Friday, November 17, 2017

Today's Links

"Behind the anti-Putin campaign lies above all the fear within the American ruling class of the growing anger within the working class, an anger that threatens to blow up the two-party political monopoly through which the corporate and financial aristocracy has ruled for generations. It is a measure of how far and how sharply to the right the bourgeois political spectrum has moved in the past two generations that it is the Democrats who are spearheading the new McCarthyism today....." WSWS 





1-- US Military and CIA Leaders May Be Investigated for War Crimes


The chief prosecutor noted the alleged crimes by the CIA and US armed forces "were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals," but rather were "part of approved interrogation techniques in an attempt to extract 'actionable intelligence' from detainees." She added there was "reason to believe" that crimes were "committed in the furtherance of a policy or policies ... which would support US objectives in the conflict of Afghanistan."...


In 2008, ABC News reported that Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet and John Ashcroft met in the White House and micromanaged the torture of terrorism suspects by approving specific torture techniques such as waterboarding. George W. Bush admitted in his 2010 memoir that he authorized waterboarding. Cheney, Rice and John Yoo - author of the OLC's most egregious torture memos - have made similar admissions....


The AG investigated only two incidents and found the evidence insufficient to obtain convictions. In one case, Gul Rahman froze to death after being stripped and shackled to a cold cement floor in the secret Afghan prison known as the Salt Pit. In the other, Manadel al-Jamadi died in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison after he was suspended from the ceiling by his wrists which were bound behind his back. Former military policeman Tony Diaz, who witnessed al-Jamadi's torture, said that blood gushed from his mouth like "a faucet had turned on" when he was lowered to the ground. A military autopsy concluded that al-Jamadi's death was a homicide


2--Lebanon suffers intimidation attempts to cancel gas deal with Russia – Lebanese FM


3--More on attempts to intimidate Lebanon


Lebanese Foreign Minister Geral Bassil has held a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
"We are about to sign our first contract on gas field exploration on the shelf with the participation of Russian companies. We are now seeing an attempt to make Lebanon leave this positive path," Geral Bassil said.

"A campaign to scare Lebanon, to create obstacles in its path with the use of terrorist forces under different pretexts is underway," the minister said, adding that "the campaign against Lebanon is being carried out by the same forces that support terrorists in Syria."

4--Mercouris on Russiagate


5--US House passes multitrillion-dollar tax break for corporations and the wealthy


It is already becoming clear that the tax overhaul is a prelude to a frontal attack on Medicare and Social Security. On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office warned that the tax bill could trigger a budget rule that would require up to half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts over the next decade....

According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the House bill gives more than 80 percent of its overall cuts to corporations, business owners and wealthy families that are subject to the estate tax.
Some 70 percent of the tax benefits will initially go to individuals earning six-figure salaries, about 23 percent of tax filers. In 2019, those making $1 million or more per year (the richest 0.3 percent of tax filers) will receive 21.6 percent of the total benefit.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, while taxes will be reduced, on average, by some $1,000 by 2027, the top 1 percent will get a cut of more than $62,000, while the top 0.1 percent will get an average reduction of $320,000.
The Joint Committee on Taxation reported that the Senate version of the tax bill, which adheres to the basic framework of the House bill, will actually raise taxes on all households earning less than $75,000 after 2027

The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a tax overhaul that will, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Trump, give corporations and the very wealthy trillions of dollars in tax cuts, driving up the deficit and setting the stage for a massive assault on basic social programs such as Medicare and Social Security....

The Democrats, for their part, are carrying out their typical half-hearted and two-faced opposition. They themselves are calling for a massive cut in corporate taxes, only a somewhat smaller one than that being pushed by the Republicans. The House and Senate tax bills currently working their way through Congress both slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. The Democrats are proposing a cut in the corporate rate to between 25 percent and 28 percent. While denouncing the Republican bills as a windfall for the rich, they are offering to negotiate a more fiscally responsible corporate boondoggle.
As always, the Republicans are setting the marker as far to the right as possible and the Democrats are mounting an insincere opposition that will inevitably end with the Republicans achieving virtually all of their demands....

According to Congress’s nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the House bill would increase the federal deficit over ten years by $1.4 trillion as a result of lost federal tax revenues. The bulk of that loss would come from the cut in the corporate tax rate, accounting for $1.5 trillion. Another $696 billion cut would result from the elimination of the alternative minimum tax, which applies to households with incomes of $200,000 to $1 million....

