Friday, November 17, 2017

Today's Links

"Behind the anti-Putin campaign lies above all the fear within the American ruling class of the growing anger within the working class, an anger that threatens to blow up the two-party political monopoly through which the corporate and financial aristocracy has ruled for generations. It is a measure of how far and how sharply to the right the bourgeois political spectrum has moved in the past two generations that it is the Democrats who are spearheading the new McCarthyism today....." WSWS 

1-- US Military and CIA Leaders May Be Investigated for War Crimes

The chief prosecutor noted the alleged crimes by the CIA and US armed forces "were not the abuses of a few isolated individuals," but rather were "part of approved interrogation techniques in an attempt to extract 'actionable intelligence' from detainees." She added there was "reason to believe" that crimes were "committed in the furtherance of a policy or policies ... which would support US objectives in the conflict of Afghanistan."...

In 2008, ABC News reported that Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet and John Ashcroft met in the White House and micromanaged the torture of terrorism suspects by approving specific torture techniques such as waterboarding. George W. Bush admitted in his 2010 memoir that he authorized waterboarding. Cheney, Rice and John Yoo - author of the OLC's most egregious torture memos - have made similar admissions....

The AG investigated only two incidents and found the evidence insufficient to obtain convictions. In one case, Gul Rahman froze to death after being stripped and shackled to a cold cement floor in the secret Afghan prison known as the Salt Pit. In the other, Manadel al-Jamadi died in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison after he was suspended from the ceiling by his wrists which were bound behind his back. Former military policeman Tony Diaz, who witnessed al-Jamadi's torture, said that blood gushed from his mouth like "a faucet had turned on" when he was lowered to the ground. A military autopsy concluded that al-Jamadi's death was a homicide

2--Lebanon suffers intimidation attempts to cancel gas deal with Russia – Lebanese FM

3--More on attempts to intimidate Lebanon

Lebanese Foreign Minister Geral Bassil has held a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.
"We are about to sign our first contract on gas field exploration on the shelf with the participation of Russian companies. We are now seeing an attempt to make Lebanon leave this positive path," Geral Bassil said.

"A campaign to scare Lebanon, to create obstacles in its path with the use of terrorist forces under different pretexts is underway," the minister said, adding that "the campaign against Lebanon is being carried out by the same forces that support terrorists in Syria."

4--Mercouris on Russiagate

5--US House passes multitrillion-dollar tax break for corporations and the wealthy

It is already becoming clear that the tax overhaul is a prelude to a frontal attack on Medicare and Social Security. On Tuesday, the Congressional Budget Office warned that the tax bill could trigger a budget rule that would require up to half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts over the next decade....

According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, the House bill gives more than 80 percent of its overall cuts to corporations, business owners and wealthy families that are subject to the estate tax.
Some 70 percent of the tax benefits will initially go to individuals earning six-figure salaries, about 23 percent of tax filers. In 2019, those making $1 million or more per year (the richest 0.3 percent of tax filers) will receive 21.6 percent of the total benefit.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, while taxes will be reduced, on average, by some $1,000 by 2027, the top 1 percent will get a cut of more than $62,000, while the top 0.1 percent will get an average reduction of $320,000.
The Joint Committee on Taxation reported that the Senate version of the tax bill, which adheres to the basic framework of the House bill, will actually raise taxes on all households earning less than $75,000 after 2027

The US House of Representatives on Thursday passed a tax overhaul that will, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Trump, give corporations and the very wealthy trillions of dollars in tax cuts, driving up the deficit and setting the stage for a massive assault on basic social programs such as Medicare and Social Security....

The Democrats, for their part, are carrying out their typical half-hearted and two-faced opposition. They themselves are calling for a massive cut in corporate taxes, only a somewhat smaller one than that being pushed by the Republicans. The House and Senate tax bills currently working their way through Congress both slash the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. The Democrats are proposing a cut in the corporate rate to between 25 percent and 28 percent. While denouncing the Republican bills as a windfall for the rich, they are offering to negotiate a more fiscally responsible corporate boondoggle.
As always, the Republicans are setting the marker as far to the right as possible and the Democrats are mounting an insincere opposition that will inevitably end with the Republicans achieving virtually all of their demands....

According to Congress’s nonpartisan Joint Committee on Taxation, the House bill would increase the federal deficit over ten years by $1.4 trillion as a result of lost federal tax revenues. The bulk of that loss would come from the cut in the corporate tax rate, accounting for $1.5 trillion. Another $696 billion cut would result from the elimination of the alternative minimum tax, which applies to households with incomes of $200,000 to $1 million....

These benefits are, however, eroded or even eclipsed in many cases by provisions that reduce or eliminate existing tax deductions on which working-class and middle-class families heavily rely. These include deductions for mortgage interest, state and local taxes, medical expenses, student loan interest and other higher education tax benefits.
The elimination of tax credits for medical expenses will have a devastating impact on elderly people with high medical bills. Repeal of education tax breaks will add some $65 billion to the federal tax coffers over ten years, at tremendous cost to undergrads and graduate students seeking to pay off student loans and graduate students whose tuition waivers will become taxable income.

6--McCarthyism Redux: Attacks on the Russian Media

Does anyone really believe for a moment that if Russia had or did accept its place as a neo-satellite of Washington that this campaign against RT and Sputnik would be taking place? If both media channels were echo chambers of the Washington Consensus you can best believe they would be allowed to operate freely and without molestation, without their employees or contributors being traduced as ‘Kremlin propagandists’ or de facto ‘Russian agents’.

The entire thing is a sham – a malicious and ideologically driven attempt to police the portals of news dissemination and analysis to the point where rigid acceptance and obeisance to the aforementioned Washington Consensus, responsible for upending the lives of millions at home and abroad over the years, is total.

There is a simple rule of thumb that will never let you down. It dictates that those who tell you who your enemy should be are usually your enemy. It begs the question of whether Russophobia has become the acceptable form of racism for a liberal class whose hypocrisy is only exceeded by its mendacity?

As for those on the so-called left who have remained silent, or worse are gloating over the moves to shut down Russian media, they are like people feeding a crocodile hoping it will eat them last. The precedent being set by this anti-Russian hysteria is self-evident, one that it would be folly to ignore. Thus when the day comes that Russian media is driven out of existence, theirs will be a hollow victory that bespeaks the collapse of anything resembling opposition to the neoliberal, interventionist, and imperialist status quo.

7-- Democrats’ neo-McCarthyism echoes red-baiting attacks on civil rights movement of the 1950s

Behind the anti-Putin campaign lies above all the fear within the American ruling class of the growing anger within the working class, an anger that threatens to blow up the two-party political monopoly through which the corporate and financial aristocracy has ruled for generations. It is a measure of how far and how sharply to the right the bourgeois political spectrum has moved in the past two generations that it is the Democrats who are spearheading the new McCarthyism today.....

