Jun 28

Today’s News 28th June 2017

  • Mapping The World's 20 Most Populous Cities By 2100

    If you look at a modern map of the world’s most populous cities, you’ll notice that they are quite evenly distributed around the globe.

    Metropolises like Moscow, New York, Tokyo, Cairo, or Rio de Janeiro are spread apart with very different geographic and cultural settings, and practically every continent today can claim at least one of the world’s 20 most populous cities.

    However, as Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins notes, in the future, things will be very different, according to projections from the Global Cities Institute. In fact, over the next 80 years or so, some cities will literally 10x or 20x in size – turning into giant megacities that have comparable populations to entire countries like modern-day Germany, France, or the United Kingdom.

    The most interesting part? None of these cities will be in the Americas, Europe, China, or Australia.

    Source: Visual Capitalist

    The Top Four Megacities of the Future

    According to predictions from the Global Cities Institute, these will be the biggest cities in the world in 2100:

    Lagos

    Lagos is already one of the biggest metropolises in Africa, and we previously noted that it was one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

    In fact, it’s growing so fast, that no one knows how big it actually is. The U.N estimated it had 11.2 million people in 2011, and the year after The New York Times said it had at least 21 million inhabitants. In any case, this Nigerian metropolis is growing like a weed, and the Global Cities Institute estimates that the city’s population will hit the 88.3 million mark by 2100 to make it the biggest city in the world.

    The city is already a center of West African trade and finance – but Lagos has ambitious plans to up the ante even further. Right now, the city is building Eko Atlantic, a massive new residential and commercial development that is being pitched as the “Manhattan of Nigeria”. It’s just off of Victoria Island, and it is being built on reclaimed land with special measures in place to prevent flooding from global warming.

    Kinshasa

    When people think of the DRC, sprawling metropolises generally aren’t the first things that come to mind.

    But Kinshasa, once the site of humble fishing villages, has already likely passed Paris as the largest French-speaking city in the world. And it’s getting bigger – by 2100, it’s projected to be the world’s second largest city overall.

    How Kinshasa develops will certainly be interesting. As it stands, approximately 60% of the 17 million people living there by 2025 will be younger than 18 years old. How the city deals with education will be paramount to the city’s future progression.

    Dar Es Salaam

    Have you heard of Dar Es Salaam, the Tanzanian megacity that will hold 73.7 million inhabitants in 2100?

    It’s not on a lot of people’s radars, but its population will explode 1,588% to become the third largest city in Africa, and in the world.

    Interestingly, East Africa will be home to many of the world’s biggest cities in the future – and many will be seemingly popping up out of nowhere. Consider Blantyre City, Lilongwe, and Lusaka, for example. Most Westerners will not likely have heard of these places, but these centers in Malawi and Zambia will each hold over 35 million people.

    Mumbai

    Finally, the last city to round out the top four is Mumbai, which is already one of the world’s biggest megacities with over 20 million people.

    As the entertainment capital of India, it will be interesting to see how Mumbai evolves – and how it ends up comparing to other Indian megacities like Delhi and Kolkata, which each will hold over 50 million residents themselves.

  • How America Armed Terrorists In Syria

    Authored by Gareth Porter via TheAmericanConservative.com,

    Three-term Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a member of both the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs committees, has proposed legislation that would prohibit any U.S. assistance to terrorist organizations in Syria as well as to any organization working directly with them. Equally important, it would prohibit U.S. military sales and other forms of military cooperation with other countries that provide arms or financing to those terrorists and their collaborators.

    Gabbard’s “Stop Arming Terrorists Act” challenges for the first time in Congress a U.S. policy toward the conflict in the Syrian civil war that should have set off alarm bells long ago: in 2012-13 the Obama administration helped its Sunni allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar provide arms to Syrian and non-Syrian armed groups to force President Bashar al-Assad out of power. And in 2013 the administration began to provide arms to what the CIA judged to be “relatively moderate” anti-Assad groups—meaning they incorporated various degrees of Islamic extremism.

    That policy, ostensibly aimed at helping replace the Assad regime with a more democratic alternative, has actually helped build up al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise al Nusra Front into the dominant threat to Assad.

    The supporters of this arms-supply policy believe it is necessary as pushback against Iranian influence in Syria. But that argument skirts the real issue raised by the policy’s history.  The Obama administration’s Syria policy effectively sold out the U.S. interest that was supposed to be the touchstone of the “Global War on Terrorism”—the eradication of al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates. The United States has instead subordinated that U.S. interest in counter-terrorism to the interests of its Sunni allies. In doing so it has helped create a new terrorist threat in the heart of the Middle East.  

    The policy of arming military groups committed to overthrowing the government of President Bashar al-Assad began in September 2011, when President Barack Obama was pressed by his Sunni allies—Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar—to supply heavy weapons to a military opposition to Assad they were determined to establish. Turkey and the Gulf regimes wanted the United States to provide anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to the rebels, according to a former Obama Administration official involved in Middle East issues.

    Obama refused to provide arms to the opposition, but he agreed to provide covert U.S. logistical help in carrying out a campaign of military assistance to arm opposition groups. CIA involvement in the arming of anti-Assad forces began with arranging for the shipment of weapons from the stocks of the Gaddafi regime that had been stored in Benghazi. CIA-controlled firms shipped the weapons from the military port of Benghazi to two small ports in Syria using former U.S. military personnel to manage the logistics, as investigative reporter Sy Hersh detailed in 2014. The funding for the program came mainly from the Saudis.

    A declassified October 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency report revealed that the shipment in late August 2012 had included 500 sniper rifles, 100 RPG (rocket propelled grenade launchers) along with 300 RPG rounds and 400 howitzers. Each arms shipment encompassed as many as ten shipping containers, it reported, each of which held about 48,000 pounds of cargo. That suggests a total payload of up to 250 tons of weapons per shipment. Even if the CIA had organized only one shipment per month, the arms shipments would have totaled 2,750 tons of arms bound ultimately for Syria from October 2011 through August 2012. More likely it was a multiple of that figure.  

    The CIA’s covert arms shipments from Libya came to an abrupt halt in September 2012 when Libyan militants attacked and burned the embassy annex in Benghazi that had been used to support the operation. By then, however, a much larger channel for arming anti-government forces was opening up. The CIA put the Saudis in touch with a senior Croatian official who had offered to sell large quantities of arms left over from the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. And the CIA helped them shop for weapons from arms dealers and governments in several other former Soviet bloc countries.

    Flush with weapons acquired from both the CIA Libya program and from the Croatians, the Saudis and Qataris dramatically increased the number of flights by military cargo planes to Turkey in December 2012 and continued that intensive pace for the next two and a half months. The New York Times reported a total 160 such flights through mid-March 2013. The most common cargo plane in use in the Gulf, the Ilyushin IL-76, can carry roughly 50 tons of cargo on a flight, which would indicate that as much as 8,000 tons of weapons poured across the Turkish border into Syria just in late 2012 and in 2013.

    One U.S. official called the new level of arms deliveries to Syrian rebels a “cataract of weaponry.” And a year-long investigation by the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network and the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project revealed that the Saudis were intent on building up a powerful conventional army in Syria. The “end-use certificate” for weapons purchased from an arms company in Belgrade, Serbia, in May 2013 includes 500 Soviet-designed PG-7VR rocket launchers that can penetrate even heavily-armored tanks, along with two million rounds; 50 Konkurs anti-tank missile launchers and 500 missiles, 50 anti-aircraft guns mounted on armored vehicles, 10,000 fragmentation rounds for OG-7 rocket launchers capable of piercing heavy body armor; four truck-mounted BM-21 GRAD multiple rocket launchers, each of which fires 40 rockets at a time with a range of 12 to 19 miles, along with 20,000 GRAD rockets.

    The end user document for another Saudi order from the same Serbian company listed 300 tanks, 2,000 RPG launchers, and 16,500 other rocket launchers, one million rounds for ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft guns, and 315 million cartridges for various other guns.

    Those two purchases were only a fraction of the totality of the arms obtained by the Saudis over the next few years from eight Balkan nations. Investigators found that the Saudis made their biggest arms deals with former Soviet bloc states in 2015, and that the weapons included many that had just come off factory production lines. Nearly 40 percent of the arms the Saudis purchased from those countries, moreover, still had not been delivered by early 2017. So the Saudis had already contracted for enough weaponry to keep a large-scale conventional war in Syria going for several more years.

    By far the most consequential single Saudi arms purchase was not from the Balkans, however, but from the United States. It was the December 2013 U.S. sale of 15,000 TOW anti-tank missiles to the Saudis at a cost of about $1 billion—the result of Obama’s decision earlier that year to reverse his ban on lethal assistance to anti-Assad armed groups. The Saudis had agreed, moreover, that those anti-tank missiles would be doled out to Syrian groups only at U.S. discretion. The TOW missiles began to arrive in Syria in 2014 and soon had a major impact on the military balance.

    This flood of weapons into Syria, along with the entry of 20,000 foreign fighters into the country—primarily through Turkey—largely defined the nature of the conflict. These armaments helped make al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, al Nusra Front (now renamed Tahrir al-Sham or Levant Liberation Organization) and its close allies by far the most powerful anti-Assad forces in Syria—and gave rise to the Islamic State.

    By late 2012, it became clear to U.S. officials that the largest share of the arms that began flowing into Syria early in the year were going to the rapidly growing al Qaeda presence in the country. In October 2012, U.S. officials acknowledged off the record for the first time to the New York Times that  “most” of the arms that had been shipped to armed opposition groups in Syria with U.S. logistical assistance during the previous year had gone to “hardline Islamic jihadists”— obviously meaning al Qaeda’s Syrian franchise, al Nusra.

    Al Nusra Front and its allies became the main recipients of the weapons because the Saudis, Turks, and Qataris wanted the arms to go to the military units that were most successful in attacking government targets. And by the summer of 2012, al Nusra Front, buttressed by the thousands of foreign jihadists pouring into the country across the Turkish border, was already taking the lead in attacks on the Syrian government in coordination with “Free Syrian Army” brigades.

    In November and December 2012, al Nusra Front began establishing formal “joint operations rooms” with those calling themselves “Free Syrian Army” on several battlefronts, as Charles Lister chronicles in his book The Syrian Jihad. One such commander favored by Washington was Col. Abdul Jabbar al-Oqaidi, a former Syrian army officer who headed something called the Aleppo Revolutionary Military Council. Ambassador Robert Ford, who continued to hold that position even after he had been withdrawn from Syria, publicly visited Oqaidi in May 2013 to express U.S. support for him and the FSA.  

    But Oqaidi and his troops were junior partners in a coalition in Aleppo in which al Nusra was by far the strongest element. That reality is clearly reflected in a video in which Oqaidi describes his good relations with officials of the “Islamic State” and is shown joining the main jihadist commander in the Aleppo region celebrating the capture of the Syrian government’s Menagh Air Base in September 2013.

    By early 2013, in fact, the “Free Syrian Army,” which had never actually been a military organization with any troops, had ceased to have any real significance in the Syria conflict. New anti-Assad armed groups had stopped using the name even as a “brand” to identify themselves, as a leading specialist on the conflict observed.

    So, when weapons from Turkey arrived at the various battlefronts, it was understood by all the non-jihadist groups that they would be shared with al Nusra Front and its close allies. A report by McClatchy in early 2013, on a town in north central Syria, showed how the military arrangements between al Nusra and those brigades calling themselves “Free Syrian Army” governed the distribution of weapons. One of those units, the Victory Brigade, had participated in a “joint operations room” with al Qaeda’s most important military ally, Ahrar al Sham, in a successful attack on a strategic town a few weeks earlier. A visiting reporter watched that brigade and Ahrar al Sham show off new sophisticated weapons that included Russian-made RPG27 shoulder-fired rocket-propelled anti-tank grenades and RG6 grenade launchers.

    When asked if the Victory Brigade had shared its new weapons with Ahrar al Sham, the latter’s spokesman responded, “Of course they share their weapons with us. We fight together.”  

    Turkey and Qatar consciously chose al Qaeda and its closest ally, Ahrar al Sham, as the recipients of weapons systems. In late 2013 and early 2014, several truckloads of arms bound for the province of Hatay, just south of the Turkish border, were intercepted by Turkish police. They had Turkish intelligence personnel on board, according to later Turkish police court testimony. The province was controlled by Ahrar al Sham. In fact Turkey soon began to treat Ahrar al Sham as its primary client in Syria, according to Faysal Itani, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

    A Qatari intelligence operative who had been involved in shipping arms to extremist groups in Libya was a key figure in directing the flow of arms from Turkey into Syria. An Arab intelligence source familiar with the discussions among the external suppliers near the Syrian border in Turkey during those years told the Washington Post’s David Ignatius that when one of the participants warned that the outside powers were building up the jihadists while the non-Islamist groups were withering away, the Qatari operative responded, “I will send weapons to al Qaeda if it will help.”

    The Qataris did funnel arms to both al Nusra Front and Ahrar al Sham, according to a Middle Eastern diplomatic source. The Obama administration’s National Security Council staff proposed in 2013 that the United States signal U.S. displeasure with Qatar over its arming of extremists in both Syria and Libya by withdrawing a squadron of fighter planes from the U.S. airbase at al-Udeid, Qatar. The Pentagon vetoed that mild form of pressure, however, to protect its access to its base in Qatar.

    President Obama himself confronted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his government’s support for the jihadists at a private White House dinner in May 2013, as recounted by Hersh. “We know what you’re doing with the radicals in Syria,” he quotes Obama as saying to Erdogan.

    The administration addressed Turkey’s cooperation with the al Nusra publicly, however, only fleetingly in late 2014. Shortly after leaving Ankara, Francis Ricciardone, the U.S. ambassador to Turkey from 2011 through mid-2014, told The Daily Telegraph  of London that Turkey had “worked with groups, frankly, for a period, including al Nusra.”

    The closest Washington came to a public reprimand of its allies over the arming of terrorists in Syria was when Vice President Joe Biden criticized their role in October 2014. In impromptu remarks at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, Biden complained that “our biggest problem is our allies.”  The forces they had supplied with arms, he said, were “al Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”  

    Biden quickly apologized for the remarks, explaining that he didn’t mean that U.S. allies had deliberately helped the jihadists. But Ambassador Ford confirmed his complaint, telling BBC, “What Biden said about the allies aggravating the problem of extremism is true.”

    In June 2013 Obama approved the first direct U.S. lethal military aid to rebel brigades that had been vetted by the CIA. By spring 2014, the U.S.-made BGM-71E anti-tank missiles from the 15,000 transferred to the Saudis began to appear in the hands of selected anti-Assad groups. But the CIA imposed the condition that the group receiving them would not cooperate with the al Nusra Front or its allies.

    That condition implied that Washington was supplying military groups that were strong enough to maintain their independence from al Nusra Front. But the groups on the CIA’s list of vetted “relatively moderate” armed groups were all highly vulnerable to takeover by the al Qaeda affiliate. In November 2014, al Nusra Front troops struck the two strongest CIA-supported armed groups, Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front on successive days and seized their heavy weapons, including both TOW anti-tank missiles and GRAD rockets.  

    In early March 2015, the Harakat Hazm Aleppo branch dissolved itself, and al Nusra Front promptly showed off photos of the TOW missiles and other equipment they had captured from it. And in March 2016, al Nusra Front troops attacked the headquarters of the 13th Division in northwestern Idlib province and seized all of its TOW missiles.  Later that month, al Nusra Front released a video of its troops using the TOW missiles it had captured.

    But that wasn’t the only way for al Nusra Front to benefit from the CIA’s largesse. Along with its close ally Ahrar al Sham, the terrorist organization began planning for a campaign to take complete control of Idlib province in the winter of 2014-15. Abandoning any pretense of distance from al Qaeda, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar worked with al Nusra on the creation of a new military formation for Idlib called the “Army of Conquest,” consisting of the al Qaeda affiliate and its closest allies. Saudi Arabia and Qatar provided more weapons for the campaign, while Turkey facilitated their passage. On March 28, just four days after launching the campaign, the Army of Conquest successfully gained control of Idlib City.

    The non-jihadist armed groups getting advanced weapons from the CIA assistance were not part of the initial assault on Idlib City. After the capture of Idlib the U.S.-led operations room for Syria in southern Turkey signaled to the CIA-supported groups in Idlib that they could now participate in the campaign to consolidate control over the rest of the province. According to Lister, the British researcher on jihadists in Syria who maintains contacts with both jihadist and other armed groups, recipients of CIA weapons, such as the Fursan al haq brigade and Division 13, did join the Idlib campaign alongside al Nusra Front without any move by the CIA to cut them off.

    As the Idlib offensive began, the CIA-supported groups were getting TOW missiles in larger numbers, and they now used them with great effectiveness against the Syrian army tanks. That was the beginning of a new phase of the war, in which U.S. policy was to support an alliance between “relatively moderate” groups and the al Nusra Front.

    The new alliance was carried over to Aleppo, where jihadist groups close to Nusra Front formed a new command called Fateh Halab (“Aleppo Conquest”) with nine armed groups in Aleppo province which were getting CIA assistance. The CIA-supported groups could claim that they weren’t cooperating with al Nusra Front because the al Qaeda franchise was not officially on the list of participants in the command. But as the report on the new command clearly implied, this was merely a way of allowing the CIA to continue providing weapons to its clients, despite their de facto alliance with al Qaeda.

    The significance of all this is clear: by helping its Sunni allies provide weapons to al Nusra Front and its allies and by funneling into the war zone sophisticated weapons that were bound to fall into al Nusra hands or strengthen their overall military position, U.S. policy has been largely responsible for having extended al Qaeda’s power across a significant part of Syrian territory. The CIA and the Pentagon appear to be ready to tolerate such a betrayal of America’s stated counter-terrorism mission. Unless either Congress or the White House confronts that betrayal explicitly, as Tulsi Gabbard’s legislation would force them to do, U.S. policy will continue to be complicit in the consolidation of power by al Qaeda in Syria, even if the Islamic State is defeated there.

  • The End Of The (Petro)Dollar: What The Fed Doesn't Want You To Know

    Authored by Shaun Bradley via TheAntiMedia.org,

    The United States’ ability to maintain its influence over the rest of the world has been slowly diminishing. Since the petrodollar was established in 1971, U.S. currency has monopolized international trade through oil deals with the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and continuous military interventions. There is, however, growing opposition to the American standard, and it gained more support recently when several Gulf states suddenly blockaded Qatar, which they accused of funding terrorism.

    Despite the mainstream narrative, there are several other reasons why Qatar is in the crosshairs. Over the past two years, it conducted over $86 billion worth of transactions in Chinese yuan and has signed other agreements with China that encourage further economic cooperation. Qatar also shares the world’s largest natural gas field with Iran, giving the two countries significant regional influence to expand their own trade deals.

    Meanwhile, uncontrollable debt and political divisions in the United States are clear signs of vulnerability. The Chinese and Russians proactively set up alternative financial systems for countries looking to distance themselves from the Federal Reserve.  After the IMF accepted the yuan into its basket of reserve currencies in October of last year, investors and economists finally started to pay attention. The economic power held by the Federal Reserve has been key in financing the American empire, but geopolitical changes are happening fast. The United States’ reputation has been tarnished by decades of undeclared wars, mass surveillance, and catastrophic foreign policy.

    One of America’s best remaining assets is its military strength, but it’s useless without a strong economy to fund it. Rival coalitions like the BRICS nations aren’t challenging the established order head on and are instead opting to undermine its financial support. Qatar is just the latest country to take steps to bypass the U.S. dollar. Russia made headlines in 2016 when they started accepting payments in yuan and took over as China’s largest oil partner, stealing a huge market share from Saudi Arabia in the process. Iran also dropped the dollar earlier this year in response to President Trump’s travel ban. As the tide continues to turn against the petrodollar, eventually even our allies will start to question what best serves their own interests.

    Many E.U. member states are clashing with the unelected leadership in Brussels over immigration, terrorism, and austerity measures. If no solutions are found and things deteriorate, other countries could potentially follow the U.K.’s lead and vote to leave, as well. It is starting to become obvious that countries in Eastern Europe will look to the East to get the resources their economies need.

    China, Russia, and India are all ahead of the curve and started stockpiling gold years ago. They recognize that hard assets will be the measure of true wealth in the near future — not fiat money. The historic hyperinflation that has occurred in these countries solidified the importance of precious metals in their monetary systems. Unfortunately, most Americans are ignorant of the past and will likely embrace more government bailouts and money printing when faced with the next recession. Even Fed officials have admitted that more quantitative easing is likely the only path going forward.

    Several renowned investors have warned about this ongoing shift of economic power from West to East, but bureaucrats and central bankers refuse to admit how serious things could get. The impact on the average person could be devastating if they are not properly educated and prepared for the fallout.

    Economist and author James Rickards summarized why China and Russia are so interested in acquiring precious metals:

    “They are stuck with their dollars. They fear, rightly, that the US will inflate its way out of its $19 trillion mountain of debt. China’s solution is to buy gold. If dollar inflation emerges, China’s Treasury holdings will devalue, but the dollar price of its gold will soar. A large gold reserve is a prudent diversification.  Russia’s motives are geopolitical. Gold is the model 21st century weapon for financial wars.The US controls dollar payments systems and, with help from European allies, can eject adversaries from the international payments system called Swift. Gold is immune to such assaults. Physical gold in your custody cannot be hacked, erased, or frozen. Moving gold is a simple way for Russia to settle accounts without US interference.”

    Mainstream pundits will continue to distract the public with the same optimistic talking points, but taking advantage of this calm before the storm is important. As this transition takes place, central bankers will sacrifice anything and everything to keep their Ponzi scheme going. Only individuals can take the initiative to protect themselves and be able to help others who won’t be as lucky. Those who embrace sound money and cryptocurrencies will thrive in this new competitive global economy, but if America fails to adapt, the same fiat system that gave it power will drag it into poverty.

  • "CNN Caught Cold" In Undercover Sting – Producer Admits Russia Fake News Story Pushed For Ratings

    Update: President Trump has noted the series of CNN 'Fake News' stories once again…

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    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

    The investigative journalists at Project Veritas have done it again! Known for their undercover sting operations, such as the one which exposed the DNC's highly organized network of professional agitators sent to disrupt Trump rallies, voter fraud, or the undercover operation which led to the arrests of Antifa thugs planning to disrupt an the inauguration "deploraball" event.

    This time, the organization led by James O'Keefe has infiltrated CNN

     

    A PV journalist covertly filmed a candid discussion with CNN [health] producer John Bonifield, where the "Very Fake News" network employee admitted that the whole Russia story against President Trump is nothing more than a ratings grab by CNN's CEO Jeff Zucker – based on the fact that most of CNN's liberal audience wants to see the President go down in flames.

    Bonifield also admitted that he hasn't seen any evidence of President Trump committing a crime.

    John Bonifield: Even if Russia was trying to swing an election, we try to swing their elections, our CIA is doing shit all the time, we're out there trying to manipulate governments.

     

    I haven't seen any good enough evidence to show that the President committed a crime.

     

    I know a lot of people don't like him and they'd like to see him get kicked out of office…. but that's a lot different than he actually did something that can get him kicked out of office.

    Russia is for ratings!

    PV Journalist: Why is CNN constantly like "Russia this, Russia that?"

     

    Bonifield: Because it's ratings. Our ratings are incredible right now.

     

    My boss, I shouldn't say this, my boss yesterday we were having a discussion about this dental shoot and he was like I just want you to know what we're up against here. Just to give you some context, President Trump pulled out of the climate accords. For a day and a half we covered the climate accords. And the CEO of CNN [Jeff Zucker] said in our internal meeting, he said good job everybody covering the climate accords, but we're done with it. Let's get back to Russia.

     

    But all the nice cutesy little ethics that used to get talked about in journalism school, you're just like, that's adorable. That's adorable. This is a business.

    True feelings about Russia…

    John Bonifield was asked directly what he thinks about Russia… and responded with what many on the right have been saying for months; If it was something really good, it would have already leaked:

    PV Journalist: But honestly, you think the whole Russia shit is just bullshit?

     

    Bonifield: Could be bullshit. I mean, it's mostly bullshit right now. Like, we don't have any giant proof. Then they say, "well there's still an investigation going on." I don't know, if they were finding something we would know about it. They way these leaks happen, they would leak it. They'd leak. If it was something really good, it'd leak.

     

    I just feel like they don't really have it but they want to keep digging. And so I think the President is probably right to say, like "look, you are witch hunting me. You have no smoking gun, you have no real proof."

    Watch:

      

     

    UPDATE: Full video here:

      

     

  • Quants Haven't Made Human Investors Obsolete Just Yet

    We are already unquestionably living in the era of the quantitative fund: Not only are quant funds receiving a larger percentage of new investor money than their discretionary peers, but as JPM Morgan’s head quant noted earlier this month, passive and quantitative funds now account for about 60% of equity assets, compared with less than 30% a decade ago.

    Indeed, the chart below confirms what JPM already revealed: "for now, systematic traders are the dominating force in markets."

    But while the asset-management space is increasingly looking like a “quant’s world”, with carbon-based traders looking increasingly anachronistic, a handful of fund managers are aggressively pushing back against the notion that human investors are headed toward obsolescence.

    At least that’s what a quartet of money managers have posited in recent weeks, according to Bloomberg.

    “Winton, a $30.6 billion hedge fund that’s used algorithms to trade for two decades, told clients that people must still make the big decisions. Michael Hintze, who runs another major fund, said computer models can spot market anomalies but rarely provide answers. Jordi Visser, investment chief at a third firm, said humans still have the upper hand when it comes to recognizing patterns. Billionaire bond manager Jeffrey Gundlach said he’s betting people will prevail."

    “Despite the immense power of modern computing, it is neither advisable — nor even possible — to dispense with humans entirely,” Winton, founded by David Harding, who earned a degree in theoretical physics before going into finance, wrote in its letter to clients this month.”

    These fund managers are not alone in their belief in the essentiality of human reasoning: Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that he isn’t worried about artificial intelligence taking American’s jobs. Never mind that his remarks arrived on the same day as a PWC report which showed that more than a third of U.S. jobs could be at "high risk" of automation by the early 2030s, a percentage that’s greater than in Britain, Germany and Japan.

    Not to mention what Bloomberg described as “a crescendo of warnings from the likes of Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and software billionaire Bill Gates that big data and machine learning may unleash a wave of automation on the US.”

    Doubleline Capital’s Gundlach said he doesn’t believe in machine’s taking over finance. His advice for beating them? “Work hard.”

    Jeff Gundlach

    Winton said that while some tasks, like recurring calculations for assessing risk and vetting trading algorithms for anomalies, might be outsourced to computers. Most investment decisions at the fund will still need to be vetted by humans.

    “Winton wrote in its letter, there are big tasks at hedge funds ripe for automation, such as performing large-scale, recurring calculations for assessing risk across portfolios. But according to the firm, whose 450 employees include astrophysicists and other scientists, computers are far from ready to make investing decisions independently. Instead, people will be running software at every stage of the process.

     

    Winton managers design and choose algorithms that are ultimately approved or rejected by its investment board. And while computers are better suited to handle early stages of checking data, once anomalies are flagged, humans are better at cross-referencing the irregularities against other sources to draw conclusions, the London-based firm said.”

     

    “The notion that human involvement in investment management should, or even could, be fully automated is wide of the mark,” Winton, which returned 1.3 percent this year through May on its main fund, wrote in the letter.”

    To be sure, none of this will stop the biggest banks – and at least one fund – from trying to automate as many tasks as possible, from aspects of underwriting, to asset management, to legal tasks.

    “Billionaire trader Steven Cohen is experimenting with ways to automate his best money managers. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is developing systems to eliminate hundreds of hours of human labor in initial public offerings. JPMorgan Chase & Co. is using machine-learning techniques to take over work from lawyers. (Its CEO, Jamie Dimon, said in an interview published Monday that people are massively overreacting to the threat of technology.)”

    But even the automation of low-level tasks could threaten at least one crucial aspect of the hedge-fund industry: The exorbitant fees charged by most managers.

    “Hedge fund managers, for example, traditionally charged clients 2 percent of assets and 20 percent of profits. It’s harder to justify if automated platforms can achieve decent results without a big bite. Such has been the case with index funds.”

    Some fund managers are also skeptical of backtesting – the process of trying to determine the efficacy of a trading algorithm by checking it against historical data. Successful traders will find ways to incorporate technology into their processes without relying on it alone to drive investment decisions, one fund manager said.

    “The industry’s survivors will be the ones who imbibe technology into their processes, Visser said. The trick is to use a combination of human judgment and models, “while artificial intelligence tries to catch up to the power of the brain,” he said.”

    And while some quant-driven strategies have certainly proven successful at sniffing out market anomalies, successful investors still need to grasp the basics.

    "Hintze at CQS, a $14 billion hedge fund based in London, concedes that quant-driven strategies are here to stay, and that they’re good at taking advantage of anomalies in markets. While engineering and mathematics are intriguing, successful investing is based on an understanding of fundamentals, technicals and investor sentiment, he said."

  • The Most Dangerous Fake News Of All Is Peddled By The Corporate Media

    Authored by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

    This is not the sort of thing you see in a confident, brave, and civilized nation, it’s the sort of stuff you’d expect to see toward the end. It’s the stuff of craven war-mongers, of dishonest cowards, of a totally deranged and very dangerous media. The signs are everywhere; imperial decline is set to accelerate rapidly in the coming years.

     

    – From the April post: Prepare for Impact – This is the Beginning of the End for U.S. Empire

    Fake news, propaganda and garbage information is everywhere and I’m not going to pretend otherwise. That being said, the key thing to understand is fake news from obscure websites you’ve never heard of is not what represents the real, global danger of rampant dishonest information. The real danger of fake news is the stuff that’s consistently being vomited onto the pages of “respectable,” billionaire-owned corporate media.

    Obscure blogs and independent thinkers such as myself aren’t influencing foreign policy, domestic policy or anything that really matters (look around you). While alternative media did indeed play a monumental role in the election of Donald Trump, how much really changed when it comes to the true power centers?

    Not much, not much at all. Goldman Sachs and Wall Street are more in control than ever before, and neocons and other assorted interventionists seem to be running foreign policy.

    All of this reminds me of the famous saying, “if voting made any difference, they’d make it illegal.” Indeed, the time has come for all of us to own up to the very real and present danger of corporate media, which seemingly exists to provide public relations for oligarchs and the foreign policy establishment. Not that this should be surprising, you’d have to be the most naive creature on earth to think newspapers owned by billionaires are going to tell the public the truth. Indeed, I made the following observation earlier today on Twitter.

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    Truth be told, it’s way beyond bizarre, it’s downright terrifying. Note that most major newspapers could barely catch their breath from demonizing Trump during his first three months, yet suddenly saw him as a heroic figure as soon as he lobbed a few bombs at Assad. This is like giving a puppy a treat for peeing on a wee wee pad. The corporate press is literally training Trump to wage as much imperial war as possible. It’s crucial to understand that Trump, or any other administration really, can only do so much on the interventionist war front as the corporate press permits and pushes. Unfortunately, the corporate press is always pushing for war.

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    Today provided yet another example of how the “respectable” oligarch-owned press unquestionably repeats government propaganda when it comes to foreign policy. Two days after Seymour Hersh blew a hole in the fairytale account of Assad using chemical weapons in April, and merely a few hours after Sean Spicer started conditioning the public for more war with evidence-free claims that another chemical attack was imminent, here’s how the New York Times covered the April attack.

    Naturally, you have the photo of the hurt child to pull at your heartstrings underneath which is written, “after a nerve agent was used in an attack in April.” Of course, there is no proof that a nerve agent was used in the attack; in fact, there seems to be increasing proof that there wasn’t. Yet, that doesn’t stop The New York Times from doing it again and again later in the piece.

    WASHINGTON — American officials have seen chemical weapons activity at a Syrian air base that was used in the spring nerve gas attack on rebel-held territory, the Defense Department said on Tuesday, scrambling to explain what prompted a White House statement a day earlier that Syria would “pay a heavy price” if it carried out another one.

     

    Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that what looked like active preparations for a chemical attack were seen at Al Shayrat airfield, which was struck in April by American cruise missiles two days after the Syrian government dropped bombs loaded with toxic chemicals in northern Syria. Another Defense Department official said that an aircraft shelter at Al Shayrat that had been hit by an American Tomahawk missile was being used for the preparation.

     

    The United States and other world powers have accused Mr. Assad’s forces of repeatedly using chemical weapons to subdue rebels seeking to topple his government. Chemical attacks killed more than 1,000 people near Damascus in 2013 and dozens more in northern Syria in April of this year.

    The paper consistently states non-facts as facts in order to push a particular narrative. Meanwhile, here’s some of what Seymour Hersh reported in German newspaper Die Welt over the weekend:

    The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack,  including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.

     

    Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president’s determination to ignore the evidence. “None of this makes any sense,” one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. “We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth … I guess it didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.”

     

    The Execute Order governing U.S. military operations in theater, which was issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  provide instructions that demarcate the relationship between the American and Russian forces operating in Syria. “It’s like an ops order – ‘Here’s what you are authorized to do,’” the adviser said. “We do not share operational control with the Russians. We don’t do combined operations with them, or activities directly in support of one of their operations.  But coordination is permitted. We keep each other apprised of what’s happening and within this package is the mutual exchange of intelligence.  If we get a hot tip that could help the Russians do their mission, that’s coordination; and the Russians do the same for us. When we get a hot tip about a command and control facility,” the adviser added, referring to the target in Khan Sheikhoun, “we do what we can to help them act on it.” “This was not a chemical weapons strike,” the adviser said. “That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon – you’ve got to make it appear like a regular 500-pound conventional bomb – would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear. Military grade sarin includes additives designed to increase toxicity and lethality. Every batch that comes out is maximized for death. That is why it is made. It is odorless and invisible and death can come within a minute. No cloud. Why produce a weapon that people can run away from?”

     

    The target was struck at 6:55 a.m. on April 4, just before midnight in Washington. A Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the U.S. military later determined that the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb triggered  a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground. According to intelligence estimates, the senior adviser said, the strike itself killed up to four jihadist leaders, and an unknown number of drivers and security aides. There is no confirmed count of the number of civilians killed by the poisonous gases that were released by the secondary explosions, although opposition activists reported that there were more than 80 dead, and outlets such as CNN have put the figure as high as 92. A team from Médecins Sans Frontières, treating victims from Khan Sheikhoun at a clinic 60 miles to the north, reported that “eight patients showed symptoms – including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary defecation – which are consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds.” MSF also visited other hospitals that had received victims and found that patients there “smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine.” In other words, evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.

    Given the reporting of a journalist with decades of history calling out government b.s., you’d think the New York Times would at least mention Hersh’s reporting in their article. Nope, not a peep.

    The Atlantic does a similar thing. Here are a few excerpts from its Syria piece this morning. Let’s start with the title.

    “Another” chemical attack. Meanwhile, it looks like the last one never even happened, yet does The Atlantic mention the report authored by Sy Hersh two days earlier? Of course not, but it does continue to repeat the fake news claim of an April chemical weapons attack over and over.

    White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer released a statement Monday night accusing the Syrian government of potentially engaging in preparations for another chemical weapons attack. While the statement offered minimal details, it argued that a future attack “would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.” On April 4, a government-led chemical attack in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province resulted in the deaths of more than 80 civilians. According to Spicer, the Syrian government’s latest preparations closely resemble those carried out prior to April 4.

    Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

    If indeed enacted, a new chemical weapons attack could have reverberating consequences throughout the international community. In response to April’s attack, the U.S. launched 59 tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base—the nation’s first military operation against an Arab government since President Obama’s intervention in Libya in 2011. At the time, the administration referred to the strike as a “one-off” occurrence intended to deter future chemical attacks. But, in the wake of the operation, administration officials reported that President Trump had been deeply troubled by graphic images of Syrian children struggling to breathe. “No child of God should ever suffer such horror,” Trump said while announcing the strike.

    The nation’s first military operation against an Arab government since President Obama’s intervention in Libya in 2011.”

    Since that went so well, we may as well do it again.

    Meanwhile, do you know anything about David G. Bradley, the man who owns Atlantic Media? I didn’t think so. Here’s a brief snippet mentioning him from a 2010 Daily Beast article about D.C. “richest power players.”

    Far more visible is well-heeled entrepreneur and Atlantic Media publisher David G. Bradley, who owns The National Journal, The Atlantic, and Hotline. In 1979, a 26-year-old Bradley founded the Research Council of Washington. Over the years he zeroed in on health care and finance, and in 1997 he sold the company for more than $300 million. He is known for hosting monthly ultra-exclusive off-the-record dinners—a Valhalla of insiders, top journalists, foreign leaders, and White House officials—in his glass-enclosed office at the Watergate. “It’s a joy for me,” Bradley has said. “I launched it for the romance of it. It’s more book club than it is clubhouse.”

    I’ll let you make your own determination as to whether or not this sort of thing is likely to lead to hard-hitting, power challenging journalism. Sounds like a bunch of elitists stroking each other to me.

    Which brings me to the main point. The major newspapers do not hold power to account. They aren’t working for the public interest, and you can see the results all around us. With government, corporate oligarchs and the media entirely aligned against the best interests of the population at large, the situation looks very bleak. The imperial train wreck appears unstoppable.

     

  • Chinese Satellite Data Hint At Ominous Manufacturing Slowdown

    Chinese factory activity contracted last month for the first time in nearly a year when the Caixin PMI dipped below 50, the threshold for growth. And now, early indicators for the month of June – including one satellite-based measure – suggest that there’s more pain ahead for the manufacturing sector in the world’s second-largest economy.

    A reading published by San Francisco-based SpaceKnow Inc. which uses commercial satellite imagery to monitor activity across thousands of industrial sites signaled deterioration in the country’s manufacturing sector for the first time since August. The gauge, known as the China Satellite Manufacturing Index, fell to 49.6, below the 50 break-even level. The index incorporates satellite data from thousands of industrial sites across China.

    Satellite imagery has often proved eerily presceint in the recent past: In the US, satellite data analyzing activity in retailers' parking lots pointed to significant activity weakness at core US retail locations, even as sentiment indicators were suggesting an uptick in sales following the election.

    Meanwhile, small- and medium-sized enterprises showed the lowest level of confidence in 16 months, and conditions in the steel business remained lackluster, according to Bloomberg.

    Some other indicators have been slightly more sanguine: sales-manager sentiment stayed positive, and outlook of financial experts recovered.

    Still, data suggest that output in China’s economy slowed during the second quarter after a strong start to the year, with investment slowing, some credit becoming tighter and signs that curbs on the country’s property market are starting to have an impact.

    Should growth continue to slow, China’s leaders would find themselves in an awkward position, with the country’s twice-a-decade leadership transition expected to occur this fall when the 19th Party Congress convenes to appoint its new senior leadership. It’s widely believed that China’s President Xi Jinping will begin serving his second five-year term.

    Another gauge, Standard Chartered Plc’s Small and Medium Enterprise Confidence Index slumped to a 16-month low at 54.7 – a sign that smaller companies are finding it harder to obtain credit as regulators move to damp financial risks. A sub-gauge of lending fell below 50, signaling deterioration, for the first time on record.

    These data show that Chinese banks are growing reluctant to lend to small Chinese companies, preferring larger, more established peers, this leaves those companies in line to feel the brunt of the People’s Bank of China’s monetary tightening, as the central bank tries to ease the market off of its dependence on repeated liquidity injections.

    “Although the central bank will likely provide sufficient liquidity to avoid a liquidity crunch, banks may still prefer lending to bigger rather than smaller companies amid tighter liquidity conditions,” according to Standard Chartered's Kelvin Lau and Hunter Chan.

    That could be the spark that ignites China’s “Minsky moment” – the financial cataclysm that Kyle Bass and other perma-china-bears have been waiting for when China’s overleveraged market crumbles to dust – might finally be in the offing. Indeed, though China's markets have been relatively calm recently, the PBOC's attempts to tighten liquidity have sparked some instability in recent months. Back in March, the central bank had to engage in mini bailouts when a jump in interbank rates caused some small regional lenders to default on their interbank loans after money market rates shot higher. Meanwhile, China's weakening credit impulse should give any China bulls pause.

    In one ominous sign, Hong Kong microcap stocks crashed overnight after a rumor that local exchanges might force all “zombie companies “ to delist triggered a wave of margin calls. The selloff triggered worries about stability in the country’s equity market, which has seen a series of spectacular crashes in individual names this year, despite the broader Hang Seng benchmark’s strong performance.

    Compounding worries for investors is a report published by Caixin a few weeks ago saying that two dozen Chinese companies asked their employees to buy their stock, promising to cover their losses – a transparent attempt at pumping up the price to fend off collateral calls on stock-backed loans.

    What's more, in a fantastic expose from earlier this month, Reuters reported on how Chinese firms' "rehypothecating" collateral between two and three borrowers, suggesting that billions, or maybe even trillions, of dollars' worth of loans are based on so-called ghost collateral, leaving them effectively unsecured.

    Meanwhile, the S&P Global Platts China Steel Sentiment Index remained at a lackluster level — 38.12 out of 100 points. The gauge is based on a survey of about 75 to 90 China-based market participants including traders and steel mills.

    "Market participants do not expect any great improvement over the coming month," Paul Bartholomew, a senior managing editor at S&P Global Platts in Melbourne, wrote in a release. "Confidence in the export market has evaporated after two stronger months, as overseas customers are wary about buying when the price direction is so unclear.”

    In addition to the ominous economic indicators, political tensions are worsening, too. Two weeks after Trump's ominous China “tried and failed” to contain North Korea tweet, the leaders of the two global powers appear to be getting closer to the default relationship that many expected after the election – that is to say, a hostile one. The Trump report follows last night's news that the United States plans to place China on its global list of worst offenders in human trafficking and forced labor, a step that according to Reuters could aggravate tensions with Beijing.
     

  • Jim Grant Explains The Gold Standard

    Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,

    Earlier this month in the Wall Street JournalJames Grant explored the latest academic attack on the gold standard — this time in the form of One Nation Under Gold by financial journalist James Ledbetter.

    Not that the establishment economics profession needs another book trashing gold. Among the university- and government-employed PhDs who hand down their wisdom about economics from on high, few have anything but disdain for the yellow metal. 

    Grant knows this all to well and notes: 

    As if to clinch the case against gold – and, necessarily, the case for the modern-day status quo – Mr. Ledbetter writes: “Of forty economists teaching at America’s most prestigious universities — including many who’ve advised or worked in Republican administrations — exactly zero responded favorably to a gold-standard question asked in 2012.”

     

    Perhaps so, but “zero” or thereabouts likewise describes the number of established economists who in 2005, ’06 and ’07 anticipated the coming of the biggest financial event of their professional lives. The economists mean no harm. But if, in unison, they arrive at the conclusion that tomorrow is Monday, a prudent person would check the calendar.

    Nevertheless, the gold standard has a reputation for being dark and nefarious. It’s backward and limiting, and the sort of thing one ought to associate with crucifixion, as implied in William Jennings Bryan’s famous Cross of Gold speech

    But, as Grant sums things up, it’s not as complicated as all that: 

    What was the gold standard, exactly — this thing that the professors dismiss so airily today? A self-respecting member of the community of gold-standard nations defined its money as a weight of bullion. It allowed gold to enter and leave the country freely. It exchanged bank notes to gold, and vice versa, at a fixed and inviolable rate. The people, not the authorities, decided which form of money was best.

     

    The gold standard was a hard task master, all right.

     

    You couldn’t devalue your way out of trouble.

     

    You couldn’t run up a big domestic budget deficit.

     

    The central bank of a gold-standard country (if there was a central bank) was charged with preserving the convertibility of the currency and, in a pinch, serving as lender of last resort to needy commercial banks. Growth, employment and price stability took their own course. And if, in a financial panic or a business-cycle downturn, gold fled the country, it was the duty of the central bank to establish a rate of interest that called the metal home. In the throes of a crisis, interest rates would likely go up, not down.

