Sunday, April 14, 2019

Today's Links


“The Western liberal model of development, which particularly stipulates a partial loss of national sovereignty – this is what our Western colleagues aimed at when they invented what they called globalization – is losing its attractiveness and is no more viewed as a perfect model for all. Moreover, many people in the very western countries are skeptical about it." Sergei Lavrov, Russian FM


"The United Nations is unique in terms of legitimacy, representation and universality....We consider any attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the United Nations as extremely dangerous.  It may result in the collapse of the entire architecture of international relations, leaving no rules except the rule of force. The world will be dominated by selfishness rather than collective effort, by dictate rather than equality and liberty, and instead of truly sovereign nations we will have colonies controlled from outside." V Putin, Russian President


US home ownership—ie, “the American Dream”—is so low compared to other countries that we don’t even rate in the top 35 list. And ownership is still declining.  marc ames


"WikiLeaks’ publishing of the so-called 'Vault 7' trove of the CIA is what propelled the United States government to feel like it needed to take action against the organization. william arkin


"We aren't anywhere near grasping what a baseless, moronic, & politically catastrophic decision it was to try to challenge Trump -- of all the issues he could be challenged on -- on the notion that he conspired with Russia. I am hopeful the Mueller report will help that process." aaron mate


+ Public Citizen has kindly provided this field guide to the Trump administration…

An oil lobbyist runs the DOI

A coal lobbyist runs the EPA

A pharma exec runs HHS

A Boeing exec runs DOD

A billionaire Amway heiress runs DoED

A private equity kingpin runs Commerce

A Goldman Sachs exec runs Treasury


Fair enough--Maria Zakharova, director of information for the Russian Foreign Ministry, became more passionate as she complained about what she called US inconsistencies on every issue. "The US in the last 20 years had a chance to underline and to prove the possibility to be a leader," she said. "But they failed. They had so many chances, with their military power and their economic power, but they failed in Iraq, they failed in Afghanistan, they failed in the Middle East. They did not resolve any world crisis, anywhere."


"The greatest traitor in Ecuadorian and Latin American history, Lenin Moreno, allowed the British police to enter our embassy in London to arrest Assange. Moreno is a corrupt man, but what he has done is a crime that humanity will never forget." Rafael Correa, former president of Ecuador 

1--Investigation Nation: Mueller, Russiagate, and Fake Politics

The obvious, which many people in the independent media and none in the mainstream media (because it is so obvious, and would have blown their game) have pointed out, is that any real investigation of Russiagate would have sought to talk with the principals who had direct knowledge of who is responsible for leaking the infamous DNC documents: Julian Assange and former British ambassador Craig Murray (“I know who leaked them. I’ve met the person who leaked them.”). They were essentially two undisputed eyewitnesses to the crime Mueller was supposed to be investigating, and he made no effort to talk to either of them. Ipso facto, it was not really an investigation, not a project whole purpose was to find the truth about whatever the thing called “Russiagate” is supposed to be. 


2--Nearly 80% of South Koreans Say They Trust Kim Jong Un

 One summit has changed the perceptions of a nation.

Friday’s meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong Un prompted 78 percent of respondents to a Korea Research Center poll published this week to say they trusted the North Korean leader. That’s a far cry from the 10 percent of South Koreans who said they approved of Kim in a Gallup Korea poll conducted just a month-and-a-half ago.

Support for Kim is now nearly as high as it is for Moon, who scored an 86 percent rating. The South Korean president has been enjoying the highest popularity among all South Korean presidents in history since his inauguration a year ago .

3--Turkey-US relations: Quo vadis?

New developments fuel tensions between Washington and Ankara. Despite U.S. President Donald Trump's promises to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the phone, no problem has yet gone away. Quite the contrary, the foreign policy establishment and Congress continue to try and undermine bilateral relations. Against the backdrop of strongly-worded statements on Turkey's plan to purchase the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, three anti-Turkish resolutions made their way to the Senate floor: A resolution calling for sanctions over U.S. citizens and consular officials in Turkish prisons, a resolution calling for the recognition of the 1915 events as 'genocide', and a resolution urging the United States to cooperate with Greece, Southern Cyprus and Israel in the Eastern Mediterranean (against Turkish interests).

The third resolution is quite remarkable. It not only calls for an end to Washington's decades-old arms embargo on Southern Cyprus but also urges the United States Government to strengthen its military cooperation with Greece and Southern Cyprus. It proceeds to warn Turkey not to interfere with the ongoing search for energy reserves in the area. By doing so, the resolution (as Keith Johnson stressed in his piece for Foreign Policy) presents Washington an alternative and interventionist Eastern Mediterranean policy. Instead of cooperating with Turkey to contain Russia's influence on the Eastern Mediterranean, it calls for a closer partnership with Greece, Israel, Egypt and Cyprus. At the same time, it seeks to reduce Europe's dependence on Russian energy and move the Saudi-Egyptian-Israeli-Gulf line against Iran to the Eastern Mediterranean.

The sponsors of that resolution seem to have forgotten that it was the United States that helped Moscow strengthen its influence over the Middle East by allowing the Russians to meddle in the Syrian civil war. Instead, they move to create a new, anti-Turkish order. To add insult to injury, the U.S. State Department issued a new travel advisory to warn Americans against the risk of kidnapping in Turkey......