The criminalization of dissent is a bipartisan endeavor. Notwithstanding the bitterest tactical differences, the US ruling elite is united on the need to take on the working class. This includes directing outward the seething social tensions under conditions of record social inequality.
Trump and the Democrats are vying to lead the new witch hunt. While Trump encourages fascist elements and speaks in unvarnished terms of dictatorship and war, the Democrats play the anti-Russia card, trumpeting their connections to the intelligence and military establishment and leading the charge for censorship against left-wing opposition

The demonization of Russia is part of the Democratic Party’s attack on Trump from the right. Rather than exposing his fascistic rhetoric, xenophobia and attacks on the working class, the Democrats have sought to prove their patriotic bona fides, ensure a hard line against Russia and build up an atmosphere of nationalism amid deepening worldwide geopolitical tensions. More and more, this campaign is directed against left-wing websites and organizations, with the aim of criminalizing dissent...

As a recent book, Black Freedom, White Resistance and Red Menace, by Yasuhiro Katagiri, explains: “Even after the Wisconsin senator’s disappearance from the national political arena, McCarthyism’s unsavory legacies—the self-serving use and abuse of hearsay and insinuation, the deliberate indifference to hard evidence and the strident cries of ‘Communist conspiracy’ used to impugn the legitimacy of adversaries—outlived their original inventor and remained a part of the national political scene. In the South McCarthyism most often took a racist form…”

Paradoxically, McCarthy’s eclipse in the Senate breathed new life into HUAC in the House. The focus of its efforts became civil rights organizers and their liberal supporters in the South, who were depicted as “useful idiots,” allowing themselves to be used by the Moscow-directed communist conspiracy.
The charges of subversion, attributed to outside agitators, were a staple of the campaign in defense of Jim Crow....

At every point in the decade between the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965 some ten years later, the civil rights struggle was attacked as the work of foreign agents of a hostile power. From Little Rock in 1957 to the lunch counter sit-ins beginning in 1960, to the Freedom Rides challenging interstate bus segregation in 1961, the March on Washington in 1963 and the Mississippi Freedom Summer voter registration campaign of 1964, Matthews and others were ready with press releases, blacklists and names of alleged conspirators and Communist “dupes...

In Georgia, Attorney General Eugene Cook gave a speech in 1955 that declared that the NAACP had “allowed itself to become part and parcel of the Communist conspiracy…fomenting strife and discord between the white and negro races in the South.”...

8--Treasury Secretary "Foreclosure King" Mnuchin

Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley said:
“Donald Trump’s choice of Mnuchin is not only a fundamental betrayal of his promise to stand up to Wall Street — it is a punch in the gut to the thousands of American families who were thrown out of their homes by Mnuchin’s bank. The voices of these Americans should be heard loud and clear as the Senate examines his record and considers his nomination.”

“In early 2009, Mr. Mnuchin led a group of investors that purchased a bank called IndyMac, renaming it OneWest. OneWest was truly unique. While Mr. Mnuchin was CEO, the bank proved it could put more vulnerable people on the street faster than just about anybody else around.

“While he was CEO, a OneWest vice president admitted in a court proceeding to ‘robo-signing’ upward of 750 foreclosure documents a week. She spent less than 30 seconds on each, and in fact, she had shortened her signature to speed the process along. Investigations found that the bank frequently mishandled documents and skipped over reviewing them. All it took to plunge families into the nightmare of potentially losing their homes was 30 seconds of sloppy paperwork and a few haphazard signatures.

“These kinds of tactics were in use between 2009 and 2014, a period during which the bank foreclosed on more than 35,000 homes. ‘Widow foreclosures’ on reverse mortgages – OneWest did more of those than anybody else. The bank defends its record on loan modifications, but it was found guilty of an illegal practice known as ‘dual tracking.’ One bank department tells homeowners to stop making payments so they can pursue modification, while another department presses on and hurtles them into foreclosure anyway

9--Corporate debt timebomb?

This is from CNBC:
“Corporate debt is projected to swell over the next several years, thanks to cheap money from global central banks, according to a report Wednesday that warns of a potential crisis from all that new, borrowed cash floating around.
By 2020, business debt likely will climb to $75 trillion from its current $51 trillion level, according to SandP Global Ratings. Under normal conditions, that wouldn’t be a major problem so long as credit quality stays high, interest rates and inflation remain low, and there are economic growth persists.
However…should interest rates rise and economic conditions worsen, corporate America could be facing a major problem as it seeks to manage that debt. Rolling over bonds would become more difficult should inflation gain and rates raise, while a slowing economy would worsen business conditions and make paying off the debt more difficult. …
Central banks remain in thrall to the idea that credit-fueled growth is healthy for the global economy,” SandP said. “In fact, our research highlights that monetary policy easing has thus far contributed to increased financial risk, with the growth of corporate borrowing far outpacing that of the global economy…” (Corporate debt seen ballooning to $75 trillion: SandP says, CNBC)

Wall Street Journal: “SandP 500 companies through the first two quarters of the year collectively returned 112% of their earnings through buybacks and dividends.”

“Corporate debt is now near record levels, due in part to borrowing to buy back stock. It isn’t a situation that can last.
The bond market should be concerned about stock buybacks, but not because of their bullish effect on share prices. Instead, bondholders should be anxious about where the cash to pay for them comes from. It isn’t widely appreciated that the money has been borrowed in the credit markets, and that the borrowers have taken on a large amount of debt to support the buybacks. That’s cause for worry on several fronts.

The first is simply that outstanding corporate debt is now at a record high. … According to the Federal Reserve’s flow of funds data, outstanding nonfinancial corporate debt is 45.3% of GDP. That nearly matches the level seen in the first quarter of 2009 (45.4%) and exceeds the prior peak of 44.9% achieved in the third quarter of 2001…
In the first quarter, nonfinancial corporate borrowing hit $724 billion. That’s the second-highest on record and is surpassed only by, again, the third quarter of 2007 with $807 billion. The similarities should give pause.” (Stock Buybacks Are Driving Companies Into Debt, Barron’s)

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Today's links

1---The Nation nails it

...Isn’t there implicit contempt for American voters implied in the charge that RT transformed decisive segments of the electorate into zombie-like pro-Trump voters through a relatively negligible stream of “foreign” news reports, commentaries and ads? Are we supposed to believe the US media environment is so fragile and vulnerable that it can be poisoned by a relatively tiny amount of Russian messaging?

2-- Wage Stagnation in Nine Charts  EPI

Wage stagnation for the vast majority was not created by abstract economic trends. Rather, wages were suppressed by policy choices made on behalf of those with the most income, wealth, and power

3--Clown Prince continues purge

After the mass arrests in Saudi Arabia Trump tweeted: "I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing. Some of those they are harshly treating have been 'milking' their country for years."..

Saudi Arabia has accused Iran of "direct military aggression" through the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
The crown prince has pledged to overhaul the economy of Saudi Arabia by weaning it off its heavy reliance on oil, rid the kingdom of systemic corruption, and "moderate" a society that has long been influenced by religious hardliners.

4--The worthless financial system

In her OpEd, Foroohar explains how the big banks have become unmoored from their core purpose. She writes:

“In the 1970s, most of their financial flows, which of course come directly from our savings, would have been funneled into new business investment. Today, only about 15 percent of the money coming out of the largest financial institutions goes to that purpose. The rest exists in a closed loop of trading; institutions facilitate and engage in the buying and selling of stocks, bonds, real estate and other assets that mainly enriches the 20 percent of the population that owns 80 percent of that asset base. This doesn’t help growth, but it does fuel the wealth gap.”