    The reason gold is so unpleasant then, Grant writes, is that “the modern sensibility quakes at the rigor of such a system.” But, in an age when science and technology can solve all our problems, surely if we try really hard, we can devise an economic system that can create wealth out of thin air! 

    Thus was the gold standard replaced by another standard: 

    That system features monetary oversight by former university economics faculty — the Ph.D. standard, let’s call it. The ex-professors buy bonds with money they whistle into existence (“quantitative easing”), tinker with interest rates, and give speeches about their intentions to buy bonds and tinker with interest rates (“forward guidance”).

    But why was this new standard adopted? Many economists would have us believe it was due to some rational embrace of more “correct” thinking. 

    But, as with Keynesian economics in general – which was largely embraced because it tells powerful people what they want to hear = the new monetary system was embraced because governments couldn't pay their debts:

    Addressing a national television audience on Sunday evening, Aug. 15, 1971, President Richard Nixon announced the temporary suspension of the dollar’s convertibility into gold. No more would foreign governments enjoy the right to trade in their greenbacks for bullion at the then standard rate of $35 to the ounce. 

    It’s not a coincidence that this came at the end of a long period of guns-and-butter policy in which the US government spent freely on new wars and a growing welfare state. But there was a problem. Government’s ability to give itself a raise by inflating the currency was restrained somewhat by the Bretton Woods system, which guaranteed the international value of gold at a fixed number of dollars. 

    Nixon yearned to be free of this restraint so he could spend dollars more freely, and not have to worry about their value in gold. 

    Nixon’s move was, in short, the final and total politicization on money itself, and, as Grant notes, “The Ph.D. standard is … a political institution. It is the financial counterpart to the philosophy of statism."

     

  • New Polls Suggest the People of the World Hate Trump — IMPEACH THE ORANGE ORB NOW!!!

    Enough of this charade. The people of the world have spoken, and just 22% of asked by Pew Research have confidence in President Trump — down from Obama’s stellar 64%. More than that, the only two nations in the world where Trump was more popular than Obama was Russia (shocker!) and Israel.

    Why doesn’t Trump move to Jerusalem and become President there? He seems to love that wall so much — plus he’d be closer to his friends in Russia.

    He loves walls.

    Our dear friend from MSNBC, the impartial Chris Mathews, weighs in on this new impeachable offense.

    Let’s recap Trump’s crimes.

    He worked with Russian hackers to access John Podesta’s email box, revealing the DNC to be the corrupt organization we’ve all grown to adore.
    After becoming President, he took two scoops of iced cream, while everyone else took only one.
    He fired Comey and called Flynn ‘a good guy.’ Clearly, collusion — execute all involved.
    He obstructed justice by claiming to have tapes. He had zero tapes. Impeach now.
    He didn’t enjoy a Ramadan dinner — something of a tradition in the White House.
    He might get a chance to nominate a second supreme court justice.
    He has yet to release his taxes.

    This orange orangutan must leave the White House to make way for the whitest man to ever live — Mike Pence. He’s so white, his hair is white. His stance of electrocuting gays until they turn back to normal is somewhat alarming — but I feel we can work with him in making America somewhat good again.

    This greatness business is arduous, hard work, and environmentally unfriendly.

    For the sake of the people of the world, in spite of Russia and Israel, we must impeach Trump now.

     

     

    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

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Jun 27

Today’s News 27th June 2017

  • Italy's Newest Bank Bailout Cost As Much As Its Annual Defense Budget

    Authored by Simon Black via SovereignMan.com,

    Two more Italian banks failed over the weekend– Banco Popolare di Vicenza and Veneto Banca.

    (In other news, the sky is blue.)

    The Italian Prime Minister himself stated that depositors’ funds were at risk, so the government stepped in with a bailout and guarantee package that could cost taxpayers as much as 17 billion euros.

    That’s a lot of money in Italy – around 1% of GDP. In fact it’s basically as much as the 17.1 billion euros they spent on national defense last year (according to an estimate by Italian think tank IAI).

    You don’t have to have a PhD in economics to figure out that NO government can afford to spend its entire defense budget every time a couple of medium-sized banks need a bailout.

    That goes especially for Italy, whose public debt level is already 132% of GDP… and rising. They simply don’t have the money.

    Moreover, the European Union actually has a series of new rules collectively known as the “Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive” which is supposed to prevent failing banks from being bailed out with taxpayer funds.

    Here’s the thing– Italy has LOTS of banks that are on the ropes.

    So with taxpayer resources exhausted (and technically prohibited), who’s going to be on the hook next time a bank goes under?

    Easy. By process of elimination, the only other party left to fleece is the depositor.

    Here’s how it works:

    Let’s say a bank takes in $1 billion in deposits.

    Naturally the bank doesn’t just keep $1 billion in cash sitting in its vault. They invest the money. They make loans. They buy assets.

    So the bank’s balance sheet shows $1 billion worth of assets, and $1 billion worth of deposits that they owe to their customers.

    But sometimes banks screw up when they invest their customers’ funds. Loans go bad. Borrowers default.

    For example, if a bank invested $200 million in Greek government bonds, and then the government of Greece defaults, the bank would only have $800 million in assets remaining.

    But they’d still owe their depositors the full $1 billion.

    How can a bank with only $800 million in assets possibly honor the $1 billion worth of deposits they owe to their customers?

    They can’t. And there’s a word for this: insolvency.

    This is the problem with so many banks across Italy (and many other countries around the world). They owe their depositors more than their assets are worth.

    Again, the taxpayers are ultimately on the hook from this weekend’s bailouts, along with some subordinated bondholders who got wiped out.

    But Italy’s banking problems go far beyond two little banks. This is a systemic issue across the country’s ENTIRE banking sector. And the solution goes far beyond what the taxpayers can afford.

    So next time around it could very well be the depositors who end up losing money.

    Even if not, it hardly seems worth taking the chance.

    By the way, I’m not just talking about Italy here.

    You know how they say “time heals all wounds?” Well, not in banking. Some wounds never heal.

    And there are countless banks and banking systems around the world that never fully recovered from the 2008 crisis.

    This raises the question– why hold money at a shaky bank in a country where the government is in debt up to its eyeballs? Especially when there are so many better options.

    Most people never think twice about where they hold their savings, typically opening accounts based on some irrelevant anachronism like geography.

    It’s 2017. Why trust all of your savings to a financial institution simply because it’s across the street?

    If you run a website, you wouldn’t necessarily choose a web hosting company because it’s located in your home town. You’d find the best company with the best service and best uptime.

    If you want to buy a new mobile phone, you wouldn’t just go to a local retailer. You’d probably shop online and find the best deal, even if it’s from a company across the planet.

    Why should money be any different?

    The world is a big place with LOTS of options and opportunities.

    And there are plenty of places where the banks might have MUCH stronger fundamentals, located in jurisdictions with minimal debt.

    But if this is too exotic, you could also consider physical cash.

    With an at-home safe, you effectively become your own banker, eliminating the middle man and eliminating the risk to your savings.

    This is all part of a great Plan B.

    Clearly there are risks in a number of banking systems, including most of the West where the majority of governments are themselves insolvent.

    Perhaps those risks are never realized.

    But it’s hard to imagine you’ll be worse off for holding a little bit of physical cash… or to consider the option of holding a portion of your savings in a bank that’s conservative, well-capitalized, and located in a country with zero debt.

    Even if nothing bad ever happens, there’s no downside in having taken these steps.

    But if these risks do pan out, your Plan B will end up being the best insurance policy you’ve ever had.

    Do you have a Plan B?

  • "You Will Be Held Accountable Trump" ISIS Hackers Deface Government Website With Threatening Message

    The websites of Ohio Governor John Kasich and other state government agencies were hacked on Sunday with a pro-ISIS post warning that President Donald Trump would be “held accountable” for deaths in Muslim countries, according to Bloomberg.

    Ten state websites and two servers that were affected have been taken off line for an investigation with law enforcement into how the hackers were able to deface them, said Tom Hoyt, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Administrative Services.

    The Ohio governor’s website wasn’t loading on Sunday afternoon, and a cached version showed the message “hacked by Team System Dz.’’ The message, pictured below, read: “You will be held accountable Trump, you and all your people for every drop of blood flowing in Muslim countries’’ adding, “I love the Islamic State.”

    Kasich spokeswoman Emmalee Kalmbach said in a statement that “as soon as we were notified of the situation, we immediately began to correct it, and will continue to monitor until fully resolved.”

    Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2018, posted on Facebook that the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction website had been hacked and said, “Wake up freedom-loving Americans. Radical Islam infiltrating the heartland.’’

    The same pro-Islamic State message, accompanied by music, was also shown on Sunday on the website of Brookhaven, a town on New York’s Long Island about 50 miles from Manhattan, according to the New York Post.

    The hacks come as Muslims around the world mark the end of the Ramadan, a month of fasting, and celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which began Saturday, and ends on Tuesday.

  • CNN Exposed In Undercover Sting – Producer Admits Russia Story Fake News Pushed For Ratings

    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

    The investigative journalists at Project Veritas has done it again! Known for their undercover sting operations, such as the one which exposed the DNC’s highly organized network of professional agitators sent to disrupt Trump rallies, voter fraud, or the undercover operation which led to the arrests of Antifa thugs planning to disrupt an the inauguration “deploraball” event.

    This time, the organization led by James O’Keefe has infiltrated CNN…

    A PV journalist covertly filmed a candid discussion with CNN [health] producer John Bonifield, where the “Very Fake News” network employee admitted that the whole Russia story against President Trump is nothing more than a ratings grab by CNN’s CEO Jeff Zucker – based on the fact that most of CNN’s liberal audience wants to see the President go down in flames.

    Bonifield also admitted that he hasn’t seen any evidence of President Trump committing a crime.

    PV Journalist: So you believe the Russia thing is a little crazy, right?

     

    John Bonifield: Even if Russia was trying to swing an election, we try to swing their elections, our CIA is doing shit all the time, we’re out there trying to manipulate governments.

    I haven’t seen any good enough evidence to show that the President committed a crime.


    I know a lot of people don’t like him and they’d like to see him get kicked out of office…. but that’s a lot different than he actually did something that can get him kicked out of office.

    Russia is for ratings!

    PV Journalist: Why is CNN constantly like “Russia this, Russia that?”

     

    Bonifield: Because it’s ratings. Our ratings are incredible right now.

     

    My boss, I shouldn’t say this, my boss yesterday we were having a discussion about this dental shoot and he was like I just want you to know what we’re up against here. Just to give you some context, President Trump pulled out of the climate accords. For a day and a half we covered the climate accords. And the CEO of CNN [Jeff Zucker] said in our internal meeting, he said good job everybody covering the climate accords, but we’re done with it. Let’s get back to Russia.


    But all the nice cutesy little ethics that used to get talked about in journalism school, you’re just like, that’s adorable. That’s adorable. This is a business.

    True feelings about Russia…

    John Bonifield was asked directly what he thinks about Russia… and responded with what many on the right have been saying for months; If it was something really good, it would have already leaked:

    PV Journalist: But honestly, you think the whole Russia shit is just bullshit?

     

    Bonifield: Could be bullshit. I mean, it’s mostly bullshit right now. Like, we don’t have any giant proof. Then they say, “well there’s still an investigation going on.” I don’t know, if they were finding something we would know about it. They way these leaks happen, they would leak it. They’d leak. If it was something really good, it’d leak.

    I just feel like they don’t really have it but they want to keep digging. And so I think the President is probably right to say, like “look, you are witch hunting me. You have no smoking gun, you have no real proof.”

    Watch:

      
     (Full video here):
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  • The Age Of No Privacy: The Surveillance State Shifts Into High Gear

    Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

    “We are rapidly entering the age of no privacy, where everyone is open to surveillance at all times; where there are no secrets from government.” ? William O. Douglas, Supreme Court Justice (1966)

    The government has become an expert in finding ways to sidestep what it considers “inconvenient laws” aimed at ensuring accountability and thereby bringing about government transparency and protecting citizen privacy.

    Indeed, it has mastered the art of stealth maneuvers and end-runs around the Constitution.

    It knows all too well how to hide its nefarious, covert, clandestine activities behind the classified language of national security and terrorism. And when that doesn’t suffice, it obfuscates, complicates, stymies or just plain bamboozles the public into remaining in the dark.

    Case in point: the National Security Agency (NSA) has been diverting “internet traffic, normally safeguarded by constitutional protections, overseas in order to conduct unrestrained data collection on Americans.”

    It’s extraordinary rendition all over again, only this time it’s surveillance instead of torture being outsourced.

    In much the same way that the government moved its torture programs overseas in order to bypass legal prohibitions against doing so on American soil, it is doing the same thing for its surveillance programs.

    By shifting its data storage, collection and surveillance activities outside of the country—a tactic referred to as “traffic shaping” —the government is able to bypass constitutional protections against unwarranted searches of Americans’ emails, documents, social networking data, and other cloud-stored data.

    The government, however, doesn’t even need to move its programs overseas. It just has to push the data over the border in order to “[circumvent] constitutional and statutory safeguards seeking to protect the privacy of Americans.”

    No wonder the NSA appeared so unfazed about the USA Freedom Act, which was supposed to put an end to the NSA’s controversial collection of metadata from Americans’ phone calls. The NSA had already figured out a way to accomplish the same results (illegally spying on Americans’ communications) without being shackled by the legislative or judicial branches of the government.

    Mind you, this metadata collection now being carried out overseas is just a small piece of the surveillance pie.

    The government and its corporate partners have a veritable arsenal of surveillance programs that will continue to operate largely in secret, carrying out warrantless mass surveillance on hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages and the like, beyond the scrutiny of most of Congress and the taxpayers who are forced to fund its multi-billion dollar secret black ops budget.

    In other words, the surveillance state is alive and well and kicking privacy to shreds in America.

    On any given day, the average American going about his daily business is monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways by both government and corporate eyes and ears.

    Whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

    We have now moved into a full-blown police state that is rapidly shifting into high-gear under the auspices of the surveillance state.

    Not content to merely transform local police into extensions of the military, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI are working to turn the nation’s police officers into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone Stingray devices and so much more.

    Add in the fusion centers, city-wide surveillance networks, data clouds conveniently hosted overseas by Amazon and Microsoft, drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras, and biometric databases, and you’ve got the makings of a world in which “privacy” is reserved exclusively for government agencies.

    Thus, the NSA’s “technotyranny”  is the least of our worries.

    Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people.

    And of course that doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine. Indeed, Facebook, Amazon and Google are among the government’s closest competitors when it comes to carrying out surveillance on Americans, monitoring the content of your emails, tracking your purchases, exploiting your social media posts and turning that information over to the government.

    It’s not just what we say, where we go and what we buy that is being tracked.

    We’re being surveilled right down to our genes, thanks to a potent combination of hardware, software and data collection that scans our biometrics—our faces, irises, voices, genetics, even our gait—runs them through computer programs that can break the data down into unique “identifiers,” and then offers them up to the government and its corporate allies for their respective uses.

    All of those internet-connected gadgets we just have to have (Forbes refers to them as “(data) pipelines to our intimate bodily processes”) are setting us up for a brave new world where there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

    Incredibly, there are still individuals who insist that they have nothing to fear from the police state and nothing to hide from the surveillance state, because they have done nothing wrong.

    To those sanctimonious few, secure in their delusions, let this be a warning.

    There is no safe place and no watertight alibi.

    The danger posed by the American police/surveillance state applies equally to all of us.

    As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, in an age of too many laws, too many prisons, too many government spies, and too many corporations eager to make a fast buck at the expense of the American taxpayer, we are all guilty of some transgression or other.

    Eventually, we will all be made to suffer the same consequences in the electronic concentration camp that surrounds us.

  • Prada Is Selling A $185 Paper Clip

    We finally have some good news for the distressed US retail industry.

    In light of recent deteriorating spending trends within the luxury segment, with Bank of America internal card data showing a relentless decline in retail spending among the wealthiest segment…

    … one would perhaps think that the conspicuous consumption excesses that marked the peak of the last bubble were long behind us.

    One would be wrong: first there was Balenciaga selling a $2,145 handbag that was a spitting image of an IKEA tote sold for $1 at the iconic store, and now, there is the $185 Prada paper clip.

    According to Business Insider, the Italian-made clip sold by Barneys New York, is 6.25 centimeters in length and 2.25 centimeters wide, is made from silver and has the Prada logo embossed on its side. It’s supposed to be used as a money clip, although one wonders why nouveau riche Millennials would use a Prada paper clip to hold their money (especially if much of it is in cryptocurrencies) when a, well, money clip should suffice perfectly. Then again, we can only assume Prada did their market research, and this is what it came up with:

    Of course, one can buy roughly 300 similar-looking paper clips on Amazon for around $5.50, which comes out to around $0.02 per paper clip, but hey, they are not silver Prada paperclips. 

    The social media response, as noted by Mashable, suggests that the new product may not be the smash hit that Prada envisioned:

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    On the odd chance that $185 is out of your budget, and if you can live without the Prada logo on your silver paper clip, Barneys sells a similar product for only $150.

  • Democratic-Party-Aligned Firm Behind Debunked "Russia Dossier" Stonewalls Senate Investigators

    A Democratic Party-aligned opposition research firm is stonewalling Congressional investigators who are trying to ascertain exactly who financed the now-debunked “Russia dossier” – remember? The one that claimed germaphobe Trump enjoyed getting urinated on by Russian hookers?

    The New York Post’s Paul Sperry is out with another report about Fusion GPS, a “research and strategic intelligence firm” founded by “three former Wall Street Journal investigative reporters.” But congressional sources say it’s actually an opposition-research group for Democrats, and the founders, who are more political activists than journalists, have a pro-Hillary, anti-Trump agenda."

    Fusion has refused to answer Senate investigators’ questions or provide records of communications that might help the panel identify who financed the error-ridden dossier. Now, because of the firm's intransigence, it looks like the investigators might soon make good on their threats.

    “These weren’t mercenaries or hired guns,” a congressional source familiar with the dossier probe said.

     

    “These guys had a vested personal and ideological interest in smearing Trump and boosting Hillary’s chances of winning the White House.”

    The firm was founded by Glenn Simpson, Thomas Catan and Peter Fritsch. Two of whom, Fritsch and Catan, have ties to Mexico — with Fritsch, a former Journal bureau chief in Mexico City, married to a Mexican woman who worked for Grupo Dina — a beneficiary of NAFTA. Catan, formerly from Britain, once edited a Mexican business magazine.

    Simpson, pictured below, is reported to have shared dark views of both Russian President Vladimir Putin and Trump. Before joining Fusion GPS, Simpson did opposition research for a former Clinton White House operative.

    Clearly, the research in the dossier – which was used to help justify the launch of Congressional and DOJ probes into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russian entities – has had tremendous consequences for the new administration, forcing Trump to beat back baseless claims and insinuations fed to the media by the DOJ and intelligence agencies. Still, after months of this treatment, no evidence of collusion has emerged.

    But the question remains: Who, exactly, provided the funding for the organization’s controversial and research? Money that allowed the firm to hire former MI6 agent Christopher Steele, allegedly the source of the dossier’s controversial claims.

    The Post has an idea of the profile, if not exactly the identity, of the individual or individuals responsible.

    “Fusion GPS was on the payroll of an unidentified Democratic ally of Clinton when it hired a long-retired British spy to dig up dirt on Trump. In 2012, Democrats hired Fusion GPS to uncover dirt on GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. And in 2015, Democrat ally Planned Parenthood retained Fusion GPS to investigate pro-life activists protesting the abortion group.”

    The FBI is also resisting Senate investigators who are zeroing in on the alleged misconduct by former deputy director Andrew McCabe, who’s failure to recuse himself from the investigation into the Trump campaign despite financial and political connections to Clinton through his Democrat activist wife has attracted suspicion.

    And unsurprisingly, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch – now the subject of another probe organized by the Senate Judiciary Committee – is somehow involved.

    "Senate investigators are demanding to see records of communications between Fusion GPS and the FBI and the Justice Department, including any contacts with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, now under congressional investigation for possibly obstructing the Hillary Clinton email probe, and deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, who is under investigation by the Senate and the Justice inspector general for failing to recuse himself despite financial and political connections to the Clinton campaign through his Democrat activist wife.:

    The bureau’s attempts to verify the content in the dossier should alarm anybody in a report that should who’s been following along these past few months, after receiving a copy of the dossier in August, the bureau offered to pay its controversial source to corroborate the information.

    “The FBI received a copy of the Democrat-funded dossier in August, during the heat of the campaign, and is said to have contracted in October to pay Steele $50,000 to help corroborate the dirt on Trump — a relationship that “raises substantial questions about the independence” of the bureau in investigating Trump, warned Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.”

    As the Post reminds us, Steele has been cited as the source for nearly the entire collusion narrative, from the pro-Trump hackers were working at the direction of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the theory that the Russian government might have compromising information about Trump, and the idea that a Trump confidant held a clandestine meeting in Moscow.

    All of these allegations, as the Post notes, are 100% bullshit. Steele hasn't traveled to Moscow since the 1990s, and it appears his main source for most of his material was Google. 

    “Steele’s most sensational allegations remain unconfirmed. For instance, his claim that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen held a “clandestine meeting” on the alleged hacking scheme in Prague with “Kremlin officials” in August 2016 unraveled when Cohen denied ever visiting Prague, his passport showed no stamps showing he left or entered the US at the time, witnesses accounted for his presence here, and Czech authorities found no evidence Cohen went to Prague.

     

    Steele hadn’t worked in Moscow since the 1990s and didn’t actually travel there to gather intelligence on Trump firsthand. He relied on third-hand “friend of friend” sourcing. In fact, most of his claimed Russian sources spoke not directly to him but “in confidence to a trusted compatriot” who, in turn, spoke to Steele — and always anonymously.

     

    But his main source may have been Google. Most of the information branded as “intelligence” was merely rehashed from news headlines or cut and pasted — replete with errors — from Wikipedia.”

    But that didn’t stop both Democrats and, before them, anti-Trump Republicans, from accepting Steele’s allegations without scrutiny – and paying him handsomely for his efforts.

    “Steele contracted with Fusion GPS to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia starting in June 2016, whereupon he outlandishly claimed that Hillary campaign hackers were “paid by both Trump’s team and the Kremlin” and that the operation was run out of Putin’s office. He also fed Fusion GPS and its Hillary-allied clients incredulous gossip about Trump hating the Obamas so much that he hired hookers to urinate on a bed they slept in at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton, and that Russian intelligence recorded the pee party in case they needed to blackmail Trump.

     

    Never mind that none of the rumors were backed by evidence or even credible sourcing (don’t bother trying to confirm his bed-wetting yarn, Steele advised, as “all direct witnesses have been silenced”). Steele reinforced his paying customers’ worst fears about Trump, and they rewarded him for it with a whopping $250,000 in payments.”

    Steele, pictured below, also played a role in maligning former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn by suggesting there was something “untoward” about Flynn’s attending of a dinner to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Russia Today – an event that was also attended by former Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

    “In the same August report, for example, Steele connected a Moscow trip taken by then-Trump campaign adviser Michael Flynn to “the Russian operation” to hack the election. But there was nothing secret about the trip, which had taken place months earlier and had been widely reported.

     

    And there was nothing untoward about it. It was a dinner celebrating the 10th birthday of Russian TV network RT, and Flynn sat at the same table with Putin as US Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein.”

    Meanwhile, it appears the founders of Fusion GPS have profited handsomely from their misinformation campaign:

    “Property records show that in June 2016, as Clinton allies bankrolled Fusion GPS, Fritsch bought a six-bedroom, five-bathroom home in Bethesda, Md., for $2.3 million.”

    Could this be the thread that finally unravels the Trump investigation? We think so. Stay tuned for more information once the inevitable subpoena is served…

  • "Tick, Tick, Tick" Comey Ally Scrambles To Explain Why "Next Trump Bombshell" Didn't Arrive Today

    As we noted late last week, Benjamin Wittes, the Brookings Institution senior fellow and noted ally of former FBI Director James Comey, took to twitter to claim that another “bombshell” story, presumably related to the multiple investigations into whether the Trump camp colluded with the Russians, was in the works. However, unlike previous warnings from Wittes, this one contained a caveat: the “fuse” on the story is of an uncertain length, and that the next salvo could arrive as soon as Monday.

    But with no major bombshell forthcoming, Wittes returned to Twitter Monday to offer a few clarifications.

     

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    Not only did Wittes reiterate that the timing of the next bombshell story remains uncertain, he also offered a few more clues: The, he says, isn’t necessarily related to Comey, who was spotted walking into the New York Times office in Times Square last week.

    He also noted that there’s “an interesting preemptive defense of collusion happening," likely referring to comments made on Fox News by Washington DC Managing Editor Brit Hume and a host of other characters.

    “Can anybody identify the crime?” Hume asked.

    While Wittes messages might appear to be the half-crazed ravings of a defeated liberal, as the Daily Caller pointed out, they should be taken seriously. His previous warnings – tweets of “TICK TICK TICK” – have in the recent past preceded major NYT bombshells, including the May 16 report about the Comey memo and its contents. He tweeted a similar message two days later, before the NYT published a report about Comey wanting to keep his distance from Trump.

     

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    Wittes did it again shortly before the Times published a story alleging Comey asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to leave him in the room alone with Trump on June 6. Wittes says he has reviewed Comey-related stories before, and was an on-the-record source for the May 18 piece reported by the NYT’s Michael Schmidt, where he recounted to the NYT reporter that Comey had told him at a lunch meeting that he sought to distance himself from Trump. Comey felt that Trump was attempting to cozy up to Comey in hopes of quashing the ongoing Russia probe.

    As for his point about the story not involving Comey, perhaps the Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutorial Democrats have unearthed a new baseless narrative with which to badger the president. Let’s see: We’ve already seen collusion and obstruction – and can only imagine what might be next.

    Maybe Trump really did shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue. Only way to find out is to stay tuned

  • Seymour Hersh: US Lied About Syrian Chemical Attack Then Bombed Them Anyway

    Liberty Blitzkrieg's Mike Krieger notes that part of Trump’s appeal to many of his voters was, at least ostensibly, the idea that he would employ a less hawkish/neocon foreign policy than his opponent Hillary “We Came, We Saw, He Died” Clinton.

    While it’s still too early to decisively say that Trump will usher in yet another foreign policy disaster for these United States and the world, it’s certainly not looking good.

     

    The lobbing of tomahawk missiles into Syrian based on the fairytale that Assad launched a chemical weapons attack was the first sign that Trump is easily manipulated and impulsive. In fact, the episode bothered me so much I wrote a post detailing the dire ramifications titled, Prepare for Impact – This is the Beginning of the End for U.S. Empire.  I suggest taking a read if you missed it the first time, it’s my most popular post of the year.

     

    While that was bad enough, Trump’s cozying up to the barbaric, terrorist-supporitng leaders of Saudi Arabia has been by far the most concerning aspect of his foreign policy (if you can call it that) so far. This policy has become even more dangerous now that the 30-year old princeling who is leading the Saudis’ increasingly aggressive stance in the region has been named crown prince. It appears Trump is willing to let the Saudis do whatever they want in the region, which is guaranteed to have disastrous implications for America and the Middle East.

    But a new Seymour Hersh article is out showing that the US knew there was no Assad chemical attack in April, but President Trump decided to bomb anyway.

    And the details are shocking… as TheAntiMedia.org's Darius Shahtahmasebi details, never one to accept the U.S. government’s official explanation of events without question, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh has investigated Donald Trump’s decision to strike the al-Shayat Airbase in Syria in April of this year, which the president launched amid widespread allegations that the Syrian government committed a chemical weapons attack.

    In a report entitled “Trump’s Red Line,” published Sunday in the daily German newspaper Die Welt, Hersh asserts that President Donald Trump ignored important intelligence reports when he made the decision to attack Syria after pictures emerged of dying children in the war-torn country.

    For those of us without goldfish memories, Hersh’s recent investigation is reminiscent of his previous examination of the alleged chemical weapons attacks in 2013, detailed in an article entitled “Whose Sarin?” That article was published in the London Review of Books.

    The official White House explanation for the events in April of this year was that Donald Trump was moved by the suffering of “beautiful” Syrian babies – the same Syrian babies he doesn’t want to set foot in the United States – and decided to punish the Syrian government for the attack two days after it allegedly occurred. This punishment came in the form of an airstrike despite the lack of a thorough investigation regarding what took place that fateful day in April and who was ultimately culpable (though the Trump administration insisted they were certain that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was to blame).

    In that context, it should come as no surprise that Trump acted rashly without consideration of the facts on the ground. However, what is most disturbing about Hersh’s account is the fact that, according to his source, Trump was well aware that the U.S. had no solid intelligence linking the Syrian government to a chemical weapons attack — and that’s because, according to Hersh’s article, it’s doubtful a chemical weapons attack occurred at all.

    Hersh reports:

    “The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack,  including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.”

     

    “None of this makes any sense,” one officer reportedly told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb Syria, according to Hersh. We KNOW that there was no chemical attack … the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth … I guess it didn’t matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.”

    According to Hersh, Trump “could not be swayed” by 48 hours worth of intense briefings and decision-making following the initial reports of the alleged chemical weapons attack. Hersh, who reportedly reviewed transcripts of real-time communications, explains that there is a “total disconnect” between the president and his military advisers and intelligence officials.

    As is the case with Syrian military operations, Russia gave the U.S. details of the carefully planned attack on a meeting in Khan Sheikhoun, according to Hersh’s  admittedly anonymous sources. The Russians had employed a drone to the area days before the attack to develop the intelligence necessary to coordinate it.

    According to Hersh’s sources, the United States and its Russian counterpart routinely share information regarding planned attacks in order to avoid collisions. However, they also permit “coordination,”  a practice that involves giving the other side a “hot tip about a command and control facility,” which then helps the other side carry out their attack.

    Therefore, there was no surprise chemical weapons attack, as the Trump administration alleged. In fact, Russia had actually warned its American counterpart on the off-chance that there were any CIA assets on the ground who should have been forewarned of an impending attack.

    “They [the Russians] were playing the game right,” a senior adviser told Hersh.

    Hersh continues:

    “Russian and Syrian intelligence officials, who coordinate operations closely with the American command posts, made it clear that the planned strike on Khan Sheikhoun was special because of the high-value target. ‘It was a red-hot change. The mission was out of the ordinary – scrub the sked,’ the senior adviser told me. ‘Every operations officer in the region’ – in the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, CIA and NSA – ‘had to know there was something going on. The Russians gave the Syrian Air Force a guided bomb and that was a rarity. They’re skimpy with their guided bombs and rarely share them with the Syrian Air Force. And the Syrians assigned their best pilot to the mission, with the best wingman.’ The advance intelligence on the target, as supplied by the Russians, was given the highest possible score inside the American community.

    Hersh confirms Russia’s account of the incident, in which Russian authorities alleged that the Syrian Air Force bombed a “terrorist warehouse,” and that secondary bombings dispersed dangerous chemicals into the atmosphere.

    Strangely, if Hersh’s reporting is accurate, it is not clear why Russia didn’t give the detailed account at the time — and why the Russians didn’t emphasize that they had shared information with the U.S. military well in advance of the attack, as this would have cast further doubt on the official U.S. narrative. In that context, Russia could have provided proof of any prior communications that took place within the so-called deconfliction channel. It also doesn’t explain why Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, appeared to endorse two competing theories behind the events at Khan Sheikhoun.

    However, Hersh continues:

    “A team from Médecins Sans Frontières, treating victims from Khan Sheikhoun at a clinic 60 miles to the north, reported that ‘eight patients showed symptoms – including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary defecation – which are consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds.’ MSF also visited other hospitals that had received victims and found that patients there ‘smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine.’ In other words, evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.

    Hersh is not the first high-profile investigator to cast major doubts on the Trump administration’s official narrative regarding the events at Khan Sheikhoun. MIT professor emeritus Theodore Postol, who previously worked as a former scientific advisor to the U.S. military’s Chief of Naval Operations, poked major holes in the claims that the Syrian government had launched a chemical weapons attack at Khan Sheikhoun, noting the “politicization” of intelligence findings (you can access all of his reports here). Postol argued that there was no possible way U.S. government officials could have been sure Assad was behind the attack before they launched their strike, even though they claimed to be certain. Postol took the conversation even further, asserting that the available evidence pointed to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft. Former weapons inspector Scott Ritter had similar concerns regarding the White House’s conclusions, as did former U.K. ambassador to Syria Peter Ford. The mainstream media paid almost zero attention to these reports, a slight that exposes the media’s complicity in allowing these acts of war to go ahead unquestioned.

    “This was not a chemical weapons strike,” the adviser said. “That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon – you’ve got to make it appear like a regular 500-pound conventional bomb – would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear. Military grade sarin includes additives designed to increase toxicity and lethality. Every batch that comes out is maximized for death. That is why it is made. It is odorless and invisible and death can come within a minute. No cloud. Why produce a weapon that people can run away from?”

    According to Hersh’s source, within hours of viewing the footage of the ‘attack’ and its aftermath, Trump ordered his national defense apparatus to plan for retaliation against the Syrian government. Hersh explains that despite the CIA and the DIA (Defense Intelligence Agency) having no evidence that Syria even had sarin, let alone that they used it on the battlefield, Trump was not easily persuaded once he had made up his mind.

    “Everyone close to him knows his proclivity for acting precipitously when he does not know the facts,” the adviser told Hersh. He doesn’t read anything and has no real historical knowledge. He wants verbal briefings and photographs. He’s a risk-taker. He can accept the consequences of a bad decision in the business world; he will just lose money. But in our world, lives will be lost and there will be long-term damage to our national security if he guesses wrong. He was told we did not have evidence of Syrian involvement and yet Trump says: ‘Do it.”’ [emphasis added]

    At a meeting on April 6, 2017, at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, Trump spoke with his national security officials regarding the best way to move forward. The meeting was not to decide what to do, Hersh explains, but how best to do it (and how to keep Trump as happy as possible).

    Trump was given four options. The first one was dismissed at the outset because it involved doing nothing. The second one was the one that was decided upon: a minimal show of force (with advance warning to Russia). The third option was the strike package that Obama was unable to implement in 2013 in the face of mounting public opposition and Russia’s threats of intervention. This plan was Hillary Clinton’s ultimate fantasy considering she was encouraging it moments before Trump’s lone strike actually took place. However, this would have involved extensive air strikes on Assad’s airfields and would have drawn in the Russian military to a point of no return. The fourth option involved the direct assassination of the Syrian president by bombing his palaces, as well as his underground bunkers. This was not considered, either.

    As we all witnessed in April, the second option was adopted, and the airbase Trump struck was up and running again in less than 24 hours, making it a very symbolic and empty show of force.

    Hersh’s insight into the way Trump is conducting his foreign policy does not bode well for the future of the Syrian conflict (or anywhere else in the world, for that matter). Trump was not interested in the intelligence or the facts on the ground — if he had been, he would have waited until an investigation had determined culpability before ordering a strike.

    Missing from Hersh’s account, however, is the fact that it was newly appointed national security advisor General H.R. McMaster who laid out the military strike proposals to the president at his resort on April 6. McMaster replaced former national security advisor Michael Flynn after the latter was forced to resign due to leaks from within the intelligence community. Due to Flynn’s alleged ties to Russia, it seems unlikely he would have proposed such a strike on Russia’s close ally to begin with.

    It is unclear whether McMaster proposed the strikes in order to appease Trump or because McMaster ultimately wants Trump to adopt a tougher stance against Syria and Russia; McMaster has a history of pro-interventionism and anti-Russian sentiment.

    Those commentators who can review these startling revelations but still condone Trump’s actions with a lazy ‘Assad is still a bad guy and must be overthrown’ mindset argument are being intellectually dishonest, with themselves and others. As was the case in 2013, there is still very little evidence that Assad has ever used chemical weapons — particularly in the attacks that the U.S. has tried to pin on him — yet this is the standard by which the corporate media and our respective governments have instructed us to judge Assad. Even without this conclusive evidence, shortly after the April events, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley stated Assad will fall from power.

    Hersh’s investigation bolsters many claims that the U.S. acted rashly without first conducting or ordering an impartial inquiry regarding what happened in April of this year. Hersh’s report also serves as a reminder to the world of the warpath we are continuing down, spearheaded by an impulsive and reckless megalomaniac who has no interest in ascertaining fact from fiction.

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    Liberty Blitzkrieg's Mike Krieger also notes that just as interesting as the information above, is the fact that Hersh had to turn to a German newspaper to publish it. This makes perfect sense, because the one area where U.S. corporate press maintains unassailable consistency is when it comes to cheerleading for an interventionist, imperial foreign policy based on unverified claims and outright lies. Trump’s little fireworks display checked all those boxes, which is why the corporate media drooled all over the bombing, celebrating Trump for the first time of his Presidency. As Hersh notes:

    After the meeting, with the Tomahawks on their way, Trump spoke to the nation from Mar-a-Lago, and accused Assad of using nerve gas to choke out “the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many … No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”

     

    The next few days were his most successful as president. America rallied around its commander in chief, as it always does in times of war.

     

    Trump, who had campaigned as someone who advocated making peace with Assad, was bombing Syria 11 weeks after taking office, and was hailed for doing so by Republicans, Democrats and the media alike. One prominent TV anchorman, Brian Williams of MSNBC, used the word “beautiful” to describe the images of the Tomahawks being launched at sea. Speaking on CNN, Fareed Zakaria said: “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States.” 

     

    A review of the top 100 American newspapers showed that 39 of them published editorials supporting the bombing in its aftermath, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

    Which once again goes to show just how worthless, irresponsible and downright dangerous U.S. corporate media really is.

    Finally, as Ron Paul rages below, Republicans cannot let go of "regime change" for Syria and new Cold War with Russia — even as the Democrats are starting to back away. Will the mainstream media stick with the narrative as well? Or is it all about to come crashing down?

  • McMansions Are Back And They're More Hideous Than Ever

    The McMansion rose to prominence in the early-to-mid-2000s and to this day is the epitome of the excesses created by the biggest mortgage bubble in the history of mankind.  In suburbs all across America, these 3,000 – 5,000 square foot, cookie-cutter monstrosities, with their foam pillars and lots that were just barely larger than the footprint of the houses themselves, were popping up faster than you could say “subprime mortgage.”

    McMansion

     

    Unfortunately, as we’re forced to report frequently here, Americans tend to have very short-term memories and can’t seem but help but constantly repeat the sins of their past.  As such, it’s hardly a surprise that the average size of new homes in the U.S. is once again skyrocketing at an even faster rate than the early part of this century.

     

    Apparently people in the Midwest managed to maintain some level of modesty in the early 2000’s but have since decided ‘modesty’ is massively overrated.

     

    Meanwhile, the return of the McMansion epidemic is also helping to push home prices back to all-time highs.

     

    Meanwhile, if you can’t beat em, as the saying goes, then you might as well mercilessly mock and ridicule them…or something like that.  Luckily, as the Washington Post points out today, that is where “McMansion Hell” comes in.

    Kate Wagner, an architecture critic, wishes America would have learned its lesson about McMansions the first time around. She spends her free time tearing apart their architectural anachronisms on her blog, McMansion Hell.

     

    Wagner describes McMansions as a particular artifact of economic history, one whose physical form was the product of a new American pastime: flipping houses.

     

    And, since Americans will never stop building these hideous dwellings, McMansion Hell should be able to provide us with hours of entertainment for years to come.

    “They were built to sell in the year they were selling, not for future generations,” said Wagner. “These houses are kind of disfigured, because they were built from the inside out, to have the most amenities to sell faster.”

     

    A culture of house flipping helped to quantify certain home improvements, like the addition of colossal marble islands and palatial foyers designed to grab the attention of buyers. That gave these houses even more of a cookie-cutter feel.

     

    “It’s about invoking the symbolism of having a lot of money, but not spending a lot of money on the house,” says Wagner.

     

    Whoever owns the house above must be poor…not a single column.

Digest powered by RSS Digest

Jun 26

Today’s News 26th June 2017

  • (Un)Locked & Loaded

    Recently, we shed light on the number of children in the U.S. that accidentally killed themselves or another child in the last three years. As reported by USA Today, in most cases the initial cause is the presence of a loaded, unsecured gun in the home. As Statista's Martin Armstrong notes, data from Pew Research Center reveals that as much as 38 percent of gun owners in the States have a loaded, easily accessible gun in the home at all times.

    Infographic: Locked and Loaded | Statista

    You will find more statistics at Statista

    An additional 17 percent said this is the case most of the time, while a minority 33 percent said that this never happens. The Pew poll also showed that for 67 percent of owners, a major reason for having a gun is for protection.

    While this desire is completely understandable, with an average of one child under the age of twelve dying due to an accidental firearms accident every week, the inherent risks for a family may outweigh the gains unless the weapon is securely stored.

  • NSA Uses Trick to Spy On Americans

    The government is spying on most Americans through our computers, phones, cars, buses, streetlights, at airports and on the street, via mobile scanners and drones, through our credit cards and smart meters, televisions, dolls, and in many other ways.

    This week, ZDNet reported that the NSA uses a trick to get around the few flimsy American laws on spying … they shuttle internet traffic overseas so they can pretend they’re monitoring foreign communications:

    A new analysis of documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden details a highly classified technique that allows the National Security Agency to “deliberately divert” US internet traffic, normally safeguarded by constitutional protections, overseas in order to conduct unrestrained data collection on Americans.

     

    According to the new analysis, the NSA has clandestine means of “diverting portions of the river of internet traffic that travels on global communications cables,” which allows it to bypass protections put into place by Congress to prevent domestic surveillance on Americans.

     

    ***

     

    One leaked top secret document from 2007 details a technique that allows the intelligence agency to exploit the global flow of internet data by tricking internet traffic into traveling through a set and specific route, such as undersea fiber cables that the agency actively monitors.


    Leaked NSA document from 2007. (Image: source document)

     

    The document’s example noted Yemen, a hotspot for terrorism and extremist activity. It is difficult to monitor because the NSA has almost no way to passively monitor internet traffic from the cables that run in and out of the country. By shaping the traffic, the agency can trick internet data to pass through undersea cables that are located on friendlier territory.

     

    Goldberg’s research takes that logic and focuses it on US citizens, whose data and communications is out of bounds for the intelligence agencies without a valid warrant from the surveillance court.

     

    The government only has to divert their internet data outside of the US to use the powers of the executive order to legally collect the data as though it was an overseas communication. Two Americans can send an email through Gmail, for example, but because their email is sent through or backed up in a foreign data center, the contents of that message can become “incidentally collected” under the executive order’s surveillance powers.

    Thomas Drake – one of the top NSA executives, and Senior Change Leader within the NSA – blew the whistle on this deceptive practice more than a decade ago.

    For his troubles, Drake was prosecuted under the Espionage Act and literally framed by the government.

    Postscript:  Drake also notes that the government is storing for the long-term just about everything they’re collecting.

    But don’t worry … the government would never think of doing anything bad with the information.

  • The "World's Policeman" Retires On Disability

    Authored by Wayne Madsen via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

    Ever since the end of World War II, the United States, rightly or wrongly, but most of the time, wrongly, has fancied itself as the «world’s policeman». Even a disastrous and costly military intervention in Southeast Asia did not deter the United States from acting as the chief arbiter of what governments were «in» and which were «out» as evidenced by Central Intelligence Agency interloping in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Angola, Haiti, and Colombia. Two military interventions in Iraq and a U.S.-led military campaign directed against Yugoslavia were not enough to pry the United States from its self-appointed role as the chief «global cop». In fact, American neoconservatives continued to fanaticize about the United States leading the world into a post-Cold War «new American century».

    The United States under Donald Trump now resembles a disabled policeman who was forced to retire on disability after being injured, not in the line of duty, but by engaging in self-destructive piques of bravado. The United States has abandoned internationalism as witnessed by Washington’s withdrawal from the free trade Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Paris climate agreement. The United Kingdom’s decision to depart the European Union in the Brexit referendum has put the final nail in the coffin of Britain’s status as a minor «superpower».

    Until another nation steps forward to claim the title of chief world cop, the world will be subjected, as coined by the New Testament’s Book of Matthew, to «wars and rumors of wars».

