Saturday, May 6, 2017

Today's Links

1--Gazprom to begin Turkish Stream construction in next few days

In anticipation of future competition, changing market dynamics in Europe, the limited success of Gazprom’s pivoting to China, and the phasing out of long-term contracts, Gazprom has followed through with a strategy of doubling down on Europe and securing its future market share by launching Nord Stream 2 and Turkish Stream.
In doing so, the Russian gas giant is enacting a “pincer” strategy aimed at eliminating the need for the gas to transit through Ukraine. This would remove the transit risk based on political quarrels between Russia and Ukraine.

2--Russian & US top brass discuss plan for Syrian safe zones

The safe zones have been established in Syria’s Idlib Governorate and parts of neighboring Latakia, Aleppo and Hama provinces, the northern part of Homs province, Damascus’ Eastern Ghouta neighborhood, and parts of southern Deraa and Quneitra provinces that border on Jordan. The exact borders of the zones have yet to be demarked and agreed upon by the three guarantors of the plan....

The deal offers no protection to terrorist groups such as Islamic State (formerly ISIS/ISIL), which remain legitimate targets in Syria. The armed opposition is expected to keep the jihadists from using the zones as safe havens. The memorandum also states that the three guarantors will “take all necessary measures to continue the fight” against the terrorists

3--Video: Syria’s De-Escalation “Security Zones”. To be Followed by Large Scale Operation against ISIS-Daesh

4--US Dismisses Ban on Aircraft Over Syrian Safe Zones

          Russia: Airspace Over Safe Zones Is Closed

Largely this appears to be a case of the US just being deliberately difficult, as none of the safe zones are in areas US warplanes were operating in the first place. The reality, however, is that the zones are now being used in service of a ceasefire the US never really supported to begin with ,and with the US-backed rebels also objecting about the ceasefire getting in the way of their war, the US will be non-cooperative.

5--Trump--Gitmo A new lease on life

6--Russian Foreign Ministry publishes text of memorandum on Syria’s de-escalation zones

7--Lavrov: decisions on Syria de-escalation zones related to US initiatives

8--Seven Days in May?  Trump is letting the generals make war without supervision, setting a dangerous precedent.

The war on ISIS war is now, with this latest delegation of authority, almost entirely under direct military control. This is a virtually permanent operation, with Pentagon officials repeatedly insisting that the U.S. military presence in Iraq will continue long after the conflict with ISIS. For now, that decision to keep troops abroad is wholly within the Pentagon’s purview.

This is an incredibly dangerous precedent to have set. Keeping a tight civilian leash on the military is not just a desirable goal, it is an absolute imperative when dealing with a large, active military. And no military is larger or more active than America’s.
An increasingly independent military, encouraged to make important decisions on their own, is a mortal danger not just to civilian control over the military, but by extension to civilian control over everything else. We have multiple examples in recent history that show fostering an independent spirit in the military leads to bad outcomes.

Among the world’s large militaries, those with the most independence in recent history are South Korea, Pakistan, Egypt, and Turkey. Unsurprisingly, these nations are all replete with examples of military coups d’etat, and those coups have more than once been instigated as a direct result of the civilian government trying to reign in control.

9--Comey testifies

According to Comey, the distinction between WikiLeaks, and, say, the Washington Post – which has been publishing leaked information from its friends in the intelligence agencies in order to smear the President as a tool of the Kremlin – is that the latter “will almost always call us before they publish.” What this means is that Comey and company can leak whatever they want – but anything not approved by them in advance amounts to espionage. The leaking of the fact that former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn was in contact with the Russian ambassador prior to the election, and the releasing of the contents of a transcript of those calls to the media – that’s just fine and dandy. But Julian Assange publishing a video of a US military helicopter mowing down a van full of journalists, or revealing the fact that the Democratic National Committee actively sabotaged the Bernie Sanders campaign, is a “crime.”...

