Friday, November 29, 2019

Today's Links

"Pete Buttigieg says he worked on “war zone economic development” in Afghanistan and Iraq, and operated out of an Iraqi “safe house.” Beyond that, his work for McKinsey in both countries remains secret." max blumenthal (Is Mayor Pete CIA?)

 

 

 

 

1--In Syria tensions persist in the territories that are not controlled by Damascus.


Efforts to stabilise the situation in line with the Russian-Turkish Memorandum of October 22, 2019 continue in the country’s northeast. Russia and Turkey jointly patrol the Syrian-Turkish border on a regular basis. In addition, efforts are taken to reduce tensions along the perimeter of the zone of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring.

However, the situation to the east of the Euphrates has become much more complicated due to the revival of the ISIS sleeping cells and the growth of terrorist attacks against Kurdish units. The actions of the United States, which decided to remain at the oil fields and rob Syria of its national wealth, are not conducive to firm stability and security in northeast Syria, either....

We consistently advocate the restoration of Syria’s unity and territorial integrity on the basis of dialogue between Damascus and the Kurds, as well as other ethnic groups to the east of the Euphrates (Arab tribes, Assyrians, Armenians and others). The goal is to overcome internal differences and ensure reliable consolidation of Syrian society. We proceed from the need for fair account and protection of the interests of all ethnic and religious groups in Syria, without any discrimination or suppression of rights.

In addition, we note that the Syrian Constitutional Committee continues its work. The second session of the Committee’s drafting commission opened in Geneva on November 25. The commission consists of 45 representatives of the Government, the opposition and civic society.
We consider it necessary to support the process of political settlement of the Syrian crisis by invigorating comprehensive international humanitarian assistance to that country without any politicisation or discrimination. In particular, this will facilitate voluntary and safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons to their homes. Over 476,000 refugees and 1.3 million IDPs have already returned home since the launch of the relevant Russian initiative in July 2018...

On December 10-11, Nur-Sultan will host the 14th international meeting on Syria in the Astana format. It will be attended by representatives of the guarantor countries (Russia, Iran and Turkey), delegations of the Syrian Government and the Syrian opposition, observers (UN, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon) and experts of the UNHCR and the ICRC. By tradition, the agenda of the meeting covers a broad range of issues, including the discussion of the situation on the ground, ways to improve the humanitarian situation, assistance in the return of Syrians, steps to promote the political process and confidence measures, including the release of persons held by force

2--Trump signs Hong Kong “democracy” bill


Entitled the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act”—and passed by the US Congress with only one dissenting voice in the House of Representatives, making it veto-proof—the legislation has nothing to do with either....

Its chief significance lies in creating the political climate, under the banner of “human rights” and “democracy,” for additional US economic measures against China, and possibly military action in the future.
The signing of the legislation was hailed by leaders on both sides of the aisle.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, said she was “pleased” that Trump had signed off on the legislation. She claimed that the US was sending a message that it stands in solidarity with the people of Hong Kong, invoking the bogus “human rights” rhetoric that forms the basis for US interventions around the world....

The editorial asserted that competition with China was over not only the South China Sea or trade, but was between “China’s illiberal, authoritarian system and the values of democracy and a rules-based order for which the United States must be a leading exponent and guardian.”

What is meant by “democracy and a rules-based order” is a global geo-economic and political system under the hegemony of the US. Under this system, any potential challenges to American dominance, such as economic and technological advances by China, are to be crushed by whatever means are considered necessary, with expressions of concern over “democracy and human rights” providing the ideological gloss.

3--Brookings Institution study finds a staggering 44 percent of US workers earn low wages

By Jessica Goldstein
29 November 2019
The November 2019 report from the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution titled Meet the Low-Wage Workforce, co-authored by Nicole Bateman and Martha Ross, paints a devastating picture of the reality of working class life in the world’s wealthiest country. The study concentrates on the years following the so-called “economic recovery” championed by former US Democratic President Barack Obama after the Great recession of 2009-2011

The report opens by stating, “As globalization and automation reshape the labor market, workers today must navigate a changing economic landscape...Low-wage workers risk becoming collateral damage, struggling to find their footing in the labor market and an educational system riddled with inequities.”

The study defines low-wage workers as those earning less than $16.03 per hour on average across the US. The study found that low-wage workers comprise a shocking 44 percent of US workforce aged 18-64...

According to the study, the largest metropolitan areas have the highest numbers of low-wage workers: 3.5 million in the New York City area, 2.7 million in the Los Angeles region, 1.6 million in Chicago, and about 1.2 million each in Dallas, Miami, and Houston. In less populous areas, low-wage workers make up a larger percentage of the workforce, particularly in the southern and western US. Areas with some of the highest concentrations of low-wage workers are located near the US southern borders and coastlines.

Data was gathered from the US Census Bureau’s 2012-2016 American Community Survey 5-Year Public Use Microdata Sample for workers aged 18-64 who worked at any point during the year and did not exclude part-time or seasonal workers. It excluded graduate and professional students, high school students living at home, college students living in dormitories, and those who received self-employment income. Workers with “very low” wages were also excluded, as were those who worked more than 98 hours per week. Had these groups been included there is a possibility that the number of workers considered low wage in the US is actually higher..

the findings of the study taken as a whole demonstrate that in capitalist society, the fundamental divisions between the classes are widening and the standard of living for the working class as a whole is rapidly declining. This only underscores the need to unify workers across racial lines in opposition to the promotion of race-based proposals by the Democratic Party, which serve to divide the working class and prevent any challenge to monopolization of society’s resources by the corporate and financial elite....

The United States has the highest level of income inequality of any advanced country in the world. With inflation taken into account, real wages for the working class in the US remain below pre-recession levels. Furthermore, while worker productivity sharply increased, total income for working class families has been falling since 1979 as corporate profits have inversely shot up.
This includes wages for college graduates, whose hourly wages have dropped significantly since 2000, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

The study itself does not challenge the capitalist system of exploitation in any way. But the transformation of the American Dream into a nightmare for the working class, is driving more and more workers and young people to turn towards a socialist alternative to the profit system. Seventy percent of young people in the US now say that they are likely to vote for socialists

4--Trump’s war crime pardons: Cultivating a fascistic base in the military

27 November 2019
The extraordinary and repeated interventions by President Donald Trump in the case of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, culminating in Sunday’s firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, has further laid bare the deep-going crisis at the heart of the US capitalist state and its massive military apparatus.

Gallagher was charged by his fellow SEALs with war crimes and acts of sadistic violence that stood out as egregious even in the bloodbath unleashed against the Iraqi city of Mosul, where, according to one estimate, as many as 40,000 people were killed. He was accused of picking off civilians, including a young girl, with a sniper rifle and stabbing to death a wounded teenaged Iraqi fighter, even as a SEAL medic was treating him. He then texted out a photo of himself with the corpse, along with the caption, “Got him with my hunting knife.” Not coincidentally, Gallagher’s nickname among fellow SEALs was “Blade.”..

After he was convicted only on the lesser charge of posing with the corpse of his victim—thanks to the change in testimony of the SEAL medic, who now faces perjury charges—Trump pardoned him and ordered the Navy to withdraw its minimal penalty of reducing him by one rank and cutting his pay accordingly.
Finally, in the action that led to the Navy secretary’s firing, Trump demanded that a routine review board to determine whether Gallagher should be removed from the SEALs be called off. With the president as his champion and a defense team made up of close associates of the Trump Organization and Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, Gallagher, who is to retire before the end of the month, felt free to publicly berate his senior officers.

Trump’s unprecedented micro-managing and overruling of the military justice system has escalated tensions between the White House and the Pentagon command, which were already strained by his abrupt and abortive order for a partial troop withdrawal from Syria.

Gallagher is one of four members of the US military charged with war crimes whom Trump has pardoned over the last few months, two of them for summarily executing unarmed prisoners and then trying to cover up their crimes by burning the bodies, and one for ordering troops to fire upon and kill Afghans who he knew were unarmed.

Speaking to the White House press corps on Monday, Trump hailed Gallagher as “one of our ultimate fighters” and insisted, “I have to protect my warfighters.” He declared that he was “sticking up for our armed forces.”

With the case of Gallagher and the other pardoned war criminals, he is feeding a narrative that the “warfighters” have been held back by a “politically correct” political establishment and even an insufficiently bloodthirsty Pentagon command.