Foroohar makes these other astute observations as well:
“The financial industry, dominated by the biggest banks, provides only 4 percent of all jobs in the country, yet takes about a quarter of the corporate profit pie…
“Finance has become the tail that wags the dog. Until we start talking about how to create a financial system that really serves society, rather than just trying to stay ahead of the misdeeds of one that doesn’t, we’ll struggle in vain to bridge the gap between Wall Street and Main Street.”

5--$24 trillion?? Whither the Fed’s “full employment, price stability” mandate?

It tells us its baloney. It tells us its public relations-hype designed to bamboozle the sheeple who can’t see what’s going on right beneath their noses.. It tells us the Fed has a secret mandate to assist the profit-accumulation process for the Kleptocrat class of ivy league moochers. (Wall Street) It tells us that the Fed’s real job is implement the policies that best facilitate the upward distribution of wealth. It tells us that the Fed’s so called “independence” is a complete and utter fraud and that if Janet Yellen or any of her meat-puppet-colleagues on the FOMC ever veered as much as a centimeter to the left of her corporate marching orders– they’d find themselves wrapped in plastic-sheeting and gasping for air at the bottom of the East River in a pair of cement booties...

Here’s a little background from an article at the WSWS:
“A new report issued by the Swiss bank Credit Suisse finds that global wealth inequality continues to worsen and has reached a new milestone, with the top 1 percent owning more of the world’s assets than the bottom 99 percent combined.

Of the estimated $250 trillion in global assets, the top 1 percent owned almost exactly 50 percent, while the bottom 50 percent of humanity owned collectively less than 1 percent. The richest 10 percent owned 87.7 percent of the world’s wealth, leaving 12.3 percent for the bottom 90 percent of the population.” (“Top 1 percent own more than half of world’s wealth“, World Socialist Web Site)
But it’s not just the fact that half of everything is owned by a handful of obscenely-wealthy, money-grubbing loafers. This same voracious crew of miscreants is pulling down the lions-share of the yearly income too. Check it out:

“The census data also reveals that income inequality in America remained virtually unchanged from 2014, with the wealthy in the top fifth of the population taking in about half of all household income, while the bottom fifth earned only 3.4 percent.” (“Despite increase in 2015, US household income still lags behind pre-recession levels“, Kate Randall, World Socialist web Site)
So –not only do the plutocrats own half of everything on planet earth– their share of the booty is actually increasing every year. Nice, eh?

The point is, none of this is accidental. These outcomes are the direct result of policy, the Fed’s policies. And the Fed is not alone either. This greatly-accelerated class war is a now global phenom. Just look at this tidbit I picked up from an article at CNBC:
“Data from JPMorgan shows that the top 50 central banks around the world have cut rates 672 times since the collapse of Lehman Brothers, a figure that translates to an average of one interest rate cut every three trading days. This has also been combined with $24 trillion worth of asset purchases.” (“QE Infinity: Are we heading into the unknown?“, CNBC)
$24 trillion!

6--US Congressional hearing:--Former FBI agent says tech companies must “silence” sources of “rebellion”

The Democrats focused their remarks on demands that the Internet companies take even more aggressive steps to censor content. In one particularly noxious exchange, Feinstein pressed Google’s legal counsel on why it took so long for YouTube (which is owned by Google) to revoke the status of Russia Today as a “preferred” broadcaster. She demanded, “Why did Google give preferred status to Russia Today, a Russian propaganda arm, on YouTube? ... It took you until September of 2017 to do it...

Salgado’s apparently false statement is of a piece with Google’s other actions to censor the Internet. These include changes to its search algorithm, which, behind the backs of the public, have slashed search traffic to left-wing websites by some 55 percent, with the World Socialist Web Site losing some 74 percent of its search traffic.
Stressing the transformation of the major US technology companies into massive censorship operations, Democratic Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island asked the representatives of the firms, “I gather that all of your companies have moved beyond any notion that your job is only to provide a platform, and whatever goes across it is not your affair,” to which all answered in the affirmative.

While the senators and technology companies largely presented a show of unity, just how far the companies were willing to go in censoring users’ content and helping the government create blacklists of dissidents was no doubt a subject of contentious debate in the background.

On Friday, Feinstein sent a letter to Twitter’s CEO demanding that the company hand over profile information—possibly including full names, email addresses, and phone numbers—related to “divisive” “organic content” promoted by “Russia-linked” accounts.

7--Jack Rasmus 

Signs are beginning to multiply that financial markets are beginning to peak, both in the US and worldwide, many having reached bubble proportions..

Fiscal policy is generally ruled out because of fear of deficits. The policy instrument that remains is monetary—low interest rates and quantitative easing (QE), implemented in the United States, United Kingdom (UK), (EU), and Japan. Other standard policies are, in the EU, austerity—which may cut deficits but obviously does not generate growth (and, by depressing tax revenues over time, worsens deficits)—and structural reform. Besides privatization, the main component of reform is labor market flexibilization, in other words depressing wages and incomes. This has been implemented in the United States since the 1970s and 1980s, in the UK in the 1990s, in Germany and South Korea in the 2000s, and is now on the scaffolds in Japan, France, and Spain (and possibly Italy). The objective is to boost international competitiveness by depressing wages and benefits, which (a) ceases to have an effect when every country is doing the same, (b) assumes the key problem is cheap supply, whereas supply is actually abundant and what is lacking is demand, and (c) by depressing wage incomes, it further reduces domestic demand. No wonder these policies make matters worse. Thus, explanations of slow growth fall short and policies have been counterproductive. This is where Jack Rasmus’s book comes in. It offers the most pertinent analysis of the stagnation trap I have seen.

The world has turned into Japan,” according to the head of a Hong Kong-based hedge fund.“When rates are this low, returns are low. There is too much money and too few opportunities” (Sender, 2016). However, by providing an organized and systemic focus on finance and liquidity, Rasmus makes clear that the policies that aim to remedy stagnation (low interest rates, QE, competitive devaluation, and bank bailouts) and provide stability are destabilizing, act as a break on growth, and worsen the problem. According to Karl Kraus, psychoanalysis is a symptom of the diseasethat it claims to be the remedy for, and the same holds for the central bank policies of crisis management.

8--Defending RT

RT is the focus of attack precisely because it provides a means of information gathering outside the bounds of corporate media. RT viewers can access a wide variety of viewpoints, including those in opposition to United States and NATO foreign policy. Russian had already been branded as evil, but the claims of interference in the 2016 election and connections to Donald Trump have been effective and provided the perfect cover for promoting United States foreign policy and covering up the Democratic Party corruption and ineptitude which led to Donald Trump’s victory.

9--Russia-gate, BAR

The CIA, in particular, made Trump their National Security Enemy #1. They are the main architects of Russiagate -- a “conspiracy” in which the predicate Kremlin “crime” of DNC document-stealing remains unproven, and which pales into almost laughable insignificance when compared to decades of U.S. wars of regime change, economic strangulation, assassinations, and outright genocide around the world. Syria and Congo (6 million-plus dead) are crimes of the worst order known to humankind. Russiagate is a lie that would be no more than a Russian diplomatic blunder, even if true.