This is where we are in the year 2017:  the accouterments of democracy are falling away, like the remnants of a chrysalis. What is emerging is a creature that bears no resemblance to anything the Founders intended, although they did warn against its appearance. James Madison, the father of the Constitution, foresaw the incubus that would possess us if we failed to guard against it:
“Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other.

10--Race to Deir Ezzor begins as Syrian Army, FSA troops push to Iraqi border-crossing

In the coming days, the Syrian Arab Army’s Tiger Forces should begin the Deir Ezzor offensive, which will provide more insight into the Russian battle plan to lift the siege on this province.

11--Archive--PEW Explains Who is Voting for Trump and Why

“In a new survey by the Pew Research Council, half of the registered voters surveyed (51%) said they think the future for the next generation will be worse, while just 24% said life will be better for the next generation. The survey indicated this pessimistic sentiment is spread across racial and economic lines.”
– Optimism Is a Casualty in Campaign 2016, Wall Street Journal

These figures are similar to the results of a 2016 PEW survey which found that (50%) of Trump's GOP supporters say they are angry at the federal government,  (61%) say the system as unfair, and a full fully 75%  say life for people like them has gotten worse. (Campaign Exposes Fissures Over Issues, Values and How Life Has Changed in the U.S, PEW Research Center)

Let’s summarize: A higher percentage of Trump supporters think they are getting screwed-over by an unfair system. They think “free trade” only benefits the rich, they think the government is unresponsive to their needs,  they think the system is rigged, they think the economy stinks and they’re really, really mad.

12--Why did Trump win? New research by Democrats offers a worrisome answer.

The poll found that Obama-Trump voters, many of whom are working-class whites and were pivotal to Trump’s victory, are economically losing ground and are skeptical of Democratic solutions to their problems. Among the findings:
  • 50 percent of Obama-Trump voters said their incomes are falling behind the cost of living, and another 31 percent said their incomes are merely keeping pace with the cost of living.
  • A sizable chunk of Obama-Trump voters — 30 percent — said their vote for Trump was more a vote against Clinton than a vote for Trump. Remember, these voters backed Obama four years earlier.
  • 42 percent of Obama-Trump voters said congressional Democrats’ economic policies will favor the wealthy, vs. only 21 percent of them who said the same about Trump. (Forty percent say that about congressional Republicans.) A total of 77 percent of Obama-Trump voters said Trump’s policies will favor some mix of all other classes (middle class, poor, all equally), while a total of 58 percent said that about congressional Democrats.

13--Karzai  --US created ISIS

The Islamic State terrorist group is a product and tool of the United States, which uses Afghanistan’s territory to test weapons, Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai told Fox News.
"The Daesh [Arabic acronym for IS] is a US product," Karzai said in an exclusive interview. "The Daesh - which is clearly foreign - emerged in 2015 during the US presence."

14--Obama Gets Paid

Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign was a thing of marketing beauty, that is to say it was full of lies. All talk of movement politics was a joke. Obama was and is the latest errand boy for big money but he was hyped as a change agent working for our benefit.
That is why he has returned to public life as propagandist in chief, lecturing us about the evils of fake news. He has to keep rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic that is capitalism and tell us to believe him and not our lying eyes. This pattern exists all over the world. Former UK prime minister Tony Blair has also enriched himself after leaving office. His current task is trying to undo Brexit and the inconvenience it is causing the 1%.

15--Study Shows School Vouchers Hurt Students – But Trump and DeVos Couldn't Care Less

16--Who Is Behind the Assault on Public Schools?

Corporate America, the real force behind school privatization, found its education champion in Barack Obama, whose “Race to the Top” program coerced states across the nation to create a “market” for charter schools, which tap directly into the public school funding money-stream.

17--Trump's First 100 Days: The War Party Lives On

An increase in long-term unemployment has not stopped the declining US capitalist economy from pursuing the privatization of the public sector. In fact, the conditions of late stage capitalism require privatization for the system's very survival. When workers become unemployed and their wages fall, fewer people are able to purchase what is produced. This creates an irreconcilable crisis of under consumption that eventually leads to an economic collapse. The present state of capitalism has rendered such a condition permanent since at least the early 1980s, leading to an unprecedented level of privatization in the realms education, healthcare, transportation, and municipal services nation-wide to compensate...

