Feb 10

Today’s News 10th February 2018

  • Trump Blocks Democratic Counter-Memo Over "National Security Concerns"

    President Trump declined to release the Democrat rebuttal to a GOP-authored “FISA memo,” following the advice of the Department of Justice and the Director of National Intelligence, the White House announced.

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    President Trump is “inclined to declassify” the Democratic memo, however there are several sections which would create “especially significant concerns” for “national security and law enforcement interests,” wrote White House counsel Don McGahn in a letter to House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (D-CA).

    While the White House ignored FBI requests to redact the names in the GOP-authored memo, the Democratic response is said to reveal sources and methods which must be concealed. 

    In a separate letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, McGahn highlighted the problematic information. The White House says it will work with the House Intelligence Committee if it wants to revise the Democratic memo and resubmit it for White House review. 

    “The president encourages the Committee to undertake these efforts,” the letter states. “The Executive Branch stands ready to review any subsequent draft of the Feb. 5th memorandum for declassification at the earliest opportunity.”

    Democrats on the House Intel Committee can now make the requested changes, or submit their memo to the full house to seek a vote to override the President’s decision. 

    The House Intelligence Committee voted earlier this week to release the 10-page Democratic memo authored by ranking minority Committee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) following the declassification and public release of a four-page “FISA memo” authored by staffers for Chairman Devin Nunes.

    In response to Trump blocking the Democratic rebuttal, Nunes said on Friday that he was not surprised that the DOJ and FBI advised against its release.

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    Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA)

    “Ranking Member Schiff pledged to seek the input of the Department of Justice and FBI regarding the memo’s public release, and it’s no surprise that these agencies recommended against publishing the memo without redactions,” said Nunes. 

    Nunes suggested that the Democrats make the “appropriate technical changes and redactions” as recommended by the justice department “so that no sources and methods are disclosed and their memo can be declassified as soon as possible.”

    Democrats Cry Foul

    After the GOP-authored memo was released, Democrats cried foul – calling it “inaccurate” and claiming its sole purpose was to derail and obstruct the ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 election. 

    Democrats were outraged at the President’s decision. In a Friday night statement, Schiff said that Democrats had provided their memo to the F.B.I. and the Justice Department for review before it was approved for release by the committee, and that the Democrat rebuttal was drawn from the same underlying documents as the Republican one.

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    Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA)

    “We will be reviewing the recommended redactions from D.O.J. and F.B.I., which these agencies shared with the White House,” Mr. Schiff said, “and look forward to conferring with the agencies to determine how we can properly inform the American people about the misleading attack on law enforcement by the G.O.P. and address any concerns over sources and methods.”

    Rep Terri Sewell – a Democratic member of the committee, tweeted: “Republicans and Democrats on the Intelligence Committee voted UNANIMOUSLY to release this memo. @realDonaldTrump is not interested in transparency, he is interested in protecting himself and derailing the Russia investigation.”

    Despite Democrats’ anger, McGhan said – in addition to the fact that Trump was “inclined to declassify” the document – that “The executive branch stands ready to review any subsequent draft of the Feb. 5 memorandum for declassification at the earliest opportunity.” 

  • Dalio's $13 Billion Short: Bridgewater Unveils Its Biggest Ever Short Position

    Last October, Italy’s government was angry when the world’s largest hedge fund, Ray Dalio’s Bridgewater unveiled it had amassed a sizable  $713 million short against Italian financial stocks, its biggest disclosed bearish bet in Europe.

    Then last week, and just one month before Italy’s March 4 elections – which the broader market stubbornly refuses to acknowledge are a risk factor – Bridgewater tripled down on its bearish bets against Italian banks and insurers, making the position the largest thematic short carried by the world’s biggest hedge fund.

    As we reported last Thursday, Bridgewater boosted its bearish bets against Italian companies to $3 billion and 18 firms, up four-fold from just over $713 million in early October, further infuriating Italian authorities. As Bloomberg added, Bridgewater’s bearish bets against European companies as a whole totaled $3.3 billion, spread among 20 names.  In addition to his previous negative exposure, Dalio disclosed a short position in transport-infrastructure provider Atlantia and added to its largest short bet, against lender Intesa Sanpaolo SpA.

    The growing short comes just days after Dalio told a Davos audience that “holding cash is now stupid”… and literally days before the biggest market crash since Lehman.

    Fast forward to today, when Dalio’s bearish fascination is starting to get a little concerning, because according to the latest Bloomberg summary, Bridgewater now has at least $13.1 billion in European Union shorts, quadrupling the $3.2 billion short from last week, and over 18 times more than the fund’s original position last October.

    In the past week, Bridgewater put more than $1 billion to work betting against oil giant Total SA – making it the firm’s largest disclosed short holding in Europe. 

