Friday, April 26, 2019

Today's links


 "Having failed to achieve regime change that would have destabilized the region, the US is punishing Syrians w/ sadistic sanctions. Now, “poverty is soaring, basic service infrastructure is damaged or destroyed, & the social fabric is strained to the limit” Max Blumenthal


   "We are at war" with Russia and President Trump "is compromised." Tom Perez, Dems leader takes aim at Russia 




1--Erdogan and the Kurds

The US Congress is threatening to block Turkey’s purchase of the F-35 fifth generation fighter plane, even though Turkey is an investor in the project. The Trump administration has also warned Ankara that it will apply the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act if Turkey buys Russian military equipment, sanctions that could damage Ankara’s already troubled economy. Turkey is officially in a recession.
The Americans are so upset about this S-400 business, that the Senate recently proposed lifting an arms embargo on Cyprus and signing energy agreements with Greece and Egypt—two of Turkey’s major regional rivals.

2--Continual Confrontation in the South China Sea

 3-- The Arrogance of Secondary Sanctions, gary leupp

The U.S. is about to arrogantly provoke great countries like China, India, Japan, South Korea and Turkey by commanding them to end all trade with Iran. Trump in his determination to fulfill a campaign promise has sabotaged the most well-negotiated and positive international agreement in many years, in essence demanding the Iranian mullahs capitulate to all U.S. demands as the price of selling petroleum.

This is explained to the masses as the U.S.” lifting sanctions waivers” on countries hitherto enjoying such grace from the U.S. as to be allowed to buy oil from a country that all countries of the world (except for the U.S., Israel and UAE) want to treat normally, not destroy. Russia cannot presently and probably never would engage in such egregious, insulting intimidation. This is a feature of “American Exceptionalism” that the world increasingly mocks. The world is tired of it. When the Europeans actively strategize to evade U.S. secondary sanctions, and warn that they threaten the Atlantic Alliance, you know they (the Europeans) are getting serious about defying this boorish Trump figure.

4--A Nation at War with Itself

Trump seems to be saying:
These House investigations constitute a massive political assault, in collusion with a hostile media, to destroy my presidency. We do not intend to cooperate in our own destruction. We are not going to play our assigned role in this scripted farce. We will resist their subpoenas all the way to November 2020. Let the people then decide the fate and future of the Trump presidency — and that of Nancy Pelosi’s House....

Whatever may be said about the “deplorables,” they are not obtuse. They do not believe that people who call them racists, sexists, nativists and bigots are friends and merely colleagues of another party or persuasion.
Trump’s defiance of subpoenas, however, will force the more moderate Democrats to join the militants in calling for hearings on impeachment in the House Judiciary Committee, which is where we are headed....

The problem for Democrats?
Attempting to overturn the election of 2016 and remove a president who has the passionate support of a third of the nation will sunder the Democratic Party base as surely as it will unite the Republicans.

5--Washington admits defeat in Afghanistan

The US officially admitted that it had lost the 18-year long war in Afghanistan. During the April 25 trilateral meeting of special representatives of President of Russia, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China and State Department of the USA on Afghanistan, the sides officially called for “an orderly and responsible withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan as part of the overall peace process.” The US de-facto called for withdrawal of its own troops and their NATO allies.

Furthermore, the US, China and Russia admitted the Taliban’s “commitement” to fight ISIS and “cut ties” with al-Qaeda and o”ther international terrorist groups.” Therefore, Washington, Beijing and Moscow largely recognized that the Taliban as a legal political power, not a terrorist group.

The three sides call for an orderly and responsible withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan as part of the overall peace process.

6--North Korea's Kim slams US for ‘bad faith’ in Hanoi talks

"The situation on the Korean peninsula and the region is now at a standstill and has reached a critical point," the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) quoted Kim as saying.
The situation "may return to its original state as the US took a unilateral attitude in bad faith at the recent second DPRK-US summit talks,” he warned.
"Peace and security on the Korean peninsula will entirely depend on the US future attitude, and the DPRK will gird itself for every possible situation," KCNA quoted Kim as saying.
Just a week ago, Pyongyang demanded the removal of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo from the stalled nuclear talks, accusing him of derailing the process....

