Thursday, January 31, 2019

Today's Links

"...the conscious promotion and elevation of Ocasio-Cortez by the Democratic Party and the media. Ocasio-Cortez performs a critical political function—that of providing a left cover for a right-wing party, the better to block the development of a genuine movement against social inequality and capitalism." WSWS

 

 

 

 

1--Maduro Will Not Give US Companies Free Rein; That's Why Washington Wants Him Gone

 

Underlying its vision for the installation of a "model of freedom and market" as the new basis for the economy, is a determination to return nationalized companies to their former private owners as well as expropriated landed estates.

As for the rights and protections that Venezuelans have achieved, through the 2012 Labour Law and other legislation, it can be expected that these would be abolished with the whole economy sold off as part of some IMF-imposed neo-liberal package. The mass movements, including trade unions and political parties, that have backed 'Chavismo' since 1998 would no doubt face severe repression, just as the left has after other US backed right-wing regime changes in the history of the region...

Every year, the UN General Assembly votes overwhelmingly to call on America to lift its sanctions against Cuba. Only the US and Israel oppose this vote. Equally damaging sanctions have been imposed on Nicaragua and – like US sanctions against Iran – they are illegal under international law.

Although American presidents claim to be defending democracy, their interventions usually lead to military dictatorships and a massive loss of life. The truth is, this is nothing about democracy, it is about America trying to control and make vast profits from the natural resources of these economies. Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, and Trump wants those to be taken over by American companies

2--Controversial Nord Stream 2 Pipeline Could Be Operational By November


Geopolitically Charged Pipeline
Nord Stream 2 is a 759 mile (1,222 km) natural gas pipeline running on the bed of the Baltic Sea from Russian gas fields to Germany, bypassing existing land routes over Ukraine, Poland and Belarus. It would double the existing Nord Stream pipeline’s current annual capacity of 55 bcm.
However, it is arguably one of the most geopolitically charged energy projects ever proposed.

 Germany maintains that the pipeline is needed to increase natural gas supply as some EU members move away from nuclear for power generation, but not everyone agrees. The U.S., under the past three presidents including Donald Trump, has long countered that the pipeline puts European national security in jeopardy – a concern that seems grounded given Russia’s history of using gas a geopolitical weapon in the middle of winter.

Ukraine, which has argued that it will lose revenue since the Nord Stream 2 project would bypass the country, has tried to form a consortium of EU-based companies to stop the new pipeline, however, those efforts have largely fallen apart and at this point would be too late to make much difference.

The Nord Stream 2 project has so angered President Trump that his administration has recently threatened to put sanctions in place if the project becomes operational. In a televised meeting with reporters and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg before a NATO summit in Brussels last year, Trump said it was “very inappropriate” that the U.S. was paying for European defense against Russia while Germany, the biggest European economy, was supporting gas deals with Moscow....

Nord Stream 2 is owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom which already has a monopoly over Russia’s network of pipelines to Europe and supplies close to 40 percent of Europe’s gas. Meanwhile, Russia’s gas exports to Europe rose 8.1 percent in 2017 to a record level of 193.9 bcm,

3--Venezuela Coup Attempt Part of US Plan to Remake Latin America


As Peter Beinart pointed out in The Atlantic in 2017:

In 2005, a left-leaning blogger wrote (glenn greenwald), “Illegal immigration wreaks havoc economically, socially, and culturally; makes a mockery of the rule of law; and is disgraceful just on basic fairness grounds alone.” In 2006, a liberal columnist (Krugman) wrote that “immigration reduces the wages of domestic workers who compete with immigrants” and that “the fiscal burden of low-wage immigrants is also pretty clear.” His conclusion: “We’ll need to reduce the inflow of low-skill immigrants.” That same year, a Democratic senator wrote (Barack Obama), “When I see Mexican flags waved at proimmigration demonstrations, I sometimes feel a flush of patriotic resentment. When I’m forced to use a translator to communicate with the guy fixing my car, I feel a certain frustration.”

The blogger was Glenn Greenwald. The columnist was Paul Krugman. The senator was Barack Obama.

Prominent liberals didn’t oppose immigration a decade ago. Most acknowledged its benefits to America’s economy and culture. They supported a path to citizenship for the undocumented. Still, they routinely asserted that low-skilled immigrants depressed the wages of low-skilled American workers and strained America’s welfare state. And they were far more likely than liberals today are to acknowledge that, as Krugman put it, “immigration is an intensely painful topic … because it places basic principles in conflict.”…

A larger explanation [for the change] is political. Between 2008 and 2016, Democrats became more and more confident that the country’s growing Latino population gave the party an electoral edge….
Alongside pressure from pro-immigrant activists came pressure from corporate America, especially the Democrat-aligned tech industry, which uses the H-1B visa program to import workers…
.
According to a comprehensive new report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “Groups comparable to … immigrants in terms of their skill may experience a wage reduction as a result of immigration-induced increases in labor supply.” But academics sometimes de-emphasize this wage reduction because, like liberal journalists and politicians, they face pressures to support immigration.

Many of the immigration scholars regularly cited in the press have worked for, or received funding from, pro-immigration businesses and associations.

4--Pure, unalloyed idiocy--Mueller says Russians are using his discovery materials in disinformation effort

 

The information appears to have come from the materials shared with attorneys for Concord Management, one of several Russian entities accused of election meddling.

Russians are using materials obtained from special counsel Robert Mueller's office in a disinformation campaign apparently aimed at discrediting the investigation into Moscow's election interference, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.

One or more people associated with the special counsel's case against Russian hackers made statements last October claiming to have stolen discovery materials that were originally provided by Mueller to Concord Management, Mueller's team said in court documents filed on Wednesday in the Russian troll farm case.

That discovery — evidence and documents traded between both sides of a lawsuit — appears to have been altered and disseminated as part of a disinformation campaign apparently aimed at discrediting the ongoing investigations in Russian interference in the U.S. political system, according to the documents.

Concord Management, a company owned by a Russian oligarch known as President Vladimir Putin's "chef," is one of three Russian entities that were accused by the special counsel last February of helping to mastermind the social media meddling into the 2016 election. Thirteen Russian citizens were also indicted and accused of taking part in the widespread effort.

According to the documents filed Wednesday, a Twitter account called @HackingRedstone tweeted: "We’ve got access to the Special Counsel Mueller’s probe database as we hacked Russian server with info from the Russian troll case Concord LLC v. Mueller. You can view all the files Mueller had about the IRA and Russian collusion. Enjoy the reading!"

The account has since been suspended.

5--Mueller says Russians are altering evidence from special counsel’s investigation to discredit the probe

 

It said: “The person who created the webpage used their knowledge of the non-sensitive discovery to make it appear as though the irrelevant files contained on the webpage were the sum total evidence of ‘IRA and Russian collusion’ gathered by law enforcement in this matter in an apparent effort to discredit the investigation."  (Hahahah--webpage shows that Mueller has nothing, which Mueller disputes)

 

6--How a dovish Fed sparked a stock-market rally and tanked the U.S. dollar 

 


The Federal Reserve and its chairman, Jerome Powell, changed their tune Wednesday, striking a surprisingly dovish tone that sparked a stock-market rally, tanked the U.S. dollar and roiled other financial markets.

The Fed hinted that it may be at the end of its rate-hike cycle and further surprised investors by issuing a separate statement regarding its balance sheet, indicating that its efforts to reduce the $4 trillion asset portfolio could end sooner than expected. The tone was seen as an about-face from the Fed’s hawkishly received December meeting when it delivered its fourth rate increase of 2018.
Read: ‘Patient’ Fed adopts wait-and-see stance as Powell says case for higher rates ‘weakens’
“This is one of the most dovish turnarounds by a Fed chair that I have ever seen in my 30-year career,” said Tom di Galoma, managing director at Seaport Global Holdings.

7--The political role of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez


In speaking about her tax proposal, Ocasio-Cortez has referred to her policies as “radical.” Karl Marx once wrote that “to be radical is to grasp the root of the matter.” The essence of Ocasio-Cortez’s proposals, however, is to obscure the root of the matter: capitalism. She never seeks to address the social and historical foundations of what she is criticizing. Instead, her rhetoric and policy proposals only scratch the surface.