    As Bloomberg notes, Europe’s energy titan has been riding out the biggest industry downturn in a generation by selling assets and cutting spending. The hedge fund also started a bearish Airbus SE position, investing about $381 million against the aircraft maker. Among other short positions, it disclosed wagers against BNP Paribas SA, ING Groep NV and Banco Santander SA.

    Amusingly, since the Feb. 8 regulatory filings were made public, Total fell 1% as markets slumped, while Dalio’s other shorts, Airbus, BNP Paribas, ING Groep and Banco Santander sank roughly 2%.

    A list of Bridgewater’s top 10 shorts is shown below:

    At the risk of repeating ourselves – which we think under these circumstances is worth it – we will remind readers that on January 24, Dalio told a naive, fawning Davos audience that:

    “We are in this Goldilocks period right now. Inflation isn’t a problem. Growth is good, everything is pretty good with a big jolt of stimulation coming from changes in tax laws. If you’re holding cash, you’re going to feel pretty stupid.”

    And as Dalio was dissembling, he was quietly assembling Bridgewater’s biggest ever thematic short in his fund’s history.

    So yes, perhaps if you’re holding cash, you will feel pretty stupid eventually, but not after last week’s global market plunge; however, you will certainly feel much dumber if you actually believed Dalio.

  • WSJ Asks: Why Is The Media Ignoring The Real Bombshell FISA Memo?

    Authored by Guy Benson via Townhall.com,

    We’ll bring you Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel’s tweetstorm in a moment, but I’ll take a stab at answering her question about the media right out of the gate.  

    Three possibilities:

    (1) The GOP hyped the Nunes memo, which quickly became the center of this whole firestorm — replete with counter-memos, FBI objections, etc.  The press followed the spotlight.

    (2) As we’ve been saying, there are so many complex pieces of this larger puzzle, following the plot is difficult.  It’s not just news consumers wondering, “which memo is this now?” — it’s many of the people trying to cover this drama, too.  The document in question here is a second, less redacted, version of a Senate memo that few people have even heard of. 

    (3) The Senate memo, produced by non-bomb-throwers Chuck Grassley and Lindsey Graham, is substantially more disruptive to the Democrats’ narrative than the Nunes document.  And the press generally prefers Democratic narratives to Republican ones because most journalists are liberals. 

    My guess is that some blend of all three factors helps explain why the Grassley/Graham memo has barely registered on the national radar, even after we’ve endured multiple high-octane news cycles starring Nunes and Schiff.  But on the substance, does Strassel have a point, or is this just the latest shiny object the right-wing is waving around to distract from “the real story,” now that the Nunes memo was arguably a bit of a dud?  Here’s her case:

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    Does that all of check out?  Allahpundit digs into the document (a much more redacted version had been released previously) and seems to agree that Grassley/Graham is a significantly bigger deal than Nunes.  In our analysis of the latter document last week, we wrote that a major question was how much the DOJ relied on the Steele dossier itself to gain a FISA warrant against former Trump adviser Carter Page.  According to Grassley/Graham, the answer is a lot.  I posited that if investigators had used the unverified dossier as a starting point from which to chase down leads and produce more solid evidence to present to a FISA judge, that’d be one thing.  But if they leaned heavily on Steele’s file itself as the “evidence,” that would be sketchier.  According to the two GOP Senators, the FBI did the latter.  From AP’s excellent summary (the relevant bits of the memo itself are here and here):

    …“The bulk of the application” against Page was dossier material…

    “The application appears to contain no additional information corroborating the dossier allegations against Mr. Page.”

    In other words, they seem to have treated the dossier as evidence, not as a lead. That’s big news.

    But that’s not all. Grassley/Graham allege, based on intelligence, that the man behind the anti-Trump dossier was known to be unreliable by the FBI (they eventually severed ties with him) because he was caught lying either to US law enforcement or to British courts, telling each entity different stories about a key fact. Either way, FISA judges who approved and renewed the Page warrants weren’t told about the proven unreliability of the foreign agent whose work product was (apparently) the central basis for said warrants. The FBI might counter that Steele seemed credible at first, then they dumped him when he burned them, but that doesn’t mean their hands are clean, Allahpundit writes:

    (a) that doesn’t solve the problem that the original FISA application against Page evidently relied “heavily” on information passed from a not-very-credible foreign agent and

    (b) that doesn’t explain why the Bureau allegedly failed to tell the FISA Court in later applications to renew their surveillance of Page that Steele’s info maybe hadn’t been so credible…Grassley and Graham make another good point about Steele’s chattering to the press while his investigation was still ongoing: Once bad actors were aware that he was digging for dirt on Trump, they could have sought him out and fed him any amount of BS in hopes of it trickling through to the FBI and deepening the official suspicion surrounding Team Trump. That’s how Clinton cronies — maybe even Sid Blumenthal — got involved in this clusterfark. Because Steele was supposedly willing to accept even unsolicited tips about Trump, the Clinton team may have fed him rumors to help fill a dossier for which their boss was paying.

