Monday, February 5, 2018

Today's Links

I learned to know how faces fall apart,

How fear, beneath the eye-lids, seeks,

How strict the cutting blade, the art

That suffering etches in the cheeks.

How the black, the ash-blond hair,

In an instant turned to silver,

Learned how submissive lips fared,

Learned terror’s dry racking laughter.

Not only for myself I pray,

But for all who stood there, all,

In bitter cold, or burning July day,

Beneath that red, blinded wall.

Requiem--  Anna Akhmatova 1889-1966

1--Ructions in the markets point to broader class struggle 

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis of 2008, it was the prerequisite for the financial operations of the world’s major banks. They were subsidized by governments and central banks, which pumped trillions of dollars into the financial system, thereby enabling a historically unprecedented redistribution of wealth into the hands of a global capitalist oligarchy. The main mechanism for this plundering of the world economy was the massive run-up on stock and bond markets, which was predicated on a continual decline in the wages and social conditions of the working class....

There cannot be some peaceful “adjustment” by the capitalist ruling classes to the demands of the working class, because the entire profit system over which they preside is being rocked by a series of contradictions—the prospect that the entire financial house of cards will collapse, intensifying trade and currency conflicts, weakening confidence in the stability of the international monetary system—not to mention the growing threat of world war and increasing political instability.
The struggle facing the working class cannot be waged on the basis of the illusory goal formerly proclaimed by trade unionist reformism: “A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.” It must rather be directed to the overthrow of the profit system through the advancement of an international socialist program based, as Marx put it, on the “expropriation of the expropriators....
The sudden sell-off on Wall Street last Friday, when the Dow Jones index fell by 666 points—the biggest drop in two years—was such an event. It came in the midst of a 40 percent rise in the Dow since the election of Donald Trump.
It was precipitated by a rise in interest rates on bond markets, with the yield on the benchmark US 10-year Treasury note rising to 2.85 percent, its highest level in four years. The rise in the Treasury yield sparked fears that the inflow of cheap money into financial markets, engineered by the US Federal Reserve and other major central banks since the global financial crisis of 2008, which has lifted stock prices to record highs, could be coming to an end.
The spike in bond markets was in turn a response to the news that wages in the US had seen a 2.9 percent rise over the last year, the biggest increase since 2009.
The rise in wages was relatively small. However, it triggered a major response in financial markets because of fears of what it could signify: a resurgence of class struggle, as workers in the United States and around the world begin to push back against the decades-long suppression of wages and decline in working-class living standards.
Friday’s spike in bond market interest rates had been preceded by warnings that the long bull run in bonds—rising bond prices and falling interest rates (the two move in an inverse relationship)—was about to end.

The Obama administration relied on this dossier to acquire its warrant. The Nunes memo asserts that “Deputy [FBI] Director [Andrew] McCabe testified before the [House Intelligence] Committee in December 2017 that no surveillance warrant would have been sought from the FISC [FISA court] without the Steele dossier information.”

But the memo does not reveal troop movements, base locations or secret codes. Instead, the information in the Nunes memo does show that the Obama administration used fraudulent pretenses to unconstitutionally wiretap political opponents of the Democratic Party.
On October 21, 2016, the FISA court granted the Obama administration's Department of Justice and FBI request to wiretap Page, a close Trump associate and a US citizen. The FISA court then extended the warrant three times at 90-day intervals, including after Trump won the November election.
The US Constitution requires that the government show “probable cause” before a judge can grant a warrant to surveil a US citizen. In the antidemocratic FISA court setting, warrant requests take place in secret and without an adversarial attorney present to argue against granting the warrant. In 2013, whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that this court had rubber-stamped the Bush and Obama administrations’ requests to store the phone and text records of the whole population. The FISA court rejected just 12 out of 34,000 warrant requests from 1979 to 2013.
The law requires, however, that prosecutors inform any court of bias or unreliability in the sources they are using to acquire a search or surveillance warrant. The Nunes memo shows that the Obama administration failed to do so in its efforts to spy on Page and portray Trump as a Russian dupe

3--Trump's New defense Strategy

4--"It is troubling enough that the Clinton Campaign funded Mr. Steele's work, but that these Clinton associates were contemporaneously feeding Mr. Steele allegations raises additional concerns about his credibility," the senators (Grassley and Graham) wrote to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the Russia probe, and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Hillary Clinton's associates were "feeding" allegations to Christopher Steele, a former British spy, while he was preparing a controversial anti-Trump dossier, a criminal referral filed by Republican senators writes.
The recently declassified referral from the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued by Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Lindsay Graham, provides new insight into Steele's contacts while he was working on the anti-Trump dossier, revealing that he had written an additional memo, apart from the dossier, using the data received from the Clinton campaign.

