk to the stock market in the second half of the year, she said.

10-- In Policy Dissent, Jim Mattis Wields Influence-- Defense chief’s disagreements with President Trump may be prodding the White House away from some positions

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis appears to be at odds with President Donald Trump on Russia and other key issues, setting up potential discord but also helping to nudge the White House toward more conventional policy stances.
In recent days, other top administration officials have aired foreign-policy views that don’t align perfectly with the new president. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for example, have suggested a tougher line with Russians, demanding they de-escalate violence in Ukraine.
While the president has turned to generals for several key posts—on Monday naming Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as national security adviser—Mr. Mattis remains the highest-profile and most widely respected of all the generals in the administration. Further, on some matters, including Russia and Ukraine, Mr. Mattis has strong allies, including Mr. Pence....

At nearly every stop of his second overseas trip that finished Tuesday, after a visit to Iraq, Mr. Mattis made clear his own positions, which haven’t always squared with the public pronouncements of the president....

Mr. Mattis has also taken a different stance on Russia than Mr. Trump, although there are signs the administration is moving his way. The defense secretary and Mr. Pence have said Russia must be held accountable for its actions in Ukraine and that Moscow’s annexation of Crimea wouldn’t be recognized. Mr. Tillerson and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley have also taken a tough line against relaxing sanctions.

11--US-European tensions remain despite reassurances on NATO

The US would be “unwavering” in its support for NATO, Pence declared, and Donald Trump would “stand with Europe.” He added, “Know this: The United States will continue to hold Russia accountable,” even as the Trump administration seeks “common ground” with Moscow.
After his remarks, Pence met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and, according to a White House statement, “underlined that the United States does not recognize Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of the Crimean peninsula,” which rejoined Russia following a popular referendum held in the wake of the Western-orchestrated right-wing coup in Kiev in 2014.

Pence’s statement regarding Russia followed similar remarks last week by Trump’s defense secretary, former Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who ruled out any military collaboration with Russia until Moscow “proves itself” regarding Ukraine and Crimea.

Even more bellicose were members of a bipartisan congressional delegation present in Munich. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on Sunday that “2017 is going to be a year of kicking Russian ass in Congress,” and vowed that Congress would pass new rounds of sanctions against both Russia and Iran. Senator Christopher Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut who spoke on the same panel as Graham in Munich, said there would be no “partisan divide” on the push for redoubled sanctions.

Whatever differences have surfaced between the Trump administration and Washington’s NATO allies over Russia—not to mention the bitter internecine struggle in Washington over the issue—the US-NATO build-up continues with the deployment of some 4,000 US troops to Eastern Europe, while the remarks in Munich suggest that no lifting of US sanctions against Moscow are imminent.
Present in Munich for Pence’s remarks to the conference, Konstantin Kosachyov, the head of Russia’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee, responded: “I heard nothing in the speech. The new American leaders have started to reproduce the negatives accumulated under the previous administration.”

Much of Pence’s speech was given over to a celebration of American militarism and vows that under Trump the US build-up to war would undergo a dramatic acceleration.

“I can assure you that the United States will be strong, stronger than ever before,” said the vice president. “We will strengthen our military, restore the arsenal of democracy and, working with many members of congress gathered here today, we’re going to provide soldiers, sailors, airmen and coast guard with renewed resources to defend our nation and our treaty allies from the threats of today and unknown threats of tomorrow.”...

One notable feature of Vice President Pence’s speech was that, while it included multiple vows of support for NATO, it made not a single mention of the European Union, which some in Munich took as a warning that Washington is embarking on an aggressive pursuit of US imperialist interests at Europe’s expense.
Wolfgang Ischinger, the former German ambassador to Washington who chairs the Munich Security Conference, told Deutsche Welle that if the Trump administration continued to take a hostile attitude to the EU, “it would amount to a kind of nonmilitary declaration of war. It would mean conflict between Europe and the United States. Is that what the US wants? Is that how he wishes to make America great again?”

12--Trump White House under mounting pressure from anti-Russia campaign

Trump’s congressional defenders are pushing back against his opponents within the intelligence apparatus. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes sent a letter Friday to the FBI asking it to investigate leaks of classified information to the media. He suggested that the leaks came from either career officials who oppose Trump’s policies or holdovers from the Obama administration. According to one press report, Nunes “believes that Trump is being targeted by the intelligence community. It’s an abuse of authority.”

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus appeared on three Sunday television interview programs to denounce the media reports of “constant contact” between the Trump campaign and Russia as false and deliberately aimed at undermining the Trump administration.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Priebus acknowledged receipt of the Senate Intelligence Committee letter and said the White House would cooperate with the request. “I know what they were told by the FBI,” he said, “because I’ve talked to the FBI. I know what they’re saying. I wouldn’t be on your show right now telling you that we’ve been assured that there’s nothing to the New York Times story if I actually wasn’t assured.”

