Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Today's links

1-- Pew: US media bias ranks worst in the world

Americans on both sides of the political aisle believe the media does a poor job covering political issues fairly, according to a blockbuster new survey of media consumption in 38 nations.

What’s more, the Pew Research Center’s study found that supporters of President Trump believe the media is doing a worse job covering politics than the supporters of any of the other international political leaders in countries surveyed.

“Large gaps in ratings of the media emerge between governing party supporters and non-supporters. On the question of whether their news media cover political issues fairly, for example, partisan differences appear in 20 of the 38 countries surveyed. In five countries, the gap is at least 20 percentage points, with the largest by far in the U.S. at 34 percentage points,” said Pew.

The survey found that just 21 percent of Americans supportive of Trump and Republicans believe the media is fair. Some 55 percent of those who don’t back Trump also believe the media is fairly covering politics in the U.S.
In every other case, those numbers are flipped, said Pew.

2-- Putin sees the US as the main obstacle in Korea dispute?

Putin then recognizes the US is the main obstacle to resolving the crisis, yet he collaborates with it in passing punitive measures against North Korea — the more reasonable of the two parties in dispute. ..

The new sanctions drasticaly limit oil imports and ban virtually all exports, which turns the country into an economic welfare case wholly dependent on Chinese subsidies for as long as the US, which holds veto power in the UN, wants the sanctions maintained. — Which given the absurd levels of hostility against the North in the imperial capital is likely to be for a very long time, possibly for as long as the UN and the American empire exist.


3--Manning run is a Russian plot?


Russia is responsible for Manning’s whistleblowing, and Russia is somehow behind her decision to run for office.

Her statements were called out by The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who helped make Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing a reality. “One of the media’s favorite Russia-obsessed ‘experts’ didn’t even wait an hour before depicting Chelsea Manning’s Senate candidacy as a dastardly Kremlin plot,” he tweeted. He went on to call out the “demonstrable, obvious falsehoods about Manning’s motives & WikiLeaks’ role” which McKew wrote about in her second tweet..



Oh my god: this is how deranged official Washington is. The President of the largest Dem Party think tank (funded in part by dictators) genuinely believes Chelsea Manning's candidacy is a Kremlin plot. Conspiracy theorists thrive more in mainstream DC than on internet fringes

We leave it up to the exquisitely mocking words of Greenwald to conclude:

This conspiracy theory mocks itself.

The idea that Vladimir Putin sat in the Kremlin, steaming over Benjamin Cardin’s report on Russia, and thus developed a dastardly plot to rid himself of his daunting Maryland nemesis – “I know how to get rid of Cardin: I’ll have a trans woman who was convicted of felony leaking run against him!” – is too inane to merit any additional ridicule.
But this is the climate in Washington: no conspiracy theory is too moronic, too demented, too self-evidently laughable to disqualify its advocates from being taken seriously – as long as it involves accusations that someone is a covert tool of the Kremlin.

4-- Syria - U.S. Traps Itself , Commits To Occupation, Helps To Sustain The Astana Agreement

The U.S.Congress is concerned about this move:
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, David Satterfield, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, outlined US goals in Syria as finishing off IS, stabilizing northeastern Syria and countering Iranian influence.
...
“That won’t pass muster,” committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., interjected.
...
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who initially asked Satterfield the question he declined to answer, expressed concerns that eliminating Iranian influence from Syria entirely was a fool’s errand that could keep US troops tied up in Syria forever.
...
Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the top Democrat on the committee, also voiced concern that the Trump administration does not have the necessary legal authorization from Congress to keep US troops in Syria beyond the defeat of IS....

Joshua Landis believes that the U.S. has given up on Turkey as an ally and is solely committed to do Israel's and Saudi Arabia's bidding. It is completely concentrated on countering Iran. But there are few if any Iranian troops in Syria and the supply line from Tehran to Damascus is via air and sea and can not be influenced from an enclosed Kurdish enclave. Moreover, the U.S. presence in the north-east is not sustainable....