    Arising from a combination of Donald Trump's tweets and outbursts about subjects ranging from Qatar to Taiwan and NATO to Palestine, old border disputes and diplomatic rivalries are beginning to flare up. The Trump administration also appears to be unwilling to fill a number of vacancies in the State Department, a development that has added to a de facto American hands-off approach to many simmering international disputes.

    Trump's siding with the Saudi Arabian-led bloc of Arab and Muslim nations in its confrontation with Qatar has resulted in Trump’s Saudi and other Gulf allies demanding that Qatar close down Al Jazeera and other media operations in Doha that are out of favor with Qatar’s neighbor oligarchic potentates. The Saudi-contrived demands of Qatar’s government, in return for a lifting of Saudi and United Arab Emirates sanctions against Doha, amount to nothing less than total political and economic subjugation of Qatar by Saudi Arabia, which is akin to Saudi Arabia’s de facto colonization of Bahrain. In the past, the United States would have simply ordered the Saud regime to cease and desist in making threats against neighboring countries. Saudi action against Qatar has had wide-ranging effects in the region, which include renewed border tensions between Qatar and Bahrain over some largely uninhabited islands, as well as between Eritrea and Djibouti, on whose border Qatar had provided a peacekeeping force.

    In 2001, the International Court of Justice awarded many of the disputed Hawar Islands, which lie closer to Qatar than to Bahrain, to the Bahrainis. As a consolation prize, the world court awarded Janan Island to Qatar. The decision never sat well with Qatar. As the Bahrainis were announcing a mega-development project for the largely-uninhabited Hawar Islands, the pro-Saudi press in the Middle East began writing stories about Qatari intelligence operations directed against Bahrain. Press items included the interest shown by Qatari intelligence in the military deployments and readiness of Bahraini forces stationed in the Hawar Islands.

    After Eritrea and Djibouti sided with Saudi Arabia in its diplomatic dispute with Qatar, Qatari peacekeeping troops were withdrawn from the Eritrean-Dijbouti border. The result was Eritrean troops quickly occupying the Doumeira mountain border area, which is claimed by Djibouti. The border dispute between Eritrea and Djibouti began in 2008, when Eritrean troops occupied the Doumeira mountain and dug in. Qatar sent some 450 peacekeepers to patrol the disputed zone in 2010. With their hasty departure, the border has become a renewed flash point in the volatile Horn of Africa.

    Although the African Union got involved in the border dispute, the U.S. State Department, once a nexus for geopolitical status quo enthusiasts, remained quiet. It is unusual for the State Department not to comment on such border disputes. Not only does the United States maintain the large U.S. Central Command airbase at Al-Udeid in Qatar, but it also has a major military presence at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.

    China, the power that is eclipsing the United States in international importance as an arbiter of disputes, is building a military base in Djibouti. It is also establishing a maritime port in Gwadar in Pakistan, from which it can deploy naval forces to the Persian Gulf.

    Elsewhere in Africa, a border dispute over Lake Nyasa has erupted after a 50-year dormancy between Malawi and Tanzania. A dispute between Cameroon and Nigeria over the Bakassi Peninsula also shows signs of re-erupting. At issue are natural gas deposits under Lake Nyasa and oil in the Bakassi region. Sudan and Egypt are, once again, bickering over control of the Halayeb triangle border region, currently under Egyptian control.

    Two NATO allies, Croatia and Slovenia, are awaiting a decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague on its decision in a border dispute. Croatia has accused the Slovenians of conspiring with the judges. Croatia also likely distrusts the United States and its Slovenian-born First Lady Melania Trump for possibly influencing the court's decision in favor of Slovenia. Mrs. Trump’s parents, Viktor and Amalija Knavs, have visited the White House and they are in a perfect position to deliver to President Trump, «personal» messages from the Slovenian government. The court's decision is expected on June 29, 2017.

    The United Kingdom's exit from the European Union has re-triggered sovereignty issues between Britain and Spain over Gibraltar and Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands and Dependencies and British Antarctic Territory. Britain also saw a stinging rebuke over its treatment of the Chagos Islanders in its unilaterally-created British Indian Ocean Territory. In the late 1960’s, the people of the Chagos Islands, which include the island of Diego Garcia, were deported from the islands to Mauritius and Seychelles to make way for a U.S. military base on Diego Garcia. In a 94 to 15 vote, the United Nations General Assembly ordered the case of the legal status of the Chagos Islands to the International Court of Justice in The Hague. If the court rules against Britain, the United States will have to make a new long-term lease deal with Mauritius, the original legal administrator of the Chagos Islands, to keep the base at Diego Garcia.

    In the UN vote, Britain’s soon-to-be-former European Union allies abstained. The United Kingdom, backed by the Trump administration, saw NATO and EU members France, Germany, Spain, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Estonia, Latvia, and Greece abstain. Canada, a «Five Eyes» intelligence partner of the United States and Britain, also abstained. Voting with the United States and Britain and against Mauritius were a collection of countries that are nothing more than beggars for U.S. and British military aid: Afghanistan, Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Israel, Lithuania, Montenegro, and South Korea, in addition to the other Five Eyes spy partners Australia and New Zealand. The Maldives no vote is based on a competing claim for the Chagos Islands by Maldives, which views Diego Garcia and the 64 other islands as the southern part of the Maldives chain. Mauritius claims sole sovereignty over the same islands. The eclipse of U.S. and British dominance in the Indian Ocean sets the stage for several conflicts over islands and sea beds.

    The «Trump Effect» of a diminished U.S. role in international affairs is also being felt in South America, where Ecuador has irritated Peru by building a Trump-style border wall on its frontier with its neighbor to the east and south. Peru claims the wall is illegal because it violates a 1998 agreement prohibiting border construction within 33 feet from the border. Trump's proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border has also prompted Botswana to start construction on an electrified fence along its border with Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's Deputy Home Minister Obedingwa Mguni lashed out at Botswana's decision, telling the Zimbabwe press: «We should not copy the United States of America’s idea of putting a border wall on its border with Mexico when we are actually one people who are related».

    There are other long-simmering border disputes and secessionist movements emerging from «cold» status to hot conflicts in Asia, the Arctic, the Pacific region, and the Caribbean. As U.S. State Department dominance fades, in addition to Halayeb, Bakassi, and Chagos, the world will soon see headlines concerning flashpoints having other unfamiliar names – Ladakh, Baltistan, Riau, Otong Java, Rotuma, Chuuk, Pemba, the Rif, Cabinda, and Oduduwa – and those with more familiar names – Biafra, Zanzibar, Scotland, and Catalonia.

    The American neo-conservatives predicted the 21st century would be a «New American Century». Instead, it is becoming a «New Chinese Century», with the United States still believing, wrongly, that it is the «leader of the free world» and a «super power». As Mao Zedong once stated, the United States is a «paper tiger». And Mao had another prediction: «The day will come when the paper tigers will be wiped out». That day is now upon us.

  • "Technology Is Replacing Brains As Well As Brawn" – Challenging The 'Official' Automation Narrative (& Social Order)

    Academics and economists have repeatedly underestimated the impact that immigration and automation would have on the labor market. As data on productivity gains and labor-force participation clearly show, the notion that innovation ultimately creates jobs by allowing workers to focus on higher-level problems is an illusion. If it were true, then why aren’t we already seeing more of the 20 million prime-age men who have inexplicably dropped out of the labor force welcomed back in?

    As we've noted time and time again, after decimating American manufacturing jobs in the 1990s, automation is now coming for service-industry workers like those in the retail and food-service industries. Earlier this week, we shared an analysis from Cowen that showed new kiosks being adopted by McDonald’s will result in the destruction of 2,500 jobs at its US eateries. And now, Bloomberg has published a “quick take” questioning this “official” narrative and pointing out the very real carnage that service sector workers are already facing. In it, the reporters noted how economists have repeatedly misjudged how our capacity to innovate would impact the labor market. For example, 13 years ago, two leading economists published a paper arguing that artificial intelligence would never allow a driverless car to safely execute a left turn because there are too many variables at work. Six years after that, Google proved it could make cars fully autonomous, threatening the livelihood of millions of taxi and truck drivers. And now Google, Uber, Tesla and the big car manufacturers are all exploring and testing this technology. Ford has said it plans to introduce a fully autonomous car by 2021.

    “Throughout much of the developed world, gainful employment is seen as almost a fundamental right. But what if, in the not-too-distant future, there won’t be enough jobs to go around? That’s what some economists think will happen as robots and artificial intelligence increasingly become capable of performing human tasks. Of course, past technological upheavals created more jobs than they destroyed. But some labor experts argue that this time could be different: Technology is replacing human brains as well as brawn.

     

    When politicians talk about jobs, they tend to focus on iconic, goods-producing industries, such as mining, steel production and auto making, that have traditionally been the hardest hit by global competition and technological progress. Lately, though, the loss of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. pales in comparison to the much larger losses in parts of the services sector.

     

    Overall, services accounted for three-fourths of the job losses among more than 350 sectors of the private economy in the last year. That’s a big shift from previous decades, when goods-producing categories tended to suffer the most losses.”

    Bloomberg used the retail industry as an example, noting that as customers increasingly purchased goods via the internet, department stores, which employ 25 times more workers than coal mining companies, are shedding workers at an accelerating rate. In the retail industry more broadly, average employment in the first four months of 2017 was down 26,800 from the same period a year earlier, against just 2,800 job losses in coal.

    In retail and beyond, the modern services industry – which accounts for more than 70% of the US's economic output – is facing unprecedented challenges. Here’s a breakdown of some of the research cited in Bloomberg's analysis.

    • The true extent of job losses could be much more severe than most workers expect. As Bloomberg notes, researchers at the University of Oxford estimate that nearly half of all US jobs may be at risk in the coming decades, with lower-paid occupations among the most vulnerable.
    • In the U.K., the Bank of England estimates that about 15 million mostly service jobs—half the country’s total—could succumb to automation and widen the gap between rich and poor.
    • A McKinsey Global Institute study of the labor force in 46 countries found that less than 5 percent of occupations could be fully automated using today's technology, but almost a third of tasks involved in 60 percent of occupations could be.

    But if robots are truly taking over, mainstream academics would ask, then why haven’t we seen the attendent rise in productivity that one would expect from the increase in labor power?

    While it's true that, in the past, innovation has led to job creation, it's foolish to believe that this trend will continue uninterrupted, especially as machines learn to perform increasingly high-level functions. As we’ve noted in the past, most of the new jobs that have been created are in low-wage, moderate-skill positions that cannot move the productivity needle much, causing the creation of new full-time jobs to stagnate.

    But even if the academics are right and new high-skill jobs emerge to replace the ones that are being automated away, huge disruptions would still await. Large portions of the global workforce would still need retraining. And if work becomes a luxury, widespread joblessness and greater inequality could make it increasingly more difficult for the government to maintain social order.

    * * *

    To close out, here is a snapshot of the math that Cowen analyst Andrew Charles used to calculate the impact of McDonald’s “Big Mac ATMs” on the company’s minimum-wage workforce.

    “MCD is cultivating a digital platform through mobile ordering and Experience of the Future (EOTF), an in-store technological overhaul most conspicuous through kiosk ordering and table delivery. Our analysis suggests efforts should bear fruit in 2018 with a combined 130 bps contribution to U.S. comps. We believe mobile ordering better supplements the drive-thru business where 70%+ of U.S. sales are transacted. In our view, MCD's differentiation lies in the operational enhancements of mobile ordering that includes curbside pick-up of orders in order to not disrupt the drive-thru.”

    We are most excited for mobile ordering, Experience of the Future and the launch of fresh beef to help drive U.S. same store sales in 2018. We provide analysis for the latter three, which cumulatively we expect to contribute roughly 150 bps to U.S. same store sales in 2018, respectively. This gives us confidence to raise our 2018 U.S. same store sales forecast from 2% to 3%, in excess of Consensus Metrix’s 2.5%.
     
    Experience of the Future Features Lower ROI Than Mobile Order, But Offers Greater Potential Longer Term
     
    We are constructive on the use of guest facing technology for the restaurant industry. MCD’s longer-term U.S. story revolves around Experience of the Future (EOTF), a holistic operational and technological overhaul to the store base. MCD’s March 2017 investor meeting centered around the initiative with interactive displays. Perhaps the most conspicuous piece of Experience of the Future lies in digital kiosk ordering, which have seen success in International Lead Markets. Additionally, food ordered via the kiosk is delivered to the customer’s table. We believe EOTF better enhances the instore experience, which represents roughly 30% of domestic sales compared to mobile ordering, which allows customers to avoid leaving their cars.

     

    Our ROI math suggests EOTF leads to a 9% cash/cash return in Year 1 in the 55% of domestic stores that do not require a store remodel, and 5% in the 45% of stores that require a remodel, which is a predecessor to implementing EOTF. Our math is premised on total costs of $150,000 for the Experience of the Future enhancement, and $700,000 of all-in costs when including EOTF as well as a store remodel. MCD has offered to pay 55% of the cost for Experience of the Future, in excess of the 40% the company contributed to the store remodel initiative beginning in 2010, for restaurants that commit to the program by the end of 2017.
     
    McDonald’s targets a high-teens return on incrementally invested capital (ROIIC, or Mcspeak for evaluating ROI), improving to the mid-20% range beginning in 2019. We believe EOTF’s ROI is captured over time as the sales lift does not dissolve as in the case of a traditional restaurant remodel. Rather, the lift should sustain as we expect consumers to increasingly embrace technological change. This is evidenced across concepts, such as Panera’s experience with 2.0, as well as McDonald’s own experience in Canada, where kiosks saw 12-13% sales mix in Year 1 and 27% in Year 2. We also note kiosk ordering will also likely lead to labor savings over time which should help boost ROIIC, but is unlikely for the foreseeable future.
     

    In 2017, MCD expects to end the year with EOTF offered in 2,500 domestic locations from 500 at 2016-end. MCD targets much of domestic locations to feature EOTF by 2020, but has not given intermediary targets. The amount of stores adding EOTF depends on franchise reception to the initiative but we see positive indicators given our checks as well as the company’s disclosure that 90% of franchisees approved of the initiative after taking the same interactive tour that was given at the March 2017 investor day.
     
    We estimate 3,000 locations to add EOTF in 2018, which should lead to a 70 bps contribution to U.S. same store sales assuming an even cadence of restaurants adding the initiative over the course of the year. Further we assume the mix of stores adding EOTF in 2018 reflects the mix of overall stores needed to add EOTF, or 55% of stores that already have a remodel while 45% require a store remodel. McDonald’s  has previously announced plans to remodel 650 restaurants in 2017, which we expect will also add EOTF.

     

     

     

  • The Death Of America's "Common Man"

    Submitted by Michael Brenner,

    America’s Common Man exists no more – gone and forgotten. Once he was lauded as the salt of the earth – our country’s embodiment of what made us special, of what made the great democratic experiment successful, of what made of the United States the magnetic pole for the world’s masses. Politicians paid their rhetorical respects, poets exalted him in paeans of praise, Aaron Copeland composed an “Fanfare to the Common Man” suite. It was an honorable term, an affective shorthand for the Working Man, the Artisan and the Shopkeeper, the clerk. All now passed from our language and from our consciousness. Instead, we are offered the “hard working middle class people who pay their taxes, obey the law and worry about their children’s future.” The linguistic dross of the hackneyed stump speech.

    Loss of the Common Man is not due to progressive economic realities and a naturally evolving political culture. More educated Americans are caught in the grip of long-term stagnation than ever before, they have less likelihood of social mobility than ever before, more have every reasonable expectation that their children will be worse off than they are, more are politically marginalized by a party system that serves up a restricted menu of options which effectively disenfranchises 25% or so of voters. The Common Man has lost the attention as well as the concern of the country’s elites. He has been marginalized in every respect but one – he is sovereign audience for a pop culture that provides a heady brew of distractions. In that realm of fantasy he reigns supreme while the serious action which shapes his life takes place elsewhere.

    Today, to call a person common is an insult, just as we have degraded the term working class. The connotations are heavily pejorative –they’re failures, they’re losers, they had the American Dream within reach but lacked the will and the spirit to grab it. It is natural, and just, that they should live out their lives on scant rations. It’s their own fault. This Victorian ethic grounded in Social Darwinism has now been restored as part of the national creed. Fitted out in the post-modern fancy dress of market fundamentalist economics, Ayn Randish homilies of narcissistic ego-mania, and a parade of revivalist Christian sects that mix New Age Salvation with balm for anxious egos, this beggar-thy-neighbor ideology dominates our public discourse. It has put on the back foot those who still adhere to the enlightened humanism which propelled progressive thinking and policy for a century.

    All this is no accident. Powerful interests have orchestrated a relentless campaign for more than forty years to reconfigure American life in accord with their reactionary aims and principles. This is now obvious to anyone who cares to look. The key questions are: why have so few cared to look, and why the ease with which the crusade has won converts, fellow travelers and the acquiescence of the country’s elites.

    The distressing truth of our times is that the Common Man has been abandoned by those elites – in politics, in government, in journalism, in professional associations, in academia. The most cursory monitoring of what they do and say – and, equally, what they don’t do and say – makes that manifestly clear. Personal acquaintance with those elites confirms it. It is a fair generalization that they care little, are preoccupied with their own careers and pastimes, possess only a feeble sense of social obligation, and are smugly complacent. Money is the common denominator in all of this. But why? These are the people whose material well-being is best protected from the vagaries of a globalized economy, from the predations of big finance and big business. Yes, it is true that they are concerned about preserving their fine houses, sending their children to the top schools, having substantial nest eggs, and enjoying generous health care. Yes, avarice and moral courage are not compatible human traits. However, none of their comforts is threatened by public policies that conform to the New Deal consensus which most of them at one time shared (or their parents shared). In objective terms, the greatest potential threat to their well-being lurks in the plutocratic structures that control our public affairs, the effects of gross and growing income mal-distribution, and the lurch toward mindless Rightest nostrums by both parties.

    We should look elsewhere to explain the wholesale flight from responsibility by America’s elites. Social anthropology offers more insight than does a crude political-economic calculus. At the heart of the matter is status anxiety. All layers of society struggle with status deprivation or status insecurity. It is most acute among those whose education and ambition have made them ultra-sensitive to insignia of rank and marks of achievement. They can’t live happily without tangible signs of their having a place that honors their efforts and satisfies their pride. Money is that tangible sign. It always has been in America where inherited class position never was wholly secure and easily uprooted by the winds of a constant social shuffling. Americans always have been consumed by an endless, open ended status competition. That generates anxiety since there is never enough positive status to go around. Status is a finite commodity as most are destined to find out to their surprise and frustration. Nowadays, people who see themselves as uncommon winners can’t be bothered by the plight of the Common Man.

    What has changed to make contemporary American so anxiously self-absorbed when placed in historical context? Above all, there is the deepening of our narcissistic culture. We are now a society where growing numbers recognize no external communal standard to measure and appraise their conduct – or their worth. The collective superego is shriveled. The self is the only valid pole of reference. That self directs its attention with near exclusivity to its own wants and expectations. It is almost as if the new categorical imperative is to think of oneself alone whenever and wherever possible. To give priority to any other claim on us is taken as unnatural, i.e. something that has to be justified rather than instinctive or ingrained. The Godfather’s self-serving plaint that “I did it for my family” is widely adopted as the all purpose excuse for selfish acts of malfeasance or non-commission which, in an earlier time, would be felt by many to be irresponsible – if not downright shameless.  The axial precept “Let humanity be the ultimate measure of all that we do” was the gyroscope for the enlightened social humanism fostered during the second half of the twentieth century. It no longer balances and orients us.

    Why then not betray a public trust when doing so (seemingly) advances my political ambitions? Why level with a distressed populace when “America is back!’ strikes such a sonorous upbeat note? Why not defer to the latest doomed escalation abroad dear to an incoming President when skepticism endangers funding, access and visibility? Why not avoid critical columns that expose a naked untruth when the entire political class in going along with the convenient myth that Social Security is part of the Treasury’s budget and a cause of the deficit? Why not trade in my senior government post for a lavish corporate life style since notions of the collective good and of the public trust are subversive of the individual enterprise that makes this country great?; besides, there’s my family’s financial security to think about. Why irritate campaign contributors when pulling your punches supposedly means that your well intentioned self can be kept in office for another 6 or 2 years? Why not conceal from readers the knowledge of systematic civil liberties violations when not printing the truth may give you access to other truths more fit to print? Why call attention to yourself by teaching the untutored and uninformed of how twisted their nation’s public discourse has become? Why not be accomplice to torture when doing so opens a spot at the Pentagon trough for the American Psychological Association? Why not hide your head in the sand to avoid the discomfort of resisting the assault on the law if you are an officer of a Bar Association?  Why should a law school Dean or senior faculty stick his neck out when the Koch Bros are offering lush funding to establish Law & Economics programs that just happen to promote market fundamentalist principles?

    These are the persons who will stand up front before the bar of History – because they knew better,  should have known better, were expected to know better.

    Why deny yourself 3 hours of golf on 333 occasions while President even if there are grave, unresolved issues requiring your attention and reflection?

    If I have good reason to sublimate all this, why have I a duty to the Common Man – the ordinary citizen? My status, my rank, do not depend on it. My financial well-being does not dictate it. To pose the question this way is to anticipate the convenient answer.

    We know one thing for certain:

    When the “common man” dies, the America that the world marveled at for 250 years dies with him

  • Report: Democrats Are About to Hang for Debunked Trump Dossier

    So many of you are triggered to the point of feverish insanity. What sort of subhuman will you become when Trump is vindicated from all Russian collusion claims and the DOJ starts tossing faggots into dank prison cells for ginning up fake intelligence reports to take down a President?

    Tom Sperry from the NY Post is out with a report tonight, stating the Senate is about to ramp up their efforts in investigating the birthplace of the debunked Trump-Russian dossier, the one thar claimed germophobe Trump enjoyed getting urinated on by Russian hookers. For democrats, this might lead to a Mortal Kombat fatality move if implicated. Criminal charges might rain fire upon them — like the second coming of Jesus. Many of you still believe said dossier was, in fact, correct. To those people, dare I say, prove it…faggot.
     

    The Senate Judiciary Committee earlier this month threatened to subpoena the firm, Fusion GPS, after it refused to answer questions and provide records to the panel identifying who financed the error-ridden dossier, which was circulated during the election and has sparked much of the Russia scandal now engulfing the White House.
     
    What is the company hiding? Fusion GPS describes itself as a “research and strategic intelligence firm” founded by “three former Wall Street Journal investigative reporters.” But congressional sources say it’s actually an opposition-research group for Democrats, and the founders, who are more political activists than journalists, have a pro-Hillary, anti-Trump agenda.
     
    “These weren’t mercenaries or hired guns,” a congressional source familiar with the dossier probe said. “These guys had a vested personal and ideological interest in smearing Trump and boosting Hillary’s chances of winning the White House.”
     
    Fusion GPS was on the payroll of an unidentified Democratic ally of Clinton when it hired a long-retired British spy to dig up dirt on Trump. In 2012, Democrats hired Fusion GPS to uncover dirt on GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. And in 2015, Democrat ally Planned Parenthood retained Fusion GPS to investigate pro-life activists protesting the abortion group.
     
    More, federal records show a key co-founder and partner in the firm was a Hillary Clinton donor and supporter of her presidential campaign.
     
    In September 2016, while Fusion GPS was quietly shopping the dirty dossier on Trump around Washington, its co-founder and partner Peter R. Fritsch contributed at least $1,000 to the Hillary Victory Fund and the Hillary For America campaign, Federal Election Commission data show. His wife also donated money to Hillary’s campaign.
     
    Property records show that in June 2016, as Clinton allies bankrolled Fusion GPS, Fritsch bought a six-bedroom, five-bathroom home in Bethesda, Md., for $2.3 million.
     
    Fritsch did not respond to requests for comment. A lawyer for Fusion GPS said the firm’s work is confidential.

    Both partners of Fusion GPS have ties to Mexico — with Fritsch a former Journal bureau chief in Mexico City, married to a Mexican woman who worked for Grupo Dina — a beneficiary of NAFTA.
     
    His partner, Thomas Catan, formerly from Britain, once edited a Mexican business magazine.
     
    Perhaps we should now investigate the Democrats’ ties to Mexico?
     

    Senate investigators are demanding to see records of communications between Fusion GPS and the FBI and the Justice Department, including any contacts with former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, now under congressional investigation for possibly obstructing the Hillary Clinton email probe, and deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe, who is under investigation by the Senate and the Justice inspector general for failing to recuse himself despite financial and political connections to the Clinton campaign through his Democrat activist wife. Senate investigators have singled out McCabe as the FBI official who negotiated with Steele.
     
    Like Fusion GPS, the FBI has failed to cooperate with congressional investigators seeking documents.

     

     
    It’s entirely possible we’re about to see the pendulum swing violently against the democrats, with widespread investigations into this dossier, Lynch and how the CIA and FBI got duped into believing it.
     
    Why do I give a shit?

    I’m here for the chaos.

     

    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

  • CNN Executive Editor Demands To Review All Future Russia-Related Stories…"No Exceptions"

    After another in a string of embarrassing screw-ups, CNN is reportedly implementing a policy change to strengthen oversight of stories involving Russia, according to a Buzzfeed News report.

    Buzzfeed obtained an email sent by CNNMoney executive editor Rich Barbieri outlining the network's new rules. The email, which went out at 11:21 a.m. on Saturday said "No one should publish any content involving Russia without coming to me and Jason," a CNN vice president.

     

    "This applied to social, video, editorial, and MoneyStream. No exceptions," the email added. "I will lay out a workflow Monday."

    The new restrictions also apply to other areas of the network — not just CNNMoney, which wasn't involved with the article that was deleted and retracted. Buzzfeed said CNN didn't immediately return a request for comment or answer questions about what the previous workflow was.

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    The initial story, written by none other than Pulitzer-Prize-winning reporter Thomas Frank, claimed that "Congress was investigating a Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials."

    The story was perfect fodder for 'The Left', as it provided yet more 'confirmation' that Trump and his team were up to something nefarious involving the Russians…

    Highlights included…

    Congress is investigating a little-known Russian investment fund…
     
    The fund CEO met in January with a member of the Trump transition team…
     
    "If you're going to get your nose under the tent, that's a good place to start," said Ludema, a Georgetown University economics professor. "I'm sure their objective is to get rid of all the sanctions against the financial institutions. But RDIF is one [sanctioned organizations] where a number of prominent U.S. investors have been involved."
     
    A fund spokeswoman says there was no discussion about lifting sanctions…

     

    Scaramucci's comments alarmed Democratic Senators Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Ben Cardin of Maryland, who asked Mnuchin to investigate whether Scaramucci sought to "facilitate prohibited transactions" or promised to waive or lift sanctions against Russia.

    Scaramucci disputed the story, and CNN eventually retracted it, saying only that it did not meet its rigorous ethical standards.

    Scaramucci, for his part, has been a good sport about the incident. He even praised CNN for taking the story down, calling it a "classy move."

     

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Of course, this isn't the only screwup from CNN in recent memory: Earlier this month, the station published a story claiming that Comey would contradict President Donald Trump's claim that Comey repeatedly told Trump he wasn't under investigation. But the publication of Comey's opening statement soon revealed this to be inaccurate, and CNN quickly corrected the story.

    I guess those anonymous sources aren't always as reliable as we'd like them to be, huh?

  • If We Want "Unity"… Government Must Become Weaker

    Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,

    Last week, a gunman opened fire on a group of Republican members of Congress. Letters sent by the gunman to his local newspaper suggest he was obsessed with Republican policies, and concluded that Donald Trump "Has Destroyed Our Democracy" [sic] and that "It's Time to Destroy Trump and Co." 

    In the wake of the attack, there have been the usual predictable calls for "unity." These calls, of course, fail to address a central reason why unity appears to be a problem, and why many feel the need to manufacture it where it does not exist. 

    Fear of a "Foreign" Majority

    In the wake of the 2016 election, it was not uncommon to read in both the mainstream media, and in social media, predictions that with a Republican victory, a fascist police state would soon be bringing the hammer down on all the enemies of the regime. In this case, "enemy of the regime" was anyone other than the alleged troglodytes who had voted Trump into office. 

    Nine months later, we're still waiting on that border wall and on that Obamacare repeal, and on that tax cut. In fact, all we're likely to get is more government spending, more deficits, and more war. In short, the new administration will look a lot like the old one. 

    Nevertheless, there are some significant changes that are likely to take place. The administration may refrain from forcing nuns to pay for someone else's birth control, and environmental regulations are likely to be loosened. The general tenor of the federal government will shift slightly more toward favoring members of a center-right coalition of interest groups. The change, however, is anything but radical.

    Nevertheless, any change that disfavors one's own preferred interest groups and ideological groups is a real problem for those who find themselves on the outside of the winning coalitions. 

    Many voters and activists who now feel powerless saw themselves as being in the majority ruling coalition while Obama was in power. Now that he's been replaced by Trump, the fear of abuse at the hands of the new ruling majority shifts to others. 

    While the consequences are probably less significant than many imagine, there will be real winners and losers over the next four years compared to what was the case under the previous administration. 

    Calling for unity and asking people to play nice will do nothing to eliminate this reality. Those groups that saw themselves as being on the outside during the Obama years are all to familiar with what many Obama supporters are now feeling. 

    Indeed, living among the minority that finds itself out of power is an unpleasant experience in any context. 

    Ludwig von Mises wrote on this phenomenon. He couched it within the context of immigration, but the lesson learned here applies to any situation in which one group manages to wrest control of government power away from another group:

    As long as the state is granted the vast powers which it has today and which public opinion considers to be its right, the thought of having to live in a state whose government is in the hands of members of a foreign nationality is positively terrifying. It is frightful to live in a state in which at every turn one is exposed to persecution—masquerading under the guise of justice—by a ruling majority. It is dreadful to be handicapped even as a child in school on account of one’s nationality and to be in the wrong before every judicial and administrative authority because one belongs to a national minority. 

    Mises speaks of nationality in this example, but with some modest changes to the text, we could apply this illustration to any number of other examples. It is not necessary for a potentially dangerous majority to be composed of foreigners. Mises might just as easily have said that "the thought of having to live in a state whose government is in the hands of members of a competing ideology is positively terrifying."

    For many, the fear is real, and is indeed analogous to those who fear changes in government control fostered by migrations. Consider another passage by Mises: 

    The entire nation, however, is unanimous in fearing inundation by foreigners. The present inhabitants of these favored lands fear that some day they could be reduced to a minority in their own country and that they would then have to suffer all the horrors of national persecution…

    In this case, Mises might have said that "Californians are unanimous in fearing a takeover by Southerners and Christians … and they fear that some day they could be reduced to a minority in their own country." 

    The analogy is a bit clunky here, but it's not difficult to see the similarity. For most California voters (59 percent of whom voted for Clinton), there is a real fear that the levers of power in Washington really will be "inundated" by members of the so-called "basket of deplorables" that Hillary Clinton spoke of. In the minds of West Coast leftists, the thought of government under the control of evangelical Christians from Texas really is something to fear. 

    This same leftist might then imagine himself personally subject to the whims of his rightwing enemies in this manner as described my Mises: 

    And when he appears before a magistrate or any administrative official as a party to a suit or petition, he stands before men whose political thought is foreign to him because it developed under different ideological influences. … At every turn the member of a national minority is made to feel that he lives among strangers and that he is, even if the letter of the law denies it, a second-class citizen. 

    Again, Mises is speaking of ethnic and linguistic differences, but the observation applies to any sort of minority subject to a majority group with differing values. 

    Now, we can debate as to how much a leftist from Silicon Valley might "suffer" under the alleged yoke of a rightwing regime that might cut taxes. 

    The perception of the danger posed by "the other" is very real, however. Nor is this limited to leftists, of course. Sarah Palin's declaration that there are "real Americans" (i.e., conservatives) who are to be contrasted with presumably fake Americans highlights the tendency to simply declare other ideological groups to be essentially "foreign" to one's own interests. The fact that these "others" happen to speak the same language or be born in the same legal jurisdiction does little to erase the perception of a rift between different groups. 

    It's not surprising then, that the issue of "unity" appears to be a growing problem. 

    If the members of competing political groups aren't "real Americans" or are "deplorables," then one should hardly be motivated to pursue unity with such people. Many may even conclude that violence is necessary.

    How to Address the Problem 

    For Mises, one of the primary answers to the problem of oppressing minorities was to make governments smaller and less powerful — and thus less able to oppress minorities. Again, in the context of immigration, Mises concludes: 

    It is clear that no solution of the problem of immigration is possible if one adheres to the ideal of the interventionist state, which meddles in every field of human activity, or to that of the socialist state. Only the adoption of the liberal program could make the problem of immigration, which today seems insoluble, completely disappear. In an Australia governed according to liberal principles, what difficulties could arise from the fact that in some parts of the continent Japanese and in other parts Englishmen were in the majority?

    In other words, even if ethnic Japanese groups took control of the Australian state, it would not matter if the state were conducted along liberal [i.e., libertarian] lines. But the same might be said of feminists, or Christians, university professors or working class white people. If all were "governed according to liberal principles," there isn't a problem. If the state lacks the power to regulate, oppress, and impoverish one group for the benefit of another, then what group is in the majority is irrelevant. 

    But, if a state "is not conducted along completely liberal lines," Mises concludes,

    there can be no question of even an approach to equal rights in the treatment of the members of the various national groups. There can then be only rulers and those ruled. The only choice is whether one will be hammer or anvil.

    Put simply: the bigger the government, the greater the threat when the other guys manage to get political power. 

    The Other Option: Secession 

    Should efforts to restrain the state's overall power fail, another answer is decentralization. And this was Mises's other solution to the problem of minorities subject to majorities. For Mises, the problem of "self-determination" could be addressed through decentralization, secession, and an acceptance that minority groups must have the option of breaking free from political bonds with majority groups of divergent interests: 

    The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether it be a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to form an independent state or to attach themselves to some other state, their wishes are to be respected and complied with. This is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil and international wars. … To call this right of self-determination the "right of self-determination of nations" is to misunderstand it. It is not the right of self-determination of a delimited national unit, but the right of the inhabitants of every territory to decide on the state to which they wish to belong…

    In his essay on Mises's views on self-determination and nationalism, Joseph Salerno notes that for Mises the answer lies in "providing for the continual redrawing of state boundaries in accordance with the right of self-determination." In other words, in order to prevent the oppression of minorities by majorities, it may be necessary to allow the minority group to separate from the majority. 

    It is becoming increasingly clear that the United States is becoming a country in which every election brings a perceived mandate to forcefully — and even vengefully — impose the winning coalition's agenda on the losers. In a country where political power is relatively weak, decentralization is effective, and taxes are low, then the effects of a political loss can be relatively minor. But that's not the situation we now face.

  • Assange Outlines The Six Reasons "Why The Democratic Party Is Doomed"

    Julian Assange, a man who has certainly taken his fair share of the blame for Hillary's loss last November, has just taken to Twitter to list out the 6 reasons why the "the Democratic party is doomed."  

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

     

    Assange's assessment is spot on and covers many of the themes we discuss on a daily basis.  To summarize, Assange asserts that the Democratic party essentially severed ties with the working class long ago due to their inability to craft a cohesive political agenda.  Identity politics subsequently took the place of a solid legislative agenda but that "short-term tactic has led to the inevitable strategic catastrophe of the white and male super majorities responding by seeing themselves as an unserviced political identity group."

    That said, in 2016, the failures of the Democratic party went well beyond an out-of-touch agenda as WikiLeaks managed to expose the outright corruption of the DNC and political elites that were, up until that point, held up as royalty.  But, rather than tuck tail and run, the political elites of the Democratic party have attempted to hold on to their power base by recklessly pushing the "Trump-Russian collusion narrative" which is a "political dead end."

    In the end, Assange suggests that "the Democratic base should move to start a new party since the party elite shows no signs that they will give up power."

    Here is the full explanation from Assange:

    Why the Democratic party is doomed:

     

    1. The Democratic establishment has vortexed the party's narrative energy into hysteria about Russia (a state with a lower GDP than South Korea). It is starkly obvious that were it not for this hysteria insurgent narratives of the type promoted by Bernie Sanders would rapidly dominate the party's base and its relationship with the public. Without the "We didn't lose–Russia won" narrative the party's elite and those who exist under its patronage would be purged for being electorally incompetent and ideologically passé. The collapse of the Democratic vote over the last eight years is at every level, city, state, Congressional and presidential. It corresponds to the domination of Democratic decision making structures by a professional, educated, urban service class and to the shocking decline in health and longevity of white males, who together with their wives, daughters, mothers, etc. comprise 63% of the US population (2010 census). Unlike other industrialized countries US male real wages (all ethnic groups combined) have not increased since 1973. In trying to stimulate engagement of non-whites and women Democrats have aggressively promoted identity politics. This short-term tactic has led to the inevitable strategic catastrophe of the white and male super majorities responding by seeing themselves as an unserviced political identity group. Consequently in response to sotto-voce suggestions that Trump would service this group 53% of all men voted for Trump, 53% of white women and 63% of white men (PEW Research).

     

    2. The Trump-Russia collusion narrative is a political dead end. Despite vast resources, enormous incentives and a year of investigation, Democratic senators who have seen the classified intelligence at the CIA such as Senator Feinstein (as recently as March) are forced to admit that there is no evidence of collusion [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BS5amEq7Fc]. Without collusion, we are left with the Democratic establishment blaming the public for being repelled by the words of Hillary Clinton and the Democratic party establishment. Is it a problem that the public discovered what Hillary Clinton said to Goldman Sachs and what party elites said about fixing the DNC primaries against Bernie Sanders? A party elite that maintains that it is the "crime of the century" for the public and their membership to discover how they behave and what they believe invites scorn.

     

    3. The Democrat establishment needs the support of the security sector and media barons to push this diversionary conspiracy agenda, so they ingratiate themselves with these two classes leading to further perceptions that the Democrats act on behalf of an entrenched power elite. Eventually, Trump or Pence will 'merge' with the security state leaving Democrats in a vulnerable position having talked up two deeply unaccountable traditionally Republican-aligned organizations, in particular, the CIA and the FBI, who will be turned against them. Other than domestic diversion and geopolitical destabilization the primary result of the Russian narrative is increased influence and funding for the security sector which is primarily GOP owned or aligned.

     

    4. The twin result is to place the primary self-interest concerns of most Americans, class competition, freedom from crime and ill health and the empowerment of their children, into the shadows and project the Democrats as close to DC and media elites. This has further cemented Trump's anti-establishment positioning and fettered attacks on Trump's run away embrace of robber barons, dictators and gravitas-free buffoons like the CIA's Mike Pompeo.

     

    5. GOP/Trump has open goals everywhere: broken promises, inequality, economy, healthcare, militarization, Goldman Sachs, Saudi Arabia & cronyism, but the Democrat establishment can't kick these goals since the Russian collusion narrative has consumed all its energy and it is entangled with many of the same groups behind Trump's policies.

     

    6. The Democratic base should move to start a new party since the party elite shows no signs that they will give up power. This can be done quickly and cheaply as a result of the internet and databases of peoples' political preferences. This reality is proven in practice with the rapid construction of the Macron, Sanders and Trump campaigns from nothing. The existing Democratic party may well have negative reputational capital, stimulating a Macron-style clean slate approach. Regardless, in the face of such a threat, the Democratic establishment will either concede control or, as in the case of Macron, be eliminated by the new structure.

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Jun 25

Today’s News 25th June 2017

  • Paul Craig Roberts Warns "The World Is Going Down With Trump"

    Authored by Paul Craig Roberts,

    On June 21 the editorial board of the Washington Post, long a propaganda instrument believed to be in cahoots with the CIA and the deep state, called for more sanctions and more pressure on Russia.

    One second’s thought is sufficient to realize how bad this advice is. The orchestrated demonization of Russia and its president began in the late summer of 2013 when the British Parliament and Russian diplomacy blocked the neoconned Obama regime’s planned invasion of Syria. An example had to be made of Russia before other countries began standing up to Washington. While the Russians were focused on the Sochi Olympic Games, Washington staged a coup in Ukraine, replacing the elected democratic government with a gang of Banderite neo-nazi thugs whose forebears fought for Hitler in World War II. Washington claimed it had brought democracy to Ukraine by putting neo-nazi thugs in control of the government.

    Washington’s thugs immediately began violent attacks on the Russian population in Ukraine. Soviet war memorials were destroyed. The Russian language was declared banned from official use. Instantly, separatist movements began in the Russian parts of Ukraine that had been administratively attached to Ukraine by Soviet leaders. Crimea, a Russian province since the 1700s, voted overwhelmingly to seperate from Ukraine and requested to be reunited with Russia. The same occurred in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

    These independent actions were misrepresented by Washington and the presstitutes who whore for Washington as a “Russian invasion.” Despite all facts to the contrary, this misrepresentation continues today. In US foreign policy, facts are not part of the analysis.

    The most important fact that is overlooked by the Washington Post and the Russophobic members of the US government is that it is an act of insanity to call for more punishment and more pressure on a country with a powerful military and strategic nuclear capability whose military high command and government have already concluded that Washington is preparing a surprise nuclear attack.

    Are the Washington Post editors trying to bring on nuclear armageddon? If there was any intelligence present in the Washington Post, the newspaper would be urging that President Trump immediately call President Putin with reassurances and arrange the necessary meetings to defuse the situation. Instead the utterly stupid editors urge actions that can only raise the level of tension. It should be obvious even to the Washington Post morons that Russia is not going to sit there, shaking in its boots, and wait for Washington’s attack. Putin has issued many warnings about the West’s rising threat to Russian security. He has said that Russia “will never again fight a war on its own territory.” He has said that the lesson he has learned is that “if a fight is unavoidable, strike first.” He has also said that the fact that no one hears his warnings makes the situation even more dangerous.

    What explains the deafness of the West? The answer is arrogance and hubris.

    As the presstitute media is incapable of reason, I will do their job for them. I call for an immediate face-to-face meeting between Trump and Putin at Reykjavik. Cold War II, begun by Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama, must be ended now.

    So, where is President Trump? Why is the President of the United States unable to rise to the challenge? Why isn’t he the man Ronald Reagan was? Is it, as David Stockman says, that Trump is incapable of anything except tweeting?

    Why hasn’t President Trump long ago ordered all intercepts of Russian chatter gathered, declassified, and made public? Why hasn’t Trump launched a criminal prosecution against John Brennan, Susan Rice, Comey, and the rest of the hit squad that is trying to destroy him?

    Why has Trump disarmed himself with an administration chosen by Russiaphobes and Israel?

    As David Stockman writes, Trump “is up against a Deep State/Dem/Neocon/mainstream media prosecution” and “has no chance of survival short of an aggressive offensive” against those working to destroy him. But there is no Trump offensive, “because the man is clueless about what he is doing in the White House and is being advised by a cacophonous coterie of amateurs and nincompoops. So he has no action plan except to impulsively reach for his Twitter account.”

    Our president twitters while he and Earth itself are pushed toward destruction.

  • The EU's Greatest Achievements, According To Europeans

    A year on from the UK's Brexit referendum, Prime Minister Theresa May is set to visit Brussels today and outline her government's negotiating position on the future rights of EU citizens living in the UK.

    As Statista's Niall McCarthy notes, a recently released Chatham House-Kantar survey found that freedom to live and work across the EU is considered one of the EU's top three triumphs by its citizens.

    Infographic: The EU's Greatest Achievements According To Europeans  | Statista

    You will find more statistics at Statista

    When polled about the EU's greatest achievements to date, 29 percent of people in the UK said there were none, along with 17 percent in nine other countries.

    Peace on the European continent was considered the EU's greatest achievement by 14 percent of people on the continent and 17 percent in the UK.

  • Preparing For War? US House Wants To Create First New Military Branch Since 1947

    Via TheAntiMedia.org,

    There’s currently a push in the halls of Washington D.C., to establish a new branch of the military by 2019, one whose focus would be operations among the stars. Proposed legislation by House representatives would create a “Space Corps” that would serve “as a separate military service within the Department of the Air Force.”