13--Trump’s DHS memos: Millions at risk of deportation as crackdown looms

14--Military junta continues in Washington-- Trump names Iraq war general and militarist as national security adviser

The appointment has special significance in terms of policy towards Russia because McMaster has been engaged in a major military project to study the conflict in Ukraine and the lessons to be drawn by US military planners preparing for war in Eastern Europe against the Russian army and air force. He said in 2016 that the Ukraine conflict has “revealed that the Russians have superior artillery firepower, better combat vehicles, and have learned sophisticated use of UAVs [drones] for tactical effect.”

According to a report last year in Politico, “McMaster is quietly overseeing a high-level government panel intended to figure out how the Army should adapt to this Russian wake-up call.” He told a Senate committee, “Russia possesses a variety of rocket, missile and cannon artillery systems that outrange and are more lethal than US Army artillery systems and munitions.” He called for developing advanced weapons to replace the two main Army armored vehicles, the Abrams tank and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

This background suggests that McMaster will be aligned with Secretary of Defense Mattis in viewing Russia as the main strategic adversary of US imperialism in both the Middle East and Europe. That accounts for the widespread praise for his selection by those who have been spearheading the anti-Russian campaign on behalf of the US military-intelligence apparatus...

More significant from the standpoint of his current position is the attitude McMaster adopted towards social and political constraints on the military. His book strongly attacked the Joint Chiefs of Staff of that period, 1963-1965, for failing to demand the all-out mobilization of up to 700,000 troops they believed necessary to win the war. They did not press these demands because Johnson was committed to a strategy of limited war in order to provide resources for domestic social reforms such as Medicare, Medicaid and the “war on poverty.”

Such an approach suggests that General McMaster, like Trump himself, would favor the plundering of social programs in order to pay for the rapid and extensive military buildup that both have advocated, preparing for an explosion of American militarism on a scale that would dwarf both Vietnam and the current wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Retired or active-duty military brass hold four top positions: Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly are both retired Marine Corps major generals. McMaster will head the NSC, and retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who had been acting head during the week since Flynn’s dismissal, will resume his position as NSC chief of staff, now as McMaster’s deputy....

The appointment was backed by many of those who have been denouncing Trump for his alleged “softness” on Russia. The ultra-right magazine National Review hailed the appointment, comparing it to the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, and writing that “Trump’s key generals—James Mattis, John Kelly, and now H.R. McMaster—represent the best of modern military leadership. Their presence in the government is deeply reassuring. It’s now incumbent on President Trump to heed their counsel and give them the level of authority that they have earned.”

Senator John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, fresh from a speech to the Munich Security Conference in which he portrayed the new administration as a potential threat to world stability, praised the nomination as well. “I give President Trump great credit for this decision, as well as his national security cabinet choices,” McCain said in a statement. “I could not imagine a better, more capable national security team than the one we have right now

15--Thinking the unthinkable--How many people would die in a war between the US and Russia?

Behind the scenes, however, the intelligence agencies and Pentagon, along with their allied geo-strategic think tanks, are engaged in intense discussions and detailed planning premised on the possibility, indeed inevitability, of a major war with Russia. Plans are being laid and preparations made to wage and “win” such a war, including through the use of nuclear weapons.

One does not have to look far to find the people who are heading up the war planning. Yesterday, President Trump appointed Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, an army strategist, as his new national security advisor.

The selection of McMaster is broadly seen as a concession to Trump’s anti-Russia critics in the political and intelligence establishment. He is the leading figure in an Army project called the Russia New Generation Warfare study, whose participants have made repeated trips to the battlefields of eastern Ukraine to study Russia’s military capabilities and devise strategies and weapons systems to defeat them. McMaster has called on the US to prepare for high-intensity conventional war with Russia, involving not only long-range missile systems and stealth aircraft, but also “close” combat.

Beyond conventional warfare, US think tank strategists are discussing what it would take to “win” a nuclear war. The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) recently put out a 140-page report, “Preserving the Balance: A US Eurasia Defense Strategy,” which discusses this issue in detail. The CSBA is headed by Andrew Krepinevich, the report’s author, and includes on its Board of Directors figures such as former Under Secretary of the Army Nelson Ford, former CIA Director James Woolsey and retired general Jack Keane.