The corporate media are the public agents of the mass psychological operation. With media consolidation at such an advanced state, it turns out to be not all that difficult for a handful of media conglomerates, each tied inextricably to finance capital and in close collaboration with one of the corporate parties and all of the intelligence outfits, to create and sustain a “state of emergency” for a long period of time -- more than year, so far. This induced “state of emergency” is designed to prepare the American public, politically and psychologically, to maintain the momentum of the U.S. imperial offensive in the world, by demonizing Russia as an internal, as well as external, threat to the United States. In other words, Russiagate is an artificial crisis that was made necessary by the actual crisis of U.S. imperialism -- its economic decline and military dependence on jihadist foot soldiers, and just as importantly, the utter collapse of U.S. moral authority in the world.
The U.S. imperial orbit is shrinking, dramatically. Russiagate is the domestic response to this geopolitical reality.

10--Loan origination at 3 year low

Loan origination volume hit a three year low this year.  What?  How is that possible when all the cheerleaders are out in the streets preaching the good gospel of buying real estate?  Well the reality is that a good portion of the market is still driven by investors...

Isn’t the market blistering hot?  On the price side, yes.  You have people fighting over scraps.  And you should keep in mind that the economy has been on a massive bull run since March of 2009 (over 8 years now).  Some people have forgotten what it is to live in a correction.

11--Seriously underwater property owners

The housing market has recovered nearly in tandem with the stock market.  The stock market has been on a virtual nonstop bull run since early 2009.  So people have forgotten about our recent financial history.

...Back in 2012 you had 12.5 million underwater properties.  That number has fallen to 5.49 million today.  But that is the thing, you still have a large number of people that overpaid and yet somehow, Kool-Aid drinkers are trying to convince people to buy at the peak when there is clear evidence of those that over paid still out there today!...

This is really interesting.  While the number of underwater homes has decreased dramatically as property values have increased, you wouldn’t know that we still have 5.49 million underwater homeowners today based on the rhetoric we are now seeing.

12--nearly 40 percent of young Californians living at home versus 34 percent nationwide.  Make no mistake though, this is a national trend.

The numbers are startling because when we brought attention to the issue a few years ago the number was at 2.3 million young adults living at home.  Today it is now up to 3.6 million – if we combined these people it would be the third largest city in the U.S.

Young and living at home
There was this “fake news” narrative that many young Americans would be the second wind that would keep the housing market going strong.  That never materialized.  What did happen is that you had investors, foreign money, and wealthier older households buying the slim inventory available in the market.

13-- The housing ATM is now back in working order.  Hallelujah!

The housing ATM is now back in working order.  Hallelujah!  Black Knight Financial Services reported that in Q4 of 2016 44 percent of refinances were cash-outs.  Meaning, people are now using their homes like ATMs which flies in the face of all the house humpers who continually act as if people are acting prudent in buying crap shacks.  No, people are sucking on the teat of housing mania and now they are drinking from the nectar that is being produced.  This percentage was the highest level of cash-outs in the last eight years.  What was happening eight years ago?  The housing market was imploding in epic fashion and nearly 8 million people lost their homes to foreclosure.  Many lost their homes because they took out HELOCs and Home Equity loans to live beyond their means.  I have to make this point since people always forget – the vast number of foreclosures happened on traditional vanilla 30-year fixed rate mortgages....

This is a troubling indicator of mass euphoria which happens in bubbles.  In many cases, these larger economic contractions happen because of solvency issues when it comes to paying debt.  People are locking in future income to current purchases be it with houses, autos, or even going to college.  That debt still needs to get repaid.
The entire model right now is built on permanent real estate appreciation.  Even a slight decline is enough to burst this train.  But right now, you have an entire menu of new excuses that replace the excuses made back in 2007 and 2008

14-- The fact that 37% of properties sold in 2016 came from small investors is stunning

The bread and butter of any healthy housing market is having a good amount of first time home buyers.  That is what drives new home building and also allows for the homeownership rate to go up.  Most of the new household formation since the bubble burst was largely done through new rental households.  Institutional investors pulled back from the market starting in 2014.  Yet the homeownership rate continued to decline.  So who stepped in to fill in this gap?  Some of it was filled by first time buyers going in with low down payments thanks to FHA insured loans.  But a large percentage was made up by mom and pop investors with a lust for HGTV and their dreams of becoming flippers or landlords.  In most manias, once mom and pop are diving in with gusto you really need to think about what is going on.  I know Taco Tuesday baby boomers are looking for a little “excitement” in their lives and putting habanero salsa on your Chipotle burrito isn’t going to cut it.  So why not take the biggest risk by buying real estate when prices are near a new high?

37% of all properties bought in 2016 came from mom and pop investors.  That is a large number.  And this is happening in expensive areas as well.  Last year for example, there were many cases that I saw of a house being sold and then suddenly being put on the market for rent.  In one case, the property sold for $800,000 and was then rented out for $2,800.  This is an incredibly poor investment and that is why institutional investors are out but mom and pop are in it to “win it” because #YoLo housing.
This information is also is useful because it puts the brakes on the house humping cheerleaders thinking that everyone now has deep pockets and are out buying in mass.  No, you simply have fewer people able to purchase more properties and inventory is still low.  This is very telling regarding our nation where the top is getting very wealthy while the middle class is largely being pushed out

15--Credit check

Bank credit growth continues to decelerate, to where historically, after revisions, the economy would already be in recession. Housing and vehicles look like they are already reporting negative growth, and personal income growth has decelerated to about 0% growth, with personal spending holding positive only because people are dipping into savings, which historically has always been followed by a reduction in spending:

16--Personal income and spending, GDP, Trump meeting

Personal income growth continues to be depressed, which tends to keep spending down as well over time, though this month it had a nice one time increase due to the hurricanes, and the drop in the personal savings rate tells me it’s entirely unsustainable. Also the low inflation readings also support the notion of a general lack of aggregate demand

As mentioned above, real per-capita annual disposable income reportedly dropped -$19 per annum. At the same time the household savings rate was reported to have dropped to 3.4% (down -0.4% from the prior quarter). It is important to keep this line item in perspective: real per-capita annual disposable income is up only +7.10% in aggregate since the second quarter of 2008 — a meager annualized +0.74% growth rate over the past 37 quarters.
  • Household disposable income took another hit. Less money was available, and less money was saved — so that a significant portion of the already softening consumer spending came from savings, not pay checks.
  • 17--Existing home sales

    All regions are either slightly lower to flat year-on-year.
    And overall sales are flat, down 1.5 percent compared to September last year. Yet this report is positive for what is a lukewarm housing sector.

    18--Total Household Debt Increases, Delinquency Rates of Several Debt Types Continue Rising

    19--Is the stock market a bubble?

    Wednesday, November 15, 2017

    Today's Links

    1--How to instantly prove (or disprove) Russian hacking of U.S. election

    NSA whistleblower William Binney says the government already has all the evidence – if it only cared to look at it

    2-- The Saudi Purge: The Middle East Is On The Verge Of New War video

    3--Russian FM Lavrov slams “most dangerous” illegal US presence in Syria – seeks US withdrawal

    Syria has repeatedly stated, including at the United Nations, that US troops and airmen in Syria are not actually fighting ISIS but are merely playing an obstructionist role to the inevitable Syrian victory, one which includes the arming and financing of terrorist groups....