The fight for measures to address social inequality—not just a tax on income, but on wealth—requires a frontal attack on the power of this ruling class. The power of this ruling class comes from its control of the banks and giant corporations and its control of the state. Even such reforms, therefore, require the mobilization of the working class in a revolutionary struggle against the capitalist ruling class and its political apparatus.....

The globalization of capitalist production has undermined the foundation of all programs of national reform. In the United States, the ruling class has responded to the decline in the position of American capitalism with a ruthless policy of social counterrevolution.
Absent from the “socialism” of Ocasio-Cortez is any reference to the class struggle, let alone a revolutionary movement that would overturn capitalism.....


A wave of industrial militancy by the working class took place throughout the world. The establishment of the social reforms in Sweden, including a public works program, the reduction of the working day, and unemployment insurance, for example, came out of protracted class struggles. The sweeping reforms package of 1932 came on the heels of state violence employed in the city of Ådalen in May 1931 after timber and pulp workers called for a general strike, in which five workers were killed.

Similar circumstances formed the background of the “New Deal” programs of FDR and the taxation policy that characterized the postwar period. These were not gifts from on high, delivered by a ruling class through benevolence. They were wrenched through bitter class battles (such as the Minneapolis truck drivers strike, the Toledo Autolite strike and the San Francisco general strike). Roosevelt himself was quite conscious his reform measures were necessary to avoid revolution.
The bourgeoisie never forgave the working class for the gains achieved in an earlier period. 
Concessions have been ruthlessly stripped away from the 1980s onwards, producing a devastating social crisis, the Scandinavian countries being no exception. The Social Democratic government in Sweden, for example, oversaw between 1994 and 2006 large-scale privatizations in education and healthcare, as well as cuts in welfare programs. As the WSWS has noted, “Sweden has seen one of the fastest increases in social inequality among OECD countries in recent years, while a 2014 study revealed that the top 1 percent in Denmark own almost a third of the total wealth....

Ocasio-Cortez and the Democratic Party

The central political fiction espoused by Ocasio-Cortez and all of those who have promoted her is that anything progressive can be achieved within the framework of the Democratic Party, the oldest capitalist party in America, and at a time when the Democrats are moving sharply to the right.
This media campaign constructed around Ocasio-Cortez is a repetition of the operation behind the 2016 Sanders campaign, which was used to promote the fiction that the Democratic Party can be reformed. Sanders’ own role in 2016 was to channel opposition behind Clinton, the candidate of the military and Wall Street.

A similar operation has been carried out in relation to Ocasio-Cortez. Contrary to her popular portrayal as a humble bartender who took on the Democratic Party establishment through grassroots campaigning, the origins of Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign are quite different. The Ocasio-Cortez campaign was orchestrated by a newly formed Political Action Committee called Justice Democrats. The PAC was originally set up by Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks and Kyle Kulinski of Secular Talk (who have since left the organizations), and former leadership from the 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign.

Ocasio-Cortez was then selected out of a pool of thousands of candidates. Many of the figures who ran her campaign and now work as her staff are thoroughly integrated in establishment politics. Her chief of staff, for example, Saikat Chakrabarti, one of the founding members of Justice Democrats, began his career with brief stint at a hedge fund right out of Harvard before leaving to make millions in Silicon Valley when he co-founded Mockingbird, a web design tool. He went on to work for the payment processor Stripe before joining the Sanders campaign in 2015.

Chakrabarti and his co-founders explain on their website that they started Justice Democrats “to create a left-wing populist movement to support alternative Democratic candidates” who are generally, “ideologically aligned” with their core values. In other words, their aim is to create candidates who can give a new face to the Democratic Party while leaving unchanged the content of the party’s politics.
Figures like Ocasio-Cortez are elevated to give a left gloss to a party that is in fact moving sharply to the right.

The rightward trajectory of the Democratic Party has become even more pronounced since the election of Donald Trump. The pro-war and anti-democratic basis of its opposition to Donald Trump is summed up by its frothing response to Trump’s announcement last month that he would withdraw US troops from Syria and reduce troop levels in Afghanistan, and its praise for the former Marine general and war criminal James Mattis, who resigned his post as defense secretary in protest over Trump’s moves.

None of the media pundits care to square their talk of a “left” and “progressive” turn by the Democratic Party with the fact that the new House Democratic caucus reelected the same leadership, headed by the new House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, that has overseen all the right-wing policies of the Democrats. Ocasio-Cortez herself voted for Pelosi as a signal to the Democratic Party establishment that she is very willing to play her assigned role.

As significant as anything she has said is what Ocasio-Cortez has not said since her election—namely virtually anything on foreign policy and war. She has remained silent about the anti-Russia campaign, the Democrats’ subservience to the CIA, the unending militarist violence carried out by the Obama administration and nearly every other crime of US imperialism.

Ocasio-Cortez’s silence comes not from ignorance but from fundamental agreement. In the rare instances when she does broach the topic, it is to reinforce this fact. This was demonstrated most clearly in her comments on the death of the arch-warmonger Senator John McCain when she tweeted: “John McCain’s legacy represents an unparalleled example of human decency (see: “Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders praise McCain: An object lesson in the politics of the psuedo-left”).

This fact is of enormous significance. Just as Sanders’ pledge to support “drones, all that and more” revealed the essence of his politics, so does Ocasio-Cortez’s silence on war and the warmongering of the Democrats reveal the essence of her politics....

She proposes to attack the wealth of the rich without attacking the social system upon which this wealth is based.
Such “half-truths” are, as Trotsky noted, the worst form of falsehood—they aim to chloroform, to misdirect, and thereby provide an essential service to the ruling class. All those who promote her, as they promoted Sanders before her and Obama before him, are assisting in this process of political cover-up.


8--Why Trump Won


The political landscape has shifted--Over the last few decades, thanks to globalization, a billion people--mostly in the emerging markets of asia-- have lifted themselves out of poverty. This, of course, is a good thing. But in many western countries, the incomes of working people have stagnated or even declined over the same period. In short, many Americans voted for Donald Trump because the global economy has not been working for them. We can pretend that this is a false perception. We can keep trying to convince people that they misunderstand their own lives.  Or we can try to understand what they are saying and offer some solutions.


9--Varoufakis  "Trump is a symptom of the failure of liberal capitlism to deal with a crisis of its own making" must hear 


10--Huawei, 5G and the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Shooting Two Feet With One Bullet

 

Wireless carriers around the world are sprinting to adopt 5G networks to power self-driving cars, virtual reality and smart cities. We’re talking about billions of devices on the same network, not just millions. First-adopter countries embracing 5G could sustain more than a decade of competitive advantage. Countries that adopt 5G first are expected to experience disproportionate gains in macroeconomic impact compared to those that lag. China’s Five-Year Plan calls for investing a further $400 billion in 5G and consequently, China may be creating a 5G tsunami, making it near impossible to catch up. Deloitte.  ...

New York Times reported: “Over the past year, the United States has embarked on a stealthy, occasionally threatening, global campaign to prevent Huawei and other Chinese firms from participating in the most dramatic remaking of the plumbing that controls the internet since it sputtered into being, in pieces, 35 years ago.”

The administration contends that the world is engaged in a new arms race — one that involves technology, rather than conventional weaponry, but poses just as much danger to America’s national security. In an age when the most powerful weapons, short of nuclear arms, are cyber-controlled, whichever country dominates 5G will gain an economic, intelligence and military edge for much of this century.

The transition to 5G — already beginning in prototype systems in cities from Dallas to Atlanta — is likely to be more revolutionary than evolutionary. What consumers will notice first is that the network is faster — data should download almost instantly, even over cellphone networks.

It is the first network built to serve the sensors, robots, autonomous vehicles and other devices that will continuously feed each other vast amounts of data, allowing factories, construction sites and even whole cities to be run with less moment-to-moment human intervention. It will also enable greater use of virtual reality and artificial intelligence tools....

In interviews with current and former senior American government officials, intelligence officers and top telecommunications executives, it is clear that the potential of 5G has created a zero-sum calculus in the Trump White House — a conviction that there must be a single winner in this arms race, and the loser must be banished. For months, the White House has been drafting an executive order, expected in the coming weeks, that would effectively ban United States companies from using Chinese-origin equipment in critical telecommunications networks. That goes far beyond the existing rules, which ban such equipment only from government networks....

a lack of hard evidence implicating Huawei in any espionage, have prompted some countries to question whether America’s campaign is really about national security or if it is aimed at preventing China from gaining a competitive edge...