It is a variation on the stab-in-the-back myth propagated by the right wing in Germany in the wake of World War I, blaming the country’s defeat on the betrayal of the army by civilians, particularly socialists and Jews. This myth became a central ideological pillar of the so-called Freikorps, armed militias comprised of ex-soldiers, which were unleashed against the German working class, killing thousands in order to crush revolutions. It likewise was an essential component of Nazi ideology.

Trump has reportedly told his closest advisers that he wants the war criminals he has pardoned to join him on the campaign trail in 2020 and even play a starring role in the Republican convention. Clearly, the aim of these pardons is not only to encourage war crimes abroad, but to build up right-wing forces to be used against the working class at home. He is encouraging the creation of a Freikorps, American style.

5--‘Evo Morales Is Like a Father to Us’ (Evil NYTs feigns support for Morales)


In the coca-growing region where the former Bolivian president got his political start, farmers are loyal to him — and demanding his return

For the 50,000 local coca farming families, the ousting of Mr. Morales represents more than the end of a government that gave them a political voice and vast improvements in infrastructure, education and health. It is a threat to the peace that Mr. Morales, called Evo by everyone here, brought to this stigmatized and violent region.

“It’s tough being here, while our crops rot in the fields,” said Serafino Oliveros, a coca farmer, while perched under a six-foot wet tarp with four union companions. “But we understand that this is a necessary sacrifice so that our children have the same rights we had under Evo.”

6--Trump Threw This Mission Into Chaos. The Military Is Scrambling To Save It.

 

 NYT celebrates the sabotaging of Trump's "withdrawal" policy.

"The military is scrambling to save a mission that Trump has thrown into chaos."

 (Revealing NYTs video suggesting the Military tricked Trump into keeping troops in syria by saying they must protect the oil "The plan worked", according to the Times

"Clearly the plan's message (Trump) "We are getting out of the endless wars", is being reinterpreted on the ground. (General) "The mission still continues. We will be in bases from Deir Ezzor to Qamisili to derik, and all thru that expansive area."

"What we saw was not a military in retreat. What we saw was a military displaying its beefed up arsenal. ...evidence that for the US, the war is going to last a little longer here".


7--Confused analysis? NYTs makes the case that a group on the Stat

department's list of terrorist organisations should be defended against long-time NATO ally, Turkey

 

"Turkey defends its incursion by saying these fighters are terrorists (YPG) They are in fact linked to a Kurdish guerilla group that has launched attacks within Turkey. But in the last 5 years, they have been the footsoldiers in the fight against ISIS." NYT video 


8--Yes, There Were FBI Informants, But They Were Paid by the CIA by Larry C Johnson


The internet was abuzz on Thanksgiving Eve with a report by the New York Times, Review is Expected to Undercut Trump Claim of FBI Spying. Here is the lede:
The F.B.I. never tried to place undercover agents or informants inside the Trump campaign, a highly anticipated inspector general’s report is expected to find.

Apparently, someone never informed the New York Times editors that they were reporting on a review of an FBI application, which was granted by a court, to SPY on at least one person affiliated with the Trump campaign. Ignore that piece of journalistic incompetence. In the same article, buried in the 14th paragraph is this inconvenient fact (the NY Times editor must have been stoned):

The F.B.I. did have an undercover agent who posed as Mr. Halper’s assistant during a London meeting with Mr. Papadopoulos in August 2016. And indeed, another Trump adviser, Peter Navarro, reportedly pushed Mr. Halper for an ambassadorship in the Trump administration.

The New York Times is simply doing preemptive spinning about the Horowitz Report without actually knowing what the conclusions are. It would not surprise me to learn that known FBI informants were not spying on the Trump campaign at the direction of the FBI. Nope. It is highly likely that paid FBI informants were spying on the Trump campaign under the auspices of the CIA. Since Inspector General Horowitz has no purview or authority to investigate the CIA, he will (and has) punt that issue to Prosecutor John Durham. Therefore, a conclusion that the FBI was not dispatching known FBI confidential human sources to spy on the Tump campaign is not proof that no spying occurred. As they say in Paris, au contraire...

My previous piece on the secret CIA Task Force set up by John Brennan was mistaken in citing "early 2016" as the date it was started. I have now learned that Brennan's Task Force began  in the late summer/early fall of 2015. It is worth noting that the Washington Post, not exactly a pro-Trump outlet, also reported that Brenna set up a secret task force comprised of CIA, FBI and NSA personnel. The Post simply failed to provide a date when the Task Force started operating:
 
John Brennan convened a secret task force at CIA headquarters composed of several dozen analysts and officers from the CIA, the NSA and the FBI.
The unit functioned as a sealed compartment, its work hidden from the rest of the intelligence community. Those brought in signed new non-disclosure agreements to be granted access to intelligence from all three participating agencies.

 

 










Thursday, November 28, 2019

Today's links

The fake "left"?? 

How depressing is it that Fox News has done more coverage of whistleblowers accusing OPCW of suppressing evidence in a Syria chemical weapons probe than ? (zero coverage, not even a mention) (). aaron mate

 

 

 

1--Roger Waters: Detention of lawyer taking on big oil ‘a dark day for American jurisprudence’--He beat Chevron, so he must pay

 

Donziger first made a name for himself by representing activists behind some 30,000 indigenous Ecuadorians in a 1993 lawsuit against Texaco, which had drilled for oil in the country’s Lago Agrio oil field since 1967. Though Texaco – later bought by Chevron – handed control of the field over to the Ecuadorian government, locals claim the company spilled billions of gallons of petroleum waste into the rainforest around Lago Agrio, destroying the ecosystem, contaminating their water supply, and spiking cancer rates.

When the Chevron case was thrown out of a US court, Donziger brought it to Ecuador, and celebrities like Waters – along with Sting, Danny Glover and Cher – lent their support. A documentary about the case, entitled ‘Crude’, was released in 2009 and won multiple awards. It portrayed Donziger as an imposing, larger-than-life figure giving a voice to the voiceless and taking on the megalithic power of the oil industry.

Donziger won. In 2011, an Ecuadorian judge ruled against Chevron, ordering the petro-giant to pay $18 billion in damages, later reduced to $9.5 billion. Any jubilation was short lived, however. Chevron alleged that Donziger bribed judges and ghostwrote the judgment against it, and countersued the liberal lawyer, citing anti-racketeering law more commonly used to prosecute criminal organization

2--Stress test for Boeing’s new 777X model tore massive hole in fuselage, released images suggest

 

3--Iran to help rebuild Syria

 

Iran and Syria have signed a new agreement to fast-track reconstruction of the Arab country which is devastated by eight years of a foreign-orchestrated war.
Syrian Minister of Public Works and Housing Suhail Mohammad Abdul Latif said in Tehran Tuesday that the priority for Damascus is to consign Syria’s rebuilding to friendly countries, foremost Iran.
“Our approach to rebuilding Syria is to prioritize Iranian friends,” he said, Fars news agency reported.

Chairman of Iran’s Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture Gholamhussein Shafei said Iranian companies will build 30,000 residential units in Syria.

4--New Study: "Russian Trolls" Did Not "Sow Discord" - They Influenced No One

 

5--Trump threatens to designate Mexican cartels as “terrorists”

By Andrea Lobo
28 November 2019
US President Donald Trump threatened to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations on Tuesday, a step that would open the door for US military operations on Mexican soil.

“I’ve been working on that for the last 90 days,” he said in a radio interview with Bill O’Reilly. “Designation is not that easy, you have to go through a process, and we are well into that process.”


The US annexed half of Mexico’s territory in the Mexican-American war of 1846–48 and invaded Mexico in 1916–17 in a failed attempt to capture “Pancho” Villa during the Mexican Revolution. During the 1980s, the US carried out widespread military operations in Central America against left-wing guerrillas, including making deals with drug cartels to arm the CIA-organized “contras” attacking Nicaragua.

6--Social counterrevolution and the decline in US life expectancy


Life expectancy increased annually from 1959 until it stopped rising in 2010, plateauing at zero growth before beginning its descent after 2014, when it peaked at 78.9 years. By 2017, life expectancy had fallen to 78.6 years.

Not coincidentally, 2010 was also the year that Obamacare was signed into law an attack on health care sold as a progressive reform. The decline in life expectancy since then exposes Obamacare’s regressive character, only one of the reactionary legacies of the Obama administration.