5--Trumps new US National Security Strategy

“This is the world of Otto von Bismarck, who said in 1862: “The great questions of the time are not decided by speeches and majority decisions. .. but by iron and blood.”...

: “The security strategy argues that the US is entering a new era of great power competition with ‘revisionist’ states—China and Russia. For several decades now, US policy has been to engage these powers, bringing them into international institutions and integrating them with the global economy. It was thought that this would, as the strategy puts it, ‘turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners’. It adds that ‘for the most part, this premise turned out to be false.’”...

“There are other potential nations or coalitions that could, in the further future, develop strategic aims and a defense posture of region-wide or global domination. Our strategy must now refocus on precluding the emergence of any potential future global competitor.

the text departs from previous NSS documents in its open embrace of nuclear war as a viable option. The document states that a buildup of the US nuclear arsenal is “essential to prevent nuclear attack, nonnuclear strategic attacks, and large scale conventional aggression,” strongly suggesting that the US military is prepared to launch a nuclear first strike in response to a nonnuclear challenge. It goes on to affirm that “fear of [nuclear] escalation will not deter the United States from defending our vital interests.”

“History,” Leon Trotsky warned on the eve of the Second World War, “is bringing humanity face to face with the volcanic eruption of American imperialism.”

6-- The Pentagon’s aim, according to the defense strategy, is to ensure that the US remains “the preeminent military power in the world” able to “ensure the balance of power remains in our favor,” “advance an international order that is most conducive to our security and prosperity” and “preserve access to markets.”

“Great power competition—not terrorism—is now the primary focus of US national security,” Mattis said in his speech, which accompanied the release of an 11-page declassified document outlining the National Defense Strategy in broad terms. A lengthier classified version was submitted to the US Congress, which includes the Pentagon’s detailed proposals for a massive increase in military spending.

Much of the document’s language echoed terms used in the National Security Strategy document unveiled last month in a fascistic speech delivered by President Donald Trump. Mattis insisted that the US was facing “growing threat from revisionist powers as different as China and Russia, nations that seek to create a world consistent with their authoritarian models.”...

Russia, it charges, is attempting to achieve “veto authority over nations on its periphery in terms of their governmental, economic, and diplomatic decisions, to shatter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and change European and Middle East security and economic structures to its favor.”...

The document calls for the preparation for war across what it describes as “three key regions”: the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East...

What emerges clearly from the Pentagon document is a vision of US imperialism besieged on all sides and in mortal danger of losing global dominance. It reflects the thinking among the cabal of retired and active-duty generals that dominate the Trump administration’s foreign policy that the past 16 years of unending wars in the Middle East and Central Asia have failed to further US strategic interests, creating a series of debacles, while grinding down the US military.

7--What you need to know about the GOP memo: Mercouris

8--There was no “Liberation” of Korea following the entry of US forces. Quite the opposite.

As we recall, a US military government was established in South Korea on September 8, 1945, three weeks after the surrender of Japan on August 15th 1945. Moreover,  Japanese officials in South Korea assisted the US Army Military Government (USAMG) (1945-48) led by General Hodge in ensuring this transition. Japanese colonial administrators in Seoul as well as their Korean police officials worked hand in glove with the new colonial masters....

From the outset, the US military government refused to recognize the provisional government of the People’s Republic of Korea (PRK), which was committed to major social reforms including land distribution, laws protecting the rights of workers, minimum wage legislation and  the reunification of North and South Korea

The PRK was abolished by military decree in September 1945 by the USAMG. There was no democracy, no liberation no independence.
While Japan was treated as a defeated Empire, South Korea was identified as a colonial territory to be administered under US military rule and US occupation forces.
America’s handpicked appointee Sygman Rhee [left] was flown into Seoul in October 1945, in General Douglas MacArthur’s personal airplane.
The Korean War (1950-1953)

The crimes committed by the US against the people of Korea in the course of the Korean War but also in its aftermath are unprecedented in modern history....

