Monday, March 6, 2017

Todays Links

Excellent point--"Despite talk of $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, critics suspect much of that will come in the form of subsidies to private firms that are punitive to consumers rather than stimulative. In other words, taxpayers could end up paying to build a private toll road that will then turn around and charge them tolls. No extra disposable income there, negating any potential boost to overall economic growth. " Pedro Da Costa



" the result of this new Russophobic hysteria is to create a precedent for the CIA and even more shady and shadowy forces to unseat an elected President....common cause is being made with the worst actors in American politics. And, more, to sanction a public interrogation of whoever they deem hostile to their interests. This is the useful idiot meme on steroids. It is the white liberal class ASKING for totalitarian government."  John Steppling



"white America loves to congratulate itself on its tolerance and democratic principles. The master narrative of liberal white America is one that has been distilled down to the most basic tropes of superiority and privilege. The deplorables …the flyover state populace…those angry left behind working class americans are seen as inferior. They are made fun of, constantly, by the educated classes. And the alignment of liberal white America with the CIA and a McCarthyist sensibility is not in the least surprising. For liberals are not tolerant. They are bigoted and close minded and arrogant. They are blind to their own privilege in ways that make one’s head spin. Trump won for two reasons that are interwined. One is the anger of the forgotten working class. And yes, that class are often racist and bigoted. But most are not, not really. And second, and more importantly, by the liberals who uncritically accepted a serial liar and criminal as their candidate. And while many who supported the illusion that was Bernie turned in anger to vote AGAINST Hillary, or just didn’t bother to vote, the educated gatekeepers of American culture (sic) were the ones really responsible. Eight years of war crimes and destruction of civil liberties was IGNORED. It is still ignored. Trump is the result. He is the unvarnished face of America, accept that or not."  John Steppling



1---The Russian election hack: bullshit


What the U.S. intelligence agencies said was different:
Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him. All three agencies agree with this judgment. CIA and FBI have high confidence in this judgment; NSA has moderate confidence [emphasis added].

First, this is an "assessment," in other words, guesswork. The CIA and FBI are think it is a really good guess ("high confidence"), the NSA not so much. Which is curious because the NSA is the agency that would have the most evidence, since it, not the FBI or CIA, intercepts all Internet and other electronic communications.

he U.S. intelligence public assessment about Russian hacking is this:
Russia’s intelligence services conducted cyber operations against targets associated with the 2016 US presidential election, including targets associated with both major US political parties. 
We assess with high confidence that Russian military intelligence (General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate or GRU) used the Guccifer 2.0 persona and DCLeaks.com to release US victim data.
These conclusions were an ex-post-facto reversal of the original FBI conclusions reported by the New York Times two days before the elections:
WASHINGTON — For much of the summer, the F.B.I. pursued a widening investigation into a Russian role in the American presidential campaign. Agents scrutinized advisers close to Donald J. Trump, looked for financial connections with Russian financial figures, searched for those involved in hacking the computers of Democrats, and even chased a lead — which they ultimately came to doubt — about a possible secret channel of email communication from the Trump Organization to a Russian bank. 
Law enforcement officials say that none of the investigations so far have found any conclusive or direct link between Mr. Trump and the Russian government. And even the hacking into Democratic emails, F.B.I. and intelligence officials now believe, was aimed at disrupting the presidential election rather than electing Mr. Trump.
The FBI had initiated the investigation more than a year earlier, but did not even bother to examine the compromised Democratic National Committee computers before they were wiped clean....

The turmoil when the DNC network and computers were taken down in June and reinstalled from scratch would have afforded any DNC staffer or security contractor the perfect opportunity to copy whatever they wanted....

We're told these are hyper-sophisticated secret attacks but the Podesta email trick is so pedestrian you can look it up in the dictionary. And apparently it was not even exploited to plant software in Podesta's machine (or that of his aides), only to harvest emails from Google's servers.

The Russians supposedly were both fiendishly clever and completely clueless. They realized how damaging the revelation of real documents and emails would be ... but didn't do it when it would have been most damaging, during the primaries.  When they release it, they do it through Wikileaks, where it will have the least impact, instead of doling giving it to the New York Times and other news organization.

There is one word that best describes this story: bullshit.


2--The Dirty Secret Behind the Jeff Sessions Mess


3--Record-breaking stocks are a bad reason for the Fed to raise interest rates


When the Fed released minutes from its end-of-January meeting, they showed members "expressed concern that the low level of implied volatility in equity markets appeared inconsistent with the considerable uncertainty attending the outlook." The Fed comments on the broad health of the financial markets all the time, but that kind of focus on stock volatility is less common


Record-breaking rally


Since the election of President Donald Trump, the stock market has been on a tear that few expected before the vote. Share prices, already elevated before the November vote, have broken record high after record high.

The consensus among Fed policymakers, while not unanimous, is that interest-rate increases should not be used to prick bubbles in financial markets, since such monetary tightening risks doing more harm to the broader economy than good in dampening specific risks.

But having kept official interest rates near zero for seven years during the Great Recession and its aftermath, officials have said they are keeping a close watch for potential asset-price bubbles. ...