    Two big points there:

    Even after the FBI recognized Steele was an established liar, his dishonesty was not disclosed to judges deciding whether to keep the warrants active during renewal applications, which were largely predicated on Steele’s credibility.

    And the topic about which he apparently lied was whether he blabbed to folks in the media about his work, which could have opened up the floodgates for disinformation from shady characters eager to make the anti-Trump case as juicy and brimming with salaciousness as possible.

    That’s where Blumenthal and company, whom I wrote about here, may have come in. What a mess. Also, speaking of not revealing pertinent information to the courts, it looks like Nunes was technically incorrect that the judges weren’t made aware that the Steele dossier was paid political oppo research. But he was more broadly correct that the judges didn’t have even close to the full picture of who was behind the unverified partisan document upon which they were primarily basing the surveillance of a US citizen — who happened to be a former aide to a major presidential campaign from the out-of-power party.

    “As Nunes himself later admitted, the Bureau apparently did disclose in a footnote that the material was paid political research. It just didn’t mention who, precisely, had paid for it,” AP writes.  The memo reads, “in footnote 8, the FBI stated that the dossier information was compiled pursuant to the direction of a law firm that had hired an “identified US person” — now known as Glenn Simpson of Fusion GPS…the application failed to disclose that the identities of Mr. Simpson’s ultimate clients were the Clinton campaign and the DNC.”  

    So the disclosure came in a footnote and didn’t mention that the parties who paid for the unverified dossier were the Trump campaign’s explicit opposition.  Maybe there was no misconduct in any of this, but even as someone who believes neither that suspicion of Carter Page was unreasonable, nor that this is all part of a grand anti-Trump conspiracy (remember, the Trump angle of the Russia probe started earlier, for an unrelated reason), there’s enough in the Grassley/Graham memo to make me uncomfortable with the standards by which Page was surveilled by the US government.

  • American Hysteria Over Russia Will Lead To Nuclear War, Report

    Authored by Seraphim Hanisch via TheDuran.com,

    Russian media reacts strongly to the American Nuclear Posture Review, which tries to convince its readers that Russia is trying to take over the world…

    Russian television broadcast a dire sounding piece on February 5th that probably was rather disquieting to most Russians, and also a source of significant dismay to their hopes for a rapprochement in relations following the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States.

    The news agency “Vesti” explained that the US is preparing itself for nuclear war with Russia.

    The US Department of Defense published its 2018 Nuclear Posture Review.  This consists of at least two documents that are public domain that detail the assessment the DoD made about nuclear threats from around the world.  The language about Russia is curious, for like Russia, the US repeatedly maintains that there is no desire for anything but good relations.

    However, this is unfortunately either a blind claim or a willfully blind claim for the sake of propaganda. 

    Based on the insanity of the US government’s reaction or posture about Russia overall, with the military fears, the sanctions and the most recent incidents of the release of the “Kremlin list” of government heads and successful businessmen and women, and the close flyby of a Russian fighter jet to an American surveillance aircraft, the ever-present “RussiaGate” investigations; and the lack of visible insanity on the Russians’ side, it seems likely that the American version of what is causing the ‘need’ to resolidify ‘defenses’ is lacking in factual evidence and cannot be taken as conclusive or trustworthy.

    Not that there is any precedent for this outrageous statement… and if you believe that…

    The problem begins with a false premise:

    Russia is not the Soviet Union and the Cold War is long over. However, despite our best efforts to sustain a positive relationship, Russia now perceives the United States and NATO as its principal opponent and impediment to realizing its destabilizing geopolitical goals in Eurasia. (Emphasis mine)

    This is an extremely bold assertion, though for some of the people who influence the stance of US foreign and military policy, this is how they see it.  However, it is also rather skillful sophistry that is achieved by a combination of American desire for hegemony and also, unfortunately, by a certain level of vagueness on both sides.

    The Russian component of this vagueness largely seems to rest on the matter of Ukraine.  Ukraine itself is rightly understood as the motherland of all the Rus’ (“all the Russias”) from history that runs back over a thousand years.  It was Kiev that was the great capital of the early Russian governorate, which slowly expanded to become the Russian Empire.

    However, there is also a complicated and deeply tragic history regarding the Ukraine, notably during the Soviet era, when millions of Ukrainians perished in what some in that country now regard as an intentional genocide, perpetrated deliberately against them by the Soviets in Moscow, hence, “Russia.”

    This issue itself is complex and warrants, even begs, further exposition, but it is beyond the scope of this article. Some understanding may be gained by reading this piece, which gives an interesting survey of the history of Ukraine.  (Be aware though that it still comes from a publication with Western perspective.)