Obamacare was part of a deliberate drive by the ruling class to lower the life expectancy of working people. As far as the strategists of American capitalism are concerned, the longer the lifespan of elderly and retired workers, who no longer produce profits for the corporations but require government-subsidized medical care to deal with health issues, the greater the sums that are diverted from the coffers of the rich and the military machine....

A 2013 paper by Anthony H. Cordesman of the Washington think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) frankly presented the increasing longevity of ordinary Americans as an immense crisis for US imperialism. “The US does not face any foreign threat as serious as its failure to come to grips with… the rise in the cost of federal entitlement spending,” Cordesman wrote, saying the debt crisis was driven “almost exclusively by the rise in federal spending on major health care programs, Social Security, and the cost of net interest on the debt.”

in the early 1980s, corresponds to the initiation of the social counterrevolution by the administration of Ronald Reagan, which involved union busting, strikebreaking, wage-cutting and plant closings on a nationwide scale, combined with cuts in education, health care and other social programs. This was launched with the breaking of the PATCO air traffic controllers’ strike in 1981, carried out with the complicity of the AFL-CIO. Reagan’s social policies were rapidly adopted by the Democrats and continued by the Clinton and Obama administrations.

The second major inflection point was the Wall Street crash of 2008, which was followed by trillions in bailouts for the banks on the one hand and brutal austerity against the working class on the other. The ensuing decade has seen the explosion of the opioid crisis, which has ravaged communities across the United States.

According to the JAMA report, the decrease in life expectancy is the outcome of nearly three decades of increasing mortality among midlife working-age adults, those 25-64. This is mainly the result of a dramatic rise in drug overdoses, alcohol abuse, suicide and a series of organ system diseases....

“The history of when this health trend started happens to coincide with when these economic shifts began—the loss of manufacturing jobs and closure of steel mills and auto plants.”...

The Amazonifaction of work and the growth of the “gig economy” in the last decade have dramatically increased the exploitation of the working class. Workers are driven to powerful painkillers including oxycontin and opioids simply to cope with the injuries and illnesses that result from overwork.

7--MSM Spins OPCW Leak As Russian Disinfo, Caitlin Johnstone


8--US primes NATO to confront Russia, China


, the trend at the NATO foreign ministers’ meeting at Brussels on November 19-20, in the run-up to the London summit, showed that despite growing differences within the alliance, member states closed ranks around three priority items in the US global agenda — escalation of the aggressive policy toward Russia, militarisation of space and countering China’s rise....

 

Washington has been urging the NATO to officially identify China’s rise as a long-term challenge. According to media reports, the Brussels meeting acceded to the US demand and decided to officially begin military surveillance of China. ...

 

Addressing a meeting of the Russian Federation Security Council on November 22, Putin said, “There are many uncertainty factors… competition and rivalry are growing stringer and morphing into new forms… The leading countries are actively developing their offensive weapons… the so-called ‘nuclear club’ is receiving new members, as we all know. We are also seriously concerned about the NATO infrastructure approaching our borders, as well as the attempts to militarise outer space.” 

Putin stressed, “In these conditions, it is important to make adequate and accurate forecasts, analyse the possible changes in the global situation, and to use the forecasts and conclusions to develop our military potential.”

9--Repo: How the financial markets' plumbing got blocked

 

When short-term borrowing costs spiked in September, it marked the culmination of long-term stresses that the Federal Reserve is now working to tame

 




 


 


 

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Today's links

 On "Meet the Press," Glenn Simpson confirms my RCI story (below) that Fusion GPS now bankrolled by Dan Jones' multimillion-dollar Soros-funded influence operation to help Simpson & Steele re-propagate their discredited Russia "collusion" theories." paul sperry

 

 

1--A New Pipeline Could Undo America’s Influence In Asia


The U.S.’s fury would have been much worse if it knew that, in fact, the ‘finalisation of the feasibility study on South-North Gas Pipeline Project’ whilst true, is just proverbially the tip of the iceberg. “The actual plan is to resuscitate the Iran-Pakistan oil and gas pipelines over time, beginning with the gas pipeline, moving unlimited amounts of Iranian gas to Pakistan, and then into China and the rest of Asia should it be needed,” a senior source who works closely with Iran’s Petroleum Ministry told OilPrice.com last week. “It is being done in conjunction with Russia, with the twin aims of firstly ensuring that China’s ‘One Belt, one Road’ initiative continues to run smoothly from the East through Pakistan and then Westwards into Iran and onwards into Europe,” he said. “And, secondly, to ensure for Russia that Iran’s gas does not start flowing freely into Europe as and when the U.S. sanctions are lifted, as this would undermine Russia’s power over Europe, which is founded on supplying over a third of Europe’s gas,” he  added....

The fact that they are much more significant to the global geopolitical balance was evidenced by the U.S.’s furious warnings to Pakistan, based on the fact that all of these projects are in reality a key part of Beijing’s planned China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which, in turn, is a cornerstone of the OBOR initiative

2--2014 was fundamentally a democratic debacle. It likely heralds a new stage in the disintegration of the American political order...Ferguson

3--Your Freedom Of Speech Is Finally Safe! British Army Psy-Ops Officer Is Twitter Executive

 

4--Trump’s war crime pardons: Cultivating a fascistic base in the military

27 November 2019
The extraordinary and repeated interventions by President Donald Trump in the case of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, culminating in Sunday’s firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, has further laid bare the deep-going crisis at the heart of the US capitalist state and its massive military apparatus.

Gallagher was charged by his fellow SEALs with war crimes and acts of sadistic violence that stood out as egregious even in the bloodbath unleashed against the Iraqi city of Mosul, where, according to one estimate, as many as 40,000 people were killed. He was accused of picking off civilians, including a young girl, with a sniper rifle and stabbing to death a wounded teenaged Iraqi fighter, even as a SEAL medic was treating him. He then texted out a photo of himself with the corpse, along with the caption, “Got him with my hunting knife.” Not coincidentally, Gallagher’s nickname among fellow SEALs was “Blade....

Gallagher is one of four members of the US military charged with war crimes whom Trump has pardoned over the last few months, two of them for summarily executing unarmed prisoners and then trying to cover up their crimes by burning the bodies, and one for ordering troops to fire upon and kill Afghans who he knew were unarmed.

Speaking to the White House press corps on Monday, Trump hailed Gallagher as “one of our ultimate fighters” and insisted, “I have to protect my warfighters.” He declared that he was “sticking up for our armed forces.”

5--UN report calls for “radical transformations” to avert global climate catastrophe

 

6--Is Nato 'brain dead'??  Pat Buchanan

 

when did Ukraine become an ally of the United States whose territorial wars we must sustain with military aid if not military intervention?

When did Kyiv’s control of Crimea and the Donbass become critical to the national security of the United States, when Russia has controlled Ukraine almost without interruption from Catherine the Great in the 18th century to Mikhail Gorbachev in the late 20th century?
Among the reasons Trump is president is that he raised provocative questions about NATO and Russia left unaddressed for three decades, as U.S. policy has been on cruise control since the Cold War.
And these unanswered questions are deadly serious ones.
Do we truly believe that if Russia marched into Estonia, the U.S. would start attacking the ships, planes and troops of a nation armed with thousands of tactical and strategic nuclear weapons?

 

 7--A distinctly American phenomenon': Our workforce is dying faster than any other wealthy country, study shows

 

In a trend that cuts across racial and ethnic boundaries, the U.S. has the worst midlife mortality rate among 17 high-income countries despite leading the world in per-capita spending on health care.
And while life expectancy in those other industrialized nations continues to inch up, it has been going in the opposite direction in America, decreasing from a peak of 78.9 years in 2014 to 78.6 in 2017, the last year covered by the report

 


8--Who Will Turn Over the 2016 Rocks?


The republic can survive the truth, but the FBI and CIA probably can’t

 

 

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Today's links

1--Lavrov: Kurds’ do an about-face as US troops return to northern Syria


Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a press conference on Tuesday....
"I would advise Kurdish political leaders to stick to their word. Right after the memorandum had been signed [in Sochi] on October 22, we obtained Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s consent to implement it, and Kurdish leaders vigorously assured us that they would cooperate. However, in just a few days the United States changed its position and said that when withdrawing troops from Syria, they [the Americans] had forgotten about the need to protect oil fields to make sure that the Syrian government did not take control of them, and the Kurdish leadership immediately lost enthusiasm for cooperation in accordance with the Sochi agreement and once again opted to rely on the United States’ support," the Russian top diplomat pointed out.