Pyongyang has taken several steps toward the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula by suspending missile and nuclear testing, demolishing at least one nuclear test site, and agreeing to allow international inspectors into a missile engine test facility.
The US, however, has insisted that all sanctions on the North must remain in place until it completely and irreversibly dismantles its nuclear program.

7--Fed “pivot” promotes stock market surge--

In its World Economic Outlook, issued earlier this month, the International Monetary Fund reported that 70 percent of the world economy by value, that is the advanced economies, were experiencing decelerating growth, after an upturn in 2017.

Such was the slowdown that the IMF said global growth prospects for 2020 depended on emerging and developing economies, specifically citing Turkey and Argentina, both beset by currency and debt problems, as crucial.

The key factor in the market turnaround has been the 180-degree “pivot” by the US Federal Reserve, together with the European Central Bank (ECB) and others, from seeking to gradually “normalise” monetary policy and lift interest rates, to initiating a new round of financial stimulus.

In 2018, in response to increased US growth and what appeared to be a world upturn, the US Fed made four interest rate hikes of 0.5 percentage points each. It also indicated it would wind down its holdings of financial assets, accumulated during the quantitative easing program following the 2008 financial crash, at the rate of $50 billion a month...

The essence of the post-2009 era is that central banks now provide the underpinning for accumulation of profit via financial market operations and speculation. Nothing like this has ever been seen in the history of global capitalism. Far from representing a strength, it shows that the disease which led to the 2008 crash has not been cured. It has simply mutated to assume even more dangerous forms.

The precarious structure of the entire system was highlighted by Steve Blitz, an analyst at the financial research firm TS Lombard, cited by Mackenzie. According to Blitz, the December turmoil could be thought of as “dress rehearsal” and “we are left with an economy that can ill-afford the loss of wealth from a bear market and with market structures unable to handle a massive reversal in the flow of investment monies.”

Apart from the underwriting of the financial markets by the Fed and other central banks, the other main factor in the rise of stock prices is the growing use of share buybacks. In a bygone era, such measures were considered to be market manipulation. They are now standard operating procedure.

According to calculations by the economist William Lazonick, between 2007 and 2016, the S&P 500 companies spent 96 percent of their profits to finance share buybacks and pay dividends, a process that has continued since then. This gives the lie to the claim that the Trump administration’s corporate tax cuts would lead to increased investments, greater production and higher wages
The outcome of the measures implemented since 2008 is the establishment of a financial mechanism by which the wealth created by the labour of the working class is sucked up and deposited in the hands of the banks, hedge funds, finance houses and their owners.
Karl Marx’s analysis that the inherent logic of the capitalist system was the creation of wealth at one pole of society and poverty and misery at the other was once denounced as a wild exaggeration, refuted by the course of events.

Today it is a living reality.

The majority of American workers have not experienced a rise in their real wages in more than three decades. At the same time, executives of large US companies last year received more than 254 times the compensation of their median employees, with about one in ten earning 1,000 times as much. Forty years ago, the ratio was under 30.

The much-vaunted low unemployment figures in the US reveal the same trend. A study by Harvard economist Lawrence Katz and Princeton economist Alan Krueger at the end of 2016 found that 94 percent of the 10 million jobs created during the Obama administration were temporary, contract or part-time positions. As a result, such workers comprised almost 16 percent of the workforce.
The rise and rise of the stock market is not an indication of economic health. It is rather a fever chart of a coming financial and economic meltdown that will be accompanied by an explosion of class struggle.

8--Hillary Clinton’s McCarthyite rant--Clinton emerges as a serious threat to democracy

The “Red Menace” was the pretext for attacking and delegitimizing all manifestations of social and political opposition, including the Civil Rights movement, as the work of “outside agitators” who received their orders from Moscow. It was Martin Dies, the Democratic congressman from Texas and initiator of the witch-hunting House Un-American Activities Committee, who declared in his 1940 book The Trojan Horse in America that Moscow had “envisioned an unusual opportunity to create racial hatred between the white and Negro citizens of the United States.”...

