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.)
http://www.rand.org/pubs/perspectives/PE233.html

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.
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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.”

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