Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Today's links

"I’m writing to remind those who care that the secret war (against Venezuela) still goes on.  It’s a war sought and fought by one side, the United States, against a smaller country.  Nothing has changed since the Monroe Doctrine.  If anything, it’s gotten uglier, more murderous, and technically-oriented....

Chávez, who was a bull of a man with enormous energy, from the moment he first took sick in June 2011 with an abscessed tumor in his leg, always suspected that this was not a natural disease.  Several of his closest confidants also expressed to me similar suspicions as to the origins of this cancer.  Nicolás Maduro and his leadership are not pushovers.  This is going to be a dangerous period, as it always has been for Venezuela since the Chávez Revolution.  But my heart goes out to them.  They are fighters.  They’re not going to give up—even if their first real President was suspiciously taken from them in this war which never seems to never end—in North America’s “backyard.”

Oliver Stone

1--The Neocons’ Back-Door to Trump

By enforcing a “group think” calling Iran the chief sponsor of terrorism, Official Washington’s neocons are maneuvering the Trump administration into conforming with Israeli (and Saudi) desires, reports Robert Parry....

I’m told that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, privately at least, recognizes that Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-led Gulf state allies are the prime backers of Al Qaeda and Islamic State – with Iran actually fighting these major terror groups – but close advisers to President Trump, including son-in-law Jared Kushner and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, appear wedded to Official Washington’s “group think” blaming Iran for pretty much everything that’s gone wrong in the region.....

With his son-in-law out-front, Trump’s approach to the Middle East is shaping up as similar to previous administrations, catering to Israel and Saudi Arabia even to the extent of wholesale lying to the American people about who is the main backer of terrorism.
Trump also may be isolating his new Secretary of State as Tillerson apparently looks to more realist options and fights to limit neocon influences in making U.S. foreign policy. But Tillerson is facing a challenge in staffing the State Department without turning to veterans of past administrations with close ties to the neocons.

Now, with the neocons having found a backdoor into the Trump administration via son-in-law Kushner, the prospects for a sharp break with the long reign of disastrous neocon policies in the Middle East have grown dimmer.

2--Amnesty International Stokes Syrian War

The West’s vast propaganda machine has pulled in many formerly respectable groups, such as Amnesty International, which just released a dubious “human rights” report aimed at stoking the war in Syria, reports Rick Sterling.

3--Will Petraeus replace Flynn?

The White House issued a statement announcing that Flynn would be replaced with Joseph Kellogg, another retired lieutenant general, who had served as chief of staff of the National Security Council. While in the military, Kellogg played a prominent role in the US occupation regime in Iraq. After retirement, he went to work for several military contractors.

Meanwhile, it was also reported that Trump has arranged an interview with David Petraeus on Tuesday, possibly to take the post of national security advisor. Petraeus, a former CIA director and four-star general, was forced to resign in 2012 and was subsequently convicted in connection with sharing classified information with his mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell. In testimony to before a House panel at the end of last month, Petraeus portrayed Russia and the Putin government as attempting to undermine “our entire democratic way of life

4--"To the victor"... G Sax takes over Trump team

The Dow Jones Industrial average rose 142 points on Monday to close at 20,412. The S&P 500 finished up 0.5 percent, at 2,328. The Nasdaq index also added 0.5 percent, up 30 points. In an indication of the scale of the current financial bubble, the total value of all stocks in the S&P 500 index reached $20 trillion for the first time.

Banks and other financial stocks led the rise, cheered by congressional action to gut regulations such as the requirement that financial advisors respect the fiduciary interests of their clients. The latest market rally came after Trump told a group of airline executives Thursday morning, “We’re going to announce something I would say over the next two or three weeks that will be phenomenal in terms of tax.”

Besides the promised policies, the personnel of the new administration embody its pledge to Wall Street of all-out collaboration with corporate profit making. Mnuchin has recruited as his two senior advisers a former executive at BlackRock, the world’s biggest hedge fund, and a former lawyer for the US Chamber of Commerce.

Inside the White House, the leading voice on economic and financial policy is another Goldman Sachs veteran, Gary Cohn, who left his position as president of the huge bank after his nomination by Trump to be director of the National Economic Council, raking in a $100 million severance package in the process

5-- Dollar, Yields Surge After Yellen Warns "Waiting Too Long To Hike Is Unwise" - Speech Highlights And Live Feed

Says she hopes fiscal changes will be consistent with putting fiscal accounts on sustainable path

...she was more hawkish than most expected, arguably making a March rate hike "live" after warning that "as I noted on previous occasions, waiting too long to remove accommodation would be unwise, potentially requiring the FOMC to eventually raise rates rapidly, which could risk disrupting financial markets and pushing the economy into recession."...

“Considerable uncertainty attends the economic outlook,” she said, pointing to “possible changes in US fiscal and other policies” as one of the main sources of that uncertainty alongside questions about productivity growth and international developments.

She added that any future moves, Ms Yellen said, would depend on continuing progress in both US employment and inflation, which at 1.6 per cent remains below the Fed’s 2 per cent target rate.
“The economic outlook is uncertain, and monetary policy is not on a preset course,” she told members of the Senate Banking Committee, adding that “changes in fiscal policy or other economic policies could potentially affect the economic outlook,” she said, adding that “it is too early to know what policy changes will be put in place or how their economic effects will unfold”....

Waiting too long to remove accommodation would be unwise,” Yellen reiterates

6--WikiLeaks Claims Flynn's Resignation Triggered by 'Destabilization Campaign'

Trump's National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigns after destabilization campaign by US spies, Democrats, press https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C4nxw0SWEAAIIBF.jpg 

7--Eavesdropping on Michael Flynn-- Did U.S. spooks have a court order to listen to his conversations? Why?

If Mr. Flynn was under U.S. intelligence surveillance, then Mr. Trump should know why, and at this point so should the American public. Maybe there’s an innocent explanation, but the Trump White House needs to know what’s going on with Mr. Flynn and U.S. spies

8--Yellen: Banks really are lending and they're 'quite profitable'

"They're lending," Yellen said in response to a question from Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat. "Their price-to-book ratios are substantially higher than the ratio of banks headquartered in other areas, and they're gaining market share, and they remain quite profitable."
Trump has targeted the Dodd-Frank banking reforms as part of his quest to roll back regulations. The Dodd-Frank regulations were designed to prevent a recurrence of the 2008 financial crisis.
While he has been critical of big Wall Street institutions, he recently said that banks in general are not lending, which is hindering economic growth.

"Frankly, I have so many people, friends of mine, that have nice businesses that can't borrow money," he said during a White House appearance Feb. 3. "They just can't get any money because the banks won't let them borrow because of rules and regulations in Dodd-Frank."
However, Yellen cited a recent survey from the National Federal of Independent Business, in which only 2 percent of respondents cited access to capital as their greatest obstacle....

Lending has expanded overall by the banking system, and also to small businesses," she said.

9--Yellen outlook 'irrelevant' because Trump will reshape Fed, strategist who called Brexit vote says

With at least three vacancies expected on the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors this year, the central bank may not be exempt from a Trump-led shakeup, strategist Mark Grant told CNBC on Monday.
"The Fed of today is not going to be the Fed of tomorrow," the chief strategist at Hilltop Securities told "Squawk Box."

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