Humanity's future is dependent on the emergence of an organized movement that can articulate how an end to the War Party's reign is inextricably connected to the development of a system responsive to the needs of the people both in the US and globally. Nothing else can change the course of history.

18-- Swiss National Bank props up market

19--The last time companies got a break on overseas profits, it didn't work out well

  • Congress in 2004 approved a repatriation tax holiday that brought back $312 billion in overseas profits.
  • Most of the money was used not for economic growth but to give cash back to shareholders.

Current estimates put the total stockpile that U.S firms are holding abroad so as to avoid U.S. taxes at somewhere in the $2.5 trillion range. Back in 2004, Congress approved a plan to "repatriate" such overseas funds that companies could bring back home at a reduced rate.

The program was part of the American Jobs Creation Act. The hope then, as now, was that companies would shovel that money back into the economy in the form of investment and job creation.

It didn't quite work out that way.

Contrary to the intent, the benefits skewed toward a select few companies in a select few industries. Rather than use the money for hiring and capital purchases, companies plowed the cash into share buybacks and dividends, and many of the biggest beneficiaries actually cut American jobs in the years after the repatriation.

"While empirical evidence is clear that this provision resulted in a significant increase in repatriated earnings, empirical evidence is unable to show a corresponding increase in domestic investment or employment," the Congressional Research Service, Congress' nonpartisan think tank, said in a report.

The CRS cited a series of reports into the benefits of repatriation, with a common theme that the 2004 program was "an ineffective means of increasing economic growth."

20--Growing Inequality Under Global Capitalism

21--Is the Great China Crash Upon Us?

22--What happens when you bring meditation to public schools

23--U.S. first quarter growth weakest in three years as consumer spending falters

24--Al-Jazeera Films False Flag Fake Chemical Attack In Syria – Russian Media

25--Lavrov slams ongoing Russophobic campaign unleashed under Obama

26--CrossTalk: Le Pen vs. Macron

27--US and Russia discuss “safe zones” in Syria

28--The next housing bust will see small price drops and large volume declines

29--One of eight people in US is food insecure

New report documents pervasive hunger in America

* In 2009, the year after the Wall Street crash, some 50 million US residents were food insecure. While that number fell to 42 million in 2015, the budget shortfall for food insecure individuals averaged $527 a year. This represents an increase of 13 percent, adjusted for inflation, since 2008.

* Children are more vulnerable to hunger than the general population. On average, 21 percent of children across all US counties are food insecure, compared to 14 percent of the general population. Some 41 percent of the children in Issaquena County, Mississippi are food insecure, and in 14 counties, over 100,000 children cannot expect consistent meals.

* Twenty six percent of food insecure individuals nationwide are unlikely to qualify for government nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, better known as food stamps), Women Infants and Children (WIC) and free or reduced-price school meals. In 76 US counties, the majority of food insecure individuals are likely to be ineligible for government assistance. In Douglas County, Colorado, near Denver, about two-thirds of the county’s 28,280 food insecure individuals are unlikely to qualify for government nutrition aid.

30--40% of Americans spend up to half of their income servicing debt

31-- Are American Debt Slaves Getting in Trouble Again?

32--Economy “Surprises” to Downside, Growth Near Zero. Atlanta Fed GDPNow Forecast just about Nailed it

33--On the eve of the French presidential election

Whichever candidate wins, France will be ruled by a government that represents the interests of finance capital and is dedicated to a program of class war within the country and imperialist war beyond its borders. With seven in ten voters angry at the choice of candidates, class conflict of revolutionary dimensions is being prepared in France and across Europe.