    The main point is that Ukraine’s own nationalistic wish is spawned from factors including a national memory that points at Moscow as the source of their problems.  The fact that the Russian Federation is not Communist does not deter this point of view, because although the Russian nation is no longer a dictatorship, it still does not always conduct its foreign and national affairs transparently, and the desire for a real sense of self-determination is magnified by the allure of the glittering, wealthy West. The Western powers, most notably the USA, know this and have been teasing the Ukrainians with it.

    Some of them, in Kiev and the western areas of the country (not all of which were Soviet territories at one point) have long had ties more to Europe than to Russia, and the inclusion of their territories in the Soviet Union was a source of further bitterness.  For many people in Ukraine, their history is of living in a battlefield of foreign powers.

    They are understandably almost instinctively upset about any power’s designs on their territory, but it is also easy to manipulate this characteristic, and the United States has led the current struggle for Ukraine yet again.  The allure of Western European life seems to be what drew so many to the Euromaidan struggle in 2014, but the present day economy under the pro-Western government also appears to be in a shambles.

    At any rate, the historical memory of extremely authoritarian and cruel Soviet rule in the region, plus the present day “vagueness” that seems to exist with regards to Russian foreign affairs, helps the West to cast Russia as an authoritarian nation, led by a “secret Communist”, Vladimir Putin, “who used to be a KGB agent.”

    When one gives this information to many Americans, the conclusion they draw is clear.

    The Pentagon, the central hub of US military operations.

    Now to be sure, Vladimir Putin has been extremely open and candid about his nation and his own assertions of a strong Russian nation are absolutely proper for Russia, as they are for any nation. Nationalism is held extremely strongly in the United States, and again, history plays a part.  The recent history of what amounts to world dominance, militarily, scientifically, academically, and culturally, gives a sense to Americans that it is their country which is the guardian of all that is good.

    But what are they guarding?  That greatness has shown many signs of slipping into decadence, such as happened in the waning days of the Roman Empire, where people lost their vision of becoming great, and have been self-indulgent in their perceived independence, not only of other nations and cultures, but of any power, including the Highest Power.  We have seen it become legal to call homosexual unions “marriage” and depravity, drug use, and tremendous unproductive navel-gazing have become more and more prevalent in a nation that, a mere 45 years ago, really stood as a defender of Christian freedom.

    It is not possible that a nation living in delusion about itself can have a clear view of those nations outside itself.  And Russia has moved in the opposite direction as has the West.  The struggle exists, for Russia under Communism suffered great damage to the institutions of family, marriage and Church, but the move of the Federation now is to rebuild these core values.  All this while for a time, America seemed to be engaged in self-destruction by attacking these same core values.

    Now, America’s military is in an extremely dangerous place.  The amount of sheer power the military has is greater than any in the world.  Although Russia and China also have incredibly capable military forces, the Chinese are untested in battle thus far, and the Russians are just beginning to show their own incredible capabilities.  But the United States has been at war almost continuously since at least as early as 2001, and this projection of power does create experience.

    This Nuclear Posture Review shows us the face of a country who is deluded, hysterical, as the Russian media calls it, and they are right.  Despite the issues with Russia and Ukraine or Syria, Russia’s political will does not remotely resemble the notion that Russia is in an expansionist stage and that it wants to take over the former Soviet republics and then expand into the West.  Russia does want to chart her own course, and as a great power, and one with a long history and long memory of suffering, she wants to try to protect her own people from more suffering.

    The American posture points the finger at Russia for being a threat, and then implies that Russia is a threat in very well-crafted language.  And this makes the assessment even more dangerous:

    Russia has significantly increased the capabilities of its non-nuclear forces to project power into regions adjacent to Russia and, as previously discussed, has violated multiple treaty obligations and other important commitments. Most concerning are Russia’s national security policies, strategy, and doctrine that include an emphasis on the threat of limited nuclear escalation, and its continuing development and fielding of increasingly diverse and expanding nuclear capabilities. Moscow threatens and exercises limited nuclear first use, suggesting a mistaken expectation that coercive nuclear threats or limited first use could paralyze the United States and NATO and thereby end a conflict on terms favorable to Russia. Some in the United States refer to this as Russia’s “escalate to de-escalate” doctrine. “De-escalation” in this sense follows from Moscow’s mistaken assumption of Western capitulation on terms favorable to Moscow.

    Effective U.S. deterrence of Russian nuclear attack and non-nuclear strategic attack now requires ensuring that the Russian leadership does not miscalculate regarding the consequences of limited nuclear first use, either regionally or against the United States itself. Russia must instead understand that nuclear first-use, however limited, will fail to achieve its objectives, fundamentally alter the nature of a conflict, and trigger incalculable and intolerable costs for Moscow. Our strategy will ensure Russia understands that any use of nuclear weapons, however limited, is unacceptable.