     It would be the first branch added to the military since 1947 when the Air Force was officially established.

    On Tuesday, the top two lawmakers of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Representatives Mike Rogers and Jim Cooper, added the legislation to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The subcommittee oversees military space operations and works within the umbrella of the House Armed Services Committee.

    “There is bipartisan acknowledgement that the strategic advantages we derive from our national security space systems are eroding,” Rogers and Cooper said in a joint statement.

     

    “We are convinced that the Department of Defense is unable to take the measures necessary to address these challenges effectively and decisively, or even recognize the nature and scale of its problems.”

    Under the proposed legislation, the Space Corps would serve under the direction of the Air Force much like the Marine Corps serves under the direction of the Navy. But the military branch would have its own chief, equal in rank to that of Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Additionally, the Space Corps head would have a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

    The Air Force itself, however, seems somewhat cool to the congressmen’s idea. At a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the NDAA on Thursday, Air Force spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder said the United States military should be focusing on coordination:

    “We think right now it’s important to take the capabilities and the resources that we have and focus on implementation and integration with the broader force, versus creating a separate service.”

    Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson echoed a similar sentiment while speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill on Wednesday:

    The Pentagon is complicated enough. This will make it more complex, add more boxes to the organization chart, and cost more money. And if I had more money, I would put it into lethality, not bureaucracy…I don’t need another chief of staff and another six deputy chiefs of staff.”

    The entire House Armed Services Committee will have to approve the subcommittee’s additions to the NDAA before they can go any further. If that happens, the debate will move to the House floor, where the NDAA is expected to be voted on sometime after the Fourth of July.

    Whether or not the legislation makes the cut, however, it should be noted that the idea of militarizing space is nothing new for the United States. As Anti-Media has reported, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work stated at a conference back in 2015 that space must “be considered a contested operational domain in ways that we haven’t had to think about in the past.”

  • New Poll Shows Majority Of Americans Think Russia Probes Are "A Distraction"

    Last month, we reported on a poll showing most Americans don’t want to see President Donald Trump impeached. Today, a new poll released exclusively to the Hill shows that most Americans feel the investigations into alleged collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign are a distraction.

    The poll found that 64% of Americans believe the investigations are hurting the country, and a whopping 73% believe that the focus on Russia is distracting Congress from important issues like health care and tax reform.

    Here’s the Hill:
     
    A majority of voters believe the Russia investigations are damaging to the country and are eager to see Congress shift its focus to healthcare, terrorism, national security, the economy and jobs.

     

    Those are the findings of the latest Harvard-Harris Poll survey, provided exclusively to The Hill, which paints a complicated picture of voters’ opinions about the numerous probes that have engulfed the White House.

     

    Sixty-four percent of voters said the investigations into President Trump and Russia are hurting the country. Fifty-six percent of voters said it’s time for Congress and the media to move on to other issues, compared to 44 percent who said the focus should stay on Russia.

     

    But other surveys have found strong support for the special counsel investigating the Russia probe. A Harvard-Harris survey released last month found 75 percent support for former FBI Director Robert Mueller’s investigation.

     

    There is evidence in the Harvard-Harris survey that voters are taking the investigations seriously: Fifty-eight percent say they’re concerned by allegations of obstruction of justice against Trump, with the same number worried about possible dealings between Trump and the Russian government.

     

    But far more — 73 percent — say they’re concerned that the Russia probes have caused Congress to lose focus on the issues important to them. That figure encompasses 81 percent of Republicans, 74 percent of independents and 68 percent of Democrats.

     

    “While the voters have a keen interest in any Russian election interference, they are concerned that the investigations have become a distraction for the president and Congress that is hurting rather than helping the country,” said Harvard-Harris co-director Mark Penn. “Most voters believe that the president's actions don't rise to the level of impeachable offenses, even if some of them were inappropriate.”

    The poll is the latest indication that, despite the best efforts of the New York Times-CNN-Washington Post media cabal, Americans have not been swayed by the steady flow of unsourced allegations. The FBI's probe allegedly began in July of 2016, meaning it's been ongoing for a year now, and yet, nothing even resembling a smoking gun has been shared with the public, one of many of many conspicuous loose ends in the investigation narrative.

    Maybe now that the Senate Judiciary Committee is finally investigating alleged misconduct by Attorney General Loretta Lynch, lawmakers will start to slowly turn their attention away from Trump and his associates and focus on an official who clearly abused a position of public trust for political gain.

  • The Government's Plan To Survive Nuclear War Doesn't Include You

    Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

    Once again this week, the United States teetered a little closer towards war with the Russians. On Sunday, the US military shot down a Syrian jet that was allegedly targeting US backed forces. The Russians have since claimed that the aircraft was engaging ISIS, and have revealed that their air defense systems will now track any of our aircraft that happen to fly over Western Syria. They also suspended a hotline between the US and Russia that was in place to prevent mid-air collisions over the crowded skies of Syria.

    Amid incidents like this, you have to wonder what our government is thinking. For most Americans, Syria must seem inconsequential. Why is our military involved in a country, where we are brushing shoulders with a nuclear armed nation? If it’s to fight ISIS, then we could easily sit back and let Russian and Syrian forces wipe them out. If it’s to affect regime change, then clearly our government hasn’t learned anything from Iraq or Afghanistan. Why are we risking a war with the Russians just to influence the outcome of a regional civil war that has little bearing on the daily lives of most Americans?

    The answer to that question could probably fill a novel, but there is one reason that the elites in Washington will never admit to. They can afford to make careless decisions because they are insulated from the results. If there is a war with Russia, which could easily turn into a nuclear war, they’ll have plenty of spacious bunkers to hide out in while the rest of America burns. And that’s been our government’s plan in regards to nuclear war since the beginning of the Cold War.

    That’s the main takeaway from a new book called Raven Rock: The Story of the US Government’s Plan to Save Itself. Our government has spent decades building sprawling bunkers, like Raven Rock, that high ranking officials can flee to in the event of a nuclear war.

    The idea for Raven Rock was to have a military base that would function as an alternative to the Pentagon and would be dug out of a mountain and deep enough to survive any Russian attack.

     

    A site was chosen six miles from Camp David, the Presidential retreat in Maryland, and work began in 1951 on the $17 million project

     

    Some 300 men worked round the clock in three shifts to carve a 3,100ft tunnel out of the granite; engineers invented technology as they went along including blast doors and blast valves.

     

    Inside the facility there was 100,000sq/ft of office space in five parallel caverns big enough to hold a three story building in each.

     

    The entire facility could fit 1,400 people and was placed on giant springs to reduce the impact of a blast.

    Via Daily Mail

    Meanwhile, as they were building these bunkers and trying to convince Americans that nuclear war could be easily survivable, behind the scenes they knew it would be a bloodbath for civilians.

    At the end of the 1950s, the FCDA created ‘Battleground USA’, a grim 120-page report on how cities should manage civil defense operations in the event of an attack.

     

    It said that the area should be divided into ‘mortuary zones’ with ‘collection teams’ in charge of identifying bodies.

     
    Post Office mail trucks would ferry the wounded to one of 900 improvised hospitals set up near attack sites in places like federal prisons.

     

    In Kansas officials planned to confiscate household vitamins for use by the general population.

     

    Planners estimated they could assemble two million pounds of food after an attack from their own reserves and from stores.

    They could also could find 11 million ‘man-days’ of food in the forests and plains in rabbit meat, 10 million ‘man-days of wild birds and five million ‘man-days’ of fish.

     

    Most chillingly they budgeted nearly 20 million ‘man-days’ of meat in residential pets.

     

    It was disturbing reading and a view of the world that summed up by Eisenhower in one meeting: ‘The destruction might be such that we might ultimately have to go back to bows and arrows’

     

    During another meeting Eisenhower admitted that nation didn’t have ‘enough bulldozers to scrape the bodies off the street’ in the event of a nuclear strike’.

    And as we all know, our government didn’t take many measures to protect civilians from the potential carnage that would be inflicted by a nuclear war. They didn’t build many bunkers for the rest of us.

    At first glance that may sound like an impossible task, but it’s not. Take Switzerland for instance. Despite not having any nuclear weapons, they’ve built enough fallout shelters to house every Swiss citizen. You might say that we could never afford that many shelters, but it’s not a question of cost. Switzerland’s GDP per capita is similar to America’s.

    The truth of the matter, is that our leaders don’t give a damn about what happens to American civilians. As long as they have their bunkers, they feel safe while antagonizing nuclear armed nations like Russia. They know that if there’s a war, they’ll survive while the rest of us burn and starve.

    Make no mistake, if there’s ever a war with Russia, you’ll be on your own. Whether or not you survive depends entirely on your willingness and ability to prepare now.

  • Angry Dems Turn On Obama, Pelosi, Schumer: "Talk Less About Russia"

    It’s been a rough week for the legacy of the Obama administration. Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee launched a Democrat-endorsed probe into former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s conduct during the campaign – when it’s widely believed she colluded with the Clinton’s to “soften” the FBI’s probe into Hillary’s mishandling of classified information. Earlier, sure-thing Democratic neophyte Jon Ossoff lost a special election in Georgia that he was supposedly guaranteed to win, leading America’s least—preferred party of overly brazen corporatists to an embarrassing 5-0 defeat, and stoking calls for Nancy Pelosi – the Dem’s longtime leader in Congress – to step aside.

    And as if all that wasn’t enough, revelations that Russian hackers targeted voting systems in 21 states – and the Obama administration did nothing about it – have inspired the president’s fellow Democrats to turn on their once-revered leader.

     

    As the Hill reports, Democrats are criticizing no-drama Obama for being too cautious with his disclosures about “the Russia problem” in the run-up to the 2016 election, claiming that he shouldn't have hesitated to inform the public about the allegations:

    “The Obama administration is under fresh scrutiny for its response to Russian meddling in the election after new details emerged this week about how the White House weighed its actions against the 2016 political environment.

     

    Then-President Obama was too cautious in the months leading up to the election, frustrated Democratic lawmakers and strategists say.

     

    “It was inadequate. I think they could have done a better job informing the American people of the extent of the attack,” said Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), a member of the House Intelligence Committee who co-chairs the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee."

    Meanwhile, Ohio Democrat Tim Ryan, who recently challenged Pelosi for leadership of the party, is leading a small group of Congressional Dems in criticizing Chuck Schumer, Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership's irrational focus on the Russia investigations. Ryan believes the focus on making the Dems appear out of touch to working Americans who care more about economic issues than the Trump witch hunt, as the Hill reports.  Ryan's attempt to lead from behind comes as some of his peers push for the creation of a 9/11-style Commission to launch what would be the fourth investigation into the Trump campaign. 

    Even though the contradiction here is obvious – Dems are complaining that the party is too focused on Russia, while criticizing Obama for not releasing more scurrilous details about alleged interference –at least Ryan recognizes that the focus on Russia will hurt the Dems where it counts: In next year's midterms.

    "We can't just talk about Russia because people back in Ohio aren't really talking that much about Russia, about Putin, about Michael Flynn,” Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) told MSNBC Thursday. “They're trying to figure out how they're going to make the mortgage payment, how they're going to pay for their kids to go to college, what their energy bill looks like.

     

    “And if we don't talk more about their interest than we do about how we're so angry with Donald Trump and everything that's going on,” he added, “then we're never going to be able to win elections.”

    Turning back to Obama, the president's motives in withholding the information definitely leave room for speculation. Was he worried that the public would interpret the disclosure as transparent fearmongering intended to benefit the Clinton campaign – or maybe he thought it would make the Democrats and Clinton look ineffectual in the face of a problem that couldn’t be solved with a couple of well-timed drone strikes? For what it's worth, former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says Obama withheld the information because he didn’t want to play into Trump’s claims that the election was being “rigged.”

    "Former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on Wednesday told lawmakers that the White House held back on responding to Russia because it didn’t want to play into fears, propagated by then-candidate Trump, that the election would be “rigged.”

     

    “One of the candidates, as you'll recall, was predicting that the election was going to be rigged in some way,” Johnson said. “And so we were concerned that, by making the statement, we might in and of itself be challenging the integrity of the election process itself.”

     

    Trump had repeatedly claimed that the outcome of the election would be “rigged” against him, alleging widespread voter fraud and inaccurate polling. He provided no evidence to back up his claims, but critics feared that his rhetoric could undermine public trust in the outcome of the election.

    In any event, Obama’s decision to withhold the information has made the Dems look weak, desperate and disorganized. And now they’re rightfully worried that the administration’s countermeasures – kicking out a few dozen diplomats – have helped them lose what little credibility they still had in the eyes of the public. Meanwhile, President Trump has a few questions of his own;

    'Some Republicans argue the Obama administration only started to take the Russia threat seriously after President Trump had won the election.

     

    Trump has called the influence operation a “hoax” and dismissed the various inquiries into Russian interference in the election — which include looking for possible collusion between his campaign and Moscow — as a “witch hunt.”

     

    “By the way, if Russia was working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during the Obama Admin. Why didn't they stop them?” Trump tweeted Thursday.
    The Obama administration announced on Oct. 7 that the theft and release of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) emails was part of a widespread campaign “intended to interfere with the U.S. election process.”

    So what’s next for the Dems? Obama, who has already pivoted from politician to social-media celebrity, will probably continue to chime in every now and then from the peanut gallery. Meanwhile, we wait to see if the DOJ or any other interested parties piggy-back on the Senate’s investigation into Lynch’s blatant attempt at obstruction, and wonder: Could this be the controversy that leads to the unraveling of the modern Democratic Party?

    Of course, President Trump couldn't resist taking a shot at his predecessor on Twitter:

    Just out: The Obama Administration knew far in advance of November 8th about election meddling by Russia. Did nothing about it. WHY?

     

    By the way, if Russia was working so hard on the 2016 Election, it all took place during the Obama Admin. Why didn't they stop them?

    — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 22, 2017

     

  • Meet The Money-Laundering, Nigerian Oil Magnate Behind New York's $50MM Condo Foreclosure

    Last night we noted that yet another luxury condo at Manhattan’s One57 tower, a member of “Billionaire’s Row,” a group of high-end towers clustered along the southern edge of Central Park, had gone into foreclosure – the second in the span of a month.  The 6,240-square-foot, full-floor penthouse in question, One57’s Apartment 79, sold for $50.9 million in December 2014, making it the eighth-priciest in the building and likely the largest residential foreclosure in Manhattan’s history.

    According to Bloomberg, the owner of the apartment attempted to conceal his/her identity by using a shell company (you know how those kooky billionaires can be) but was able to obtain an ‘unusually large’ mortgage with an even more unusual term: one-year.

    In September 2015, the company took out a $35.3 million mortgage from lender Banque Havilland SA, based in Luxembourg. The full payment of the loan was due one year later, according to court documents filed in connection with the foreclosure.

     

    The borrower failed to repay, and now Banque Havilland is forcing a sale to recoup the funds, plus interest.

    Of course, it was only a matter of time until the mystery man behind Manhattan’s most recent luxury real estate epic fail was exposed.  As such, meet Nigerian oil magnate, Kola Aluko.

     

    As it turns out, the world renowned, Nigerian-born, billionaire playboy is about $25,000 behind on his property taxes.  But, that is probably the least of his worries as the New York Post points out that he currently wanted by authorities in both Nigeria and Europe for defrauding the Nigerian government out of oil sale profits.

    But Aluko has bigger problem, it seems. The 47-year-old tycoon is under investigation in Nigeria and in Europe for alleged money-laundering crimes.

     

    A Nigerian court, according to various reports, tried to freeze Aluko’s assets, including his One57 unit, as part of the alleged scheme to defraud the government of oil sale profits.

    Meanwhile, it seems that the only reason Aluko isn’t already in prison is because the Nigerian courts can’t seem to find him to serve papers.  Apparently he’s been hiding out on this 213-foot, $100 million yacht, the Galactica Star, for over a year.

     

    Over the past year, the boat has been spotted making port calls in Cancun, Mexico and Turkey.

     

    Of course, if you’re going to be an international playboy then you need to have rich and famous friends and, as it turns out, rappers Jay-Z and P. Diddy seemed to have fulfilled that role for Aluko.  Back in 2012 the rap duo apparently hosted Aluko’s birthday party in Beverly Hills.  Then, just a few years later in 2015, Jay-Z and wife Beyonce rented Aluko’s mega-yacht for the bargain basement price of just $900,000 per week to sail around the Mediterranean.

    Jayz

     

    Well, presumably it was fun while it lasted.

  • An Open Letter To The Fed's William Dudley

    Authored by MN Gordon via EconomicPrism.com,

    Dear Mr. Dudley,

    Your recent remarks in the wake of last week’s FOMC statement were notably unhelpful.

    In particular, your excuses for further rate hikes to prevent crashing unemployment and rising inflation stunk of rotten eggs.

    Crashing Unemployment

    Quite frankly, crashing unemployment is a construct that’s new to popular economic discourse, and a suspect one at that.

    Years ago, prior to the nirvana of globalization, the potential for wage inflation stemming from full employment was the going concern.  Now that the official unemployment rate’s just 4.3 percent, and wages are still down in the dumps, it appears the Fed has fabricated a new bugaboo to rally around.  What to make of it?

    For starters, the Fed’s unconventional monetary policy has successfully pushed the financial order completely out of the economy’s orbit.  The once impossible is now commonplace.

    For example, the absurdity of negative interest rates was unfathomable until very recently. But that was before years of central bank asset purchases made this a reality.

    Perhaps, the imminent danger of crashing unemployment will give way to the impossibility of negative unemployment.  Crazy things can happen, you know, especially considering the design limitations of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ birth-death model.

    Secondly, muddying up the Fed’s message with inane nonsense like crashing unemployment severely diminishes the Fed’s goal of providing transparent communication.  In short, Fed communication has regressed from backassward to assbackward.

    During the halcyon days of Alan Greenspan’s Goldilocks economy, for instance, the Fed regularly used jawboning as a tactic to manage inflation expectations.  Through smiling teeth Greenspan would talk out of the side of his neck.  He’d jawbone down inflation expectations while cutting rates.

    Certainly, a lot has changed over the years.  So, too, the Fed seems to have reversed its jawboning tactic.  By all accounts, including your Monday remarks, the Fed is now jawboning up inflation expectations while raising rates.

    Congratulations and Thank You!

    History will prove this policy tactic to be a complete fiasco.  But at least the Fed is consistent in one respect.  The Fed has a consistent record of getting everything dead wrong.

    If you recall, on January 10, 2008, a full month after the onset of the Great Recession, Fed Chair Ben Bernanke stated that “The Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession.”  Granted, a recession is generally identified by two successive quarters of declining GDP; so, you don’t technically know you’re in a recession until after it is underway.  But, come on, what good is a forecast if it can’t discern a recession when you’re in the midst of one?

    Bernanke’s quote ranks up there in sheer idiocy with Irving Fisher’s public declaration in October 1929, on the eve of the 1929 stock market crash and onset of the Great Depression, that “Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.”  By the month’s end the stock market had crashed and crashed again, never to return to its prior highs in Fisher’s lifetime.

    To be fair, Fisher wasn’t a Fed man.  However, he was a dyed-in-the-wool central planner cut from the same cloth.  Moreover, it is bloopers like these from the supposed experts like Bernanke and Fisher that make life so amiably pleasurable.  Do you agree?

    Hence, Mr. Dudley, words of congratulations are in order!  Because on Monday you added what’ll most definitely be a sidesplitting quote to the annals of economic banter:

    “I’m actually very confident that even though the expansion is relatively long in the tooth, we still have quite a long way to go.  This is actually a pretty good place to be.” – William Dudley, June 19, 2017

    Thank you, sir, for your shrewd insights.  They’ll offer up countless laughs through the many dreary years ahead.

    Too Little, Too Late

    When it comes down to it, your excuses for raising rates are not about some unfounded fear of a crashing unemployment rate.  Nor are they about controlling price inflation.  These are mere cover for past mistakes.

    The esteemed James Rickards, in an article titled The Fed’s Road Ahead, recently boiled present Fed policy down to its very core:

    “Now we’re at a very delicate point, because the Fed missed the opportunity to raise rates five years ago.  They’re trying to play catch-up, and yesterday’s [June 14] was the third rate hike in six months.

     

    “Economic research shows that in a recession, they [the Fed] have to cut interest rates 300 basis points or more, or 3 percent, to lift the economy out of recession.  I’m not saying we are in a recession now, although we’re probably close.

     

    “But if a recession arrives a few months or even a year from now, how is the Fed going to cut rates 3 percent if they’re only at 1.25 percent?

     

    “The answer is, they can’t.

     

    “So the Fed’s desperately trying to raise interest rates up to 300 basis points, or 3 percent, before the next recession, so they have room to start cutting again.  In other words, they are raising rates so they can cut them.”

    Unfortunately, Mr. Dudley, the Fed miscalculated.  Efforts to now raise rates will be too little, too late.  To be clear, there ain’t a snowball’s chance in hell the Fed will get the federal funds rate up to 3 percent before the next recession.  You likely won’t even get it up to 2 percent.

    Nonetheless, you should stay the course.  If you’re gonna raise rates, then raise rates.  Don’t cut them.  Raise them.  Then raise them some more.

    Crash stocks.  Crash bonds.  Crash real estate.  Crush asset prices.  Purge the debt and speculative excesses from financial markets.

    Let marginal businesses go broke.  Let too big to fail banks, fail.  You can even consult with Dick “The Gorilla” Fuld, if needed.  Then let nature do its work.

    In essence, bring the paper money experiment to a close and shutter the doors of the Federal Reserve.  No doubt, the economy and millions of people will suffer a painful multi-decade restructuring.  But what choice is there, really?

    Let’s face it.  The Fed can’t hold the financial order together much longer anyway.  Why pretend you can with utter nonsense like crashing unemployment?  It’s insulting.

    Your credibility’s shot.  Better to get on with it now, before it’s forced upon you.

    P.S.  What’s up with Neel Kashkari?  The man has gone rogue.

  • CIA Director Mike Pompeo: Trump's "An Avid Consumer" Of Intel, Will "Punish Leakers"

    In his first interview since becoming the head of the CIA, Mike Pompeo pushed back against accusations that President Donald Trump doesn’t read his daily intelligence briefings, claiming that the president is “very interested” in what’s happening at the intelligence communities and that his daily in-person briefings with the president typically run longer than their allotted time.

    Pompeo tells MSNBC that Trump is a demanding boss who asks “great questions” and is trying to enable the CIA to take a more active “operational” role in countering threats posed by the US’s enemies.

    Pompeo began by responding to criticism that some say Trump is "uninterested in facts":

    “I cannot imagine a statement that is any more false than one that would attribute President Trump of not being interested in the intelligence community. He is an avid consumer of the products the CIA provides he thinks about them and comes back and asks great questions and perhaps most importantly relies on them.

    As the Hill pointed out, Pompeo acknowledged that the CIA has been harmed by information leaks in recent years, but said that he and Trump are focused on shutting down the leakers.

    “There have been failures,” he said. “You have not only nation states trying to steal our stuff but … folks like Wikileaks.”

    He went on to say that he believes under Trump, the intelligence community will be able to both stop and punish leaking.

    We and all of President Trump’s government are focused on stopping leaks," he said, "and I think we'll have some successes both on the deterrence side, that is stopping them from happening, as well as on punishing those who we catch who have done it."

    When asked about cooperation within the intelligence community, Pompeo said he suspects it has improved since the pre-9/11 era, though imperfections remain.

    “I think we’re in a much better place today whether we’ve connected them all or not I suspect perfection cannot be achieved. The intelligence community have taken answers to today’s problems and applied them in really interesting ways.”

    As Pompeo’s interviewer, NBC’s Hugh Hewitt, noted, the intelligence community almost universally assumed that Clinton was going to win November’s election.

    But now that Trump is in power, how is the administration triaging the US’s enemies? Pompeo says he and the president spend the most time discussing the threat posed by North Korea. Trump scored a major foreign policy victory this week after Chinese state media reported that the Communist Party has agreed with the US that the Korean peninsula needs to undergo “complete, verifiable and irreversible” denuclearization.

    Chinese state media described the talks, the first of their kind with the Trump administration, as an upgrade in dialogue mechanisms between China and the United States, following on from President Xi Jinping's meeting with Trump in Florida in April.

    “North Korea is a very real danger. I hardly escape a day at the White House without the president asking me about North Korea and how the US is responding to that threat. For the past 20 years, the US has whistled past the graveyard hoping on hope that North Korea would see a change of color."

     

    "They have the capacity to put America at risk with a nuclear weapon.”

    Countering Iran, ISIS and Hezbollah also rank highly on the president’s list of priorities. When comparing Hezbollah to Iran, Pompeo said that the latter’s resources increase its capability to threaten the US.

    “Iran is a powerful nation state with wealth and resources an organized government and an established piece of real estate of which they have complete control…I would say Iran poses the larger challenge, though I hesitate to rank them. ISIS is an enormous risk to the US today and we need to do everything to defeat them.”

    In a sudden, unexpected turn, Hewitt asked Pompeo about Saudi Arabia and the allegations that radical elements within the kingdom’s government helped aid and abet the 9/11 hijackers. While Pompeo wouldn’t comment on these claims, he offered something almost as telling.

    Pompeo said he believes the Saudi Arabian government values the cooperation and friendship of the US, and that the kingdom has made “a fundamental decision” not to condone acts of terror, or terrorist groups like Al Qaeda.  

    “They welcomed an American who wasn’t on the side of the Iranians for coming to visit with them. They’ve come to understand that America will support them when pushing back against enemies that we share and support them to expand their economies as well."

     

    "The Saudis have made a fundamental decision not to engage in that kind of activity that has led to all kinds of trouble in past decades…I think they understand that it’s not in Saudi Arabia’s best interest to not support terrorism.”

    Of course, Pompeo’s response carefully sidestepped any acknowledgment of whether Saudi Arabia once collaborated with Al Qaeda to launch acts of terror against the US. Maybe Pompeo was trying to reassure executives at Saudi Aramco, who have argued against bringing the impending IPO of a 5% stake in the state-owned oil giant to New York City, fearing a lawsuit. Don’t worry, he seemed to suggest: All has been forgiven.
     

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Jun 24

Today’s News 24th June 2017

  • Retired Green Beret Fears The Final Government Objective: Enslave Or Kill Us All

    Authored by Jeremiah Johnson (Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces) via SHTFplan.com,

    In the world situation, we are all aware of the “hot spots,” such as North Korea, Syria, and Ukraine that could escalate into a full-blown regional war and then expand even further, either on their own or with “assistance” from governments and oligarchs alike.  We also have seen a rekindling of the tensions that existed during the first Cold War and the shaping of a new Cold War with Russia.  Meanwhile, with all foreign policy in shambles and diplomatic ties in a limbo-vacuum, the U.S. government has adjusted its pace domestically.  The President was sworn in with a tide of almost “messianic” fervor; however, 6 months has elapsed with little change evident and many of his reforms stopped dead in the water for the time being.

    Domestically the U.S. government was instituting and initiating “reforms” at a running pace under Obama.  The reforms were actually removals of more and more of our liberties.  This pace has slowed down, but has not ceased.  Read the article Senate Bill: Travelers Must Register Cash and Digital Amounts Over $10K or Face 10 Years in Prison and Full Asset Seizure.  Labeled Senate Bill 1241, this nefarious totalitarian measure also contains provisions for wiretapping anyone suspected of “drug trafficking or money laundering” to fit the bill for asset seizure and further torment by the government.

    They want to know everything you have, everything you’re doing, everywhere you’re going, and track you in real time with your happy cellular telephone.

    We may appear to digress, now, but this next item is chillingly interrelated to the information previously mentioned.  Another article by a neuroscientist, a Miss Shelly Fan.  The government has been working on technologies such as this one for some time.  Here is the first step, in Miss Fan’s article Forget Police Sketches: Researchers Perfectly Reconstruct Faces by Reading Brainwaves.

    There you have it, straight out of George Orwell’s “1984,” where Winston Smith was confronted and tortured by O’Brien.  The latter informed Smith there were two problems for the State (Oceania) to overcome: How to kill off hundreds of millions in an instant, and how to know exactly what a human being is thinking.  Well, here we are.  If they can pattern facial recognition technology to create sketches of people from the human mind, how long will it be before they can take your thoughts and formulate words or other images…even place them on a screen and store them for later use.  Will such a thing hold up in a court?  Probably not.  Nowadays, they don’t need probable cause to snag you…only “reasonable suspicion,” and they can doggedly pursue you across the ends of the earth.

    Each week or even more often, we are seeing more technological advances, along with more Draconian, totalitarian edicts termed “legislation.”  Here we see the enemy of the people in the form of a tyrannical state that has abused its powers and privileges afforded it by the Constitution and the vote of the people.  Here we see an almost bankrupted government, running on the fumes of Fiat currency and the treaties made in the birthing of the vampiric Petrodollar…a medium created with the Saudis that (as evidenced by Qatar) they may very well be the ones to plunge the stake through the heart of the vampire.  Here we see the last stages of a Republic’s collapse into totalitarianism.

    The almost omnipresent police state…the federalization local and state police departments and Sheriff’s departments, the fusion centers, the data collection facility in Utah, the steadily-hatching CCTV “chickadees” popping up on every corner, in every gas station, public building, and convenience store.  It is a well-known fact that before an empire slips completely into tyranny, it enslaves, torments, brutalizes, and kills its citizens.  Foreigners come and go, illegally and with a passport, carte blanche: Americans are the ones subjected to the scrutiny when they travel.  An empire can’t have its subjects…taxpaying, system-supporting subjects…going “off” the reservation, now, can they?

    If there is a war, I have stated (and stand by the assertion) in previous articles that the war will be initiated with an EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse) attack.  Stefan Stanford penned a brilliant article entitled, This ‘Game Changer’ Could Lead to 270 Million Dead Americans and Foreshadows a Massive False Flag on the Horizon.  Stefan’s belief is that an EMP may be too severe for TPTB to recover from without losing a great deal of their assets.  He expostulates an excellent theory that it will be a controlled cyberattack that accomplishes exactly what the EMP attack would, minus the recovery time.

    He also mentioned the show “Revolution” that had a couple of seasons and then was discontinued abruptly and for no reason when the ratings were good…a show that had a cyberattack that brought down the whole shooting match as its theme.  Readers also undoubtedly recall the “Jericho” series that lasted only 2 seasons that had nuclear devices exploded in 23 American cities to collapse the country and usher in a new era of chaos and “warlord” type engagements between factions claiming to be “the” legitimate government. Stefan and I are in complete agreement with the fact that these cancellations are way too obvious when you consider the predictive programming policies carried out by the U.S. government and Hollywood, the puppet-lackey of the State.  The scenarios are too feasible to be discounted. 

    In the meantime, the public plods through the day, dulled to the everyday events that lead us closer to the corral, and eventually into the cages We need to focus upon these changes as they are made and keep abreast of what is happening.  Such measures are neither “cheap,” nor are they instituted by our wonderful Congressional members for no reason.  It would be a lack of reason to discount such actions as anything other than plans for the future…their plans to rule it, as well as their plans to “deal” with us.

  • Mapping The U.S. States That Smoke The Most (And Least)

    The number of people smoking in the U.S. has fallen considerably over the years.

    The most recent figures from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that just 15 percent of adults are cigarette smokers – down from 20.9 percent in 2005.

    There is considerable variation between states though, as this infographic shows.

    Infographic: The U.S. States That Smoke The Most | Statista

    You will find more statistics at Statista

    As Statista's Martin Armstrong notes, the most smoke-free state is Utah, where 9.1 percent of adults admit to the habit.

    On the other end of the scale, 26 percent of Kentucky residents represent the most prolific tobacco consumers.

    Outside of the 50 states, Guam actually has the highest rate of smokers, at 27.4 percent. Puerto Rico, on the other hand has the second lowest rate – 10.7 percent.

  • Russia-Gate Flops As Democrats' Golden-Ticket

    Authored by Robert Parry via ConsortiumNews.com,

    The national Democrats saw Russia-gate and the drive to impeach President Trump as their golden ticket back to power, but so far the ticket seems to be made of fool’s gold.

    The national Democratic Party and many liberals have bet heavily on the Russia-gate investigation as a way to oust President Trump from office and to catapult Democrats to victories this year and in 2018, but the gamble appears not to be paying off.

    A sign at the Women’s March on Washington points out that the demonstration attracted a larger crowd than Donald Trump’s inauguration. Jan. 21, 2017. (Photo: Chelsea Gilmour)

    The Democrats’ disappointing loss in a special election to fill a congressional seat in an affluent Atlanta suburb is just the latest indication that the strategy of demonizing Trump and blaming Russia for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 defeat may not be the golden ticket that some Democrats had hoped.

    Though it’s still early to draw conclusive lessons from Karen Handel’s victory over Jon Ossoff – despite his raising $25 million – one lesson may be that a Middle America backlash is forming against the over-the-top quality of the Trump-accusations and the Russia-bashing, with Republicans rallying against the image of Official Washington’s “deep state” collaborating with Democrats and the mainstream news media to reverse a presidential election.

    Indeed, the Democrats may be digging a deeper hole for themselves in terms of reaching out to white working-class voters who abandoned the party in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin to put Trump over the top in the Electoral College even though Clinton’s landslide win in California gave her almost three million more votes nationwide.

    Clinton’s popular-vote plurality and the #Resistance, which manifested itself in massive protests against Trump’s presidency, gave hope to the Democrats that they didn’t need to undertake a serious self-examination into why the party is in decline across the nation’s heartland. Instead, they decided to stoke the hysteria over alleged Russian “meddling” in the election as the short-cut to bring down Trump and his populist movement.

    A Party of Snobs?

    From conversations that I’ve had with some Trump voters in recent weeks, I was struck by how they viewed the Democratic Party as snobbish, elitist and looking down its nose at “average Americans.” And in conversations with some Clinton voters, I found confirmation for that view in the open disdain that the Clinton backers expressed toward the stupidity of anyone who voted for Trump. In other words, the Trump voters were not wrong to feel “dissed.”

    Hillary Clinton at the Code 2017 conference on May 31, 2017.

    It seems the Republicans – and Trump in particular – have done a better job in presenting themselves to these Middle Americans as respecting their opinions and representing their fears, even though the policies being pushed by Trump and the GOP still favor the rich and will do little good – and significant harm – to the middle and working classes.

    By contrast, many of Hillary Clinton’s domestic proposals might well have benefited average Americans but she alienated many of them by telling a group of her supporters that half of Trump’s backers belonged in a “basket of deplorables.” Although she later reduced the percentage, she had committed a cardinal political sin: she had put the liberal disdain for millions of Americans into words – and easily remembered words at that.

    By insisting that Hillary Clinton be the Democratic nominee – after leftist populist Bernie Sanders was pushed aside – the party also ignored the fact that many Americans, including many Democrats, viewed Clinton as the perfectly imperfect candidate for an anti-Establishment year with many Americans still fuming over the Wall Street bailouts and amid the growing sense that the system was rigged for the well-connected and against the average guy or gal.

    In the face of those sentiments, the Democrats nominated a candidate who personified how a relatively small number of lucky Americans can play the system and make tons of money while the masses have seen their dreams crushed and their bank accounts drained. And Clinton apparently still hasn’t learned that lesson.

    Citing Women’s Rights

    Last month, when asked why she accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars for speaking to Goldman Sachs, Clinton rationalized her greed as a women’s rights issue, saying: “you know, men got paid for the speeches they made. I got paid for the speeches I made.”

    The Wall Street bull statue by Arturo Di Modica

    Her excuse captured much of what has gone wrong with the Democratic Party as it moved from its working-class roots and New Deal traditions to becoming a party that places “identity politics” ahead of a duty to fight for the common men and women of America.

    Demonstrating her political cluelessness, Clinton used the serious issue of women not getting fair treatment in the workplace to justify taking her turn at the Wall Street money trough, gobbling up in one half-hour speech what it would take many American families a decade to earn.

    While it’s a bit unfair to personalize the Democratic Party’s problems, Hillary and Bill Clinton have come to represent how the party is viewed by many Americans. Instead of the FDR Democrats, we have the Davos Democrats, the Wall Street Democrats, the Hollywood Democrats, the Silicon Valley Democrats, and now increasingly the Military-Industrial Complex Democrats.

    To many Americans struggling to make ends meet, the national Democrats seem committed to the interests of the worldwide elites: global trade, financialization of the economy, robotization of the workplace, and endless war against endless enemies.

    Now, the national Democrats are clambering onto the bandwagon for a costly and dangerous New Cold War with nuclear-armed Russia. Indeed, it is hard to distinguish their foreign policy from that of neoconservatives, although these Democrats view themselves as liberal interventionists citing humanitarian impulses to justify the endless slaughter.

    Earlier this year, a Washington Post/ABC News poll found only 28 percent of Americans saying that the Democrats were “in touch with the concerns of most people” – an astounding result given the Democrats’ long tradition as the party of the American working class and the party’s post-Vietnam War reputation as favoring butter over guns.

    Yet rather than rethink the recent policies, the Democrats prefer to fantasize about impeaching President Trump and continuing a blame-game about who – other than Hillary Clinton, her campaign and the Democratic National Committee – is responsible for Trump’s election. Of course, it’s the Russians, Russians, Russians!

    A Problem’s Deep Roots

    Without doubt, some of the party’s problems have deep roots that correspond to the shrinking of the labor movement since the 1970s and the growing reliance on big-money donors to finance expensive television-ad-driven campaigns. Over the years, the Democrats also got pounded for being “weak” on national security.

    President Bill Clinton, First Lady Hillary Clinton and daughter Chelsea parade down Pennsylvania Avenue on Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 1997. (White House photo)

    Further, faced with Republican “weaponization” of attack ads in the 1980s, many old-time Democrats lost out to the Reagan Revolution, clearing the way for a new breed of Democrats who realized that they could compete for a slice of the big money by cultivating the emerging coastal elites: Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Hollywood and even elements of the National Security State.

    By the 1990s, President Bill Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council defined this New Democrat, politicians who reflected the interests of well-heeled coastal elites, especially on free trade; streamlined financial regulations; commitment to technology; and an activist foreign policy built around spreading “liberal values” across the globe.

    Mixed in was a commitment to the rights of various identity groups, a worthy goal although this tolerance paradoxically contributed to a new form of prejudice among some liberals who came to view many white working-class people as fat, stupid and bigoted, society’s “losers.”

    So, while President Clinton hobnobbed with the modern economy’s “winners” – with sleepovers in the Lincoln bedroom and parties in the Hamptons – much of Middle America felt neglected if not disdained. The “losers” were left to rot in “flyover America” with towns and cities that had lost their manufacturing base and, with it, their vitality and even their purpose for existing.

    Republican Fraud

    It wasn’t as if the Republicans were offering anything better. True, they were more comfortable talking to these “forgotten Americans” – advocating “gun rights” and “traditional values” and playing on white resentments over racial integration and civil rights – but, in office, the Republicans aggressively favored the interests of the rich, cutting their taxes and slashing regulations even more than the Democrats.

    The run-down PIX Theatre sign reads “Vote Trump” on Main Street in Sleepy Eye, Minnesota. July 15, 2016. (Photo by Tony Webster Flickr)

    The Republicans paid lip service to the struggling blue-collar workers but control of GOP policies was left in the hands of corporations and their lobbyists.

    Though the election of Barack Obama, the first African-American president, raised hopes that the nation might finally bind its deep racial wounds, it turned out to have a nearly opposite effect. Tea Party Republicans rallied many white working-class Americans to resist Obama and the hip urban future that he represented. They found an unlikely champion in real-estate mogul and reality TV star Donald Trump, who sensed how to tap into their fears and anger with his demagogic appeals and false populism.

    Meanwhile, the national Democrats were falling in love with data predicting that demographics would magically turn Republican red states blue. So the party blithely ignored the warning signs of a cataclysmic break with the Democrats’ old-time base.

    Despite all the data on opioid addiction and declining life expectancy among the white working class, Hillary Clinton was politically tone-deaf to the rumbles of discontent echoing across the Rust Belt. She assumed the traditionally Democratic white working-class precincts would stick with her and she tried to appeal to the “security moms” in typically Republican suburbs by touting her neoconservative foreign policy thinking. And she ran a relentlessly negative campaign against Trump while offering voters few positive reasons to vote for her.

    Ignoring Reality

    When her stunning loss became clear on Election Night – as the crude and unqualified Trump pocketed the electoral votes of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin – the Democrats refused to recognize what the elections results were telling them, that they had lost touch with a still important voting bloc, working-class whites.

    The crowd at President Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20, 2017. (Screen shot from Whitehouse.gov)

    Rather than face these facts, the national Democrats – led by President Obama and his intelligence chiefs – decided on a different approach, to seek to reverse the election by blaming the result on the Russians. Obama, his intelligence chiefs and a collaborative mainstream media insisted without presenting any real evidence that the Russians had hacked into Democratic emails and released them to the devastating advantage of Trump, as if the minor controversies from leaked emails of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta explained Trump’s surprising victory.

    As part of this strategy, any Trump link to Russia – no matter how inconsequential, whether from his businesses or through his advisers – became the focus of Woodward-and-Bernstein/Watergate-style investigations. The obvious goal was to impeach Trump and ride the wave of Trump-hating enthusiasm to a Democratic political revival.

    In other words, there was no reason to look in the mirror and rethink how the Democratic Party might begin rebuilding its relationships with the white working-class, just hold hearings featuring Obama’s intelligence chieftains and leak damaging Russia-gate stuff to the media.

    But the result of this strategy has been to deepen the Democratic Party’s reliance on the elites, particularly the self-reverential mavens of the mainstream media and the denizens of the so-called “deep state.” From my conversations with Trump voters, they “get” what’s going on, how the powers-that-be are trying to negate the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump by reversing a presidential election carried out under the U.S. constitutional process.

    A Letter from ‘Deplorable’ Land

    Some Trump supporters are even making this point publicly. Earlier this month, a “proud deplorable” named Kenton Woodhead from Brunswick, Ohio, wrote to The New York Times informing the “newspaper of record” that he and other “deplorables” were onto the scheme.

    New York Times building in New York City. (Photo from Wikipedia)

    “I wanted to provide you with an unsophisticated synopsis of The New York Times and the media’s quest for the implosion of Donald Trump’s presidency from out here in the real world, in ‘deplorable’ country. …

     

    Every time you and your brethren at other news organizations dream up a new scheme to get Mr. Trump, we out here in deplorable land increase our support for him. …

     

    “Regardless of what you dream up every day, we refuse to be sucked into your narrative. And even more humorously, there isn’t anything you can do about it! And I love it that you are having the exact opposite effect on those of us you are trying to persuade to think otherwise.

     

    “I mean it is seriously an enjoyable part of my day knowing you are failing. And badly! I haven’t had this much fun watching the media stumble, bumble and fumble in years. I wonder what will happen on the day you wake up and realize how disconnected you’ve become.”

    So, despite Trump’s narcissism and incompetence – and despite how his policies will surely hurt many of his working-class supporters – the national Democrats are further driving a wedge between themselves and this crucial voting bloc. By whipping up a New Cold War with Russia and hurling McCarthistic slurs at people who won’t join in the Russia-bashing, the Democratic Party’s tactics also are alienating many peace voters who view both the Republicans and Democrats as warmongers of almost equal measures of guilt.

    While it’s certainly not my job to give advice to the Democrats – or any other political group – I can’t help but thinking that this Russia-gate “scandal” is not only lacking in logic and evidence, but it doesn’t even make any long-term political sense.

  • "They Can And Should Do More" Australian State Slams Banks With $280 Million Tax

    Australian bankers are furious after the country’s smallest state levied a “surprise” tax on the country’s five biggest banks that could siphon off $280 million in profits during its first four years on the books, according to Reuters.  The tax was imposed by South Australia, which is struggling with the country’s highest unemployment rate and thanks the banks should be doing more to pitch in.

    The decision, which provoked “howls of outrage from the sector,” represents an added financial burden on the largest banks beyond a $4.2 billion federal tax that was imposed last year – not to mention the country's record-low interest rates.  The banks, struggling with low public favorability after a series of scandals and unified support in the country’s legislature, accepted that tax with minimal pushback. However, some are already threatening to pull investment as a form of retaliation.