After a quarter-century of war and EU austerity following the Stalinist dissolution of the Soviet Union, two-thirds of the French people say the class struggle is a daily reality of life. Among young people, who have known nothing but the social and economic collapse that has unfolded since the 2008 Wall Street crash, an unmistakably revolutionary mood is building.

In the EU’s recent “Generation What” survey of hundreds of thousands of European youth, 61 percent of Frenchmen under 34 said they would be willing to participate in a “large-scale uprising” against the political system. Over 60 percent of youth gave the same answer in Britain, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania

34--North Korea under siege

The US has maintained sanctions against North Korea since the 1950–53 Korean War, in which millions of civilians and troops from the two Koreas, China, the US and its allies died. While an armistice halted the fighting in 1953, no peace treaty was ever reached. North Korea is still effectively at war with South Korea and the US.

North Korea’s isolation worsened following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, which had provided economic and military aid and accounted for around 60 percent of the country’s international trade. Pyongyang was compelled to turn to Beijing for assistance and trade. It relies on China for oil and food, as well as industrial and consumer goods.

The Pyongyang regime’s own shift to capitalist restoration and pro-market relations has been significantly hampered by the US-led blockade, which has only intensified in the past 25 years. Free trade zones were established with South Korea at Kaesong—currently closed—and with China. North Korea has also engaged in the export of cheap labour, with an estimated 20,000 workers in China, Russia and the Middle East.

As the US has heightened its confrontation with North Korea, several articles in the American and international press have noted the widespread market economy that has greatly exacerbated the social divide between a wealthy elite, along with private traders, smugglers and “red capitalists,” and the majority of impoverished workers and farmers....

ashington struck a deal with Pyongyang—the Agreed Framework—under which North Korea shut down its nuclear facilities and allowed UN inspection in return for supplies of bunker oil, the construction of two light water nuclear power plants and promises of diplomatic normalisation.

The agreement was the basis for the so-called Sunshine Policy in South Korea that envisaged the transformation of North Korea into a cheap labour platform for South Korean conglomerates. European powers offered their support, viewing North Korea not only as an investment opportunity but the means for establishing transport links across Eurasia to South Korea and Japan.

The US, however, failed to keep its side of the deal—construction of the nuclear reactors never began and it was only in the dying days of the Clinton administration that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made a highly-publicised visit to Pyongyang. The incoming Bush administration rapidly overturned the Agreed Framework and in 2002 declared that North Korea, along with Iraq and Iran, formed an “axis of evil.”

Any rapprochement with North Korea that led to an end to the US economic, diplomatic and military blockade of the country would undermine Washington’s pretext for maintaining military forces in North East Asia and its ability to use Pyongyang as a means of putting pressure on Beijing.

North Korea resumed its nuclear and missile program and exploded its first crude atomic bomb in 2006. Bogged down in its military occupation in Iraq, the Bush administration turned to China to put pressure on North Korea and reached a deal in 2007 to dismantle North Korea’s nuclear facilities and allow UN inspections in return for vague US promises to normalise relations.

The US political and media establishment constantly accuses North Korea of bad faith, but the Bush administration reneged on the bargain and eventually sabotaged the agreement. Pyongyang shut its nuclear reactor, and even began the process of dismantlement, and allowed UN inspectors into the country. Washington took just one step—the removal of North Korea from the State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism, before insisting on far more intrusive inspections than were specified in the agreement, which quickly broke down in 2008.

35--IMO the "de-escalation zones" are a clever trick. Thank God.

36--Washington was on the side of the Nazis

, when Nazi Germany was attacking the Soviet Union and carrying out its Final Solution from June 1941 until late 1944, little wonder then that the US and Britain showed a curious reluctance to commit their military forces fully to open up a Western Front. The Western allies were evidently content to see the Nazi war machine doing what it was originally intended to do: to destroy the primary enemy to Western capitalism as represented by the Soviet Union...

As American author David Talbot documented in his book, The Devil’s Chessboard: Allen Dulles, the CIA and the Rise of America’s Secret Government (2015), there were massive financial links between Wall Street and the Third Reich, going back several years before the outbreak of the Second World War.