    The U.S. deterrent tailored to Russia, therefore, will be capable of holding at risk, under all conditions, what Russia’s leadership most values. It will pose insurmountable difficulties to any Russian strategy of aggression against the United States, its allies, or partners and ensure the credible prospect of unacceptably dire costs to the Russian leadership if it were to choose aggression.

    This is an amazing construction and assertion, and it is extremely dangerous for a nation with simultaneously massive power and a deluded worldview to hold.  It is also very difficult to get people who have such a suspicious point of view to back away from that suspicion. There is a great deal of bondage such belief and fear exerts on those who hold it.

    That being said, this situation helps explain what many in the alternative media do – to counter media and political bias and to report on events in a light that is hopefully objective and true.  The Vesti newspiece was in its own way as alarmist as the American document it reported is.  The real way through this is obviously through increased understanding of the truth in all matters – historical, ideological, and in our case here, geopolitical.

    The American side has taken several nasty jabs at the Russians recently, in this document and last week’s “Kremlin list”, but there is also hope that the disintegrating “Russiagate” investigation will come to the true conclusions about this matter, and so free the hands of those in America who understand that Russia is anything but an enemy or adversary.

  • Visualizing The Worst Crashes In Bitcoin History

    Compared to some of the panics during the early days of bitcoin, the pioneering cryptocurrency’s 60%+ slide since the beginning of the year hardly register at all.

    In the nine-year history of the cryptocurrency, which introduced the “revolutionary” blockchain technology to the world, osses have been as minimal as 30% and as severe as 87% during these Bitcoin panics. And compared with some of its previous dips – like the Mt. Gox-induced selloff in February 2014 that effectively ended the firs speculative bubble in the cryptocurrency after it officially went mainstream.

    The latest correction took place between Dec.17 and Feb. 6, or 48 days, in which 70% of Bitcoin value was lost. However, if you look at the period between April 10, 2013 and April 12, 2013, Bitcoin lost an astounding 83% of its value over a three-day period. Talk about a panic! The point is that crashes have become relatively common throughout the cryptocurrency market, which is known for its swift volatility. It is important to turn to data and the facts in times of turmoil, rather than relying on one’s emotions.

    Using the BitStamp Bitcoin-to-U.S.-Dollar (BTC/USD) pair, HowMuch measured the specific highs and lows of the past crashes dating back to January 2012. In the chart below, the arrow delineates the magnitude of the crash – while the number of days is listed below:

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    As US stocks sold off again Friday, capping off the worst two-week selloff since 2009, bitcoin has climbed, as worries about a resurgence of inflation have rattled investors, making the inherently deflationary bitcoin that much more attractive.

  • Donald Trump's Superficial Patriotism At The Twilight Of U.S. Empire

    Authored by Mike Krieger via Liberty Blitzkrieg blog,

    Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: bread and circuses.

    – Juvenal

    Despite the title, I don’t want this post to be all about Donald Trump. The truth of the matter is all politicians love superficial patriotism. It’s why they all claim to care deeply about the troops, yet allow veterans to wait weeks or months to see a doctor after sending them to fight pointless imperial overseas wars based on fabrications. All these disingenuous politicians are total frauds, but they tend sell the same destructive policies in different ways. As such, it’s important to understand how they manipulate and divide us.

    First and foremost, standing for the National Anthem, saluting the flag or cheering a military parade is not “supporting the troops.” If you think such trivial and superficial acts represent anything beyond lazy surface level virtue signaling you’re a huge part of the problem. Your thoughtlessness and fake patriotism is exactly why our young kids are being sent off to die and murder other young kids halfway across the world to pad the coffers of plutocrats and the egos of empire obsessed sociopaths in D.C. Not only are such acts not patriotism, your phony gestures help grease the wheels of global death and destruction.

    Having a strong military for national defense is a necessary thing, but the purpose of such a force should always and in all circumstances be defense. A major problem arises when you have a global empire coupled with the strongest military on earth. Such a situation results in an overwhelming temptation to use this power for offensive aggression, and that’s exactly what our so-called “elites” have used the U.S. military for throughout the 21st century. The attacks of September 11, 2001 merely provided an excuse for the most twisted people in Washington D.C. to live out their most deranged power fantasies. George W. Bush got the ball rolling, Barack Obama stuck to the script, albeit with a more slick sales pitch, and Donald Trump’s set to take us to the inevitable end, which is imperial collapse.

    In many ways, Donald Trump is the ideal President to usher in the end of U.S. empire. While the more gullible slice of his support base credulously believed he’d “Make America Great Again,” his more jaded and realistic voters merely hoped he’d just burn the whole thing down, metaphorically speaking. He needed a combination of these two groups to win, so it’s very important to not think of his voters as a monolithic entity. Many of them don’t even like Trump, they just wanted to throw a grenade into this corrupt system and knew he was the best of the two candidates to do it. In many ways, they were correct.

