Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Today's Links

Arthur Rimbaud--"Il faut être absolument modern"

  trans--One must be absolutely contemporary

---"“There is a need to rethink the problem of limited nuclear war in which the United States is a direct participant, or between other parties where the United States has a major security interest,” Krepinevich writes. “As opposed to the global apocalypse envisioned in the wake of a superpower nuclear exchange during the Cold War, there will very likely be a functioning world after a war between minor nuclear powers, or even between the United States and a nuclear-armed Iran or North Korea. US forces must, therefore, be prepared to respond to a range of strategic warfare contingencies along the Eurasian periphery."  WSWS

1--Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution

Now I want to be clear about this “deep state” thing, as the mainstream media is already labeling anyone who uses the term a hopelessly paranoid conspiracy theorist. The deep state, of course, is not a conspiracy. It is simply the interdependent network of structures where actual power resides (i.e., the military-industrial complex, multinational corporations, Wall Street, the corporate media, and so on). Its purpose is to maintain the stability of the system regardless of which party controls the government. These are the folks, when a president takes office, who show up and brief him on what is and isn’t “possible” given economic and political “realities.” Despite what Alex Jones may tell you, it is not George Soros and roomful of Jews...

The system the deep state primarily serves is not the United States of America, i.e., the country most Americans believe they live in; the system it serves is globalized Capitalism. The United States, the nation state itself, while obviously a crucial element of the system, is not the deep state’s primary concern. If it were, Americans would all have healthcare, affordable education, and a right to basic housing, like more or less every other developed nation....

And this is the essence of the present conflict. The Trump regime (whether they’re sincere or not) has capitalized on people’s discontent with globalized neoliberal Capitalism, which is doing away with outmoded concepts like the nation state and national sovereignty and restructuring the world into one big marketplace ...

we’re in a state of crisis, aren’t we? This is not the time to sit around and analyze political and historical dynamics. No, this is a time for all loyal Americans to set aside their critical thinking and support democracy, the corporate media, and the NSA, and CIA, and the rest of the deep state  as they take whatever measures are necessary to defend us from Putin’s diabolical plot to Nazify the United States and reenact the Holocaust for no discernible reason. (sarcasm) The way things are going, it’s just a matter of time until they either impeach his puppet, Trump, or, you know, remove him by other means. .... After he’s convicted and dying in jail, triumphant Americans will pour out onto the lawn of Lafayette Square again, waving huge flags and hooting vuvuzelas, like they did when Obama killed Osama bin Laden. I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t attend

2--Is a Trump-Putin Detente Dead?

Among the reasons Donald Trump is president is that he read the nation and the world better than his rivals.
He saw the surging power of American nationalism at home, and of ethnonationalism in Europe. And he embraced Brexit.

While our bipartisan establishment worships diversity, Trump saw Middle America recoiling from the demographic change brought about by Third World invasions. And he promised to curb them.
While our corporatists burn incense at the shrine of the global economy, Trump went to visit the working-class casualties. And those forgotten Americans in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin, responded.

And while Bush II and President Obama plunged us into Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Trump saw that his countrymen wanted to be rid of the endless wars, and start putting America first...

The anti-Putin paranoia here is astonishing.
That he is a killer, a KGB thug, a murderer, is part of the daily rant of John McCain. At the Munich Security Conference this last weekend, Sen. Lindsey Graham promised, “2017 is going to be a year of kicking Russia in the ass in Congress.” How’s that for statesmanship...

they mean to beat him to death is this narrative:
Trump is the Siberian Candidate, the creature of Putin and the Kremlin. His ties to the Russians are old and deep. It was to help Trump that Russia hacked the DNC and the computer of Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, and saw to it WikiLeaks got the emails out to the American people during the campaign. Trump’s people secretly collaborated with Russian agents.
Believing Putin robbed Hillary Clinton of the presidency, Democrats are bent on revenge — on Putin and Trump....

we see U.S. troops headed for Poland, Bulgaria, Romania, NATO troops being sent into the Baltic States, and new tough rhetoric from the White House about Russia having to restore Crimea to Ukraine. We read of Russian spy ships off the coast, Russian planes buzzing U.S. warships in the Black Sea, Russians deploying missiles outlawed by the arms control agreement of 1987.
An Ohio-class U.S. sub just test-fired four Trident missiles, which carry thermonuclear warheads, off the Pacific coast.
Any hope of cutting a deal for a truce in east Ukraine, a lifting of sanctions, and bringing Russia back into Europe seems to be fading.
Where Russians saw hope with Trump’s election, they are now apparently yielding to disillusionment and despair.
The question arises: If not toward better relations with Russia, where are we going with this bellicosity?

3--Priebus says US intel officials call campaign-Russia story 'garbage

(Did the NYTs lie?) “I can assure you, the top levels of the intelligence community have assured me that [the allegation] is not only grossly overstated, but also wrong,” Priebus told “Fox News Sunday.” “They have made it very clear that the story is complete garbage.”

4--The Deep State Targets Trump

the deep state is deeply committed to Cold War II.

Hence, suddenly, we read reports of a Russian spy ship off the Connecticut, Delaware and Virginia coasts, of Russian jets buzzing a U.S. warship in the Black Sea, and Russian violations of Reagan’s INF treaty outlawing intermediate-range missiles in Europe.

Purpose: Stampede the White House into abandoning any idea of a detente with Russia. And it appears to be working. At a White House briefing Tuesday, Sean Spicer said, “President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to … return Crimea.”

Is the White House serious?

Putin could no more survive returning Crimea to Ukraine than Bibi Netanyahu could survive giving East Jerusalem back to Jordan.

How does the deep state go about its work? We have seen a classic example with Flynn. The intelligence and investigative arms of the regime dig up dirt, and then move it to their Fourth Estate collaborators, who enjoy First Amendment immunity to get it out.

For violating their oaths and breaking the law, bureaucratic saboteurs are hailed as “whistleblowers” while the journalists who receive the fruits of their felonies put in for Pulitzers....

Those in the FBI, Justice Department and intelligence agencies who were complicit in a conspiracy to leak the contents of Flynn’s private conversations in order to bring down the national security adviser should be exposed and prosecuted.

5--Has the Deep State already neutered Trump’s foreign policy?

“In the end, it was Trump’s decision to cut Flynn loose. In doing this he caved in to his political and bureaucratic opposition. [Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Devin] Nunes told me Monday night, that this will not end well. ‘First it’s Flynn, next it will be Kellyanne Conway, then it will be Steve Bannon, then it will be Reince Priebus,’ he said. Put another way, Flynn is only the appetizer. Trump is the entrée.”...

It is precisely this back-to-front neocon world view that has so corrupted American foreign policy: America, for decades now, has aligned itself with Saudi Arabia and Gulf States who finance, arm and support terrorist movements (such as Al Qaeda), while labeling Iran, which actually fights and defeats these “jihadists,” as the chief sponsor of terror in the Middle East. One really cannot get it more back-to-front. This is now more widely understood by the American public, yet the neocons never pull back; they never desist in trying to tie America to the Saudi Arabia-Israeli axis and to promote phobia towards Iran...

“[On Feb. 14] the White House spokesperson said: President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to deescalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea.