    The head of the Australian Bankers Association Anna Bligh called the tax "an outrageous cash grab without policy substance". Westpac Banking Corp and Australia and New Zealand Banking Group said the move could provoke a backlash from banks as they could decide to curtail investment in the state.

    South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said the five banks, which together collect about $30 billion in profit annually, can and should do more to help boost employment and contribute more to the state's economy. The tax revenues will be used to fund job-training programs, Koutsantonis said.

    Australia’s bankers fumed, saying they already do enough to prop up the country’s economy.

    "All businesses will rightly question the political risk associated with investing in a State with a Government prepared to unfairly target an industry that has played a significant role in supporting its lagging economy," ANZ Chief Executive Shayne Elliott said in a statement.

    The decision provoked speculation about whether the country’s other four states would impose similar taxes, with at least one analyst suggesting that at least a few states will.

    "I would say it is definitely on the cards for other states," said Morningstar analyst David Ellis said. "For any cash-strapped state it looks like it is just an easy option."

    However, he said it was unlikely that the country's largest state, New South Wales, would impose a similar tax because it had a strong budget surplus and would want to maintain Sydney's reputation as an Asia-Pacific financial services hub.

    The tax will be equivalent to 6 basis points on 6 percent of the assets being taxed by the federal government. Koutsantonis reasons this is fair because South Australia’s economy accounts for only 6% of national GDP.

  • Exposing Our Lawless Central Bank

    Authored by Ryan McMaken via The Mises Institute,

    The economic arguments against central banks are numerous to say the least. Through the writings of Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard we have a wide variety of critiques that explain the many ways the central banks distort economies, cause booms and busts, punish savers, and chose winners and losers through monetary policy. 

    But, even if confronted with these arguments, and one remains supportive of central banks, other non-economic arguments must still be addressed.

    For example, it is becoming increasing important — in our current age of "non-traditional" monetary policy — to take note of the fact that central banks, and especially the Federal Reserve, are essentially unrestrained by law. 

    Economists themselves often defend this total unmooring from legal or political accountability, saying it is necessary for the Fed to have "independence" from elected officials. 

    In reality, however, this "independence" is best described as "total lack of accountability." 

    Writing in today's Dallas Morning News, Texas Tech economist Alexander William Salter writes

    A phenomenal amount of time and money is spent trying to anticipate what the Fed will do and, afterwards, what the ramifications will be. The reason it takes so many experts to weigh in on Fed behavior is because the Fed's actions are fundamentally unpredictable. This is a huge defect in an organization of such public importance in a nation whose founding principles include the sanctity of the rule of law.

     

    "Rule of law" does not merely mean "according to some official procedure." In order to be truly lawful, the behaviors of government entities must adhere to a more general framework of rules, so that these behaviors are not arbitrary. The more general rules must be more or less fixed, known in advance, and — most importantly — not subject to reinterpretation by those whose hands the rule is supposed to bind. This concept of the rule of law is central to classically liberal constitutionalism and jurisprudence, which underlies the American experiment in ordered liberty.

     

    The behavior of the Fed fails to meet any of these criteria.

     

    Fed activities are more or less unpredictable on any given day, as indicated by the need for various financial houses to devote significant resources to Fed-watching. Congress has almost entirely abdicated its responsibility in holding the Fed accountable, so Fed's actions are not in conformity with any general rule other than what the Fed Board of Governors thinks is expedient. This means the Fed is a judge in its own cause and a law unto itself. 

    In recent years, some observers — Robert Higgs, for instance — have focused on "regime uncertainty" which is a problem arising from "a pervasive lack of confidence among investors in their ability to foresee the extent to which future government actions will alter their private-property rights."

    Much of the focus in this research has been on the presidency and the Congress and the courts while ignoring the central role of the Fed itself in promoting this uncertainty. 

    As Salter notes, the Fed is now unpredictable, and it's anyone's guess what policy change might be coming down the road at any given time. Needless to say, this isn't great for economic growth for all the reasons laid out in the regime-uncertainty research. 

    Of course, the Fed has always essentially been unaccountable to any outside institutions. Nevertheless, both political ideology and prevailing views among many economists helped to restrain Fed action over the past century. Since World War II, another important factor has been the fact that the US economy has often been relatively strong, and there rarely appeared to be ample justification for the sorts of radical monetary policy now routinely being discussed among Fed policymakers. 

    As a perfect example of how radical monetary thought has become might be the discussion surrounding Marvin Goodfriend, who was recently revealed to be a leading candidate for appointment by Donald Trump to the Fed's board of governors. According to the Financial Times, Goodfriend possesses "a radical willingness to embrace deeply negative rates."

    As a member of the Fed's board, would Goodfriend push for negative rates under the "right" conditions? Who knows? 

    But if he was successful in winning over a majority of voting members to such a position what could anyone do about it? More importantly, what documents, guidelines, or statutes would indicate for us ahead of time what the "right" conditions would be for implementing negative rates? 

    There are none. Whether or not the "time is right" for negative rates is completely up to the whims of Board members. 

    This situation is, as Salter points out, the complete opposite of "the Rule of Law" and has no place in a legal or political regime that claims to respect such a concept. 

    Moreover, the situation that now prevails at the Fed is exactly the sort of thing F.A. Hayek warned about in The Road to Serfdom when Hayek outlines the incompatibility between the rule of law and an economy controlled by government planners. 

    Hayek writes: 

    …stripped of all its technicalities, [the rule of law] means that government in all its actions is bound by rules fixed and announced beforehand — rules which make it possible to foresee with fair certainty how the authority will use its coercive powers in given circumstances and to plan one's individual affairs on the basis of this knowledge.

    Serious problems begin to arise, Hayek continues, when "ad hoc actions" on the part of government planners prevent market actors from planning for their own economic futures. 

    Unfortunately, "ad hoc" would appear to be one of the most apt phrases for describing how the Fed functions in today's world. 

    The Fed's defenders will tell us that this unrestrained capriciousness must be tolerated or else the Fed will no longer have its precious "independence." 

    Of course, applying this logic to any other political institution — and the Fed most certainly is a political institution — would be immediately denounced as absurdly authoritarian. 

    And rightly so.

    But the Fed's lack of accountability continues to be sacrosanct among many in power — and it continues in spite of a decade of lackluster economic performance under the Fed's "leadership. Salter is forced to conclude: 

    But when money is governed by the arbitrary rule of central bankers, things become much more uncertain. Trade slows. The economy stagnates, jobs are hard to come by, and the gains from trade mostly accrue to politically connected financial elites. The Fed bears no small responsibility for the past 10 years of anemic economic performance.

     

  • New York's "Billionaires Row" Suffers Biggest Foreclosure In History

    In the latest sign that NYC’s ultra-high end property market is on the verge of imploding after a wave of overly aggressive development, another luxury condo at Manhattan’s One57 tower, a member of “Billionaire’s Row,” a group of high-end towers clustered along the southern edge of Central Park, has gone into foreclosure – the second in the span of a month.

    The 6,240-square-foot (580-square-meter) full-floor penthouse in question, One57’s Apartment 79, sold for $50.9 million in December 2014, making it the eighth-priciest in the building.

    “It’s probably the most-expensive foreclosure we’ve ever seen in luxury development,” said Donna Olshan, president of high-end Manhattan brokerage Olshan Realty Inc. “I don’t know of a foreclosure that’s larger than that.”

    According to Bloomberg, the shell company that purchased the property took out an unusually large mortgage and promised to repay in full a year later.

    In September 2015, the company took out a $35.3 million mortgage from lender Banque Havilland SA, based in Luxembourg. The full payment of the loan was due one year later, according to court documents filed in connection with the foreclosure.

     

    The borrower failed to repay, and now Banque Havilland is forcing a sale to recoup the funds, plus interest.

    And, in what’s become a strong contender for the “no sh*t” quote of the day, a spokeswoman for Extell Developments, the developer that built One57, said there' s a lesson to be learned from this unfortunate situation.

    “This shows that too much leverage is probably not wise,” Anna LaPorte, an Extell spokeswoman, said of the most recent default.

    A June 14 auction was scheduled for a 56th-floor apartment at the same tower. That condo was purchased in July 2015 for $21.4 million. Public records have yet to reveal any transfer of ownership for that property.

    Investors across the NYC property spectrum should take note; prices in Manhattan and Brooklyn have risen so quickly they’ve effectively pushed marginal buyers out of the market and forced renters to devote a greater share of their income to housing. Today, more than 30% of Americans pay half their income in rent – the highest percentage in decades.

    And with more investors in the city concentrating on luxury properties, some ultra-luxury buildings like One57 are struggling with unsustainable vacancy rates of nearly 40%.

    Until last month, no apartments on Billionaires’ Row, which also includes 432 Park Ave., had been subject to a foreclosure auction, according to PropertyShark. The loss of a Manhattan residential property to creditors is a rare event, regardless of the unit's price-tag: Only 27 new residential foreclosures in the borough in the first quarter.

    Could this be the start of a trend? We think so. Which leads us to our next question: How, exactly, does one short the luxury real-estate market?

    We also look forward to The Left deciding that a probe into this transaction is warranted, just in case it was some complex way to transfer Russian funds to Trump… (only half-kidding).

  • UN Report Reveals Nations Producing Most Refugees Were Targets Of US Intervention

    Authored by Whitney Webb via TheAntiMedia.org,

    A UN report has shown that more than 65 million people were forced to leave their home countries last year, becoming refugees due to deadly conflict. The top nations from which refugees fled have one thing in common, they were all targets of US intervention.

    A United Nations report has shed light on the world’s burgeoning crisis of displaced peoples, finding that a record 65.6 million were forced to vacate their homes in 2016 alone. More than half of them were minors.

    The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which drafted the report, put the figure into perspective, stating that increasing conflict and persecution worldwide have led to “one person being displaced every three seconds – less than the time it takes to read this sentence.”

    UN High Commissioner Filippo Grandi called the figure “unacceptable” and called for “solidarity and a common purpose in preventing and resolving the crisis.”

    However, what the UN report failed to mention was the role of U.S. foreign intervention, indirect or direct, in fomenting the conflicts responsible for producing most of the world’s refugees.

    According to the report, three of the nations producing the highest number of refugees are Syria (12 million refugees created in 2016), Afghanistan (4.7 million) and Iraq (4.2 million).

    Watch the UNHCR’s New Global Trends Report:

    The conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are known to be the direct result of U.S. military invasions in the early 2000s, as well as the U.S.’ ongoing occupation of those nations. Decades after invading both countries, the U.S.’ destabilizing military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan has continued to increase in recent years, with the Trump administration most recently announcing plans to send thousands of soldiers to Afghanistan in the coming months. It is worth noting that each U.S. soldier in Afghanistan costs U.S. taxpayers $2.1 million.

    While the U.S. has yet to directly invade Syria, the U.S. role in the conflict is clear and Syria’s destabilization and the overthrow of its current regime have long been planned by the U.S. government. The U.S. and its allies, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia, have consistently funded “rebel” groups that have not only perpetuated the Syrian conflict for six long years, but have also committed atrocity after atrocity targeting civilians in Syrian cities, towns, and communities – a major factor in convincing Syrians to leave their homes.

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    The report ranks Colombia as the world’s second-largest producer of refugees, with 7.7 million Colombians displaced in 2016. Like Syria, the U.S. has not directly invaded Colombia, but is known to have extensively funded paramilitary groups, also known as “death squads,” in the country since the 1980s, when then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan declared a “war on drugs” in Colombia.

    U.S. efforts have long helped fuel the civil war between the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and pro-government, U.S.-funded paramilitary groups. This conflict has lasted for more than half a century.

    In 2000, then-President Bill Clinton’s administration funded the disastrous “Plan Colombia” with $4 billion in U.S. taxpayer funds, ostensibly to fight drug trafficking and insurgents. Almost all of this money was used to fund the Colombian military and its weapon purchases. “Plan Colombia” ultimately intensified armed violence, military deployments, human rights abuses by the Colombian military, and – of course – the internal displacement of Colombians. The legacy of U.S. policy in Colombia and its continuing support of the nation’s right-wing, neo-liberal regime have ensured that the chaos continues into the present.

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    In addition to the above, U.S foreign policy is also to blame for the conflict in South Sudan, where the UN report found was home to the fastest-growing displacement of people in the world. In 2011, the U.S. pushed South Sudan to secede from Sudan, as South Sudan holds the vast majority of Sudan’s oil reserves — the largest oil reserves in all of Africa. The U.S.’ push for the creation of an independent South Sudan dislodged Chinese claims to Sudanese oil, as the Chinese had previously signed oil contracts with the (now Northern) Sudanese government.

    But when nation-building efforts went awry and civil war broke out just two years later, some analysts suggested that the conflict only started when South Sudan’s president began to cozy up to China. According to the UN report, approximately 3.3 million people in South Sudan have fled their homes since the war began.

    Grandi has called on the world’s nations to help prevent and resolve the global refugee crisis. But he would also do well to point out the common cause uniting many of the world’s worst conflicts – the U.S. military-industrial complex’s insatiable lust for conquest, power and profit.

  • The Real Healthcare Crisis: Retiring Seniors Need $500k To Cover Premiums Even With Obamacare

    As Congress spends the next week and a half, if everything goes well, wrestling over how they can screw up healthcare in America even more, perhaps they should take notice of a new study from HealthView Services which highlights the fact that the real source of the healthcare crisis in this country is rising costs.

    As Bloomberg notes, healthcare cost inflation is expected eclipse overall inflation and Social Security COLAs over the next decade.

    U.S. retiree health-care costs are likely to increase at an average annual rate of 5.5 percent over the next decade. That’s nearly triple the 1.9 percent average annual inflation rate in the U.S. from 2012 to 2016 and more than double the projected cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) on Social Security benefits.

     

    The premiums on supplemental insurance, also known as Medigap, that many people buy to cover costs that Medicare doesn’t, such as co-payments; on Medicare Part B, which covers payments for doctors, tests, and other medical services; and on Part D, prescription drug coverage. Here’s how your Social Security benefits are likely to stack up against some of those costs.

     

    Shockingly, the reality is that a couple retiring today can expect to pay nearly a half million dollars in just insurance premiums over the course of the remainder of their lives.

    For a healthy 65-year-old couple retiring this year with a future adjusted gross annual income of less than $170,000 after adding in any tax-exempt income, projected lifetime health-care premiums add up to $321,994 in today’s dollars.

     

    Take a moment to appreciate that figure. It includes premium payments for Medicare Parts B and D, supplemental insurance premiums, and dental premiums. (The supplemental premium figure used is a national average, and premiums can vary greatly from state to state.)

     

    Sadly, and shockingly, that doesn’t reflect the full range of likely expenses. Add in deductibles, co-pays, and costs for hearing, vision, and dental care, and the total rises to $404,253 in today’s dollars.

    And, given the shocking inflation of healthcare costs in this country, the situation only looks worse for younger people.

     

    Of course, excessively rising costs, for our legislators who may not be so good with the math, is usually the result of demand outstripping supply and/or perverse regulations that serve to distort free market forces.  In the case of Obamacare, we have both. 

    As an example, before Obamacare many healthy young people, who we’ll refer to collectively as John Doe, chose not to even carry health insurance because it was a truly wasteful expense for them.  As it turns out, millennials can actually do some basic math and figured out that they didn’t need to spend $5,000 a year for an insurance plan when the odds are that they’ll get a cold one time, pay $150 to visit a doctor and $40 to buy some antibiotics.

    But then Obamacare came along and forced John Doe to, not only purchase insurance, but to purchase a ‘souped up,’ expensive plan with all sorts of bells and whistles. 

    Now, Democrats knew that that ‘souped up’ healthcare plan was really just a thinly veiled tax on John Doe…he wasn’t supposed to actually use it. 

    But John Doe, didn’t see it that way.  From his perspective, if he’s paying for a service, he might as well use it…and hence the demand issue.

    Moreover, that simple example says nothing about the adverse selection bias created by Obama’s subsidies and exchanges where people with absolutely no “skin in the game” can get ‘free healthcare,’ courtesy of the millionaire, billionaire, private jet owners in the country, and consume as much healthcare as they want basically free of charge. 

    To make a long story longer, the net effect of Obamacare was that it added a ton of demand to an already undersupplied healthcare market which is why healthcare premiums are soaring.  Perhaps, just maybe, basic economic principles actually work and more ‘skin in the game,’ rather than less, and more people making their own decisions, rather than less, are actually good things?  Just a hunch but we hear that a lot of work has been done on the topic.

    Of course, we highly doubt that any of this will stop our politicians from turning the healthcare debate into a fued between young and old and the rich and poor…afterall sowing division is how elections are won…and lost.

  • Saudi Hypocrisy: The Great Gas War Is Looming

    Authored by Golem XIV,

    Astonishing hypocrisy! Saudi and its affiliates demand end to support of terrorism while they themselves are some of its largest funders.

    Their list of demands, as reported in the Guardian, should be translated as:

    1) Curb ties with Iran = No talking to Shia Muslims.

     

    2) Sever all ties to terror organisations = Declare Muslim Brotherhood terrorists who we find threatening internally and only Saudi should decide which terror organisations get funded. Not you

     

    3) Shut down al-Jazeera = We don’t allow press freedom you can’t have it either. Especially one that criticises us. Shut down what is, for all its significant faults, one of the best media outlets in the world.

     

    4) Shut down all other media Qatar funds = Only Saudi propaganda allowed. al-Jazeera was far too willing to report government repression during the Arab Spring. So close down all non Saudi controlled media.

     

    5) Close down Turkish military bases in Qatar = Qatar isn’t allowed its own diplomatic sovereignty.

     

    6) Stop funding anyone Saudi calls a terrorist = Stop funding anyone who opposes Saudi or other undemocratic regimes in the ME. No democratic dissent allowed.

     

    7) Handover terrorist figure = Hand over to us all dissidents we want to imprison or behead.

     

    8) Stop interfering in other countries affairs = Hand over people we don’t like that have taken refuge in Qatar. We do the interfering (see this list of demands) not you.

     

    9 -12) Make yourself a vassal state of Saudi, pay us money, let us control your treasury and foreign policy and agree to all this NOW. Or else, Saudi, its minions, the US and Israel will try to paint you as part of a new axis of evil.

    Oh and by the way oil rules! Not the gas you and Iran want to sell!

    The Great Gas War is gathering towards a major escalation.

    Note the purple line which traces the proposed Qatar-Turkey natural gas pipeline and note that all of the countries highlighted in red are part of a new coalition hastily put together after Turkey finally (in exchange for NATO’s acquiescence on Erdogan’s politically-motivated war with the PKK) agreed to allow the US to fly combat missions against ISIS targets from Incirlik. Now note which country along the purple line is not highlighted in red. That’s because Bashar al-Assad didn’t support the pipeline and now we’re seeing what happens when you’re a Mid-East strongman and you decide not to support something the US and Saudi Arabia want to get done.

    The Northern Front in Ukraine has gone quiet. Or at least unreported. But its Southern Front from Syria to Yemen, Turkey to Iran is hotting up.

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Jun 23

Today’s News 23rd June 2017

  • "Tone Policing" And The Left's Anger Privelege

    Authored by Daniel Greenfield via CanadaFreePress.com,

    If you want to know who has privilege in a society and who doesn’t, follow the anger…

    There are people in this country who can safely express their anger. And those who can’t. If you’re angry that Trump won, your anger is socially acceptable. If you were angry that Obama won, it wasn’t.

    James Hodgkinson’s rage was socially acceptable. It continued to be socially acceptable until he crossed the line into murder. And he’s not alone. There’s Micah Xavier Johnson, the Black Lives Matter cop-killer in Dallas, and Gavin Long, the Black Lives Matter cop-killer in Baton Rouge. If you’re black and angry about the police, your anger is celebrated. If you’re white and angry about the Terror travel ban, the Paris Climate treaty, ObamaCare repeal or any leftist cause, you’re on the side of the angry angels. But if you’re white and angry that your job is going to China or that you just missed being killed in a Muslim suicide bombing, your anger is unacceptable.

    If you’re an angry leftist, your party leader, Tom Perez will scream and curse into a microphone, and your aspiring presidential candidate, Kirsten Gillibrand, will curse along, to channel the anger of the base. But if you’re an angry conservative, then Trump channeling your anger is “dangerous” because you aren’t allowed to be angry.

    Not all anger is created equal. Some anger is privileged rage.

    Good anger gets you a gig as a CNN commentator. Bad anger gets you hounded out of your job. Good anger isn’t described as anger at all. Instead it’s linguistically whitewashed as “passionate” or “courageous”. Bad anger however is “worrying” or “dangerous”. Angry left-wing protesters “call out”, angry right-wing protesters “threaten”. Good anger is left-wing. Bad anger is right-wing.

    Socially acceptable displays of anger, from Occupy Wall Street to Black Lives Matter riots to the anti-Trump marches to the furious campus protests, are invariably left-wing.

    Left-wing anger over the elections of Bush and Trump was sanctified. Right-wing outrage over Obama’s victory was demonized. Now that left-wing anger led a Bernie Sanders volunteer to open fire at a Republican charity baseball practice outing. And the media reluctantly concedes that maybe both sides should moderate their rhetoric. Before listing examples that lean to the right like “Lock her up”.

    Not all anger is created equal. Anger, like everything else, is ideologically coded

    Why were chants of “Lock her up” immoderate, but not Bush era cries of “Jail to the chief”?

     

    Why were Tea Party rallies “ominous” but the latest We Hate Trump march is “courageous”?

     

    Why is killing Trump on stage the hottest thing to hit Shakespeare while a rodeo clown who wore an Obama mask was hounded by everyone from the Lieutenant Governor of Missouri to the NAACP?

    Not all anger is created equal. Anger, like everything else, is ideologically coded. Left-wing anger is good because its ideological foundations are good. Right-wing anger is bad because its ideology is bad.

    It’s not the level of anger, its intensity or its threatening nature that makes it good or bad.

    And that is why the left so easily slips into violence. All its ideological ends are good. Therefore its means, from mass starvation to gulags to riots and tyranny, must be good. If I slash your tires because of your Obama bumper sticker, I’m a monster. But if you key my car because of my Trump bumper sticker, you’re fighting racism and fascism. Your tactics might be in error, but your viewpoint isn’t.

    There are no universal standards of behavior. Civility, like everything else, is ideologically limited.

    Tone policing is how the anger of privileged leftists is protected while the frustration of their victims is suppressed

    Intersectionality frowns on expecting civil behavior from “oppressed” protesters. Asking that shrieking campus crybully not to scream threats in your face is “tone policing”. An African-American millionaire’s child at Yale is fighting for her “existence”, unlike the Pennsylvania coal miner, the Baltimore police officer and the Christian florist whose existences really are threatened.

    Tone policing is how the anger of privileged leftists is protected while the frustration of their victims is suppressed. The existence of tone policing as a specific term to protect displays of left-wing anger shows the collapse of civility into anger privilege. Civility has been replaced by a political entitlement to anger.

    The left prides itself on an unearned moral superiority (“When they go low, we go high”) reinforced by its own echo chamber even as it has become incapable of controlling its angry outbursts. The national tantrum after Trump’s victory has all but shut down the government, turned every media outlet into a non-stop feed of conspiracy theories and set off protests that quickly escalated into street violence.

    But Trump Derangement Syndrome is a symptom of a problem with the left that existed before he was born. The left is an angry movement. It is animated by an outraged self-righteousness whose moral superiority doubles as dehumanization. And its machinery of culture glamorizes its anger. The media dresses up the seething rage so that the left never has to look at its inner Hodgkinson in the mirror.

    The angry left has gained a great deal of power

    The left is as angry as ever. Campus riots and assassinations of Republican politicians are nothing new. What is changing is that its opponents are beginning to match its anger. The left still clings to the same anger it had when it was a theoretical movement with plans, but little impact on the country. The outrage at the left is no longer ideological. There are millions of people whose health care was destroyed by ObamaCare, whose First Amendment rights were taken away, whose land was seized, whose children were turned against them and whose livelihoods were destroyed.

    The angry left has gained a great deal of power. It has used that power to wreck lives. It is feverishly plotting to deprive nearly 63 million Americans of their vote by using its entrenched power in the government, the media and the non-profit sector. And it is too blinded by its own anger over the results of the election to realize the anger over its wholesale abuses of power and privileged tantrums.

    But monopolies on anger only work in totalitarian states. In a free society, both sides are expected to control their anger and find terms on which to debate and settle issues. The left rejects civility and refuses to control its anger. The only settlement it will accept is absolute power. If an election doesn’t go its way, it will overturn the results. If someone offends it, he must be punished. Or there will be anger.

    The angry left demands that everyone recognize the absolute righteousness of its anger as the basis for its power. This anger privilege, like tone policing, is often cast in terms of oppressed groups. But its anger isn’t in defiance of oppression, but in pursuit of oppression.

    Anger privilege is used to silence opposition, to enforce illegal policies and to seize power. But the left’s monopolies on anger are cultural, not political. The entertainment industry and the media can enforce anger privilege norms through public shaming, but their smears can’t stop the consequences of the collapse of civility in public life. There are no monopolies on emotion.

    James Hodgkinson absorbed all this. The left fed his anger. And eventually he snapped

    When anger becomes the basis for political power, then it won’t stop with Howard Dean or Bernie Sanders. That’s what the left found out in the last election. Its phony pearl clutching was a reaction to the consequences of its destruction of civility. Its reaction to that show of anger by conservatives and independents was to escalate the conflict. Instead of being the opposition, the left became the “resistance”. Trump was simultaneously Hitler and a traitor. Republicans were evil beasts.

    James Hodgkinson absorbed all this. The left fed his anger. And eventually he snapped.

    Anger has to go somewhere.

    The left likes to think that its anger is good anger because it’s angry over the plight of illegal aliens, Muslim terrorists, transgender bathrooms, the lack of abortion in South Carolina, the minimum wage at Taco Bell, budget cuts, tax cuts, police arrests, drone strikes and all the other ways in which reality differs from its utopia. But all that anger isn’t the road to a better world, but to hate and violence.

    Millions of leftists, just like Hodgkinson, are told every day that Republicans are responsible for everything wrong with their lives, the country and the planet. Despite everything they do, all the petitions they sign, the marches they attend, the donations, the angry letters, the social media rants, Republicans continue to exist and even be elected to public office. Where does that anger go?

    Leftist anger is a privileged bubble of entitlement that bursts every other election

    Either we have a political system based on existing laws and norms of civility. Or we have one based on coups and populist leftist anger. And there are already a whole bunch of those south of the border.

    Leftist anger is a privileged bubble of entitlement that bursts every other election. Its choice is to try to understand the rest of the country or to intimidate, censor, oppress and eventually kill them.

    James Hodgkinson took the latter course. His personal leftist revolution ended, as all leftist revolutions do, in blood and violence. The left can check its anger privilege and examine its entitlement.

    Or his violence will be our future.

  • Trump: Mueller And Comey's BFF Status 'Very Bothersome'

    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

    President Trump told Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt in a Fox and Friends interview scheduled to air Friday that he is bothered by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s close relationship with fired FBI Director James Comey.

    When asked of Mueller should recuse himself, Trump stated “Well he’s very, very good friends with Comey which is very bothersome… We’re going to have to see.”

    As Radio Host Mark Levin pointed out last week:

    John Legato is a former deep cover FBI special agent – and he writes that Comey and Muellertheir families have vacationed together, have had picnics together, hours spent at the office together, had a few cocktails after work. So Mueller can’t possibly be impartial here. Not when he’s very close friends with a key witness.

     

    The point is this – he’s not independent

    Hatchet Job

    Trump also made mention of the four democrat-supporting attorneys Mueller has hired for the investigation.

    “There’s been no collusion, no obstruction and virtually everybody agrees to that… So we’ll have to see. I can say that the people that’ve been hired [by Mueller] were all Hillary Clinton supporters.” -Donald Trump

    Something Newt Gingrich tweeted about on June 12:

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Michael Dreeben – donated to Obama and Clinton

    Jeannie Rhee – deputy assist AG, Wilmer Hale, Donated to DNC, Obama, Clinton

    James Quarles – asst. special prosecutor, Wilmer Hale, long history of Dem donations, Clinton

    Andrew Weissman – oversees fraud at Justice. Donated six times to Obama PACs as well as DNC in 2006

    Levin also noted “He’s [Muellernot looking into any of the financial relationships between the Clinton Foundation and Russia. Any of the violations of the espionage act by Hillary Clinton and if the Russians got a hold of any of those emails. Mr. Comey nicely and neatly closed that investigation.”

     

    No Investigation!

    Trump Attorney Jon Sekulow has been making the rounds to defend the President, telling a testy Chris Wallace that James Comey himself said Trump was “not a target or subject of investigation.”

    “There has been no notification from the special counsel’s office that the president is under investigation… I can’t imagine a scenario where the president would not be aware of it.”

    Sekulow then went on Hannity yesterday to suggest that James Comey should be the one under investigation for leaking a classified memo created after a meeting with President Trump.

    Trump’s interview with Fox and Friends airs on Friday.

    Follow on Twitter @ZeroPointNow § Subscribe to our YouTube channel

  • Connecticut Campus Shut As Professor Flees Following "Let Them F**king Die" Tweet

    A professor at a Connecticut college said he was forced to flee the state after he received death threats for appearing to endorse the idea that first responders to last week’s congressional shooting should have let the victims "f**king die” instead of treating them, according to the Hartford Courant.

    Trinity College Professor Johnny Eric Williams shared a link to a medium post which suggested that “bigots” should be left to die in life threatening situations. The medium article was accompanied by a photo of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was wounded in the shooting, along with the title “Let Them F**ing Die,” which Williams later used as a hashtag in his ill-conceived posts.

    In the post, the author describes a list of disturbing situations in which “bigots” should be left to die, while also encouraging readers to “smile a bit” as these figurative deaths unfold.

    “If you see them drowning. If you see them in a burning building. If they are bleeding out in an emergency room. If the ground is crumbling beneath them. If they are in a park and they turn their weapons on each other: do nothing,” the article instructs readers."

    “Least of all put your life on the line for theirs, and do not dare think doing so, putting your life on the line for theirs, gives you reason to feel celestial. Save the life of those that would kill you is the opposite of virtuous. Let. Them. Fucking. Die. And smile a bit when you do.”

    Williams also expressed his rage toward white people in a series of tweets. In one, Williams said he was “fed the f**k up” with white “bigots” who demean minorities, immigrants and LGBTQ people. In another, he said the time had come to “put end to the vectors of their destructive mythology of whiteness and their white supremacy system.”

     

     

    As a result of the posts, which gained national attention, Williams said he has received more than 1,000 threats. The situation briefly forced the closure of Trinity College’s campus in downtown Hartford Thursday morning. The campus had reopened by late morning, though Hartford police provided heightened security.

    Unlike the administration at Evergreen State College in Washington, which has been willing to countenance threatening behavior and other provocations from its students, Trinity’s administrators have promised to hold Williams accountable for his actions, promising in a statement that there would be “an investigation" into Williams' conduct.

    "The Dean of the Faculty will review this matter and advise me on whether college procedures or policies were broken. I told Professor Williams that in my opinion his use of the hashtag was reprehensible and, at the very least, in poor judgment. No matter its intent, it goes against our fundamental values as an institution, and I believe its effect is to close minds rather than open them."

    Williams said he regrets the affect his actions have had on his family.

    "It was overwhelming for my family," Williams said. "I have to look out for family. I've got young kids."

    But rather than apologize for offending millions of Americans – not to mention the families of Scalise and the other four victims of the rampage shooting at an early-morning practice of the House Republicans baseball team – Williams claims his tweet was misinterpreted. He says the tweet was a response to the fatal shooting of a pregnant woman in Seattle who was armed with a knife.

    And what’s worse, he has committed 100% to playing the victim, saying that he’s considering filing a lawsuit.

    "This is about free speech as well as academic freedom," he said. "From my perspective, I'm considering whether I should file a defamation against Campus Reform, the site that first shared Williams’ posts.

     

    "The black community is beside itself all over the country with the constant killing. It doesn't matter what we do, we still be killed, we still go to jail. Just being black and living is a crime. That's what seems to be the problem," Williams told the Courant.

    Read the full text of Trinity's statement below:

    Dear Members of the Trinity Community,

     

    As many of you are aware, a set of social media posts by one of our faculty members has resulted in a loud and public rebuke and landed Trinity College in a national spotlight, both in the media and across various social media platforms. I understand the concerns many have expressed, and I’m especially grateful for the inquiries we’ve received from members of our community who’ve asked whether what they’re reading and hearing is accurate. To be clear, both personally and on behalf of the College that I represent, I do not condone hate speech or calls to incite violence.

     

    I’ve spoken with Johnny Williams, who has been a sociology professor at Trinity since 1996. I wanted to hear directly from him about the messages he posted and what has transpired since. It is important to clarify a few details. On June 16, a writer who goes by the name “Son of Baldwin”—and who is not Johnny Williams—wrote a piece for Medium.com that cited another writer’s perspective on the shooting that occurred at the Congressional baseball practice in Virginia last week. The Medium piece went on to explore broader issues concerning race and the relationship between “victims of bigotry” and “bigots.” The piece culminated with a call to show indifference to the lives of bigots. That call was reprehensible, and any such suggestion is abhorrent and wholly contrary to Trinity’s values.

     

    While Professor Williams did not write that article, he did share it on his personal social media accounts this week, and he did so with the use of a hashtag that connected directly to the inflammatory conclusion of that article. Professor Williams, who teaches about race and racism, shared the article on his personal Twitter account using that hashtag; he also shared it on his personal Facebook page.

     

    The Dean of the Faculty will review this matter and advise me on whether college procedures or policies were broken. I told Professor Williams that in my opinion his use of the hashtag was reprehensible and, at the very least, in poor judgment. No matter its intent, it goes against our fundamental values as an institution, and I believe its effect is to close minds rather than open them.

     

    I want to underscore that what we seek is to build a diverse college community that is welcoming to all viewpoints and backgrounds and that engages in civil discourse on even the most vexing issues. That requires that we continue to uphold our fundamental belief in academic freedom and support our community members’ constitutional right to free speech. But our aspirations for the community we want to be also demand we take particular care with the words we use and the contexts in which we use them.

     

    This incident has caused distress on our campus and beyond; threats of violence have been directed to Professor Williams and to our campus community, neither of which is an acceptable response.

     

    I denounce hate speech in all its forms, I will explore all options to resolve this matter, and I will be back in touch with our community members with our decisions.
     

  • FEMA Is Preparing For A Solar Storm That Would Take Out The Grid

    Authored by Maco Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

    FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration) is planning for a massive solar storm that would be so strong, it would take down the power grid.

    Noting that the rare, yet “high-consequence” scenario has “the potential for catastrophic impact on our nation and FEMA’s ability to respond.”

    According to unpublished FEMA documents obtained by Government Attic, a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) database and non-profit organization, the Department of Homeland Security agency once mapped out a disaster plan for the occurrence of another geomagnetic “super storm” like the one the occurred in 1859.

    Back then, the sun flung a giant plume of magnetized plasma out into space. The coronal mass ejection (CME), the sibling of a massive solar flare, traveled the 93 million miles between the Sun and Earth in only 17.6 hours. Today, it’s known as the Carrington Event and is remembered by the largest geomagnetic storm in the history of recorded space weather.

    No other storm has matched it in speed or magnitude. When the shock wave of accelerated particles arrived on September 1, 1859, the disturbances to Earth’s magnetosphere were so great that telegraph communications across Europe and North America went on the fritz. Sparks leaped from the telegraph infrastructure, and machinery was so inundated with electric currents that operators were able to transmit messages while disconnected from battery power. Compasses even wiggled, and brilliant auroras were reportedly seen as far south as the Caribbean.

    But that doesn’t mean the ill-equipped government isn’t preparing for the inevitability, in fact, they are. Despite our superior ability to predict these events, the stakes are exponentially higher in a modern, hyper-connected world.  FEMA predicts that a geomagnetic storm of this intensity would be “a catastrophe in slow motion.” Space weather events happen all the time, and many are harmless. For example, an event causing radio blackouts, solar radiation storms, and geomagnetic storms would be abnormal, yet the ripple effects on the power grid and communications would severely limit FEMA’s ability to respond to a nationwide crisis.

    Within 20 minutes of the CME’s occurrence, FEMA estimates that 15 percent of the satellite fleet would be lost due to solar panel damage.

     

    Solar radiation from the incoming storm would add “3-5 years worth of exposure” to the panels, degrading older satellites to the point of inoperability.

     

    Low orbiting satellites, such as Iridium and Globalstar, may be less affected. Cellular service would be disrupted, and a loss of GPS capabilities could complicate FEMA operations.

     

    Motherboard

    Should a storm of this magnitude hit, there wouldn’t be much the government can do. And of course, this would be the perfect opportunity to round up the masses for a trip to a FEMA camp. Individuals would need to band together to help get things back online, but it would all take time.  Those in heavily populated regions would be hit the hardest and evacuation of over 100 million people would be impossible, and even if it was, there would be no unaffected region to send the evacuees – other than the FEMA camps.

    Prepare yourself, because the mere fact that this government document exists could mean that there is something we don’t know.

  • Whites Are The Slowest Growing US Group; Will Lose Majority Around 2040

    The median age in most areas of the US is rising, while the population is growing more diverse, according to Census Bureau data released Thursday. America’s median age – the age where half of the population is half younger and half older – rose from 35.3 years on April 1, 2000, to 37.9 years on July 1, 2016, according to the data. Meanwhile, the population of White Americans is growing at a much slower rate than most minority groups: The number of whites living in the US increased by 0.5% last year to 256 million. By comparison, the Asian population grew 3% to 21.4 million, the black or African American population grew by 1.2% to 46.8 million and the Hispanic population grew 2% to 57.5 million.

    The US isn’t the only country struggling with an aging population. With average marriage ages rising, and economic circumstances making it more difficult for couples in developed economies like the US, Japan and Europe to afford children, many countries are facing a demographic crunch in social welfare programs. But nowhere is this more of an immediate problem than China, where – thanks to its decades-long one-child policy – the working-age population will soon fall off a cliff.

    The Nation's Median Age Continues to Rise

    [Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

    In the US, the baby-boom generation is largely responsible for this trend, according to Peter Borsella, a demographer in the Census Bureau’s Population Division. “Baby boomers began turning 65 in 2011 and will continue to do so for many years to come.”

    Indeed, the number of US residents aged 65 and over grew from 35 million in 2000, to 49.2 million in 2016, accounting for 12.4 percent and 15.2 percent of the total population, respectively.

    With growth rates for white Americans expected to remain subdued, the Associated Press says they will cease being the majority ethnic group some time after 2040, though they will remain a plurality of the population.

    The youngest cohort of America's population is also one of its fastest-growing: The Census report showed that children in the US born from 2001 through 2016 were the nation's fastest-growing age group, with a 6.8 percent jump in the year beginning July 1, 2015.

    Putting its own spin on the census data, The New York Times compared each of the US’s 3,000 counties with the national population at different points in America's history – as well as its future. The Times found that counties with populations that are about 75 percent white tend to reflect the America of the 1970s and 1980s. Those where the population is half white and more diverse tend to reflect the (projected) America of the 2040s and 2050s.

    For example, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, which is 84% White, resembles America in 1989. Meanwhile, Tooele County, in Northwestern Utah, more closely resembles America from 1971, when the population was both less diverse and younger. Seminole County, near Orlando, Fla., most closely matches the nation’s current mix, followed by Richmond County, aka Staten Island, in New York City.

    Urban counties, which tend to be more diverse than suburban or exurban areas, more closely resemble the America of the future. Cook County, Ill., closely resembles what demographers believe the US will be like in 2047. Maricopa County, Ariz., resembles the demographics of the nation in 2020.

  • Bitcoin In Perspective: Bill Gates Worth More, Gold 200 Times More

    Authored by Mike Shedlock via MishTalk.com,

    An interesting article on HowMuch puts the Bitcoin phenomenon into proper perspective.

    Google founder Larry Page’s net worth beats bitcoin’s entire market cap. Microsoft founder Bill Gates’s net worth is double Bitcoin.

    Please consider The Bitcoin Economy, in Perspective.

    Last year, Bitcoin became more stable than gold, and earlier this year, the price of a Bitcoin surpassed that of an ounce of gold for the first time. Currently, all the bitcoin in the world is worth $41 billion. If that amount is hard to grasp, just think of it as one Larry Page – because $41 billion also happens to be the net worth of the guy who co-founded Google with Sergey Brin.

     

    Bill Gates, the richest man in the world is worth $86 billion, or the net worth of Larry Page and Bitcoin combined – with enough change to buy the L.A. Lakers, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Chicago Cubs and the Solomon Islands (not a sports team, but an entire country).

     

    Money, of course, is fiduciary, which means it only has as much value as the trust we place in it. The same goes for gold: it derives its value solely from its rarity, combined with its desirability. The current world supply of mined gold is around 171,300 metric tonnes, which could be molded into a cube with sides of about 68 feet (20.7m). Its total value? Currently around $8.2 trillion. Or about 200 times the total value of Bitcoin.

     

    Does that sound overly dramatic? If the see-sawing rise of Bitcoin tells us anything, it is that people are losing their trust in money, and other traditional measures of wealth. Let’s talk again when the total value of all cryptocurrencies surpasses that of the world’s supply of gold.

    Cramer Yet Again

    Jim Cramer said the value of a Bitcoin could hit $1 million. The price is currently at $2629.

    If it the price of a bitcoin did hit $1 million, its total market cap value would go up to about $15 trillion.

    I spoofed Cramer’s analysis in Jim Cramer Goes Batty “Bitcoin May Hit $1,000,000”: Act Now Before It’s Too Late!

    It’s far more likely that bitcoin crashes to $100 than rises to $1 million.

  • Hillary Not "Out Of The Woods": Arkansas Bar Considers Disciplinary Action Over Email Scandal

    It was just about a year ago that James Comey boldly consolidated the roles of investigator, lawyer, judge and jury when he announced that, although Hillary was “extremely careless” in her mishandling of classified State Department emails, no reasonable prosecutor would be willing to bring charges against her. 

    And even though she got a free pass from the former FBI Director, Hillary may not be “out of the woods” just yet.  As The Washington Times points out, a New York attorney has filed a “misconduct complaint” against Clinton with the Arkansas bar accusing her of “dishonest behavior” and “lying under oath”…allegations that could result in disciplinary actions by the middle of next month.

    But the issue continues to dog her, not only at the State Department, but as a lawyer.

     

    Ty Clevenger, a New York lawyer, filed an attorney misconduct complaint last year against Mrs. Clinton in Arkansas, accusing her of dishonest behavior and lying under oath in testimony to Congress.

     

    In an email Wednesday, Michael E. Harmon, deputy director of the state bar’s office of professional conduct, told Mr. Clevenger he’s still working on the matter. “It is my hope to have something to you by the middle of July at the latest,” he wrote.

    Clevenger has also asked for discipline in other venues against Clinton’s lawyers during the email fiasco: David Kendall, Cheryl Mills and Heather Samuelson.

    Hillary

     

    Of course, this follows news from just a couple of days ago that the State Department has also opened a formal inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s alleged mishandling of classified information on her private email server. Clinton, who has repeatedly blamed the FBI’s handling of the inquiry for her embarrassing defeat in November, is now facing the possibility of having her top-level security clearance revoked – a penalty that echoes the investigation of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.

    Here’s Fox:

    The department’s investigation aims to determine whether Clinton and her closest aides violated government protocols by using her private server to receive, hold and transmit classified and top-secret government documents. The department declined to say when its inquiry began, but it follows the conclusion of the FBI’s probe into the matter, which did not result in any actions being taken against Clinton or any of her aides.

     

    Depending on the outcome of the current State Department inquiry, Clinton and her aides could have their access to sensitive government documents terminated.
    Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, confirmed to Fox News the department’s formal inquiry.