 Xiongan New Area, a brand new city of six million located sixty miles from Beijing, which will welcome its first residents in 2020, is being wired for 5G. Residents will find no traffic lights, many autonomous vehicles, face recognition providing seamless access and be able to reach the capital via a driverless maglev train costing the same to build and operate as regular subways but traveling silently at 120 mph, with no moving parts. A literal city of the future, courtesy of 5G, Xiongan is designed to deliver the same relative productivity gains for its residents that the Industrial Revolution gave England’s in the 19th century....


Smart factories will integrate the entire factory production process, arranging the smooth transfer from minimal energy, raw materials and water inputs and the just-in-time delivery of subcomponents to the optimised assembly line production of custom-designed-and-ordered by customers to the effective delivery of these products to the user and the continual (and maybe continuous) product reporting of its use, effectiveness and location. Smart cities will have driverless cars, buses and delivery trucks and ports and airports. The smart economy will have very fast HST intercity services, along with transparent data on the operation of mines, energy generation, transport, communications and government. Medical monitoring and the rise of the extended healthspan technology will free China from the dependency trap because people are likely to remain healthy all their lives using continuous medical assessment through an internet bangle.

11--$16 trillion???


let’s not forget that it was the Fed that secretly funneled $16.1 trillion of almost zero interest loans to the global banks from 2007 through the middle of 2010 and then fought in court for years to try to keep these loans a secret from the American people....

The public needs no further proof of the Fed’s inability to supervise the global banks than the fact that, at a time when it had dozens of its own inspectors sitting inside the banks, the banks were able to create toxic waste dumps of subprime debt and derivatives that blew up the U.S. financial system, the housing market, and the U.S. economy in 2008 while also taking down 100-year old Wall Street institutions.
http://wallstreetonparade.com/2019/01/bad-news-for-deutsche-bank-is-bad-news-for-wall-street-and-trump/

12--Why does israel support an independent Kurdistan

https://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Why-Does-Israel-Support-an-Independent-Iraqi-Kurdistan--20170923-0023.html

13--But the QE unwind continues on autopilot.


The FOMC announced in its Implementation Note that there is no change to the process, speed, or mix of the balance sheet normalization process. The Fed would continue shedding Treasury securities at a pace of up to $30 billion a month and mortgage-backed securities at a pace of up to $20 billion a month as they mature.

In a new twist, the FOMC also released an additional statement about its Balance Sheet Normalization.  It explained that “after extensive deliberations and thorough review of experience to date,” it would be “appropriate” to inform the public what the FOMC’s plans are “over the longer run” and under what conditions it “could adjust” the current auto-pilot of the asset-shedding process.

QE may restart only if things get really ugly:

If the economy spirals down, the Fed will cut rates, but when cutting interest rates to zero is no longer enough, the Fed is willing re-start QE. In its note on balance-sheet normalization, the FOMC said:
The Committee would be prepared to use its full range of tools, including altering the size and composition of its balance sheet, if future economic conditions were to warrant a more accommodative monetary policy than can be achieved solely by reducing the federal funds rate.

The Fed will not change its target for the federal funds rate over the near term. It has been between 2.25% to 2.50% since December 19, and that’s where it will stay until the Fed runs out of “patience.”

14--Is the FBI politically motivated


15--Clarity on the safe zone


Two drawbacks on regime entrance to Euphrates’ east

According to the minister, there are two drawbacks about the regime’s entrance to the east of the Euphrates and Manbij after the U.S. withdrawal.
Ankara objects the possibility the Syrian regime could fill a vacuum in the area left after the U.S. pulls out its soldiers from the east of the Euphrates, because such a scenario would possess threat to the national security of Turkey, the minister said, “because the YPG could cooperate with anyone, including the regime.”

Establishing a security zone in this area is crucial for Ankara because the presence of the regime in this region would not eliminate Turkey’s security concerns, he said, adding: “Because the regime and the YPG can unite against Turkey. Thus, this safe zone is important for us.”

US also rejects regime control in Euphrates’ east

“The U.S. says ‘the regime should not enter here.’ We do not have different views on this,” he said.
Washington is also objecting to the regime’s intervention in the area where the U.S. soldiers will withdraw from on concerns regarding the regime’s alliance with Iran, Çavuşoğlu stated. “Americans say that ‘the regime means Iranians.’ They told us frankly,” said the minister

Manbij road map recently accelerated

Regarding Syria’s northeastern Manbij town, Çavuşoğlu said there were delays in setting the course of the Manbij road map with the U.S., but now the implementations accelerated.
“The U.S. has acknowledged the seriousness of this and we speeded up the process. Our soldiers and intelligence in the field are discussing the lists of names who will be assigned in [Manbij’s local] security unites and local administrations,” he added.

Ankara and Washington have agreed on the implementation of a road map that brings about the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij, but Ankara has been complaining of the delay in the process, which also envisages governance and security of the town by locals instead of the YPG.
The minister also stressed that some 400,000 Syrian Kurds can potentially return to the secure zone if established.

‘Some coalition partners supporting HTS to harm Idlib deal’
The major question mark over Idlib is where will Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) militants go when they leave Idlib, said the minister.
“Russians have a joint operation offer. They say we should remove them from there,” said Çavuşoğlu, noting that the countries of origin of the foreign fighters in the HTS are not willing to take their citizens back.

When asked if the HTS was strengthened after the Idlib Memorandum, the minister said that in order to be more powerful, the organization needs to recruit more fighters but is unable to because there is no transition from the borders and they no longer gather human recruitment from the countries of origin.

“Secondly, [HTS] needs more armament. Our intelligence knows how much arms they have,” he added. Çavuşoğlu also said some Western countries in the anti-ISIL coalition were provoking members of the HTS to violate the Idlib memorandum, giving them money in return.

(effort to prevent a political solution) 
The minister said this was done for two reasons. “First, for the termination of the Idlib memorandum. Second, there are countries that are making great efforts to prevent the establishment of a constitutional committee just because we are doing it,” he added.
Çavuşoğlu stressed that before there were many smaller groups, “initially moderate groups” who had to or were forced to enter HTS. “There are many people leaving the HTS, after we came to the field.”

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Today's Links

“Kim Jong Un says North Korea will not make or test nuclear weapons, or give them to others - & he is ready to meet President Trump anytime.” PBS News Hour. I also look forward to meeting with Chairman Kim who realizes so well that North Korea possesses great economic potential!

DNI Dan Coats defending the status quo  “We continue to assess that North Korea is unlikely to give up all of its nuclear weapons and production capabilities, even as it seeks to negotiate partial denuclearization steps to obtain key US and international concessions.....North Korean leaders view nuclear arms as critical to regime survival."

 

DNI sent a report to the White House admitting that, while Russia conducted “messaging campaigns” on social media during the 2018 midterms, the intelligence community “does not have intelligence that indicates any compromise of our nation’s election infrastructure that would have prevented voting, changed vote counts, or disrupted the ability to tally votes. 

 

From WSWS--The aim of the vendetta against Assange has always been to intimidate and silence all independent and critical journalists and would-be whistleblowers.

 

 

 

 

1--The Making of Juan Guaidó: How the US Regime Change Laboratory Created Venezuela's Coup Leader


While Guaidó is today sold as the face of democratic restoration, he spent his career in the most violent faction of Venezuela’s most radical opposition party, positioning himself at the forefront of one destabilization campaign after another....

“‘These radical leaders have no more than 20 percent in opinion polls,” wrote Luis Vicente León, Venezuela’s leading pollster. According to León, Guaidó’s party remains isolated because the majority of the population “does not want war. ‘What they want is a solution.’”
But this is precisely why Guaidó was selected by Washington: He is not expected to lead Venezuela toward democracy, but to collapse a country that for the past two decades has been a bulwark of resistance to US hegemony....

Chávez survived numerous assassination plots, before succumbing to cancer in 2013. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, has survived three attempts on his life....

when Guaidó graduated from Andrés Bello Catholic University of Caracas. He moved to Washington, DC to enroll in the Governance and Political Management Program at George Washington University, under the tutelage of Venezuelan economist Luis Enrique Berrizbeitia, one of the top Latin American neoliberal economists. Berrizbeitia is a former executive director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) who spent more than a decade working in the Venezuelan energy sector, under the old oligarchic regime that was ousted by Chávez. 