Current tensions are unprecedented. Turkey's 70-year-old partnership with the United States has been continuously and severely losing blood since 2013. All of Turkey's diplomatic efforts have been met with anti-Turkish sentiment in Washington. That the relationship went south is not about the mismanagement of tensions. From the Turkish perspective, Washington's unwillingness to accept that Turkey, like America, must update its strategic priorities lies at the heart of the problem. The Americans seek to maintain the asymmetrical nature of the relationship by mounting constant pressure on Turkey. Moreover, Washington's short-term tactical interests are at odds with Turkey's long-term strategic interests, and the United States does not feel responsible for its ally's welfare. Instead, the Americans insist that they are right every time there is a disagreement between them and the Turks. This view gives rise to a discourteous policy that blames Turkey for all bilateral tensions. At the same time, false conclusions poison the bilateral relationship.

Here's some of the things that U.S. policymakers judged wrongly:

That arming YPG, the terrorist organization PKK's Syrian component, would not harm Turkish interests.
• That Turkey's fight against YPG would undermine America's fight against Daesh.
That there was insufficient proof of Fetullah Gülen's involvement in the 2016 coup attempt and, therefore, Gülen could not be extradited to Turkey.
• That U.S. employees, whom Turkey arrested over their alleged involvement in the coup attempt, were innocent and their treatment was not compatible with the Turkish-American alliance.
That imposing sanctions on Turkey in an attempt to destroy the Turkish economy was the right reaction.
• That bringing the perpetrators of the coup attempt to justice and adopting a new system of government were proof of Turkey's move away from democracy.
That strengthening relations between Turkey and Russia posed a threat to NATO.
• That Turkey's move to purchase the S-400 missile defense system undermined the alliance's collective security.
• That Turkey must be removed from the F-35 program and disciplined with CAATSA sanctions if it moves forward with the S-400 deal....

In the name of containing Russian and Iranian influences, the United States identifies new priorities and turns to new allies in the Middle East and the Eastern Mediterranean. In doing so, Washington throws its weight behind Turkey's adversaries and undermines the Turkish national interest.

Yet Russia's growing influence in the region, along with Turkey's rapproachement with Moscow, stemmed from U.S. foreign policy under the Obama and Trump administrations. Specifically, those administrations failed to treat Turkey like an ally. Instead, they resorted to measures otherwise reserved for adversaries, such as lending support to terrorist groups and imposing economic sanctions on the country.

Washington tells the Turks to make a decision about the S-400 missile defense system, yet merely imposes its own choice on Turkey. Unless America reverses its unilateralist and crude policy, the bilateral relationship could get out of control. What we really need is a new approach that recalls our shared strategic interests

4--Countries With the Highest Home Ownership Rates

Although Romania does not rank as a high-income economy within the European Union, it registers the highest home ownership rates in EU and has the most crowded dwellings. Romania has 96.4% of the population owning homes and comes above Singapore (90.8%), Slovakia (90.3%), Cuba (90.0%), Croatia (89.7%), Lithuania (89.4%), India (86.6%), and Hungary (86.3%). Other countries where the homeownership rate stands above 81% includes Hungary, Poland, Russia, Norway, Bulgaria, and Estonia. Countries that had between 75% and 81% of their population owning homes includes countries like Latvia, Malta, Mexico, Thailand, Spain, Czech Republic, Iceland, Slovenia, and Trinidad and Tobago. The lowest rates among the countries mentioned in the list were observed in countries like Canada (67.6%), Netherlands (67.8%), Ireland (68.6%), China (70%), Sweden (70.6%), and Belgium (71.4%). Other countries are having their population of between 72% and 75% owning homes included countries such as Luxembourg, Finland, Italy, Cyprus, Greece, Brazil, and Portugal.

5--Buyback Mania

Goldman explained that "in the past buybacks were not illegal [ZH: they were illegal prior to 1982] but were typically avoided because US companies feared government charges of market manipulation." As a result, for decades US companies returned cash to shareholders almost exclusively via dividends...

Then, everything changed in 1982 with the passage of Rule 10b-18, which provided companies a safe harbor against charges of market manipulation when repurchasing their shares.
In short, buybacks were illegal until 1982 for a reason - market manipulation - and then they gradually became mainstream, with  stock buybacks and dividends rising to 90% of the cumulative payout ratio of S&P 500 earnings in the 2002-2018 period. The cherry on top: in 2019, Goldman forecasts companies will spend a record $940 billion on buybacks (with $1.1 trillion in buyback announcements) up 16% from the prior record hit in 2018....

Q: How large is the corporate bid in the stock market?

A: US corporates have been the largest net buyers of US equity for the last decade, repurchasing $5tn+ since the financial crisis. Last year, roughly $1.1 trillion of repurchases were authorized, with about $900 billion actually repurchased. As a share of the overall trading footprint, that’s around 6-7% of average composite volume,

Q: Do you see any evidence that the corporate bid is diminishing, especially given increased focus in Washington, DC?

A: Not currently. Share repurchase authorizations are up approximately 13% yoy, which is remarkable given the surge in buybacks last year. And more broadly, the US economy continues to do reasonably well, the Fed appears to be on pause, and US-China trade negotiations are moving in the right direction. So we have little reason to believe that US corporates will not continue to generate strong free cash flow, which, as I mentioned, has historically been the primary driver of stock repurchases.

6--Brzezinski--"The end of American supremacy  7 minute video 

Expand the west to include Russia and Turkey





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