“[On Feb. 15] Trump tweeted: Donald J. Trump Verified account @realDonaldTrump
Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?

6--Trump’s Foreign Policy: Retreat or Rout?

what was perhaps even more remarkable about this ambush of Flynn...was the collusion between U.S. intelligence agencies and a mainstream media intent on bringing down President Trump — or at least preventing him from redirecting U.S. foreign policy away from “regime change” wars in the Middle East and toward a détente with Russia.

When Trump hastily demanded Flynn’s resignation – at least in part to appease Vice President Mike Pence who complained that Flynn hadn’t been fully forthcoming with him – a media feeding frenzy followed....

Then we heard Defense Secretary James Mattis in Brussels (NATO headquarters), Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Bonn (G20 Foreign Ministers meeting) and Vice President Pence in Munich (Security Conference) collectively pledge unswerving loyalty to the NATO alliance, insist that any new talks with Russia must be conducted from “a position of strength,” and vow to hold Russia accountable for the full implementation of the Minsk Accords, meaning all sanctions stay in place pending that achievement which the Ukrainian government has consistently blocked while blaming Moscow.

Amid these signals of surrender from the Trump Administration – suggesting continuation of the disastrous foreign policy of the last 25 years – the newly revived enemies of détente on Capitol Hill added more anti-Russian sanctions and threats. In response to alleged violations by the Kremlin of the Treaty on Intermediate and Short-range Missiles (INF) dating back to 1987, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, introduced a bill enabling the re-installation of American nuclear-tipped cruise missiles in Europe. If enacted, this would undo the main achievements of disarmament from the Reagan years and bring us back to a full-blown Cold War....

On a related front, The New York Times has reported that Trump plans to appoint businessman Stephen Feinberg to evaluate and recommend reorganization of the intelligence agencies, viewed as a shake-up to restore order and loyalty to the Chief Executive....

Only via détente – meaning an end to the permanent wars abroad with their heavy operational costs and the dismantling of the vast global network of U.S. military bases – can Trump free up budgetary resources to finance his plans for massive U.S. infrastructure investments, modernizing the military, and addressing the needs of veterans. The sums involved are on the order of $600 billion annually which presently go to maintain some 800 military bases in 70 countries, bases which generate much anti-Americanism and entangle the U.S. in regional conflicts.

7--Trump’s ISIS Plan: Another US Invasion?

In language reminiscent of his plans to build a wall on the Mexican border, the president told a political rally in Florida over the weekend that he was going to set up “safe zones” in Syria and would make the Gulf States pay for them. There are several problems with this plan.

First, any “safe zone” set up inside Syria, especially if protected by US troops, would amount to a massive US invasion of the country unless the Assad government approves them. Does President Trump want to begin his presidency with an illegal invasion of a sovereign country?

Second, there is the little problem of the Russians, who are partners with the Assad government in its efforts to rid the country of ISIS and al-Qaeda. ISIS is already losing territory on a daily basis. Is President Trump willing to risk a military escalation with Russia to protect armed regime-change forces in Syria?
Third, the Gulf States are the major backers of al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria – as the president’s own recently-resigned National Security Advisor, Michael Flynn, revealed in a 2015 interview. Unless these safe zones are being set up to keep al-Qaeda and ISIS safe, it doesn’t make any sense to involve the Gulf States.

Many will say we should not be surprised at these latest moves. As a candidate, Trump vowed to defeat ISIS once and for all. However, does anyone really believe that continuing the same strategy we have followed for the past 16 years will produce different results this time?

8--The CIA vs. The Presidency: This is Not the First Time

President Trump is in his own war against the CIA and other parts of the intelligence community (IC).

In his case, he has overtly criticized the IC and called them disseminators of fake news and lies. He claims he’s putting an end to foreign wars of conquest. He’s already canceled a major Globalist trade treaty, the TPP.

But the IC believes it owns the Presidency and sets his agenda.

This is not a recent assumption. It goes all the way back to the early days of the CIA; Eisenhower, Kennedy.

In 2016, the IC leadership decided Trump would be a threat to their power, so they leaked/invented information about the Russians influencing the election on behalf of Trump. This effort was aimed at corroding his right to claim that he was the legitimate president.

The war continues.

The IC doesn’t want presidents with independent ideas.

They’re the bosses, and they intend to keep it that way....

“The CIA had already planned the April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion before Kennedy took office in January, and when the invasion failed, Kennedy felt that the CIA had set him up. He let it be known he intended to dismantle the CIA and assign its functions to the other intelligence units within the government. He reportedly vowed ‘to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds’… Kennedy, a Democrat, forced the Republican Allen Dulles to resign, along with other senior CIA officers. But the CIA was too deeply involved just then in operations around the world to be disassembled. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, in a way that implicated the CIA…critics of the Warren Commission Report, maybe even J. Edgar Hoover—believed the CIA had some hand in Kennedy’s assassination and the coverup. If it had, the CIA was again demonstrating that the presidency was subordinate to the CIA

9--Global Stocks and Bond Yields Rise -- U.S. stocks approach fresh records, equity gains in Europe checked by bank shares

The Dow Jones Industrial Average, S&P 500, and Nasdaq Composite all closed at record highs on Friday. Investors have been betting that a growing economy and friendly fiscal policies in the U.S. will boost corporate profits and keep stock markets supported, even as interest rates move higher.
“We are in the early stages of long-term interest rates returning to conventional levels,” said Ian Williams, strategist at brokerage Peel Hunt. “With growth and inflation picking up slightly, it makes equities more favorable as a place to put your cash.”

The Dow has risen over 4% since Inauguration Day, marking the best first 30 days in office since President Roosevelt in 1945, while the Nasdaq has closed at a record levels 18 times this year, the most since 1999.
The 12-month forward price-to-earnings ratio for the S&P 500, a common measure of the market’s valuation, recently rose to 17.6, according to FactSet, —its highest since 2004.

The ascent we’ve seen since election day is just incredible,” said Lindsey Bell, investment strategist at CFRA Research. “It makes us a little nervous…we think a lot of the move is based on euphoria and hope surrounding [Mr. Trump’s] policies, especially tax reform,” she said.
Meanwhile, guidance from companies for the end of the year has been more negative, but analysts’ earnings estimates have yet to come down, posing a risk to the stock market in the second half of the year, she said.

10-- In Policy Dissent, Jim Mattis Wields Influence-- Defense chief’s disagreements with President Trump may be prodding the White House away from some positions

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis appears to be at odds with President Donald Trump on Russia and other key issues, setting up potential discord but also helping to nudge the White House toward more conventional policy stances.
In recent days, other top administration officials have aired foreign-policy views that don’t align perfectly with the new president. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for example, have suggested a tougher line with Russians, demanding they de-escalate violence in Ukraine.
While the president has turned to generals for several key posts—on Monday naming Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster as national security adviser—Mr. Mattis remains the highest-profile and most widely respected of all the generals in the administration. Further, on some matters, including Russia and Ukraine, Mr. Mattis has strong allies, including Mr. Pence....

At nearly every stop of his second overseas trip that finished Tuesday, after a visit to Iraq, Mr. Mattis made clear his own positions, which haven’t always squared with the public pronouncements of the president....