Allen Dulles, who worked for the Wall Street law firm Sullivan and Cromwell and who later headed up the American Central Intelligence Agency, was a key player in the linkage between US capital and German industry. American industrial giants, such as Ford, GM, ITT and Du Pont were invested heavily in German industrial counterparts like IG Farben (manufacturer of Zyklon B, the poisonous gas used in the Holocaust), Krupp Steel and Daimler. American capital, as well as British, was thus integrated into the Nazi war machine and the latter’s dependence on the system of slave labor as provided by the Final Solution.

This would explain why the Western allies did so little to disrupt the Nazi infrastructure with their undoubted formidable aerial bombing capacity. Far more damning than mere inertia or indifference owing to racist prejudice towards the Nazi victims, what emerges is that the Americans and British capitalist elite were invested in the Third Reich. Mainly for the purpose of eliminating the Soviet Union and any kind of genuinely socialist global movement. Bombing Nazi infrastructure would have been tantamount to deleting Western assets....

To this end, as the war was drawing to a close and the Soviet Union looked poised to roll up the Third Reich singlehandedly, the Americans and British belatedly stepped up their war efforts from western and southern Europe. The goal was one of salvaging Western assets remaining in the Nazi regime. Allen Dulles, the director of the-soon-to-be-formed American Central Intelligence Agency, extricated top Nazis and their gold looted from Europe in secret surrender deals known as Operation Sunrise. Britain’s military intelligence MI6 was also involved in the clandestine American effort to salvage Nazi assets via ratlines. The bad faith on display to the Soviet «allies» heralded the chill of the ensuing Cold War that immediately followed the Second World War.

Significant and damning testimony of what was going down was given recently in a BBC interview by Ben Ferencz, the most senior surviving US prosecutor from the Nuremberg trials. At age 98, Ferencz was still able to lucidly recall how scores of Nazi war criminals were let off the hook by the American and British authorities. Ferencz cited US General George Patton who remarked just before the final surrender of the Third Reich in early May 1945, as saying: «We’re fighting the wrong enemy». Patton’s candid expression of deeper animosity towards the Soviet Union than towards Nazi Germany was consistent with how the US and British ruling class had been colluding with Hitler’s Third Reich in a geo-strategic war against the Soviet Union and worker-led socialist movements arising across Europe and America...

The recent release of UN Holocaust files – in spite of American and British prevarication over many years – add more evidence to the historical analysis that these Western powers were deeply complicit in the monumental crimes of the Nazi Third Reich. They knew about these crimes because they had helped facilitate them. And the complicity stemmed from Western hostility towards Russia as a perceived geopolitical rival.

This is not a mere historical academic exercise. Western complicity with Nazi Germany also finds a corollary in the present-day ongoing hostility from Washington, Britain and their NATO allies towards Moscow. The relentless build up of NATO offensive forces around Russia’s borders, the endless Russophobia in Western propagandistic news media, the economic blockade in the form of sanctions based on tenuous claims, are all deeply rooted in history.

The West’s Cold War towards Moscow preceded the Second World War, continued after the defeat of Nazi Germany and persists to this day regardless of the fact that the Soviet Union no longer exists. Why? Because Russia is a perceived rival to Anglo-American capitalist hegemony, as is China or any other emerging power that undermines that desired unipolar hegemony.

American-British collusion with Nazi Germany finds its modern-day manifestation in NATO collusion with the neo-Nazi regime in Ukraine and jihadist terror groups dispatched in proxy wars against Russian interests in Syria and elsewhere. The players may change over time, but the root pathology is American-British capitalism and its hegemonic addiction.

37--The Deep History of US, Britain’s Never-Ending Cold War On Russia

38--Three decades of falling mortgage rates boosted home prices

39--Housing recovered because lenders stopped foreclosing on delinquent borrowers

40--Credit Check--Not too pretty

41-- The unanswerable question: Do tax cuts pay for themselves?


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