On October 9, Turkey launched a military incursion into northern Syria, codenaming it Operation Peace Spring, with the Turkish Armed Forces and the Ankara-backed Free Syrian Army carrying it out. The Turkish government claimed that its goal was to clear the border area of what it calls ‘terrorists’ (Ankara’s broad label of the Kurdish forces) and establish a 30 km-long buffer zone in Syria’s north, where over 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey would resettle. Damascus slammed the operation as aggression, and the international community condemned Ankara’s move.

On October 22, Presidents Vladimir Putin of Russia and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey signed a memorandum on joint actions to resolve the situation in northeastern Syria. Russian military police units and Syrian troops were deployed to areas adjacent to the zone of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring. Kurdish units were given 150 hours to pull out of the 30-km zone along the Syria-Turkey border. The withdrawal was completed by October 29 and on November 1, Russian military police and Turkish troops launched joint patrols in areas east of the Euphrates River

2--The Real Bombshell of the Impeachment Hearings, Ron Paul


The most shocking thing about the House impeachment hearings to this point is not a “smoking gun” witness providing irrefutable evidence of quid pro quo. It’s not that President Trump may or may not have asked the Ukrainians to look into business deals between then-Vice President Biden’s son and a Ukrainian oligarch.

The most shocking thing to come out of the hearings thus far is confirmation that no matter who is elected President of the United States, the permanent government will not allow a change in our aggressive interventionist foreign policy, particularly when it comes to Russia.

Even more shocking is that neither Republicans nor Democrats are bothered in the slightest!

Take Lt. Colonel Vindman, who earned high praise in the mainstream media. He did not come forth with first-hand evidence that President Trump had committed any “high crimes” or “misdemeanors.” He brought a complaint against the President because he was worried that Trump was shifting US policy away from providing offensive weapons to the Ukrainian government!

He didn’t think the US president had the right to suspend aid to Ukraine because he supported providing aid to Ukraine.

According to his testimony, Vindman’s was concerned over “influencers promoting a false narrative of Ukraine inconsistent with the consensus views of the interagency.”

“Consensus views of the interagency” is another word for “deep state.”

Vindman continued, “While my interagency colleagues and I were becoming increasingly optimistic on Ukraine’s prospects, this alternative narrative undermined US government efforts to expand cooperation with Ukraine.”

Let that sink in for a moment: Vindman did not witness any crimes, he just didn’t think the elected President of the United States had any right to change US policy toward Ukraine or Russia!..

Meanwhile, both Democrats and Republicans in large majority voted to continue spying on the rest of us by extending the unpatriotic Patriot Act. Authoritarianism is the real bipartisan philosophy in Washington.

3--Tucker: Media pushed Democrats toward impeachmen

 

4--New Polling Suggests Democrats’ Impeachment Push Could Alienate Key Voters, vanity fair (the most catastrophic political strategy of all time)

 

Data exclusive to Vanity Fair shows impeachment could be a losing issue for Democrats hoping to recruit Independents in 2020. “Lots of people who don’t like Trump who are still prepared to vote for him,” says one political science expert.

 

A late October Gallup poll put Independents in favor of removing Trump from office at 53% to 44%, and a Morning Consult poll in early November revealed an even greater gap, 49% to 34%, in favor of removal...

 

According to Gallup, self-identified Independents make up roughly 40% of the electorate. Many of these voters are closet partisans, reliably voting for one party or another, but enough of them—call it somewhere between 10% or 20%—are true “persuadables” or “movables” whose votes are up for grabs. Even a modest shift in allegiance among this group could determine the outcome next November.Alas, for the Democrats, the promising numbers of late October and early November rapidly dissipated, and polling numbers have reverted to a level more consistent with long-term opinions on President Trump. In the latest Politico/Morning Consult poll, released on November 19, Independents opposed impeachment and removal from office 46% to 39%, a number close to the rolling averages of the last few weeks. It is notable that the poll was fielded after the first public impeachment hearings. Even the compelling testimony of witnesses like Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, failed to move the needle on public opinion.  

a close look at data from the most recent Politico/Morning Consult tracking poll, a poll in which the Hive had the opportunity to propose questions focused on Independents and their views. The data, along with supplementary interviews, illustrates an electorate that believes the impeachment inquiry is connected to the priorities of politicians and the media—not of ordinary voters—and an electorate confused and dispirited by the nonstop parade of Washington scandals....

 

Three important factors are driving the views of Independents. The first is that, in their view, impeachment distracts from issues they care about. Twenty-seven percent of Independents described impeachment as a top priority, and another 10% agreed that it is a priority, just not a top one. In the abstract, 37% saying that an issue is a priority doesn’t sound too bad, but among the 11 issues that Politico and Morning Consult tested, impeachment ranked last, well below the deficit at 74%, health care at 72%, and infrastructure at 70%. Even Trump’s absurd border wall scored as a higher priority for Independents. Fundamentally, most Independents want Congress to focus on the issues that impact their lives. They have not been convinced that curtailing the bad acts of Donald Trump would have any tangible effect.

The second factor is the view among Independents that impeachment reflects the agenda of the political establishment and the media. Regardless of what they think about Trump’s behavior, Independents see impeachment as a continuation of the partisan bickering and media excess that began even before his inauguration. By massive margins, Independents say that the impeachment issue is “more important to politicians than it is to me” (62% to 22%) and “more important to the media than it is to me” (61% to 23%). It is hard to read this as anything but a warning to the Democratic leadership and candidates: Stop talking about issues that matter to you, not to me...

Third, as other reporting has suggested, Independents suffer from scandal fatigue and overall confusion....

More people are paying attention, but fewer are changing their minds.The president may be surviving the current impeachment efforts largely unscathed, but it’s not because he is believed or trusted. Trump has, in typical blustery style, described his actions as “perfect,” but few are buying it. Most Independents believe, by 39% to 31%, that the president did what the whistle-blower and subsequent witnesses have said he did: withheld military aid to Ukraine until the Ukrainians agreed to announce investigations into his political rivals. And by similar margins, 40% to 35%, Independents believe Trump “abused his power” to affect the 2020 elections. It’s somewhat remarkable that so many people see an abuse of power, but seem unwilling to hold it against the president in any meaningful way...

The risk for Democrats is that impeachment will overshadow any positive messaging, and that risk is not small. On Wednesday, Sondland’s testimony effectively eclipsed the Democratic debate in Atlanta, rendering it a secondary news event at best. As the calendar turns into 2020 and voters pay more attention to the candidates, the cost of obscuring any positive messages will rise dramatically for the Democrats. As Fiorina said to me, the voting public is full of “lots of people who don’t like Trump who are still prepared to vote for him if [the Democrats] don’t nominate anyone reasonable.


5--Impeachment drivers?


Key Democratic operatives and private investigators who tried to derail Donald Trump’s campaign by claiming he was a tool of the Kremlin have rebooted their operation since his election with a multimillion-dollar stealth campaign to persuade major media outlets and lawmakers that the president should be impeached

 

6--"Military leaders convinced Trump to stay" (in syria) according to NYT 

https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/middleeast/100000006821104/trump-syria-military.html

"Clearly the president's message, 'We're getting out of the endless wars', is being reinterpreted on the ground.' The mission still continues. We will be in bases from deir ezzor to Qamisli to derek and all thru that expansive area.' (virtually the entire east of euphrates area...What we saw was not a military in retreat. What we saw was a military displaying its beefed-up arsenal. ...evidence that, for the US, the war is going to last a little longer here."

7--South Korea extends military intelligence sharing agreement with Japan


While North Korea is typically used to justify the military buildup in the region, Esper’s inclusion of Beijing as a target of GSOMIA indicates that the true purpose of these military alliances is the preparation for war with China. Seoul has signed up for a future conflict behind the backs of the South Korean people, a fact that is purposely obscured by the political wrangling between Seoul and Tokyo.
GSOMIA was originally signed in November 2016 and allows bilateral transfer of sensitive military information between South Korea and Japan. It is seen as a key aspect of the ballistic missile network the US is building in East Asia as a component of its war preparations against China...