     

    Meanwhile, Grassley’s committee launched its own inquiry into Clinton’s handling of emails, an inquiry that began in March. Grassley cited among his concerns the July 5 statement of former FBI Director James Comey that the agency found Clinton and her staff members were “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

    So, perhaps it makes some sense to ‘stay in the woods’ for a while longer?

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

  • The Left Melts Down After Trump Declares: 'There Are No Comey Tapes'

     

    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

    I’ve procured the full rundown for those of you interested in consuming the tears of liberals. This is the worst meltdown on the left since Trump took two scoops of iced cream, while giving everyone else 1.

    In summary, several weeks ago Trump alluded to the existence of tapes, recordings of conversations between himself and Comey. Today, he admitted, after teasing the media for weeks, that there weren’t any tapes. Meanwhile, coal miners in Virginia and programmers in San Francisco don’t give two shits whether there are tapes or not. The point: this is an issue that only political freaks and media shills care about. The net result is total and complete meltdown — with the media sojourning deep into the crevasses of despair — calling the President a liar, a suicide bomber, to demanding that Robert Mueller investigates these so called tapes — asking whether Trump intimidated a witness (Comey).

    The crimes of Trump keep piling up, ‘self-inflicted wounds’ and Russian nightmares plague DC, in an everlasting melodic symphony of Trump crashing whipped cream pies into the faces of his petty enemies.

    (Note: he even forces the media to turn their cameras off during the daily press briefings).

    MSNBC: Trump is a suicide bomber.

    CNN: Trump lied.

    Jake Tapper implies Trump lies all the time.

    MSNBC: Trump is like candy crush, wasting our time.

    Greta has a serious meltdown. Senator Markey demands Mueller investigates Trump over tapes. HAHAHAAHAHAH

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Schiff: Trump can’t be a reality teevee host anymore (that’s where you’re wrong kiddo).

    Olbermann (sigh)

  • Visualizing The Jeff Bezos Empire In One Giant Chart

    With a fortune largely tied to his 78.9 million shares of Amazon, the net worth of Jeff Bezos continues to be on the rise.

    Just days ago, Amazon shares reached all-time highs after the company’s ambitious acquisition of Whole Foods. This puts Bezos just $4 billion away from displacing Bill Gates as the world’s number one billionaire – and if the stock continues upwards, he could take the title any day.

    We’ve previously showed how Bezos built Amazon from scratch, but as Visual Capitalist's Jeff Desjardins explains, today’s infographic focuses on the extent and reach of Jeff Bezos and his Amazon Empire.

    Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

     

    ALL STREAMS LEAD TO AMAZON

    Jeff Bezos makes investments and acquisitions through multiple vehicles:

    Amazon makes acquisitions and investments that relate to the company’s core business and future ambitions. This includes acquisitions of Whole Foods ($13.7 billion in 2017), Zappos.com ($1.2 billion in 2009), Twitch.tv ($970 million in 2014), and Kiva Systems ($780 million in 2012). It also includes investments in everything form failed dot-com company Kozmo.com (2000) to Twilio, which successfully IPO’d in 2016.

     

    Bezos Expeditions manages Jeff Bezos’ venture capital investments. Over the years, this venture arm has put money into Twitter, Domo, Juno Therapeutics, Workday, General Fusion, Rethink Robotics, Business Insider, MakerBot, and Stack Overflow. More recent investments include GRAIL, a startup that recently raised over $900 million to cure cancer before it happens, as well as EverFi, an edtech startup.

     

    Jeff Bezos also invests money on a personal level. He was an angel investor in Google in 1998, and has also put money in Uber and Airbnb. (Note: these last two companies are listed on the Bezos Expeditions website, but on Crunchbase they are listed as personal investments.)

     

    Nash Holdings LLC is the private company owned by Bezos that bought The Washington Post for $250 million.

     

    Bezos Family Foundation is run by Jeff Bezos’ parents, and is funded through Amazon stock. It focuses on early education, and has also made an investment in LightSail Education’s $11 million Series B round.

    It’s also worth noting that Jeff Bezos is the founder of Blue Origin, an aerospace company that is competing with SpaceX in mankind’s final frontier.

    EARLY GROCERY AMBITIONS

    While the Whole Foods acquisition is the latest talking point for Amazon, it is certainly not the company’s first foray into the groceries business.

    Interestingly enough, the company actually invested heavily in HomeGrocer.com in 1999, a company that delivered groceries from large warehouses to homes. Sales peaked at $1.5 million per day, but unfortunately HomeGrocer couldn’t make it through the Dot-com bust.

    This postponed Amazon’s grocery ambitions, but it wouldn’t stop them.

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Jun 22

Today’s News 22nd June 2017

  • Schaeuble Warns US Pullback Could "End Our Liberal World Order"

    Less than a month after German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that “Europe must take its fate into its own hands,” Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble implored US President Donald Trump to reconsider his “America First” policy, claiming that a pullback by the US would risk the destruction of “our liberal world order” by ceding influence to the Chinese and the Russians.

    Trump’s hostility toward his European partners has strained relations between the US and its Continental allies. Since taking office, Trump has insulted fellow G-7 and NATO leaders, pulled out of the Paris Accord and attempted to ban travelers and refugees from six Muslim majority countries. Though Trump has treated at least one NATO leader with respect: Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, whom he honored with a Rose Garden press conference.

    Bloomberg described Schaeuble’s comments as “one of the strongest expressions of concern among European policy makers that President Donald Trump’s administration is disengaging the US from its global roles on trade, climate change and security.”

    I doubt whether the United States truly believes that the world order would be equally sound if China or Russia were to fill the gaps left by the US, and if China and Russia were simply given a free hand to dominate the spheres of influence that they have defined for themselves,” Schaeuble, 74, said in a speech at the American Academy in Berlin, a think tank that promotes U.S.-German ties. “That would be the end of our liberal world order.”

    Schaeuble also claimed that maintaining global security is in the best interest of the US.

    “It is surely in the United States’ own interest to ensure security and economic stability in its markets, both in Europe and around the world…[t]his is a basic precondition if the US wants to increase its exports and cut its trade deficit.”

    Schauble was speaking to an audience at the American Academy of Berlin that included Henry Kissinger and Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers. In three weeks, Merkel will host Trump, Russian leader Vladimir Putin and host of other world leaders at a G-20 summit in Hamburg.

    As Bloomberg reported, Merkel pushed back against some of Trump's comments regarding the US-German trade relationship on Wednesday during an event in Berlin marking the 70th anniversary of the Marshall Plan. She defended free trade, claiming that protectionism and isolationism “impede innovation, and in the long run this is disadvantageous for everybody.”

    Trump has attacked Germany’s trade surplus as “very bad” and said he would stop German car companies from selling “millions of cars” in the US. Data form the Census Bureau show the United States had a $65 billion trade deficit in goods with Germany in 2016, the third-largest negative balance after a $69 billion shortfall with Japan and a $347 billion deficit with China.

    However, there’s an element of hypocrisy in Schauble and Merkel’s warnings about China. Germany has done nothing to stymie China's rise. It has only helped elevate China’s standing on the global stage by embracing it as an ally in the fight against climate change and as a partner in trade. To wit: China was Germany’s largest trading partner last year. eclipsing the US.

    Merkel also said that she’s open to discussing proposals for a joint “euro-area budget” with French President Emmanuel Macron – stealing a policy position from her political rival, Social Democrat leader Martin Schultz. A federal budget would help benefit the euro-area’s weakest economies, like Greece, Portugal and Italy, but it would also offset some of the immense advantages that Germany reaps as part of the monetary union. German citizens would effectively subsidize their European neighbors, though Germany would still benefit from a weaker currency.

    According to Bloomberg, Merkel’s comments come at a time of “special significance.” Merkel is seeking a fourth term in office in September, when Germany is holding a national election. But she’s been losing ground in the polls to Schultz and his social democrats. Worried about her standing, it seems Merkel has hit upon a new campaign strategy: Distract Germans from their domestic woes by bashing the US.

  • Ever Closer To War

    Authored by Brian Cloughley via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

    The Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has warned that the likelihood of a catastrophic nuclear war is closer than since 1953. As explained by the Bulletin, in 1947 it devised the Doomsday Clock «using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and the planet».

    Each year «the decision to move (or to leave in place) the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock is made by the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 15 Nobel laureates». In 1953 the Clock was at two minutes to midnight. In the worst years of the cold war it was at 3 minutes to midnight when, in 1984 it was recorded that «US-Soviet relations reach their iciest point in decades. Dialogue between the two superpowers virtually stops. Every channel of communications has been constricted or shut down; every form of contact has been attenuated or cut off…»

    And now, in 2017, it is apparent that channels of communication with Russia are being deliberately cut off — and the hands of the Doomsday Clock have been placed at just two-and-a-half minutes from midnight.

    Disaster looms.

    And as it looms, the United States Senate is heightening its global confrontational approach and announced that it intends to penalise Russia for a number of supposed misdemeanours.

    Senator Lindsey Graham told CBS News that the Senate will «punish Russia for interfering in our elections» — concerning which allegation there has not been one shred of proof provided by anyone. All-embracing inquiries are under way, of course, but be assured that if there were the slightest, tiniest, most microscopic morsel of actual proof of any interference, it would by now have been leaked to the media and made headline news.

    Senator Graham excelled himself by telling President Trump, via CBS News, that «You’re the commander in chief. You need to stand up to Russia. We’re never going to reset our relationship with Russia until we punish them for trying to destroy democracy. And that starts with more sanctions».

    Then the CBS interviewer brought up the subject of the many inquiries into allegations of Trump-Russia plotting and mentioned that a Democrat had said the investigations were a «fishing expedition… What’s your response to that?»

    The Senator replied «That’s not your, none of your business. We’re going to do what we think is best. The Russians interfered in our election. They’re doing it all over the world. No evidence yet that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians. I don’t believe the president colluded with the Russians, just because of the way he behaves. There's zero evidence that President Trump did anything wrong with the Russians. There’s overwhelming evidence that Russia is trying to destroy democracy here and abroad. And if you forgive and forget with Putin, you’re going to get more of the same and you’re going to entice Iran and China to come in 2018 and 2020».

    The US Senate believes there is «zero evidence» that President Trump had help from Russia in his election campaign — which is true — but also thinks there is «overwhelming evidence» that Russia is trying to influence voting in America, although there is not a shred of proof to that effect.

    The Senator spoke with the authority, force and majesty of the US Senate, and the world has to accept that his pronouncements represent the wishes of the legislators of his mighty nation which is intent on imposing harsher sanctions on Russia. As observed by Forbes, the new Bill «punishes Russian oil and gas firms even more than the current sanctions regime… Russia has no friends on Capitol Hill».

    It is intriguing that the sanctions focus on oil and gas production, and Bloomberg reported that Germany and Austria consider «the measures sought to bolster US economic interests and included an unacceptable intervention in the region’s energy sector». In an unprecedented expression — indeed, explosion — of disapproval, Germany’s Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel and Austria’s Chancellor Christian Kern said in a joint statement that «Europe’s energy supply is a matter for Europe, not the United States of America… instruments for political sanctions should not be tied to economic interests» and that the Senate’s amendment heralded a »new and very negative quality in European-American relations».

    As London’s Financial Times reported, «the Russia sanctions outline opposition to Nord Stream 2, a pipeline that will double capacity for Gazprom… to supply gas to Europe under the Baltic Sea. The measures could affect European energy companies, including Shell, Engie and OMV, which are financing the pipeline. Shares in all four companies tumbled on Thursday».

    Washington’s mission of lucrative destruction was partly achieved, but that’s where we come to the essence of the matter. The part of the Sanctions Bill involving Russia was an add-on to a series of vindictive measures against Iran, but it seemed a good idea to also sanction Russia’s oil and gas production, because nobody would benefit more than the oil and gas companies of the United States.

    Bloomberg explained that the Nord Stream pipeline «would compete with US exports of liquefied natural gas to Europe». And the Senate made it plain that the US government «should prioritize the export of United States energy resources in order to create American jobs, help United States allies and partners, and strengthen United States foreign policy».

    It’s difficult to see how the Senate’s arrogant dabbling might «help allies and partners,» but those in America who own energy resources and want to continue making vast profits continue to help their allies and partners in the Senate and the House. Without their financial support, many legislators would never have got to Washington.

    As recorded by Open Secrets, companies closely associated with oil and gas production gave US politicians over fifty million dollars in 2015-2016 to help their democratic election:

    Top Contributors, 2015-2016

    Source: By kind permission of the Center for Responsive Politics

    And Senator Lindsay Graham was given a bundle by many commercial organisations, headed by Nelson, Mullins, whose $254,247 in 1993-2016 no doubt helped him along the way. Nelson Mullins, incidentally, has attorneys who «have experience in advising electrical and pipeline providers on legal matters». Then he got $175,605 from SCANA, which is «a $9 billion energy-based holding company, based in Cayce, South Carolina… Its businesses include… natural gas utility operations and other energy-related businesses». Another of Senator Graham’s generous sponsors is the Fluor Corporation ($94,801) which «understands the critical success factors driving onshore oil and gas production and terminal businesses, providing practical solutions to maximize project investment».

    It doesn’t matter to these people, or to the legislators they’ve bought with their donations, that the Doomsday Clock has ticked closer to the midnight of Armageddon, and that the hostile approach of the United States is alienating a proud nation that can take only so much before it reacts against Washington’s aggressive confrontation. The sleazy hypocrisy of US legislators is legendary, but it is their ignorance greed and arrogance that are worrying.

    While Senator Graham was dancing to the tune of his oil angels, the Washington Post reported that seven percent of American adults believe chocolate milk comes from brown cows. That is «16.4 million misinformed, milk-drinking people». The representative of FoodCorps which encourages sensible nourishment said this was unfortunate, and «We still get kids who are surprised that a French fry comes from a potato, or that a pickle is a cucumber. Knowledge is power. Without it, we can’t make informed decisions».

    Just like the US Senate.

  • MiLLeNiaL FaRM…
  • The Bustling Theranos Campus

    From the Slope of Hope: I have made no secret of my disdain for Theranos and Elizabeth “Crazy Eyes” Holmes by way of these six past posts. While driving through town, I passed by the gorgeous and expensive Theranos building, and I decided to swing into the parking lot. I was curious, because the one and only other time I had been there, it was totally empty, which I found bizarre for a weekday. But I swung into again and…………

    0622-parking

    Yep. Not a soul. I tweeted out the photo with the caption, “Thought I would check out the Theranos parking lot to see how they were doing……you can draw your own conclusions.

    I got a zillion Likes and Retweets, but one in particular made my day………….

    0621-john

    Mr. Carreyrou is the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who exposed Theranos to the world. When the company was still in a state of utter self-deception, there was a huge company-wide meeting, with Crazy Eyes at the front, and the whole company chanting “Fuck Carreyrou! Fuck Carreyrou!” as Holmes beamed.

    Karma’s a funny thing, ain’t it? Anyway, I’m honored Mr. Carreyrou saw my little tweet, and I hope to sit down and chat with him someday.If we do, I’ll be sure to write about it, with his permission.

  • Is The American Empire's War Machine Running Out Of Steam?

    Authord by James Holbrooks via TheAntiMedia.org,

    Years of complex operations and the ongoing demands of units in the field have left the armed forces struggling to maintain both operational capacity and high levels of readiness, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office.”

    That’s the opening paragraph of an article published last week. The piece, titled “The US military is struggling to keep up with all its responsibilities,” could just as easily been titled “The American Empire is overextended,” as it thoroughly details the GAO’s negative assessment of the current state of the U.S. war machine.

    Writing that unrelenting demands from geographic commanders for particular types of forces are disrupting manning, training, and equipping cycles,” the report breaks down how each branch of the military is essentially overburdened and underprepared to fulfill its national security obligations.

    The Air Force, for instance, has reported that less than 50 percent of its forces are at acceptable readiness levels. Additionally, the branch says, it’s short of 1,500 pilots and 3,400 maintenance crewmembers.

    The Marine Corps is also running short of resources, with 80 percent of its aviation units lacking the minimum number of aircraft available for training — with the same trend going for the number of craft ready for wartime.

    The Navy, the GAO found, suffers primarily from the high pace of operations and a lack of funds devoted to maintenance.

    As for the Army, the GAO found that while its level of readiness is generally favorable, the rate at which its readiness is declining is continuing to grow, due in large part to ever-increasing demands from the White House.

    In reporting on the GAO’s evaluation, Business Insider points out that criticism of the United States military’s preparedness for combat doesn’t come from Washington D.C. offices alone, but also from assets on the ground.

    One former trainer at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Germany, Captain Scott Metz, wrote in a paper published this spring that many of our multinational partners are more tactically proficient at company level and below than their American counterparts.”

    The captain writes that several of them are significantly better trained and more prepared for war than we are,” and goes on to detail how a lack of basic training at home bases before troops are deployed overseas could potentially lead to fatal mistakes in combat:

    “They will stop for long periods of time in the open with minimal dispersion. They will not effectively use their dismounted infantry and will likely leave them in the back of vehicles for too long, allowing them to be killed with the vehicle. They also will probably make little use of tactical formations and will not use terrain to their advantage.

    Summarizing the GAO report, Business Insider writes that the root of the U.S. military’s problem is that it’s slowly — but surely — losing its edge:

    “Though the US armed forces maintains definite advantages over peers and other forces in technology, training, and capabilities, years of operations and, according to many officials, reductions in funding have imperiled the US military’s ability overcome opponents and fulfill its missions.

    And while many would rejoice at the news of an American war machine that’s running out of steam, it’s important to remember that it’s reports such as these from the GAO that are held up as justification for that very same machine to receive infusions of resources.

    That is, in fact, the argument the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff made before the House Armed Services Committee this month.

    “In just a few years, if we don’t change our trajectory, we will lose our qualitative and quantitative competitive advantage,General Joseph Dunford said, adding that the U.S. military needs “sustained, sufficient and predictable funding,” or else it will lose its “ability to project power.

  • BLUMENTHAL THEORIZES: CONSPIRACY CHARGES POSSIBLE FOR TRUMP WHITE HOUSE

     

    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

    Back in 1997, Harold J. Nicholson, a former employee for the CIA, was sentenced to 23 years in jail for conspiring with the Russian government. Tonight on Hardball, Sen. Blumenthal went off the deep end of his own conspiratorial bend — proclaiming that both Flynn, Kushner and others in the Trump White House could succumb to conspiracy charges.

    When discussing the matter of Flynn, the host, Chris Mathews, asked the Senator if he should be given immunity, so that he could spill the beans on the President — inferring that Trump had something to hide that Flynn knew about. Both Blumenthal and Mathews then started to theorize, incredulously as if disconnected from the real world, a grande Russian scheme had taken place — all at the behest of Trump, that could land Flynn 15 years in prison.

    Mathews then staggered on, praising the press for providing the public with leaks, revealing what he deemed to be ‘Russian shenanigans’, saying ‘the press should be commended’.

    ‘All these Russian things going, all the time, and the only reason why we know about them is the press.’

    Hmm, I wonder why democrats keep losing elections.

  • Millennials' Savings Rate Climbs For First Time In A Decade

    America’s beleaguered millennials received a rare gift on Tuesday: A scrap of good news. Even with the aggregate student debt burden eclipsing the $1 trillion mark, and wages pressures across the US economy remaining relatively subdued, a new survey from Bankrate.com claims that Americans’ savings habits are improving for the first time in a decade, with the strongest gains recorded among the 18-26 demographic.

    Indeed, after almost a decade, Americans may finally be turning the corner on saving money. More than 30 percent of them say they have enough tucked away to cover six months’ worth of expenses—a seven-year high for this measure of financial calamity preparedness, a financial planning favorite, according to a Bloomberg report on the data.

    “Ever since the recession, we’ve noticed in surveys that people realize how important it is to have emergency savings, but for so many years post-recession they just weren’t making any progress,” said Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate.com, which released the survey on Tuesday. Now a broader swath of people are finally making headway, he said.

    “[A poll] of 1,003 Americans, conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International [at the behest of Bankrate], showed impressive savings habits among millennials, particularly younger ones, McBride said. Thirty-one percent of Americans age 18-26 have enough saved to cover three to five months’ worth of expenses. (Some, however, are likely living at home or with roommates—or counting their trust funds.)

     

    “Millennials have a savings discipline that the preceding generations lacked,” he said.

     

    “They have a greater aversion to debt, they’re not as consumption-focused, and they have a greater propensity toward saving than we’ve seen in some time.”

    To be sure, millennials’ quest to save money is made easier by living with their parents, as nearly a third of them do, allowing them to save on rent, which is rising at nearly twice the rate of inflation. Millennials' age bestows another advantage: When they lose their jobs, they typically don’t struggle with long stretches of unemployment, unlike their parents (Americans aged 53-62) who are finding it increasingly difficult to secure a new job after being fired or laid off. Given their age, savings rates among this demographic – which Bloomberg has labeled “the young Boomers” – are particularly concerning, as only 32 percent say they have nothing set aside, while the same percentage say they have enough to cover at least six months.

    In terms of savings, Boomers were hit the hardest by the financial crisis, which wiped out the financial cushion – not to mention jobs – for many members of the demographic. Those who managed to stay employed, however, still have a cash hoard in place.

    As McBride tells it, many Americans made solid progress paying down debt or refinancing after the recession. Now they’re are putting more money into savings, but they’re also starting to add to their debt burden.

    “It’s gone almost full circle,” McBride said. “People started feeling better about their level of debt several years ago, but in the past 12 to 18 months, debt loads started to grow again, and now the comfort level people have with their debt isn’t as strong.”

    When comparing the savings rate as a percentage of disposable income, the picture is decidedly less rosy. That rate has turned up a bit and is well above its 2007 levels. But at the same time, debt on household balance sheets has been building.

    Here are some more highlights from the report via Bloomberg:

    • “The percentage of Americans with some savings, but not enough to cover three months’ worth of expenses, rose to 20 percent, up from 18 percent last year. The percentage of Americans with enough to cover expenses for three to five months inched up to 17 percent from 16 percent.”
    • “As you’d expect, older boomers, those age 63 and older, are the most likely to have at least six months’ of expenses saved for an emergency, coming in at 44 percent. Seventeen percent of them reported having nothing set aside for an emergency.”
    • “…almost a third of Generation X—those people between their late 30s and mid-50s—aren’t doing that great. Some 28 percent say they have some savings, but not enough to pay three months’ of expenses.”
    • “A look at emergency savings by region shows the Midwest with the highest percentage of Americans saying they have enough to cover six months of bills. Southerners have the least.”
    • “Lower- to middle-income households, those making $30,000 to $50,000 a year, are more likely to have an adequate cushion than to have no savings at all. Twenty-four percent of these households had saved enough to cover six months’ of expenses, the survey found. An earlier Bankrate.com survey found that 22 percent of these households were saving more than 10 percent of their annual income.”

    Household debt has returned to record highs, according to the most recent quarterly report from the New York Federal Reserve. Total debt held by US households reached $12.73 trillion during the first quarter of 2017, finally surpassing its $12.68 trillion peak reached during the recession in. This marked a$479 billion increase from a year ago, and up $149 billion from Q4 2016 after 11 consecutive quarters of growth since the deleveraging period immediately following the Great Recession.

    Here’s a breakdown of the Fed’s data:

    • Total household indebtedness stood at $12.73 trillion as of March 31, 2017. This increase put overall household debt $50 billion above its previous peak set in the third quarter of 2008 and 14.1 percent above the trough set in the second quarter of 2013.
    • Mortgage balances, the largest component of household debt, reached $8.63 trillion as of March 31, a $147 billion uptick from the fourth quarter of 2016.
    • Balances on home equity lines of credit fell slightly in the first quarter, down $17 billion to $456 billion.
    • Non-housing debt saw mixed changes—an increase of $10 billion in auto loans and $34 billion in student loan balances, and a $15 billion drop in credit card balances.
    • Despite the new nominal all-time high, on a relative basis, household debt remained below past levels in relation to the size of the overall U.S. economy, and in Q1 total debt was 66.9% of GDP, nearly 20% lower compared to 85.4% of GDP in Q3 of 2008.


     

  • 64 Years Later, CIA Finally Releases Details Of Iranian Coup

    Authored by Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian via ForeignPolicy.com,

    Declassified documents released last week shed light on the Central Intelligence Agency’s central role in the 1953 coup that brought down Iranian Prime Minister Muhammad Mossadegh, fueling a surge of nationalism which culminated in the 1979 Iranian Revolution and poisoning U.S.-Iran relations into the 21st century.

    The approximately 1,000 pages of documents also reveal for the first time the details of how the CIA attempted to call off the failing coup — only to be salvaged at the last minute by an insubordinate spy on the ground.

    Known as Operation Ajax, the CIA plot was ultimately about oil. Western firms had for decades controlled the region’s oil wealth, whether Arabian-American Oil Company in Saudi Arabia, or the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company in Iran. When the U.S. firm in Saudi Arabia bowed to pressure in late 1950 and agreed to share oil revenues evenly with Riyadh, the British concession in Iran came under intense pressure to follow suit. But London adamantly refused.

    So in early 1951, amid great popular acclaim, Mossadegh nationalized Iran’s oil industry. A fuming Great Britain began conspiring with U.S. intelligence services to overthrow Mossadegh and restore the monarchy under the shah. (Though some in the U.S. State Department, the newly-released cables show, blamed British intransigence for the tensions and sought to work with Mossadegh.)

    The coup attempt began on August 15 but was swiftly thwarted. Mossadegh made dozens of arrests. General Fazlollah Zahedi, a top conspirator, went into hiding, and the shah fled the country.

    The CIA, believing the coup to have failed, called it off.

    “Operation has been tried and failed and we should not participate in any operation against Mossadegh which could be traced back to US,” CIA headquarters wrote to its station chief in Iran in  a newly declassified cable sent on August 18, 1953. “Operations against Mossadegh should be discontinued.”

    That is the cable which Kermit Roosevelt, top CIA officer in Iran, purportedly and famously ignored, according to Malcolm Byrne, who directs the U.S.-Iran Relations Project at the National Security Archive at George Washington University.

    “One guy was in the room with Kermit Roosevelt when he got this cable,” Byrne told Foreign Policy. “[Roosevelt] said no – we’re not done here.” It was already known that Roosevelt had not carried out an order from Langley to cease and desist. But the cable itself and its contents were not previously known.

    The consequences of his decision were momentous. The next day, on August 19, 1953, with the aid of “rented” crowds widely believed to have been arranged with CIA assistance, the coup succeeded. Iran’s nationalist hero was jailed, the monarchy restored under a Western-friendly shah, and Anglo-Iranian oil — renamed British Petroleum — tried to get its fields back. (But didn’t really: Despite the coup, nationalist pushback against a return to foreign control of oil was too much, leaving BP and other majors to share Iran’s oil wealth with Tehran.)

    Operation Ajax has long been a bogeyman for conservatives in Iran — but also for liberals. The coup fanned the flames of anti-Western sentiment, which reached a crescendo in 1979 with the U.S. hostage crisis, the final overthrow of the shah, and the creation of the Islamic Republic to counter the “Great Satan.”

    The coup alienated liberals in Iran as well. Mossadegh is widely considered to be the closest thing Iran has ever had to a democratic leader. He openly championed democratic values and hoped to establish a democracy in Iran. The elected parliament selected him as prime minister, a position he used to reduce the power of the shah, thus bringing Iran closer in line with the political traditions that had developed in Europe. But any further democratic development was stymied on August 19.

    The U.S government long denied involvement in the coup. The State Department first released coup-related documents in 1989, but edited out any reference to CIA involvement. Public outrage coaxed a government promise to release a more complete edition, and some material came out in 2013. Two years later, the full installment of declassified material was scheduled — but might have interfered with Iran nuclear talks and were delayed again, Byrne said. They were finally released last week, though numerous original CIA telegrams from that period are known to have disappeared or been destroyed long ago.

    Byrne said that the long delay is due to several factors. Intelligence services are always concerned about protecting “sources and methods,” said Byrne, meaning the secret spycraft that enables them to operate on the ground. The CIA also needed to protect its relationship with British intelligence, which may have wished some of the material safeguarded.

    Beyond final proof of CIA involvement, there’s another very interesting takeaway in the documents, said Abbas Milani, a professor of Iranian studies at Stanford University: New details on the true political leanings of Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani, a cleric and leading political figure in the 1950s.

    In the Islamic Republic, clerics are always the good guys. Kashani has long been seen as one of the heroes of nationalism during that period. As recently as January of this year, Iran’s supreme leader praised Kashani’s role in the nationalization of oil.

    Kashani’s eventual split from Mossadegh is widely known. Religious leaders in the country feared the growing power of the communist Tudeh Party, and believed that Mossadegh was too weak to save the country from the socialist threat.

    But the newly released documents show that Kashani wasn’t just opposed to Mossadegh — he was also in close communication with the Americans throughout the period leading up to the coup, and he actually appears to have requested financial assistance from the United States, though there is no record of him receiving any money. His request was not previously known.

    On the make-or-break day of August 19, “Kashani was critical,” said Milani. “On that day Kashani’s forces were out in full force to defeat Mossadegh.”

     

  • Emerging Market 'Risk' Has Never Been Lower, But…

    As global central bank exuberance suppresses equity volatility, emerging markets are catching up (or down).

    Expected uncertainty in Emerging Market Equities has never been lower… (in fact EEM implied vol is now less than half its lifetime average of 29.7%)

    However, as Bloomberg notes, the Federal Reserve’s hawkish posture last week sets the stage for an uptick in developing-nation volatility in the second half of the year, Bank of America Merrill Lynch strategists said.

    Oh and there’s one more thing…

    A resurgence in EM vol is baked in the cake, no matter what happens, as China’s collapsing credit impulse begins to ripple across the world.

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Jun 21

Today’s News 21st June 2017

  • "Brexit Is A Lose-Lose" – George Soros Slams Brits' "False Hopes" As UK Economy Nears "Tipping Point"

    A day after Brexit negotiations officially began, and seemingly unable to get over the result of democracy, George Soros is once again rattling his op-ed sabre, proclaiming the ignorance of British 'brexit' voters is about to get its come-uppance…

    Economic reality is beginning to catch up with the false hopes of many Britons.

     

    One year ago, when a slim majority voted for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union, they believed the promises of the popular press, and of the politicians who backed the Leave campaign, that Brexit would not reduce their living standards. Indeed, in the year since, they have managed to maintain those standards by running up household debt.

     

    This worked for a while, because the increase in household consumption stimulated the economy. But the moment of truth for the UK economy is fast approaching.

    Soros said Britain’s eventual exit from the EU will take at least five years to complete, during which the country will probably hold another election.

    If all went well, the two parties may want to remarry even before they have divorced,” he wrote.

    Bank of England Governor Mark Carney, in a speech at London’s Mansion House on Tuesday, said domestic inflation pressures remain subdued and signaled he isn’t in a hurry to raise interest rates. In his first major comments in six weeks, he also said he wants to see how the economy responds to the “reality of Brexit negotiations.” However, Soros warns that time's up…

    “We are fast approaching the tipping point that characterizes all unsustainable economic developments,

     

    “The fact is that Brexit is a lose-lose proposition, harmful both to Britain and the European Union. It cannot be undone, but people can change their minds. Apparently, this is happening.”

    If the Brits had just left it all up to him and his elite brethren, everything would be awesome we are sure… and Soros has a final solution

    If May wants to remain in power, she must change her approach to the Brexit negotiations. And there are signs that she is prepared to do so.

     

    By approaching the negotiations in a conciliatory spirit, May could reach an understanding with the EU on the agenda and agree to continue as a member of the single market for a period long enough to carry out all the legal work that will be needed. This would be a great relief to the EU, because it would postpone the evil day when Britain’s absence would create an enormous hole in the EU’s budget. That would be a win-win arrangement.

    Simple enough – despite the majority of Brist now in favor of Brexit, you should all shut up and do as your told!

  • Leading The Multipolar Revolution: How Russia And China Are Creating A New World Order

    Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Stratgeic Culture Foundation,

    The last thirty days have shown another kind of world that is engaging in cooperation, dialogue and diplomatic efforts to resolve important issues. The meeting of the members of the Belt and Road Initiative laid the foundations for a physical and electronic connectivity among Eurasian countries, making it the backbone of sustainable and renewable trade development based on mutual cooperation. A few weeks later, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Astana outlined the necessary conditions for the success of the Chinese project, such as securing large areas of the Eurasian block and improving dialogue and trust among member states. The following AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) meeting in ROK will layout the economical necessities to finance and sustain the BRI projects.

    The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have many common features, and in many ways seem complementary. The SCO is an organization that focuses heavily on economic, political and security issues in the region, while the BRI is a collection of infrastructure projects that incorporates three-fifths of the globe and is driven by Beijing's economic might. In this context, the Eurasian block continues to develop the following initiatives to support both the BRI and SCO mega-projects. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CTSO) is a Moscow-based organization focusing mainly on the fight against terrorism, while the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is a Beijing-based investment bank that is responsible for generating important funding for Beijing’s long-term initiatives along its maritime routes (ports and canals) and overland routes (road, bridges, railways, pipelines, industries, airports). The synergies between these initiatives find yet another point of convergence in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Together, the SCO, BRI, CTSO, AIIB, and EEU provide a compelling indication of the direction in which humanity is headed, which is to say towards integration, cooperation and peaceful development through diplomacy.

    On the other side we have the «old world order» made up of the IMF, the World Bank, the European Union, the UN, NATO, the WTO, with Washington being the ringmaster at the center of this vision of a world order. It is therefore not surprising that Washington should look askance at these Eurasian initiatives that threaten to deny its central and commanding role in the global order in favor of a greater say by Moscow, Beijing, New Delhi and even Tehran.

    One of the most significant and noteworthy events in the last month, or even in recent years, has been the admission into the SCO of India and Pakistan, two nuclear powers with a history of tension and conflict between them. These two countries are critical to the peaceful and fruitful integration of Eurasia. The slow, two-year process of India and Pakistan’s admission into the SCO benefited greatly from China and Russia’s mediation, culminating in the historical agreement signed by Modi, Sharif, Putin and Xi. This is not to mention Afghanistan’s Ghani being at the same table with Modi and Sharif, representing one of the most infamous locations where Eurasian powers have clashed with each other, acting as an obstacle to the integration and development of the region. The main goal of the new SCO organization is a peaceful mediation between New Delhi and Islamabad, and certainly to reach a wider agreement that can include Afghanistan. Kabul is a good example of how the SCO can offer the ideal framework for achieving a definitive peace settlement. This reflects the sentiment that was expressed during the meeting that took place a few weeks ago in Moscow between Pakistan, India, China, Russia and Afghanistan over the complicated situation in the country. Clearly there are conflicting interests, and it is only through the mediation of Beijing and Moscow that it will be possible to reach a wider agreement and end the 16-year-old conflict.

    Afghanistan is a good example of how the SCO intends to support the BRI. In this sense, it is important to note that Moscow and Beijing have decided to engage in a partnership that looks more like an alliance with long-term projects planned deep into 2030. The extent to which Russia and China are committed to common initiatives and projects can be seen in the BRI, SCO, AIIB and CTSO.

    Security and Development

    Beijing is fully aware that it is impossible to defeat terrorism without laying the foundation for economic growth in underdeveloped countries in Africa, Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia. Terrorist organizations are generally better able to recruit from populations suffering from low income and poor schooling. The SCO is required to manage and control its members’ most unstable areas (Central Asian republics, Afghanistan, India-Pakistan border, Beijing-New Delhi relations) and mediate between parties. The BRI and SCO go hand in hand, one being unable to operate without the other, as Xi and Putin have reiterated.

    The SCO and BRI are both capable of meeting the challenges of economic growth through development and progress. Just looking at the BRI's major projects helps one understand the level and extent of integration that has been agreed. The Eurasian Land Bridge begins in Western China and ends in Western Russia. The China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor begins in Northern China and arrives in Eastern Russia. Central Asia will be connected to Western Asia, which practically means China linking with Turkey. The China-Indochina corridor runs from Southern China to Singapore; and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar corridor starts in Southern China and arrives in India. The nearly completed China-Pakistan corridor starts in south-western China and reaches Pakistan. Finally, the maritime route running from the Chinese coast through to Singapore will reach the Mediterranean in Greece or, in the future, Venice.

    What is evident is that countries like India, Singapore, Turkey and Myanmar, just to name a few, do not wish to miss the opportunity to join this initiative that promises to revolutionize trade and globalization as we know it. Today’s main economic problems, as well as the problem posed by terrorism, stems from the lack of economic growth brought on by a globalization that enriches the elites at the expense of ordinary people. The BRI aims to reinvent globalization, avoiding the protectionist drift that many countries today adopt in response to an aggressive and failed approach to globalization. Beijing intends to bring about a radical change to its industries by restructuring its production and boosting its investment in technology, generating more internal consumption, and becoming a country that offers services and not only manufacturing. For this process to be successful, it will be fundamental to reorganize the regional supply chain by transferring production to more competitive countries that will play important roles in sectors such as agriculture, energy, logistics and industrial projects. Southeast Asia in particular seems to offer ideal destinations for transferring Chinese industries.

    In this process of transforming a good part of the globe, some countries currently outside of the SCO organization are nevertheless fully part of the integration schemes and will play a decisive role in the future. In particular, Iran, Turkey and Egypt are the main focus when one looks at their geographical position. The importance of these three countries vis-a-vis the SCO arises mainly from the need of the organization to pursue its work of political expansion and, in the future, to counter militarily the problem of terrorism and its spread. Naturally, countries like Iran and Egypt already devote a large part of their resources towards counteracting the terrorist phenomenon in the Middle East and North Africa. Their entry into the SCO would be seen by many protagonists of the BRI, especially China, as providing the opportunity to expand their projects in areas in North Africa and the Middle East that are currently tumultuous.

    This should not come as a surprise, since even countries like Jordan and Israel have been taken into account by Beijing for important infrastructure projects related to the transport of desalinated water to regions with a high rate of drought. With Israel, the Chinese partnership is stronger than ever, counting on various factors such as technological development and the expansion of several Israeli ports to connect more Chinese maritime routes with destinations in the Mediterranean like Piraeus in Greece and probably Venice in Italy. Turkey's entry into the SCO is mainly aimed at gathering the region's major oil and gas suppliers and consumers under a single umbrella guaranteed by the SCO. These operations take time and a degree of cooperation that is hard to maintain, although the resolution of the situation in Syria, in addition to the crisis in the Gulf between Qatar and Saudi Arabia, could accelerate synergies and easily facilitate them.

    The entry of Iran, Egypt and Turkey into the SCO is inevitable, receiving the strong encouragement of China and Russia, especially as regards the future connection between BRI and other infrastructure projects that are part of the EEU. The advantages are quite obvious to everyone, bringing about greater integration and infrastructure links, the increase of trade between nations, and general cooperation in mutual development. Products can travel from one country to another based on conditions determined bilaterally, something that often favors bigger nations rather than smaller ones. The intention of ??China's Globalization 2.0, coupled with a Eurasian revival of the EEU, is to change the future of humanity by shifting the global pole of globalization and development towards the east. The BRI is immense and mind boggling in its scope, given that it embraces realities ranging from Panama (focused on the extended channel and the Nicaragua project for a new channel) to Australia, passing through Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Persian Gulf.

    Naturally, in this delicate balance, Europe is called on to play a decisive role in the future. The United States, with its «America First» policy, has already burned bridges with the Chinese BRI revolution, and indeed hopes to throw a spanner in China’s works. European countries including England, France, Germany and Italy have already begun to sign onto various Chinese proposals. It looks as if America’s allies are no longer listening to their former boss. The European Central Bank has for the first time diversified $500m into Yuan currency, and London, together with Rome, Berlin and Paris, was present in Beijing for the launch of the BRI. France, Germany and England sent high-level representations and delegations, Italy directly the Prime Minister. For Europe, the largest exporter to China and the second-largest regional block importing from China, it is inevitable that it will be an integral part of the BRI, looking to reach Iran, Turkey and Egypt for energy supplies and diversifying sources, all within the framework of the BRI.

    In this process of Eurasian integration, there are some key countries to keep in mind, but the first steps have already been made with almost indissoluble ties having been made between Moscow and Beijing, as well as the monumental inclusion of Pakistan and India at the same table. With an understanding between India, Russia and China, as well as a lack of hostility to the project in Iran, Israel, Germany, England, Turkey and Egypt, it will be possible to speed up this global change, bringing it to the African countries, Gulf monarchies, South Asian countries, and even South and Central America. Even Washington's historic allies like Israel, Saudi Arabia and the EU vacillate in the face of such an opportunity to broaden their horizons with significant gains. As far as their alliance with the United States, in this world rapidly heading towards a multipolar world order, not even Riyadh, Tel Aviv or London can afford the luxury of ignoring the project that perhaps more than any other will revolutionize the future of humanity in the near future. Not being a part of it is simply not an option.

    The United States has two diametrically opposed options before it. It can operate alongside the BRI project, trying to fashion its own sphere of influence, albeit smaller than the countries residing within the Eurasian continent; but of course for Washington, simply being part of a grand project may not be enough, since it is used to getting its own way and subordinating the interests of other countries to its own. If the US decides to try and sabotage the BRI with their normal tools like terrorism, it is very likely that the countries historically aligned with Washington in these affairs (such as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) will be subjected to Chinese economic pressure and encouraged to instead participate in a more positive manner.

    Cooperation against Threats

    The main question is the extent to which Chinese economic persuasion will succeed in overcoming US military threats. In this respect the SCO will be a decisive factor as it expands its influence beyond the Eurasian bloc into Africa and the Middle East. To date, the SCO cannot be considered a military bloc opposed to NATO. Everything will depend on the pressures that the United States will bring to bear on participating countries. Therefore, it is likely that the SCO will evolve to include a strong military aspect in order to counter American destabilization efforts.

    It is difficult to predict whether the US will be neutral or belligerent. But considering recent history, American hostility is likely to force Moscow and Beijing into an asymmetric response that will hit Washington where it hurts most, namely its economic interests. Aiming at the dollar, and in particular the petrodollar, seems to be the best bet for advancing the BRI, threatening a massive de-dollarization that would end in disaster for Washington. This is the nuclear option that Beijing and Moscow are looking into, with more than a desire to accelerate this economic shift.

    The future of humanity seems to be changing in exciting and unprecedented ways. The full integration of the Eurasian bloc will eventually end up changing the course of history, allowing nations that are currently weak and poor to withstand colonial pressures and broaden their cooperation and dialogue. Peace as a method for developing synergies and prosperity seems to be the new paradigm, contrasting with war and destruction as has been the case in the last decades.

  • In Historic Shakeup Saudi King Removes Crown Prince, Names Son As First Heir

    In a shocking development, on Wednesday Saudi Arabia’s King Salman appointed his 31-year-old son Mohammed bin Salman (his eldest son from his third wife) as crown prince, placing him as first-in-line to the throne and removing his nephew, 57-year-old Mohammed bin Nayef – the country’s counterterrorism czar and a figure well-known to Washington – from the royal line of succession, relieving him of his post as Interior Minister, and stripping him from all his titles.

    Bin Salman already controls the Kingdom’s defense, oil and economic policies; today’s announcement merely consolidates his power. He was also credited with arranging Trump’s “successful” trip to Riyadh.

    Al Arabiya television reported that the promotion of the prince was approved by the kingdom’s Allegiance Council with 31 of 34 members approving, and that the king had called for a public pledging of loyalty to Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday evening in Mecca. The surprise announcement follows 2-1/2 years of already major changes in Saudi Arabia, which stunned allies in 2015 by launching a war in Yemen, cutting old energy subsidies and in 2016 proposing partly privatizing state oil company Aramco.

    As AP further reports, in a series of royal decrees carried on the state-run Saudi Press Agency, the monarch stripped Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who had been positioned to inherit the throne, from his title as crown prince and from his powerful position as the country’s interior minister overseeing security.

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    The newly announced Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman already oversees a vast portfolio as defense minister and head of an economic council tasked with overhauling the country’s economy. And while he had previously been the second-in-line to the throne as deputy crown prince, numerous royal watchers had suspected his rise to power under his father’s reign might also accelerate his ascension to the throne.