Mr. Mattis has also taken a different stance on Russia than Mr. Trump, although there are signs the administration is moving his way. The defense secretary and Mr. Pence have said Russia must be held accountable for its actions in Ukraine and that Moscow’s annexation of Crimea wouldn’t be recognized. Mr. Tillerson and U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley have also taken a tough line against relaxing sanctions.

11--US-European tensions remain despite reassurances on NATO

The US would be “unwavering” in its support for NATO, Pence declared, and Donald Trump would “stand with Europe.” He added, “Know this: The United States will continue to hold Russia accountable,” even as the Trump administration seeks “common ground” with Moscow.
After his remarks, Pence met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and, according to a White House statement, “underlined that the United States does not recognize Russia’s occupation and attempted annexation of the Crimean peninsula,” which rejoined Russia following a popular referendum held in the wake of the Western-orchestrated right-wing coup in Kiev in 2014.

Pence’s statement regarding Russia followed similar remarks last week by Trump’s defense secretary, former Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who ruled out any military collaboration with Russia until Moscow “proves itself” regarding Ukraine and Crimea.

Even more bellicose were members of a bipartisan congressional delegation present in Munich. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said on Sunday that “2017 is going to be a year of kicking Russian ass in Congress,” and vowed that Congress would pass new rounds of sanctions against both Russia and Iran. Senator Christopher Murphy, a Democrat from Connecticut who spoke on the same panel as Graham in Munich, said there would be no “partisan divide” on the push for redoubled sanctions.

Whatever differences have surfaced between the Trump administration and Washington’s NATO allies over Russia—not to mention the bitter internecine struggle in Washington over the issue—the US-NATO build-up continues with the deployment of some 4,000 US troops to Eastern Europe, while the remarks in Munich suggest that no lifting of US sanctions against Moscow are imminent.
Present in Munich for Pence’s remarks to the conference, Konstantin Kosachyov, the head of Russia’s parliamentary foreign affairs committee, responded: “I heard nothing in the speech. The new American leaders have started to reproduce the negatives accumulated under the previous administration.”

Much of Pence’s speech was given over to a celebration of American militarism and vows that under Trump the US build-up to war would undergo a dramatic acceleration.

“I can assure you that the United States will be strong, stronger than ever before,” said the vice president. “We will strengthen our military, restore the arsenal of democracy and, working with many members of congress gathered here today, we’re going to provide soldiers, sailors, airmen and coast guard with renewed resources to defend our nation and our treaty allies from the threats of today and unknown threats of tomorrow.”...

One notable feature of Vice President Pence’s speech was that, while it included multiple vows of support for NATO, it made not a single mention of the European Union, which some in Munich took as a warning that Washington is embarking on an aggressive pursuit of US imperialist interests at Europe’s expense.
Wolfgang Ischinger, the former German ambassador to Washington who chairs the Munich Security Conference, told Deutsche Welle that if the Trump administration continued to take a hostile attitude to the EU, “it would amount to a kind of nonmilitary declaration of war. It would mean conflict between Europe and the United States. Is that what the US wants? Is that how he wishes to make America great again?”

12--Trump White House under mounting pressure from anti-Russia campaign

Trump’s congressional defenders are pushing back against his opponents within the intelligence apparatus. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes sent a letter Friday to the FBI asking it to investigate leaks of classified information to the media. He suggested that the leaks came from either career officials who oppose Trump’s policies or holdovers from the Obama administration. According to one press report, Nunes “believes that Trump is being targeted by the intelligence community. It’s an abuse of authority.”

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus appeared on three Sunday television interview programs to denounce the media reports of “constant contact” between the Trump campaign and Russia as false and deliberately aimed at undermining the Trump administration.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Priebus acknowledged receipt of the Senate Intelligence Committee letter and said the White House would cooperate with the request. “I know what they were told by the FBI,” he said, “because I’ve talked to the FBI. I know what they’re saying. I wouldn’t be on your show right now telling you that we’ve been assured that there’s nothing to the New York Times story if I actually wasn’t assured.”

13--Trump’s DHS memos: Millions at risk of deportation as crackdown looms

14--Military junta continues in Washington-- Trump names Iraq war general and militarist as national security adviser

The appointment has special significance in terms of policy towards Russia because McMaster has been engaged in a major military project to study the conflict in Ukraine and the lessons to be drawn by US military planners preparing for war in Eastern Europe against the Russian army and air force. He said in 2016 that the Ukraine conflict has “revealed that the Russians have superior artillery firepower, better combat vehicles, and have learned sophisticated use of UAVs [drones] for tactical effect.”

According to a report last year in Politico, “McMaster is quietly overseeing a high-level government panel intended to figure out how the Army should adapt to this Russian wake-up call.” He told a Senate committee, “Russia possesses a variety of rocket, missile and cannon artillery systems that outrange and are more lethal than US Army artillery systems and munitions.” He called for developing advanced weapons to replace the two main Army armored vehicles, the Abrams tank and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

This background suggests that McMaster will be aligned with Secretary of Defense Mattis in viewing Russia as the main strategic adversary of US imperialism in both the Middle East and Europe. That accounts for the widespread praise for his selection by those who have been spearheading the anti-Russian campaign on behalf of the US military-intelligence apparatus...

More significant from the standpoint of his current position is the attitude McMaster adopted towards social and political constraints on the military. His book strongly attacked the Joint Chiefs of Staff of that period, 1963-1965, for failing to demand the all-out mobilization of up to 700,000 troops they believed necessary to win the war. They did not press these demands because Johnson was committed to a strategy of limited war in order to provide resources for domestic social reforms such as Medicare, Medicaid and the “war on poverty.”

Such an approach suggests that General McMaster, like Trump himself, would favor the plundering of social programs in order to pay for the rapid and extensive military buildup that both have advocated, preparing for an explosion of American militarism on a scale that would dwarf both Vietnam and the current wars in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Retired or active-duty military brass hold four top positions: Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis and Secretary of Homeland Security John F. Kelly are both retired Marine Corps major generals. McMaster will head the NSC, and retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who had been acting head during the week since Flynn’s dismissal, will resume his position as NSC chief of staff, now as McMaster’s deputy....

The appointment was backed by many of those who have been denouncing Trump for his alleged “softness” on Russia. The ultra-right magazine National Review hailed the appointment, comparing it to the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, and writing that “Trump’s key generals—James Mattis, John Kelly, and now H.R. McMaster—represent the best of modern military leadership. Their presence in the government is deeply reassuring. It’s now incumbent on President Trump to heed their counsel and give them the level of authority that they have earned.”

Senator John McCain, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, fresh from a speech to the Munich Security Conference in which he portrayed the new administration as a potential threat to world stability, praised the nomination as well. “I give President Trump great credit for this decision, as well as his national security cabinet choices,” McCain said in a statement. “I could not imagine a better, more capable national security team than the one we have right now

15--Thinking the unthinkable--How many people would die in a war between the US and Russia?

Behind the scenes, however, the intelligence agencies and Pentagon, along with their allied geo-strategic think tanks, are engaged in intense discussions and detailed planning premised on the possibility, indeed inevitability, of a major war with Russia. Plans are being laid and preparations made to wage and “win” such a war, including through the use of nuclear weapons.