While posturing as left-wing, Moon and his ruling Democratic Party of Korea have routinely lined up behind Washington’s military agenda in the region. In 2017, the Moon administration ignored widespread opposition and followed through with the installation of the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) battery and its corresponding radar installation aimed at China

8--French courts sabotage probe of official financing of Islamic State terrorism

 https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2019/11/26/lafa-n26.html
Another civil plaintiff, the Chredo (Coordination of Christians in danger in the Orient), accused the state of “not respecting the obligation to mention Lafarge among the entities financing terrorism, though it was known to be doing so.”

This dropping of charges impedes the organization of a trial that would expose the imperialist policy of the French government and its NATO allies in Syria and the role of Western intelligence agencies during the deadly attacks of 2014-2016. In the war for regime change they launched against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria, the NATO imperialist powers used Islamist terrorist militias like IS as proxy forces....

A key aspect of the affair was the ties between Lafarge’s financing and terror attacks in Europe. The Life in Paris association, which represents victims of the November 13 attacks and their relatives, had been allowed to file charges in January 2018. Investigating judges ruled it was “established” that “the overall size and duration” of Lafarge financing allowed IS to “plan and carry out violent attacks in Syria and abroad, including in France...

In a May 7, 2018 article, “Lafarge, the shadows of November 13,” L’Express noted: “According to judicial customs officials investigating for the investigating magistrates, Lafarge paid funds until 2015 to various terrorist organizations, including IS...

The magazine added, “Investigators set up a chart of payments made to intermediaries known to be close to terrorist elements, and it seems that these payments continued after IS first claimed responsibility for attacks waged in France. … Thus, a line in this chart titled ‘payments, supplies’ notes that seven suppliers of raw materials established in Raqqa … received from Lafarge the equivalent of $3 million between 2010 and February 2015—which executives like Frédéric Jolibois downplayed during their interrogations.

9--The Lafarge-ISIS connection


While other multinational companies pulled out of Syria in the midst of the civil war, Lafarge made a calculated decision to stay, pushing the limits of international law to keep its operations running. Lafarge’s actions, reconstructed from sealed French court documents reviewed by The New York Times as well as interviews with former employees, provide rare insight into the costs and complexities of doing business in a war-torn country, trade-offs that have left a large company exposed to a French criminal investigation as well as a civil lawsuit.

To move supplies and employees through dangerous areas, and to secure raw materials, Lafarge funneled money to intermediaries who conducted negotiations with the Islamic State, as well as Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria and other armed factions. All told, Lafarge agents shelled out over $5 million to armed groups, according to the documents, which include testimony to investigators by former Lafarge officials, testimony and witness accounts of former employees, company 
correspondence and a confidential internal review of Lafarge’s Syria operations by the global law firm Baker McKenzie. The broad accounts of the former workers’ experience were backed up by the documents, including the executives’ and employees’ testimony...

While other multinational companies pulled out of Syria in the midst of the civil war, Lafarge made a calculated decision to stay, pushing the limits of international law to keep its operations running. Lafarge’s actions, reconstructed from sealed French court documents reviewed by The New York Times as well as interviews with former employees, provide rare insight into the costs and complexities of doing business in a war-torn country, trade-offs that have left a large company exposed to a French criminal investigation as well as a civil lawsuit.

To move supplies and employees through dangerous areas, and to secure raw materials, Lafarge funneled money to intermediaries who conducted negotiations with the Islamic State, as well as Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria and other armed factions. All told, Lafarge agents shelled out over $5 million to armed groups, according to the documents, which include testimony to investigators by former Lafarge officials, testimony and witness accounts of former employees, company 
correspondence and a confidential internal review of Lafarge’s Syria operations by the global law firm Baker McKenzie. The broad accounts of the former workers’ experience were backed up by the documents, including the executives’ and employees’ testimony...

The troubles worsened in 2013, when the Qaeda affiliate in Syria, the Nusra Front, and other Islamic groups seized Raqqa, a strategic city about 90 kilometers south of the factory. In the ensuing months, a schism within Al Qaeda split the Nusra Front from the Islamic State group, which took control of Raqqa. ISIS began a slow but steady push toward the region around the Lafarge plant.


10--“Intra-day Bankruptcy”: A 2008 Email from the Fed Provides Insight into Today’s Overnight Repo Scare

 

 JPMorgan Chase, according to its regulatory filings, has plenty of other cash that is not parked at the New York Fed. Why didn’t it make loans from those funds? There are two possible scenarios – neither of which is particularly reassuring. One scenario is that the bulk of JPMorgan Chase’s cash is already pledged as collateral for its own trades – for example, on the $55.7 trillion it holds in derivatives. Another scenario is that JPMorgan is once again afraid of a highly interconnected Wall Street firm making an intra-day bankruptcy filing and catching everybody by surprise.

If that’s what’s worrying the risk officers at JPMorgan Chase, it’s also worrying the risk officers at Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of America and every other major bank on Wall Street.

What Wall Street firm would be at the top of their radar? Deutsche Bank is the most likely candidate. Deutsche Bank has reported losses in three of the last four years; its share price has lost 90 percent of its value since February of 2007; as of the close of trading yesterday, Deutsche had $15.25 billion in common equity value versus $49 trillion notional (face amount) in derivatives according to its 2018 annual report. Deutsche Bank has had four different CEOs in just over four years; and it’s now doing the same kind of good bank/bad bank restructuring that Citigroup announced during its own financial crisis.

And Deutsche Bank is highly interconnected to Wall Street’s biggest banks. According to a 2016 report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Deutsche Bank is highly connected to JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Bank of America as well as other mega banks in Europe. The IMF wrote that Deutsche Bank posed a greater threat to global financial stability than any other bank as a result of these interconnections – and that was when its market capitalization was tens of billions of dollars larger than it is today. Deutsche Bank’s stock closed yesterday at $7.38 – that’s down from $120 in 2007.

11--The Fighting Continues in Northern Syria 

The Kurds vow to defend themselves—alone if necessary—against Syria, Turkey and Russia.


The Turkish assault that began on Oct. 9 has carved out a 75-mile-long, 20-mile-deep zone of control between the towns of Tel Abyad and Ras al-Ain. The traditionally Christian (but now largely deserted) town of Tal Tamr stands in the way of further Turkish advances.

“Erdogan wants to attack further,” says SDF Gen. Mazloum Abdi. I interviewed the Kurdish commander at an SDF base near the town of Hasakah. “Everything now depends on the U.S. and the international community. If they apply pressure, the Turks won’t dare attack again.

When President Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. forces from northeast Syria in October, a Turkish invasion swiftly and predictably followed. The Syrian Kurds were faced with the choice of meeting the Turkish onslaught alone, or inviting regime and Russian forces into their area. They chose the latter course. This appeared initially likely to herald the rapid demise of the Kurdish autonomous authority in Rojava, which had been carved starting in mid-2012.

The current reality on the ground, however, belies this simple picture. The Assad regime is decrepit and lacking in manpower. The Kurdish-led SDF, meanwhile, remains vigorous and strong. For this reason the regime has yet to attempt to establish control on the ground in cities such as Derik, Hasakah and Qamishli, where checkpoints and daily security control remains in the hands of the Kurds and their allie...

Moscow would prefer to see Damascus re-exert control over all of Syria. But Russia’s considerations are complex. It also wants to widen the wedge between Turkey and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. But Moscow has no special animus toward the Syrian Kurds, and sees no benefit in a renewed and bloody conflict between Mr. Assad’s forces and the SDF.

“The Russians are mediating,” says Gen. Mazloum, the Kurdish commander. “They are trying to induce us to move closer to the regime by using Turkey as a threat.” That is, Moscow is trying methodically to induce Kurdish acquiescence to a growing role for the Assad regime east of the Euphrates by threatening to permit a further Turkish assault on Kurdish population centers if the Kurds prove recalcitrant.



 







Monday, November 25, 2019

Today's links

 More lies? New sexed-up dossier furor: Explosive leaked email claims that UN watchdog's report into alleged poison gas attack by Assad was doctored - so was it to justify British and American missile strikes on Syria?   max blumenthal

 

 

1--Countering Russian Disinformation Or New Wave Of Freedom Of Speech Suppression

 

Not surprisingly, the invitees were demonstrating resolve to counter the “Russian offensive,” calling for more funds to be allocated to the propaganda organisations affiliated with the Department of State. To cut a long story short, they needed money but were short of a pretext for saying so. So, they decided to have a dig at Russia again. Available data show that the State Department’s allocations for countering the “Russian influence” in Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia amounted to $103 million in 2017 and $54 million in 2018. These funds were used to squeeze allegedly “fake” media out of the international information space and replace them with the “right” media. So, if we call things by their proper names, the money was used to shape an information environment. To be sure, the speakers said they would like to see local journalists loyal to Washington as heads of these media outlets. This is also clear....