Turkey's wannabe Sultan Erdogan has long tried to play Russia against the U.S. and vice versa. He ordered Russian air defense systems which will enable him to withstand a U.S. air attack. At the same time he allowed U.S. ships to pass the Bosporus Straits into the Black Sea and to threaten Russia in Crimea even when the Montreux Convention would have allowed him to restrict their passages. The U.S. now leaves him no choice. Russia is the one force that can help him to handle the new threat.

The NATO bigwigs in Brussels must be nervous. Turkey has the second biggest army within NATO. It controls the passage to the Black Sea and with Incirlik the most important NATO airbase in the south-eastern realm. All these give Turkey leverage that it can use when Russia offers it a decent alternative to NATO membership.

One wonders who in the White House developed this idea. It goes against everything Trump had said about U.S. engagement in the Middle East. It goes against NATO's interests. There is no legal basis for the move. It has little chance of being sustainable.

My guess is that National Security Advisor McMaster (pushed by his mentor General Petraeus) is the brain behind this. He has already proven to lack any strategic vision beyond moving military brigades here and there. What will he do next? Order the CIA to restart arming al-Qaeda aka the "Syrian rebels" who just sent their emissaries to Washington to beg for renewed support? Turkey needs Russia and Russia is fighting those "Syrian rebels". Why should Turkey, which controls the border to Syria, allow new CIA weapons to pass?

It is beyond me how the U.S. expects to sustain its positions in the north-east of Syria. It is hard to understand why it believes that such a position will give it any influence over Iran's commitment to Syria. The move robs it of any political flexibility. It is a trap of its own design.

In the end the U.S. military will have to retreat from the area. The Kurds will have to crawl to Damascus to beg for forgiveness. The strategic shortsightedness of both, the U.S. administration and the YPG leadership, amazes me. What do these people think when they make such decisions?

5--The guest that never went home-- US announces plan to occupy Syria indefinitely


In a provocative step that immediately fuelled tensions with Turkey and Russia, the US announced last weekend the establishment of a 30,000-strong Border Security Force (BSF) in enclaves of Syria under the control of the American proxies fighting to topple the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad. The BSF will be dominated by fighters from Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), alongside elements from various Islamist militias.
Having proclaimed the defeat of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), Washington has no intention of leaving Syria. It is determined to carve out a swathe of territory from which to prosecute its goal of ousting Assad. The latest move will not only intensify the civil war in Syria but bring the US into direct conflict with Russia and Iran, which back the Assad regime, and Turkey, which regards the YPG as a direct military threat.


Foreign ministers and senior officials from 20 nations will hold a full-day meeting in Vancouver on Tuesday, hosted by the United States and Canada, looking to increase diplomatic and financial pressure on North Korea to give up development of nuclear missiles capable of hitting the United States, a program that has raised fears of a new war.
Canadian and U.S. officials say the meeting will discuss ways to ensure implementation of wide-ranging U.N. sanctions, including steps agreed last month to further limit Pyongyang’s access to refined petroleum products, crude oil and industrial goods.
Brian Hook, the U.S. State Department’s director of policy planning, said last week that participants, including U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, would probe how to boost maritime security around North Korea and options to interdict ships carrying prohibited goods in violation of sanctions.
Diplomats say China’s absence will limit what can be achieved, while North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has shown no sign of being willing to bow to pressure to give up weapons he sees as vital to his survival.
SANCTIONS ‘GAPS’
The White House on Friday welcomed news that China’s North Korea imports plunged in December to their lowest in dollar terms since at least the start of 2014, but President Donald Trump accused Beijing last month of allowing oil into North Korea, a charge Beijing denied.