One does not have to look far to find the people who are heading up the war planning. Yesterday, President Trump appointed Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, an army strategist, as his new national security advisor.

The selection of McMaster is broadly seen as a concession to Trump’s anti-Russia critics in the political and intelligence establishment. He is the leading figure in an Army project called the Russia New Generation Warfare study, whose participants have made repeated trips to the battlefields of eastern Ukraine to study Russia’s military capabilities and devise strategies and weapons systems to defeat them. McMaster has called on the US to prepare for high-intensity conventional war with Russia, involving not only long-range missile systems and stealth aircraft, but also “close” combat.

Beyond conventional warfare, US think tank strategists are discussing what it would take to “win” a nuclear war. The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) recently put out a 140-page report, “Preserving the Balance: A US Eurasia Defense Strategy,” which discusses this issue in detail. The CSBA is headed by Andrew Krepinevich, the report’s author, and includes on its Board of Directors figures such as former Under Secretary of the Army Nelson Ford, former CIA Director James Woolsey and retired general Jack Keane.

“There is a need to rethink the problem of limited nuclear war in which the United States is a direct participant, or between other parties where the United States has a major security interest,” Krepinevich writes. “As opposed to the global apocalypse envisioned in the wake of a superpower nuclear exchange during the Cold War, there will very likely be a functioning world after a war between minor nuclear powers, or even between the United States and a nuclear-armed Iran or North Korea. US forces must, therefore, be prepared to respond to a range of strategic warfare contingencies along the Eurasian periphery

In an earlier report entitled “Rethinking Armageddon,” Krepinevich argued that the use of a “small number” of battlefield nuclear weapons should be included among the appropriate responses by a US president to conventional threats from Russia.

During the Cold War, the “limited” use of nuclear weapons was seen as an invitation for a full-scale nuclear exchange and the destruction of the planet. Now such discussions are considered “respectable” and prudent.

These plans are being realized in the US military arsenal. The US is currently in the midst of a $1 trillion nuclear weapons modernization program commissioned under Obama. The program centers on the procurement of lower-yield, maneuverable nuclear weapons that are more likely to be used in combat. However, the Defense Science Board, a committee appointed to advise the Pentagon, recently called on the Trump administration to do more to develop weapons suitable for a “tailored nuclear option for limited use...

More contemporary studies have shown similarly disastrous outcomes. A 2007 report by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War suggested that a “limited” nuclear exchange could lead to the deaths of over a billion people, mostly as a result of widespread climate disruption.

16--White House delivered EU-skeptic message before Pence visit: Sources

In those remarks, delivered via Skype, Bannon spoke favorably about European populist movements and described a yearning for nationalism by people who "don't believe in this kind of pan-European Union."...

The worst-case scenario from Europe's point of view was described by Ischinger in an article published last week, entitled "How Europe should deal with Trump".
He said that if the U.S. administration actively supported right-wing populists in the looming election campaigns it would trigger a "major transatlantic crisis".

17--Worse Than a Decade of Stagnation --

18--Biggest Gasoline Glut In 27 Years Could Crash Oil Markets

the glut of gasoline is now the worst in 27 years. At 259 million barrels, U.S. gasoline storage levels are now at their highest level since the EIA began tracking the data back in 1990

19--Election year spending spree-- Half of 2016 GDP came from gov spending

20--US stock market record rally irrational – Goldman Sachs

“Cognitive dissonance exists in the US stock market. S&P 500 is up 10 percent since the election despite negative [earnings per share] revisions from sell-side analysts,”said David Kostin, the chief US equity strategist at Goldman Sachs.

21--Media as "enemy of the American people"  Trump presser

"And I'm saying, the first thing I thought of when I heard about it, is how does the press get this information that's classified? How do they do it? You know why? Because it's an illegal process, and the press should be ashamed of themselves, but more importantly, the people that gave out information to the press should be ashamed of themselves. Really a shame," Trump said....

"The press has become so dishonest that if we don't talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it. We have to find out what's going on because the press, honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control," the US president said in the course of the conference.

22--US Subprime Car, College Loans Surge to Hazardous Levels

This would not be such a big deal had US economic growth and gains in disposable incomes been sustainable enough to offset the risks associated with rising household debt burden. However, with the post-recession economic recovery being rather weak, and salaries and wages having stagnated for two decades, US consumers can't service their obligations as efficiently as ten years ago, when the mortgage meltdown unravelled due to the rising number of home loan delinquencies.

In December 2016, total US household debt stood at $12.5 trln, its highest since mid-2008, the NY Fed reported, while the share of car loans was at its highest since at least 2003, when records on this parameter were first taken.
"Debt held by Americans is approaching its previous peak, yet its composition today is vastly different as the growth in balances has been driven by non-housing debt," Wilbert van der Klaauw, Senior Vice President of the NY Fed, said.


Before assuming office, Trump suggested he could
end support for FSA groups and give priority to the fight against Islamic State (IS), whose well-armed jihadists hold large tracts of eastern and central Syria.

But Trump's administration has yet to declare a firm policy towards Syria and Iraq, despite his repeated vows to eradicate IS, so it has been "business as usual" with covert and overt training and military support programs, one U.S. official said....

The CIA-backed program has regulated aid to the rebels after a period of unchecked support early in the war - especially from Gulf states - helped give rise to an array of insurgent groups, many of them strongly Islamist in ideology....

U.S. intelligence and military officials said the leakage, sale and capture of U.S.-supplied and other weapons from units of the FSA to Islamic State, the Nusra Front, and other splinter militant groups have been a concern since the CIA and U.S. military began arming and training a limited number of rebels.

From the start, said one of the officials, some U.S.-backed rebels have migrated from groups that were battered by Syrian government forces to others such as IS that were seizing and holding territory at the time. Aid has slowed or stopped in Idlib and nearby areas, officials said, amid fears the pattern may be continuing after rebels lost ground there.

24--McCain meets Salman and Erdogan, talks "safe zones"

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Today's Links

1--A Peace Plan for Syria, RAND (plan to split the country. Important maps)

2--Greenwald: Empowering the "Deep State" to Undermine Trump is Prescription for Destroying Democracy

3--The popular movement against Trump vs. the corporate media’s anti-Russia witch-hunt

4--Pentagon chief warns of “arc of instability” at Munich security conference

Both Mattis and the US secretary of state, former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who was attending a nearby meeting of the G-20 foreign ministers in Bonn, have signaled that there is no imminent prospect of a rapprochement that would significantly ease tensions between Washington and Moscow.
Even as Mattis was speaking in Munich, the US military was deploying to Bulgaria as part of the US-NATO buildup in Eastern Europe and on Russia’s borders that now involves 4,000 American troops as well as forces from Britain, Germany and other NATO allies. This buildup has continued unabated since Trump entered the White House.

Tillerson sounded a similar note Friday, explicitly rejecting any shift from the general strategy pursued by Washington in relation to Syria since the launching of the CIA-orchestrated war for regime change nearly six years ago. Meeting with his counterparts from other major backers of the Islamist “rebels,” including France, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Britain, the US secretary of state stressed that there would be no military cooperation with Russia in Syria until Moscow distanced itself from the government of Bashar al-Assad and accepted the legitimacy of the Al Qaeda-linked rebels that the US and its allies have armed and supported....