    Sergey Lavrov has now joined Syria in offering a strong admonition of the US presence in Syria. Lavrov stated,

    “If you look at who is the greatest danger, it’s just the wards of the United States, various foreign terrorists, militants who are attached to those groups of armed opposition that the US supports”.

    4-- Saudi Arabia Will Continue To Cut Oil Output For Months And Years To Come 

    Still, Saudi Arabia’s output cuts are just the beginning of a trend that is expected to last for months and years to come, irrespective of what American frackers do....

    But there’s another factor, more fundamental, which will cause output cuts to last beyond the IPO. The Kingdom may be running out of oil faster than previously thought. Its major oil fields have become mature, and new fields are hard to come by. 

    The trouble is that it’s very hard to substantiate this factor, due to the secrecy that surrounds the Kingdom’s oil reserves.

    “What we know about the Kingdom’s oil is pretty much what Saudi Aramco, the Petroleum Ministry, and the royal family want us to know,” writes Matthew R. Simmons in Twilight In The Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock And The World Economy(New York: John Wiley& Sons (2005)-p.19. “The ‘known facts’ about Saudi Arabia’s oil, then, are few and simple. In 2004, ‘proven oil reserves’ totaled 259.4 billion barrels, plus another 2.5 billion barrels in the Saudi-Kuwait neutral zone. If these proven reserve numbers are real, it means that Saudi Arabia’s oil will last another 90 years at the current production barrels per day.”

    Adding to the secrecy surrounding Saudi reserves is persistent inconsistency of oil production data published by different agency. “There is a persistent lack of close agreement among estimates made by Saudi Aramco, the International Agency, the U.S. EIA/DOE and BP’s annual Statistical Review of World Energy of the amount of Saudi Arabian oil produced each year from 1988 to 2004,” continues Matthew R. Simmons.“The variances between these sources highlight the uncertainty about the volume of oil that Saudi Arabia produces (p.88).”

    5-- Mideast Turmoil: Follow the Oil, Follow the Money

    Here is Bart’s commentary:

    “I think the Saudis may be quickly running out of profitable oil to produce/export.

    I think they tried to over-produce for a while to damage the competition… and they now have production issues resulting from that. (As has happened in the past)

    I think they may have recently slipped over the event horizon for being the world’s swing producer of ‘cheap-ish and abundant’ oil. That has huge ramifications for the global markets ability to quickly respond to supply/demand fluctuations.

    I suspect they’re no longer cutting production voluntarily … they are now in the grip of a technically driven decline in output. (Why else begin selling off ARAMCO now?)

    I doubt that many national economies can handle $70+ oil for very long… price will be limited by the ability of the consumers to pay. What I assume should happen is relentless severe volatility in the absence of a big swing producer that can open up or shut in production with comparative ease.”...

    Saudi production is declining due to technical/real-world factors (depletion of super-major fields, etc.) that cannot be overcome at a financial cost that make sense at $50/barrel oil.

    3. The possibility of a global recession unfolding in 2018 is rising. In a global recession, oil demand will fall, crushing the marginal pricing power of exporters.

    4. The Saudi royal family and the Kingdom’s vast state welfare system is no longer sustainable should oil fall into the $30-$35/barrel range due to a collapse of global demand.

    5. The only way out is to grab the power now that will be needed to slash domestic welfare and domestic consumption of oil/gas, i.e. the power to overcome resistance within the royal family to severe reductions in royal/central state budgets

    6-- Is MBS now looking for war? If so will it be against Hezbollah in Lebanon or against Qatar?

    Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser at Washington D.C.-based consultancy Gulf State Analytics, posits that Qatar could be brought under Saudi Arabia’s umbrella by force to seize the country’s huge gas reserves, the third largest in the world.

    Who knows, black swan events do occur, and the global powers would vocally oppose such a move but likely not exercise military intervention a la 1991 when Iraq invaded Kuwait. The U.S. troops based in Qatar would just stay in their base; the Trump administration has signalled it has sided with Riyadh, even though the State Department has been more nuanced towards Doha. As for the Turks and the Iranians, they would not want to be brought into a conflagration with Riyadh and the ATQ. That really would tear the MENA apart.

    Ultimately, there’s not much to stop a Saudi gas grab. There’s not much desire internationally for yet another Middle Eastern military “adventure” following the debacles in Iraq and Libya, while nobody’s lifted a finger against Saudi Arabia for its war against Yemen. As long as Qatari gas exports remain uninterrupted, the global powers might readily accept a change of management.
    The point in this article about the possibility of Saudi Arabia seizing Qatar’s huge gas reserves being a strong incentive to launch an invasion is an important one.

    7-- Strassel: Fusion GPS dossier a dirty trick for the ages

    Heres where they were particularly clever. They sent it  to the FBI, then they briefed the press so the press could say that this was intelligence the FBI had giving it some air of  credibility....

    Hillary said it wasn't used before the election. Wrong. Yahoo news came out with a huge story saying that the FBI had intelligence showing potential collusion btween the trump campaign was in collusion with the Russian gov  that trump colluded with Russia  The headlines were dominated by this...Did the FBI use the dossier to justify wiretapping a political campaign

    8-- Raqqas dirty secret BBC

    9--Timeline Brennan's conversion:

    Brennan testified before Congress way-back on May 23 and boldly stated:

    BRENNAN: “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals and it raised questions in my mind, again, whether or not the Russians were able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.”
    (Hmmm? No mention of Russia hacking in late May)

    Here’s a clip from the Washington Times:
    “It was then-CIA Director John O. Brennan, a close confidant of Mr. Obama’s, who provided the information — what he termed the “basis” — for the FBI to start the counterintelligence investigation last summer….Mr. Brennan told the House Intelligence Committee on May 23 that the intelligence community was picking up tidbits on Trump associates making contacts with Russians…

    (May="contacts" not hacking)

    so late may, brennan talking vaguely about Russia

    -(1) an inside leak to WikiLeaks before Julian Assange announced on June 12, 2016, that he had DNC documents and planned to publish them (which he did on July 22)

    June: Fusion GPS hires former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele and his London-based firm, Orbis Business Intelligence, to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia. Steele discloses this in court filings earlier this year as part of a lawsuit he faces over the dossier. Steele said he worked for Fusion GPS from June through November.

    June 20: Steele writes first memo of the dossier. It alleges that Trump used prostitutes during a visit to Moscow in 2013 and that the Kremlin was blackmailing him with the evidence. The memo also alleges that the Trump campaign was engaged in a well-orchestrated collusion campaign with Russian operatives. (no mention of hacking)

    July 5: Steele provides his research to an FBI contact, The New York Times has reported. The documents made their way to FBI counterintelligence chief Peter Strzock two weeks later.

    July: Chatter began appearing on social media referring to damning information about Trump’s ties to Russia. Republican strategist Rick Wilson told The New York Times back in January, after the dossier was published, that he was first asked about the document by a reporter in July.