 

One has the impression that apart from addressing domestic political agendas, the infusion of yet another portion of Russophobia into the US political establishment serves the purpose of eliciting additional budget allocations for the steadily growing US propaganda army. It is clear that countering the so-called “Russian disinformation” is just a pretext for financing real US propaganda. Their aim is clearly to influence the audiences both inside and outside.

 

2--John Solomon defends his reporting on Ukraine (He got the facts right)


3--Giuliani on Burisma and Joe Biden


4--Strategic Catastrophe?? Impeachment disaster paves the way for 4 more years of Trump


Fundraising has exploded for the GOP, with the Republican National Committee reporting it hauled in $25.3 million during October and had $61.4 million in the hopper at month's end.
In contrast, the Democrat party machine brought in a mere $9 million. At the end of last month, the Democratic National Committee was $7 million in debt and had only $8.7 million in the kitty.

Politico reports that Democrats in Trump-won districts, anxious the impeachment drive is destroying their reelection prospects, are begging for help from the national committee. The GOP has unleashed a slew of ads targeting vulnerable Dems, with little response so far.
Guess what? The DNC is running short on ammo...

Displeasure with the impeachment push is also showing up in the polls. While early surveys indicated widespread support for the investigation into Trump’s commerce with Ukraine, the tables have turned. A recent Emerson poll shows 45 percent of voters oppose the impeachment push while 43 percent support; a month earlier 48 percent supported impeachment and 44 percent were against it. Perhaps more significant for Democrats hoping to regain the White House in 2020, support among independents has nosedived. Some 34 percent approve of the push today, down from 48 percent in October.

The Emerson poll is not an outlier. An NPR/Marist poll also shows support for impeachment dropping over the past month and, even worse for the showboating Schiff, interest in the proceedings waning. Only 30 percent of the nation saying they were following the proceedings “very closely,” down from 37 percent in September.
Adding insult to injury, Trump’s approval rating has actually gone up, not down, over the past month. And, the stock market keeps hitting new highs..

Republicans should relax. Democrats are doing everything possible to secure another four years for President Trump.

5--It’s clear that the U.S. government sponsored a coup in Bolivia. A few more items are relevant:


The Morales government had nationalized key industries and oil and gas production, carried out land reform, provided constitutional rights for indigenous peoples, and extended education, health care, and old-age security. Women would end up holding more than half the public offices; 68 percent of them were indigenous. Illiteracy has almost disappeared.

GDP per capita doubled. The economy expanded by 400 percent over the years – the highest rate in Latin America.  The government built “more than 15,500 miles of highways, 134 hospitals, 7.191 sport centers, 1.100 schools. The minimum salary increased 1000 percent.” Poverty dropped from 60.6 percent in 2005 to 36.4 percent in 2018, extreme poverty from 38.2 percent to 15.2 percent....

The U.S. government took great advantage of its hold on Bolivia’s police and military forces. Top Army officers did confer with both Luis Fernando Camacho and U.S. Embassy officials. But the principal way the U.S. government manipulated the Bolivian security forces was the building of ties with individual military and police leaders.

That process had been underway for decades as Latin American military personnel were receiving training and indoctrination at the U.S. Army’s School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation… Analyst Jeb Sprague reports that, “At least six of the key coup plotters are alumni of the infamous School of the Americas, while [General] Kaliman and another figure served in the past as Bolivia’s military and police attachés in Washington.

Media in the United States were complicit as regards the Bolivia coup.  According to a survey by Fair.org, “No establishment outlet framed the action [in Bolivia] as a coup.”
4. Once more President Donald Trump lies: “The resignation yesterday of Bolivian President Evo Morales is a significant moment for democracy in the Western Hemisphere.”

6--Flying Monkey Pompeo Fleeing the Coop Or About to be Shot Down?


Unlike his former-partner-in-neoconservatism, John Bolton, Pompeo is more adept at playing at being loyal to Trump while always seeming to move U.S. diplomacy in a more belligerent direction in the wake of any of Trump’s ‘impulses’ to act on his conscience and/or instincts.

It doesn’t matter if we’re talking Iran (Pompeo’s demands of Iran are off-the-charts insane), Lebanon (outright blackmail of the Lebanese government) or North Korea (making demands in negotiations which overstep Trump’s promises to Kim Jong-un) Pompeo is always there doing his thinly-veiled Israeli loyalty dance with the subtlety of a freight-train but somehow always framing it as making it Trump’s policy.

That game is wearing thin with Trump because he knows now after two years of this that it’s about time for Macaroni Mike to make his way to the feed trough of the Senate or the arms industry.


7--Cinema and the State

 

8--Leaked email on alleged chemical attack shows 2018 strikes against Syria based on lies

25 November 2019
On Saturday, WikiLeaks published an internal email written by a member of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) fact-finding mission to Syria that exposes the far-reaching effort to suppress and distort evidence in order to claim that the government of Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the alleged April 7, 2018, gas attack in Douma, a suburb of Damascus then held by CIA-backed Islamist “rebel” forces.
The revelation once again makes clear the lying character of the campaign to justify the US regime-change operation in Syria, which has turned large sections of the country into a wasteland, killing hundreds of thousands of people and turning millions more into refugees.
The alleged attack in which as many as 49 people were reportedly killed was seized on by the governments of the United States, Britain and France to justify the launching of air and missile strikes just one week later against Syrian government forces. The attacks took place just hours before an OPCW fact-finding team was due to arrive in Syria to begin an investigation. The assault brought the US and its allies to the brink of open war not just against Syria, but also against the Assad government’s allies Iran and Russia.

9--He has a point, doesn't he?


Let's start with that infamous Article 5 of the NATO charter. The very idea of the "Principle of Collective Defense" makes the Alliance look silly since it is not honoring it any more.

There are those terrorist organizations - the PKK and its extensions in civil-war-torn Syria, the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing the People's Protection Units (YPG) - which have been bombing Turkish towns from Syria.

Meanwhile, NATO not only has been passively watching from Brussels, but its major founder, the U.S., actively has been arming and equipping those terrorist organizations under the disguise of fighting against Daesh. Speaking on a panel at the Aspen Security Forum, two years ago, Gen. Raymond Thomas, then-commander of U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), had said that the he asked the leader to rebrand the YPG because of its links to the PKK. I still don't know which hurt more: Gen. Thomas' smirking face when he said the word "democratic" in the name was a brilliant touch he put or his conviction that rebranding a terrorist organization was good enough to fool the Turks.






Sunday, November 24, 2019

Today's links

Worst Political Strategy of all time?? "“All of these numbers are consistent with other trends that suggest Democrats are losing the impeachment debate, particularly in swing states and districts,” said Chris Wilson, a GOP pollster and president of WPA Intelligence." Impeachment proceedings are helping Trump

 

New sexed-up dossier furor: Explosive leaked email claims that UN watchdog's report into alleged poison gas attack by Assad was doctored - so was it to justify British and American missile strikes on Syria? via max Blumenthal  

 

"the Trump administration has outlined plans to put (Fannie and Freddie) back into private hands—and the way in which taxpayers could be on the hook to bail out the institutions has emerged as a stumbling block." wsj

 

 

1--Wall Street prepares for the impending meltdown


Keep in mind that the $3 trillion in super cheap loans has not gone to commercial banks to assist the overall economy; the hundreds of billions of dollars each week are going to the Fed’s “primary dealers” which are the trading houses on Wall Street....

...
September 4, 2018: JPMorgan Chase sent a research report to its clients which includes this statement from Marko Kolanovic, a Senior Analyst at the bank:

“It remains to be seen how governments and central banks will respond in the scenario of a great liquidity crisis. If the standard interest rate cutting and bond purchases do not suffice, central banks may more explicitly target asset prices (e.g., equities). This may be controversial in light of the potential impact of central bank actions in driving inequality between asset owners and labor.”...