    They weren’t correct because Trump meant anything he said on the campaign trail. He clearly didn’t. It’s obvious Trump loves Wall Street, after all, the first thing he did was surround himself with former Goldman Sachs partners. On foreign policy, he’s embraced some of the most barbaric and despotic regimes on earth, such as Saudi Arabia, with the enthusiasm of a little boy with a grade school crush, and appears disturbingly eager to start a war with Iran. That said, Trump’s Presidency’s may still lead to the effect desired by many of his more cynical voters.

    For example, things really are coming apart at the seams, largely due to the transparently hysterical and demented reaction of neocons and neoliberals to his election. This faux “resistance” movement is such an obvious superficial sham it’s caused everyone with a somewhat functioning brain to recognize that most of the dominant aspects of this culture are shams. This realization is becoming harder and harder to deny, especially for younger generations. Which brings me to the next issue. Trump’s military parade.

    By now, I’m sure you’ve all heard about Trump’s desire for a grand military parade. This longing was apparently inspired by a trip to that paragon of global military might, France, where he witnessed such a dazzling performance it committed him to bring such a spectacle back home.

    We leaned that:

    Surrounded by the military’s highest-ranking officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., Trump’s seemingly abstract desire for a parade was suddenly heard as a presidential directive, the officials said.

    “The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France,” said a military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the planning discussions are supposed to remain confidential. “This is being worked at the highest levels of the military.”

    The inspiration for Trump’s push is last year’s Bastille Day celebration in Paris, which the president attended as a guest of French President Emmanuel Macron. Trump was awestruck by the tableau of uniformed French troops marching down Avenue des Champs-Elysees with military tanks, armored vehicles, gun trucks and carriers — complete with fighter jets flying over the Arc de Triomphe and painting the sky with streaks of blue, white and red smoke for the colors of the French flag.

    Aboard Air Force One en route home from Paris in July, aides said Trump told them that he was dazzled by the French display and that he wanted one at home.

    It was still on his mind two months later when he met with Macron on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

    “It was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen,” Trump told reporters. “It was two hours on the button, and it was military might, and I think a tremendous thing for France and for the spirit of France.”

    Seated next to Macron, Trump added: “We’re going to have to try to top it.”

    If you think this sounds like the thought process of a two-year old, you’re right, but there’s more to it. For all his flaws, Trump is actually a very talented manipulator and salesman. This is why I was one of the first people to say we needed to take Trump seriously back in 2015 when most others were mocking him. He understands the ancient concept of “bread and circuses” as well as anyone, and he knows there’s no bigger slobbering circus than a big military parade.

    Superficial patriotism is the most attractive form of patriotism for any politician. It encourages spectacle without substance. Bluster without tangible success. Chest-thumping without sacrifice. Any big military parade in the U.S. will be a definitive sign of desperate insecurity and evidence that the American empire is expiring.

    Hate to break it to you, but the rest of the world will see a U.S. military parade and immediately think, oh, the U.S. is even weaker than we thought. Meanwhile, the same social media Trump celebrities we already knew had fascist tendencies will enthusiastically cheer such a spectacle and attempt to divide the public over it. Please don’t fall for such nonsense.

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  • Marijuana Tops Liquor Sales For First Time In Aspen

    Marijuana shops in Aspen raked in the green in 2017, topping liquor sales with $11.3 million in revenue vs. $10.5 million of alcohol in the Colorado resort town home to just under 7,000 residents, and tens of thousands of tourists who are more mellow than ever.

    The figures, provided Wednesday in the city’s Finance Department year-end tax sales report for 2017, show Aspen retailers taking in a combined $730.4 million in revenue, up slightly over 2016. 

    Marijuana sales jumped 16% over 2016, which saw $9.7 million in sales – marking the largest increase among Aspen’s 12 retail sectors. Meanwhile, liquor store sales were flat year-over-year. 

    “I think it’s meaningful for a couple of reasons,” said Matt Kind, a Boulder entrepreneur and host of the CannaInsider podcast. “One in particular is when people are visiting Aspen and adjusting to a high altitude, some don’t drink for that first couple of days. And I think people are looking for something different from alcohol, which is essentially poison, and marijuana is botanical. I don’t say that with judgment, but you feel some lingering effects with alcohol.” –Aspen Times

    Aspen has six pot shops and five liquor stores, though one of the dispensaries closed last fall. 

    “I think it shows adults are open to change,” said Max Meredith, store manager at the Stash dispensary. “There are new substitutes, and they can be handled responsibly. And perhaps there are a few less late-night fights.”