The Korean War was also characterised by a practice of targeted assassinations of political dissidents, which was subsequently implemented by the CIA in numerous countries including Indonesia, Vietnam, Argentina, Guatemala, El Salvador, Afghanistan, Iraq.
Invariably these targeted killings were committed on the instructions of the CIA and carried out by a US sponsored proxy government or military dictatorship. More recently, targeted assassinations of civilians, “legalised” by the US Congress have become, so to speak, the “New Normal...
“In the early days of the Korean War, other American officers observed, photographed and confidentially reported on such wholesale executions by their South Korean ally, a secretive slaughter believed to have killed 100,000 or more leftists and supposed sympathizers, usually without charge or trial, in a few weeks in mid-1950.” 
For the last 60 years, Washington has contributed to the political isolation of North Korea. It has sought to destabilize its national economy, including its industrial base and agriculture. It has relentlessly undermined the process of reunification of the Korean nation.
Foreign Policy adviser George F. Kennan in a 1948 State Department brief established the Cold War framework of US expansionism:
Furthermore, we have about 50% of the world’s wealth but only 6.3% of its population. This disparity is particularly great as between ourselves and the peoples of Asia. In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity without positive detriment to our national security. To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. We need not deceive ourselves that we can afford today the luxury of altruism and world-benefaction. (…)
In the face of this situation we would be better off to dispense now with a number of the concepts which have underlined our thinking with regard to the Far East. We should dispense with the aspiration to “be liked” or to be regarded as the repository of a high-minded international altruism. We should stop putting ourselves in the position of being our brothers’ keeper and refrain from offering moral and ideological advice. We should cease to talk about vague and—for the Far East—unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of the living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.

From the very outset in 1945, there was no democratization of the South Korean economy. The exploitative Japanese factory system was adopted by the Korean business conglomerates, which were in part the outgrowth of the Japanese imperial system.
At the outset this system was based on extremely low wages, Korea’s manufacturing base was used to produce cheap labor exports for Western markets, In many respects, the earlier Korean manufacturing base was a form of “industrial colonialism” in derogation of the rights of Korean workers....
South Korea’s banking landscape was also taken over by “US investors”. Korea First Bank (KFB), with a network of branches all over the country, was purchased at a negative price by the California based Newbridge Group in a fraudulent transaction. ...

Economic sovereignty is a central issue. The shady transactions launched in the wake of the IMF bailout in 1997 must be addressed. These transactions were conducive to the illegal and fraudulent acquisition and ownership of a large part of South Korea’s high tech industry and banking by Western corporate capita

9-- Trump administration presses for more options for war on North Korea
While the White House is pushing the Pentagon for more detailed war plans against North Korea, advanced preparations already have been made. These include stationing nuclear-capable B-52 and B-2 bombers at US bases in Guam within easy striking distance of North Korea. The annual Foal Eagle and Key Resolve joint exercises in South Korea will commence in March, involving hundreds of thousands of troops, backed by warships, military aircraft, in what is a dress rehearsal for war with North Kore

Air Force General Paul Selva, vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the media on Tuesday he was confident the US military could destroy most of the North Korean nuclear missile arsenal and its infrastructure. Indicating the scale of what is being contemplated, he said: “Remember, missile infrastructure is not just the missiles. If you’re the poor sergeant that has to be out and launch the missile, and I blow up your barracks, you’re not available to go do your job.” When asked, Selva did not rule out a pre-emptive attack

10--Pinter:  "What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days - conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what's called the 'international community'.
This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be 'the leader of the free world'. Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally - a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man's land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticize our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You're either with us or against us.

11--America the Pariah

12--Mending fences?

13-- main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has called on the Turkish government to engage with the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, amid the Turkish military’s ongoing operation in Afrin.

“The way to make peace between Turkey and Syria, to create rapprochement between the two countries and to jointly focus on maintaining [Syria’s] territorial integrity is [to establish] dialogue between Turkey and Syria. We should engage with Syria one way or another if we do not want terror organizations finding shelter in this country,” Kılıçdaroğlu told the Ankara bureau chiefs of media outlets on Jan. 29.
“We believe that steps need to be taken to mending ties with Syria,” he added.
Ankara cut off political ties with Damascus in late 2011 after al-Assad opted to harshly crack down on opposition groups through military means.