Yet there's still a reasonable economic argument against raising rates too fast. It's true that consumer prices are rising again, but, overall, US inflation has consistently undershot the Fed's 2% target, and many Fed members had voiced a preference for allowing it to exceed the goal for a period to show the threshold is not a ceiling...


Moreover, economic growth forecasts have not risen materially above the recent 2% annual trend despite optimism about the prospect of corporate tax cuts and a large fiscal stimulus, both of which require extensive and complex congressional action.

Other factors that have underpinned the Fed's low rates policies — like the still-large number of working-age adults who have effectively given up on the job market — are also still at play.


In fairness, Fed officials can point to factors beyond a frothy stock market to make the case for higher interest rates. Unemployment is historically low, and economic growth is steady if unspectacular.

But a Fed that's distracted by Wall Street's unbridled enthusiasm risks tightening monetary policy before the economy is truly ready. Given the high amount of uncertainty associated with the potential economic policies of Trump, waiting for a little more clarity on the outlook might be the wiser thing to do. 


4--The Fed could be on the verge of making a big mistake


...But another trend in the Treasury market is telling: Traders aren't pricing in more rate increases, simply moving forward the timing of the next move. This suggests bond-market investors don't believe the stock market hype about the sudden prospect for a burst of economic growth. 


The Fed has raised interest rates just twice in the past decade, having brought them to zero during the depths of the Great Recession, in late 2008. But the loose monetary policy has been well justified by weak economic conditions, including a job market that has taken a long time to return to full health and inflation that remains persistently below the Fed's 2% target. This softness has been reflected in the all to gradual rise in workers' wages, something that compromises the key US economic engine that is consumer spending.


Now that the central bank appears closer to its goals, policymakers are warming up to moving rates up sooner.

Here's why that would be a big mistake...


Despite talk of $1 trillion in infrastructure spending, critics suspect much of that will come in the form of subsidies to private firms that are punitive to consumers rather than stimulative. In other words, taxpayers could end up paying to build a private toll road that will then turn around and charge them tolls. No extra disposable income there, negating any potential boost to overall economic growth. 


Yet here was Dudley's take on matters: "Since the election we've seen very large increases in household and business confidence, we've seen very buoyant financial markets — the stock market is up, credit spreads are narrow. And we have the expectation that fiscal policy will probably move in a more stimulative direction."

How can he be so sure? And is policy action warranted on the mere hint of a possibility? At the same time, the potential for higher rates from an increasingly motivated Fed could create financial instability and would certainly ratchet up the cost of any new federal spending.

The central bank does not appear to be taking that factor into account just yet


5--Trump's rampage continues while Dems focus on flimsy Russia fable


the conflict between the Trump administration and its critics within the political establishment are the form taken by a conflict within the American ruling class, centered on issues of foreign policy.


Within this conflict, there is no progressive or democratic side. The Democrats have chosen to oppose Trump on an entirely reactionary, pro-war basis, seeking to whip up a McCarthyite political atmosphere that simultaneously demoralizes and disorients the broad popular opposition to Trump while laying the basis for war and domestic repression.


The media furor over the weekend served to distract attention from a series of reactionary measures of the Trump administration.


Mass dragnet roundups of undocumented workers are continuing, while newspapers carried reports over the weekend that the White House is making plans to break up families caught crossing the border, placing children in state custody while their parents are imprisoned pending deportation.


The administration is also engaged in a substantial military escalation in Yemen, Syria and Iraq, all without any public discussion.


Last week, the Senate confirmed Rick Perry as Energy Secretary and Ben Carson as Housing Secretary, both of whom plan to radically slash social spending and regulation in their respective departments.


The Democrats, meanwhile, have entirely focused their opposition to Trump not on his reactionary domestic policies, but on ensuring that he does not back down from the United States’ deepening confrontation with Russia.


6--Trump and Saving Capitalism


Now caught since 2008 in the swirling aftermath of global capitalism’s second worst breakdown, there are lessons for us in revisiting what happened in the aftermath of the worst breakdown, that of 1929. Then too the combination of rising inequality followed by collapse made many people impatient with and increasingly hostile to capitalism. The establishments then minimized the crash and its social effects; they tried to persuade themselves and others that the economy would soon be well again. Mussolini and Hitler took a different path.

They stressed the economic crisis, inequalities, etc., sympathized openly with capitalism’s victims, and blamed the establishment political parties. They asked voters to empower them instead, as great leaders. They would then fix a broken, inadequate “rigged system serving others” by subordinating it to “the nation.” Their empowerment would make the system “once again” serve rather than abuse that nation. They wrapped themselves in their respective flags and all the other trappings of nationalism to underscore their game.


Capitalism was not, per se, the problem; it needed only to be repositioned to serve the nation. As has happened repeatedly in capitalism’s history, its crisis moments were overcome by deflecting popular anger into more or less hysterical nationalism.


This capitalist history Trump now repeats.


Trump’s “America First” is not far removed from “Deutschland uber Alles.” Both slogans were and are also strategies. ...