Drawing a distinction between Trump’s “America First” rhetoric and the policies advanced by his top advisors, McCain continued: “I know there is profound concern across Europe and the world that America is laying down the mantle of global leadership. I can only speak for myself, but I do not believe that that is the message you will hear from all of the American leaders who cared enough to travel here to Munich this weekend. That’s not the message you heard today from Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. That is not the message you will hear from Vice President Mike Pence. That’s not the message you will hear from Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.”
McCain, one of Washington’s most vociferous advocates of aggression against Russia, was at the center of a controversy last month in which he passed documents to US intelligence agencies alleging secret ties between Moscow and Trump and his campaign team.

5--Pentagon prepares plan to deploy ground troops in Syria

Army Gen. Raymond Thomas, speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association’s “Special Operational/Low Intensity Conflict” conference in Washington, DC Tuesday, said, “There’s some recommendation in the offing for the administration to consider. We’ll see which consideration they opt for.”
General Thomas boasted to the assembled military contractors that the US intervention in the region had already killed 60,000 ISIS fighters.

“I’m not into morbid body counts, but that matters,” Thomas said. “So when folks ask, do you need more aggressive [measures], do you need better [rules of engagement], I would tell you that we’re being pretty darn prolific right now.”...

deployment of US ground forces in Syria would represent a dramatic escalation of what is already a multi-sided conflict which threatens to spill over into a regional and even world war.
Last month, Trump announced in a televised interview that he was preparing an executive order directing the Pentagon to establish US-controlled “safe zones” in northern Syria, in large measure to stem the flow of refugees out of the country as part of his attempt to implement a reactionary ban on Muslims traveling into the US.
While the setting up of such zones had also been supported by his Democratic presidential rival, Hillary Clinton, the Obama administration had resisted calls by both Democratic and Republican politicians for such an escalation of US involvement in the Syrian war. Implementing such zones would require US control of both Syrian territory and air space, creating the conditions for a direct military confrontation with the forces of the Assad government and the Russian air and ground forces that have been sent to Syria to support it against the US-backed war for regime change...

These currents were expressed in a statement issued Wednesday by the influential Washington think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, titled “Half-Measures in Syria: The United States needs to go big or go home.”
Written by former State Department official Jon Alterman, the statement complains that Washington has “poured billions into the Syria problem, but it remains on the sidelines of the conflict’s resolution. Russia has put far less into the fight, and it has an outsized influence on the outcome.”

Alterman goes on to argue that the supposed goal of defeating ISIS “doesn’t do much for the future of Syria” and has “the effect of supporting the Assad government without providing much influence on the terms of a Syrian settlement.”

He concludes by saying that Washington has a choice between “abandoning Syria to Assad” or acting to “enhance US leverage in Syria, presumably through increasing military activity to threaten not just the ISG [ISIS], but also those carrying out atrocities against civilian populations.” Such a strategy, he states “would risk greater conflict with Russia, but it would give the United States greater say in Syria’s future and enhance U.S. influence in the Middle East.”
In other words, what is now under consideration within the US military and intelligence apparatus and the Trump administration is the deployment of US troops to prosecute the war for regime change, posing the direct threat of a head-on confrontation between the world’s two major nuclear powers

6---In Russia, reality sinks in after Flynn ouster

Flynn’s removal from office is part of the relentless anti-Russian campaign being waged by powerful sections of the American ruling class, which sees Moscow’s control over the Eurasian landmass as an intolerable obstacle to the US drive for global hegemony.

Even as Trump continues to defend Flynn and insist that his government is the victim of illegal insider leaks, tensions between the US and Russia mount.
Shortly after news broke of Flynn’s resignation, Trump spokesman Sean Spicer declared that the US president expects Russia to return Crimea, the predominantly ethnically Russian region of Ukraine absorbed by Moscow following a popular referendum after the February 2014 US-backed anti-Russian coup in Kiev....

Top figures in both leading US parties adamantly oppose any lifting of the anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the US starting in 2014, with Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer preparing a bipartisan bill that would significantly limit Trump’s ability to enact any changes to the sanctions regime. Flynn was pushed out of office over allegations that he indicated to Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak that some sanctions could be lifted once Trump came into office. The Kremlin denies that the matter was discussed.

7---Trump is dangerous, but so is the CIA

As it is to many of us on the left, it is obvious to me that Trump is the most dangerous, unqualified, and reckless US President I have ever seen—much less imagined. And while it seems as if he will soon enough seize some opportunity to declare a national security disaster granting himself new unlimited powers, I know no reason to trust the CIA and other intelligence agencies any more than we trust Trump.

This attack on the Executive Branch is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. The most historically interesting element of this moment is the rarity of seeing the CIA operating, in real time, not in its usual historical role as a covert arm of the presidency (which Congressman Otis Pike argued was its primary function), but as the sort of rogue elephant that Senator Frank Church and others long ago claimed it is. As members of the Republic, no matter what momentary joy we might feel watching this rogue elephant canter towards our incompetent Commander and Chief, we must not ignore the danger this beast presents to one and all.

We should welcome calls to investigate Trump, Flynn, Bannon, Pence and others within the administration, but we need to also investigate and monitor the CIA for this latest in its long history of attempted coups.

8--President in waiting?--US 'unwavering' in support for Nato allies, says Pence

9--More warplans-- Half-Measures in Syria

The United States needs to go big or go home

Cheap money, combined with uncertainty about the regulatory and tax landscape, has encouraged corporations to buy back their shares rather than invest in their future. Companies in the S&P 500 Index—the benchmark for America’s top five hundred publicly listed companies—dispersed more than $600 billion to buy back their stock in 2014, and more than $500 billion in 2015

Because that’s the way the world works.
“No wonder share buybacks and corporate investment into research and development have moved inversely in recent years,” wrote Rana Foroohar in an op-ed in the Financial Times on May 15, 2016. “It is easier for chief executives with a shelf life of three years to try to please investors by jacking up short-term share prices than to invest in things that will grow a company over the long haul.”

Compared to the immediate post–World War II period, some American corporations now earn about five times more revenue from purely financial activities such as trading, hedging, tax optimization, and selling financial services, as compared to their core businesses.
As a result, the labor market has atrophied. Though lots of so-called eat, drink, and get sick jobs—for waiters, bartenders, and health care workers—have been created, Fed policy effectively pulled the plug on long-term investment and compromised high-paying job growth.

By mid-2015, only 62.6 percent of adult workers were employed or actively looking for a job, the lowest in nearly four decades. The so-called shadow unemployment rate is estimated to be as high as 23 percent. Many of these people will never come back into the workforce...

The percentage of U.S. adults invested in the stock market fell from 65 percent in 2007 to 52 percent by the spring of 2016, a twenty-year low. Inflows into U.S. stock mutual funds—a good gauge of small-investor sentiment—were negative in six of the seven years since 2009. In 2015 alone, mutual fund investors withdrew $170.8 billion—this despite a bull market. Americans retrenched and retreated, especially those nearing retirement years. Fed-blown bubbles have decimated their savings not once, but twice.