    July 26: A Wall Street Journal reporter contacts Carter Page, a Trump campaign adviser, about allegations made about him in the dossier. Page disclosed that detail last month in a lawsuit he filed against the parent company of Yahoo! News, which republished claims from the dossier last September. (RELATED: Carter Page Sues Yahoo! News Over Dossier-Based Article)

    Late July: The FBI opens a counterintelligence investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian government. (no info on possible collusion except what was in dossier)

    Aug. 25: Then-CIA Director John Brennan briefs then-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid about possible links between Trump associates and Russian operatives. According to The New York Times, officials in the meeting said that Brennan “indicated that unnamed advisers to Mr. Trump might be working with the Russians to interfere in the election.”

    10--Did the FBI or other agencies use any information from the dossier as a basis for warrant requests before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court? In other words, did, say, the FBI use the dossier's "salacious and unverified" information to make the case that the bureau should be granted the authority to conduct intercepts?

    And why did the story break when it did? Credit the much-maligned Rep. Devin Nunes, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. The California Republican has been pursuing the dossier more aggressively than anyone else, and it was his Oct. 4 subpoena for the bank records of Fusion GPS, the opposition research firm that handled the dossier, that finally shook loose the information.
    But knowing that the Clinton campaign, the DNC, and Perkins Coie supported the dossier is not the end of the story. The most important next step is the FBI.

    Sometime in October 2016 — that is, at the height of the presidential campaign — Christopher Steele, the foreign agent hired by Fusion GPS to compile the Trump dossier, approached the FBI with information he had gleaned during the project. According to a February report in the Washington Post, Steele "reached an agreement with the FBI a few weeks before the election for the bureau to pay him to continue his work."...

    It was an astonishing turn: the nation's top federal law enforcement agency agreeing to fund an ongoing opposition research project being conducted by one of the candidates in the midst of a presidential election. "The idea that the FBI and associates of the Clinton campaign would pay Mr. Steele to investigate the Republican nominee for president in the run-up to the election raises further questions about the FBI's independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration's use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends," wrote Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa.

    11--There's reason to doubt the 'reformer' hype about Saudi Arabia's new, ambitious crown prince

    Rosie Bsheer warns Westerners not to fall for Mohammed bin Salman’s reformer act:
    "Even as Western governments and media outlets sing his praises, the young crown prince is viewed domestically as an incompetent and corrupt ruler who hides behind liberalism, tolerance and anti-corruption rhetoric [bold mine-DL]. This view is shared by ruling members of the monarchy, economic elites and the population at large, who see bin Salman as someone who has disturbed the status quo for the sake of massive personal enrichment and political aggrandizement."

    Perhaps we could refrain from labeling the man who is helping to starve millions of people to death as a “moderate.” Ideally, the U.S. should take the opportunity provided by MBS’ rise to recognize that the relationship with the Saudis has become a liability and put as much distance between us and Riyadh as possible

    12--Saudi crisis threatens wider war in the Middle East

    The initial response of the Trump administration, as well as that of the corporate media, to these extraordinary developments was essentially to echo the line from Riyadh, casting bin Salman as a “reformer.”
    “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing,” Trump tweeted in response to the arrests.

    Similarly, the Trump administration unconditionally backed unsubstantiated claims that a rocket fired from Yemen toward Riyadh’s international airport had been supplied by Iran. The Saudi response, also fully supported by Washington, has been to escalate its near-genocidal war against the Yemeni people, stepping up bombings and closing all of the country’s borders and ports to relief supplies. The UN has warned that this tightening of the US-backed blockade threatens to unleash a famine of world-historic proportions, claiming the lives of millions ...

    To the extent that these rather muted expressions of concern express disagreements within US ruling circles, they are of an entirely tactical character. Democratic and Republican administrations alike have for more than seven decades supported the Saudi monarchy, one of the most reactionary regimes on the face of the planet, as a linchpin of US policy in the Middle East, arming it to the teeth

    13--New Revelations in the Syrian War

    Saudi Arabia and other supporters of the terrorist proxies have continued to provide vast financial and military aid to the terrorist groups. This information needs to be put alongside other recent revelations about the supply of armaments to the terrorist groups.

    According to the documents released by Snowden the Saudis were arming their terrorist proxies in Syria is early as March 2013. The documents also disclose that the National Security Agency of United States was fully aware of the actions of the Saudis and the terrorist proxies, and raised no objections because the United States and Saudi Arabia had a common goal of regime change in Syria.
    Saudi Arabia and other supporters of the terrorist proxies have continued to provide vast financial and military aid to the terrorist groups. This information needs to be put alongside other recent revelations about the supply of armaments to the terrorist groups....

    The Saudi backed terrorist group Jaysh Al-Islam has carried out summary executions of civilians, deployed chemical weapons for attacks upon civilians and has also used civilians as human shields. Again this is well documented but has not stopped the United States and Saudi Arabia from supplying arms to this and similar groups.

    The fact is that these arms shipments are continuing notwithstanding President Trump‘s order of July 2017 The supply of such armaments under the code name of Operation Sycamore raises serious questions about the extent to which Trump is actually in control of his military and the CIA

    The principal organisers of this arm trade appear to be both the CIA and the Special Operations Command.

    14--A Foolish Take: Here's How Much Debt the Average U.S. Household Owes

    15--Trump Bank Regulator Wants to Merge Taxpayer-Backstopped Banks With Corporate Conglomerates

    16--Wall Street's wealth transfer scam

    In her OpEd, Foroohar explains how the big banks have become unmoored from their core purpose. She writes:

    “In the 1970s, most of their financial flows, which of course come directly from our savings, would have been funneled into new business investment. Today, only about 15 percent of the money coming out of the largest financial institutions goes to that purpose. The rest exists in a closed loop of trading; institutions facilitate and engage in the buying and selling of stocks, bonds, real estate and other assets that mainly enriches the 20 percent of the population that owns 80 percent of that asset base. This doesn’t help growth, but it does fuel the wealth gap.”

    Foroohar makes these other astute observations as well:

    “The financial industry, dominated by the biggest banks, provides only 4 percent of all jobs in the country, yet takes about a quarter of the corporate profit pie…
    “Finance has become the tail that wags the dog. Until we start talking about how to create a financial system that really serves society, rather than just trying to stay ahead of the misdeeds of one that doesn’t, we’ll struggle in vain to bridge the gap between Wall Street and Main Street.”

    Last year we reviewed Foroohar’s equally insightful book, “Makers and Takers: The Rise of Finance and the Fall of American Business.” Foroohar worries in the book about an ugly revolution in America if Wall Street is not reined in soon. She writes:
    “Research proves that more inequality leads to poorer health outcomes, lower levels of trust, more violent crime, and less social mobility – all of the things that can make a society unstable. As [Thomas] Piketty told me during an interview in 2014, there’s ‘no algorithm’ to predict when revolutions happen, but if current trends continue, the consequences for society in terms of social unrest and economic upheaval could be ‘terrifying.’ ”

    Saturday, November 11, 2017

    Today's Links

    Q: Do you believe Putin when he says he didn't hack DNC computers?