    Despite fears that the cannabis industry would cannibalize alcohol sales, Aspen’s liquor stores are doing just fine – beating marijuana sales in December with nearly $1.6 million in sales vs. $1.2 million for pot. 

    When (legalized recreational marijuana) first came along, there were questions if it would hurt business,” Tom Ressel, day manager of the Local Spirits liquor store tells Summit Daily. “But obviously it hasn’t.”

    While that may be the case for Aspen – a study by Georgia State University Economics Professor, Alberto Chong, finds a 15 percent drop in alcohol sales which also allow medical marijuana sales over a 10 year period ending in 2015. 

    The study analyzed beer, wine and alcohol sales for over 2,000 U.S. counties using the Nielson Retail Scanner database, which they note provides a more accurate measure of alcohol consumption than self-reported surveys.

    “Our findings clearly show that these two substances act as strong substitutes in the marketplace,” Chong said, adding “This implies that rather than exacerbating the consequences of alcohol consumption—such as an increase in addiction, car accidents or disease risk—legalizing cannabis may temper them.”

    At the Green Dragon cannabis store, manager Kevin Doxtater said the latest sales tax figures show “people are waking up to this.” He and his co-workers added that cannabidiol — more widely referred to as CBD — has attracted a newer wave of retail consumers seeking medical benefits without getting high. Edible marijuana products also have been popular with the more discerning adults, while the younger set leans toward pre-rolled joints, he said. –Summit Daily

    See below for a breakdown of Aspen’s $730.4 million in retail sales last year

    • Accommodations $216.7 million
    • Restaurants & Bars $129.7 million
    • Clothing $57.3 million
    • Construction $57.2 million 
    • Food & Drug $56.1 million 
    • Miscellaneous $50 million 
    • Sports Equip/Clothing $47.9 million
    • Utilities $43.4 million
    • Luxury Goods $29.4 million
    • Automobile $20.8 million 
    • Marijuana $11.3 million 
    • Liquor $10.5 million
    • Total $730,414,351 

    Source: City of Aspen Finance Department

  • DOJ's #3 Official Quitting After Just Nine Months

    Update: U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT NO. 3 OFFICIAL RACHEL BRAND TO BECOME EXECUTIVE AT WAL-MART: SOURCE

    where Hillary Clinton was on the board of directors.

    ***

    The number 3 official at the Department of Justice plans to leave the agency after just nine months on the job, the NYT reported citing two people briefed on her decision. 

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    Rachel L. Brand was appointed as Associate Attorney General on May 22, 2017, making her next in the line of succession after Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, who is currently overseeing Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the investigation due to his involvement with the Trump campaign. 

    Prior to her appointment to the DOJ last year, Brand held several politically appointed positions for the last few administrations. From 2012-2017, she served as one of five Senate-confirmed Members of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, appointed by President Obama.

    Before that, Brand worked at the DOJ between 2003-2007, first as the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Policy, and then as the Senate-confirmed Assistant Attorney General for Legal Policy, appointed by President George W. Bush.

    Brand is also an Associate Professor of law at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School. She clerked for Associate Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy from 2002-2003 after graduating from Harvard Law – where she was deputy editor-in-chief of the Harvard Jourrnal of Law and Public Policy.

    According to OpenSecrets.org, Brand has contributed heavily to Republicans – including George W. Bush, John McCain, Ted Cruz, Tom Cotton and Ed Gillespie. 

    What about Rosenstein?

    The release of the declassified GOP-authored “Nunes memo” earlier this month revealed that Rosenstein signed off on at least one questionable FISA surveillance warrant application in connection with spying on the Trump campaign.

    Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), thinks Rosenstein will likely have to appear before Congress to explain his actions:

    I think Rosenstein is going to have to come to the Congress and explain his role in extending it, Mr. DeSantis said on Fox News. I mean, did he go back and review it and was satisfied, or he just extended? And is he going to be able to justify this as a proper use of FISA?

    When a reporter asked President Trump whether the Nunes memo makes it more likely that he will fire Rosenstein, Trump responded: “You figure it out.”

    https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

    Democrats responded to the Nunes memo with a threat to unleash holy hell if Trump fires the Deputy AG:

    “We are alarmed by reports that you may intend to use this misleading document as a pretext to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, in an effort to corruptly influence or impede Special Counsel Bob Mueller’s investigation.

    “We write to inform you that we would consider such an unwarranted action as an attempt to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation. Firing Rod Rosenstein, DOJ Leadership, or Bob Mueller could result in a constitutional crisis of the kind not seen since the Saturday Night Massacre!’

    So with a “compromised” Rosenstein overseeing the Mueller / Russia probe, and his successor apparently heading for the hills, one has to wonder what’s actually going on behind the scenes at the DOJ.