2--Brexit--Where the rubber meets the road


So, the Commons has voted.
It would seem that it has rejected No Deal, because one non-binding amendment that suggested this was passed.
But it has rejected May’s Deal.
And it has rejected creating the time to find a better deal.
And it has rejected staying.
So the Commons has voted, yet again, for wishful thinking and nothing concrete of benefit to anyone.
What can I see happening now?
First, there is no chance of a People’s Vote: if the Commons cannot vote to extend Article 50 they could not get the majority required for a second vote. I call that option dead.
For the record, so too is staying: I do not think there is anything like a majority for that.
So there are only two known options.
One is the EU’s deal, which was once called May’s deal, but can’t be any more as she has apparently abandoned it.
And the other is No Deal....

the crisis will hit no sooner than mid-February. That is when MPs will no longer be able to pretend that they have options besides the ones May set forth when she brought her deal back in November: her deal, no deal, or no Brexit....

In a few week, we’ll have a better sense if sentiment is moving towards May’s deal or no deal. And remember, more denial and squabbling over unicorns increases the odds of no deal. 

3-- Iran not making nuclear weapon says DNI chief and CIA Director


During the hearing, Coats said Iran isn't taking any steps to make a nuclear weapon. “We do not believe Iran is currently undertaking the key activities we judge necessary to produce a nuclear device," he said.
CIA Director Gina Haspel, who also spoke at the hearing, said Tehran, "at the moment, technically they're in compliance" with the deal.


I have resolutely maintained on SST that Iran has not had a nuclear WEAPONS program since 2003, having cancelled their research program then with the disappearance of the Iraqi threat.  The 2007 NIE on Iran stated that explicitly but the Zionist lobby has blocked publication of an unclassified summary of subsequent judgments on this subject.  Why?  It is Israel's policy that Iran must be prevented from becoming strong enough to become the major hegemonic power in the ME. Trump's ignorance of realities in the region has enabled The Lobby to distort US policy to serve its purposes.  To my surprise the IC chiefs had the guts to tell the world what is true about Iran and to point out other areas in which their agencies differ in judgment with the administration, but the Iran judgement is IMO the most important.  Neocons like Pompeo, Bolton and E. Abrams do not reason from evidence.  They reason from ideology and their shared hostility to anyone who does not bow down to the US.  They and The Lobby currently control trump's policy especially in the ME. 

4--Stone indictment presents no evidence of links between WikiLeaks and Trump campaign

By James Cogan
30 January 2019
The indictment of right-wing political operative Roger Stone by special counsel and former FBI director Robert Mueller presented no evidence of “collusion” by WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange with either the Trump campaign or Russian intelligence, after more than 17 months of investigation.

The indictment of Stone, dated January 24, 2019, is at the same time a damning indictment of all those in the political establishment and the media—particularly the Guardian and Washington Post—who have taken part in the slanderous attempt to tarnish WikiLeaks and Assange as “agents” of Russia and Trump.

The Stone indictment revealed nothing that was not already known regarding WikiLeaks, which it called “Organization 1.” It has simply underscored that WikiLeaks is a media organization which exercised the legally protected rights of the press under the First Amendment and the Supreme Court decision in the 1971 Pentagon Papers case. A media organization is entitled to publish information in the public interest, even if the source obtained it illegally.

On July 22, 2016, WikiLeaks published the DNC emails. The publication took place on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, where the decision was going to be taken as whether to nominate Clinton or her main rival, self-styled “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders.
The emails exposed, for the benefit of Democratic voters and the American population, that the Democratic primaries had been tainted by sordid intrigues by the ostensibly neutral DNC to undermine Sanders’ campaign in the interests of Clinton....

WikiLeaks made only one further “dump” relating to the US election—the publication of the Podesta emails on October 7, 2016.

These files included transcripts of speeches made by Clinton to corporate audiences, during which she gave reassurances she would look after the interests of the major banks and corporations and boasted of her role in the US-led war against Libya, which destroyed the country and has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths.

Stone, a well-known self-promoter, made boasts in August that he was in personal contact with Assange and later even claimed he had had dinner with him. Both claims were false. He attempted to establish relations with WikiLeaks through Corsi and Randy Credico, with whom he had a previous association....

Nevertheless, in a shameless article published yesterday, the Washington Post —relying solely on an unverified statement by Jerome Corsi who has made a deal with Mueller to testify against Stone—once again implied that Assange colluded with Stone in the release of the Podesta emails.
Secondly, Mueller left out of the indictment the only contact that WikiLeaks did have with Roger Stone during the election—an exchange of private tweets on October 13, 2016.

Stone messaged WikiLeaks to complain that it had publicly stated it had no relations with him. The right-wing operative asserted that he was “defending” WikiLeaks, so it should therefore stop “attacking” him.
WikiLeaks replied: “We appreciate that [the defence]. However, the false claims of association are being used by the democrats to undermine the impact of our publications. Don’t go there if you don’t want us to correct you.”

Stone replied two days later: “Ha, the more you ‘correct’ me the more people think you are lying. Your operation leaks like a sieve.” [emphasis added]

Mueller, in other words, omitted a categorical statement from WikiLeaks that the claims of association were “false.” Stone’s reference to leaking like “a sieve” also points to how he and others may have obtained the “information” they put into the public domain: via gossip and partial details, of varying accuracy, that were related to them by indiscrete people within and around WikiLeaks

5--Crosstalk--Venezuela 


6--Donald Trump and the Yankee Plot to Overthrow the Venezuelan Government


7--French President Macron visits the hangman of Cairo


Faced with a parasitic financial oligarchy that cannot and will not make concessions, the working class faces a political struggle that can have one of only two outcomes: revolution or counterrevolution....

As masses of workers and youth internationally enter into struggle, it is critical to draw the lessons of Macron’s trip to Cairo. ...Faced with a challenge from below, the ruling class will seek to use the most ruthless methods.

The French ruling elite’s response to the “yellow vest” protests has been to launch mass arrests and repression on a scale unseen in metropolitan France since the Nazi Occupation. Over 5,000 protesters have been arrested, including more than 1,700 on a single day on December 8. At least four protesters have had their hands blown off by police stun grenades, another 20 have lost eyes from police bean-bag bullets, and one person has been permanently deafened....

Photos have emerged showing riot police in Paris carrying Heckler & Koch G36 assault rifles loaded with live ammunition, and a furious debate is ongoing in the French ruling class about attempting to implement the repressive policies pioneered by Sisi in Egypt against the “yellow vests

On January 7, Luc Ferry, a former education minister and self-proclaimed “philosopher,” lashed out on radio against the “yellow vests,” demanding that the military fire live ammunition at them: “We have the fourth largest army in the world, and it is able to put an end to these c—ts,” he said. “These kinds of thugs … from the extreme right, the extreme left and from the housing estates that come to hit the police—enough!”
This statement sums up the sentiments prevailing not just in the ruling classes of France, but of the whole world, who see the turn to dictatorship and repression as the only means to prop up the increasingly hated capitalist system.

8--Bolton: We’re Taking Venezuela’s Oil

 

9--Thanks to Bankers – Student Loans Are Suppressing our Future & Destroying the Real Estate Market

 

Zillow’s research, the big realtor, has reported that student debt has impacted the real estate market in many ways reducing future buyers....

 

The Student Loan Crisis is serious. The US census showed that one-third of children over 30 were still living with their parents. This is also taking place in Britain thanks to rising taxes which lower disposable income. There are greater odds of your children living with you until they are 35. The real shocking number is that 40% of millennials are still dependent on mom and dad. The excuses seem endless. Student Loan debt can make buying a home IMPOSSIBLE! This is part of the reason real estate has been in a bear market since 2007 when we look at the average home...

The entire Student Loan Crisis has altered the real estate market significantly. While the High-End rallied into 2015 as capital was trying to get off the grid, as one friend in the real estate business put it, if prices ever got back to 2007, 50% of the State of New Jersey would go up for sale. The average market for homes has been declining overall. There are pockets where houses have risen, but these upon close inspection are the destinations where people are fleeing to from states like California, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut among others.