The nationalist program must include, as targets, “foreigners” inside the country: non-Aryans in Germany and recent, especially Hispanic immigrants in the US. 


7--  The overwhelming bully of the planet is the USA. Full stop


The strange sight of liberal America participating in a neo-McCarthyite assault on Trump appointees, not on the grounds not of their inherent racism and stupidity, but because they have contacts with Russia, is among the more surreal spectacles of modern political history. At what point did Russia become the official enemy of the U.S.? Wasn’t it just yesterday that Bush Jr looked into Putin’s eyes and declared him a honorable man? The truth is, of course, that Russia never stopped being the enemy. The internalized ethos of the cold war, the anti communist hysteria of post WW2 has always been there. The resentful flinty heart of America tolerates no disobedience. No country exhibiting the slightest autonomy is allowed to escape punishment and censure. The shining light on the hill symbolism is one that demands nobody else dare to exhibit anything that resembles their own leadership role globally...


the result of this new Russophobic hysteria is to create a precedent for the CIA and even more shady and shadowy forces to unseat an elected President. I mean common cause is being made with the worst actors in American politics. And, more, to sanction a public interrogation of whoever they deem hostile to their interests. This is the useful idiot meme on steroids. It is the white liberal class ASKING for totalitarian government....


The empowering of the deep state, those unelected and unregulated organizations and individuals that desire nothing so much as a totally authoritarian surveillance state from the pages of Orwell or Huxley, is a far worse consequence than any damage the Donald and his minions might wreak...


Porter again…

“Many people who oppose Trump for other valid reasons have seized on the shaky Russian accusations because they represent the best possibility for ousting Trump from power. But ignoring the motives and the dishonesty behind the campaign of leaks has far-reaching political implications. Not only does it help to establish a precedent for U.S. intelligence agencies to intervene in domestic politics, as happens in authoritarian regimes all over the world, it also strengthens the hand of the military and intelligence bureaucracies who are determined to maintain the New Cold War with Russia.”...


None of the people I have read who demand *you* write your congressperson to demand Jeff Sessions be removed had ever gone on social media to demand a stop to U.S. wars, to humanitarian intervention, or even to a reduction in defense spending. None, that I can remember, ever demanded an end to the militarized police occupation of black neighborhoods, or the illegal CIA destabilizing activities of foreign countries. No demand for the U.S. to stop doing exactly what they claim Russia has done. How is this possible one might ask? How does the public so selectively organize their outrage? The answer is that most Americans are deceptively nationalistic and prejudiced. They are also profoundly provincial and ignorant of other cultures, other histories and cultures. Whatever crimes Trump may eventually engage in, if he survives, will not be of any degree worse than what Obama or Bush or Clinton committed. The ascension of Trump to the Presidency came on the back of a liberal class that had rejected the underclass...


white America loves to congratulate itself on its tolerance and democratic principles. The master narrative of liberal white America is one that has been distilled down to the most basic tropes of superiority and privilege. The deplorables …the flyover state populace…those angry left behind working class americans are seen as inferior. They are made fun of, constantly, by the educated classes. And the alignment of liberal white America with the CIA and a McCarthyist sensibility is not in the least surprising. For liberals are not tolerant. They are bigoted and close minded and arrogant. They are blind to their own privilege in ways that make one’s head spin. Trump won for two reasons that are interwined. One is the anger of the forgotten working class. And yes, that class are often racist and bigoted. But most are not, not really. And second, and more importantly, by the liberals who uncritically accepted a serial liar and criminal as their candidate. And while many who supported the illusion that was Bernie turned in anger to vote AGAINST Hillary, or just didn’t bother to vote, the educated gatekeepers of American culture (sic) were the ones really responsible. Eight years of war crimes and destruction of civil liberties was IGNORED. It is still ignored. Trump is the result. He is the unvarnished face of America, accept that or not. ...


America is the most judgmental country on earth. The class that demands WE reject Jefferson (Im guessing not named for Thomas) Sessions, that little nasty mean spirited bigot demand it for all the wrong reasons. They demand it because he ‘has ties to a foreign power’ as someone wrote recently on facebook. Trump isnt one of them. Obama was. Both Clintons are. The culture produced by this class is ugly and narcissistic. It is puerile and fatuous and reflective of their own self adoration. Trump is a crude and uneducated man, but he was also a wildly popular reality TV star. That was OK, that was his place, a bit of entertainment to be condescended to, an organ grinders monkey. But the presidency, well, that is for Ivy league grads, for those who wont embarrass *America*. I mean look at the rehabilitation of Bush Jr. Even he is better suited for the job, despite that little faux pax with Iraq. At least he came from *real* wealth, the right kind of wealth, the right University — so OK, he almost flunked out, but whatever. The deep state doesn’t want The Donald. Honestly, Im not sure why, but they don’t. And they are teaching him to heel. ...


The ruling families of Venezuela called Chavez the little black monkey. Those were the families (and still are) that the U.S. and its organs of chaos, the various NGOs and front groups support. They support those who saw Chavez as an ape. They aided a failed coup against Chavez. The U.S. supported Mobutu and Pinochet, The Shah, and Papa Doc.


 

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