    The young prince was little known to Saudis and outsiders before Salman became king in January 2015, although he quickly rose to prominence when he emerged as the dominant voice in the OPEC production cut negotiations. He had previously been in charge of his father’s royal court when Salman was the crown prince. The Saudi monarch awarded his son expansive powers to the surprise of many within the royal family who are more senior and more experienced than Mohammed bin Salman.

    King Salman also reinstated all allowances and bonuses that were canceled or suspended to civil servants and military personnel, SPA reported.

    While the backroom negotiations that resulted in today’s stunning announcement will likely remain unknown indefinitely, today’s dramatic overhaul of the Saudi royal succession was previewed here as recently as December, when we discussed that the present Saudi king, Salman bin Abdul Aziz, is the last of the sons of the first Saudi king, Abdul Aziz al Saud, who will ever sit on the Saudi throne. After Salman dies, Saudi leadership will pass to a new generation of Saudi royals. But not all the descendants of the first Saudi king are happy about how the future succession may turn out.

    Salman named his nephew, Mohammed bin Nayef, as crown prince after firing his half-brother, Mugrin bin Abdul Aziz, as crown prince after the death of King Abdullah in 2015. For good measure, Salman also named his son, Mohammad bin Salman, who is little-known outside the kingdom, as deputy prime minister. The 30-year old Mohammad bin Salman is seen by some as the eventual crown prince after King Salman figures out some way to ease Mohammad bin Nayef, the Interior Minister and close friend of the United States, out of the position of heir apparent to the throne.

     

    More and more power has been concentrated into Mohammad bin Salman’s hands, including control over the Defense Ministry, the Council of Economy and Development, and the Saudi government-owned Arabian-American oil company (ARAMCO). The deputy crown prince and defense minister is the architect of Saudi Arabia’s genocidal military campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen and continued Saudi support for jihadist guerrillas in Syria and Iraq, as well as military support for the Wahhabist royal regime in Bahrain in its bloody suppression of the Shi’a Muslim majority population. Mohammad bin Salman is also the major force in Saudi Arabia seeking a military confrontation with Iran.

     

    There is a schism within the Saudi royal family that has created a real-life «Game of Thrones» within the kingdom.

    Finally, while it remains unclear what domestic consequences the King’s decision will have, a decree which an official said was “due to special circumstances”, that this major power move comes at a time when OPEC and Saudi Arabia are both reeling, as a result of plunging oil prices leads one to believe that the current deteriorating state of the Saudi economy, coupled with plunging oil revenues, may have been a catalyst in today’s announcement.

    Live feed from Saudi TV:

  • Bitcoin Surges Back Above $2700 As India "Legalizes" Cryptocurrency

    After crashing 30% last week, Bitcoin is now up over 33% in the last few days helped by a surge in demand from India exchanges after the India government ruled Bitcoin as legal in India

    Yet another big rebound… this time as India – the world's second most-populous nation rules in favor of regulating Bitcoin…

    As CoinTelegraph reports, over the past three years, the big three Indian Bitcoin exchanges including Zebpay, Coinsecure and Unocoin operated with self-regulated trading platforms with strict Know Your Customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering systems in place, despite the lack of regulations in the digital currency industry and market.

    The efforts of the Bitcoin exchanges in India to self-regulate the market allowed the Indian government to reconsider the Bitcoin and digital currency sectors, regardless of the criticisms by several politicians that significantly lack knowledge in cryptocurrency.

    On March 24, Cointelegraph reported that Kirit Somaiya, a member of parliament of the ruling BJP in India, was harshly criticized for his description of Bitcoin as a Ponzi scheme.

    In a letter to the Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India, Somaiya explained that Bitcoin is a pyramid Ponzi-type scheme. However, Somaiya was criticized for his inability to understand the structural and fundamental difference between a Ponzi scheme and Bitcoin.

    The legalization of Bitcoin in India

    In spite of the negative attitude of certain politicians, the Indian government has come to a decision to regulate the market and provide an even playing field for Bitcoin exchanges that have allocated a significant amount of resources to standardize the market and industry.

    Back in April, Mohit Kalra, CEO of Coinsecure, one of the largest Bitcoin exchanges in India, told Cointelegraph in an interview that the Indian government has finally started to take Bitcoin seriously and are considering the possibility of regulating the market.

    Kalra said:

    “Finally, something positive for the industry. Authorities are now taking this technology seriously. We have been trying to get their attention for years now. I am glad it's all happening at the right time. At Coinsecure, we are seeing a massive increase in the number of users and volumes. We are positive with what will happen in these coming three months.”

    On June 20, CNBC India announced that the Indian government committee has ruled in favor of regulating Bitcoin and is currently establishing a task force to create various regulatory frameworks with the aim of fully legalizing Bitcoin in the short-term.

    Prior to the announcement of the Indian government, Chris Burniske, ARK Invest’s crypto lead, noted that the trading volumes in India have been on the rise. Burniske previously revealed that the Indian Bitcoin exchange market is responsible for processing around 11 percent of Bitcoin-to-USD trades.

  • Execution By Firing Squad: The Militarized Police State Opens Fire

    Authored by John Whitehead via The Rutherford Institute,

    “It is often the case that police shootings, incidents where law enforcement officers pull the trigger on civilians, are left out of the conversation on gun violence. But a police officer shooting a civilian counts as gun violence. Every time an officer uses a gun against an innocent or an unarmed person contributes to the culture of gun violence in this country.”—Journalist Celisa Calacal

    Legally owning a gun in America could get you killed by a government agent.

    While it still technically remains legal to own a firearm in America, possessing one can now get you pulled over, searched, arrested, subjected to all manner of surveillance, treated as a suspect without ever having committed a crime, shot at and killed.

    This same rule does not apply to government agents, however, who are armed to the hilt and rarely given more than a slap on the wrists for using their weapons to shoot and kill American citizens.

    According to the Washington Post, 1 in 13 people killed by guns are killed by police.”

    Just recently, for example, a Minnesota jury acquitted a police officer who shot and killed 32-year-old Philando Castile, a school cafeteria supervisor, during a routine traffic stop merely because Castile disclosed that he had a gun in his possession, for which he had a lawful conceal-and-carry permit. That’s all it took for police to shoot Castile four times as he was reaching for his license and registration. Castile’s girlfriend and her 4-year-old daughter witnessed the entire exchange.

    Earlier this year, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Florida police will not be held accountable for banging on the wrong door at 1:30 am, failing to identify themselves as police, and then repeatedly shooting and killing the innocent homeowner who answered the door while holding a gun in self-defense.

    Continuing its own disturbing trend of siding with police in cases of excessive use of force, a unanimous Supreme Court recently acquitted police who recklessly fired 15 times into a backyard shack in which a homeless couple—Angel and Jennifer Mendez—was sheltering. Incredibly, the Court ruled that the shooting was justified because Angel was allegedly seen holding a BB gun that he used for shooting rats.

    What these cases add up to is a new paradigm in which legally owning a gun turns you into a target for government sharp-shooters.

    Ironically, while America continues to debate who or what is responsible for gun violence—the guns, the gun owners, or our violent culture—little has been said about the greatest perpetrator of violence in American society: the U.S. government.

    Violence has become the government’s calling card, starting at the top and trickling down, from the more than 80,000 SWAT team raids carried out every year on unsuspecting Americans by heavily armed, black-garbed commandos and the increasingly rapid militarization of local police forces across the country to the drone killings used to target insurgents.

    You want to reduce gun violence? Start with the government.

    The government’s arsenal of weapons makes the average American’s handgun look like a Tinker Toy. Under the auspices of a military “recycling” program, which allows local police agencies to acquire military-grade weaponry and equipment, more than $4.2 billion worth of equipment has been transferred from the Defense Department to domestic police agencies since 1990.

    In the hands of government agents, whether they are members of the military, law enforcement or some other government agency, these weapons have become accepted instruments of tyranny, routine parts of America’s day-to-day life, a byproduct of the rapid militarization of law enforcement over the past several decades.

    This lopsided, top-heavy, authoritarian state of affairs is not the balance of power the founders intended for “we the people.”

    The Second Amendment, in conjunction with the multitude of prohibitions on government overreach enshrined in the Bill of Rights, was supposed to serve as a clear shackle on the government’s powers.

    To founders such as Thomas Jefferson, who viewed the government as a powerful entity that must be bound “down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution,” the right to bear arms was no different from any other right enshrined in the Constitution: it was intended to stand as a bulwark against a police state.

    As I explain in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, without any one of those freedoms, we are that much more vulnerable to the vagaries of out-of-control policemen, benevolent dictators, genuflecting politicians, and overly ambitious bureaucrats.

    Writing for Counterpunch, journalist Kevin Carson warns that prohibiting Americans from owning weapons would “lead to further erosion of Fourth Amendment protections against search and seizure, further militarization of local police via SWAT teams, and further expansion of the squalid empire of civil forfeiture, perjured jailhouse snitch testimony, entrapment, planted evidence, and plea deal blackmail.”

    This is exactly what those who drafted the U.S. Constitution feared: that laws and law enforcers would be used as tools by a despotic government to wage war against the citizenry.

    Now don’t get me wrong.

    I do not believe that violence should ever be the answer to our problems. Still there’s something to be said for George Orwell’s view that “that rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or labourer’s cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.”

    The Second Amendment serves as a check on the political power of the ruling authorities. It represents an implicit warning against governmental encroachments on one’s freedoms, the warning shot over the bow to discourage any unlawful violations of our persons or property.

    Certainly, dictators in past regimes have understood this principle only too well.

    As Adolf Hitler noted, “The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing.”

    It should come as no surprise, then, that starting in December 1935, Jews in Germany were prevented from obtaining shooting licenses, because authorities believed that to allow them to do so would “endanger the German population.”

    In late 1938, special orders were delivered barring Jews from owning firearms, with the punishment for arms possession being 20 years in a concentration camp.

    The rest, as they say, is history. Yet it is a history that we should be wary of repeating.

  • House Republicans Block Russia Sanctions Bill

    After recruiting Trump, the KGB and Moscow have clearly also managed to make all House Republicans their puppets, because the Senate bill that passed last week and slapped new sanctions on Russia (but really was meant to block the production on the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia and which Germany, Austria and France all said is a provocation by the US and would prompt retaliation) just hit a major stumbling block in the House.

    At least that’s our interpretation of tomorrow’s CNN “hot take.”

    Shortly after House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady of Texas said that House leaders concluded that the legislation, S. 722, violated the origination clause of the Constitution, which requires legislation that raises revenue to originate in the House, and would require amendments, Democrats immediately accused the GOP of delaying tactics and “covering” for the Russian agent in the White House.

    “House Republicans are considering using a procedural excuse to hide what they’re really doing: covering for a president who has been far too soft on Russia,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a statement. “The Senate passed this bill on a strong bipartisan vote of 98-2, sending a powerful message to President Trump that he should not lift sanctions on Russia.”

    And, if the House does pass it, a huge diplomatic scandal would erupt only not between the US and Russia, but Washington and its European allies who have slammed this latest intervention by the US in European affairs… a scandal which the Democrats would also promptly blame on Trump.

    That said, the bill may still pass: Brady pushed back against Democrat suggestions that House GOP leadership is trying to delay the bill, stressing that he thought the Senate legislation was sound policy.

    “I strongly support sanctions against Iran and Russia to hold them accountable. We were willing to work with the Senate throughout the process, but the final bill and final language violated the origination clause in the Constitution,” Brady told reporters on Tuesday. “I am confident working with the Senate and Chairman [Ed] Royce that we can move this legislation forward. So at the end of the day, this isn’t a policy issue, it’s not a partisan issue, it is a Constitutional issue that we will address.”

    Or maybe not.

    AshLee Strong, a spokeswoman for House Speaker Paul Ryan said that “the Senate bill cannot be considered in the House its current form” according to The Hill. She added that Ryan strongly supports sanctions and “we will determine the next course of action after speaking with our Senate colleagues.” An aide for Sen. Bob Corker who was deeply involved in negotiating the Senate deal, said that the House has raised “concerns with one of the final provisions” of the bill.

    “The House has always, in a bipartisan way, followed protocol to avoid Origination Clause violations. It’s the Constitution. It’s pretty straightforward,” a senior GOP aide added.

    And yet, despite the clear procedural issues, Democrats would just not let it go and warned that Republicans are trying to delay the bill amid pushback from the Trump administration.

    As usual, Schumer lambasted the move, arguing they’re using the procedural roadblock to cover for Trump, “who has been far too soft on Russia.”

    “Responding to Russia’s assault on our democracy should be a bipartisan issue that unites both Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate. The House Republicans need to pass this bill as quickly as possible,” he said.

    Rep. Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, added that Republicans could easily work around the violation by introducing an indention House bill. “[But] I predict this isn’t the last excuse we’ll hear for trying to slow this bill’s momentum, but make no mistake, anything short of an up-or-down vote on this tough sanctions package is an attempt to let Russia off the hook,” he said.

    Another Democrat, Sen. Ben Cardin stressed that he didn’t think the Senate bill actually had a “blue slip” issue, but echoed Engel noting they it could be “easily corrected” by using a House bill.

    * * *

    Under the bill which was voted 98-2 in the Senate, new Russia sanctions could be levied on entities engaging in “malicious cyber activity”, perhaps like those which gave Republican Handel the victory in Georgia. It would require the administration to explain any moves to ease or lift sanctions, and create a new mechanism for Congress to review and block any such effort according to Bloomberg.

    And, of course, the most controversial issue, the legislation would also put into law penalties that were imposed by the Obama administration on some Russian energy projects, a move in 2014 that came in response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine. It is over this part of the legislation that America’s European “allies” have threatened the US with retaliation.

    The White House has said it is committed to existing sanctions and hasn’t taken a formal position on the Senate bill.

  • Clinton Faces Loss Of Security Clearance After State Begins Probing Her Mishandling Of Classified Intel

    The State Department confirmed months of speculation on Tuesday when it leaked to Fox News that it had opened a formal inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s alleged mishandling of classified information on her private email server. Clinton, who has repeatedly blamed the FBI’s handling of the inquiry for her embarrassing defeat in November, is now facing the possibility of having her top-level security clearance revoked – a penalty that echoes the investigation of former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn.

    President Donald Trump repeatedly promised to investigate the Clinton’s, so the probe could see the president fulfilling yet another campaign promise. As Fox reports, “during the FBI’s investigation of Clinton’s use of top-secret and classified information on her private server, former FBI Director James Comey said there were seven email chains on Clinton’s computer that were classified at the “Top Secret/Special Access Program level.”

    Another 2,000 emails on her private server were found to have contained information deemed classified now, though not marked classified when sent. In addition, the server also contained 22 top-secret emails deemed too damaging to national security to be released.”

    To paraphrase Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that violations of statutes concerning the handling and dissemination of classified materials occurred.

    Judicial Watch’s Chris Farrell said he believes Clinton and her “circle of national security criminals” should not have access to any classified information for any reason. 

    “Their conduct has cost them that privileged position of special trust and confidence,” Farrell said.

    Here’s Fox:

    The department’s investigation aims to determine whether Clinton and her closest aides violated government protocols by using her private server to receive, hold and transmit classified and top-secret government documents. The department declined to say when its inquiry began, but it follows the conclusion of the FBI’s probe into the matter, which did not result in any actions being taken against Clinton or any of her aides.

     

    Depending on the outcome of the current State Department inquiry, Clinton and her aides could have their access to sensitive government documents terminated.
    Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, confirmed to Fox News the department’s formal inquiry.

     

    Meanwhile, Grassley’s committee launched its own inquiry into Clinton’s handling of emails, an inquiry that began in March. Grassley cited among his concerns the July 5 statement of former FBI Director James Comey that the agency found Clinton and her staff members were “extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”

    A response from a Clinton spokesman suggests that the Clinton camp hasn’t learned from its mistakes during the campaign.

    In the statement, Clinton’s top spokesman, Nick Merrill told Fox that a final judgment of Clinton has already been reached. “Nothing's been more thoroughly dissected. It's over. Case closed. Literally,” said Merrill.

    Former FBI Director Comey announced that the bureau had closed its investigation in July 2016, before turning around and announcing that it had been reopened following the discovery of emails from Clinton on a laptop owned by former Congressman Anthony Weiner.

  • Crisis On The Horizon: Will It Be Economic Collapse? Global Civil Unrest? War? We Won't Have To Guess Much Longer…

    Authored by Jeremiah Johnson (Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces) via SHTFplan.com,

    “Never let a crisis go to waste.”
     -Rahm Emmanuel

    The algorithm is simple: Governments coerce their pet monkeys to pay taxes into the system – the self-perpetuating machine – and thereby the monkeys become the very sources of funding to build, equip, staff, and enforce their own incarceration.

    There are too many individuals with dreams, plans, goals, and ambitions for themselves and their families.  There is too much individualism It eventually must be crushed, in order to maintain the existing social, political, religious, and economic order.  The order will eventually blend all of the elements and “homogenize” them to assure mutual self-support for the overall goal: the supremacy of the State and the subjugation of the masses.

    The paradigm shift is from the rugged individual raising a family of self-supporting and producing citizens that contribute to their government to the collective, where the individual is a number and controlled/controllable in every aspect.  The family has been divided to not think for the family and to be in awe and obedience to the State.  The end-state is this phrase:

    “I am the State; the State is all.”
    -The words of Quarlo in the episode “Soldier,” (The Outer Limits)

    We are seeing the transformation occur before our eyes.  We are also seeing the “justification” for such control in the form of a rise in various stages of actions labeled either as “civil unrest” or “terrorism” by the governments.  It was just announced on by Gateway Pundit in an article entitled Macron Hopes to Put France in a Permanent State of Emergencyvia a bill that will make it a law of the land.  Hello?

    The United States did that with the NDAA and the EO’s that recertified the continuous succession of “states of emergency,” and added to that by making (labeling under color of law) the whole world a “battlefield” in the “war on terror.”  The UK is “toying” with the idea of imposing Martial Law indefinitely upon Britain in wake of the “terrorist” bombings…the ones that coincided so nicely with Teresa May’s calling for an election…one that backfired on her.

    The shooting of House Representative Steve Scalise, the multiple shootings occurring nationwide, and the growing calls for the government to take action…all of these are examples of crises that will not be allowed to go to waste.  The governments are allowing the actions to occur in order to justify Draconian measures that will be implemented for the greatest reason of all: to protect the citizen…from himself.

    The endless and ever-increasing surveillance in the form of CCTV cameras, all of the cameras tied in to the tracking devices (deliberately labeled as “cellular telephones”), the monitoring, tracking, and recording of every purchase, deposit, withdraw, and shift with funds: The Big Brother state isn’t around the corner.  The Big Brother state is here.

    What will it be?  Global economic collapses that occur as a result of the credit bubble suddenly bursting and the bottoms falling out?  Will it be civil unrest globally?  Or will it be the most likely event, a war that escalates and brings about the previous two actions. 

    We won’t have to guess much longer, as the events are unfolding before us by the day and narrowing down the possibilities…making them probable, as well.

  • Beer ATMs Threaten America's "Waiter & Bartender" Recovery

    For 87 straight months, America's recovery has been dominated by one 'job'…

    Well over 5 years ago, we first dubbed the economy under Barack Obama as the "Waiter and Bartender recovery", because while most other job categories had grown at a moderate pace at best, the growth in the category defined by the BLS as "Food Service and Drinking Workers" has been nothing short of spectacular.

    How spectacular? As the chart below shows, starting in March of 2010 and continuing through April of 2017, there have been 87 consecutive month of payroll gains for America's waiters and bartenders, an unprecedented feat and an all time record for any job category. Putting this number in context, total job gains for the sector over the past 7 years have amounted to 2.378 million or just under 15% of the total 16.4 million in new jobs created by the US over the past 87 months.

    As a tangent, putting the "waiter and bartender" recovery in the context of America's manufacturing sector, the following chart shows that while nearly 816,000 "food service and drinking places" jobs were created since 2014, over the same period the number of manufacturing jobs created has been just 107,000. Also, after six months of increases, in May manufacturing jobs posted their first drop since last October.

     

    Which is why recent headlines from Vinepair should terrify policy-makers across the nation, as Climateer notes, that could all be about to end… Bartenders are being replaced by Robots…

    According to Metro, Brooklyn-based Randolph Beer has come up with an innovative “Beer ATM.”

    We know– we don’t understand how we didn’t come up with it first, either.

    Located on South 4th Street in Williamsburg, Randolph Bar does indeed have real-live bartenders and a normally operating bar– though why would anyone spring for that when a self-serve beer ATM is within arm’s reach? As Food & Wine reports, the beer ATM functions as a self-service wall of taps.

    In exchange for a credit card at the bar, the customer is given a beer ATM card; all you have to do is insert the card into the slot above the beer you’d like and choose the size of the pour. Pours range anywhere from 1 – 12 ounces, perfect for those who can’t commit to an entire brew.

    The concept not only allows consumers to serve themselves, but also provides opportunities to taste-test multiple unknown beers for a fraction of the cost. Not only does the client benefit from getting a quick taste, the bartender is saved lots of time (and aggravation) from pouring multiple samples.

    The pressure is totally off, and the consumer can take as long as they want in finalizing their beer decision.

    Make America Drink Again?

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Jun 20

Today’s News 20th June 2017

  • Are Pope Francis & Angela Merkel Enemies Of European Civilization?

    Authored by Antonius Aquinas,

    Two of Europe’s greatest contemporary enemies recently got together to compare notes and discuss how they were going to further undermine and destabilize what remains of the Continent’s civilization.  Pope Francis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met on June 17, in the Vatican’s Apostolic Palace to discuss the issues which will be raised at a Group of 20 summit meeting in Hamburg, from July 7-8.

    The Vatican said that Frau Merkel and the Pope discussed the need “for the international community to combat poverty, hunger, terrorism and climate change.” Ms. Merkel, in an obvious swipe at US President Donald Trump, said that “we are a world in which we want to work multilaterally, a world in which we don’t want to build walls but bring down walls.”  The reference to “walls,” of course, was to President Trump’s promise to construct a wall on the Mexican-American border.  The pope, too, has been critical of Mr. Trump’s proposed plan.

    Ms. Merkel also lamented about the Trump Administration’s decision to opt out of the 2015 Paris climate accord.  Pope Francis urged President Trump to remain in the accord and gave him a copy of his encyclical, “Praise Be,” when they met earlier this spring.  The encyclical elevated “climate change” and protection of the environment as “moral obligations” while it criticized “perverse” economic development models that “enrich the wealthy at the expense of the poor.”

    As has been the case since the Second Vatican Anti-Council (1962-65), popes have spent most of their time on secular concerns in which they have little competency and less on matters of the Faith.  Pope Francis has taken this to a new level and rarely preaches on doctrine.  This, in one sense, is good because when he does speak on religion, he usually spouts out some heresy or falsehood which scandalizes the Church.  His many blasphemies and heresies, plus the fact that he was never ordained as a priest in the traditional Catholic rite or traditionally consecrated as a bishop (neither was Benedict XVI), makes him ineligible to be a true Catholic pope.

    The latest fraud that these two cretins are now pushing is the supposed threat of global warming.  The idea that “climate change” has had some nefarious effect on the environment has long ago been debunked by legitimate scientists and scholars.  Climate change is a ruse used by global elites to further tax, regulate and enslave humanity.

    Facts and sound theory, however, do not bother the collectivist minds of Pope Francis and Angela Merkel. What they are interested in is power and control and they intend to keep it through lies like global warming and by coercive massive migration which will fundamentally alter Europe’s demographics to their New World Order masters’ advantage.

    Had it not been for the likes of Pope Francis and Ms. Merkel, it is unlikely that Europe would be under a deluge of mostly Mohammedan “asylum seekers.”  The claim that the invasion was “spontaneous” due to the turmoil in the Middle East from US and Western nation-states military intervention is implausible.  The region has been unstable for decades.  Why all of a sudden is there a mass exodus and why it is mostly of young single Muslim men?

    The invasion of Europe was carefully orchestrated and planned by the world’s power elite whose goal is to eliminate what is left of the Continent’s white Christian heterogeneous male population.  Pope Francis and Ms. Merkel are the New World Order’s puppets carrying out their marching orders.

    While the outlook for Europeans may currently appear grim, it is not hopeless.  While Pope Francis and Angela Merkel cannot at present be deposed for their crimes, they can be defeated in the court of public opinion.  For Europe to become once again the center of human civilization, the ideals of multiculturalism and the fraud of global warming must be slain on ideological grounds.

    This is the duty that confronts those that seek a return of Europe’s previous glories.  While the task appears monumental, it must be remembered that the pagan Roman Empire was eventually converted by the teaching of twelve men and one indomitable former Pharisee from Tarsus.

  • Putin: US Routinely Meddles In Russian And Other Nations' Elections

    Authored by Eric Zuesse via The Strategic Culture Foundation,

    In a Showtime interview of Russian President Vladimir Putin by American film-maker Oliver Stone, which started airing on June 12th, Putin called «lies» many of the allegations by U.S. intelligence agencies, to the effect that he or his government attempted to influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. Presidential election. He also accused the U.S. government of having actually done not only that (influencing other countries’ democratic process), but far more actual meddling in Russian elections, and in the elections in other former Soviet-and-allied countries, and even done it in recent times, and even done it to countries that had never been friendly toward Russia. The way he asserted this accusation was veiled, however, so that he didn’t identify the specific governments he was referring to, other than to say: «In 2000, and in 2012, this always happened. But especially aggressively in 2012. I will not go into details.» (This article will supply some of those «details», in what follows.) 

    Putin described the current accusations against Russia, by the U.S. government, as a deceitful and fictitious tat, which ignores the very real and longstanding American tit, of CIA and other U.S., meddling in the electoral processes of foreign countries. 

    The neoconservative American Jan Wenner’s Rolling Stone magazine headlined on June 16th about these Showtime interviews, «10 Most WTF Things We Learned From Oliver Stone's Putin Interviews», and sub-headlined: «From denying any involvement with U.S. election hacking to Putin's love of Judo and Stalin, our takeaways from these truly baffling conversations». Wenner’s reporter opened:

    What's the Russian equivalent of Kool-Aid? Whatever it is, it's definitely red – and Oliver Stone has eagerly drunk it down.

     

    The trailers for The Putin Interviews, Showtime's four-part series documenting a series of conversations between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Stone, would have you believe that you're going to hear some pretty hard-hitting stuff as the autocrat and the filmmaker face off, Frost-Nixon style. What we got instead was a series of softballs lobbed lovingly in the direction of one of the most powerful and dangerous men in the world.

     

    Except for a few moments, Stone seems serenely unconcerned with anything beyond flattering his subject – and engaging in some supremely one-sided exchanges about history and policy along the way.

    The term «red» in this context refers, of course, to communism, and alleges that Russia is still a communist country. To allow that type of smear to appear in any ‘news’ vehicle, is to expose itself as being actually a propaganda-vehicle, unless the allegation is backed up by solid documentation, which Wenner’s magazine didn’t do — Wenner’s magazine presented no documentation at all, for the inflammatory allegation. The magazine’s presumption was that their readers will simply believe what Wenner’s operation delivers, to be ipso-facto ‘true’. But any such reader would be welcoming his own deception by Wenner’s propaganda-operation. Evidently, successful magazines can insult their own subscribers’ intelligence, so long as it’s done in ‘the right way’ — the subscribers won’t despise the publisher for trying to deceive them about such important matters as what countries to invade, or whether to invade, or why to invade. The U.S. military-industrial complex (MIC) can attract cannon-fodder for its operations, by means of such ‘news’ media to produce dupes for that MIC.

    During the 2016 U.S. Presidential campaign, Mr. Wenner’s propaganda-machine had ardently campaigned for the neoconservative Hillary Clinton against the moderately progressive Bernie Sanders in the U.S. Democratic Party primaries; and, then, once she (and her friend Debbie Wasserman Schultz who ran the Democratic National Committee) managed to steal the nomination from her opponent, Wenner’s operation campaigned for Ms. Clinton against her Republican opponent Trump, who claimed (falsely as it turns out, in lies exceeding Clinton’s own) to be opposed to neoconservatives (whom he has actually loaded into his Administration). Trump now relies upon neocons for his support, but perhaps Wenner and Robert Kagan and other neoconservatives won’t be satisfied until the U.S. government takes control over Russia — which cannot happen except upon all of our dead bodies (WW III) — which is precisely what Hillary Clinton was aiming for (and maybe Trump is, too). That’s how insane the U.S. aristocracy (and its PR organs such as Wenner’s) now is — they’re pushing the world toward nuclear Armageddon.

    So, the American system had offered to its public a choice between two neoconservatives, one of whom hid his neoconservatism and won the election but still isn’t sufficiently neoconservative to suit the neoconservatives (such as Wenner).

    What, then, about the substance of Putin’s allegation here, that the U.S. government meddles in other nations’ democratic processes?

    Here are some prominent examples of that phenomenon:

    From the very moment when Barack Obama became the U.S. President on 20 January 2009, the U.S. government was aiming for a ‘revolution’ to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Then, by no later than 2011, the operation was already under way in the U.S. State Department.

     

    Furthermore, also by no later than 2011, a parallel operation was under way to overthrow the democratically elected President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych. Whereas in Syria it would be ‘freedom fighters’ who would be paid by the Sauds but armed and trained mainly by the U.S., and mainly organized and led by Al Qaeda; in Ukraine it would be ‘Maidan demonstrators’ who would be paid by the U.S., and mainly led and organized by leaders of Ukraine’s existing two racist-facist, or ideologically nazi, political parties, Right Sektor, and the Social Nationalist Party of Ukraine (renamed by the CIA as «Svoboda» or «Freedom» Party).

     

    Furthermore, on 28 June 2009, shortly after Obama became President, a coup by Honduras’s twenty-four richest families overthrew the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya, who had been trying to institute land reform so that serfdom could become replaced there by a real democracy, but all governments except the U.S. refused to recognize the coup-regime, until first Hillary Clinton and then her boss Barack Obama recognized it and financed it with U.S. taxpayer money so that the international pressure to restore the democratically elected President failed and the junta-regime became stabilized. The U.S. government supported the aristocratic families, and helped them rig an ‘election’ amongst only contenders whom that oligarchy and the U.S. oligarchy supported. Much manipulation of the Honduran ‘news’ media and deceit against the Honduran public were perpetrated by both the U.S. aristocracy and the Honduran aristocracy in order to silence of else kill anyone who would challenge it. Here’s the excellent 3-minute video summary of that; and here’s my article documenting it with 72 links to the sources on that matter.

     

    So: those are three examples of extremely severe «meddling» — Syria, Ukraine, and Honduras — all three of which occurred during Obama’s Presidency (and so we’re not talking here about Iran in 1953 or Chile in 1973 or Iraq in 2003 or anything other than the most recent U.S. President). Each and every one of them is vastly more heinous than anything that Putin and Russia did, but Russia isn’t imposing sanctions upon the U.S. Even if all of the U.S. regime’s propaganda against Russia were true, the U.S. regime does vastly more damage to democracy, and to national sovereignty, around the world, than Russia does.

    On 14 June 2017, at 2:08 in the afternoon, the U.S. Senate passed, by a vote of 97 to 2 (only Rand Paul and Mike Lee voted against it) an intensification of U.S. economic sanctions against Russia, sanctions that President Obama had first instituted when Russia accepted the petition supported by more than 96% of Crimeans, for Crimea to become again a part of Russia, from which the Soviet dictator Khrushchev had transferred Crimea to Ukraine in 1954 without even consulting the residents there at all. Obama’s brutal coup overthrowing the Ukrainian President for whom 75% of Crimeans had voted is what had sparked Crimeans to seek to become, yet again — as they had been for hundreds of years until 1954 — Russians. For this ‘conquest of land’ as Obama called it, Russia was slapped with sanctions by Obama, and even now increasingly by the U.S. Congress. One of the four co-sponsors of that bill was the ‘progressive’ Democrat, U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown. Apparently, corruption (or else one would need to call it simply «evil») is quite bi-partisan. And, given that the vote to increase sanctions was 97 to 2, that corruption (or evil) is almost universal in the U.S. Senate.

    This government of the United States became finally entrenched as a facsist regime on 24 February 1990, when the U.S. President, George Herbert Walker Bush, began telling America’s allies, in secret, that, though the Cold War was now ending on the Soviet side, it would be continuing on the U.S. side, until Russia itself is finally conquered by the U.S. What we’re seeing now is an intensification of that aggression by the U.S. government.

  • FOIA Request On Susan Rice's Unmaskings Rejected Because "Records Were Moved To Obama Library"

    Back in April, Judicial Watch filed a FOIA request for documents related to the unmasking of “the identities of any U.S. citizens associated with the Trump presidential campaign or transition team” by Obama’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice.  Unfortunately, and quite conveniently for members of the Obama administration, Judicial Watch has been informed by the National Security Council that records related to their request can not be shared because they ” have been transferred to the Barack Obama Presidential Library” and will “remain closed to the public for five years.” 

    Here is the full letter received from the National Secruity Council:

    “Documents from the Obama administration have been transferred to the Barack Obama Presidential Library.  You may send your request to the Obama Library.  However, you should be aware that under the Presidential Records Act, Presidential records remain closed to the public for five years after an administration has left office.”

     

    Here was Judicial Watch’s full request:

    1.) Any and all requests for information, analyses, summaries, assessments, transcripts, or similar records submitted to any Intelligence Community member agency or any official, employee, or representative thereof by former National Security Advisor Susan Rice regarding, concerning, or related to the following:

     

    • Any actual or suspected effort by the Russian government or any individual acting on behalf of the Russian government to influence or otherwise interfere with the 2016 presidential election.
    • The alleged hacking of computer systems utilized by the Democratic National Committee and/or the Clinton presidential campaign.
    • Any actual or suspected communication between any member of the Trump presidential campaign or transition team and any official or employee of the Russian government or any individual acting on behalf of the Russian government.
    • The identities of U.S. citizens associated with the Trump presidential campaign or transition team who were identified pursuant to intelligence collection activities.

     

    2.) Any and all records or responses received by former National Security Advisor Susan Rice and/or any member, employee, staff member, or representative of the National Security Council in response to any request described in part 1 of this request.

     

    3.) Any and all records of communication between any official, employee, or representative of the Department of any Intelligence Community member agency and former National Security Advisor Susan Rice and/or any member, employee, staff member, or representative of the National Security Council regarding, concerning, or related to any request described in Part 1 of this request.

    Luckily, even if the media and Democrats are unsuccessful at getting Trump impeached in the near future, 5 years is still enough time to make sure that his reputation is sufficiently tarnished that he gets booted from office in 2020.  Even better, as The Hill points out today, Joe Biden appears to be getting groomed to take yet another shot at the White House in 2020 which means we may never actually get a shot at understanding exactly what happened in the months leading up to the 2016 election.

  • There Have Been 296 Earthquakes Near The Yellowstone Supervolcano Within The Last 7 Days

    Authored by Michael Snyder via The American Dream blog,

    Is it possible that the Yellowstone supervolcano is gearing up for a major eruption? If you follow my work on a regular basis, then you already know that I spend a lot of time documenting how the crust of our planet is becoming increasingly unstable. Most of this shaking is taking place far away from the continental United States, and so most Americans are not too concerned about it. But we should be concerned about it, because a major seismic event could change all of our lives in a single instant. For instance, a full-blown eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano would have the potential of being an E.L.E. (extinction level event). That is why it is so alarming that there have been 296 earthquakes in the vicinity of the Yellowstone supervolcano within the last 7 days. Scientists are trying to convince us that everything is going to be okay, but there are others that are not so sure.

    The biggest earthquake in this swarm occurred last Thursday evening. It was initially measured to be a magnitude 4.5 earthquake, but it was later downgraded to a 4.4. It was the biggest quake in the region since a magnitude 4.8 earthquake struck close to Norris Geyser Basin in March 2014. This magnitude 4.4 earthquake was so powerful that people felt it as far away as Bozeman

    The main quake was centered about 5.8 miles underground.

     

    The quake and aftershocks occurred just over 8 miles northeast from West Yellowstone, according to the U.S. Geological Service.

     

    A witness reported that she felt the building she was in move.

     

    Dozens of people reported that they felt it in and around West Yellowstone, Gardiner, Ennis, and Bozeman.

    But by itself that one quake would only be of minor concern. What is troubling many of the experts is that this earthquake has been accompanied by 295 smaller ones.

    There is normally a rise in seismic activity before a volcano erupts, and according to theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, a long overdue eruption at Yellowstone could “rip the guts out of the USA”

    Scientists currently believe that there’s a 10% chance that a “supervolcanic Category 7 eruption” could take place this century, as pointed out by theoretical physicist Michio Kaku who appeared on a segment for Fox News.

     

    The grey haired physicist told Shepard Smith that the “danger” we are now facing with the caldera is that it’s long overdue for an eruption which Kaku said could “rip the guts out of the USA.”

     

    Kaku said that a “pocket of lava” located under the park has turned out to be twice as big as scientists originally thought.

    I would like to try to describe for you what a full-blown eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano would mean for this country.

    Hundreds of cubic miles of ash, rock and lava would be blasted into the atmosphere, and this would likely plunge much of the northern hemisphere into several days of complete darkness. Virtually everything within 100 miles of Yellowstone would be immediately killed, but a much more cruel fate would befall those that live in major cities outside of the immediate blast zone such as Salt Lake City and Denver.

    Hot volcanic ash, rock and dust would rain down on those cities literally for weeks. In the end, it would be extremely difficult for anyone living in those communities to survive. In fact, it has been estimated that 90 percent of all people living within 600 miles of Yellowstone would be killed.

    Experts project that such an eruption would dump a layer of volcanic ash that is at least 10 feet deep up to 1,000 miles away, and approximately two-thirds of the United States would suddenly become uninhabitable. The volcanic ash would severely contaminate most of our water supplies, and growing food in the middle of the country would become next to impossible.

    In other words, it would be the end of our country as we know it today.

    The rest of the planet, and this would especially be true for the northern hemisphere, would experience what is known as a “nuclear winter”. An extreme period of “global cooling” would take place, and temperatures around the world would fall by up to 20 degrees. Crops would fail all over the planet, and severe famine would sweep the globe.

    In the end, billions could die.

    So yes, this is a threat that we should take very seriously.

    But today, most Americans think of Yellowstone as little more than a fun tourist attraction. But the truth is that many tourists have discovered just how dangerous Yellowstone can be. Some have been scalded by boiling water from geysers that can get as hot as 250 degrees Fahrenheit, and one man from North Carolina recently had to be flown to a burn center after he mistakenly fell into a hot spring

    A North Carolina man was flown to the University of Utah Burn Center after falling into a hot spring at Yellowstone National Park late Tuesday night.

     

    Gervais Dylan Gatete, 21, was with seven other people in the Lower Geyser Basin north of Old Faithful when he fell, according to a park news release.

     

    The group attempted to transport Gatete, an employee with Xanterra Parks and Resorts, by car for medical treatment. Just before midnight, they flagged down a park ranger near Seven Mile Bridge on the West Entrance Road.

    Since Yellowstone is still very active, scientists assure us that it will erupt again one day.

    And when that happens, all of our lives will be completely turned upside down in a single moment.

  • Otto Warmbier Has Died, Family Blames "North Korea's Torturous Mistreatment", Trump Condemns "Brutal Regime… Will Handle It"

    Just days after North Korea released Otto Warmbier after holding him hostage for 17 months, his family has just reported the sad news of his passing.

    Warmbier was sentenced to 15 years in prison with hard labor in North Korea, convicted of subversion after he tearfully confessed he had tried to steal a propaganda banner.

    The University of Virginia student was held for more than 17 months and medically evacuated from North Korea last week. Doctors said he returned with severe brain damage, but it wasn't clear what caused it.

    Family Statement:

    It is our sad duty to report that our son, Otto Warmbier, has completed his journey home. Surrounded by his loving family, Otto died today at 2:20pm.

     

    It would be easy at a moment like this to focus on all that we lost – future time that won't be spent with a warm, engaging, brilliant young man whose curiosity and enthusiasm for life knew no bounds. But we choose to focus on the time we were given to be with this remarkable person. You can tell from the outpouring of emotion from the communities that he touched – Wyoming, Ohio and the University of Virginia to name just two – that the love for Otto went well beyond his immediate family. Otto went well beyond his immediate family.

     

    We would like to thank the wonderful professionals at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center who did everything they could for Otto.

     

    Unfortunately, the awful torturous mistreatment our son received at the hands of the North Koreans ensured that no other outcome was possible beyond the sad one we experienced today.

     

    When Otto returned to Cincinnati late on June 13th he was unable to speak, unable to see and unable to react to verbal commands. He looked very uncomfortable – almost anguished. Although we would never hear his voice again, within a day the countenance of his face changed – he was at peace. He was home and we believe he could sense that.

     

    We thank everyone around the world who has kept him and our family in their thoughts and prayers. We are at peace and at home too.

    Fred & Cindy Warmbier and Family

    Quoted by Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs, on the death of Warmbier Trump said "at least he got home to his parents" and added: "It's a brutal regime and we'll be able to handle it." It's unclear just how.

    The White House's full, just released statement is below;

    THE WHITE HOUSE
    Office of the Press Secretary
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    June 19, 2017

     

    Statement by President Donald J. Trump on the Passing of Otto Warmbier

     

    Melania and I offer our deepest condolences to the family of Otto Warmbier on his untimely passing. There is nothing more tragic for a parent than to lose a child in the prime of life. Our thoughts and prayers are with Otto's family and friends, and all who loved him.

     

    Otto's fate deepens my Administration's determination to prevent such tragedies from befalling innocent people at the hands of regimes that do not respect the rule of law or basic human decency. The United States once again condemns the brutality of the North Korean regime as we mourn its latest victim.

    And here John McCain who wants to “state the facts plainly: Otto Warmbier, an American citizen, was murdered by the Kim Jong-un regime.”

  • Good Luck Getting Out Of That Subprime Auto Loan When Used Car Prices Crash

    We’ve written frequently in recent months about the coming subprime auto crisis which will very likely be prompted by a wave of off-lease vehicles that will flood the market with used inventory over the coming years.  In fact, Morgan Stanley recently predicted that the surge in used inventory could result in as much as a 50% crash in used car prices over the next couple of years which would, in turn, put further pressure on the new car market which has already resorted to record incentive spending to maintain volumes.

    Here are just a couple of our most recent notes on the topic:

    Of course, while pretty much anyone has been able to purchase that brand new BMW of their dreams over the past 5 years…courtesy of a surge in subprime lending volumes….

     

    getting out of those loans once used car prices crash and millions of Americans are left with massive negative equity balances won’t be quite so easy…just ask Yvette Harris who is still making payments on her 1997 Mitsubishi nearly a decade after her car was repossessed.  Per the New York Times:

    More than a decade after Yvette Harris’s 1997 Mitsubishi was repossessed, she is still paying off her car loan.

     

    She has no choice. Her auto lender took her to court and won the right to seize a portion of her income to cover her debt. The lender has so far been able to garnish $4,133 from her paychecks — a drain that at one point forced Ms. Harris, a single mother who lives in the Bronx, to go on public assistance to support her two sons.

     

    “How am I still paying for a car I don’t have?” she asked.

     

    For millions of Americans like Ms. Harris who have shaky credit and had to turn to subprime auto loans with high interest rates and hefty fees to buy a car, there is no getting out.

     

    Many of these auto loans, it turns out, have a habit of haunting people long after their cars have been repossessed.

    And while the aggregate subprime auto credit balances are no where near the trillions in debt that was extended to subprime mortgage borrowers leading up to the great recession, for many low-income Americans the fallout could actually be worse because they can’t simply walk away.

    With mortgages, people could turn in the keys to their house and walk away. But with auto debt, there is increasingly no exit. Repossession, rather than being the end, is just the beginning.

     

    “Low-income earners are shackled to this debt,” said Shanna Tallarico, a consumer lawyer with the New York Legal Assistance Group.