 
 

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Today's links

Oh, how things change---- “I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions. The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship. We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.” Donald Trump at the UN


 “The Executive Order I have issued accounts for the swearing in of a legitimate Interim President of Venezuela, and addresses actions by persons affiliated with the illegitimate Maduro regime, including human rights violations and abuses in response to anti-Maduro protests, arbitrary arrest and detention of anti‑Maduro protestors, curtailment of press freedom, harassment of political opponents, and continued attempts to undermine the Interim President of Venezuela and undermine the Venezuelan National Assembly,” the Presidential Message accompanying the order stated." 
 Trump on regime change in Venzuela



1--"Elliot Abrams who quite literally represents everything that Trump was elected to destroy"


“As the Reagan administration’s assistant secretary of state for human rights in the 1980s, Abrams supported the US-backed dictators in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras in their campaigns of repression, including death squads. He was also involved in working with Iran to arming the US-backed rebels in Nicaragua, the infamous Iran-Contra scandal.

Abrams was eventually convicted of lying to Congress about Iran-Contra, but was pardoned right away by President George H.W. Bush. In the 1990s, Abrams became a founding member of the Project for a New American Century, a hawkish neoconservative think-tank.

He returned to the corridors of power in 2001, as a director on the National Security Council for President George W. Bush. He played a key role in the 2002 attempted coup in Venezuela against President Hugo Chavez, and was one of the architects of the 2003 Iraq war.”

2--Putin on Turkish-Syrian security (excellent analysis)


“And the third. The 1998 treaty between the Syrian Arab Republic and the Republic of Turkey is still valid, and it deals specifically with the fight against terrorism. I think this is the legal framework that covers many issues relating to ensuring Turkey’s security on its southern borders. Today we have been discussing this issue thoroughly and intensively enough.”
This needs some explaining. Putin was referring to the Adana Accord of October 1998 between Turkey and Syria regarding cooperation in combating terrorism...

In effect, Putin has suggested that the Adana Accord, which was forged under Egyptian-Iranian mediation following a nasty confrontation between Ankara and Damascus over the Kurdish PKK’s activities and presence in Syria, could still serve as the legal and political framework for securing the Turkish-Syrian border to combat terrorism. The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov since amplified Putin’s remark further in media comments on Saturday. While on a visit to Rabat, Lavrov said, “The Adana agreement of 1998 was concluded between Turkey and Syria, its essence is to eliminate Turkey’s concerns about its security. [Syria] entered into this agreement, assuming certain obligations, and we proceed from the assumption that this agreement remains in force. As I understand, so do the state parties to the agreement.”

That is to say, Putin’s proposal offers an alternative to a Turkish occupation of Syrian territory – or involving a joint operation with the US to create a safe zone inside Syria and to enforce it militarily...

In order for the Adana Accord to come alive and fully satisfy Turkey’s security needs on the border region with Syria (which used to be the case till 2011 when Turkey became the staging ground for the US-led project to overthrow the Syrian government), Ankara must resuscitate its contacts with Damascus. Simply put, Putin is nudging Erdogan to restore ties with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. After all, under Adana Accord, Syria is committed to protect Turkey’s security, but that obligation is also “on the basis of the principle of reciprocity.”
 
Interestingly, on Saturday, Syrian state news agency SANA quoted a foreign ministry official in Damascus as saying, “Syria confirms that it is in compliance with the Adana Interstate Agreement on Combating Terrorism in all its forms and all agreements related to it, but the Turkish regime has been violating the agreement since 2011 up to now by sponsoring and supporting terrorism, training militants and making it easier for them to go to SAR (Syrian Arab Republic), or through the occupation of Syrian territories with terrorist groups it controls it or directly with the help of the Turkish Armed Forces.” Furthermore, SANA reported the Syrian Foreign Ministry as calling on Turkey to “activate” the Adana Accord, leaving the boundary as it used to be before the beginning of the war in 2011....

Putin’s goal is to encourage Erdogan to work with Assad, while also taking care to preserve the verve of the Russian-Turkish cooperation and accelerate the Syrian peace process in Geneva. But in the process, he also may have drawn attention to the inadequacy and bad faith intentions of the western powers occupying northern Syria – US, France and Germany, in particular. On the ground, this translates as the Astana partners – Russia, Turkey and Iran – taking in hand the task of coordinated efforts aimed at establishing another de-escalation zone in northern Syria following the US withdrawal. It appears Putin has made an offer Erdogan cannot easily refuse and which may even be the latter’s own preferred option

3--Family behind OxyContin maker engineered opioid crisis, Massachusetts AG says


The Massachusetts attorney general is targeting Purdue Pharma and eight members of the Sackler family who own the company, alleging in a lawsuit they are "personally responsible" for deceptively selling OxyContin.

The attorney general, Maura Healey, sat down with "CBS This Morning." She alleges the Sackler family hired "hundreds of workers to carry out their wishes" – pushing doctors to get "more patients on opioids, at higher doses, for longer, than ever before" all while paying "themselves billions of dollars."

In her lawsuit, Healey names eight members of the family that own Purdue Pharma, alleging they "micromanaged" a "deceptive sales campaign." In the conclusion to the complaint, Healey said the Sackler family used the power at their disposal to engineer an opioid crisis. Almost 400,000 people died from opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2017, according to the CDC.

Healey said this is the most complete picture to date of how the opioid crisis began, and why the Sackler family itself should be held accountable. "They don't want to accept blame for this. They blame doctors, they blame prescribers and worst of all, they blame patients," Healey said....

Jonathan Burke, a former addict, suggested Sackler take a dose of his own medicine. "I would personally tell him to take two a day for two weeks and see how he ends up," Burke said.
Burke said his battle with addiction began 11 years ago, with a dirt bike accident and a two-month prescription of OxyContin. Just two weeks later, he was hooked.

"I'll be 29 on Friday and didn't think I'd make it to 25, to be honest," Burke said. "The way that your brain becomes re-hardwired after an addiction is just absolutely insane."

Burke later turned to illegal drugs and ended up stealing to fund his habit. "It literally damaged every relationship with every family member, friend, person I acquired in my life," he said.

4--'Fake news' filter NewsGuard grilled for having links to PR firm that peddled Saudi propaganda 

 

NewsGuard and its shady advisory board – consisting of truth-lovers such as Tom Ridge, the first-ever homeland security chief, and former CIA director Michael Hayden – came under scrutiny after Microsoft announced that the app would be built into its mobile browsers.

 

5--If the Army Stands with Maduro, What Is Plan B?, Pat Buchannan

 

Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the U.N. Security Council: “Now it is time for every other nation to pick a side. … Either you stand with the forces of freedom, or you’re in league with Maduro and his mayhem.”

By Friday, however, the world had already taken sides.

Russia and China stood by Maduro, as did NATO ally Turkey, with President Erdogan phoning his support. Mexico, Nicaragua, Cuba and Bolivia were also with Maduro.

Backing Guaido are Venezuela’s neighbors Ecuador, Brazil and Colombia, the U.S. and Canada, and the Organization of American States.

Britain, France, Germany and Spain have sent Maduro a diplomatic ultimatum: Agree in eight days to new elections or we back the 35-year-old Guaido, who, until this year, was an unknown....

Invade? That would invite disaster. Venezuela is not Panama, Haiti or Grenada. Larger than Texas, its population is more than 30 million. And U.S. forces are already committed around the world.

 

6--Trump’s Venezuela Fiasco

 

It’s ironic that a president who has spent the first two years in office fighting charges that a foreign country meddled in the US elections would turn around and not only meddle in foreign elections but actually demand the right to name a foreign country’s president! How would we react if the Chinese and Russians decided that President Trump was not upholding the US Constitution and recognized Speaker Nancy Pelosi as US president instead?...

 

Remember after the “Arab Spring” in Egypt when the people did rise up and overthrow their leader, but they then elected the “wrong” candidate. The army moved in and deposed the elected president and replaced him with a Washington-approved politician. Then-Secretary of State John Kerry called it “restoring democracy.”

It is tragically comical that President Trump has named convicted criminal Elliot Abrams as his point person to “restore democracy” in Venezuela. Abrams played a key role in the Iran-Contra affair and went on to be one of the chief architects of the disastrous US invasion of Iraq in 2003. His role in helping promote the horrible violence in Latin America in the 1980s should disqualify him from ever holding public office again.