14--America’s Marxist Allies Against ISIS

The PKK practices an offshoot of Marxism it calls Democratic Confederalism. The group’s utopian goals echo those of some Cold War-era leftist militias. It aims to create a Maoist-inspired agrarian society that opposes landowning classes, espouses gender equality and distances itself from religion. Its guerrillas speak of a leaderless society of equals but also glorify Mr. Ocalan with fanatical devotion. They talk of needing to inculcate Kurdish populations with their ideology, rigidly centralized around Mr. Ocalan’s writings...

But the guerrilla group’s growing stature has alarmed Turkey, a crucial North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally of the U.S., with whom the PKK has fought a three-decade war costing some 40,000 lives. ...
Troubled by the PKK’s battlefield victories, Ankara has vowed to prevent the formation of a Kurdish state in Syria....

America’s association with a terror-listed Maoist-inspired militia, even if indirect, shows how dramatically Syria’s conflict has reconfigured regional alliances and eroded once-rigid borders.
Just two years ago, President Barack Obama told Turkey the U.S. would continue to aid its battle against PKK “terrorists.” The U.S. continues to share intelligence about the PKK with Turkey, and military officials from the two countries sit together in an Intelligence Fusion Cell in Ankara established by the George W. Bush administration to help Turkey fight the group.
But now, “the U.S. has become the YPG’s air force and the YPG has become the U.S.’s ground force in Syria,” said Henri Barkey, a former State Department analyst on Turkey now at Lehigh Universit

15-- Patrick Cockburn: More harm than good

“The entire U.S. strategy rests on the Kurds. Even if Turkey doesn’t attack Manbij, the fall of Afrin will weaken the Kurds, and that will weaken the U.S. influence with the Kurds,Tol said. ”The only leverage the U.S. has (in Syria) is through the Kurds.

The Russians gave them a golden deal: accept large autonomy in Syria, come to the National Dialog Congress to take place in Sochi, we will make your case before the (always reluctant) Syrians, Iranians and Turks and we will even give you money to help you develop your oil production. But no, the Kurds chose to believe in the hot air coming from Washington and when the Turks attacked that is all the Kurds got from Washington: hot air. Saker

16--The “fractured world”: Plutocrats convene in Davos amid war and great-power conflict

The event’s official summary contrasts the utopian vision promoted at the turn of the century, based on the belief that “greater economic interdependence among countries, buttressed by liberal democratic institutions, would ensure peace and stability well into the new century,” with the “changed” reality that “geostrategic fissures have re-emerged on multiple fronts with wide-ranging political, economic and social consequences.”

The Economist noted the publication on January 19 of the Pentagon’s 2018 National Defense Strategy, which declared that “Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in US national security,” and argued for an aggressive expansion of the United States’ nuclear forces that could potentially put it in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

The threat of war was only one of the threats vexing the Davos elite. The past week saw a spate of warnings that red-hot stock markets are on the verge of a meltdown. William White, the chairman of the OECD review board, declared this week: “All the market indicators right now look very similar to what we saw before the Lehman crisis.” Among the most contentious summit panels was one titled, “Could 2018 Be the Year of the Next Financial Crisis?"

Even more imminent was the threat of trade war, implying the potential breakdown of the dollar-denominated international monetary system. Trump, despite his relatively subdued (for him) closing address, went to Davos guns blazing, having just slapped tariffs of up to 50 percent on imports of solar panels and washing machines.

And yet, amid all of these dangers, panel moderator Heather Long declared that the “biggest topic at Davos” and the “biggest topic around the world,” was “inequality.” A newly-released report by Oxfam showed that just one percent of the population accumulated 82 percent of all social wealth created in the past year.

The former director of the Council of Foreign Relations, Richard Haass, takes the pro-Kurdish position. Linking to the NYT piece above he says:
Richard N. Haass‏ @RichardHaass – 12:00 PM – 24 Jan 2018
Pentagon right; US should be working w Kurds in Syria for moral and strategic reasons alike. A break with Erdogan’s Turkey is inevitable, if not over this than over other differences. Time for DoD to come up with plan to substitute for Incirlik access.It is not only the Incirlik air-base which is irreplaceable for NATO’s southern command. Turkey also controls the access to the Black Sea and has thereby a say over potential NATO operations against southern Russia and Crimea.

Mercouris important--My strong impression is that US policy in the Middle East has for some time been run by a small but powerful cabal of officials inside the State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon, who have strong links to various neoliberal/neoconservative groups working in US academia, various Washington think-tanks, and the media, and who also have strong personal and organisational links to the governments of the US’s two major allies in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

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