  • Deep State Mantra: Use An Existing Crisis… Or Create One

    Authored by Jeremiah Johnson (nom) via SHTFplan.com,

    Rahm Emmanuel was/is (in)famous for his alleged attribution of the quote “Never allow a good crisis to go to waste.” Nevertheless, in the manner that Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” is an “English echo” of “The Decameron” by Giovanni Boccaccio, the quote assigned to Emmanuel is a paraphrase of words emitted by the equally-nefarious Milton Friedman:

    “Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.” – Capitalism and Freedom,” by Milton Friedman, Preface, Univ. Chicago Press, 1982.

    Although he was an Economist (so-called), Friedman’s Marxist economic endeavors (germinated by the Frankfurt School of Economics “alumni”) were cracked akin to a whip throughout the world and used by the U.S. to further imperialism and fostered dependence by third-world nations. Such “dependence,” it must be added, took the form of loans through the IMF and World Bank…backed by military force. The “dependence” is almost that of the Helsinki Syndrome, in which the kidnapped captive becomes psychologically dependent upon the captor…but the captivity remains. Protection and extortion in the same vein.

    These same “entangling alliances” were warned about for the fledgling United States by the Founding Fathers. Such forced alliances are easily seen for what they are: the creation of vassal states through force projection and intimidation. Even when we’re not directly involved, we “underwrite” the actions. The latest (and largest) prime example was the ousting of Ukraine’s president, Yanukovych, in 2014 and the attempt to force Ukraine to become a part of NATO, as well as another IMF-vassal in the NATO-Euro-hegemony.

    Such activities continue: in Syria, in Yemen, and throughout the world… a continued bolstering of U.S. military presence, backed by an ever-smiling line of “Rockettes” willing to “invest in a country’s future” with our almighty, fiat Petrodollar. Friedman’s actions as an economist can be seen enmeshed in virtually all U.S. foreign policy for the past five decades: they form the basis for the actions of “Economic Hit Men” as described by Perkins in his book.

    The coerced economic policies within the imperialism of American foreign policy are not the center of this piece.  Here is something relayed by Newsweek as reported by the New York Times on 2/2/18, an article entitled White House Pressures Pentagon for North Korea Attack Plan, Report Says, by John Haltiwanger that bears reading:

    “The White House is butting heads with the Pentagon on North Korea as senior military officials appear apprehensive about presenting President Donald Trump with military options against the rogue state, The New York Times reported Friday. White House National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster is reportedly concerned with drawing up a specific military plan in order to reinforce Trump’s various threats to the reclusive nation. Unnamed Pentagon officials are seemingly concerned the president is moving toward the use of force too quickly and worry that additional options will increase the probability Trump will move forward with an attack, according to the report.

    Dana W. White, press secretary for the Pentagon, told The New York Times the defense secretary “regularly provides the president with a deep arsenal of military options,” and claimed that the reports of reluctance in that regard were “false.”

    What can be gathered from this is the media is trying to paint a picture of confusion within the military command structure between the Pentagon and the administration. It is also more “predictive programming,” designed to “show” how the President wants a war: this to make him foot the blame when and if a war commences. Obviously, the United States and North Korea are still in a standoff with neither side backing away from their position. But just picture in your mind: the Emmanuel’s and the Friedman’s…smirking and smiling on the sidelines, knowing all this orchestration of the media is for the public to gulp down…knowing all of these crises have been acted upon by those of their ilk.

    We have a President who has ordered the release to the public of some very sensitive information on FISA (more appropriately labeled “DISA,” as the surveillance is directed toward the zeks formerly called “American citizens”).  An article came out on Lew Rockwell by former Justice Andrew Napolitano on 2/1/18 entitled Lying, Spying, and Hiding. Here is an excerpt of that article that I recommend reading in its entirety:

    “The abuse summarized in the Republican memo apparently spans the last year of the Obama administration and the first year of the Trump administration. If it comes through as advertised, it will show the deep state using the government’s powers for petty or political or ideological reasons.

    The use of raw intelligence data by the NSA or the FBI for political purposes or to manipulate those in government is as serious a threat to popular government — to personal liberty in a free society — as has ever occurred in America since Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798, which punished speech critical of the government.”

    So, to keep something from coming out of this magnitude, do you see the big picture?

    What is the best way to “deflect” attention from something such as this? War, naturally.

    I submit that the powers that be who are within the Deep State will either commence their lackeys to start a war or will create the conditions that will lead to one… not necessarily starting with North Korea, but possibly one of the other theatres where tensions with the U.S. are running high.

    I also submit that under such circumstances, it may not be the President who is responsible for the start of such a war: it may be a contrived crisis that the Deep State will not allow to go to waste that propels us into one. Nothing is beyond their capabilities, except to act with compassion and take into consideration the rights and welfare of the average citizen.

    The Deep State will allow millions to die in a war before being held accountable, especially to the American people.

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