Nothing is dead in politics. The legacy of McCarthyism is now being revived by the campaign led by the Democratic Party and summed up in a hysterical screed published Wednesday in the Washington Post by Hillary Clinton, the self-professed former “Goldwater girl,” under the headline, “Mueller documented a serious crime against all Americans. Here’s how to respond.”

According to Clinton, “Our election was corrupted, our democracy assaulted, our sovereignty and security violated. This is the definitive conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report.” The perpetrator again is Russia, which Clinton, citing the Mueller report, claims has carried out a “sweeping and systematic” attack on the United States.

The Clinton narrative, which is the official line of the Democratic Party, is a monumental lie. Responsibility for Clinton’s defeat in the 2016 elections is attributed entirely to the operations of Russian bots and “Guccifer 2.0,” the persona of the individual who supposedly hacked Democratic Party emails. Her campaign, Clinton writes, was the “target of a Russian plot,” directed by President Vladimir Putin, who “seeks to weaken our country.”...

And what did this new “conspiracy so immense” actually involve? According to the Mueller report itself, organizations associated with Russia allegedly spent $100,000 on Facebook ads. This is 0.12 percent of the $81 million spent by the Democratic and Republican election campaigns themselves on Facebook ads, in a campaign dominated by the $5 billion spent by the billionaire backers of the two parties to buy the election.

As for the release of Democratic Party emails, even if one accepts the unsubstantiated claim that it was Russian operatives who turned them over to WikiLeaks, what the emails revealed were true facts about the operations of Clinton and the Democratic National Committee (DNC)—facts that the electorate had every right to know. Among the documents released were Clinton’s speeches to Goldman Sachs and other banks, for which she was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars. Other leaked emails exposed the corrupt efforts of the DNC to rig the primaries against Bernie Sanders.

Clinton lost in the 2016 elections because the Democratic Party, in line with the class interests it represents, made a calculated decision not to raise any social issues or make any appeal to the working class in its campaign against Trump. Do Clinton and company really expect the public to believe that Facebook ads put out by Russian agents were behind the collapse in voter turnout in working-class areas of Michigan, Wisconsin and other states?...

The victory of the billionaire demagogue Trump was the result of widespread disillusionment with the Democratic Party after eight years of the Obama administration, which broke every campaign promise and exposed as lies the empty prattle about “hope” and “change.” Obama focused his energies on bailing out Wall Street and shoring up the wealth of the corporate and financial elite.
Clinton wants a bipartisan foreign policy that is “fearless” in its aggression against not only Russia, but also China. “Unless checked, the Russians will interfere again in 2020, and possibly other adversaries, such as China or North Korea, will as well,” she warns. Unless Trump is “held accountable, the president will likely redouble his efforts to advance Putin’s agenda, including rolling back sanctions, weakening NATO and undermining the European Union.”...

The September 11 attacks—a terrorist atrocity that killed nearly 3,000 people—were followed by the Patriot Act, the Homeland Security Department, the Northern Command, domestic spying, Guantanamo Bay, the institution of torture and drone assassinations as government policy, and other crimes. The campaign of the Democrats over the Russian “attack”—a lie fashioned from whole cloth—has been accompanied by far-reaching moves to censor the internet under the guise of combating “fake news.”..

All of this further demonstrates that in the conflict between Trump and the Democratic Party there is no progressive or democratic faction. The anti-Russia narrative has not been challenged by any section of the Democratic Party, including Bernie Sanders, who is again seeking to cover up this warmongering party with a thin veneer of social reforms that it has no intention of implementing.

The conflict between the Democrats and the Trump administration is a conflict between two reactionary factions of the ruling class. All those political organizations and groups that are seeking to direct social opposition behind the Democratic Party are playing the most criminal role. They are no less terrified than Trump and the Democrats of the development of a genuine socialist movement of the working class, which will oppose American capitalism and its wars.