7---Facebook to create 'war room' to fight fake news, Nick Clegg says

Dublin operations centre to target political misinformation ahead of EU elections in May

(censorship czar Clegg takes over at FB) “They will work closely with the lawmakers, election commissions, other tech companies, academics and civil society groups to continue the fight against fake news, prevent the spread of voter suppression efforts and further integrate the large number of teams working on these important issues across Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.”

-Nothing good will come of Trump's military plans in Venezuela. Only death and destruction, mass plundering of Venezuela's rich oil reserves. The poor will remain poor, the country will stay in chaos and instability, and the region will be at war. Stop it before it's too late.eva golinger, twitter

It’s refreshing they just admit their true motives out in the open. This is not about democracy or human rights. It’s about oil. And Venezuela has the largest oil reserves on the planet. Eva golinger

8--In broadside against China, White House levels criminal charges against Huawei


The Trump administration and American state apparatus have made it clear that their targeting of Huawei, one of China’s most important companies, is the leading edge of a military and economic escalation that the White House has called “strategic competition.”

In a lead article in Sunday’s edition, the New York Times reported: “Over the past year, the United States has embarked on a stealthy, occasionally threatening, global campaign to prevent Huawei and other Chinese firms from participating in the most dramatic remaking of the plumbing that controls the internet since it sputtered into being, in pieces, 35 years ago.”

The article added: “The administration contends that the world is engaged in a new arms race—one that involves technology, rather than conventional weaponry, but poses just as much danger to America’s national security. In an age when the most powerful weapons, short of nuclear arms, are cyber-controlled, whichever country dominates 5G will gain an economic, intelligence and military edge for much of this century.”

It concluded: “In interviews with current and former senior American government officials, intelligence officers and top telecommunications executives, it is clear that the potential of 5G has created a zero-sum calculus in the Trump White House—a conviction that there must be a single winner in this arms race, and the loser must be banished.”...

Commenting on the charges, FBI Director Christopher Wray stated that Huawei’s actions “threaten the free and fair global marketplace.” He declared that giving Huawei access to US telecommunications markets “could give a foreign government the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information, conduct undetected espionage, or exert pressure or control.” In fact, it is the US that is using its geopolitical leverage on the world stage to extract economic concessions from China.

The entire campaign against Huawei is part of an effort to secure the economic dominance of companies controlled by the United States and its European allies, including the US-based Qualcomm, the Finnish Nokia and the Swedish Ericsson.

According to media reports, the White House is on the verge of issuing an executive order that would ban US telecommunications companies from buying key infrastructure from Chinese companies such as Huawei and ZTE


9--Afghanistan peace talks and the debacle of the war on terror

29 January 2019 
 

In the final analysis, the invasion of Afghanistan, like the criminal war on Iraq begun in 2003, was not about terrorism, but rather US military dominance over two major oil- and gas-producing regions on the planet, the Caspian Basin and the Middle East.

Khalilzad, a reliable steward of these interests, was named in December 2001 as US envoy to Afghanistan. Serving as an imperialist proconsul, he worked in Kabul to solidify the puppet regime of Hamid Karzai, a former associate of his at Unocal.
 
The Trump administration’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, on Monday announced the drafting of a “framework” for a peace agreement with the Taliban, against which US troops have been fighting for over 17 year

After a brutal civil war in which the Taliban ultimately established its control over most of the country, Khalilzad signed on as a “consultant” for the energy conglomerate Unocal—now part of Chevron—in negotiating with the Taliban on a deal for a trans-Afghanistan gas pipeline.

In 1996, he wrote a memo insisting that “The Taliban does not practice the anti-US style of fundamentalism practiced by Iran. We should… be willing to offer recognition and humanitarian assistance and to promote international economic reconstruction,” i.e., promote deals for big oil....

The outline of the “framework” discussed in Qatar reportedly involves an 18-month drawdown of US forces in exchange for a guarantee by the Taliban that it will prevent the country from “becoming a platform for international terrorist groups,” Khalilzad said.
Such a demand could with even greater justification be made of Washington, which utilized Al Qaeda-linked militias as proxy forces in its wars for regime change in Libya and Syria, and, according to some accounts, has not been averse to promoting the activities of ISIS in Afghanistan as a counterweight to the Taliban.
 ...
The “war on terror,” initiated with the invasion of Afghanistan, was used as the pretext for a frontal assault on democratic rights, including the passage of the 2001 Patriot Act, the proliferation of unchecked spying, the “extraordinary rendition,” indefinite detention, torture and military tribunals associated with Guantanamo and CIA black cites, along with the militarization of police agencies and the persecution of Muslims and immigrants. Governments around the world have followed the US example, all of them preparing, like Washington itself, for a confrontation with their most dangerous enemy, the working class....

This was spelled out in the “National Security Strategy” document unveiled by the Trump administration a little over a year ago, making “great power competition” and countering so-called “revisionist states,” i.e., Russia and China, the new axis of US global strategy, supplanting the so-called “war on terror.”

10--Turkey to take action in Syria ‘when time comes’: Defense Minister

 

11--Why Turkey supports Maduro

 

When one looks at Turkey’s position on Venezuela which is based on showing full support to Maduro, one can track traces of lessons driven by the current political elite from past experiences.
Until the advent of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in 2002, the coups that have taken place were all undertaken by the Turkish armed forces. The army, due to its secularist character, was seen as a foe by those who subscribe to the religious/conservative tradition, which forms the base line of the AK Party. There has always been a general conviction that military coups, especially the one in 1980, was supported by Washington.

The fact that Muhammed Mursi of the Muslim Brotherhood, which came to power with elections, was toppled by a military coup in Egypt increased the allergy among AK Party elites against Washington when the U.S. and its allies quickly endorsed Egypt’s military leadership as the country’s legitimate rulers.

The AK Party’s trust toward the West’s respect to democratic principles further deteriorated when the government survived a coup staged by the FETÖ, whose leader continues to reside in the U.S., which refuses to extradite him.

So it is fair to say that the ruling elites experience and personal grievances play a crucial role in shaping Turkey’s position in the Venezuelan crisis.

12--Putin cautious on buffer zone


the Russian president was very careful with his words by not moving forward to openly say that his country was against setting up a security zone inside Syria. It’s because it wants to see how ongoing talks between Turkey and the United States would develop on the latter’s withdrawal and how these two countries will be able to deal with so many pending issues. He will sure not jump in the deep end at a time when all the signs point at very complicated and difficult negotiations between Ankara and Washington D.C. ahead.

In an indirect confirmation of Putin’s strategy, Erdoğan has given the sign of a tougher line against the U.S. in his address at a party meeting in the eastern province of Erzurum. In one of his harshest statements in the last couple of weeks, Erdoğan urged the Washington administration to keep its words on setting up a buffer zone on the Syrian border. Turkey, otherwise, will create it on its own, Erdoğan said, adding that his country’s patience is running thin and it won’t wait forever.

It seems Erdoğan’s firmness on a buffer zone has even strengthened after his meeting with Putin in Moscow.

13--Putin-Erdogan talks end without clear statement. Both leaders await US withdrawal


In reply to the journalists' questions, the leaders limited themselves to general phrases about "collaboration" and the "Astana process." Only after they were asked directly about Idlib and northeastern Syria, Putin and Erdoğan switched to some sort of specifications. But even here, somebody could read the "agreements" only between the lines.

An important achievement for Erdoğan was Putin's silent consent on the creation of a 30-kilometer "safe zone" along the Syrian-Turkish border.
"We have no problems with Russia in this regard," said the Turkish president.
It was evident that Putin did not wish to declare publicly his support for the safe zone. Before the meeting, his foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, had pointed out the need to transfer the territories left by the U.S. to the Assad regime. By criticizing the U.S. presence, Putin hinted that Ankara should resolve this issue with Damascus and mentioned a 1998 Turkish-Syrian treaty on combating terrorism.

The talks between Putin and Erdoğan, although not fixed by written results, marked an important strategic goal. Despite the U.S. withdrawal, Turkey and Russia remain partners in Syria, as they continue to work on its security and restoring the unity.
Erdoğan is not sure whether U.S. President Donald Trump will keep his promise and assist in the creation of the "safe zones." For his part, Putin has his doubts about U.S. withdrawal from Syria. Moscow and Ankara have a lot of work in order to force Washington to permanently leave the Arab country.