Though they might not be able to name the Fed as the party rigging the game, their instincts remind them about the old adage: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
As for those mom-and-pop investors who remain in the market, they have little chance of escaping Fed policy because their assets are tied up in expensive and rigid 401(k) plans that emphasize index funds.

The Fed’s artificially low interest-rate level has distorted the relationship between stocks and bonds. Rather than one providing cover when the other is in distress, asset classes have increasingly moved in concert. And though portfolio advisers make it sound safe, index investing will prove disastrous when markets finally correct.

The one true growth industry? That would be all that high cotton harvested in high finance. Since 2007, world debt has grown by about $60 trillion, enriching legions of investment bankers one bond deal at a time...

According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), since 2008 federal debt held by the public has nearly doubled and now stands at 75 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). If this lunacy doesn’t end, debt will be 110 percent of GDP by 2036, exceeding the post–World War II peak of 106 percent....

Were there voices of dissent to be heard in that conference room on that December day in 2008? Did anyone argue for the little guy, the cautious investor? Did someone in the room speak on behalf of pension fund managers now forced to take undue risks? What about the leadership of firms and big banks whose incentives are perverted to the extent that they no longer invest in our country’s future?
The short answer is yes. I worked for one of those who pushed back against the majority. He was the lone member of the FOMC who voted against the professor’s theories at that fateful meeting.
He fought the good but lonely fight, and I, in my capacity as trusted adviser, waged many a battle with him. But the sad truth is we lost the people’s war. In a world rendered unsafe by banks that were too big to fail, we came to understand the Fed was simply too big to fight.

I wrote a book to tell from the inside the story of how the Fed went from being lender of last resort to savior—and then destroyer—of America’s economic system.
During my nine-year tenure at the Federal Reserve Eleventh District Bank of Dallas, where I served as adviser to President Richard Fisher, I witnessed the tunnel vision and arrogance of Fed academics who can’t understand that their theoretical models bear little resemblance to real life....

People are waking up. And it’s about time. Although I do not believe it is right to end the Fed, it’s high time it was upended. Every American must understand this extraordinarily powerful institution and how it affects his or her everyday life and fight back.
This is a special preview excerpt from FED  UP: An Insider’s Take on Why The Federal Reserve is Bad for America By Danielle DiMartino Booth

14--Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence

15--The AP Asked Trump's Supporters How Feel About His War With The Press: This Is What It Found

16--Nobody trusts the media

17--Trump Gets Ready to Pick John Bolton as Advisor

18--Poll Finds DC Is Out Of Touch With Americans On Foreign Policy-- The American people are smarter than you think

when asked if America’s foreign policy since 9/11 has made us more or less safe, a non-dangling-chad majority (51 percent) said “less safe.” Only 11 percent thought we were safer after two costly large-scale wars involving nation-building and countless smaller interventions across the Middle East and Arica.

Intervention Hasn’t Gone So Well

They thought that what was true for America was probably true for the larger world as well. A huge plurality (47 percent) said we had made the world “less safe” versus only a tiny minority (9 percent) who said we’d made things any better.

Our country’s national interest is what ought to drive our foreign policy going forward, a supermajority (69 percent) in the poll believe. They don’t necessarily like the ring of “America first” (only 30 percent signed on to more exclusive language), but they’re not okay with most of the things our country is doing that fall outside of a national interest framework.

Democracy promotion through military power? A plurality of 41 percent thought we should knock it off versus 24 percent who said full speed ahead. Only 11 percent thought the country ought to deploy more troops to Europe, and 27 percent said even our current garrison levels are too high.

We’re Not Getting What We Want

Although they are not typically aware of just how much America is spending on defense, Americans by and large do not want more spending for more wars. Fully 79 percent said that any additional tax dollars that come in should go toward domestic spending, not a military buildup. They think the amount of money we budget for military now is enough for a truly national defense.

In sharp contrast with DC, they’re also not wild about poking Russia or China. Only 12 percent said Russia was America’s greatest security challenge, and only 17 percent said that Russia should mainly be viewed only as a rival. Large numbers thought Russia should be viewed either mainly as a partner (29 percent) or as a realistic mix of partner and rival (35 percent). And only 5 percent signaled that they wanted confrontation with China.

These numbers are not flukes. They’re mostly consistent with two polls the same two groups commissioned in October and December of last year. If they persist, and if American foreign policy under President Trump does not significantly change, we may have a long-term democracy problem on our hands.

What the people want is not what we are getting. Our leaders need to know this, and either change course or tell us in convincing words why they are right and we are wrong.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Today's Links

Amazing battle for dominance is playing out between the elected US govt & the IC  who consider themselves to be the 'permanent government'.  Julian Assange@julianassange                             

The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story - RUSSIA. Fake news!   Donald Trump twitter

1---The Democrats want to destroy democracy? Glenn Greenwald

Chelsea Manning just spent seven years in prison under harsh conditions for leaking information way less sensitive than what these leakers about General Flynn just leaked.....

I happen to think that the Trump presidency is extremely dangerous. ... They want to dismantle the environment. They want to eliminate the safety net. They want to empower billionaires. They want to enact bigoted policies against Muslims and immigrants and so many others. And it is important to resist them. And there are lots of really great ways to resist them, such as getting courts to restrain them, citizen activism and, most important of all, having the Democratic Party engage in self-critique to ask itself how it can be a more effective political force in the United States after it has collapsed on all levels. That isn’t what this resistance is now doing. What they’re doing instead is trying to take maybe the only faction worse than Donald Trump, which is the deep state, the CIA, with its histories of atrocities, and say they ought to almost engage in like a soft coup, where they take the elected president and prevent him from enacting his policies. And I think it is extremely dangerous to do that. Even if you’re somebody who believes that both the CIA and the deep state, on the one hand, and the Trump presidency, on the other, are extremely dangerous, as I do, there’s a huge difference between the two, which is that Trump was democratically elected and is subject to democratic controls, as these courts just demonstrated and as the media is showing, as citizens are proving. But on the other hand, the CIA was elected by nobody. They’re barely subject to democratic controls at all. And so, to urge that the CIA and the intelligence community empower itself to undermine the elected branches of government is insanity. That is a prescription for destroying democracy overnight in the name of saving it. And yet that’s what so many, not just neocons, but the neocons’ allies in the Democratic Party, are now urging and cheering. And it’s incredibly warped and dangerous to watch them do that.

2--Spies Keep Intelligence From Donald Trump on Leak Concerns-- Decision to withhold information underscores deep mistrust between intelligence community and president

The current and former officials said the decision to avoid revealing sources and methods with Mr. Trump stems in large part from the president’s repeated expressions of admiration for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his call during the presidential campaign for Russia to continue hacking the emails of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton

3--The Leakers Who Exposed Gen. Flynn’s Lie Committed Serious — and Wholly Justified — Felonies

defined this way by 18 § 798 of the U.S. Code:
Whoever knowingly and willfully communicates … or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes … any classified information … obtained by the processes of communication intelligence from the communications of any foreign government … shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

4--You tube must watch

Former CIA operative and 2016 third-party presidential candidate Evan McMullin took to Twitter and CNN on Wednesday to defend rogue intelligence agents who break the law to leak classified information, saying President Donald Trump “presents a threat to the country

Ex-CIA agent and 2016 presidential candidate Evan McMullin has labeled Donald Trump a “domestic enemy” who “presents a threat to the country”.