9--US senators visit S. Korea to reiterate denuclearization must come before sanctions relief--  Top Democrats reiterate Bolton ultimatum


Both senators expressed support for President Donald Trump’s “no deal” decision regarding the Hanoi talks.....

The position among US politicians and the US public that sanctions against North Korea cannot be relieved until it takes significant and concrete steps toward denuclearization was reiterated by Democratic Party Senators Chris Coons and Maggie Hassan on Apr. 24 following a two-day visit to South Korea – one of numerous recent visits by US Senators.

Coons and Hassan also said the South Korean government stressed the absence of any differences with the US in terms of its approach to North Korea issues. A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who has shown a particular interest in the North Korean nuclear issue and other North Korea-related matters, Coons spoke with reporters that afternoon at the Grand Hyatt Seoul hotel. “I don't think it's appropriate for [North Korea and the US] to have some big breakthrough that is based on our offering sanctions relief to North Korea without North Korea taking significant, concrete steps,” he said. His remarks came in response to a question concerning ways of achieving progress in denuclearization talks amid the failure to narrow the difference in views between Pyongyang, which wants sanction relief, and Washington, which insists that no sanctions relief can be provided until complete denuclearization takes place. Hassan also stressed, “You can't reward DPRK for, again, just showing up and stating intentions [to denuclearize].” “[T]his [concrete denuclearization process] really has to start with concrete proposals, and real action steps from the DPRK,” she added....

 When asked for his opinion on President Moon Jae-in’s idea of using the resumption of operations at the Kaesong Industrial Complex and/or tourism at Mt. Kumgang as an incentive for North Korea in the denuclearization process, Coons said, “There will be some confidence-building measures, but not relief of sanctions.”

Regarding the North Korea-Russia summit on Apr. 25, Coons said, “[I]t would be a great disappointment for [Russian President Vladimir] Putin to again insert himself in a way that's unhelpful in terms of the global pursuit of counter-proliferation and peace.” “it is my real hope that they'll have a positive meeting, but it will not result in sanctions avoidance or weakening of the global regime in opposition to North Korea's nuclear weapons program,” he said. Both senators also underscored that the aim of their South Korea visit was to “reinforce the importance of the US-South Korea alliance.”


10--Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro: This Country Must Not Become a ‘Gay Tourism Paradise


Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reportedly declared that the country must not turn into a “gay tourism paradise” on Thursday, The Guardian reports. “If you want to come here and have sex with a woman, go for your life,” Bolsonaro was quoted as saying during a breakfast meeting with reporters. “But we can’t let this place become known as a gay tourism paradise. Brazil can’t be a country of the gay world, of gay tourism. We have families.” The remarks sparked immediate backlash with Brazil's LGBT community. “This is not a head of state—this is a national disgrace,” congressman and LGBT activist David Miranda said. Miranda, who is the husband of journalist Glenn Greenwald, also claimed the remark put “a target” on the backs of the LGBT community and encouraged the exploitation of women. Renan Quinalha, lawyer and activist, told the newspaper Bolsonaro’s remark gave a “green light to already alarming levels of violence against the LGBT community” and reinforced his homophobic image. Bolsonaro reportedly previously said he was happy to flaunt his anti-LGBT views. “Yes, I’m homophobic—and very proud of it,” he was quoted as saying.

 11---After losing the war, the US is now strangling the economy

The road to Damascus from the Lebanese border leaves nobody in doubt who has won the war that’s cast a dark shadow over the Middle East for eight years. “Welcome to victorious Syria,” a billboard says with a picture of a beaming President Bashar al-Assad superimposed over the country’s red, white and black flag.
Instead of a frenzy of reconstruction and the promise of revival, Syrians have found themselves fighting another battle. Weary and traumatized from the violence, they’re focused on trying to survive in a decimated economy that shows no signs of imminent revival and with no peace dividend on the horizon.