14--North Korea unlikely to abandon nuclear weapons: US spy chief--DNI Coats tries to preempt Trump-Kim talks


More broadly, the intelligence report on which Coats based his testimony predicted that security threats to the United States and its allies this year will expand and diversify, driven in part by China and Russia. It says Moscow and Beijing are more aligned than at any other point since the mid-1950s and their global influence is rising.

Coats told the committee that Russia and perhaps other countries are likely to attempt to use social media and other means to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election

15--Preparations for Turkey's anti-terror operation in Syria complete, Defense Min. Akar says

 

The Turkish military has completed preparations for the operations in Syria's Manbij and east of the Euphrates, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said Tuesday.
"When the time comes, the necessary actions will be taken both in Manbij and east of the Euphrates," said Hulusi Akar, referring to a counter-terrorist operation long pledged by Turkish leaders.
Akar said Turkey's preparations for a possible operation are ready, adding: "The only target of the Turkish Armed Forces is terrorists."

Akar also said Turkey welcomed the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG)'s "timely" reactions and measures against an attack on a Turkish base in Iraq.
On Saturday, the Turkish Defense Ministry said a base belonging to the Turkish Armed Forces in northern Iraq was attacked due to provocation by the PKK terrorist group.

Since 2016, Turkey's Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in northwestern Syria have liberated the northern Syrian region -- including Al-Bab, Afrin, and Azaz -- of the PKK's Syrian affiliate People's Protection Units (YPG) and Daesh terrorists, making it possible for Syrians who fled violence there to return home

 

16--Presidential Spox Kalın and Bolton discuss Syria withdrawal, safe zone in phone call

 

On Dec. 19, Trump announced an immediate withdrawal of troops from Syria but later said that he did not have a specific time limit for the pullout, signaling an extension of the presence of U.S. troops on the grounds.The move caused concern among allies and prompted the resignation of his then-defense chief Jim Mattis.
The idea of the safe zone, although mentioned several times by Erdoğan over the years, surfaced once again after the Turkish pesident held a phone call with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Erdoğan announced that Turkey would establish a safe zone along the length of its Syrian border with the assistance of U.S.-led coalition forces. The president also mentioned the issue during his recent visit to Russia.

Meanwhile, the Manbij roadmap was announced after a June 4 meeting in Washington between Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The deal focuses on the withdrawal of the PKK-affiliated People's Protection Units (YPG) terror group from the northern Syrian city and on stability in the region

17--Why the EU adopted an anti-Maduro stance

 

It is bizarre how quickly European countries reacted to the political turmoil in Venezuela. Maybe this has something to do with the turbulent period they are crossing. To imagine that a Latin America opening will save them only proves how desperate they are. It is obvious that what is going on in this country reflects the global power struggle between the U.S. and Russia, as Venezuela is Russia's stepping stone in South America. Putin is aware that the unrest in Venezuela is about limiting Russia's influence zone globally, as the West used the same methods in Iran or in Ukraine. Russia will probably not be happy with Europe's contribution to the crisis and its opportunism in this new front.

Paradoxically, countries like Russia and China are defending democratic principles in this particular case. Not because they are model democracies, but because of the West's hypocrisy of not recognizing the elections they don't like

 




 


 


 



Monday, January 28, 2019

Today's Links

“When I come and I say the emigration is partly attributable to the economic war waged against Venezuela and is partly attributable to the sanctions, people don’t like to hear that. They just want the simple narrative that socialism failed and it failed the Venezuelan people...When I came back [the UN and media were] not interested. Because I am not singing the song I’m supposed to sing so I don’t exist … And my report, as I said, was formally presented but there has been no debate on the report. It has been filed away.”  Alfred de Zayas, Former special UN rapporteur, US sanctions on Venezuela are killing innocent people and constitute crimes against humanity


  "If and when this phase of the coup fails, the prospect of a military invasion from Colombia with US support, or a Syria or Ukraine-style proxy war, is real. The consequences would be devastating, too much for the region to bear." Max Blumenthal

 

  The operational definition of "Kremlin asset" or "Kremlin stooge" in US discourse is - and I don't means this as hyperbole - "anyone who dissents from establishment Democratic Party narratives or its orthodoxies." The only ones left not yet accused or Adam Schiff & Chuck Schumer  Glenn Greenwald


Trump chief of staff on military action in Venezuela "I think the president of the United States is looking at this extraordinarily closely." - This 'public opinion prepping' means most likely they will take military action to oust Maduro

 

 

 

 

1--Russia believes Syria and Turkey can carry out border operation together


“We consider it quite possible for Turkey and Syria to use the bilateral Adana agreement of 1998,” the Russian foreign minister resumed. “As I understand, the Syrian government made a statement recently on the willingness to work on the basis of this agreement to provide security along the border.”

Lavrov stressed, “Providing security should be the only task of this specific operation along the border.” The top Russian diplomat noted that the planned operation “should be a step towards the most reliable and stable settlement to the problem, the restoration of Syria’s control over the corresponding areas, the way it should be done in other parts of the country as well.”...

The Adana agreement stipulates Turkey’s right to carry out small-scale trans-border operations against terrorists in the Syrian border zone.

2--Whodunnit?  

 

 Unidentified helicopters transported a large number of Daesh* terrorists from Pakistan to the border with Tajikistan, close to Russia's southern borders, Russian Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov said on Monday. Pakistan and Tajikistan are separated by Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor region. 

 

 3--$1.5 trillion tax cut had no major impact on business spending

 

The White House had predicted that the massive fiscal stimulus package would boost investment and job growth

The Trump administration's $1.5 trillion tax cut package appeared to have no major impact on businesses' capital investment or hiring plans, according to a survey released a year after the biggest overhaul of the tax code in more than 30 years.

The National Association of Business Economics' quarterly business conditions poll, published on Monday, found that while some companies reported accelerating investments because of lower corporate taxes, 84 percent of respondents said they had not changed plans. That compares to 81 percent in the previous survey published in October.

The White House had predicted that the massive fiscal stimulus package, marked by the reduction in the corporate tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent, would boost business spending and job growth. The tax cuts came into effect in January 2018.

"A large majority of respondents, 84 percent, indicate that one year after its passage, the corporate tax reform has not caused their firms to change hiring or investment plans," said NABE President Kevin Swift.

4--Doomsday for the $$$ ??


No matter what the Fed does with rates it’s going to be a disaster. Williams explains, “You had some very heavy selling towards the end of the year and when you saw the big declines in the stock market you also saw that accompanied by a falling dollar and rising gold prices."
"That was foreign capital which was significant fleeing our markets. So if the Fed continues to raise interest rates, and they want to do and they still don’t have rates where they want them, it’s going to intensify the economic downturn. That’s going to hit the stock market. If they stop raising rates . . . and they have to go back to some sort of quantitative easing, that’s going to hit the dollar hard. Foreign investors are going to say the dollar is going to get weaker and let’s get out of the dollar. Then, you are going to see heavy selling in the stock market.

So either way they go, they created a conundrum for themselves because of the way they bailed out the banking system (in 2008-2009). At this point they don’t have an easy way out of this.”

“This is a very dangerous time both domestically and globally.” Maybe this is why gold and silver prices keep steadily climbing higher. Williams says,

“As things get worse here there is going to be a flight from the dollar into other currencies and in particular into gold. Gold is the long term store of wealth here...

Where we are ultimately headed here the precious metals are a long term store of wealth. They preserve the purchasing power of your assets... if you have high inflation you will still have your purchasing power. With debt collapsing and currencies collapsing you are going to end up with inflation. Expanded debt is rapid money supply growth. It is debasement of the currency and debasement of the currency means inflation...

It’s the type of thing that can be accelerated very rapidly if you have another crisis such as a big stock market crash. The economy is tanking and people start fleeing the dollar means you are going to be seeing rising inflation.   If you see a big hit on the dollar gasoline prices will go up.

5--AP report exposes US role in right-wing coup in Venezuela


the US government is openly acknowledging its role in orchestrating the anti-Maduro coup. The Associated Press published a report Friday titled “Anti-Maduro coalition grew from secret talks,” which noted that the US-backed Guaidó coalition “came together over weeks of secret diplomacy that included whispered messages to activists.”