    Trump---  I think that he is very, very strong on the fact that didn't do it. And then you look and you look what's going on with Podesta, and you look at what's going on with the server from the DNC and why didn't the FBI take it? Why did they leave it? Why did a third party look at the server and not the FBI? You look at all of this stuff, and you say, what's going on here? And you hear it's 17 agencies. Well its three. And one is Brennan. And one is whatever. I mean, give me a break. They're political hacks. So you look at it, and then you have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey. Comey's proven now to be a liar and he's proven to be a leaker. So you look at that. And you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently say he has nothing to do with that. Now, you are not going to get into an argument, you are going to start talking about Syria and the Ukraine.

    1-- Allowing #MeToo To Go Viral Is The Biggest Mistake The Establishment Ever Made  Today's "must read" 

    Women everywhere feel the significance of the #MeToo phenomenon. A lot of us are scared to say anything about it for fear of hurting the feelings of the men we love, fear of retribution, and fear of being eaten alive by the intimidating, debate-culture defenders of patriarchy, but there’s a widespread sense that this thing is much bigger than it seems. Some leaders of conventional feminist thought have been speculating about some kind of progressive political upheaval, but in my opinion this is infinitely more revolutionary than that. We are about to experience a plunge into completely unknown and uncharted territory....

    What is coming is not a new political movement, what is coming is a revolution against the very fabric of the profoundly sick society that our species has woven for itself. By shining a bright light on rape culture in each and every instance it rears its ugly head, we are actually re-tracing our footsteps back to the dawn of civilization and undoing every wrong turn that humanity has made which got us to the catastrophic point we now find ourselves. The fact that this is becoming a mainstream practice means that this societal alchemy will necessarily unfold, regardless of people’s old ideas about politics and revolution....

    Change is coming. What looks like women talking about their experiences with rape culture is actually a vast area of endarkened human unconsciousness suddenly becoming enlightened into consciousness. A whole section of our collective consciousness which we have never previously had access to is now suddenly becoming available to us. The old structures will not be able to stand on this new ground, as they were built upon the old ground.

    2--Final Islamic State Defeat Brings Syria's War to a Crossroad

    The defeat of Islamic State in its last major foothold in Syria also marks a crucial juncture in the country’s larger war, as rival U.S.- and Russia-backed forces that have pushed the jihadist group to the brink now turn to consider each other.
    “The liberation of the city is of great importance since it represents an announcement of the fall of ISIS terrorist organization project in the region, in general, and a collapse of the illusions of its sponsors and supporters to divide it,” Syria’s Army Command said in a statement Wednesday.

    3--Saudi Arabia’s Desperate Gamble

    ...embracing “moderate Islam” (i.e. secular Islam), and threatening to confront Iran, probably was done with one eye on wooing President Trump to support MbS’s ousting of his cousin, Prince Naif, as Crown Prince – and the other eye on the P.R. potential to portray Iran as “extremist” Islam to a White House whose world view of the Middle East has been shaped by Bibi Netanyahu whispering in the ear of Jared Kushner, and by the prejudices of a circle of advisers disposed to see Iran in terms of one singular understanding, rather than in its diverse aspects. Netanyahu must be congratulating himself on his clever ploy....

    Iran’s strength across the northern Middle East is not tentative. It is now well rooted. Iran’s “strategic space” includes Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Yemen – and increasingly – Turkey.  Iran has played a major role in defeating ISIS, together with Russia. It is a “strategic partner” of Russia, while Russia now enjoys broad sway across the region. In a word, the political heft lies with the north, rather than with the weakened, southern tier...

    So what may be the outcome? At a guess, Saudi Arabia, already a society with many repressed tensions, may simply implode under the new repression (or MbS might somehow be “removed” before the tensions combust). America and Israel will not emerge strengthened, but rather will be viewed as less relevant to the Middle East

    4--Rania Masri: we all know that the enemy of the region is Zionism, a philosophy built on apartheid that continues to seek expansionist means, that continues to promote ethnic cleansing and genocide against Palestinians....

    Rania Masri: The way the Saudi government is behaving is like a cat in a corner.  It is important to stress that the Saudi Arabian plan in Syria failed miserably.  They were not able to destroy Damascus, they were not able to break the country apart, they were not able to dismantle the Syrian regime.  They were able to contribute to the destruction and to the many massacres at the hands of ISIS.
    We are dealing with a country with a great deal of financial and military power but whose plans in the region have failed.  Now it is looking to completely destroy the resistance movement in Lebanon, particularly because Hezbollah also played a part in standing against ISIS in Syria.

    5--What Craziness Is Going on in Saudi Arabia?

    The Saudis appear to be planning military provocations against bad neighbour Iran. These may include attacks in Lebanon against Hezbollah – which might open the way for US attacks on Iran and its allies. The Saudis are enraged over their defeat in Syria and want revenge.
    Is this the beginning of the collapse of the House of Saud? Or a Saudi renaissance led by Prince Mohammed as he claims? Stay tuned

    6--If The Saudi Arabia Situation Doesn't Worry You, You're Not Paying Attention

    7--Media silent over victory over ISIS

    The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) announced on Wednesday it had captured Albu Kamal, the last town held by Daesh in Syria – after Iraqi forces captured its sister town across the border, al-Qaim. In Baghdad, before leaving to Najaf, I was assured by a top PMU commander that al-Qaim would be retaken “in a matter of days”: four, in the end, to be exact.

    None of this is getting traction in Western media. The final victory on the ground against Daesh, in Syria, was accomplished by the Syrian army with help from Russian strategy and air power, and in Iraq by the Iraqi army and the PMUs. Syrian and Iraqi forces are symbolically reunited at the border.   


    Meanwhile, at this very moment, millions of souls – Iraqis, Iranians, Afghans, Pakistanis, northern Africans, Central Asians, Persian Gulf nationals - are being soothed via the massive, cathartic walk from Najaf to Karbala. A pilgrim captured the spell - spiritual redemption merging with political statement – as he told me, with the flicker of a smile, the walk is also “a protest against terrorism”.

    8-- Dirty cop Mueller goes after Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher.

    “Julian emphatically stated that the Russians were not involved in the hacking or disclosure of those emails,” added Rohrabacher.
    “Julian also indicated that he is open to further discussions regarding specific information about the DNC email incident that is currently unknown to the public,” Rohrabacher revealed.
    Mueller’s strategy to work his way up the ‘Trump ladder,’ by putting pressure, and in some cases, indicting, campaign or business associates, for information of ‘bigger fish.’

    It begs an important question: Is Mueller putting pressure on Rohrabacher to get the Congressman to abandon his effort to get Assange to spill the beans on who really was the source of the DNC emails?

    9--From petrodollar to petrojuan

    10--Another Hillary enemy goes missing

    11--US brands RT a “foreign agent:” A chilling move against free speech

    The United States outlined the political reasons for moving against the broadcaster in the January 6, 2017 report by the US Director of National Intelligence on “Russian intervention” in the 2016 elections.
    The report alleged, “RT broadcast, hosted, and advertised third-party candidate debates and ran reporting supportive of the political agenda of these candidates. The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham.’”
    The Director of National Intelligence report further denounced favorable coverage by RT of the Occupy Wall Street movement, declaring, “RT framed the movement as a fight against ‘the ruling class’ and described the current US political system as corrupt and dominated by corporations.”..