Robert Ford, a former U.S. ambassador to Syria, said the Trump administration is much more aggressive than under Barack Obama, using more secondary penalties that target those doing business with sanctioned individuals or companies.
In November, the U.S. Treasury Department added a network of Russian and Iranian companies to its blacklist for shipping oil to Syria and warned of significant risks for those violating the sanctions.
“It is a conscious policy of the American government to try to strangle to death the Iranian government in Tehran and the Syrian government in Damascus,” said Ford, who’s now a fellow at the Middle East Institute. “They don’t want to fight a military war with the Syrian government, but they’re perfectly willing to fight an economic war.”
Ford likened the situation in Syria to the one in Cuba after the economy collapsed in the Soviet Union in the late 1980s. Cuba had financial difficulties, “but the Castros are still there,” he said

 12--Washington's sanctions on venezuela--Death by disease and starvation

The sanctions reduced the public’s caloric intake, increased disease and mortality (for both adults and infants), and displaced millions of Venezuelans who fled the country as a result of the worsening economic depression and hyperinflation. They exacerbated Venezuela’s economic crisis and made it nearly impossible to stabilize the economy, contributing further to excess deaths. All of these impacts disproportionately harmed the poorest and most vulnerable Venezuelans.

Even more severe and destructive than the broad economic sanctions of August 2017 were the sanctions imposed by executive order on January 28, 2019 and subsequent executive orders this year; and the recognition of a parallel government, which as shown below, created a whole new set of financial and trade sanctions that are even more constricting than the executive orders themselves.

We find that the sanctions have inflicted, and increasingly inflict, very serious harm to human life and health, including an estimated more than 40,000 deaths from 2017–2018; and that these sanctions would fit the definition of collective punishment of the civilian population as described in both the Geneva and Hague international conventions, to which the US is a signatory. They are also illegal under international law and treaties which the US has signed, and would appear to violate US law as well.

 13---archived lies from the NYT--2017--Trump campaign aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence 

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications around the same time they were discovering evidence that Russia was trying to disrupt the presidential election by hacking into the Democratic National Committee, three of the officials said. The intelligence agencies then sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.

The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.

But the intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin. At one point last summer, Mr. Trump said at a campaign event that he hoped Russian intelligence services had stolen Hillary Clinton’s emails and would make them publi

14-- Zbigniew Brzezinski on Iran

zbigniew--when a country is about to be destroyed economically, the people unite behind the government
can you imagine what the consequences for us would be if the afgahan conflict expanded because of the iranians, if iraq was massively destabilized, if bahrain was set on fire, if the oil fields in saudi arabia were attacked, 
i would not bruing it to the point where their only choice is collision or capitulation, because I think that will precipitate an explosion

15--The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has already been reshaping the world, fundamentally....

Entire huge railroad projects in East Africa as well as in the once devastated Laos (devastated by the insanely brutal Western carpet-bombing campaigns, which are still called a “Secret War”) are now connecting continents. Along the railway lines, schools are growing, and so are medical facilities, community learning centers and cultural institutions....

The BRI is not only about the economy, not only about infrastructure and development, it also about the well-being of the people, about the culture, health and knowledge. It is aiming at connecting people of different races, life philosophies, and beliefs....

And so, in Washington and London, and in so many other centers of Western might, thousands of ‘professionals’ are now employed and busy smearing China and its most ambitious international (and internationalist) projects. Smearing and spreading nihilism is an extremely well-paid job, and for as long as China is rising and the West declining, it appears to be a permanent one. There will be no deficit when it comes to funding all those anti-Chinese ‘academic reports’, fake analyses and articles.

In his essay “China’s road to a win-win ahead of BRI forum”published by the Asia Times, renowned Brazilian analyst Pepe Escobar wrote:
“Relentless reports that the New Silk Roads, or the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), are a perfidious neo-imperial debt trap set up by Yellow Peril 2.0 are vastly exaggerated. 
Beijing clinched a proverbial showering of BRI deals with 17 Arab nations, including Egypt, Lebanon and Oman. Not by accident, the forum this year was called Build the Belt and Road, Share Development and Prosperity. Up to 2018, 21 Arab nations had signed BRI memoranda of understanding.
These nations are not only BRI partners, but 12 of them also went for strategic partnerships with China…”
Little wonder why!...