After Trump criticized the FBI and the NSA for leaking information to the Washington Post and the New York Times, McMullin tweeted, “By oath, intelligence officials’ first duty is to “defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic

McMullin went further during an appearance on CNN, remarking, “I’ll tell you what their concerns are. There concerns are that Donald Trump presents a threat to the country because of his — what they see as his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the relationship of his team to other Russian intelligence officers.”..

McMullin indicated that he was in contact with some of the intelligence agents responsible for the leaks, claiming that they were merely responding to “a security threat coming from the White House.”

5- Putin: "Most admired"?

6--UK think tank warns of fall in economic growth and rising inequality

7-- Intelligence agencies clash with Trump over Russia allegations

The litany of unsubstantiated allegations of Russian control over Trump continued. The lead Times report Wednesday cited “four current and former American officials” in claiming “that Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election,” while Wednesday’s lead Post article cited a seemingly endless list of unnamed sources, including officials “who spoke on the condition of anonymity;” “current and former US officials;” “officials inside the National Security Council;” “several… senior officials… who discussed the sensitive matter on the condition of anonymity;” as well as unnamed “Senior Obama administration officials.”

In neither the Times nor the Post is a single source named. No statement is independently corroborated. No further evidence is presented beyond the anonymous statements themselves—along with broad accusations over “Russian interference” in the US elections, which are presented as fact.
It is now well established that Flynn’s December 29 phone call with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak—in which the incoming national security adviser reportedly indicated that sanctions targeting Russia would be reviewed by the Trump administration—was secretly recorded by the NSA....

There would be nothing illegal in such a discussion, and numerous historical precedents exist, some of them far more egregious than the claims being made about Flynn’s call—including the notorious instance of Reagan campaign officials intervening to prevent the release of US hostages in Iran until after the November 1980 election.
Instead, the intelligence agencies seized on the conversation to drive out Flynn, who advocated a temporary understanding with Russia so that the US could quickly move against Iran, and potentially China.

The NSA shared the transcript of the Flynn call with the FBI. At some point, multiple unnamed intelligence agents then shared the transcript with the media, as well as politicians and government officials. By last weekend, the transcript, which the White House refused to allow Flynn to review, was circulating widely in Washington. Flynn tendered his resignation on Monday evening. A concession from the Trump administration to the anti-Russia campaign, Flynn’s ouster only emboldened it....

Forty-five years later, the Times and the Post, serving as mouthpieces of the CIA, are leading the charge against Trump from the right, not to accommodate mass popular antiwar sentiment, but for the opposite purpose, to help prepare the political conditions for war with Russia.

8--Democrats seek to channel opposition to Trump behind anti-Russia offensive

The Democrats are hoping to kill two birds with one stone. They want to contain social tensions and prevent them from giving rise to an independent political movement of the working class. And they want to force a “correction” in the foreign policy of the Trump government, bringing it into line with the economic, political and military campaign against Russia initiated by the CIA under Obama....

In a meeting of Democratic senators on Tuesday, Sanders was reportedly asked by party leaders to placate popular anger that has erupted at constituency meetings held by Democratic congressmen. According to Senator Joe Manchin, Sanders was told by Minority Leader Charles Schumer and others that he might be the only person who can make sure that this anger is “directed in all the right proper channels”—that is, exclusively against the Republicans....

Trump’s inauguration, however, was followed immediately by protests involving millions of people—the most significant and widespread international demonstrations since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. These demonstrations were followed barely a week later by protests at airports across the country against the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant executive orders of the new administration. Protests of an essentially progressive and left-wing character have continued across the country.
As the World Socialist Web Site has warned, these protests lack an independent program and are politically dominated by organizations oriented to the Democratic Party. This creates the danger that they will be suppressed or channeled behind the warmongering policies of the CIA and the Pentagon, to shift the “narrative” in a pro-war direction.

This is precisely what the Democratic Party is attempting to do. The furor over Flynn’s phone calls with Russia and Trump’s ties to Putin has served to bury public discussion of the anti-Muslim ban, the attack on refugees, the fascistic character of the new administration and the cabal of CEOs, bankers and ex-generals in Trump’s cabinet.

What if the anti-Russia campaign is successful? The Democratic Party and the organizations that surround it are committing themselves to a policy that has catastrophic consequences. They would presumably consider the outbreak of war with nuclear-armed Russia a great triumph.

9--Behind the Flynn resignation and Trump crisis: A bitter conflict over imperialist policy

A raging conflict within the US ruling elite has erupted to the surface of American political life. The battle involves the major institutions of the capitalist state—the White House, CIA, NSA, FBI and Pentagon—as well as the leaderships of both the Democratic and Republican parties. At the center of this conflict are divisions over foreign policy and concerns within the military-intelligence apparatus that the Trump administration is not taking a sufficiently aggressive line against Russia.

The campaign against Trump is no less reactionary and militaristic than the new administration itself. It has a definite logic, leading to an escalation of the political and military confrontation with Russia, with potentially catastrophic consequences for the entire world...

This campaign is the central preoccupation of the Democratic Party. Throughout the final months of the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton repeatedly attacked Trump as a political stooge of Russian President Vladimir Putin, while presenting herself as the more reliable defender of American imperialism....

US imperialism seeks to counter its declining world economic position by exploiting its unchallenged global military dominance. It sees as the principal roadblocks to its hegemonic aims the growing economic and military power of China and the still-considerable strength of Russia, possessor of the world’s second-largest nuclear arsenal, the largest reserves of oil and gas, and a critical geographical position at the center of the Eurasian land mass.

Trump’s opponents within the ruling class insist that US foreign policy must target Russia, with the aim of weakening the Putin regime or overthrowing it. This is deemed a prerequisite for taking on the challenge posed by China.

Numerous Washington think tanks have developed scenarios for military conflicts with Russian forces in the Middle East, in Ukraine, in the Baltic States and in cyberspace. The national security elite is not prepared to accept a shift in orientation away from the policy of direct confrontation with Russia along the lines proposed by Trump, who would like for the present to lower tensions with Russia in order to focus first on China

10-- Russians never prouder than under Putin

11---Leakers belong in jail

12--Russia's wrong direction (archive) CFR

13--CIA Espionage Orders for the Last French Presidential Election  Not Russia but the CIA

All major French political parties were targeted for infiltration by the CIA’s human (“HUMINT”) and electronic (“SIGINT”) spies in the seven months leading up to France’s 2012 presidential election. The revelations are contained within three CIA tasking orders published today by WikiLeaks as context for its forthcoming CIA Vault 7 series. Named specifically as targets are the French Socialist Party (PS), the National Front (FN) and Union for a Popular Movement (UMP) together with current President Francois Hollande, then President Nicolas Sarkozy, current round one presidential front-runner Marine Le Pen, and former presidential candidates Martine Aubry and Dominique Strauss-Khan.

14--Retail sales, Empire manufacturing, Mortgage purchase applications, Industrial production, Builder confidence, Business inventories

15--Austerity was a bigger disaster than we thought

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Today's links

"I’m writing to remind those who care that the secret war (against Venezuela) still goes on.  It’s a war sought and fought by one side, the United States, against a smaller country.  Nothing has changed since the Monroe Doctrine.  If anything, it’s gotten uglier, more murderous, and technically-oriented....