7--Ray McGovern on Russiagate 



with its Monday decision, "the German Central Bank quite unceremoniously spoiled the party," the journalist added. While the bank initially did not specify the amounts or timeframes for its yuan purchases, Bundesbank board member Joachim Wuermeling soon offered more details about the move, telling Reuters that "the decision to accept the yuan is part of a long-term strategy of diversification and reflects the increased role of the Chinese currency in the global financial system.

Washington cannot but be upset with this line of reasoning, according to Danilov, since 'long-term diversification' inevitably means a weakening role of the dollar and the subsequent decline in demand, particularly if other countries follow Germany's lead.
"This is especially important in light of America's huge budget deficits, which will grow by at least another trillion dollars due to Donald Trump's recent tax reform. After all, the convenient printing press used to plug gaps in the US budget is possible only thanks to the enormous demand for dollars outside the US. If such demand ceases to exist, or is greatly reduced, the country will either have to learn to live within its means (something they have long-since forgotten how to do), or take Zimbabwe's hyperinflationary route."
9--"Thirty thousand fighters will ensure the security of the borders of the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (DFNS)," the SDF spokesman said. "America has a positive view about the idea of federalism, and is supporting us on this matter."...

The spokesman underscored that the newly formed army will become a large-scale and all-encompassing military force. He emphasized that the SDF wants to turn their military contingent into a professional well-trained army.
"We want to move confidently towards federalism," Balli stressed. "Our partners [Washington and the US-led coalition] approve of our actions. The YPG self-defense units, SDF fighters, as well as some other elements will be incorporated into the new military structure. The new army will include Kurds, Arabs, Assyrians and other peoples."

He further specified that the new military structure, which will be trained and equipped by the US, will be called "Border Security Force": "This army will be part of the SDF. It will be called 'Border Security Force.' The training of the new force is already underway.


http://wallstreetonparade.com/2018/01/nomi-prins-new-book-central-banks-have-become-the-markets/
Prins convincingly shows that colluding central bankers have effectively become the markets through a never-ending flow of cheap money to the mega banks which have deployed that cheap money to buy back and inflate their own stock – with a green light from their own regulator and money pimp (our term, not hers) – the U.S. Federal Reserve.
Prins correctly points out that what these central banks are doing is providing artificial stimulus to markets – the opposite of what free markets are all about.
The 2007-2009 financial crash was equivalent to a financial World War and the Fed’s emergency money-pumping measures, justified by it as essential to saving the system until it repaired itself, have become instead an opioid-like addiction within U.S. and global markets according to Prins. After failing miserably as a regulator of the biggest Wall Street banks and allowing banks holding insured deposits to be housed under the same roof with casino-like investment banks, the Fed has now effectively become a cheap-money drug dealer to Wall Street and the markets.


13--Here we go again-- Democrats Add Momentum to G.O.P. Push to Loosen Banking Rules

The most significant attempt to loosen rules imposed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis is underway in Congress as the Senate looks to pass legislation within the next month that would roll back restrictions on swaths of the finance industry.
Buoyed by their success in rewriting the tax code, the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers have now set their sights on helping the financial industry, which has been engaged in a quiet but concerted push to relax many post-crisis rules and regulatory obligations, particularly for thousands of small- and medium-sized banks.
But unlike the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, which passed along party lines, the effort to loosen the post-crisis rules is somewhat bipartisan. A group of Senate Democrats has joined Republicans to support legislation that would mark the first major revision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, a signature accomplishment of President Barack Obama that has been deemed “a disaster” by President Trump.
The bill would allow hundreds of smaller banks to avoid certain elements of federal oversight, including stress tests, which measure a bank’s ability to withstand a severe economic downturn. Under current law, banks with assets of $50 billion or more are considered “systemically important financial institutions” and therefore governed by stricter rules. The bill would raise that threshold to institutions with assets of $250 billion or more, leaving fewer than 10 big banks in the United States subject to the stricter oversight.

https://www.lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/u-s-brews-trouble-inside-syria/




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