“There is a need to rethink the problem of limited nuclear war in which the United States is a direct participant, or between other parties where the United States has a major security interest,” Krepinevich writes. “As opposed to the global apocalypse envisioned in the wake of a superpower nuclear exchange during the Cold War, there will very likely be a functioning world after a war between minor nuclear powers, or even between the United States and a nuclear-armed Iran or North Korea. US forces must, therefore, be prepared to respond to a range of strategic warfare contingencies along the Eurasian periphery

In an earlier report entitled “Rethinking Armageddon,” Krepinevich argued that the use of a “small number” of battlefield nuclear weapons should be included among the appropriate responses by a US president to conventional threats from Russia.

During the Cold War, the “limited” use of nuclear weapons was seen as an invitation for a full-scale nuclear exchange and the destruction of the planet. Now such discussions are considered “respectable” and prudent.

These plans are being realized in the US military arsenal. The US is currently in the midst of a $1 trillion nuclear weapons modernization program commissioned under Obama. The program centers on the procurement of lower-yield, maneuverable nuclear weapons that are more likely to be used in combat. However, the Defense Science Board, a committee appointed to advise the Pentagon, recently called on the Trump administration to do more to develop weapons suitable for a “tailored nuclear option for limited use...

More contemporary studies have shown similarly disastrous outcomes. A 2007 report by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War suggested that a “limited” nuclear exchange could lead to the deaths of over a billion people, mostly as a result of widespread climate disruption.

16--White House delivered EU-skeptic message before Pence visit: Sources

In those remarks, delivered via Skype, Bannon spoke favorably about European populist movements and described a yearning for nationalism by people who "don't believe in this kind of pan-European Union."...

The worst-case scenario from Europe's point of view was described by Ischinger in an article published last week, entitled "How Europe should deal with Trump".
He said that if the U.S. administration actively supported right-wing populists in the looming election campaigns it would trigger a "major transatlantic crisis".

17--Worse Than a Decade of Stagnation --

18--Biggest Gasoline Glut In 27 Years Could Crash Oil Markets

the glut of gasoline is now the worst in 27 years. At 259 million barrels, U.S. gasoline storage levels are now at their highest level since the EIA began tracking the data back in 1990

19--Election year spending spree-- Half of 2016 GDP came from gov spending

20--US stock market record rally irrational – Goldman Sachs

“Cognitive dissonance exists in the US stock market. S&P 500 is up 10 percent since the election despite negative [earnings per share] revisions from sell-side analysts,”said David Kostin, the chief US equity strategist at Goldman Sachs.

21--Media as "enemy of the American people"  Trump presser

"And I'm saying, the first thing I thought of when I heard about it, is how does the press get this information that's classified? How do they do it? You know why? Because it's an illegal process, and the press should be ashamed of themselves, but more importantly, the people that gave out information to the press should be ashamed of themselves. Really a shame," Trump said....

"The press has become so dishonest that if we don't talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it. We have to find out what's going on because the press, honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control," the US president said in the course of the conference.

22--US Subprime Car, College Loans Surge to Hazardous Levels

This would not be such a big deal had US economic growth and gains in disposable incomes been sustainable enough to offset the risks associated with rising household debt burden. However, with the post-recession economic recovery being rather weak, and salaries and wages having stagnated for two decades, US consumers can't service their obligations as efficiently as ten years ago, when the mortgage meltdown unravelled due to the rising number of home loan delinquencies.

In December 2016, total US household debt stood at $12.5 trln, its highest since mid-2008, the NY Fed reported, while the share of car loans was at its highest since at least 2003, when records on this parameter were first taken.
"Debt held by Americans is approaching its previous peak, yet its composition today is vastly different as the growth in balances has been driven by non-housing debt," Wilbert van der Klaauw, Senior Vice President of the NY Fed, said.


Before assuming office, Trump suggested he could
end support for FSA groups and give priority to the fight against Islamic State (IS), whose well-armed jihadists hold large tracts of eastern and central Syria.

But Trump's administration has yet to declare a firm policy towards Syria and Iraq, despite his repeated vows to eradicate IS, so it has been "business as usual" with covert and overt training and military support programs, one U.S. official said....

The CIA-backed program has regulated aid to the rebels after a period of unchecked support early in the war - especially from Gulf states - helped give rise to an array of insurgent groups, many of them strongly Islamist in ideology....

U.S. intelligence and military officials said the leakage, sale and capture of U.S.-supplied and other weapons from units of the FSA to Islamic State, the Nusra Front, and other splinter militant groups have been a concern since the CIA and U.S. military began arming and training a limited number of rebels.

From the start, said one of the officials, some U.S.-backed rebels have migrated from groups that were battered by Syrian government forces to others such as IS that were seizing and holding territory at the time. Aid has slowed or stopped in Idlib and nearby areas, officials said, amid fears the pattern may be continuing after rebels lost ground there.

24--McCain meets Salman and Erdogan, talks "safe zones"