    Meanwhile, with low-income borrowers unable to afford a lawyer in many cases, defendants often skip court dates and don’t even realize they’re still on the hook for payments until debt collectors start to garnish their wages.

    “Essentially, the dealers are not selling cars. They are selling bad loans,” said Adam Taub, a lawyer in Detroit who has defended consumers in hundreds of these cases.

     

    Many lawyers assisting poor borrowers like Ms. Robinson say they learn about the lawsuits only after a judge has issued a decision in favor of the lender.

     

    Most borrowers can’t afford lawyers and don’t show up to court to challenge the lawsuits. That means the collectors win many cases, transforming the debts into judgments they can use to garnish wages.

    Of course, if used car prices tank leaving millions of people with negative equity balances and defaults from auto loans they could never afford in the first place…you know what that means for new car prices…

    T&L

  • Deep State Operatives Attempt A Coup D'Etat Of Donald Trump

    Authored by Mac Slavo via SHTFplan.com,

    Presidential historian and author Doug Wead claims that the deep state, which has successfully overthrown the governments of foreign countries, is going to continue to actively seek a coup d’etat of the duly elected president of the United States.

    If there was ever a time in history to be concerned about another rise in communism, now is that time. Wead says that the deep state is determined to overthrow Donald Trump. The presidential historian refused to mince words, saying:

    We have very skilled, talented professionals. They’ve overthrown governments in Vietnam and the Philippines, in Iraq and Iran, in Egypt, in the Ukraine. Duly elected democratic governments.

     

    They created what they called 'popular uprisings'…

     

    Here we go, let's try this is America…

     

    There's no going back."

    Of course, we should expect nothing less from shadow governments. The very same people who work in the State Department, some of them in intelligence, and some of them in the media, have successfully caused uprisings in several other countries. They’ve worked together to overthrow foreign governments, and Wead believes Trump is a thorn in their side preventing a global takeover.

    The deep state has become somewhat of a mainstream topic of discussion since Trump’s election.  Before, it was more of a “conspiracy theory.”  But the goals of the deep state are simple: the complete enslavement of mankind by political elites. 

    They [republicans in congress] see themselves as “partners” with the Left in the same game: to establish an elitist politico-oligarchic ruling class, broken down into divisions throughout the globe for ethno-cultural manipulation, yet with the same end-state.

     

    That goal is the enslavement and complete control of all of mankind with the elitists ensconced as the ruling moneyed class.  They see themselves as the educated, sensible minority with tender sensibilities and true humanistic views…who must…must…take a stand in the globalist crusade against the barbaric Neanderthals of the proletariat and populist serfs.

     

    SHTFPlan

    The average IQ of an American has dropped 14 points over the past century and with the media actively peddling propaganda, there’s no need for anyone to desire their own mental and physical freedom.  In fact, we now hear the weakest members of society clamor for communism, as if they wouldn’t be the first the state “extinguishes” in the event that they succeed.  Communism preys on those who are producers and has little interest in those who actually desire it.

    It has been apparent to those not blinded by partisan politics that something is going on in the government right now, yet most simply call it a “witch hunt,” simply for lack of wanting to admit the deep state exists.  It certainly looks like a battle between democracy and the deep state. And we aren’t sure we’d put money on democracy at this point in history.

  • Moody's Cuts Aussie Bank Ratings Due To "Tail Risk" Concerns

    Back in 2007, the ratings agencies were so woefully behind the eight ball in understanding and reporting the credit risks in the U.S. financial system that it was nearly impossible to tell from day to day whether they were really just that incompetent or if they were complicit in the biggest financial fraud in history.  Regardless of which you believe is more likely, they seem intent upon not making the same mistake again…at least not in Australia. 

    As The Sydney Morning Herald points out today, Moody’s has cut the long-term credit rating of Australia’s four biggest banks after pointing to surging home prices, rising household debt and sluggish wage growth as potential threats to the financial industry down under.  Australia & New Zealand Banking Group Ltd., Commonwealth Bank of Australia, National Australia Bank Ltd. and Westpac Banking Corp. were all downgraded to Aa3 from Aa2, Moody’s said in a statement released earlier today. Per The Sydney Morning Herald:

    “In Moody’s view, elevated risks within the household sector heighten the sensitivity of Australian banks’ credit profiles to an adverse shock, notwithstanding improvements in their capital and liquidity in recent years,” the statement said.

     

    “In Moody’s assessment, risks associated with the housing market have risen sharply in recent years. Latent risks in the housing market have been rising in recent years, because significant house price appreciation in the core housing markets of Sydney and Melbourne has led to very high and rising household indebtedness,” the statement said.

     

    “The rise in household indebtedness comes against the backdrop of low wage growth and structural changes in the labour market, which have led to rising levels of underemployment.

     

    “Whilst mortgage affordability for most borrowers remains good at current interest rates, the reduction in the savings rate, the rise in household leverage and the rising prevalence of interest-only and investment loans are all indicators of rising risks.”

    Of course, as we’ve pointed out multiple times before, the Chinese money laundering operation…sorry, we meant Sydney “housing market”…puts the previous U.S. housing bubble to shame.

     

    Of course, all of the banks that are now being downgraded are the same ones that assured us just a couple of months ago that Australian home prices were not in a “speculative bubble.” Testifying before a parliamentary committee, the chief executives of National Australia Bank, Westpac Banking and Commonwealth Bank of Australia all said that while they were worried about elements of the housing market, prices weren’t over-inflated.  Per Bloomberg:

    “I would draw the distinction between a speculative bubble in prices and prices beyond what fundamentals would justify,” Westpac’s Brian Hartzer told the committee in Canberra Wednesday. A bubble isn’t occurring in Sydney or Melbourne, where house prices have risen the most, he said.

     

    “There are increasing risks, but I still believe the answer is no,” National Australia Bank’s Andrew Thorburn said when asked if houses in Sydney and Melbourne are overpriced.

     

    Commonwealth Bank, the nation’s largest mortgage lender, is “lending at levels we are comfortable with” across Australia, Chief Executive Officer Ian Narev told the committee when he testified Tuesday.

    Meanwhile, the ever-important “crane-index” helps to put some perspective around just how ‘bubbly’ the Australia market has become.

    Australia

     

    Of course, maybe Australia’s bankers are right and bubbly home prices are just the result of strong fundamentals.  Although, the last time a prominent banker made a similar prediction in the U.S. he turned out to be just a bit off the mark.  Ben Bernanke (July 2005):

    “Well, unquestionably, housing prices are up quite a bit; I think it’s important to note that fundamentals are also very strong. We’ve got a growing economy, jobs, incomes. We’ve got very low mortgage rates. We’ve got demographics supporting housing growth. We’ve got restricted supply in some places. So it’s certainly understandable that prices would go up some. I don’t know whether prices are exactly where they should be, but I think it’s fair to say that much of what’s happened is supported by the strength of the economy.”

    Oops.

  • CNN's Jim Acosta Throws Dramatic Tantrum Over Sean Spicer's Silent Press Briefing

    Content originally published at iBankCoin.com

    CNN’s Jim Acosta is beside himself after (soon to be former) White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer called for the media to turn off cameras and audio recording devices for a ‘silent’ press briefing. Acosta, apparently unaware that there was a time when the Press Corps used to take notes by hand, staged a silent protest by tweeting a picture of his retarded socks.

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    “If he can’t come out and answer the questions and they’re just not gonna do this on-camera or audio—why are we even having these briefings or these gaggles in the first place?”

    STONEWALLED!

    Acosta tweeted that he was ‘stonewalled’ by Spicer’s silent briefing.

    //platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    The CNN host then whined on air about being passed over for questions. Looks like the White House’s war on Fake News is getting under Jim’s skin…

    It’s like we’re just covering bad reality television, is what it feels like now.

    How will the press corps ever recover? Will the ever-evasive White House confiscate pencils and paper next? Can Jim Acosta walk and chew gum at the same time?

    Watch the anchor-socked anchor’s dramatic tantrum below:

      
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Jun 19

Today’s News 19th June 2017

  • The Fed Rate Hike and Gold, Report 18 June, 2017

    The big news this week comes from the Fed, which announced two things. One, it hiked the Fed Funds rate another 25 basis points. The target is now 1.00 to 1.25%, and there will be further increases this year. Two, the Fed to reduce its balance sheet, its portfolio of bonds. It won’t do this by actually selling, but by not reinvesting some of the principle repaid as the Treasury rolls over each bond at maturity. This is like reducing the workforce by a hiring freeze and attrition, rather than by layoffs.

    We are no Fed insiders, but if we were to take an educated guess, we would read the last part as a shuffle between the Fed and the banks. No one can afford rising long-term bond yields, as the banks hold plenty of them and this would be a capital loss. Also, if bond prices drop then all other asset prices would drop too. Banks would take another hit.

    Right now, the banks are lending to the Fed at 1.25%. The Fed uses this cash to finance its purchase of long Treasury bonds. The 10-year bond closed on Friday at a yield of 2.16%. If the Fed can arrange for the banks to swap, basically slowly draw down their excess reserves and buy the bonds, then it would not cause the bond market to crash. At the same time, the Fed can say that it has shrunken its balance sheet. There would be no change in the bond market, but the banks can bypass the Fed, while increasing their net interest by about 0.9%.

    This move would have one nonobvious side effect. The duration risk moves from the Fed to the banks. This is the risk of capital loss, if the interest rate should move upwards. At least the risk moves to the banks nominally. In practice, the Fed will have to bail out the banks should they get hit by this (or assure the banks that the Fed will do everything it can to prevent long bond yields from rising).

    We present the issue in these terms, because bank solvency (and the Fed’s own solvency) is the real motivation of the Fed. Price stability—defined to make Orwell proud, as rising prices of 2% per year—is not occurring right now. That is, the Fed has failed to stimulate the price increases that it wishes.

    And the Yellen Fed does wish for rising prices. In a key paper she wrote in 1990 with her husband George Ackerlof, Yellen presented her theory of inflation and the labor market. Let’s strip the academic regalia, to see it in plain terms.

    1. Disgruntled employees don’t work hard, and may even sabotage machinery.
    2. So companies must overpay to keep them from slacking.
    3. Higher pay per worker means fewer workers, because companies have a finite budget. Yellen concludes—you guessed it:
    4. Inflation provides corporations with more money to hire more people.

    It’s not much as a theory of labor, but does rationalize money printing rather neatly.

    The mainstream belief held by Yellen, along with her most trenchant critics, is that rising quantity of money causes rising prices. Never mind that it has failed to work out that way since the Fed turned on the printing press afterburners in 2008. It remains the prevailing belief. So it is somewhat amazing that, with consumer prices falling short of the Fed’s official policy goal of 2% per annum, the Fed is decelerating.

    Maybe, Yellen feels that jawboning—saying the economy is getting stronger, etc.—will be more effective than another round of quantitative easing. Maybe. The Keynesians have a cherished belief that so called animal spirits animate markets (and Yellen is a member of the New Keynesian School).

    Or, it could be that banks are getting strangled. Banks don’t care about unemployment, nor about consumer prices. They don’t even care about the dollar, being both long and short. That is, they are both borrowers and lenders. They borrow short to lend long.

    While the short-term rate has been rising, the long-term rate is back to falling again (which has been the trend since 1981). The effect on banks is: margin compression. The banks are choking, for lack of net revenue oxygen. They will breathe a bit easier if they can make 2.16% rather than the 1.25% as now.

    What does this have to do with inflation? Another news item this week illustrates. Amazon bought Whole Foods. Amazon has unlimited access to credit through the bond and stock markets. The lower the interest rate, the more access the big corporations have, to dirtier cheaper credit. They can’t necessarily use this credit to grow their real businesses (one cause and also effect of it being so cheap) but they can use it to make acquisitions. Acquisitions that would not be economic at higher rates.

    What will Amazon do with Whole Foods? We would guess that they will pursue Jeff Bezos’ stated vision for the future: that people will always want faster delivery and lower prices. Amazon will use its superior information technology, logistics, scale—and dirt cheap credit—to drive down costs, prices, and margins at Whole Foods. And all other grocers will likely have to follow suit.

    So much for higher prices. An expansion of the credit supply (the dollar is not money, which would be gold) is supposed to stoke higher prices, and here is a case where it causes lower prices.

    By the way, lest anyone think that this is good because consumers get lower prices, it’s not. Sure, consumers benefit for now. But the real damage comes from the fact that the whole process is fueled by burning investor capital. That is the real nature of too-cheap credit.

    And this right here is the indictment of the dollar. Not rising prices, skyrocketing prices, or hyperinflation. At least not now nor the foreseeable future. Falling interest, capital consumption, wage pressures, and unfair advantages handed to crony corporations. All managed by a Fed Chair with a frivolous theory on inflation who knows not what she does.

    What does this have to do with the price of gold? Well, the price jumped up early on Wednesday as weak retail sales and inflation data numbers came out. But when Yellen spoke, the gold price fell back down, giving back the whole move and then some.

    Which is all just noise. Speculators gonna speculate, but the fundamentals of gold supply and demand do not change with an inflation data report or a Fed Chair monetary policy announcement.

    Over time, if people perceive gold as an inflation hedge, and continue to see a lack of inflation, maybe they won’t buy gold or even sell it. If so, they are betting on the dollar as it continues on in its ultra-low interest rate (and long-term falling) environment.

    We will take a look at the Wednesday intraday gold basis overlaid with the gold price, below.

    This week, the prices of the metals fell. Gold went down about $13, and silver about 50 cents. As always, we are interested in the supply and demand fundamentals. But first charts of their prices and the gold-silver ratio.

    letter-june-18-prices2

    Next, this is a graph of the gold price measured in silver, otherwise known as the gold to silver ratio. It moved up a sharply.

    In this graph, we show both bid and offer prices. If you were to sell gold on the bid and buy silver at the ask, that is the lower bid price. Conversely, if you sold silver on the bid and bought gold at the offer, that is the higher offer price.

    letter-june-18-ratio2

    For each metal, we will look at a graph of the basis and cobasis overlaid with the price of the dollar in terms of the respective metal. It will make it easier to provide brief commentary. The dollar will be represented in green, the basis in blue and cobasis in red.

    Here is the gold graph.

    letter-june-18-gold2

    We had a rising price of the dollar (the mirror image of the dropping price of gold). The abundance fell (the basis) and the scarcity increase (the cobasis).

    Our gold fundamental price shows a decrease of about $10 to $1,334 (see chart here on our website).

    Here is the intraday graph of Wednesday (all times are London) showing the gold price overlaid with the August basis.

    letter-june-18-wed-intraday-gold2

    The basis starts a little over 0.6% and droops along with the price from about $1,266 to $1,265. As the price shoots up $12, the basis shoots up 12bps. Later, the price begins to drop and so does the basis.

    While the amount is coincidence, the relationship is not. It is causal. This is what first speculative buying, then speculative selling, looks like. All in one day.

    Now let’s look at silver.

    letter-june-18-silver

    In silver terms, the dollar rose more (i.e. the price of silver fell more). The decrease in abundance and increase in scarcity were correspondingly greater.

    Our silver fundamental price increased two cents (to $17.54). That gives us a fundamental gold-silver ratio of 76.07 (see chart on our website). Not too far from the close on Friday of 75.12 bid and 75.29 offer.

     

    Monetary Metals will be exhibiting and FreedomFest in Las Vegas in July. If you are an investor and would like a meeting there, please click here.

     

    © 2017 Monetary Metals

  • Washington's "Good Terrorists, Bad Terrorists" Policy In Middle East

    Submitted by Nauman Sadiq,

    Karl Marx famously said that history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. The only difference between the Afghan jihad back in the ‘80s that spawned Islamic jihadists like the Taliban and al Qaeda for the first time in history and the Libyan and Syrian civil wars, 2011-onward, is that the Afghan jihad was an overt jihad: back then, the Western political establishments and their mouthpiece, the mainstream media, used to openly brag that the CIA provides all those AK-47s, RPGs and stingers to the Afghan so-called “freedom fighters” to combat the Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

    After the 9/11 tragedy, however, the Western political establishments and corporate media have become a lot more circumspect, therefore this time around, they have waged covert jihads against the Arab-nationalist Gaddafi regime in Libya and the anti-Zionist Assad regime in Syria, in which Islamic jihadists (aka terrorists) have been sold as “moderate rebels” with secular and nationalist ambitions to the Western audience.

    Since the regime change objective in those hapless countries went against the mainstream narrative of ostensibly fighting a war against terrorism, therefore the Western political establishments and the corporate media are now trying to muddle the reality by offering color-coded schemes to identify myriads of militant and terrorist outfits that are operating in Syria: such as the red militants of the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front, which the Western powers want to eliminate; the yellow Islamic jihadists, like Jaysh al-Islam and Ahrar al-Sham, with whom the Western powers can collaborate under desperate circumstances; and the green militants of the Free Syria Army (FSA) and a few other inconsequential outfits, which together comprise the so-called “moderate” Syrian opposition.

    If we were to draw parallels between the Soviet-Afghan jihad of the ‘80s and the Syrian civil war of today, the Western powers used the training camps located in the Af-Pak border regions to train and arm Afghan “Mujahideen” against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

    Similarly, the training camps located in the border regions of Turkey and Jordan are being used to provide training and weapons to Sunni Arab militants to battle the Shi’a-dominated Syrian regime with the collaboration of Turkish, Jordanian and Saudi intelligence agencies.

    During the Afghan jihad, it is a known historical fact that the bulk of so-called “freedom fighters” was comprised of Pashtun Islamic jihadists, such as the factions of Jalaluddin Haqqani, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Abdul Rab Rasul Sayyaf and scores of others, some of which later coalesced together to form the Taliban Movement.

    Similarly, in Syria, the majority of so-called “moderate rebels” is comprised of Sunni Arab jihadists, such as Jaysh al-Islam, Ahrar al-Sham, al-Nusra Front, the Islamic State and myriads of other militant groups, including a small portion of defected Syrian soldiers who go by the name of Free Syria Army (FSA).

    Moreover, apart from Pashtun Islamic jihadists, various factions of the Northern Alliance of Tajiks and Uzbeks constituted the relatively “moderate” segment of the Afghan rebellion, though those “moderate” warlords, like Ahmad Shah Massoud and Abul Rashid Dostum, were more ethnic and tribal in character than secular or nationalist, as such.

    Similarly, the Kurds of the so-called “Syrian Democratic Forces” can be compared with the Northern Alliance of Afghanistan. The socialist PYD/YPG Kurds of Syria, however, were allied with the Baathist regime against the Sunni Arab jihadists for the first three years of the Syrian civil war, i.e. from August 2011 to August 2014.

    At the behest of American stooge in Iraqi Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, the Syrian Kurds have switched sides in the last couple of years after the United States policy reversal and declaration of war against one faction of the Syrian opposition, the Islamic State, when the latter overstepped its mandate in Syria and overran Mosul and Anbar in Iraq in June 2014, from where, the US troops had withdrawn only a couple of years ago in December 2011.

    Regarding the Western powers’ modus operandi of waging proxy wars in the Middle East, since the times of the Soviet-Afghan jihad during the eighties, it has been the fail-safe game plan of the master strategists at NATO to raise money from the oil-rich emirates of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, UAE and Kuwait; then buy billions of dollars’ worth of weapons from the arms’ markets of the Eastern Europe; and then provide those weapons and guerilla warfare training to the disaffected population of the victim country by using the intelligence agencies of the latter’s regional adversaries. Whether it’s Afghanistan, Chechnya, Libya or Syria, the same playbook has been executed to the letter.

    More to the point, raising funds for proxy wars from the Gulf Arab States allows the Western executives the freedom to evade congressional scrutiny; and the benefit of buying weapons from the unregulated arms’ markets of the Eastern Europe is that such weapons cannot be traced back to the Western capitals; and using jihadist proxies to achieve strategic objectives has the advantage of taking the plea of “plausible deniability” if the strategy backfires, which it often does. Remember that al-Qaeda and Taliban were the by-products of the Soviet-Afghan jihad, and the Islamic State and its global network of terrorists are the blowback of the proxy war in Syria.

    On the subject of the supposed “powerlessness” of the US in the global affairs, the Western think tanks and the corporate media’s spin-doctors generally claim that Pakistan deceived the US in Afghanistan by not “doing more” to rein in the Taliban; Turkey hoodwinked the US in Syria by using the war against Islamic State as a pretext for cracking down on Kurds; Saudi Arabia and UAE betrayed the US in Yemen by mounting airstrikes against the Houthis and Saleh’s loyalists; and once again Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt went against the ostensible policy of the US in Libya by destabilizing the Tripoli-based government, even though the renegade general in eastern Libya, Khalifa Haftar, is an American stooge who had lived for two decades in the US right next to the CIA’s headquarter in Langley, Virginia.

    If the US policymakers are so naïve then how come they still control the global political and economic order? This perennially whining attitude of the Western corporate media that such and such regional actors had betrayed them otherwise they were on the top of their game is actually a clever stratagem that has been deliberately designed by the spin-doctors of the Western mainstream media and foreign policy think tanks to cast the Western powers in a positive light and to vilify adversaries, even if the latter are their tactical allies in some of the regional conflicts.

    Fighting wars through proxies allows the international power brokers the luxury of taking the plea of “plausible deniability” in their defense and at the same time they can shift all the blame for wrongdoing on the minor regional players. The Western powers’ culpability lies in the fact that because of them a system of international justice based on sound principles of morality and justice cannot be constructed in which the violators can be punished for their wrongdoing and the victims of injustice, tyranny and violence can be protected.

    Leaving the funding, training and arming aspects of insurgencies aside, but especially pertaining to conferring international legitimacy to an armed insurgency, like the Afghan so-called “freedom struggle” of the Cold War, or the supposedly “moderate and democratic” Libyan and Syrian insurgencies of today, it is simply beyond the power of minor regional players and their nascent media, which has a geographically and linguistically limited audience, to cast such heavily armed and brutal insurrections in a positive light in order to internationally legitimize them; only the Western mainstream media that has a global audience and which serves as the mouthpiece of the Western political establishments has perfected this game of legitimizing the absurd and selling Satans as saviors.

  • The Fallacies Of The 'Russia-Truthers'

    Authored by James Carden via ConsortiumNews.com,

    The anti-Russia hysteria – now rivaling past Red Scares with Russians hiding under every bed – has led to factual errors in press accounts and has erased standards of political fairness.

    One of the more extraordinary developments since the U.S. presidential election is that the paranoia and the grotesque disregard for facts, evidence and logic that characterized the Trump-inspired “birther movement” can now be reasonably said to characterize the Left’s stance toward Donald J. Trump.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin, following his address to the UN General Assembly on Sept. 28, 2015. (UN Photo)

    There seems to be nothing that Trump opponents will not say and no charge, however low, they will not stoop to making as long as it furthers the goal of removing Trump from office. But, alas, the liberal case against Trump rests upon little more than widely shared fictions and unsubstantiated claims about Trump’s alleged ties to Russia.

    For instance, testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, former FBI Director James Comey cast doubt on a Feb. 14 New York Times report titled “Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence.

    The article, which relied on “four current and former government officials,” said that “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” and that “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.”

    Comey was asked about the report during an exchange with Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho.

    RISCH:  I remember, you — you talked with us shortly after February 14th, when the New York Times wrote an article that suggested that the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians. This is not factual. Do you recall that?

     

    COMEY: Yes.

     

    RISCH: OK. So — so, again, so the American people can understand this, that report by the New York Times was not true. Is that a fair statement?

     

    COMEY: In — in the main, it was not true.

    Later in the hearing, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, asked Comey: “Would it be fair to characterize that story as almost entirely wrong?” To which Comey replied: “Yes.”

    Spreading Hysteria

    However, the anti-Russian hysteria has spread well beyond the pages of The New York Times and even beyond the circumstances of the 2016 presidential campaign. Allegations about Russian meddling have included U.S. government attacks on Russia’s RT network for allegedly undermining Americans’ faith in their democracy by broadcasting debates among third-party presidential candidates and covering the Occupy Wall Street movement.

    The Washington Post building in downtown Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Washington Post)

    Even American journalists have come in for a taste of the lash for not joining in the Russia-bashing. Last Thanksgiving Day, The Washington Post ran a front-page story based on an anonymous Web site called PropOrNot that accused 200 Web sites – including Consortiumnews.com, Counterpunch, Truthout, Truthdig and other leading independent news sources in America – of peddling “Russian propaganda,” presumably in part, because they questioned the State Department’s narratives about the Ukraine crisis or the Syrian conflict.

    The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank founded by Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, recently issued a report warning that Russian President Putin is building a European “5th column” to advance a goal of undermining Western democracy. Anybody who does not join in the ritual denunciations of Putin and Russia is under suspicion.

    Yet in light of Comey’s testimony, perhaps it is worth recalling a number of other instances in which Russia was accused of seeking to disrupt and discredit Western democracies and see how well they’ve held up.

    In April of last year, Dutch voters rejected a referendum on whether to approve an Association Agreement between the European Union and Ukraine. Russia was quickly accused of meddling in the referendum.

    One New York Times headline screamed: “Fake News, Fake Ukrainians: How a Group of Russians Tilted A Dutch Vote.” The Times reported that two Russians had worked against the referendum for the Dutch Socialist Party.

    But, as the Dutch journalist and author Chris Kaspar de Ploeg points out, the Times story credits “these mere two (!) individuals” with having “tilted the Dutch vote.” In the end, De Ploeg notes, the Times was forced to admit that “no one has yet come up with concrete evidence that the Russian state, rather than individual Russians, is working to skew the election and many wonder why Moscow would even bother trying to do so in a small country.”

    Brexit Accusations

    Similar accusations of meddling were leveled against Russia in the run-up to the June 2016 Brexit vote. Joerg Forbrig of the German Marshall Fund told the Daily Beast, “I do think that the Kremlin has been trying to reach out to the leave campaign. There may well be support but it will be very hard to find out about this because they will be extremely discrete.”

    Russians taking part in an Immortal Regiment march, honoring family members who died during World War II, on May 9, 2017.

    “We do know,” said Forbrig, “that the Kremlin is also materially supporting other actors that have potential to undermine European unity, and the European Union.”

    After the “Leave” campaign emerged victorious, Labour MP Ben Bradshaw told the House of Commons “I don’t think we have even begun to wake up to what Russia is doing when it comes to cyber warfare.”

    And yet, despite all the handwringing, U.K. Foreign Minister Boris Johnson was recently forced to admit: “We have no evidence the Russians are actually involved in trying to undermine our democratic processes at the moment. We don’t actually have that evidence. But what we do have is plenty of evidence that the Russians are capable of doing that.”

    A December 2016 New York Times editorial also expressed concern that Putin had set his sights on Europe, citing “ominous signs that Russia is spreading propaganda and engaging in cyberattacks in Europe in advance of several national elections next year.”

    And yet, according to Politico Europe, a year-long investigation by German intelligence issued in February 2017 “failed to uncover evidence of Kremlin-backed meddling” and “found no concrete proof of disinformation campaigns targeting the government.”

    In the run-up to May’s presidential election in France, Sen. Richard M. Burr, R-North Carolina, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told the New York Times: “I think it’s safe by everybody’s judgment that the Russians are actively involved in the French elections.”

    Speculation about Russian interference went into overdrive just hours before the vote when emails from the campaign of pro-E.U. candidate Emmanuel Macron were leaked. The culprit? You guessed it! According to a May 6 report in The Independent, “Vitali Kremez, director of research with US-based cyber intelligence firm Flashpoint, said his analysis indicated that APT 28, a group tied to Russia’s GRU military intelligence directorate, was behind the leak.”

    But once again, no evidence was to be found. In an interview with the Associated Press, Guillaume Poupard, director general of France’s cyber-defense agency, said his agency “found no trace that the Russian hacking group known as APT28, blamed for other attacks including on the U.S. presidential campaign, was responsible” for the leak.

    But that didn’t stop Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, from repeating the accusations. After all, why let facts get in the way of a good story? Raskin screeched to protesters at the so-called “March for Truth” that Russia “hacked and trashed Macron, in a bid to elect the right-wing, immigrant bashing Marine Le Pen.”

    Viral Distortions

    Needless to say there have been many reports of Russian cyber attacks in the U.S. that have gone viral but were quickly shown to be untrue.

    A busy tourist scene in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Robert Parry)

    Of these, perhaps the best known was a story in Slate by former New Republic editor Franklin Foer in which Foer claimed a computer server belonging to the Trump Organization was secretly communicating with what Hillary Clinton described as a “Putin-tied bank” in Russia.

    And yet, as On the Media’s Bob Garfield sardonically noted, “it took cyber experts about 5 minutes to knock that story down.” As it turns out, the “secret server” wasn’t secret and the domain in question didn’t even belong to Trump; it belonged to a marketing company called Cendyn.

    The link to the Russia’s Alfa bank? Executives from Alfa frequented Trump hotels and as a matter of course received marketing/promotional emails from Cendyn on behalf of the Trump Organization. Cyber expert Robert Graham described Foer’s story as “nonsense.”

    Yet Foer, was if anything, in good company. The Washington Post, in a December 2016 story accused the Russian government of hacking into an electrical grid in Burlington, Vermont. The sensational headline read: “Russian operation hacked a Vermont utility, showing risk to U.S. electrical grid security, officials say.”

    Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin was quick to denounce the Kremlin, declaring “Vermonters and all Americans should be both alarmed and outraged that one of the world’s leading thugs, Vladimir Putin, has been attempting to hack our electric grid, which we rely upon to support our quality-of-life, economy, health, and safety.”

    But, alas, the story was quickly debunked by the electrical utility in question, which released a statement, which read, in part: “There is no indication that either our electric grid or customer information has been compromised. Media reports stating that Burlington Electric was hacked or that the electric grid was breached are false.” The Post had to append an embarrassing editor’s note explaining why their story didn’t hold up to the minutest scrutiny.

    Given all this, our hardy band of “Russia Truthers” might do well to curb their hysteria until such time as Independent Counsel Robert Mueller concludes his investigation. Maybe then there might be at least some evidence attached to the various allegations. But the prospects for such self-control are not good. There is too much momentum – and political self-interest – behind the sordid campaign to paint the 2016 election result as the product of sinister Russian interference.

  • Stunning Footage Of American's Crumbling Infrastructure

    Via StockBoardAsset.com,

    It’s no secret that America’s infrastructure is in dire need of repairs. Earlier this year, America received her infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers’ and received a repulsive D+. The ASCE guesstimates the US would need to spend $4.5 trillion by 2025 on infrastructure.

    Here’s the breakdown of the report card:  

    • Aviation: D
    • Bridges: C+
    • Dams: D
    • Drinking Water: D
    • Energy: D+
    • Hazardous Waste: D+
    • Inland Waterways: D
    • Levees: D
    • Parks and Recreation: D+
    • Ports: C+
    • Rail: B
    • Roads: D
    • Schools: D
    • Solid Waste: C+
    • Transit: D-
    • Wastewater: D+

    With that being said, I’ve spent the entire weekend inspecting America’s infrastructure at the Port of Baltimore.

    At some locations, I was given special access to a behind the scenes view of America’s crumbling infrastructure that the public is not allowed to see. The reasons you’re left out of the know is because it destroys the mainstream narrative that everything is awesome.

    Even Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba Group says, “the US wasted trillions on warfare instead of investing in infrastructure”.

    In the Sunday Edition, Alastair Williamson is on site at a marine terminal in the Port of Baltimore. He provides an interesting view of America’s deteriorating infrastructure blended with the current shape of the US economy.

    In this video, Alastair is given special access to behind the scenes of America’s crumbling infrastructure. This view is rarely seen by the mainstream public. Enjoy!

  • Mueller Has "Not Yet" Decided Whether To Investigate Trump: ABC

    In the biggest political story of the past week, one which was timed to coincide with Donald Trump’s Birthday, the WaPo reported citing anonymous sources, that Special Counsel Robert Mueller was investigating President Trump for possible obstruction of justice. Just a few hours later on Thursday night, the DOJ’s Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Russia probe due to Jeff Sessions recusal, released a stunning announcement which urged Americans to be “skeptical about anonymous allegations” in the media, which many interpreted as being issued in response to the WaPo report.

    “Americans should exercise caution before accepting as true any stories attributed to anonymous ‘officials,’ particularly when they do not identify the country — let alone the branch or agency of government — with which the alleged sources supposedly are affiliated. Americans should be skeptical about anonymous allegations. The Department of Justice has a long-established policy to neither confirm nor deny such allegations.

    Then on Sunday, the plot thickened further when according to ABC, special counsel Robert Mueller has not yet decided whether to investigate President Trump as part of the Russia probe, suggesting the WaPo report that a probe had already started was inaccurate.

    “Now, my sources are telling me he’s begun some preliminary planning,” Pierre Thomas, the ABC News senior justice correspondent, said of Mueller on ABC’s “This Week” although he too, like the WaPo, was referring to anonymous sources, so who knows who is telling the truth.

    Plans to talk to some people in the administration. But he’s not yet made that momentous decision to go for a full-scale investigation.”

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    On Friday, Trump responded to the Washington Post story by tweeting: “I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt.” But also on Sunday Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow insisted the president was not literally confirming the investigation but was just referring to the story.

    “Let me be clear: the president is not under investigation as James Comey stated in his testimony, that the president was not the target of investigation on three different occasions,” Sekulow said Sunday. “The president is not a subject or target of an investigation.”

    “Now Mueller faces a huge decision,” Thomas told “This Week” host Martha Raddatz. “Does he believe the president, who says there’s no wrongdoing here, or does he go after the president in the way James Comey wants him to do?”

    And so, yet another blockbuster media report has been cast into doubt as a result of more “he said, he said” innuendo, which will be resolved only if Mueller steps up and discloses on the record whether he is indeed investiating Trump for obstruction, or any other reason. That however is unlikely to happen, and so the daily ping-ponging media innuendos will continue indefinitely.

  • With New Patent, Amazon Will Collect As Much Customer Data As Google

    A day after Amazon announced it would jump head-long into the bricks-and-mortar grocery business by agreeing to buy Whole Foods Market for $13.4 billion, reports from earlier this week about a new patent issued to the company are starting to make more sense. The patent, which was first reported by the Verge, is for wireless technology that can effectively block customers in Whole Food’s retail locations from “showrooming." "Showrooming" is the practice of using retail locations to test out products before buying them online – a practice that Amazon, by making it easy to comparison shop on a smartphone, helped pioneer.

    In its report, the Verge focuses on how the technology will help the company solve a problem that Amazon itself helped create – a problem that has plagued virtually every other traditional retailer.

    "Systems and methods for controlling online shopping within a physical store or retailer location are provided. A wireless network connection may be provided to a consumer device at a retailer location on behalf of a retailer, and content requested by the consumer device via the wireless network connection may be identified. Based upon an evaluation of the identified content, a determination may be made that the consumer device is attempting to access information associated with a competitor of the retailer or an item offered for sale by the retailer. At least one control action may then be directed based upon the determination.”

    But the technology described in the patent also raises serious concerns about the company’s plans for vastly expanding its capacity to collect and store customers' data. As MarketWatch’s Theresa Poletti reports, with this added capability, Amazon may soon be gathering as much data on its consumers now as Alphabet’s Google Inc.

    Stephen DiFranco, an executive-in-residence at the Plug and Play Tech Center in Sunnyvale, Calif., offered a few disturbing hints about the scope of Amazon’s data-collection capabilities in an interview with MarketWatch.

    “[The technology] will also triangulate your position in the store, market to you while you are in the store, and understand your behavior in the store,” said DiFranco, who previously worked at Broadcom’s Internet of Things business and led the sale to Cypress Semiconductor CY, -1.72% “If they can collect the same kind of info that they can get while I am surfing on their site, they are going to be able to deliver the same value, the same experience that I get on their site…The company that knows more about the online behavior of me, will now own this same science…while I am in the Whole Foods retail environment.”

     

    The positive aspect, he said, is that it will result in better, more convenient shopping experiences for consumers, with their preferences and habits known. It has the ability to turn into a real assistant for shopping. “You passed the milk, you always get milk,” your smartphone may tell you while shopping.

     

    DiFranco said that by combining the data Amazon already has about its current customers, plus far more frequent data that comes from grocery shopping, will turn it into an even bigger giant with vastly more data. “This is jet fuel in retail analytics that no one else will have.”

    But while some customers might balk at the prospect of shopping in a store where literally every single action and preference is being recorded, investors don't seem to mind.

    Whole Foods’ Market’s largest competitors lost a combined $32 billion in market capitalization yesterday after the announcement. Sell-side analysts have long been calling for a stronger management team to step in and take control of Whole Foods after years of chronically weak earnings and sluggish stock performance. Amazon’s stock also climbed 2.4% on the news, helping it slough off broader weakness in the FAAMG contingent.

    Amazon, which already operates a grocery-delivery service in select markets, announced its plans for entering the bricks-and-mortar grocery business late last year when it opened its first small-format grocery store. At the time, the company said it could envision expanding to 2,000 stores. One of the store's most widely publicized features was its use of automation and AI technology to eliminate check-out lines and allow customers to freely walk out with their purchases. But following the latest revelation about Amazon’s big-data tactics, investors should hope the ecommerce giant also plans to address the more prosaic flaws plaguing Whole Food’s business: Namely, that, as stagnant wages and rising rents force consumers to cut back on spending, the “Whole Paycheck” image will likely continue to alienate shoppers.

  • Van Slams Into Pedestrians Near London Mosque Leaving "Number Of Casualties", Driver Arrested

    Live Feed from Sky News:

    * * *

    A van plowed into pedestrians on Seven Sisters road in the Finsbury Park area in north London just after 12:20am London Time, in what the police has described a “major incident.” There are “a number of casualties being worked on at the scene,” London police said in a statement, with at least 10 people injured according to press reports.

    The incident happened near the prominent Finsbury Park Mosque as witnesses claim the driver intentionally struck the victims; a male driver, who has not been identified, has been taken into police custody while the van appears to be rented. LBC radio adds that there has been a “huge emergency response” and ambulances have been dispatched to help the injured.

    One witness told Sky News that the incident happened after worshippers were leaving the Finsbury Park mosque after midnight prayers.

    Eyewitnesses reported seeing bystanders wrestle the suspect to the ground and pin him down until officers arrived.

    According to the Telegraph, pictures posted on social media show more than a dozen emergency vehicles near the UKCG Help Centre at the junction of Seven Sisters Road and the A503 Tollington Road.

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    So far, the incident is not being called a terrorist attacks, as a person has been arrested unlike previous incidents.

    One eyewitness speaking to LBC said the van had hit people on the pavement, but had not collided with a building. “It looked like he had lost control of the van or something,” he said.  Locals said they had heard shouting and a helicopter was circling overhead.

    Another caller told LBC her sister was at the scene when it happened. She said she described it as “something from a horror movie, everyone running everywhere”.

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    Some social media reports describe the attack as “Islamophobic”, and described the attack as a van “randomly swerving off the main road and running over several Muslim men.”

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    The U.K. Muslim Council of Britain said they had been told worshippers were ran over as they left a local mosque. “Our prayers are with the victims,” they said on Twitter.

    The van used tonight at Finsbury Park mosque is shown below

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    One caller told LBC said people from a local mosque had been drinking coffee at a cafe by the mosque. He said he had seen six people on the floor. Another caller said:  “I saw police giving CPR, getting the heart going again and another guy on the floor.”

    There was no immediate word on an exact number of victims according to LBC, whose live broadcast can be heard here.

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    According to the Guardian, Al Qaeda operatives including the “shoebomber” Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui attended the Finsbury Park mosque. In 2002, weapons training had taken place inside the building. The mosque rose to notoriety when Abu Hamza al-Masri became Imam of the Mosque due to his extremist ideologies and views on terrorism.

  • NATO Holds Defense Drill Simulating Russian Invasion Of Baltics

    NATO officials are growing increasingly nervous about the possibility of an invasion of the Baltic states ahead of Russian wargames planned this fall on the border of Belarus and Poland that could involve as many as 100,000 troops. That "anxiety" was on display this week, when US and British troops carried out the first NATO military exercise that involved a simulated defense of the Suwalki Gap, an area in northern Poland on the border with Lithuania that serves as the gateway to the Baltic region.

    In other words, a drill against a Russian invasion of the Baltics states, and by extension, Europe.

    NATO officials described the area as a “choke point” that, if it were taken by an invading force, could potentially isolate the Baltic states from their NATO allies, according to Reuters.

    "The gap is vulnerable because of the geography. It's not inevitable that there's going to be an attack, of course, but … if that was closed, then you have three allies that are north that are potentially isolated from the rest of the alliance", said U.S. Lieutenant General Ben Hodges.

     

    "We have to practice, we have to demonstrate that we can support allies in keeping (the Gap) open, in maintaining that connection," he said.

     

    Since Russia’s annexation of Ukraine back in 2014, NATO has shifted four battlegroups totaling just over 4,500 troops to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.

    US and UK aircraft took part in the exercises, alongside troops from Poland, Lithuania and Croatia in a simulated defense of the potential flashpoint in an area several hours' drive from where a U.S. battalion is stationed at Orzysz base in Poland, Reuters reported.

    Of course, Russia has repeatedly said it has no plans to invade the Baltics, and has warned that the "defensive" buildup in NATO forces against its borders is an unprovoked act of aggression againt Russia.

    However, Russia's protests have done little to sway the US Senate, which passed new sanctions against Russia this week, allegedly in retribution for Russia’s meddling in the US election. The measures were included in an Iran sanctions bill that was widely expected to pass, but as the Hill reported yesterday, President Donald Trump is leaning on House Republicans to drop the bill because he fears it could damage US-Russia relations.

    In addition to Trump, Germany and Austria have also voiced their displeasure for one measure outlined in the sanctions bill, asking the US drop its opposition to the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that would pump Russian gas to Germany beneath the Baltic Sea. Austria's Chancellor Christian Kern and Germany's Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said earlier this week that it appeared that the opposition of the pipeline was aimed at securing US energy jobs and pushing out Russian gas deliveries to Europe.

    “Europe's energy supply is a matter for Europe, and not for the United States of America," Kern and Gabriel said.

    Meanwhile, NATO acknowledged the symtoblic nature of the drills, saying the exercises were more of a gesture than a dress rehearsal for war. As Brigadier General Valdemaras Rupsys, head of Lithuania's land forces, explained, “this is only a small-scale drill compared to what would be needed in case of a real attack.”

  • The Big Collusion Narrative Keeps Melting Down

    Authored by David French via National Review,

    After two days and almost six hours of high-stakes public testimony, I’m struck by the total lack of any compelling claims supporting the “big” collusion narrative, that Russia conspired with Trump or Trump officials to “hack” election.

    While we certainly aren’t privy to all the relevant information or all the relevant testimony, nothing that James Comey said last week or that Jeff Sessions said this week (much less any of the questions directed his way) contained so much as a meaningful hint that the Committee was on the verge of uncovering the political scandal of the century.

    Rather, the focus keeps shifting to much narrower questions regarding Trump’s decision to fire James Comey – questions that are important but far less historically consequential than any claim that a president or his attorney general are traitors to their country.

    Here’s where we stand:

    1. Not only is there no evidence that Trump personally colluded with Russians or ordered anyone to collude with Russians, there’s now evidence that he hasn’t been under personal investigation by the FBI.

     

    2. There is absolutely zero available evidence that Jeff Sessions colluded with the Russians.

     

    3. Similarly, there is so far no evidence that even Trump’s more unsavory aides – men like Paul Manafort and Michael Flynn — colluded to influence the election

     

    4. To the extent that there is evidence of wrongdoing connected with a foreign power, it deals not with the election itself but rather with Flynn’s alleged failures to disclose foreign payments and contacts.

    Millions of American believe the worst about their current president, claims every bit as toxic in their own way as “truther” smears against George Bush or “birther” smears against Barack Obama.

    The Trump collusion narrative has gotten a far wider and more respectable hearing than either of the two conspiracy theories that plagued the Bush and Obama administrations.

    Truth is truth, and it’s important for responsible people to not just understand and respond to actual evidence – no matter where it leads – but also acknowledge its absence. And so far the absence of evidence points to Trump’s innocence of some of the worst allegations ever leveled against an American president or his senior team.

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