The former Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Olivier Blanchard, endorses the Fed being able to buy up stocks in the open market during a financial crisis. According to reporting at the Dow Jones news outlet, MarketWatch, Blanchard said that the Fed could double its balance sheet and “nothing terrible would happen.” The best policy would be to buy stocks which “could do the trick and could work even better than buying long bonds.”..

The FDIC’s broad guarantee authority, so effective during the crisis, was eliminated, as was the ability of the Fed to lend to individual nonbank financial firms under its 13(3) emergency powers. The Fed retained the ability under 13(3) to lend to broad classes of institutions as it had done for primary dealers, and to support important funding markets, as it had done for commercial paper, but with less discretion and less ability to take risk than before. For example, Congress limited the Fed’s discretion to judge when its loans are secured to its satisfaction, making it harder for the central bank to accept risky collateral in a future emergency. There was simply no political support for anything that could have been construed as enabling future bailouts.”...

When you secretly shower $29 trillion on Wall Street that’s not a tourniquet, that’s replacing every organ in the body. And to suggest that their efforts avoided “many, many Americans” from being hurt, is an insult to the 8.7 million Americans who lost their jobs and the 10 million American homes that were lost to foreclosure from 2006 to 2014. The financial crisis produced the longest recession in the post World War II era; 2.5 million businesses closed down and income and wealth inequality have grown to the highest rate since the Great Depression

2--This Chart Shows How the Fed Has Spooked the Commercial Paper Market


According to the Bank of England’s Financial Stability Report that was released in July, the leveraged loan market is now $3.2 trillion. U.S. mega banks and other global banks hold 38 percent of those high-risk loans or $1.21 trillion. The report also points out that “In the U.S., gross corporate debt as a share of GDP is now above pre-crisis levels.”

The Fed’s FOMC minutes also revealed that it is worried about “the likelihood that participation in the Federal Reserve’s repo operations could become stigmatized….” Well, obviously, if you can’t get one of your peer banks to give you a collateralized overnight loan and have to turn to the Fed, you’ve got a stigma problem.

One thing the Fed did not mention was that its urgent need to funnel $3 trillion into the overnight lending market on Wall Street within a period of two months might spook the commercial paper market where corporations and banks borrow for longer periods, like one to three months....


Our chart above, using data provided by the St. Louis Fed, shows that before the New York Fed intervened in the repo market on September 17, the interest rate on 3-month commercial paper was smaller than the targeted rate on the Federal Funds rate set by the Fed. But as the Fed spooked the market by turning on its repo money spigot for the first time since the financial crisis, 3-month commercial paper rates have spiked higher than the Fed Funds rate. In other words, corporations and banks are now paying more to borrow in the commercial paper market

3--The Fed's multi-trillion dollar stealth bailout




Last week, Jim Grant, the Editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, was interviewed by CNBC’s Rick Santelli. Grant said that since September 17, the Fed has pumped “upwards of $3 trillion” in repo loans to Wall Street. Santelli asked if the Fed had effectively nationalized the repo market. Grant said “there is no more price discovery and we are dealing with administered rates.”

For the first time since the financial crisis, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York has been pumping out hundreds of billions of dollars each week to trading houses on Wall Street in order to provide liquidity to the repo (repurchase agreement) market where financial institutions make collateralized, overnight loans to each other. Liquidity had dried up in this market to the point that on September 17 overnight lending rates spiked from the typical 2 percent to 10 percent. The Fed then turned on its money spigot and brought the rate back down. But even after the rate went back down, the New York Fed has continued making these massive loans, raising fears on Wall Street about what is really going on behind the scenes.

Thus far, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell has tried to peddle the narrative that the Fed is just making “technical” adjustments through its open market operations rather than launching another massive bailout program to Wall Street. Congress has failed to conduct one hearing on the serious matter, even as the program has grown. Just last Thursday the Fed announced that in addition to its daily offering of $120 billion in overnight loans and twice-weekly offering of $35 billion in 14-day loans, it will be adding three more term loans over the next month, totaling $55 billion in 28-day and 42-day term loans....

the Fed to release the details of its massive Discount Window loans on March 31, 2011 – almost three years after Bloomberg News reporter Mark Pittman had first filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the data and was stonewalled. (Pittman died before the data was released.)
The data showed that the same banks that were being supervised by the New York Fed were the largest recipients of the Fed’s obscene amounts of secret loans. Despite its clear ineptitude at supervising these behemoths, it remains their supervisor even after the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation was passed by Congress in 2010.

One New York Fed program, the Primary Dealer Credit Facility (PDCF), doled out $8.95 trillion in revolving loans against dodgy collateral like stocks and junk bonds – at a time when both were in freefall. Citigroup received $2.02 trillion from that program. Morgan Stanley was the second largest borrower in that program, receiving $1.9 trillion. Merrill Lynch received $1.8 trillion. (See GAO audit chart below.)

Today, the New York Fed seems to be back at the game of electronically creating trillions of dollars out of thin air and doling it out to Wall Street banks that are proving all over again that they are too big to supervise, too derelict to govern themselves and need to be broken up for the good of the country

4--If the Fed Is Bailing Out the Repo Market, Can Commercial Paper Be Far Behind?


The vast majority of the $29 trillion in programs to bail out Wall Street during the financial crisis were operated out of the New York Fed – just one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, but the only one with its own trading floor and the only one owned by the largest Wall Street banks. Today, it’s also the New York Fed that is pumping out hundreds of billions of dollars each week to unnamed trading houses on Wall Street for a repo loan crisis that has yet to be explained or defined in any credible terms.

Last week CNBC’s Rick Santelli asked Jim Grant, Editor of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer, if the Fed had effectively nationalized the repo market. (Nationalization means a government takeover.) Since the upwards of $3 trillion in repo loans since September 17 has come out of the New York Fed, and it is owned by Wall Street banks, perhaps the question should be if Wall Street, via the New York Fed, has privatized the repo loan market.

A similar question could be asked of the commercial paper market during the financial crisis. Was that privatized by Wall Street, via the New York Fed which has somehow gained the power to create trillions of dollars by pushing an electronic button.
It’s now been 63 days since the New York Fed opened its repo money spigot again for the first time since the financial crisis. In those 63 days not one Congressional hearing has been called to drill down to what the crisis is and if it’s spreading. The American people deserve far better than this from their elected representatives.

5--US, Israel involved in killing Iraqi protesters: Asaib leader


Earlier this month, Iraqi Defense Minister Najah al-Shammari told France 24's Arabic-language channel that a “third party” is behind shooting at the Iraqi demonstrators....

"The Iraqi national security forces are not the ones who are killing the protesters,” Shammari said. “There is a third party killing the protesters to push protesters to clash with security forces to spread instability in Iraq.”

Pence's Iraq visit sparks criticism
On Saturday, US Vice President Mike Pence made an unannounced visit to Iraq where his trip to the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region drew angry reaction from Iraqi politicians...

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi criticized Pence for holding talks with Kurdish officials in Erbil instead of federal government officials in Baghdad.
“Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, not Erbil,” read a post on Abadi's Facebook page on Saturday.
Last December, US President Donald Trump paid a similar unannounced visit to al-Asad air base but did not travel to Baghdad, triggering fierce criticisms from Iraqi officials.

6--Independents souring on impeachment underscores risk for Democrats


New public opinion polls are moving against Democrats on impeachment, as independents sour on the House inquiry and increasingly express opposition to the hearings that have consumed Washington in recent weeks.

The new data comes as a surprise to many Democrats, many of whom believe the roster of witnesses have offered damning testimony about President Trump’s dealings with Ukraine....

After three years, the country was sick of hearing about Russia, and now the average American either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about the case we’re making on Ukraine,” said one Democratic fundraiser.
According to the FiveThirtyEight average of national polls, support for impeachment has shrunk from 50.3 percent in mid-October to 46.3 presently, while opposition has risen from 43.8 to 45.6....

Among independents in the FiveThirtyEight average, support for impeachment topped out at 47.7 percent in late October but has sunk to 41 percent over the past three weeks.
YouGov is among the polls registering that decline, with independent support for impeachment dropping from 39 percent earlier this month to 35 percent now, and opposition increasing from 35 percent to 40 percent.

An Emerson University survey found an even more extreme flip among independents.
In October, independents supported impeachment 48 percent to 35 percent in Emerson’s polling. In the new poll released this week, independents opposed it by a 49 percent to 34 percent margin. In that time, overall support for impeaching Trump swung from 48 percent in favor and 44 percent against, to 45 percent in opposition to impeachment and 43 percent in favor.