These benefits are, however, eroded or even eclipsed in many cases by provisions that reduce or eliminate existing tax deductions on which working-class and middle-class families heavily rely. These include deductions for mortgage interest, state and local taxes, medical expenses, student loan interest and other higher education tax benefits.
The elimination of tax credits for medical expenses will have a devastating impact on elderly people with high medical bills. Repeal of education tax breaks will add some $65 billion to the federal tax coffers over ten years, at tremendous cost to undergrads and graduate students seeking to pay off student loans and graduate students whose tuition waivers will become taxable income.

6--McCarthyism Redux: Attacks on the Russian Media


Does anyone really believe for a moment that if Russia had or did accept its place as a neo-satellite of Washington that this campaign against RT and Sputnik would be taking place? If both media channels were echo chambers of the Washington Consensus you can best believe they would be allowed to operate freely and without molestation, without their employees or contributors being traduced as ‘Kremlin propagandists’ or de facto ‘Russian agents’.

The entire thing is a sham – a malicious and ideologically driven attempt to police the portals of news dissemination and analysis to the point where rigid acceptance and obeisance to the aforementioned Washington Consensus, responsible for upending the lives of millions at home and abroad over the years, is total.

There is a simple rule of thumb that will never let you down. It dictates that those who tell you who your enemy should be are usually your enemy. It begs the question of whether Russophobia has become the acceptable form of racism for a liberal class whose hypocrisy is only exceeded by its mendacity?

As for those on the so-called left who have remained silent, or worse are gloating over the moves to shut down Russian media, they are like people feeding a crocodile hoping it will eat them last. The precedent being set by this anti-Russian hysteria is self-evident, one that it would be folly to ignore. Thus when the day comes that Russian media is driven out of existence, theirs will be a hollow victory that bespeaks the collapse of anything resembling opposition to the neoliberal, interventionist, and imperialist status quo.

7-- Democrats’ neo-McCarthyism echoes red-baiting attacks on civil rights movement of the 1950s


Behind the anti-Putin campaign lies above all the fear within the American ruling class of the growing anger within the working class, an anger that threatens to blow up the two-party political monopoly through which the corporate and financial aristocracy has ruled for generations. It is a measure of how far and how sharply to the right the bourgeois political spectrum has moved in the past two generations that it is the Democrats who are spearheading the new McCarthyism today.....

The criminalization of dissent is a bipartisan endeavor. Notwithstanding the bitterest tactical differences, the US ruling elite is united on the need to take on the working class. This includes directing outward the seething social tensions under conditions of record social inequality.
Trump and the Democrats are vying to lead the new witch hunt. While Trump encourages fascist elements and speaks in unvarnished terms of dictatorship and war, the Democrats play the anti-Russia card, trumpeting their connections to the intelligence and military establishment and leading the charge for censorship against left-wing opposition

The demonization of Russia is part of the Democratic Party’s attack on Trump from the right. Rather than exposing his fascistic rhetoric, xenophobia and attacks on the working class, the Democrats have sought to prove their patriotic bona fides, ensure a hard line against Russia and build up an atmosphere of nationalism amid deepening worldwide geopolitical tensions. More and more, this campaign is directed against left-wing websites and organizations, with the aim of criminalizing dissent...

As a recent book, Black Freedom, White Resistance and Red Menace, by Yasuhiro Katagiri, explains: “Even after the Wisconsin senator’s disappearance from the national political arena, McCarthyism’s unsavory legacies—the self-serving use and abuse of hearsay and insinuation, the deliberate indifference to hard evidence and the strident cries of ‘Communist conspiracy’ used to impugn the legitimacy of adversaries—outlived their original inventor and remained a part of the national political scene. In the South McCarthyism most often took a racist form…”

Paradoxically, McCarthy’s eclipse in the Senate breathed new life into HUAC in the House. The focus of its efforts became civil rights organizers and their liberal supporters in the South, who were depicted as “useful idiots,” allowing themselves to be used by the Moscow-directed communist conspiracy.
The charges of subversion, attributed to outside agitators, were a staple of the campaign in defense of Jim Crow....