    The campaign has been used to demand a regime of Internet censorship, with technology giants including Google, Facebook and Twitter taking measures to block or demote content from a broad range of websites.

    Will RT’s hosts, including Pulitzer Prize winner Chris Hedges and veteran interviewer Larry King also be forced to register as “foreign agents?” Will all of RT’s guests, which have included prominent left-wing journalists, politicians, academics, and even celebrities, get a knock on their door demanding that they file paperwork with the Justice Department? Will all of these individuals now be opened to questioning about their collaboration with a “hostile foreign power”?

    This month, an organization calling itself the European Values Think-Tank, funded by the US embassy and foundations associated with billionaire George Soros, published just such a list, including the names of 2,300 RT guests, grouped into US and UK politicians, journalists, academics, and celebrities. These individuals are, according to the think-tank, “useful idiot[s]” for a “hostile foreign power.”

    The list includes journalists Julian Assange, Max Blumenthal, Seymour Hersh, Jeremy Scahill, Ed Schultz, and Matt Taibbi, as well as the academics Noam Chomsky and Stephen Cohen, together with actor Russell Brand and filmmaker Oliver Stone

    Amid soaring social inequality and an ever-escalating military buildup, the US government is moving to silence any alternative to its closely monitored and vetted establishment media outlets, including the major newspapers and broadcast networks.
    The fact that RT is being targeted because of its political positions sets an ominous precedent. It means that “foreign propaganda” is being defined by political views, laying the groundwork for a much broader range of news outlets to be labeled as promoting “Russian propaganda,” blacklisted, and ultimately criminalized.

    12--Three billionaires are wealthier than half the US population

    13--Majority of young Americans prefer socialism or communism to capitalism

    14--In wake of Brazile revelations, Sanders intensifies call for reviving the Democratic Party

    15--Democratic Party faction calls 2016 election “train wreck,” proposes relationship with pseudo-left

    16--Anti-Trump voters propel Democrats to victory in state and local elections

    17--The colossal cost of Washington’s unending wars

    18-- Did Clinton break the law with 'takeover' of DNC?

    19-- Syrian Army High Command officially announces Albukamal liberated from ISIS – video

    20-- FBI leaning on debunked Trump dossier in questioning Carter Page

    The congressional testimony of Trump-Russia figure Carter Page shows that a Democratic-financed dossier can dominate how FBI agents question witnesses.
    Mr. Page testified Nov. 2 before the House intelligence committee, which released a transcript Monday evening.
    Rep. Trey Gowdy, South Carolina Republican, was particularly interested in how the FBI is conducting its probe of supposed Russian collusion with the Trump campaign.

    “So what were the questions the FBI had for you?” Mr. Gowdy said.
    “It was an extensive series of many meetings, but they, you know, the core foundation, I would say, in terms of the overall structure in March 2017, was related to those false allegations from the ‘dodgy’ dossier,” Mr. Page said, using his moniker for the anti-Trump document.

    21-- Saudi Arabia v Iran: What’s behind bitter feud between Middle Eastern powers?

    22-- Binney disproves hacking theory

    Binney shared test findings gleaned on the transfer rate of data, which he said “clearly showed that it was a local download and not an international hack.”
    “It was very clear it was a local download, because of the speeds and all,” Binney said, explaining how his colleagues set up a test between a data center in New Jersey and another in the UK, and could not reproduce the download that took place on July 5, 2016.

    The approximately 16GB of data was downloaded in two bursts, totaling 87 seconds, with a 12-minute pause between them.
    “It had to be done locally,” Binney told RT America.

    The data logs and the speed test were the only concrete evidence available for examination, he pointed out. “Everything else is speculation, and agenda- and emotionally-driven assertions.”

    23--Saudi Arabia - This "Liberal Reformer" Is An Impulsive Tyrant

    The Saudis have told their citizens in Lebanon to leave the country. Its allies Kuwait, UAE and Bahrain have followed suit. There have been some four such orders during the last five years and the move is in itself not significant. Should the Saudis start to block the Gulf money flow to Lebanon or take other measures the economic damage in Lebanon could be quite larger If the Gulf states expulse Lebanese workers the economic damage to Lebanon would be huge. But these Lebanese workers are the people who actually run the businesses in the Gulf states. Without the 160,000 Lebanese book keepers and managers the Saudi economy would probably collapse....

    Who will be willing to invest even a penny in Saudi Arabia after such a shakedown? There is no rule of law and there are no reliable courts. Everything depends on the whim of one man. The shakedown of the rich might bring some money into MbS coffers but all his huge projects and investment plans will now lack the necessary sponsors.
    Trump had voiced full support for the Saudi moves. But it is obvious that such a purge and the external adventurism will not have a happy ending....

    24--Saudi Arabia’s Coup Is the Geopolitical Feather in Trump and Putin’s Cap

    Bin Salman has completely capitulated to the big players in the region, the US and Russia

    Commebnts: robt willmann said...

    The "anti-corruption investigation" is an obvious cover story for the palace coup in Saudi Arabia, and the other day I was surprised that "Bandar Bush" bin Sultan had not been named.

     b said...
    Nasrallah said today that he knows of a plan by MbS to incite the Israeli to wage another war against Hizbullah. The Saudis allegedly promised to pick up the bill and more.
    MbS must have misjudged Netanyahoo and the IDF. Can't imagine them being so crazy.
    The road is open from Afghanistan through Iran, Iraq, Syria to the front with Israel. How may fighters, especially from Iraq - well trained and armed and experienced, would come if some Shia authority calls them up to defend the resistance?

    JamesT said in reply to b...
    I can't see Bibi sending IDF troop into Lebanon - but a bombing campaign that draws return fire such that the US can get drawn in to defend their ally? Leaders who start wars and then lose tend to get booted out of office. IMO Bibi is a simpering coward who wants to hold on to power at all costs. So a war waged in partnership with KSA will give Bibi someone to blame if it doesn't go well; "our useless arab allies messed it up" will go down well with the Israeli-Jewish street who still have not come to terms with their 2006 defeat.
    The second paragraph starts out strong, but the second sentence, by its choice of words, specifically excludes Hizbullah--
    "The United States supports the stability of Lebanon and is opposed to any actions that could threaten that stability. There is no legitimate place or role in Lebanon for any foreign forces, militias or armed elements other than the legitimate security forces of the Lebanese state – which must be recognized as the sole authority for security in Lebanon. The United States cautions against any party, within or outside Lebanon, using Lebanon as a venue for proxy conflicts or in any manner contributing to instability in that country."

    VietnamVet said in reply to turcopolier...
    Yes. I am profoundly concerned that Saudi Arabian and Israeli money men will get the USA involved to cut the Iran to Lebanon landline. It is a defeat for the rulers of Islam’s holy sites to be cut off from their believers to the north. If Israel stands down from its dreams of expansion, they would have to learn to live with fellow Semites. I do not think Israel can take on Hezbollah and supporting Shiite militias by themselves. The USA has thousands of soldiers and contractors right in the middle. A defeated Israel will use atomic weapons. A day without a wider regional war with Iran is a good day.


    extra links--