The latest Morning Consult survey was the third poll released this week to register a flip among independents. That survey also registered a new low among all voters in favor of impeachment, at 48 percent.

But perhaps most alarming for Democrats is a new survey of Wisconsin from Marquette University. In Wisconsin, a key swing state in next year’s election, Marquette found that 40 percent supported impeaching trump and removing him from office, while 53 percent opposed it. In October, before the hearings began, support was at 44 percent and opposition was 51 percent.



The Marquette survey found Trump leading in Wisconsin against three top Democratic challengers after trailing all of them in the previous poll.

“All of these numbers are consistent with other trends that suggest Democrats are losing the impeachment debate, particularly in swing states and districts,” said Chris Wilson, a GOP pollster and president of WPA Intelligence.

Support for impeachment among Republicans and independents in the survey was mostly steady, but support among Democrats dropped by 7 points.

“If the hearings have eroded support even slightly, and the national data suggests that, then this Marquette poll is completely in line with an emerging picture where impeachment is actually helping the president in key swing states.”

“This is an inside the Beltway conversation that’s dominating news here in Washington but I don’t put much weight in these polls because it’s not what we’re talking about in the communities where real people are concerned about health care, economic inequality and student debt,” Feldman said. “If we lose focus of those issues, we’ll be in trouble, but until then, I’m confident people understand what’s at stake and which party is working to make their lives better.”...

“Pelosi didn’t want to do this … if you are one of those 31 Democrats running in Trump districts, you don’t want to be on the record voting for impeachment,” said one Trump campaign official.
“They are actually making the president out to be a martyr, which is not easy. American voters are a lot smarter than the Washington elites and left-stream media give them credit for, they really are. They have a pretty good BS meter and they smell BS.”
 


7--Here is What the Horowitz Report Should Conclude by Larry C Johnson

 

8--News? A Russian Operation, U.S. Intelligence Says

 

The CIA, and its stenographers at the New York Times, explain to us that the three news pieces below were the result of a Russian operation.


9--As Lula Emerges From Prison, US Media Ignore How Washington Helped Put Him There

 

There was no material evidence linking Lula to any crime. His conviction was based on coerced plea bargain testimony by a single convicted criminal named Leo Pinheiro, director of the OAS construction company, which built the building where an apartment that featured in Lula’s case was located. Sentenced to ten years and eight months for paying bribes to Petrobras Petroleum company, Pinheiro originally testified that Lula had not committed any crime, then changed his story twice, implicating Lula before having his sentence reduced to two years and six months. His third and final story stated that Lula had received free renovations on the beach-side apartment in exchange for political favors.

Seventy-three witnesses, including executives from the OAS company, testified that neither Lula nor anyone from his family had ever owned or lived in the apartment. Furthermore, a judge in Brasilia determined in January 2018, as part of a different case, that the vacant apartment still belonged to OAS....

As the smear campaign continues, it is important to remember that Lula represented a social democratic national development project, in the tradition of what Brazilians call desenvolvimentalismo, based on strategic control over natural resources and their use to fund public services like health and education, strong minimum wage policies and labor rights, increased access to free public universities, and strong investment in scientific research. This is the project that was dismantled after the 2016 coup, to the benefit of corporations like Monsanto, Chevron, ExxonMobil and Boeing. History shows that every Brazilian president who ever tried to implement desenvolvimentalista policies—from Getúlio Vargas, Juscelino Kubitschek and Jango Goulart to Rousseff and Lula—has been subjected to a coup, political imprisonment or assassination, with perennial suspicion of US involvement. And as we see corporate media working to normalize the military coup in Bolivia (FAIR.org, 11/11/19), it is clear that this problem is not limited to Brazil.

10--Turkey says PKK/YPG in an in-house fight for influence



Qandil is the name of the mountain in northern Iraq where the PKK has its main headquarters and training camps, and Ferhat Abdi Şahin, codenamed Mazlum Kobane, is now the leader of the YPG who is based in eastern Syria.

The YPG was formed in northern Syria upon the instructions of the imprisoned leader of the PKK, Abdullah Öcalan, to expand and coordinate the PKK’s activities in Turkey’s southern neighboring country. Turkey had designated the YPG as the PKK’s offshoot in Syria and has been actively fighting against it since mid-2016 in Syrian territories.

“My observations in the past three years tell me about an internal conflict between Qandil over the status of Öcalan. The Qandil prefers Selahattin Demirtaş (as the leader) and continue to invest for him,” Soylu said.

Former co-leader of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Demirtaş is behind bars since late 2016 over his alleged links to the terrorist organization. Under his leadership, the HDP had historic success by garnering around 13 percent of votes in general elections in 2015.


The minister refers to Mazlum Kobane’s status as the leader of the SDF, which has received praise from the U.S. and other prominent Western nations for its fight against ISIL. Kobane was invited by U.S. President Donald Trump to the White House, a move that angered Ankara. Turkish officials urged Washington that receiving a senior terrorist at the U.S. president’s office would further deteriorate bilateral ties....

“It’s not the first time that the states use a terror organization. We have seen many examples to this end through the history. But it’s the first time that a state is controlling a terror organization. The YPG is being controlled by the U.S.,” he stated.

The Qandil seems to be unhappy about the growing influence of the U.S. on the YPG and therefore, on Kobane’s role and that’s why Minister Soylu ponders whether the PKK would seek to replace Kobane with a person more loyal to the Qandil leadership.

It will be interesting to follow the consequences of this internal fight at the PKK/YPG terror group.

11--U.S. Firms Pull Back on Investment 

 

Capital spending by S&P 500 companies grew less than 1% in the third quarter, and would have fallen without Apple and Amazon 

 

Capital spending by S&P 500 companies rose in the third quarter by just 0.8%, or a combined $1.38 billion, from the second quarter, according to data from S&P Dow Jones Indices covering companies reporting through the middle of the month...

 But even that modest increase can be chalked up to a few big spenders: Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc. alone raised capital spending by $1.9 billion during the quarter. Without them, total spending by the 438 other companies that have reported so far would have shrunk slightly.

And overall spending would have shrunk by 2.2% absent increases from three others: Intel Corp. , Berkshire Hathaway Inc. and NextEra Energy Inc. Together, the five companies increased their capital budgets by $4.7 billion, or 30%, from the second quarter to third, the SPDJI data show.

The biggest pullback among S&P 500 companies came in the industrial sector, where total spending fell $1.8 billion, or 10%; and in financials, where spending fell $951 million, or almost 8%. Spending rose by 4.5%, or $1.2 billion, among communications-services companies.
Nonresidential fixed investment, a widely watched measure of U.S. business investment, fell by 3% in the third quarter and 1% in the second—the first consecutive quarterly decline since 2009, data from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis show...

The investment plans are “consistent with a slower overall pace of economic growth as well as continued modest gains in employment during the year ahead,” Vistage said.

12--Firms Warn of Risks in Plan to Take Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Private


Some of the biggest names in finance are warning that the government’s plan to return Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac FMCC -1.43% to private ownership risks disrupting a market critical to the U.S. housing system.

The investors, including BlackRock Inc., BLK 0.00% Fidelity Investments and Pacific Investment Management Co., have told the Trump administration that any move to privatize Fannie and Freddie should include an explicit guarantee of the $5 trillion in mortgage-backed securities they issue, which only Congress can provide, according to people familiar with the matter. The Trump administration, by contrast, says it is willing to move forward without such a guarantee, arguing that it is past time for the government to reduce its role in housing.

“The structure and significance of the guarantee remains a sticking point given its centrality to the discussion,” said Isaac Boltansky of Compass Point Research & Trading, which serves large, institutional investors. “The guarantee itself means not only deeper, more liquid markets but also cheaper borrowing costs for consumers...

the Trump administration has outlined plans to put the companies back into private hands—and the way in which taxpayers could be on the hook to bail out the institutions has emerged as a stumbling block.

But there is a downside. The arrangement gives the mortgage-finance companies special market advantages that could encourage them to take on risky loans on the assumption that they would be bailed out by taxpayers in the event of a crisis—a phenomenon known as moral hazard.

13--Architect of America's 'biggest strategic blunder' (Iraq) gives advice on Syria (Wolfowitz)