At every point in the decade between the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 some ten years later, the civil rights struggle was attacked as the work of foreign agents of a hostile power. From Little Rock in 1957 to the lunch counter sit-ins beginning in 1960, to the Freedom Rides challenging interstate bus segregation in 1961, the March on Washington in 1963 and the Mississippi Freedom Summer voter registration campaign of 1964, Matthews and others were ready with press releases, blacklists and names of alleged conspirators and Communist “dupes...

In Georgia, Attorney General Eugene Cook gave a speech in 1955 that declared that the NAACP had “allowed itself to become part and parcel of the Communist conspiracy…fomenting strife and discord between the white and negro races in the South.”...

8--Treasury Secretary "Foreclosure King" Mnuchin


Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley said:
“Donald Trump’s choice of Mnuchin is not only a fundamental betrayal of his promise to stand up to Wall Street — it is a punch in the gut to the thousands of American families who were thrown out of their homes by Mnuchin’s bank. The voices of these Americans should be heard loud and clear as the Senate examines his record and considers his nomination.”

“In early 2009, Mr. Mnuchin led a group of investors that purchased a bank called IndyMac, renaming it OneWest. OneWest was truly unique. While Mr. Mnuchin was CEO, the bank proved it could put more vulnerable people on the street faster than just about anybody else around.

“While he was CEO, a OneWest vice president admitted in a court proceeding to ‘robo-signing’ upward of 750 foreclosure documents a week. She spent less than 30 seconds on each, and in fact, she had shortened her signature to speed the process along. Investigations found that the bank frequently mishandled documents and skipped over reviewing them. All it took to plunge families into the nightmare of potentially losing their homes was 30 seconds of sloppy paperwork and a few haphazard signatures.

“These kinds of tactics were in use between 2009 and 2014, a period during which the bank foreclosed on more than 35,000 homes. ‘Widow foreclosures’ on reverse mortgages – OneWest did more of those than anybody else. The bank defends its record on loan modifications, but it was found guilty of an illegal practice known as ‘dual tracking.’ One bank department tells homeowners to stop making payments so they can pursue modification, while another department presses on and hurtles them into foreclosure anyway


9--Corporate debt timebomb?


This is from CNBC:
“Corporate debt is projected to swell over the next several years, thanks to cheap money from global central banks, according to a report Wednesday that warns of a potential crisis from all that new, borrowed cash floating around.
By 2020, business debt likely will climb to $75 trillion from its current $51 trillion level, according to SandP Global Ratings. Under normal conditions, that wouldn’t be a major problem so long as credit quality stays high, interest rates and inflation remain low, and there are economic growth persists.
However…should interest rates rise and economic conditions worsen, corporate America could be facing a major problem as it seeks to manage that debt. Rolling over bonds would become more difficult should inflation gain and rates raise, while a slowing economy would worsen business conditions and make paying off the debt more difficult. …
Central banks remain in thrall to the idea that credit-fueled growth is healthy for the global economy,” SandP said. “In fact, our research highlights that monetary policy easing has thus far contributed to increased financial risk, with the growth of corporate borrowing far outpacing that of the global economy…” (Corporate debt seen ballooning to $75 trillion: SandP says, CNBC)

Wall Street Journal: “SandP 500 companies through the first two quarters of the year collectively returned 112% of their earnings through buybacks and dividends.”

Barron’s:
“Corporate debt is now near record levels, due in part to borrowing to buy back stock. It isn’t a situation that can last.
The bond market should be concerned about stock buybacks, but not because of their bullish effect on share prices. Instead, bondholders should be anxious about where the cash to pay for them comes from. It isn’t widely appreciated that the money has been borrowed in the credit markets, and that the borrowers have taken on a large amount of debt to support the buybacks. That’s cause for worry on several fronts.

The first is simply that outstanding corporate debt is now at a record high. … According to the Federal Reserve’s flow of funds data, outstanding nonfinancial corporate debt is 45.3% of GDP. That nearly matches the level seen in the first quarter of 2009 (45.4%) and exceeds the prior peak of 44.9% achieved in the third quarter of 2001…
In the first quarter, nonfinancial corporate borrowing hit $724 billion. That’s the second-highest on record and is surpassed only by, again, the third quarter of 2007 with $807 billion. The similarities should give pause.” (Stock Buybacks Are Driving Companies Into Debt, Barron’s)


No comments:

Post a Comment