In Washington, London and Paris, they love to say: “we are all the same”. Such ‘logic’ washes out their crimes. It means: “everyone is as greedy and brutal as we are”. But no, we are not the same! Cultures are different, on all corners of the globe. Some countries are expansionist, aggressive and obsessed with self-righteousness as well as complexes of superiority. Some are not. China is not. It never was. It never will be. If attacked or antagonized, it defends itself; and if threatened in the future, it will defend itself again. But it does not build its wealth on plunder, and on the corpses of the others, as the West has been doing for long centuries.

BRI is the exact contrast to the Western colonialism and imperialism. I say it not because I am defending some theory on these pages, but because I have seen the Chinese ‘New Silk Road’ in action, in places where I have lived and worked: Asia, the Middle East, Oceania, Latin America and Africa. In places where almost no one dares or cares to go: except for those few tough and ‘insane’ individuals like myself, and for the Chinese internationalists! I know such places intimately. Places where local people are almost never given an opportunity to speak; they never appear on the pages of the Western mass media, or on television screens, or in reports such as the one published by CNAS

16--Joe Biden won't get Obama's endorsement 

17--John Bolton sent out the following tweet yesterday ahead of the rumored Israeli attack on Lebanon this summer that will target civilians


Today’s @StateDept announcement that they will be offering up to $10M for information on Hizballah’s global financial networks is another example of how the U.S. is continuing to expand the scope and scale of our maximum pressure campaign against Iran and its proxies.

Hezbollah’s track record on terror is largely speculative. There is no evidence the group kidnapped the president of the American University in Beirut, Davis S. Dodge, or is there conclusive evidence it attacked the US embassy in Beirut or truck bombed a US military barracks in Lebanon. A number of other murders, bombings, and airplane hijackings have been attributed to Hezbollah, again with scant evidence. However, for the neocons, evidence is not required. Big Lies suffice. 

History is, of course, left out of the equation. Hezbollah was formed after Israel invaded Lebanon (to steal its water) and began imprisoning and torturing Shi’a Muslims, most notoriously at the Khiam detention center (see this Amnesty International report on the torture and ill-treatment of detainees at the Khiam facility). 
Hezbollah is now an integral component of the Lebanese government and removing it wholesale from politics will prove to be impossible short of killing just about every Shi’a in Lebanon.

The excuse for starving babies to death and bombing wedding parties? It’s all part of the US-Israeli effort to control access to oil and confront Iran. 

According to Breitbart’s Joel B. Pollak:

Yemen sits on the eastern side of the Bab el-Mandeb strait a key shipping lane for traffic through the Suez Canal. The U.S. Navy has a major base across the strait, in Djibouti—as do many other countries, including China. Allowing an Iranian proxy to command the eastern side of the strait, across from a crucial U.S. Navy asset that helps control piracy and terror, and where China is challenging U.S. dominance, would be foolish to the point of lunacy.

It’s safe to say the MAGA crowd is right up there with the neocons. They are enthusiastic about murder, theft, starvation, disease, and the destruction of societies. 
Boss Trump promised to “bomb the shit” out of civilians and steal oil from Iraq and Syria to pay for the wars of his predecessors. He acted as salesman of the month for the military-industrial-security complex. 
The takeaway from the Trump administration is clear—it hardly matters who is in the White House, the agenda remains the same: forever war, rendition and torture (the awaited fate of Julian Assange), neoliberal debt schemes and strip mining of natural resources, and the ability to convince a dumbed-down and politically illiterate public through interminable propaganda that mass murder and “creative destruction” are in their best interest and represent the hallmark of “democracy.”


Stealth candidate Michelle Obama

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