The AP reported that “in mid-December, Guaidó quietly traveled to Washington, Colombia and Brazil to brief officials on the opposition’s strategy of mass demonstrations.” According to anonymous US officials, “long sessions of encrypted text messages became the norm,” and when the decision was made to launch the coup, it was Guaió and his far-right supporters who were chosen to lead the coup. “Some moderate factions were left in the dark,” the report said.

Thus Guaidó met with the three most reactionary government leaders in the Western hemisphere—Donald Trump, Brazil’s fascistic President Jair Bolsonaro and Colombia’s far-right Iván Duque Márquez—and launched the coup with their support.

6--Venezuela crisis: Former UN rapporteur says US sanctions are killing citizens


The first UN rapporteur to visit Venezuela for 21 years has told The Independent the US sanctions on the country are illegal and could amount to “crimes against humanity” under international law.

Former special rapporteur Alfred de Zayas, who finished his term at the UN in March, has criticized the US for engaging in “economic warfare” against Venezuela which he said is hurting the economy and killing Venezuelans....

“Sanctions kill,” he told The Independent, adding that they fall most heavily on the poorest people in society, demonstrably cause death through food and medicine shortages, lead to violations of human rights and are aimed at coercing economic change in a “sister democracy”.....

The US imposed new sanctions against Venezuela on 9 March 2015, when President Barack Obama issued executive order 13692, declaring the country a threat to national security.
The sanctions have since intensified under Donald Trump, who has also threatened military invasion and discussed a coup...

Since 2015 around 1.9 million people have fled the country and on 23 October 2018 inflation reached 60,324 per cent, while the civilian death toll is unknown....

Eugenia Russian, president of FUNDALATIN, one of the oldest human rights NGOs in Venezuela, founded in 1978 before the Chavez and Maduro governments and with special consultative status at the UN, spoke to The Independent on the significance of the sanctions.

“In contact with the popular communities, we consider that one of the fundamental causes of the economic crisis in the country is the effect that the unilateral coercive sanctions that are applied in the economy, especially by the government of the United States,” Ms Russian said.

She said there may also be causes from internal errors, but said probably few countries in the world have suffered an “economic siege” like the one Venezuelans are living under.


The sanctions are part of a US effort to overthrow the Venezuelan government and instal a more business friendly regime, as was done in Chile in 1973 and elsewhere in the region, Mr de Zayas said.
“I’ve seen that happen in the Human Rights Council, how the United States twists arms and convinces countries to vote the way they want them to vote, or there will be economic consequences, and these things are not reflected in the press,” the former high-ranking UN official told The Independent.
“What’s at stake is the enormous, enormous natural resources of Venezuela. And I sense that if Venezuela had no natural resources no one would give a damn about Chavez or Maduro or anybody else there,” Mr de Zayas added....

“If you crush this government and you bring in a neoliberal government that is going to privatise everything and is going to sell out, a lot of transitional corporations stand to gain enormous profits and the United States is driven by the transnational corporations,” the former UN special rapporteur told The Independent.
“The business of the United States is business. And that’s what the United States is interested in. And they can’t [currently] do business with Venezuela.”

7--US Regime Change in Venezuela: The Documented Evidence


Economic destabilization is a key component in US regime change efforts - witnessed in all of Washington's past and current confrontations including against Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran, North Korea, and Russia for an array of alleged offenses centered around "human rights" and fabricated threats to US national security.

Conversely - nations like Saudi Arabia whom even former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted is "providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region," and undeniably among the worst human rights abusers on Earth - has escaped not only sanctions, but even the most basic condemnation for its serial violations of international law and rights abuses. .....

The US Treasury Department aimed sanctions specifically at (PDF) Venezuela's central bank and Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA) - Venezuela's state-owned oil and gas company to restrict financing and to block transfers - while the US and allied OPEC members acted in concert to lower global oil prices - not only to cripple Venezuela's oil-based economy - but those of other US adversaries including Iran and Russia. ...




The UK Independent in a recent article titled, "Venezuela military chief declares loyalty to Maduro and warns US not to intervene," would admit (emphasis added):

The US has a long history of interfering with democratically elected governments in Latin America and in Venezuela it has sought to weaken the elected governments of both Mr Maduro and Mr Chavez. 

Some of the effort has been in distributing funds to opposition groups through organisations such as the National Endowment for Democracy, while some has been in the form of simple propaganda. 

Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Centre for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, said that for the past 20 years it had been US policy to seek a change of government in Caracas. Mr Trump’s recognition of Mr Guaido was the most obvious effort to undermine the government.
The US National Endowment for Democracy's (NED) own current webpage admits to extensively interfering in every imaginable aspect of Venezuela's internal political affairs with funds directed at:
  • Building Strategic Capacity for Local Democratic Actors 
  • Cohesive Strategic Communications
  • Defending Human Rights Victims
  • Developing Tools for Agile Communication
  • Empowering Citizens through Local and National Policy Dialogue
  • Facilitating Humanitarian Aid Relief
  • Formulating a Comprehensive Public Policy Reform Package
  • Fostering Scenario Planning and Strategic Analysis
  • Fostering Small Business Enterprise in Defense of Democracy and Free Markets
  • Improving Democratic Governance in Venezuela
  • Improving Local Democratic Governance
  • Leadership Empowerment and Socio-Political Participation
  • Monitoring Human Rights Conditions
  • Monitoring the Human Rights Situation
  • Promoting Access to Justice and Public Services
  • Promoting Checks and Balances
  • Promoting Citizen Journalism
  • Promoting Citizen Participation and Freedom of Expression
  • Promoting Democratic Governance
  • Promoting Democratic Values
  • Promoting Dialogue and Reconciliation
  • Promoting Freedom of Association
  • Promoting Freedom of Expression and Access to Information
  • Promoting Human Rights
  • Promoting Independent Journalism
  • Promoting Political Engagement and Advocacy
  • Promoting the Rule of Law
It is clear that the US is funding virtually every aspect of opposition operations - from media and legal affairs, to indoctrination and political planning, to interference in the economy and the leveraging of "human rights" to shield US-funded agitators from any attempt to arrest them.


8--Mulvaney won’t rule out military action in Venezuela

 

Mick Mulvaney on Sunday refused to rule out U.S. military action to address unrest in Venezuela, following a week where President Donald Trump distanced the U.S. from the country's ruler, Nicolás Maduro, by recognizing an opposition figure as Venezuela's true leader.
"I don't think any president of any party who is doing his or her job would be doing the job properly if they took anything off the table," the president’s acting chief of staff told Fox News chief White House correspondent John Roberts on “Fox News Sunday.“

9--Kim Jong-un’s 2019 New Year Speech: What Did He Say? And Why?

 

10--A liberal elite still luring us towards the abyss

 

These intellectuals are standing, like the rest of us, on a precipice from which we are about to jump or topple. But the abyss has not opened up, as they suppose, because liberalism is being rejected. Rather, the abyss is the inevitable outcome of this shrinking elite’s continuing promotion – against all rational evidence – of liberalism as a solution to our current predicament. It is the continuing transformation of a deeply flawed ideology into a religion. It is idol worship of a value system hellbent on destroying us.

Liberalism, like most ideologies, has an upside. Its respect for the individual and his freedoms, its interest in nurturing human creativity, and its promotion of universal values and human rights over tribal attachment have had some positive consequences.

But liberal ideology has been very effective at hiding its dark side – or more accurately, at persuading us that this dark side is the consequence of liberalism’s abandonment rather than inherent to the liberal’s political project.
...

, the absolute prioritising of the individual has sanctioned a pathological self-absorption, a selfishness that has provided fertile ground not only for capitalism, materialism and consumerism but for the fusing of all of them into a turbo-charged neoliberalism. That has entitled a tiny elite to amass and squirrel away most of the planet’s wealth out of reach of the rest of humanity.

Worst of all, our rampant creativity, our self-regard and our competitiveness have blinded us to all things bigger and smaller than ourselves. We lack an emotional and spiritual connection to our planet, to other animals, to future generations, to the chaotic harmony of our universe. What we cannot understand or control, we ignore or mock.
And so the liberal impulse has driven us to the brink of extinguishing our species and possibly all life on our planet.
The loss of traditional social bonds – tribal, sectarian, geographic – has left people today more lonely, more isolated than was true of any previous human society. We may pay lip service to universal values, but in our atomised communities, we feel adrift, abandoned and angry.