Chávez, who was a bull of a man with enormous energy, from the moment he first took sick in June 2011 with an abscessed tumor in his leg, always suspected that this was not a natural disease.  Several of his closest confidants also expressed to me similar suspicions as to the origins of this cancer.  Nicolás Maduro and his leadership are not pushovers.  This is going to be a dangerous period, as it always has been for Venezuela since the Chávez Revolution.  But my heart goes out to them.  They are fighters.  They’re not going to give up—even if their first real President was suspiciously taken from them in this war which never seems to never end—in North America’s “backyard.”

Oliver Stone

1--The Neocons’ Back-Door to Trump

By enforcing a “group think” calling Iran the chief sponsor of terrorism, Official Washington’s neocons are maneuvering the Trump administration into conforming with Israeli (and Saudi) desires, reports Robert Parry....

I’m told that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, privately at least, recognizes that Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-led Gulf state allies are the prime backers of Al Qaeda and Islamic State – with Iran actually fighting these major terror groups – but close advisers to President Trump, including son-in-law Jared Kushner and National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, appear wedded to Official Washington’s “group think” blaming Iran for pretty much everything that’s gone wrong in the region.....

With his son-in-law out-front, Trump’s approach to the Middle East is shaping up as similar to previous administrations, catering to Israel and Saudi Arabia even to the extent of wholesale lying to the American people about who is the main backer of terrorism.
Trump also may be isolating his new Secretary of State as Tillerson apparently looks to more realist options and fights to limit neocon influences in making U.S. foreign policy. But Tillerson is facing a challenge in staffing the State Department without turning to veterans of past administrations with close ties to the neocons.

Now, with the neocons having found a backdoor into the Trump administration via son-in-law Kushner, the prospects for a sharp break with the long reign of disastrous neocon policies in the Middle East have grown dimmer.

2--Amnesty International Stokes Syrian War

The West’s vast propaganda machine has pulled in many formerly respectable groups, such as Amnesty International, which just released a dubious “human rights” report aimed at stoking the war in Syria, reports Rick Sterling.

3--Will Petraeus replace Flynn?

The White House issued a statement announcing that Flynn would be replaced with Joseph Kellogg, another retired lieutenant general, who had served as chief of staff of the National Security Council. While in the military, Kellogg played a prominent role in the US occupation regime in Iraq. After retirement, he went to work for several military contractors.

Meanwhile, it was also reported that Trump has arranged an interview with David Petraeus on Tuesday, possibly to take the post of national security advisor. Petraeus, a former CIA director and four-star general, was forced to resign in 2012 and was subsequently convicted in connection with sharing classified information with his mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell. In testimony to before a House panel at the end of last month, Petraeus portrayed Russia and the Putin government as attempting to undermine “our entire democratic way of life

4--"To the victor"... G Sax takes over Trump team

The Dow Jones Industrial average rose 142 points on Monday to close at 20,412. The S&P 500 finished up 0.5 percent, at 2,328. The Nasdaq index also added 0.5 percent, up 30 points. In an indication of the scale of the current financial bubble, the total value of all stocks in the S&P 500 index reached $20 trillion for the first time.

Banks and other financial stocks led the rise, cheered by congressional action to gut regulations such as the requirement that financial advisors respect the fiduciary interests of their clients. The latest market rally came after Trump told a group of airline executives Thursday morning, “We’re going to announce something I would say over the next two or three weeks that will be phenomenal in terms of tax.”

Besides the promised policies, the personnel of the new administration embody its pledge to Wall Street of all-out collaboration with corporate profit making. Mnuchin has recruited as his two senior advisers a former executive at BlackRock, the world’s biggest hedge fund, and a former lawyer for the US Chamber of Commerce.

Inside the White House, the leading voice on economic and financial policy is another Goldman Sachs veteran, Gary Cohn, who left his position as president of the huge bank after his nomination by Trump to be director of the National Economic Council, raking in a $100 million severance package in the process

5-- Dollar, Yields Surge After Yellen Warns "Waiting Too Long To Hike Is Unwise" - Speech Highlights And Live Feed

Says she hopes fiscal changes will be consistent with putting fiscal accounts on sustainable path

...she was more hawkish than most expected, arguably making a March rate hike "live" after warning that "as I noted on previous occasions, waiting too long to remove accommodation would be unwise, potentially requiring the FOMC to eventually raise rates rapidly, which could risk disrupting financial markets and pushing the economy into recession."...

“Considerable uncertainty attends the economic outlook,” she said, pointing to “possible changes in US fiscal and other policies” as one of the main sources of that uncertainty alongside questions about productivity growth and international developments.

She added that any future moves, Ms Yellen said, would depend on continuing progress in both US employment and inflation, which at 1.6 per cent remains below the Fed’s 2 per cent target rate.
“The economic outlook is uncertain, and monetary policy is not on a preset course,” she told members of the Senate Banking Committee, adding that “changes in fiscal policy or other economic policies could potentially affect the economic outlook,” she said, adding that “it is too early to know what policy changes will be put in place or how their economic effects will unfold”....

Waiting too long to remove accommodation would be unwise,” Yellen reiterates

6--WikiLeaks Claims Flynn's Resignation Triggered by 'Destabilization Campaign'

Trump's National Security Advisor Michael Flynn resigns after destabilization campaign by US spies, Democrats, press https://pbs.twimg.com/media/C4nxw0SWEAAIIBF.jpg 

7--Eavesdropping on Michael Flynn-- Did U.S. spooks have a court order to listen to his conversations? Why?

If Mr. Flynn was under U.S. intelligence surveillance, then Mr. Trump should know why, and at this point so should the American public. Maybe there’s an innocent explanation, but the Trump White House needs to know what’s going on with Mr. Flynn and U.S. spies

8--Yellen: Banks really are lending and they're 'quite profitable'

"They're lending," Yellen said in response to a question from Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat. "Their price-to-book ratios are substantially higher than the ratio of banks headquartered in other areas, and they're gaining market share, and they remain quite profitable."
Trump has targeted the Dodd-Frank banking reforms as part of his quest to roll back regulations. The Dodd-Frank regulations were designed to prevent a recurrence of the 2008 financial crisis.
While he has been critical of big Wall Street institutions, he recently said that banks in general are not lending, which is hindering economic growth.

"Frankly, I have so many people, friends of mine, that have nice businesses that can't borrow money," he said during a White House appearance Feb. 3. "They just can't get any money because the banks won't let them borrow because of rules and regulations in Dodd-Frank."
However, Yellen cited a recent survey from the National Federal of Independent Business, in which only 2 percent of respondents cited access to capital as their greatest obstacle....

Lending has expanded overall by the banking system, and also to small businesses," she said.

9--Yellen outlook 'irrelevant' because Trump will reshape Fed, strategist who called Brexit vote says

With at least three vacancies expected on the Federal Reserve's Board of Governors this year, the central bank may not be exempt from a Trump-led shakeup, strategist Mark Grant told CNBC on Monday.
"The Fed of today is not going to be the Fed of tomorrow," the chief strategist at Hilltop Securities told "Squawk Box."